Good teams can make the playoffs without a good coach (Chargers, anyone?)—but when the postseason rolls around, coaching decisions can make or break a team’s chances.
Let’s take a look at who will be there to impact teams for better or worse...
Bill Belichick: Take away Spygate, and he's the greatest coach of all time in any sport. Of course, I’m biased.
Tony Dungy: He finally gets the defense playing well, but then the offense goes to pot.
Norv Turner: Yikes.
Mike Tomlin: He was a hot commodity at the start of the season, but he seems to be fading.
Jack Del Rio: Del Rio made the right choice between David Garrard and Byron Leftwich, but he needs to have a choice between Garrard and Tom Brady in the playoffs.
Wade Phillips: I’m not entirely sure what Phillips does.
Mike McCarthy: He’s done wonders with his young Packers team. Once the kids reach the big time, though, they'll be a lot harder to discipline.
Mike Holmgren: Abandoning the running game was a good move, but it probably won’t work against anyone not in the NFC West.
Jon Gruden: Chucky might have toned down the crazy since the Bucs’ Super Bowl run, but at least he still knows how to micromanage quarterbacks in big games.
Tom Coughlin: The king of late-season swoons is fully capable of engineering a playoff flop.
There's quite a mixed bag at the helms of the other playoff contenders—which means if the playoffs aren’t well-coached, at least they’ll be interesting.
Team of the Week: Jaguars
What a win.
The Jacksonville Jaguars showed a lot in their victory over Pittsburgh—including that they have what it takes to be a serious playoff contender.
For three quarters, the Jags took it to the Steelers with a powerful running game and an opportunistic passing attack. Then, the inevitable happened as Pittsburgh stormed back with 15 unanswered points.
With virtually no momentum, Jacksonville proceeded to drive the length of the field to put up the winning points, pairing powerful runs with accurate passes. There was nothing the Steelers could do about it.
Drives like those are what separate good regular season teams from postseason powerhouses.
Bad Team of the Week: Ravens
Talk about mailing it in.
Granted, the loss to the Patriots was gut-wrenching and devastating, but to lay down the next two weeks against Indy and Miami is unacceptable.
The Dolphins loss is especially troubling, since there was no way Miami should've won the game. Head coach Brian Billick was given a vote of approval recently, but I wonder if this week’s result will change anything.
Kevan Lee’s Beverage of the Week: Strawberry Dr. Pepper.
You heard me right.
Mixing the sweet, sweet taste of strawberries with the whatever-that-is taste of Dr. Pepper might be one of this year’s best ideas. And I take full credit for being the first try it.
At Sonic drive-ins, customers have the option of adding in flavors to their sodas. Never one to pass up a cola-themed offer, I always choose a different flavor with a different drink.
I’ve had some flops in the past (bubblegum Sprite?), but this one was a hit. When it's on store shelves by next summer, you'll have me to thank.
Nap of the Week
No nap this week due to the presence of company. The extent of my hospitality included the Eagles-Cowboys tilt and no talking about anything other than football for three straight hours.
Playoff Contender: Titans
Welcome back from the dead, Titans.
Last week’s loss to the Chargers was tough to watch, but Jeff Fisher’s bunch took care of business this week against Kansas City. The Titans need some help to make the playoffs, but at least they’ve kept themselves in the right position.
Playoff Pretender: Cardinals
Just a couple weeks ago, I had them listed as a playoff contender. Two consecutive losses changes things quite a bit.
Losing to the Seahawks last week could have been expected, but dropping a must-win to the one-dimensional Saints was not. Maybe no one told the Cards that they were still in this thing after the Seattle loss. Or maybe no one told their defense.
Either way, a good Cardinals season will end the way so many others have: out of the playoffs.
Premature MVP Ballot
1. Tom Brady: He handed off to Laurence Maroney better than anyone ever has.
2. Brett Favre: So far he’s broken records against the neon-purple Vikings and the style-blind Rams. Could Seattle’s bile green and monochromatic blue be far off?
3. Tony Romo: One bad game is forgivable, but picking Jessica Simpson over Carrie Underwood is not.
Weekly Super Bowl Prediction: Jaguars vs. Packers
Somewhere Byron Leftwich weeps.
For more, visit www.kevanlee.com.