As we begin this New Year, let us be mindful of the fact that it signals a new beginning for some and a closing of the door for others.
The closing is personified by those teams not going to the playoffs, and the multitude of coaches that are already or will be gone by the end of the week.
The beginning is signified by 12 NFL teams, eight of whom will play over the weekend.
While I'm going to resist the temptation to make a Super Bowl prediction, I will say this: I expect both No. 1 seeds (Falcons and Patriots) to host their respective conference championship games in two-and-a-half weeks.
But before we can move on to that, I must discuss the stories I found most interesting in the final week of the 2010 NFL season.
Five Things That Impressed Me about Week 17
1. Charlie Whitehurst
A lot of people thought Pete Carroll was crazy to give a third-string quarterback $10 million over two years last March
But as it turned out, Carroll has the last laugh, at least for the time being.
In only his second NFL start, the fifth-year pro out of Clemson threw for only 192 yards and a touchdown, but it was his gusto on the first drive that really impressed me.
On the second play of the game, Whitehurst threw a beautiful pass towards the sideline that Ruvell Martin hauled in for a 61-yard gain. The drive eventually ended in a Mike Williams touchdown.
Whitehurst's willingness to make a statement that he was no pushover inspired his teammates, and when Will Herring picked off a Sam Bradford pass late, the party was on in Seattle.
While the Seahawks do have to live with the indignity of being the first sub-.500 playoff team in history, a division crown is meaningful no matter how wretched your competition is.
2. Ryan Matthews
Too little too late, my friend.
I'm sure many fantasy owners like me were suckered into drafting this guy because many in the media said that he was a can't-miss prospect.
Thus, we were all licking our chops at the potential for a monster year.
In Matthews' defense, he was injured for some time, but he still should have been good enough to be a solid No. 2 back on a fantasy roster.
But the flash of brilliance never came, and while fighting for a playoff spot, I had no choice to get cut him lose.
However, on Sunday, Matthews possibly foreshadowed what could likely happen down the road, as he rushed for 120 yards and three scores against the Broncos.
It served me right for not believing in him as my fantasy season ended last week with Michael Bush and Shonn Greene as my running backs.
3. Jim Tomsula
While, reading Peter King's column yesterday, I came across the section on the 49ers interim coach and couldn't have been more happy for him based on what he's gone through in life.
Tomsula is truly the current NFL poster child for living the dream.
He started out as a strength and conditioning coach at a small southern college. After he was let go, he sold carpeting and food while in between jobs.
The best job he could get however was as a volunteer assistant at a small school in North Carolina, where he was forced to live out of his car because he couldn't afford housing.
His determination to do whatever it took eventually led him to NFL Europe, and his current job with San Francisco.
While it's unlikely he'll ever be a head coach again, Tomsula can raise his head up high in knowing that he was rewarded for perseverance by winning a game as a head coach in the greatest professional league of them all.
4. Arian Foster
Foster was arguably the biggest gamble that paid off this season. Like Tomsula, he conquered a long road to get to glory.
Foster suffered a hamstring tear in his senior year at Tennessee, and many NFL scouts saw him as a liability because of it.
The Texans signed him as an undrafted free agent, and once he was given the opportunity to start, he did not disappoint.
After a 31-carry, 180-yard day Sunday, Foster has now got himself an NFL rushing title and is one of the few bright spots on a Houston team that underachieved this season.
5. Erik Walden
The Packer linebacker recorded 11 tackles and registered two sacks in the win against the Bears. Hopefully he can take the momentum from this game into a successful postseason.
Five Things That Depressed Me about Week 17
1. Brett Favre
Even the most ardent Favre hater probably didn't want to see it end the way it did.
If there's one thing word that defines Brett Favre's 2010 season, it's probably injury.
The image of Favre sitting on the sidelines while still suffering the effects of a concussion is a stark reminder that he is no longer the invincible man he once was.
In effect, it's a sad ending to a career that I believe lasted a bit too long
It's hard for me to gauge how much longer Favre's career should have lasted, since he had terrible years with the Jets in '08 and Vikings this year, but a great year with the Vikings in '09. Who's to say that he wouldn't have bounced back next year had the pattern continued and he was healthy?
I have to believe that Vikings kicker and close friend Ryan Longwell was truthful when told Sports Illustrated that he is 100 percent sure that Favre will not return.
Favre is just too old and too weak to play this game now.
He would be absolutely crazy to change him mind again.
His focus should be on being a good husband and father, and trying to make peace with those he alienated, mainly the Packers organization and their fans.
2. The Kansas City Chiefs
If only last week was this week. Matt Cassel turned in his worst performance of the year by completing only 11 passes for a paltry 115 yards and two interceptions in an embarrassing home loss to the Raiders.
Add to that the fact that the Chiefs defense had no answer for the running of Michael Bush, and that the offense seemed like they were distracted by the news that coordinator Charlie Weis is headed to the University of Florida after this season.
Hence, the Chiefs are extremely vulnerable as they prepare to host a hungry Ravens team on Sunday
3. Eric Mangini
The former wonder kid coach commenced his disastrous two-year stint with the Browns by watching them get manhandled by the Steelers 41-9.
The running game only generated 43 total yards, Colt McCoy threw three interceptions and the defense could not contain Rashard Mendenhall.
Dare I say Mangini will come back to Belichick next season?
4. Kerry Collins
I'm a firm believer that good, veteran quarterbacks should capitalize on turnovers.
After a late fumble by the Colts, Collins fumbled a snap, and allowed the Colts to clinch the No. 3 seed in the AFC.
It was the perfect ending to the soap opera that was the Titans' season.
5. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It's unfortunate that a team that many felt would be among the downtrodden in the NFC will miss the playoffs after defying the odds to win 10 games.
This team is loaded with young talent such as Josh Freeman, Mike Williams and LaGarrette Blout, and should be competitive for at least the next decade.
It's too bad that the Bucs can't continue to prove doubters wrong, but at least they can go into the offseason knowing that the future looks bright.
1. SI.com's Jon Heyman is reporting that Adrian Beltre is likely headed to Texas. I just wonder what they're going to do with Michael Young should that happen?
2. Take heed Timberwolves fans, Kevin Love has the makings of a star. I've never seen a Celtic opponent dominate the glass like he did last night.
3. Tukka Rask would be a better goalie if he was more aggressive.
4. I finally saw Andrew Luck play last night, and I love his ability to fix his mistakes on the fly and throw down the field. I see him leaving Stanford only if Jim Harbaugh leaves.
5. ESPN said this morning that Wade Phillips would love to be the defensive coordinator for the Texans. Why Wade, because it's close to home and it's probably the only chance you've got to go back to the NFL?
6. Is it wrong to have your first glass of eggnog after Christmas?
7. My New Year's resolution was to exercise more. I burned 750 calories on my elliptical machine yesterday. So far so good.
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