Wednesday's NFL Blog: P.M. Update

January 3, 2006 P.M. UPDATE ... Saban is sorrier than you may think ... a rookie diary update ... a Colts-Chiefs key matchup that doesn't involve Larry Johnson ... audio from the Vikings' media room ... Dallas prepares to get wet this weekend and much more!

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Sorry, indeed: Alain Poupart had this to say about Dolphins head coach Nick Saban's acceptance of the head coach job at the University of Alabama after just two seasons despite signing a five-year contract with the team. "The Nick Saban era is now over, and we can say now unequivocally that it was a flop," Poupart says. "It was a major disappointment on the field, but what really stunk is the way Saban handled his departure. To put simply, it was totally classless from A to Z." subscribers can read his entire commentary here.

Dear Diary...  Bears rookie Mark Anderson posted 12 sacks this year and finished second in the voting for NFL Rookie of the Year. At our Bears site, he makes his tenth entry into his rookie diary. "I don't really care which team we end up against in a week. I don't think it matters all that much," he writes. "The burden is on us to go out there and play every down at 100% against any team we find on the other side of the ball. We plan to go all the way, and we are well aware of the amount of work that must be put in now to reach that goal."  Read his thoughts on the Packers game, the playoffs, and some reflections on his rookie year right here.

Kansas City's Dante Hall (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Key matchup: Sure, everyone's talking about Chiefs running back Larry Johnson rushing for a gazillion yards against the Colts this weekend, but another key matchup is going to have a major impact on this wild card game as well. In this feature at our Colts site for subscribers, Greg Talmage breaks down the matchup between Chiefs returns specialist Dante Hall and the Colts coverage teams in a contest where field position is going to be critical to helping the Indy defense.

You're all wet: Dallas head coach Bill Parcells is preparing his team for the rain showers that are anticipated for the Cowboys playoff game against Seattle. According to this feature at our Cowboys site, "Rather than practicing inside their indoor facility, head coach Bill Parcells has had his team practicing outside in the cool, January air. He has contemplated piping in noise to simulate the din the Seahawks' '12th Man' crowd emits at their games. And he's having his team's practice with footballs that have been submerged in water." Click the link above to find out how the players think the wet conditions could have an impact on the way they'll have to approach the game.

Listen in:
Our Vikings site called head coach Brad Childress' Tuesday press conference "one of his more revealing" ones. subscribers can listen to this audio straight from the media room.

Today's Birthday Bunch: Raiders WR Carlos Francis (26), Bills OL Mike Gandy (28), Giants QB Eli Manning (26), Giants WR David Tyree (27).

Marinelli gets his guy:
  Just a day after defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson was fired, Lions head coach Rod Marinelli got the guy who was his first choice for the job last year at about this time -- Joe Barry, the former Buccaneers linebackers coach. Our Lions site has the story for you here.

A bit needy: All of the teams who didn't make the playoffs are busy assessing their roster and their needs as they look forward to free agency and the NFL Draft. And the Browns are no exception. The writers at our Cleveland site provide their thoughts on which roster spot is the most important to upgrade this offseason. subscribers can get the scoop here.


Tweak it or Nuke it?  That's the question Rich Tandler at our Redskins site bluntly asks about the Redskins defense as the team looks for ways to improve their showing in 2007. "What made the performance of the defense shocking is that the unit has been the team's consistent strength ever since Gregg Williams arrived along with Joe Gibbs in 2004," he says. "But through a combination of a scheme that the other teams have figured out, some key injuries, and some misguided personnel decisions the unit has deteriorated into the team's Achilles heel."  Check out his analysis of the situation here.

Did you know?
The Chicago Bears haven't held any of their last four opponents under 21 points, while allowing an average of 26 points per game. By contrast, during their first four games of the season, they allowed a total of 29 points, roughly 7 points per game.

Nightmare in Indy:  Shannon Sharpe of the NFL Network proclaimed that the Chiefs being paired with the Colts in the playoffs "is the Colts' worst nightmare," with the Chiefs' Larry Johnson heading to Indy to face a run defense that is ranked last in the league. But John Viril at our Kansas City site points out that, "If the Chiefs are to win on Saturday, the key performances will come long before game-time. The Chiefs will lose if they play with the stodgy game plans they used during their three game December losing streak." Get the details here...

Cowboys QB Tony Romo (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Pro Bowler?  After wowing everyone with his early performances out of the gate in relief of veteran Drew Bledsoe -- and even winning a Pro Bowl nomination -- Cowboys QB Tono Romo has returned to earth. He has been intercepted eight times and fumbled seven times in the past five games. "Sometimes when everybody is feeding you the cheese it's hard not to eat it," Parcells said, inferring that Romo has become a bit overconfident.

Rewind:  John Lombardi at our Packers site takes a look at the good and the bad for an 8-8 Green Bay team "exceeded expectations" and finished 5-1 in the AFC North. "The zone blocking scheme worked well enough," he notes. "Ahman Green gained over 1,000 yards this season despite missing two games. Brett Favre was only sacked 24 times which was the fifth lowest total in the league. Considering that Green Bay threw more passes than any other team in the league makes it even more impressive." subscribers can read more of his analysis here.

Moving on:  After Jacksonville again was held back a bit by their offense's erratic performances, they said goodbye to offensive coordinator Carl Smith, special teams coordinator Pete Rodriguez, quarterbacks coach Ken Anderson and wide receivers coach Steve Walters. "I appreciate the effort each of these men gave during their time here," said Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio. "These decisions are always very difficult, but any decision that is made is done solely from the desire to win football games. I wish each of these coaches nothing but the best as they move on."

Power Rankings:
  Wonder how your favorite playoff team stacks up against the others? Well Dylan Johnson at our Seahawks site put together his lineup of the top teams as we head into Wild Card Weekend. See if you agree with his picks, and then link to them at our team's fan forum community to spark some more debate!

A major loss?
  The word out of Miami is that Nick Saban will announce today whether he is returning to the Dolphins next season or will jump ship for an offer to coach at the University of Alabama. Alain Poupart at our Dolphins site raises the question of whether or not it would be that big of a loss if he did leave. "The question needs to be asked because, quite frankly, Saban hasn't exactly produced major results in his first two seasons with the Dolphins and it's not as tough the Dolphins are riding any kind of momentum into the offseason as they did in 2005 when they ended the season with six consecutive victories," he says. subscribers can check out the rest of this article here.

Theoretically speaking:  Giants MLB Brandon Short thinks he knows why the Eagles have played so well over the past few weeks. The absence of Donovan McNabb has actually helped them from what Short has observed.  "I know that sounds silly," he said, "but when Donovan went down -- and he is absolutely one of the top quarterbacks in the league --  it forced them to run the ball more with (Brian) Westbrook. He's been terrific. Then (Jeff) Garcia started to show he could do the job and now they are more well-balanced."

Vikings QB Brad Johnson (Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
No prisoners: Vikings head coach Brad Childress said he and former starting quarterback Brad Johnson were scheduled to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss his future with the team. Tim Yotter at our Minnesota site reports that Childress said if Johnson won't accept the terms of being a backup and would prefer to be released, the team will grant that request. Learn more about the Vikings' QB plans for 2007 here.

Like father, like son:  Aaron Wilson at our Ravens site tells us that Baltimore head coach Brian Billick gave his defensive coordinator, Rex Ryan, a ringing endorsement on Tuesday. "I think he's as ready to be a head coach as any coach I've been around," Billick said. Ryan is the son of former NFL head coach Buddy Ryan. subscribers can find out about this story here along with what else is going on in Baltimore this week.

Reducing the risk:
The Eagles made a surprise move this week, re-signing QB Koy Detmer to the team. No, they aren't worried about Jeff Garcia's performance or durability, but they were concerned when kicker David Akers missed a 23-yard field goal attempt against Atlanta last weekend -- the first time he's missed a kick of less than 30 yards in his NFL career. And that's something the Eagles can't afford come playoff time. Detmer was Akers' holder for the past six seasons until they released him in early September, and it was apparent that Akers wasn't happy with the move that put punter Dirk Johnson in Detmer's old job.

Revolving door:  Our Raiders site is reporting that head coach Art Shell is likely to learn his fate this week when he meets with owner Al Davis. Oakland has gone through six coaching changes since 1995, but Davis has fired just one head coach after his first season -- Joe Bugel back in 1997. And only one of those changes -- Jon Gruden's -- was voluntary.  Read more about the outlook for Shell here.

Bend, but don't break:  Michael Lombardo shares his insights on a Chargers defense that allowed the Arizona Cardinals to rack up 444 yards of total offense, including 356 through the air. "However, the defense played its best with the game and the top seed in the AFC at stake," he says. "With the Cardinals facing a first-and-goal from the San Diego 5-yard line, the Chargers came up three consecutive stops to force a field goal and preserve a seven-point advantage. The Cardinals never threatened again." subscribers can read more about his thoughts on the Chargers defense here.

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