Friday's NFL Blog: Early Edition

January 5th, 2006 ... Head coach interview updates ... key playoff matchups ... free agents worth a look for your team ... playoff predictions and analysis ... a professional wake up call for one NFL player ... and much more in today's Blog! Check back later for our P.M. Update!

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Pick 'em: NFL experts Randy Taylor and Adam Caplan weigh in with their Wild Card Weekend picks. Check 'em out and see if you agree.

Coming to your favorite team in 2007?
At our Lions site, subscribers can take a look at Detroit's draft and free agency forecast. Stay in the loop on who might be available to join your favorite team, like breakout WR Mike Furrey and DT Cory Redding, by checking out this report.

Falcon hunting: Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was in Atlanta on Thursday and offensive line coach Russ Grimm is scheduled to go there next week. Both are expected to interview for Bill Cowher's spot after he announces his retirement on Friday.  The Falcons are interviewing Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera on Friday and are expected to interview San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron this weekend. They have reportedly also expressed interest in talking to 49ers assistant head coach Mike Singletary.

Giants WR Plaxico Burress (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Key Matchup:  Chuck Hixson takes a look at the big Sunday matchup between Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress and the Philly secondary at our Eagles site. Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson is quoted in the article as saying, "I don't think we've got anybody close to tall enough to match up with him right now. The guy is 6'6", so it's always going to be a little bit of a problem. I think there are times guys just have to make sure they've got great position on him." But Hixson thinks there's another solution to minimizing Burress' contribution, and he provides his analysis in this subscribers feature.

Miami's search begins:
According to a Fox Sports report, the Dolphins are showing interest in former Falcons coach Jim Mora, Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner and defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, former Dolphins offensive coordinator Chan Gailey (who is currently the head coach at Georgia Tech), San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron and Vikings defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin.

Who will win?
Our Chiefs and Colts sites collaborated to present their top five reasons that their respective teams would win on Saturday. From our Colts' site's perspective, one important point is that the return of safety Bob Sanders is a big plus for Indy, but not just because of his tackling skills against the run. "The return of Sanders does one other very important thing for the Colts defense. It allows them to return former first-round pick Marlin Jackson back to the nickel back position instead of filling in at safety as he has during most of the second half of the season. That not only improves their pass defense, it puts a nickel back on the field who can help against the run, as Jackson is a hitter as well." And our Chiefs site mentions in one of their five points that, "The Colts will be so worried about stopping [RB Larry] Johnson, they'll forget about tight end Tony Gonzalez, who should be wide open time and again in the middle of Indy's Cover Two." subscribers can read their full analysis from an insider's perspective by clicking here.

Back in business:
Saints WR Joe Horn will be ready for next weekend's divisional playoffs as he returned to practice on Thursday. Horn's missed the last four weeks of the regular season with a partially torn groin muscle.

Ravens OT Jonathan Ogden (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
The voice of experience: In addition to having at least one home game and a bye, the Ravens have another advantage in this year's AFC playoffs. Aaron Wilson at our Baltimore site points out that, "Twenty six of the Ravens' 53 active players have been in at least one playoff game. Plus, still remaining on the team, including offensive guard Edwin Mulitalo who's on injured reserve, from the 2000 Super Bowl team: middle linebacker Ray Lewis, running back Jamal Lewis, center Mike Flynn, kicker Matt Stover, cornerback Chris McAlister, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden and linebacker Adalius Thomas." subscribers can enjoy the full article with player comments here.

Cardinals candidates:
Former Packers head coach Mike Sherman interviewed with the Cardinals on Thursday about their head coach position. Arizona's busy interview schedule includes Steelers offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt on Friday, San Diego offensive coordinator Cam Cameron on Saturday, Colts assistant head coach Jim Caldwell on Sunday, Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow on Monday, and Steelers offensive line coach Russ Grim on Tuesday.

Professional wake-up call:  Get a great glimpse into the real life of an NFL player who was shocked at being released earlier this year in the final wave of Minnesota's training camp cuts and struggled to find another opportunity. It was a revelation for Vikings LB Rod Davis, who will be entering free agency this offseason. "A team kind of charts who is going to be released throughout the preseason, and I was surprised how they set up who they were going to take off the wire," he said. "I wasn't in nobody's plans because nobody thought I would be released ... teams were calling my agent thinking there was something wrong with me, thinking I was hurt." Learn more about the harsh realities of the business side of the NFL in this subscribers feature.

Giving the boot...ummm... the boot: Chargers QB Philip Rivers sprained his foot last Sunday and wore a protective boot this week until yesterday's practice in San Diego. 

An abundance of questions:
Cleveland finished the year with more questions than answers, and at our Browns site, you can find out more about the current state of the team and many of the talent and coaching issues they need to address during the offseason. In a separate article, subscribers can take a peek at who the experts believe the team should select with their first pick in the 2007 NFL Draft.

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