1. Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson mused about retirement last week and if his comments this week about the team’s organization are any indication, he is either headed for retirement or to another team for the 2012 season. Tomlinson let loose on the team’s dysfunction, suggesting the team’s chemistry was as bad as he had ever seen, that he doubted quarterback Mark Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Hollmes could coexist, that Holmes needed to work on being a leader and that while he liked playing for head coach Rex Ryan, he wished the combative coach would tone down his style. Having used 4th round picks in each of the last two drafts on running backs (Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell), don’t look for LT back in a Jets uniform in 2012.
2. Having witnessed left tackle Doug Free struggle mightily to protect quarterback Tony Romo’s blindside in 2011, reports indicate the Cowboys are considering moving Free to right tackle. Rookie 1st round pick Tyron Smith played that position this season but Dallas head coach Jason Garrett may want to move Smith to left tackle, given his superior athleticism.
3. With the Packers loss this week to the Giants, the top seed in the NFC has now lost their first playoff game in four of the past five seasons. This trend follows a string of 17 years in which the top seed in the conference won their first playoff game.
4. Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks has been dominant in his team’s wins over the Falcons and Packers, reminding fans of the superlative performance that Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald had in his team’s run to the Super Bowl during the 2008 season. Having topped 100 receiving yards and scoring twice in each game, Nicks becomes just the third player since the Super Bowl has been awarded to accomplish that feat, joining Fitzgerald and Jerry Rice.
5. Sticking with the Giants and their situation at wide receiver, Nicks’ performance has made a mockery of numerous fantasy pundits and NFL writers who spent the week prior to the wild card round claiming that the Giants had two number one wide receivers and debating the merits of which player would have a superior season in 2012. While Victor Cruz had an amazing season (setting a Giants record for most receiving yards with 1536, good enough for third in the league, there is little doubt that he benefitted playing alongside Nicks, who often drew coverage away from him. In addition, while Nicks played in 15 games this season, he was banged up regularly and was as healthy as he has been all year when the playoffs opened.
6. Looks like karma is working in favor of disposed Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo. While Spagnuolo enjoyed little success in St. Louis, compiling a 10-38 record in three seasons, he was a solid defensive coach who attempted to build the team’s roster based on his four pillars: faith, character, core values and team first. With Jeff Fisher taking over for Spagnuolo and the hiring of Gregg Williams to lead the team’s defense, a vacancy at defensive coordinator in New Orleans was created. Spagnuolo will fill that role in 2012. Interestingly, the only truly solid performance the Rams put together this past season came in a 31-21 upset win over the Saints, a game in which they produced two turnovers and six sacks in limiting the Saints to just 283 total yards.
7. Looking forward to the conference championship games this weekend, one key stat to remember is that the Ravens are 7-0 against playoff teams thus far in 2011.