The playoffs cometh.
On Saturday, the Saints are at Seattle, followed by the Jets and Colts in Indy. A tough break for the Saints, if you believe that a short week plus a 2,100-mile trip plus a major loud venue is hazardous to winning. I do not expect Drew Brees to be fazed. At night, the Jets and Colts play a rematch of the AFC title game. The Colts have won four in a row and are settling in to life with backups.
Sunday: Baltimore-Kansas City early, Green Bay-Philadelphia late. Major, major break for the Ravens, drawing the Chiefs in Kansas City instead of the Colts in Indianapolis. Indy has an eight-game win streak over the Ravens. Baltimore is 2-0 versus K.C. since 2005. "No matter who we play,'' Ravens coach John Harbaugh told me, "we're going to have to win on the road, which doesn't bother us.''
Baltimore has won three road playoff games in the past two years, which is the reason for Harbaugh's confidence. That plus he has Ray Rice revved up and playing well. "We've got Ray going, and we've got different ways of playing on offense now,'' Harbaugh said. The Chiefs will try to not be distracted by the questions about the Charlie Weis distraction.
In the late game, the Eagles have gone from steamroller to vulnerable in six days. Will Mike Vick be healthy? Will he be able to beat blitzing Packers defensive backs? That will tell the tale of this game.
You're on the clock, Marty Hurney. And you're on deck, John Elway.
Top 10 draft order for the last NFL event (April 28-30, 2011) in a while:
7. San Francisco
14. St. Louis
17. New England from Oakland
18. San Diego
19. New York Giants
20. Tampa Bay
Without Andrew Luck, there won't be the same excitement at the top. But we don't know for sure whether the Stanford quarterback will come out or not, though Jim Harbaugh told me last week he thought Luck would stay. We'll see after the bowl game tonight, perhaps.
The 2011 schedule is out, sort of, assuming there is a 2011 season.
New England has Indy at home for the 629th straight year, and the Patriots also have a starry home slate: Peyton and Eli, Matt Cassel's return, Tony Romo and Philip Rivers come to Foxboro. Giants at Jets. Matt Ryan at Peyton. Peyton at Josh Freeman. Those are some of the highlights.
Jim Tomsula gets the W.
If you weren't rooting for the interim San Francisco coach against Arizona in the meaningless game of the weekend, you should have been. He was the defensive line coach of the Niners when Mike Singletary got fired last week, and when the Niners picked him to finish out the final game of the season, all of the Bay Area asked, "Who's he?'' A football junkie, that's who, who never took no for an answer to a career he just had to have.
Looking for a coaching job when an assistant strength coach job at Charleston Southern dried up in 1995, he moved home to Pittsburgh. No football team was hiring. He cleaned floors at a department store, then worked as a sales rep for a food distributor. Hired as a lowly volunteer assistant at Catawba (N.C.) in 1997, he sold carpeting to get by and lived in his car because he couldn't afford housing. Hs reputation as a defensive line technician got him a gig in NFL Europe, which he held 'til 2006. The Niners hired him for Mike Nolan's staff in 2007. "I'm a football coach,'' he said last week. "I'm Jim Nobody from Nowhere. I keep my spoon in my soup. I don't eat anybody else's soup. I just do my job.''
West Coast scribes heard a collection of those gems last week. The Niners consider him a long-termer, and they hope the next coach hires him to stay on. It was fun to watch him Sunday. The FOX cameras caught him smiling more than the rest of the coaches in the league smiled all season, collectively. And his team-for-a-game rewarded him with a 38-7 rout of the Cards, many players hugging him afterward, thrilled for him. "At least they didn't throw me in the trash can,'' he said.
Pressed to talk about how he felt and what was going through the mind of a guy who lived in his car for weeks so that he could VOLUNTEER to coach football, he said, "It was just -- that was just football, and you see those guys with smiles on their faces, and that's -- pure football, and just playing football and having fun and going through, you know ... One football game is like an entire life. The ups, the downs, the turns, the curves, you know, you go through all of these things through a whole game and the team has to do it together and stay together, you know. So, I'd really just like to talk about what these guys accomplished today."