1. I think this is what I liked about wild-card weekend:
a. There was time for a little bit of news. I hear the new AEG football stadium project in Los Angeles is very close to a stadium naming rights deal with Farmers Insurance, and the insurance company will pay at least $400 million over 20 years if the deal is consummated. Which I expect to happen.
b. That led to this good line from Mike Florio of profootballtalk.com: "So, basically, it means that, at some point, Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times will be reporting from Farmers Insurance stadium.''
c. Earl Thomas. Way to separate Lance Moore and the ball on a vital third-quarter play at Qwest.
d. Colin Cole, Brandon Mebane of the Seahawks. Big stops for four quarters.
e. Brodney Pool, the accidental safety, stopping the Colts on their first two third-down conversion tries.
f. Adam Vinatieri. I look forward to debating his candidacy for Canton one day.
g. Rex Ryan not backing down. Hey, the basic thing you realize with Ryan is he's not going to change, and if you don't like his schtick, he doesn't care.
h. Braylon Edwards' terrific catch of Mark Sanchez's high throw (surprise!) on the sidelines in the final minute at Indy. We give him endless crap for bad hands, so he should get props for making a great catch at a crucial time.
i. The nugget from Phil Simms on the Chiefs-Ravens game about seeing Ray Lewis flinch across the line from Matt Cassel, as though he might be blitzing, causing Cassel to call timeout. Good catch.
j. The Branden Albert block on Ray Lewis on the Jamaal Charles touchdown run in the first half at Kansas City. That's the kind of lock-on erasure of a great linebacker that, were I Albert, I'd make sure I got a photo of and blow up to the size of my house.
k. Great play on the third-quarter, fourth-and-a-foot stop at K.C., Kelly Gregg.
l. Shawne Merriman's second-half tweet while watching Ravens-Chiefs: "I think I just saw Flacco read a chapter in a book back there.''
m. Tamba Hali. Welcome to national prominence, dude.
n. The throw by Joe Flacco to Todd Heap on the late-third-quarter drive inside the five. Perfectly executed.
o. Great nugget by Jay Glazer on FOX, saying the hero of the weekend, Marshawn Lynch, could have been dealt to New Orleans instead of Seattle had the Bills done their due diligence. Glazer reported the Saints would have given the Bills a third-round pick at least, and Seattle ended up dealing fourth- and sixth-round picks for him.
p. All those Packers no one's ever heard of.
q. Ted Thompson, building depth.
r. Mike McCarthy, coaching 'em up.
2. I think this is what I didn't like about wild-card weekend:
a. David Akers, first and foremost.
b. Everything about the New Orleans secondary.
c. Reggie Bush.
d. Terrible play-call, giving the ball to Julius Jones on fourth-and-three-inches midway through the third quarter on a conversion the Saints absolutely had to have. Sean Payton will regret that one for a long time. That play was made for a Drew Brees sneak.
e. Delay of game on a 53-yard field goal attempt? That's one that should have haunted the Seahawks, but they overcame it.
f. Dumb play by Haruki Nakamura, trying to lateral the ball in heavy traffic after picking off Matt Cassel. You never pitch the ball in traffic.
g. The big plays, or lack thereof, by the Colts.
h. The Colts leaving too much time on the clock for the Jets to come back.
i. The Peyton Manning Sony commercial shown between the first and second quarters of Baltimore-Kansas City. Nothing against it, and I understand the way the commercial world works, with these things put together months ago, but I can imagine being a Colts fan Sunday, looking at the TV, seeing Manning.
j. Mike Vick being exposed far, far too much to injury. The Eagles had better do something about that offensive line or Kevin Kolb will play more games than Vick next year.
k. Vick's touch. That last throw wasn't awful, it just needed a little air underneath it.
3. I think I was happy to see Ed Sabol make the list of 15 modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the most notable name in the final 15, who will have their cases heard in front of the 44 Hall of Fame selectors Feb. 5 in Dallas (Sabol for the first time).
The favorites for election are Deion Sanders and Marshall Faulk, both in their first year of eligibility. I'll have more to say in the coming weeks about the possible class of 2011, but let me touch on those 11 who didn't make the cut.
Former Giants GM George Young is a long shot now; he's probably been passed by Ron Wolf and Bill Polian in the architect class. I think Eddie DeBartolo will get to the final 15 some day as an owner of a five-time Super Bowl winner, but his accomplishments will have to be separated from Bill Walsh's to make a great case. I fear for Art Modell fans that his time has passed, and I get no sense his campaign has much traction. Paul Tagliabue, a former finalist, probably won't have a chance until a few years after this new labor deal is reached.
I was surprised Don Coryell didn't make the final 15, but I think winning 111 games and going 3-6 in the playoffs is hard to overcome, though he's such a brilliant mind who contributed so much to offensive football. Cornerbacks Lester Hayes and Aeneas Williams might be destined for Hall of Very Good; there doesn't seem to be much momentum for them. I think Kevin Greene and his sacks will one day get a deserved airing before the committee. Having the 73rd-leading punting average of all time damages Ray Guy. Playing just four full seasons hurts Terrell Davis' cause. Roger Craig didn't make it out of the first round of the finalist voting last year, and this year didn't make it to the finals. Bad sign.
4. I think Scott Pioli's biggest job in the draft process this year, by far, will be to upgrade the offensive line, particularly at right tackle. Big problem Sunday, with Matt Cassel rarely being able to set up and throw without the Ravens buzzing around his head.
5. I think this occurred to me watching the Chiefs-Ravens game: Ozzie Newsome's a pretty valuable guy. Remember when two-thirds of the league was down on Terrence Cody, the defensive tackle from Alabama, because he weighed 375, or whatever, and they were worried he'd eat himself out of the league? Newsome is an Alabama guy, obviously, and has great contacts there, and sought out the truth -- that, in the Alabama staff's opinion, the weight thing could be managed.
He used the 57th pick in the draft last April on Cody. Not a big risk for the 57th pick. On Sunday, Cody forced a Jamaal Charles fumble and brought his full 365 pounds to rest on Charles on the same play. Not saying one play should be so significant. Just saying the 57th pick is a very good time to take a guy with top 20 talent who needs to be managed ... if you've got the inside sources who tell you the guy's worth it, which Newsome has.
6. I think the NFL is littered with highly drafted safety busts over the years, but from watching football this weekend, Eric Berry and Earl Thomas will not be two of them.
7. I think it's understandable that Stephen Ross wants to do as much fact-finding as he can to be sure he has the best coach available. But this isn't a business in which you can sneak around and there aren't people waiting for your private plane when it returns to the hangar after midnight (which happened last Friday morning in south Florida, when Dolphins beat men Jeff Darlington and Ben Volin were waiting for Ross to return from the West Coast). This is football, and people are going to care if you have a coach and behind his back you go looking to see if you can hire another one to replace him.
I do give Ross this bit of credit: He did apologize for chasing Jim Harbaugh when Tony Sparano was still the coach. "Not until after I read the newspapers did I realize the anguish I'd put Tony through,'' Ross said Saturday. "I'm not familiar with going through this process, but I never thought it would be national news. I was a little naive. Looking back, I can tell you I shouldn't be talking to any coaches, seeking a replacement, until I've decided that I needed to make a change.''
Glad that won't happen again. Assuming it won't.
8. I think Mike Mayock did his future employment opportunities a very good turn Saturday in the Seattle-New Orleans game on NBC. He just always seemed to say the right thing at the right time (with the exception of saying Sean Payton shouldn't have gone for it on fourth-and-three-inches, down 14 with 19 minutes left). Would love to see him, and hear him, do more games.
9. I think if I had one football-related request for ESPN, it would be this: Please, please, please stop all these meaningless bowl games that even the fans of the teams don't care about. You know Middle Tennessee State-Miami of Ohio and Pitt-Kentucky happen because ESPN wants them for programming. Kentucky was 2-6 in the SEC this year, and the reward was a bowl game in front of friends and family, the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, at 11 a.m. local time Saturday. What do I want on instead? Anything. Bowling from Topeka. Lacrosse from Regina.
10. I think these are my non-football thoughts of the week:
a. Hey Geico. This is my weekly note about your commercials. The lizard's got to be history. Abe Lincoln? Good. The woodchucks? Very good. The pig who thanks Mrs. A after screaming Wee Wee Wee all the way home? The best.
b. Thank you, Daniel Hernandez -- and to the Arizona Republic for writing about the intern who might have saved Gabrielle Giffords' life.
c. Tremendous job by ESPN's Amy K. Nelson on Outside the Lines Sunday, in showing the effect of the blown perfect-game call on ump Jim Joyce. Excellent reporting showing the impact on a very conscientious man. "I don't want to be known as Jim Joyce, the guy that blew the perfect game. But I think that's inevitable,'' Joyce told Nelson.
d. Congress: I know you've got more pressing things on your plate, but that law you passed about commercials not being played at a higher volume than regular programming? In the Ravens-Chiefs game, unless my ears were playing tricks on me, it was happening big-time.
e. Beernerdness: Goose Island IPA was the draft of choice at the NBC wrap party Saturday night at the Playwright in midtown Manhattan, I think because the tap was a goosehead. Kept expecting it to say "AFLAC!'' The reviews were positive.
f. Coffeenerdness: I gave the Amtrak coffee one more try Friday, sucker that I am for caffeine in the morning. First sip. OK, hot enough. Second sip ... why'd I try this again? Weakest coffee on the planet. And there it sat for three hours. I guess I shouldn't complain that there's only one thing wrong with the Acela.
g. Apologies to all who bought tickets for the "Inside the Game'' events I was going to be a part of with Joe Buck and a group of retired players in Philadelphia, New York and Providence Jan. 18-20. The events got cancelled last week; I'm not a part of that decision-making process. They're fine-tuning the event and getting it ready for a 2011 rollout later in the year. Will keep you posted. Sorry for the confusion.
h. I'll be on the way to Pittsburgh for Ravens-Steelers later in the week. May see some of you out somewhere in the area Friday night.