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Sean Payton is one of my favorite coaches. The Saints offense was so much fun to watch a few years back when Drew Brees was in top form and he had some good playmakers around him. Payton knew how to design a great offense and then how to call plays to bring out the best in his guys.

One of my favorite memories is the Saints trailing the Dolphins by 10 or more points in the 2nd half of a game. Instead of turning Brees completely loose, Payton went to the run game. That helped to open up the passing game and New Orleans won. It always frustrates me when coaches panic in the 2nd or 3rd quarter when trailing by 2 possessions or less. There is still plenty of time left. Stay balanced. Run the ball. Be physical. If you get down too much or it gets late, then panic and go pass happy.

Back to Payton. I hate to say this, but he’s turning into the offensive version of Jeff Fisher.

2014  7-9
2015  7-9
2016  7-9

Yikes. Payton is still a great offensive mind, but the Saints defense has been a mess in recent years and it feels like time for a change. I’d love to see Payton go somewhere else and see if he could get back to where he was 5 or 6 years ago.

*****

If you watched the playoffs last weekend, chances are you heard that Houston had the #1 defense in the league. They mentioned it over and over. And over.

The Texans had a terrific season on D, but let’s take a look at the big picture. They were 1st in yards allowed. They were 11th in scoring D. That’s fine, but clearly isn’t compelling.

Jon Gruden was asked if the Texans could ride their D to the Super Bowl, like the 2000 Ravens or 2002 Bucs. Always prone to hyperbole, Gruden said yes.

No.

No.

No.

The Ravens and Bucs were two of the greatest defenses in the history of football. They were special. They were unique. The Texans finished 11th in points allowed. There is nothing unique or special about that.

Good isn’t great.

*****

I loved Matt Ryan coming out of Boston College. I thought he was a great prospect and deserved to go Top 5. Ryan has been a good QB in the NFL since coming into the league.

For some reason, he has been heavily criticized his whole career. I never really understood it. Ryan hasn’t been a great player in the NFL. But he’s been pretty darn good. He has a career rating of 93.7. He averages 26 TD passes a year. The Falcons never had consecutive winning seasons before his arrival. They have only had a losing record twice in Ryan’s 9-year career.

Ryan posted freakish numbers this year, throwing 38 TDs and only 7 INTs. His rating of 117.1 is one of the highest in NFL history. I’m glad to see Ryan getting some of the credit he’s deserved.

Winning in the postseason is the next hurdle for him.

*****

Can Dallas win with rookies Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott leading the way? I have my doubts.

The Cowboys had a great season. Prescott broke records and Elliott is a legitimate contender for league MVP. But the postseason is a very different animal. I’m curious as to whether they can handle it.

Dallas did beat Green Bay in mid-October, but the Packers are a very different team right now. Aaron Rodgers is playing out of his mind and that offense is coming up with huge contributions from a variety of guys.

Their defense is still flawed, but they seem to make big plays. This should be a great game.

*****

It still blows my mind that Bills LB Lorenzo Alexander had such an amazing season. He had 12.5 sacks, 3 FFs, and an INT.

Alexander came into the season with 9 career sacks. 9.

That’s just crazy.

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