“How you feeling?” someone asked Bruce Arians a few minutes before 1 this morning, as the Arizona Cardinals’ buses left Lincoln Financial for the airport in Philadelphia, and the long flight west.
You kidding? He’s great! Got to be! The Cardinals just demolished the Eagles 40-17 on national television, clinching the team’s first NFC title since 2009—and setting a record for the 96-year-old franchise for wins in a regular season (12). Arians did it a short drive from his hometown of York, Pa., and against one of the teams that spurned him when he was dying to be an NFL head coach. Sunday was a big night, and this coaching lifer had to be on Cloud Nine. Or Cloud 12.
“I’m melancholy,” the coach of the NFC West champions said.
There’s a story there.
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• The most electric receiver and best cornerback in football faced off in New Jersey, and a UFC fight broke out.
• The Broncos, who’d owned the AFC West all season, now could be one loss away from being the conference’s sixth seed.
• Grown men wept on the field in San Diego—and not because they were sentenced to play for the 4-10 Chargers. (I’ll write the lead to my Tuesday column on the end of days, possibly, in St. Louis and San Diego on the heels of their final home games. Thanks in advance for your patience.)
• The Texans, 0-13 at Indianapolis in their history before Sunday, finally won there, behind a quarterback who wasn’t good enough to play in Cleveland or to back up in Dallas. And now Houston’s playoff life will depend on one Brandon Weeden. “Crazy day, crazy month, crazy year,” he said from the scene of the crime Sunday.
• The Jets could win their final six games, beat the reigning Super Bowl champs, finish 11-5 and miss the playoffs. Easily.
• Washington wins the NFC East by winning Saturday night. Philadelphia wins the NFC East by winning its last two games.
• Regular-season wins for New England the last four years: 12, 12, 12, 12 (and counting).
• Kansas City is amazing. First team to lose five in a row then win eight straight in one season. (Wherever do they find these silly records?) Average margin of victory in the eight straight wins: 17.5 points. And 3-11 Cleveland and 6-8 Oakland come to Arrowhead for the last two regular-season games, so the Chiefs have a heck of a shot to extend that win streak to 10 straight. With a possible first-round playoff game at Houston, it’s quite possible that Kansas City could carry an 11-game winning streak into a divisional game at Cincinnati or Denver.
• Pittsburgh’s three-headed wideout monster (Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, Markus Wheaton) caught 32 passes in the win over Denver. How often have the fifth and sixth seeds in a conference playoff been the biggest threats to No. 1? This could be that year, with Kansas City and Pittsburgh the kryptonite to New England.
• Speaking of hot wild-card teams: Seattle has won five in a row, and Russell Wilson—statistically and in every other way—is the best he’s ever been. How can you be better than 19 touchdowns and no interceptions and a 143.6 passer rating over five games?
There’s a lot going on. The Giants might be wise to work on one game plan with maniacal Odell Beckham Jr. in it and one with him out of it. Concussion opens this week. You should see it; it’s important. Three teams in eight days are preparing to say goodbye to their cities forever, and some fans are into the love-in of it all, and some want vengeance. And did I mention Brandon Weeden is relevant again?
But we start on the bus in south Philly, with Bruce Arians’ favorite player in trouble………(continue reading)