KAZ’S KORNER

 

For the past decade or so, one or more of my favorite National Football League teams—the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks– has been involved in the wild card playoffs.

None of these three teams played well enough to earn a spot in the playoffs which begin this weekend. And all three teams were missing key players which played a huge part in their 2017 demise.

The Texans lost defensive stalwarts J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus in the same quarter of the same game while amazing quarterback Deshaun Watson went down a couple of games later and it was all downhill from there.

The Dallas Cowboys had a much different situation with pretty much the same results as they fought the six-game suspension of super running back Ezekiel Elliott tooth-and-nail but finally lost out at mid-season.

Although the Pokes were 3-3 during Elliott’s absence, they just barely missed the playoffs after losing to Seattle 21-12 during the Christmas weekend.

And the Seahawks needed Carolina to beat Atlanta for them to have a shot at the playoffs, but when it appeared that wouldn’t happen, Seattle lost their 24-23 lead over Arizona and the game 26-24 after Cardinal kicker Phil Dawson booted his fourth field goal of the game.

So, I guess I’ll go with the fourth-best team that I like and start chanting “Who Dat?’ and jump on the New Orleans’ Saints bandwagon and hope they can use the home-field advantage to subdue the Carolina Panthers Sunday at 3:40 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. This game’s early line is a toss-up.

The playoffs officially kick off 3:20 p.m. Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City when the Chiefs entertain the Tennessee Titans on ESPN. The Chiefs are favored by a touchdown.

Later that night Atlanta travels to Los Angeles to meet the Rams in a 7:15 p.m. game that the early line rates the teams as even. It can be seen on NBC.

First-round action continues Sunday at 12:05 p.m. in Jacksonville when the Jaguars throw out the welcome mat for the unpredictable Buffalo Bills with the Jags a slight favorite. Sunday’s second game pits Carolina at New Orleans.

The big news for Houston Texans’ fans was the announcement that the lengthy feud between Head Coach Bill O’Brien and General Manager Rick Smith is over after Smith announced shortly after his team suffered its sixth straight loss 22-13 at Indianapolis Sunday that he will be taking an “extended leave of absence” effective immediately.

According to the front page of Monday’s edition of the Houston Chronicle, Smith has been taking care of his family’s three children and making trips to Arizona where his wife, Tiffany, has been undergoing treatment for breast cancer for the past few weeks. Her husband has been balancing his job with bringing up the children in Houston and making trips to Arizona to be with her.

It appears the main problem between Smith and O’Brien over the past four seasons has been job-related issues but they continued to work together.

Smith’s contract states that he is in charge of personnel, meaning who is signed and released. O’Brien’s contract says he is in charge of who plays and who doesn’t play. All the head coach can do is work with the 53 players Smith puts on the active roster.

“In other words, if Smith drafted or signed players O’Brien didn’t want, the coach didn’t have to play them,” the Chronicle article pointed out.

“Smith, in addition to trading up to draft Watson, has a solid record of first-round picks, including Watt, Jadeveon Clowney and receiver DeAndre Hopkins. But later picks haven’t panned out as well and his free-agent signings have been mixed,” the article added.

Texans owner Bob McNair wants to hire a new general manager as soon as possible because of the upcoming free agent signing period in March and the draft in April.

But the main item on his agenda is to find someone who knows O’Brien and

will have harmony with the head coach.

KWICKIES…The Dallas Cowboys finished then 2017 season on a positive note by shutting out Philadelphia, the team that tied two other teams with the best record in the NFL, 6-0. It was the first time Philadelphia had been shut out since the 2010 season. The 13-3 Eagles, who have a first-round bye in the playoffs, will play the team with the lowest remaining seed Jan. 21 at home.

It appears that the University of Central Florida is for real after finishing the regular season with a perfect 12-0 record, upsetting highly-favored Auburn 34-27 New Year’s Day in the Peach Bowl.

` Despite their impressive 18-10 upset victory over the Washington Redskins Sunday, the New York Giants lost more games (13) this season than any other team in their 93-year franchise history.

The Detroit Lions blasted Green Bay 35-11 in Sunday’s finale but still failed to make the playoffs. This was the first season since 1991 that the Lions swept the Packers.

Arizona Cardinals’ brilliant receiver Larry Fitzgerald hauled in eight passes Sunday in their 26-24 victory over Seattle to tie Tony Gonzalez by catching a pass in 211 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in NFL history.

JUST BETWEEN US…The axe has already fallen on at least three head football coaches less than 24 hours after the 2017 NFL regular season ended. Chuck Pagano was fired by the Indianapolis Colts less than two hours after his team came from behind to beat the Houston Texans 22-13. Oakland Raiders’ coach Jack Del Rio was told by team owner Mark Davis that he would not be retained for the 2018 season. And veteran coach John Fox was let go by the Chicago Bears shortly after his team was defeated 23-10 by the Minnesota Vikings. By the time this Korner hits the streets, that number could very well have doubled.