The NFL season from A to Z

By Cedric Golden

Austin American-Statesman

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 5 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

AUSTIN, Texas — The playoffs are upon us, and it's anybody's guess as to which two teams will be the last ones standing when all eyes turn toward the Super Bowl, brought to you from JerryWorld.

Picking a winner isn't as simple as ABC, but the ride will be most enjoyable. So without further ado, have a look at my ABCs of the NFL season:

Aaron Rodgers is the toughest quarterback in football, even if he doesn't always get enough respect from the refs. I've seen three games this year in which no flag was thrown after the Green Bay QB received a cheap shot.

Baltimore was my preseason pick to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl, and I'm sticking with that pick even though Ray Lewis and his defense are starting to show signs of old age.

Cool, calm and collected explains the way Tom Brady goes about his business. The Patriots have to be favored to win the Super Bowl with the way Brady is directing this offense. Could it be the hair?

DeSean Jackson let his salary squabbles get in the way of football this year while catching only 47 passes in 14 games, but his average per catch of 22.5 yards was tops among wideouts with 40-plus grabs. The Philly speedster remains the most dangerous receiver in these playoffs.

Expect the New Orleans Saints to struggle at 7-9 Seattle, but don't expect an upset by the Seahawks, who don't deserve to be here. Six of Seattle's seven wins came against teams that didn't make the playoffs.

Footgate in New York has gotten out of hand. Jets coach Rex Ryan has been under fire after videotape, reportedly of his wife's feet, circulated on the Internet. Shouldn't he be more concerned with Mark Sanchez's footwork than his wife's bunions?

Green Bay was my preseason pick to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, but that was before the Packers starters missed a combined 206 games because of injuries.

Harbaugh is the hottest name in NFL coaching circles. The Stanford coach would be a perfect fit in San Francisco, but I hope my Dolphins land Jim.

Instead of allowing a 7-9 division champion to be the host team for a playoff game, the NFL should mandate a team must have a winning record to qualify for the postseason.

Jeff Fisher should stay in Tennessee, but Vince Young needs a change of scenery. When your quarterback asks to be taken out of a game in one year, then walks out on his teammates in another year, he has worn out his welcome.

Kansas City was the surprise team of 2010, thanks in part to former Longhorns Derrick Johnson and Jamaal Charles, who received lucrative contract extensions after banner seasons.

Lions fans should be pumped after Detroit improved to 6-10 two years after becoming the first team in league history to go 0-16. The Lions topped it off by placing two starters in the Pro Bowl — wideout Calvin Johnson and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

Mike Holmgren will hire himself to coach the Cleveland Browns. He has been away long enough. Let's see if he can make quarterback Colt McCoy a star.

Next in line to coach the Carolina Panthers? It should be Bill Cowher, who lives up the interstate from Charlotte. But Panthers owner Jerry Richardson is the cheapest owner in the league. He may go for a lesser name, which means paying less money.

Of all the broadcast teams for NFL games, I enjoy the Joe Buck-Troy Aikman pairing the most. Buck is no-nonsense in his approach, and Aikman doesn't go overboard in his praise of good players.

Peyton Manning has been overshadowed by Brady and Michael Vick, but he turned in a great season. He somehow kept his offense afloat despite losing tight end Dallas Clark for the season and running back Joseph Addai for extended time.

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