Pat
As the winter meetings wind down, there have been a lot of signings and trades that will make an impact.  There will be more in the next couple of weeks. What I like to do this time of year is let the dust settle and then look at everyone’s rosters and see who I think will contend for the coming season. I will do that over the next couple of months.
 
But now the real fun is what’s happening in the NFL. With three games left, we are seeing what teams are really contending for the playoffs and which are not. The big surprises for me are on the negative side. Pittsburgh and Houston are big disappointments in the AFC. The Giants, Redskins and Falcons have had very disappointing seasons in the NFC. These teams have gone from major contenders to bottom rung in one season.
 
On the positive side of the ledger, the Chiefs have totally turned it around in the AFC and the Cardinals and Panthers are much improved in the NFC. In the coming days, I will look really closely at all these teams and try to figure out why the turn around. I like to try to find reasons for negative and positive changes in teams, so I can figure out what they need to do stop the bleeding or what they can do to keep improvements going in the right direction.  
 
Masha
What a crazy NFL season so far. Pat’s right, there are some big surprises in performance this year and the teams who had been struggling several years ago are really coming on. Could be new coaching (KC), could be younger players growing into their position (Carolina). One of the things I believe directly impacts team performance is the NFL draft. You can see the bottom rung team making big moves when one or more of their rookies or second year guys starts to perform. Carolina Panthers are a great example of this.
 
The team in the news this week is the Redskins. Who knows if Mike Shanahan (and probably Kyle too) will be around next year, but RGIII will be. He performed so well in his rookie year, until the knee injury, and now it seems like the Shanahan/Griffin sniping has impacted the rest of the team’s performance. All I know is the Redskins look like a hot mess on the field and the Hogs can’t love that. The Falcons and the Giants are the mystery to me. The Falcons look like they’re playing in cement and Eli looks uncertain of himself and his passing ability. Both teams are going to have to take some hard looks at their personnel and figure out what’s going wrong this year.
 
Houston has already addressed what they perceive to be part of their problem (sorry, Gary) and I’m concerned Mike Tomlin will be looking for a job at the end of the season. Maybe Whisenhunt will come back to the Steelers…