SAN FRANCISCO – Thoughts and observations on championship Sunday:
1. What we’ve heard from Rex Ryan over the last three weeks during media rounds has been nothing short of remarkable. When was the last time a head coach threw himself under the bus as many times as Ryan has done? In his next interview, he’ll probably accept the blame for the price of the PSLs at MetLife Stadium. It’s an admirable trait, taking the heat for the mistakes of many, but it could have ramifications down the road.
2. Basically, Ryan is making the 2012 season all about him, his ability to clean up the locker room, tweak his management style and get a new offense off the ground. But what happens if the Jets miss the playoffs again? He’s already played the “mea culpa” card, so another Tour de Remorse isn’t going to cut it. Unless there’s an obvious alibis, like a devastating quarterback injury, he’ll be at the mercy of owner Woody Johnson. When you go all in, it leaves no margin for error.
3. After LaDainian Tomlinson’s candid interview with Showtime’s “Inside the NFL,” some people might be wondering why the future Hall of Famer -- the most accomplished player in the locker room -- didn’t put a stop to the discord. Truth is, Tomlinson was encouraged by the coaching staff to take more of a leadership role, according to a source, but he didn’t feel it was his place because of his reduced role on offense and because he didn’t have the title of captain. It always seems to be come back to Ryan’s ill-fated captain appointments, doesn’t it?
4. After listening to Ryan and Johnson talk about how Tony Sparano’s offense suits Mark Sanchez, I can help but wonder: Did they draft him fifth overall to be a game manager? Most quarterbacks in their fourth year are allowed to cut loose, but Sanchez is being reined in.
5. By the way, I find it hard to believe Ryan suddenly realized that, based on Tomlinson’s interview and a conversation with Hall-of-Fame QB Steve Young, his bold statements can hurt the team. We’re three years into the deal here, folks. The statute of limitations on an epiphany had long expired.
6. Now that the Dolphins have hired Joe Philbin, they will start to put together a coaching staff. The Jets have their eyes on two holdovers from Sparano’s old staff, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and offensive-line coach, Dave DeGuglielmo.
7. Predictions on the AFC and NFC Championship Games: Giants over 49ers, Ravens over Patriots. I predicted a Giants-Ravens Super Bowl at the start of the postseason, so I’ll stick with it.
8. I know the Patriots are hot, and I know they're at home, but I have a hard time believing in such a one-dimensional team. Their defense is historically bad; they finished 31st in total defense. No team has ever won a Super Bowl with a defense ranked worse than 25th, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
9. If it rains and the field at Candlestick Park turns muddy (there's a 60-percent chance of rain, according to Weather.com), it'll be a distinct advantage for the 49ers. The Giants' pass rush will be slowed and it also could affect their suddenly suped-up offense. By the way, Monday is the 29th anniversary of the Mud Bowl -- the Jets-Dolphins AFC title game.
10. Just a hunch here, but I have a feeling Rob Lowe will be right. I think Peyton Manning, after multiple neck surgeries, will retire. Not to take away attention from the games, he'll wait until after the Super Bowl to announce it. Again, just a gut feeling.