January 2, 2006
Shaun Alexander:
Seahawks RB and top contender for NFL MVP sets the single-season record for TDs (and claims the rushing-yards title as a bonus).
The Lead Item
Two Words For You:

Eat right? Exercise more??

Between Sunday's NFL schedule and Monday's college Bowl marathon, your 2006 New Year's resolutions are taking a bigger sack than Mike Tice.

But my personal resolution to "make more resolutions for others" is starting off strong.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of playoff predictions, today is a great opportunity to dish out New Year's resolutions for the 12 playoff teams (listed in the order John Clayton has them in his must-read playoff-team rankings).

Colts: Remember 2005. Specifically, the beating they took at New England last January for a second straight season. They'll need that fire two weeks from now in the rematch.

Seahawks: Don't choke. For all of the hype, they have yet to win a playoff game under Holmgren. Will the bye ratchet up the pressure?

Broncos: Hope for a Colts L. Because that's the only way they're going to compete for the AFC title.

Bears: Get Rex some work. A little offense is all that is separating Chicago from the NFC title.

Pats: Embrace doubters. Were you one of the people who, after last season, said they'd never pick against the Pats again?

Bucs: Go for two! Don't think the Redskins don't remember how their dramatic, controversial Week 10 game ended.

Bengals: Don't wait. Cincy acts like it's just happy to make the playoffs. "Wait till next year" is not a strategy for this one.

Steelers: Ride the Bus. Three Bettis TDs in Sunday's must-win finale? One of the most intimidating playoff No. 6-seeds in years.

Giants: Meet the Barber. We've seen what happens when Coughlin puts the game on Eli. And what happens when he puts it on Tiki.

Panthers: Channel 2003. Carolina has the NFC's most playoff-tested roster. Review those game tapes from the Super Bowl season.

Skins: Let Gibbs be Gibbs. Speaking of experienced, there's only one NFC coach with THREE Super Bowl rings.

Jags: Play Byron Leftwich. It doesn't matter that he hasn't taken a game snap in a month. Nothing to lose playing at New England.

Everyone else: Get comfy.

Bush Bowl Results
Texans win! (Finally!) Despite their best efforts, the Texans managed not to bungle away the No. 1 pick in the draft in their hearty OT effort vs. the nearly equally sorry 49ers.

So what will the Texans do with the pick? Reggie Bush seems like a no-brainer, but they already have solid RB Dom Davis. But it's not like fans are busting down the door to watch Davis, like they will be with Bush.

Bush would offer a thrilling and versatile complement to Davis, QB David Carr and WR Andre Johnson. But the Texans might also be better off dealing the rights to the No. 1 pick for a stockpile of picks and personnel.

Nick Saban: Leads Fins to 6 straight Ws (9-7 rebuild year)
Neil Rackers: Cards K sets single-season record for FGs
Doug Flutie: Scores on NFL's first dropkick since 1941
Cowboys: Left outside looking in NFC; Parcells' last game?
Damon Stoudamire: Grizzlies PG done for season (knee)
Washington: Huskies upended at home by unranked Arizona
(Not that Texans coach Dom Capers cares one way or the other: Reports are that he's gone. Maybe he was trying to stick it to his Houston employers by trying so hard to eke out a win.)

Meanwhile, thanks to wins by the 49ers, Packers and Jets, the hard-luck Saints end up with the No. 2 pick and a great opportunity to rebuild (on so many levels) around QB Matt Leinart.

NFL: Coaching Moves
Vermeil retires: It wouldn't be a Vermeil exit without the crying. How about a few tears for missing the playoffs? Now, speculation will run rampant that Vermeil protege and Jets coach Herman Edwards is Vermeil's hand-picked successor.

Capers axed: Dom should receive a nice note from the next guy thanking him for setting the team up for Reggie Bush -- or the draft-day trade bounty he'll command.

Other coaches on the offseason hot seat: Detroit's Dick Jauron (interim), Oakland's Norv Turner (finicky owner), St. Louis' Mike Martz (wait: he isn't gone already?) and Green Bay's Mike Sherman (no Favre umbrella?). As for Mike Tice? See DQ'ed.

Favre Finale?
Did Brett Favre just play his last game? Or just his last game for the Packers? It was nice to see him actually throw a TD to go with yet another INT (he finished the season with 29, a dozen more than the QB with the next-most).

Although the Favre lovers will gushing over the next few months, let's all remember that every week he doesn't tell the Packers what he's going to do is another day they can't work with him, without him or around him to plan for next season.

He's earned the right to take his time -- but only up until the moment his delay begins to hurt the team's strategizing for 2006 and beyond.

Fiesta: "Tost" This!
And here's your debate fodder of the day: Notre Dame QB Brady Quinn's sister, Laura, is dating Ohio State All-American LB A.J. Hawk.

Never mind the potential taunts Hawk can yap over Quinn's sacked body, or the double-entendres Hawk's teammates will be willing to deliver where propriety demands Hawk keep it clean.

More than those, I'm boggled that Sister Quinn will be wearing a two-sided jersey that displays rooting interest for BOTH her bro and her boy. What is THAT about? You've got to root for family, girlfriend. (4:30 p.m., ABC)

More Bowlin'
Cotton (Bama/TX Tech)
Tide's sensational D against the most innovative offense in college football. This is the most intriguing defense-offense matchup of the bowl schedule. (11 am, Fox)

Outback (Iowa/Florida)
Over-under on the number of calls my wife (raised in Gainesville) gets from my in-laws during the game: 5. Over-under on "Urban" puns on TV: 6. (11 a.m., ESPN)

Gator (VA Tech/L'ville)
Remember back in August when I picked Louisville to meet USC in the Rose Bowl? I don't either. Funny how that works. (12:30 p.m., NBC)

Capital One (Wisco/Auburn)
All together now: What's in your wallet? For Wisco, it's Barry Alvarez's career finale; for Auburn, it's one more chance to talk about how badly it got screwed by last year's BCS. (1, ABC)

Fiesta (Ohio St/Notre Dame)
Before you go crowning Notre Dame as the favorite to reach next year's title game, let's see it hurdle the Buckeyes' nasty D first.

Sugar (Georgia/West VA)
When did West Virginia become the sexy upset pick? Have people forgotten that the bowl is basically a home game for UGA? (8:30, ABC)

FFL Season Over!
The NFL playoffs might not start until Saturday, but the withdrawal from the end of Fantasy Football season is well underway.

How will you fill that hole in your spirit (not to mention your social schedule)? Why not begin to scheme for next season?

It's safe to say that you can start the debate over whether to take Shaun Alexander or LaDainian Tomlinson with the 1st overall pick of 2006. (Or perhaps Larry Johnson, who scored 3 TDs in the season finale?)

Get to it: Only 8 months until Draft Day!

Mike Tice:
In the move everyone saw coming, Tice and his ear-pencil were axed from the Vikings. Can't see him getting another coaching job -- TV, here he comes!
Today on ESPN.com
Quickie: Live!
Clayton's NFL rankings
Page 2 Index
Ranking NFL Wild Card Games
Rivals collide; upset special?
First test for champs
No gimme for Giants
Winner gets Chicago. Yikes.
Bye Mania!

Parity rules: 5 of the 6 NFC teams in the playoffs were NOT in the postseason last year (and it's not like Seattle did much last year, either).

More NFL changes: Bills owner Ralph Wilson is rightfully evaluating GM Tom Donahoe; the Texans reportedly will keep GM Charlie Casserly.

Flutie deserves his props for the dropkick, but how about a little love for Bill Belichick for rewriting history and calling for it?

Remember Matt Cassel? Pats rookie QB completed 11/20 for 168 yds, 2 TDs and 0 INTs. Not bad for a guy who sat at USC behind Leinart and Palmer.

The Heat gave Pat Riley a contract extension, but it's unclear whether it's to be president, coach, both or perhaps simply Emperor of Miami.

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