1. I think nine will wind up being enough for Mike Holmgren in Seattle. My gut tells me this will be the last year on the job for the Seahawks head coach, and that he and the team will negotiate an amicable parting of the ways soon after Seattle plays its final game of the 2007 season -- whenever that is. While Seahawks president of football operations Tim Ruskell and Holmgren get along well and have no major issues, Ruskell understandably will look for the opportunity to select his own hand-picked head coach, which would be the first of his three-year Seattle tenure.
Here's what I believe is the reality of the situation in Seattle: Though they're off to a modest 3-3 start, the Seahawks may still win the weak NFC West and make the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season. But it's apparent Seattle doesn't have what it takes to be one of the league's elite teams, and the Seahawks' Super Bowl window of opportunity has likely closed. Holmgren and Seattle took their best shot at a ring in 2005, making Super Bowl XL and giving Pittsburgh a game of it for three quarters. But that's going to be as close as the Seahawks get with the nucleus of their current roster.
Holmgren will come to realize that as this season unwinds, and he'll again start contemplating retirement, as he did two years ago, immediately after Seattle's Super Bowl run. He won't stick around just to go 9-7 or 10-6 for another year or two, surviving maybe into the first or second round of the playoffs. He's been there and done that, many times.
Holmgren and his wife, Kathy, have other more admirable interests in life besides football and I could see them deciding to pour their energies into their church or charitable work -- Kathy is a nurse who has taken medical missionary trips to Africa and elsewhere. It's not beyond the imagination that Holmgren would take another coaching job, but I think it would have to be a perfect fit, such as a homecoming to San Francisco, should the 49ers continue to disappoint and bring the Mike Nolan era to a close.
2. I think it'll be readily apparent by the end this season -- and possibly even by Thanksgiving -- that the Bills consider rookie quarterback Trent Edwards their guy going forward. And that will mean that former first-round pick J.P. Losman will get the same treatment that Drew Bledsoe received from Buffalo before Losman's second season: It'll be thanks for the memories time.
The Bills will shop Losman around the league and try to recoup in trade the third-round pick they spent to draft Edwards out of Stanford this year. That could be more than the market will bear for Losman, but the fourth-year veteran is still young enough that some quarterback-challenged team might find it a reasonable price.
The Bills coaching staff is very high on Edwards' combination of poise and intelligence, with some of its members believing that he was the best quarterback in the draft this year. Buffalo was ecstatic to find him still there in the third round, and the selection signaled that the Bills wanted another youthful option at the position because Losman had not yet erased doubts about his franchise quarterback status.
For whatever reason, it doesn't seem like Losman and the Bills are going to have a long-term marriage. He has made strides in some areas of maturation as a pocket quarterback. In the early days, Losman would take off and scramble at the drop of a hat after looking no further than his primary receiver.
But the Bills aren't convinced he's ever going to be as consistent and efficient as they'd like. At the end of year four, with Edwards showing promise, the odds of Buffalo cutting its losses with Losman are good. Losman will likely quickly sum up his situation this season and ask the team to help him seek a fresh start elsewhere in 2008.
3. I think San Diego's trading-deadline acquisition of Miami receiver ChrisChambers will look better and better all the time. Sources close to the situation in both San Diego and Miami say the Chargers just might have made their version of New England's Randy Moss gambit -- picking up a talented pass-catcher who will greatly elevate his game now that he's on a winner and surrounded by so many great play-makers.
That comparison sounds a bit overstated when you consider that Chambers had just one 1,000-yard receiving season in his six full years in Miami and went to the Pro Bowl only after the 2005 season. As it also happens, Chambers is currently working on a 14-game touchdown drought. No matter. Sources insist that his impact with the Chargers -- who had 11 Pro Bowl players and five All-Pros last season -- will be far more significant than the role he played in the moribund Dolphins offense.
There's certainly a need for a big-play No. 1 receiver in San Diego. The Chargers had to put Eric Parker on IR this week with a broken toe that has idled him since summer, and no San Diego receiver has more catches than VincentJackson's 20. Quarterback PhilipRivers' top two targets are once again tight end Antonio Gates (43 receptions) and running back LaDainian Tomlinson (25). Rivers has thrown just three touchdowns to Chargers receivers, as opposed to a combined four to Gates and LT.
Chambers' impact on the Chargers offense should be evident quickly. He played for Norv Turner when the San Diego head coach was the Dolphins offensive coordinator, and is familiar with Turner's offensive schemes, routes and formations. If even helps that San Diego also still uses much of the same offense that it did under former offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, whose system Chambers played in this season in Miami.
4. I think Chambers won't be the only lucky Dolphin veteran who gets to pack his bags and head for greener pastures in the coming months. Whether general manager Randy Mueller and head coach Cam Cameron want to use the label or not, Miami is cranking up a full blown rebuilding program. At 0-6, the Dolphins will use the final 10 games of this season to find out as much as they can about their young players, and they'll put out the word around the league that no veteran is untouchable.
That means defensive end Jason Taylor becomes a very valuable chip that just got slid onto the table. Now in his 11th NFL season, Taylor isn't going to bring a king's ransom at this point in his career (he's 33). But he is still a play-making force just recently removed from his NFL Defensive Player of the Year season of 2006.
While the Dolphins will probably say they're seeking a first-round pick for Taylor, odds are they'd be content if they can turn him into a high second-rounder. As for Taylor, he won't balk at a move. He wants to win now and realizes that Miami is starting over again. He'd probably click his heels out the door, waving good-bye to his brother-in-law and longtime defensive teammate, linebacker Zach Thomas.
Miami might not achieve total fire-sale status in dealing its veterans and turning to youth, but that doesn't mean the Dolphins wouldn't mind if that happened. No matter if quarterback Trent Green is cleared to play again medically or not, his time atop the depth chart is essentially over. By mid-November or so, Miami will start finding out if rookie quarterback John Beck has what it takes to be its starter. The Dolphins are already playing a dozen rookies this season, Beck's ascension into the lineup will make it 13.
5. I think if the steamrolling Patriots go on to win their fourth Super Bowl title in seven seasons, New England's vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli will finally get an offer to be another team's general manager that he can't turn down. Teams have come knocking on Pioli's door before, but he took a pass in order to stay with the Patriots, the NFL's team of the decade. But with another notch on his belt -- and another ring on his finger -- the time will be right for Pioli to cash in on the success he has been a big part of in New England.
Who would the potential suitors be? It's early, but logic tells you that Miami would love to steal his expertise away from its AFC East rivals. Cleveland, where Pioli started in the NFL while Bill Belichick coached the Browns, is another team that has had him on its radar screen. The Brownies are finally competitive this season, but if things should head south for them this year, general manager Phil Savage could quickly be back on the endangered list.
Other potential landing spots would be Detroit, where GM Matt Millen has lived on borrowed time for years now; Minnesota, which might come at Pioli with owner ZygiWilf's deep pockets; Kansas City, if CarlPeterson's long reign is finally deposed; or Tampa Bay, if the Bruce Allen-Jon Gruden tandem fails to deliver a playoff berth this season, as seems necessary for future employment.
Pioli could always cross us up and again stay put. But if the Pats bag themselves a fourth Lombardi, Pioli's already glitzy resume would likely never look better.