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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 23, 2016 at 8:18 PM



This comes via the “you-never-know-who’s-gonna-coach-in-an-NFL Championship-game” department:

First off, there’s three gentlemen coaching in a conference championship game for the first time ever with Denver’s Gary Kubiak looking to match wits with now 10-time AFC Championship Game participant Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots (kickoff’s at 3:05 p.m. ET).

Flip over to the NFC Championship Game on this winter/wintry Sunday (kickoff at 6:40 p.m. ET) and there’s Arizona’s Bruce Arians and Carolina’s Ron Rivera bucking heads in snowy Carolina – so you don’t always have to have “experience” in these championship-level games just to get there in the first place.

Get Sunday’s NFL Championship Game Sides & Totals Winners NOW as we steer you straight to the winner’s circle with the AFC Championship Game between the New England Patriots at the Denver Broncos along with the NFC Championship Game between the Arizona Cardinals at the Carolina Panthers plus pile up the profits all this week/weekend long with NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 – go ahead and pound the books today!



Hope you read our Jim Sez Championship Game Previews this week – if you missed ‘em, just click our “archives” and you’ll get caught up – but let’s just get you a quickie last-second note on all four teams in play this weekend:

In the AFC Championship Game

NEW ENGLAND has not won an AFC Championship Game on the road since the 2004 season when the Pats slugged Pittsburgh 41-27 in freezing (see 11 degrees) weather in the Steel City. New England has played in a pair of AFC Championship Games on the road since – losses in Indianapolis in 2006 and in Denver in 2013 …

DENVER is playing in its fourth consecutive home game here after finishing out the regular-season as hosts versus Cincinnati and San Diego and then beating Pittsburgh 23-16 last Sunday in an AFC Divisional Playoff Game, but did you know the Broncos are 0-2-1 ATS (against the spread) in these last three home tilts?


In the NFC Championship Game …

ARIZONA has played three playoff road games (not counting the neutral field Super Bowl in 2008) in these past eight years and did you know two of the three were played in Carolina – a 33-13 Cardinals’ win in ’08 and last year’s 27-16 Panthers’ win? …

CAROLINA is making its first-ever NFC Championship Game appearance at home after playing three consecutive conference title tilts on the road (see losses in Green Bay in 1996 and in Seattle in 2005 and a road win at Philadelphia in 2003). The Panthers are 3-0 SU (straight-up) in NFC Wild Card Games and 5-6 SU in all other post-season affairs in their two-plus decade history.


In other NFL News & Notes …

Okay, so we’ve been so busy with all the playoff news/previews that we’ve never really “weighed in” on all the head-coaching stuff that’s been such a big part of the league in recent weeks … here’s some thoughts on a team-by-team/coach-by-coach basis:


CLEVELAND (3-13) –

Out: Mike Pettine

In: Hue Jackson

Does it really matter who coaches this rotten franchise? Sorry, we don’t mean to be a downer for Jackson – who gets high grades for his work the past couple of years with the Cincinnati Bengals’ offense – but recent history shows us the shelf lives for Browns’ head coaches ain’t long and we’ll be surprised if Jackson’s around for more than two years. If he gets WR Josh Gordon back on the field in 2016 then maybe this club will have a shot to be .500.


MIAMI (6-10) –

Out: Dan Campbell (interim)

In: Adam Gase

Hey, your guess is as good as anyone’s as to whether the former offensive coordinator in Chicago and Denver will be a coaching star but ask if you think he can “straighten out” QB Ryan Tannehill and we have our doubts. Gase is the “flavor of the month” come the head coaching merry-go-round but betcha he’s no Bruce Arians!



Out: Tom Coughlin

In: Ben McAdoo

Not wild about the hiring but the fact remains the G-men had to get rid of Tom Coughlin after back-to-back 6-10 seasons and all of those late-game meltdowns this year. McAdoo comes highly regarded by veteran QB Eli Manning but if someone else winds up calling the plays (which might happen) than why hire McAdoo as head coach? P.S., mark us down as folks who’ve lost respect for the Mara and Tisch families (the team owners) who really didn’t have a great game plan here.



Out: Chip Kelly

In: Doug Pederson

What … you think we’re gonna make some witty remark about “clock management” here just ‘cause the new head coach learned at the feet of Kansas City’s Andy Reid? Not a chance! Maybe Pederson will be a bright light but it’s not as if the cupboard’s fully stocked anymore.



Out: Jim Tomasula

In: Chip Kelly

Can we speak up for Mr. Tomasula who is a position coach (and a very good defensive line coach) who was improperly placed in charge as head coach of the nose-diving Niners after the Jim Harbaugh Era ended? The man got a bum rap with one recent article calling him “the worst head coach ever” in league history. C’mon! Still, the “marriage” between Kelly and QB Colin Kaepernick should ignite new sparks.


TAMPA BAY (6-10) –

Out: Lovie Smith

In: Dirk Koetter

Make no mistake about it, the Bucs’ upper management folks didn’t want to lose Koetter who was being wowed in San Francisco and Miami and so they cut the cord with a rather detached Lovie Smith (no coup, however) and inked the man they feel most responsible for QB Jameis Winston’s professional future. Hey, we feel bad for Smith but sort through the politics and this was a sound move in the end.


TENNESSEE (3-13) –

Out: Ken Whisenhunt (after Week 8)  

In: Mike Mularkey

The interim coach usually doesn’t get asked to stick around in NFL-land but this former Jacksonville/Buffalo boss-man got the green light even though his Titans went just 2-7 SU and 1-7-1 ATS … guess Tennessee sees something in this guy we don’t as Titans should have perked things up with either a big college hire (maybe Ole Miss’ Hugh Freeze) or a top-flight NFL assistant coach (we were thinking of Carolina DC Sean McDermott).


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