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NFL Notes: This resolution should be top priority

With the new year upon us, the Patriots top priority should be finding a quick resolution to Bill Belichick’s future.


Ringing in the new year is a time for resolutions, and the Patriots should have one that ranks quite high on the priority list.

Regardless of how the organization chooses to deal with Bill Belichick's future, the goal should be to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible.

There is still so much that is unknown around Foxborough, even with just one game remaining on the 2023 slate. Various reports have indicated that Belichick's time in New England could be up, while others have wondered if the coach's unprecedented track record of success should be enough to buy him more time.

Either way, the team should act quickly.

First, Belichick deserves the right to avoid the additional speculation about his job. While the topic has been widely dissected and analyzed for the past two months, the games themselves still took up the bulk of his attention. With the season over, Belichick's status should be made clear as soon as possible.

More importantly, reaching a quick resolution will offer more time to move forward. If Belichick stays, any tweaks to his coaching staff can be made and preparations for what will be an important offseason will be underway without any unnecessary distractions.

If Belichick and the team part ways, then Robert Kraft can go about his business of selecting a successor – both as a coach and a general manager – and a new staff can be put in place. Again, time is of the essence when it comes to getting to work on the draft, free agency and establishing a culture.

No one is suggesting any of this will be easy. Belichick's two-plus decades of dominance shouldn't be ignored, and it hasn't been. But the organization has had weeks to decide which direction it wishes to turn, so it shouldn't take much more time to make its intentions known – perhaps as quickly as the day after the season ends.

That way everyone in Foxborough can be on the same page and move forward together. No one needs any foot dragging or protracted squabbles over potential compensation in a Belichick trade. In fact, if the Patriots decide to move on, it wouldn't be the worst thing for both parties to come to an agreement and simply decide to go their separate ways with no strings attached.

That last part my be wishful thinking from my perspective, but the important thing here is to act quickly. Kraft has often used the phrase about measuring nine times and cutting only once when it comes to making decisions. In this case, the measuring should be done. All we're waiting for is the decision.

Playoff picture

Somewhat amazingly the Bills (10-6) can find themselves in a precarious spot come the postseason. They could land as high as the No. 2 seed and drop out of the playoffs altogether. Buffalo will close the 2023 NFL regular season with a trip to Miami on Sunday Night Football with the winner taking the AFC East title. If that's the Bills, they grab the 2 seed. If the banged-up Dolphins prevail, then the results of the games played earlier will come into focus in Western New York.

The Bills need either the Steelers or Jaguars to lose, otherwise they will be watching the playoffs with a 10-7 record wondering what might have been. Jacksonville closes the season with a trip to Nashville against the Titans. A loss would give the winner of the Colts-Texans finale the AFC South title. If the Jags win, they take the division and the Bills would need a Steelers loss in Baltimore on Saturday to earn a wild card. Buffalo could also qualify if the Colts and Texans tie.

Lots of permutations still to go, but it's hard to believe the Bills find themselves in their current predicament. Then again watching the sloppy nature of their play against the Patriots over the weekend makes it little more understandable.

Team photographers David Silverman and Eric J. Adler present their best photos from the Patriots 27-21 loss to the Buffalo Bills at Highmark Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023.

Week 18 dilemmas

The final week of the regular season always brings loads of uncertainty. For teams who are locked into their playoff seeds the idea of resting players is always on the table. Then for the top seeds Baltimore and San Francisco, who are assured of first-round byes, coaches need to gauge the rest vs. rust factor given the potential for individual players to go three weeks without a game.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan has already told the media that Christian McCaffrey will sit out the finale due to a strained calf, giving him three full weeks to regain his health. Baltimore's John Harbaugh has yet to announce whether or not Lamar Jackson will play against Pittsburgh. Obviously, there's a lot riding on the game for other teams in terms of the playoffs, but Harbaugh needs to do what he believes is best for his team.

Miami already felt some of the pain that can come in these late-season outings as Bradley Chubb was lost to a torn ACL while playing in the final minutes of a blowout loss to the Ravens. That came after corner Xavien Howard already had been carted off the field with a foot injury. Those are key losses for a team very much in the thick of the AFC playoff picture.

These aren't easy decisions for coaches who are looking to maintain momentum heading into the playoffs but no doubt fear losing key players in games that aren't impacting their standing.

Final thoughts on Lions

At this point most football fans are aware of the controversial ending to the Lions-Cowboys game that saw Detroit fail on a two-point conversion after having their successful try called back when referee Brad Allen determined an ineligible receiver had not reported properly.

All the opinions on the matter seem to have been shared, so rather than reiterating various points instead I found myself wondering how such a situation could be avoided in the future. Detroit claims Taylor Decker indeed reported to Allen, and video shows Decker and fellow lineman Penei Sewell meeting with him prior to the play. As Dan Skipper enters the field and runs toward the group, Allen doesn't wait to see what he has to say and simply announces him as having reported as eligible.

At that point Allen says one thing and the Lions say another. Who's telling the truth? Well, the referee is wearing a mic so wouldn't it make sense in these situations to simply be transparent and allow the replay booth to hear the exchange? That way there would be no uncertainty – if Skipper didn't report and Decker did but Allen misunderstood it all – which appears to be the case – then the open mic would allow us all to hear it. If the Lions were simply victimized by trying to be too cute in an effort to confuse the Cowboys – which also appears to be the case – then we would know that as well.

Part of the problem with the officiating errors we've seen repeatedly is the lack of transparency, and allowing people to hear the thought process might be a way to avoid that.

Power 5

  1. Baltimore (13-3) – Impressive dismantling of another quality team by the Ravens.
  2. San Francisco (12-4) – Solid bounce back by the Niners even if it came against the Commanders.
  3. Detroit (11-5) – Sometimes teams earn more in defeat than in victory. No one has played the Cowboys better in Dallas this season.
  4. Dallas (11-5) – The Cowboys may have caught a bigger break the next day when the Eagles lost to Arizona.
  5. Miami (11-5) – Injuries may be ruining a great Dolphins season.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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