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Week 13 Takeaways
by Dennis Ranahan

The Green Bay Packers fired Mike McCarthy shortly after his team suffered a 20-17 loss to an Arizona Cardinals squad that before their win at Lambeau Field were only able to beat the San Francisco 49ers. Some consider the firing of their head coach during a tough season made worse by injuries callas on the Packers part.

Couldn’t they have waited until the end of the season?

Only if they wanted to prolong McCarthy’s suffering with a team going nowhere.

He was not going to survive the firing burst the NFL stages every January, while this way he has an opportunity to enjoy his family on the holidays and get an early jump on perhaps landing one of the openings created by the January massacre of NFL head coaches.

It was out of high regard and respect for McCarthy that the Packers brass took action now … they did him a favor.

As for their team, the Packers decline is as obvious as Climate Change. There will be some deniers, but this organization is about to head off in a new direction right around the time quarterback Aaron Rodgers is completing his playing career. The Packers went from Brett Favre to Rodgers at quarterback, a transition perhaps even more impressive based on longevity than the one enjoyed by the San Francisco 49ers, who had Steve Young follow Joe Montana.

Following the Montana and Young era in San Francisco, the 49ers have endured 14 losing seasons in the last 19 years. A fate surely awaiting the Packers once Rodgers is done.

This week, the Packers point spread has risen in the wake of the McCarthy firing. Green Bay was set to open as a five point favorite for their game against the Atlanta Falcons. The current line has Green Bay giving six points to Matt Ryan and company. The feeling in the gambling world is that the Packers will respond well to McCarthy’s departure … that success is surly to be short lived.

The New Orleans Saints Thursday night loss in Dallas to the Cowboys opened the door for the Los Angeles Rams to move a game ahead of Drew Brees’ team in the race for the NFC top seed in the playoffs. The Rams took advantage of the opportunity with a road victory over the Detroit Lions,

If the Rams and Saints end the regular season with the same number of wins and losses, the Saints will get home field advantage based on their head-to-head win over Los Angeles four weeks ago.

The Rams are on the road for a second straight week, meeting a Chicago Bears squad that holds first place in the NFC North in search of their first division title since 2010. Chicago is also looking to end a streak of four straight last place finishes.

The Bears lost last week to the New York Giants on the road, and come home in a perfect spot to offer New Orleans a chance to recapture the NFC top spot. The Saints are at Tampa Bay on Sunday where they will battle the Buccaneers, a team that scored an upset road win, 48-40, in New Orleans to open the regular season.

The Saints are coming off a loss, have extra time to prepare, and need a win against a team that beat them earlier this year.

Even a bloated line couldn’t erase the Saints obvious advantage, and the point spread reflects that while giving the Buccaneers more than a touchdown on their home field.

Four weeks ago the Dallas Cowboys were 7½ point underdogs to the defending Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles. The Cowboys won that game, 27-20, and three more since with victories over the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and New Orleans Saints. Their success has them shifting from a 7½ point road dog last month to a 3½ point home favorite this Sunday.

With a victory, the Eagles would take over first place in the NFC East Division, matching the Cowboys in season wins and losses while holding an edge based on division record.