By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — As the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell’s days are numbered.

Right around 2,600 or so, to be a bit more precise.

Yes, an NFL spokesman said this week that Roger Goodell’s contract extension will be his final contract as NFL commissioner. Goodell himself disputed that notion, but Goodell’s tenure has taught me nothing if not to blindly believe any and all leaks that come from NFL executives.

So, he’s set to ride off into the sunset as the greatest thing that’s ever happened to the NFL (in his own mind, at least) in 2024, at the ripe age of 65.

While that’s hardly a consolation for any of the fan bases who have grown tired of Goodell’s body of work, it is at least an end date on his tenure. The question now, naturally, moves to who will be his successor.

You’ll often hear Condoleezza Rice’s name bandied about, but that doesn’t necessarily make sense. And she’ll be 70 years old in 2024. She’s out.

Some people say Barack Obama, too. But something tells me that Obama envisions more for his 60s than just babysitting a bunch of billionaires so they can play their sports ball. From leader of the free world to billionaire principal? Doesn’t sound like an appealing life choice.

Other suggestions vary from league attorneys, league executives, former coaches, and current players. But it’s in that last group where we will find the next commissioner. I’m going to sit here today in 2017 and state confidently that the man to replace Roger Goodell as NFL commissioner, the man who will lead the NFL through the 2020s and into the 2030s, will be none other than a 6-5, 230-pound quarterback … with a laser, rocket arm.

Yup, say hello to Commissioner Manning.

gettyimages 886260228 Hurleys Picks: Peyton Manning For NFL Commissioner, Patriots For AFC Champs

Peyton Manning (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)


Think about it. Manning is revered as a god in Tennessee and Indiana, and the people of Colorado have grown quite fond of him as well. (I can tell you from a personal standpoint, I’ve received more angry emails from the greater Knoxville area than I have from any other U.S. locale over the past few years.)

Pretty much everywhere except New England, he’s universally regarded as an all-time great quarterback with an award-winning personality. Seriously: name another high-profile athlete who could have accusations of sexual assault and PED use just … go away. You can’t do it!

Manning is a rare breed, and the roughly 17 million sponsorships he maintained throughout his playing career — right down to a celebratory Super Bowl smooch of Papa John — show just how marketable a man he is.

He obviously understands the sport of football rather well, he speaks in front of people with ease, people always guffaw at his lame jokes, he’s hosted the ESPYs and SNL, and it would be very very difficult for millions of Americans (again, outside of New England) to ever harbor ill will toward the man.

Considering the biggest issue with Goodell has been his people skills — or lack therof — it would figure to be a major improvement in the public relations department for a smiling face like Manning’s to own the podium and reassure everyone that everything is going to be A-OK.

So there you. Prolific passer, expert spokesman, future commissioner. It’s inevitable.

He’s got very small shoes to fill.

(Home team in CAPS; Wednesday lines)

Denver (-2.5) over INDIANAPOLIS
Hey, speaking of Peyton Manning, it’s his two former teams — two teams that are a combined 67-71 since he last played for them. How about that?

This game is so bad that the way it’s being billed is, “Uh, hey … SkyCam! You kids like SkyCam, right?? RIGHT??!!”

You think I’m joking?

Yeah. Sweet game.

DETROIT (-5.5) over Chicago
Yesssssssssssssssssssssssssss Saturday football is back ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh but it’s Bears-Lions.

KANSAS CITY (+1) over Los Angeles Chargers
This is awesome. It’s basically the AFC West Bowl. Yeah, the winner of the AFC West will probably be 9-7 and get wiped out by a wild-card team, but you’ve got to at least appreciate the stakes of a Saturday night game in mid-December where the winner takes first place and the loser goes back to their soccer stadium in Carson.

That sentence pained me to write, because I want to believe in the revival of Phil Rivers. The idea of Big Philly Style making his first run to the Super Bowl at age 36 is a lot of fun. I’d love to see that guy’s hideous delivery on my television screen for all of January.

It’s just … Arrowhead Stadium at night? Tough stuff. That’s a tough place to win. The Chargers’ only road wins of the year were at the dead-ass Giants, at the dead-ass Raiders, and at the dead-ass Cowboys. They lost in Denver, for goodness’ sake.

JACKSONVILLE (-11) over Houston
The fact that the Jaguars are really in the running for a first-round playoff bye is pretty cool, but as the kick-starter to the #MyJags movement, I have to admit I have mixed feelings. So many johnny-come-latelies are out there acting like they’ve been down for the cause since the days before Blake Bortles was elite. It’s sickening, to be honest.

On a real note … the Jaguars. They are good. If you can get past the fact that they have helmets and jerseys that would have even been too tacky for the ’90s, you can see that they’re capable of bringing a ruckus to January.

Baltimore (-7) over CLEVELAND
I’m starting to think it’s not Cleveland’s year.

BUFFALO (no line) over Miami
Making this pick under the assumption that Tyrod Taylor plays. If it’s Nathan Peterman in a non-blizzard situation, I’d go with Miami. But Jay Cutler in the bitter cold of Western New York in mid-December for a 6-7 Dolphins team? No thank you!

Cincinnati (+11) over MINNESOTA
It’s about dang time the Case Keenum bubble popped. That was really starting to bother me.

WASHINGTON (-4.5) over Arizona
If I could say anything to Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins, it would be this:

For shame. They stink.

But the Cardinals are a poor to quite poor road team. And they’re quarterbacked by Blaine Gabbert. And Bruce Arians is trying to tell me that Gabbert has the smarts of Peyton Manning. And I’m just so far out on this thing that it’s not even remotely humorous.

NEW ORLEANS (-16) over New York Jets
Bryce Petty. Do I think he’s good? No. I do not.

Do I think it’s a good spot for him to travel to New Orleans, to play in the Superdome, against a Saints team that’s rip-roaring mad over its last loss and has had more than a week to prepare?

No. I do not.

CAROLINA (-3) over Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers isn’t playing. He can’t play. Playing would be a wonderful way to suffer a devastating re-injury of the clavicle. Playing seems like such a terrible idea for Aaron Rodgers.

*checks news*

*sees Aaron Rodgers is playing*

*reluctantly purchases popcorn*

I’m really disappointed in myself. But I will watch this.

Philadelphia (-7.5) over NEW YORK GIANTS
Do you know how bad you have to be for a Nick Foles-led team to be favored by more than a touchdown in your house? The Giants should feel shame.

Los Angeles Rams (+1.5) over SEATTLE
Is this a line based off the 2016 teams or what? The Rams stumbled against arguably the best team in the NFL and now they’re underdogs to a Seahawks team that’s destined to go 9-7? Methinks not.

New England (-3) over PITTSBURGH
The main benefit of a nationally televised Patriots flop is that you pretty much get a gimme the next week when the line is way off. I think the Steelers are going to get theirs offensively, but I also know with full confidence that Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are going to do what they always do to Mike Tomlin’s Steelers. It’s never a pretty scene. Grisly, really. Avert your eyes.

And with that, despite the week of euphoria around the nation that the Patriots are dead, they will be right there in the driver’s seat, needing just two easy wins at home over the Bills and Jets to sew up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Tennessee (+2) over SAN FRANCISCO
The Jim Garoppolo stuff is fun, and I’ve had fun with it too. But the 3-10 Niners all of a sudden being favorites over a current playoff team is laugh out loud funny. They’re still the 49ers, folks.

Week 15 is kind of silly, if you ask me.

Dallas (-3) over OAKLAND
You just can’t believe in Oakland anymore. If you’re like me, you’ve given them 11 extra chances. You’ve excused their failures. You’ve looked past their head coach. You’ve pretended like they just might somehow recapture whatever it is they had in 2016.

But it’s not happening. It’s over.

Thanks a lot, Oakland. You could’ve been something.

(On another note, though, it’s probably easier this way for Oakland fans. It would be nothing short of devastating to have your team skip town when they’re actually a real life Super Bowl contender. Might as well descend in to misery for these final years in the Bay Area, making the sting much less sour when it comes time to rip the Band-Aid.)

Atlanta (-6) over TAMPA BAY
We might be witnessing something fascinating with the Atlanta Falcons.

They blew the Super Bowl in historic fashion (perhaps you’ve seen a blog or two about it in the past 10 months). This no doubt rattled all of their lives to the very core. They gave interviews all summer where they tried to say the right thing, completely unaware that there was no “right thing.”

Then they started the year 3-3. They got blown out on national TV by the Patriots. Julio Jones launched the greatest thought a human brain has ever created. Then they beat the Jets. And lost to the Panthers.

A .500 season was going to happen. The once-mighty Falcons were cooked. Matt Ryan was washed up. They were doomed.

But it’s almost as if something happened midseason, as if they had suffered enough in a concentrated time period, thus freeing them to … play football well. They’re 4-1 in the past month, winning at home, winning on the road, winning on national TV, outscoring opponents 124-89.

Yes, Dan Quinn still doesn’t seem to understand how clocks work, but his players are making plays. And an end-zone interception to steal a victory away from Drew Brees? That’s the type of play that can lift a team.

So maybe — juuuuuuust maybe — the Falcons have saved themselves. We’ll find out over the final three weeks, with a trip to New Orleans on the docket for Week 16 and a home date against Carolina to close out the season. But if they can win out and clinch an NFC South title? That’ll be nothing short of incredible. They’d deserve a hearty round of applause from the football world.

And then we’ll all sit in anticipation to see how they’re going to blow it in the playoffs.

Last Week: 11-5
Season: 99-101-8

Second Half Of Season (Which Is The Only Half That Actually Matters, Obviously. Please Don’t Question This, Thank You): 51-34-4

You can email Michael Hurley or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.


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