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Cheese Curds, 12/30: With playoff bye secured, Packers avoid Black Monday circus

Coaching changes are officially underway around the league. Thankfully, a 13-3 record keeps the Packers from worrying about any of that.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

It’s amazing what a difference a year makes.

On the Monday following the conclusion of the 2018 regular season, the Green Bay Packers were fully into offseason mode. Coaches were leaving the building, many of them for good as the team was well into its search for Mike McCarthy’s successor. A 6-9-1 record sent the players packing as well, as they wrapped up their season and headed home for a few months.

Fast-forward to today, when rookie head coach Matt LaFleur has led the Packers to a 13-3 record and a first-round playoff bye. There are no despondent faces at 1265 Lombardi Avenue this year, as the team accomplished some of its biggest goals for the 2019 regular season: winning the NFC North and getting a week off.

As expected, the coaching carousel got spinning early this year as well. Cleveland fired Freddie Kitchens yesterday to start the Black Monday action early, and the New York Giants followed suit this morning. There should be some more surprises as today goes along, so sit back and watch — since the Packers won’t have to worry about making any moves of their own.

Story of the Packers’ season: The right play at the right time |
The Packers have made an identity of showing up late to close out wins, and this time around it was an interception by Blake Martinez and a magnificent screen pass to Aaron Jones that set up the game-winning score.

Lucas Patrick grateful for chance to contribute; Jared Veldheer at ease in Packers debut |
Meanwhile, the Packers got huge contributions from a pair of backups on the offensive line as Patrick and Veldheer stepped in wonderfully for Corey Linsley and Bryan Bulaga. That depth will surely help the Packers moving forward into the playoffs, especially if either player struggles to return in two weeks.

Good, bad, and ugly from Packers’ victory over the Lions | Packers Wire
Za'Darius Smith was everywhere again on Sunday, even if he didn't record any sacks. Meanwhile, the run defense was a mess again and Aaron Rodgers' throws were ugly throughout the first three quarters. Still, this team found its way to a bye.

Browns back to the drawing board after firing Freddie Kitchens -
The first firing came on Sunday afternoon, shortly after the Browns lost to the lowly Bengals. now John Dorsey gets to make a head coach hire for the second consecutive offseason.

Giants fire coach Pat Shurmur, keep GM Dave Gettleman | ESPN
Firing number two came this morning, as Shurmur is out after two years. He went 9-23, the exact same mark that he held during his two-year stint as Browns head coach in 2011 and 2012.

Washington set to hire Ron Rivera as coach; fire president Bruce Allen | ESPN
Meanwhile, the team in DC is hiring Ron Rivera, an odd choice for the coach considering some of the other openings already available and likely to become available. For example, wouldn't the Giants job seem more appealing?