The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
• "(Bills head coach) Chan Gailey is awesome. He knows what he needs to make his offense work. He understands matchups. He knows how to create them. He's a very good play-caller. There's no secret why they are winning — it's in the design of his offense. He understands the strengths and weaknesses of his players. What a phenomenon, eh?"
• "Carolina was built in the image of the NFC East teams — run the ball and play good defense. They have always been a run-heavy team, but it has not worked real well this year. I think Chud (offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski) wants to be a vertical team. … Cam Newton is a very, very, very competitive kid, and he has a chip on his shoulder. I think he would be better running more, but they are doing a great job with him. He's reading half the field, deep to short, and he's making big plays."
• "(Bengals WR Jerome) Simpson got drafted way higher than he should have. He was raw, for one, but there were issues then. You can only go so long and take so many chances before it catches up to you."
• "The fans are revolting in Kansas City. They don't have a head coach or a quarterback that can take them anywhere. I'm sure (GM) Scott Pioli had a plan, but what you find out once you start wearing the big-boy pants, sometimes you don't get the time you need to carry it through. This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. They gave Matt Cassel a big contract. The one thing he needed was talent around him. (Tony) Moeaki and (Jamaal) Charles went out with ACLs. They have caught some bad breaks, no doubt, but look at how many injuries the Packers had last year. The Patriots got hammered by injuries when they were going to those Super Bowls. How many guys did the Saints have on I.R. when they won it? The good ones adapt. You look for excuses in this league, and you're done."
• "Tony Sparano is a dead man walking. I don't know if he even knows what's broke, but I don't think he has any idea how to fix it. When Bill Parcells left, he wanted Sparano and Jeff Ireland to grow and do it for themselves, but that does not always come overnight, if it comes at all. In a lot of ways, Parcells was like an assistant head coach and the general manager. He knew how to make important decisions. By the time this group figures it out, it has already passed them by. They blink too much."
• "(Vikings VP of player personnel) Rick Spielman wanted to bring in Tyler Thigpen. That was his guy. The head coach (Leslie Frazier) was with (Donovan) McNabb in Philadelphia. He had a history with him. There was a comfort level there. I think Rick saw it as a quick bridge. The head coach thought McNabb had a lot left in the tank. We'll track it and see how it turns out. Personnel moves are what doomed Chilly (former head coach Brad Childress). We'll see how this one works out. Ultimately, it will come down to how well (Christian) Ponder develops."
• "Who would pay (Bills QB) Ryan Fitzpatrick a ton of money in the free-agent market? I know we wouldn't, and we're still looking to upgrade. A third of the league is settled. Another third feels good enough about what they've got. The rest that are looking — I would say most will not see him as much of an upgrade. He's in a great place right now. I don't know why he would want to leave."
• "Jim Schwartz is the real deal. He sees the big picture. He's one of the smartest guys I've ever coached with. The Ford family took a lot of heat for keeping the old (front-office) regime in place there, but boy has that place flipped. It goes to show you — finding the right coach is so key in this league. Your coach sets the course."