Week seventeen was highlighted by major firings, an NFC East meltdown and more key injuries to starters.
The first Monday after the regular season concludes is known as the “pink-slip” Monday because several head coaches and general managers receive the news that they have been fired. Firings include Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, 49ers coach, Jim Tomsula, Browns coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer and Titans general manager Ruston Webster so far. Some surprises include: Tom Coughlin, the Giants head coach resigning and the retaining of Chargers head coach Mike McCoy and the paid extension of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano.
An NFC East Meltdown is almost an understatements as both the Jets and Patriots both lost questionable games that seriously affected their playoff outlook. The Jets lost 22-17 to the Bills in a game where Ryan Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and struggled mightily. This loss bounced the Jets out of the playoffs. As for the Patriots, they lost 20-10 to the Miami Dolphins.
This leads us to key injuries, the first being: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. Brady has a sprained ankle and bruised rib heading into the playoffs, Panthers safety Charles Tillman is out for the season with a torn ACL and Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams who injured in his ankle and status looks questionable heading into the playoffs.
The Kansas City Chiefs have won ten straight games. The Chiefs will play the Houston Texans on the road this Saturday in a Wild Card Matchup. Here’s the Top 10 runs of the year:
Carolina Panthers (15-1): NFC South Champions and a No. 1 seed heading into the playoffs. The Panthers season was capped off with a 38-10 drubbing of the Bucs, MVP candidate Cam Newton accounted for 303 total yards and four touchdowns. The Panthers have clinched a first-round bye and await the winner of the Seahawks-Vikings matchup.
Cincinnati Bengals (13-3): The Bengals capped their season off with a “W,” besting the Ravens, 24-16. Cincinnati clinched an AFC North championship through a solid offense and defense. Jeremy Hill was a workhorse rushing for 96 yards and a touchdown. The triple threat of A.J. McCarron, Jeremy Hill and A.J. Green will be huge and an even huger Wildcard matchup against the Steelers in Cincinnati Saturday Night.
Denver Broncos (12-4): Who knew Peyton Manning would lead the Broncos to a victory, No. 1 AFC seed, an AFC West Championship and the game-winning touchdown? Well, everyone. A 27-20 victory over the Chargers clinched a No. 1 seed through the Broncos elite ground game. Denver outrushed San Diego, 210-110. The Broncos await the winner of the Steelers-Broncos matchup.
Arizona Cardinals (13-3): The Cardinals cinched the NFC West title two weeks ago but finished the season flat getting annihilated 38-6 to the Seahawks at home. The Cardinals quarterbacks were terrible throwing three interceptions and the running backs weren’t much better rushing for 27 total yards: ouch. Arizona awaits the winner of the Packers-Redskins matchup.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5): Ten in a row for the Chiefs and this victory could be the biggest. Kansas City had two careless turnovers including a pick-six, but rallied to prove victorious The Chiefs leaned on Spencer Ware (76 yards and a touchdown) and their defense (six sacks, an interception and a safety) to clinch a Wildcard matchup against the Texans in Houston Saturday afternoon.
New England Patriots (12-4): New England left both their offense and defense back in Boston, as they looked flat in the 20-10 loss to the Dolphins. The loss cost them an AFC No. 1 seed and even worse: another player was injured. This injury, potentially, is game-changing as Tom Brady left the game with sprained ankle and bruised rib heading into the playoffs. The Patriots await the winner of the Chiefs-Texans matchup.
Minnesota Vikings (11-5): Skoal! The Vikings took the NFC North from the Packers, 20-13 on Sunday Night Football. Minnesota did everything to lose in Lambeau field coughing up the ball three times and throwing an interception but it’s defense stepped up big time. The Vikings defense recorded five sacks, a fumble and a later game-clinching interception. Minnesota is slated to play the Seahawks in Minnesota Sunday afternoon.
Seattle Seahawks (10-6): The Seahawks are surging into the playoffs, winners of their last six of seven overall. Seattle finished the season on top destroying the Cardinals, 36-6 through Russell Wilson. Wilson passed for 197 yards and three touchdowns. Seattle’s defense was stout too, limiting the Cardinals to just 27 yards rushing along with three picks. The Seahawks are set to play the Vikings in Minnesota Sunday afternoon.
Green Bay Packers (10-6): Green Bay had everything in place for another NFC North title but came up short at home to Minnesota. The Packers lost 20-13 the Vikings solely off missed opportunities and a struggling run game. The Packers rushed for just 76 yards and had a chance to tie the game, but were foiled due to a late Aaron Rodgers interception. Alas, the Packers are set to play the Redskins in Washington Sunday night.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6): Bounceback win for the Steelers as they defeated the Browns 28-12 and sling-shotted themselves into the playoff picture. Antonio Brown was magnificent hauling in 13 catches for 187 yards and a score in the victory. Pittsburgh defense was also solid recording two interceptions, three fumbles and seven sacks. The Steelers are set to play the Bengals in Cincinnati Saturday night.
New York Jets (10-6): Ryan Fitzpatrick single-handed destroyed the Jets playoff chances in his return to Buffalo throwing three interception in the Jets 22-17 loss to the Bills. New York had a solid season, in head coach Todd Bowels first stint but came up a bit short despite solid games from Brandon Marshall (126 receiving yards-one touchdown) and the Gang Green defense (two sacks and limited the Bills to under three yards-a-carry).
Washington Redskins (9-7): Hail to the Redskins! The evolution of Kirk Cousins altered Washington’s offense and lifted their team to playoff heights. Cousins was fantastic, yet again, in the Redskins 34-23 win over the Cowboys, throwing for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He is a game-change as the Redskins are slated to face the Packers in Washington Sunday night.
Houston Texans (9-7): The Texans defense has been unbelievably hot the last three games, this one no different a 30-6 smashing of the Jaguars. Houston recorded eight sacks, two interceptions, three fumbles and a touchdown in drubbing. But that’s not all; the Texans completely shut down the Jaguars run game limiting them to just 32 total yards: wow. The Texans and their stout defense will face the surging Chiefs, Saturday afternoon in a Wildcard matchup.
Buffalo Bills (8-8): The under-achieving Bills finished their season right, beating the Jets and eliminating them from the playoff picture, 22-17. Tyrod Taylor and Karlos Williams scored a touchdown a piece and Sammy Watkins had an excellent game hauling in 11 receptions for 136 yards in the Bills finale.
Oakland Raiders (7-9): The Raiders ended their season with a loss to the Chiefs, 23-17 but have a bright future. With stars like Derek Carr, Latavius Murray, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack, this time will be an AFC threat for years to come. The first priority for Oakland has to be that offensive and defensive line. The offensive line surrendered six sacks and the defensive line only recorded one sack in the defeat.
Indianapolis Colts (8-8): The Colts finished their season with a win, 30-24 over the Titans. Indianapolis struggled defensively and played the majority of the season, offensively without star quarterback Andrew Luck. This was largely why Colts Owner Jim Irsay retained head coach Chuck Pagano and general manager Ryan Grigson. Expectation will remain high for a team that was highly mediocre on both sides of the ball this season.
New Orleans Saints (7-9): The Saints finished their season with a clutch 20-17 win over the Falcons at the Georgia Dome. New Orleans has a lot of young faces on the offensive end and our lead by a proven quarterback in Drew Brees but defensively is one of the worst. If the Saints want to make a push to prominence they must make changes defensively and retain an elite head coach, as Sean Payton’s status is unclear.
Atlanta Falcons (8-8): The Falcons ended the season on a low losing to the Saints, 20-17. Julio Jones hauled in nine catches for 149 yards capping off an incredible season for Jones as he finished with 136 receptions-1, 871-Eight touchdowns. Atlanta has to makes changes defensively and potentially at quarterback as Matt Ryan has proved time and again to not be Atlanta’s answer at starting quarterback.
Detroit Lions (7-9): The Lions ended their season with a big 24-20 win over the Bears in Soldier Field. Ever since the change at offensive coordinator, Matthew Stafford has thrived and his did in this game, passing for 298 yards and three touchdowns. His favorite target: Megatron who’s stat-line was great: 10 receptions for 137 yards and a touchdown.
St. Louis Rams (7-9): The puzzling Rams left their season with a dud, losing to the 49ers 19-16 in overtime. St. Louis’s biggest issue offensively, is at quarterback where the Rams have been one of the worst in the NFL. The Rams have found a star in running back Tre Mason and have a Top-10 defense but must revamp their offense if they expect positive results in the NFC West.
Chicago Bears (6-10): Questions are a flurry in the Windy City as the Bears were defeated 24-20 by the Lions in their finale. The first being what to do with Matt Forte, granted Forte has been one of the best running backs in the NFL, but the Bears lack talent on both sides of the ball and might look to trade him. The second is Alshon Jeffery who’s a free agent and the best receiver the Bears posses. The last question: what to do with the embattled Jay Cutler. Cutler is not a proven winner and extremely turnover prone. Chicago has a lot of questions and not a lot of answers heading into the offseason.
Philadelphia Eagles (7-9): Post-Chip Kelly has boded well for the Eagles as they proved victorious 35-30 over the Giants in their finale. DeMarco Murray’s first carry, post-Chip Kelly, was a 54-yard touchdown burst. Murray finished with 69 yards and a touchdown in the win. Philadelphia’s priorities have to be largely on the defensive side of the ball and the offensive line this off-season.
New York Giants (6-10): It was said best by ESPN: Tom Coughlin didn’t fail his players; his players failed him. Defensively, the Giants were the worst in the NFL, so changes in every positions must be altered. Offensively, wide receiver (outside of OBJ) and offensive line must be priority for New York this coming off-season. The Giants fell 35-30 to the Eagle at Met Life Stadium.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10): Tampa Bay was a lot better than, I believe, a lot of people expected. The Buccaneers have a young, promising offense in players like Jameis Winston, Doug Martin and Mike Evans. Turnovers and more changes possibly to the offensive line could elevate the offense to new levels. Tampa Bay posses a Top-10 defense, specifically against the run and will continue their high play next season. As for this season, they lost 38-10 the Panthers in the finale heading into the offseason.
Miami Dolphins (6-10): The Dolphins finished the season strong defeating the Patriots, 20-10. Miami’s priorities remain on both sides of the ball specifically the utilization of the talent already there. Players like Ryan Tannehill, Lamar Miller and Ndamukong Suh must reach their full potential and need the right head coach to push them to those heights. That leads me to their biggest priority this offseason: head coach.
San Francisco 49ers (5-11): The 49ers finished at .500 at home defeating the Rams 19-16 in overtime in their finale. San Francisco has found a potential niche in Blaine Gabbert who’s rounded out the quarterback position well. The 49ers are bottom feeders on offense and defense and will be in rebuilding mood for quite sometime. They also have a head coach vacancy as well. That’s the first priority heading into the offseason.
Baltimore Ravens (5-11): The Ravens were bullied around in their finale: a 24-16 defeat to the Bengals in Cincinnati. Luckily, the offseason remains bright for these Ravens as they return a healthy Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs and Steve Smith Sr. Baltimore’s biggest questions remain in the secondary, at running back and receiver outside of Smith Sr. General Manager Ozzie Newsome and head coach John Harbaugh will have an important offseason on deck.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): The Jaguars ended their season awful getting lit 30-6 to the Texans. Jacksonville has exhibited a nucleus both, offensively and defensively. Offensively the Jaguars have found a core in Blake Bortles, Allen Robinson Allen Hurns and Julius Thomas. Defensively, players like Telvin Smith, Paul Posluszny and Johnathan Cyprien round out a core to build around. The biggest holes will be the rest of the secondary outside of Cyprien, defensive line and running back heading into the offseason.
San Diego Chargers (4-12): The Chargers finished their season losing a heart breaker 27-20 loss to the Broncos in Denver. San Diego heads into the offseason retaining head coach Mike McCoy and general manager Tom Telesco and firing six assistants. Among those, changes expect more to come as the Chargers struggled against the run and running the football. San Diego priorities include offensive line, running back, defensive line and at linebacker.
Dallas Cowboys (4-12): The Redskins destroyed the Cowboys, 34-23 in their finale. Jerry Jones, to me is the biggest problem for the Cowboys mediocrity every season. Jones is retaining head coach Jason Garret giving him the benefit of the doubt since Dallas dealt with huge injuries to Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Sean Lee the majority of the season. The Cowboys biggest priorities this offseason will be: health, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive line.
Tennessee Titans (3-13): The Titans were defeated 30-24 to the Colts in their finale. Like San Francisco, the Titans are near the bottom of every NFL category on both sides of the ball. They head into the offseason with their primary priorities being: head coach, running back, offensive line every position on defense.
Cleveland Browns (3-13): The Browns lost 28-12 to the Steelers in their finale giving the Steelers a playoff berth. Cleveland is one of the worst franchises the NFL’s have ever had since birth. Look for things to continue, as thy search for a new head coach, defensive line, wide receiver core and running back stable this offseason.