To state the obvious, making the playoffs every year is extremely tough. Still, we take a look at the teams that will be sitting at home during the month of January, and what went wrong.
John Elway mightily underestimated the inefficiency of this offense, both during the offseason and at the trade deadline. Every single position on offense, save for the wide receivers and center, must be addressed. Paxton Lynch struggled big time, and although he is a rookie, it was a little concerning how lost he looked while on the field. C.J. Anderson was average, until he got hurt, and rookie Devontae Booker never had much success.
The offensive line, minus the center, is a mess, specifically the right tackle. Both Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo were ranked in the bottom five offensive tackles, according to pro football focus. On the defensive side, they desperately miss Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan in the middle. Their run defense ranks 29th in the league, mostly due to the interior defensive lineman being pushed around with ease. Elway is a terrific general manager, and Broncos fans should be optimistic, knowing their defense is still a top unit. Their offense though, needs a major overhaul.
It’s been a tough season for Bengals fans. After a crumbling loss in the wild card round to the Pittsburgh Steelers, fans were hoping to see this team finally take the next step, and win a playoff game. This year, they will not be able to experience that victory, but they still have the majority of the roster intact from last year. So what went wrong? Well, both the offense and defense have been wildly inconsistent.
There were times during the season when Andy Dalton and co. were able to move the ball up and down the field, while the defense was not able to stop anyone. Then, there were times where the offense struggled to convert third downs, and the defense was stout. Marvin Lewis is on the hot seat, and after refuting reports about him retiring, it may be time to move on from the long time Bengal head coach. Whether Lewis returns or not, both sides of the ball need work.
The Bengals also desperately miss a second option opposite of star wideout A.J. Green, after allowing Mohamed Sanu and Marvin Jones to walk in free agency. The pass rush, a strength of the team last year, has struggled, racking up only 30 sacks, tied for 22nd in the league. There is undeniable talent on this team, so look for a run at the playoffs for the Bengals.
This was a big surprise. After dominating the regular season last year with a 15-1 record, this team seem poised for another Super Bowl run. The reigning MVP, Cam Newton, has struggles this year, posting a 75.8 passer rating and 24 total touchdowns, down from the 99.4 passer rating and 45 total touchdowns he posted last year.
On the other side of the ball, the loss of Josh Norman was underestimated by General Manager, Dave Gettleman, as he was truly the man who made the system work.
Despite the defense being mainly in tact, the unit that ranked 6th in total and scoring defense last year, ranks 21st in total defense and 26th in scoring defense. According to Pro Football Focus, Norman ranks as the 13th best coverage corner in the league this year.
Rookie cornerback James Bradberry has played well this year, but the loss of a premier coverage corner like Norman was a miscalculation. The pieces are there for the Panthers, but Dave Gettleman has work to do.
The fact that the Arizona Cardinals had David Johnson accumulate over 2,000 total yards, and they have a top defense in the league, and still finish under .500 is astonishing. Part of the blame may be blamed towards the coaching staff, and their inability to win close games. Of their 8 losses, only 2 of them were by more than 10 points.
Perhaps it wasn’t Bruce Arians’ fault, but those are facts, and it somehow must be addressed. Quarterback Carson Palmer has regressed from his MVP-caliber season last season, which is normal for a 37 year old, so it may be time to look for the new quarterback of the future.
The defense is still strong, especially the passing defense, but the offense could use an injection of talent. Wideout Larry Fitzgerald will be 34 years old when the 2017 NFL season begins, and the other wideouts on the team have been somewhat disappointing. This is a big offseason for the Cardinals, General Manager Steve Keim has a tough sled in front of him.
After starting out 5-0, and plopping themselves into the ‘Super Bowl contenders’ discussion, the Vikings only won 3 out of their last 11 games after their week 6 bye. Contrary to what many fans believe, quarterback Sam Bradford was and is definitely not the problem.
The running game was non-existent and the offensive line play was putrid. Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are the most underrated wide receiving duo, as their play has been terrific throughout the year. The defense faded down the stretch, after a scorching start. Here is a stat to show how ineffective the offense was: when the defense allowed less than 20 points, their record was 7-2. When the defense allowed 20 or more points, their record was 1-6.
Who was behind that ineffectiveness on offense? An offensive line that ranked 23rd in sacks allowed and 26th in QB hits allowed. That’s just pass blocking though. According to Football Outsiders, the Minnesota Vikings offensive line, in terms of run blocking, ranks 30th in the league. This team is a carbon copy of the Denver Broncos. When the defense is not dominating, the offense has struggled to move the ball, despite having two premier wideouts and a quarterback capable of moving the ball, mostly due to the offensive line.
The Redskins were unfortunate victims of being in one of the NFL’s toughest divisions this year. The offense was explosive, and any doubters Kirk Cousins had about him being a franchise quarterback, were silenced. The offensive line is one of the most underrated in the league, and the unit definitely deserves to be in the center of ‘Top 5 Offensive Line’ talk.
The defense, though, needs a lot of work, especially in the secondary. Third year cornerback, Bashaud Breeland, was poised to make a name for himself after improving year after year, but instead took a massive step back, ranking 91st out of a qualified 120 cornerbacks in the league.
The pass rush is solid, but the run defense has struggled all year long, ranking 27th in run blocking according to Football Outsiders. As long as Cousins is under center, the offense will remain effective. The defense, on the other hand, is a question mark.