The end of the line...
By: Jimbo X
Carolina Panthers (15-1)
Season Point Differential: (+192)
With a facile 38-10 win over divisional foes Tampa Bay, Carolina closes out the regular season with both the best win-loss record and points differential in pro football. Solidifying his status as MVP, Cam Newton posted 293 yards in the air, going an absurd 21 for 26 and registering two TD passes ... in addition to recording two more scores with his feet. The one-loss Panthers have a first-round bye and home field throughout the playoffs; whether or not the tepid Charlotte crowd will give them a Seattle-like "12th man" advantage, however, is still up in the air.
Arizona Cardinals (13-3)
Season Point Differential: (+176)
The Cards' wrapped up their extraordinary regular season with a colossal turd of a game against NFC West rivals Seattle, who obliterated them 36-6 last Sunday. Carson Palmer, who had been putting up near MVP-caliber numbers all year round, had just 129 yards on the day, and back-up Drew Stanton fared even worse, posting just 84 yards and two interceptions up against the Temple of the Boom. Still, Arizona has done more than enough to earn themselves a first-round bye - for the Cardinals faithful, just pray that Russell Wilson and the boys won't still be hanging around in time for the NFC Championship.
New England Patriots (12-4)
Season Point Differential: (+150)
The Patriots limp into the playoffs, having wrapped up their regular season with a disappointing 20-10 loss to thee Dolphins. Tom Brady has one of his worst professional showings ever, finishing the affair with just 134 yards and no touchdown passes. The run game didn't look very good either, as the team could only muster 70 yards on 27 carries. All in all, a loss that bad doesn't bode very well for the defending Super Bowl Champions' postseason aspirations ... with or without a first round bye and at least one game at Foxborough.
Seattle Seahawks (10-6)
Season Point Differential: (+146)
After a slow start, Seattle finally started looking like back-to-back NFC Champions, and as apparent by their 36-6 throttling of Arizona, they have MORE than enough gas in the tank to earn a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. Russell Wilson wrapped up Sunday's cakewalk with three touchdowns and 197 passing yards, while halfback Christine Michael (remember that name) posted 102 rushing yards on 17 carries. Oh, and the defense held the Cards to just 27 yards on the ground. Yeah, the Vikings shouldn't be too happy about hosting them this weekend, needless to say.
Cincinnati Bengals (12-4)
Season Point Differential: (+140)
The Bengals struggled in the first two quarters, but they came alive in the second half to beat divisional foes Baltimore 24-16 on Sunday. AJ McCarron went 17 for 27, posting two touchdowns and collecting 160 yards on the day, while Jeremy Hill broke loose for 96 yards on 16 rushes. Cincy now turns their attention to the Steelers, who will visit Paul Brown Stadium this weekend for a wild card round showdown.
Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)
Season Point Differential: (+118)
The Chiefs - at one point in the season a 1-5 sinking ship - collected their tenth consecutive win in Week 17, besting arch rivals Oakland 23-17 at home. Alex Smith went two for two on touchdowns to interceptions thrown, wrapping up the contest with a substandard 156 yards on 14 passes. Alas, the KC rush got the job done on the ground (the Chiefs posted 189 yards rushing on the day), while their underrated defense held the Raiders to just 48 rushing yards and sacked Derek Carr no less than six times.
Pittsburgh Steelers (10-6)
Season Point Differential: (+104)
Big Ben and company needed some help from the Jets to sneak their way into the playoffs, and by golly, New York sure enough collapsed against the Bills, allowing Pittsburgh to punch their postseason tickets via a 28-12 win over Cleveland. Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant and - pending he isn't that injured - DeAngelo Williams head to Cincy this weekend for a third battle against their hated AFC North rivals; the two teams split their regular season skirmishes one game a piece.
New York Jets (10-6)
Season Point Differential: (+73)
All the Jets had to do was win a meaningless late season game against the Bills and they were playoffs-bound. Alas, Ryan Fitzpatrick decided Sunday was the most opportune time to lob three goddamn interceptions, allowing Buffalo to hang in there for a season-ending 22-17 victory. If there's a silver lining, I suppose it's that the Jets have proven themselves to be a formidable offensive unit; with studs like Chris Ivory and Brandon Marshall putting up big numbers, week in and week out, New York should remain in the thick of the AFC East title hunt next season. Like I said, should...
THE PLAYOFF HOPEFULS
Minnesota Vikings (11-5)
Season Point Differential: (+63)
Denver Broncos (12-4)
Season Point Differential: (+59)
Peyton Manning saved the day for the Broncos last weekend, as his second half heroics paved the way for a 27-20 come from behind win against the Chargers. Although Denver has the first seed in the AFC locked up and home field throughout the playoffs, there are tons of question marks lingering heading into the postseason: beginning, of course, with whether or not the Broncos will start Brock O or the elder Manning in the divisional playoffs.
Green Bay Packers (10-6)
Season Point Differential: (+45)
Although Aaron Rodgers put up 291 yards on Sunday night, it wasn't enough to lead his Packers past the Vikings, who wound up snagging the contest - and thus, the NFC North title - in a 20-13 win. While James Jones looked like a pimp with 102 yards on just four receptions, the Packers running back committee could only muster 76 yards on 26 carries. Furthermore, the Packers offensive line absolutely crumbled, letting Minnesota's defenders sack Rodgers no less than five times.
Houston Texans (9-7)
Season Point Differential: (+26)
The Texans clinched the AFC South and at least one home game in the playoffs following Sunday's 30-6 throttling of the Jaguars. The no-name offense of Brian Hoyer, Alfred Blue and DeAndre Hopkins have a real chance to escape a anonymity this weekend when they play host to the red hot Chiefs. Is J.J. Watt and the rest of the rock solid D enough to hand KC their first loss since late October? We'll find out shortly.
Buffalo Bills (8-8)
Season Point Differential: (+20)
Washington Redskins (9-7)
Season Point Differential: (+9)
The Skins leapt to a 21-0 first quarter lead over Dallas in their regular season finale on Sunday, as Kirk Cousins and company cruised to an effortless 34-23 win. Washington's QB has played extremely well down the stretch - Cousins had three touchdowns and 176 yards on just 12 completions in Week 17 - and a good goddamn, are Jamison Crowder and Alfred Morris (both of whom had 100-yard days against the Cowboys) stats-studs in the making. This Sunday, they host Green Bay in a wildcard clash at home; and of all the first round playoff matchups, I'd reckon the Skins have the best shot at picking up the underdog win.
Atlanta Falcons (8-8)
Season Point Differential: (-6)
With a close 20-17 loss at home to arch rivals New Orleans, the Falcons officially conclude their 2016 campaign at .500. While the golden trifecta of Matt Ryan (334 yards, two TDs), Devonta Freeman (81 yards) and Julio Jones (149 yards) make Atlanta an offensive threat no matter what, their defense still requires some major tweaks. All in all, the most memorable thing about this year's season is probably that limited-time only Falcons-themed sub that Publix launched last fall ... which, not unlike Atlanta's on-the-turf performance, was still just kinda' average.
New York Giants (6-10)
Season Point Differential: (-22)
With Tom Coughlin shit-canned, the Giants are officially in rebuild mode. Following their 35-30 regular season finale loss to the Eagles, it seems unlikely the franchise will swap out Eli Manning for a new starting QB, but with offensive studs on the roster like Odell Beckham, Jr. And Rashad Jennings, one can't help but wonder how this team would fare with a more-mobile, deep-pass-threat behind center. Hmm ... is that RGIII kid still able to walk?
THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK
Oakland Raiders (7-9)
Season Point Differential: (-40)
The Raiders finished their not quite .500 season - and quite possibly their last one playing in northern California - with a narrow 23-17 loss to Kansas City. While Carr managed to outyard Smith passing, Oakland's receivers couldn't convert those catches into end zone visitations. Alas, the defense played fairly well, with Khalil Mack collecting 10 tackles on the day, while retiring soon-to-be-Hall-of-Famer Charles Woodson registered 7 tackles in his professional career finale.
Detroit Lions (7-9)
Season Point Differential: (-42)
The slightly below .500 Lions wrapped up the season with a meaningless 24-20 win over the Bears Sunday. Matt Stafford went 28 for 39, finishing the contest with three touchdowns and 298 yards. Calvin Johnson also posted one of his best statistical days in recent memory, concluding the game with 137 yards and a TD on 10 catches. Offensively, this team has all the pieces in place, but their defense is still insufficient across the board; expect them to load up on secondary acquisitions once free agency begins.
St. Louis Rams (7-9)
Season Point Differential: (-50)
The better-than-mediocre-but-still-far-from-playoff-worthy Rams wrapped up the 2015-16 season with a 19-16 loss to the subpar 49ers - largely because offensive rookie of the year Todd Gurley was relegated to the sidelines. With a receiving corps that's average at best and a defense that still needs to beef up at several positions, the Rams have a lot to work on before they can consider themselves NFC West Champions material - beginning with that absolute muddle of a quarterbacking situation.
Philadelphia Eagles (7-9)
Season Point Differential: (-53)
With Chip Kelly exiled to the world of college ball, the Eagles begin 2016 with a whole lot of uncertainty. Although Sam Bradford looked good in the team's 35-30 win over the Giants on Sunday (he went 30 for 38 and had 320 yards), he doesn't seem to be the best fit at QB. They have plenty of talent at the receiver position - Zach Ertz had 152 yards on nine receptions in Week 17 - so it wouldn't shock me nary an iota if the new-look Eagles tested the free agent waters this spring.
Chicago Bears (6-10)
Season Point Differential: (-62)
It's kind of hard to detect where, exactly, the Bears went wrong in 2015. Jay Cutler has played fairly well, and for a large chunk of the season, Matt Forte was statistically the best back in pro football. Alas, the team is hurting for some quality receivers, and this defense is just a shell of its former self. Although they went out with a 24-20 divisional win against the Lions, that farewell victory really doesn't mean much in the face of all the retooling this team requires in the offseason.
New Orleans Saints (7-9)
Season Point Differential: (-68)
The Saints were just a big old pile of inconsistency in '15, but at least they went out on a high note, vanquishing their arch-rivals Atlanta 20-17 at the Georgia Dome. Drew Bree's wrapped up the affair with 323 yards and a solo passing TD, while Brandon Coleman, Travaris Cadet and Benjamin Watson combined for 217 receiving yards and one TD as halfback Tim Hightower galloped for 66 yards and uno end zone excursion. All in all, this ain't the most explosive offensive unit in the League, but they can still pile on the points if your defense sleeps on them.
Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11)
Season Point Differential: (-72)
Falling 30-6 to the Texans, the Jags lost their seventh away game of the year to wrap up their disappointing five-win season. Blake Bortles, who at times has looked fairly impressive this year, had a real clunker of a game, lobbing two interceptions and finishing the tilt with just 183 passing yards, once you factor in the eight times he got leveled by Houston defenders (that's a net loss of 56 yards, in case you were wondering.) The pass offense, sparked by the two Allens, certainly gives the team a glimmer of optimism heading into the 2016-17 season; alas, their run game - which chalked up just 32 yards over the weekend - remains a critical weakness unlikely to be solved by any draft pick-ups.
Baltimore Ravens (5-11)
Season Point Differential: (-73)
The Ravens, to some extent, anyway, are a little bit better than their 11-loss record would lead you to believe; after all, this is a team that beat the Steelers twice this season. Alas, they concluded their disappointing year with yet another disheartening loss, this one a 24-16 road loss to the Bengals. Needless to say, this is a franchise that is really looking forward to hitting the "restart" button for 2016; the big question now is if the higher ups want to stick with Joe Flacco or roll the "QB of the future" dice in the draft?
ANXIOUSLY AWAITING THE DRAFT
Indianapolis Colts (8-8)
Season Point Differential: (-75)
With Andrew Luck sidelined for a large portion of the season, the Colts were the biggest surprise bust in the NFL this year. To think: there were actually some doofuses out there that predicted this clusterfuck of a team to make it to the dadgum Super Bowl! Finishing at .500 via a 30-24 win over the Titans, Indianapolis faces a lot of question marks heading into the offseason. We know Chuck Pagano will be back as head coach, but if Luck remains injury-hampered, what's their course of action going to be?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (6-10)
Season Point Differential: (-75)
Jameis Winston's up-and-down rookie season concluded with a lackluster showing against the Panthers, who slapped his Bucs around 38-10 last weekend. Despite producing 325 yards in the air, the former FSU standout recorded no passing touchdowns and lobbed two costly interceptions. Alas, with Doug Martin and Mike Evans consistently putting up big numbers, this offense is almost certain to improve in 2016; now, if only they could churn out a decent defense to complement the yardage-gobbling O...
San Diego Chargers (4-12)
Season Point Differential: (-78)
Philip Rivers 228 yard, two touchdown day wasn't enough to help the Chargers with an upset bid, as they fell to Peyton Manning's Broncos 27-20 in the regular season finale. Clearly, there's going to be a lot of retooling for this team heading into the offseason; and oh yeah, there's this little subplot about them maybe moving to slightly more northern Southern California later this year, splitting a lease with their most hated rival. Hey, if the whole pro football thing does't work out for them, at least they have all the makings of a wacky '80s-style sitcom awaiting them, no?
Miami Dolphins (6-10)
Season Point Differential: (-79)
The Dolphins may have had a forgettable season overall, but at least they finished the year with a big win over the Pats, besting their AFC East rivals 20-10 in southern FLA. Ryan Tannehill posted two scores, going 25 for 38 and racking up 350 total passing yards ... a sum, unbelievably, that more than doubled Tom Brady's aerial production for the day.
Dallas Cowboys (4-12)
Season Point Differential: (-99)
In their LOL-tactic regular season finale, the Cowboys fell 34-23 to arch rivals Washington. While Kellen Moore had three touchdowns and 435 yards, rest assured, they were all garbage points, as the Skins had this shit locked up before the second quarter even started. Terrance Williams (183 yards, 8 catches) and Darren McFadden (12 rushes, 92 yards) overachieved, but this team remains a colossal clusterfuck heading in to the offseason. Just how abysmal was the 2016 campaign for "America's Team?" The University of Alabama officially had more wins at AT&T Stadium than they did.
Tennessee Titans (3-13)
Season Point Differential: (-124)
...and with a 30-24 loss to the Colts, the Titans officially lock up the number one pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. To say Marcus Mariota has been a mixed bag would be putting it mildly, and there are SO many weak links on the team, offensively and defensively, that it's hard to pinpoint where the GM should begin with the rebuilding process. Sorry, Tennessee fans - yes, both of you - this team is going to be stuck in the abyss for a long time to come.
San Francisco 49ers (5-11)
Season Point Differential: (-149)
THE BLAINE GABBERT TRIUMPHS AGAIN! Racking up 354 yards on 28 completions and going one and one on touchdowns to interceptions thrown, the new franchise QB for San Fran (why are you snickering?) led the Red and Gold to a 19-16 upset win over the St. Louis (and perhaps soon to be Los Angeles) Rams. You might want to consider adding DuJuan Harris as a late, late round fantasy football acquisition next season; the dual threat receiver had 86 yards receiving and 67 rushing in the Niners' season finale.
Cleveland Browns (3-13)
Season Point Differential: (-154)
The City of Eternal Misery wrapped up the regular season with the worst points differential in pro football, along with a demoralizing 28-12 loss to the Steelers. Having completely dismantled their front office following the colossal dumpster fire of a season, the big question mark right now is whether the Browns will gamble their second overall draft pick on a potential franchise QB. Granted, early picks of the like are quite risky - especially in a year with so few promising quarterback options - but for fuck's sake, it's not like Jared Goff or Paxton Lynch can play any worse than Austin Davis and Johnny Football played this season, can they?