By Eric Ronnebeck
As the penultimate week of the NFL season has come and gone, so has any question about which teams will make the NFL playoffs. The parity within the NFL this year has been so great that it took weeks for me to write off teams that really had no chance at making the playoffs but I had to be sure. The NFC East and AFC South stand out as the two divisions that kept me impatiently waiting. The NFC East was parity and teams fighting it out; the AFC South was a group of bad teams waiting to beat up on each other.
More than that, there are teams from other divisions to write about that got the equivalent of coal in their stockings this Christmas. With that, it’s time to clean house.
Denver Broncos: (8-7)
It seemed like only last week that, Broncos General Manager, John Elway was taking pride in their off-season decision to move on from quarterback Brock Osweiler while extolling the talents of Trevor Simian. Things change quickly. You can argue that the Denver Broncos upgraded their quarterback position last summer when Peyton Manning retired. Peyton Manning is a legend and I kind of miss him but he wasn’t the same Peyton Manning last year that we spent years watching. He couldn’t throw the ball downfield, he wasn’t as accurate as he was in his youth, and he was immobile: he was bad. Bring in Trevor Simian as your starter and you now have a quarterback who can throw downfield and become mobile, though still not accurate. The Broncos have a great defense but looking at their failed season, it looks like they may have relied on their rookie quarterback too much.
Baltimore Ravens: (8-7)
The Ravens 2016 season is similar to the Broncos 2016 season: both teams have solid defenses that win them games but they both have bad offenses that keep them from winning too many games. The Ravens can’t use the “rookie quarterback” excuse that Denver does. Joe Flacco has won a Super Bowl and he’s making a lot of money. The Ravens don’t have a coaching problem and they don’t have a skill player problem, they have a consistent quarterback problem. For those in the know, there’s a joke about regular season Joe Flacco and playoff Joe Flacco; playoff Joe Flacco is worth the money while regular season Joe Flacco is definitively not. The Ravens need to remedy that issue in some way or they’re going to have more disappointing seasons ahead of them.
The Tennessee Titans are a team on the rise and I thought that they had a good shot at winning this division. They have all the tools on offense necessary to win and their defense is improving every year. The only real question mark I have for this team’s future is: can Marcus Mariota stay healthy long enough to play a full season in the NFL? Marcus Mariota hasn’t been the victim of dirty hits or head hunting yet he has encountered a serious injury in each of his first two NFL seasons. The NFL junk heap is full of promising, young players who just couldn’t stay healthy during their NFL careers. I enjoy watching Marcus Mariota and I hope that these early injuries are something people will forget about during a long, playoff filled career.
I don’t want to spend much time writing about the Colts, so… Dear lord this team is bad! Andrew Luck may be a great quarterback but he’s not going to last long behind that awful offensive line. Frank Gore is ancient in football years and that is the number one running back for the Colts. Their defense is bad. There’s no pass rush, there’s no coverage in the passing game, and they can’t stop the run. The fact that the Colts got to seven wins is a testament to how bad their division is. I think it would behoove the Colts front office t work on putting as much talent around Andrew Luck as possible. That sounds like common sense but they haven’t done it yet so I thought I’d mention it.
Minnesota Vikings: (7-8)
Wow. The Minnesota Vikings were a lot of people’s preseason prediction to win the NFC North title. They had a great defense, they had a good offensive line, they had above average receivers, and they had a powerful running game: What went wrong? First, there was the injury to quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. I don’t know if Teddy is going to be a successful NFL quarterback or not but suffering a serious knee injury before the season starts is devastating. Replacing that quarterback with Sam Bradford is also devastating. There seems to be a mental block in the processing aspect of Bradford’s game as his decision making has always been a weakness during his NFL career. That is not a weakness I want in my teams quarterback. After this the knee injury to Adrian Peterson happened, the injuries to the defense and offensive line continued and the Minnesota Vikings were left with a shell of their team. It’s hard to say what next year holds for the Vikings but I’m not ready to crown them NFC North champs until I see some continuity in their play.
Next week is the final installment of Your Season is Over for the 2016 season. I can think of two teams that could make it into the article and there may even be a surprise. One more week until the playoffs begin.