By Eric Ronnebeck
This coming Sunday the 2015 NFL season will come to its conclusion and with it, the end to the mystery of who will enter the playoffs. Most spots have already been decided and the issue of playoff seeding is still up in the air in both conferences. This last weekend, however, had three games that decided the fate of three teams and their playoff hopes. The NFC East has its division winner and one NFC South team realized that losing streaks are more of a detriment than winning streaks. Let’s begin this week’s multi-eulogy.
New York Giants (6-9): It may be time to blow up the New York Giants. Head coach Tom Coughlin is almost a guaranteed lock to be fired. Eli Manning has shown flashes of excellence over the years but he hasn’t shown much of that recently. Odell Beckham Jr. may be the best receiver in the NFL but he can’t carry a team. The Giant’s defense has no identity and Jason Pierre Paul blowing a good portion of his right hand off with fireworks is a perfect analogy for the Giant’s 2015 season. Making things worse is this: the Giants will not blow up their team. They will probably fire their coach; they’ll keep their aging veterans that are making too much money; and their best offseason move will be a clause in Jason Pierre Paul’s contract that keeps him from playing with fireworks. You have to win somewhere in life and right now, that’s probably the Giant’s best shot.
Philadelphia Eagles (6-9): I could do the usual write-up here where I point out how the Eagle’s season failed and where I outline the failures on each side of the ball. Instead, I’ll just keep this topical and call out (former) Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. Where to start? Chip Kelly had a lot of success as head coach of the Oregon Ducks. The Eagles saw that, they saw the success that Pete Carroll has had here in Seattle, and they probably thought, “Let’s replicate that with Chip Kelly!” It didn’t work. Desean Jackson was a fine receiver for the Eagles but Chip Kelly had him shipped out of town.. Running back LeSean McCoy had some fine seasons in Philadelphia until he was traded to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Now Desean Jackson has success playing for the division rival Washington Redskins and LeSean McCoy is settling in well in Buffalo after a slow start to his season. There are other players who no longer play for the Eagles that reportedly did not enjoy playing for Chip Kelly: Evan Mathis is playing guard for the Denver Broncos now and Trent Cole is a veteran linebacker for the Colts. Letting players go or trading them away is a part of every NFL team but when none of those moves pan out or the replacement players are significantly worse on your team, it’s time for a change. In the case of Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles, the change was overdue. Chip Kelly’s season is over and so is his career in the NFL.
Atlanta Falcons (8-7): The Atlanta Falcons started the season so well! They were 6-1 through the first seven weeks and they looked like the cream of the NFL crop. The offense was clicking behind an excellent passing game and a surprisingly good rushing game. The hiring of former Seahawks defensive coordinator looked like a stroke of genius as the Falcons pass rush and secondary came alive. All was right in the ATL. Then reality set in as the Falcon would go on to lose their next six games. The amazing offense still had a rushing component but quarterback Matt Ryan came back to earth and started playing like he does every NFL season: just good enough to earn a big contract but not good enough to lead the team to a meaningful season. The revitalized defense that looked so impressive through seven games seemed to lose fire instead of building on their seemingly new identity. I think it’s possible that the Falcon’s defense gets even better in 2016 with some new additions to their linebacker corps and defensive line. I do not think that Matt Ryan is an elite quarterback and I believe that will hold the Falcons back in their quest for a deep playoff run.
Next week, all will be revealed regarding team’s playoff futures. Either the Pittsburgh Steelers or the New York Jets will be the featured team next week. Frankly, I’m still shocked that the Chiefs are in the playoffs. I’m even more shocked that the high powered Pittsburgh Steelers could miss the playoffs. I guess that’s just the NFL.