There would usually be a “What to Know After Week 17” post this week, but since it’s the end of the regular season we’re going to evaluate the teams who did not make the playoffs, whose seasons ended in Week 17. Let’s start in the AFC and take a look at each team’s highs and lows, ranked best to worst according to their regular season record (beginning with #7, since the top 6 teams are in the playoffs).
In the AFC:
7. The Pittsburgh Steelers
High point: The unexpected Charlie Batch led win over the Ravens was everything we love about football. Great win for a great player.
Low point: Roethlisberger was a key player to the Steelers demise this season – both his absence (because of injury) and his presence (because of late-game turnovers) – presented problems for Pittsburgh, along with a litany of other high-profile players who were injured.
8. The San Diego Chargers
High point: Ending up in the middle of the pack in the AFC after another dismal season. (This might speak more to the AFC than it does to the Chargers, but they should probably take it and run with it anyways.)
Low point: In their third consecutive season without making the playoffs they’ve officially done what they’ve been rumored to do in each of those three seasons: fire head coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith.
9. The Miami Dolphins
High point: Honestly, it could have been a lot worse for the Dolphins this year. 7-9 isn’t too bad for a team with a lot of drama early on in the season and a new head coach.
Low point: The sprinklers going off in the middle of the third quarter of the Seahawks at Dolphins game. Really, this clip never gets old.
10. The Tennessee Titans
High point: A 37-3 win in Miami in Week 10.
Low point: A 51-20 loss in Chicago in Week 9.
(That’s a microcosm of the Titans season: big wins and big losses back to back. They’re one of the toughest teams to figure out. But head coach Mike Munchak will stay on for a second season after firing rumors were put to rest on Monday by owner Bud Adams.)
11. The New York Jets
High point: A 48-28 statement win in Week 1 against the Bills that seemed like a tone-setter for the season to come.
Low point: The now-infamous butt-fumble against the Patriots, which was much more indicative of the actual tone of the season: mind-boggling, ugly, and painful to the point of hilarity. That the Jets are not 16th on this list is a stunning indictment of the state of the AFC.
12. The Buffalo Bills
High point: Stand-out running back C.J. Spiller. He had a phenomenal season.
Low point: The Bills fired head coach Chan Gailey on Monday after three seasons. They have major problems to address in the off-season, most notably quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Also: the Lambeau Leap fail. Priceless.
13. The Cleveland Browns
High point: The win against the Roethlisberger-less Steelers in Week 12. Sure, the Steelers did everything in their power to lose the game (to the tune of 8 turnovers) but it’s still nice to win against a divisional foe when victories are few and far between.
Low point: New owner Jimmy Haslam fired the coach and the GM on Monday and is expected to make sweeping changes throughout the entire organization. I’m probably wrong, but it doesn’t feel like this whole situation is good news for the Browns.
14. The Oakland Raiders
High point: QB Terrell Pryor (former Ohio State Buckeye) got his first start on Sunday, and Raiders fans should feel slightly optimistic about his potential (in the right system). Also, it looks like head coach Dennis Allen will keep his job after a tough first season.
Low point: It should always be a good thing to shut a team out, as the Raiders did to the Chiefs in Week 15. But when you do so entirely by field goals, it turns into a low point. Oh my word.
15. The Jacksonville Jaguars
High point: The almost-upset of the Texans in Week 11.
Low point: The Jags are setting themselves up for an odd off-season, firing their GM and keeping their head coach in limbo. Rumor has it that Tim Tebow is headed to Jacksonville, so one can only hope an innovative head coach running the spread option offense will dive in head first with Tebow. But basically, they are rebuilding the puzzle without the edge pieces in place first, and you can never be sure how that’s going to work out.
16. The Kansas City Chiefs
High point: The win against the Panthers the day after the horrific murder-suicide of Javon Belcher. I can’t imagine what kind of mental fortitude it took not only to coach and play that game, but also to win it with a team that only won one other game the entire season. A well-deserved victory if there ever was one.
Low point: Chiefs fans cheering after struggling QB Matt Cassel was knocked out during a game. That was a red flag that the collective mindset of football fans and culture of the game needs to change immediately. Also: the firing of Romeo Crennel on Monday. He’s a good man.
***Just a note from football history: “Black Monday,” the Monday following the regular season conclusion when head coaches get fired, was especially black this year, with seven firings so far. A lot of these guys were in their first few years with the organization, and while I realize that the NFL is a win-now league, I think it bears noting that famed Cowboys head coach Tom Landry did not win a SINGLE GAME in his first season. He went on to create a dynasty in Dallas, serving as head coach for 29 years. So there’s something to be said for having faith and withholding the ax.
***History Rant Concluded.
WHEW! Alright, so far we’ve covered the highs and lows of the AFC. This afternoon, we’ll breakdown the NFC.
See you all then!