The last week of the 2014 regular season is now complete. With the exception of a few games with playoff implications, most games were eh. Some teams sat their starters and other teams were just playing for pride. That’s just how the cookie crumbles during week 17.
Yesterday our mom told us that sometimes she skims Snap posts and just looks for the parts where we mention her. Ouch. Understandable, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.
This week we’re bolding the most important takeaways from each game recap, in hopes that you retain some fun facts if you don’t have time to read everything. Mom – this is for you. (*wink wink*)
Here’s what we thought about week 17 in the NFL…
Baltimore (20), Cleveland (10) – The Ravens are playoff bound as a result of their win and San Diego’s loss to the Chiefs. The Browns did not make this one easy for the Ravens, who were without two starting tackles and need to get their act together if they want to have a successful playoff run. Undrafted rookie quarterback Connor Shaw started for the Browns as a result of Johnny Manziel and Brian Hoyer being out with injuries and he actually played better than Johnny Manziel did in the past two games. The Browns have a lot to think about in regards to their quarterback situation during the off-season.
Houston (23), Jacksonville (17) – Houston’s J.J. Watt did nothing but give those calling for him to be league MVP more support for their cause – he had three sacks and a safety. He became the only player to have two 20-sack seasons since the statistic was tracked. Coach Bill O’Brien can call his first season in Houston a success, despite not making the playoffs – he instilled a culture change and navigated through four quarterbacks in his starting line-up due to injuries. The Jaguars have to like what they see in rookie quarterback Blake Bortles and will look to upgrade the offensive line during the offseason.
Kansas City (19), San Diego (7) – If the Chargers had won this game, they would have made the playoffs. Instead, both teams are done for the season. Kansas City’s pass rush (the defensive linemen getting after the other team’s quarterback) was too much for San Diego’s offensive line to handle and San Diego’s run game struggled again with running back Ryan Mathews. The Chiefs managed to win with starting quarterback Alex Smith out due to a lacerated spleen. Ouch. Look for San Diego to focus on defense and their offensive line this offseason, with the Chiefs looking for more offensive weapons.
New York Jets (37), Miami (24) – This was a division game for two non-playoff bound teams, and Rex Ryan’s last game as the Jets head coach. He and General Manager John Idzik were let go on Black Monday. Jets QB Geno Smith posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3 – nothing like waiting until the last game of the season to play your best football. The Dolphins already announced that coach Joe Philbin will return after another 8-8 season.
Minnesota (13), Chicago (9) – The Vikings were able to close the season on a high note with a victory, while one can only assume the Bears were happy to be put out of their misery that has been the 2014 season. The Vikings have to like what they see in rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater while the Bears finish with a 5-11 record, their worst in 10 years. No one knows if quarterback Jay Cutler will be back for next season. The Bears owe Cutler a lot of guaranteed money, which will make it difficult to find a trade suitor.
Buffalo (17), New England (9) – The Patriots rested lots of their starters for all or most of the game since the outcome would not change the fact they are the top seed in the AFC heading into the playoffs. The Bills finish with a winning record (9-7) for the first time in ten years, and also earned their first victory at Gillette Stadium (they were 0-12 until today). The Patriots broke their record of 35 straight home wins against AFC teams, but Coach Bill Belichick is obviously looking ahead to having a healthy team in the playoffs.
Philadelphia (34), New York Giants (26) – The offseason has already begun for these two teams. Stories to follow for the Eagles include the quarterback position – Mark Sanchez is at the end of his one-year deal, and Nick Foles did not play as effectively compared to last year before his season was cut short by injury. The Eagles also need to upgrade their secondary. The Giants are going to take some time to determine the fate of their coaching staff – most expect head coach Tom Coughlin to return, because even after a rough season he has the benefit of the doubt with two Super Bowl trophies. Giants fans should be excited about the potential of rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. as he transitions into his sophomore season.
New Orleans (23), Tampa Bay (20) – The Buccaneers’ loss earned them the number one pick in the 2015 draft after they let the Saints come from behind to steal the victory. The Bucs seven-game losing streak to end the season just proved they have a lot of needs, including quarterback. The bright spot for the Bucs this season has been rookie quarterback Mike Evans, who will be a centerpiece of their offense going forward. The demise of the Saints defense this season has many questioning what types of changes will happen in terms of both players and coaches over the off-season.
Indianapolis (27), Tennessee (10) – The Colts playoff seeding (4th seed in AFC) was set regardless of the outcome of this game, while they only thing left for the Titans to find out was if they were still in contention for the first draft pick (they “lost” this battle – they will choose second behind the Buccaneers). The Colts sat some of their starters, including quarterback Andrew Luck, in the second half, rather than risk injuries before the playoffs. They will play Cincinnati next week at home. Expect the Titans to make a lot of changes in the offseason, but not to fire their head coach, Ken Whisenhunt, who is finishing his first year and will be given more time to turn the team around.
Dallas (44), Washington (17) – The Cowboys are building momentum heading into the playoffs. They became the 6th team to go 8-0 on the road since the 16 game season was established in 1978. Four of the previous five teams to do this advanced to the Super Bowl. Running back DeMarco Murray set the franchise records for rushing yards in a season (breaking the record previously held by Emmitt Smith) and wide receiver Dez Bryant broke the franchise record for touchdowns in a season with 16. The Cowboys host the Lions in a wildcard game next week, while the season ends for Washington and many questioning quarterback Robert Griffin III’s ability to develop into a successful quarterback in the league.
Carolina (34), Atlanta (3) – The Panthers took the NFC South division with this victory in Atlanta and a 7-8-1 losing record. They rode a four-game winning streak, relying on their running game and improved pass rush, to become the first team to repeat as the NFC South champions since the division realignments in 2002. The Panthers will host the Arizona Cardinals next week in the wild card game. Atlanta head coach Mike Smith was a victim of Black Monday. The Falcons defense and running game held this team back.
Denver (47), Oakland (14) – The Broncos secured the AFC second seed and a first-round playoff bye with their win over the Raiders. The Raiders didn’t stand a chance as Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning was clicking with his receivers and running back C.J. Anderson scored another three (three!) touchdowns. Denver’s defense didn’t let the Raiders convert a first down until the second quarter. The Raiders need more offensive weapons for rookie quarterback Derek Carr, and will also be selecting a permanent head coach for next season. The Broncos now get a week to rest before they begin their playoff journey to avenge last year’s nasty Super Bowl loss against the Seahawks.
Green Bay (30), Detroit (20) – Green Bay claimed the NFC North and a first-round bye with the second seed for the playoffs, while the Lions will travel to Dallas for the wild card game. You could hear the panic from Packers fans when quarterback Aaron Rodgers aggravated his calf strain, limped off the field, and was taken to the locker room. The Lions closed a 14-point deficit in his absence, but he returned in the third quarter and led the team to victory. Oh, and this happened, and resulted in Lions DT Ndmaukong Suh getting suspended for the wildcard game next weekend:
Seattle (20), St. Louis (6) – The Seahawks rallied from a halftime deficit to earn the win and the first seed in the NFC playoffs. This means the road to the Super Bowl for NFC teams goes through Seattle, and their defense is in top form. It should be noted, last year they had to play higher caliber quarterbacks, while their current winning streak has included playing four second string quarterbacks. The Rams will head into the offseason looking to build on their underrated defense, as well as answer questions at quarterback as Sam Bradford hopes to return from another ACL injury that cost him this season.
San Francisco (20), Arizona (17) – Moments after the game, the 49ers released a statement confirming they and Coach Jim Harbaugh had agreed to part ways. Jim is expected to take the head coach position at his alma mater, University of Michigan, and become the highest paid college coach. In only four years with the 49ers, he took them to three NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl. With this loss and the Seahawks’ victory, the Cardinals slip from NFC West champs to a wild card seed and will head to Carolina next week for their first playoff game. They are being held back by play from their third-string quarterback, so while they were a hot postseason pick just a few weeks ago, they are now the underdogs, and their defense has slipped to allow an average of 500 yards each to their last two opponents.
Pittsburgh (27), Cincinnati (17) – Solid win for Pittsburgh to take the AFC North division and send Cincinnati to the playoffs in a wild card spot. The Steelers are keeping their fingers crossed that running back Le’Veon Bell will be able to play this weekend after he hyperextended his knee. The Steelers flew a bit under the radar this year but quarterback Ben Roethlisberger finished the regular season tied with Drew Brees for the most passing yards in the league, and wide receiver Antonio Brown led the NFL with receptions and receiving yards. He is the only player in history to have at least five catches and 50 yards in all 16 games, and he’s done that in back to back seasons. On the Bengals side, wide receiver A.J. Green is undergoing concussion protocol and his availability for this week is up in the air. The Andy Dalton to A.J. Green combination is responsible for the most interceptions in the league since 2011. The Bengals finished last in the league in sacks this year, and their kicker is having problems making long field goals (over 50 yards), both things that could have an impact in the upcoming playoffs. Steelers coach Mike Tomlin had this interaction with the Bengals player who tackled/injured RB Le’Veon Bell.
Today is Black Monday. Don’t know what that is? Check out our post on it here.
Here’s the schedule for Wildcard Weekend:
Saturday, January 3, 2015
NFC: 4:35 p.m. (ET) Arizona at Carolina (ESPN)
AFC: 8:15 p.m. (ET) Baltimore at Pittsburgh (NBC)
Sunday, January 4, 2015
AFC: 1:05 p.m. (ET) Cincinnati at Indianapolis (CBS)
NFC: 4:40 p.m. (ET) Detroit at Dallas (FOX)
Make sure you follow us on Twitter, so you’re prepared for Wildcard Weekend!
– Val and Michelle