Week 15 of the NFL season is upon us and it has been a wild and exciting ride so far. We have had many storylines, from the all-out air assault and the boost in scoring to the new NFL rules wreaking havoc on defenders. Records have been broken and new stars have been born. There really has been something for everyone and the NFL has been reaping the rewards with increased viewership. The NFL giant is alive, well and thriving.
Week 15 is always an exciting point of the season for several reasons. First of all, it is the beginning of Saturday games! At this point, the NFL starts airing a couple football games every Saturday giving fans yet another day to lose themselves in their love of the game. Week 15 is also crunch time where teams need to put up or shut up. Three weeks remain and it is crunch time for many NFL teams. While teams like the Chiefs, Rams, and Saints have more than secured their trip to the playoffs, there are many teams that are still sitting on the playoff bubble. Week 15 will be pivotal for those teams trying to sneak into the final wildcard spot and secure themselves a chance at playoff glory.
As I started looking over the playoff possibilities and gripped about how my Broncos have dropped the ball on several occasions and are sitting on the outside needing a lot of help to get in, I couldn't help but notice the other teams that were also on the outside looking in. Teams that at the beginning of the season, most people would have had pencilled in for a for sure playoff spot. Teams that are now either out of the mix or fighting for thier playoff lives. There are not many of us that can look at the current NFL standings and say that they had predicted where we are. It turns out that there are quite a few HUGE disappointments this season when it comes to teams records.
Here is my list of the biggest flops this season:
- The Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles are number one on my list because they are about to do something that 30% of Superbowl champs do. Miss the playoffs. The Eagles are currently sitting outside the playoffs with a 6-7 record. They have had a season to forget to say the least. They started the season with their franchise quarterback still on the shelf and their SuperBowl MVP not able to recapture the magic of last year. Injuries have had a big part to play in the Eagles demise this year with pretty much every running back on the roster going down and Alshon Jefferey missing a significant amount of time as well. The defence has been a shell of itself from last year and inconsistent offensive line play hasn't helped either. There is still a slight chance that they can make it in with some help from other teams but with Wentz now set to miss time with a bad back, it is not looking good.
2. The Minnesota Vikings
I personally think that the Vikings situation might be a bigger disappointment than the Eagles and they could easily be number one on my list. This is a team that almost made it to the SuperBowl last year and with the addition of big free agent QB Kirk Cousins was predicted by many to take the next step and be a contender in the big game this year. The Vikings are holding on to the final wildcard spot by the skin of their teeth. Their 6-6-1 record is a far cry from the 13-3 record that many prognosticators had predicted. The offence has sputtered most of the season and Cousins has been pedestrian at best. Dalvin Cooks extended time on the shelf has been a blow to the Vikings ability to move the ball as well. The big difference is the regression of the defence. They have not been the dominant force that they were all season long last year. If the Vikings are able to hold onto that final playoff spot, they will need to turn up the heat in order to have any success beyond that.
3. The Carolina Panthers
The Panthers appeared prime to win their division and compete for a birth in the NFC championship game at worst. They appeared to be on their way to a successful season until week 10 when the wheels fell off. They were 6-2 going into week 10 but with 5 straight losses the Panthers are now sitting at 6-7 and on the outside of the playoff picture. It is hard to pinpoint where the Panthers have gone wrong. It seems to be a little of everything with them. The defence has let them down in crucial moments and the receiving has been inconsistent. McCaffrey has been lights out amazing and scoring hasn't really been the issue for the most part. I personally link the fall from the top back to week 11. The team had just come off their biggest loss of the year, a 52-24 drubbing at the hands of the Steelers, and were playing a very beatable Lions team. Down 20-13 the Panthers scored with 1 minute left. The extra point would have tied it and forced a possible overtime. They decided to go for two and failed. A move that seems to have taken the wind out of the sails of a once playoff-bound team. If they miss the playoffs it might be a Black Monday goodbye for coach Rivera.
4. The Jacksonville Jaguars
The final and maybe the least surprising team on my list is the Jaguars. The Jags were the surprise team of the NFL last season and were so close to a SuperBowl spot, losing to the Patriots in the AFC championship game. All signs pointed to the Jags continuing with the push forward led by an unstoppable defence nicknamed Sacksonville last season. This appeared on track early in the season and with a big win over the Patriots in week 2, everyone thought a statement had been made and there was a now frontrunner in the AFC. The Jags would win again in week 3 and then go into a tailspin that would lead to their current 4-9 record. Not only are they out of the playoffs, they are now fighting just to avoid finishing last in the AFC. I said that this was likely the least surprising fall from grace because, in my opinion, last year was one of those on off seasons. At the core, Jacksonville was still not that great of a team. First of all, they still had Blake Bortles as their starting quarterback and he has yet to prove that he can get the job done consistently. In fact, on more that one occasion he has been benched and there have been talks of his release in recent years. The play of the defence last year was out of this world and it would have been very difficult to repeat that feat this season. I actually think that the defence, led by Ramsey, got way too high on themselves and this year they are struggling to match both last year and their running mouths. With Fournette missing significant time and a group of receivers who would all be 3rd or 4th on other teams, the offence has been almost non-existent. I expect big changes in the offseason for Jacksonville.
The last three weeks of the season are going to full of drama and excitement as teams make their move to secure a playoff spot. A win in week 15 will put these bubble teams in control of their own destiny. A loss this week and the probability of a playoff birth as significantly reduced. What teams don't want is to have their playoff chances. The teams currently sitting in the wildcard spots have a clear path to the playoffs. Win and you keep your spot. It is those teams just outside that need help from other teams to get in. Not only do they need to win their own games, but they also need other teams in front of them to lose. Good luck to all your favourite teams down the stretch, whether they have already clinched or they are playing spoiler. Stay tuned for my list of biggest surprise success this season. Who are your biggest disappointments this season? Is it a team or possibly a player? There are lots of players that have let us down along the way as well. Let the games begin.