Friday, 4 January 2013

NFL End of Season Grades: AFC


Who gets a gold star and who might be seeing me after class? It’s all relative, so this is partly about how expectation matched reality, and partly based on the end product. First up the AFC...


AFC EAST

New England Patriots (12-4)
Another year, another divisional win for New England. Let’s be clear if they did anything but win this division there would be serious questions asked, and it hasn’t been the flawless season we’ve come to expect. Upset losses to Arizona and at Seattle could have rattled a lesser team’s cage, so well done for taking it one game at a time to secure a play-off bye. Another saving grace was their spirited fight back in the SF game despite the loss. B+

Miami Dolphins (7-9)
Miami had a far better season than I was anticipating, and Tannehill whilst well in the shadow of his more successful fellow rookies definitely avoided being a bust. To come one game short of 0.500 with the talent they had at the start of the year is decent feat, and this young team will be optimistic for next season. B-

New York Jets (6-10)
Crippling injuries, offensive woes and a veritable circus of media distractions (mainly revolving around you-know-who) made this a dire season for Jets fans. 6-10 is poor in this division, but what’s worse is the contractual bind they’ve found themselves in with Sanchez and the decision to repeatedly pass over giving Tebow a shot despite trading for him. D

Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Buffalo had a bad season, but what made it worse was the neglect of their most electric offensive player CJ Spiller, who ties AP with the most yards/carry at 6.0 in the league (discounting RG3). The season ends with them still stuck with poor QB play from Fitzpatrick and Chan Gailey on his way out the door. For the second most talented team in the division to finish bottom is damning. D-

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
The Ravens started hot but finished the season stuck in the doldrums. They’ll take managing to hang on to the division on a tie-breaker, and injuries throughout the year have hurt them, but it’s still a slightly disappointing season despite the lull. However, this is a hard division and they started without Suggs so we’ll let them off the hook a little. B

Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
Back to back play-off trips is nothing to be sniffed at for this much maligned franchise. Boasting a formidable defence and one of the best young WRs in the league they will be optimistic for the future, but even so they let to many ‘easy’ games go mid-season for this to be labelled an outstanding year. B+

Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
The loss of Big Ben hurt, but even on his return they weren’t the same team. Add to that early season slip ups versus lowly Oakland and a failure to get it done with the post-season on the line and there could be dark times ahead for this aging and once great squad. Had their QB stayed healthy they could well be preparing for a wild card game. D+

Cleveland Browns (5-11)
This was actually a fairly successful year for Cleveland despite their record and a HC on his way out the door. Richardson proved his worth as a high 1st rounder, and Weeden wasn’t as terrible as you might think. It’s just a shame they’ve lost out on 6 years of development by taking him. Their defence has been very solid all season so with fresh coaching blood and another high draft pick to secure some more offensive weapons things could be finally looking up (a bit). C+

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans (12-4)
The Texans were the best team in the league for the majority of the season, but key losses to Green Bay and San Francisco and a near miss from Henne and the Jags were worrying signs. Add to that a 2 game slide to close out and missing out on a play-off bye, plus losing Cushing for the year all temper their great year. No team was more hyped going into this season, but hats off for doing what we all knew they were capable of. B+

Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
What a season for the Colts. Luck proved more than worthy of being the #1 pick, making history by taking his team to an incredible 11-5 and the playoffs. Pagano’s illness may have been the catalyst, but they couldn’t have done it without a mostly anonymous squad (plus a few key stars) far surpassing the expectations everyone had of them – even standouts like Reggie Wayne were being disregarded prior to the season. Everyone loves an underdog, and no team has relished that role more than Indy this year. A+

Tennessee Titans (6-10)
Nobody really expected much more the Titans this year, but it would have been nice to see more development from Locker, who struggling to hold down his starting job throughout the season. Chris Johnson was disappointing yet again, despite a mid-season flourish and their defence was mostly porous. A few good games don’t make a season, and consistency is crucial building for 2013. C-

Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14) D-
Tied for the worst record in the league, but that’s more or less where they were supposed to finished. MoJo holding out then falling to injury set the tone for this year, and going ‘all-in’ on Gabbert proved unsuccessful. Henne led a late season revival, but it was too little too late (and too short lived) to be anything more than false hope. As their new owner clears house who know what’s in store for the Jags… uprooting to London isn’t off the table in the near future, nor is going after Tebow. Despite our low expectations it would have been nice to see more than 2 wins. D-

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos (13-3) A
It’s rare to see a free agency move be so wildly successful as the Broncos successful pursuit of Manning, so hats off for pulling the trigger on the part of the Denver front office. Whilst he might only have a few years left, they are all going to be ones in which you’d expect them to contend for the Super Bowl. 8-8 into 13-3 is enough for a high grade (and let’s not forget the impressive impact the defence has had), but they needed to beat the best teams more often to secure full marks, and losses to the Pats and Falcons in particular mean they fall just short. A

San Diego Chargers (7-9)
Another bitterly disappointing season for the Chargers, who’s fan-base will be frantically relieved to finally be rid of the hated AJ Smith and Norv Turner combo. To go sub 0.500 in this division is not acceptable with a QB like Rivers, who can still play at a high level with the right protection and play-calling. Their defence is dangerous but not consistent enough (4th and 29…) and a pathetic rushing attack compounds their problems (where are Sproles and Tolbert when you want them?). Whoever takes over in SoCal will need to focus heavily on O-line to get this team back into play-off contention. D

Oakland Raiders (4-12)
The Raiders whilst not boasting a particularly talent-stacked roster had every reason to be optimistic going into the year, with QB Palmer throwing to some promising weapons combined with the ever-dangerous D-Mac running the ball. However Dennis Allen’s new look Raiders will need more time to gel before their metamorphosis is complete. Tyvon Branch is one of the few bright spots on a shakey defence and the princely sum they gave up for their QB is looking more and more like a chronic waste, with Terrelle Pryor impressing in his debut. D

Kansas City Chiefs (2-14)
Maybe the most disappointing team of 2012, the Chiefs came into the year talked up as potential divisional winners, but finished flat out worst in the whole league. Offensive woes bear the brunt of the blame, mostly revolving around turnovers and poor QB play, but the entire team has been one mired in sub-par performances, a fact Romeo Crennel paid for with his job. F

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