NFL Season in Wraps

Amari M.

Staff Writer

The NFL season is coming to a close, and it has been full of surprises and disappointments. Even though the NFL is full of talent, nobody made it as far as the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots, who will be playing in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday, February 1. Looking back, the season has been full of upsets and astonishments.

The NFC South was the least successful division in the league, hands down, but teams still showed signs of success. The New Orleans Saints had arguably the most disappointing season this year; with a young receiving squad with tons of speed, the Saints are looking to make a recovery next year. The Carolina Panthers, who had a horrible start to the season, wound up making it to the divisional round in the playoffs with a 7-8-1 record, the lowest out of teams that made the playoffs. They also were only the second team in history to make it to the playoffs with a losing record. The Atlanta Falcons had a less than stellar year, but they look to build on defense this offseason, as they are severely lacking talent on that side of the ball. The last team in the NFC South is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who ended the season with a 2-14 record. They are about as good as a Pop Warner team, and with that record, they are most likely getting the first pick in the draft next year.

The AFC West was one of the better divisions this year. Even though the Oakland Raiders started off 0-12, they ended the season with three wins and look to build off their draft pick this offseason. The defending AFC champion Denver Broncos were coming off a historic season that ended with an embarrassing Super Bowl loss to the Seattle Seahawks. They have a high power passing game, but Peyton Manning has shown to be inconsistent, and his future is questioned on Denver. They have also discovered an explosive running game in the form of undrafted halfback CJ Anderson, who had a season’s worth of yards in eight weeks. The Kansas City Chiefs were an explosive team, but they lacked depth on the defensive side of the ball. They have a pick halfway through the first round of the draft, and they will use that to their advantage. The San Diego Chargers had one of the best defensive schemes last year but not enough talent on that side of the ball; they will most likely use this offseason to acquire more talent on that side of the ball, since stars like Brandon Spikes and Byron Maxwell will be free agents next year.

The NFC East was home to one of the biggest surprises last year, in the form of the Dallas Cowboys. Coming off a disappointing 2013 season, the Cowboys had one of the best offenses in the league and a stifling defense. Their season ended in the divisional round of the playoffs to the Green Bay Packers, and they look to impress next season. They also look to acquire depth at the running back position, as Demarco Murray was taking 90% of their carries last year. Thenfl AM 2 NFC East also is home to the Philadelphia Eagles, who had a successful season that ended prematurely, as the Cowboys narrowly beat them out for playoff contention. They showed great signs on the offensive side of the ball, but they need depth on defense to go anywhere. They will most likely target defensive players this offseason. The Washington Redskins came off a decent season, but they went nowhere this season. With quarterback Robert Griffin III playing badly, they resorted to backup Kirk Cousins for a few weeks, but RGIII’’s future with the Redskins awaits. The New York Giants were a disappointment this year, as their star receiver Victor Cruz was injured and their defense was lackluster. However, they did hold arguably the best rookie this year in the form of Odell Beckham, Jr., who also made one of the greatest catches of all time in a loss to Dallas.

The NFC West was one of the best divisions this year, as they were home to the 12-4 Arizona Cardinals, and the 12-4 Seattle Seahawks. The Arizona Cardinals started off explosively, but injuries to their starting quarterback Carson Palmer and backup Drew Stanton led to their decline and ultimately their fall in round 1 in the playoffs. The Seattle Seahawks were the exact opposite. They started off slow, but they soon developed into Super Bowl contenders and finished off strong. Russell Wilson had a rough passing season, but he ran the ball better than 17 starting NFL running backs. The 49ers were one of the disappointments this year, as they could not buy a win and had the lowest red zone scoring percentage in the league. This led them to get rid of Coach Jim Harbaugh, who left for Michigan to explore other options.

The NFC North was a quiet but talented division this year. The Green Bay Packers, who finished 12-4, had a really strong season and had the highest ranked point differential in the league, as they have had many blowout wins. They also had a first round bye in the playoffs, which gave them a good break before facing Dallas. Unfortunately, they lost to Seattle in the NFC Championship after blowing a 14-point lead. The Detroit Lions had a promising season, as Matthew Stafford and Brandon Pettigrew had outstanding seasons. Their star wide receiver Calvin Johnson was injured most of the season, and secondary Golden Tate and Corey Fuller really stepped up. Unfortunately, their season was ended in round 2 of the playoffs, partially due to a controversial pass interference call.

The AFC East was a rerun of last year. The New England Patriots dominated the division, while teams like the Buffalo Bills and the Miami Dolphins are good and bad at the same time. While the Miami Dolphins had a good team, they were very inconsistent and lost games they should have won. The Buffalo Bills’ starting quarterback EJ Manuel was injured early in the season, and backup Kyle Orton finished off the season. Then there were the Jets. The only good thing that can be said about the Jets is that Geno Smith, yes, Geno Smith, had a perfect passer rating in Week 17, the only perfect passer rating this year.

The AFC North was not the best division this year, but they were full of talent. The Cleveland Browns were a decent team, but they had a quarterback controversy when they let veteran Brian Hoyer start over talented rookie Johnny Manziel. They are most likely targeting a defensive player in free agency and the draft, as their defense has only one good player, in the form of Joe Haden. The Pittsburgh Steelers were extraordinary this season, as Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown both had career years, and their defense was very efficient, especially in the red zone. The Baltimore Ravens were a decent team also, but they needed depth at running back, as Ray Rice got in legal troubles before the season started.

The AFC South was also a pretty bad division this year, as three teams earned less than eight wins. But the Indianapolis Colts had an exceptional season with the breakout of wide receiver T.Y Hilton and running back Dan Herron. The Jacksonville Jaguars were bad due to pure lack of talent and star players, but the main focus was their lack of talent at quarterback. First round draft pick Blake Bortles had a mediocre first year, and the Jaguars are already exploring other options.

Coming to a close, the season was exciting, and there was no lack of highlights and talent. Although some teams failed to deliver many wins, next season should be better, as a wave of talent will come with April’s Draft. The only game left to see now is the Super Bowl on February 1, where the Seattle Seahawks are looking to repeat as champions against the New England Patriots. The high-powered Patriots offense will face off against Seattle’s stifling defense in what should be a great game and an incredible close to the season.

 

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