Two weeks ago on the Atlantic Sports podcast, Cathal and I went back over last year’s season division by division grading each teams year.
We graded them in the old school, alphabet style A-F system, so here goes:
Los Angeles Rams
Cathal – A
Jonny – A
It was a big season for the Rams, having made progress in leaps and bounds from previous years. Over the regular season, they were a formidable force, easily topping the division with a 13-3 record. Jared Goff took one step towards being an elite QB, and Todd Gurley despite his injury issues put up an MVP caliber regular season.
The playoff run was hampered by Gurley’s injury – as Cathal highlighted the injury may be more serious than initially reported. However they made a Super Bowl for the first time in almost 20 years, and despite losing some key defensive players for next year, they can look back on last year as a monster year.
Cathal – B-
Jonny – C+
The Seahawks always have high expectations as long as Russell Wilson is at the helm. Cathal talked about the demise of the legion of boom, and we saw that come to fruition last season. Tensions ran high with the Earl Thomas injury among other things, and it ended up being an underwhelming season for Seattle.
They managed to go 10-6 after finishing strong, but ultimately were pipped in the Wild Card game by a Dallas Cowboys team that also had a late resurgence. Disappointing for Seahawks fans, but it does feel like they are an above 500 team next year. Cathal mentioned that adding big WR presence DK Metcalfe will be needed help on the outside for Wilson.
San Francisco 49ers
Cathal – C+
Jonny – C+
This year for the 49ers was very much centered around how Jimmy Garoppolo would fit as a franchise QB, and early games would suggest he was well on his way to being that presence for San Francisco. Once he fell to a season-ending injury, their season ended in turmoil, finishing 4-12 and going 0-8 away from home.
Despite some QB changes San Francisco were unable to recover. They were second from bottom in the NFC in total points allowed over the season, and tied second last overall with their losing record. Cathal mentioned that the 49ers have drafted some good building blocks on the offence for next season, which will be a spark of hope for 49ers to pair with a returning Garoppolo.
Cathal – D
Jonny – D
The Cardinals boasted the worst record in the league last year, going 3-13 over the regular season. They’re very much in rebuilding mode, and that was evident last year with starting first year QB Josh Rosen. That’ll very much be the case next year too, drafting Kyler Murray as their future franchise QB.
It’s hard to draw much positives from last year’s season. Cathal highlighted that they are a relatively poor and untalented roster, but that we’ve seen QB’s come in and change the trajectory of a franchise almost single handedly. David Johnson was criminally underutilised last year – so much more can be expected from this team next year under the guidance of a new coach.
New Orleans Saints
Cathal – A-
Jonny – A-
The Saints topped their division with a 13-3 season, and it was a monster season for 40 year old Drew Brees. If not for a breakout season for Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes, he could very well have taken the award last year for his consistent performances. None the less, the Saints rolled into the playoffs as one of the strongest teams.
They beat the defending champions in the Philadelphia Eagles to start their playoff run, but controversy marred their NFC Championship game with the Rams. It was bittersweet for the Eagles, mostly bitter looking back on the call in that game. But being one game away from the Super Bowl will very much motivate them to be back with a vengeance next season.
Cathal – C
Jonny – C-
It was a dismal start for the Falcons in the NFC South, but a stronger finish allowed them to take second in the division, ultimately not being enough for a Wild Card spot. They showed visible holes on the defensive end – losing out on closely contested games, only to be let down by their defense.
Only the Miami Dolphins conceded the more overall points out of all second placed divisional teams. Whether they’ll focus in on this, or continue to build on their offense around Matt Ryan remains to be seen. Cathal mentioned that haven’t properly regrouped from the 28-3 Super Bowl debacle a few years back, but with their offensive weapons should be due better luck next year.
Cathal – C
Jonny – C
As seems like the opposite to most teams last year – the Panthers started well in the NFC South but didn’t deliver when it mattered most at the conclusion of the season. Only the Tennessee Titans had a better +/- in terms of total point differential out of third placed teams.
They seemed on course to be a Wild Card contender, but coming third in their division was a disappointing end to the season. Cathal discussed Cam Newton’s health issues and how growlingly dependent they are on his throwing motion being fully healthy. It almost seems like they need him to return to MVP status to become a contender, which isn’t positive.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cathal – C
Jonny – C
This was a year some Tampa Bay fans may look back on with fond memories, as we saw the Fitz Magic era short lived in a Tampa Bay uniform. A suspension to QB Jameis Winston allowed Ryan Fitzpatrick to come in and put up huge statistical numbers in several games.
Winston returned, and the writing was on the wall for Fitzpatrick. Tied with the Bengals for best home record for a 4th placed divisional team, strides will have to be made next year to see if they can regroup and take advantage of an open division. Cathal said next year may be the last chance for Winston to prove he is a franchise QB.