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:
Jonny – B
Cathal – B+
It was almost a tale of two halves for the Cowboys season. Ezekiel Elliott missed a string of games at the start due to suspension and was sorely missed. Mid-season Dallas traded for Raiders WR Amari Cooper which gave them a boost offensively. They put up a strong 7-1 home record and made it to the playoffs as a wild card. A close win over Seattle allowed them the opportunity to run into the L.A. Rams, and we know how that ended. Cathal mentioned their impressive season defensively – with rookie Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylen Smith putting in solid performances. He also denounced DeMarcus Lawrence as one of the best pass rushers in the league after last year. Overall, not bad.
Jonny – B+
Cathal – B+
It’s not easy being a Super Bowl defending champion. The Redskins ruled the roost for most of the year until injuries got the better of them, so their 9-7 record was enough to secure the division. Many had them as an underdog in their first playoff game against the Bears, but they squeaked out a victory on enemy territory, only to run into the Rams in the Championship game. QB Nick Foles came into the fold again due to the continued injury of Carson Wentz and did well. Cathal mentioned how they’ve invested in their offensive line for next year, and added some pass catching help in the draft.
Jonny – C
Cathal – C-
The Redskins had to have felt hard done by to have finished third in their division. They were top for a long stretch, and favourites mid-season to win outright. Unfortunately their season was marred by an injury to QB Alex Smith, and none of the replacements available to them were able to carry the mantel. They finished 7-9 in the end, not enough. Now they’ve gone down the rookie QB route with drafting Dwayne Haskins. Cathal mentioned adding Montez Sweat too which should give them a boost next year. He said it’ll be a huge season for coach Jay Gruden in making the playoffs.
New York Giants
Jonny – D-
Cathal – Refrained from a grade out of respect
It didn’t look awful for stretches for the Giants last year – but that’s about all the optimism you can draw from their season overall. Going 5-11, they were only a few wins away from possibly making a wild card spot but it wasn’t meant to be. The regression of long standing QB Eli Manning was contrasting to watch, as rookie RB Saquon Barkley showed the opposite in having a ROTY season. They finished the season 2-3, which may be a sign of things to come in New York. Cathal said it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes rookie QB Daniel Jones to come into the fold next year.
Jonny – A-
Cathal – A-
Having traded for Khalil Mack in the offseason, the Bears transformed themselves into the most defensively capable team in the league last year. They gave up the least total points in the regular season out of every team, which helped them to a 12-4 record in the regular season. The playoffs were utter heartbreak for Bears fans – as Kicker Cody Parkey hit the post on a last-ditch attempt field goal. It was enough to allow the Eagles to advance, and the Bears to go back to the drawing board for next year. Cathal questioned Mitchell Trubisky’s franchise QB status, and how next year will be a proving point for him.
Jonny – B-
Cathal – B
It was Kirk Cousins first year in a Minnesota uniform, and unfortunately it didn’t leave many with huge optimism. The NFC North proved to be one of the tougher divisions last year, and the Vikings would hope for improvement next year after going 6-5 in conference games. Their 8-7 regular season record wasn’t enough for them to snatch a Wild Card spot. Cathal mentioned that they have one of the best wide receiving duo at their disposal in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, and a lot will ride on Kirk Cousins to up his game for next season.
Green Bay Packers
Jonny – C
Cathal – C-
When you have arguably the best QB in the league, you have to be disappointed with not making the playoffs at the end of the season. That was very much the case in Green Bay – as many Packers fans will want to forget this season. They went 6-9 over the regular season, with 5 of those wins coming at home, going 1-7 away from Lambeau Field. They’ve made the necessary coaching changes coming into next season, and Cathal mentioned the addition of Rashan Gary as a key addition to their defensive line. Most NFL watchers will hope for more from the Packers next year.
Jonny – C+
Cathal – C
Cathal donned last year’s Lions as the “So and so Lions”. A 6-10 record was most of the proof needed for that moniker. It’s never easy being a rookie head coach in the league, and that seemed to be the case with former Patriot Matt Patricia at the helm. QB Matt Stafford had his ups and downs, mostly working with an average roster that looks to be improved upon in the offseason. Cathal expects big things from WR Kenny Goloday, and adding Tre Flowers in the offseason should add some stability to the defense. Rookie TJ Hockenson will come in and have a big role in the offense too.