How the 4-8 or Worse NFL Teams Will Be Eliminated from Playoff Contention
The amount of quality teams in the 2015 NFL season is quite comical. Forget great teams – how many teams would you say are even decent? You can probably count on one hand.
Injuries are through the roof. NFL coaches are still too stubborn to alter their systems to fit their quarterbacks. The coaches are also providing us with late-game decisions that would be made by CPUs on rookie mode in a Madden game for Nintendo 64 with a heavy handicap.
But the one thing that is for certain is that 12 teams will make the playoffs. On that note, can we please not expand to 14 teams in the playoffs? Enough games matter in the final few weeks of the regular season as it is (see what I did there college football fans?), and the only reason to expand outside of money is fewer coaches getting fired each year (the media would have less to talk about with potential coaches getting fired! Oh my gosh!).
I had originally started writing this to include all the teams that I think will miss the playoffs. But I ran with some of the teams in depth quite a bit, and 4,000-plus words is enough on the 4-8 or worse squads. Hopefully I hold your attention span better than watching Titans at Jaguars on Thursday Night Football.
Cleveland Browns 2-10 (projected record, 3-13) – The Browns are the only team already eliminated from the playoffs. So naturally, Johnny Manziel has supposedly “learned his lesson” and will start for the Browns next week.
I feel for the Browns players who have been having to go through this over and over. I usually have zero sympathy for a majority of Cleveland fans since none of them show up to Cleveland Indians games anymore (despite that they are actually decent and have a great manager in Terry Francona). I especially don’t feel for the majority of Cleveland fans for their hypocrisy on the LeBron James situation – the fact that they would go to insane extents to insult and boo him after he leaves, but then welcome him back with open arms out of pure desperation. But I have to admit – I feel for Browns fans. Cleveland is a football town. They have had the worst ownership, management and coaching over the last decade of any NFL, NBA or MLB team (sorry NHL fans, I don’t know enough in that area).
Back to Manziel. First of all, I don’t know if Manziel is an alcoholic. I don’t know how sincere Manziel’s rehab was. I don’t know the guy at all. I won’t pretend to. But regardless, there’s an easy way to figure out how dysfunctional the Browns are between the relationship of the front office and the coaching staff.
First of all, NFL coaches are way too stubborn when it comes to quarterbacks and their scheme. The best coaches, whether it’s the NFL or college football, always tweak their offense to fit their quarterbacks. Yet, most coaches in the NFL try to shove their scheme down the quarterback’s throat and force him to learn and play in a way they aren’t accustomed to. It’s like telling Roger Federer to start hitting a two-handed backhand or have Tiger Woods change his swing after having one of the greatest swings in the history of golf (oh wait, that actually happened).
But even so, even if the Browns want to be in their narrow-minded ways, while I don’t agree with starting Josh McCown originally and that it’s a lost cause, I get the thinking on why you think he has a better chance at helping your football team win now.
The problem is what’s transpired since that Manziel video surfaced during the bye week after a few games of action with Manziel as the starter. When this happened, you needed to make a decision – are we going to punish him and mean it? Or are we going to let this go and find out what he can do one way or the other?
They were going to punish him by benching him. Okay. McCown is the starter versus Baltimore, but he gets hurt. You put in Austin Davis to finish out the game and lose on a special teams collapse. Davis doesn’t get the job done against the Cincinnati Bengals and the team looks terrible overall. Your team gets eliminated from the playoffs. NOW you want to play Manziel?
So, if you really wanted to teach Johnny a lesson, do you really think you taught him a lesson benching him two games? That’s going to do it? Not the fact that he hasn’t been the starter before this when Cleveland was losing all the games prior to this? I don’t buy that the Browns were trying to help Johnny by disciplining him whether he’s an alcoholic or not.
This is code for general manager Ray Farmer wanting to find out what Johnny can do all along. Pettine will be fired at the end of the season because it was his way or the highway, and it’s not working. Pettine is now being forced to put Johnny in so Farmer can either A) Find a coach to build a system for Johnny. Or B) Find out what trade value (if any) Johnny has.
This is example No. 6,234 of poor management from the Browns.
Oh, who are the Browns going to beat down the stretch? Cleveland hosts San Francisco this week. That’ll be a 10:00 am kick for the 49ers on their body clock and will be snoozing as Manziel goes off for 300 total yards and three TDs to give the Browns fans one final thing to cheer for. Their last three games are at Seattle, at Kansas City and Pittsburgh. Don’y worry Browns fans – you lost to the Chargers, will win the tiebreaker for the No. 1 pick next season, and I have the Titans winning a fourth game.
It’s just too bad you can’t draft an owner. Who would you pick? LeBron?
San Diego Chargers 3-9 (projected record, 3-13) – It’s hard to win when you play eight road games and eight neutral site games isn’t it? Monday Night Football against the Steelers is a sea of yellow Terrible Towels being waved. Taking on the Chiefs looks like you could be at Arrowhead. It’s brutal when your team could move to Los Angeles at any point and have your city be down to just the San Diego Padres for the only major professional sports team. Some cities have only an NHL team or just an NBA franchise, but no city has just an MLB team, so I’m not sure how that would survive.
Barring a quick change in the next few seasons, which is possible, Phillip Rivers is going to go down as one of the best, if not best, quarterback of the last decade who never played in a Super Bowl. Seriously. Rivers has thrown 275 TDs to just 131 INTs. By far his worst season statistically was in 2007 – when he completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 3,152 yards with a 21-15 TD-INT ratio and a 44.6 QBR. That was the season the Chargers made the AFC Championship and lost to the 18-1 New England Patriots.
So, what’s wrong with San Diego? Well, Pro Football Focus says they are the worst overall team and it’s not even close. They have a rating of -168.3. The next team is the San Francisco 49ers at -139.1 with everyone else at -100.2 or better. Injuries aside, their offensive line is an absolute mess and there is no defense. They are the best team to target for all offensive skill players against.
The Chargers are the team you always keep finding people to roster each week in your DFS lineups because they either lose in a shootout or put up a ton of garbage points. They just have absolutely nothing going for them on either line.
San Diego is +10 at Kansas City this week. Rivers goes 44-of-54 passing for 165 yards with 1 TD (Antonio Gates as time expires in garbage time) and no INTs as the Chiefs win 42-19 (yes, the Chargers kick four first-half FGs) to knock the Chargers out of the hunt.
Tennessee Titans 3-9 (projected record, 4-12) – More management issues. Ken Whisenhunt had a tough first year with Tennessee going 2-14, but they easily had the least amount of talent on the roster from top to bottom. With the No. 2 pick in the draft, they were in position to select Marcus Mariota.
But before they could make the pick, an interesting offer came to life from Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles – the Eagles would send two first-round picks, one third-round pick, Fletcher Cox, Brandon Boykin, Mychal Kendricks and Sam Bradford.
Translation: Here are two of our best defensive players, a starting nickel corner, a starting quarterback and some picks to help rebuild yourself. You simply give us a quarterback for our system.
The Titans moronically turn the trade down and take Mariota. To be fair, I think Mariota in Philly would have been amazing, and it would have been a huge win for both sides. But the fact that Tennessee turned it down with as limited of a roster as they have makes no sense.
But not only did the Titans keep Mariota, start having him play under center to try and essentially reteach the position to him, they fired Wisenhunt after a 1-6 start when Mariota had missed his last two starts due to injury.
Now, Mariota’s numbers have been decent, and he could definitely be a solid quarterback turning him into a more prototypical quarterback for the pros. But if you’re going to go this route, why are you going to fire your coach mid-season when there are expected growing pains?
Again, massive change from the management side from the top all the way down. There is a reason why certain teams continue to be bad in professional sports. Management and coaches must be on the same page. They must have a great working relationship. Quite frankly, it’s not that hard. I don’t believe continuity is that hard to establish.
Even though Bud Adams is no longer around giving fans the middle finger, the people who have taken over for him have no idea what in the world they’re doing. David Climer of The Tennessean puts it best, “The current ownership group treats the franchise like an investment – nothing more, nothing less. As long as the revenue-sharing checks from the league office don’t bounce, everything’s fine.”
A very common problem for several sports franchises. People want to always say it’s the head coach’s fault? Lies. Coaches get fired frequently as a PR move to give you the false impression that they care about wins and losses. Then they draft the flashy player or high-profile athlete in the draft to sell tickets. Not a coincidence.
So Titans fans, even though your team will be officially eliminated from the playoffs by this Sunday afternoon when Chris Ivory goes for 120 yards and two touchdowns, your team was actually in jeopardy of missing the playoffs on the first night of the NFL draft and was really eliminated when management confirmed they have no direction when firing Whisenhunt.
But you know what the worst part is? Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported in March that the Titans and Browns may swap ownership! These franchises can’t get out of their own way whatsoever. The Browns and Titans should play the teams in the championship of the College Football Playoff in Cleveland and Tennessee. The fanbases would make it look like a neutral-site game at least and the college teams could bring their bands to fill the empty seats in the club section.
Baltimore Ravens 4-8 (projected record, 4-12) – I know injuries are a big part of their record and I don’t like seeing anyone get hurt, but as a Steelers fan speaking just toward the 4-8 mark – HAH.
But seriously, Baltimore even as of two weeks ago was much better than their record indicates. All of their losses have been by one score! The most noteworthy one was Chapter 1 of face mask penatlies extending the game for one untimed down.
The Ratbirds will be back in 2016 when they get all their pieces back. Of the 53 guys who were on the active roster Week 1, we are into the single digits of guys who are still there.
As for how they will be eliminated from the playoffs, we are still waiting on a line for the Ravens vs Seahawks game this weekend. Why are we waiting on a line? We don’t know if Matt Schaub will be playing or if it’ll be Jimmy Clausen under center. I mean, I think Schaub was better in Houston than people gave him credit for, but REALLY? Schaub vs Clausen is enough for Vegas to withhold the line? That’s basically the equivalent to who’s starting at point guard between Isaiah Canaan and T.J. McConnell. I guess there is a reason why this game was flexed out of Sunday Night Football.
Let’s say Schaub can play. Since this game is in Baltimore and Seattle will have a 10 a.m. body clock kickoff, the Ravens receive the ball and get off on the right foot. On the first play from scrimmage, Schaub dumps it off to Buck Allen on a screen pass and takes it to the house for a 7-0 lead. The rest of the first half is a huge snoozer. Andrew Siciliano doesn’t even take us to the game on Red Zone until John Harbaugh’s whining pays off with a Seahawks pass interference penalty on Richard Sherman to set up Justin Tucker with a 48-yard field goal attempt. However, the wind picks up as Tucker sends the ball through the air and it’s a huge doink off the upright that Fox plays over and over for you if you’re watching on channel 710. It’s 7-0 Ravens at halftime.
In the second half, the Ravens can barely move the ball and keep punting away. Russell Wilson continues to struggle, but he somehow keeps scrambling for a first down, hits a wide receiver you’ve never heard of there and Steven Hauschka chips away with field goals. The Seahawks take the lead 12-7 with 5:04 left in the game. All of a sudden, Schaub moves the Ravens into the red zone with 2:45 left. It’s 4th and 2 on the Seattle 16 and the Ravens have two timeouts. Because Harbaugh secretly wants to lose this game for a better draft pick or he’s just an old-school minded guy like many other NFL coaches who can’t do simple math (your classic Twitter debate for Sunday afternoon), the Ravens kick the field goal with the false hope that their defense can get a stop to make it 12-10. The Ravens kick it deep into the end zone for a touchback. It’s now 3rd and 5 with the Ravens out of timeouts. Wilson fakes the handoff out of shotgun, takes off and slides just short of the first down, but the Ravens get called for a horrible illegal hands to the face penalty. Bizarrely though, Harbaugh doesn’t complain and knows this is better for the team in the long run.
Seattle wins 12-10.
Dallas Cowboys 4-8 (projected record, 4-12) – Do you think the Cowboys can win the NFC East? If so, stop.
I know they have had several close losses since the Tony Romo and Dez Bryant injuries, but their offense is still mediocre at best while the defense is no better than average.
But let’s focus on the offense. In the games that Brandon Weeden or Matt Cassell started, Dallas has scored 13 touchdowns and kicked 20 field goals (includes four TDs and no FGs against the Falcons). No, that’s not variance. In fact, Dallas has had a fairly easy schedule this year overall. It’s that they don’t have a quarterback who can get it done in the red zone. Dez Bryant is lacking in receptions and targets, and it doesn’t matter who is at quarterback if it isn’t Tony Romo. The completion percentage to wide receivers versus tight ends and running backs in Dallas is a problem.
The remaining schedule:
at Green Bay
There’s no chance Dallas can outscore Green Bay, even though the Packers have had their issues. Aaron Rodgers > Matt Cassell in Lambeau. The Jets currently have the best rush defense in the NFL when it comes to yards per game, and I’m not sure why we’d expect the Cowboys to move the ball through the air. With Buffalo still alive in the playoff hunt by Week 16, I will gladly take Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy in Buffalo to outscore that offense. Washington? Well, obviously they have a chance since Dallas just won at Washington, but for the sake of revenge, I’l take Washington to win in overtime.
I actually expect Philadelphia to go on a run. Chip Kelly isn’t going anywhere. They will host Seattle in the 4 vs 5 Wild Card game and BEAT the Seahawks. You heard it here first!
I bring that up because Dallas will be eliminated after losing at home to the Jets, and it won’t come down to the final week for them. Jerry Jones is interviewed after the loss to New York with the following:
Reporter: “Are you confident in Jason Garrett?”
Jones: “Jason Garrett is our head football coach. Yes.”
Reporter: “Will he be the football coach for the Cowboys in 2016?”
Jones: “Well our season isn’t over. Ya know, we will evaluate all that offseason stuff when the time comes.”
Reporter: “Do you think he can coach the Cowboys to a Super Bowl?”
Jones: “Well I think he’s a heck of a football coach, but again we will figure all the organizational stuff out in January. Not December.”
Reporter: “Are you going to coach the team in 2016?”
Jones: “Well that’s about the smartest dang question I’ve ever heard. You’re an intelligent one, ya know?”
Reporter: “How’s Tony Romo doing?”
Jones: “He’s just swell and a fine young man. I sure do miss him with that white and blue on each week. But again, he’s just a fine young man.”
Reporter: “I’m starting a rumor that you intend to trade a sixth-round pick for Johnny Mazniel after the Super Bowl. Can you confirm this?”
Jones: “Tony Romo is our quarterback.”
Reporter: “Do you regret not drafting Johnny?”
Jones: “Well he sure as heck would be starting for us with Tony out and we’d be at least 10-4. Plus, all you daily errr DFS people, or whatever you call them, would be rostering Johnny each week. Heck, he’d be the most expensive guy.”
Reporter: “What are your thoughts on DFS”
Jones: “I lost a bet to the NY attorney general on the judge’s ruling. What a bunch of baloney.”
Reporter: “So you do intend to bring Johnny in?”
Jones: “Tony is our quarterback. Thanks y’all I got a plane to catch.”
San Francisco 49ers 4-8 (projected record, 6-10) – You know how we all assume that when a player gets off to a rough start in his career, we just assume that player won’t work out no matter where he plays? I’m not talking about someone who is just average or has a typical rookie or sophomore start, I mean simply bad.
Well, the San Francisco Fighting Blaine Gabberts are coming out swinging. Seriously, Gabbert has been solid under the circumstances. In his four starts, he’s 2-2, has completed 61.4% of his passes and has posted a 5-to-3 TD-INT ratio. His two losses are versus Arizona by six and at Seattle by 16 where he actually had some decent numbers. He hasn’t had the benefit of Carlos Hyde in the backfield, he’s working with a new crew of wide receivers and has an atrocious offensive line. There’s a reason why I have the 49ers winning two more games.
But of course, San Francisco’s chances at the playoffs are extremely slim and we know they won’t make it barring a minor miracle. When will SF be eliminated? Week 16 at Detroit. The last time these two teams played in the Motor City?
Obviously both Jim Harbaugh and Jim Schwartz are gone, and these are two fairly different football teams. This one will have a different result.
This game will play out like the one at Thanksgiving for the Lions. I’m not sure what happened against Philadelphia, but it’s almost as if Schwartz was coaching the team again with Scott Linehan calling plays. This 49ers defense is awful, and they will be exploited by Stafford as he tosses for 335 yards and three touchdowns all to Calvin Johnson.
This will effectively end the 49ers last hopes, win you a GPP if you roster Calvin and pray that you aren’t against Calvin in your fantasy football league championship.
St. Louis Rams 4-8 (projected record, 6-10) – Since the Minnesota Vikings elected to play with the wind in overtime and allow the Rams to start with the ball, which ultimately led to a 21-18 Vikings win, it’s been all downhill for Jeff Fisher’s team. He’s been in the media for the wrong reasons, Todd Gurley’s production has come to a halt and it hasn’t mattered whether it’s Nick Foles or Case Keenum under center.
We had the Rams field set on fire in Week 3 versus the Steelers. Several star players have suffered significant injuries against St. Louis (reminder that Gregg Williams is their defensive coordinator, who was the DC in New Orleans for bounty gate). Fisher has called out the media for accusing his players of not giving great effort. Plus, it doesn’t help that Leigh Steinberg (no relation to the Daily Fantasy Winners crew) of Forbes says the Rams are one of the most likely candidates to move to Los Angeles.
Todd Gurley has been their one bright spot. You better believe it, those handful of 100-plus yard rushing games were no fluke. He’s easily a top-five running back and I won’t contest that he’s the best back in the league. There isn’t one weakness in his game – agility, speed, vision, run blocking, pass catching, you name it.
I’m shocked that the Rams are 4-8 at this point, but the poor quarterback play tells the story. Foles has seven touchdowns to 10 interceptions, is completing 56.4 percent of his passes and has only recorded three games with a 57-plus QBR.
Given that Fisher has been below .500 in his first three seasons with the Rams and will need to win out to get to a .500 record in year four, we could see a complete meltdown, but I think the Rams rally for a couple wins in the next two weeks before traveling to Seattle in Week 16.
With the Seahawks needing this win to clinch a playoff berth and the Rams needing the win to stay alive for the No. 6 seed, a massive brawl brakes out mid third quarter. Seattle is up 24-0, the Rams have 85 yards of offense and Aaron Donald body slams Russell Wilson on a sack that causes a benches-clearing meltdown. Donald and three other Rams players are ejected while Michael Bennett is tossed for swinging his helmet.
Seahawks win 31-0 and Vegas spikes their odds to an absurd 3.5/1 to win the Super Bowl.
New Orleans Saints 4-8 (projected record, 6-10) – No one runs the option-tackle and the option-cover to perfection like the Saints. Their defense is as elite as Texas Tech’s (sorry Kliff Kingsbury, I’m a big fan I promise).
The offense has had its moments. It’s certainly not at the level it was at five-plus years ago. But it’s explosive at times and has several ways of attacking the defense.
But it doesn’t matter. Even if we had a healthy Patriots or Steelers offense to go with this defense, the team isn’t going to the playoffs. Rob Ryan is gone, which might make a difference down the road. But there is just an overall lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball.
New Orleans visits Tampa Bay this weekend. The Buccaneers are quietly and surprisingly putting themselves into position to make the playoffs. Yeah a weak schedule helps, but this has Buccaneers points written all over it.
Tampa Bay will win this game 52-49. However, the final stat lines will drive DFS players nuts:
Drew Brees: 45-of-51, 420 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs.
Tim Hightower: 9 rushes, 45 yards, 4 TDs
Brandon Coleman: 11 receptions, 11 targets, 204 yards, 2 TDs
Jameis Winston: 22-of-40, 280 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs
Doug Martin: 22 rushes, 187 yards
Charles Sims: 11 rushes, 76 yards, 2 TDs
Mike Evans: 5 receptions, 62 yards, 3 TDs
Detroit Lions 4-8 (projected record 6-10) – It’s not as bad as Baltimore, but Detroit’s close losses this year have been brutal. Detroit blew Week 1 at San Diego, got robbed by the refs on Monday Night Football at Seattle and lost on the Hail Mary against Green Bay.
The Lions have been playing a lot better since offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was let go, although the improvements have been more noticeable on the defensive end. While I do think there has been some odds stuff from the Lions, everyone jumping on the fire Jim Caldwell train probably needs to calm down a little bit.
6:42 Matt Prater 46 yard FG – 3-0 Lions
2:11 Greg Zuerlein 52 yard FG – 3-3
0:02 Greg Zuerlein 56 yard FG – 6-3 Rams
12:22 Matt Prater 33 yard FG – 6-6
7:33 Matt Prater 33 yard FG – 9-6 Lions
1:57 Holding Lions (safety) – 9-8 Lions
0:04 Greg Zuerlein 29 yard FG – 11-9 Rams