Grading Every NFL Team’s 2013 Regular Season Showing
Grading Every NFL Team’s 2013 Regular Season Showing
Well everyone, it was another great NFL season. Like all great things, it has to come to an end at some point. Every fan of these teams had many hopes and dreams of playoff games and possible ways their teams could reach the Super Bowl this season.
For many of these teams and their fans, the dream still continues. For others, the dream may have ended in early November or it may have ended miserably in Week 17.
It is now time to give out the final grades for every NFL team this regular season.
As a teacher, I know the importance of working hard for the entire year and not slacking during particular sections. For this grading of the NFL teams, I am going to grade them as if I was grading my students at the end of their year. Some of the “students” are going to go home with great grades for their year. Other “students” are going to go home over summer break and think “gee, if I only worked harder on this or that I could have got a better grade.” As always, there are the ones that will go home with their grades and say “man did I have a bad year!”
When giving out my grades for this year’s regular season, I will be handing them out in alphabetical order based on cities the team represents. I am not going to hide anyone’s grade. I want everyone to see the mistakes that teams made this season, but I am also going to state a way the teams with bad grades can improve themselves so that this does not happen again next season.
Class is now in session!
Arizona Cardinals: A-
I was expecting the Arizona Cardinals to have a better season than they did in 2012, but I did not expect the Cardinals to be one game away from making the playoffs in the NFC. The Cardinals are in the toughest division in the NFL, the NFC West. The two best teams in the NFC, record-wise, came from this division. New head coach Bruce Arians really helped turn this team around in 2013. The Cardinals showed some great play on both sides of the football, and with another strong draft class in 2014, I can see them doing some very nice things next season. They are the only team to earn an A and not make the postseason. Great job this year!
Atlanta Falcons: F-
This was one of the most underachieving teams in 2013. This Atlanta Falcons team was a play or two away last season from making the Super Bowl, so finishing with a 4-12 record is unacceptable. Yes, the team had many injuries on the offensive side of the ball with Julio Jones out for most of the season, Roddy White banged up almost the entire season, and Steven Jackson hobbling his way through the second half. Don’t get me started on the play of the defense that looked more like paper in most games than a defense. The team should return healthier next season, and with this talented team selecting high in this season’s draft, hopefully they can upgrade where it is needed and return to glory in 2014. Falcons, you still could have done better, especially Matt Ryan!
Baltimore Ravens: D-
This was not the play of Super Bowl champions. After the Baltimore Ravens won the title just one year ago, they looked like a shell of their former selves. Was this the true version of the Baltimore Ravens and last year’s team just overachieved? It’s possible. Yes, they lost a solid pass-catcher in Anquan Boldin and an aging Ray Lewis, and yes, Dennis Pitta was out for almost the entire season. These should not be excuses for a Super Bowl winning team. This team almost held onto a playoff spot, but they lost in Week 17. The Ravens need to seriously upgrade in many positions on both sides of the football. They also need to consider letting go of some high-priced salaries to do this. If the Ravens can find their identity again in 2014, they should improve. I was very disappointed.
Buffalo Bills: D
Injuries, underachievement, and a tough division were the problems with the Buffalo Bills this season. One would think after many seasons picking pretty high in the draft that this team would eventually come around. This team focused on running the ball down defense's throats with C.J. Spiller and wanted to leave Fred Jackson in the dust. This turned out to be the exact opposite. C.J. Spiller was one of the biggest disappointments in 2013. Spiller was not the workhorse the coaching staff thought he would be, and it was needed due to the team having rookie E.J. Manuel as their starting quarterback. Manuel showed some promise in the 10 games he played, but this team did not have one receiver reach over 700 yards for the season. This team needs to upgrade at the receiver position to take the pressure off of Manuel and their running backs. The defense is starting to shore things up, and if this can continue, maybe the Bills can finally break out of their funk from the past few seasons. Disappointing, but it was expected.
Carolina Panthers: A+
Finally, one of the better grades in the class! The Carolina Panthers were one of the toughest teams to play all season long. The team’s defense was ranked one of the best in the NFL this regular season. The team’s offense was based off of the abilities of three running backs and their star quarterback, Cam Newton. However, Newton was able to show this season that he can move the ball around to his receivers and have them make some plays in crucial times. I am very proud of the job they did this season. If there was one thing I think this team needs to improve on is possibly getting Cam Newton a big play receiver to throw the ball to. Steve Smith is getting up there in age, and to keep this team competitive against high-powered offenses like the New Orleans Saints, they will need this part of the puzzle.
Chicago Bears: C
This team had at least a B+ going into the final. All they had to do was win one game in their last two to make it into the playoffs and secure that grade. Josh McCown was one of the biggest surprises this season for the Chicago Bears while quarterback Jay Cutler was injured. However, this team decided not to show up in the game against the Philadelphia Eagles and then let it all slip away in Week 17 to the Green Bay Packers. This team had a great showing offensively and will be very dangerous next year, especially having Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery across from each other. This team needs to improve on the defensive side of the football. Teams ran on them as if it was practice. For a team that is known for its defense, this is unacceptable. This needs to be worked on before next season starts or I fear that more of the same will happen next season. I expected better this year, Chicago!
Cincinnati Bengals: B+
Winning your division will definitely help you get a passing grade for the regular season. This Cincinnati Bengals team showed that it had it all in 2013. It showed a defense that can hang with the best of them. It showed an offense with a running game and a solid passing attack. Many teams just wish they could be as good as them in one of these areas. Now this is why I gave them a B+ and not an A. The reason for this grade is their play on the road. At home the Bengals were undefeated, but on the road it was not the same case. This team looks very different away from Paul Brown Stadium. This would be the only thing I would ask for the Bengals to improve upon. Many people want to blame quarterback Andy Dalton for everything. All I have to say about that is before Dalton they had Carson Palmer. Can you name me one quality starting quarterback before Palmer and Dalton? No matter, it was a very good regular season for the Bengals and I hope that I can continue to see more of this solid play in the postseason.
Cleveland Browns: D
Here we are again. I can give the Cleveland Browns their grade before the season even begins. I am not trying to beat a dead horse, really I am not, but the Browns just cannot seem to find any consistency. This team has some great players on both sides of the football such as Joe Haden, Jordan Cameron, Joe Thomas and of course Josh Gordon. However, this team just does not know how to put it together or how to draft a quarterback for that matter. This team played with three quarterbacks during the season, and the only one to have a solid year, Brian Hoyer, went down with an injury after only playing in three games. This team needs to find a running game in the offseason. Edwin Baker did a good job at the end, but he is not the game changer this team needs. This team has to find a quarterback in this draft. Hopefully they don't screw him up like they have every other quarterback they have drafted. Not surprised by this season, Cleveland.
Dallas Cowboys: D+
It was another crushing season for the Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys have so much talent on the offensive side of the football, yet they just do not click as a team. Quarterback Tony Romo had another terrible end of the season. The defense was just not the same without DeMarcus Ware and Sean Lee. The Cowboys finished the season again missing the playoffs in the last weekend of the season. This team needs a makeover in the front office before it will ever become relevant again. Jerry Jones needs to get people in there that know what they are doing, because they will continue to get failing grades until some kind of change is made.
Denver Broncos: A-
I am giving the Denver Broncos the grade they deserve, an A-. They had a great regular season with Peyton Manning breaking all kind of passing records and finishing in first place in the AFC. However, they were not as strong as they were last season. The team’s defense is not very good. If I was grading based on this their grade would be a C-, but their offense is so good that it makes up for a great deal of their mistakes. The Broncos need to improve on their defense going into the postseason. I am not trying to be hard on one of the best teams in the NFL; I am just trying to show you that they have things they need to work on.
Detroit Lions: D+
There is no reason for the Detroit Lions not to have won their division this season. Aaron Rodgers was hurt for most of the year, the Chicago Bears had one of the worst defenses in the NFL and the Lions have the best offensive weapon in the game in Calvin Johnson. However, Megatron cannot play every position for the Lions. The Lions' defense could not hold leads for their team, and frankly Matthew Stafford did not have the best season. In a weak division, these Lions should have been a shoo-in to be the winners. Instead it seemed like they gave up when it mattered the most. I am not happy with this grade.
Green Bay Packers: B- (Due to extra credit)
Sometimes you have a team that drags along all season long but they still manage to get a passing grade due to extra credit. That extra credit was awarded to the Green Bay Packers because of the play of two of their stars: Aaron Rodgers and Eddy Lacy. Lacy carried the team when Rodgers was injured, and it was Rodgers’ great game in Week 17 that got the Packers into the playoffs. The rest of this team scored around a D+. There was just no consistency in this team. The lack of depth at many positions was evident, except at receiver when Jarrett Boykin rose to the occasion for injured teammates. Yes this team made the playoffs, however it was not because of good play. It was just because the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears played that badly at the end of the season. Green Bay has a lot of problems to fix going into the postseason, but thankfully they have Aaron Rodgers to save them.
Houston Texans: F-
This was the worst grade I gave for this season. The Houston Texans were one of the best teams last season. Then the bottom fell out. The team’s strong defense broke all season long. Quarterback Matt Schaub had a terrible season and had to be replaced by their third-string quarterback. Worst of all, their Pro Bowl running back Arian Foster had to get season-ending surgery. The Texans deserved the worst record in football this season. Because of that, they had to fire their coach and earned themselves the first pick in the draft. Hopefully, this team can shore things up for next season because the talent is there. It just did not come out this season.
Indianapolis Colts: B-
After adding Trent Richardson to their team early in the season, I felt that this Indianapolis Colts team would be the team to beat in the AFC. However, this was not the case. The Colts played some very solid games, especially against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos this season. Still, this is a team with many flaws. Quarterback Andrew Luck lost Reggie Wayne for the season and just has not been the same since then. This team is average at best on the offensive side of the ball, and their defense can hang with the best of them; but not all of the time. The Colts are about two players away from being the top team in the AFC. Hopefully they can find those players for next season. It is hard to complain about the team that won their division and is heading into the playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars: F
Another season down and another below .500 record for the Jacksonville Jaguars. This team had some offensive pop this season until their best weapon, Justin Blackmon, was suspended for the rest of the year. Running back Maurice Jones-Drew found some of his legs toward the end of the season but just wasn't enough. The true strong point for this team during the season was their defense. After drafting many high-end players the past few years, it looks like the Jaguars are starting to become strong on this front. This team needs to find a solid starting quarterback for next season and a possible replacement for MJD. Be glad you did not take Tim Tebow; it just would have been worse, Jacksonville!
Kansas City Chiefs: A
This team made me so happy this season! Here was a team in the Kansas City Chiefs that earned an F- last season for their terrible play and what did they do? They went out and got a coach who knows how to win. They went out and got a veteran quarterback in Alex Smith that matched Andy Reid’s new system, and they used the best weapon they had (Jamaal Charles) to his fullest potential! The Chiefs were such a good all-around team. They had a strong defense except for the last few games against the run. This is a team that earned their A this season. Well done, coach Reid!
Miami Dolphins: C
Here is a team that has so much potential next year. The Miami Dolphins finally put up a season that was respectable. The quarterback that this team drafted to be the centerpiece of their franchise, Ryan Tannehill, finally showed Miami what he could do. The big acquisition of Mike Wallace had some impact, but he definitely showed that he is no Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green. If the team can solidify their running game next season, I can see the Dolphins really going places in the future. Way to work hard this year; it is not a bad grade, but it can definitely be improved.
Minnesota Vikings: F
How do you have Adrian Peterson and still finish as bad as the Vikings did? The reason for this is because that is all the team has is Adrian Peterson. Sure, the Minnesota Vikings showed that their new multipurpose player, Cordarrelle Patterson, has potential to be a star in the league, but with a quarterback situation that this team has no wonder they cannot win! The Vikings' defense struggled this season because of the lack of a good offensive scheme, and the weeks their offense showed up it seemed like their defense stayed home. Hopefully with a new coach and a new system in Minnesota this team could finally push through and dominate their division. They must improve while they still have a healthy Peterson.
New England Patriots: A+
If I were to tell you at the beginning of the season the an NFL team would lose three of its best offensive weapons and ask ypu to tell me how they would finish at the end of the season you would probably say not good. This is why I gave the New England Patriots an A+ for the regular season. Tom Brady made this season work with Wes Welker going to Denver, Aaron Hernandez going to jail, and Rob Gronkowski going down again for the rest of the season. The Patriots used every weapon at their disposal to have another successful regular season which earned them a first round bye. The Patriots have been one of the best teams since Brady has been their quarterback and earned his team another A for this season. I am pretty sure that Brady could turn the local paper boy into an All-Pro receiver!
New Orleans Saints: B- (Due to extra credit)
This is one team that just did not play up to their fullest potential all season long. One game the New Orleans Saints will put up 40-plus points and the next game they will only put up 17. This is the case of a team that plays so good at home but on the road they are completely different. The Saints truly need Drew Brees to play at the top of his game in every game for this team to do well. One thing that the Saints truly did not do this season was get running back Darren Sproles involved in the offense as much as he should have been. If the Saints want to be even more successful in the postseason, they need to establish more of a running or screen game to be a complete offense.
New York Giants: F
I cannot be more disappointed in this team this season. When you have a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback in Eli Manning, a quality receiver like Victor Cruz, and a coaching staff that knows how to win, this should not happen. However, Eli Manning had the worst season of his career in 2013. When a quarterback can’t stop throwing interceptions it makes it very difficult for any team to win games. The New York Giants need to establish a running game before next season if they plan on having any success in 2014. It would also be nice if running back David Wilson would become the first round pick that the Giants anticipated when they drafted him.
New York Jets: C+ (Due to a good final)
The New York Jets did a great job to keep their coach Rex Ryan employed for next season. The Jets were truly an 8-8 team. During some games, the Jets looked like a very good up-and-coming offense led by rookie quarterback Geno Smith. The other eight games, they looked as bad as the Bad News Bears. The Jets surprisingly stayed in the playoff hunt until late in the season. They need some experience to work with their very young, very green offense. If this team can improve on their mistakes, get a big play wide receiver and tone up their defense, then look for them to have a strong 2014. Definitely a better grade than I expected from you, Jets.
Oakland Raiders: D-
It’s very hard to give a passing grade to a team that only won four games. I think the reason for this is because I felt bad for the situation the Oakland Raiders are in. First, the team plays in a very tough AFC West division that saw three teams make the playoffs. This would not be good for any team, especially not a team going through another rebuild. The Raiders had two quarterbacks that proved they could play at this level, Terrelle Pryor and Matt McGloin. Darren McFadden had another injury plagued season which opened the door for Rashad Jennings to become the new starter in Oakland. If this team can build upon what they learned this season and grab a player or two on defense, then this team can definitely start to compete as soon as 2014.
Philadelphia Eagles: A- (Due to great showing during the final)
I love to see when teams take a significant step forward after a terrible season. When the Philadelphia Eagles brought in Chip Kelly everyone knew things would be different, but people did not think it would be so different so quickly. Michael Vick started out the season as the starting quarterback, but when he went down with an injury, Nick Foles became the new starter and never looked back. LeSean McCoy won the rushing title and helped transform a West-Coast offense to an offense that uses signs instead of a huddle. The defense even improved and made the team more dangerous than before. Love the progress, Philly. Keep it up!
Pittsburgh Steelers: C+
The Pittsburgh Steelers were a missed field goal away from earning a spot into this season’s playoffs. The Steelers' regular season did not start off very well, going 0-4 right out of the gate. However, Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and rookie Le’Veon Bell greatly improved the team’s grade by helping the team overcome such a bad start. If the Steelers were students, the team would have had their parents called in after such a bad start, but the parents and the teachers seemed to make a plan that worked for them and almost earned them an “honor roll” spot in the playoffs. The team showed up and finished higher than the defending Super Bowl champions, the Baltimore Ravens. This C+ was well earned.
San Diego Chargers: A-
This was a wonderful success story and a pleasure giving a good grade to the much improved San Diego Chargers. Here was a team that had two of the top teams in the AFC in their division, and not only did they hold their own, but they beat both of those teams during the regular season to help make it to the playoffs. Philip Rivers saw a resurgence in his game this year and was one of the better quarterbacks in the league once again. The season was so good that even Ryan Mathews finally figured it out, and he even remained in the lineup. Love the effort and keep it up!
San Francisco 49ers: A
Here is a team, the San Francisco 49ers, that earned their A this season. This team overcame many obstacles throughout the year. Two of their top three receivers were injured for many games this season. This injury problem caused quarterback Colin Kaepernick to struggle early on in the season but then saw him have a huge second half. The defense overcame personal issues with Aldon Smith and still was one of the best in the league. The 49ers were just one game away from taking the top seed in the NFC and having a first round bye in the playoffs. It is tough to give any improvements to a team that was this strong. They're definitely a team that makes this year's honor roll.
Seattle Seahawks: A
Here is another A for the class. The Seattle Seahawks were everything that many experts said they would be this season. The defense was ridiculously good, causing turnovers and were also very tough to score on. Quarterback Russell Wilson took another step towards being one of the best in the NFL. The Seahawks were also, without question, one of the toughest if not the toughest team to play at their home field this season. This will make any team that goes there in the playoffs have a handful. Like the 49ers, it is tough for me to give anything that they need to improve on. I love giving out grades like this!
St. Louis Rams: C-
I think I have a soft spot for the St. Louis Rams. The grade they earned is a reflection of how hard their division was this season and the fact they came out of this season at 7-9. This team has a solid defense that they can build around for next season. They also found a running back to replace Steven Jackson in Zac Stacy. There are big issues at the quarterback position for this team. They lost Sam Bradford for the season and had to settle with backups the rest of the way. Sam Bradford is not the answer, and if the Rams want to move forward and have a successful team, the quicker they realize this, the better they will be. Keep working at this, St. Louis; there is potential there.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: F
There was so much talent and so much waste in 2013 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs came into the season with some of the better offensive weapons in the game in players like Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. After the release of quarterback Josh Freeman, the team showed that it was committed to the future. With the firing of Greg Schiano and their hiring of Lovie Smith, the team’s defense will be the main focus during the offseason. The Bucs should improve on the poor grade from 2013 and hopefully earn a passing one next season.
Tennessee Titans: C+
It can never be that bad of a season when your team finishes second in the division. However, when the people below you are the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Houston Texans, I guess that is not as impressive as it looks. The Tennessee Titans did finish with a better record in 2013 than they did in 2012. They also showed some signs of growth. Quarterback Jake Locker really began to come into his own this season until he went down with a season-ending injury around the middle of the year. Running back Chris Johnson started to show flashes of old during parts of the season, and young wide receiver Kendall Wright is finally living up to his draft day pedigree as a No. 1 receiver. However, the Titans still struggled to come out of a weak division only 7-9. This is not going to earn you a strong grade at the end of the season. However, they did improve on last season’s record and are showing more signs of being a complete football team. With a little more work and a few more pieces to the puzzle, I can see the Titans improving their grade next season. Keep working hard, gentlemen!
Washington Redskins: F (Due to poor behavior)
This team deserved to have one of the worst grades this season. The Washington Redskins went from being a dominant team that made it to the playoffs and won their division to a team that fired its head coach because he decided shutdown their star quarterback Robert Griffin III at the end of the season. The team is talented; there is no doubt about it. They just need to find out who they are and what they need to work on. Players like Alfred Morris, Pierre Garçon and Jordan Reed make this offense awesome, and hopefully this could be the stepping stone for the team's new head coach next season. This is why we do not fight amongst ourselves, students! See where it gets you?