Chronicling just what killed each of the 10 AFC teams that didn’t make the playoffs, and how devastating that failure was in the end, from the least to the most.
The Break Heard ‘Round The World
New England Patriots — Now staying home despite an 11-5 record and recovering in a way no one expected after Tom Brady’s knee ligaments snapped in the opening game. Done in due to losses acquired during adjustment period to Matt Cassel and an aging defense that gave in to division rivals, particularly Miami, once too often. Are low on the list because this was still Coach Hobo’s best work in the duress of losing his leader and star.
Bad Start Followed By Peaking Too Late
Houston Texans — Effectively destroyed thanks to Sage Rosenfels’ propensity to turn the ball over when it matters most. Matt Schaub wasn’t doing great to start out, but Rosenfels handing a game to the Colts and having to rotate in and out while Schaub tried to find his groove ensured Houston would be a late bloomer. Four game losing streak capped by that loss in Indy killed any hope in a division where the winner had a 10-game winning streak and the second place team enters the playoffs with a nine-game streak. At least you’re not finishing under .500 again, and you have a feature back in Steve Slaton.
Icarus Is Not A Model To Follow Here
Buffalo Bills – A 5-1 start against what turned out to be lamentably bad competition (of the teams they beat, only the Chargers made the playoffs), followed by a precipitous fall in which they lost 8 of their final 10, forgot Marshawn Lynch existed for the most part, and had to go to J.P. Losman in games that they stood a chance of winning thanks to Trent Edwards’ fragile constitution.
Cincinnati Bengals – No communication between Carson Palmer and his receivers when he was playing, he gets knocked out, team continues to suffer until its tie of the Eagles and belated discovery that Cedric Benson still has rushing skills. Oddly enough, defense not responsible for sucking more this year. Continued fall back to reality from Wild Card finish two years ago complete.
Flashes In The Pan
Cleveland Browns – It’s probably never a good idea to trade away your best cornerback (Leigh Bodden) in a year when the All-Pro QB returned to earth, the Domer groomed to start got his chance and was hurt, followed by the former All-Pro and the third-stringer hitting IR, leaving the team in the capable hands of Bruce Gradkowski, who appears to be the scruffy fellow pulled off of the streets and put under center. (If Jon Gruden has no use for you as a QB, you may want to consider the fact that you suck.) A 10-6 finish reduced to being shut out in 2 straight games and going 23 quarters without an offensive touchdown to end the season. Oh, and don’t forget a defensive lineman popping the Domer QB in the face or the star TE’s staph infections.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Also could be filed under “Coach Loses The Locker Room,” but Jack Del Rio apparently makes too much money to be fired, so the front office and the rest of the coaching staff is being re-arranged in a manner akin to the deck chairs on the Titanic. Avoided attempts to improve wide receiving corps, convinced that signing Jerry Porter was all it had to do to address that nagging problem.
Where Being Mired In The Muck Is Standard Operational Procedure
Kansas City Chiefs – No, you can’t build on this, Herm, not when you lose two QBs to injury (Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle) and have Tyler Thigpen learning on the job. That would have been bad enough, but KC’s theme song for the last half of the season, in which Thigpen looked like a legit QB working out of the Pistol formation, should have been the Smiths’ “I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish.” And you certainly won’t be able to build on this because Carl Petersen isn’t around to protect you any longer.
Oakland Raiders – In which the league’s second best soap opera (Dallas grabs more eyeballs because Jerry Jones and his facelifts are easier on the eyes than Al Davis, plus, his teams finish over .500 most of the time) revolves around not whether Lane Kiffin will get fired, but when. Ended with press conference after Week 4 in which the horrified directed their eyes upon the Cryptkeeper’s visage as he condemned the man who dared challenge him.
There was no way Kiffin could ever come out looking like anything but the bad guy, no matter how valid Davis’ complaints were.
The Quarterback In Winter
New York Jets – At 39, Brett Favre cannot be considered the sole missing piece of the puzzle, and the Jets were a reflection of the QB they traded for — remarkably inconsistent. Perfectly capable of eking out good wins at times, and equally capable of playing down to struggling opponents (losses to SF, SD, and Oakland suggest no Jet should ever take a trip west of Kansas City; a home loss to Denver was truly the icing on the cake.) After beefing up the O-line, should have considered that in order to stop opponents, you must cover receivers downfield, borne out by the final humiliation delivered upon them by the quarterback they dumped and the Tuna who brought him to South Beach.
Do The Collapse!
Denver Broncos – This pick is not out of homerism and anger; there are rational reasons to rank the Broncos’ fall as the most painful.
- the promise by the coach of a playoff spot on local radio
- the absolute crap quality of the competition in the division
- the loss of six running backs in the Tailback Factory due to injury
- the loss of a three-game lead with three games left to play and a tie-breaker advantage.
The final one is quite possibly the most valid reason; when you are unable to take advantage of having the division handed to you on a silver platter by an underachieving Charger team that got hot in the last five weeks, it’s a sign of fail on an epic level — even though some could see it coming, given the complete lack of attention paid to the defense by the supposed Genius in charge of football operations, right down to the coaching. Another defensive coordinator will (or should) be fired, and it may not actually fix anything. The only positive is that the skill players are young and can only get better, but having to put it all on the shoulders of the young quarterback was asking for the fall from grace.
(NFC version to come tomorrow.)
Filed under: NFL Tagged: | AFC, Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders