The 2016 NFL playoffs are going to be some of the best in a long time, with the return of Peyton Manning and a bunch of surprise teams in the Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, among others.
However, this past NFL season, we saw plenty of disappointments for large portions of the season. Many superstar players were injured, or played below expectations. Many teams, as usual, also failed to play as well as expected.
There were so many ongoing sagas that were just annoying. The usual whining about Chip Kelly from former Philadelphia Eagles players, teammates throwing each other under the bus, boring primetime games.
The usual. This was definitely one of the most disappointing seasons in recent memory for a lot of us NFL fans.
What happened to that elite Green Bay Packers offense that we were used to seeing, or the Dallas Cowboys finally going all the way?
Indeed, there were far too many things that didn’t bode well for the NFL and its fans, and I can’t think of a season where fans could have been more disappointed, unless the whole world hated last year’s New England Patriots or the previous year’s Seattle Seahawks (that’s not the case, by the way).
Anywho, it’s playoff time and we have the field set. But we were disappointed by a lot of teams and players that didn’t make it all the way there. And we do remain disappointed with a lot of teams that still made it there.
Here are the 15 biggest disappointments from the 2015 NFL’s regular season.
15. Atlanta Falcons’ Second Half Collapse
The Falcons were a nice story, when they started out 5-0 and eventually 6-1 after being major underachievers over the last two seasons.
Julio Jones continued his beastmode of a season, Matt Ryan finally had a rushing game and Dan Quinn made this defense a juggernaut.
Of course, despite being able to play the weak NFC East and AFC South, the Falcons trailed off into a terrible finish.
They went 2-7 to close out the season. Though one of those wins came against the undefeated Panthers to give them their first loss of the season, it only partially covered up the pain of an ugly second half.
14. New York Jets, Week 17
The Jets were another incredible story. Todd Bowles turned journeyman and Mr. Turnover Machine Ryan Fitzpatrick into an above-average pocket passer.
Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker fixed an offense that was the laughingstock of the league for the past five years.
Darrelle Revis returned and the Jets defense appeared to have them ready for the playoffs, especially after a thrilling Week 16 home win against the New England Patriots.
Well, the Jets and Fitzpatrick fell flat on their faces. Rex Ryan got the last laugh on his former team after Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions and Kembrell Thompkins dropped a gimme of a touchdown that would have sent them to the playoffs.
A great first 15 games, and the Jets HAD to pick the last game to completely falter with the playoffs insight.
13. Jimmy Graham
Graham was going to be the man. He was going to fix the Seattle Seahawks offense and catch one-yard touchdowns to win the game, if you know what I mean.
Seattle’s brutal offensive line got even worse when they traded stud center Max Unger for him. Prior to a season ending injury, Graham had just 48 catches for 605 yards and two touchdowns.
Not exactly what Seattle had hoped for. It’s safe to say they regretted it. He took up major cap space as Russell Wilson took hits and sacks like never before.
12. San Diego Chargers
Okay, so maybe not a whole lot of people expected the San Diego Chargers to make the playoffs, but how did this team go 4-12 after going 9-7 in 2013 and 2014?
Well, nine of their losses came within eight points, and many included blowing leads late in the fourth quarter.
To think they won four games is a miracle. Philip Rivers had no rushing game, no protection from his linemen, the defense didn’t do much of anything, and he barely had anyone to throw to when Keenan Allen suffered a season-ending kidney injury.
Not a nice way for the team to leave San Diego, should they end up going to Los Angeles.
11. Primetime Games
Many of the highly-touted matchups, especially primetime slotted games, did not live up to the hype in 2015.
Here’s a recap: Green Bay beat Seattle 27-17 in an NFC title rematch; not much drama in that one. The Patriots beat the Indianapolis Colts 34-27, but the Deflategate rematch game was not as close as the score sounded.
Denver and Green Bay met as two 6-0 teams, and the Broncos won 29-10. Pittsburgh beat Indy, 45-10 in a hyped-up game. New England beat the Houston Texans 27-6 on Sunday Night Football, and the Minnesota Vikings beat the New York Giants 49-17 in a game.
Most Monday nighters were actually exciting, with 13 games ending by eight points or less, but most Thursday nighters just sucked.
It’s not the NFL’s fault for scheduling these games. It’d just be nice if some teams (hello, Cincinnati,) decided to play on national television.
10. DeMarco Murray
You can tie in the Philadelphia Eagles with this, but Murray’s struggles gave the team a very bad rushing game, and that’s why they didn’t win games.
Chip Kelly signed Murray to a five-year, $42 million deal after leading the league in rushing in 2014 with 1,773 yards.
Murray finished with something ridiculously lower than that in 2015: 702 total yards and six touchdowns after scoring 13 the year before.
This is a huge reason why the Eagles fired Chip Kelly and why they’ll regret the LeSean McCoy trade for years to come.
9. Green Bay Packers
What?! How does a 10-6 team who makes the playoffs for the seventh straight season make this list?
Because, folks. Aaron Rodgers wasn’t supposed to prove himself as human. He was supposed to be an unbeatable robot machine that was programmed to break records in the NFL every year.
He doesn’t deserve all the blame, because no quarterback is the same when his top wide receiver goes down for the season (Jordy Nelson in this case.)
Just look at Rodgers’ stats from 2014 compared to 2015:
2014: 65.6 completion percentage, 4,381 yards, 38 touchdowns, five interceptions, 77.5 QBR.
2015: 60.7 completion percentage, 3,821 yards, 31 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 64.9 QBR.
Oh, and the Packers, who hadn’t lost a home game with Rodgers starting in nearly three years, somehow lost every divisional home game this season, including losses to the Chicago Bears (who Rodgers owns every matchup), and the Detroit Lions, who hadn’t won at Lambeau Field since 1991.
Unless the Packers have a deep playoff run, this could be the most depressing Packers season in team history. Rodgers and the offense just wasn’t the same.
Did I mention he won MVP by a mile in 2014?
8. Ndamukong Suh
Like the Murray slide, feel free to tie the Miami Dolphins into this Suh listing.
I just thought Suh was far too good to simply struggle after being a force on the Lions defensive line for years.
The $100 million dollar man struggled to fit Miami’s defense, and he became a mess in the locker room when reports surfaced that he told his team that he was in charge of the group.
Suh’s total tackles, sacks, and passes defended weren’t dramatically different in 2015 than previous years, but there was no hiding the fact he was not stopping the run enough or generating pressure on quarterbacks.
Miami will give him another shot in 2016, but right now this contract looks like a disaster on their end.
7. Johnny Manziel
I can’t say enough how disgusted some NFL fans are that Manziel wasn’t able to escape the party life in exchange for a chance to be a million-dollar franchise-saving quarterback for the Cleveland Browns.
TWICE this season, Manziel was benched for partying even though the Browns informed him last year that they wouldn’t tolerate any of it.
Manziel is free to have a good time, but he shouldn’t be doing it during the season while he fights for a starting job.
He showcased a lot of potential this season, but he just couldn’t clean it up off the field, and one wonders if he’ll ever get another shot in the NFL.
There were far too many injuries to superstar players in 2015. Should most of them managed to stay healthy, this playoff picture would have been a lot different.
Peyton Manning, an all-time great, missed six games with the Denver Broncos. Tony Romo played in just over 3 games with the Dallas Cowboys but a broken clavicle ruined his season.
Joe Flacco, Terrell Suggs, Justin Forsett, and Steve Smith’s injuries ended Baltimore’s season.
Ben Roethlisberger missed time. MVP candidate Andrew Luck missed Week 10 onward for the season. Jordy Nelson didn’t play a game. Julian Edelman and Dion Lewis suffered injuries for the Patriots. Le’Veon Bell suffered another severe leg injury to end his season.
Jimmy Graham got hurt. Dez Bryant struggled this season with multiple injuries. Kam Chancellor missed a handful of games. Darrelle Revis missed time with a concussion. Jamaal Charles missed most of the season. Marshawn Lynch missed significant time before his replacement, Thomas Rawls, also was done for the season.
Victor Cruz missed most of 2015. Andy Dalton fractured his thumb, Keenan Allen suffered a season-ending kidney injury, and Alshon Jeffery missed time.
I think we all get the point: Almost half of the NFL’s top 50 players missed significant time in 2015.
5. Dallas Cowboys
It’s hard for me to blame the Cowboys with Romo and Bryant being injured for much of the year, but it doesn’t take away the fact Dallas disappointed many.
No one came close to matching DeMarco Murray’s 2014 season, despite playing behind an elite offensive line.
Their defense kept them in games, but Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel combined for one win, as Dallas finished 4-12.
This team was one non-stupid rule away from being in last year’s NFC title game, but they completely free fell in the standings and broke Cowboys’ fans hearts once again. Here’s hoping to a healthier and better season for them in 2016.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Though the Ravens lost Terrell Suggs in Week 1, they managed to have Flacco, Smith, and Forsett for long portions of 2015.
In 10 games with Flacco, Baltimore was just 3-7, which included losses to the lowly Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Ravens finished no worse than 8-8 under John Harbaugh.
With a dangerous front seven and lethal rushing offense and an above-average quarterback, the Ravens were supposed to make a run at the playoffs.
In fact, they were, aside from the Colts, the most popular pick by experts to win the AFC. To win just five games is sure a cause for disappointment.
3. Buffalo Bills
The Bills weren’t exactly the most popular pick to make the playoffs in 2015, but the sky was the limit for a team that went 9-7 with Kyle Orton as their quarterback and not much of an offense in 2014.
Enter Rex Ryan, Tyrod Taylor, and LeSean McCoy. The defensive guru was going to make the league’s fourth-best defense from a year ago into a juggernaut.
Well, not exactly. Though Taylor showed enough to be the team’s quarterback of the future and McCoy gave this team a legit running back, this defense was below average.
The Bills finished 19th in total defense, giving up over four moew points per game. After leading the league in sacks by a mile in 2014 with 54, they fell down to just 21 in 2015.
Ryan’s group finished the second half strong with two wins, but he really has to find a way to make this talented group an elite juggernaut again.
More than ever before, the officials made headlines with so many poor calls that the NFL had to admit were wrong.
As usual, no one knows what a catch is anymore. No one knows what defensive holding and pass interference are.
And there were blown calls. The Jaguars won against the Ravens because the refs called a personal foul that gave the Jags a last-second field goal attempt, which they made to win. However, the refs got it wrong because the clock should ran out by then.
In Week 4, Calvin Johnson fumbled at the one-yard line after his Lions were close to taking a lead with two minutes left in Seattle. The ball went to the endzone, where K.J. Wright batted it out of bounds. That should have been a penalty, and the Lions would have gotten it back at the one.
Sure, Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary throw to Richard Rodgers to beat Detroit was sweet, but that came after the refs called a face mask on the Lions, which did not actually happen.
The sad part? These are just a few instances where incorrect officiating decided a game.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Part of me screamed “Do not buy what they’re selling you. They’re not going to buy their way to success.”
The other half said “Dude, it’s Andrew Luck. With Andre Johnson and Frank Gore, their offense will be lights-out.”
I also figured the Colts would at least make the AFC title game after beating cheated out of 2014’s game.
This was by far the most trendy pick to win the Super Bowl. The Colts offense would have: Philip Dorsett, Andre Johnson, T.Y. Hilton, Frank Gore, and Donte Moncrief with Luck running the offense.
Here’s what they got:
-Three catches for 17 yards by Dorsett.
-41 catches for 503 yards by Johnson
-3.7 yards a carry by Gore (967 for the season).
The other names turned out fine, except Luck. He went just 2-5 in seven games played with 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Somehow, Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson weren’t fired. It’s amazing this team went 8-8 with Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst, Ryan Lindley and Josh Freeman coming on in relief at some point of the season.
But the Colts really let down the NFL and their fans with such an awful season. Luck’s struggles were courtesy of an offensive line that did nothing to help him.
Maybe next year, we’ll finally see an offensive machine. Meanwhile, the Houston Texans (AFC South winners), are laughing at Johnson for joining their arch rivals in hopes of winning a championship.
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