While the focus in what remains of this NFL season goes to the playoff teams, a lot should be said for the failures this season. From the colossal ones like the Houston Texans and Washington Redskins, to teams that played well for most of the way but failed in the final stretch, like the Dallas Cowboys and the Chicago Bears.
Even the Super Bowl champions Baltimore Ravens are included in this list. They were expected to win less than before due to the loss of talent and committing too much money to Joe Flacco, but the last two weeks of the season, which could have guaranteed them a sixth consecutive playoff spot, were more than just disappointing.
Houston Texans (2-14): No one saw this coming, as many thought the return of Brian Cushing means the Texans are ready to take the next step, which means not just making the playoffs, but winning the AFC and reaching the Super Bowl. However, Arian Foster has been playing injured all season while Matt Schaub decided to throw his career under the bus with pick six after pick six as the team entered a weird spiral despite all of its talent, that eventually led to the worst record in the NFL and Gary Kubiak getting fired.
Washington Redskins (3-13): Another playoff team that sees this year end very differently than the one from 12 months ago. The Redskins didn’t make too many changes, but through that a healthy Robert Griffin III is enough to overcome their defensive problems and the lack of wide receiver talent, not to mention the owner and the head coach hating each other. It didn’t really work out to say the least, as Mike Shanahan paid the price in the end, getting a nice compensation for leaving a job he didn’t want to do anymore.
Atlanta Falcons (4-12): Another story of the “mighty” falling. The Falcons were a few yards away from reaching the Super Bowl last year, and brought back Tony Gonzalez from retirement. They had plenty of talent on both sides of the ball entering the season, but a loss to the Saints, some terrible coaching from Mike Smith and a string of injuries to pretty much every player but Matt Ryan on offense made them finish with nine less wins compared to last season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12): All the money spent over the last two years seemed to make no difference. Greg Schiano didn’t get too much love from his players and after a foolish opening loss to the New York Jets, things just got out of control. Josh Freeman was released, and a good defense was wasted on an offense with a quarterback who wasn’t ready. Schiano and the GM were fired at the end of the season.
Detroit Lions (7-9): The NFC North has always been rough on the Lions, but even though Jim Schwartz is the only head coach in the last 14 years to the team into the postseason (2011), the last two years and the collapse from 6-3 and leading the division to finishing third without a chance to compete for the playoff in the last week was too much. There was plenty of talent on both sides of the ball, as the addition of Reggie Bush helped take the load of Calvin Johnson, but Schwartz couldn’t make things work.
Baltimore Ravens (8-8): There was too much talent turnover from the Ravens to think they’d be able to have another Super Bowl season, but considering they were in the best position out of everyone to win the last ticket into the AFC playoffs, their home loss to the New England Patriots and final week defeat against the Cincinnati Bengals, helped by the injury Joe Flacco simply couldn’t shake off, led to a disappointing ending to this season.
Chicago Bears (8-8): For the first time in a very long while, the Chicago Bears have a much better offense than their defense. No one can blame Jay Cutler (who missed five games) for the season ending badly, but actually the defense, giving up almost 400 yards per game. Still, the Bears had a chance to make things right by beating the Packers on the final day of the season, but giving up a touchdown 38 seconds from the happy ending, turning into another sour one.
Dallas Cowboys (8-8): A simple copy paste from the Bears’ paragraph is fitting. Tony Romo wasn’t perfect with quite a few last drive mistakes, but in general, he and the offense did much better than the NFL-worst defense, giving up 414 yards per game. They lost the lead of the NFC East several times despite a down year in the division, failing to beat the Philadelphia Eagles in the win-or-go-home game in week 17.