Despite a number of setbacks and, the NFL season saw its conclusion. I know the decision to push through with the season was met with criticism but it was a welcome respite during a rough 2020. While my fantasy football team didn’t even make the playoffs, I had my best week in straight picks during Week 17 to finish the season with a 70% win rate. Christen did well also, with a 64% win rate. Picking against the spread was a lot tougher but I still had a winning record. However, picking the Over/Under was a lesson in humility. Here are the final numbers:
|Nick’s Picks||Nick ATS||Nick O/U||Christen’s Picks|
|Previous Total||Previous Total||Previous||Previous Total|
The defending champion Kansas City Chiefs had the #1 seed in the AFC and the best record in the league locked up so they opted to rest several of their key starters, including Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, and Travis Kelce. Whether or not that strategy ends up working out remains to be seen, as it’ll be effectively three-weeks between meaningful games for their best players. Meanwhile, the Chargers went into Arrowhead to win and that’s exactly what they did. Bolts’ rookie QB Justin Herbert ended his season on a strong note, throwing for 300-yards, 3-touchdowns, and running for one more. Despite the 38-21 win over KC and a fairly strong finish to the season, it wasn’t enough for head coach Anthony Lynn to keep his job. He’ll probably land on his feet somewhere, but it may be a while before he gets a head coaching job again.
While we’re on the subject of coaches getting fired, the Jets finally gave Adam Gase the axe after a two-win season. He was 9-23 in two seasons as the Jets’ head coach so his termination was only a matter of time. The only curious part is why they waited. Would he have kept his job had they beat the Patriots to end the season on a three-game win streak? Maybe they didn’t want to show their hand and risk some kind of obligation to an interim coach. Either way, Gase is gone.
Same goes for Doug Marrone in Jacksonville. I never liked Marrone since his Buffalo days, but the Jags looked like they were heading in the right direction after last season. However, the losses started piling up quickly. The loss to the Colts in Week 17 made it 15-straight Ls, so general manager Dave Caldwell got the boot too even though he did a fairly good job positioning the Jags for the future once they decided to rebuild. Locking up the quarterback position for the future is priority #1, and they can take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence with the first pick.
The Houston Texans are also in the market for a head coach after finishing 4-12. They damn near beat the Titans (which isn’t a good look for a supposed contender) before a last minute bank shot field goal, but they need a culture shift. Romeo Crennel isn’t a terrible coach but, even as a defensive coordinator, the Texans’ defense was terrible this season. With DeShaun Watson firmly in place as the franchise QB, an offensive minded hiring is probably on deck.
Detroit is in the market for a new head coach too after parting ways with Matt Patricia eleven games into the 2020 campaign. He was 13-29 during his time with the Lions so it was time to go. Interim head coach Darrell Bevell didn’t fare much better going 1-4 over the final five games of the season. They allowed 38-points per game including 37 in a season-ending loss to the Vikings. A good defensive coach makes the most sense.
The Falcons are the last of the teams looking for a new head coach. Interim Coach Raheem Morris went 4-7 after Dan Quinn was fired at 0-5, but there were bright moments. A 44-27 loss to the Bucs to close out the season wasn’t ideal, but Atlanta showed that they could score against a playoff team who many people are high on. Morris deserves to get an interview for the permanent job, but there will be more appealing options available.
The Broncos and Raiders aren’t in need of a head coach, but bot John Gruden and Vic Fangio had disappointing seasons. With nothing on the line other than peace of mind, Las Vegas pulled off a gutsy 32-31 road win thanks to a late touchdown, 2-pt conversion, and a blocked field goal to seal it. Even though there were no playoff implications, it was definitely the best game of the week.
Moving on, my Buffalo Bills didn’t take it easy on their AFC East rival Dolphins. They hung 56-points on a good defense and did most of it without their starters in the game. The 56-26 loss effectively eliminated the Fins from the playoffs, but overall it was an impressive season from Brian Flores’ young team.
The Ravens handled business too and punched their ticket to the postseason, whooping the Bengals 38-3. After a tough skid, Baltimore bounced back with 5-wins in a row and are one of the hottest teams heading into the playoffs. Cincy has some decisions to make in the offseason but the #6 pick in the draft should help.
The Packers had a rougher game in Chicago than they may have liked, but they got the win and the #1 seed in the NFC along with it. Thanks to the Cardinals’ loss to the Rams, the Bears still found their way to the 7th seed in defeat. An 8-8 record isn’t what Chicago had in mind after a 5-1 start to the season, but they’re in the brackett. The Seahawks edged out the 49ers to get to 12-4 on the year, but so did the Saints who battered the Panthers to hang on to the #2 spot in the NFC.
Meanwhile, the fight for the NFC East came down to the final game of the week. In one of the more strange ending, Eagles’ head coach Doug Pederson is at the center of some controversy after appearing to allow Washington to win. Down by only 6-points, he pulled Jalen Hurts but it wasn’t to bring Carson Wentz back. Instead, it was 3rd stringer Nate Sudfeld who predictably didn’t get the job done. Washington went on to win 20-14 and secure the #4 seed as NFC East Champions, much to the dismay of the Giants’ fans. They had beaten the Cowboys earlier in the day but needed an Eagles’ win to claim the division.
In one of the better stories from this season, the Cleveland Browns ended an 18-year playoff drought with a 24-22 win over the Steelers. Pittsburgh didn’t play a number of their starters but it was a big moment for the Browns nonetheless. They’ll see each other again in the first round of the playoffs.
With the playoff picture set, the Bears and Washington snuck their way into the Top-14 by default, but not much else changes in the season’s final week. I’ll do a separate playoff preview but here are the final rankings:
|1. Chiefs 14-2 (1=)|
|2. Bills 13-3 (2=)|
|3. Packers 13-3 (3=)|
|4. Steelers 13-3 (4=)|
|5. Saints 12-4 (6⬆)|
|6. Seahawks 12-4 (5⬇)|
|7. Buccaneers 11-5 (8⬆)|
|8. Ravens 11-5 (9⬆)|
|9. Titans 11-5 (10⬆)|
|10. Colts 11-5 (11⬆)|
|11. Browns 11-5 (12⬆)|
|12. Rams 10-6 (13⬆)|
|13. Bears 8-8 (14⬆)|
|14. Washington 7-9 (18⬆)|
|15. Dolphins 10-6 (7⬇)|
|16. Cardinals 8-8 (15⬇)|
|17. Raiders 8-8 (16⬇)|
|18. Vikings 7-9 (17⬇)|
|19. Cowboys 7-9 (19=)|
|20. Chargers 7-9 (20=)|
|21. Patriots 7-9 (22⬆)|
|22. 49ers 6-10 (21⬇)|
|23. Giants 6-10 (23=)|
|24. Panthers 5-11 (24=)|
|25. Broncos 5-11 (25=)|
|26. Lions 5-11 (26=)|
|27. Bengals 4-11-1 (27=)|
|28. Eagles 4-11-1 (28=)|
|29. Texans 4-12 (29=)|
|30. Falcons 4-12 (30=)|
|31. Jets 2-14 (31=)|
|32. Jaguars 1-15 (32=)|