And so the Washington Football Team, with a record of 7-9, are into the NFL playoffs as NFC East winners. It would be churlish to begrudge Washington their place in the postseason: head coach Ron Rivera has had to cope with a cancer diagnosis, quarterback Alex Smith has come back from a horrific injury that almost cost him his leg and they have a defense that looks like it could dominate the division for years to come. And yet … they’re 7-9, and benefited from the Philadelphia Eagles pulling starter Jalen Hurts in the middle of Sunday’s game, which Washington won 20-14. There are teams that will feel deserve they deserve a shot at the Super Bowl this year at Washington’s expense. Here’s a look at some of them.
What a brutal, brutal ending for the Miami Dolphins. All Miami needed to do was to beat the Buffalo Bills, who had already clinched a playoff spot, to make the playoffs. Instead, the Bills demolished them 56-26. Even then, the Dolphins still could have made the postseason with an Indianapolis Colts’ loss.
Unfortunately, the Colts beat the woeful 1-15 Jacksonville Jaguars, who will be a little less woeful when they pick Trevor Lawrence in the draft later this year. It has to be a deflating season for Miami, who looked like they would capitalize on the New England Patriots’ long-awaited fall. When they benched Ryan Fitzpatrick for rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, they looked like a better team, but then Tagovailoa started to play, well, like a rookie. His three interceptions against Buffalo will provide plenty of fuel for those who believe that the Dolphins shouldn’t trust him as a starter in his second season.
That feels unfair. While it would make sense to have Fitzpatrick, or a similar veteran quarterback, on the roster as insurance, they should head into this summer with Tagovailoa as their Plan A. It feels like a disappointment right now, but they should remind themselves that a 10-6 record is a marked improvement over the 5-11 record they had last season. And, going forward, they have a great coach in Brian Flores and a solid defense.
The Arizona Cardinals’ loss to the Los Angeles Rams was doubly painful: not only did it result in their own elimination it also meant that the Chicago Bears, who had an identical 8-8 record, had won one of the wildcard slots.
The results are even tougher to take for Cardinals fans since the Bears los their final game of the season. So, Chicago won despite losing. Maybe losing the game but winning a postseason spot is the best-case scenario as there were rumors heading in that the Bears would keep Mitch Trubisky as their quarterback with a victory over the Packers. They may have just avoided that scenario.
The Raiders had a better record than any team in the NFC East and, it should be noted, were playing in a clearly tougher division. After all, the Raiders had to face the NFL-leading Kansas City Chiefs who went 14-2 this season. One of those two Chiefs losses was against these very same Raiders back on 11 October. One could argue that they deserved a shot in the postseason, although one could also argue that they were the victims of their own mistakes.
There were three non-NFC East teams that ended their season with a 7-9 record: the Minnesota Vikings, the Los Angeles Chargers and the New England Patriots. All three teams ended up in third place in their respective divisions but that record would have been good for a share of first place in the NFC East. It’s still a losing record mind you, but, hey, the 2010-11 Seattle Seahawks went 7-9 in the NFC West and they managed to win a playoff game.
Which of these teams would have had a better shot at following in those Seahawks’ footsteps? Well, we’re looking at a team that will need a little luck and that absolutely counts the Chargers out. The Patriots? It’s really difficult to make the case that New England deserve even more playoff appearances than they have already had. Let’s give this final spot here to a Vikings team that possibly underperformed but still looked like they could be a postseason threat. Quarterback Kirk Cousins is capable of randomly having huge games, while wide receiver Justin Jefferson finished the season breaking the Super Bowl era record for receiving yards by a rookie.
“We probably weren’t good enough of a football team this year to be in the playoffs,” head coach Mike Zimmer said after the Vikings’ 37-35 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Maybe he was right, but maybe they just didn’t happen to be in the right division this season.
AFC: Baltimore Ravens (No 5 seed) at Tennessee Titans (4); Cleveland Browns (6) at Pittsburgh Steelers (3); Indianapolis Colts (7) at Buffalo Bills (2).
NFC: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5) at Washington (4); Los Angeles Rams (6) at Seattle Seahawks (3); Chicago Bears (7) at New Orleans Saints (2). Read from source….