clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

This is how your favorite NFL team failed you in 2015

New, comments

Tracking the 20 NFL teams that won't be making the playoffs, and why they died.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

You deserve better.

Most NFL teams don't make the playoffs, nor is there much turnover from year to year. As the playoff picture stands, just four of the 12 participants are new -- the Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings and Washington. NFL parity has fostered a lot of competition for the remaining Wild Card spots, but done surprisingly little to break up the hegemonic grip of a few teams atop the standings.

What that means is that there will be a lot of teams falling just short this season. We'll take a quick look at all of these teams as they get mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. We're so sorry that your team brought you shame, but take comfort that you're not alone.

As of Week 14, seven teams cannot make the playoffs, even on a technicality.

The deceased

Cleveland Browns

  • Date of death: Dec. 6, 2015
  • Cause of death: A 37-3 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but that was just a symptom of a troubling season. The Browns started 2-3, then lost seven straight to extinguish their already flickering playoff chances. It wasn't supposed to be this bad. The Browns appeared to improve during the offseason after remaining somewhat competitive during the 2014 season. But then the offense sputtered behind three different quarterbacks (Travis Benjamin was great, but he can only do so much), the defense disappointed tremendously and the current coaching staff put itself on the block for a Black Monday dismissal as the team steadily got worse.

Tennessee Titans

  • Date of death: Dec. 13, 2015
  • Cause of death: a 30-8 loss to the New York Jets was the final straw. Perhaps no team had a bigger fall from its Week 1 performance. The Titans opened the season with a 42-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, then lost six consecutive games to sink their season. They can take comfort that their defense was able to keep a few games close. The offense often failed ignition, but Marcus Mariota occasionally elevated generally mediocre weapons to stirring results. After firing head coach Ken Whisenhunt in early November, the Titans got Mariota back from injury and beat the Saints 34-28, with 371 yards through the air. Yeah the season was bad, Mariota means there's hope for the future.

San Diego Chargers

  • Date of death: Dec. 13, 2015
  • Cause of death: The Chargers entered the 2015 season with vague hopes of a fruitful season in the face of relocation rumors. They had a bad string a nail biting losses early in the season, then serious injuries took their toll. Four key contributors -- wide receiver Keenan Allen, defensive tackle Corey Liuget, cornerback Brandon Flowers and linebacker Tourek Williams -- all landed on injured reserve. Through it all, veteran quarterback Philip Rivers had a pretty good season, but he couldn't stave off collapse. The Chargers have scored exactly three points in three of their last four games.

San Francisco 49ers

  • Date of death: Dec. 13, 2015
  • Cause of death: No one expected the 49ers to be any good following an offseason of upheaval, and that's pretty much what happened. A 20-3 win over the Minnesota Vikings to open the season was a mirage. The 49ers struggled on both sides of the ball, but most notably on offense where Colin Kaepernick struggled then was branded a loner. After being sidelined Blaine Gabbert took over and played okay, but the fact that he failed once before with the Jaguars may make the 49ers hesitant to invest in him. It could be another tiresome offseason in San Francisco.

Detroit Lions

  • Date of death: Dec. 13, 2015
  • Cause of death: Caldwell-itis. Detroit was supposed to be a playoff contender out of the NFC North, but both sides of the ball regressed from what was a solid 2014. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi was fired midseason when he couldn't get an of Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate out of neutral. The defense couldn't reach the level of the great 2014 iteration because of extensive injuries and the loss of Ndamukong Suh. The Lions did win three straight and 4-of-6 after starting the season 0-5. That sign of progress appeared to be a mirage after a 21-14 loss to the St. Louis Rams that knocked them out of playoff contention for good.

Baltimore Ravens

  • Date of death: Dec. 13, 2015
  • Cause of death: Injuries. The following players suffered a season-ending injury: TE Dennis Pitta, OLB Terrell Suggs, RB Lorenzon Taliaferro, RB Justin Forsett, rookie WR Breshad Perriman, WR Steve Smith, S Matt Elam, TE Crockett Gilmore and QB Joe Flacco. All of those players were starters or key contributors, or lost at some point as the Ravens bumbled, losing six of their first seven games. They stayed close in a lot of those losses, but in Week 14 they were humbled 35-6 by the Seattle Seahawks after starting Jimmy Clausen because No. 2 quarterback Matt Schaub suffered a concussion the previous week.

Miami Dolphins

  • Date of death: Dec. 14, 2015
  • Cause of death: Expectations wore heavy. All three non-Patriots teams in the AFC East made significant offseason changes in hopes of challenging the defending Super Bowl champs. The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills took steps forward, but the Dolphins -- who made the biggest signing in defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh -- looked much the same as they did in 2014. The offense was inconsistent yet again -- Ryan Tannehill didn't progress like many thought. The defense fell well short of its aspirations -- proof that payroll isn't a meaningful number. Head coach Dan Campbell was able to inject some energy into the franchise after Joe Philbin was fired, but by a Week 14 loss to the New York Giants the tanks appeared to be empty.

Not dead yet

The following teams all have less than a one percent chance of making the playoffs, according to Football Outsiders.

Dallas Cowboys

  • FO odds: 0.5 percent
  • How they still make it: The Cowboys have to win the NFC East with 10-win teams occupying both Wild Card slots at the moment, and that means that the Eagles, Giants and Washington really need to lose. All three of those teams need to stay at seven wins or below, but if they do and Dallas wins out, it should hold any tiebreakers because of a 4-2 division record.
  • Proof that it's possible: Click!

Chicago Bears

  • FO odds: 0.8 percent
  • How they still make it: Step 1) Win out. Step 2) Hope Minnesota loses out. Step 3) Hope the Giants or Washington don't also finish with eight wins. Chicago would win a tie with the Vikings because of the greater strength of their victories (that's assuming all other results go roughly as expected). Washington would get a Wild Card bid over the Bears because it beat them. The Giants would win a tiebreak because of a better in-conference record.
  • Proof that it's possible: Click!

Atlanta Falcons

  • FO odds: 0.7 percent
  • How they still make it: The Falcons can't win the NFC South, but they can make the Wild Card at 9-7 if they win out, and climb as a No. 5 seed, even against 9-7 Seahawks and Vikings teams. In one scenario, the Seahawks lose to the Rams and Cardinals, the Vikings lose to the Giants and Packers, and the Falcons win tiebreakers against both because of strength of victory.
  • Proof that it's possible: Click!

New Orleans Saints

  • FO odds: 0.5 percent
  • How they still make it: Just like the Falcons, the Saints have no chance of winning the NFC South -- the Panthers have already wrapped up the division. Surprisingly, New Orleans can climb as high as a five-seed. In one scenario Seattle, Minnesota, New Orleans and Tampa Bay all finish 8-8, and New Orleans holds a tiebreaker over Seattle because of strength of victory, Minnesota because of in-conference record and Tampa Bay because of a better win percentage in common games.
  • Proof that it's possible: Click!

St. Louis Rams

  • FO odds: 0.1 percent
  • How they still make it: Again, the Rams have no chance to win the division. They do have a win over the Seahawks, however, so by winning out (and sweeping Seattle in the process) the Rams would get a Wild Card bid over their division rivals if records are equal. In fact, they would hold tiebreakers over a lot of teams. A nightmare scenario of seven teams in the NFC holding 8-8 records still has the Rams getting the No. 5 seed.
  • Proof that it's possible: Click!

(Thank you MLB Daily Dish for inspiration. Thank you ESPN for making such a stupidly fun time waster)