Pass or Fail Grades for All 32 NFL Teams in 2012

Russell S. Baxter@@BaxFootballGuruContributor IFebruary 8, 2013

Pass or Fail Grades for All 32 NFL Teams in 2012

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    What dictates a successful season in the NFL, as well as any sport?

    Most times it’s based on expectations.

    Now, expectation can mean different things for different franchises. Perennial contenders are supposed to win the Super Bowl every year. Struggling clubs can enjoy success simply with a winning record.

    Based on the expectations and predictions of many, we simply offer a pass or fail grade for the 32 teams now that the entire 2012 season has been completed and Super Bowl XLVII is in the books.

    The criteria for these decisions vary from team to team. Some do indeed deal with preseason prognosis, while others are dictated by the success or lack of it following a promising or dismal start.

    With an interesting offseason ahead, it’s time to put a final cap on the league 93rd campaign.

Arizona Cardinals: Fail

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    It is not unusual for teams in the NFL to pick up where they left off the previous season. In the case of the Arizona Cardinals, the team managed to do that twice in 2012.

    After losing six of their first seven games in 2011, the Cards went 7-2 the rest of the year to finish 8-8. Arizona built on that strong finish by opening 4-0 this season, including an upset of the New England Patriots in Foxborough.

    But four straight victories were followed by nine straight losses and 11 setbacks in their final 12 games. After a season-opening victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the Cardinals lost their last five games within the division.

    With an attack that went through four different starting quarterbacks, Arizona was limited to fewer than 20 points in 11 games, all losses. And even a very respectable defensive unit could only hold on for so long.

    While preseason expectations weren’t high, squandering a perfect September made it a forgettable season.

Atlanta Falcons: Pass

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    Mike Smith and Matt Ryan are 5-for-5 when it comes to winning seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

    The head coach and quarterback tandem have also been to the playoffs a team-record three straight seasons and four of the last five years.

    But postseason success has eluded this team, although thanks to some last-minute heroics, the duo got their first and only playoff win over the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round in January.

    A week later, the Falcons looked like they were headed to their first Super Bowl in 14 seasons when they opened up a 17-0 second-quarter lead over the San Francisco 49ers. But it wasn’t meant to be as Jim Harbaugh’s team came all the way back for a 28-24 victory.

    Despite coming up short of the Big Game, Atlanta finished with the NFC’s best record for the second time in three seasons. The offense is highly productive with Ryan and his receivers, but a lack of balance proved costly to both sides of the ball. And while Falcons’ fans may be frustrated, this team may be just a few defensive pieces away.

Baltimore Ravens: Pass

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    Hey Diddle, Diddle. The Ravens won the Super Bowl.

    It doesn’t rhyme but it sure sounded good to many as Baltimore captured its first NFL title since 2000.

    Quarterback Joe Flacco enjoyed a tremendous playoff run by throwing 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the conquests of the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers.

    The Ravens, who finished 10-6 and won the AFC North despite losing four of their last five games, set a franchise record for rushing yards allowed in a season and were even more generous during the playoffs.

    But the bottom line was that during their postseason run, the defensive unit allowed only seven touchdowns in four games and in the process forced 10 turnovers, at least two in each victory.
    John Harbaugh and Co. own the league’s longest current playoff streak at five consecutive seasons.

    And that consistency was finally rewarded thanks to the franchise’s second Super Bowl title.

Buffalo Bills: Fail

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    The last time we saw the Buffalo Bills in the playoffs, they were being bamboozled by the Tennessee Titans in what has been dubbed the “Music City Miracle.”

    Now it seems like it would be a miracle if the Bills made the playoffs sometime soon.

    Despite adding some big names to the defensive side of the ball (Mario Williams and Mark Anderson) in an attempt to bolster one of the league’s worst pass rushes, the Buffalo defense continued to be a major area of concern as the team has now allowed 425, 434 and 435 points in each of the last three seasons dating back to 2010.

    While quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continued to have his ups and downs, former first-round running back C.J. Spiller was a positive and flashed his big-play ability on a consistent basis.

    Unfortunately, the only consistent thing about the franchise these days is their domination of the AFC East basement as the Bills finished last in the division for the fifth straight season.

Carolina Panthers: Pass

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    A promising finish in 2011 had some talking playoffs for the Carolina Panthers in 2012. But first things first, and that means developing a little consistency and getting above the .500 mark.

    Wins in four straight and five of their last six games couldn’t prevent another losing season for Ron Rivera’s club, which got off to a 2-8 start.

    Second-year quarterback Cam Newton stumbled early but would throw for 19 scores and only 12 interceptions while running for another eight touchdowns. But Newton also led the team in rushing yards, a surprise with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart on the roster.

    The defense improved as the season wore on and benefited from the addition of Defensive Rookie of the Year Luke Kuechly, who led the team in tackles. The Panthers’ strong finish, which included wins over the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints, salvaged a passing grade for Ron Rivera’s club.

Chicago Bears: Fail

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    Halfway through the season, there was some Super Bowl talk in the Windy City.

    By the end of 2012, the man who had taken this team to the Super Bowl six years ago was no longer the head coach of the Chicago Bears.

    Although it’s hard to give a team grief for a 10-win season, the Bears too often didn’t answer the bell when it counted most. And a 7-1 start turned into a 3-5 finish as the formula that produced those victories in the first two months of the season seemed to disappear.

    While Lovie Smith’s team was at its opportunistic best midway through the season, they couldn’t rely on those takeaways, and Chicago’s defense was exposed at times.

    Running back Matt Forte had a solid year and quarterback Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall put up big numbers together. But the team’s passing attack was basically a one-man show.

    Perhaps the Bears deserved a better fate. But they only have themselves to blame for falling short.

Cincinnati Bengals: Pass

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    It may have been a season of good and bad stretches for the Cincinnati Bengals, but the team still achieved something that it had accomplished just once in team history. And this looks like a squad that may be just reaching its potential.

    A 3-1 start was followed by four straight losses. But Marvin Lewis’ club won seven of its last eight games to finish 10-6 and capture a playoff berth for a second straight year, something the club hadn’t accomplished since the 1981 and ’82 seasons.

    While it was a season of positives, the Bengals still have another streak to deal with. Their 19-13 loss to the Houston Texans in the AFC Wild Card Playoffs means the franchise still hasn’t won a postseason game since 1990.

    But that victory may not be far off. With young stars such as the second-year tandem of quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, as well as Pro Bowl defensive tackle Geno Atkins, the Bengals continue to open a lot of eyes.

    Now if they can only bring some closure to their playoff frustrations.

Cleveland Browns: Fail

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    Will the Cleveland Browns ever get this thing turned around?

    Not if they keep making changes on a continual basis.

    Under new ownership once again, the team will begin anew with head coach Rob Chudzinski in 2013.

    As for 2012, there were signs of life at midseason thanks to a promising cast of newcomers. But when it was all said and done, the Browns finished 5-11, losing at least that many games for the fifth consecutive season.

    Rookie running back Trent Richardson ran for 950 yards, finished second on the team in receptions and scored 12 of the team’s 28 offensive touchdowns. Rookie wideout Josh Gordon caught 50 passes and led the club with five receiving touchdowns.

    But Cleveland’s defense took a step backwards in 2012, and rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden threw more interceptions (17) than touchdown passes (14).

    The bottom line is that you can make it 12 losing seasons since the Browns returned to the NFL in 1999.

Dallas Cowboys: Fail

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    Remember when the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t win a playoff game for more than a decade?

    Now Jerry Jones’ pride and joy can’t recollect how to get to the playoffs.

    Since the team captured the NFC East in 2009 and knocked off the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card round (the team’s first postseason win since 1996), it’s been nothing but more disappointment.

    The Pokes have now finished 6-10, 8-8 and 8-8, respectively, the last three seasons. And in 2012, Jason Garrett’s club had the chance to win the NFC East but fell in Washington in the NFL’s regular-season finale.

    After a slow start, quarterback Tony Romo caught fire and was hot heading into the showdown with the Redskins before serving up three interceptions in the loss. He and wideout Dez Bryant continue to gel.

    Injuries were a major factor on the defensive side of the ball, the midseason loss of Sean Lee particularly troublesome.

    But for one reason or another, this team once again failed to deliver after showing plenty of promise.

Denver Broncos: Pass

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    When it came to determining whether the Denver Broncos had a successful season in 2012, it was a somewhat tough decision.

    After stumbling out of the gate early, John Fox’s team turned a 2-3 start into a 13-3 record thanks to 11 straight wins, securing the top seed in the AFC. But in a classic double-overtime affair, the Broncos fell to the eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Divisional Playoffs, 38-35.

    It proved to be a bittersweet campaign for NFL Comeback Player of the Year Peyton Manning, who set a new franchise record for touchdown passes in the league and helped Denver finish second in the league in scoring. But Manning also committed all three of his team’s turnovers in the playoff loss to Baltimore.

    Denver’s defense also made big-time strides in 2012, tying for the NFL lead in sacks and second overall in yards allowed.

    It was perhaps an opportunity squandered. But it also may be the hint of much better things to come.

Detroit Lions: Fail

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    From restoring the roar to a case of laryngitis, the Detroit Lions' long-awaited return to the playoffs was followed up with a resounding thud.

    After rebounding from an erratic start to forge a 4-4 mark at the halfway point, Jim Schwartz’s team dropped its final eight games of the season, the 10th time in 12 seasons that the franchise lost at least 10 games.

    Quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson lit up opposing secondaries a year ago. But while Stafford’s overall numbers dropped, Johnson set a new NFL record for receiving yards in a season (1,964) and led the league with 122 receptions.

    But despite a bit of a bounce-back season from third-year defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, the Lions struggled to stop teams from doing about anything they wanted to do as the club allowed 437 points.

    It was a definitive step backwards for a team that was hoping to build on last season’s postseason appearance.

Green Bay Packers: Pass

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    Five games into the season and sporting a 2-3 record, the Green Bay Packers looked like a team in trouble.

    The only problem proved to be how opponents were going to deal with defending league Most Valuable Player and quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The answer was: not very successfully.

    Rodgers made his own case for another winning a second straight MVP award by throwing for 39 scores and only eight interceptions. However, the absence of a consistent ground game came back to haunt this team.

    So was the team’s inability to stop the run, as evidenced by two performances vs. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson as well as the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, in which they allowed Colin Kaepernick and Co. to rush for 323 yards.

    Still, despite injuries that cost standouts such as Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson considerable time, it was still a successful season for a Packers’ team that remains formidable but can’t afford to stand pat.

Houston Texans: Fail

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    How do you earn a failing mark for posting a team-record 12 regular-season wins and winning a playoff game for the second straight year?

    When you open the season 11-1, look like arguably the NFL’s best team and crumble down the stretch.

    For the Houston Texans, setting the franchise mark for victories a dozen games into the season was cause for celebration. But a funny thing happened on the way to this team earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

    Quarterback Matt Schaub looked like a hesitant quarterback down the stretch and the Texans’ defense, for numerous reasons, didn’t perform the same as it did early in the season, as injuries were a major factor.

    Still, it was far from doom and gloom. Arian Foster has established himself as a money player in just two postseasons and relentless defensive end J.J. Watt was the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.

    Unfortunately, the Texans teased us all with their strong start. But by season’s end, Houston still had a problem.

Indianapolis Colts: Pass

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    The impossible became the improbable and it was more than just luck…literally.

    The franchise formerly known as Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts bore little resemblance to the club that went to the playoffs a record-tying nine straight times from 2002-10. And while Manning sat out 2011, there were still plenty of familiar faces both on and off the field.

    Not so in 2012 as new head coach Chuck Pagano inherited a rebuilt team, featuring what proved to be a talented draft class led by quarterback Andrew Luck, and then he was gone from the sidelines.

    But somehow it all worked and a 2-14 club was transformed into a 11-5 wild card team.

    From Luck to veteran wideout Reggie Wayne to offensive coordinator Bruce Arians (who filled in for Pagano and captured NFL Coach of the Year honors) to general manager Ryan Grigson, it was a re-launch that would have made Gordon Ramsay proud.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Fail

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    When you’re coming off a 5-11 season and you lose your best player early, it can’t bode well for the rest of the year.

    And when it was all said and done, injured running back Maurice Jones-Drew had more initials than the Jacksonville Jaguars had wins in 2012.

    Under head coach Mike Mularkey, the team finished 2-14, the worst record in the franchise’s 18-year history.

    Jones-Drew wasn’t the only notable player to go down. Just when second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert was starting to show some signs of making strides, he went down in November. Enter Chad Henne, who started strong but faded late in the year.

    However, it was the Jacksonville defense that proved to be the major disappointment. After a very solid showing in 2011, only two teams in the league gave up more total yards and rushing yards than this club.

    While there wasn’t a lot expected from this team, the quality of their performances made for a failing grade.

Kansas City Chiefs: Fail

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    Although the Kansas City Chiefs finished last in the AFC West in 2011, their 7-9 record was just one game behind the division champion Denver Broncos (as well as the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders).

    But while the Chiefs looked like a team that could contend for that top spot, it all came apart in a big way for Romeo Crennel and Co. After winning two of their last three games in 2011, Crennel’s club won only twice in 16 games this past season.

    No team in the league scored fewer points and no team in the NFL gave up the football more often in 2012, as the Chiefs went through quarterbacks Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn and neither was the answer.

    Despite a roster that boasted numerous Pro Bowlers, the Chiefs went winless in the division (0-6) as well as the conference (0-12). There was one very big bright spot in running back Jamaal Charles, who bounced back with 1,509 yards rushing after missing nearly all of 2011. But the highlights were few and far between.

Miami Dolphins: Pass

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    It doesn’t seem all that long ago that the Miami Dolphins were pulling off one of the great turnarounds in NFL history.

    Then again, maybe four years is a long time after all. Unfortunately, that 11-5 finish and AFC East championship in 2008 has been followed by four consecutive losing seasons.

    But perhaps things are looking up after all. For the third time in four seasons, the Dolphins finished 7-9. But with a promising young quarterback and an emerging defense, perhaps this is the team that poses the biggest threat to the New England Patriots in the AFC East.

    First-year head coach Joe Philbin did an excellent job, while rookie Ryan Tannehill showed flashes despite throwing 12 touchdown passes compared to 13 interceptions.

    Defensively, the Dolphins bent but only broke on occasion, allowing fewer than 20 points per game in 2012.

    This is a team worth watching indeed.

Minnesota Vikings: Pass

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    There’s always a surprise or two in every NFL season. And the Minnesota Vikings certainly qualified for the top prize in 2012.

    A team that won just three games in 2011 and was a combined 9-23 the previous two seasons went 10-6 and qualified for the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

    While quarterback Christian Ponder and the Minnesota defense had its ups and downs, running back Adrian Peterson not only captured league MVP honors but was named the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year as well.

    Peterson ran for 2,097 yards, the second highest single season total in NFL annals and just eight yards behind Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 yards with the Los Angeles Rams in 1984.

    It’s also worth noting that the Vikings went 4-3 vs. their NFC North rivals in 2012, including the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers. Minnesota entered the season riding an 11-game losing streak vs. division rivals.

New England Patriots: Pass

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    While anything short of a Super Bowl title is a disappointment when it comes to the New England Patriots, you have to crawl before you walk…or run.

    And Bill Belichick and Co. made a concerted effort to do just that in 2012. The NFL’s top-ranked offense finished seventh in rushing and fourth in passing on the way to 557 points, the third highest single-season total in league history.

    So what happened in the AFC Championship Game against the Baltimore Ravens when quarterback Tom Brady and Co. were held to a season-low 13 points?

    Unfortunately, the common theme in the Patriots’ five overall losses this season was not faring well against the more physical teams in the league. Add in a defensive unit that made some strides but still has some work to do, and it means coming up one game short of the Super Bowl.

    It may take a few more tweaks if the Pats are indeed to grab that fourth Lombardi Trophy.

New Orleans Saints: Fail

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    It began with an unprecedented offseason and continued with a disappointing showing for the New Orleans Saints in 2012.

    Minus head coach Sean Payton, the team stumbled out of the gate with a 0-4 start, made some noise when it came to getting back into the playoff chase but was ultimately done in by an unprecedented performance…or lack of it.

    Under now former defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo, the Saints gave up the most total yards in a season in NFL history. And there were no positives to be found here whatsoever as New Orleans ranked dead last in the league against the run, while only one team gave up more yards through the air.

    Prolific quarterback Drew Brees capped off another 5,000-yard season through the air, his third such performance in five years, and he followed up 46 touchdown passes in 2011 with 43 more this past season.

    But Brees can’t be a one-man show, and until that defense is fixed or regains the opportunistic touch of that Super Bowl season of 2009, the one number he’ll be shy of is No. 1.

New York Giants: Fail

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    Just because you win a Super Bowl with a 9-7 regular season record, you can't expect to do it two years in a row.

    And for a New York Giants team that is often accused of turning the switch on when it counts most, Tom Coughlin and Co. rarely looked like a defending Super Bowl champion in 2012.

    After a red-hot 2011 postseason, quarterback Eli Manning epitomized his team’s erratic performance. After committing just one turnover during his team’s four-game championship run, there were five games where the two-time Super Bowl champions served up two or more interceptions.

    While the G-Men saved some of their best performances for the likes of the San Francisco 49ers (26-3) and Green Bay Packers (38-10), they also failed to show up against other division champions like the Atlanta Falcons (34-0) and Baltimore Ravens (33-14) in December.

    It’s a very perplexing team indeed.

New York Jets: Fail

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    For the first time in his four years at the helm, New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan made no promises when it came to his team reaching the Super Bowl.

    Perhaps he knew something we didn’t.

    For the first time under Ryan’s watch, the Jets finished with a losing record. And often, the team looked bad doing it. For the second straight year, the Green and White closed the season with a three-game losing streak.

    Be it quarterback Mark Sanchez’s erratic play or the team’s sloppy performance in general (the Jets finished tied for the league lead with 37 turnovers), the Green and White often had red on their face.

    While it’s true no one probably knew what to expect in 2012, the Jets disappointed in their performance on a near-weekly basis and rarely performed with efficiency or confidence.

    It’s a bad sign for a franchise that has already made its share of changes.

Oakland Raiders: Fail

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    The drought continues in the other city by the bay.

    While the cross-city San Francisco 49ers have been revitalized the last two seasons, it’s been a full 10 years since the Oakland Raiders managed a winning campaign.

    Patience must be exercised as general manager Reggie McKenzie hopes to score big in a 2013 draft where he should have a lot more pieces at his disposal.

    As for the Silver and Black in 2012, it was a season of inconsistency for quarterback Carson Palmer, a season once again shortened by injuries to running back Darren McFadden and a bunch of season-long issues for the Oakland defense.

    Dennis Allen’s 4-12 club finished nine games behind the Denver Broncos in the AFC West. And after back-to-back 8-8 showings in 2010 and 2011, that expected next step for the Raiders never transpired.

Philadelphia Eagles: Fail

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    Call it what you want in the City of Brotherly Love. Or simply call it the end of an era.

    After accumulating the kind of talent many teams would only dream about (see what we did there?), the Philadelphia Eagles finished a very disappointing 8-8 in 2011 and needed wins in the final four games to do so.

    But that paled in comparison to 2012, as the Birds turned a 3-1 start into a 4-12 unmitigated disaster.

    That aforementioned end of an era pertained to Andy Reid, who had spent 14 seasons as the Eagles’ head coach. And while he won plenty, he simply didn’t win enough when it came to championships…namely none.

    As for 2012, turnovers were once again a major part of the problem as the Eagles coughed up the ball 37 times, just one less than their total the previous season (38). Add in a defensive unit that couldn’t hold a lead, and it had all the makings of disaster.

    For what was expected and what was delivered, this was indeed failure at its best (or worst).

Pittsburgh Steelers: Fail

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    Injuries and inconsistency aside, the Pittsburgh Steelers stood with a 7-5 record after a dozen games and were firmly entrenched in the playoff race.

    Three weeks later, it had slipped through their grasp. A three-game losing streak ensued, which included home setbacks to the San Diego Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals, and the Black and Gold weren’t going to the postseason tournament.

    Mike Tomlin’s team was not quite itself the entire season as injuries played a big factor in the team’s 8-8 finish, a big disappointment following consecutive 12-win seasons and a Super Bowl appearance in 2010.

    Be it quarterback Ben Roethlisberger or safety Troy Polamalu or wideout Antonio Brown on the shelf, or a lot of sloppy play down the stretch, there was nothing steady about the play of this team in 2012.

    And this could be an interesting offseason for a franchise that rarely makes wholesale changes.

St. Louis Rams: Pass

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    To say it's been a rough stretch for the St. Louis Rams would be an understatement.

    But under the guidance of new head coach Jeff Fisher, the team certainly learned to do at least one thing well in 2012. And that's to more than hold their own within the rugged NFC West.

    Led by a defense that had its moments, which included tying for the league lead in sacks, the Rams never appeared to be a threat to win the NFC West.

    But appearances can be deceiving. While Fisher’s team failed to reach the .500 mark, their 7-8-1 record included a 4-1-1 ledger vs. their division rivals. And that included a win and a tie vs. the NFC West champion and Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers.

    Third-year quarterback Sam Bradford bounced back from an injury-shortened season and can only get better as he and his young targets get more familiar with each other.

    Things are looking up in the Gateway City.

San Diego Chargers: Fail

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    For years, the word around the league was that few teams had as much talent as the San Diego Chargers.

    Slowly but surely, those players have moved on. And just as steadily, so has the number of wins for the Bolts.

    Following four straight AFC West titles, the Chargers have gone from nine to eight to seven wins over the course of the last three seasons.

    Hence, head coach Norv Turner won’t be back with the team in 2013 and general manager A.J. Smith was shown the door as well.

    Despite playing better late, it was another turnover-plagued season for former Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers, who was guilty of 22 of the team’s 26 miscues just one year after totaling 25 of the Chargers’ 28 turnovers.

    And although the defense showed some signs of improvement, this unit still surrendered 28 scores though the air.

    It’s start-over time for a franchise that hasn’t made a Super Bowl appearance since 1994 despite some talented rosters.

San Francisco 49ers: Pass

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    If the San Francisco 49ers stay on course, then Super Bowl XLVIII will make the third season in San Francisco very charming for head coach Jim Harbaugh.

    Still, it may take some time to get the bad taste out of his mouth following the team’s 34-31 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII.

    The Niners outgained the Ravens by over 100 yards (468-367) but failed to take advantage of numerous red-zone opportunities while the team’s defense couldn’t put the clamps on Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco.

    Give credit to Harbaugh and Co. for getting to the Super Bowl one season after losing the NFC title game. The decision to keep second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick as the starter following Alex Smith’s midseason concussion paid off handsomely and the future looks bright.

    While the defense took a bit of a step backwards in 2012, look for that to be an offseason priority for this talented team.

Seattle Seahawks: Pass

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    Despite their heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the second round of the playoffs, the sky appears to be the limit for the Seattle Seahawks.

    Head coach Pete Carroll led his team to an 11-5 finish in his third season in the Pacific Northwest, and that third season included the discovery of a talented quarterback.

    Russell Wilson tied the NFL rookie record for touchdown passes in a season and got better as the season wore on, playing his best football down the stretch and into the playoffs.

    Wilson was supported on the ground by relentless running back Marshawn Lynch and on the other side of the football by a defense that was amongst the best units in the league. The Seahawks gave up the fewest points in the league for the first time in franchise history.

    A year from now, Carroll, Wilson and the rest of the team are hoping to make a different kind of history.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Pass

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    Ten games into the season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had already totaled two more victories as they did in 2011. A year ago, the Bucs stopped winning after a 4-2 start.

    With a 6-4 mark and in contention for a playoff berth, Greg Schiano’s club suddenly came apart to the tune of five straight losses. A season-ending win over the Falcons stopped the bleeding but there was still cause for optimism despite another losing season.

    Although quarterback Josh Freeman was bitten often by the interception bug down the stretch, he still put up respectable numbers. On the other hand, running back Doug Martin was a big-time pickup and perhaps any other season, he would have been one of front-runners for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.

    The defense went from the worst to the best against the run, but stopping the pass proved fatal as the Bucs blew too many leads. But what we learned here is that Schiano is clearly in charge and the team is headed upward.

Tennessee Titans: Fail

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    There’s not a lot to be said when you win three fewer games than the previous year and set a franchise record for points allowed in a season.

    After finishing 9-7 during Mike Munchak’s first season as head coach, some felt that the Tennessee Titans were the lone threat to the Houston Texans in the AFC South.

    While that certainly didn’t prove to be the case, perhaps no one envisioned that Munchak’s club would disappoint so much, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

    While second-year quarterback Jake Locker had his moments, as did veteran backup Matt Hasselbeck, there were too many times that keeping pace with the opposition, especially early in the season, was a major issue.

    Fifth-year running back Chris Johnson epitomized the team’s performance as he struggled out of the gate as well, although he wound up posting respectable numbers.

    Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for this disappointing team.

Washington Redskins: Pass

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    After four straight years of finishing dead last in the NFC East, the Washington Redskins became the only team in the division to post a 10-win record over the course of the last two seasons.

    What made the team’s first divisional title since 1999 so improbable is how it was accomplished.

    Head coach Mike Shanahan lost 10 or more games during each of his first two seasons in Washington and it looked like he and his team were headed that way again after a 3-6 start.

    But it proved to be as simple as R, G, 3 as quarterback Robert Griffin III helped Washington not only lead the league in rushing yards (thanks mainly to fellow rookie Alfred Morris) but the ‘Skins committed a league-low 14 turnovers.

    Jim Haslett’s defense had its issues for numerous reasons but was playing good football during the winning streak.  Unfortunately, the team not only lost in the playoffs to the Seattle Seahawks but lost Griffin as well for the near future. And we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds in that regard.