NFLDownload App

Mike Freeman's NFL Regular-Season Grades

USA Today
Mike FreemanNFL National Lead WriterJune 23, 2016

It was another fascinating NFL regular season. It was also beautiful, ugly and awe-inspiring. It was record-breaking, it was breaking bad, and it again proved professional football is the best reality show ever. 

There was a bullying scandal, Peyton Manning shattering offensive records and the Chiefs shattering expectations. Robert Griffin III looked mortal, the Lions were the Lions and the 49ers were the 49ers. Some Super Bowl favorites, like the Broncos, remain so. Others, like the Falcons, were disappointing.

The Browns took their usual place among the dregs of the sport, while teams like the Panthers took an organizational step forward.

Tony Romo gone, Aaron Rodgers back and Jay Cutler still a knucklehead.

And as may forever be the case, the Lions still can't be trusted. 

This is the NFL, and all of these things, plus dozens more, are why it's America's sport.

Were you not entertained?

These are your grades for the entire regular season.


49ersB+You saw Colin Kaepernick lose accuracy on his throws, a problem that continues now. But because of that defense and Frank Gore, the 49ers were a steady force. The main thing you're starting to see from Jim Harbaugh is steadiness. In the NFL, that is no small accomplishment.
Bears B-The Bears didn't choke solely because of Jay Cutler, but it's important to point out that he is 1-9 all time against the Packers. Yes, the Bears had a terrible defense, and yes, Cutler was hurt this season. But with the season on the line, facing Aaron Rodgers, Cutler didn't get it done. Rodgers did.
BengalsBI think Marvin Lewis is an underrated coach. I also think he must win some playoff games. This is one of his best opportunities to do so, but Andy Dalton is scary. He had four interceptions against Ravens. I don't think he can be trusted. It's still impressive the team went 8-0 at home for the first time in 25 years.
BillsC-Offensive putridity overall, but that defense was at times formidable. There's a lot to build on there.
BroncosAThis season will go down as one of the best offensively in the history of football. Now comes the hard part for Peyton Manning: not choking in the postseason.
BrownsFHuge, fat, pimply fail. The season included a seven-game losing streak to finish the year. Nothing has changed in Cleveland. Not a damn thing.
BuccaneersFAt times, they looked like the Yuccaneers. Then they fought, but in the end they reverted back to their true nature: a terrible football team.
CardinalsB+Defensive end Calais Campbell said this to me earlier in the season: "As a team, we've grown close, and I think we're going to keep surprising people." Arizona had the most underrated defense in football, and Carson Palmer, while having his interception moments, gave the team its first real quarterback since Kurt Warner.
ChargersBBarely beat Keanu Reeves and The Replacements, but they did, and that made it a playoff season. 
ChiefsA++Look at where this organization was just a year ago. Miserable record. Horrible tragedy. Now in the playoffs. Maybe the finest coaching job Andy Reid has ever done, and that's saying something.
ColtsBI actually think Andrew Luck improved from his tremendous rookie season, even if he threw for fewer yards.   
CowboysC-Two parts mediocrity, one part choking dog, and that encapsulates the Cowboys' season.
DolphinsC-Had some good moments this season, but they get a lower grade due to the last two games of year. With the playoffs on the line, the Dolphins scored seven points combined against the Bills and Jets.
EaglesANick Foles finished the year with the league's best passer rating (119.2), and LeSean McCoy was the NFL's leading rusher (1,607). Incredible. And please don't say you saw the Eagles' season coming.
FalconsDOne of the more disappointing seasons of any team. The pressure's on Matt Ryan
GiantsFThey fought after starting 0-6, but Eli Manning led the NFL in interceptions with 27. That is an incredible number. At times he looked more like Chad Henne than a two-time champion.
JaguarsDWhat you saw toward the end of the season was a talentless group fight hard
JetsB+An odd grade for a team that at times looked so awful, but Rex Ryan may have put in his best coaching job ever. He did more with less. A lot more. Unlike other people, I do believe the Jets have their franchise quarterback.
LionsFLost six of their last seven. Completely and totally quit. Absolutely pathetic. 
PackersBLose the best player in football. Go 2-5-1 without him, but still sort of hang around. He comes back, and they win the division in the final game of the year. Incredible. Aaron Rodgers is that terrific. That valuable. That good.
PanthersA-Cam Newton matured as a player and as a man. What truly got the Panthers a franchise-record-tying 12 wins was that defense. It's the most physical in football. In fact, what makes this Panthers team scary is their toughness. It's their greatest asset. 
PatriotsA+I can make the argument, easily, that Tom Brady is the MVP and Bill Belichick is the Coach of the Year. Brady has nothing around him. No star on offense besides himself, and a below-average defense missing its best player for much of the season.
RaidersDSame ol' Raiders. Get sent into low orbit by the Broncos.
RamsB-The greatest takeaway from this season is that the Rams may have the best pass-rusher in football with Robert Quinn. Now if only they could find a decent quarterback. Yeah, I said it.
RavensCJoe Flacco got hit harder, more times, than almost any other quarterback in football not named Ryan Tannehill. The reality is, this was a rebuilding year for the Ravens. The fact they were in the playoff hunt was a bonus. 
RedskinsF---Ended season on an eight-game losing streak. Have not lost eight straight since 1960. Total disaster of a season. Maybe the biggest disaster of any team this year. The common denominator of all the losing the past decade-plus remains ownership.
SaintsBA tale of two teams: Hard to beat at home, 3-5 record on the road. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is MVP of the team.
SeahawksARussell Wilson was brilliant for much of the year, but he has been skittish in recent games. In many ways, Seattle proved to be the most well-rounded team in football.
SteelersBThe first half of the season was awful, but Pittsburgh was tough in the latter part. The Steelers went 6-2 in the final eight to avoid their first losing season in a decade.
TexansFThe good news: Houston gets the top overall pick in the draft next year. The bad news: Fired coach, horrible year. Team lost 14 straight games.
TitansD+The most significant fact emerging from this season is that it will likely be running back Chris Johnson's last. 
VikingsDNo quarterback to complement the great Adrian Peterson. It's as simple as that.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. 

Where can I comment?

Stay on your game

Latest news, insights, and forecasts on your teams across leagues.

Choose Teams
Get it on the App StoreGet it on Google Play

Real-time news for your teams right on your mobile device.

Copyright © 2017 Bleacher Report, Inc. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. All Rights Reserved. is part of Bleacher Report – Turner Sports Network, part of the Turner Sports and Entertainment Network. Certain photos copyright © 2017 Getty Images. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of Getty Images is strictly prohibited. AdChoices