NFL Report Cards: Team-by-Team Grades for Week 16

Mike Tanier@@miketanierNFL National Lead WriterDecember 29, 2015

NFL Report Cards: Team-by-Team Grades for Week 16

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    In this Week 16 edition of NFL report cards... 

    • The Jets, Cardinals, Vikings, Redskins and Texans make the absolute most of playoff opportunities.

    • The Packers, Panthers, Patriots, Seahawks and Steelers...not so much.

    • Ryan Mallett and Brandon Weeden look good.

    • Kellen Moore looks small.

    • Every NFC East coach but Jay Gruden looks extremely fireable.

    And much more.

    As a late-season feature, be on the lookout for "task for 2016" and "player to watch" capsules for many teams that are out of the playoff race. After all, individual game grades don't matter much once a team has been eliminated: It's all about laying the groundwork for 2016.

    Remember, these are the report cards, not the power rankings. Each team gets a clean slate each week. The final slide lists the year-to-date GPAs.

Arizona Cardinals: A+

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Cardinals 38, Packers 8

    Offense (A): It's a bad idea to let the Cardinals build a lead against you. Their leads are like avalanches. After a tentative start, Carson Palmer (265 yards, two touchdowns) led a few short scoring drives by distributing the ball to the usual suspects. Once the Cardinals led 17-0 and Palmer could pick and choose his shots, the rout was on.

    Defense (A+): It was like a grizzly bear against a dying salmon.

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): There was a little sloppiness (10 penalties, for example). But the Cardinals used contributions from a wide variety of stars and role players to obliterate a team that entered the game as one of their top playoff challengers.

    Looking Ahead: More NFC playoff-preview action as the Cardinals host the Seahawks.

Minnesota Vikings: A

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Vikings 49, Giants 17

    Offense (A-): The Vikings offense looked like the Vikings offense: Adrian Peterson rushed for 104 yards, Teddy Bridgewater rolled around the pocket and distributed short passes like a point guard with a helmet, and guys such as Jerick McKinnon produced big plays in garbage time. The Vikings offense, it should be noted, always looks a heck of a lot better when playing with a commanding lead.

    Defense (A+): Harrison Smith, Anthony Barr and Linval Joseph returned from their injuries and made an immediate impact. Smith set the tone for the blowout with a pick-six, while Joseph's and Barr's returns rippled through a front seven that produced four sacks and limited the New York Giants to one offensive play that amounted to anything until the sanitation vehicles arrived.

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): Blair Walsh kicked a pair of 50-yard field goals and three shorter ones. Robert Blanton provided a long kickoff after an onside kick to answer Rueben Randle's 72-yard touchdown. Like the Cardinals, the Vikings spotted a playoff opportunity and went utterly berserk.

    Looking Ahead: Look out, Packers. These are not the Vikings you manhandled in November.

New York Jets: A

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    Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Jets 26, Patriots 20

    Offense (B): A three-headed backfield, plus a mobile quarterback, rushed for 143 yards, with receiving production from Bilal Powell (90 yards from scrimmage). Ryan Fitzpatrick (296 yards, three touchdowns) continues to overthrow open receivers downfield and tries to fit balls into some crazy spots, but you cannot argue with what he did in overtime. The strip-sack touchdown lowers the grade.

    Defense (A-): The run defense was nasty as ever, allowing just 63 yards on 22 carries. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie took turns corralling Rob Gronkowski. No other Patriots receiver got open except whomever linebacker David Harris covered on any particular play.

    Special Teams/Coaching (A+): The defense knew where Gronk was on every snap. The overtime game plan was exceptional. The Jets played well enough to blow the Patriots out but couldn't connect on several deep passes and came face to face with the Patriots in cornered-beast mode late in the fourth quarter. It was a great coaching performance in a must-win game.

    Looking Ahead: Rex Ryan stands between the Jets and the playoffs. As usual.

Houston Texans: A-

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Texans 34, Titans 6

    Offense (B+): DeAndre Hopkins (7-117-1) used cornerback Coty Sensabaugh the way an allergy sufferer uses a box of tissues. Brandon Weeden (two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown) was sturdy and competent, enjoying the fruits of playing with the lead against an opponent with no hope of coming back.

    Defense (A+): It's hard to tell where the Tennessee Titans' futility stopped and the Texans' excellence started. The Titans looked like they were trying to fumble early in the game. Either way, this was a beating.

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): The Texans controlled the clock for 36 minutes and 13 seconds, committed just four penalties, developed a Weeden-friendly game plan, and did all the little things to make sure an important win was salted away by halftime.

    Looking Ahead: Beat the Jaguars, clinch the playoffs.

Washington Redskins: B+

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    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Redskins 38, Eagles 24

    Offense (A): Kirk Cousins (365 yards, four touchdowns) now has 20 touchdowns and three interceptions in his last nine starts. Cousins' development has been supported by an All-Pro turn by Jordan Reed (9-129-2 on Saturday), solid protection from the offensive line and some weak opponents.

    Most quarterback development in football history came with support from the receivers, a clean pocket and a break in the schedule from the 1985 Chicago Bears. Cousins gets a mulligan on that pre-halftime full-body nervous breakdown in the red zone as long as it NEVER HAPPENS AGAIN.

    Defense (C+): The front seven was great as usual, and the secondary was porous as usual. The Philadelphia Eagles made life easy for the defense with dropped passes and unforced errors. DeAngelo Hall set an NFL record for most gift-wrapped touchdowns on turnovers when a DeMarco Murray fumble bounced into his hands like a puppy that missed its master.

    Special Teams/Coaching (B+): The special teams get a C-minus for a missed extra point and some coverage lapses. The coaching staff gets an A for how it has handled the second half of the season.

    Looking Ahead: A playoff tuneup against the Cowboys, just like we all saw coming when the schedules were announced.

Atlanta Falcons: B+

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Falcons 20, Panthers 13

    Offense (B): Remember three years ago, when Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Roddy White took playoff opponents to the wall with their aerial onslaught? Well, it wasn't quite that good. But Jones caught nine passes for 178 yards and one highlight-headliner touchdown, White added 5-67-0, and Ryan looked like the guy we knew through mid-October, not the stumblebum we have been watching for the last two months.

    Defense (B+): Five different defenders recorded passes defensed. Open-field tackling, usually a Falcons sore spot, was sound against a team that can kill you by breaking tackles.

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): The Falcons slowed the game down on offense, limiting the total possessions and ensuring a close game that could be decided by a big play or two. The Falcons committed just three penalties and excelled (9-of-15) on third downs, playing fundamentally sound football in a game where they had zero margin for error.

    Looking Ahead: The playoffs are now out of reach, but the Falcons can end an up-and-down season on a high note against the New Orleans Saints.

Denver Broncos: B+

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Broncos 20, Bengals 17

    Offense (C+): In a reversal of the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and Steelers games, in which Brock Osweiler started hot but accomplished nothing in the second half, Osweiler started the game flat but came alive late in the second quarter and moved the ball with ease. C.J. Anderson pitched in a 39-yard touchdown but lost a costly late-game fumble.

    Defense (B+): The Broncos were slow to adjust to the Cincinnati Bengals' run-heavy game plan early. By midway through the second quarter, the Broncos had completely clamped down on the run and tightened AJ McCarron's passing windows along the sidelines. By overtime, the Broncos defense had control of the game.

    Special Teams/Coaching (B): The Broncos held a distinct special teams advantage until the moment Brandon McManus missed a potential game-winner at the end of the fourth quarter. McManus made up for it in overtime, of course.

    Looking Ahead: Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is still possible if the Broncos beat the Chargers and the Patriots lose to the Miami Dolphins. One look at the Bengals in the fourth quarter Monday night tells you what home-field advantage means for a team that plays in high altitude.

Baltimore Ravens: B

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    Patrick Smith/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Ravens 20, Steelers 17

    Offense (C+): Player to Watch in 2016: Javorius "Buck" Allen rushed for 79 yards and a score and added five catches for 35 yards against the Steelers. The fourth-round pick now has 478 rushing yards and 39 receptions for the season.

    Allen is more of a grinder than a big-play threat as a third-down back, but he and Justin Forsett can provide a credible one-two backfield punch when Joe Flacco returns and the Ravens set about rebuilding their offense.

    Defense (B): Task for 2016: Acquire a blue-chip defender. General manager Ozzie Newsome will have a high first-round pick to work with, which is a rare luxury in Baltimore. The Ravens need youth at the edge-rush positions and talent all over the secondary.

    Pass-rusher Jaylon Smith of Notre Dame? Clemson cornerback Mackensie Alexander? How about extra beef inside in A'Shawn Robinson; he's from Alabama, Ozzie! Just get a high-level talent. And make sure this one is healthy.

    Special Teams/Coaching (A): Justin Tucker bent a 50-yard field goal through the uprights against a stiff wind. John Harbaugh and his staff are better at getting the likes of Ryan Mallett and a bunch of third-stringers game-ready than most coaching staffs.

    Looking Ahead: A trip to Cincinnati and a final chance to play spoiler.

New Orleans Saints: B

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    Sean Gardner/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Saints 38, Jaguars 27

    Offense (A): Drew Brees (412 yards, three touchdowns) shrugged off a foot injury and enjoyed an afternoon against a defense that bites on every double move, gets snookered by routine screen passes and completely forgets to cover running backs who line up in the slot. It must have felt like another day on the practice field.

    Defense (C): Player to Watch in 2016: Delvin Breaux intercepted one pass and deflected another into a teammate's hands Sunday. Breaux shook off early-season penalty problems to become one of the few bright spots on the Saints defense. He still gets beat too often, but this hometown hero who reached the NFL via the Arena Football League and the Canadian Football League should improve if and when the defense around him stops being historically awful.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C-): Task for 2016: Get younger and cheaper. We all know Brees can kick the snot out of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Brees won't be around much longer, nor will much of his supporting cast. This offseason will be all about making tough decisions. The Saints can't let a late-season surge against bad teams lure them into thinking they are a quick fix away from one last Super Bowl run.

    Looking Ahead: The Falcons offense looks good again, and they are playing for pride. First team to 45 points wins.

Chicago Bears: B

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Bears 26, Buccaneers 21

    Offense (B-): Jeremy Langford led a three-headed backfield that rushed for 153 yards and 4.1 yards per carry. Jay Cutler (156 passing yards) dinked and dunked like he has never dinked and dunked before. Bears scoring drives consisted mostly of 40-45 yards of running and short passing punctuated by field goals.

    Defense (B): Rookie safety Harold Jones-Quartey forced a Doug Martin fumble and intercepted Jameis Winston. Pernell McPhee and Willie Young made several plays in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers backfield. Tampa Bay moved the ball well for most of the afternoon, but the handful of big plays made a difference.

    Special Teams/Coaching (B): The Bears had a punt that was blocked. But Robbie Gould, the goat in several close games that mattered a few weeks ago, kicked four field goals and booted six touchbacks to keep the Buccaneers pinned at their own 20-yard line. Winning is all well and good, but solid performances by rookies such as Langford and Jones-Quartey are more important to a rebuilding team's big picture.

    Looking Ahead: A rematch with the Lions. Maybe Golden Tate will score a real touchdown this time.

Detroit Lions: B

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Lions 32, 49ers 17

    Offense (B): Task for 2016: Sort out the offensive talent. The Lions have gobs of offensive talent; Jim Caldwell and his staff have just never organized it into a cohesive whole.

    The first three quarters of the San Francisco 49ers game typified the problem: Calvin Johnson (6-77-1 by the end of the game) disappeared for long stretches, Joique Bell (7-13-1) got too many touches for a back who never does anything with them, and so on.

    A turnover and some late-game silliness made the Lions offense look better on the scoreboard than it did on the field. From Johnson and Golden Tate to Ameer Abdullah and Eric Ebron, the Lions have better offensive talent than many of this year's playoff teams. Either Caldwell or, more likely, his replacement just has to use it properly.

    Defense (B): Player to Watch in 2016: Devin Taylor took over a series against the 49ers with a sack and a tackle for a loss. Taylor, a third-year edge-rusher, has six sacks on the season. The Lions have work to do on defense next year—the run defense has been brutal all year and made DuJuan Harris look like Roger Craig—but Taylor and Ezekiel Ansah will give them dangerous pass-rushing bookends.

    Special Teams/Coaching (B+): Matt Prater hit four short field goals: good for the special teams but bad for the situational coaching. A well-timed fake punt extended a touchdown drive. You could almost see the Lions wake up on both sides of the ball when the 49ers led 14-10 and ask, "Have we really been reduced to this?"

    Looking Ahead: First the Bears and then an interesting offseason.

St. Louis Rams: B

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    Steve Dykes/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Rams 23, Seahawks 17

    Offense (D+): After quarterback and coaching changes and weeks of hard work, the Rams have gone from a bad offense reliant on Todd Gurley and end-arounds by Tavon Austin to a bad offense reliant on Gurley, end-arounds to Austin and one sideline bomb per week to Kenny Britt. Progress!

    Defense (A+): Aaron Donald, Akeem Ayers (fumble recovery for a touchdown) and William Hayes (three sacks) did mean, nasty, awful things to the poor Seahawks offensive line all day.

    Special Teams/Coaching (B): The kicking and return units played well, and the Rams did what they needed to do to grunt out a win. They also benefited from a pair of fumbles that bounced back into their laps, while the Seahawks paid for every fumble with either a Rams touchdown or a major yardage loss.

    The front four was awesome as usual, but otherwise, the Rams won a sloppy, rainy, fluky game. They are probably telling themselves that they turned some sort of corner.

    Looking Ahead: Rams-49ers. The three-yard passes on 3rd-and-24 will flow like milk and honey.

Kansas City Chiefs: C+

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Chiefs 17, Browns 13

    Offense (D+): The Chiefs had the ball for only seven minutes and 42 seconds in the entire second half, which must be some kind of record. They generated just 258 yards of offense against a team with no pass rush and one cornerback who could make a playoff-caliber payroll (Tramon Williams, as defensive backs coach).

    Defense (A-): Johnny Manziel rushed for 108 yards on scrambles and a few keepers. Overall, the Cleveland Browns rushed for 232 yards. The Chiefs defense got the job done, but it looked unprepared to face an offense built around scrambling, misdirection and short tosses to the tight end. What the heck were they doing in intrasquad scrimmages for the last three years?

    Special Teams/Coaching (C): Yes, the Chiefs held on to win. They would not have beaten any opponent better than the Browns with that performance.

    Looking Ahead: The Raiders and then a playoff opponent guaranteed to be much better than the Browns.

Oakland Raiders: C+

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Raiders 23, Chargers 20

    Offense (C): Task for 2016: Achieve greater offensive consistency. The Raiders have the pieces. Now they must figure out how to fit them together.

    Amari Cooper (just two catches for 10 yards Thursday) gets taken out of game plans too easily. Latavius Murray (19-79-1) disappears in the second half too often. The Raiders endured a miserable offensive stretch of eight three-and-outs punctuated by one three-yard drive on Christmas Eve. They have too many playmakers to let that happen against a poor defense.

    Defense (B): Player to Watch in 2016 Besides Khalil Mack: Denico Autry, an undrafted free agent in 2014, delivered a sack for a safety and steady pressure against the Chargers. It was his second big game in three weeks; Autry was Mack's wingman during the assault on Brock Osweiler.

    Mack, Mario Edwards and Autry could form a pass rush that brings back some old Raiders memories.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C): Raiders fans may see a gut-check win. Neutral observers are more likely to see a sloppy, slightly fluky win between two teams with little to play for. But playing for .500 has symbolic value for the Raiders, and Jack Del Rio had his troops playing hard in overtime when much of the world was overdosing on eggnog.

    Looking Ahead: One last trip (perhaps) from Oakland to Kansas City.

Buffalo Bills: C+

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    Jerome Davis/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Bills 16, Cowboys 6

    Offense (C): Task for 2016: Play with some sense of unity.

    Former Pro Bowl linebacker Darryl Talley accused the Bills of playing without discipline or "togetherness" a few weeks ago. Criticism like that is usually just a case of an old jock remembering the good old days with his brothers in arms (who chewed nails and never once made a mental mistake), but Talley's appraisal of the 2015 Bills was dead-on.

    Everyone does his own thing. Nothing flows logically on offense or defense. Mistakes stockpile, while big plays remain isolated incidents. The Bills rushed for 236 yards, and Tyrod Taylor threw just five incomplete passes against the Dallas Cowboys. How that translated into just 16 points is a tale of interceptions, fumbles, fourth-down mistakes and an incoherent red-zone strategy.

    Defense (B+): Players to Watch in 2016: Ron Brooks and AJ Tarpley.

    Brooks broke up two passes and recorded a tackle for a loss in his first extended playing time of the year in relief of injured rookie Ronald Darby (who is a big-time player to watch). Tarpley, another special teamer and little-used role player, intercepted a pass and forced a fumble on special teams. Rex Ryan has made plenty of mistakes this season, but at least he is giving young defenders a look.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C): A narrow home victory against a team reduced to its fourth-string JV quarterback. Yippee.

    Looking Ahead: Ryan and the Bills can take the Jets down with them, which is just the sorry sort of thing that motivates Ryan and the Bills.

Indianapolis Colts: C+

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Colts 18, Dolphins 12

    Offense (C-): Matt Hasselbeck's bones have been ground into a fine powder that is now being used as a folk remedy in the developing world.

    Charlie Whitehurst has apparently spent the last month listening to reasons why Hasselbeck will remain the starting quarterback despite being one sack away from the Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities instead of learning the playbook. Luckily for the Colts, Frank Gore (15-85-2) had one of his best games of the season and the Dolphins didn't care all that much.

    Defense (B): Robert Mathis, Kendall Langford and T.Y. McGill each recorded a pair of sacks, with McGill registering a safety. Vontae Davis picked off a pass in the red zone. The Dolphins moved the ball well throughout the game, but the sacks and turnovers doomed them; see the part in the last paragraph about not caring all that much.

    Special Teams/Coaching (B-): Adam Vinatieri became the third kicker in history with 500 career field goals, the first not named "Anderson" or "Andersen." Quan Bray has become a fine return man. Chuck Pagano picked up a much-needed win to stay in the theoretical playoff picture.

    Try to ignore the fact that the Texans went out with their fourth quarterback and pummeled their opponent while the Colts clung to a six-point lead for dear life.

    Looking Ahead: If the Colts beat the Titans and the Texans lose to the Jaguars and then seven other games happen just so, the Colts make the playoffs. What a very AFC South ending that would be to an AFC South season.

Cincinnati Bengals: C

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Broncos 20, Bengals 17

    Offense (C-): The Bengals mixed power running with sideline passes against one-on-one coverage, plus a sprinkle of Wildcat plays, to produce a pair of early touchdowns. The Broncos soon figured out the game plan, Bengals receivers couldn't make as many contested catches for AJ McCarron against tighter coverage, and the Bengals offense dried up almost completely.

    Defense (B): The Broncos were limited to an Emmanuel Sanders bomb against a blown coverage, a C.J. Anderson touchdown and one long scoring drive until late in the fourth quarter and overtime, when the Bengals started to look gassed on both sides of the ball.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C): Mike Nugent missed a field goal that would have given the Bengals a 17-0 lead. Punts and returns kept tilting field position the Broncos' way. A dumb roughness foul in overtime helped the Broncos get into field-goal range.

    The Bengals are limited by McCarron's experience and comfort reading defenses at this point; they must play mistake-free football to beat good opponents.

    Looking Ahead: The Ravens and then a playoff road that suddenly looks bumpy.

New England Patriots: C

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Jets 26, Patriots 20

    Offense (D+): The Patriots converted just one of 10 third downs. Their final drive of the game was their only truly impressive drive of the game. Tom Brady is suffering from a bad case of "not enough dudes in the huddle who know what they are doing."

    Defense (C+): The Patriots forced three fumbles. Jamie Collins' touchdown off Jabaal Sheard's strip-sack was huge. Allowing 143 rushing yards and that slice-and-dice overtime drive was not so huge.

    Special Teams/Coaching (A-): Coordinator Josh McDaniels opened up the trick-play vault when nothing else was working and did everything he could to hide Rob Gronkowski from Darrelle Revis. Ryan Allen made a difference as a fourth-quarter punter with a 51-yarder to flip field position and a coffin-corner drop shot to the Jets' 6-yard line.

    As for kicking off in overtime, you have to live with the one over-engineered Bill Belichick solution that doesn't work to get the 99 solutions that do work. Look at the Patriots lineup: The coaches did everything they could just to make sure they didn't get eaten alive like the Packers.

    Looking Ahead: Now that all of that is out of their system, the Patriots can crush the Dolphins, get some guys healthy and start terrifying playoff opponents.

Cleveland Browns: C

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    Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Chiefs 17, Browns 13

    Offense (C-): Player to Watch in 2016 Besides Johnny Manziel: Duke Johnson Jr. gained just 41 yards from scrimmage on 11 touches Sunday, but he enters the final game of the season with 868 offensive yards. A changeup back cannot really shine in an offense with as many problems as the Browns have. Once they straighten out some of them, Johnson will be a major asset.

    As for Manziel, he rushed for 108 yards and managed the offense adequately in the second half but completed just 40.6 percent of his passes and looked lost early in the game.

    Defense (B-): Task for 2016: Keep Danny Shelton on track. Shelton played well in the middle in limited snaps against the Chiefs, recording two tackles and gumming up their blocking schemes in the second half. He struggled early in the season but has figured things out in the final month, though it is hard to notice when so much else is going wrong in Cleveland.

    Shelton is too talented and dedicated to be just another Browns first-round disappointment. The Browns have many challenging tasks ahead. Building on Shelton's modest success in the second half should not be too challenging.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C): The Browns ran a successful fake punt, but Travis Coons had a 51-yard field goal blocked. If the coaching staff could have manufactured one touchdown play—an option pass, an end-around, anything—late in the fourth quarter, the Browns could have won. Manziel and his receivers just weren't equipped to punch it in when it mattered.

    Looking Ahead: The Steelers need a win desperately. The Browns are just playing for draft order. Why do so many Browns seasons end like this?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: C

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    This Week's Result: Bears 26, Buccaneers 21

    Offense (C-): Player to Watch in 2016 Besides Jameis Winston: Charles Sims has had a remarkable season in Doug Martin's shadow. He gained 117 total yards (with a 50-yard catch-and-run touchdown) against the Bears to give him 1,001 scrimmage yards and four receiving touchdowns for the year.

    If the free-agent market for Martin (who fumbled twice Sunday) gets too rich, the Buccaneers have a contingency plan. Otherwise, Sims gives the Buccaneers a changeup back with the skills to be an every-down back.

    Defense (C): Task for 2016: Develop an outside pass-rusher. Gerald McCoy recorded the only sack of Jay Cutler on Sunday. McCoy has played hurt all season but leads the Buccaneers with 8.5 sacks.

    Jacquies Smith has been a decent complement on the outside but reminds no one in Tampa of Simeon Rice; Smith is penalty-prone and gets pushed around in the running game. Lovie Smith's scheme requires pass pressure from inside and out with little or no blitzing. The Buccaneers have several needs on defense. An impact pass-rusher should be among their top priorities.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C+): Jeremiah George blocked a Bears punt. Martin's fumbles were the difference-makers on an afternoon when the Buccaneers played fairly well on both sides of the ball.

    Looking Ahead: The Buccaneers can't go out with a winning season, but a trip to Charlotte to face the Panthers gives them a chance to go out as spoilers.

San Diego Chargers: C-

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Raiders 23, Chargers 20

    Offense (D+): Task for 2016: The Chargers must wean themselves from overreliance on Danny Woodhead.

    Changeup backs such as Woodhead are supposed to be, well, changeups. Woodhead often becomes the focal point of the Chargers offense. The result is like watching a 40-year-old pitcher throw all of his junk pitches at batters and then lose the game in the fifth inning.

    Woodhead (108 totals yards Thursday) has been targeted for 34 third-down passes this season, generating 11 first downs. That's just too many screens and dump-offs on 3rd-and-long, to say nothing of how overtime ended on Christmas Eve, with two attempts to feed Woodhead the ball instead of attacking downfield.

    Woodhead is a great counterpunch. The Chargers need to stop using him as a knockout punch.

    Defense (C): Player to Watch in 2016: Melvin Ingram notched a sack, a pass defensed and steady pressure against the Raiders. He has slowly (very slowly) developed into the all-purpose defender many of us expected to see in 2012.

    The Chargers exercised their fifth-year option on Ingram's rookie contract for 2016. After his 9.5 sacks this season and solid all-around play, they may want to lock him into something more permanent.

    Special Teams/Coaching (B-): The Chargers played well enough to win but lost a game full of strange penalties and general sloppiness. (Yes, Woodhead should have drawn pass interference, not an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that knocked the Chargers out of field-goal range.)

    There is not a lot of value in critiquing the team's coaching at this point; everyone's eyes are on next year.

    Looking Ahead: A trip to Denver and then lots and lots of relocation speculation.

Carolina Panthers: C-

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Falcons 20, Panthers 13

    Offense (D+): The Panthers moved the ball well in spurts but lacked big-play capability with Ted Ginn Jr. sidelined (knee injury). Cam Newton (142 passing yards, 46 rushing yards, one TD) lapsed into do-it-all-himself mode and took too many hits on scrambles and sacks.

    Defense (C): Julio Jones (9-178-1) got the better of Josh Norman. The Falcons converted nine of 15 third downs and sustained drives long enough (Atlanta's time of possession: 35:38) to limit Newton's opportunities.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C): This loss would have looked much less significant in October. It's now a gut-check opportunity for the Panthers, who could probably use less talk about "perfection" and more impetus to get mentally focused on January anyway. That said, what they needed more than anything else was home-field advantage and a chance to rest Newton, Norman and others.

    Looking Ahead: A Buccaneers game that matters against a Buccaneers team that still cares.

Pittsburgh Steelers: C-

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    This Week's Result: Ravens 20, Steelers 17

    Offense (C): Ben Roethlisberger developed a strange fixation with throwing to Antonio Brown and only Antonio Brown. Brown caught seven passes for just 61 yards on 11 targets, while the Ravens intercepted two passes telegraphed in his direction.

    Meanwhile, Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant combined for just four catches despite favorable matchups against second-rate defensive backs. DeAngelo Williams rushed 17 times for 100 yards and two touchdowns, but the Steelers inexplicably abandoned the run (except at the goal line) after the first quarter in a game that never got out of hand.

    Defense (C): One sack, no turnovers and a 9-of-18 third-down conversion rate allowed just doesn't cut it against Ryan Mallett and a roster of leftovers.

    Special Teams/Coaching (D): The Steelers played like they thought they could just run off tackle and win in the first quarter and then play pitch-and-catch with Brown and win for the final three quarters. Their defense was similarly flat and appeared shocked that the Ravens were actually putting effort into blocking and catching.

    Playoff hopefuls such as the Jets, the Vikings, the Redskins and the Texans stomped on the accelerator when they saw an opportunity this week. It's informative and troubling that the Steelers did just the opposite.

    Looking Ahead: Beat the Browns and root for the Bills. It's going to be a weird Sunday for the Steelers.

Seattle Seahawks: C-

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Rams 23, Seahawks 17

    Offense (D): Remember the scramble-and-pray Seahawks offense from early in the season? It's back.

    The Seahawks offensive line got obliterated by the Rams defensive front. Patrick Lewis was so overwhelmed by Aaron Donald that he forgot how to execute a shotgun snap. The running game was nonexistent, leaving Russell Wilson in the familiar position of running for his life and trying to perform miracles.

    Defense (B-): One Rams touchdown was defensive. One came on a one-play, 28-yard drive. But the Seahawks generated no sacks or turnovers and couldn't stop a late drive when they needed to.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C): Some things were out of the Seahawks' control, such as rain and Rams fumbles that kept bouncing back into the hands of St. Louis players. The Seahawks cannot afford a relapse of their early-season offensive woes in the postseason.

    Looking Ahead: Will the real Seahawks please stand up? Or will the Cardinals sit them right back down?

Miami Dolphins: D+

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    Rob Foldy/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Colts 18, Dolphins 12

    Offense (D+): The Dolphins offensive line takes turns not protecting Ryan Tannehill. Last week, Branden Albert and Dallas Thomas could not recognize simple stunts on the left side. This week, right tackle and guard Billy Turner got into the act.

    Tannehill endured six sacks; it would have been more painful to watch, but Matt Hasselbeck started for the Colts, and watching Hasselbeck play these days is like watching a doctor reset a broken bone without anesthesia. Dolphins game plans aren't really designed to hurt and humiliate Tannehill, but not much would change if they were.

    Defense (B): The Dolphins held the Colts to just 268 total yards but went through the motions in the first half, allowing Frank Gore to gallop through the defense for all the points the Colts needed.

    Special Teams/Coaching (D): We could have done the "Task for 2016/Player to Watch" routine on this slide like we did for other teams. But why bother? The Dolphins have plenty of talent. They just need to hire an NFL-caliber coaching staff.

    Creating a logical front-office command chain and sticking to it wouldn't hurt either, but let's not get carried away. These are the Dolphins, after all.

    Looking Ahead: The Patriots need a win, so sorry if you were counting on Jimmy Garoppolo to pad your winning percentage, Dan Campbell.

Dallas Cowboys: D+

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    Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Bills 16, Cowboys 6

    Offense (D): Task for 2016: Develop a quarterback! (That was easy.)

    Kellen Moore completed just 13 of 31 passes, rendering a solid effort by the Cowboys running game (121 rushing yards) and offensive line (zero sacks) moot. The quarterback the Cowboys draft in an early round and groom behind Tony Romo in 2016 will be starting in 2017 or so. That will let us bid farewell to Old Man Cassel, the Brandon Weeden Experience, Lefty Smurf and all the other ridiculous quarterback experiments the Cowboys made us endure this year.

    Defense (B): Player to Watch in 2016: Demarcus Lawrence.

    Lawrence recorded a sack Sunday to give him eight sacks for the year. The former second-round pick is a consistent run defender and a sure tackler. Unlike other Cowboys pass-rushers, thinking about him doesn't make you hate yourself for watching football.

    Special Teams/Coaching (F): Dan Bailey missed a 50-yard field goal. Lucky Whitehead fumbled a late kick return. Whatever. The best thing the Cowboys coaching staff did this week was shelve Tony Romo and Dez Bryant so those players could properly recuperate and newcomers could get a shot.

    In a real division, the Cowboys would have done these things about a month ago.

    Looking Ahead: A meaningless game for both the Redskins (slotted with the fourth seed in the playoffs) and the Cowboys (embarrassingly putrid since the start of autumn).

Jacksonville Jaguars: D+

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    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Saints 38, Jaguars 27

    Offense (C-): Hey, kids. Check out the 2015 Jaguars Offensive Simulator! Just roll two dice and read the result from the chart:

    2: Snap over Blake Bortles' head.

    3: T.J. Yeldon injured. Re-roll.

    4. Allen Robinson catches 90-yard touchdown.

    5. Allen Robinson drops potential 90-yard touchdown.

    6. Interception!

    7. Illegal forward pass!

    8. Sack!

    9. Short pass to Julius Thomas. Remember Julius Thomas?

    10. Denard Robinson runs for three yards, and you recall how much fun he was to watch in college.

    11. Let's get Tyson Alualu involved!

    12. Allen Hurns does something amazing, and you wonder how a team with such diverse talent is 5-10.

    Defense (D): Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Unless you are facing the Saints and imitate their defense.

    Special Teams/Coaching (C-): Task for 2016: Turn the corner.

    Gus Bradley will probably get one more year; the Jaguars organization values stability and likes his coaching philosophy. The Jaguars have plenty of young talent and will essentially have two high first-round picks when Dante Fowler Jr. returns next year.

    The team looks like a clumsy colt tripping over itself to gallop in games like these. It's beyond time for the Jaguars to finally become relevant again.

    Looking Ahead: Jaguars-Texans. The game no one has been clamoring for.

Philadelphia Eagles: D

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    Matt Rourke/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Redskins 38, Eagles 24

    Offense (D): Task for 2016: Take better care of the football. No matter what they do with the head coach or the system, the Eagles absolutely must stop dropping passes, fumbling and committing other "whoopsie" errors.

    Jordan Matthews, Zach Ertz and Nelson Agholor (19 combined drops for the year, according to Pro Football Focus) are expected to be the backbone of the Eagles receiving corps no matter what happens to Chip Kelly. They have the potential to be very good players. They need to stop leaving big plays on the turf.

    Defense (C-): Kirk Cousins enjoyed smooth sailing early and late in the game. In between, there were some series where the Eagles defense played to its potential.

    Special Teams/Coaching (D): Predictable play-calling. Indifferent effort. Nothing you haven't seen before.

    Looking Ahead: A Giants game and then Chip Watch 2016, wherein he is either fired or somehow gets himself promoted to Speaker of the House.

Green Bay Packers: D

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Cardinals 38, Packers 8

    Offense (F): Don Barclay replaced David Bakhtiari at left tackle. Traffic cones would have offered more protection than Barclay.

    Aaron Rodgers endured eight sacks. When he did get a chance to throw, Rodgers typically settled for five-yard passes underneath the coverage. Eddie Lacy (88 total yards, one receiving touchdown) actually ran the ball fairly well, but the Packers had to abandon the run early.

    Defense (C-): The Packers managed to generate two sacks, an interception and some early stops. The first few Cardinals scoring drives were field position-assisted. The Packers defense didn't play well enough to win, but it might have kept things close if Rodgers didn't spend the whole game staring into the Arizona sky.

    Special Teams/Coaching (D): A special teams penalty teed up the Cardinals' first touchdown drive. When the Packers did protect Rodgers, holding was usually involved.

    Subjecting Rodgers to eight sacks was inexcusable: The Packers were one hit away from losing the game and their quarterback. It's Mike McCarthy's job to come up with a better protection plan if his left tackle can't cut it.

    Looking Ahead: Vikings vs. Packers for the NFC North title. Week 17 football doesn't get much better than that.

San Francisco 49ers: D

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    Jose Juarez/Associated Press

    This Week's Result: Lions 32, 49ers 17

    Offense (D+): It was like the season opener all over again for the first 20 minutes or so: The 49ers ran at will, setting up a serviceable short-passing game. Heck, even Jarryd Hayne was back. But as usual, the offense turned into a pumpkin before reaching 20 points. By the fourth quarter, Blaine Gabbert was back to three-yard completions on 3rd-and-24.

    Defense (C): All the holdover starters from the Jim Harbaugh era played well. Jim Tomsula-era starters ran around and looked busy.

    Special Teams/Coaching (F): Task for 2016: Start over. Is that clear enough?

    The 49ers wasted a year huffing on Harbaugh fumes and fiddling with Gabbert. It was like the self-destructive period after a divorce when a dude hangs around dive bars. Time to start making grown-up decisions again, Trent Baalke, starting with your own organizational structure and coaching staff.

    Looking Ahead: Rams vs. 49ers. Ugh.

New York Giants: D-

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    Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Vikings 49, Giants 17

    Offense (F): Rueben Randle caught a 72-yard touchdown. Rashad Jennings rumbled 50 yards after a screen pass. That's about it for the highlights. The lowlights include three Eli Manning interceptions, four sacks and a 1-of-11 third-down conversion rate.

    Defense (D): Despite the final score, the Giants defense played fairly well in the first half, generating consistent pressure and containing Adrian Peterson. There's not much you can do when the opponent generates a pick-six, takes another interception down to the goal line and kicks a bunch of 50-yard field goals, and the Giants defense buckled hard late in the game.

    Special Teams/Coaching (D): What a strange Giants season this has been. Remember mid-November, when they took the Patriots to the wall and looked ready to make one of their late-season runs? That Giants team was nowhere to be found Sunday.

    As committed as John Mara may be to Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese, he needs to take a hard look at what has gone on in East Rutherford over the last two weeks.

    Looking Ahead: Eagles vs. Giants. DON'T WATCH THIS GAME.

Tennessee Titans: D-

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    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    This Week's Result: Texans 34, Titans 6

    Offense (F): Task for 2016: Develop a running game.

    The Titans have talented running backs in David Cobb, Bishop Sankey and Antonio Andrews. Yet they rushed for just 30 yards Sunday and average just 89.9 yards per game for the year, with injured Marcus Mariota and Dexter McCluster (who should be more of a slot receiver and returner) providing much of the production.

    Part of the problem is the Titans are often out of games by halftime, as they were Sunday. But poor rushing helps take them out of those games. The next coach must rethink the rushing approach, get the most from the available talent and give Mariota some favorable down-and-distance opportunities.

    Defense (D): Task for 2016: Rebuild the secondary.

    Coty Sensabaugh got used for target practice by Brandon Weeden and DeAndre Hopkins. Free-agent acquisition Perrish Cox has been adequate at best. Da'Norris Searcy is the only decent safety. The whole defense needs an overhaul—the whole organization needs an overhaul—but there is an awful lot of money getting eaten up by some awfully ordinary defensive backs.

    Special Teams/Coaching (D): Hey, at least Mariota didn't have to go out there and get pummeled.

    Looking Ahead: Titans vs. Colts actually matters. Why oh why does Titans vs. Colts still matter?

Year-to-Date GPAs

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Here are the year-to-date grade-point averages for all 32 teams. You know how GPAs work: An "A" is worth 4.0, a "B" is worth 3.0, all the way down to 0.0 and a resolution to do better next year.

    1. Carolina Panthers 3.53

    2. New England Patriots 3.47

    3. Arizona Cardinals 3.35

    4. Cincinnati Bengals 3.34

    5. Kansas City Chiefs 2.97

    6. Denver Broncos 2.94

    7. Seattle Seahawks 2.91

    8. Green Bay Packers 2.90

    9. New York Jets 2.85

    10. Pittsburgh Steelers 2.83

    11. Minnesota Vikings 2.79

    12. Washington Redskins 2.62

    13. Oakland Raiders 2.53

    14. Chicago Bears 2.44

    15. New York Giants 2.43

    16. Atlanta Falcons 2.40

    17. Detroit Lions 2.36

    18. Houston Texans 2.33

    19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2.32

    20. Buffalo Bills 2.23

    21. New Orleans Saints 2.08

    22. St. Louis Rams 1.99

    23. Jacksonville Jaguars 1.97

    24. Indianapolis Colts 1.92

    25. Baltimore Ravens 1.92

    26. Philadelphia Eagles 1.92

    27. San Diego Chargers 1.92

    28. Cleveland Browns: 1.87

    29. Miami Dolphins 1.79

    30. Tennessee Titans 1.70

    31. San Francisco 49ers 1.70

    32. Dallas Cowboys 1.65


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