NFL Team Grades for Week 15

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystDecember 18, 2017

NFL Team Grades for Week 15

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    The biggest game of Week 15 may have been Sunday's Steel City showdown between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers, but there was a running theme across the NFL, and it wasn't the thrilling finish we saw to that game.

    It was beatdowns. 

    In Minnesota, the Vikings locked up the NFC North in emphatic fashion. The Jacksonville Jaguars earned their first trip to the playoffs in a decade in a similarly stomptastic day. And in Seattle, the big NFC West brouhaha between the Rams and Seahawks left jaws on the floor from coast to coast.

    The playoff brackets are closer to being set. So is the order for the 2018 NFL draft. At this point, just one vitally important thing remains undone: assigning grades to every team in the NFL.

    Hey. It's important to me.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Washington Redskins

    Score: Lost 20-15

    After he played well in his first couple of games earlier this season, there was talk that the Arizona Cardinals might try to re-up Blaine Gabbert as a potential bridge starter for the team.

    That idea has taken a bit of a beating of late.

    Because Gabbert happened.

    Gabbert was awful against the Washington Redskins on Sunday. He hit on just 16 of 41 pass attempts for 189 yards and an interception with a passer rating of 43.6. He also fumbled three times (losing one) and was sacked five times.

    It's hard to pile on the Cardinals too much. The team deserves more than a little credit for winning six games despite losing its top two quarterbacks and top two tailbacks—one of whom is arguably the NFL's best in David Johnson.

    But only results matter.

    And in news that should surprise no one, the third-string Cardinals, led by "The Real American," are struggling to get them.

    Week 15 Grade: D

    Season Grade: D+

Atlanta Falcons

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

    Score: Won 24-21

    The Atlanta Falcons must be doing something right. Monday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved the Falcons to 9-5 for the season. With one more win, Atlanta is in the playoffs. The Falcons still control their own destiny in the NFC South.

    And yet there’s something vaguely unsettling about the defending NFC champs.

    This was a game the Falcons survived. Yes, the run game was excellent, topping 200 yards for the night. But against one of the more porous secondaries in the NFL, Matt Ryan threw for just 212 yards. Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu had just five catches for 77 yards combined.

    And a gassed Atlanta defense nearly let the Buccaneers tie the game in the final seconds.

    There’s no such thing as an easy division win in the NFL—unless you play in the AFC North.

    But this was supposed to be something of a tune-up. A chance for the Falcons to sharpen their talons before closing the season against the Saints and Panthers—the two teams the Falcons are chasing in the NFC South.

    Atlanta got the win—but the difficulties it had getting it don’t bode well for the gauntlet the Falcons face over the next couple of weeks.

    Grade: B-

    Season Grade: B-

Baltimore Ravens

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    Ron Schwane/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Cleveland Browns

    Score: Won 27-10

    The Baltimore Ravens are locked in a dogfight for the final playoff spot in the AFC. There is zero margin for error at this point in the season.

    Given that, it helped greatly that the Ravens traveled to Cleveland on Sunday to take on the gift that keeps on giving: the increasingly pathetic Browns.

    The Ravens did what they needed to do in Week 15. On a day when his team struggled to run the ball, Joe Flacco picked up some of the slack, passing for 288 yards and a touchdown and running for another score.

    Yes, you read that right: Flacco ran. On purpose—sort of.

    Baltimore played even better defensively, allowing just 266 yards of total offense and forcing four turnovers.

    Although with DeShone Kizer, you really don't have to force turnovers. They just kind of happen.

    The Ravens close the season with two more punching bags in the Colts and Bengals. Put forth similar efforts in those games, and the Ravens will probably make the tournament.

    Whether the team is good enough to do anything there is a question for another day.

    Week 15 Grade: B+

    Season Grade: B-

Buffalo Bills

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    Rich Barnes/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Miami Dolphins

    Score: Won 24-16

    It's happened so quietly that many people haven't noticed, but we could be on the verge of a little history—of seeing the NFL's longest postseason drought finally, mercifully end.

    By virtue of its eight-point win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills are currently tied for the No. 6 seed in the AFC bracket at 8-6.

    Two of the team's touchdowns came courtesy of tailback LeSean McCoy. The third was a scramble by quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who also had a solid day throwing the ball with 224 yards and a score to McCoy.

    The Bills defense bent, allowing 349 total yards. But it didn't break, taking the ball away three times and holding the Dolphins from scoring twice in the red zone.

    That was all the easy part.

    The hard part comes next week. If the Bills are going to keep marching toward their first playoff berth since 1999, they'll have to do it on the road in Week 16.

    At Gillette Stadium.

    Against the Patriots.

    Week 15 Grade: B

    Season Grade: C+

Carolina Panthers

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    Mike McCarn/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Green Bay Packers

    Score: Won 31-24

    The Carolina Panthers are the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFC. Despite a 9-4 record when Sunday began, there hadn't been much buzz about the Panthers as a legitimate threat to make the Super Bowl for a second time in three years—even after Carolina beat the Minnesota Vikings.

    Maybe a win over another playoff contender will get the hype machine warmed up.

    While all eyes were on Aaron Rodgers Sunday, it was Cam Newton who stole the show at Bank of America Stadium. Newton threw for 242 yards and four touchdowns without an interception against the Packers, and added another 58 yards on the ground on 14 carries.

    The Panthers are letting Cam be Cam by enouraging him to design runs. And it's working.

    Carolina's defense was also impressive, harassing Rodgers all afternoon long and picking him off three times. The Panthers rank inside the top 10 in the NFL in most defensive categories, and they played up to those rankings in Week 15.

    Carolina may not win its own division, but make no mistake: There isn't a team in the conference that wants any part of the Panthers in the wild-card round.

    Week 15 Grade: B+

    Season Grade: B+

Chicago Bears

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Week 15 Opponent: at Detroit Lions

    Score: Lost 20-10

    The Chicago Bears came into their Week 15 meeting with the Detroit Lions fresh off their most impressive effort of the year—a 33-7 drubbing of the Cincinnati Bengals.

    With a win, the Bears could spoil any hopes the Lions had of making the playoffs this season.

    Any momentum Chicago may have had lasted until the game started...and then evaporated in a puff of foul-smelling smoke.

    The Bears actually outgained the Lions in the game 349 to 293, but that stat is highly misleading. Most of Chicago's offense came late in a game that was already out of reach. Were it not for a gift fumble by Theo Riddick just before halftime, the Bears would have been shut out over the first three quarters.

    It's much too early to call rookie Mitchell Trubisky a bust. We've seen this year what the right coaching can do for a young quarterback with Jared Goff in Los Angeles.

    But Trubisky and the Bears, under the soon-to-be fired John Fox, are 14 kinds of ugly on offense.

    At least their beleaguered fan base only has to watch it twice more this season.

    Week 15 Grade: D

    Season Grade: F

Cincinnati Bengals

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    John Autey/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Minnesota Vikings

    Score: Lost 34-7

    Per ESPN's Adam Schefter, after the 2017 season Cincinnati Bengals, head coach Marvin Lewis will be leaving the team to "explore other opportunities."

    That's funny, because it sure looked Sunday like Lewis and the entire Bengals team had already quit.

    For the second straight game, the Bengals were blown out by an NFC North team in an effort that "embarrassing" doesn't even describe. The Bengals look slow and disinterested in everything except making mistakes.

    That they've become experts in.

    This has been a disappointing season for the Bengals. And injuries have taken a toll on the team—especially defensively.

    But this goes way beyond a mediocre team hit hard by injuries. The Bengals are a team of professional football players who are highly paid to give everything they have every single week.

    And this is the second week in a row the Bengals have looked to have quit for the season. That's inexcusable. And the Bengals shouldn't wait two weeks to move on from Lewis. He should be fired immediately.

    Week 15 Grade: Q is for Quitters

    Season Grade: F

Cleveland Browns

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    David Richard/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Baltimore Ravens

    Score: Lost 27-10

    There aren't words to accurately describe just how bad the Cleveland Browns are after a miserable 27-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

    Quarterback DeShone Kizer had the latest in a string of awful games. He tossed two more interceptions to increase his league-leading total to 19.

    And yet, despite the knowledge that his young quarterback in terrible at, you know, throwing a football, head coach Hue "I'm Really Not Fired?" Jackson saw fit to give tailbacks Duke Johnson and Isaiah Crowell 12 carries combined Sunday.

    The pair gained 95 yards on those carries, because of course they did.

    It's hard to get too angry at the defense, which has been placed in a no-win situation. It's on the field all day (Cleveland was 5-for-14 on third down). It's often a short field (the Browns turned it over four more times). And if the defense gives up 26 points, it's over (the offense averaged 15.2 entering Week 15).

    The Browns will probably finish 0-16 and win one game in two seasons. This is arguably the worst team ever assembled in the modern history of the NFL.

    Do they even have a grading system for that?

    Week 15 Grade: TILT

    Season Grade: TILT

Dallas Cowboys

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Oakland Raiders

    Score: Won 20-17

    Regardless of who won Sunday night’s meeting between the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders, neither team could be mathematically eliminated from the postseason.

    But it was essentially the NFL equivalent of Thunderdome—two teams entered, and one team left with its playoff hopes intact.

    That team wound up being the Cowboys—essentially because Dak Prescott was slightly less terrible than Derek Carr.

    Granted, Prescott did not have a good game—he had just 212 passing yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 59.5—but it was Carr’s late fumble that sealed the deal in a game where neither team played well.

    The Cowboys played like a desperate team, twice successfully converting on fourth down in the second half. And that desperation remains as Dallas prepares to host the similarly situated Seahawks in Week 16.

    But one very important thing will be different seven days from now.

    In Week 16, the Cowboys get the engine that drives their offense back from suspension.

    Ezekiel Elliott returns.

    Week 15 Grade: C+

    Season Grade: C+

Denver Broncos

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Indianapolis Colts

    Score: Won 25-13

    The first game of Week 15 was a glimpse into an alternate universe of sorts. A look at what might have been for the Denver Broncos in 2017 if the team had anything resembling competent play at the NFL's most important position.

    With Trevor Siemian shelved by a shoulder injury, Brock Osweiler handled duties at quarterback for the Broncos against the Indianapolis Colts. And for one week at least, Osweiler played well, passing for 194 yards and two scores without an interception.

    Granted, Osweiler was helped by C.J. Anderson's 158 rushing yards on 30 carries. But with Denver's offense working Thursday night, the Broncos defense was able to do something it has been unable to for some time: actually play like the Denver defense we're used to seeing.

    One week hardly erases the stink of a bad season. And with Siemian out for the year, it's likely we'll get another look at Paxton Lynch under center before the season's out.

    But Osweiler's play in Week 15 was a vivid reminder of just how good this Denver team could be if it had a quarterback.

    Week 15 Grade: B+

    Season Grade: D

Detroit Lions

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Chicago Bears

    Score: Won 20-10

    The good news is that with Saturday's 10-point win over the Chicago Bears, the Detroit Lions moved to 8-6 and kept their faint hopes of making the postseason alive.

    The Lions also had more success running the ball than they've had to date this season, picking up 4.6 yards per carry on 20 totes. Matt Stafford was efficient throwing the ball, with 237 passing yards and a pair of scores.

    That's just about where the good news ends though.

    As wins go, this one was pretty unimpressive. With their playoff hopes on the line at home against an inferior opponent, the Lions came out and just sort of went through the motions against the Bears.

    Maybe it was those God-awful uniforms.

    Yes, it was good enough to get a win over the lowly Bears. And next week, Detroit plays a Cincinnati team that may well be worse.

    But if the Lions perform like they did Saturday in two weeks against a Green Bay Packers team looking to play spoiler, 2017 is going to end in disappointing fashion.

    Week 15 Grade: B-

    Season Grade: C+

Green Bay Packers

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    Bob Leverone/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Carolina Panthers

    Score: Lost 31-24

    It wasn't supposed to be like this.

    Aaron Rodgers was supposed to return for the Packers just in time to lead a late surge that would launch Green Bay into the playoffs and then on to the Super Bowl, where Rodgers would throw for 720 yards and 11 touchdowns and perform the entire halftime show much better than that hack Justin Timberlake.

    Funny how life doesn't work out as scripted.

    As it turns out, rusty quarterbacks who haven't played in two months are prone to making mistakes. Rodgers made several—including three ugly, out-of-character interceptions.

    Also, as it turns out, Rodgers doesn't play defense. In Charlotte Sunday, neither did the Packers, who allowed huge afternoons to Cam Newton and rookie tailback Christian McCaffrey.

    Hope isn't completely lost. There's still the slimmest of chances that the 7-7 Packers could win out and make the postseason with a ton of help.

    But it isn't going to happen. For all intents and purposes, Green Bay's disappointing season ended Sunday—and Rodgers may have driven the final nail into it.

    Week 15 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: C

Houston Texans

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Jacksonville Jaguars

    Score: Lost 45-7

    OK, that's enough. Just make it stop.

    If the NFL had a mercy rule, the Houston Texans would just call it a year and move on to the offseason. The 2017 campaign has been a nightmare of insults piled upon injuries.

    Lots of injuries.

    Week 15 may have been the low point for the entire miserable mess. It isn't just that the Texans lost their 10th game of the year. Or that the loss propelled the Jaguars into the playoffs.

    It's the way the Texans were beaten. They were pounded into the ground like a tent stake. It was like a game of Madden where the two teams are playing on different difficulty levels.

    Houston could do absolutely nothing on offense, save for one garbage-time score by DeAndre Hopkins. The defense did even less, making Blake Bortles and a cast of characters no one has ever heard of look like the Greatest Show on Turf.

    In a season full of lows, this was a new nadir.

    Week 15 Grade: F

    Season Grade: F

Indianapolis Colts

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Denver Broncos

    Score: Lost 25-13

    Getting blasted at home by a bad Denver Broncos team is the perfect metaphor for the 2017 Indianapolis Colts.

    This was an effort that was consistent in in its awfulness. The Colts managed just 228 yards of total offense on Thursday night. Indy gained only 3.2 yards per carry on the ground, and quarterback Jacoby Brissett barely averaged five yards per pass attempt.

    Things weren't a bit better on defense. The Colts allowed a staggering 462 yards to a struggling Broncos offense that was forced to turn to Brock Osweiler at quarterback. Denver peeled off over 250 yards on the ground and Osweiler posted a passer rating of 147.7 for the game.

    That's a big, round ball of suck.

    One would think that at this point, that things couldn't get any worse for the 3-11 Colts and head coach Chuck "Dead Man Walking" Pagano.

    One would be wrong. Per's Chris Mortensen, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck may need another operation on his balky shoulder.

    When it rains, it pours.

    Week 15 Grade: F

    Season Grade: F

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Houston Texans

    Score: Won 45-7

    The Jacksonville Jaguars began Week 15 with a chance to do something that hadn't happened on Florida's First Coast in a decade: secure a spot in the postseason.

    Not only did the Jaguars accomplish that goal, but they sent a message to the rest of the AFC: Y'all don't want no part of this.

    The Jaguars absolutely annihilated the Houston Texans in a game that was all Jaguars all the time.

    Quarterback Blake Bortles continued playing like he's trying to send a message all his own by topping 300 yards with three scores and no interceptions. Two of those touchdowns went to Jaydon Mickens, who no one has ever heard of.

    Two scores on the ground came from fullback Tommy Bohannon, who has an equally massive fan club.

    It was that kind of day.

    The Jacksonville defense, not to be outdone, spent most of the game making the Texans cry. T.J. Yates threw an interception and was sacked four times. As a team, the Texans had just 186 total yards.

    If ever there was an "A+" effort, this is it.

    Week 15 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: B+

Kansas City Chiefs

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    Peter Aiken/Getty Images

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Los Angeles Chargers

    Score: Won 30-13

    After spanking the Los Angeles Chargers Saturday night to assume control of the AFC West, the Kansas City Chiefs are back in the Super Bowl hunt.

    That's because the Chiefs got back to Kareem Hunt.

    For the second straight game, Hunt was a big part of Kansas City's game plan. He had 31 touches and piled up over 200 yards of offense while setting a new team record for rushing yards by a rookie.

    And for a second straight game, the Kansas City offense rolled.

    It's been a season-long theme: In games when Hunt has touched the ball more than 20 times, the Chiefs are 6-2. In games where he has fewer than 15 total touches, the Chiefs are 0-4.

    I am not an NFL coach. In fact, I didn't even stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night. But it seems to my untrained eye that it might be a good idea to get Hunt the ball early and often moving forward.

    Just saying.

    Week 15 Grade: A

    Season Grade: B-

Los Angeles Chargers

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    Week 15 Opponent: at Kansas City Chiefs

    Score: Lost 30-13

    It's been a wild ride for the Los Angeles Chargers in 2017. The season began with four straight losses, only for the Bolts to then rise from the dead and rip off seven wins in nine games.

    If the Chargers could just beat the reeling Chiefs Saturday, they would pull off the unlikeliest of rebounds and assume control of first place in the AFC West.

    Pretty much the opposite happened.

    The Chargers self-destructed against the Chiefs, turning the ball over four times. Those turnovers included three Philip Rivers interceptions on a day when the veteran signal-caller's passer rating was a miserable 49.2.

    It was, for all intents and purposes, a playoff game before the playoffs. If the Chiefs win either of their last two games, they win the West, and the odds of a wild card coming from that division are not good.

    The Chargers had their chanc, and they blew it in spectacular fashion.

    Week 15 Grade: F

    Season Grade: C

Los Angeles Rams

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Seattle Seahawks

    Score: Won 42-7

    In a week when a number of top contenders dropped the hammer on their opponents, none did so in more impressive fashion than the Los Angeles Rams.

    L.A. didn't go into Seattle and just beat the Seahawks. Or handle the big, bad bullies of the division. The Rams kicked the snot out of them in a game billed as one to prove legitimacy in the division.

    It was a dismantling that was as thorough as it was impressive. Todd Gurley toyed with an injury-ravaged Seahawks defense by piling up 180 total yards and four scores. The Rams defense destroyed Russell Wilson and sacked him seven times.

    Seattle had 149 yards of offense—total.

    The win all but hands the West to the Rams. If Sean McVay isn't named Coach of the Year, I'll eat my hat. And this beatdown made one thing clear—especially after the Rams beat New Orleans a few weeks ago: This team is more than capable of winning the Super Bowl.

    Week 15 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: A-

Miami Dolphins

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    Rich Barnes/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Buffalo Bills

    Score: Lost 24-16

    The Miami Dolphins are an impossible team to figure out. Six days ago, they handled the New England Patriots.

    Sunday, the Dolphins pitched and lurched their way to an eight-point loss that likely ended any hopes they had of a second straight playoff trip.

    Blame Jay Cutler.

    Everyone's favorite scapegoat under center has it coming this time. After outplaying Tom Brady in Week 14, Cutler was terrible against Buffalo. He threw three interceptions without a touchdown pass and fumbled an eye-popping four times.

    He didn't lose any of those fumbles, but still…four's a lot.

    It's been the story of the Dolphins this season. One week, they look like a team capable of contending for a playoff spot. The next, they look like the brightest-burning dumpster fire in the division.

    The truth lies somewhere in the middle—smack in downtown mediocrity.

    And in some respects, that's the worst place of all to be.

    Week 15 Grade: D

    Season Grade: D+

Minnesota Vikings

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    Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Cincinnati Bengals

    Score: Won 34-7

    With a victory over the floundering Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, the Minnesota Vikings could sew up the NFC North and continue their quest for a first-round playoff bye.

    They got it.

    Oh boy did they get it.

    The Vikings opened more than just a can on the Bengals in U.S. Bank Stadium. They opened an entire six-pack.

    Minnesota was dominant in just about every way a team can be. Whether it was the running of Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon or the passing of Case Keenum, everything worked for the Vikings offensively. Defensively, the team was just as dominant, holding the Bengals to 42 yards of total offense in the first half.

    There was even a feel-good moment in the fourth quarter, as Teddy Bridgewater saw his first game action since he suffered a horrific knee injury in August 2016.

    It was a day of celebrations for the Vikings and their fans. But it's only the beginning of a journey the team hopes will end with it's becoming the first franchise in NFL history to play a "home" Super Bowl.

    Week 15 Grade: A+

    Season Grade: A

New England Patriots

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at Pittsburgh Steelers

    Score: Won 27-24

    Rarely does one play have the significance that Ben Roethlisberger's interception at the end of Sunday's big AFC showdown had.

    Just a few moments before, it appeared Steelers tight end Jesse James had caught the game-winning touchdown. That the Patriots had allowed Pittsburgh to drive the length of the field in under a minute and steal home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

    Instead, the play was overturned, Big Ben threw the pick and you-know-who is right back on top of the AFC.

    It was classic Patriots. Outside of Rob Gronkowski's huge game (nine catches for 168 yards) no one stood out for New England. No gaudy stat line for Tom Brady (298 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT). Chris Hogan didn't play at all.

    But in crunch time, when the stakes were the highest, Brady guided the Patriots down the field to take the lead. In the closing seconds, the defense made a pick in the end zone to seal the deal on a play eerily similar to the end of Super Bowl XLIX.

    After Monday's sloppy 27-20 loss in Miami, the Patriots needed to find a way to win this game.

    They did.

    Week 15 Grade: B+

    Season Grade: A-

New Orleans Saints

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. New York Jets

    Score: Won 31-19

    It's a heck of a thing to be having a great season you can't even enjoy.

    Such is the saga of the NFC South in 2017, where three teams have spent the majority of the year trading punches. The Saints entered Sunday at 9-4 but had only a head-to-head edge over the now-10-4 Carolina Panthers in the division.

    An edge the Saints will maintain heading into Week 16.

    New Orleans defeated a game New York Jets squad the same way it's been winning all season. The Saints ran the ball 28 times for 131 yards—at a robust clip of 4.7 yards per carry. Drew Brees was efficient and avoided mistakes for the most part, passing for 285 yards and two scores.

    And despite three Saints turnovers, the defense made plays when necessary, notching a couple of takeaways and limiting the Jets to a 33 percent success rate on third down.

    Still, there's no time for attaboys—next week brings a rematch with the Falcons in a game with huge ramifications inside the division.

    Week 15 Grade: B

    Season Grade: B+

New York Giants

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Philadelphia Eagles

    Score: Lost 34-29

    There's not much to say about the New York Giants that hasn't already been said. Big Blue is 2-12. It's already fired it's head coach, Ben McAdoo, and general manager, Jerry Reese.

    New York stinks.

    So, instead of beating that poor horse while grading New York's surprisingly close loss to the mighty Eagles, or piling on the Giants defense for being rotten (again), I'm going to (as my grandma used to say) find something nice to say.

    How about that Eli Manning?

    If I didn't know better after watching Manning pile up 434 passing yards and three touchdowns against the Eagles, I'd be inclined to believe Manning may not be finished as an effective NFL quarterback.

    Of course, that would mean McAdoo's benching of Manning a few weeks ago was mind-bendingly stupid, and surely that cannot be.

    Kidding aside, Sunday's result was perfect for the Giants. They played the Eagles tight, gave fans a show and came up short so they don't louse up their draft position.

    Good work, guys.

    Week 15 Grade: C-

    Season Grade: F

New York Jets

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at New Orleans Saints

    Score: Lost 31-19

    It's probably not going to happen, but Todd Bowles deserves some votes for Coach of the Year.

    Yes, the New York Jets are a five-win squad that came up short Sunday in the Big Easy.

    But this is a team from which nothing was expected in 2017. A team that started Bryce Petty at quarterback in Week 15 on the road against the first-place Saints.

    And the Jets hung with them for most of the afternoon.

    New York had some success running the ball, amassing 124 yards at a 4.4-per-carry clip. Petty was bad, completing less than half his passes and throwing two interceptions. But he played about as well as the Jets dared hope—and better than Christian "Oh God Please Not Him" Hackenberg would have.

    New York's defense did what it could to keep the team in it, creating three takeaways and limiting the Saints to three third-down conversions.

    The Jets aren't good. But they're miles better than anyone expected.

    Bowles deserves real credit for that.

    Week 15 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: D

Oakland Raiders

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    Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Dallas Cowboys

    Score: Lost 20-17

    From the moment that Derek Carr fumbled the Oakland Raiders playoff chances into oblivion late in Sunday’s night’s loss to the Dallas Cowboys, social media exploded with outraged Raiders fans.

    The rule that calls such a fumble a touchback is stupid.

    The “index card” fourth-down measurement earlier in the half was a travesty.

    Both may be dumb rules. But they are indeed rules.

    They also aren’t why the Raiders lost the game.

    The Raiders lost the game because once again an offense with no shortage of talent (on paper) just cannot get untracked. Oakland doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up. One minute it’s power-run with Marshawn Lynch. The next it’s spread-it-out with four receivers.

    Failing to commit to either has only led to neither working consistently.

    Oakland also lost because the defense once again was solid one series and non-existent the next—against a Dallas team that was hardly firing on all cylinders.

    Long story short, the Raiders lost the game for the same reason they won’t be heading back to the postseason in 2017—they haven’t played especially well in 2017.

    Week 15 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: D+

Philadelphia Eagles

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    Bill Kostroun/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at New York Giants

    Score: Won 34-29

    One of the biggest storylines of Week 15 was the potential negative impact Carson Wentz's absence would have on the Philadelphia Eagles after he tore his ACL.

    Carson who?

    All Nick Foles did in his first start for the Eagles this season is complete 24 of 38 passes for 237 yards and four touchdowns in a shootout win.

    You read that right. Four. Quatro.

    The victory assured the Eagles of a first-round bye in the NFC playoffs, and Foles' play went a long way toward assuaging fears that Wentz's loss will ruin the team's chances of a Super Bowl run.

    But it wasn't all sunshine and puppies Sunday. Eli Manning and the Giants carved the Philadelphia defense to pieces, as it allowed a staggering 504 yards of total offense.

    It was the second week in a row that Philly's defense has scuffled, as it allowed 31 points to the Rams offense last week.

    Of course, the Eagles won that game, too.

    Week 15 Grade: B+

    Season Grade: A-

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. New England Patriots

    Score: Lost 27-24

    It was right there. Home field in the AFC playoffs was there for the taking. So was a chance to exorcise some of the Pittsburgh Steelers' demons where the Patriots are concerned—get the monkey off their backs.

    With about 30 seconds left and down three, the Steelers had the ball on 1st-and-goal. At the very least, Pittsburgh appeared set to force overtime—this, despite losing wide receiver Antonio Brown to a calf injury in the first half.

    Well, those demons aren't there for nothing. And after Jesse James' touchdown catch was overturned on replay, Ben Roethlisberger did the one thing you absolutely, positively cannot do…

    He threw a pick that cost the Steelers the game.

    Just like that, big efforts from tailback Le'Veon Bell (165 total yards and one score) and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster (114 yards on six catches) went out the window. So did Pittsburgh's control of its destiny in the AFC playoffs.

    And while the Steelers can still earn a Round 1 bye (and likely will given their easy schedule the rest of the way), it looks like (per Jeremy Bergman of that Brown will be out until the postseason—at least.

    Talk about adding injury to insult.

    Week 15 Grade: D+

    Season Grade: A-

San Francisco 49ers

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    D. Ross Cameron/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Tennessee Titans

    Score: Won 25-23

    The San Francisco 49ers' status as a tomato can has officially been revoked.

    And it's all Jimmy G's fault.

    Jimmy Garoppolo is making the second-round pick the 49ers spent to acquire him look like a bargain. For the third week in a row (and fourth time in five weeks after an 0-9 start), the Niners were victorious Sunday, and the win was spurred by Garoppolo's career-high 381 passing yards.

    Not for nothing, but Garoppolo has still never lost a start in the NFL.

    This, in spite of the fact that the 49ers rushed for a whopping 51 yards. And the fact that San Francisco's receiving corps is hardly loaded, although Garoppolo does appear to have quickly developed a rapport with Marquise Goodwin.

    We will find out, over the final two weeks of the season, just how good the new-and-improved 49ers are. The team hosts the Jacksonville Jaguars on Christmas Eve before wrapping up the 2017 season in Los Angeles against the Rams.

    Both teams best not take the Golden Garoppolos lightly. That can be problematic.

    Week 15 Grade: B

    Season Grade: D-

Seattle Seahawks

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Los Angeles Rams

    Score: Lost 42-7

    If this has ever happened before, this writer can't remember it.

    Never, at least during the Pete Carroll/Russell Wilson era, has an opponent gone into Seattle and humiliated the Seahawks in front of the 12th Man.

    That's precisely what happened in Week 15 at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams.

    Wilson was pounded mercilessly to the tune of seven sacks, nine QB hits and innumerable hurries. Rams tailback Todd Gurley had three more touchdowns and 31 more total yards than the Seahawks had as a team.

    And now Seattle is in big trouble.

    All season the Seahawks have been given the benefit of the doubt that despite their flaws they would figure out a way into the playoffs. After all, the Seahawks always make the postseason.

    But Seattle has now been pounded two weeks in a row by teams that just looked better. Dominated physically on both sides of the ball.

    And now the Seahawks have to wipe the footprints off their forehead, win out and get help to make the postseason.

    Week 15 Grade: F-

    Season Grade: C+

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Atlanta Falcons

    Score: Lost 24-21

    Tampa’s three-point loss to the Atlanta Falcons to close out Week 15 was the 2017 Bucs in a nutshell.

    There were things the team did well. Specifically, there were things Jameis Winston did well. The third-year quarterback had one of his better outings of the season, coming up just short of 300 passing yards with three scores and no interceptions.

    But Winston had no help. The Tampa defense was as bad as Winston was good. Worse, actually—the Buccaneers allowed over 200 rushing yards to the Falcons and had no answer for Atlanta tailback Devonta Freeman.

    Even then, Winston was able to engineer a drive that put Tampa in position to tie the game late with a long field goal.

    The field goal was missed, of course—because the Buccaneers kicking game has been a year-long nightmare.

    The Bucs came into 2017 with all sorts of hype. The stars of Hard Knocks were going to do big things in the NFC South this year.

    Instead the only thing the Buccaneers have done this season is lose double-digit games.

    Grade: D

    Season Grade: D-

Tennessee Titans

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    John Hefti/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: at San Francisco 49ers

    Score: Lost 25-23

    The Tennessee Titans are blowing it.

    As recently as two weeks ago, they were 8-4 and in first place in the AFC South. Now, however, Tennessee finds itself two back of the Jacksonville Jaguars after losing two straight road games to bad NFC West teams.

    In Week 14, the offense sputtered in Arizona and managed just seven points. Sunday in San Francisco, Marcus Mariota and the offense performed fairly well, but the defense fell asleep late and allowed the 49ers to drive the field easily and kick a game-winning field goal.

    Heading into Week 15, the 49ers were a middle-of-the-pack offensive squad in yardage and near the bottom of the NFL in scoring, averaging about 334 yards and 17.5 points per game. They sailed past both numbers in Santa Clara against a Tennessee defense that ranked inside the top 10 for the season.

    At a time when contenders get it together and pretenders fall apart, the Titans are...well, you know.

    Week 15 Grade: D

    Season Grade: C

Washington Redskins

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Week 15 Opponent: vs. Arizona Cardinals

    Score: Won 20-15

    At this point in the season there are three types of teams: those jockeying for playoff position, those jockeying for draft position and those stuck in between.

    At 5-8 heading into the week, the Washington Redskins fell into group No. 3. There was little on the line Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals except pride.

    And they showed some in earning win No. 6.

    Despite just 218 yards of total offense, Washington won thanks to a stout defensive effort. The Redskins held the Redbirds out of the end zone and limited the Cardinals to 286 yards of offense and four third-down conversions in 19 attempts. They also piled up five sacks and forced a pair of turnovers.

    Granted, the victory came against a JV Cardinals team that's been decimated by injuries on offense. However, it's still a testament to head coach Jay Gruden and his squad that despite not bringing their A-game in a contest that really doesn't matter, the Redskins still found a way to win.

    Week 15 Grade: B-

    Season Grade: D+


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