Before we shift our focus to the playoff matchups, let's take some time to wrap up the 2019 season and its captivating storylines.
This year, we saw a shooting star in the form of a quarterback who could change the way teams evaluate players at the position. In 2020, front-office executives will look for the "next Lamar Jackson," but the Baltimore Ravens have the one, only and original who helped lead the team to a dominant 14-2 record.
The Ravens had a good team in 2018 but they became a juggernaut this year. Of course, there's more to their success than Jackson's development and ascension. What decisions propelled Baltimore to the top of the league hierarchy?
In contrast to the Ravens' rise, one NFC team took a significant step back with their head coach on the hot seat. Which club goes down as the biggest letdown of the 2019 term?
We'll also delve into this year's surprise squad and an intriguing quarterback situation. First, let's take a look at the final standings and power rankings following Sunday's games.
Final 2019 Standings
1. New England Patriots (12-4)
2. Buffalo Bills (10-6)
3. New York Jets (7-9)
4. Miami Dolphins (5-11)
1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2)
2. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
2. Cleveland Browns (6-10)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14)
1. Houston Texans (10-6)
2. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
2. Indianapolis Colts (7-9)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
1. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
2. Denver Broncos (7-9)
3. Oakland Raiders (7-9)
4. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
1. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
2. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
3. New York Giants (4-12)
4. Washington Redskins (3-13)
1. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
2. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
3. Chicago Bears (8-8)
4. Detroit Lions (3-12-1)
1. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
2. Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
4. Carolina Panthers (5-11)
1. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
2. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
3. Los Angeles Rams (9-7)
4. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1)
2019 Regular-Season Power Rankings
1. Baltimore Ravens (14-2)
2. San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
3. New Orleans Saints (13-3)
4. Kansas City Chiefs (12-4)
5. Green Bay Packers (13-3)
6. New England Patriots (12-4)
7. Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
8. Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
9. Houston Texans (10-6)
10. Philadelphia Eagles (9-7)
11. Tennessee Titans (9-7)
12. Buffalo Bills (10-6)
13. Los Angeles Rams (9-7)
14. Chicago Bears (8-8)
15. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)
16. Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
17. Denver Broncos (7-9)
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9)
19. New York Jets (7-9)
20. Oakland Raiders (7-9)
21. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
22. Indianapolis Colts (7-9)
23. Los Angeles Chargers (5-11)
24. Arizona Cardinals (5-10-1)
25. Cleveland Browns (6-10)
26. Miami Dolphins (5-11)
27. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10)
28. New York Giants (4-12)
29. Carolina Panthers (5-11)
30. Detroit Lions (3-12-1)
31. Washington Redskins (3-13)
32. Cincinnati Bengals (2-14)
Best Team of 2019 Season
NFL success isn't limited to just one factor. The Ravens are the AFC's No. 1 seed and the top team in the final power rankings with a star quarterback on the rise, stifling defense, shrewd coaching staff and a proactive front office.
Like Patrick Mahomes last year, Jackson owned the spotlight in 2019. He should be an easy vote for league MVP.
Jackson didn't suit up against the Pittsburgh Steelers Sunday, but the second-year signal-caller still leads the league in touchdown passes (36) with only six interceptions. The 22-year-old broke Michael Vick's single-season quarterback rushing record (1,039), logging 1,206 yards on the ground.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman's unit finished with the No. 1 ground attack, his third consecutive top-ranked rushing offense as a play-caller.
As in recent years, the Ravens continue to field a stingy defense. This year's group allowed the third-fewest points and ranks fifth in yards allowed.
The front office acquired cornerback Marcus Peters, who signed a three-year extension Saturday, per ESPN's Adam Schefter. He provided a significant boost to the secondary. Since the October trade, Baltimore has only surrendered more than 241 passing yards once.
Because of the Ravens' talented secondary, defensive coordinator Don Martindale comfortably blitzed opponents to mask the lack of established pass-rushers behind Matt Judon off the edge.
The Ravens head into the 2019-20 postseason with the No. 1 scoring offense and a defense that can shut down and smother opposing quarterbacks.
Most Disappointing Team of 2019 Season
The Dallas Cowboys slightly edge the Cleveland Browns for this unflattering honor.
The Browns haven't put together a winning season since the 2007 term. The front office added prominent new players like running back Kareem Hunt, wideout Odell Beckham Jr. and defensive end Olivier Vernon. Also, Freddie Kitchens served as a first-time head coach. He lost his job Sunday, per ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen.
The Cowboys went into the 2019 season with high expectations after winning the division last year. The roster had continuity with its offensive core in place. Quarterback Dak Prescott, running back Ezekiel Elliott and wide receiver Amari Cooper formed a viable trio in their second year as teammates.
On paper, the Cowboys seem like a playoff team. They're eighth in scoring with the most yards gained. Dallas fields the 11th-ranked defense in points and yards allowed. Yet, this club went on two three-game losing streaks and lost four of their last six outings.
In his 10th season with the team, head coach Jason Garrett couldn't find a way to optimize the roster talent in crucial matchups. The Cowboys lost to four of the five NFC playoff clubs.
Despite the top-notch talent across the roster, with added veteran help from wideout Randall Cobb and tight end Jason Witten, and continuity at the head-coaching position, Dallas couldn't piece together all of its parts for extended stretches. After going 3-0, the Cowboys didn't win consecutive games for the remainder of the term.
On an expiring contract, Garrett could be on the way out, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, signaling much-needed changes for the team.
Biggest Surprise of 2019 Season
Under head coach Sean McDermott, the Buffalo Bills will make their second trip to the postseason in three years.
After a step back last year, Buffalo finished the 2019 campaign 10-6 with a wild-card berth. The Bills don't have much star power, which forces you to examine how they've been successful this year.
At 36 years old, running back Frank Gore continues to play past his prime. Fellow ball-carrier Devin Singletary took over the featured role midway through the season, but he hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 9.
Quarterback Josh Allen marginally improved his completion accuracy, moving up from 52.8 to 58.8 percent between his rookie and sophomore terms.
John Brown, Allen's top pass-catching target, has logged a season-high 1,060 receiving yards. Through most of his six-year career, the 5'11", 178-pound wideout suited up as the second or third option in passing attacks.
Despite the unimpressive statistics and unassuming playmakers, the Bills field a dangerous squad going into the playoffs. They boast the No. 2 scoring defense that's allowed the third-fewest yards. The unit has forced at least one turnover in each of the last seven outings.
McDermott and his coaching staff have squeezed the most out of the roster's cumulative talent this season. Don't sleep on the Bills in January.
Biggest Question Mark
What's Next For QB Jameis Winston?
On one hand, Jameis Winston has put together a career year for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, throwing for season highs in yards (5,109) and touchdowns (31). On the flip side, he's logged nine more interceptions (30) than anyone else. In four games, the 25-year-old threw four or more picks.
Head coach Bruce Arians has allowed Winston to air it out this season, which sounds like a good idea with Pro Bowl wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin on the perimeter. The Buccaneers went into the final week of the season with the No. 3 passing attack, helping this team to a 7-9 record.
Tampa Bay's ceiling will be limited with Winston's constant turnovers. Nonetheless, according to Rapoport, the Buccaneers plan to keep their starting signal-caller for the 2020 season.
The front office can opt to use the franchise tag for another trial run or sign Winston to a multiyear deal in hopes he can reduce the interceptions and maintain the passing production.
Barring a trade up from the 14th spot, Tampa Bay isn't in the position to select a top quarterback prospect in the 2020 draft. The front office can pursue a veteran like Marcus Mariota on the free-agent market or Andy Dalton via trade with the Cincinnati Bengals, but neither has a powerful aggressive arm that fits Arians' attack-style offense.
Oddly enough, Winston may be the best quarterback for Arians and offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich, though he could come at a high cost with a major flaw.