Every NFL Team's Biggest Disappointment from the 2019 Season

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystJanuary 3, 2020

Every NFL Team's Biggest Disappointment from the 2019 Season

0 of 32

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    The 2019 NFL regular season has come and gone, and while 12 fortunate teams have moved on to the postseason, for all of the league's teams, it's time for an examination of what went right this season.

    And what went wrong—including each team's biggest disappointment of the 2019 campaign.

    For some teams, that disappointment is easy to spot. For others, it can be harder to see—especially if that team had a great year. And for a few teams, there were so many disappointments that singling out just one is next to impossible.

    Looking at you, Cleveland. Looking right…at…you.

    However, for every team from Arizona to Washington, there was a player, unit or situation that didn't go at all according to plan.

    And here they are.

         

Arizona Cardinals

1 of 32

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    Running Back David Johnson

    For a team that won just five games in 2019, the Arizona Cardinals were relatively short on disappointments.

    But there's no denying that the career trajectory of running back David Johnson veered sharply off course this season.

    Actually, things went sideways before this past season. After exploding for over 2,100 total yards back in 2016, Johnson looked like a star in the making. But a fractured wrist in the season opener all but wiped out his 2017 season. Despite that lost year, the Redbirds signed Johnson to a three-year, $39 million contract extension in 2018. Johnson didn't exactly earn that raise that season—while he piled up almost 1,400 total yards, Johnson failed to gain 1,000 yards on the ground and managed just 3.6 yards per carry.

    That set up 2019 as something of a make-or-break year for the 28-year-old.

    In 13 games (and nine starts), Johnson once again struggled, losing work to Chase Edmonds and then Kenyan Drake. The arrival of Drake via a midseason trade (and the success that followed) relegated Johnson to the shadows—over Arizona's last 10 games, Johnson carried the ball all of 18 times.

    Given his fat contract (and the massive cap hit the Cardinals would take for releasing him), it's unlikely Arizona will cut bait on Johnson altogether in 2020.

    But his ascension to stardom appears to have been permanently derailed.

Atlanta Falcons

2 of 32

    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    The First Half of the 2019 Season

    For the Atlanta Falcons, the biggest disappointment of 2019 wasn't a player. Or a coach. Or a position group.

    It was a period of time—a long one.

    The Falcons entered the season with aspirations of getting back to the postseason. It became clear pretty quickly that wasn't going to happen. September came to a close with a 14-point home loss to the Tennessee Titans that dropped the Falcons to 1-3.

    If September was depressing, October was a nightmare. The Falcons went winless in the season's second month, losing two games by 20-plus points, surrendering over 30 points three times (and 50 points once) and getting outscored by an average of two touchdowns per contest.

    Nothing went right. The passing game was inconsistent. The run game was non-existent. The defense was porous. The Falcons were a mess.

    Atlanta turned the season around (and saved head coach Dan Quinn's job) by peeling off six wins in eight games after the bye—including wins in New Orleans and San Francisco.

    But that hot streak in November and December just makes the team's woeful start to the year look that much more glaring by comparison.

Baltimore Ravens

3 of 32

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Inside Linebackers

    Prepare to engage the nitpicker!

    It's not especially easy to find disappointments with a 14-win team that hasn't lost a game since September 29.

    But if Baltimore's fourth-ranked defense has an Achilles' heel, it's an unimpressive cadre of inside linebackers.

    When C.J. Mosley departed the team in free agency, the hope was that fourth-year veteran Patrick Onwuasor and youngster Chris Board would step up and become consistent contributors. The duo started the season as full-time players, but lackluster performances led the Ravens to address the position by acquiring a pair of journeyman veterans in L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes.

    Every member of the quartet has occasionally flashed, making a big play here and there. But once Bynes and Fort showed up, Board was relegated to a bench role, and from Week 11 on, none of this group was on the field for even 50 percent of Baltimore's defensive snaps.

    This isn't necessarily to say that the middle of the Baltimore defense is a glaring weakness—only that it's the weakest spot relatively speaking on the team.

Buffalo Bills

4 of 32

    John Munson/Associated Press

    Struggles at New Era Field

    Like most of the teams in this piece that made the playoffs in 2019, there isn't really one player or position group that really stands out as the biggest disappointment for the Buffalo Bills. The team won 10 games and advanced to the playoffs for the second time in three seasons as a wild card in the AFC.

    That wild-card status means that barring a miracle run by both Buffalo and the Tennessee Titans, the Bills are finished playing at New Era Field. That may be a blessing in disguise, because while the Bills had a good season overall, at home, the team was just mediocre.

    In eight games on the road this season, the Bills lost only twice—a Week 10 trip to Cleveland and a Week 16 loss at Gillette Stadium that handed the Patriots the AFC East. The Bills averaged 21.5 points scored per week and allowed an average of 15.6 points per contest.

    But surprisingly, the Bills scuffled a bit in front of the home crowd. Buffalo was just a .500 team at home, allowing an average of 16.8 points per game while scoring one more point on average.

    Maybe traveling to Houston in the Wild Card Round isn't such a bad thing after all.

Carolina Panthers

5 of 32

    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The Defense

    While it's difficult to identify a standout disappointment with some of the teams in the NFL in 2019, with the Carolina Panthers, the situation is reversed—it's hard to single out just one with a team that went oh-fer over the second half of the season.

    Some might point to the play at the quarterback position—Cam Newton got hurt, Kyle Allen had some early success but faded quickly, and rookie Will Grier was just terrible.

    But as bad as the play under center was, the defense was much worse.

    This isn't a team without talent on that side of the ball. Edge-rusher Mario Addison has at least nine sacks in each of the past four seasons. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is a former Defensive Player of the Year. Safety Eric Reid and corner James Bradberry are underrated defensive backs. The Panthers were a top-15 defense as recently as 2018.

    But in 2019, the bottom fell out. The Panthers were 23rd in total defense and 31st in scoring defense—and even those numbers don't truly indicate how bad things got over the second half of the season. After starting the year 4-2, the Panthers came out of the bye and proceeded to win just once more the rest of the season—a 10-game stretch of futility in which the Panthers allowed almost 34 points per game.

    That is ungood.

Chicago Bears

6 of 32

    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky

    As Jeff Dickerson reported for ESPN, as the dust settled on a down season for the Chicago Bears, general manager Ryan Pace made a point of stating that the team is committed to Mitchell Trubisky as the team's starter.

    "Yes, we do [feel comfortable with Trubisky as the starter]," Pace said. "I think with Mitch, as we go through it, we need more time in the coming months to evaluate everything, but the first thing that comes to mind for me is just consistency. You see moments, you see games, but for him [the issue is] stringing together better consistency. So you have the peaks and valleys. We just need to flatten that out.

    "... Mitch is our starter. We believe in Mitch, and we believe in the progress that he's gonna continue to make."

    That Pace felt the need to make that "endorsement" (and what he said in making it) tells you just about everything you need to know about Trubisky's third NFL season.

    After completing two-thirds of his passes for over 3,200 yards with twice as many touchdowns as interceptions in Chicago's 12-win 2018 campaign, Trubisky's numbers this season were down nearly across the board—his yards per attempt and passer rating dropped substantially, and Trubisky's rushing yards fell by over 50 percent.

    The Bears are still all but certainly going to pick up Trubisky's 2021 option—but it's not quite the foregone conclusion it was at this time a year ago.

Cincinnati Bengals

7 of 32

    Adrian Kraus/Associated Press

    The Offensive Line

    Given that the Cincinnati Bengals only won two games in 2019, there are no shortage of players who didn't meet expectations.

    But much of the Bengals' struggles offensively this past season can be traced to a unit that was an all-too-familiar disappointment—the offensive line.

    Cincinnati's line play in 2019 wasn't all the team's fault—or even mostly its fault. The team drafted Alabama's Jonah Williams (who never missed a game in college) in last year's draft, only to see Williams suffer a season-ending labrum tear in camp. That forced veteran Cordy Glenn to move from guard back to tackle, but he played in just six games this season due to concussion symptoms. Glenn was originally shifted to guard after Clint Boling stunned the team by retiring in July.

    It was a merry-go-round up front for the Bengals in 2019, and the attrition took a real toll. Veteran tackle Andre Smith was forced to play out of position on the left side. A bookend duo of Smith and Bobby Hart is, um, not a good look for an NFL team.

    For the season, the Bengals allowed 48 sacks (ninth-most in the NFL) and ranked outside the top-20 in both run blocking and pass protection, per Football Outsiders.

    Teams that lose consistently in the trenches lose consistently.

Cleveland Browns

8 of 32

    David Richard/Associated Press

    Quarterback Baker Mayfield

    So many choices.

    It would be a lot easier to list the players and coaches who weren't a disappointment in Cleveland during the team's 6-10 backslide in 2019. Head coach Freddie Kitchens was completely out of his depth and wound up getting fired after one season. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made more news on the field for distractions than exploits. Defensive end Myles Garrett committed the single most bone-headed play of the entire NFL season.

    But Cleveland's biggest disappointment has got to be quarterback Baker Mayfield.

    After a rookie year in which he set a new record for touchdown passes by a first-year player and an offseason in which he made a concerted effort to make himself the face of the franchise by appearing in approximately all the commercials ever, Mayfield took a huge step backward on the field.

    Mayfield's touchdowns were down in Year 2. His interceptions were up—only Jameis Winston's record-setting season contained more picks than Mayfield's 21. His passer rating dropped by nearly 15 points. And a Browns team picked as a playoff contender by many before the season finished 6-10.

    At least Mayfield is self-aware enough to realize that he struggled in 2019 and needs to work on his game ahead of the 2020 campaign.

    Or not.

Dallas Cowboys

9 of 32

    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    Head Coach Jason Garrett

    The Dallas Cowboys have one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL in Dak Prescott. Arguably the NFL's best running back in Ezekiel Elliott. A solid receiving corps. One of the league's best offensive lines. And talent at all three levels of the defense—whether it's edge-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence, linebacker Jaylon Smith or cornerback Byron Jones.

    And yet, the Cowboys went 8-8 in 2019 and failed to make the playoffs. A strong case can be made that there wasn't a team the NFL that did less with more this past season than the Cowboys. If the offense was playing well, the defense faltered. If the defense stiffened, then the offense couldn't move the ball.

    There's plenty of blame to go around in Big D this year, but on some level, the fingers all point toward the man in charge and head coach Jason Garrett.

    It's not a new problem, either—for years, the Cowboys' record hasn't matched the team's talent on paper. Since Garrett took over as the team's head coach partway through the 2010 season, the Cowboys have made the postseason just three times and haven't made it past the divisional round.

    Of course, that tenure as the head coach in Dallas may also be about to end.

Denver Broncos

10 of 32

    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    Offensive Tackle Garett Bolles

    Back in 2017, the Broncos spent a first-round pick on offensive tackle Garett Bolles, hopeful that the former Utah standout would emerge as a linchpin for the Denver offensive line for years to come.

    Fast forward three years, and Denver's still waiting. As Aniello Piro reported for Mile High Sports, near the end of the 2019 season, head coach Vic Fangio attempted to put a positive spin on another uneven season from Bolles.

    "The one thing about Garett that gets forgotten about and not mentioned much is he's there every day—every day to practice, every game to play, he plays every play and he's reliable in that regard," Fangio explained. "I think that's an important quality that you're looking for in all players. He's done that. He has played better this last—I don't want to say what game it started, but this recent past he has played better."

    Bolles' biggest problem continues to be drive-killing penalties. Per Piro, over his first two seasons in the NFL, Bolles tallied 28 holding penalties. He piled up 15 more flags in 2019.

    Given that Bolles' most reliable trait to date has been drawing laundry from the officials, deciding whether to pick up his fifth-year option has become one of the biggest questions facing the Broncos in the offseason.

Detroit Lions

11 of 32

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    The Pass Rush

    In a season that started off with the Lions blowing a late lead in Arizona and ended with Detroit winning just three games, there were disappointments galore. The offense was ravaged by injuries. The defense struggled to get stops.

    And the pass rush was virtually non-existent.

    Only one team in the NFL amassed fewer sacks in 2019 than the 28 piled up by the Lions. No player on the team had more than seven, and only two players (Trey Flowers and Devon Kennard) had more than two. Flowers and Kennard also had half of the team's total sacks for the season.

    The lack of production from Flowers was especially troubling after he joined the team on a five-year, $90 million contract in the offseason. What it shouldn't have been was unexpected—Flowers had never had more than 7.5 sacks in any of his seasons as a pro.

    That the Lions finished the year dead last in the league in pass defense can be tied directly to the team's complete inability to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

    It makes no difference how good a secondary is—if you give an NFL quarterback all day to sit in the pocket and survey the field, he's going to pick that secondary apart.

Green Bay Packers

12 of 32

    Dylan Buell/Getty Images

    Complementary Wide Receivers

    The wide receiver corps for the Green Bay Packers is headlined by one of the best in the game at the position in Davante Adams.

    Unfortunately, there's just not much on the roster behind him. The Packers have been waiting for some time for one of the other young wideouts to step up and become a consistent contributor opposite Adams.

    The team's still waiting.

    In fairness, Allen Lazard showed some flashes down the stretch for the Packers, finishing the season with 477 yards—the second-highest total on the team. But tailback Aaron Jones was third on the team in receiving yards, and Adams was the only receiver on the team who topped 500 yards in 2019.

    You'll see the occasional big game from a player like Lazard. The occasional long touchdown from Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The occasional highlight-reel reception from Jake Kumerow or Geronimo Allison.

    But none of those pass-catchers has shown the ability to be a reliable and dependable option for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Until they do, Adams will continue to receive double coverage on almost every route.

Houston Texans

13 of 32

    Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

    Pass Defense

    There's been a ton of turnover on the back end of the Houston defense over the past year. After losing veteran cornerback Kareem Jackson and safety Tyrann Mathieu to free agency, the Texans brought in Bradley Roby and Tashaun Gipson as replacements.

    Houston was only getting started.

    When the Oakland Raiders decided to part with former first-round pick Gareon Conley, it was the Texans who swooped in and offered a Day 2 pick for the former Ohio State star. When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waived another former Round 1 pick in Vernon Hargreaves III, it was the Texans who picked him up. Conley, Roby and Gipson are all starters for the Texans. Hargreaves has played significant snaps in subpackages.

    The results have been…yeah.

    With Jackson and Mathieu starting for the Texans in 2018, Houston fielded a bottom-five pass defense—a ranking that helped lead to all those new faces this year. With Roby, Conley and Hargreaves now on the team, the Texans have actually gotten worse against the pass—falling from 28th in the NFL in pass defense in 2018 to 29th in 2019.

    That leaky secondary didn't stop the Texans from making the playoffs. But it's going to prevent them from making it to Miami and Super Bowl LIV.

Indianapolis Colts

14 of 32

    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    Quarterback Jacoby Brissett

    Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett has caught his fair share of flak after a 5-2 start in Indianapolis became a 2-7 skid that left the Colts out of the playoffs. In fact, head coach Frank Reich thinks Brissett has borne the brunt of a bit too much criticism for the team's struggles.

    "Absolutely, I think there's some unfair criticism," Reich said, via Stephen Holder of The Athletic. "But that's just playing the position. You're always going to get unfair criticism. He knows that. We all know that. You guys (in the media) know that, too. We all have a job to do. And he's got a job to do. As a quarterback, you take that. And he gets too much credit. When we were doing great, at 5-2, it was like Andrew who? He was playing that good. So, yeah, he's going to get unfair criticism. But I get that. That's just the nature of the beast."

    In fairness to Brissett, it wasn't the easiest of seasons in Indy. Andrew Luck stunned the team by retiring just before the season. Top wideout TY Hilton was banged up much of the year.

    But there's also no denying that Brissett faltered in a big way down the stretch. In the seven games after the Colts' Week 10 bye, Brissett managed just four touchdown passes, had five games with fewer than 170 passing yards and had a sub-80 passer rating six times.

Jacksonville Jaguars

15 of 32

    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Quarterback Nick Foles

    What a difference six months makes.

    When training camp got underway for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Nick Foles was the toast of Duval County. The former Super Bowl MVP had just signed a four-year, $88 million contract that included $50 million in guarantees.

    Foles was going to lead the Jaguars back to the postseason. Maybe even the Super Bowl.

    Yeah…about that.

    Just 11 snaps into his first start for the Jaguars, Foles broke his collarbone. By the time Foles was healthy enough to return, rookie Gardner Minshew II had captured the imagination of Jacksonville fans. After three more unimpressive starts, Foles got the hook again in favor of Minshew.

    Per John Oehser of the team's website, Foles readily admitted that he's not entirely sure what his future holds.

    "I don't know what my future holds," Foles said. "The big thing right now is just being in the moment. I've always said, 'Being in the moment.' I don't know what my future holds. I'm sure we'll find out in the next couple of months, but I'm not going to worry about it. I'm just going to continue being me."

    Given the massive cap hit the Jaguars would take were they to move on from Foles altogether, he'll more likely than not be on the team in 2020.

    In what role is anyone's guess.

Kansas City Chiefs

16 of 32

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Inside Linebacker Anthony Hitchens

    The Kansas City Chiefs are once again one of the best teams in the AFC. The team went 12-4, won the AFC West again and finished as the No. 2 seed in the AFC.

    Given the team's success and a defense that's significantly better than the 2018 iteration, there aren't many disappointments in Kansas City this year. But not every player on the Kansas City defense is better this year than last.

    In his first season with the Chiefs in 2018, inside linebacker Anthony Hitchens paced the team with 135 total tackles. Hitchens was a full-time player and a mainstay of the defense.

    In 2019, however, Hitchens' numbers and playing time have both decreased substantially. Hitchens once again led the team with 88 total stops, but his 51 solo stops only ranked fourth on the defense, and his snap count fell toward the end of the year.

    This isn't to say that Hitchens is a bad player. He's just not an especially great one either. And as the season progressed in Kansas City, it appears the Chiefs have realized that fact.

Los Angeles Chargers

17 of 32

    Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

    Quarterback Philip Rivers

    I really don't mean to keep piling on quarterbacks. We've just hit a run of three teams in four where the root of a disappointing season lies under center.

    Of them, there wasn't a more disappointing club than the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers won 12 games in 2018 and entered 2019 viewed as a contender for not just the AFC West crown but perhaps even a spot in Super Bowl LIV.

    The Chargers didn't come close to either, finishing in dead last in the division at 5-11. And while the team's veteran quarterback wasn't the only reason L.A. faceplanted, Rivers certainly didn't help matters.

    On the way to those 12 wins in 2018, Rivers threw 32 touchdown passes against just 12 interceptions and posted a passer rating of over 105. That passer rating fell by upward of 20 points in 2019, and Rivers' total turnovers for the season nearly doubled.

    The timing couldn't have been worse—Rivers is set to hit free agency in March. And as Eric D. Williams wrote at ESPN, he hasn't ruled out leaving the only NFL home he's ever known.

    "I plan to play football, so yes," Rivers said. "Where that is going to be will get sorted out over the next few months. I've never been in this position. I don't even know when the league year starts. We'll just kind of see. I'm very thankful for the 16 years, and if there is another, I'll be thankful for that."

Los Angeles Rams

18 of 32

    Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    Offensive Line

    The Los Angeles Rams came into the 2019 season as the defending NFC champions and left it out of the postseason altogether. Given that significant regression, there's been no shortage of finger-pointing in La-La Land.

    Some digits were directed at quarterback Jared Goff, who took a step back in just about every statistical category. Others went in the direction of tailback Todd Gurley, who went from an MVP candidate averaging almost five yards a carry to fewer than 900 rushing yards and under four yards a tote.

    Many of the issues with both Gurley and Goff can be tied to the players in front of them—especially early in the season.

    It might seem odd to criticize a line that allowed an NFL-low 22 sacks and ranked first in the NFL in pass protection, per Football Outsiders. And to its credit, the play of the offensive front picked up down the stretch. But after losing guard Rodger Saffold to free agency and declining the option on center John Sullivan, the Rams' line played inconsistent football at best over the front half of the year.

    At worst, it was terrible—especially in the run game.

    The Rams couldn't run the ball behind that line. Opponents knew it. That forced Goff to press, and the results were...predictable.

    With left tackle Andrew Whitworth contemplating retirement, the offensive line could be the biggest question mark for the Rams as they move into their shiny new stadium.

Miami Dolphins

19 of 32

    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Quarterback Josh Rosen

    Despite getting benched by the Miami Dolphins and the very real possibility that he could be headed to a third team in as many seasons in 2020, Josh Rosen insisted to ESPN's Cameron Wolfe that he hasn't second-guessed the rocky start to his NFL career.

    "Having wishful thinking is very counterproductive. I try not to really have any expectations and then you'll never be disappointed," Rosen said. "I have my long-term goals and what I want to accomplish throughout the course of my career, and how I get there is at least for the moment now kind of irrelevant."

    Rosen can try to paint as optimistic a picture as he wants to what's been a disastrous couple of years in the pros, but the 10th overall pick in the 2018 draft is running out of chances if he ever wants to be a starter in the NFL.

    The Arizona Cardinals cast Rosen aside after one miserable year after drafting Kyler Murray. Rosen got a second bite at the apple in Miami, but he completed just 53 percent of his passes with one touchdown and five interceptions before getting the hook in favor of journeyman veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.

    With Fitzpatrick likely to serve as the bridge to a rookie from the 2020 draft (looking at you, Tua), Rosen's probably out in Miami.

    And running out of chances.

Minnesota Vikings

20 of 32

    Andy Clayton-King/Associated Press

    Cornerback Xavier Rhodes

    Entering the 2019 season, Xavier Rhodes of the Minnesota Vikings was regarded as one of the better veteran cornerbacks in the NFL.

    That reputation has taken a beating this year. After averaging 12 passes defensed per season over his first five years as a pro, Rhodes has just 13 over the last two seasons combined. Rhodes hasn't logged an interception since the season opener—in 2018.

    A player who was once avoided by opposing quarterbacks is now targeted with regularity—and success.

    Per Will Ragatz of Vikings Maven, Rhodes will be the first to admit that he hasn't played his best in 2019.

    "I'm just at a place right now where I feel like I can do better and I can help my team out much more," Rhodes said. "We can be in better situations and make the game a lot easier on my team rather than me hurting us in the middle of the game. Like I said, I'm a leader on this team, I've been a leader for a while, and I need to do better and play my role a lot better than I've been playing lately."

    At least he's self-aware.

New England Patriots

21 of 32

    Elise Amendola/Associated Press

    Quarterback Tom Brady

    Yes, that Tom Brady. The guy who has won six Super Bowls.

    In last week's stunning loss to the Miami Dolphins, Brady didn't play especially well—he completed fewer than 56 percent of his passes and threw a pick-six. Brady himself admitted to WEEI Radio (via ESPN's Mike Reiss) that the team's going to need to play much better against the Tennessee Titans to avoid a quick playoff exit.

    "This week, it has to be more concentration, focus, determination, attitude. Everything has to be at its top, top, top this week," he said. "We have to get to a great place where we're confident, trusting, and going out there and executing at our highest level. We can certainly execute a lot better than we did yesterday."

    The thing is, that wasn't Brady's first "off" game of the season. Or his second. Brady's completion percentage (60.8) is his lowest since 2013. His yards per attempt (6.6) is his lowest since 2002. Brady's passing yards per game (253.6) is his lowest since 2010.

    It's heresy to some to imply that the Golden Boy's level of play is falling off. And it bears mentioning that Brady's passing game weapons this year aren't especially imposing.

    But numbers don't lie. Brady's not getting any younger.

    And Father Time is undefeated.

New Orleans Saints

22 of 32

    Brett Duke/Associated Press

    Week 14

    It's not that often that a 13-3 team winds up playing on Wild Card Weekend. But the New Orleans Saints are in that boat—preparing to host the Minnesota Vikings.

    And the reason why the team isn't taking the week off can be traced to a wild 48-46 loss to the San Francisco 49ers—and two plays in that game.

    The first came at the end of the third quarter, when the Saints attempted a fake punt and failed. The receiver on the play was obviously impeded, but per the NFL's rules, there can't be pass interference on a fake punt. The Niners took over on downs and proceeded to peel off a 14-play touchdown drive that consumed seven minutes.

    The second play came at the end of the game. With the 49ers down a point, Jimmy Garoppolo found George Kittle on a short pass that turned into a 39-yard catch and run. As if leaving Kittle open on a play like that in crunch time isn't bad enough, defensive back Marcus Williams was penalized for a face mask on the play, moving the ball inside the Saints' 15-yard line and setting up the game-winning kick.

    It just goes to show the impact that one play (or two) can have not just on a game but on an entire season.

New York Giants

23 of 32

    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Offensive Tackle Nate Solder

    With the New York Giants picking in the top five of the 2020 NFL draft, there's been some speculation that the team might look to add one of this year's top tackle prospects. As Ryan Dunleavy reported for the New York Post, Nate Solder said he'd be willing to move to the other side of the offensive line if it will help the team.

    "I'll do whatever it takes to be successful on this team," Solder said. "If they ask me to spin a hula hoop around my head, I'll do that."

    It's an idea that might actually appeal to Giants brass, but not for the reason you might think.

    Leaving Solder on Daniel Jones' blind side might get the youngster killed.

    Simply put, Solder's been a disaster in the two seasons since he joined the G-Men on a four-year, $62 million contract in 2018. He's been arguably the worst player on an offensive line that ranked in the bottom half of the league in both run blocking and pass protection, per Football Outsiders.

    Cornerbacks DeAndre Baker and Janoris Jenkins were contenders here as well.

New York Jets

24 of 32

    Adam Hunger/Associated Press

    Running Back Le'Veon Bell

    To say that the New York Jets didn't have much luck with big-money free agents in 2019 is an understatement. Inside linebacker C.J. Mosley made it all of one game into the season before suffering a serious groin injury.

    That was disappointing, but not as disappointing as what running back Le'Veon Bell did (or didn't do) while he was on the field after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract.

    The good news is that Bell topped 1,200 total yards in his first season with the team. But that's about the extent of said good news—Bell's 3.2 yards a carry average was the lowest of his career, and his four total touchdowns were the second-fewest.

    For his part, Bell insisted that he's in it for the long haul in New York.

    "When I did sign here, I didn't expect us to go 16-0, you know what I'm saying?" Bell said, via ESPN's Rich Cimini. "I knew it would be a process. I understand everything. We got a young quarterback, a whole group of guys coming in -- new offensive coordinators, head coaches. ... I understand what goes on. It's not like basketball. You can't take one or two guys and change a team."

    But with Jets general manager Joe Douglas admitting that he'd listen to trade offers for the 28-year-old, it's not known whether that feeling is mutual after Bell's 2019 struggles.

Oakland Raiders

25 of 32

    Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

    Defensive End Clelin Ferrell

    In some respects, it's not even Clelin Ferrell's fault that he's a disappointment. He suffers from A.J. Hawk Syndrome. Just like the longtime Green Bay Packers linebacker, Ferrell was drafted inside the top five overall.

    And just like Hawk, Ferrell probably shouldn't have been.

    More than a few folks were surprised when Ferrell went at No. 4 to Oakland—ahead of more highly regarded edge-rushers like Josh Allen and Brian Burns. While speaking to John Shipley of Jaguars Maven, Oakland head coach Jon Gruden explained the rationale behind the pick.

    "We are a 4-3 defensive team and we really had no pure defensive ends on our team," Gruden said. "And we wanted to take Josh because of his obvious pass rushing ability, but we needed a six-technique -- a guy that could play on first down. Not that Josh can't, but we needed what we felt was a pure 4-3 defensive end."

    In their rookie seasons, Allen and Burns have combined for 18 sacks. Not only did Ferrell only manage 4.5 in his first season in the NFL, but he was outplayed by teammate (and Day 3 pick) Maxx Crosby.

    That stings.

Philadelphia Eagles

26 of 32

    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    The Wide Receivers

    The Philadelphia Eagles are the champions of the NFC East, but a 9-7 Eagles team that has been chewed to pieces by injuries isn't likely to go far in a loaded NFC bracket.

    Those injuries have hit the wide receivers especially hard. DeSean Jackson's reunion with the Eagles lasted all of one game before he suffered an abdominal injury that would eventually end his season. Alshon Jeffery posted the lowest yardage total since his rookie season and went down with a foot injury that leaves his status for the start of the 2020 campaign in doubt. Nelson Agholor missed five games and had his worst campaign since his rookie year.

    It's not just a matter of injuries, though. Agholor had issues galore with dropping passes even before he got hurt. Rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside caught all of 10 passes all season long. The team's No. 1 wideout heading into the playoffs is Greg Ward, who kicked off 2019 on the Eagles' practice squad.

    Philly's four-game winning streak to get into the postseason was impressive. But it's hard to imagine this team holding its own against the Saints, 49ers or Packers in the postseason.

Pittsburgh Steelers

27 of 32

    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    Wide Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster

    An argument can be made that the biggest disappointment for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019 was injuries. The offense was decimated, losing quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for most of the season and missing tailback James Conner and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster for substantial amounts of time.

    Smith-Schuster wound up missing four games in 2019, but that's not the only reason the third-year pro disappointed.

    Yes, some of Smith-Schuster's struggles this season can be tied to the Steelers' issues at quarterback. But entering the season, there was room for at least some concern about how Smith-Schuster would handle the status of being Pittsburgh's No. 1 wide receiver—and the defensive attention that comes with it.

    Those concerns appear to have been justified. Smith-Schuster's statistics were down across the board, and his receptions per game were cut in half. After scoring seven times in each of his first two seasons, Smith-Schuster scored just three touchdowns in 2019, and he managed only one 100-yard game all season long.

    Maybe Smith-Schuster will rebound in 2020 with Ben Roethlisberger back.

    Or maybe he's not the surefire star in the making so many believed him to be.

San Francisco 49ers

28 of 32

    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Defensive Lineman Solomon Thomas

    Much like the Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, it's not especially easy to single out a "disappointment" from a San Francisco 49ers team that won 13 games and the NFC West in 2019.

    Nitpick, much?

    However, for all the things that John Lynch has done right since being named the general manager of the 49ers in January of 2017, there remains one glaring swing-and-miss. With his first-ever draft pick as GM, Lynch selected Stanford defensive lineman Solomon Thomas with the third overall pick after trading back one spot.

    To say that pick hasn't exactly worked out is an understatement—and that didn't change much in the most recent season.

    In 2019, Thomas amassed just 21 tackles and two sacks. The former was a career-low. The latter gives Thomas seven sacks for his career—two fewer than the second overall pick in this year's draft (Nick Bosa) had in his rookie season alone.

    Thomas isn't necessarily a bad player. He's become a rotational piece and depth for the 49ers along the defensive line. But fewer than 400 total snaps and two sacks from a former top-five pick is more than just disappointing.

    It's a bust—one the 49ers have to make an option-year decision on soon.

Seattle Seahawks

29 of 32

    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    The Pass Rush

    The Seattle Seahawks won 11 games in 2019 and came within a few inches of winning the NFC West. By most measures, it was a successful season.

    But as the team prepares to face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Wild Card Round, there's a problem that could portend a quick exit from the postseason.

    Seattle's pass rush rather stinks.

    There isn't a team in the NFC that had fewer sacks than the 28 the Seahawks tallied in 2019. After trading Frank Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs, the Seahawks acquired Jadeveon Clowney from the Houston Texans just before the season began. But Clowney has battled injuries much of the season and wound up with his fewest sacks (three) since his rookie year.

    Clowney's hardly alone in those struggles. Defensive tackle Jarran Reed was suspended to start the year and ended with just two sacks after having 10.5 in 2018. Free-agent acquisition Ezekiel Ansah couldn't stay healthy and had just 2.5 sacks. The team's leader in the category was second-year end Rasheem Green—who had four.

    It's a far cry from the days of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, when the Seahawks had one of the most feared pass-rushes in the NFL.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

30 of 32

    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    The Cornerbacks

    You might have expected to see Jameis Winston listed here after the Tampa quarterback became the first player in NFL history to throw 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season. But while Winston certainly struggled with turnovers, he also led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards.

    There was no such dichotomy with the Tampa Bay secondary. The Buccaneers flat-out didn't defend the pass well—again.

    The Buccaneers have been trying to bolster the pass defense for years and just haven't had much success. The 2019 season began with the Buccaneers exercising the fifth-year option on cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III's contract. By November, the Buccaneers cut bait altogether on the former first-round pick.

    The cornerback spots have been a revolving door in Tampa for some time. And while young players like Sean Murphy-Bunting and Carlton Davis have shown occasional flashes, for every good play made, there's a buster coverage that leads to a long gain.

    Just as the lack of a pass rush will lead to defenses being picked apart, a formidable cadre of edge-rushers isn't much good if opposing teams can simply target weak links on the back end.

    The Buccaneers found that out the hard way again in 2019.

Tennessee Titans

31 of 32

    James Kenney/Associated Press

    Pass Protection

    The offensive line for the Tennessee Titans had something of a Jekyll and Hyde thing going on in 2019.

    When it came to opening holes for Derrick Henry on the ground, tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, guards Rodger Saffold and Nate Davis and center Ben Jones were as good as any unit in the NFL. Henry led the league with over 1,500 rushing yards, and the team ranked fourth in run blocking, per Football Outsiders.

    However, when it came to keeping quarterbacks Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill upright, the Titans were, um, not good.

    For the season, the Titans allowed a staggering 56 sacks. Only two teams (the Carolina Panthers and Miami Dolphins) surrendered more. Football Outsiders ranked that same top-five run-blocking unit as the worst offensive line in the National Football League in pass protection.

    The Titans will be facing the New England Patriots in the Wild Card Round largely because of the stellar play of Tannehill over the second half of the season.

    It's fair to wonder just how much better Tannehill and the Titans could be if he actually had some time to throw the ball.

Washington Redskins

32 of 32

    Mark Tenally/Associated Press

    Offensive Tackle Morgan Moses

    Back in 2017, Morgan Moses signed a five-year, $42.5 million contract that made him one of the highest-paid right tackles in the NFL.

    Fast forward a few years, and Moses' future with the new regime in Washington could be in question after a miserable 2019 campaign.

    Moses was the weak link in a bad Washington line that ranked in the bottom half of the NFL in run blocking and dead last in the NFC in pass protection, per Football Outsiders. The effort level of the 6'6", 330-pound 28-year-old was sporadic, and Moses (per Mark Tyler of Hogs Haven) paced the team in sacks allowed, pressures allowed and penalties.

    Quite the triple threat, Moses is.

    Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins is many things, but mobile is not one of him. His success depends largely on the line play in front of him—especially at the tackle spots.

    With Moses struggling mightily last year and Trent Williams apparently determined to play elsewhere, Haskins isn't exactly being put in the best position to have a big second season.