by Asa Brown
The NFL came to a climactic end on February 5th, with the New England Patriots defeating the Atlanta Falcons in Houston, Texas. There are 32 teams in the NFL, and these are (in my opinion) the ten best.
1.New England Patriots
The Patriots quietly went 14-2 during the regular season and defeated the Texans and Steelers with a combined score of 70-32. Tom Brady had another career-high year at age 39, passing for 3,554 yard and 28 touchdowns in just nine games, securing his place as the GOAT.
No matter the conspiracy and cheating that his career is surrounded in, he has the rings, statistics, and Pro Bowl appearances to line up against anyone who has ever taken a snap. Although LeGarrette Blount did not have a presence in the Super Bowl, he was a potent weapon throughout the season. With an offense that stayed afloat when rookie Jacoby Brissett was at the helm, the team also had the league’s best scoring defense. The only decision for Belichick & Co. is when to hand over the reins to Jimmy Garoppolo.
2. Atlanta Falcons
The poor, poor Falcons. The young, dynamic team saw the Lombardi trophy on the horizon and got sick. Was it the conservative play-calling that did them in? Was it Tom Brady? Did Lady Gaga put a spell on them? Perhaps we will never know. Either way, the heartbreak was immense.
Despite the nearly unmanageable disappointment that sums up the Falcons’ season, it is important to remember all the successes that they had. Julio Jones went from a WR1 in the pass-happy NFC South to the most dangerous weapon for any team on the offensive side of the ball. They had an A-level defense that transformed from a liability to what the team thought they were getting when they signed former Seahawks Defensive Coordinator Dan Quinn. Matt Ryan, despite a legendary crumble of epic proportions in the Super Bowl, won an MVP. All in all, the Falcons have retained most of their weapons and are looking to contend again next year.
3. Dallas Cowboys
By possibly pulling off the biggest steal in the history of the NFL Draft, Dak Prescott, Dallas surprised many and went 13-3 in a wild NFC East with an injured Tony Romo. No matter what the Cowboy faithfuls (or bandwagons) think, breakout star Ezekiel Elliott should not have won MVP. Although Elliott rushed for a league leading 1,631 yards on 322 attempts, he was gifted one of the best offensive lines in football. The young team keeps their core together of Elliott, Prescott, and Dez Bryant on offense and doesn’t lose anyone on defense.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers were blessed with good fortune being able to take the big three of Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown into the playoffs. It’s a shame they weren’t able to bypass their annual misadventure at the hands of the Patriots.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs probably had the most talented roster in football, and the exceptional coach Andy Reid. However, the Chiefs must have forgotten that Alex Smith never has, will, or can win a Super Bowl. Smith is a talented quarterback, but he certainly isn’t clutch. They could get more of the same in Romo, or trade for a real quarterback like Jimmy Garoppolo.
Another option, my favorite, is have 6’3, 346 pound nose tackle Dontari Poe play quarterback. If Poe threw for a QBR of 118.8, he at least deserves a tryout. Either way, if the Chiefs live out their days as a huge disappointment, it will be a huge waste. Recent star Tyreek Hill seems to score every time he touches the ball, and the defense is also nearly flawless. Who knows what will happen when Jamaal Charles returns to his former form.
6. Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers turned out another MVP-caliber season, and Ty Montgomery went from the 8th best wideout to the best RB, but that’s just about all that this team had going for them. The defense had a litany of injuries, especially to the their cornerbacks. Cornerback Makinton Dorleant, Demetri Goodson, Jude Adjei-Barimah, and Sam Shields all were placed on injured reserve for various reasons.
The Pack fell to a red-hot Atlanta offense in the NFC championship game where Matt Ryan and Julio Jones tore apart the depleted Green Bay secondary. However, Rodgers proved to the world that he will continue to be persona non grata with NFC teams, Montgomery emerged as a threat, and the Cheeseheads finished the year on a six game winning streak.
7. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks had an up and down season, sometimes being projected to win the Super Bowl, but sometimes being projected to not even make the playoffs. All in all, the Seahawks had a formidable year going 10-5-1, barely missing a first round bye. They beat the Detroit Lions at home before losing to the Falcons on the road.
Russell Wilson continued to improve, with or without an offensive line, and the Seahawks, generally a team with a traditional style of play, found several offensive weapons. Seattle was the only team to finish above .500 in their division and considering that two of the other teams in the NFC West are 29 and 31 on this list (spoilers), the Seahawks appear to be here to stay.
8. Oakland Raiders
Connor Cook, thought to be a talented player in college, is certainly no Derek Carr. If not for Carr’s broken leg in a game in December, the Raiders would have had a relatively clear path to the Super Bowl.
9. New York Giants
Considering that the last time someone other than Tom Coughlin coached the Giants, Chrysler sold more cars than Toyota, expectations were low this year in New York. However, Ben McAdoo coached a great team, which beat the Cowboys twice. Eli (EE-lie) Manning played an underrated season, throwing for 4,027 yards and 26 touchdowns, tied for 10th in the NFL.
Odell Beckham Jr. added to his montage of one-handed catches but still had a few meltdowns, including a marriage to a kicking net. The defense transformed from a liability to an asset, with pro-bowler Landon Collins at the helm. Overall, the giants grew under McAdoo, and look to contend again in the wild NFC East.
10. Detroit Lions
The Lions made the playoffs, but continued their playoff win drought. After starting the year 9-4, many thought that QB Matthew Stafford deserved the MVP. However, after losing their final three games by a combined score of 90-51, the Lions scraped into the playoffs, only to lose to the Seattle Seahawks. Despite Stafford’s lack of MVP, the 29-year-old from Tampa, Florida threw for 4327 yards and 24 touchdowns. Golden Tate and Marvin Jones emerged as a great 1-2 punch from WR, and Eric Ebron continues to grow as a tight end.
The running back situation got even more out of hand, with Ameer Abdullah going to rehab, and Theo Riddick being placed on injured reserve with an injured wrist. The more daunting problem for the Lions is not their running back situation, it is their inability to win playoff games. Since the Lions haven’t won a playoff game in 25 years, many fans in Detroit wonder about both Stafford and the coaching staff. Maybe being 10th on this list isn’t enough for Lions fans.