My thoughts on all 32 NFL franchises ahead of the chaotic 2021 off-season conclude today with thoughts on the eight teams from NFC south and west divisions.
Well, Tom Brady is getting all the accolades for winning another Super Bowl, but the real winner was Bucs running back LeSean McCoy, who has now won back-to-back Super Bowl titles – without playing a single down.
Work smarter, not harder. And now that’s all done and dusted, we can move on to the actual biggest event NFL calendar – the draft. Until then, here are the final rankings for this season.
1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (15-5)
Last ranking: 7 (Week 17)
A massive jump for Bruce Arians’ team, matching their massive accomplishments on the field. Winning seven straight games, three straight away playoff games and taking down quarterbacks like Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes on the way puts this lot on top. And don’t snooze either as a lot of the pieces from this year will be in place when they look to repeat.
Based on form, who’d bet against them?
2. Kansas City Chiefs (16-3)
Last ranking: 1
Nothing like throwing up a stinker at the big dance to ruin your offseason break. The Chiefs’ implosion in the Super Bowl brought back memories of the 2020 Penrith Panthers. They were the team all year, except when the lights were brightest. And for all the expectation of a Michael Jordan versus LeBron James, Muhammad Ali versus Mike Tyson inter-generational battle between Tom Brady and Mahomes, it ended up more like Mr Miyagi giving Daniel-san an absolute belting.
Don’t be fooled though, Mahomes played incredibly well.
3. Buffalo Bills (15-4)
Last ranking: 2
A heck of a season for Buffalo brought a real feel-good factor for their fans and league observers alike. Attention will now turn to trying to go a step further and make it to the next Super Bowl. There’s just the small matter of the now disgruntled Chiefs to go through.
4. Green Bay Packers (14-4)
Last ranking: 3
Aaron Rodgers looked pretty grim in the immediate aftermath of losing the NFC championship game. Almost as grim as their defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who was given the boot because of the loss. Plenty of heat went on coach Matt LeFleur for taking a field goal in the red zone, but really Rodgers was the guy who lost his nerve by not running for a touchdown the play earlier.
Anyways, Rodgers’ situation in Green Bay is one that a lot of people are keeping an eye on.
5. New Orleans Saints (13-5)
Last ranking: 4
Even a few weeks on, we are not really much closer to knowing if Drew Brees will retire or not. Nothing has been confirmed, so the Saints are a little in limbo as they head into an offseason where they are projected to be nearly $80 million over the salary cap. Apparently, Brees has agreed to take a pay cut which indicates he will retire, but frankly I don’t know how that all works.
We’ll just wait and see.
6. Los Angeles Rams (11-7)
Last ranking: 13
They pulled off a good win against their arch-nemesis Seahawks in the wild card round, so they snared a decent bump in the rankings. After losing to Green Bay in the divisional round, the Rams have remained firmly in the limelight by pulling off a dramatic trade to swap quarterbacks with the Lions.
The Rams traded away former first overall draft pick Jared Goff and a heap of draft picks for Matt Stafford. I guess LA thinks they’re only one guy away and Sean McVay is keen to shoot their shot right now.
7. Seattle Seahawks (12-5)
Last ranking: 5
The disappointed Seahawks departed the playoff race with barely a whimper against a Rams side that started their backup quarterback (though we now have a better idea why that was). This week, Russell Wilson has started rattling the cage, so to speak, and expressing his discontent at the lack of progress in the squad.
Still plenty of solid pieces in the side, but it will be an interesting few months to come in Starbucks town.
8. Cleveland Browns (12-6)
Last ranking: 8
Cleveland fans must have been pinching themselves as they rolled out to a 28-0 lead over the Steelers in their wild card playoff game. In fact, they’ll probably have screen-shotted a bunch of pictures, blown them up, framed them and taken them straight to the pool room.
Some thought they would bump the Chiefs out of the playoffs the following week too, as Patrick Mahomes left the game with a concussion. But alas, the Browns didn’t quite have it in them, so it’ll be back to camp to make the necessary improvements.
9. Baltimore Ravens (12-6)
Last ranking: 11
‘This time it’s personal’ was exactly what Lamar Jackson said before heading to Tennessee to take on the Titans in the playoffs. At least, that’s what I like to think he said, because they rolled into Nissan Stadium and stomped all over the Titans midfield logo – literally and figuratively – on their way to victory.
They did get bounced out in the cold of Buffalo the following week and will look to add some weapons for Jackson in the offseason.
10. Tennessee Titans (11-6)
Last ranking: 9
‘This time it’s personal’ is what Derrick Henry and the Titans will be saying the next time they play the Ravens. Although technically, Tennessee did make it personal in the first place for the Ravens, so now it’s like a layer cake of personal. Which makes for a delicious next meeting between these two personalities. See what I did there? Okay, I’ll get my coat…
11. Indianapolis Colts (11-6)
Last ranking: 10
Seriously, if I hear one more Carson Wentz trade to Indy rumour, I’ll…actually, I won’t do anything, because it would be an interesting move. Everyone’s assuming ole ‘Side Arm Sam’ (Philip Rivers) is off to retire and have more kids, though no official word has been made yet. He did actually play pretty well down the stretch and in the playoffs too, so maybe he might want to come back? Who knows.
12. Pittsburgh Steelers (12-5)
Last ranking: 6
What in the world happened to the Steelers? Remember when they were 11-0? Okay, they did flatter to deceive to get to that record, but from there it was grim. Really grim. Now, they are another team riding the quarterback carousel as Big Ben says he wants to return and is willing to restructure his contract to help ease the salary cap squeeze.
Apparently, that indicates he’s coming back, while Drew Brees did a similar thing, but is retiring. Like I said, I don’t understand these things.
13. Miami Dolphins (10-6)
Last week: 12
When did people start getting so impatient with their quarterbacks? I know Josh Rosen was the victim of a coaching change plus first overall draft pick (call it the perfect storm) in Arizona. That meant he was out after a season. But in Miami, there have been whispers about Tua Time being over already?
He only played about seven games. I get that if the Texans were willing to part ways with Deshaun Watson, then yeah get that deal done, but short of that, where is the faith?
14. Chicago Bears (8-8)
Last ranking: 14
To Trubisky, or not to Trubisky? That is the question. Mitch Trubisky’s contract is set to expire, so the Chicago brass must figure out what to do with the former second overall draft pick, one that the team ruined their future drafts for while not picking Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson. Not that I’m bitter.
Anyways, like I said, they need to make a call on the most pivotal position and despite Trubisky playing well down the stretch, Pro Football Focus actually has Mitch rated 66th on their list of league-wide free agents. That ain’t a great sign.
15. Arizona Cardinals (8-8)
Last ranking: 15
Quarterbacks aren’t the only ones pondering retirement this year. Wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is making Cards nation wait on whether he will be back for an 18th year. Arizona’s defensive line coach Brentson Buckner jumped the gun following their last regular-season game, claiming the “last ride” with Fitzgerald and that the countdown to his Hall of Fame induction had begun.
Since then? No word at all, especially not from Fitz himself. One more ride would be nice though.
16. Los Angeles Chargers (7-9)
Last ranking: 18
I gave the Chargers a little bump over the Raiders despite having a slightly inferior record. Partly as they won four straight games to finish off the year, partly because their superstar quarterback Justin Herbert will have a full off-season to improve his game (which is scary) and also due to the hiring of Brandon Staley as head coach. Staley was defensive coordinator for the Rams, whose defence was the league’s best.
Having lost a lot of close games, the Chargers only need a slight improvement from their defence and they can do very well next year.
17. Las Vegas Raiders (8-8)
Last ranking: 15
Jon Gruden and his Las Vegas coaching staff have plenty to ponder in the coming months. At quarterback, they are still not sure about Derek Carr (probably never will be), are looking at trading backup Marcus Mariota, oh and a guy named Deshaun Watson said he would like to go to Vegas (to play football that is). Free-agent Tik-Toker/wide receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is also keen to play inside the Death Star and pay less income tax.
Also, the defence is a shambles, so yeah, there’s a bit to think about.
18. Washington Football Team (7-9)
Last ranking: 17
Before the Buccaneers conquered the NFL, they had to get past a tricky team in the playoffs called the Team. Washington was not expected to make any real noise, however, one name emerged from their wild-card defeat to the Bucs – Taylor Heinicke. Who? Up till that point, he was a maths teacher who had been on WFT’s practice squad but ended up starting at quarterback against Tampa Bay.
And judging by what they would do the following weeks – he played extremely well. The question in the capital now though is, will he be the guy moving forward? That mathematical formula is a tricky one to figure out.
19. Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
Last ranking: 19
The Vikings are another side who aren’t that far away. They just need to bolster the pass rush before next season and they will be a problem for a lot of teams. Wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen are an excellent combo and Kirk Cousins is pretty decent – that’s assuming they don’t trade for another quarterback in this impatient league. They will need to do some tinkering too, as they are projected to be nearly $8 million over the salary cap.
20. New England Patriots (7-9)
Last ranking: 20
Started a bit of a joke tally for these guys, involving Bill Belichick versus Tom Brady. At Week two the score was Belichick 1, Brady 1. I did stop counting from then on, but just like in the bad horror movies – it’s back for one last scare. Final season tally Brady 20, Belichick 6. Looking forward to Bill getting his defence back next year though (COVID willing).
21. San Francisco 49ers (6-10)
Last ranking: 21
They lost a bunch of defensive stars during the season, then star defensive coach Robert Saleh after it had all finished. It will be a bit of a rebuild for the 9ers, though if they can get healthy, they have a lot going for them. And what’s with all the Jimmy G haters? Guy misses one throw in the Super Bowl and all of a sudden, he’s no good?
That’s really harsh. Let’s see if he returns to the team and to form next year.
22. New York Giants (6-10)
Last ranking: 22
Big Blue fought hard and very nearly snuck an undeserved playoff spot from the NFC Least. Next year they will hopefully welcome back a fully fit Saquon Barkley, however, they are expected to be nearly $4 million over the projected salary cap. So basically, a team that wasn’t very good anyway has to make itself worse by cutting players to get under the cap.
You don’t need to be a Taylor Heinicke maths teacher to know that is not a good equation.
23. Dallas Cowboys (6-10)
Last ranking: 23
I am always astounded by just how much grief the Cowboys get on social media. Why are they so derided? On that same note though, lots of the jokes are very funny. Saw one where they had found a way for Tom Brady to not win the Super Bowl – they had digitally imposed him into a Cowboys uniform.
Then there was the meme saying that Tom Brady’s daughter had held the Vince Lombardi more times than the Cowboys had won playoff games in the last 20 years. Sure, it’s a bit long-winded, but it’s still compelling.
24. Denver Broncos (5-11)
Last ranking: 24
In New Orleans, the question is ‘what will Drew do?’, while in Denver it is ‘what will we do with Drew?’. Actually, that gives me an idea – if Drew Brees retires, Denver should trade Drew Lock to New Orleans. I mean he’d give you something back for your investment (though not a lot) and New Orleans can make him the new Drew.
Because as we all remember, Drew Brees was certainly not Drew Brees when he signed with the Saints, if you know what I mean.
25. Carolina Panthers (5-11)
Last ranking: 25
Alrighty then, let’s pour that glass to half full in Charlotte. Carolina owns the eighth overall draft pick, meaning they could be in the hunt for a big-name quarterback. They could also trade to go higher. Also, they will get the CMC Music Factory (Christian McCaffrey) back next season as well as nearly $12 million in salary-cap space. All those things considered, they could start making some sweet music pretty soon.
26. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11-1)
Last ranking: 26
Alright, listen here, you bumble-licious Bungles. Positive things will happen for you this year. You will get the best offensive lineman in the draft – Penei Sewell – and maybe even double down on another in the second round too. Then you get Joe Burrow back, he’ll start smoking a cigar on the field, which would be the epitome of cool. Then you’re going win a bunch of games and get to 7-9.
Got it? Good. Love me some positivity.
27. Detroit Lions (5-11)
Last ranking: 27
In the land of kneecap biting, things are looking up. Well, they are always looking up in Detroit, because frankly they are always down the bottom. So where else are they going to look? Not hugely excited about the Jared Goff trade, but there is hope in the fact they hold the Rams’ first-round draft picks for the next millennium. Can’t wait to see what new and inventive ways they can think of to completely blow those picks.
28. Atlanta Falcons (4-12)
Last ranking: 30
A huge jump in the rankings for the Failcons due to the out-of-hours implosions by Houston and Philly. Atlanta picks fourth in the draft, so there is plenty of intrigue as to how new general manager Terry Fontenot plays it with new head coach Arthur Smith. Draft scenarios are currently all over the map for that pick, but I’m sure there’ll be another 65,000 mock drafts to clear that all up before April.
29. Philadelphia Eagles (4-11-1)
Last ranking: 28
How the hell you go get fired on your day off? It was a great line from the movie Friday, but also the truth when it comes to Eagles ex-head coach Doug Pederson, who decided to lose a game in prime time to “see what he had”. Turns out he had a job, which he now does not.
No one knows what on earth is happening with Carson Wentz (loud trade rumours are floating) and what will be left for new head coach Nick Sirianni to work with. Yikes.
30. New York Jets (2-14)
Last week: 30
I thought the Jets did well to finish 31st on the season and now – even better at 30th. They fired Adam Gase and now it’s Robert Saleh’s team to try and infuse with some sort of energy. While his forte is defence, the big question swirls around Sam Darnold and what to do with the number two overall pick. Keep him and build around him? Or replace?
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-15)
Last ranking: 32
Not even the Jags finish last – what is going on here? But it didn’t take long for coach Urban Meyer to screw up in the NFL. He hired Chris Doyle – a strength and conditioning coach. Nothing wrong with that, right? Not at all.
Unless you have an issue with his hiring drawing an immense backlash, due to multiple complaints of racism from his previous job. This current job? Lasted one day, as he resigned amid a suitable uproar. Well done Jags. Good job.
32. Houston Texans (4-12)
Last ranking: 29
You know when you go to the supermarket and you see a kid absolutely lose the plot? That is what is happening at Texans HQ.
These are not fun times in Houston. The teams top two icons, Deshaun Watson and JJ Watt, want out. Watt has already been released, while Watson is stuck in limbo. Management says they will definitely not trade him, while Watson really doesn’t want to play for this team. Plus, they’ve brought in an incredibly underwhelming new head coach and there has even been a resignation by their team president.
No idea where this is leading, but make sure you have the popcorn at the ready.
Final note: it’s been an absolute blast bringing you news, insights, song and movie references, plus plain idiocy this season folks. So, stay safe and will have more madness coming your way for the NFL draft.