Ugly truths about the 20 NFL teams that didn’t make the playoffs
The regular season is over. SB Nation’s department of football epidemiology diagnosed where it all went wrong for the team’s who aren’t going to the postseason.
In most weeks, the Post-Mortem focuses on what befell the losers or helped the winners in individual games. The end of the regular season, however, is a time to look at the teams that are dead for good and determine why they missed the postseason. We will do that by identifying one thing each non-playoff team did worse than all 31 other teams in the NFL, in the hopes that this information will help them in the future. (Or give you something to point and laugh about.)
ATLANTA: Had the worst pass defense in the league, allowing 7.63 yards per pass attempt. The Falcons gave up 4478 yards through the air this season, tenth-most in NFL history.
BUFFALO: Most team running games followed a pattern this year, starting a little slow in the first quarter, hitting their stride in quarters two and three, and then easing down again in the fourth quarter. The Bills largely followed that track … but the fourth quarter swoon was particularly dramatic for the Buffalo running game.
That’s 2.84 yards per Bills carry in the last fifteen minutes, when the other 31 teams averaged at least three yards a rush.
CHICAGO: Yesterday, the Bears fired their GM, their head coach, and their offensive coordinator. That leaves Mel Tucker still employed, at least for the moment, as Chicago’s defensive coordinator, despite leading the unit that was easiest to score on this season. 44.6 percent of the drives the Bears faced on defense ended in a score for the offense (the league average was 35.4 percent), and no team forced fewer punts than Chicago — 49, compared to 46 touchdowns allowed.
CLEVELAND: Finished with the league’s lowest pass completion percentage (54.6) and fewest passing touchdowns (12). In their last eight games, the Browns only threw two touchdowns; the other AFC North teams each threw at least 11.
HOUSTON: Led the league in rushing attempts that went for a loss or no gain, with 128. True, they also led the NFL in total rushing attempts, but Seattle was close behind them and managed to finish ninth in runs that went nowhere positive.
JACKSONVILLE: Allowed a sack on 11.3 percent of their passing plays and finished with 71 sacks given up, both worst in 2014. The Jaguars join the ’86 Eagles, the ’87 Eagles, the ’97 Cardinals, the 2002 Texans, and the 2006 Raiders as the only teams to allow 70+ sacks in one year.
KANSAS CITY: Three franchises never threw for 300 yards in an individual game this season. Two are Jacksonville and Tennessee, who have the second and third pick in next year’s draft. Kansas City is the other.
MIAMI: Scoring in the red zone wasn’t a major problem for the Dolphins, who had 35 touchdowns on plays that started at or inside the opponent’s 20. Scoring outside of the red zone was nearly impossible; Miami finished with a league-low four touchdowns from the opponent’s 21-yard line and beyond.
MINNESOTA: The Vikings didn’t have major problems scoring when they left the NFC North, finishing 12th overall with 251 points in interdivision games. But they were last in the league in intra division scoring, averaging a little over twelve points per contest against the Bears, Lions, and Packers.
NEW ORLEANS: Boasted the NFL’s worst defense on first-and-10, allowing 6.24 yards per play.
NEW YORK GIANTS: Finished with the worst rush defense … in 2014 and team history, giving up 4.94 yards per run. In seven games this season, an opponent averaged at least five yards per carry against the Giants. The previous team-high in one year was five games.
NEW YORK JETS: Forced 13 turnovers, which, like their stadium-mates, was the worst in 2014 and team history. The previous record low was 15, set by last year’s team. In every other Jets season – including those with less than 16 games – the team has finished with at least 20 takeaways. Look at how strange 2013 and 2014 look against the last 31 years, like a once-valuable stock suddenly rendered worthless:
OAKLAND: The worst first down offense this season, averaging 4.25 yards per play on first-and-10. By comparison, the league average was a full yard better, at 5.54 yards per play.
PHILADELPHIA: Gave up 72 pass plays that gained 20 yards or more. (The Bills and Seahawks combined only allowed 68.) And this wasn’t just a matter of the Eagles getting gassed late or playing soft defense to protect a big lead — 38 of those long completions came in the first and second quarters.
SAN DIEGO: In their first eight games, the Chargers turned the ball over five times on offense, which was better than every team except Seattle and New England. In their next eight games, nobody turned the ball over more than San Diego’s 17 giveaways.
SAN FRANCISCO: The Niners had a fourth quarter offense like none other, averaging a league-worst 4.02 yards per play and scoring a measly two touchdowns. What makes that failure so shocking is that it doesn’t fit with how San Francisco played in the other three quarters:
Much better than average in the first two quarters, worse in the third, and then the bottom absolutely drops out once you start the final fifteen minutes.
ST. LOUIS: The NFC North combined for four offensive plays that resulted in defensive touchdowns. St. Louis doubled that.
TAMPA BAY: If there is a truly embarrassing aspect to Tampa’s dismal 2014, it is that they went 2-14 with an entirely favorable schedule. The Bucs wound up playing 11 games against teams that didn’t finish above .500 (Detroit was the only other team with that many games against non-winning opponents). Their record against that slate? 1-10.
TENNESSEE: The worst team on third-and-short, defined here as three yards or fewer to gain, with a conversion rate of 46 percent. The NFL average was 59 percent.
WASHINGTON: The worst team on third-and-long (10 yards or more to gain), converting at a 7.6 percent rate. On 66 third and long attempts this year, Washington moved the chains a total of five times.