The NFL 2016 regular season is close to being a done deal, and some huge red flags are waving after 15 weeks of action.
A few high profile, multi-million dollar quarterbacks are taking way too many hits. Speaking of millions of dollars, there is a team in serious need of a refund on its quarterback. Meanwhile, talented players are wasting away on losing teams and head coaches are getting fired right and left.
With two weeks left in the regular season, it is time to focus on the biggest needs around the NFL.
1. AFC East needs Tom Brady to retire
Only twice on Brady’s watch have the New England Patriots not finished in first place in the AFC East. This has been a tiresome trend for the other teams in the division since 2001.
It is pretty much a given that the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets compete for second place when September rolls around. This season might have been different for those three teams, but it was not. Brady left the door open when he served a four-game suspension. But true to form, the Pats picked up the slack. winning three of those four contests with Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie Jacoby Brissett under center.
Furthermore, tight end Rob Gronkowski only played in eight games before he was lost for the season in Week 12. Brady and Gronk have teamed up only six times this season. Yet despite all that, Brady and his Patriots just have the knack of making things work and have lost just two games all year.
This is likely to be an ongoing trend until Brady finally decides to retire. Unfortunately for the rest of the AFC East teams, it could still be a long stretch of years left before anybody has a shot at first place.
2. Todd Gurley needs a new team
Poor Gurley. He was drafted in the first round by the Los Angeles Rams in 2015 after a stellar career at Georgia. He had a fantatic rookie year, posting 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 10 games. It was a promising start to his NFL career.
Fast forward to 2016, and Gurley is averaging just 55.6 yards per game, finding the end zone only five times. His frustrations are obvious after the game (more on that here) and Rams fans are exasperated as well. If that is not bad enough, Gurley has received threats via social media from fantasy football owners who are fed up with his dull performances.
Gurley is not amused by any of this. And it is not his fault he is stuck on one of the most chaotic teams in the NFL. At least things could finally be changing now that Jeff Fisher is out the door.
But unfortunately, the damage is done. Los Angeles’ offense ranks worst in the league, averaging a meager 14.1 points per tilt. If Gurley actually played with a quarterback able to extend drives longer than 30 seconds he would probably be thrilled.
Instead, he can only dream of playing for a team like the Green Bay Packers until his rookie contract expires.
3. The 49ers need a complete overhaul
Once again, and for the 13th consecutive time this season, the 49ers got their clock cleaned after coming up short in Week 15. This time around, the Falcons handed San Francisco the business.
Atlanta’s running backs could not be contained (as predicted) when they combined for a ridiculous 248 rushing yards and three rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, the 49ers allowed 302 passing yards and two passing touchdowns without an interception in sight.
Results such as this have been typical all season. The 49ers defense is yielding 424.9 yards and 31 points on average each game. At the same time, the offense is struggling, averaging just 311 yards and 18.9 points per contest. Fans have seen both Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick under center, as was the case last season. Only this time, Kap was called to duty to replace Gabbert midway through, not the other way around.
Kaepernick has been decent for the most part, but rumors are swirling about that he wants out of his contract at the end of the season. He has denied it. But it would not be too surprising if Kaepernick, head coach Chip Kelly and general manager Trent Balke were all looking for new teams in 2017.
The 49ers need a rebuild. At least they appear to have secured the No. 2 overall pick in next year’s NFL Draft.
4. Denver Broncos need a run game
Somebody needs to step up and help out Trevor Siemian balance out Denver’s offense. Unfortunately, running back, C.J. Anderson was the guy that could do it but is on IR after having torn his meniscus back in October.
Ever since then, the Broncos have struggled to get anything much going on the ground. Rookie Devontae Booker showed early splashes of promise. But, over the course of the season, he has averaged just 3.4 yards per attempt. His most productive game came way back in Week 7 when he rushed for 83 yards and one touchdown. Booker’s most recent two games sadly consist of nine carries, for 18 yards and no scores.
Out of desperation, the Broncos signed 31 year-old running back Justin Forsett earlier in December. The two backs have primarily split the carries. But, Siemian has attempted 91 passes in his last two games. Both resulted in losses and a total of 13 points were scored. This is absolutely silly.
Denver’s defense is doing its best to keep the team afloat. But a rushing offense that ranks 27th overall is the Broncos’ handicap.
As a result, Denver is not coasting to first place in the AFC West for the first time since 2011. And, a chance of visiting the postseason is not looking very hopeful. The Broncos will need to address their run game moving forward, while hoping Anderson eventually returns in healthy form next year.
5. The Texans need a refund on Brock Osweiler
One of the biggest gambles of the NFL offseason was the Houston Texans signing Brock Osweiler to a mega, four-year, $72 million deal. As one of the highest-paid quarterbacks entering the 2016 season Osweiler collected $37 million guaranteed.
This is a major problem. Osweiler is not living up to anywhere near the expectations that come with the outrageous pile of cash he has stashed in his bank account. The Texans clearly need a refund on their investment. As the weeks have progressed, Osweiler has gone from bad to worse, and from being booed to benched this season.
Osweiler was so incredibly awful in his Week 15 performance against the Jacksonville Jaguars that he got the hook. The two gnarly interceptions he threw make 16 on the year versus 14 passing touchdowns.
This is magnified by the fact that Osweiler is completing only 59.6 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 71.4. The mind-blowing thing is the Texans are tied at the top of the AFC South with an 8-6 record. Osweiler is hardly deserving of the spoils, much less making a postseason appearance under his preposterous quarterbacking.
The team has already decided that Tom Savage will start in Week 16. Why? because Savage actually gets the ball to DeAndre Hopkins, who had eight catches in less than three quarter after Osweiler was pulled.
What is in store for Osweiler next season? That is the million-dollar question (pun intended).
6. Russell Wilson needs more love from his offensive line
The Seattle Seahawks have already clinched the NFC West, posting nine wins while the second-place Arizona Cardinals (5-8-1) have fallen well short of expectations.
Quarterback Russell Wilson is once again headed to the postseason, which has been the norm since he was drafted in 2012. But along the way, he has been sacked 34 times. He will finish the year with over 38 sacks should the pace continue. This is down from last season’s career-high 45, but this many sacks every year is going to shorten his career.
One sad sample of how bad Wilson’s protection was when the Seahawks played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 12. Wilson endured six sacks and took hits on 11 different plays.
Garry Gilliam was removed from the game and Bradley Sowell replaced him at right tackle. Head coach Pete Carroll suggested competition was the reason for the switch.
“It’s about the competition,” Carroll told reporters, via Geoffrey C. Arnold of oregonlive.com . “The opportunity for somebody else to take (Gilliam’s) spot is there. We’re going to see how Brad looks and see how he does.”
Since that game, Wilson has been sacked eight more times. Thomas Rawls has also struggled to break free and has managed only 101 rushing yards in his last two games.
The Seahawks are one of the most dynamic teams in the league and have one of the highest ceilings for potential. Just imagine how much more powerful they would be if Wilson wasn’t getting thrashed to pieces every game.
7. Detroit Lions need a reality check
As it stands, the Lions have a one-game lead on their NFC North rival Green Bay Packers with a 9-5 record. It looks fabulous on paper, but Matthew Stafford and Co. are snaking by with some heart-thumping victories that are too close for comfort.
In fact, Stafford has helped orchestrate eight fourth-quarter comeback victories — an NFL record. While these are thrilling wins, it’s happening a bit too often than it should be for a team leading a division. The Lions have not won by more than seven points in any of their nine victories.
They also just had their boat rocked when the New York Giants snapped their five-game winning streak at MetLife Stadium.
Hats off to what the Lions have accomplished this year. However, this is one NFC club that will need an extra dose of good luck if it manages to see the postseason.
8. The Jacksonville Jaguars need a mulligan for 2016
Heading into the season, the Jags were talked up as one of the young teams destined to make an impact and potentially challenge for a playoff spot.
Fast forward to Week 16. The Jaguars sport a lowly 2-12 record and have not won since Week 6. And Week 15 was the final straw. After the team tanked a third-quarter 20-8 lead to the Houston Texans, losing 21-20, head coach Gus Bradly got the boot.
This was a game the Jaguars should have had in the bag. But like we’ve seen all year, Blake Bortles undermined the efforts of the Jaguars defense and special teams. In an atrocious performance, Bortles completed 12-of-28 passes for 92 yards and an interception. Fortunately, he added one rushing touchdown, which was the highlight of the offense’s accomplishments.
But, overall, it was one of Bortles’ worst outings ever. So much so, the Jaguars brass are not committing to sticking with him in 2017.
— SportsLine (@SportsLine) December 18, 2016
As for the rest of the Jaguars’ season, it is probably a write-off with the Tennessee Titans and Indianapolis Colts next on the calendar. All things considered, the Jaguars are surely a team that would like to turn back the clock to September and start over.
9. New York Jets need a legitimate quarterback
Many thought that the Jets would be contending once Ryan Fitzpatrick was finally re-signed right at the start of training camp. After all, Fitzpatrick posted career-high numbers and led his team to a 10-6 finish in 2015.
Well, so much for that plan. The Jets are about as rancid as two-week-old garbage and have started multiple quarterbacks over 14 games. Fitzpatrick clearly lost his magic, has dealt with injuries and was benched more than once.
Geno Smith was given an opportunity to start back in Week 7, and he wound up injured. He is now on IR and likely done with the team that drafted him in 2013.
Currently, Bryce Petty has been under center since taking over for Fitzpatrick in Week 9. Petty has thrown three touchdowns and six interceptions, which is truly horrible. He also endured an injury in a disastrous performance in Week 15 (watch here).
If Petty is unable to suit up, Fitzpatrick will play in Week 16. But, at this point, the Jets possess a lopsided 4-10 record and need to focus on next season’s quarterback situation.
10. Minnesota Vikings need an offensive revival
We just witnessed the 28th-ranked Indianapolis Colts defense completely dismantle the Vikings offense in Week 15. It was quite frightening for those who endured the entire 60 minutes.
Going into the game, we figured it should have been the Vikings defense picking apart Andrew Luck and his guys instead. But the Colts royally embarrassed Minnesota in a huge 34-6 victory on the road.
And the much-anticipated return of Adrian Peterson was about as exciting a trip to the dentist. The veteran running back carried the ball six times for a total of 22 yards and fumbled away his best run of the game. Jerick McKinnon was no better with his 12 yards on three carries.
More often than not, the Vikings offense simply implodes. It ranks 31st in the league and cannot expect the kicker and defense to be the only parties scoring points.
There is much work to be done to better protect Bradford and get the offense more productive looking ahead to next season.