We have made it to the end of the 2018 NFL regular season, meaning all our questions about playoff positioning — and draft order — have been answered. There will be a lot of movement on the coaching market with vacancies coming up. For now, we have to sift through who came up big when it counted and who ended up having their heart broken.
Here are the 15 biggest disappointments of NFL Week 17.
The Vikings had a very simple task — win at home against the Chicago Bears and they were in the playoffs. Not only did they fail to do so, but they didn’t even come particularly close. The Bears won 24-10, with the Minnesota offense a constant disaster area and players not on the same page. The defense was unable to get off the field, particularly on third down. This was a mess and will require a lot of soul-searching after a team expected to contend for a Super Bowl didn’t even make it to the postseason.
Amid reports that coach Adam Gase was on the hot seat, there was some thinking that a strong performance from his Dolphins team could work in his favor. He didn’t get it. The Dolphins gave up 42 to the Buffalo Bills, a team that hadn’t scored more than 30 points in a month and a half, and didn’t look very inspiring on offense themselves. If owner Stephen Ross was looking for a reason to keep Gase, the team didn’t really give it to him. They looked like a team that had quit already.
Blaine Gabbert, QB, Titans
Tennessee was facing a big challenge to win their play-in game against the Colts without Marcus Mariota. Still, Gabbert is a veteran who has made plenty of starts in the NFL — there was some hope he’d put together a big game. Instead, he proved ineffective. The Titans punted on their first four possessions, setting a tone of disappointment. The offense had only produced three points before halftime. Even when they made it a 24-17 game late and had the ball at midfield, Gabbert was intercepted. He finished 18/29 for 165 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. It simply wasn’t enough.
Vance Joseph’s team didn’t do much for him in Week 17. Denver outgained the Los Angeles Chargers, but they turned the ball over four times, one of which was a fumble recovery the Chargers returned for a touchdown. The Broncos’ ending to the season was fitting for a team that chronically underachieved. They were handed every opportunity to do more and got solid play from their defense, but only managed to score nine points.
Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings
There’s plenty of blame to go around here — the Minnesota offensive line, for instance, has been woefully poor for weeks now. That said, the Vikings brought Cousins in to win big games, and he is now 5-25 in his career against teams with a winning record. He went 20-for-33, but with just 132 yards passing. He was reduced to a lot of checkdowns and high-percentage short throws that weren’t moving the offense. It is an offense that probably needs a rethink, as even in Week 17, Cousins and his receivers showed signs of not being on the same page.
Green Bay Packers
The Packers almost looked like they were trying to tank on Sunday, though Aaron Rodgers’ early departure with a concussion didn’t help matters. Ultimately, Green Bay looked like they were very much mailing it in, and that allowed the Detroit Lions to pitch their first shutout in over two decades. The Packers need major changes this offseason, starting with getting their coaching hire correct. Rodgers will need a lot more weapons to get Green Bay back in playoff contention.
Russell Wilson, QB, Seahawks
The Seahawks were very underwhelming the whole Sunday, managing to lock up the fifth seed at home against the team that ultimately earned the No. 1 pick only because of a last-second field goal. Wilson only completed 12-of-21 passes for 152 yards with a touchdown and an interception, as everything was a slog for Seattle in what should have been a pretty easily winnable game. Wilson had an excellent season, but this was his second-worst passing game of the year in terms of yardage. He’ll have to pick it up against Dallas in the playoffs.
The Redskins were completely uncompetitive on Sunday and that was to be expected. They’ve been hit by injuries and were playing an opponent that had everything to play for. That said, the game was a perfect microcosm of all that troubles Washington right now. It was a bad team playing in front of an apathetic fanbase that has had to witness so much losing without any repercussions that FedEx Field seemed to be mostly Eagle fans toward the end.
Amari Cooper, WR, Cowboys
On a day when Dak Prescott threw four touchdowns, you would figure Cooper to figure heavily in the offense. That didn’t really happen. He was targeted eleven times and caught five of them, but they were worth just 31 yards and he didn’t find the end zone. Prescott missed him wide open on what likely would have been a touchdown late in the fourth, with the pair not appearing to be on the same page. This is likely just an off week for Cooper, and he’ll look to get it going in the playoffs.
New York Giants’ defense
A whole host of teams were rooting for the Giants to beat Dallas on Sunday. Part of it is because a New York win would have improved the draft position for some rivals, while in general, a lot of people don’t like the Cowboys. The Giants stormed back from a 21-10 deficit to take a 35-28 lead with 2:35 left, but Dak Prescott and the Cowboys took them apart on the ensuing drive, culminating in an excellent Cole Beasley touchdown. If this was it for Eli Manning, they probably could have and should have sent him out with a win, but it didn’t work out that way.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR, Steelers
After a backbreaking turnover in last week’s loss to the New Orleans Saints, Smith-Schuster undoubtedly wanted to atone in Week 17. While he did catch an 11-yard touchdown pass, that accounted for one of his five catches and 11 of his 37 yards. In other words, he didn’t do much else, and this certainly wasn’t one of his bigger games in terms of receptions or yardage. The Steelers won, but ultimately, it wasn’t enough for them to see their way into the playoffs.
Jared Cook, TE, Raiders
If there was anything emblematic of the Oakland Raiders’ season, it was Cook essentially checking out mid-play and leading directly to a Kansas City pick-six. Late in the first quarter, Derek Carr tried to connect with Cook, but the tight end wasn’t even really looking and had essentially given up on his route. Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen hadn’t, and he picked off the pass and returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. The Raiders need to wash this season away as quickly as possible.
New York Jets’ offense
While not at all pleasant, the Jets don’t have a good defense and had a worse time with Tom Brady on Sunday, giving up 38 points to the Patriots. The offense, however, was quite disappointing, even considering the fact that they were on the road. Sam Darnold, as impressive as his rookie season was, didn’t throw a touchdown — nor did the team score one. The quarterback was limited to 167 yards, and the Jets simply did nothing on offense. A new coach should focus on getting the best out of Darnold and his development.
Nick Chubb, RB, Browns
This was not Chubb’s finest day as he didn’t get many touches of the ball. The rookie carried nine times for 24 yards, his worst mark since being handed the keys to the offense in Week 7. To make matters worse, Chubb had actually surpassed the 1,000 yard mark for the season before taking a five-yard loss on his final carry, dropping him back down to 996 yards. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much, but it’s painful to come so close and cross the threshold before ultimately falling short.
Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon, RB, Jaguars
It’s tough to count as a disappointment when you’re not even active, but Fournette pulled that off on Sunday. He and Yeldon both spent the entire game essentially sitting on the bench with their heads down as the Jaguars ended a truly mediocre season. That body language got them called out by Tom Coughlin. Yeldon is a free agent and won’t be back, but between his conduct and his injury proneness, one has to wonder if Fournette has worn out his welcome in Jacksonville.