NFL Week 18 grades from around the league
Robert Scheer/IndyStar/USA Today Images

NFL Week 18 grades from around the league

The Jaguars' upset win over the Colts opened the door to one of the wildest season-ending weeks in modern NFL history. The Raiders and Chargers completed a strange classic that had the Steelers on the brink of a historically unusual playoff omission. This followed a 49ers comeback conquest in Los Angeles, which set the table in the NFC. Here are the grades from the NFL's final regular-season Sunday.

 
1 of 32

Instability around Justin Herbert resurfaces in huge spot

Instability around Justin Herbert resurfaces in huge spot
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

While Herbert's surge surely had NFL execs grinning maniacally, as the league's first Week 18 since 1994 ended with the game of the year, the Chargers' foundational cracks undermined their superstar QB. Herbert's final two drives were pure mastery, terrifying Raiders and Steelers fans alike. But the Bolts' issues protecting him, stopping the run, and, perhaps centrally, with situational football will keep a scary team out of the playoffs. Brandon Staley's Madden-on-tilt fourth-down call inside his own 20 and scrutinized OT timeout finished off a strange year for the young leader, and the Bolts' season-long apathy toward run defense proved costly. This is one of the AFC's seven most talented teams; the Chargers (9-8) again failed to maximize said talent.

CHARGERS GRADE: C-plus

 
2 of 32

Raiders D-line answers call to save season

Raiders D-line answers call to save season
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

For all the Jon Gruden-Mike Mayock regime's draft misses, the duo made some impact Day 3 choices. Chief among them: Maxx Crosby, who made Chargers right tackle Storm Norton a turnstile. Crosby harassed Herbert constantly, posting two sacks and three batted passes. Ex-Charger Darius Philon stopping Staley's fourth-down magnum opus also helped the Raiders (10-7) finish off their improbable climb. Las Vegas went 4-0 in overtime and rallied back from 6-7 to reach the playoffs for the first time in five years. The Bolts have more pure talent, but the Raiders deserved to topple them. Sunday's Steelers-terrifying ending should double as the defining Raiders-in-Vegas sequence for a while. 

RAIDERS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: at Bengals (Sat.)

 
3 of 32

Seventh-round pick comes through to elevate 49ers

Seventh-round pick comes through to elevate 49ers
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Deebo Samuel transformed the 49ers' season-saving drive, finishing off a campaign in which he is a lock for the All-Pro team's flex position. But the 49ers (10-7) saw Jauan Jennings deliver his biggest game in a monumental spot. A Round 7 pick in 2020, Jennings did not play as a rookie and topped out at 46 yards in a game going into Week 18. San Francisco's WR3 provided Jimmy Garoppolo unlikely security, converting three third downs -- including an OT chunk play to set up the 49ers' game-winner -- during his 94-yard, two-TD day. The 49ers beat the Rams for a sixth straight time, doing so without Trent Williams, and represent the NFC's toughest wild-card draw.

49ERS GRADE: A | NEXT: at Cowboys (Sun.)

 
4 of 32

Star-stacked Rams pass defense folds

Star-stacked Rams pass defense folds
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Stafford led the Rams to a 17-0 lead, and Cooper Kupp's triple crown-cementing day involved a go-ahead fourth-quarter TD. With the 49ers inside their own 15 with no timeouts, that should have been enough. But the Rams' Aaron Donald-, Jalen Ramsey- and Von Miller-fronted defense looked bad on both the 49ers' game-tying drive and their go-ahead OT march. Jennings streaking wide open for the tying score is unacceptable for a healthy Rams defense given the investments here. Like a few teams in this playoff field, the Rams (12-5) present a Super Bowl ceiling. It also would not shock to see this talented but unreliable squad bounced in Round 1.

RAMS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Cardinals (Mon.)

 
5 of 32

Steelers ride T.J. Watt, defense to inch into playoffs

Steelers ride T.J. Watt, defense to inch into playoffs
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

It took until Monday morning Eastern Time for Pittsburghers to relax, but this flawed squad advanced because the Raiders eschewed a tie to avoid the Steelers taking one of the worst bad beats in sports history. Watt tied Michael Strahan's record of 22.5 sacks and will win his coveted Defensive Player of the Year award. The Steelers (9-7-1) came dangerously close to a two-tie season, but their pass defense continues to be bankable. Pittsburgh's two INTs on Tyler Huntley dragged this mucky game to OT, and it will extend Ben Roethlisberger's career. While a Dan Marino-in-Jacksonville-type ending is in play, the Steelers defense should be better prepared for Patrick Mahomes this time.

STEELERS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: at Chiefs (Sun.)

 
6 of 32

Depleted Ravens predictably go down swinging

Depleted Ravens predictably go down swinging
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Barring Bengals involvement, John Harbaugh's injury-plagued team could generally be counted on to show fight. It did so again Sunday, taking the Steelers to overtime and nearly further muddying the AFC playoff picture by handing their rivals a second tie. Cam Sutton's end zone INT helped doom the Ravens (8-9), who lost their final six. A key season on Baltimore's timeline combusted, thanks to injuries across the lineup. Calais Campbell is expected to consider retirement, and interior-line staples Kevin Zeitler and Brandon Williams are into their 30s. Most importantly, the Ravens' future formula is poised to include a monster Lamar Jackson contract. That will test the team in a new way.

RAVENS GRADE: C-plus 

 
7 of 32

A collapse for the ages

A collapse for the ages
Bob Self/Florida Times-Union / USA TODAY NETWORK

Spoiler efforts commence annually, but this will reside on the top tier of final-week letdowns. The Colts (8-9) not only extended their bizarre Jacksonville losing streak to seven; they were outplayed in all phases. The Jags surprisingly bettered the Colts' Pro Bowler-laden O-line, with the Josh Allen-Eric Fisher matchup going poorly for the visitors, and Indianapolis' defense could not stop an offense that has been dreadful all season. Carson Wentz will take deserved blame here. The unvaccinated QB's COVID-19 case provided a clear demarcation line for the Colts, whose offense hit a wall in Week 17. Wentz needs more weapons, but this finish defines his season.

COLTS GRADE: F 

 
8 of 32

Jaguars win on multiple fronts

Jaguars win on multiple fronts
Bob Self/Florida Times-Union/USA TODAY NETWORK

The Jaguars played their best game since at least September 2018 and keep the No. 1 overall pick despite the Lions going against the Packers. Allen came through for two sacks, and Roy Robertson-Harris logged seven pressures. The Jags (3-14) stopped Jonathan Taylor on a fourth-and-goal and limited the rushing champ to 77 yards, angering certain maniacs whose fantasy seasons extend to Week 18. Jacksonville's defense threw the AFC playoffs into chaos. Two of the conference's top seven teams are out, and the Jags -- 14-point underdogs -- are leaving a miserable season with momentum and another No. 1 pick. A banner day for a franchise that submitted the worst 2021 season.

JAGUARS GRADE: A-plus 

 
9 of 32

Ryan Tannehill's escape sets up Titan playoff reignition

Ryan Tannehill's escape sets up Titan playoff reignition
George Walker IV/Tennessean.com/USA TODAY NETWORK

In a sequence that reminded of the Week 17 in which Kevin Harlan called two games and the Chiefs secured an unlikely bye, the Texans nearly erased a 21-0 Titans lead. Ryan Tannehill stopped the underdog's onslaught by escaping a Jacob Martin sack and locating Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a 37-yard third-down strike. That stalled a Houston rally that could have undone Tennessee's plans. Tannehill's four-TD day made sure the Titans remained the No. 1 seed and the Chiefs stayed at 2. But the Titans (12-5) will look different soon, with Derrick Henry back. Tannehill keeping this leaky ship going without playmakers made this reality possible. This is one of the most unique No. 1 seeds in NFL history.

TITANS GRADE: B | NEXT: bye

 
10 of 32

Danny Amendola eruption nearly shakes up playoffs

Danny Amendola eruption nearly shakes up playoffs
George Walker IV/Tennessean.com/USA TODAY NETWORK

If this is Amendola's ride into the sunset, he made it count. The NFL's oldest wide receiver got past Titans defenders twice for touchdowns, being the unlikely threat that nearly ruined Tennessee's hopes at its first No. 1 seed in 13 years. Amendola, 36, totaled seven catches for 113 yards. The ex-Patriot-turned-journeyman signed with the Texans days before Week 1 but endured two injuries that limited him to eight games this season. If no one picks Amendola up at 37, this is a nice bow on a productive wideout's career. He played a part in Davis Mills' late-season development, easily the most important part of Houston's 4-13 season.

TEXANS GRADE: B 

 
11 of 32

Bills series to define Mac Jones' rookie year

Bills series to define Mac Jones' rookie year
Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

Bill Belichick cuffing Jones in the Patriots' first Bills outing inserted additional doubt about his status, and Buffalo besting him in the rematch led to Ja'Marr Chase zooming back into his Offensive Rookie of the Year rear-view. Chase overtook Jones, who struggled in Miami. The Pats have now lost seven of their past nine games in Miami, and Jones' pick-six and ensuing fumbled snap cost the visitors in what turned out to be a meaningful game. Las Vegas' win dropped New England (10-7) to the No. 6 seed, which represents a worse draw. Other than a Jaguars rout, Jones has not dazzled since before that three-pass Buffalo game. This rubber match will define Jones' rookie season.

PATRIOTS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: at Bills (Sat.)

 
12 of 32

Dolphins make stunning Black Monday decision

Dolphins make stunning Black Monday decision
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Brian Flores' replacement-level Dolphins team kept the 2019 Patriots from a playoff bye, and his next two teams combined to go 3-1 against his ex-mentor. Flores improved to 4-2 against Belichick on Sunday. His reward? A pink slip. Stunning fallout for a rising coach. The Dolphins (9-8) did wind up with Tua Tagovailoa and not Joe Burrow because of Flores' unexpected late-season success in 2019, but that is not exactly on the coach. The defensive-minded leader also helmed an undermanned team on the playoff precipice last year before winning seven straight this season. The GM that drafted Tua ( Chris Grier) is staying. Suddenly, the oft-discussed Dolphins rebuild is off-axis. And a Deshaun Watson path may be narrowing.

DOLPHINS GRADE: A-minus

 
13 of 32

Robert Saleh's defense bombs in season 1

Robert Saleh's defense bombs in season 1
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

A 2020 Jets team that started 0-14 and sported a minus-214 point differential featured a better defense than what Saleh oversaw this year. After the Bills pulled away in the second half, the Jets' defense wrapped a season in which it finished last in both points and yards allowed. Injuries occurred, yes, mainly Carl Lawson's summer Achilles tear. But a defensive coach coming in and ending a season in this place is a bad sign for the franchise with the league's longest playoff drought. The Jets (4-13), who largely ignored their cornerback need last year, must acquire reinforcements on all three levels.

JETS GRADE: D 

 
14 of 32

Sack binge ensures Bills will host Patriots

Sack binge ensures Bills will host Patriots
Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Wilson took some unnecessary sacks, but the Bills hounded him throughout the game's final three quarters. Buffalo collected all nine of its sacks after the first period, dropping the rookie QB on coverage sacks, blitzes, and one-on-one wreckage. Former first-round D-tackle Ed Oliver played a part in the latter variety, dropping Wilson for 1.5 sacks and posting five pressures on just 18 pass-rush snaps. Safety Jordan Poyer and veteran D-end Mario Addison added two sacks apiece. The Bills (11-6) lack an impact pass rusher but do have several options here. That depth will be needed as the team navigates a playoff field sans Tre'Davious White for the first time.

BILLS GRADE: B-plus | NEXT: vs. Patriots

 
15 of 32

Rocky Wilson-Seahawks relationship should be salvageable

Rocky Wilson-Seahawks relationship should be salvageable
Michael Chow/USA TODAY NETWORK

More headlines centering around Russell Wilson's prospects of exiting Seattle will surface, but the team putting together two explosive offensive outings to close its season should matter a bit in the grand scheme. Wilson looked like his Pro Bowl-level self Sunday, scampering for a touchdown and throwing three more. The Seattle icon finished his down season with seven TD passes over his final two games. The Seahawks (7-10) are not in great shape, lacking a first-round pick and seeing their offense underperform under new OC Shane Waldron. But Wilson both reminded of his importance to the team and upped his trade value in Week 18.

SEAHAWKS GRADE: A 

 
16 of 32

Rashaad Penny razes Cardinals defense

Rashaad Penny razes Cardinals defense
Michael Chow/USA TODAY NETWORK

In addition to powering many fantasy GMs to championships, Penny injected more doubt about the Cardinals' prospects of winning a playoff game. The injury-prone Seahawks back exploded for a career-high 190 rushing yards, keeping the Cards from capitalizing on the 49ers' upset and forcing a Los Angeles trip. Giving up 38 points and a season-most 431 yards to the Seahawks serves as another reminder this is not the same Cards team that bullied the Rams in October. Its upset win in Dallas notwithstanding, Kliff Kingsbury's team has regressed since its 9-1 start. J.J. Watt's potential return would help, but many Cardinal detractors will reveal themselves this week.

CARDINALS GRADE: D-plus | NEXT: at Rams (Mon.)

 
17 of 32

Matt Rhule stock craters in Year 2

Matt Rhule stock craters in Year 2
Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

The Urban Meyer disaster overshadowed Rhule's troubles, but this was a tough year for the coaches trying the college-to-pro leap. Rhule's mismanagement of the Panthers' quarterback post and his news-dump firing of offensive coordinator Joe Brady -- he of multiple head-coaching interviews last year -- pushes the ex-Temple and Baylor rebuilder to the brink. The Panthers (5-12) are now 10-23 under Rhule, with both teams sinking after surprising starts. Rhule being a Jay Gruden or Bill O'Brien OC hire away from losing his job says a lot about the state of the Panthers, who will go all-out for a QB soon.

PANTHERS GRADE: D-minus 

 
18 of 32

Rob Gronkowski back to center stage

Rob Gronkowski back to center stage
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Brown's latest bridge-napalming effort featured a jab at Gronkowski, but the latter All-Decade-teamer will beat Brown to the Hall of Fame. Gronk showed why Sunday, consistently breaking free for Tom Brady during a seven-catch, 137-yard game. Brady found Gronk enough for the tight-end GOAT to add a $500,000 incentive. This was Gronk's highest yardage output since 2017 and his second straight 100-yard day. With Brown and Chris Godwin gone, the unretired tight end -- who missed a chunk of time this season due to another injury -- will be more important to Tampa Bay's cause in these playoffs than he was last year.

BUCCANEERS GRADE: A | NEXT: vs. Eagles (Sun.)

 
19 of 32

Packers puzzle reforming ahead of playoffs

Packers puzzle reforming ahead of playoffs
Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Packers team that landed the NFC's No. 1 seed should be inferior to the one that shows up in the divisional round. Two of the Super Bowl favorite's many missing pieces resurfaced Sunday, with All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari and second-round rookie center Josh Myers back in uniform. The Detroit result did not matter, but these two blockers returning sure did. Bakhtiari had not played since suffering an ACL tear, one that required two surgeries, on New Year's Eve 2020. The Pack may have survived the Bucs' pass rush with him last year. With Randall Cobb and Pro Bowlers Jaire Alexander and Za'Darius Smith also on their way back, this is going to be a tough team to oust.

PACKERS GRADE: C-minus | NEXT: bye

 
20 of 32

Trick plays lead Lions off No. 1 pick perch

Trick plays lead Lions off No. 1 pick perch
Junfu Han/USA TODAY NETWORK

Fake punts and tackle-eligible lobs played a part in Dan Campbell's rookie season, and the popular coach dialed up two reverse-pass TDs Sunday, going stride-for-stride with a half-interested Packers team. Kalif Raymond and Brock Wright's TDs ended a surprisingly fun Lions season at 3-13-1. Hopefully, Detroit -- one of the teams with a clear-cut rebuild design this season -- will be fine with winning this game come draft time. There is not a Trevor Lawrence-level prospect in this draft, setting up the Lions to take the second-best defensive end talent. Losing this easily losable game would have helped, but it is fun to see a playbook include this many gadget designs.

LIONS GRADE: A-minus 

 
21 of 32

NFC North matchup closes book on two regimes

NFC North matchup closes book on two regimes
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The Bears gave Matt Nagy a worse hand than the Vikings dealt Mike Zimmer, and the team only completed one sub-.500 slate -- this year's 6-11 ending. Nagy's long-expected firing still went down Monday, and the Bears also axed GM Ryan Pace. The latter move makes more sense, given Pace's era-defining Mitchell Trubisky trade-up. Nagy guided the Bears to a 12-4 record with Trubisky at the helm but could not keep him afloat in the ensuing seasons. Nagy figures to be an interesting offensive coordinator candidate, though the ex-Chiefs OC will need to be pickier about where he lands. The architects of the Justin Fields trade-up are out, leaving the QB in the hands of a regime not tied to him.

BEARS GRADE: C-minus 

 
22 of 32

Wholesale change in Minnesota

Wholesale change in Minnesota
Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Following the Vikings' win over the Bears, it is moving day in the Twin Cities. In addition to the Zimmer firing, the Vikings (8-9) moved on from the 16th-year decision-maker Rick Spielman. In power since before the Brett Favre acquisition, the GM built the Vikings into a contender -- with multiple nuclei -- and did so despite QB instability. In Spielman's tenure, Tarvaris Jackson, Favre, Christian Ponder, Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum, and Kirk Cousins took the Vikes to the playoffs, with none doing so more than once. The Cousins' move catalyzed this regime's downfall. Sunday finalized the team's third non-playoff season in the well-paid passer's four years. 

VIKINGS GRADE: B 

 
23 of 32

Zac Taylor rests starters, potentially games AFC bracket

Zac Taylor rests starters, potentially games AFC bracket
Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Perhaps more intrigued by a second-round game in Tennessee than in Kansas City, Taylor sat almost all his starters in Week 18. While the Bengals would not be locked into a Titans tilt with a first-round win, Nashville would be their most likely destination. Settling for the AFC's No. 4 seed, the Bengals (10-7) will aim to snap the NFL's longest playoff-win drought. Bo Jackson's hip injury occurred a week after Cincinnati's most recent postseason victory (1990, over the Oilers). The Bengals also will face a Raiders team they handled in Las Vegas less than two months ago. This is breaking right for a team no one expected to be here. 

BENGALS GRADE: C | NEXT: vs. Raiders (Sat.)

 
24 of 32

Jadeveon Clowney survives Browns' ugly season

Jadeveon Clowney survives Browns' ugly season
Jeff Lange/USA TODAY NETWORK

When just about everything else went wrong in Cleveland, a player known for letdowns made it out unscathed. Clowney registered two more sacks Sunday, one of them being among the most entertaining sack-strip scenes this season. Although Clowney pouted after not recovering the fumble his violent shove on Brandon Allen caused, he finished a season healthy and tallied nine sacks. Already constrained by the fifth-year option and franchise tag in Houston, the ex-No. 1 pick saw injuries prevent multiyear contracts. Playing opposite Myles Garrett benefited him, and the Browns (8-9) must consider keeping the free-agent-to-be. 

BROWNS GRADE: B 

 
25 of 32

Saints facing QB, WR decisions

Saints facing QB, WR decisions
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Further evidenced in Atlanta, the Saints deployed a defense capable of threatening favored playoff opposition. But Sean Payton's team offered predictable inconsistency on the other side of the ball. This came after Drew Brees offered the most reliable 15-year stretch any team's QB ever has. Taysom Hill's Lisfranc injury further complicates his future. Never afraid to perform salary cap gymnastics, the Saints (9-8) need to be in the mix for one of the many QBs who could be available. This season also underscored the need for multiple new wideouts. With a Michael Thomas divorce likely, how the Saints proceed here should be receiving more national attention.

SAINTS GRADE: A 

 
26 of 32

Falcons future also includes RB decision

Falcons future also includes RB decision
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

This was a rough year for Mike Davis. Quickly supplanted by a career kick returner, the would-be Falcons top running back ended the year with two lost fumbles. Those miscues led to 10 Saints points in a one-sided rivalry loss, one that did not feature much of Hill. The Falcons have Cordarrelle Patterson as an unusual free agent, being a career returner/receiver and headed for his age-31 season and no one of note in the RB1 pipeline. The Rams getting out of the Jared Goff contract should remind that teams can skirt cap trouble to unload bad QB deals, putting Matt Ryan's future in question. Beyond Kyle Pitts, not much is known about Atlanta's chain-movers going forward.

FALCONS GRADE: D 

 
27 of 32

Bobby McCain helps embattled defense close strong

Bobby McCain helps embattled defense close strong
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The five-day span when the Eagles and Cowboys offenses chewed up Washington's defense in island games ended the defending NFC East champs' realistic playoff hopes. The WFT, in the franchise's final act as such, exited the season on a better note. Bobby McCain's pick-six set the tone for a one-sided win. The ex-Dolphin added another pick on Jake Fromm in the final seconds. Inside Matt Ioannidis pressure also led to a Fromm fumble late. Washington (7-10) also watched as the Giants ran back-to-back QB sneaks from inside their own 5-yard line. Quarterback will be the featured objective, but some pieces are in place here.

WASHINGTON GRADE: B-plus 

 
28 of 32

Giants have no choice

Giants have no choice
Danielle Parhizkaran/NorthJersey.com/USA TODAY NETWORK

Since Daniel Jones went down with a neck injury, the Giants lost their final six games by a combined 163-56 margin. No team finished the season in worse shape. Considering the Giants (4-13) were not exactly thriving with Jones, who fell off after a somewhat promising rookie season with Pat Shurmur, ownership probably needs to pull the trigger here and fire Joe Judge. The ex-special teams coach does not call plays, limiting his value, and the hard-edged leader clearly did not win over the locker room. The ex-Patriots staffer should not be winning power struggles or selecting the next GM. Even if it means a third straight two-and-done coach, It is time for Big Blue to get out before it is too late.

GIANTS GRADE: D-minus 

 
29 of 32

Eagles-Bucs rematch will look different

Eagles-Bucs rematch will look different
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

The Buccaneers-Eagles matchup in Week 6 involved a Philly edition that had yet to form its identity and a Bucs team with better weaponry. The Bucs won 28-22, in a game not quite as close as the score indicates. While Tampa Bay was missing multiple corners and Rob Gronkowski, the champs had all their receivers. Only Mike Evans will show for the rematch, and it is not a lock linebackers Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Lavonte David are back. The Eagles had yet to start their historic streak of 175-yard rushing games at this point. Technically, this is a rematch, but more like a boxing rematch years after the first encounter.

EAGLES GRADE: F | at Buccaneers (Sun.)

 
30 of 32

Cowboys draw short straw in wild-card round

Cowboys draw short straw in wild-card round
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Walloping a backup-flooded Eagles lineup matters little for the Cowboys, who wrapped up a No. 1 regular-season DVOA ranking. But the 49ers (sixth in DVOA) showed Sunday they are the best of the three NFC wild-card teams. While the No. 4-seeded Rams will catch the Cardinals at a good time, the No. 3-slotted Cowboys will face a 49ers team that will roll out this matchup's best O-lineman (Trent Williams), pass rusher ( Nick Bosa), and weapon (Deebo Samuel). Dallas' prior injuries make its No. 16 run-defense ranking less relevant, but San Francisco's No. 7-ranked ground attack is in the same boat. This is a tough draw and a great get for Nickelodeon.

COWBOYS GRADE: A | vs. 49ers (Sun.)

 
31 of 32

Another Melvin Ingram Steelers revenge spot

Another Melvin Ingram Steelers revenge spot
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Sixth-round compensation changed the Chiefs' fortunes. Their scuffling defense, which featured the misguided Chris Jones-at-end experiment, landed Ingram after a low-level trade with the Steelers. Stats do not reveal Ingram's impact, with the ex-Charger Pro Bowler ending the regular season with one sack as a Chief in nine games. But he allowed Jones to move inside and provided an experienced Frank Clark complement. This formula bit the Broncos, who saw Ingram win a Melvin collision by stripping Melvin Gordon to set up Nick Bolton's fumble-six. The Steelers did not need Ingram, but they may pay for that trade Sunday.

CHIEFS GRADE: B-minus | NEXT: vs. Steelers (Sun.)

 
32 of 32

New Broncos GM must break bad streak

New Broncos GM must break bad streak
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

John Elway made a lot of strong decisions to set up the Broncos' dominance in the first half of the 2010s. Unfortunately for the Broncos, his Vance Joseph-over-Kyle Shanahan decision in 2017 lingers. Vic Fangio ran into worse luck than Joseph. His poor game-management skills, on display via his decision to kick a field goal down seven inside of 5 minutes to play Saturday, undercut his defensive chops. New GM George Paton assembled a quality 2021 draft but now must identify a new head coach, new OC, and QB. The Broncos (7-10) are indeed close, but their next play-caller -- which probably will be their next HC -- will determine how quickly they can escape this now-lengthy skid.

BRONCOS GRADE: B-minus 

Sam Robinson is a Kansas City, Mo.-based writer who mostly writes about the NFL. He has covered sports for nearly 10 years. Boxing, the Royals and Pandora stations featuring female rock protagonists are some of his go-tos. Occasionally interesting tweets @SRobinson25.

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