Week 17 NFL Wrap: Playoffs Set, Coaching Changes, 2015 Draft Order
The Christmas holiday is finally over, the snow and freezing cold has settled in the Treasure Valley, and we’re staring 2015 in the face. Hopefully everyone got to enjoy some prime football viewing over the holiday and the weekend, but in case family obligations and whatnot got in the way, we’ve got you covered.
The 2014 NFL season came to a close for 20 teams this weekend, but for 12 teams the real fight is just beginning.
The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night to capture the AFC North title, but may have lost Le’Veon Bell in the process. Bell went to the locker room with a knee injury and the severity is unknown. The Steelers will host the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the playoffs.
The Ravens got in with a San Diego Chargers loss and a win over the Cleveland Browns. This is Baltimore’s sixth playoff berth in seven years. The Ravens should send the Kansas City Chiefs a nice fruit basket to thank them for beating the Chargers for them. The Chiefs went the entire 2014 season without a touchdown caught by a wide receiver. They’ll just miss the playoffs this year due to the Ravens win.
AFC Playoff Seeding:
- New England Patriots
- Denver Broncos
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Indianapolis Colts
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Baltimore Ravens
In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks were held scoreless in the first half by the St. Louis Rams for the first time since October 23, 2011. It was arguably the worst half of football the team played all season, but the World Champs adjusted in the second half and scored 20 unanswered points to clinch the NFC West, a first-round bye, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Seahawks defense has been the story once again, having held five of the last six opponents under 10 points. After the bye week, Seattle will host the Detroit Lions, Carolina Panthers, or Arizona Cardinals.
The Green Bay Packers beat the Detroit Lions to grab their fourth consecutive NFC North title and a first-round bye. The win didn’t come without sacrifice, however, as quarterback Aaron Rodgers had to be carted off the field in the second quarter after aggravating a calf injury. He returned to the game, hobbling but resilient, leading the Pack to a 30-20 win.
The Lions had already clinched a playoff spot and will head to Jerry’s World to face the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. The Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins in a game that really didn’t matter, but the ‘Boys starters played on. Running back DeMarco Murray broke Emmitt Smith’s single-season rushing yards record but continued to play anyway.
The final NFC playoff spot went to the Carolina Panthers, winners of the sub-.500 NFC South. The Panthers boatraced the Atlanta Falcons, becoming the first-ever back-to-back NFC South champions. Carolina will host the Arizona Cardinals next Saturday in the first-round of the playoffs. The Cardinals lost their final game of the season to the San Francisco 49ers, which was also head coach Jim Harbaugh’s final game with the Niners. Reports are that Harbaugh will be heading back to his alma matter to coach the Michigan Wolverines.
NFC Playoff Seeding:
- Seattle Seahawks
- Green Bay Packers
- Dallas Cowboys
- Carolina Panthers
- Arizona Cardinals
- Detroit Lions
Wild Card Weekend:
Saturday, January 3
NFC: Arizona Cardinals at Carolina Panthers, 4:35 PM ET (ESPN)
AFC: Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:15 PM ET (NBC)
Sunday, January 4
AFC: Cincinnati Bengals at Indianapolis Colts, 1:05 PM ET (CBS)
NFC: Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys, 4:40 PM ET (FOX)
On the other side of the NFL spectrum, the 2015 draft order is beginning to take shape. After a loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are officially on the clock with the number one pick. The top 20 picks are set and here’s what we know so far:
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14)
- Tennessee Titans (2-14)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13)
- Oakland Raiders (3-13)
- Washington Redskins (4-12)
- New York Jets (4-12)
- Chicago Bears (5-11)
- Atlanta Falcons (6-10)
- New York Giants (6-10)
- St. Louis Rams (6-10)
- Minnesota Vikings (7-9)
- Cleveland Browns (7-9)
- New Orleans Saints (7-9)
- Miami Dolphins (8-8)
- San Francisco 49ers (8-8)
- Houston Texans (9-7)
- Kansas City Chiefs (9-7)
- San Diego Chargers (9-7)
- Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo Bills 9-7)
- Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)
Wild card losers will take spots 21-24 and divisional round losers will take 25-28. While we’re looking ahead, it is Black Monday and there have been changes made around the league already.
As I mentioned earlier, Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers are parting ways and reports are that he’ll be heading to Michigan. The Chicago Bears have fired head coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery. The Atlanta Falcons have fired head coach Mike Smith, but general manager Thomas Dimitroff will remain with the team. The New York Jets have fired coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik.
While there are still questions about coaching staffs around the league, the New York Giants have stated that Tom Coughlin will remain with the team. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross announced a couple weeks ago that Joe Philbin’s job is safe. Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer are also safe, per Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam.