Week 17 Takeaways

Steelers Complete Disappointing 2018 Season
The Steelers had Super Bowl aspirations coming into the 2018 season but failed to even reach the playoffs. Pittsburgh has so much talent on their roster, but they torpedoed their chances with mistake-prone football and bad decision-making. The Steelers gave away multiple games to teams that they should have beaten easily (Browns, Broncos, Raiders). They also gave away very winnable games against the Chargers and Saints.

Mike Tomlin deserves a lot of blame for the undisciplined play on the field as well as some truly terrible decisions. However, Ben Roethlisberger is as culpable as anyone. Roethlisberger had one of the best seasons of his career statistically, but he turned the ball over too many times. In their season-opening tie to the Browns in Week 1, he fired three interceptions and lost two fumbles. In their Week 12 loss to the Broncos, he threw two game-changing interceptions. He almost gave away another game to the lowly Jaguars by tossing three more picks. Big Ben ultimately finished the season with a league-leading 16 interceptions.

The Steelers certainly need to tighten things up in 2019, and it starts with their head coach and quarterback.

Vikings Finish Well Short of Expectations
The Vikings were another team that had Super Bowl aspirations and failed to even reach the playoffs. After bringing in Kirk Cousins on an $84 million guaranteed contract, it’s easy to see why he has received the brunt of the blame. But should he?

Let’s keep one thing in mind here – the money a player receives in NFL Free Agency is determined by team needs and player availability. Just because Cousins received a contract treating him like a generational quarterback last offseason, didn’t mean he would become one overnight. There was high demand for his services, plain and simple.

In evaluating his performance, you have to ask the question – Did Cousins really do anything different this year than in seasons past? He had periods where he threw the ball as well as anyone in the league, and he also had moments that he would like to forget. However, Cousins ultimately finished in the top 10 in completion percentage, passing yards, touchdown passes and passer rating.

Cousins is not, and has never been, a quarterback who is going to transcend the talent around him. Put him in a good system with good talent, and he’ll run it well. There is value in that. He isn’t talented enough to compensate for a bad offensive line or a playcall that doesn’t work as planned, though. He still gets in trouble when he tries to make things happen late in the play. Again, this is what we saw during his time with the Redskins, and he really didn’t deviate from this level of performance this season in Minnesota.

The Vikings failed to make the playoffs this year because their offensive line did not improve from a year ago (when it was a problem), the defense took a bit of a step back, the running game was inconsistent, the play-calling was unimaginative under a new offensive coordinator, and the quarterback played good but not great. Let’s not blame Cousins because his contract made people think he was better than he actually is. The Vikings got marginally better at the quarterback position but took steps back everywhere else.

Colts Headed in Right Direction:
Unlike Cousins, Andrew Luck actually is a generational quarterback. Things seemed pretty dicey for the last couple of years, though, as health issues threatened to completely derail his career. As fans of football, we were pleased to see him return this year and have the type of season he did.

More encouraging was the fact that the Colts have finally surrounded Luck with the elements needed to win consistently. Their offensive line finished with the lowest sack percentage in the NFL. The defense finished in the top 10 in scoring for only the second time in Luck’s career. Regardless of what happens in the playoffs, you hope this franchise will be able to continue moving in the right direction. We need more playoff games with quarterbacks like Luck involved.

The AFC Playoff Picture:
The four AFC teams playing on Wild Card Weekend are all hot entering the playoffs. The Texans have won 11 of 13, the Ravens 6 of 7, the Chargers 11 of 13, and the Colts 9 of 10. Given how bad the Chiefs Defense is and how vulnerable the Patriots seem this year, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a Wild Card team represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.

With that being said, we still think the Patriots will be difficult to knock off. Getting the bye was critical for New England, both for their health and their ability to game plan. Bill Belichick with an extra week to prepare is a scary sight for the rest of the AFC. For all the complaints New Englanders have about the lack of talent on their defense, they still finished 7th in the league in points allowed. That didn’t happen because of luck. It happened because Belichick can coach up his players and implement debilitating schemes better than any coach out there. It sounds silly to say this, but don’t sleep on the Patriots this postseason.