Patriots Advance to Record 9th Super Bowl
Written by: Quintin Bentley Crevling
The New England Patriots easily beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 36-17 in the AFC Championship game, sending the prolific dynasty to the Super Bowl for an NFL record ninth time in the team’s history.
Such success in the NFL is determined by one thing: money.
The salary cap will always be the greatest enemy to teams attempting to sustain success across a decade. To create a dynasty, a team must adopt a Belichickian philosophy: to sign only a core group of players that are essential to running the system. The remaining gaps will be filled with veteran players looking for a final playoff run, or young guys that outplay the value of their rookie contract.
Even the biggest stars have to accept less money if they want to play for a championship system like we have recently seen with the Jamie Collins trade. Despite being a great football man, his position is not valued highly for that system. This is not economically fair for the player, but this is the harsh reality of the salary cap.
The Patriots devastated the AFC East this season, losing only one game within the division. The Buffalo Bills were able to beat the Patriots in the final game of Tom Brady’s suspension. A month later Brady avenged the loss, leading a 41-25 beat down of the Bills, throwing for 315 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Miami Dolphins were also in the playoffs and drew a tough matchup against the AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers in the wildcard round. The Fins season was ended as the Steelers handedly beat them with a final score of 30-12.
The Bills fired the Ryan brothers, effectively forcing them into another rebuilding phase. Expect to see widescale changes to the team as they try to find their identity.
The Jets rounded out the bottom of the division due to suspect quarterback play. If the Jets address the issue at quarterback, expect to see them make a big jump in standings next year.
The AFC North champion Pittsburgh Steelers were quickly stifled in the AFC Championship game due to All-Pro running back Le’Veon Bell injuring his groin early in the beginning of the first quarter.
Bell was the catalyst to the Steelers success this season as the team won all 7 games in which he eclipsed 100 yards rushing.
Neither the Ravens nor the Bengals fully hit their stride this year.
The Ravens head into the offseason with a serious need to find explosive playmakers. Future hall of famer Steve Smith Sr. retired, and now the team must make it a priority to sign a top receiver. The same could be said for the Bengals who lost two good receivers last offseason and never found a replacement.
If the Bengals add another threat to their receiving corps, they can challenge the Steelers for the division title.
Cleveland will have two first round draft picks and are looking to rebuild from a league worst 1-15 record. Browns head coach Hue Jackson has been guaranteed that he will not be fired this offseason, so he must takes some risks in free agency while the organization still has faith in him.
The Houston Texans outlast the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South for the second straight year.
The Texans snagged a win in the wildcard round beating the Oakland Raiders who were missing Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Carr, who broke his fibula in week 16. Houston then headed to New England where their Super Bowl hopes were swiftly ended in a demoralizing 34-16 lose.
The Titans strung together a solid season until quarterback Marcus Mariota broke his fibula. If the Titans had won the division their playoff hopes would have surely ended in a similar fashion as the Oakland Raiders.
The Colts season was plagued by an inability to win against teams who advanced to the playoffs. Talk around the league is that head coach Chuck Pagano’s time may be limited if he can’t produce a winning season next year.
The Jaguars finished the season with a shocking 3-13 record. The team is packed with talent, but head coach Gus Bradley failed to produce for the fourth year in a row. Bradley was fired with two games remaining in the season, ending his tenure with the team at a depressing 14-48 record.
Six games into the season, the division had a three way tie for first place between Oakland, Kansas City, and Denver, with San Diego ineptly hanging four games back.
Oakland played as if their city depended on it, with the NFL likely relocating the team to Las Vegas in the near future.
The Raiders fell short of the division title in the last week of the season. Derek Carr went down with a broken leg, effectively ending the season and breaking the hearts of Raiders fans who haven’t seen a postseason victory since 2002.
The Chiefs dominant defense recorded a league high 33 turnovers, being the difference between them winning the division and being a middle tier team. The offense failed to produce throughout the year, as Alex Smith did just enough to win ball games.
The Denver Broncos have an elite defense lead by Von Miller, and finished third in points allowed. The Broncos front office decided to sit their first round draft pick, quarterback Paxton Lynch, in hopes that he would gradually learn the system and gain confidence in practice. Denver could be a scary team next season if Lynch lives up to his hype.
The San Diego Chargers have made the official decision to relocate to Los Angeles, giving the mega-city two professional football teams.
The team lost former standout receiver Keenan Allen for a second straight year due to a lacerated kidney. The NFL is modern day gladiators and this scary organ injury shows the risk these men face each time the step onto the field.