NFL Nation: 2010 Season Wrap

Jaguars regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:05
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 16
Preseason Power Ranking: 25

[+] EnlargeMaurice Jones-Drew
Scott A. Miller/US PresswireMaurice Jones-Drew had more than 1,300 rushing yards for the second season in a row.
Biggest surprise: Speedy growth by the kids. Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu are not yet approaching the standard the team set for imposing defensive tackles back when John Henderson and Marcus Stroud were at their peak. But their development this season ranks as the Jaguars’ best story and they may be able to give the team that identity again in time. Eugene Monroe and Eben Britton, before he was hurt, were better in their second years as the starting offensive tackles as well. Mike Thomas is a reliable play-maker and once Derek Cox got out of the doghouse, he was a good cornerback on a team with safety issues.

Biggest disappointment: The offense gave the ball away too often (21 interceptions, 12 fumbles) and the defense didn’t take it away enough (13 interceptions, five fumbles). The Jaguars simply weren’t high-powered enough to be able to overcome a minus-15 take-away, give-away ratio -- 43 turnovers off the standard set by New England at the top of the lead. The offense needs to protect the ball better, but the lack of plays by the defense may have been even more disappointing. To be effective in the team’s chosen style -- a run-first offense and physical defense -- turnovers need to be more in balance.

Biggest need: Safety times two. Courtney Greene was a pretty sure tackler after he took over at strong safety, but the team’s lack of defensive playmaking traces back to both safety spots first. Converted corner Don Carey was too inconsistent and Sean Considine is too slow -- and even the better in-the-box guy has to be able to run well in today’s league. They traded Reggie Nelson early, cut Gerald Alexander twice and traded Anthony Smith. The team’s miss with the Nelson pick in the 2007 first round really hurt the Jaguars. Now they will have to do more work in the draft and free agency to make up for it.

Team MVP: Maurice Jones-Drew. Despite a knee issue from the summer, he worked his tail off and keyed the stretch where the team re-established its identity as a running force and got into contention for the division crown.

Lame ducks: Jack Del Rio is signed through 2012, but Wayne Weaver made it clear there will be a house-cleaning if the Jaguars are not in the 2011 playoff field. The assistant coaches have only a year remaining and will operate as lame ducks. I’d hope it would motivate some guys as opposed to causing problems for them. If they do good work, they’ll get a new deal if things go well on a broader scale. At least they'll be marketable if things don’t. Players will know, too. If they like the guy who runs their room, they need to produce for themselves and for him.

Bengals regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:03
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: No. 31
Preseason Power Ranking: No. 12

[+] EnlargeJerome Simpson
AP Photo/Gail BurtonJerome Simpson finished the season strong with a 12-catch performance against Baltimore.
Biggest surprise: It happened late in the season, but the light finally came on for receiver Jerome Simpson. The former second-round pick had been written off as a bust after nearly three years of not earning playing time. But after injuries to Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens, Simpson took advantage of his chance to finally crack the starting lineup. Simpson recorded back-to-back 100-yard games in the last two weeks of the regular season and earned the right to be part of Cincinnati's rebuilding efforts in 2011.

Biggest disappointment: Coming off an extremely disappointing year for the Bengals, it's hard to narrow this category to one player or coach. But considering the type of money that was invested in relation to production, the free-agent signing of receiver Antonio Bryant was the most disappointing move for the Bengals. Cincinnati gave Bryant a four-year, $28 million contract despite the fact that he was coming off a knee injury. Bryant's knee never healed properly, and the Bengals cut him before the start of the regular season. Cincinnati paid Bryant approximately $7 million and he never played a down for the team. The move forced the Bengals to spend an additional $2 million plus incentives on Owens, making it a $9 million mistake by the front office.

Biggest need: There will be a lot of changes in Cincinnati, and much depends on how the Bengals choose to rebuild the team. The way the roster is currently set up, I think the biggest need for Cincinnati is to get an elite pass-rusher. Rookie defensive end Carlos Dunlap (9.5 sacks) helped fill that void in the second half of the season. But he will need help next season getting to the quarterback. If the Bengals do not re-sign tailback Cedric Benson or go in another direction at quarterback, those needs will take higher priority.

Team MVP: It's hard to pick an MVP on a four-win team, and if I didn't have to, I wouldn't. But since that's not the case, I'd go with Owens. Although he wasn't perfect, he led the team in receiving with 72 catches for 983 yards and nine touchdowns. He was really the only player who consistently produced for Cincinnati this year. Quarterback Carson Palmer, Benson and others had their moments, but they had a lot of bad games as well.

Free-agent watch: Cincinnati took care of its first free agent this week in head coach Marvin Lewis. He will return for his ninth season after signing an extension on Tuesday. Owens, Benson and cornerback Johnathan Joseph are some of the big free agents for Cincinnati. The Bengals also have to decide what to do with Ochocinco, who turns 33 this month and had his second bad season in three years.

Browns regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:02
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: No. 27
Preseason Power Ranking: No. 29

[+] EnlargePeyton Hillis
Kim Klement/US PresswirePeyton Hillis rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Browns this season.
Biggest surprise: The Browns produced arguably the biggest surprise in the NFL this season in tailback Peyton Hillis, who came out of nowhere to produce a career high 1,177 rushing yards and 13 total touchdowns. Cleveland acquired Hillis from the Denver Broncos in exchange for quarterback Brady Quinn. The Browns obviously got the better end of that deal and found a building block for the future. Now Cleveland needs to find depth at the tailback position to help take some of the pressure off Hillis, who wore down toward the end of the season.

Biggest disappointment: Veteran Jake Delhomme was paid $7 million this year to bring stability to the quarterback position. But poor play and injuries made Delhomme the team's No. 3 quarterback by season's end. Delhomme threw for 872 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions in five games. He also suffered two ankle injuries during the course of the season. Delhomme's struggles opened the door for rookie quarterback Colt McCoy to take over the starting job much earlier than expected. The third-round draft pick was projected to sit the entire 2010 season and learn from the sideline, but McCoy started eight games with mixed results.

Biggest need: The Browns have several needs, but an elite wide receiver would greatly improve the offense. A major part of Cleveland's offseason should be dedicated to developing and putting the right pieces around McCoy, who showed promise. Browns president Mike Holmgren seems to have confidence that McCoy is the quarterback going forward. The Browns' offensive system also needs a major overhaul, and that was one reason Eric Mangini was fired this week. There is a good chance Cleveland implements a West Coast offense next season.

Team MVP: Hillis. The Browns would probably be a two- or three-win team without Hillis' production this year. He was Cleveland's leading rusher and second-leading receiver, and the team fell apart when Hillis was banged-up late in the season. The Browns ended the season with four straight losses.

Draft Watch: The Browns hold the No. 6 overall pick, which is a good spot to land an impact player. I'm usually against drafting receivers in the top 10, but that's clearly Cleveland's biggest need. Receiver prospects A.J. Green and Julio Jones could be some early names to consider this offseason. The Browns also could use another pass-rushing linebacker or defensive end. Last season, Cleveland got cornerback Joe Haden, safety T.J. Ward and McCoy in the draft, and securing three rookie starters is tremendous. Another solid draft class would be a great step in the right direction for Cleveland, which also has to find its next head coach.

Colts regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:02
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 10
Preseason Power Ranking: 1

Tamme
AP Photo/AJ MastJacob Tamme stepped in for an injured Dallas Clark and caught 67 passes in 10 games.
Biggest surprise: Substitutes called into action because of injuries played very well. Jacob Tamme is not the player Dallas Clark is. But once Clark was done with a wrist injury, Tamme was a consistently productive piece of the offense. He was better than plenty of No. 1 tight ends in the league in terms of his work as a receiver. Justin Tryon was a find, rookie linebackers Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner are good players, Aaron Francisco was better than serviceable, Blair White was a contributor, and Dominic Rhodes was a smart late add. When all those guys and a lot more who were slated to be spot starters are in the mix, you’re not supposed to win your division.

Biggest disappointment: The injuries. The Colts finished the season with 17 players on injured reserve. They started 14 different players on offense and 19 on defense. By my count, 14 key players missed at least two games. The guys on that list -- Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt, Clark, Austin Collie, Brody Eldridge, Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, Kelvin Hayden, Antonio Johnson, Jacob Lacey, Daniel Muir, Jerraud Powers, Bob Sanders and Clint Session -- sat out 44.2 percent of games they could have played. Sure, every team deals with issues, but these were extreme and few teams could have survived them and made the playoffs.

Biggest need: The offensive line. Team president Bill Polian admitted he underestimated Rodger Saffold in the draft and the St. Louis Rams left tackle could have been a nice piece for Indianapolis. The Colts made do, again, and the group they’ve gone with in recent weeks has shown marked improvement and has been getting very nice push in the run game. Still, Peyton Manning needs more time and a more reliable run game from Day 1. The Colts must invest in upgrading the offensive line through the draft, free agency or both.

Team MVP: Manning. He had a poor stretch during a losing streak. But the Colts needed him to throw, and he set a new league record for pass completions with 450 while helping turn some less-than-ideal targets into viable options.

Decisions loom: The Colts generally hang on to their people, but as they evaluate the injury issue and try to move forward, it may be time to conclude they can’t depend on guys such as Sanders and Gonzalez. You can’t blame a player for getting hurt and you can’t forecast bad luck. But you can get a sense of who may be more likely to get hurt than the average guy. How do you plan when you have little reasonable expectation of getting a long-term contribution from a player? They spent a third-round pick on USC corner Kevin Thomas, who had an injury history. He immediately got hurt and was not available at all his rookie year.

Titans regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:01
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 20
Preseason Power Ranking: 16

Kenny Britt
Drew Hallowell/Getty ImagesTennessee really missed Kenny Britt when he was out of the lineup from Weeks 10-13.
Biggest surprise: A rift between coach Jeff Fisher and Vince Young wasn’t impossible to forecast, but the size of the rift was. Fisher and his staff became completely disillusioned when Young’s work ethic and commitment didn’t appear to them to meet their standards in his fifth year. Thought the quarterback showed improvement, he caused distractions by missing meetings, not showing great toughness and ultimately swearing out Fisher in front of the entire team. Fisher’s struggles, meanwhile, extended beyond his quarterback and he’s currently in limbo as owner Bud Adams decides if it’s time for a change. He should be measured beyond the head-to-head battle with Young, and those measurements are not good.

Biggest disappointment: The Titans completely overrated their roster coming into the season. They failed to see that their smallish defensive line would wear down. They thought moving Eugene Amano to center and installing Leroy Harris at left guard would strengthen an offensive line that was excellent in 2009. The line's performance declined in 2010. They believed strong safety Chris Hope had more left than he did. They thought a revamped group of linebackers would be playmakers, and it did little. Most significantly, with four successful, aging veterans gone as free agents, the Titans presumed sufficient leadership would emerge. It did not.

Biggest need: Quarterback. I’m not sold on Young as a 16-games-a-year, lead-the-team NFL quarterback. Until the Titans have one, the position tops the list for a team with plenty of other needs. Kerry Collins or Rusty Smith is not the answer. Tennessee needs some size at defensive tackle, some playmakers at linebacker and an upgrade at safety. The Titans need to sort out their interior offensive line. And a changeup running back to help make things less difficult for Chris Johnson could help as well. For all their affection for Javon Ringer, letting LeGarrette Blount go may prove to be a monster mistake.

Team MVP: Kenny Britt. The wide receiver missed four games in the third quarter of the season and the Titans lost all four. He was dynamic and difficult to cover with an 18.6 yard average per catch and eight touchdowns.

Under-adjusting: There were rumblings in the locker room about the Titans' inability to adjust in-game, particularly regarding defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil. From my vantage point, Fisher and his staff crafted game plans on Tuesdays that they fully expected to work. But when games dictated that they steer away from that plan, they too often stubbornly stuck with what was installed. Players were looking for Plan B and alterations they didn’t get often enough. If Fisher’s back, I think this is something he’s got to admit on some level and do better to address.

Ravens regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:01
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: No. 4
Preseason Power Ranking: No. 6

[+] EnlargeBilly Cundiff
Larry French/Getty ImagesBilly Cundiff had an outstanding season, making almost 90 percent of his FG attempts and tying an NFL record for touchbacks.
Biggest surprise: Kicker Billy Cundiff entered training camp battling for his job after the Ravens signed Shayne Graham. But after a competitive battle, Baltimore chose Cundiff, who had a career year and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Cundiff was solid on field goals, making 26 of 29. But he really excelled on kickoffs, where he tied an NFL record with 40 touchbacks. Cundiff's performance on kickoffs essentially became Baltimore's 12th man on defense.

Biggest disappointment: Last year Baltimore had one of the best offensive tackle combinations in the NFL in Jared Gaither and Michael Oher. But that tandem was split up this season -- Gaither never saw the field. Gaither had a poor season that probably will be his last with the Ravens. He was unhappy with his contract, then showed up well under his playing weight, which upset the organization. Then Gaither never got on track and injured his back, which eventually landed him on injured reserve. Baltimore's pass protection has been inconsistent this year -- the team has had trouble replacing Gaither at right tackle.

Biggest need: The Ravens have one of the most stacked rosters in the NFL. So there are not a lot of glaring needs. Depth on the offense line could be a place to start. Gaither is not expected to return to Baltimore, so right tackle could be a top priority in the offseason. Center Matt Birk, 34, also is getting long in the tooth and it's unknown how much longer he wants to play. Another pass-rushing linebacker to help Pro Bowler Terrell Suggs (11 sacks) would be nice. But that's more of a luxury than a major hole in Baltimore's defense.

Team MVP: This race is very close, because there are probably three or four viable candidates for team MVP. But this year we give the slight nod to quarterback Joe Flacco, who made strides in his third year and threw for 3,622 yards, 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Suggs, safety Ed Reed and defensive lineman Haloti Ngata also received strong consideration.

Free-agent watch: First and foremost, the Ravens need to take care of Ngata's contract quickly this offseason and make sure he does not get away. Baltimore is expected to make Ngata, a two-time Pro Bowler, one of the NFL's highest-paid defensive linemen, and he will be worth every penny. Fullback Le'Ron McClain is another important free agent, and the Ravens also have to decide on re-signing players such as Josh Wilson, Marshal Yanda and T.J. Houshmandzadeh for 2011.

Giants regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 12
Preseason Power Ranking: 19

[+] EnlargeEli Manning
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireEli Manning's league-leading 25 interceptions is one reason the Giants are not in the playoffs.
Biggest surprise: That quarterback Eli Manning threw 25 interceptions. For whatever reason, Manning tried to do too much with the ball this season. He certainly had some unlucky breaks with tipped balls, but he also made some ridiculous decisions, such as throwing the ball into the end zone against the Titans with his left arm -- and getting picked. The Giants are still firmly in Manning's corner, but he needs to figure out that it's OK to occasionally throw the ball way. Manning did manage 31 touchdown passes, but that interception total is what a lot of Giants fans are discussing.

Biggest disappointment: This Giants will look back on several moments during the 2010 season and kick themselves for not capitalizing on opportunities. I know coach Tom Coughlin's still scratching his head over how his team was physically whipped in Green Bay with a playoff bid on the line. It's like the players didn't have a full appreciation for what was at stake, and that's a major disappointment to everyone in the organization. Losing defensive end/linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka was also a huge disappointment. He was probably defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's most versatile player. The Giants did a nice job of managing injuries at receiver and on the offensive line, but Kiwanuka's the type of player who's virtually impossible to replace.

Biggest need: The Giants have to continue adding depth at the linebacker position. If former second-round draft pick Clint Sintim isn't going to emerge as a starter, it's time to find someone else. Keith Bulluck isn't going to cut it over the long haul. Jonathan Goff was steady at middle linebacker, but the Giants need to surround him with more talent. GM Jerry Reese will be looking for some of the top linebackers coming out of college. On offense, the Giants need another reliable tight end and an offensive tackle. If David Diehl is going to move inside to left guard permanently, the club has to decide if Will Beatty is the long-term answer at left tackle. Surely the team won't bet on Shawn Andrews staying healthy based on his track record with the Eagles and his brief time with the Giants. And kudos to Rich Seubert for filling in nicely for Shaun O'Hara at center and then slipping over to left guard, which is his preferred spot.

Team MVP: If Hakeem Nicks hadn't been injured late in the season, I think he would've been in the mix. But defensive end Justin Tuck would be my pick. He had 11.5 sacks and six forced fumbles to go along with Osi Umenyiora's league-record 10 forced fumbles.

Worst moment: When you blow a 21-point lead with eight minutes to go in a game, I'd have to think it deserves "worst moment" status. The New York Giants were in position to take control of the NFC East after dominating a Week 15 game against the Eagles for three and a half quarters. But Michael Vick led one of the most exciting comebacks in years. DeSean Jackson capped it off with a 65-yard punt return for a touchdown when punter Matt Dodge failed to get the ball out of bounds. That was truly the worst moment of the season for the Giants.

Rams regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 17
Preseason Power Ranking: 32

[+] EnlargeSam Bradford
Icon SMISam Bradford proved to be more durable than analysts predicted.
Biggest surprise: Rookie quarterback Sam Bradford took every offensive snap even though draft analysts questioned his durability coming out of college. Bradford earned the starting job and teammates' respect right away. Bradford was not perfect. He needs to continue improving as a pocket passer. An improved command of the offense and situations will allow him to make better presnap adjustments at the line of scrimmage. But all signs point to Bradford's developing more quickly than expected. He also proved to be more athletic than expected, scrambling effectively and throwing accurately on the move. The team never seriously considered letting veteran A.J. Feeley open the season as the starter. Bradford was NFL-ready.

Biggest disappointment: Injuries tore apart the receiving corps, preventing Bradford from taking the offense past its formative stages. Losing Donnie Avery to a season-ending knee injury during the exhibition season robbed the Rams of their deep threat. Mark Clayton more than filled the production void after the Rams acquired him from Baltimore, but his season-ending knee injury forced Bradford to play the final 11 games without him. Deficiencies at receiver stood out as the Rams' primary problem during their Week 17 elimination game at Seattle. The Rams didn't get much from rookie receiver Mardy Gilyard this season, adding to the disappointment.

Biggest need: Receiver isn't the only obvious need. The Rams need help at outside linebacker as they continue to build their defense under coach Steve Spagnuolo. Special-teamers David Vobora and Chris Chamberlain were starting on the outside by season's end. Both are good enough to factor into the defense as reserves. Neither should be starting for the long term. The Rams were better at the position until Na'il Diggs suffered a season-ending injury. The team was desperate enough early in the season to give Bobby Carpenter a try. The Rams need better.

Team MVP: Bradford. The Rams went 6-42 in the three seasons before they drafted Bradford. They went 7-9 in his first season. There were other reasons for the turnaround, including a favorable schedule early in the season, but Bradford was the key variable. He made those around him better, rare for a rookie.

Taking ownership: Stan Kroenke took over for Chip Rosenbloom as the Rams' majority owner. Kroenke has deeper pockets, potentially giving the Rams resources that were not previously available. How will the Rams proceed during their first offseason with Kroenke in the majority role? The unsettled labor situation complicates matters, but now is the time for the Rams to redouble their efforts. They have the right quarterback. Time to build up his supporting cast.

49ers regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 25
Preseason Power Ranking: 13

[+] EnlargeAlex Smith and Troy Smith
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesIt is unlikely that Alex Smith or Troy Smith will be the starter in San Francisco next season.
Biggest surprise: The 49ers named third-stringer Troy Smith their starting quarterback at midseason even when Alex Smith returned to health and backup David Carr was available. Troy Smith wasn't even on the roster until one week before the regular-season opener. He had two regular-season starts on his NFL résumé and none since 2007. The 49ers had spent the previous five seasons trying to develop Alex Smith, but with coach Mike Singletary's job on the line, they rode a quarterback with 89 regular-season pass attempts to his name before this season. Another surprise: Glen Coffee's retirement at age 23.

Biggest disappointment: Continuity, the primary theme San Francisco hit upon all offseason and through training camp, was vastly overrated. This was supposed to be the season when keeping the same offensive coordinator and scheme allowed Alex Smith and the offense to flourish. Instead, the offense opened the season with a horrible performance at Seattle. The offense was worse at Kansas City two weeks later. Singletary fired coordinator Jimmy Raye after the third game, obliterating the continuity angle once and for all. Not even Singletary would last the full season.

Biggest need: Quarterback, and the right head coach or coordinator to maximize the investment. The 49ers possess talented young players on both sides of the ball. Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Mike Iupati, Joe Staley, Anthony Davis and Patrick Willis are among them. They might have run away with the NFC West this season if they had gotten more consistent play from their quarterbacks. The Alex Smith experiment has run its course. The 49ers need to draft or acquire a young quarterback, sign a veteran and move forward.

Team MVP: Patrick Willis. The 49ers' front seven played effectively against the run. Willis dominated even with a cast on his broken hand. Willis collected a career-high six sacks, earning a Pro Bowl berth for the fourth time in four NFL seasons. He has Hall of Fame potential and lived up to expectations once again this season. Veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes played well next to him.

Talk is cheap: The 49ers' bark was worse than their bite this season. Singletary thanked Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for beating the 49ers in Week 1. He vowed to shut down Drew Brees in Week 2. Team president Jed York guaranteed the 49ers would rebound from an 0-5 start to win the NFC West title. Once Seattle won the West, Vernon Davis said the 49ers were more deserving. York told reporters his team would have won the division, if only he had fired Singletary earlier. Niners fans would be more impressed if the team backed up its talk for a change.

Broncos regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 29
Preseason Power Ranking: 22

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireTim Tebow threw five TD passes and rushed for six more during his rookie season.
Biggest surprise: That this season got to the point where rookie quarterback Tim Tebow had to play to give the team some hope. When Tebow was drafted in the first round in April, the idea was for the team to use him in special packages as a rookie and perhaps give him a chance to start next season. Then, in the summer when Kyle Orton was given a contract extension through next season, it appeared that Tebow wouldn’t get a chance to start until 2012. However, in this lost season, Tebow started the final three games. He played well enough and showed enough glimpses of ability with his arm and legs that Tebow has a chance to remain the starter next season.

Biggest disappointment: The end of the Josh McDaniels era. Denver fired McDaniels with four games remaining when Denver was 3-9 in 2010 and 11-17 overall under McDaniels. He lasted just 23 months. McDaniels was fired partly because of poor personnel decisions that could affect Denver for the next few years. McDaniels showed signs that he is a good coach, but he wasn’t ready to be a head coach and the organization has to dig out of a big hole as a result.

Biggest need: The Broncos have to get better on defense. Denver gave up a league-high 471 points. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Denver allowed 9.1 points per game more in 2010 than in 2009. The Broncos have needs in all facets of defense, but particularly on the defensive line. The Broncos need a big, stout game-changer. One possibility is Clemson’s Da'Quan Bowers if he comes out early or perhaps Auburn defensive lineman Nick Fairley. Denver has the No. 2 pick and should be able to get Bowers unless it decides to trade down and get several players. The needs are great enough on defense where that wouldn’t be a bad option.

Team MVP: Receiver Brandon Lloyd. This was an unexpected positive development in a lost season. Lloyd, a career journeyman, led the NFL with 1,448 receiving yards. At 29, Lloyd developed into one of the most exciting receivers in the NFL.

This franchise is for John: The Broncos are going to entrust their future in the hands of legendary quarterback John Elway. He is expected to be officially announced as the leader of the team’s football operations, and is expected to make a run at Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. Elway is going to be part of key personnel decisions. This is a critical time for Denver. It can’t afford to fail in its second attempt to move away from the Mike Shanahan era that ended in 2008 after 14 seasons. Just because Elway was a great quarterback in Denver, it doesn’t mean he will be a great front-office leader. The Broncos have no choice -- Elway has to be good or they will continue to languish at the bottom of the league.

Cowboys regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 18
Preseason Power Ranking: 4

[+] EnlargeMike Jenkins
Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIMike Jenkins finished the season with only one interception.
Biggest surprise: A defense that had been the backbone of the team in 2009 collapsed in 2010. Players eventually quit on coach Wade Phillips, causing him to be fired after a 1-7 start. The Cowboys' defense gave up a staggering amount of passing touchdowns and it often cratered late in games. Players such as outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, who took major steps forward in 2009, reverted to their old ways. It was surprising early in the season that Roy Williams was one of the most productive offensive players, but he faded once Tony Romo suffered what turned out to be a season-ending shoulder injury.

Biggest disappointment: The season was such a disaster that it's hard to pinpoint one player, but for clarity sake, let's go with cornerback Mike Jenkins. He appeared to be on the verge of stardom following a breakout season in 2009, but he was burned repeatedly in 2010 and then he shied away from contact on a Green Bay touchdown in a 45-7 loss on national TV. Jenkins was expected to become one of the Cowboys' best players on defense, but he had an awful season and probably deserved to be benched at one point.

Biggest need: The Cowboys need to overhaul the offensive line. Marc Colombo was exposed at right tackle by quick defensive ends and right guard Leonard Davis is no longer a dominant player. Left tackle Doug Free is the only offensive lineman who had a solid season. You could see the Cowboys attempting to change out as many as three spots along the line. Dallas needs to bring in talent via the draft or free agency. The Cowboys also need help at safety. There's no reason for Alan Ball to start in 2011 based on how he performed. And it's time to start figuring out who will replace Terence Newman at cornerback. Orlando Scandrick actually had a decent season, but I'm not sure he's ready to take over for Newman full-time.

Team MVP: Jason Witten. Once Tony Romo suffered a season-ending shoulder injury, tight end Witten stepped up his game and became a big-time weapon for Jon Kitna. DeMarcus Ware had a lot of sacks, but he disappeared in too many games. I think Witten was a huge part of the Cowboys finishing the second half of the season 5-3.

Worst moment: You have to go all the way back to the last play of the first half against the Washington Redskins in Week 1. The Cowboys simply needed to kneel and head to the locker room, but Garrett called a short passing play that fans will never forget. Tashard Choice caught the pass, but he fumbled while fighting for extra yardage. DeAngelo Hall raced the other direction to score a touchdown. On a night when Donovan McNabb and the Skins' offense couldn't do much, it was exactly what the Redskins needed.

Vikings regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 23
Preseason Power Ranking: 5

[+] EnlargeBrett Favre
AP Photo/Hannah FoslienBrett Favre had the worst season of his 20-year career.
Biggest surprise: It was hard to imagine quarterback Brett Favre equaling the career year he produced in 2009. But it was just as difficult to anticipate him falling off the figurative cliff. Even before an onslaught of injuries began, Favre was playing as poorly as he had at any point in his career. In the first three games of the season, Favre threw two touchdown passes and committed seven turnovers. He had one shining moment, a career-high 446 yards against the Arizona Cardinals, but otherwise it was clear he tried to squeeze one year too many out of his body. The Vikings were left in an untenable situation. They put all of their hopes on his shoulders and had no viable alternative when it became clear he was cooked.

Biggest disappointment: Sidney Rice's unique skills as a downfield receiver were one of the primary reasons the Vikings pushed to the NFC Championship Game in 2009. But a hip injury suffered in that game followed Rice all the way to training camp, the first sign that the Vikings wouldn't carry the magic into 2010. It was never entirely clear why Rice avoided surgery until the end of August, but the bottom line is it robbed the Vikings' offense of a dynamic playmaker. It also set them on a gold chase that ultimately led to the disastrous acquisition of receiver Randy Moss. How much would have been different had Rice been healthy when training camp started? It hurts the head to wonder.

Biggest need: The Vikings haven't had a long-term plan at quarterback since Daunte Culpepper suffered a career-changing knee injury in October 2005. They tried with Tarvaris Jackson, but ultimately his slow development left them in an annual Band-Aid mode. While rookie Joe Webb displayed some promise late in the season, the Vikings need to make this position their highest priority of the offseason. Depending on who makes themselves available for the draft, the Vikings might have to acquire multiple quarterbacks -- one to start in 2011 and another to develop for future seasons.

Team MVP: The Vikings had 10 Pro Bowl players in 2009. Only two performed at the same level in 2010 -- tailback Adrian Peterson and cornerback Antoine Winfield. We'll tap Peterson for this honor after he rushed for 1,298 yards despite missing one full game and parts of two others because of injuries. He single-handedly accounted for the Week 3 victory over the Detroit Lions and, notably, lost only one fumble after an offseason of consternation about the issue.

Comeback player: While we have a moment, let's note that middle linebacker E.J. Henderson returned from a gruesome injury to start all 16 games this season. There were those who believed Henderson's career could be over when he fractured his femur in December 2009. At the very least, he wasn't expected to be ready to play until 2011. But Henderson was determined to be on the field for the first day of training camp, creating a new protocol for rehabilitating the injury. He unofficially finished with 106 tackles and a career-high three interceptions.

Redskins regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 26
Preseason Power Ranking: 17

[+] EnlargeDonovan McNabb
AP Photo/Tim SharpThe Donovan McNabb experiment in Washington never panned out.
Biggest surprise: That Mike Shanahan didn't make much progress. Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen were supposed to restore order to Redskins Park, but at times, they just added to the chaos. It wasn't a huge surprise that the Redskins finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs. But it was surprising that what should have been the strength of the team, the defense, could be so bad at times. In retrospect, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett would've been better off with a 4-3 scheme that fit his personnel for one season. The Redskins didn't put consistent pressure on the quarterback and the safeties were a mess once LaRon Landry had to be placed on injured reserve. I guess Landry would qualify as one of the pleasant surprises. He was on pace to head to the Pro Bowl after his fast start. Haslett kept him near the line of scrimmage where he could cause more damage.

Biggest disappointment: The Redskins sold their fan base on this idea of star quarterback Donovan McNabb leading the organization to new heights. Instead, McNabb had an awful season by his standards and couldn't find common ground with Mike Shanahan or his son, Kyle. I realize Albert Haynesworth got a lot of attention for his standoff with Mike Shanahan, but McNabb was ultimately the bigger story. His inability to flourish in this offense was a huge disappointment for the Redskins. It's probably an indictment of both Shanahan and McNabb.

Biggest need: The Redskins need help at pretty much every position, but obviously you have to start with quarterback. Surely Rex Grossman isn't the answer heading into 2011. Shanahan will focus on the quarterbacks declaring for the draft. I think he'll take a long look at Arkansas' Ryan Mallett, who lost to Ohio State on Tuesday night. After quarterback, you have to address this offensive line. They have their left tackle in Trent Williams, but now it's time to fill in some other spots. Artis Hicks isn't going to cut it as a starter at right guard, and the Skins definitely need a new left guard.

Team MVP: Let's go with wide receiver Santana Moss. His numbers weren't off the charts, but he still put his body on the line week after week and made plays for McNabb and Grossman. At a position that features a lot of divas, Moss is the consummate team guy.

Worst moment of the year: Everything changed once Mike Shanahan yanked McNabb from that game against the Detroit Lions. The Redskins tried to come back with a contract extension, but that turned out to be window dressing. The Redskins have left themselves an easy out with McNabb. Now it will be interesting to see if there's a market for the veteran quarterback. If the Skins can land a fourth-round draft pick for McNabb, they'll be doing well.

Seahawks regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 19
Preseason Power Ranking: 26

[+] EnlargeChris Clemons
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonChris Clemons had the best season of his career and led the team with 11 sacks.
Biggest surprise: The Seahawks jumped out to a 4-2 record with Leon Washington returning kickoffs for touchdowns and Mike Williams emerging as a sometimes-dominant receiving threat. Beating San Diego and winning at Chicago set Seattle apart early. I thought the Seahawks would struggle to win five games all season after entering Week 1 with fewer returning players than any team in the league. The coaching staff built a promising run defense around Red Bryant while manufacturing pressure with blitz packages featuring extra defensive backs. Blowing out NFC West favorite San Francisco in the opener set the tone.

Biggest disappointment: Alex Gibbs' sudden retirement as offensive line coach right before the regular season left the Seahawks without Pete Carroll's highest-profile assistant. It also left Seattle with another identity crisis of sorts along its offensive line. With Gibbs, the team appeared ready to commit fully to the zone-blocking principles that had worked in Denver and Houston. Without Gibbs, the Seahawks wavered in their approach. Their decision to trade incumbent starting guard Rob Sims appeared unfortunate in retrospect. He was a starting-caliber guard, but a bad fit for Gibbs' system. The team wound up running through multiple guards and playing most of the season with Stacy Andrews, who appeared even less suited than Sims for Gibbs' style of blocking. Losing first-round left tackle Russell Okung to repeated ankle injuries set back the line further.

Biggest need: Quarterback ranks No. 1 unless Matt Hasselbeck or Charlie Whitehurst improbably leads the team deep into the playoffs. The offensive line ranks a close second. Whitehurst has only recently received a chance to play. He hasn't had enough chances to show whether he can factor as the starter next season. He hasn't played well enough in limited reps to inspire confidence. Hasselbeck has suffered far too many interceptions, again. This is his fourth down season in the past five years. He'll be 36 in 2011 and has struggled making it through a full season healthy.

Team MVP: Chris Clemons. Bryant might have been the most important player based on how the run defense played when he was in the lineup, but Bryant didn't stay healthy long enough. Clemons quickly emerged as the Seahawks' top pass-rusher, collecting 11 sacks. He played with attitude while providing significant return in the Darryl Tapp trade.

About that trending arrow: I've got it pointing down for now because the Seahawks struggled so badly late in the season. Their victory over St. Louis for the NFC West title could help that arrow turn around. Let's see what kind of feeling surrounds the team after Saturday.

Chiefs regular-season wrap-up

January, 5, 2011
1/05/11
1:00
PM ET
» NFC Wrap-ups: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final Power Ranking: 11
Preseason Power Ranking: 27

[+] EnlargeDwayne Bowe
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesFifteen of Dwayne Bowe's 72 receptions this season resulted in a touchdown.
Biggest surprise: The season itself. Few expected this from Kansas City, including its leadership. When I visited the Chiefs’ training camp in mid-August, there was no talk of making a legitimate run at the AFC West title, not even off the record. The Chiefs thought they were making progress and they were hopeful for a productive season. But they weren’t concentrating on winning the division. Now the Chiefs are AFC West champions. Kansas City improved in every facet of the game and saw the development of several young players as it finished 10-6. It was Kansas City’s first division crown in seven years.

Biggest disappointment: The past week. The Chiefs really haven't had very many bad things happen to them this season. But things have hit a bit of a rough patch since they clinched the division title in Week 16. First, they lost offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to the University of Florida, where he will have the same role. Weis will stay with the Chiefs through their playoff run. Then the Chiefs suffered their first home loss of the season in a 31-10 thrashing at the hands of Oakland. This is not how a team wants to go into the playoffs. The bump in the road doesn’t mean Kansas City is doomed in the playoffs, but it shows the Chiefs they have to buckle down in the postseason.

Biggest need: Kansas City could use a big, classic nose tackle and another stout pass-rusher to help star pass-rushing linebacker Tamba Hali, who had 14.5 sacks this season. Adding a stud on the front seven would really help this team in 2011. There are a lot of good pieces on this defense, but another legitimate front-seven player could help take Kansas City’s defense to the next level.

Team MVP: Quarterback Matt Cassel. Cassel made great strides this season and he carried the team late in the year. Cassel was very efficient and was a consistent playmaker.

Running wild: The Chiefs led the NFL in rushing with the two-man committee of Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones. They combined for 2,363 yards this season. It is the fourth-highest combined rushing yards by teammates in NFL history with each player having at least 500 yards. Charles was second in the NFL with 1,467 yards, and his 6.38 per-carry average is second only to Jim Brown’s 6.4 per-carry average in 1963.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

NFL SCOREBOARD

Thursday, 8/21
Friday, 8/22
Saturday, 8/23
Sunday, 8/24
WEEKLY LEADERS