NFL Nation: 2010 Season Wrap AFC

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

Patriots 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

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Final Power Ranking: 1
Preseason Power Ranking: 10

[+] EnlargeTom Brady
Luc Leclerc/US PresswireTom Brady leads the league with an 111.0 passer rating.
Biggest surprise: The idea of Tom Brady putting together yet another sterling campaign couldn't have been weird to any sane football fan before the season began. But how Brady went about it was amazing even by his standards. The Patriots' offense was prolific even though it went through a systemic transformation. No longer did the Patriots spread out their receivers and operate exclusively out of the shotgun. They preferred two-tight end sets and dumped their noted downfield threat, Randy Moss. Brady's supporting cast was comprised of undrafted running backs who'd been waived multiple times (BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead), two rookie tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez), a receiver recovering from reconstructive knee surgery (Wes Welker) and a receiver who couldn't make an impact for a losing team and was traded (Deion Branch).

Biggest disappointment: A loss to the New York Jets at the Meadowlands in Week 2 was forgivable. But getting destroyed by the Cleveland Browns 34-14? Totally unacceptable. The Browns, with two wins at the time, gained 404 total yards. The Patriots didn't hold a lead the entire game and left the North Coast humiliated. The Patriots weren't demoralized, though. The loss seemed to stoke their intensity. They haven't loss since, bouncing back the next week to dominate the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field and then defeat the Indianapolis Colts at home. The Patriots beat playoff-bound teams in five of their next seven games after losing in Cleveland.

Biggest need: The Patriots' offensive line had an impressive season. Even with star left guard Logan Mankins missing seven games with a contract dispute, right guard Stephen Neal on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, and right tackle Nick Kaczur out the entire season with back surgery, only three teams allowed fewer sacks. The Patriots also tied for 10th in average yards per carry. But the offensive line likely will need bolstering. It's getting older. Neal contemplated retirement last offseason. Mankins is thrilled to be winning now, but does he still harbor some of the bitterness that compelled him to make a public trade demand in June? He could be gone. Left tackle Matt Light also has an expiring contract.

Team MVP: Brady, quarterback. He led the NFL with a 111.0 passer rating, threw 36 touchdowns and only four interceptions. He broke a 19-year-old record for consecutive attempts without an interception, helping New England set the NFL record for fewest turnovers in a season.

A case for the defense: Brady was so remarkable that he made sure the Patriots kept winning despite their susceptible and inexperienced defense. Even in early December, they owned terrible defensive rankings despite standout contributions from nose tackle Vince Wilfork and inside linebacker Jerod Mayo. The Patriots were on pace to have one of the worst third-down defenses in NFL history. With rookie Devin McCourty and undrafted Kyle Arrington at cornerback, they gave up the most passing yards in the league. But the defense improved every week. While their overall rankings remained mired by earlier performances, Bill Belichick's defense surged toward the postseason, allowing seven or fewer points in four of their last five games and coming up with takeaways at critical times.

Dolphins 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

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Final Power Ranking: 22
Preseason Power Ranking: 11

[+] Enlarge Chad Henne
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyChad Henne had a disappointing season in his second year as Miami's starter.
Biggest surprise: The Dolphins seemed to have all the parts in place for a vibrant and diverse offensive attack. They traded for prolific receiver Brandon Marshall. They've fielded a quality offensive line since they drafted left tackle Jake Long. They had a capable backfield tandem Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. The team harbored high expectations for second-year starting quarterback Chad Henne. And they stunk. Miami ranked 30th in points, 21st in total offense, 21st in rushing offense and 16th in passing offense. Henne was benched at one point. The Wildcat became a farce because defenses figured it out. The interior O-line, tinkered with for three years, fell apart.

Biggest disappointment: The Dolphins started the season with a pair of road games and won them both. At 2-0 and with all eight home games to go, they bolted to a gargantuan head start in the playoff race. Since the NFL went to its current playoff format 20 years ago, only nine teams had done that. Six went to the playoffs. Four won their division. The Dolphins went 6-2 on the road. Had they split their home games, they would have gone 10-6. If the New York Jets were one of those home victories, then the Dolphins might have gotten into the playoffs. Alas, the Dolphins posted a shameful 1-7 home record, losing in Sun Life Stadium to the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns and Detroit Lions.

Biggest need: The Dolphins crave offensive help. The defense did just fine under new coordinator Mike Nolan, ranking sixth in total defense, seventh in run defense and eighth in pass defense. The Dolphins probably will be looking for a new offensive coordinator with Dan Henning reportedly about to retire. They'll also be in the market for a running back. Brown and Williams are free agents. Williams recently made comments that strongly indicated he will be gone. Interior O-line reinforcements are a necessity. But there's still a major problem at quarterback. The Dolphins know what a reliable quarterback could mean. Chad Pennington parachuted into training camp in 2008 and guided them from a 1-15 season to the AFC East title. If the Dolphins can stomach bringing in another quarterback -- they've had 15 starters since Dan Marino retired -- then a steady free agent probably is the best way to pull the offense together.

Team MVP: Cameron Wake, outside linebacker. The Canadian Football League import broke out in his second NFL season. He recorded 14 sacks to rank third in the league.

Pivotal moment: Sept. 7 was a symbolic date for the Dolphins. Just five days before opening day, the Dolphins made a bizarrely timed announcement that Bill Parcells was stepping down as football operations vice president to become a mere "consultant." The Dolphins gave off the vibe of an adrift franchise from that moment on -- and played like it. Parcells packed up his office shortly thereafter, leaving general manager Jeff Ireland and head coach Tony Sparano to fend for themselves. Parcells hired them while working for previous owner Wayne Huizenga. But with Parcells on a golf course or at the race track, jobs seemed increasingly tenuous under current owner Stephen Ross, and the uninspiring product on the field didn't measure up either.

Steelers 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

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Final Power Ranking: No. 3
Preseason Power Ranking: No. 18

[+] EnlargeTroy Polamalu
Jared Wickerham/Getty ImagesTroy Polamalu had an MVP-caliber season, with 7 interceptions, 63 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble.
Biggest surprise: The first surprise was Pittsburgh's going 3-1 to start the season without suspended quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That set the tone for the rest of the year and eventually led the Steelers to a No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs. In terms of players, not much was expected this year of rookie third-round pick Emmanuel Sanders. He showed some flashes in training camp, gradually kept working and eventually became the Steelers' No. 3 receiver. That's an important role in Pittsburgh's offense, and Sanders finished the regular season with 28 receptions for 376 yards and two touchdowns. He joins 2009 draft pick Mike Wallace as a pair of great finds at receiver in the third round.

Biggest disappointment: The Steelers thought highly enough of kicker Jeff Reed to give him the franchise tag this season. But Reed's year in Pittsburgh was so tumultuous that the Steelers cut ties with their kicker in midseason. Reed had some off-the-field troubles and also complained publicly about his contract. After getting off to a poor start, missing seven field goals, Reed was released and replaced by Shaun Suisham, who has done very well, making 14 of 15 field goals in seven games.

Biggest need: The Steelers fixed their center position by using their 2010 first-round pick on Maurkice Pouncey, who was a Pro Bowler in his first year. Now Pittsburgh needs to work on the guard and tackle positions. Roethlisberger took another pounding this year, despite missing four games. He was sacked 32 times in 12 games, which is an average of 2.7 sacks per game. Roethlisberger also had his nose broken this year and suffered a significant foot injury. Adding a blue-chip offensive tackle or guard would help.

Team MVP: Troy Polamalu. The dynamic Pro Bowl safety made game-changing plays all season for the Steelers and is the only defensive player in the conversation for Player of the Year in the NFL. Polamalu (Achilles) looked good in the final game of the regular season against the Cleveland Browns, and his health will play a major role in Pittsburgh's chances to win its second Super Bowl in three years.

Draft Watch: The Steelers do not have a lot of holes, but look for them to try to add depth to their offensive line and secondary. As we mentioned earlier, Pittsburgh could use an upgrade at the guard and tackle positions on offense. No. 1 cornerback Ike Taylor is solid, but he will be a free agent, and Pittsburgh has to decide whether to bring back the 30-year-old or go younger at the position. The Steelers have tried drafting younger corners recently and missed on players like Joe Burnett and Keenan Lewis. Pittsburgh already has the NFL's best defense. But if it ever lands a couple of shutdown corners, the Steelers will be extremely difficult to score against.

Jets 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

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Final Power Ranking: 8
Preseason Power Ranking: 9

[+] EnlargeDavid Harris
AP Photo/David DrapkinLinebacker David Harris led the Jets with 119 tackles this season.
Biggest surprise: LaDainian Tomlinson was supposed to limp into the sunset when he left the San Diego Chargers. The Jets were criticized for dumping their 2009 MVP, Thomas Jones, and picking up an older player with lower expectations. But Tomlinson showed he still had plenty to offer. He took over the lead duties from Shonn Greene and carried the Jets to a 5-1 record at their bye. He had 490 rushing yards with five touchdowns and averaged 5.3 yards a carry at the time. But more importantly he took pressure off sophomore quarterback Mark Sanchez. When Tomlinson's production waned after the bye -- he hasn't rushed for more than 55 yards in a game since -- Sanchez became more of a liability. Tomlinson finished with 914 yards and probably would have eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark had Rex Ryan not rested him for Sunday's game against the gracious Buffalo Bills run defense.

Biggest disappointment: If you drafted the Jets in your fantasy scandal league, then you ran away with the title. They led the league in NFL investigations, including Brett Favre's sexting scandal with Jenn Sterger, the Jets' admitted mistreatment of female reporter Ines Sainz and $100,000 in fines over setting up a sideline wall that led to strength coach Sal Alosi tripping Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll. They drew even more unwanted attention over Ryan's purported foot-fetish videos and Braylon Edwards' DUI arrest. ... Purely from a football standpoint, Ryan's defense didn't live up to the hype. Top cornerback Darrelle Revis' contract standoff and hamstring injury caused a negative ripple effect. Season-ending injuries to nose tackle Kris Jenkins and safety Jim Leonhard were damaging.

Biggest need: The Jets will have some difficult roster decisions to make over the offseason because so many players have expiring contracts. The biggest holes might not reveal themselves for a while, but upgrading the offensive line will be a priority regardless. Jenkins has undergone reconstructive knee surgery two years in a row. Sione Pouha was an admirable replacement. Overachiever Mike Devito was solid at defensive tackle, and Shaun Ellis was one of their better quarterback chasers. But Ryan's defense needs to be more dynamic up front, especially if Jenkins doesn't return. Ellis will turn 34 and Pouha 31 before next season. Their top backup at defensive end is Vernon Gholston, the sixth overall draft pick in 2008 who has zero NFL sacks.

Team MVP: David Harris, inside linebacker. Other Jets might have played like bigger MVPs for segments of the season -- Tomlinson through the first six games, Santonio Holmes in November -- but Harris was the most constant and consistent presence. Harris led the Jets with 119 tackles and 14 quarterback hits. He had three sacks, one forced fumble and one recovery. Harris also is one the Jets' quieter personalities, which earns him bonus points for 2010.

Yardage by committee: The Jets' offense features several decorated players, but none of them reached the 1,000-yard barrier and none scored more than seven touchdowns. Tomlinson came closest, but Greene appeared to supplant him toward the end of the season. The Jets had five players with at least 41 receptions, but none with more than 55. Tight end Dustin Keller, Edwards, Holmes and Tomlinson finished within three catches and two touchdowns of each other.

Raiders 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: 15
Preseason Power Ranking: 24

[+] EnlargeTom Cable
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesWith Tom Cable out, who will be the coach in Oakland?
Biggest surprise: The entire rookie class was solid and Tom Cable -- who was fired as Oakland's coach Tuesday -- gave the group an A+ grade Monday. However, no rookie stood out more than fourth-round pick Jacoby Ford. When Oakland drafted Ford out of Clemson it looked like a typical Oakland flier on a flyer. Ford was the fastest player at the combine and the Raiders have always loved speed. But Ford is more than a track star in cleats. He made an impact as a returner and receiver. Ford was making key plays on a weekly basis down the stretch. Oakland has some question marks at receiver, but Ford gives them serious hope there in addition to his explosive return skills.

Biggest disappointment: Play outside of the division. The Raiders were the only team in the NFL in 2010 and the 30th team since 1970 to go undefeated in division play. Yet, it was the first team in that time span to not make the playoffs. Oakland wasted its 6-0 division record. While the feat is impressive, Oakland has to kick itself for not taking advantage of this accomplishment. Oakland was 2-8 outside the AFC West, including 0-6 against the rest of the AFC. The Raiders had a chance to go to the playoffs because of their AFC West dominance, but they couldn’t take advantage.

Biggest need: The interesting thing about the Raiders is they don’t have a ton of glaring needs. Sure, they need to get better in plenty of areas, but they have players at the positions that they think, and hope, can develop. It starts at quarterback. Jason Campbell probably will be back next season. But he has to get better. Campbell was inconsistent in his first season in Oakland. Yet, there are no immediate better options than Campbell. Oakland needs better overall play at receiver, the offensive line and at all three layers of defense. But there is a good nucleus here. If Oakland goes shopping for anything, it could be for linebackers, offensive line or secondary help.

Team MVP: Running back Darren McFadden. He had a breakout season and was a big reason why Oakland’s offense was so much better this season than the previous season. The 2008 No. 4 overall pick is one of the NFL’s most complete running backs. He runs well inside and outside and he has good hands as a receiver.

More change: Despite the Raiders' progress, Cable was fired. Oakland’s instability at head coach continues. The team will hire its sixth coach in the past nine years. Offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is the favorite to land the job as he did a nice job this season giving life to a once-anemic offense.

Bills 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: 30
Preseason Power Ranking: 31

[+] EnlargeChan Gailey
Crystal LoGiudice/US PresswireChan Gailey's Bills will have to address a number of needs during the offseason.
Biggest surprise: The Bills opened the season 0-8, which would be considered a mild surprise. They weren't supposed to win. Most shocking was first-year head coach Chan Gailey's ability to keep his overmatched talent committed enough to pull out of the nosedive. In one six-game stretch, the Bills won four games and lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime. The Bills were a team of overachievers led by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (seventh-round draft choice and career backup), running back Fred Jackson (undrafted), receiver Steve Johnson (seventh-round pick) and defensive tackle Kyle Williams (fifth-round pick).

Biggest disappointment: The Bills closed out the season with losses to the New England Patriots and New York Jets by a combined score of 72-10. But even more disgusting than their finish was the lack of production the Bills received from recent first-round draft choices. Rookie running back C.J. Spiller (ninth overall) didn't live up to the promise he demonstrated in the preseason. Outside linebacker Aaron Maybin (11th pick in 2009) started one game and still doesn't have a sack. The Bills dumped running back Marshawn Lynch (12th pick in 2007) for a fourth-round pick. Safety Donte Whitner (eighth pick in 2006) was uninspiring again. Defensive lineman John McCargo (26th pick in 2006) was a healthy scratch for 15 games. Receiver Lee Evans (13th pick in 2004) posted mediocre numbers before landing on injured reserve in December.

Biggest need: The Bills own the third selection in April's draft. There are few positions they could settle upon and have it not be a helpful decision. The Bills remain in a rebuilding phase and need help in a great number of places and should find an elite player -- unless their first-round track record fails them yet again. The Bills can't go wrong with a quarterback, pass-rusher, run-stopping defensive lineman, offensive tackle or inside linebacker.

Team MVP: Kyle Williams, defensive tackle. He played for the NFL's worst run defense, but he was the only player opposing offensive coordinators needed to neutralize. Williams recorded 5.5 sacks.

Why didn't they realize that sooner? The Bills could have changed the course of their season had the brain trust not misidentified their offensive centerpieces. Gailey gave quarterback Trent Edwards all the meaningful training camp and preseason snaps, leaving Fitzpatrick with slapdash preparation time. Gailey gave Fitzpatrick the job in Week 3, and the Bills cut Edwards shortly thereafter. How much further along would the offense have been had Fitzpatrick been groomed for the job properly? Lynch started three out of his four games before the Bills traded him, rendering Jackson a bit player. Jackson got more than 12 carries for the first time in Week 7 and still almost rushed for 1,000 yards.

Texans 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: 21
Preseason Power Ranking: 14

[+] EnlargeFoster
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireArian Foster rushed for 1,616 yards and 16 TDs this season.
Biggest surprise: Houston liked what it saw from Arian Foster late in 2009. The team believed he would feed off the motivation and opportunity it offered him in the offseason. But even plugging him into the Texans' best-case scenario, it would have been hard to envision Foster earning the NFL’s rushing title as a part of a pass-centric offense backed by a shaky defense. He burst onto the scene with 231 rushing yards against the Colts, and it stood up as the biggest rush game of the season. He carried 327 times for 1,616 yards (a 4.9-yard average) with 16 touchdowns. He was also the team’s second leading receiver with 66 catches for 604 yards and two more scores. It was an incredible season.

Biggest disappointment: The defense was not going to be the strength of the team, but it would have been hard to envision just how poorly this group was going to do. The front didn’t hurry quarterbacks enough, and they posted a collective 100.5 passer rating against the Texans. In their last 10 games, they beat only Titans rookie Rusty Smith and Jacksonville backup Trent Edwards. The veteran safeties, Eugene Wilson and Bernard Pollard, were ineffective against the pass and did little to offset the inexperience of the Kiddie Corps Corners -- Kareem Jackson, Glover Quin and the eventually benched Brice McCain. Jason Allen was an improvement when he came in, but not by a ton. Houston gave up 33 passing touchdowns, a number bigger than its sack total (30).

Biggest need: Defense. It starts with a replacement for defensive coordinator Frank Bush and several other new defensive assistants as the Texans are sticking with head coach Gary Kubiak. From there, whether they stick with a 4-3 or unwisely move to a 3-4 which would hurt Mario Williams, they have desperate needs. At least one penetrating defensive tackle, safeties who are comfortable in coverage and fast, and a veteran corner who could lead a young group would be big additions.

Team MVP: Foster. It’s hard to look another direction considering Andre Johnson dealt with an ankle injury all season and missed three games. Foster was steady and could have produced even more but for some questionable play-calling, particularly in the loss at Indianapolis.

Work as a unit: Fullback Vonta Leach earned a Pro Bowl spot for his work leading Foster, but none of the offensive linemen was even named an alternate to the all-star game. The group and tight ends, led by Joel Dreessen, did fine work making things happen for Foster in their first season without the offensive line coach who set up their scheme, Alex Gibbs. The pass blocking was not as good as Matt Schaub was taken down 32 times, even if a share of those were on him. If the Texans can improve there, this batch of relative unknowns could really have an impact in 2011.

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