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Grading every NFL team's regular season

Peyton Manning's Broncos and Chip Kelly's Eagles graded out on opposite ends of the spectrum this season. Getty Images

NFL Nation reporters give a letter grade for each team's performance in the regular season.

AFC EAST

Buffalo Bills

Grade: C-

The Bills managed to win back some goodwill from their fan base by beating the Cowboys and Jets to end their season with an 8-8 record, but the bulk of the season was a major disappointment. After going 9-7 in 2014, the Bills spent an NFL-high $91 million in guaranteed money last offseason and were in "win now" mode. Injuries played a part in the Bills' demise, but they still underachieved. -- Mike Rodak

Miami Dolphins

Grade: D

The Dolphins had an awful year and underachieved, finishing 6-10. The season began with playoff aspirations and ended with four coaches and executives getting fired. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill also took a step back, which is a key factor in evaluating the franchise's future. Not much went right for Miami. -- James Walker

New England Patriots

Grade: A-minus

Hard to be picky with a 12-4 record and a seventh straight AFC East title. The only reason it isn't an A: the way the club struggled down the stretch, losing out on the chance to be the AFC's No. 1 seed and have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. -- Mike Reiss

New York Jets

Grade: B

They blew the season finale, but you can't overlook the big picture. The Jets finished 10-6 with a new coach, one year after a 4-12 disaster. Todd Bowles established his program and changed the culture. They had enough talent to make the playoffs, which tarnishes the season. -- Rich Cimini

AFC NORTH

Baltimore Ravens

Grade: C-minus

The Ravens tied the second-worst record in franchise history at 5-11, but nine of those losses were decided by eight points or fewer. In fact, Baltimore is only the second team in the Super Bowl era to have 14 games determined by eight points or fewer (the 1994 Giants were the other). That competitiveness is more impressive when you consider 20 players, including eight starters, were placed on injured reserve, second-most in the NFL. The biggest problem for Baltimore was the lack of playmakers. On offense, the Ravens produced just six touchdowns of more than 20 yards. On defense, Baltimore forced 14 turnovers, the lowest in team history and eight fewer than in any of its 19 previous seasons. It would be a knee-jerk reaction to give the Ravens a failing grade. -- Jamison Hensley

Cincinnati Bengals

Grade: A-minus

Remember back in the preseason, when the Bengals' tough schedule was going to make them an eight-win team that would barely miss the playoffs? They certainly do. Expectations from the outside weren't high for the men in stripes. So the Bengals should be commended for claiming the franchise's third 12-4 record, fourth AFC North title and fifth straight playoff berth. And they did all of it despite being without their starting quarterback for practically four games. -- Coley Harvey

Cleveland Browns

Grade: F

Even the players marveled at how difficult this season was. The Browns finished 3-13 for the first time since 2000. This was a season to forget. -- Pat McManamon

Pittsburgh Steelers

Grade: B

A good year. Not a great one, not a bad one, but solid. Perhaps I'm underselling things for a team that won 10 games and clinched a playoff spot despite a brutal stretch of injuries, including the loss of its franchise quarterback for four games. But getting swept by Baltimore didn't look good, and the Steelers are lucky their Week 16 loss to the Ravens didn't come back to haunt them. Wins over three playoff teams -- Arizona, Cincinnati and Denver -- offset the bad moments. -- Jeremy Fowler

AFC SOUTH

Houston Texans

Grade: B

Their 9-7 record says they were average, but the Texans get credit for their willingness and effort to change after a dismal first half of the season. I gave them a D in the first half and would give them an A for the second. They won seven of their last nine games and dominated defensively, allowing a league-best 12.7 points per game. -- Tania Ganguli

Indianapolis Colts

Grade: D

The Colts pushed their chips to the middle of the table in the offseason to make a run at the Super Bowl, acquiring players they believed would be productive with or without quarterback Andrew Luck in the lineup. Luck missed nine games with an injury, but the Colts still should have been good enough to win the AFC South. They finished 8-8 and will miss the playoffs for the first time since 2011. They head into the offseason with some questions surrounding the offensive line. -- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars

Grade: D

The Jaguars' offense certainly exceeded expectations behind the play of QB Blake Bortles (35 TD passes) and WRs Allen Hurns (10 TD catches) and Allen Robinson (14 TD catches), but the defense was a disaster. The Jaguars gave up the second-most points in franchise history (448), struggled to rush the passer and got shredded by good quarterbacks. All of that led to just five victories, which earns the Jaguars a low mark -- Mike DiRocco

Tennessee Titans

Grade: F

The Titans were the worst team in football. Yes, they get the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, but finding reasons to give them a D is a silly exercise. They found a quarterback, but fired a coach during the season and let a GM walk as soon as it ended. The roster needs a major overhaul, but that won't come until after replacements are hired. -- Paul Kuharsky

AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

Grade: A

The Broncos earned the top seed in the AFC despite the fact that quarterback Peyton Manning missed six games with a left foot injury. And don't forget, the team started the season 7-2 with Manning leading the league in interceptions (17) during that stretch. They have two left tackles on injured reserve, and Friday was the first time since Sept. 24 they had every player on the roster take part in practice. As a result, the Broncos have been wildly inconsistent on offense, but they have the league's No. 1 defense and won nine games decided by seven points or fewer. -- Jeff Legwold

Kansas City Chiefs

Grade: A-minus

The Chiefs won 10 straight to finish the season, made the Broncos work until the end to win the AFC West and made the playoffs. But they also started the regular season 1-5, and that can't be ignored. -- Adam Teicher

Oakland Raiders

Grade: C-minus

The Raiders more than doubled their win total from 2014, improving from 3-13 to 7-9, and they have a strong foundation in place with the likes of QB Derek Carr, WR Amari Cooper and pass-rusher Khalil Mack. Still, the Raiders were a play here or there away from being 11-5 and in the thick of the playoff race (or from being 3-13 again). The future, wherever that might be, looks bright in the streets of Silver and Blackdom for the first time in many years if the Raiders can get out of their own way and address areas of need, such as the secondary, which loses future Hall of Famer Charles Woodson to retirement. -- Paul Gutierrez

San Diego Chargers

Grade: F

The Chargers did not win a game against AFC West opponents, finished the season losing 10 of their last 12 games and were 3-9 in games decided by eight points or fewer. Although they had to deal with a rash of injuries, franchise quarterback Philip Rivers did not miss a game. -- Eric D. Williams

NFC EAST

Dallas Cowboys

Grade F

How can the grade be anything else? There were some individual success stories, but the Cowboys went from being a Super Bowl contender at the start of the season to having the No. 4 pick in the 2016 draft with a 4-12 record. Injuries to Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Orlando Scandrick and Lance Dunbar hurt a lot, but not to the point where the Cowboys should've been winless without Romo. They were in position in the fourth quarter to win all but four games in Romo's absence, but could not get it done. -- Todd Archer

New York Giants

Grade: D-minus

The Giants went 6-10 for the second straight year, losing five games that they led with less than two minutes to go in regulation. After the season, they ran off a head coach who has been in charge for 12 years and won two Super Bowls. The defense finished 32nd in the league, allowing 420.3 yards per game. The only decent things about this Giants season were the way Odell Beckham Jr. and Eli Manning performed, and even Beckham embarrassed himself with a game-long temper tantrum in Week 15 that got him suspended for the next game. Another miserable, lost season for a once-proud franchise that appears to be going nowhere right now. -- Dan Graziano

Philadelphia Eagles

Grade: F

As it became obvious on Dec. 29, this Eagles season was a pass/fail exam in the eyes of owner Jeff Lurie. After spending the offseason frantically remaking the nucleus of the team, coach Chip Kelly was fired with a game left to play. Normally, a 7-9 season gets you a C-minus or a D. Not this time. -- Phil Sheridan

Washington Redskins

Grade: B-plus

The Redskins overcame injuries that could have ruined a team that had won a combined seven games in two seasons, and they did so, in part, because of how well the passing game clicked, led by quarterback Kirk Cousins. Coach Jay Gruden supposedly made a risky decision to start Cousins, but the bigger risk clearly would have been in not starting him. They won a bad division at 9-7, but that represented a five-game improvement, a feat worth celebrating on its own. Despite going 1-4 against teams that were .500 or better, the Redskins are playing their best ball at the right time. -- John Keim

NFC NORTH

Chicago Bears

Grade: C

The Bears might act like the NFL's happiest 6-10 team, but they still finished with a disappointing record. That's just one victory better than last year's train wreck. To be fair, John Fox's veteran coaching staff maxed out the available talent on the roster, but Chicago just has too few playmakers on both sides of the football to receive an above-average grade. The Bears appear headed in the right direction, but they still have a long way to go. Changing the culture is one thing. Winning close games is another. The Bears need a dynamite offseason to position themselves in next year's playoff chase. -- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions

Grade: D

The Lions were the last winless team in the NFL. They fired three coaches, the general manager and the team president, all before Week 10. Coming off an 11-win season and a playoff berth in 2014, the Lions went 7-9 this year. Jim Caldwell's job will be decided by the team's new general manager, whenever he or she is hired. The only reason the grade is not an F is the 6-2 second half of the season, when the team improved on both sides of the ball. The Lions didn't quit on Caldwell and were playing better at the end of the season with an easier schedule. -- Michael Rothstein

Green Bay Packers

Grade: B-minus

With all the struggles on offense, it's easy to forget this team won 10 games and had a playoff spot wrapped up before they even kicked off their 14th game of the season. A seventh straight postseason appearance is nothing to scoff at, even if this team seems to have little chance to get to the Super Bowl. How many teams would gladly trade spots with the Packers? At least 20. -- Rob Demovsky

Minnesota Vikings

Grade: A-minus

The Vikings entered the season as a trendy playoff pick, but few figured they would win the NFC North in their second year under Mike Zimmer. Their defense allowed the fifth-fewest points in the league, and Adrian Peterson returned from last year's suspension to win the NFL rushing title. The Vikings slipped in pass protection, and they need more from second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, but they're set up to be a big factor in the NFC North for years to come. -- Ben Goessling

NFC SOUTH

Atlanta Falcons

Grade: D

The Falcons started 5-0, and then late in the season knocked off previously undefeated Carolina, so that should count for something. But 30 turnovers, including a handful in the red zone, and a league-low 19 sacks didn't help matters, and they finished 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs. The Falcons had a six-game losing skid, but first-year coach Dan Quinn was more disturbed about the turnovers than anything else. -- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers

Grade: A

The Panthers fell short of a perfect season by seven points in a Week 16 loss at Atlanta. That is all that kept them from getting an A-plus. While this is far from a perfect team, you can't deny the 15-1 record. You can't deny Carolina led the league in scoring (31.2 points per game) and finished sixth in total defense. You can't deny that quarterback Cam Newton should be the league MVP, or that cornerback Josh Norman or linebacker Luke Kuechly should be the Defensive Player of the Year. But you could argue that, even with one loss, the Panthers deserve an A-plus because they had two wins more than any other team in the league. -- David Newton

New Orleans Saints

Grade C-minus

This season was another big disappointment for the Saints. They finished 7-9, were historically bad on defense and failed to exploit an easy schedule, losing at home to Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Detroit. To be fair, inconsistency should have been expected from a team that started to rebuild its base with 11 rookies and five other first-year pros on the Week 1 roster. But the Saints didn't have to shatter NFL records by allowing 45 TD passes and an opponents' passer rating of 116.1. The good news is that core veterans such as Drew Brees, Cameron Jordan and Kenny Vaccaro had nice bounce-back seasons, and some young stars emerged in Terron Armstead, Brandin Cooks and Delvin Breaux. Everyone raved about the improved locker-room culture, too, and the team won three of its last four games. -- Mike Triplett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Grade: C

Tampa Bay improved upon last season's 2-14 record, going 6-10 this year. Offensively, the club is set with QB Jameis Winston, but there's still work to be done defensively. The unit ranked 27th in both Total QBR allowed and points allowed per game. -- Rick Brown

NFC WEST

Arizona Cardinals

Grade: A

The Cardinals had the best season in franchise history, finishing with 13 wins for the first time. They also had the league's top offense and an MVP candidate at quarterback. To cap it off, the defense finished in the top five in yards allowed. -- Josh Weinfuss

St. Louis Rams

Grade: D

A record of 7-9 is close enough to average that one might think a D-plus or even something in the C range would be more appropriate, but this is a team that is stuck in the mud. And if you're not moving forward, you might as well be moving backward. It's a movie that is seemingly on repeat. The Rams knocked off top teams such as Seattle and Arizona, only to lose to the likes of Baltimore and San Francisco. Four years into coach Jeff Fisher's tenure, the Rams have yet to reach .500, and the offense has somehow gotten progressively worse despite constant outside questions about getting it fixed. The defense and special teams again proved to be playoff-caliber, finishing seventh and eighth, respectively, in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric. But even rookie RB Todd Gurley wasn't enough to help the offense come close enough to league average to finally get this team over the hump. -- Nick Wagoner

San Francisco 49ers

Grade: F

Too harsh? Yeah, I know I had the Niners going 5-11 back in September, and, well, they went 5-11. So they met expectations, right? Well ... they peaked in the season opener, a 20-3 thrashing of the playoff-bound Vikings, then showed little to no improvement throughout the season and actually regressed in December. Three of their victories (Baltimore, Chicago and St. Louis) came courtesy of the other teams' kickers missing gimme field goals, and another was the result of Atlanta's head-scratching move to not go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Oh yeah, and the Niners' performance got their coach fired. An F sounds about right. -- Paul Gutierrez

Seattle Seahawks

Grade: B

After a 4-5 start, the Seahawks won six of their last seven to earn a wild-card berth, and they might be the most dangerous team in the league right now. Russell Wilson finished as the NFL's highest-rated passer, and the Seahawks finished with the best scoring defense for the fourth consecutive year. Given how high expectations are for this franchise, the season will ultimately be judged by what the Seahawks do in the postseason. -- Sheil Kapadia