By Steve Silverman
The final week of the regular season saw its share of we-don’t-care blowouts, but sensational performances by the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Indianapolis Colts were the lasting impression created in Week 17. The Bears overpowered an opponent on the road that had to have the game; the Browns lost but played sensationally; while the Ravens and Colts came through when they needed it most.
Bills 42, Dolphins 17
Buffalo Bills: B+. It was a tough season for the Bills, but they appear to have some hope for the future with Josh Allen, who threw for three TDs and ran for two more.
Miami Dolphins: D-. Say this for the Dolphins — they did show up in Buffalo, and they participated. Other than a decent showing in the second quarter, when they rebounded from a two-TD deficit to tie the score, they went through the motions and served as cannon fodder for the Buffalo Bills. Head coach Adam Gase has been sent packing.
Lions 31, Packers 0
Detroit Lions: A-. Strange things happen in the last week of the season, and the Lions winning in Green Bay is strange enough. But a shutout by the ordinary Detroit defense? Even though the game meant little to nothing, it is still an eye-opener.
Green Bay Packers: D. The next coach of the Packers has quite a bit of work to do, because this team has lost its focus and misplaced its competitiveness. The comeback win against the Jets in Week 16 was their only road win, and that is not acceptable.
Texans 20, Jaguars 3
Houston Texans: B. There is no reason the Texans can’t have a long run in the playoffs. Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins are both dynamic, and the defense is as talented as any in the league. They came through in this game, but the Texans must make a statement in the playoffs.
Jacksonville Jaguars: C-. It was a brutal season for this team, because the Jaguars should have been a legitimate Super Bowl contender. The Jags need a quarterback and must also figure out why the defense so underachieved.
Patriots 38, Jets 3
New England Patriots: B. The Patriots got the win they needed to secure a bye during the wild-card weekend and home-field advantage in the divisional playoffs. However, this team has issues that are likely to show up in the postseason at some point or another.
New York. Jets: D. Todd Bowles knew the ax was coming as he stood on the sidelines in Foxboro Sunday, but he had promised his team would come with a competitive effort in the loss at New England. His players did not give him any kind of going-away present.
Panthers 33, Saints 14
Carolina Panthers: B. The Panthers fell apart in the second half of the year, but they finished the season by taking a nothing game against a brilliant opponent that decided to protect all its key players. Ron Rivera knows better than to think his team accomplished anything.
New Orleans: C. Wake me when the playoffs start. Sean Payton decided to rest his players, and that can be risky.
Cowboys 36, Giants 35
Dallas Cowboys: B-. The Cowboys went after it in a game that meant nothing to them, and they will have some momentum with them when they play the wild-card game at home against the Seahawks. Jason Garrett made the right decision to keep his key players involved.
New York Giants: B-. The Giants played much better in the second half of the season, but they can’t fool themselves again and believe that they can get back to the playoffs with an older quarterback who can’t elude a decent pass rush.
Falcons 34, Buccaneers 32
Atlanta Falcons: C+. The Falcons actually did the Bucs organization a favor with this game. It confirmed just how incompetent the Tampa Bay coaching staff was, and the Bucs immediately fired Dirk Koetter. Still, it was a brutal season for a team that had playoff aspirations at the start of the season.
Tampa Bay Bucs: D-. This team has problems up and down the lineup and in the locker room. Koetter is not an NFL head coach, and the lack of discipline on this team and an inability for key players like Jameis Winston to improve kept them from being a decent team.
Ravens 26, Browns 24
Baltimore Ravens: A-. The Ravens were forced by the Browns to fight hard, and they came through with a winning effort when they needed it most. Just when Mayfield appeared to have the momentum needed to steal the game, the Ravens’ defense stood up like champions. Linebacker C.J. Mosley is a sensational player and deserves recognition.
Cleveland Browns: A-. Perhaps the best effort of the year for any losing team. The Browns made a huge step up this year and nearly beat the red-hot Ravens in a game they needed. If they can get Baker Mayfield a first-class head coach, this team could be dynamic in 2019.
Chiefs 35, Raiders 3
Kansas City Chiefs: B+. The Chiefs earned the No. 1 seed and the AFC West title with this game, but the opponent was not up to par. No professional team has ever performed worse at home in the postseason than the Chiefs, and Andy Reid must change that this year.
Oakland Raiders: D+. The Raiders don’t have the talent needed to compete with average teams, let alone stellar ones like the Chiefs. Jon Gruden is the boss, and he has nine years left on a contract to prove himself. New GM Mike Mayock — hired shortly after this game — has much work to do.
Bears 24, Vikings 10
Chicago Bears: A-. The Bears stood up for the integrity of the game and played one of their best games against an opponent that desperately needed a win to make the playoffs. They punished the Vikings on their home turf and proved just how dangerous they are.
Minnesota Vikings: C. Not a great day for quarterback Kirk Cousins and even worse for the Minnesota offensive line. The Bears were able to run on the Vikings defense, and that was a disappointment to the organization.
Steelers 16, Bengals 13
Pittsburgh Steelers: C. Yes, the Steelers won their finale, but it doesn’t make up for four losses in their previous five games. The Steelers overestimated how well they could play without Le’Veon Bell, and that almost certainly cost them.
Cincinnati Bengals: B-. The Bengals disappoint every year, and that was the case again this year. They played hard against the Steelers in the season finale, but that’s the exception and not the rule. Marvin Lewis has finally been fired, and that means this team should have a new personality next season.
Eagles 24, Redskins 0
Philadelphia Eagles: A. The Eagles knew what they had to do, and they accomplished that feat on the road against an opponent that was ready to start its vacation. If Nick Foles is healthy, the Eagles will be able to give Chicago a battle in the wild-card round.
Washington Redskins: D-. A team without a decent quarterback due to injuries mailed it in the final game of the season. Owner Dan Snyder’s organization is full of flaws.
Chargers 23, Broncos 9
Los Angeles. Chargers: B-. The Chargers struggled on offense the last two weeks, and they did not put the Broncos away with much fervor. They are not peaking as they go into the playoffs.
Denver Broncos: C-. General Manager, John Elway, wanted to see more improvement from the Broncos, and he didn’t get it. He fired head coach, Vance Joseph, and that move could set the team back.
Rams 48, 49ers 32
Los Angeles Rams: B. The Rams were slumping a few weeks back, but they may be on the road to regaining their best form. They get a week to prepare for the divisional playoffs, and Sean McVay must do an excellent job in that area.
San Francisco 49ers: C-. The Niners suffered through a painful and brutal season, largely because of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending ACL injury. They will get another chance to show what they can do when Garoppolo is able to line up under center next year.
Seahawks 27, Cardinals 24
Seattle Seahawks: B-. The Seahawks struggled against a team that wanted to give its head coach a going-away present. That’s nothing to worry about, and Seattle may be quite dangerous in the postseason.
Arizona Cardinals: C. Excellent effort here pushed the Seahawks to the limit, but it couldn’t save head coach Steve Wilks’ job. He was fired after one season.
Colts 33, Titans 17
Indianapolis Colts: B+. If it weren’t for a shockingly bad Andrew Luck second-quarter pick-six, the Colts could have won by three TDs or more. They were the better team, and roll into the playoffs as the hottest team in the league.
Tennessee Titans: C. The Titans managed to stay in the game, even though Blaine Gabbert had to play as a result of Marcus Mariota’s elbow stinger. They fought hard, but didn’t have enough to win this game.