NFL Power Rankings: Pats up, Seahawks down entering playoffs

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As the coaching world turns, another regular season comes to an end ...

While everyone discusses who gets fired and who gets to keep their job, the storylines that emerged in 2018 were -- and are -- far more interesting. Obviously, a new season is beginning as the postseason tournament approaches, but a quick look back reveals the startling things that occurred. My top five stories of the 2018 NFL season, from September through last Sunday, are as follows:

1) The Browns are relevant again.
2) Andrew Luck can throw a football again.
3) A star is born in Patrick Mahomes.
4) Mack Daddy, Trubearsky and the rebirth of those Midway Monsters.
5) Nick Foles is Santa. Believe it.

That list doesn't include Pete Carroll's masterful Yoda-ing of the Seahawks (more on that below), Aaron Donald ruining your favorite team's Sunday or the brilliant march of the New Orleans Saints (see: No. 1). My personal favorite: Luck. I ranked the Colts last in the league coming into this season because their quarterback hadn't played meaningful football in 20 months. At the time, I really hoped the guy could make a triumphant comeback to make me look stupid. Boy, did he ever -- and the NFL is better for it. Luck has the potential to be the premier quarterback in football, all things considered: productivity, leadership and, ultimately, winning.

Philip Rivers also deserves a special nod. Ditto J.J. Watt, whose 16 sacks almost went unnoticed. And before we get away from the men in the trenches ...

Awesome. Just awesome -- like this kind of behavior:

Inside of the NFL and out, we should all try to make this part of our daily approach in the new year.

The final regular-season rendering of the league hierarchy sits below, based on where the teams are right now. Thanks for reading every week, for the eighth straight season. (Don't worry: We'll have a playoff edition next week.) Send your thoughts: As always, @HarrisonNFL is the place.

Let the dissension commence!

PROGRAMMING NOTE: For more in-depth analysis on the updated league pecking order, tune in to NFL Network every Tuesday night at 6 p.m. ET for "The Power Rankings Show." Want to add YOUR voice? Provide your thoughts in a tweet to @HarrisonNFL, and your comments could be featured on air.

RANK

1

SAINTS (13-3)

Previous rank: No. 1

The Saints wrapped up one of the finest seasons in team history on Sunday, albeit with a loss. Nobody cared. Teddy Bridgewater found himself starting a game for the first time in three years, which, quite frankly, was awesome, irrespective of the outcome. Sean Payton chose to rest key starters like Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara, and you can't blame him, as the league is too competitive to risk being down a major piece this close to the tournament. Not to mention, who knows how many more chances Payton and Brees will have to earn the city of New Orleans its second Lombardi Trophy? Hard to believe it was nine years ago this team upset the Colts and won the hardware. Might not be typing that sentence in five weeks, though.

RANK

2

BEARS (12-4)

Previous rank: No. 2

The story of the season: The Bears have a $^@#%&$ quarterback. It's about time. True talk: Chicago's best quarterback play since Y2K came courtesy of Josh McCown back in '13 when the vet was thrust into the lineup in place of Jay Cutler for half the season. That's no B.S. Mitch Tru Bearsky made the throws he had to make Sunday, ending the season the right way in Chicago -- playing to win, until the clock hit 0:00. (We won't fault him for lining up late like a nincompoop on that fancy formation, costing the Bears a first down.) Wild Card Weekend: Chicago sees your Nick Foles regalia and welcomes it. The Bears will win next week, so enjoy an Old Style and watch "Rob Roy" on me.

RANK

3

RAMS (13-3)

Previous rank: No. 3

The Rams closed out the 2018 season like it was 2001. Actually, even the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams didn't bookend any season like that. In fact, the Kurt Warner-infused attack rang up a 48-spot just twice in the regular season during the Rams' 1999-2001 heyday. So, what now? Los Angeles owns a week off, which is wonderful and all, but halts the rhythm that Jared Goff currently finds (found) himself in (... after three woefully bad outings). C.J. Anderson was a stowaway for most of the NFL season, but has parked two 100-yard games on his resume in the past two weeks to give Sean McVay an insurance policy for Todd Gurley come the Divisional Round. All is well in Rams land.

RANK

4

CHIEFS (12-4)

Previous rank: No. 4

The Chiefs weren't challenged much on Sunday. I dare you to score 45 on us by the third quarter!!! -- Raiders. OK, maybe that's going a little far. But Kansas City found an easy path to home-field advantage. Because your friendly writer's dad was a lifelong Chiefs fan (they were founded as the Dallas Texans in 1960), this space would have rather seen Andy Reid's group challenged a wee bit more in classic Oakland-K.C. fashion. You know, as prep for the franchise's most important postseason appearance in 49 years. That said, tip your cap to Patrick Mahomes, who reached 5,000 yards passing and 50 touchdowns in only his second season in the bigs. Bill Kenney never did that.

RANK

5

PATRIOTS (11-5)

2

Previous rank: No. 7

The Patriots finished the season the way you would've expected, though confidence in Bill Belichick's outfit had waned in recent weeks. Maybe Sunday's 38-3 punishment of the Jets didn't do much to change the current perception of these Patriots, but irrespective of the opponent, New England's win was impressive. Bear in mind that Sam Darnold and Co. put up nearly 40 points the week prior, and gave the Texans all they could handle the week before that. Two guys who needed to have productive days: Tom Brady and James White. The former tossed four touchdown passes, while the latter caught one of those tosses and was heavily involved in the offense. Sans Josh Gordon, and without Rob Gronkowski playing up to his usual level, White will be uber-important in the postseason.

RANK

6

RAVENS (10-6)

1

Previous rank: No. 5

Little close for comfort, ain't gonna lie to ya. C.J. Mosley, man. What a play. The Ravens closed the deal out against the Browns on Sunday in exhilarating fashion. It was just like how they ended last season -- except not at all. Baltimore withstood The Baker Mayfield Experience long enough to become the team nobody wants to play, earning that overused moniker that's already been worn out by the Seahawks over in the NFC. More important than the media spewing superlatives: The Ravens have picked up 267, 242, 207, 194, 242, 159 and 296 yards on the ground in the seven games since Lamar Jackson took over at quarterback. Good night and good luck, AFC defenses.

RANK

7

CHARGERS (12-4)

1

Previous rank: No. 6

The Chargers closed the book on what can only be deemed a highly successful regular season. The Bolts might have finished second in the AFC West, but under Anthony Lynn's leadership, they didn't allow themselves to be derailed by speed bumps, including the early losses of Hunter Henry (though he's on his way back) and Jason Verrett (remember him?). Even as the No. 5 seed in the AFC, these guys are capable of beating anyone, starting with the Ravens on Sunday. Yes, Baltimore owned the Chargers in Week 16. But think of this weekend's matchup more like a pitcher's second time through the batting order. Don't expect the Ravens to cruise. Can't wait for that sucker.

RANK

8

COLTS (10-6)

Previous rank: No. 8

The Colts completed a remarkable turnaround, thrusting their quarterback into the MVP conversation and their head coach into the Coach of the Year maelstrom. Andrew Luck should walk home with the Comeback Player of the Year award, but he will be bested by either Patrick Mahomes or Drew Brees as Most Valuable Player. Frank Reich has done an incredible job this season, especially after the 1-5 start. Since that time, Indy has gone a sizzling 9-1, including wins over playoff hopefuls like the Texans, the Cowboys and, on Sunday night, the Titans. Now, I've been getting grief from fans on Twitter for parking the Colts at No. 32 at the beginning of the season. At that time, Luck hadn't thrown a football in a meaningful game in nearly two years. Reich was a first-time head coach. And don't forget that general manager Chris Ballard was still relatively new. But no doubt, Luck was the sticking point ... until I saw him play.

Side note: Apparently it's not just fans waving preseason Power Rankings around. Reich triumphantly reminded his team after the game that many folks had them ranked No. 32. Flattered that Reich quibbled with our rankings drivel.

RANK

9

TEXANS (11-5)

1

Previous rank: No. 10

The Texans handled their business against the Jaguars on Sunday, although they were not able to leapfrog the Patriots for that all-important second seed. Most encouraging in the win was the performance of the defense. Sure, WR DeAndre Hopkins enjoyed a huge day (12 catches for 147 yards). RB Lamar Miller came back in an effective, if not prolific, manner. But the defense was the group that got embarrassed in Philadelphia in Week 16, to the tune of 471 passing yards and four touchdowns by Nick Foles. Blake Bortles didn't approach half those numbers. But even against Bortles, three points allowed is three points allowed.

Side note: All those people calling for Bill O'Brien's job back in September are going to have to swallow this 11-5 record whole.

RANK

10

SEAHAWKS (10-6)

1

Previous rank: No. 9

The Seahawks survived the Cardinals on Sunday, and now it's on to Big D. Pete Carroll's group experienced the same troubles the Cowboys did in the regular-season's final week. Both teams played inferior teams, although Dallas at least had the excuse of being on the road. While neither squad put its best product out there, each found ways to win on a final offensive foray, with their respective quarterbacks making prime-time throws in the end. Can Russell Wilson replicate that on the road against a top defense? The other issue for Seattle will be stopping the NFL's leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott, whose legs should be fresh after Dallas gave him a week off. Read more about that in the Game Picks column, coming hot off the interwebs on Thursday. For now, revel in the fact that Carroll did some of his best work this season and is a front-runner for Coach of the Year. (Gonna keep typing it until voters hear it.)

RANK

11

COWBOYS (10-6)

2

Previous rank: No. 13

There are two ways to take the Cowboys' victory over the Giants on Sunday. The good: It included a poised performance from Dak Prescott, including a throw on the run on fourth down to give his receiver a chance to make a play at the end of the game. (Which the receiver did.) And, of course, Dallas finished the season with a thrilling win. The bad: The Cowboys played most of their starters -- and still barely beat a team on a crash course with a top-shelf pick in the draft. Next up: Seahawks at JerryWorld.

Side note: It must be stated somewhere in the body of this article that Cole Beasley is one clutch dude. Beasley's lunging, knee-in-bounds effort to claw a Prescott heave trailing away from him in the end zone was nothing short of spectacular. How many times has No. 11 come up big? If Beasley -- ever the pesky, indomitable football player -- reminds me of Cowboys of yesteryear ... well, my first go-to guys would be Bill Bates and Kenny Gant, overachievers who played their asses off and contributed to nothing but wins. If you want to go really inside baseball on this topic, Beasley resembles "White Lightning," former wide receiver Doug Donley. If any of you reading out there remember that guy, kudos to you.

RANK

12

EAGLES (9-7)

3

Previous rank: No. 15

The Eagles punched their playoff ticket Sunday ... with aplomb. What part of the 24-zip win over Washington convinced you? You knew Philly was all business when, up by that very score late in the fourth quarter, Fletcher Cox tore through his assigned blocker and pancaked a poor Josh Johnson for a sack. The concern now rests with Nick Foles (who left the game with bruised ribs) getting ample rest before the wild-card matchup vs. the Bears, with no break coming against perhaps the most talented front seven in the NFC, if not the NFL. If the Eagles' defense can play like it did Sunday at FedEx, it might not matter. Against defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's unit, the Redskins gained 89 yards. Total.

RANK

13

STEELERS (9-6-1)

2

Previous rank: No. 11

The Antonio Brown story -- the receiver didn't play against the Bengals and left the game early -- is simply weird and doesn't bode well for Mike Tomlin. As far as how Sunday played out, you had a better chance of frolicking with an endangered sea turtle in Oahu than the Steelers did of making the postseason. Pittsburgh needed to win and have the Browns beat the Ravens (or have the Colts and Titans tie), and things were looking especially dire when Lamar Jackson was sprinting through the Cleveland secondary like Omar Epps in "The Program" and Ben Roethlisberger was throwing a pick-six in the first half like it was a road game. Then the defense rallied the troops in Pittsburgh and Baker Mayfield's Browns proved more than game in Baltimore. An exciting Sunday ended with the Steelers putting together a short drive behind Roethlisberger, leading to a game-winning field goal. Next, a gaggle of Pittsburgh's players hung out on the field to watch Mayfield lead Cleveland on a triumphant march -- that was not to be. Now all the blame will fall on Mike Tomlin. What about the mere 16 points on offense, even after that game-winning kick? Is that on Coach T? In a related question, are you suffering from low T? Ah heck, just trying to divert from a rare playoffless season in Steelersville.

RANK

14

VIKINGS (8-7-1)

2

Previous rank: No. 12

Say this for Kirk Cousins: He's consistent. The Vikings' $50 billion man kept up his miserable record against teams with winning records in the loss to Chicago, dropping to 8-27 in his career against opponents who ended the year at .500 or better, while Minnesota saw its playoff hopes crumble in a heap. Late drops didn't help. Neither did arguing. Cousins wasn't on his game. Mike Zimmer's defense couldn't mitigate a slew of three-and-outs to begin the day. The let's-not-overwork-Dalvin-Cook experiment apparently still has full funding, as the explosive RB received a scant 11 carries in a game his team had to have. It boggles the mind. Guessing Zimmer rights the Vikings' ship this offseason, making sure his OC -- whoever that ends up being -- manages to employ his RB1 more effectively. Might start with O-line help, but then again, I never was a sailor.

RANK

15

TITANS (9-7)

1

Previous rank: No. 14

Rough ending to an overall solid Year 1 under Mike Vrabel. While the Titans failed to get back into the postseason following last year's playoff run under Mike Mularkey, this year's group was stronger under Vrabel. Guarantee Sunday night's loss would have been a closer affair had Vrabel had his QB1 and DT1 available. Sans Marcus Mariota and Jurrell Casey, Tennessee struggled against the Colts. Blaine Gabbert did his darndest to keep the Titans' playoff aspirations afloat -- until that killer interception midway through the fourth quarter. Without Casey, there were bountiful seams for Indy RB Marlon Mack to enjoy. Speaking of, Vrabel and GM Jon Robinson have a few holes to fill this offseason. A healthy return of Delanie Walker solves an important issue right away.

RANK

16

BROWNS (7-8-1)

Previous rank: No. 16

Let's be clear here: When the Browns first drafted Baker Mayfield, a rookie with a cocksure disposition, first overall, it felt a little like Adrien Brody trying to play the tough guy in "Predators." Mayfield has become far more than a confident field general -- now he's also a particularly productive one, having eclipsed the rookie record set by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson for passing touchdowns in a season. Cleveland benefited from Mayfield's development, along with that of David Njoku and Nick Chubb (and much better coaching), to get back to respectability at 7-8-1. And you know what else? "Predators" wasn't bad. Brody pulled it off, everybody. So did Baker -- and he almost vanquished the big, bad Ravens, too.

Side note: The decision to be made on interim head coach Gregg Williams will be scrutinized for years, especially if he is not kept. The Brownies went 5-3 under Williams. Read that line again. #Browns

RANK

17

FALCONS (7-9)

2

Previous rank: No. 19

Nobody needs to worry about Dan Quinn this week. But all of his coordinators are gone, which feels like an overreaction. Losing key players like Keanu Neal, Deion Jones and Devonta Freeman early in the year is the worst, as the team planned for the involvement of those players all offseason and in training camp. At least when coaches lose personnel midseason, they benefit from having had guys like that contribute for half the year, while younger players get to know what the heck they are doing. OK. Let's move on to Sunday's season finale. You ever get scared when the guy dressed in chainmail at "Medieval Times" removes the black hood from over the falcon, like it's gonna nosedive on your date's chicken leg and ruin your Groupon night all in one fell swoop? Yep, that was the Bucs' secondary on Sunday. Matt Ryan ended the season in hardy fashion, ensuring his Falcons did, too, going 31-of-44 for 378 yards and two scores. Ryan threw 35 touchdowns versus a scant seven picks this season, despite the overall disappointing campaign in Atlanta. He'll be back, with a new OC, as well as a healthier nucleus next year.

RANK

18

BILLS (6-10)

2

Previous rank: No. 20

The Bills pummeled the Dolphins in every way possible on Sunday, starting with the effort from their giant rookie quarterback. Josh Allen ran nine times for 95 yards and threw effectively, including three times for scores. The defense throttled Miami, allowing only 225 yards of offense while forcing four takeaways. Buffalo sacked Ryan Tannehill four times. Kyle Williams secured three tackles in the final game of an outstanding career. Proud for the Bills mafia getting a win to close out the 2018 season. Not as proud after YouTube-ing " Bills mafia" on the advice of a friend. Holy cow: Get it together. Bring it in, fellas.

Side note: Take another look at Williams' debut as a pass-catching tight end, which would have made Pete Metzelaars jealous.

RANK

19

LIONS (6-10)

2

Previous rank: No. 21

The Lions finished 2018 with a dominant win in the most Lionsy way ever -- when said win mattered the least. As one fan I know put it (paraphrasing), "We even suck at sucking." (Courtesy: @AdamKarell) Detroit kicked the Packers all over their own field. The Lions out-first-downed them, 25-9, outgained them, 402-175, and held the ball for 36:54. With the win, Detroit is officially out of the top five of the upcoming NFL draft, which has a few fans peeved. Would you rather Matt Patricia coach his guys to lose heading into the offseason? Besides, Patricia would have obviously been late to any meeting in which losing would have been pre-decided upon.

RANK

20

GIANTS (5-11)

2

Previous rank: No. 22

Pat Shurmur says he wants Eli Manning back. What Sunday's loss means, however, is that the Giants will be in prime position to take a quarterback in the 2019 draft, should they choose to do so. They own the sixth overall pick, to be precise. That also means they can snag the quarterback they didn't get in the 2018 draft. This team has more needs than simply uncovering an eventual QB1: You can start on the offensive line before making a U-turn toward the defensive side of the ball. Worth pointing out is the effort the team made these last two weeks, taking two playoff teams ( the Colts and Cowboys) to the final bell. These Giants players competed for Shurmur, which is something to build on for next season.

RANK

21

PACKERS (6-9-1)

4

Previous rank: No. 17

The rumor mill is already in full, uhh, milling. Josh McDaniels is the name that is popping up most prominently in the Packers' head-coaching search. Whoever the new front man will be, he won't glean much from the Week 17 game tape. That would be like a film major learning the trade from watching hours and hours of "The Legend of Hercules" or "Fifty Shades Darker." Everything about the loss to the Lions was humiliating for Green Bay, from zero points to zero opportunity to score points to zero defense. The Pack was outgained by 227 yards. Detroit totaled 16 more first downs. You know how many rushing yards the Green Bay running backs gained? Six. Six. If there was indeed a worse season-ending loss in Packers history, I don't want to look it up.

RANK

22

REDSKINS (7-9)

4

Previous rank: No. 18

At the time of this writing, there is no update on Jay Gruden's status as the Redskins' head coach. Typing about another head coach's future feels akin to an iPad devolving into a circling crow over FedExField airspace. Gruden hasn't delighted in spring pools of football luck over the last two years. His offensive line has been decimated by injury two years running, which spilled over into the rest of the offense. No matter how much the league has changed since 1920, line play still makes the whole thing go. In today's game, talent outside doesn't hurt, either. That hasn't been a Washington strong suit, especially with Paul Richardson out for most of the year.

RANK

23

PANTHERS (7-9)

4

Previous rank: No. 27

The Panthers are keeping Ron Rivera, which is a wise move. There could be as many as nine teams looking for new head coaches, and it would seem Carolina already employs a pretty decent leader in Rivera. The man has won Coach of the Year twice, after all, while his team has reached the postseason four times in his eight seasons pacing the sidelines. That's as many times as the franchise made it in the 16 years prior to Rivera's arrival. His 71-56-1 regular-season record certainly merits another chance to reroute what appeared to be a team on the rise before the second-half collapse. What Cam Newton becomes going forward is the larger question, as next season will be the franchise QB's ninth. Throughout NFL history, quarterbacks in their 30s tend to run less. Can Newton adjust his game? First priority: get healthy this offseason.

RANK

24

49ERS (4-12)

1

Previous rank: No. 23

The roller-coaster ride is over, after one last corkscrew that saw the Niners and Rams throw 80 points on the board. George Kittle continued his assault on the NFL record book, including a ridiculous catch-and-run to set the new TE mark for receiving yards in a season at 1,377. The fantasy-points gobbling got so crazy in this game that even Alfred Morris ran for 111 yards, on 16 carries and two bald tires. The problem is that as quickly as the Niners score 'em, the defense can't stop 'em. Kyle Shanahan has much work to do this offseason, but you can expect this team to hit the defensive side of the ball hard in the draft. Wide receivers will get a long look, as well. While you are daydreaming about dreamy Jimmy G, don't forget that Jerick McKinnon missed the whole season, too.

RANK

25

RAIDERS (4-12)

1

Previous rank: No. 24

No sooner was I done writing this blurb than Mike Mayock got the nod as personnel czar for Mark Davis and Jon Gruden. Happy for Mike, now a former colleague. And can't wait to see how he and Gruden collaborate to collect the appropriate personnel for the Raiders going forward. Tell you this: Three first-round picks don't hurt. That's also a heckuva lot of pressure on Mayock to make on-point decisions right out of gate. As for Sunday's season finale ... Guessing tight end Jared Cook is not the Gruden Grinder of the Week. Oh boy. Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeh ... that wasn't the way the season was supposed to end. Not after the Raiders closed out Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum with a win. Not after Coach Gruden had his boys playing competitive football for the last month and a half. The Derek Carr naysayers are fully out of the closet after being locked in there during this recent winning (kind of) streak.

RANK

26

BENGALS (6-10)

2

Previous rank: No. 28

Irrespective of what you think of Marvin Lewis' time leading the Bengals, it is difficult to think about the franchise without thinking about him roaming the sidelines. His first year in town was Carson Palmer's rookie year, all the way back in 2003. The Bungles, as they were known, were the Browns of the laser-disc generation. When Lewis got hired, Cincinnati had won a grand total of eight games the previous two campaigns. Lewis' 2003 team won that many games with journeyman QB Jon Kitna under center and Palmer parked on the bench learning. The Bengals would go on to make the postseason in 2005, 2009 and 2011-15. Yet, they could never get a win. There are still many fans who wonder where Cincinnati, and its coach, would've gone if Palmer didn't have his knee wrenched in the wild-card round of the 2005 playoffs. Whoever the new head coach is, he will be darn lucky to man the post for as long as Lewis did.

RANK

27

BUCCANEERS (5-11)

2

Previous rank: No. 29

The Bucs pulled the plug on the Dirk Koetter era Sunday night, dismissing the third-year head man following a narrow loss to the Falcons. That means the search for a new head coach should be on at least its second day by the time you read this. While Koetter was far from perfect (like any coach), it seemed he could never rely on his franchise quarterback. Jameis Winston's situation going forward is a fascinating case study in whether to extend his rope (... or if that would be just enough rope to tie up the organization for another year). No matter what, Tampa must upgrade the secondary in April. Not optional. Hopefully optional: seducing Bruce Arians. That would be amazeballs.

RANK

28

BRONCOS (6-10)

3

Previous rank: No. 25

The Broncos, specifically John Elway, said enough is enough on Monday, releasing Vance Joseph from his duties. Fans and analysts can point to many things during Joseph's two-year run that led to this outcome. A moment that sticks out was playing for a lonnng field goal with a timeout and precious seconds to get kicker Brandon McManus closer against the Texans in Week 9. Joseph and staff eschewed throwing over the middle, opted for the 51-yard kick (which was missed), and lost to Houston. Had Denver won, they would have been 4-5 heading into the bye with less space between them and other wild-card hopefuls. Joseph felt like an odd hire to replace Gary Kubiak from the beginning. A first-timer, he also lacked extensive experience as a coordinator. Joseph had been a DC for only one year, a season in which his Dolphins unit finished 29th in yards allowed and 18th in points allowed. Now Elway will launch a new drive, trying to score in a limited field with so many other organizations searching.

RANK

29

DOLPHINS (7-9)

3

Previous rank: No. 26

In a move that wasn't particularly surprising, Dolphins brass decided to part ways with head coach Adam Gase after three seasons. Miami was 7-6 a few weeks ago, but the offense was mostly abhorrent. Or if it wasn't at that point, it went that way quick. Over the last five games, the Dolphins' offense manufactured 175, 412, 193, 183 and 225 yards. Outside of that anomaly against the Patriots in Week 14 where the offense moved the ball ( even in miraculous ways), those totals are awful. Not even Baltimore's legendary 2000 defense could make up for that lack of production. Ryan Tannehill regressed, if anything. The run game could be effective, but was used so intermittently it was mind-boggling. All of which spelled doom and gloom for a coach whose discipline was on that side of the ball.

RANK

30

JAGUARS (5-11)

Previous rank: No. 30

Ownership came out Sunday and made clear that Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone would be back in 2019. As for Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon, who knows? Not a good look from the two young running backs on Sunday, but the perfect image of the Jaguars' 2018 campaign. Who was more disappointing than these Jags? Jacksonville followed up an AFC Championship appearance, citing the " Myles Jack play" at every turn, only to turn around and go a humbling 5-11. The sequence that defined the season came in Buffalo in Week 12, when Fournette scuffled with Bills DE Shaq Lawson while his offense was parked a few feet from Buffalo's goal line. Fournette and Lawson got thrown out, the Jags went backward with a holiday-party-punch full of penalties and a sack, capped off by a missed field goal that would have given Jacksonville the lead. The Bills won, Jacksonville dropped to 3-8, and a lost season went further down the drain.

RANK

31

JETS (4-12)

Previous rank: No. 31

The Jets let Todd Bowles go on Sunday night following three subpar seasons in a row. New York never rebounded from its collapse at the tail end of the 2015 campaign, when it couldn't take advantage of a win-and-in scenario against Rex Ryan's Bills. In 2016, the veteran locker room collapsed, with enough finger pointing and Fitzerratic to hasten the Jets' transition from contender to AFC East doormat. The blowout loss to the Patriots on Sunday was simply the exclamation point, as Bowles' Jets got it handed to them at Gillette. The next head coach needs to find a WR1 and unearth a viable ground game to help the future, Sam Darnold.

Side note: Much talk about Bowles' character, which still counts for something, even in the NFL. Class.

RANK

32

CARDINALS (3-13)

Previous rank: No. 32

In the least-publicized of the coaching moves, Steve Wilks was fired by the Cardinals on Monday. Here's the deal: Firing a guy after one year, no matter how bad that initial campaign was, never feels right. It used to not be the norm, either, and now it's become a little too normal. Everyone was up in arms, or at least it seemed that way, when the Packers fired Ray Rhodes after his first season -- an 8-8 campaign -- in 1999. Not so for Wilks, partially because times have changed and partially because Arizona was barely competitive at 3-13. The Cards sure put up a fight in Week 17, though, almost toppling the playoff-bound Seahawks at their place. It wasn't enough, however, to dispel the fond memories of predecessor Bruce Arians, who went 8-8 last season despite losing David Johnson in Week 1. The latter never consistently produced this year. Getting Johnson back on track will be a priority for whomever owner Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim tab as the Cardinals' new head coach.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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