December 2014

The NFL regular season was exciting as always, and the awards reflect that. This is one of the most interesting MVP races in a long time, with J.J. Watt trying to be the first defensive player to win the award since 1986. Other categories were also tough to call as the season ended. Here are the Shutdown Corner's 2014 season awards, followed by our All-Pro team. They were selected by our writers Jay Busbee, Eric Edholm and Frank Schwab ( and check out our 2014 NFL highlights post with our play of the year, blooper of the year, game of the year and more ): NFL MVP Jay Busbee: New England QB Tom Brady Eric Edholm: Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers Frank Schwab: Houston DE J.J. Watt Analysis: Split three ways. Let’s get everyone’s reason. Busbee: “ Tom Brady's been so good for so long that we lose touch with how exceptional he really is, except during the rare times [like earlier this season] when he falters. Like the Beatles and Shakespeare, if he doesn't win the MVP, it's only because he belongs in an even higher category. ” Edholm: “ After three games, Rogers had a message for fans: R-E-L-A-X. Turned out to be good advice. Rodgers and the Packers got rolling from that point on and were the NFL's most consistently dominant offense this season — especially at Lambeau Field. Rodgers' precision throwing and scrambling ability make him the league's most dominant QB. And that's how you spell M-V-P.” Schwab: “Simply the NFL’s most dominant force, on a defense that has no other star player. The Texans went from two wins to nine, and who do you think is the reason for that, Ryan Fitzpatrick? We don't need to complicate this; just reward the NFL's best player.” [ Join FanDuel's $1.75M Wild Card fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 14,530 teams paid ] OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jay Busbee: Dallas RB DeMarco Murray Eric Edholm: Pittsburgh RB Le’Veon Bell Frank Schwab: Green Bay QB Aaron Rodgers Analysis: Another split ballot. A couple of running backs get some love, and Rodgers made the Packers go all year. DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jay Busbee: Houston DE J.J. Watt Eric Edholm: Houston DE J.J. Watt Frank Schwab: Houston DE J.J. Watt Analysis: Next. COACH OF THE YEAR Jay Busbee: New England coach Bill Belichick Eric Edholm: Arizona coach Bruce Arians Frank Schwab: Arizona coach Bruce Arians Analysis: Busbee took Belichick, a fine choice considering how the Patriots turned their season around after some big September issues. But Arians is the majority winner, getting the Cardinals to 11 wins despite so many major injuries. COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR Jay Busbee: New England TE Rob Gronkowski Eric Edholm: Dallas LB Rolando McClain Frank Schwab: New England TE Rob Gronkowski Analysis: McClain becoming an effective starting NFL linebacker again was surprising, but Gronkowski gets two of three votes for returning as good as ever from a really brutal knee injury suffered late last year. OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Jay Busbee: New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Eric Edholm: New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Frank Schwab: New York Giants WR Odell Beckham Analysis: In most years, Cowboys Pro Bowl guard Zack Martin would be a fine choice. But Beckham earned the unanimous vote. DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR Jay Busbee: Baltimore LB C.J. Mosley Eric Edholm: Oakland OLB Khalil Mack Frank Schwab: St. Louis DT Aaron Donald Analysis: Mack played great but didn’t have eye-popping stats, Mosley produced a ton of tackles and Donald had nine sacks from the tackle position. Any would be a fine choice. SURPRISE OF THE YEAR, PLAYER Jay Busbee: Dallas QB Tony Romo Eric Edholm: Denver RB C.J. Anderson Frank Schwab: Baltimore RB Justin Forsett Analysis: Romo might have been the best quarterback in football in December, the Broncos built their offense around Anderson the second half of the year, and Forsett (who had seven starts in his first six seasons) rushed for 1,266 yards for a playoff team. No wrong choice here. DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR, PLAYER Jay Busbee: Chicago QB Jay Cutler Eric Edholm: Chicago QB Jay Cutler Frank Schwab: San Francisco QB Colin Kaepernick Analysis: Cutler probably got a coach and general manager fired in Chicago, and Kaepernick’s regression was a startling problem for the 49ers. SURPRISE OF THE YEAR, TEAM Jay Busbee: Arizona Cardinals Eric Edholm: Dallas Cowboys Frank Schwab: Dallas Cowboys Analysis: If you knew the Cardinals and Cowboys were combining to win 23 games before the season, you could have won a lot of money. DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR, TEAM Jay Busbee: New Orleans Saints Eric Edholm: Tampa Bay Buccaneers Frank Schwab: Chicago Bears Analysis: The NFC South had a heck of a year. And who thought back in August that Marc Trestman would be fired before 2015? UPDATED SUPER BOWL PICK Jay Busbee: New England over Seattle Eric Edholm: New England over Seattle Frank Schwab: New England over Seattle Analysis: Edholm’s prediction hasn’t changed since the preseason. Busbee and Schwab had to swap out San Francisco after its mediocre season. It’s hard to pick against the No. 1 seeds in these playoffs. ONE 2015 PREDICTION Jay Busbee: Johnny Manziel somehow leaves Cleveland even worse off than before. Eric Edholm: The Jaguars — and yes, I said this before this season — are going to be good! Better early than late … Frank Schwab: Next season will serve as Peyton Manning's farewell tour. THE SHUTDOWN CORNER 2014 ALL-PRO TEAM The team was put together with votes from our three panelists, with 12 players on each side to reflect various schemes in the actual NFL. Ties were broken by Shutdown Corner's Frank Schwab. OFFENSE Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Some of them won the game, some of them saved the game and others made for some very impressive eye candy.
As we delve into the final power rankings of the season for all 32 teams, let's take a look at some of the tidbits learned from this weekly exercise: •   The Dallas Cowboys can, somehow, fly under the radar. Tony Romo missed time in two games because of a back injury. The Cowboys were 12-2 in the other games. That says they should be Super Bowl contenders, but nobody is touting them as such. • When you're evaluating a team before the season, make sure there's a good coach to go with that good roster. A talented team is only as good as who is guiding it, as Buccaneers and Rams fans found out. Dolphins fans probably agree, as well. Bears, too. • There's a pretty big quarterback issue brewing in the NFL. Five of the six Pro Bowl quarterbacks are at least 30 years old. A lot of the young quarterbacks who were on the fast track to stardom regressed. The 2015 draft class isn't considered to be that strong for quarterbacks. This is a real potential problem for the quarterback-centric NFL. [ Join FanDuel's $1.75M Wild Card fantasy league: $25 to enter; top 14,530 teams paid ] • We don't spend enough time talking about strength of schedule. Are the Colts that much better than the Chiefs or Bills? Probably, but not by much. The Colts had two quality wins all season, at home against the Bengals and Ravens. Take the Chiefs or Bills schedule, replace the Broncos or Patriots with the Jaguars or Titans, and see what happens. Heck, the Falcons went 1-9 in non-division games and still almost made the playoffs. Every team's schedule is different, and it matters a lot. • Good teams can turn it on when they need to. The Patriots were terrible in September. The Seahawks rarely looked like the defending champs before December. Now it doesn't matter much, does it? All that really counts is where you are by the end. That doesn't make ranking teams in the first half of the season very easy, though. • I still don't know what to do with the Arizona Cardinals. They're not one of the dozen or so best teams in the NFL right now, not with that quarterback situation. But I respect what they did early in the season when they were mostly healthy, so I can't put them as low as they probably should be. • There aren't many top-tier teams. Go ahead and draw your own line. Did you include the Bengals as an elite team? What about the Colts? Steelers? Wherever you make that line, unless you're incredibly charitable, you'll find that the number of teams on the positive side is really low. • Now do that same exercise to figure out how many truly bad teams there were this year. I bet that list is longer than the one of really good teams. • I didn't see anything late in the season to change my mind that the gap between the Patriots and Seahawks and everyone else is pretty wide, especially with those two teams having No. 1 seeds in the playoffs. I still prefer the Patriots in these final power rankings before the playoffs, but not by much.  Here are the final regular-season power rankings: 32. Tennessee Titans (2-14, Last Week: 32) If I'm the Titans, I trade the No. 2 pick to one of the teams desperate for a quarterback fix and give Zach Mettenberger a tryout in 2015. I don't trade for Jay Cutler. I don't draft Jameis Winston. I don't pull a Buccaneers and waste Mettenberger like Tampa did Mike Glennon. I see what I have with Mettenberger. I also don't think this will be the Titans' plan. 31. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-14, LW: 31) Interesting to see if the NFL does anything about the Buccaneers tanking in Week 17 . Not sure there's much that can be done. But it was not a precedent the league wants to set. 30. Jacksonville Jaguars (3-13, LW: 30) Losing defensive tackle Sen'Derrick Marks, arguably the team's MVP, to an ACL injury in Week 17 is just cruel. 29. Chicago Bears (5-11, LW: 29) If I had one wish for this offseason, it would be for the Bears to hire Josh McDaniels as their next coach and then not be able to trade Jay Cutler. 28. Oakland Raiders (3-13, LW: 27) Jon Gruden is coming! No wait, Jim Harbaugh is coming! Nope. And I don't think a Rex Ryan-Marc Trestman combo is happening either. 27. Washington Redskins (4-12, LW: 26) Robert Griffin III didn't play bad down the stretch. He had 336 yards on Sunday (although that won't count to Jay Gruden because all he cares about is quarterback wins , the dumbest stat in all of sports). Griffin probably showed enough that the thought of trading him for pennies on the dollar shouldn't be an option anymore. Which is good for the team. 26. New York Jets (4-12, LW: 28) I guess it had to be done, but I don't think the Jets' next coach will be a better coach than Rex Ryan. 25. New Orleans Saints (7-9, LW: 25) They tried to mail that one in on Sunday, but Tampa Bay just refused to let them lose. Literally. They have an interesting and probably rough offseason ahead. 24. Atlanta Falcons (6-10, LW: 20) It was shocking the way they lost on Sunday at home. Didn't expect that. It's clear this team has issues that run deeper than just changing the head coach. 23. St. Louis Rams (6-10, LW: 23) If I'm picking a team that will take Jay Cutler off Chicago's hands, this is the one. 22. New York Giants (6-10, LW: 22) Odell Beckham had 91 catches, 1,305 yards and 12 touchdowns in 12 games. That's ridiculous. 21. Cleveland Browns (7-9, LW: 19) What a terrible way to go into the offseason. We might forever remember the 2014 Browns for picking Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel when they could have taken Beckham and Teddy Bridgewater/Derek Carr instead. 20. Minnesota Vikings (7-9, LW: 24) They're lucky Teddy Bridgewater had a bad pro day and so many teams that could have used a quarterback stupidly gave up on him. This is an interesting team for 2015. 19. San Francisco 49ers (8-8, LW: 18) Colin Kaepernick had more than 210 yards passing in a game just once in the second half of the season. It's not impossible to win that way in today's NFL, but it makes it tougher. 18. Miami Dolphins (8-8, LW: 15) Mike Wallace just quit ? I've heard of teams and players metaphorically quitting, but it's not every day a player says he just doesn't want to continue playing, especially one being paid like Wallace. Wallace said he was benched, according to . What a mess. 17. Carolina Panthers (7-8-1, LW: 21) I'm not jumping on the bandwagon that this team is significantly dangerous in the playoffs. They'll get pounded in the divisional round. But, they'll probably make the divisional round. 16. Buffalo Bills (9-7, LW: 17) You'll know the moment the Bills have exhausted all options to land a new starting quarterback when the positive stories of EJ Manuel start coming out of Buffalo. They pretty clearly don't think much of Manuel, but they might not have a choice after Kyle Orton's retirement. 15. Houston Texans (9-7, LW: 16) To have a seven-win improvement with no decent quarterback is pretty darn impressive. The Texans' accomplishments this season are an absolute plus on J.J. Watt's MVP resume, not a negative because a 2-14 team depending on Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback didn't make the playoffs. 14. San Diego Chargers (9-7, LW: 10) They're like the Cardinals, a good team that simply took on too many injuries. But unlike the Cardinals, they hadn't built up a 9-1 cushion. 13. Kansas City Chiefs (9-7, LW: 14) The Chiefs finished with zero touchdowns from a wide receiver this season, the first team to pull off that feat since the 1950 Pittsburgh Steelers, according to the Kansas City Star. And it's a good bet that will never happen again. Unless the Chiefs come back next year with Dwayne Bowe as their No. 1 option, then they might have a shot at repeating. 12. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6, LW: 13) LeSean McCoy admitted he doesn't know if he'll be back, given his salary-cap figure of about $12 million next year. The Eagles might be better off investing that money in cornerbacks and hoping to plug-and-play a couple of new and cheap backs in Chip Kelly's system. 11. Arizona Cardinals (11-5, LW: 12) It sums things up when the Cardinals are pining for the days of Drew Stanton and his 78.7 rating. 10. Baltimore Ravens (10-6, LW: 11) They won and they're in, but they followed up a bad loss to Houston by struggling mightily for three quarters against the Browns and Connor Shaw. That's not a good sign going into the playoffs. 9. Indianapolis Colts (11-5, LW: 9) Their opponents down the stretch: Jaguars, Redskins, Browns, Texans, Cowboys, Titans. They went 5-1 but lost by 35 to the only good team on that list (unless you're impressed by beating the Texans by a touchdown at home). 8. Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1, LW: 8) I think Jeremy Hill better get his sleep, because he's going to get more carries than he knows what to do with as long as the Bengals are in the playoffs. 7. Detroit Lions (11-5, LW: 6) It's not that hard to not get suspended. Don't step on an opponent's leg when he's down and put your full weight on it in an obviously dirty move. See? Easy. 6. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-5, LW: 7) With a healthy Le'Veon Bell, I thought the Steelers were poised to make a run. If he's not healthy, that all changes. 5. Denver Broncos (12-4, LW: 5) Peyton Manning in December: Three touchdowns, six interceptions in four games. Maybe the Broncos can win a Super Bowl riding C.J. Anderson and the defense, but it does appear that will have to be their playoff blueprint. 4. Dallas Cowboys (12-4, LW: 4) Tony Romo in December: 12 touchdowns, one interception, 133.7 rating. None of that will matter the moment the Cowboys lose and the Internet explodes, but it's worth keeping in mind when the overreaction hits. 3. Green Bay Packers (12-4, LW: 3) They should be rooting for that Lions upset, because it would mean the Cardinals/Panthers winner would come to Green Bay for the divisional round. 2. Seattle Seahawks (12-4, LW: 2) On the other hand, the most likely scenario is either Carolina or Arizona coming to Seattle in the divisional round, and I think we all know how that's turning out. 1. New England Patriots (12-4, LW: 1) I know Bruce Arians will win it, and he deserves to, but you could also make an air-tight argument for Bill Belichick as coach of the year. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) -- Fans were fed up and so was the team's matriarch.
ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -- Tony Sparano won over the locker room and changed the mindset of the Oakland Raiders in 12 games as interim coach.
IRVING, Texas (AP) -- Tony Romo took all but one snap for a regular-season finale that had little chance of meaning anything for the playoff-bound Dallas Cowboys.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- For a team that wasn't in the playoff hunt for most of the season and has missed the postseason the past three years, the New York Giants are heading into the offseason with a lot of optimism.
Most times, if you miss the playoffs five times in a six-year span, you're not surviving as an NFL head coach. But when that one playoff trip resulted in your second Super Bowl title, you've built up enough goodwill to survive. Tom Coughlin will be back for a 12th season with the New York Giants. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport and others reported that Coughlin was assured he'll stay, which isn't a surprise considering all recent reports out of New York indicated Coughlin was safe. Even though the Giants had a 6-10 season, Coughlin's worst since he went 6-10 in his first season with New York, that didn't matter.  It's not the wrong choice. The Giants are being prudent and not overreacting to a few down years. Teams feel the pressure to fire coaches if so many games aren't won or they miss the playoffs so many years without thinking, is the coach we would hire really better than the one we're firing? Coughlin is a borderline Hall of Fame coach, and the Giants figured that he'll be better than any other options they'd have. Can Coughlin turn it back around in New York? Having presumptive NFL offensive rookie of the year Odell Beckham back next year, hopefully with a healthy Victor Cruz, will help. The Giants will need to fix a defense that gave up the fourth-most yards in the NFL this season . But Coughlin will be around to see if he can guide that improvement. Even though it's the NFL way to panic and fire a coach to make a statement, the Giants figured they'd be better off with the guy who has helped them win two titles. - - - - - - - Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YahooSchwab
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Cleaning out their lockers and heading home for the offseason is going to be a very different experience for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Giants.
The division showdowns were won by the Packers, Panthers and Steelers. On to the playoffs.

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