HomeFootball DirtWhich death spiral is worse: Eagles or Dolphins?

Which death spiral is worse: Eagles or Dolphins?

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The Buffalo Bills, Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers surged into the 2024 NFL Playoffs. The Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles decidedly did not. The Dolphins and Eagles are particularly concerning. Each came into the season with big expectations and hot starts. Miami took control of the AFC East behind a 9-3 start while Philadelphia stood atop the NFC East at 10-1. Then they combined to win three games between them over the final five weeks of the season, backing into postseason with road games as Wild Card teams. Fortunately for them, they can rest their hopes on one facet that shined through the 2023 regular season. Everyone, even the 12 other teams in the playoff field, is at least a little broken. 2023 was huge for parity, as flaws cropped up across the NFL. Teams still in contention for a spot in Super Bowl 58 got there despite losses to quarterbacks like Joshua Dobbs, Tommy DeVito, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones and P.J. Walker. No one was dominant, and the undercurrent of “any given Sunday (or Saturday, or Monday)” has more pull in January than arguably ever before. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who the most vulnerable teams are in this week’s power rankings. These are the teams that didn’t make the playoffs. Rather than waste ink on them, let’s just knock them all out now so we can focus on the teams that matter:

  • 32. Carolina Panthers
  • 31. New England Patriots
  • 30. Washington Commanders
  • 29. Los Angeles Chargers
  • 28. Arizona Cardinals
  • 27. Tennessee Titans
  • 26. New York Giants
  • 25. New York Jets
  • 24. Atlanta Falcons
  • 23. Las Vegas Raiders
  • 22. Minnesota Vikings
  • 21. Jacksonville Jaguars
  • 20. Chicago Bears
  • 19. Denver Broncos
  • 18. Indianapolis Colts
  • 17. New Orleans Saints
  • 16. Cincinnati Bengals
  • 15. Seattle Seahawks
    • Last week’s rank: 7 Philadelphia is spiraling out of control, losing games and players with the kind of late season collapse we haven’t seen since the 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers. That team went from 11-0 to 12-4 to end the season, then lost in the Wild Card round to Baker Mayfield. The Eagles have gone from 10-1 to 11-6 … and now Mayfield and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers await them to kick off the postseason. Last week’s rank: 12 Tampa Bay hasn’t exactly inspired confidence to wrap up 2023. The Buccaneers turned the ball over four times against the Saints in Week 17, then failed to find the end zone in an anemic 9-0, NFC South-clinching win over the Panthers. Baker Mayfield played hurt in the regular season finale, got more banged up and looked a lot like his 2022 self — and that guy was the league’s worst starting quarterback. Last week’s rank: 15 You don’t get a ton of credit for beating the Ravens’ backups, but Mason Rudolph played composed football in a rainstorm and did enough to punch the Steelers’ playoff ticket. He’s 3-0 as a starter, but he’s also still Mason Rudolph. The playoffs may not be kind to him. Last week’s rank: 17 Jordan Love is teetering on the edge of the circle of trust. He’s been very good lately, but we’ve seen him rise only to backslide in 2023. His floating passes are going to look like chum to a Dallas Cowboys secondary loaded with sharks. But if he’s going to continue his inheritance of things Aaron Rodgers left behind — see his ownership of the Bears — that’s going to include dealing Dallas a devastating postseason defeat. Last week’s rank: 9 Miami finished 2023 with 11 wins, one of which came against an opponent with a winning record. The Dolphins last two games were a 37-point loss to the Baltimore Ravens and a seven-point home loss to the Buffalo Bills in which they were outgained by nearly 200 total yards. This team is thoroughly untrustable. Last week’s rank: 10 The Rams are 7-1 since their bye week and the lone defeat in that stretch came in overtime on the road against the league’s best team. Matthew Stafford’s excellence has been a big part of that, but credit is due for a young defense that’s gelled together and stood up as an above-average unit over that season-transforming two month run. Last week’s rank: 13 Half the Carolina Panthers’ wins this season came over division champions. Thank you, Texans, for making that possible. That weirdness aside, DeMeco Ryans has kept his team thriving despite injuries. We’ll learn a lot about CJ Stroud when he faces the Cleveland Browns and their top ranked defense. Last week’s rank: 8 Cleveland had the luxury of resting starters in Week 18 and throwing their fifth starting quarterback into the fire — thank you for your service, Jeff Driskel. The fact the Browns won 11 games with a motley crew of passers is both wild AND a testament to a defense capable of generating chaos at every level. And now they get a rookie QB making his first playoff start to kick off their postseason. Last week’s rank: 6 Kansas City is going to have to rely on its defense in order to produce another long playoff run. Fortunately, the Chiefs have been up to the task, buttressing a worse-than-expected Patrick Mahomes and his meager receiving corps with top 10 play and allowing fewer points than all but one other team in 2023. Last week’s rank: 5 That’s five straight wins for the Bills, who packed up three different playoff teams (the Chiefs, Eagles and Dolphins) along the way. There’s still plenty to be concerned about in Buffalo, but this is a team with experience pulling itself out of phugoid cycles long enough to get back to stable air space — and that’s a trait that’s either going to be extremely valuable (their comeback bonafides) or entirely damaging (their penchant for sleepwalking through long stretches) this postseason. Last week’s rank: 4 How much should Cowboys fans trust Mike McCarthy in the postseason? He’s 36-15 over his last three seasons but has yet to make it beyond the Divisional Round in that stretch. Does that speak to an innate inability to get past the San Francisco 49ers, who’ve ended his season each of the last two years? Or does it point to a larger problem that’s defined a head coach with great regular season bonafides but little lasting playoff success in the last decade? Last week’s rank: 3 Detroit played its starters in Week 18 and got a win, but also lost tight end Sam LaPorta to a knee injury in the process. This could be a problem, especially if the leaky secondary that allowed Nick Mullens to burn it deep multiple times can’t keep up with Matthew Stafford in the Wild Card round. The Lions have plenty left to prove in search of their first postseason win since 1992. Last week’s rank: 2 When things are clicking for the 49ers, they pair a game-breaking offense with a dominant defense. When they aren’t, Brock Purdy winds up looking like a seventh-round quarterback and things fall apart. Still, this is a better than than Kyle Shanahan had in multiple recent trips to the NFC title game and beyond in recent years. San Francisco has a clear path back to the Super Bowl. Last week’s rank: 1 There isn’t much to take from a rainy, sloppy mess of a game vs. the Steelers in which the Ravens rested their most important players. This is the franchise with the best record in the NFL and the presumptive 2023 MVP. They’ve still got plenty to prove in the postseason — we finally get to see what Lamar Jackson can do with a competent receiving corps — but until further notice this is the team to beat.

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