A lot of air went out of a lot of NFL balloons in Week 13. If you're a fan of the Browns, Chargers, Colts, Raiders, Panthers, Jaguars or even Eagles, Sunday was a tough day for whatever remaining hope this season held for you.
Not that all of those teams are cooked, mind you. But Sunday was some level of gut punch for all of those teams if they were still dreaming big postseason dreams. In some cases, it might be an overreaction to say the season's over. In others, it's not, and it's time to look ahead to a too-early offseason filled with questions and regret.
On that note, we begin our Week 13 Overreaction Monday column in the city of football regret.
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Freddie Kitchens will be a one-and-done coach in Cleveland
The Browns had everything working in their favor Sunday. The Steelers were down to their third-string quarterback, playing without their No. 1 wide receiver, their starting running back and their center. Both sides had bad blood from their brawl-marred meeting two weeks earlier, but Cleveland -- as has been the case for much of this season -- had a roster that appeared to be in far better shape.
And by the middle of the second quarter, the Browns also had a 10-0 lead. Then the banged-up Steelers scored 20 points in a row to win the game and improve to 7-5, while the Browns, in their season of so much promise, fell to 5-7.
The Verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. It's not over, as Yogi Berra told us, until it's over, and the Browns are only two games out of a playoff spot. But they were supposed to be on that late-season run that propelled them into the playoffs in spite of everything that went wrong in the season's first half, and instead their season slid into a muddy ditch alongside the Ohio, the Allegheny and the Monongahela.
Unless the Browns somehow win their final four games and sneak into the playoffs, this is going to be an ugly end to an ugly season that was supposed to be the season that stopped all the ugly. And while pointing the finger at the coach is too often the easy way out, there's plenty of evidence that Kitchens wasn't the right choice. He has made the wrong moves in-game. He has made the wrong moves wardrobe-wise. He has failed to establish a culture or set a tone that would put the Browns on the path out of their decades of misery. This was his task, and if the team wanted to admit a mistake and move on when the season ended, it wouldn't surprise anyone.
The Jaguars made a mistake with the Nick Foles signing
Recall, please, that the Jaguars signed Foles this offseason to a four-year, $88 million contract with $45.125 million guaranteed to be paid over the first two years. He got hurt in Week 1, sat on injured reserve while Gardner Minshew and his mustache captivated a nation, then came off injured reserve to start in Week 11.
The Verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. The point of signing Foles lay in the theory that quarterback was the missing piece for a Jacksonville team that was otherwise ready to compete for the Super Bowl berth that barely eluded it two seasons ago.
This season has gone off the rails for the 4-8 Jaguars, however, and although Foles can't be blamed for getting injured, his injury history was a concern before they signed him. The fact that he missed half the year and they didn't contend for the postseason leaves the team in a real bind.
The Jaguars have major salary-cap concerns, and he's one of them. They'd eat almost $34 million in 2020 dead money if they cut him and almost $19 million if they traded him. (And let's be honest, they'd have to pay some of the contract if they wanted to trade him at this point.) The offseason could bring about major changes on the coaching staff and in the front office in Jacksonville, and if that's the case, the new administration there will have major decisions to make while dancing around a monster quarterback cap number.
Foles could well rebound and have a nice career in Jacksonville, but one of the main reasons they signed him was to put them over the top this season. He didn't, and the long-range negative effects of the contract will be tough to overcome.
The Patriots won't get one of the top two seeds in the AFC
Sunday night's loss in Houston dropped the Patriots from the 1-seed to the 2-seed by virtue of a tiebreaker, since Baltimore beat them. At 10-2, the Patriots are still two games ahead of the 8-4 Chiefs and the 8-4 Texans. But they play Kansas City next week. And if they lose that one, that lead will shrink to one game over Kansas City and possibly one over Houston. And in that hypothetical situation, they'd lose head-to-head tiebreakers to the Chiefs, Texans and Ravens.
Perhaps even more alarmingly, their lead over Buffalo in the AFC East is only one game, and they have to play the Bills again in Week 16. New England is still in the driver's seat for a first-round bye, but things got a little more precarious Sunday night.
The Verdict: OVERREACTION. That's a whole bunch of "ifs" right there, and even if they all come in, New England would still have to lose to either the Bengals, the Dolphins or both for the nightmare scenario to come true.
The Patriots looked straight-up terrible on both sides of the ball in Houston, and there is real reason to worry that this won't turn out to be the kind of dominant January team we're used to seeing in New England. But the Patriots have shown an ability to beat the bad teams this season, so it's not wrong to think they'll win the Cincinnati and Miami games. And they have spent the past two decades earning the benefit of the doubt as a team that can overcome adversity -- especially late in the season.
No NFC East team will finish with a winning record
Hey, no NFC East team has one now, so this is obviously possible. After an inexcusable home loss to Buffalo on Thanksgiving, the 6-6 Cowboys still lead the division by a full game because the Eagles suffered an even more inexcusable loss Sunday in Miami.
For goodness' sake, Washington is 3-9, eliminated from contention for the wild card and any of the top three NFC seeds, but is still, somehow, alive in the division race. This is ugly, folks, and the possibility of an 8-8 or 7-9 NFC East champion has to be taken seriously, if for no other reason than the calendar and the math.
The Verdict: OVERREACTION. I just think either Dallas, Philadelphia or both have better football inside of them than they've shown so far. I don't know why I think this, other than that I thought it before the season and feel like there's still time for them to prove me right.
It's easy right now, in light of a brutal Week 13 for both of them, to believe neither will win another game other than the one they play against each other in Week 16. But things could look a lot different Thursday night if the Dallas defense gets its act together against Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears and the team recommits to Ezekiel Elliott on offense.
The NFC East champ will almost certainly be the No. 4 seed in the NFC at this point, but that doesn't mean it will have limped into the playoffs.
Philip Rivers is playing his final month as a Charger
Rivers will turn 38 on Sunday and does not have a contract beyond this season. Say what you will about the Browns, Eagles, Jaguars and anyone else, but it's hard not to pick the Chargers as the most disappointing team in the NFL this season.
They were 12-4 last season and seemed primed to make a Super Bowl run in the final year of Rivers' contract. Sunday's loss in Denver wasn't all on Rivers, nor is the dismal season. But with 17 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions through 12 games, it's shaping up as his worst season at maybe the worst possible time.
The Verdict: NOT AN OVERREACTION. I mean, if the Chargers were sure they wanted him back for 2020 and he was sure he wanted to be back in 2020 ... why isn't he signed yet?
This is shaping up as a historically weird quarterback offseason, with question marks about longtime starters in places like New England, New Orleans, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Cincinnati. And the Chargers are a part of that. Rivers could decide he wants to go somewhere else, or retire. The Chargers could have another option in mind, whether they're still in go-for-it mode or whether they decide to retool the roster.
At 4-8 and going nowhere in a season that started with high hopes, there have to be options on the table that were once inconceivable.