Playoff grades for every NFL team

11 teams technically failed this postseason, but not every loss is created equal and more teams than just New England should be proud of what they did.

NFL playoff team grades
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Playoff grades for every NFL team

Arizona Cardinals: D

A grade this low might seem a bit harsh for a team that was facing so much adversity, but it’s hard to look past such an early playoff exit for a team that was 11-5 playing a team that was just 7-8-1.

The Cardinals ended up losing 27-16 to Carolina in the first round, but the victory never really felt in doubt for the Panthers.

Arizona held a surprising 14-13 lead going into halftime, but the Panthers dominated the second half and squashed any remaining hope the Cardinals had.

The Panthers’ strong defense was probably drooling over the idea of playing an Arizona offense that was led by Ryan Lindley, and Carolina dominated that matchup as the Cardinals’ offense turned the ball over three times and had only 78 total yards.

Although the Cardinals crawled into the playoffs and had no shot once they got there, Bruce Arians has proven to be an elite coach in this league and he should have the Cardinals in great position next season if they can avoid devastating injuries.

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Baltimore Ravens: B

Baltimore was dominated by the Houston Texans just two weeks prior to the playoffs and entered the postseason with a mediocre 10-6 record, but that didn’t matter – the Ravens show up for the playoffs.

The Ravens started their postseason journey in Pittsburgh where they scored 10 points in the last three quarters to go on to an easy 30-17 win over the Steelers.

Then that’s when the fun started.

Baltimore headed to Foxborough, where they are very comfortable at, and nearly saddened thousands of Patriots fan yet again.

The Ravens had control for much of the game, scoring the first 14 points, but the Patriots never fled away and eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter.

Joe Flacco and company were fortunate enough to get the ball at the very end of the game, and for a second it looked like they might be able to bring some of that 2012 magic back for a last-second victory.

However, Flacco forced a pass when he didn’t need to, and the Patriots intercepted it to win the game.

Giving a team a that only won one playoff game a grade this solid might seem crazy to some, but the Ravens definitely made the playoffs more interesting and were extremely close to knocking out the would-be-champions and moving onto the conference championships.

Baltimore is just a few holes on defense away from making another deep playoff run.

(Photo by Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Carolina Panthers : C+

Kudos to the Panthers for salvaging their season and making the playoffs, but their postseason run is extremely forgettable.

Yeah, they won their first game, but it was in Carolina against a struggling Arizona squad – not that impressive.

Their real chance to make some noise was in the following round at Seattle. They had played them very closely for the past few seasons, so they had a decent shot heading into the division-round.

The Panthers were able to keep things close for most of the game, but Seattle really blew the game open in the fourth quarter and went on to win 31-17.

Carolina is an interesting team when you’re considering next season. They have a lot of flaws, but they also have a lot of talent and play in a poor division – so there’s always a possibility of a lot of wins.

The Panthers have flirted with being one of the top teams for the past couple of years, but they haven’t been able get over the hump and beat one of the league’s elite when it really matters.

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals: F

There’s not a lot to say about the Bengals’ short-lived playoffs.

I know they were missing a couple of key pieces including A.J. Green, but they never seemed like real threats to win their opening game and they lost a record-setting fourth straight opening-round playoff game (26-10 loss in Indianapolis).

Marvin Lewis has lost all six of his playoff games, and the Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since 1991.

Cincinnati’s front office seems content with the product they are putting out there, and no one should expect much change so long as the team is putting the same product out there.

This isn’t breaking news, but Andy Dalton is leading any team deep into the playoffs, and Lewis doesn’t look like he’ll ever change his incredibly conservative coaching methods.

The Bengals will continue to make the playoffs with this regime, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they kept getting knocked out of the first round.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Dallas Cowboys: B+

The Cowboys had one of their best seasons in recent memory, and it’s a shame it had to end in such controversy.

Dallas came out slow in their first playoff game after a strong 12-4 regular season, but they ended up scoring 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to beat Detroit 24-20.

I’m sure everyone that loves to hate the Cowboys was on the edge of their seats just waiting for Dallas to officially lose, but the team proved that they aren’t your older brother’s Cowboys and came up big when it mattered the most.

Their showdown in Green Bay was a highly anticipated game, and it more than lived up to the hype.

Dallas gave the Packers everything they could handle and appeared to have control for most of the game, but some things just aren’t meant to be.

After Green Bay scored six straight points in the fourth quarter to give themselves a 26-21 lead, Tony Romo and company drove down the field with just a few minutes remaining in hopes of scoring the game-winning touchdown.

Dallas had a 4th-and-2 on the Packers’ 32-yard line with 4:42 left to play, and Romo connected with Dez Bryant on an amazing play that would have easily set up the Cowboys to win the game.

Unfortunately, we all know that the call was reversed and the Cowboys basically lost the game on that play.

I don’t know what would have happened had the Cowboys advanced to play Seattle, but they were one of the best all-around teams in the playoffs and I think they could have done anything.

It will be interesting to see their encore performance next season.

(Ron Jenkins/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS via Getty Images)

Denver Broncos: F

The Broncos were one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl, so being one-and-done deserves nothing better than the lowest grade possible.

Denver didn’t look that good as the season ended, and a magical switch never happened for the playoffs so they continued to fall.

Although it wasn’t a blowout or anything like that, Denver never seemed to play with a sense of urgency and couldn’t keep up with the level of play that the Colts were putting out there.

Denver would go on to lose 24-13, but all the talk was on Peyton Manning.

Manning didn’t have a Manning performance as he completed only 26-of-46 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, and news later came out that he was playing with a torn quad – and was apparently dealing with the injury for a month.

Manning is supposed to have an announcement soon on if he will return to play next season or not – but regardless if he comes back or not – it’s clear that the Broncos have taken a step back.

The loss was bad enough for John Fox to lose his job.

(Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Detroit Lions: B-

Detroit may have been one-and-done, but I don’t think it’s an embarrassing early exit at all.

The Lions have been a team loaded with talent for a long time now, but they haven’t been able to put it all together to become a legit contender.

That started to change this year in Jim Caldwell’s first season as he led the team to a 11-5 regular season record, and they didn’t fall flat on their faces during the playoffs.

The Cowboys were one of the best teams in the entire playoffs, and Detroit pushed them up against the ropes in Dallas. The Lions could have definitely won that game had a couple of little things go their way.

The team is probably going to lose Ndamukong Suh to free agency this offseason, but I don’t think that will make the take team as a whole take a big step back.

Detroit is on the rise.

(Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images)

Green Bay Packers: B

The Packers probably deserve a bit of a higher grade, but it’s just so hard to give them one when you look back on how they got knocked out.

I’ve already gone over their first win over Dallas, and it was nice, but their story happened in the conference championship game.

They had full control in Seattle for pretty much the entire game, but everything fell apart so quickly and they ended up losing 28-22 in overtime.

Everyone was penciling in the Packers for a Super Bowl berth, but the Seahawks went on a 21-3 run through the fourth quarter and overtime to win.

Seattle’s streak of luck during that run is about as good as it gets (crazy two-point conversion, onside kick), and the Packers were left devastated.

I’m sure Green Bay is ready to rebound next season.

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Indianapolis Colts: B+

Yeah, the Colts got dominated in their conference championship game, but that’s not what it’s all about for them.

This was in the third year of Andrew Luck’s career and the new regime, and they have improved each and every season. They made the playoffs the first year, won a playoff game the following season and then won two playoff games this year – including their first road playoff game.

It looks like Luck is ready to make the leap into becoming an elite team, and now it is up to the rest of the team and staff to meet him there.

It’s obvious that the Patriots are the heavy monkey on their back, and they are probably going to have to beat them if they want to get to a Super Bowl.

The good news for them is that the future is incredibly bright. Yeah, the Patriots are going to be good, but the rest of the conference is incredibly weak (especially if Manning retires).

Even if they don’t make the Super Bowl next year, it’s hard to think they won’t get to one in the next few years.

(Photo Credit: Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/TNS via Getty Images)

New England Patriots: A+

Super Bowl champions will get you the highest grade in the class – that’s guaranteed.

It’s funny to think that this was the same team that started 2-2 and had the whole world coming for their heads, but they are the Patriots for a reason.

Bill Belichick and Tom Brady got the troops playing the right way, and their postseason run sure was a magical one.

They out-clutched the Ravens in the division-round, dominated the Colts in the conference championship and then scored 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks in the Super Bowl to win 28-24.

This Super Bowl was arguably the greatest one ever played, and although New England won three titles earlier this decade, this championship felt greater than them all.

As previously stated, the AFC is a pretty weak conference right now, and that could lead to the Patriots running the table next year.

(Photo credit: Timothy A. Clary, AFP/Getty Images)

Pittsburgh Steelers: D

The Steelers had one of their better seasons in the past few years by going 11-5 in the regular season, but they still felt like a mediocre squad.

Le’Veon Bell got insanely hot towards the end of the year (might be the best back in football), and that really revamped their offense and made them look like a better team.

However, this was still the same team that lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and New Orleans Saints in the regular season (and nearly lost to the Tennessee Titans).

Bell injured his knee in the final regular season game and was unable to play in the playoffs, and that really reflected on the team’s performance. The Steelers didn’t score their first touchdown of the game until garbage time in the fourth quarter, and they got outplayed in every aspect of the game against the Ravens.

It was nice to see the Steelers have some success after being incredibly average ever since Tim Tebow destroyed their souls in the playoffs years ago, and they have some really bright pieces to build on moving forward.

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Seattle Seahawks: B+

Even with all the heartache that the Seahawks are probably still feeling, this was still an incredibly successful postseason and they should be proud of their run.

Their strong victory over the Panthers made them the first defending champions to win a playoff game in nine years, and their magical game against the Packers will be a game that people remember forever.

Yeah, they were this close to becoming back-to-back champions, but you can’t dwell on what almost happened. They were involved in one of the greatest Super Bowls ever played and just so happened to be on the short end of the stick.

Seattle will remain as one of the scariest teams in the league with an amazing defense and a strong offense, and they currently have the best odds at winning next season’s Super Bowl.

This team isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

(Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Contrary to that, there are a few teams that should be quite embarrassed by what they did in the playoffs.

Besides a few dud games, the 2015 NFL playoffs were loaded with excitement and had tons of big headlines due to the success of many teams.

We had a team going for back-to-back championships, established powerhouses trying add another title and young teams that are on the rise.

These are my grades for every team that made it to the playoffs this year.

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