After 17 weeks of action, the 2019 playoffs are set. So which teams head into the postseason at or near the top of the NFL Power Rankings?
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – DECEMBER 29: Will Grier #3 of the Carolina Panthers is hit after a throw by Kiko Alonso #54 of the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 29, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Carolina Panthers 5-11
Last week: L, 42-10 vs NO
Last rank: 30th
Recap: The Panthers hosted the NFC South champion Saints riding a seven-game losing streak and looking to avoid the club’s worst finish since a 2-14 mark in 2010. Rookie quarterback Will Grier would make this second straight start and things did not go well as he was knocked out of action in the second quarter. By then, the defenseless Panthers were already down 28-0 and Grier had turned over the ball twice, including a pick-six. The Carolina pass rush could not get to Drew Brees, who threw for 253 yards and three scores. Meanwhile, Christian McCaffrey became the third player in NFL history to finish with 1,000-plus yards rushing and receiving in the same season.
Draft Talk: It’s a team that used a first-round pick on pass-rushing help last April in the form of Brian Burns. But Carolina’s bigger issue on defense in 2019 was stopping the run as the Panthers were gashed far too many times. More help on the interior of that front is needed. Could the club also be in the market for a promising tight end?
Offseason Priorities: Whoever the new head coach turns out to be, the elephant in the room is what does the future hold for quarterback Cam Newton in terms of the franchise? He’s been a banged-up performer the last season or so and the subject of some trade speculation. The Panthers have 15 potential unrestricted free agents.
Detroit Lions 3-12-1
Last week: L, 23-20 vs GB
Last rank: 31st
Recap: Matt Patricia’s team owned the NFL’s longest current losing streak as they took on the Green Bay Packers for the second time in 2019. Back in Week 6 on a Monday night at Lambeau Field, the Lions lost on the final play of the game on a field goal. This time around, Detroit owned a 17-3 halftime advantage and looked as if they may finally get a win vs. a divisional rival. Patricia’s team ran for 171 yards and appeared to be in control. But Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers warmed up after a slow start and the Lions wound up surrendering 432 yards. And just as was the case in October, the game was lost on a field goal by Green Bay’s Mason Crosby just as time expired.
Draft Talk: The team will be selecting in the Top 10 for the second straight year. Last April, it was tight end T.J. Hockenson via the eight overall selection. Since 2014, the Lions have only used one first-round pick on a defense (LB Jarrad Davis in ’17). The club may want to address the back end of this unit with any number of choices.
Offseason Priorities: As mentioned recently, Patricia and GM Bob Quinn will be back in 2020. And hopefully for the sake of the franchise so will quarterback Matthew Stafford. He missed the final eight games of 2019 and finished the year on injured reserve. Re-signing potential free agent defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson may be a priority.