A little after 4pm on Sunday the Cleveland Browns lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, plunging them to the NFL’s second-ever 0-16 finish. The loss would have been soul crushing if only there had been any souls left to crush in Cleveland. Bad as the Browns season finale was, though, it wasn’t the worst of the day. There’s a strong case to be made that the Browns reached a new level of misery on Sunday but the drop from 1-15 to 0-16 is a lot less dramatic than the fall from making the playoffs to missing them.
Of all the teams with a chance to claim a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season, the Baltimore Ravens entered Sunday’s matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals with the best odds of making the postseason. Per ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Ravens had a 97% chance of making the playoffs on Sunday morning – almost 30% higher than the team with the next best odds – and with the game against Cincinnati winding down, the Ravens seemed to have it in the bag. After trailing all game, they had stormed back to take their first lead of the day late in the 4th quarter. With Cincinnati facing a 4th and 12 at the Baltimore 49-yard line, with 53 seconds on the clock and the Bengals out of timeouts, the Ravens needed just one stop to punch their ticket to the postseason.
Despite an off-season filled with moves that seemed to indicate that Buffalo’s new front office was punting on the present in the hopes of building a better future, the Bills started this year with a surprising 5-2 record. Even after a puzzling loss to the Jets and an absolute thrashing at the hands of the resurgent Saints, the Bills were 5-4 and sitting in the AFC’s last playoff spot. Considering what was expected of the team heading into this season and that – as I am contractually obligated to tell you – the Bills haven’t made the postseason since 1999, it was hard to consider Buffalo’s 5-4 start as anything but a success.
Unless, apparently, you’re Sean McDermott, Buffalo’s first year head coach. After his team was pummeled 47-10 by the Saints, McDermott decided that the steady if unspectacular play of quarterback Tyrod Taylor simply wasn’t cutting it and instead inserted rookie Nathan Peterman (a.k.a. a guy that no one had ever heard of) into the starting lineup. It, um, didn’t go very well.
Nathan Peterman threw more interceptions in the first half than the Cowboys, Patriots and Rams have thrown all season. pic.twitter.com/j93vajF64H
I get it. NBA players that you’ve never even heard of are pulling down huge new contracts while players who are adequate but unspectacular are getting insanely huge new contracts despite being massive injury risks.1 It’s probably enough to make you wonder if you should’ve played basketball instead of dedicating your life to a game that even its best players are saying will destroy your brain.