1. Seattle (16-3). As dominating and intimidating a performance as I remember in a Super Bowl. A total skunking. Seattle is so clearly the best team in football.
2. San Francisco (14-5). Next home game: Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, Calif., 40 minutes south of Candlestick. And better.
3. Denver (15-4). A few words come to mind. Most apt: embarrassing.
4. New England (13-5). This is not just because I shared a podium with him Saturday night in Manhattan, but the Patriots need to sign free-agent wide receiver Julian Edelman. Last five games of the season: 65 targets, 45 catches. When Tom Brady is throwing 13 passes a game to a guy, and a guy they won’t have to pay Calvin Johnson prices for, the message is simple for the Patriots: Stop going cheap on the receiver position.
5. Carolina (12-5). Congrats to Ron Rivera, the deserving NFL coach of the year.
6. San Diego (10-8). Speaking of good coaching jobs: Mike McCoy, ladies and gentlemen.
7. New Orleans (12-6). My guess is the Saints franchise Jimmy Graham. I don’t see how they reach a deal if he keeps his demand in the stratosphere, and I’d have serious questions about him as a stratospheric player after the no-show he put on this postseason, even despite the plantar fascia.
8. Green Bay (8-8-1). I’d be surprised if Ted Thompson doesn’t take a tackle with one of his first two picks in May.
9. Philadelphia (10-7). Ran into a lot of Eagles fans in Super Bowl week. I think they love Chip Kelly as much in year one as they loved Andy Reid in any of his 14 years.
10. Indianapolis (12-6). The MMQB guest columnist Coby Fleener and the returning Dwayne Allen will give Andrew Luck the kind of two-tight-end combination a young quarterback with a shaky offensive line dreams of in 2014.
11. Kansas City (11-6). Smart thing to be trying to sign Alex Smith long-term.
12. Arizona (10-6). High on Bruce Arians’ to-do list this offseason: Fix the running game. The Cards had one back rush for 100 yards in a game in 2013 (Andre Ellington, Week 8). Not good.
13. Cincinnati (11-6). Six 100-plus QB-rating games, 33 touchdown passes … Andy Dalton’s regular-season numbers are nice, but the Cincinnati fans will remember the playoff debacle into September. Nothing will be good enough for this franchise short of a playoff win next January, and rightfully so.
14. Pittsburgh (8-8). Most important job for the Steelers this offseason isn’t going to be personnel addition. It’s going to be cap subtraction.
15. Chicago (8-8). Be proud of Bears cornerback Charles Tillman, Chicago. He’s the 2014 NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year, and a deserving one, for all the work he does off the field.
The Award Section
Offensive Players of the Week
Russell Okung, James Carpenter, Max Unger, J.R Sweezy, Breno Giacomini, the offensive line, Seattle. Aside from keeping Wilson mostly clean all night (he wasn’t sacked), the line cleared the way for a running game that averaged 4.7 yards per attempt. They kept two dangerous players—Terrance Knighton and Danny Trevathan—from being any kind of factors in the biggest game of the year. Entering the game, you could argue that the line might have been the most questionable unit on the team coming in. It turned out to be a major strength.
Defensive Player of the Week
Cliff Avril, defensive end, Seattle. He contributed to both Manning interceptions in the first half—making Manning throw awkwardly both times. On the first, he had a near-sack of Manning and wound up tackling him as he threw, with Kam Chancellor picking it off. One the second, Avril hit Manning on the right arm, forcing a pass to be popped up and intercepted for a touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Smith. And he was credited with the game-opening safety. I voted Avril the game’s MVP.
Special Teams Players of the Week
Percy Harvin, kick returner, Seattle. He fielded the opening kickoff of the second half, a bouncer, and zipped in and out and in of traffic, sprinting the last 45 yards untouched. And the rout was on. (It was already; this just sealed it). Seattle was up 29-0 just 12 seconds into the second half.
Derrick Coleman, fullback, and Jeremy Lane, cornerback, Seattle. For setting the tone in a game the Seattle special teams dominated. On the opening kickoff, Denver speedster Trindon Holliday took the ball six yards deep and got out to only the 14-yard line before getting swarmed by Coleman and Lane. On the next snap, the Broncos messed up the center-quarterback exchange and Seattle got a safety to start the most improbable Super Bowl I can ever remember.
Coach of the Week
Pete Carroll, head coach, Seattle. It was a week when the Seattle coach thought of everything. Like this: On Friday, he had his players exert themselves at the Giants’ training facility—where they practiced all week—and then sit around in the Giants’ locker room for 31 minutes before coming out for a faux second half. Carroll becomes the third coach to win an NCAA national title and a Super Bowl (Jimmy Johnson, Barry Switzer), and he does it on the same property where he got his first NFL shot, the Meadowlands, as a one-and-done Jets coach in 1994.
Goats of the Week
Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver. Manning was suffocated from the second series on, but he threw a terrible interception to Kam Chancellor, then, instead of pulling the ball down and taking a sack, attempted an ill-conceived throw that was picked and returned for a touchdown. Late in the first half, he made two awful decisions (see above) on a series he had to convert into points and got nothing. Yes, Manning was inundated, and his receivers had little room to breathe all night. But he played poorly too. And at 38 on opening day next year, he will still be stuck on one Super Bowl win.
John Fox, head coach, Denver. With 10:46 left in the third quarter, and Denver trailing 29-0 at the Seattle 39-yard line facing a 4th-and-11, John Fox sent out the punt team. I realize the Broncos were not winning anything by that point, but throwing the white flag with 26 minutes left in a four-score game with Peyton Manning your quarterback? Wow. I thought that was a terrible call.
Orlando Franklin, tackle, Denver. Franklin was the turnstile who allowed Avril to make both huge plays in the first half that turned the game. Frankly, Franklin was awful, allowing five quarterback pressures or hits in the first half alone, according to stats kept by The MMQB’s Mr. Pressure Points himself, Greg A. Bedard.