Studs and Duds of the 2018 NFL Season
Photo Credit: NBC Sports
Super Bowl 53 is upon us football fans, but before diving into the 2019 championship game, it’s time to take a look at the key figures that brought us this wild season. From shocking emergences to disappointing underachievers, here are the top five studs and duds from the 2018-19 NFL season.
Stud: Young Quarterbacks
The next wave of great quarterbacks is here and ready to take the NFL by storm. Patrick Mahomes lead the Kansas City Chiefs to an AFC Championship berth with over 5,000 passing yards and 50 passing touchdowns. Jared Goff looked even better in his second season with Sean McVay and has led the Los Angeles Rams to the Super Bowl. DeShaun Watson came back strong from his ACL tear, leading the Texans to an AFC South Championship. Baker Mayfield led the dysfunctional Browns to seven wins and is the front runner for offensive rookie of the year. Lamar Jackson didn’t need elite throwing accuracy to take the 4-5 Ravens to the playoffs with an AFC North championship. All in all, the NFL is already filled with the next wave of greatness under center.
Dud: The Pittsburgh Steelers
The drama-filled anarchy of elite talent and confusing coaching in Pittsburgh had been playing with fire for several seasons now. Finally, it completely doomed them in 2018. Arguably one of the best rosters in the NFL completely failed to make the playoffs. Mike Tomlin made several head-scratching coaching decisions, the defense remained a mess under coordinator Keith Butler, and they found a new way to lose every week in December. After annihilating the Panthers on Thursday Night Football, the team lost to an underperforming Denver team, blew a huge lead to the Chargers at home, somehow lost to the Oakland Raiders, and found a dozen ways to blow a win in New Orleans. JuJu Smith-Schuster was a stud in all 16 games, but that was pretty much the only consistent for the 2018 team.
Stud: Matt Nagy
Da Bears! Every NFL season gives us a surprise team to shoot out of the dark and claim a division title, but who could’ve guessed the Bears? Turns out, adding Khalil Mack to an already top ten defensive unit leads to success. Mitch Trubisky made progress in his second season and head coach Matt Nagy made the case for being the Sean McVay of the defensive side of the ball. The Bears, in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Matt Stafford, and Kirk Cousins managed to claim the division title with Mitch Trubisky.
Dud: The Jacksonville Jaguars
Just as every NFL season gives us a surprise division champion, every season gives us a shocking dud. The 2017 Jacksonville Jaguars claimed the AFC South crowns, upset the Pittsburgh Steelers in the divisional round, and came absurdly close to beating Tom Brady in Foxboro to go to the Super Bowl. They had the best defense in football with a ball-hawking secondary and an unrelenting front seven that both remained intact for 2018. All of this talent amounted to nothing in 2018 because quarterback Blake Bortles wasn’t able to do enough when the defense wasn’t perfect.
Stud: Andrew Luck
Football fans seem to have forgotten about him because he missed the entirety of the 2017 season, but Andrew Luck is without question an elite quarterback. He came back with a vengeance in 2018 with 4,593 passing yards and 39 touchdowns while leading the Colts back to the postseason. He managed to do this with little to no weapons as well. T.Y. Hilton is a fun fantasy football player, but he’s never broken out as truly elite. Eric Ebron had a breakout year, but it had more to do with his chemistry with Luck than anything else.
Dud: Jon Gruden
Where does one even begin with the dumpster fire that was the 2018 Oakland Raiders? Jon Gruden hyped Raiders fans all offseason, but he failed to deliver before the season even began with some confusing trades. He traded Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears who had a career year and lead the Bears to the playoffs. He traded Amari Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys where he saw new life and was able to spark their offense to a playoff run. His draft day trade acquisition, Martavis Bryant, was a non-factor and was initially cut. Jordy Nelson did nothing for the team.
Stud: Los Angeles Football
There were a lot of people that doubted an NFL football team would work in the Los Angeles area, but now there are two and they’re both thriving. The Chargers might lack the fanbase, but they came dangerously close to stealing the AFC West from the Chiefs and claiming the number one overall seed. The Rams, on the other hand, managed to hit it out of the park both on the field and in the stands. There are two things that a pro sports franchise needs to survive in LA; stars and success. Sean McVay leads a roster of flashy all pros to the Super Bowl and it has definitely opened up a lot of eyes from fans in Los Angels.
Dud: Kirk Cousins
A 4,298 passing yard season with 30 touchdowns may not look all that bad on paper, but Kirk Cousins and the Vikings did not make a healthy marriage in 2018. Minnesota failed to reach the playoffs following their NFC Championship berth in 2017. Cousins posted solid numbers, but he also threw ten interceptions and fumbled the ball on eight occasions. This was a loaded Vikings roster, but Cousins wasn’t able to make the big throws late in games when it mattered most.
Stud: Tony Romo
Everyone has a different taste when it comes to broadcast talent, but here’s hoping all NFL fans can at least agree that Tony Romo is a national treasure. Sure, he didn’t have much success in Dallas and you can roast him for that all you want, but he is an absolute joy to listen to on Sundays. He predicts plays before they happen and it never gets old. His analysis on plays is always accurate and genuinely interesting to listen to. Best of all, he seems to have given Jim Nantz a second life and the two have fantastic chemistry.
Dud: Monday Night Football
To keep this one brief, the quality of Monday Night Football broadcasts was at an all-time low. Jason Witten is a nice enough guy but he comes off as awkward in the booth. The sideline cart is incredibly unnecessary and blocks the view for fans at the actual game. It doesn’t seem like there will be any changes for the 2019 season, but fingers crossed there are at least some changes on the horizon.