NFL season wrap: What went wrong, what's next for non-playoff teams

ByNFL Nation ESPN logo
Monday, December 30, 2019

The NFL regular season came to a close on Sunday. What's next for the teams that didn't make the playoffs? NFL Nation digs in.




Miami Dolphins(5-11, 4th AFC East)

What went wrong:The Dolphins' season was doomed from the start in terms of competing for a playoff spot. Miami had arguably the NFL's least talented roster thanks to an offseason full of shipping away veterans and choosing not to adequately replace them. The trade of tackle Laremy Tunsil and receiver Kenny Stills a week before the season and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick a week later put out a message that the Dolphins were planning for 2020 and beyond. But coach Brian Flores' bunch refused to quit, somehow winning five of their last nine games after being one of the worst teams in NFL history in terms of point differential. Wins over the AFC East champion Patriots and NFC East-leading Eagles are signs of the team's growth. Gaping talent holes were too much to make more progress in 2019, and there will be plenty of work to do in the offseason, but the Fins have the money and draft capital to take a significant step in 2020.

Biggest offseason question: How will they utilize their three first-round picks, and will one be on a franchise quarterback? Dolphins general manager Chris Grier will be the most important decision-maker in April's draft with the power to make a significant push toward reshaping his team closer to being a contender. The Dolphins are the only team with three first-round picks, and the first of those selections will be No. 5 overall. Quarterback, offensive tackle and edge rusher are clearly the Dolphins' biggest needs, and they should address those spots at least once in the first two rounds. If LSU quarterbackJoe Burrow is off the board, Grier will have to decide whether they feel strongly enough about injured Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama or Justin Herbertof Oregon to take them or punt their search for a franchise quarterback to 2021.Culture appears to be set. Now they have to find the players. Though quarterback is the most notable hole for Miami, the Dolphins are likely to spend most of their significant resources to solidify the lines.-- Cameron Wolfe

New York Jets(7-9, 3rd AFC East)

What went wrong:Adam Gase's first season was weird. The Jets won six of their last eight games to finish 7-9, averting total disaster, but they did it against the NFL's easiest schedule. Beware of fool's gold. The team, unable to cope with Sam Darnold's three-game illness, was out of contention by Halloween. The offense, under Gase's direction, was noncompetitive until it perked up in November. Injuries were a factor on both sides of the ball. The defense adjusted; the offense not as much. Somehow, Gase held the team together when it sank to 1-7, but he must do a better job in several areas. Darnold improved, but he didn't make the big, second-year leap that was expected. The pressure will be on him and Gase in 2020.

Biggest offseason question: Can first-year general manager Joe Douglas save the Jets? Yeah, it's a broad question, but the hopes of this moribund franchise rest on him. His first order of business is making decisions on running back Le'Veon Bell (possible trade), wide receiver Robby Anderson (free agent) and safety Jamal Adams (possible trade or contract extension). Ideally, you'd like to keep all three, but economics play a big role. Predictions: Adams stays; Bell and Anderson do not. Douglas must focus heavily on an offensive line decimated by injuries and age. The Jets never will get an accurate read on Darnold until they put a capable line in front of him; don't be surprised if they have four new starters in 2020.-- Rich Cimini


Cincinnati Bengals(2-14, 4th AFC North)

What went wrong:Everything went south when wide receiver A.J. Green suffered a season-ending ankle injury during the first practice of the preseason. The combination of a relatively green coaching staff, aging veterans and unproductive years from recent draft picks led to the worst season in franchise history. The two good things to come from this season: establishing the culture first-year coach Zac Taylor wanted; and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 draft.

Biggest offseason question:Last offseason, the Bengals made their first coaching change since 2002, but they kept the rest of the roster relatively intact. The question at this point will be how much the front office will overhaul the team now that Taylor has been on the job for a full season. The Bengals have a key decision to make with Green, an unrestricted free agent who will be eligible for the franchise tag. And running back Joe Mixon could be looking for a new deal after back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.-- Ben Baby

Cleveland Browns(6-10, 3rd AFC North)

What went wrong:Where to even begin? Freddie Kitchens struggled to adapt as first-year head coach. Quarterback Baker Mayfield took a step back after solid rookie season. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.was injured all season, and the Browns couldn't get him the ball. The offensive line was a mess. Myles Garrett swung a helmet at Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and got suspended indefinitely. An overhyped offense never found its footing with Kitchens calling plays -- other than handing off to running back Nick Chubb. And a depleted defense capitulated down the stretch.

Biggest offseason question:The Browns have to decide who will take over for Kitchens, who was fired on Sunday. The Browns should be able to attract a big-name head coach; despite its underachieving season, Cleveland has playoff-caliber talent. Beyond that, the Browns will have to address a limited offensive line that did its part to handcuff the downfield passing game, and they'll have to add some desperately needed depth along the defensive line and at safety.-- Jake Trotter

Pittsburgh Steelers(8-8, 2nd AFC North)

What went wrong:The offense. The Steelers had a full complement of healthy offensive players only for the first two weeks, and the wheels quickly came off with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's elbow injury and subsequent move to injured reserve. The offense struggled to put points on the board with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at quarterback, and it didn't help that the top two offensive threats in JuJu Smith-Schuster and James Conner missed four and five games, respectively. Conner also didn't make it to halftime in two other contests. While the Steelers put together a defense capable of contending for championships, the offense barely scraped by. Some of that should be remedied when Roethlisberger returns in 2020 from a surgery that reportedly reattached three tendons in his right elbow.

Biggest offseason question:Outside of Roethlisberger's journey back, the biggest question facing the Steelers is the future of Bud Dupree. The other half of the fierce outside linebacker tandem with T.J. Watt, Dupree emerged as a force in his contract year with 10.5 sacks entering Week 17. Now the Steelers have to decide if he is worth the money that would come with a tag and new contract. Though the salary cap could top $200 million and Antonio Brown's contract is coming off the books, the Steelers still don't have much wiggle room, with about $5 million in cap space. That's partly thanks to Roethlisberger's $33.5 million cap hit. It would take some creative accounting to keep Dupree around -- but Pittsburgh is known for getting the most out of its cap situation.-- Brooke Pryor


Indianapolis Colts(7-9, 3rd AFC South)

What went wrong:The Colts were rocked when quarterback Andrew Luck announced his retirement two weeks before the start of the regular season. The Colts weathered the storm early, starting 5-2, which included victories over playoff-bound Kansas City and Houston. But then injuries, lack of depth and quarterback issues caught up with the Colts. Tight end Eric Ebron was lost for the season after 11 games, andDevin Funchess played less than a full game, while fellow wideoutsParris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton missed games. And that's just on offense. On defense, All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, cornerbacks Kenny Moore and Pierre Desir and safety Malik Hooker all missed three games. The Colts didn't have much depth to make up for the injuries. Combine that with regressed play by Luck's replacement, Jacoby Brissett, as the season progressed and the Colts went into a downward spiral they couldn't overcome. They went from being in first place in the division to losing six out of seven games and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.

Biggest offseason question:The Colts gave Brissett a two-year, $30 million contract extension a week after Luck's retirement, but there are legitimate questions about Brissett's ability to be the franchise's starter going forward. Nobody expected Brissett to be Luck. With the help of a top-five rushing attack, Brissett ran the offense well early in the season. He even made the Texans pay for daring him to throw the ball when he tossed for 326 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions against them. Brissett, who missed a game because of a knee injury, got worse later in the season because of his lack of accuracy. Brissett went into Week 17 ranked 30th in the NFL in passing yards per game (198.6) and 25th in completion rate (61.6%). The door isn't shut on Brissett as the Colts' starting quarterback, but you can expect GM Chris Ballard to add competition to that position during the offseason.-- Mike Wells

Jacksonville Jaguars(6-10, 4th AFC South)

What went wrong: Where to start? Linebacker Telvin Smith deciding in April he wasn't playing this year. Quarterback Nick Foles suffering a broken collarbone in the season opener. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey demanding, and forcing, a trade. The atmosphere inside the building that, per league sources, was caused by executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin. Even with that, the Jaguars were 4-4 heading into the London game against Houston with rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew. They were in the hunt for the division title before the season fell apart with a five-game losing streak. Injuries to defensive tackle Marcell Dareus and linebacker Myles Jack hurt the defense. The lack of a dependable tight end limited the offense. The offense averaged 11.4 points, and the defense gave up 34.8 points per game during the losing streak. It was made perfectly clear during the skid that the Jaguars' talent level, especially on defense, had dropped significantly since 2017.

Biggest offseason question: Regardless of which regime is in charge -- there reportedly is a good chance GM Dave Caldwell and coach Doug Marrone will be back -- the Jaguars have to figure out what they're going to do at quarterback in 2020. Will they let Foles and Minshew battle throughout the offseason? Will they name Foles the starter? They're picking in the top 10 in the draft, so the opportunity to grab one of the quarterbacks (Justin Herbert, Tua Tagovailoa orJake Fromm) will be there. That would be an interesting move, because there are so many needs elsewhere (interior defensive line, tight end and offensive line), and there's no guarantee the rookie signal-caller would get on the field.-- Mike DiRocco


Denver Broncos(7-9, T-2nd AFC West)

What went wrong: Start 10 snaps into the season opener when the Broncos' biggest signing in free agency -- right tackle Ja'Wuan James -- suffered a knee injury that largely ended his season (he played 63 snaps). Then add linebacker Bradley Chubb tearing an ACL in Week 4, the Broncos using three starting quarterbacks and the team losing three games in the final 22 seconds. In short, very little went according to plan for the Broncos, as they never recovered from an 0-4 start and missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. By the time December rolled around, rookie quarterback Drew Lock was behind center, and the Broncos had the third-youngest active roster in the league. So the makeover is largely underway.

Biggest offseason question:Is Lock finally the answer at quarterback? He is the seventh different starting quarterback since Week 8 of the 2017 season -- a span of 40 games, or a different starting quarterback every 5.7 games -- so that doesn't help. But the Broncos went into the final week of the season with the No. 27-ranked scoring offense, No. 28 overall, and they had scored 16 or fewer points seven times. Lock is on the front burner of the fixes to come, and he'll almost certainly be the starter in 2020, but the Broncos need to discuss Joe Flacco's future. If Flacco -- who has two years left on his contract -- isn't on the roster, Lock is the only quarterback under contract for next season. So, the Broncos need to look in the draft and free agency to address their offensive line and the depth chart overall at quarterback.-- Jeff Legwold

Los Angeles Chargers(5-11, 4th AFC West)

What went wrong: Entering Week 17, the Chargers had a minus-16 turnover differential, tied with the Bengals for worst in the NFL. Quarterback Philip Rivers must do a better job of taking care of the football if he returns in 2020. His 23 turnovers, including 18 interceptions, are the most Rivers has had in a single season since 2016.

Biggest offseason question:Rivers is 38 years old and in the final year of his deal. Although Rivers has said he wants to continue playing, the Chargers' brass has not said it wants him back. The Chargers also move into SoFi Stadium next season, and they could be looking for star power at the quarterback position to help build the fan base in Los Angeles.-- Eric D. Williams

Oakland Raiders(7-9, T-2nd AFC West)

What went wrong: Injuries caught up to the rebuilding Raiders and, as veteran left guard Richie Incognito said of a Week 12 blowout loss at the Jets, they were "exposed." A four-game losing streak saw Oakland drop from 6-4 to 6-8, but a feel-good victory at the Chargers shockingly kept the Raiders alive in the playoff race entering the season finale at Denver. All things considered, going 7-9/8-8 was a massive improvement from 4-12 in Jon Gruden's first season back as coach. And if you had said in training camp the Raiders would be in the hunt come Week 17, you would have taken it. And then some. It's unfortunate that the final game in Oakland, when the Raiders blew a 10-point lead in the last five-plus minutes, ended with fans showering the field with boos and trash.

Biggest offseason question: Is Derek Carr the quarterback to lead the franchise to Las Vegas? And can GM Mike Mayock and Gruden nail another draft class and, finally, get a front-line wide receiver? Before injuries to Johnathan Abram, Isaiah Johnson, Hunter Renfrow, Foster Moreau, Trayvon Mullen and Josh Jacobs, the Raiders had the most immediately productive rookie class in franchise history. Mayock and Gruden have two first-round picks next year and, as Gruden notes, the Raiders have five picks in the top 90 selections. The failed Antonio Brown experiment cost the Raiders dearly too, as Gruden had built the offense around the temperamental wideout's skill set. Alas, Carr, for all his strengths and weaknesses, truly did not have an elite group at receiver, and it showed. Gruden said it would not be hard to assess Carr's play this offseason, despite all of the turnover around him at receiver, running back and on the offensive line. Stay tuned.-- Paul Gutierrez


Dallas Cowboys(8-8, 2nd NFC East)

What went wrong: How about everything. The Cowboys were disjointed the entire season. This was a team that was built on a highly paid offensive line with Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin and La'el Collins and the highest-paid running back in Ezekiel Elliott, but they never really excelled in the running game. QuarterbackDak Prescott had career highs in passing yards and touchdown passes and had two 1,000-yard receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup but the numbers were mostly empty. On defense, they could not affect the quarterback enough, did not take the ball away enough and could not make enough big plays. And it's difficult to leave out the special teams with 10 missed field goal attempts by Brett Maher before his release, the lowest gross- and net-yard punting numbers and poor coverage and return units. The Cowboys talked about complementary football and never really played it. That's why they will be home when the playoffs start next week.

Biggest offseason question:There are plenty of questions for this team, but at the top of this list is: Who will be the next coach? It certainly won't be Jason Garrett. He entered the season without a contract extension and needed to win. He didn't, so the Cowboys are likely to thank him for nine years, remember how they rebuilt with him on the fly from 2011 to '13 and made the playoffs four times from 2014 to '19. Owner Jerry Jones believes he has a roster that can win big, so he has to get this hire right. Will he take a step back and attempt to hire a big-name coach, as he did in 2003 when Bill Parcells came to the Cowboys? Will he go the college route, as he did with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer, with somebody such as Lincoln Riley, Urban Meyer or Matt Rhule? Jones has said folks would be embarrassed at the size of the check he would write to win another Super Bowl. Maybe he will attempt to prove that in his next coaching hire.-- Todd Archer

New York Giants(4-12, 3rd NFC East)

What went wrong: Everything. Even Saquon Barkley had a down year. But the Giants never had a chance defensively with the talent level on that side of the ball. If they wanted to have any chance of winning games this season, it had to be on the strength of their offense. But they struggled, benched quarterbackEli Manning for rookie Daniel Jones in Week 3, turned over the ball at an alarming rate and were in the bottom half of the league in scoring. The Giants actually finished in the bottom half of the league in offense and defense. It's hard to win that way. At least there were positive signs with Jones, who produced at least four touchdowns in four different starts.

Biggest offseason question:Who is the new coach? The Giants kept Dave Gettleman, despite admitting he needs to have a "better batting average" on player evaluation. Now they need to find a coach to pair with Gettleman moving forward. Co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch began their list of prerequisites for a new coach with leadership. That is of the utmost importance to an organization that appears to have lost its way. Mara specifically mentioned the Giants won't be shy to look at college coaches. Baylor's Matt Rhule is believed to be near the top of their candidate list. -- Jordan Raanan

Washington Redskins(3-13, 4th NFC East)

What went wrong:Everything went wrong. Perennial Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams held out because of medical and contractual reasons, eventually ripping the franchise for how it handled the situation. Tight end Jordan Reed never played because of a concussion. Running back Derrius Guice hurt his knee twice and played in five games. The three quarterbacks weren't in position to help much because of combination of injury, newness and inexperience. And the defense underachieved once again. The Redskins have tried to build a run-stopping unit, yet they were one of the worst in the NFL in this area, hovering in the bottom third all season. It quickly added up to trouble and led to the firing of coach Jay Gruden after on 0-5 start. Rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins looked real bad in his first couple appearances, but gradually improved as a starter, providing hope for the future.

Biggest offseason question:Who's in charge? Redskins owner Dan Snyder must decide whom he wants to run football operations. Bruce Allen is gone, and the Redskins need new blood on the football side. Several names have been mentioned, including former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (though one source called that move for Meyer doubtful) and former Houston Texans general manager Rick Smith. The Indianapolis Colts' director of college scouting Morocco Brown also served as the Redskins' director of pro personnel for six years. They could also promote from within. And then it's about who will be the next coach. Ron Rivera, who will interview with the Redskins on Monday, and Marvin Lewis have been mentioned, as the Redskins appear to want someone with NFL head-coaching experience. This will be Snyder's seventh full-time hire since buying the team in 1999. None of the previous six exited Washington with a winning record. The Redskins can offer a solid young base of talent, but there's a history of losing and non-football people making football decisions that could steer some candidates away. With plummeting attendance and an angry fan base, Snyder must get these decisions right.-- John Keim


Chicago Bears(8-8, 3rd NFC North)

What went wrong:Quarterback Mitchell Trubisky regressed in Year 2 under coach Matt Nagy, who struggled to find any rhythm calling plays. The offensive line went through spells when it blocked poorly. Highly paid and/or highly drafted tight ends Trey Burton and Adam Shaheen were complete busts. The Bears never truly committed to running the ball with rookie David Montgomery. Outside of team MVP Allen Robinson and the late emergence of wide receiver Anthony Miller, the offense was a total disaster.

Biggest offseason question:Trubisky. The Bears have to figure out the next step with the disappointing former second overall pick. Do they move on? Do they exercise Trubisky's fifth-year option and bring in real competition for him in the offseason? Chase Daniel, whom Chicago paid $6 million in 2019, is not real competition. It seems highly unlikely the Bears sign Trubisky to any sort of extension -- he hasn't earned it. Until the Bears fix quarterback -- where have you heard that before? -- they will never be a perennial playoff team. The quarterback wasn't the only issue, but Trubisky's limitations were a big reason the Bears missed the playoffs for the eighth time in nine seasons.-- Jeff Dickerson

Detroit Lions(3-12-1, 4th NFC North)

What went wrong:The Lions' defense struggled all year long, allowing quarterback after quarterback to shred them. The defense has been almost historically awful, giving up an average 400 yards per game -- close to the average Detroit allowed in its winless 2008 season. Offensively, the Lions found something until quarterback Matthew Stafford suffered a season-ending back injury against Oakland on Nov. 3. Detroit, which had hovered around .500 with Stafford playing at a Pro Bowl level, gradually fell apart and didn't win a game in November or December. Coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn will return for 2020, but expect other staff changes to be coming as early as this week.

Biggest offseason question:There are a few, starting with who will be running Detroit's defense, but the underlying pressing question is where does cornerback Darius Slay play in 2020? Slay had been a possible trade candidate earlier this season. With one year left on his contract, do the Lions try to move him or keep him with a new deal? What makes this more intriguing is the reality Patricia and Quinn have of needing to win in 2020 -- Lions ownership said Detroit must be a playoff contender next season -- and Slay, a three-time Pro Bowler, is one of the better corners in the league. There's much to be sorted between now and the draft in April, and what the Lions choose to do with Slay could dictate a lot of Detroit's offseason.-- Michael Rothstein


Atlanta Falcons(7-9, T-2nd NFC South)

What went wrong:The Falcons got off to a bad start at 1-7 and couldn't recover. There were holes on both sides of the ball, with the offensive line failing to do its part to protect Matt Ryan or open holes in the run game, and the defense struggling to stop opponents and create turnovers. Coach Dan Quinn made significant changes going into the season by appointing himself the defensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter the offensive coordinator and Bob Kotwica the special-teams coordinator. Those changes, however, weren't enough to spark a turnaround. Quinn even surrendered the defensive playcalling to focus on head-coaching duties, and it seemed to help later in the season. Moving assistant head coach Raheem Morris from wide receivers coach to defense to work with the defensive backs provided the biggest spark. But by that time, it was too late. Yes, the Falcons played much better in second half of the schedule, including road wins over New Orleans and San Francisco after the bye. Maybe that will create some momentum for next season.

Biggest offseason question:Owner Arthur Blank made a commitment to Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff for 2020 by retaining both, but will the Falcons make the necessary adjustments to be contenders next season? One of the most significant changes is having Quinn and Dimitroff report to team president Rich McKay, who will monitor matters four times a week at the team's practice facility. Both McKay and Dimitroff expressed no concern about the team's salary-cap situation despite so many high-dollar contracts awarded to top players. The Falcons started the process of creating cap room by restructuring the contract of quarterback Matt Ryan and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett. Blank told ESPN the team needs to continue to prioritize addressing the offensive and defensive lines, the same areas that were the main focus last offseason.-- Vaughn McClure

Carolina Panthers(5-11, 4th NFC South)

What went wrong:It began when quarterback Cam Newton suffered a foot injury in the third preseason game and then aggravated it in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay, ultimately resulting in him being shut down for the season. Backup Kyle Allen held things together after the 0-2 start to get Carolina to 5-3, but then he began turning the ball over and costing the Panthers shots at winning close games. What was consistent with Newton and Allen was the inability to score potential winning or tying touchdowns inside the 5-yard line in the closing minutes with arguably the league's best offensive weapon in running back Christian McCaffrey. Injuries also were a factor. Pro Bowl defensive end/tackle Kawann Short (rotator cuff) played two games. Tackle Dontari Poe (quad) went on injured reserve. The defensive pressure that had Carolina leading the league in sacks midway through the season went away and led to breakdowns across the board, particularly in the run defense. All this cost coach Ron Rivera his job. Tight end Greg Olsen summed it up best after the team's seventh straight loss, saying it was a "collective failure'' from players to management to coaches.

Biggest offseason question:What to do with Cam Newton? If healthy, do you keep him for the final year of his contract in a prove-it year? Do you release or trade him to clear $19.1 million under the cap, room that could be used to extend McCaffrey and help rebuild the roster? Ultimately, this will be up to the new coach and if he wants Newton or a fresh start. There are no guarantees the answer is with Kyle Allen or third-round pick Will Grier. After the quarterback dilemma, solidifying the offensive and defensive fronts has to be a priority, particularly the left tackle spot that has been a disaster. Whether to stick with tight end Greg Olsen, 34, also is a factor because of his age and salary-cap figure ($11.8 million) for 2020. The skill positions with McCaffrey and wide receivers DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel are solid. But it all begins with figuring out the quarterback spot.-- David Newton

Tampa Bay Buccaneers(7-9, T-2nd NFC South)

What went wrong: In his first year in coach Bruce Arians' offense, quarterback Jameis Winston threw for career-high 5,109 passing yards and 33 touchdowns. But Winston struggled with turnovers, throwing a league-high 30 interceptions and turning the ball over a total of 39 times. Opponents scored 112 points off Winston's turnovers this year -- more than any player in the league, according to Elias. On defense, Arians infamously proclaimed "the secondary is fixed" in training camp, before seeing his young group surrender a league-leading 298.9 passing yards and 31 points per game in Weeks 1-10. They struggled to hold leads and close out games, blowing an 18-point lead against the Giants and a 14-point lead at Seattle. They showed significant improvement in Weeks 11-17, though (some of it due to a lower level of competition), allowing 224.3 passing yards and 23.67 points a game, but it wasn't enough to offset the losses of receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin against the Texans in Week 16.

Biggest offseason question: Will the Bucs bring back Winston, and if so, what will be their level of commitment? A franchise tag? Transition tag? A multiyear contract extension? And if the Bucs bring him back, will Winston reward their faith in him with substantial improvement in the turnover department or is this truly who he is as a player? "It's about 50-50. The corrections have been made, but the results aren't happening," Arians said, adding he thinks a full offseason of studying his own cut-ups might help. "That's the best lesson you can have. You've been watching someone else. You've been watching Carson [Palmer] run the offense or whatever, but [now] you see yourself do it."-- Jenna Laine


Arizona Cardinals(5-10-1, 4th NFC West)

What went wrong:The season was all about growth -- and included a lot of growing pains. Arizona paired a rookie quarterback with a first-time NFL head coach, so a rough season was to be expected. Kliff Kingsbury was learning how to coach in the NFL and how his offense would adapt to the pro game, while Kyler Murray was a rookie quarterback who at times played that way. Both showed signs of growth. There were games in which the Cardinals' offense looked like the high-powered, high-scoring scheme that many expected when Kingsbury was hired in January. Murray, meanwhile, looked like the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who's in the mix for Rookie of the Year.

Biggest offseason question:Can general manager Steve Keim build this roster to fit Kingsbury's offense? Keim has bungled the Cardinals' roster over the past few years, leaving holes and major questions on both sides of the ball, especially at wide receiver, running back, defensive line and cornerback. For the Cardinals to take the next step under Kingsbury in 2020, he needs the right players to properly execute his up-tempo, no-huddle offense. And that's all up to Keim getting him the right players.-- Josh Weinfuss

Los Angeles Rams(9-7, 3rd NFC West)

What went wrong: The Rams never returned to form after their dominant run to Super Bowl LIII. The offense lacked identity as it moved away from utilizing running back Todd Gurley II. Quarterback Jared Goff, playing behind an inexperienced and injured offensive line, was inconsistent throughout the season. The defense played dominant at times but otherwise lacked the game-saving ability it demonstrated a season ago when the Rams finished 6-1 in one-score games. In Week 16, the defense allowed the 49ers to twice convert on third-and-16 on a game-winning drive, and in three losses this season the defense allowed more than 40 points.

Biggest offseason question: How can the Rams fit all their needs under the salary cap? The Rams signed mega-extensions to several players, including Goff, Gurley and defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Plus, the Rams traded 2020 and 2021 first-round picks and a 2021 fourth-round pick to the Jaguars in exchange for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who also is looking for a record-breaking payday. The Rams will have minimal funds to replace the production of key defensive players Michael Brockers, Dante Fowler Jr.and Cory Littleton, who are pending free agents. Plus, the team must solve its issues on the offensive line -- without a first-round pick -- and with left tackle Andrew Whitworth and offensive guard Austin Blythe both pending free agents.-- Lindsey Thiry

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