Instead of focusing on a couple teams as usual, we'll be more broad in evaluating the final rankings. Consider this a mega-version of the quick hits section that typically ends each write-up.
- The Seattle Seahawks end the season as the top team in the rankings, a post they held nine times, including the final five weeks. Seattle's offensive line is generally considered its greatest weakness, but with Russell Wilson's mobility and improvisational skills, the unit would really have to stink to submarine the Seahawks. Instead, it's worth noting that Seattle finished with the highest penalty rate in the league. Maybe it won't mean anything—the Ravens compiled the second-most flags in the league last year, and turned out fine—but it's something else to note.
- The Arizona Cardinals and Detroit Lions finish as the two top-10 teams to miss out on the postseason, though both have decidedly different vibes. The Cardinals coaxed a 10-6 record with the supposedly moribund Carson Palmer at quarterback, an accomplishment that has Bruce Arians in the Coach of the Year conversation. Perhaps simply leaving the toxic Oakland Raiders was the antidote, and if Palmer can deliver a repeat performance of his second-half of the season, Arizona will likely still be playing at this time next year.
Jim Schwartz, on the other hand, is out of a job. The Lions were in the top-10 of the rankings in nine of the final 10 weeks, but once again found ways to self-destruct at the end of games. Detroit finished 4-6 in one-possession games, and blew fourth-quarter leads in each of their final four losses. Matthew Stafford essentially replicated his 2012 numbers, and the defense took a small step forward. The talent is there, so the winning has to follow at some point, right?
- The Cincinnati Bengals have been in the top-six of these rankings since Week 7, yet few see them as the second-best team in the AFC. The offense's inconsistencies are certainly troubling, and the front seven took months to figure out how to compensate for Geno Atkins' season-ending injury. But this is a high-variance team capable of catching fire and embarking on a long postseason run, like some other recent surprise Super Bowl participants/winners. They may have to win on the road against Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but the 2012 Ravens and 2010 Jets both accomplished that feat. Remember that Joe Flacco and Mark Sanchez led those teams before dismissing Andy Dalton.
- Only three teams that finished in the top-10 of pass offense efficiency missed the playoffs: Detroit, Arizona and the Chicago Bears. The Bears actually finished fifth and are still somehow sitting at home, which is really tough to do in today's NFL. Indeed, the Bears were average or worse in everything besides passing and defensive interception rate, something that kept them afloat long enough to reach eight wins. This is a deeply flawed team (mostly on defense) that is probably not close enough to serious contention given their collective age. If the Bears let Jay Cutler walk, it might be worth considering a total teardown and rebuild.
- The New York Giants finished with the second-most efficient defense this season, an astounding fact when one remembers the early-season consternation surrounding the unit. In truth, Big Blue has generally been between 11 to 17 in these rankings all year, which jives with their typical 9-7 or 8-8 records. The Giants' struggles stemmed from both a below-average ground game and Eli Manning's worst season of his career. It's no given the 32-year-old quarterback rebounds, of course. He's only thrown more than 30 touchdowns once, but he's been picked off at least 15 times in seven of his nine full seasons as a starter. The Giants could actually save a ton of money by cutting Eli, but that's borderline sacrilegious to say at this point. A similar 2014 season, however, and it might not be so far-fetched.
- It's probably for the best that the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins both failed to qualify for the postseason, despite a collective probability that exceeded 80 percent. Both finished in the lower third of the rankings, which is pretty much where they resided all season. The defending champs never rose higher than 25th all season, and Miami was in the 20s for seven consecutive weeks before sneaking their way into the teens for about a month.
- The Oakland Raiders and Jacksonville Jaguars brought up the rear every week between Weeks 10 and 15. After Week 3, neither ranked higher than 29th all season. Both teams are in desperate need of more stable and assertive leadership (and Jacksonville's case, new helmets), and it appears no offseason changes are going to happen for either franchise this year. Until their respective foundations are more than just a sham, both organizations are simply schadenfreude.
- The St. Louis Rams were a gambler's worst nightmare in 2013, vacillating between dominance and incompetence on a seemingly weekly basis. St. Louis was the only team to finish in the top-10 of most double-digit wins and most double-digit losses, notching six in each category. While comical to witness, 2014 will need to bring more serious results, especially given the bevy of draft picks from the RG3 trade. The Rams have a rare game-altering superstar in Robert Quinn, but it's most inconsistency around the rest of the roster. St. Louis seems less than convinced that Sam Bradford is the long-term solution at quarterback, and getting out of his prohibitive contract (Bradford was the last top pick under the old broken draft salary system) might be prudent.
- Weird stat: nine of the top-10 teams in offensive run success rate made the postseason, but just three of the top-10 in defensive run success rate followed. Five of this year's playoff teams sneaked in with below-average run defenses, including the Chargers, who finished dead last by a massive margin.
With that, the team efficiency rankings come to a close for this season. Enjoy the New Year and the postseason, and here are the final rankings of 2013.
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