Previous grades: D (quarter-season), D (midseason). Quarterback issues, shoddy defense and an ongoing culture of losing have made Cleveland the favorite to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 draft.
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San Diego (3-9): F
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), D (midseason). Poor Philip Rivers. The quarterback’s outstanding season is being wasted on a team with an injury-riddled offense and porous defense.
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Tennessee (3-9): F
Previous grades: C- (quarter-season), F (midseason). With an interim head coach (Mike Mularkey) running out the string, the entire focus of 2015 is on developing rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota for whomever takes the reins next season.
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St. Louis (4-8): D-
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), C+ (midseason). Head coach Jeff Fisher may be running out of time to field a winner with the offensively inept Rams headed toward a fourth consecutive season without a playoff berth during his tenure (and 11th straight overall for the franchise).
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New Orleans (4-8): D
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), C (midseason). The in-season firing of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan hasn’t made much of a difference as Drew Brees and the Saints stumble toward possibly their worst record since head coach Sean Payton was hired in 2006.
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Baltimore (4-8): D
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), D (midseason). With a roster decimated by injuries, Joe Flacco and the Ravens will miss the playoffs for the second time in the past three seasons while likely headed toward their first losing record under head coach John Harbaugh.
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Jacksonville (4-8): D
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), D (midseason). After getting to 4-6, Blake Bortles and the Jaguars squandered the chance to compete for a postseason spot as their defense surrendered 73 combined points in two straight losses.
Detroit (4-8): D
Previous grades: F (quarter-season), F (midseason). Even after fielding their own version of a 'Fail Mary' defense against Green Bay, the Lions were a much improved team in the third quarter of the season. Much of the credit goes to offensive betterment since Jim Bob Cooter replaced Joe Lombardi as coordinator.
Getty ImagesLeon Halip
San Francisco (4-8): D
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), F (midseason). The 49ers are a shell of the Super Bowl-contenting teams they fielded from 2011 to 2013 under Jim Harbaugh, but Blaine Gabbert has provided a much-needed spark in San Francisco since replacing the ineffective Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.
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Dallas (4-8): D
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), D- (midseason) As proven by Monday night’s road victory over Washington, Sean Lee and the Cowboys haven’t quit. That’s one of the few positives in a lost season because of Tony Romo’s shoulder injuries.
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Miami (5-7): C-
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), INC (midseason). I gave Miami an incomplete grade at midseason because there weren’t enough games under interim head coach Dan Campbell to fairly evaluate the team. Though they’re playing better than when Joe Philbin was in charge, the Dolphins remain a flawed group headed toward a seventh straight season without a playoff berth.
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Atlanta (6-6): C-
Previous grades: A (quarter-season), B (midseason). Matt Ryan and the Falcons are trying to avoid the same fate as the 2009 New York Giants and Denver Broncos, both of which started 5-0 but failed to make the playoffs. Atlanta’s collapse stems from a declining defense and a turnover-plagued offense.
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Washington (5-7): C-
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), C- (midseason) Kirk Cousins and the Redskins are a prime example of mediocrity, having failed to win consecutive games at any point this season. Even so, Washington is alive in the NFC East playoff race in December, which marks improvement from recent seasons.
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New York Giants (5-7): C-
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), C (midseason). Because of injuries and personnel deficiencies, coach Tom Coughlin's Giants are overachieving in some ways by remaining in the NFC East race so deep into the season. Such sentiment, though, is tempered by the fact New York has squandered five late fourth-quarter leads among their seven losses after Sunday’s collapse against the Jets. Had the Giants sealed the deal in those contests, the division title would have been clinched after Week 12.
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Philadelphia (5-7): C-
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), C (midseason). No matter how this season ends for the Eagles, nobody can say it was boring. The latest turn in Chip Kelly’s wild ride came Sunday, when Connor Barwin and Philadelphia upset New England following a three-game losing streak that included embarrassing losses to Tampa Bay and Detroit.
Getty ImagesJim Rogash
Chicago (5-7): C
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), D (midseason). Who can figure out the Bears? A Week 12 win at Green Bay highlights their four road victories, but Chicago probably won’t be making the playoffs because of a 1-5 home record that includes Sunday’s loss to lowly San Francisco. Regardless, Jay Cutler and the Bears are still playing much better since their 0-3 start.
Indianapolis (6-6): C
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), D (midseason). The Colts have endured the absence of quarterback Andrew Luck (kidney) better than expected thanks to the solid play of backup Matt Hasselbeck (8). However, other deficiencies have Indianapolis trying to hold on for a fourth consecutive AFC South title with Houston (6-6) nipping at its heels.
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Houston (6-6): C
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), D (midseason). The postseason hopes for J.J. Watt and Houston likely come down to how well it fares in the next two games against New England and Indianapolis.
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Oakland: (5-7): C
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), C+ (midseason). Although losses in four of the past five games have crippled Oakland’s postseason hopes, Derek Carr and the Raiders still are fielding a far better team during Jack Del Rio’s first season as head coach than in recent years.
Getty ImagesJason O. Watson
Buffalo (6-6): C
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), C (midseason). Though they will need some help to make the playoffs, the Bills enter the season’s final month with hopes of ending what is the NFL’s longest playoff drought at 16 years and counting. Anything short of that would make Rex Ryan’s bumpy first season as head coach a failure.
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New York Jets (7-5): B-
Previous grades: B (quarter-season), C+ (midseason). First-year head coach Todd Bowles deserves credit for helping Brandon Marshall and the Jets weather a midseason slump to win their past two games and re-emerge as a wild-card front-runner.
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Minnesota (8-4): B-
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), B (midseason). Although Adrian Peterson and the Vikings are likely to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2012, lopsided losses to Green Bay and Seattle in the past three weeks raise serious questions about whether the Vikings are good enough to defeat a quality opponent.
Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportBrace Hemmelgarn
Seattle (7-5): B-
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), C (midseason). Don’t be fooled by the record or likelihood Seattle will fail to catch Arizona for the NFC West crown. Led by the strong play of quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seahawks could make some serious noise if they reach the playoffs.
Green Bay (8-4): B-
Previous grades: A+ (quarter-season), A- (midseason). Yes, Aaron Rodgers and the Packers are tied with Minnesota atop the NFC North. But considering the preseason hype surrounding the Packers and their ongoing offensive issues, Green Bay is nowhere near the juggernaut everyone expected this season.
Pittsburgh (7-5): B-
Previous grades: C (quarter-season), C (midseason). Antonio Brown and the Steelers probably need to win one of their next two games against Cincinnati (10-2) or Denver (10-2) for the chance to score a wild-card berth ahead of current leaders Kansas City and the New York Jets.
Charles LeClaireCharles LeClaire
Tampa Bay (6-6): B-
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), C+ (midseason). The Bucs are trying to become the third team in the past four years to rebound from finishing with the NFL’s worst record and make the playoffs the following season. Even if they fall short, the 2015 campaign already is a winner for Tampa Bay, thanks to the quick development of rookie quarterback Jameis Winston.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY SportsKim Klement
Kansas City (7-5): B
Previous grades: D (quarter-season), D+ (midseason). Coach Andy Reid's Chiefs deserve credit for the NFL’s biggest in-season turnaround, weathering a 1-5 start to win six straight games without injured star running back Jamaal Charles (knee).
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Arizona (10-2): A
Previous grades: B (quarter-season), B+ (midseason). Of the three straight teams head coach Bruce Arians has fielded with double-digit wins, Larry Fitzgerald and the 2015 Cardinals are best suited for a deep postseason run, thanks to a balanced offense, excellent deep passing game and defense that excels at forcing turnovers.
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New England (10-2): A-
Previous grades: A+ (quarter-season), A++ (midseason). The Patriots of the first 10 games were Super Bowl-worthy. The Patriots of the past two games? Not so much. Injuries and uncharacteristic special-teams mistakes have greatly contributed to first two-game losing streak for Tom Brady and the Pats since 2012.
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Cincinnati (10-2): A
Previous grades: A (quarter-season), A (midseason). Following their first two losses of the season, Jeremy Hill and the Bengals responded the past two games by routing St. Louis and Cleveland by a combined score of 68-10.
Denver (10-2): A
Previous grades: A (quarter-season), A (midseason). Rename them the Denver Brockos. Brock Osweiler has led his club to three straight victories since replacing the injured Peyton Manning (foot) at quarterback, and the defense remains the NFL’s best.
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Carolina (12-0): A+
Previous grades: A (quarter-season), A (midseason). Six of the eight NFL teams to start 12-0 since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger reached the Super Bowl. The Panthers have all the earmarks of becoming the seventh thanks to a dominant defense and offense led by MVP frontrunner Cam Newton.