The 2015 NFL regular season has come to an end, and the postseason begins this Saturday with the wildcard-round. The NFL had its share of ups and downs this season, and as in every NFL season, there were a ton of surprises. Below is a list of the top-five surprises from this NFL regular season that most did not see coming.
5. Dallas Cowboy Miss Playoffs
At the beginning of this season, most expected the Cowboys to run away with the NFC East, especially after losing in the divisional round on a controversial call against the Green Bay Packers. The Cowboys were viewed by most experts as one of the top-tier teams in the NFC, but no one in their right mind saw them finishing with a 4-12 record. The Cowboys lost their star wide receiver early in the year as Dez Bryant went down with a broken bone in his foot in the first game of the season. Then they lost quarterback Tony Romo with a broken collarbone, only to have him come back and break it again. The Cowboys ended the season with Kellen Moore as their starting quarterback, and outside of Boise State fans, no one saw that coming. The Cowboys can easily bounce back next season in a weak NFC East, but "America's Team" clearly had to make this list given their expectations and the utter disappoint the 2015 season was for Cowboys fans.
4. Carolina Panthers Have Best Record In NFL
The Panthers finished the 2014 season as NFC South champs, but after posting a 7-8-1 record, not many expected them to start the season 14-0, let alone enter the playoffs with the best record in the league. Prior to this season, many saw the Panthers defense as one of the best in the NFL, but outside of Panthers fans, no one thought their offense would be so explosive, especially after losing their top wide receiver in Kelvin Benjamin for the year. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is the clear frontrunner for the NFL's 2015 MVP, and he clearly deserves the award, given what he has done both through the air and the ground. The Panthers making the playoffs is obviously not a surprise, but them having the best record in 2015 and Cam Newton's incredible season with a lack of top-tier talent around him is clearly one of the biggest surprises of the 2015 regular season.
3. Baltimore Ravens Fall Apart After Losing QB, WR, RB, LB
The Baltimore Raven have made the playoffs six out of eight seasons under head coach John Harbaugh, and most expected them to win the AFC North or at least take an AFC wildcard spot this year. But that clearly didn't happen, as Baltimore finished with a 5-11 record and lost almost every impact player for the season with a significant injury. It started early for the Ravens, as they lost star linebacker Terrell Suggs in week one against the Denver Broncos, and although the Ravens would manage to battle back without Suggs, it was just the beginning of their injury-plagued season. The Ravens then lost their star wide receiver Steve Smith Sr. with a torn Achilles, and it was truly unfortunate, as the veteran wide out was having an incredible year in Baltimore. Next, the Ravens lost their starting running back in Justin Forsett with a broken arm, and their ground game clearly never looked the same without him. Then to add an exclamation point on their already excruciating season, the Ravens lost their franchise quarterback Joe Flacco with a torn ACL, but not before he led them to a game-winning field goal over the St. Louis Rams. While some may have guessed that the Ravens would miss the playoffs, it's highly unlikely that anyone thought they would lose their franchise quarterback, star linebacker, veteran wide receiver and starting running back all in the same season. The Ravens clearly deserve to be on this list, but given the talent that's returning next season, it's not impossible to think they could be back in the postseason in 2016.
2. Kansas City Chiefs Win 10 Straight After Starting 1-5
It's not a real surprise that an Andy Reid team has made the playoffs, as he consistently has led his teams to the playoffs, whether with the Eagles or now Kansas City. The truly shocking surprise about the Chiefs is that they have won 10 straight games heading into their wildcard matchup against the Houston Texans, and outside of Chiefs fans, no one saw this coming. Kansas City is known for their defense with great players like Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson, but this season, the Chiefs offense surprised the NFL. The Chiefs lost their star running back Jamaal Charles early in the year with a torn ACL, and after starting the season with a 1-5 record, mostly everyone had written them off. Everyone except the players and coaches in the locker room, that is, as they rallied back with running back Charcandrick West stepping up in the run game down the stretch, and quarterback Alex Smith arguably having his best season of his career. Kansas City currently holds the longest winning-streak going into the playoffs and are clearly one of the biggest surprises of the year after starting the season with a 1-5 record.
1. Washington Redskins Make Playoffs On Kirk Cousins' Shoulders
At the outset of the 2015 season, nothing was clear in Washington D.C., and no one was sure if Kirk Cousins or Robert Griffin III would become the long-term starter. One thing was certain, which was that the Redskins were expected to finish at the bottom of the NFC East if not in last place, but that clearly did not happen, as the Redskins won the East with a 9-7 record. The biggest surprise for the Redskins this year is clearly Kirk Cousins, as many didn't even think that he would be returning to Washington following a contract year. Cousins has clearly elevated his play on the field this season throwing a career-high 29 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, and he has only gotten better with more time behind center. The Redskins face the Packers this Sunday, and who thought at the beginning of the season audiences across the country would tune in for a wildcard matchup of Aaron Rodgers against Kirk Cousins? Clearly the Redskins have talent on their roster, and Jay Gruden has proven himself in his second year as head coach, but outside of Redskins' fans, no one saw this one coming.