In the NFL, where many believe that winning supersedes stats, many outstanding players don't get the accolades or attention they deserve, just because the rest of their team was shit. We think that's dumb, so we've gathered up the best players out of the league who didn't make the playoffs this season.
QB: Tony Romo, Cowboys
Romo had the best season of any quarterback not in the playoffs. His 2013 came out to 3,828 yards, 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, completing 63.9% of his passes at 7.16 yards per attempt. His 59.5 QBR is ahead of Russell Wilson and Cam Newton, though one of the weaknesses of that stat is that it rewards quarterbacks who have to come from behind, which Wilson and Newton haven't had to do very often. Matt Stafford may have thrown for more yards in Detroit's pass-heavy offense, but he also threw 19 picks and had a worse completion percentage. Romo was the only QB not in the playoffs to throw for 30 or more touchdowns. He also ranked seventh in DYAR of all quarterbacks, in front of several signal-callers heading to the postseason. Alas, his efforts went to waste as he sits on a couch, recovering from back surgery.
HB: Matt Forte, Bears
Second-most rushing yards among running backs (1,339), along with 74 receptions for 594 yards and three touchdowns. His DYAR was fourth among all running backs with at least 100 rushing attempts. Forte's not the reason why Chicago missed the playoffs this year.
FB: Marcel Reece, Raiders
Oh, go to hell. We honor the fullback around here. Reece was a total stud in the blocking game. He allowed zero hurries in 33 snaps in protection, and helped power Rashad Jennings to a +209 DYAR season. Reece also rushed for 218 yards and two touchdowns, with 4.7 yards per carry. Oakland's Pro Bowler caught 32 passes for 331 yards and two scores. When the Raiders had no healthy halfbacks in Week 14 against the Jets, Reece subbed in and ran for 123 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. He's a versatile, valuable guy.
WR: Josh Gordon, Browns
Most receiving yards in the league (1,646) and a staggering 18.9 yards per catch, best in the league if we don't count Kenny Stills, who had 32 receptions. (Come on, Kenny Stills doesn't count.) Gordon was easily the NFL's best wide receiver in 2013, and he only needed 14 games to put up numbers better than anyone else. He had the third-best DYAR out of non-playoff WRs, and when you include his five carries for 88 yards (all first downs), he's third overall in adjusted DYAR. Cleveland desperately needs to get him a decent quarterback and supporting cast.
WR: Calvin Johnson, Lions
Of course. It was an excellent year for wide receivers on underperforming teams—Antonio Brown, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Andre Johnson all deserve mentions—but Megatron didn't get this spot on name alone. He caught passes even when everyone knew it was going to him, and still accrued 84 receptions for 1,492 yards and 12 touchdowns, averaging out to 106.6 yards per game, and tops in the league in raw yards per pass route run (2.72) among qualifying receivers. He isn't just a beast: he's a workhorse. His DYAR was the second-highest in terms of non-playoff receivers. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more physical receiver.
Let's stop and address what will probably the biggest complaint: Antonio Brown. His DYAR is the best of all non-playoff WRs, but he's not on here. DYAR isn't the final stat, though, or this would be the 2013 Non-Playoff DYAR Team. Gordon vastly outperformed him in two fewer games (as well as in composite rushing+receiving DYAR), and Johnson, who also missed two games, came up seven yards short of Brown's yardage total. Brown caught all 10 catchable deep (of 28) balls thrown to him all year, but Gordon and Johnson did more with fewer receptions, and both scored more touchdowns.
TE: Jason Witten, Cowboys
This was close between Witten and Jordan Cameron. Witten had similar receiving numbers, but, more importantly, didn't suck at blocking. Cameron was a great receiver but struggled at the key part of being a tight end, particularly run blocking (he was only asked to pass block two or three times a game). Witten performed well enough at both responsibilities, with 73 receptions for 851 yards and eight touchdowns. And when it came to DYAR, Witten's (135) was significantly better than Cameron's (100).
LT: Joe Thomas, Browns
Thomas had 10 accepted penalties, admittedly a lot, but the lineman only allowed two sacks and missed one whole snap out of 1,150 this season. The Browns' running game situation blew, but runs to the left tackle produced 5.13 adjusted yards, a league-best. There's no more consistent left tackle on a team that consistently stays out of the postseason.
LG: Matt Slauson, Bears
Andy Levitre of the Titans was in contention for this, as he only allowed one sack in a full season, but Levitre was hit with seven penalties. Slauson had only one accepted penalty. He also started all 16 games, played 1,070 snaps, and allowed a mere two sacks.
C: Dominic Raiola, Lions
He might allegedly be a dick to band members, but Raiola's an outstanding center. He started all 16 games, missed only two snaps out of 1,158, and allowed no sacks. Tough to get better than that.
RG: Larry Warford, Lions
Warford's simply been one of the best right guards in the league, regardless of the playoffs. The rookie started all 16 games, played every snap, allowed no sacks and excellently blocked for runs. Hell, the Lions' offensive line allowed the second fewest sacks this season. Reggie Bush and Joique Bell owe him 20 Xbox Ones.
RT: Tyler Polumbus, Skins
Yeah, it seems weird to have a guy from a line that allowed poor Robert Griffin III to get battered around for most of the season, but the competition was slim at right tackle. Runs to his side produced 4.14 adjusted yards, 11th-best in the league. Polumbus played all 1,172 snaps this season, committed one penalty, and allowed four sacks.
DE: J.J. Watt, Texans
This has to be my biggest peeve. The Texans may have been this season's worst team, but that's no reason to stop appreciating the radiance of JJ Watt. He was by far the most effective and disruptive defensive end this season, as he was last season, as he will likely be for the foreseeable future. Watt had 10.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, 35 quarterback hits (most out of all defensive ends), six batted passes (most out of all 3-4 defensive ends), 67 stops (most out of all defensive ends), and 80 total tackles (second-most of all defensive linemen).
Watt made a QB pressure on 12.8 of all his pass rush snaps, tops in the league for a 3-4 defensive end, and actually an improvement from his ridiculous season last year. He made a Stop (a "loss" for the offense) on 13.7 percent of all plays, a league-leading number, while playing the most rushing downs of anyone (he was seventh most for passing plays). And while PFF grades aren't the final determination, Watt's season grade was a 111.6, the highest of any player. And he won't sniff consideration for Defensive Player of the Year because Matt Schaub sucks.
DT: Gerald McCoy, Buccaneers
For a defensive tackle, McCoy's a stellar pass rusher, sacking the quarterback a career-high nine times and accounting for 56 hurries, near the top of the league among defensive tackles. He's a big reason why the Bucs' defensive line play has been so excellent against the ground game, stuffing 24% of opponents' run plays.
DT: Jurrell Casey, Titans
Where'd this guy come from? Casey had 5.5 total sacks in his first two seasons; this year, he had 10.5, and caused a hurry on 9.2 percent of passing downs he played. Casey also had 39 stops, tied for second among defensive tackles. He's on his rookie contract through 2014, but maybe the Titans will extend him in the offseason.
DE: Robert Quinn, Rams
The superb 4-3 end finished with 19 sacks, second-best in the league. Quinn also totaled 21 quarterback hits (second-highest among 4-3 ends), 51 quarterbacks hurries, and seven forced fumbles. Quinn's a menace, and if the Rams can draft competent help across from him, he could conceivably have a larger impact, which is scary to think about.
OLB: Lavonte David, Buccaneers
Second-most combined tackles out of all 4-3 outside linebackers (106), 83 stops, five interceptions, six sacks, two forced fumbles. When it comes to linebackers in the NFC South, Luke Kuechly's name comes up first, but David deserves equal acknowledgement. The sophomore's one of the best outside linebackers right now.
MLB: Kiko Alonso, Bills
In his rookie campaign, Alonso seemed to always be finishing the play for Buffalo, and his stats supported that sentiment. The linebacker had 159 combined tackles, third-most in the league, and made possible because he was an absolute workhorse, playing the most rushing downs of any inside linebacker, and the fifth most passing snaps. He was in the better part of all inside linebackers in tackling efficiency (a must at that position) at 14 made tackles for every one he missed. Alonso played well in coverage, also earning four interceptions, and led all inside linebackers by allowing his assignment to amass just 0.43 yards per snap he was in coverage. Linebackers who don't struggle against the pass are tough to find, and Alonso excels at it.
ILB: Karlos Dansby, Cardinals
Dansby didn't miss a beat in his return to Arizona. The inside linebacker had 122 combined tackles, 6.5 sacks, four picks and one forced fumble. Dansby played very well against the run, and was above average in coverage. Since he only signed a one-year deal, he's now a valuable free agent. It'll be interesting to see if he stays with the Cardinals for—presumably—the remainder of his career or go somewhere else.
OLB: Brian Orakpo, Skins
After missing most of 2012 with a torn pectoral muscle, Orakpo played in 15 games this season, earning 10 sacks and a pick-six. Though the Skins' pass defense is complete trash, Orakpo's individual play has given them some semblance of pressure on the passer. The defense still needs a lot of work, but it isn't a completely lost cause.
CB: Darrelle Revis, Buccaneers
Tampa Bay has a star at every level of the defense. Among other reasons, it makes sense as to why Greg Schiano was canned. There really isn't a better man corner in the league than Revis. His toughest assignment in 2013 was Calvin Johnson, and Revis held him to three catches for 44 yards on four targets in Week 12. He didn't resort to pass interference or even chance getting caught for something ticky-tack, only drawing one flag against him. Excluding the final game against the Saints, Revis didn't surrender more than 54 receiving yards in any one game. Out of eligible cornerbacks, Revis allowed just 0.72 yards per coverage snap, fewest in the league. He gave up just 400 total yards on the season, best of all cornerbacks. If he isn't still the best corner in football, he's damn close.
S: Antrel Rolle, Giants
Rolle might be mad that he didn't make the Pro Bowl, but at least he made this list! That's something, right? The safety tied for the second-most interceptions (six), and although he struggled at the beginning of the season, his coverage substantially improved in the second half. In 16 games, Rolle allowed 39 catches for 339 yards and a touchdown on 62 targets.
S: T.J. Ward, Browns
Ward was a key cog in Cleveland's secondary, almost letting you forget every time Buster Skrine would fuck up. He gave up 29 receptions for 250 yards and a score on the 50 balls thrown his way.
CB: Brent Grimes, Dolphins
It was an excellent comeback season for Grimes, who tore his Achilles tendon in 2012 and settled for a one-year deal with Miami. He proved he could subdue slot men and outside receivers. Grimes was targeted 98 times and allowed no touchdowns. Quarterbacks throwing against him had a total QB rating of 66.3. The 30-year-old Grimes should find a multi-year deal this offseason, despite his age.
K: Justin Tucker, Ravens
Respect the kicker. Tucker tied for the most successful field goals in the league (38), missing just three of his attempts. He also made six of seven from 50 yards and over and was good enough on kickoffs.
Johnny Hekker, Rams
Also, respect the punter. Hekker didn't see the field as much as some his fellow punters on worse teams, but he made the most out of his punts, with a league-best 44.3 net average. He had only four touchbacks and had a maximum hang time of 5.60 seconds on one punt.
KR: Cordarrelle Patterson, Vikings
Though the rookie didn't immediately click on offense in Minnesota, his return abilities were consistently electric. Patterson returned a kickoff 105 yards for a touchdown in just his second game, and in Week 7, he topped that with a 109-yard return for six. It's apparently an immutable law of the universe law that the NFC North must have one incredible return man at all times.