By my count, there were six NFL teams who satisfied their fans this season with their performances — with the possibility of a seventh joining the mix in a couple of weeks.
Those aren't great odds when you're a fan. It might even make you wonder, "Why do I even bother with all this?" (Note: It probably wouldn't help if you stopped to consider the last time you reached the end of a Vikings season and felt satisfied with how things worked out). But it's reality, at least from this vantage point. Let's take a look at all 32 NFL teams grouped into seven different categories of how their fans feel about this season:
•Satisfied: Falcons, Dolphins, Lions, Giants, Titans, Buccaneers. Atlanta is in the Super Bowl for the first time since the year we don't mention (TM), and the guess is that Falcons fans will be satisfied with their season regardless of the outcome of the final game. The Dolphins, Lions and Giants overachieved just to make the playoffs this season. The Titans and Buccaneers didn't make the postseason, but both made big jumps to 9-7 with second-year QBs and could be primed for a larger leap next season.
•Satisfied depending on what happens in the Super Bowl: Patriots. Yes, this is how spoiled New England fans have become. If the Patriots lose two Sundays from now — entirely possible even though England is the early favorite — the season will be viewed by many as a disappointment. Not a failure, sure, but a disappointment.
•Bitter ending: Packers, Steelers, Raiders, Cowboys, Chiefs. We have two teams who lost in Sunday's NFC title games and three other teams who went a combined 37-11 in the regular season before bowing out quickly in the playoffs. Each of them clearly had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations, only to fall short. Some fans are able to process that and appreciate the good for what it is. Many fans are not.
•Made playoffs, wanted more: Seahawks, Texans. After two consecutive good but not great seasons, it's time to stop thinking of Seattle as an elite team — which will be a harsh realization for its fans. Houston spent big money on free agent QB Brock Osweiler, and the position is still a mess.
•Didn't live up to expectations: Vikings, Broncos, Panthers, Jets, Bengals, Cardinals, Colts, Redskins. Along with "bitter ending," this is the category that hurts the most for fans. The Vikings were 5-0 but finished 8-8 (you're welcome for the reminder). The Broncos and Panthers were in the Super Bowl last year and didn't even make the playoffs this year. The Cardinals, Bengals and Redskins all took a step back. The Jets and Colts failed to take a step forward.
•Meh: Ravens, Eagles, Saints, Bills. These teams finished about where they should have, but their mediocrity is not going to satisfy anyone.
•Another year of misery: Browns, Bears, Jaguars, 49ers, Rams, Chargers. This is pretty much self-explanatory. The season offered little hope that things are about to get better in the short term or the long term for any of these teams. On the bright side, fans of these teams have learned lately not to get their hopes up.