Five Biggest NFL Disappointments
by Trevor Whenham - 11/12/2009
For all but two teams in the NFL we are at the halfway point of the season. This is a good time for us to look at where we are at and how that compares to where we thought we would be at this point. Some teams - the Saints chief among them - have been very pleasant surprises. Others, though, aren't nearly as good as they are supposed to be. The reasons for their struggles are different in every case, and their chances of recovery are also different. Here's a look at five of the biggest disappointments and their prospects:
New York Giants - The Giants are only the second team in the history of the NFL to go from 5-0 to 5-4. I'm not convinced that the hurting will stop after their bye week. In fact, I'm pretty convinced that it won't. It would take a long time to fully discuss the problems the team has. The secondary is porous. The pass rush no longer seems to exist. The offensive line does a lousy job of protecting Eli Manning. Manning isn't doing a great job of standing up under the pressure. This isn't a terrible team, but it is a flawed one, and it isn't going to get better in a hurry. Injuries are a problem, but the problems go beyond that. I don't see the Giants as a playoff team, and if they somehow sneak in they aren't going to do any damage once they get there.
Green Bay Packers - The Giants haven't done much of a job of protecting Manning, but they have been a concrete wall compared to the Packers. I was sucked in during the preseason and actually thought that this team was a legitimate Super Bowl contender. They probably could be if Aaron Rodgers had time to do his best, but he doesn't. Every play is a panic from the outset of the game, and that significantly impacts the effectiveness of the team. Rodgers was sacked six times and significantly hurried a dozen more on Sunday, and that was by the lowly Bucs. The defense isn't great, either, but it would probably be sufficient if the offense could work at full potential. At 4-4 this team is already at the end of their season.
Chicago Bears - This was supposed to be the dream season. They finally had a starting quarterback for the first time since before their rookies were born, and that combined with the standard defensive competence we expect from the Bears was going to deliver big things. Just two problems with that theory. Cutler has been fine, but less consistent than was probably hoped for. The defense has been an absolute disaster. They started out okay, but the last two weeks have been frighteningly bad. In the first half of last week's game against Arizona it was like Kurt Warner was running drills with his offense - the kind of drills in which there is no defense on the field. If Cutler stays healthy then he'll get better as the season goes along and he gets more comfortable with his receivers and the offense. The defense is a different story, and it won't be easy to fix. The big problem they have is that the head coach is already calling the defensive plays, so there aren't many in-season changes that can be made.
Baltimore Ravens - The Ravens may be the best 4-4 team in the league, but that doesn't help them any - they are all but out of contention in their division already, and would need one heck of a finish to get back into the playoff picture. It has to be frustrating to be around this team right now - they have had a tough schedule, and three of their four losses have been close, so it's not like this team has the glaring issues that the others on this list have. The Ravens are probably good enough to make the playoffs, but this won't be the first time that a playoff-caliber team doesn't make the postseason. There is a chance they could make it into the final playoff spot, but they would need the Steelers, Broncos or Chargers to falter, and they would probably need to win seven of their last eight games. With two games against Pittsburgh and one against Indianapolis remaining that probably won't happen.
San Diego Chargers - I haven't been optimistic about any team on this list so far, but that changes here. The Chargers have been a major disappointment because they have done what they always do under Norv Turner - they took the first month of the season off. They have won three in a row, though, and they had an impressive win at New York last week. They are already sitting in the last playoff spot, they are rounding into form, Philip Rivers is playing very well, the Broncos are only a game ahead and seem to be falling back to earth, and the remaining schedule isn't as tough as it could be. They may not deserve to be a playoff team because of how they played in September, but they certainly will be, and they could do some damage once they get there.
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