NFL Handicapping: Teams That Have Given Up
by Trevor Whenham - 12/21/2011
There are only two weeks left on the NFL schedule for the regular season. That’s two weeks too many for some teams, though. If the season has already been a long and brutal one for a club then the end can’t come soon enough, and motivation becomes harder and harder to find with each passing game. Those teams can easily give up in their last couple of games and make things really easy for NFL handicappers.
Not all teams with bad records are going to give up, though. Some teams still feel like they are building something, and they have something left to play for. That means that you have to look at teams individually to see if they have likely packed it in, or if there is still a lot of fight left in them.
Here are five teams that could easily give up on the rest of this season:
The Vikings are a total mess right now. Donovan McNabb was a terrible idea. Christian Ponder does not look like an NFL quarterback — not yet, anyway. The coaching is terrible, yet Leslie Frazier appears to have at least another year with the team ahead of him.
Most concerning, though, is the comments coming from the team recently, and the rumors that have been bubbling around. Several different players have accused teammates of quitting in their last game, and claims are rampant — and completely understandable — that Adrian Peterson is unhappy with the team.
He’s the only really strong offensive weapon they have right now, so his unhappiness is obviously a massive issue.
The team has lost six in a row, and showed little heart last time out. Their last two games — at Washington and at home against the Bears — aren’t the hardest challenges they have faced this year, but they also aren’t games that are likely to really force the players to care about this nightmare of a season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
It’s way too late to talk about this team because they gave up a long time ago. They entered the season with high hopes, and after a 4-2 start they seemed to be on their way. But then the bottom fell out of the season.
They have lost eight games in a row, and four of those losses have been by at least 16 points. They aren’t even remotely competitive most Sundays, and it is hard to find anything to get too excited about.
Coach Raheem Morris seems to be doomed, and he has totally and utterly lost control of this team. It’s a total mess, and with two road games against teams still playing hard — the Panthers and Falcons — it is very unlikely to get any better.
The Colts are terrible, but there is a lot of pride in the locker room. Up until last week they had a driving force for this season — to make sure that they didn’t end up winless. Now that they have accomplished that there probably isn’t a whole lot of incentive to keep working hard.
They are still going to wind up with a terrible record, and they still know that things are going to get better with time — both with the return of Peyton Manning and the addition of a high draft choice.
Now that they have ensured they aren’t historically awful they wouldn’t be blamed for just looking ahead to when things will get better.
Five weeks into the season Buffalo was 4-2, had some big wins, and was mentioned along with the Lions as one of the biggest early surprises in the league. Ryan Fitzpatrick earned a big contract, and it seemed like he was poised to lead this team to the promised land. And then something happened.
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what that was, though there is lots to choose from — injuries, a lack of depth, bad coaching, and so on. They have dropped seven in a row, and are stuck back in the pit of irrelevance that they have lived in for years as an organization.
They have had some bad breaks, but they have also played badly, and they are clearly and visibly frustrated. With tough games left against the Broncos and Patriots that frustration should be enough to cause them to give up.
The Bears play the Vikings in the last game of the season, so one of the teams on this list is guaranteed to get at least one more win. Outside of that, though, the Bears have to be pretty much at the end of the line.
After a solid 7-3 start the team has lost four in a row. Two of those have been ugly home losses against the Chiefs and the Seahawks — teams they had no business losing to.
Not coincidentally, of course, Jay Cutler has missed all four games. We’ve seen in striking fashion that Caleb Hanie is not a NFL quarterback, and his struggles have brought the whole team down around him.
Injuries have been a huge factor as well, with Cutler being just one of several key pieces out of action. It’s easy to say that they will give up down the stretch because they already gave up last week against Seattle.
Being away from their family on Christmas Day to play the Packers is not going to improve their motivation levels.
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