Handicapping NFL Teams Under .500
by Trevor Whenham - 10/9/2012
Through five weeks of the NFL season there are 15 teams with records below .500. We know from past experience that being in that boat isn’t ideal at this point of the year, but it isn’t yet fatal. Teams can turn things around if they play much better. Sometimes, though, a bad start is just a clear sign of a bad team.
Here’s a look at each of the 15 teams to see how bright their future is:
Cam Newton will be just fine long term. He’s in a deep rut right now, though, and it’s going to take him a lot of time to dig out. He has lost the respect of some teammates, and it will take time to earn that back. Beyond that, there just isn’t enough talent right now for this team to be dangerous. Years from now this will be looked back on as a lost season in Newton’s strong career.
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Brandon Weeden has shown glimpses of talent, this team has been tough at times, and they aren’t going to be winless forever. The sad fact is, though, that this team just isn’t good enough for the NFL right now. With time and more high draft picks they’ll be fine, but their future is still far off on the horizon.
The Bills made a massive investment in their defense and so far it has been a disaster. The offense hasn’t been much better. Chan Gailey will likely get fired, and with a couple more losses that will become inevitable and the players will find it harder to play well for him.
Blaine Gabbert is not an NFL quarterback. I believe that he is the dud in what is turning out to be a strong QB class. The Jags will keep working with him as long as they can, but there isn’t enough talent on either side of the ball to overcome this issue.
Kansas City (1-4)
There is a lot of talent here. Jamaal Charles is a superstar, and the defense has plenty of talent. The team is far less than the sum of the parts, though. I don’t know what the problem is, but there is clearly a big one.
New York Jets (2-3)
When Rex Ryan was hired I was convinced it was a mistake. For a while I doubted myself, but now my opinion is turning out to be accurate. The guy has lost control of his circus of a team. He has made a mess of the QB position, and injuries aren’t doing anything to help him. Things could get ugly.
The Titans can’t really throw the ball. They have done a lousy job of running the ball. Their defense is so porous that I think I could score on them. On paper this is a much better team than they have been playing like, but they have been blown out in all four losses and something just isn’t right.
How can a team that looked pretty good against Pittsburgh look so awful in the two games that sandwiched that one? Their defense sucks. The Raiders are dead last in the league running the ball. their passing game is okay, but not good enough. It seemed like the dawn of a new era in Oakland early in the season, but that feeling was obviously premature.
Still some hope
Washington has shown flashes of brilliance, but the Skins just don’t have enough talent yet. They need to find a way to protect their star QB reliably. Their running game is strong, though, and there are a few other things going well. This team could finish at .500 if everything falls just right.
Tampa Bay (1-3)
I like this team quite a bit — probably more than I should. I think the offense can be better than it has been, and the Bucs very strong run defense is something to rally around the rest of the way. As they get comfortable with the new system they can steal some wins. They have been tough in every game they have played, and things will break their way.
The Lions have not played well. That’s indisputable. they have the talent — especially on offense — to be much better than they have been, though. If they use their bye week as a chance to reset and refocus then they could get something done the rest of the way. More than any team on this list up to now, the Lions have a shot at the playoffs if they can get their act together in a hurry.
New Orleans (1-4)
The Saints aren’t going to the playoffs. They showed on Sunday night that they can be better than their record, though. As they get more stability from the coaching position after next week they should calm down and play a more focused game. Their defense will still hold them back, but they are not this bad.
Don’t count them out
Green Bay (2-3)
The Packers are clearly reeling, and it has to be in part a letdown effect of the hard way their great season ended last year. There are plenty of issues, but all hope isn’t lost. Losing to San Francisco isn’t a terrible thing right now. Seattle could be a playoff team. Indianapolis was playing with massive emotion. There hasn’t been a truly ugly loss yet. When you look at the schedule there is still definitely the possibility for double-digit wins. They didn’t lose a whole lot from that team last year, so they obviously have the ability to step up their game.
I really like this Dolphins team. They shouldn’t be very good, but they are extremely well-coached, and they are fully committed to the team concept. Their secondary is rough, but no team is better against the run. Most impressively, Ryan Tannehill has looked very good the last two weeks and is really maturing rapidly. With the help of a surprisingly strong running game, Tannehill leads a solid offense. In their last four they have won twice and lost in overtime twice, so they are a break or two away from a nice record. Miami only has three games left — New England twice and San Francisco — that they are very unlikely to win. Beyond that they are alive in every game, and they could win more than their share.
It hasn’t been the Hollywood start it was supposed to be for the Manning era, but the Broncos have also faced a brutal schedule to start. Their losses are to Atlanta, Houston and New England — three of the four or five best teams in the league. Things get a bit easier after their bye week. If they can beat San Diego on Monday night then they can easily still win their division.
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