More than halfway through the NFL season, most “experts” have already thrown their preseason predictions out the window. But the predictions back then weren’t as ridiculous as they seem now. They were probably based on reasonable expectations.
Then teams, units or players started falling woefully short.
That’s just how it goes in sports. Disappointments are a big part of the games. So with only seven weeks left until the NFL playoffs start, here’s a look at the league’s biggest disappointments. They’re either disappointing teams in general, or the units, players or coaches that have caused their teams to fall short:
The Chicago Bears offense
They are unbelievably loaded with weapons to make Jay Cutler’s life easier. There are few receiving corps as talented as Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Martellus Bennett developed into one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the league. And whatever Matt Forte lacks as a runner, he makes up for as a dual-threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Yet the Bears are 3-6 and their offense ranks 15th in the NFL. Cutler’s numbers aren’t even terrible, but clearly the Bears should be scoring a lot more than they are.
The New Orleans Saints
They were a trendy pick to win the Super Bowl because they seemed to have it all, including a rejuvenated Rob Ryan defense. Then they stumbled out of the gate in part because that defense (now ranked 19th) turned out to be much worse than expected. The Saints are still in good position in the awful NFC South, but at 4-5 they are hardly the NFC power many thought they would be.
Redskins QB Robert Griffin III
Finally back to health and free of any Mike Shanahan-caused controversy, this was supposed to be RGIII’s breakout season. But yet another injury – a dislocated ankle – has limited him to only two full games this season. He’s back now and maybe things will get better. But he still has just one TD pass in his two starts, which is less than anyone expected given all the weapons around him.
Panthers QB Cam Newton
The fourth-year quarterback’s numbers took a dip last season, but he became a winner and showed signs of maturing into the franchise quarterback many expected him to be. But this year he’s become a little more erratic, his interceptions are surging, and he’s been far more sack-able behind a suspect offensive line. Maybe it has more to do with the crumbling cast around him, but Newton is taking steps backwards this year.
Bucs coach Lovie Smith
The confusion and controversy of the Greg Schiano era was supposed to be vanquished by the arrival of Smith, an ultra-professional coach who had plenty of success in Chicago. The Bucs were supposed to be underachievers in the past, which seemed to set up a successful quick transition. Instead, the Bucs began the season mired in a quarterback controversy and now they’re 1-8, searching for talent and an identity. It looks like it’ll take Smith a lot longer than expected to turn this mess around.
The Atlanta Falcons
They were the biggest disappointments in the NFL last season, plummeting from one of the best teams in the NFC to one of the worst. But they had so much talent – especially on offense – that last year could easily be excused as an anomaly. It wasn’t. The offense is a little better, but their defense is the second-worst in the NFL, leaving them at 3-6 and barely holding their heads above water in the worst division in the NFL.
The New York Giants defense
They spoke before the season of how they could carry a still-growing offense and even be one of the Top 5 defenses in the league. Instead, as their rebuilt secondary crumbled around them, they plummeted to rock bottom. The Giants rank dead last in the NFL in defense right now, and they earned it with a horrendous performance in Seattle on Sunday when then gave up an incredible 350 yards on the ground.
Bengals QB Andy Dalton
In August, Dalton signed a six-year, $115 million contract which seemed to solidify his place among the best up-and-coming quarterbacks in the game. But he has taken a nosedive, especially lately. More than halfway through the season he’s even thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdown passes (eight). Now there are serious questions about whether the Bengals invested in the right quarterback, and whether they’ll need to find a way out of that deal in a couple of years.
Packers RB Eddie Lacy
When Lacy rushed for 1,178 yards as a rookie last year it seemed to be only the beginning. He was on a terrific team with the pressure off because of MVP-candidate Aaron Rodgers. His performance has been fine – especially since it can be argued he’s been underused – but fantasy owners surely are dissappointed in his 478 yards and four touchdowns through nine games. It’s not that he’s having a bad season. It’s more that expectations were much, much higher than what he’s done.
Lions RB Reggie Bush
The last three years Bush finally was starting to live up to his potential and looking like a former top draft pick. And this year, even at age 29, he figured to build on what he had started on a team loaded with offensive talent. Instead, with injuries slowing him down, he’s starting to show his age and no longer looking like anything other than a part-time running back. With 191 rushing yards and 169 receiving yards, he actually looks like a guy playing his way right out of the league.
—By Ralph Vacchiano