5 NFL Teams Sure to Crash and Burn Next Season
When you look back on the 2011 season, it's hard to believe the New York Giants are in the Super Bowl.
After a 23-10 Week 14 loss to the Washington Redskins, nobody mentioned the Giants in the playoff discussion. In fact, the loss fueled speculation that head coach Tom Coughlin may be fired.
But as it stands six weeks later, New York is preparing to face the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
While the Giants didn't fail like many expected them to, here are five teams that are sure to crash and burn next season.
5. Buffalo Bills
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At one point during this season, the Bills were in first place in the AFC East. It was Week 3, they had just beaten New England and looked like a legitimate playoff contender.
They then proceeded to lose 10 of their last 13 games.
The main concerns for the Bills are their defense and quarterback. Both played inconsistently this season and it led to 10 losses.
Ryan Fitzpatrick played well enough early in the season that Buffalo gave him a $59 million contract. However, a late-season slide by the Bills had many in Buffalo questioning the team's pricey investment.
Fitzpatrick is 15-23 as the Bills starter during his career and makes too many mistakes in crucial situations. He's not reliable enough for the Bills to win consistently.
Still, as bad as the Bills offense was during a seven-game losing streak last year, the defense was worse.
During that seven-game streak, the Bills were outscored 224-100 by their opponents.
They have since fired their defense coordinator and moved former Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins head coach Dave Wannstedt into that position. Wannstedt will be in charge of rebuilding a defense that is still several years away from finished product.
Buffalo had the look of a team headed in the right direction, but don't bet on it next year.
4. Chicago Bears
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It's hard to believe the Bears were one game from the Super Bowl a year ago. They of course lost to the Green Bay Packers in that game and failed to make the playoffs this season.
Several of the Bears' key players are getting older, especially on defense. Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and Lance Briggs are all getting up their in age and their play is starting to tail off.
While those players are still very good, they aren't the dynamic forces they once were.
Further complicating things for the Bears this offseason is the departure of two important positions within the franchise. Chicago is currently without a general manager after the franchise fired Jerry Angelo. They also lost offensive coordinator Mike Martz to retirement.
A change in offensive philosophy will take time getting used to, especially for Jay Cutler. Cutler will be forced to learn a new offense, now led by Mike Tice. You can bet Tice's offense won't resemble Martz's system.
Bringing in new front office management isn't easy either, especially when you have the Matt Forte situation staring you in the face. Forte's contract is up this offseason and the Bears must decide what to do. There's a chance they could mess this up and Forte may start the season as a holdout.
The Bears' window of opportunity is closing; it may have already happened.
3. San Diego Chargers
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The Chargers were expected to not only compete for the AFC West, but a Super Bowl as well.
Instead, they finished 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Talent has never been an issue with the Chargers, it's been their inability to win meaningful games. Under Turner, San Diego is 49-31, but it hasn't won a playoff game since 2008.
The Chargers will be forced to address some important personnel discussions, including whether to re-sign Vincent Jackson and if Antonio Gates is healthy enough to still be Philip Rivers' go-to guy.
Gates has battled a foot injury that past two seasons and Jackson is a free agent.
The Chargers could look a lot different without those two guys in their lineup.
A slow start to the 2012 season could signal the end for Turner and the Chargers' hopes for a return to the playoffs.
2. New York Jets
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With a locker room in disarray and faith in their quarterback wavering, the Jets are headed for a long offseason.
After back-to-back AFC Championship Game appears, the Jets finished 8-8 in 2011 and missed the playoffs. As the season slipped away, the questions mounted about the direction of the team.
Mark Sanchez has been the focal point of much criticism, and rightfully so. Sanchez struggled in the final three games of the season, turning the ball over nine times in that span.
While Sanchez did have his share of struggles, the entire Jets offense was a mess. The Jets ranked 25th in the league and too often played like a team trying not to lose rather than trying to win. Ousted offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer deserves much of the blame for that, with his offense that Rex Ryan called too complex.
Next year, The Jets will turn the offense over to former Miami Dolphins head coach Tony Sparano. Sparano will likely bring a run-heavy offense to New York, which all but validates the team's lack of faith in Sanchez.
It also could signal the end of Santonio Holmes in a Jets uniform. Holmes finished 2011 with just 51 catches, not exactly worth the $9 million he made this season. The Jets will have to decide whether Holmes is worth the big money, the risk and the headache.
The Jets defense will continue keep them in games, but their offense is a liability. If the Jets carry last season's slide into 2012, look for a big shake-up in the Big Apple.
1. Denver Broncos
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The Broncos were one of the most intriguing stories of 2011. Led by Tim Tebow and a fierce defense, Denver won the AFC West and a playoff game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Despite a successful season, the Broncos have the look of a team that could take a big step backwards in 2012.
The first order of business for the Broncos is to decide if Tebow is their long-term answer at quarterback. Tebow's success was well documented this season, but questions remain about his passing skills. If his consistency and accuracy don't improve, Tebow may find himself on the bench.
The other big issue facing the Broncos is how are they going to replace their aging stars. Brian Dawkins and Champ Bailey have been great for many years, but both missed time this year with injuries. When those guys are out of the lineup, the Broncos defense was much worse.
Also, the Broncos don't have a backup plan if leading rusher Willis McGahee gets hurt. McGahee was their backup plan, but after a brilliant season in 2011, where he rushed for 1,199 yards, McGahee is Denver's best running back.
However, McGahee will turn 31 in October and has a lot of mileage on his wheels. Denver needs to have a backup plan for its backup plan.
Lastly, the Broncos 2012 schedule is brutal. Road games at New England, Baltimore, Atlanta, Cincinnati and home games against New Orleans and Houston are all tough match-ups for Denver. Plus, look for the AFC West to be better in 2012 than it was in 2011, especially the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Broncos aren't going to sneak up on anyone in 2012 and the playbook on how to stop Tebow has been written. Could be a long season in the Mile High City next year.