It never fails.
Year in and year out, the NFL teases us with preseason predictions and prophetic pundits, telling us which teams will win big and which teams will fall short. And year in and year out, the vast majority of those prognostications don't play out according to plan.
In 2012, it has been no different. The Minnesota Vikings are in first place in the supposedly "loaded" NFC North, the Eagles lead the NFC East despite a -19 point differential and a -7 turnover differential, and the incomparable Brian Hartline leads in the NFL in receiving yards. And don't forget about the NFC West, which has suddenly become the best division in football.
Adding to the chaos are the teams that have absolutely bombed through the first five weeks. The eight teams on this list had hopes and aspirations for successful years, but have so far looked terrible.
But we all saw this coming, right?
The Lions entered 2012 with hopes of improving on a 10-6 record and a playoff appearance. Last year's squad was led by two all-time great seasons from QB Matthew Stafford (5,038 yards, 41 touchdowns) and WR Calvin Johnson (1,681 yards, 16 touchdowns). The team as a whole remains mostly the same.
But there's one big difference.
Last year's version of the Lions started the season 5-0, mixing superb offense with solid defense and giving a perpetually disappointed fanbase something to cheer about.
This year's Lions are 1-3 and thoroughly unimpressive. The offense can't run the ball and while the defense hasn't been terrible, it hasn't been all that good, either. Detroit seems like a team with a lot of talent that is stuck in a rut and not going anywhere.
Then again, maybe these are the Lions we're used to. Consider: since starting 5-0 in 2011, Detroit is a combined 6-10. That's a full 16-game slate. Perhaps the Lions aren't as good as we think they are.
Either way, there's no question that Detroit has been a disappointment thus far in 2012.
Yes, I know the Packers should be 3-2. That Monday Night game against Seattle was a travesty and they were absolutely robbed of a win.
But don't tell me that you're not disappointed in this Packers squad.
Green Bay was 15-1 last year and while following that up was supposed to be difficult, the Packers weren't supposed to have lost three games already.
The most disturbing aspect is the lack of success on offense. This offense was one of the most talented and successful in NFL history last year and so far in 2012, its been mediocre. Green Bay ranks an unthinkable 17th in the league in passing yards.
Greg Jennings has been hurt, that's true. But there's so many weapons for Aaron Rodgers to use, there's no excuse for a drop off.
Then, we get to the offensive line. The O-line might be the biggest problem at hand for the Packers, who couldn't protect Rodgers with a brick wall. There have been countless examples of good teams that were undone by poor play up front, and the Packers look to be falling victim to a similar fate.
Unless the big guys up front can improve, the Packers may be an average team for most of the season.
The Titans finished a very promising 9-7 last season and were supposed to challenge Houston for an AFC South division title in 2012.
So much for that.
The Titans, while not expected to make a Super Bowl run, were still one of the teams that people were sleeping on. But so far, Tennessee has arguably been the worst team in all of football.
They've been outscored by almost 100 points. They rank 30th in rushing despite having a former 2,000-yard guy in their backfield. The defense is 29th in the league and has given up an inconceivable 36.2 points per game.
It's a mess in Tennessee. Jake Locker is a promising prospect at quarterback, but he can never stay healthy. There's talent all over the field, but it simply can't mesh.
And unfortunately for the Titans, the Texans have all but locked up the division already in Week 5. So Tennessee's only hope is for the defense to improve, and for backup QB Matt Hasselbeck to rediscover his Pro Bowl form.
It certainly doesn't look likely. Time to pack it in and get ready for next year's draft.
No team had more hype as a potential sleeper team than the Buffalo Bills (that seems to happen a lot). It was understandable: they have a capable quarterback, a good No. 1 receiver, two great running backs, and a defensive line that has more talent than any front in recent memory.
Sorry, Buffalo. It looks like another year without postseason football for some of the NFL's most disappointed fans.
The Bills only do one thing well and that's run the ball. But they turn it over too much, and the supposedly vaunted defensive front has been an unmitigated disaster. Mario Williams is non-existent and the Bills' secondary has been comparable to Swiss cheese.
It's not hard to analyze the Bills. In their two wins, they've allowed 31 points. In their three losses, they've allowed a preposterous 145, good for 48.3 points against per loss. That is terrible.
But hey, at least the Bills aren't teasing us this year. It seems like every season, they start out hot and wilt down the stretch. Maybe the perpetual losing will end up with a good draft pick next year.
Stay strong, Buffalo. Your team can't possibly be this bad for another decade.
Let's be honest: the AFC West might be the weakest division in football. The Chargers lead the division at an uninspiring 3-2.
Yet the Chiefs, the ever-so-talented Chiefs, reside in the cellar. It's nothing new for Kansas City, which has been pretty bad for several years now.
But this year was supposed to be different. This was the year when all the talent was supposed to come together and Kansas City was supposed to challenge for a division title. But the injuries haven't stopped, and the Chiefs seem to be stuck in reverse.
There's no denying the talent on this team. Dwayne Bowe is one of the best receivers in football. Jamaal Charles and Peyton Hillis make up the NFL's second-best rushing backfield. And Eric Berry and Tamba Hali anchor a promising young defense.
The Chiefs, though, lack discipline. They are penalized too much and turn the ball over far too frequently. They can't string drives together and can't stop anyone on defense.
Matt Cassel has been miserable, unable to recapture the glory of his 2010 season, when he threw 27 touchdowns against just seven interceptions.
The bright side for the Chiefs is that the talent is there. The talent is young. All that matters now is finally putting it all together.
Never try to predict the order of finish in the NFC South. Never. If there's one thing you need to know about the NFC South, it's this: since the division's inception in 2002, no team has ever repeated as division champ.
That being said, this division had the potential to be the best in football. The Saints, despite offseason bounty distractions, still had as much talent as anyone. The Buccaneers were breaking in a new coach and a new scheme, ready to take the next step and become a legitimate playoff threat.
The Panthers were prepared to follow Cam Newton to the postseason. And the Falcons were looking to finally get over the playoff hump.
So naturally, only one of those teams has even come close to fulfilling expectations. The Falcons are the best team in the NFC at 5-0, but everyone else is a mess.
Let's start with the Saints. We knew they could take a step back, but not this far back. The defense is one of the worst in recent memory and they may as well not even employ a running back, because they never run the ball. New Orleans is 1-4 and have allowed 154 points.
The Buccaneers went out and got a stud receiver in Vincent Jackson and signed Dallas Clark at tight end. They drafted Doug Martin to shore up the running back situation. Yet they have the 32nd-ranked offense in the league, gaining just 276 yards per game.
The defense has been decent, but Josh Freeman has really taken a step back in his development and has taken the entire team with him.
Carolina would have been a surprise playoff team in 2012, but the Panthers were supposed to at least contend in the early going. But Cam Newton has entered a severe sophomore slump and has lost leadership of the team and the offense isn't running the ball as well as it did last year.
The defense has been porous, and the Panthers are looking at another year of irrelevance.
Put it this way: in a division full of promise, the Atlanta Falcons have five wins, two more than the total amount of wins of the Saints, Panthers and Bucs.