The 2012 NFL season has been a perplexing one for many star players, but most of all for quarterbacks. In a season during which we've seen the best quarterback in the league, Aaron Rodgers, flounder at times, a handful of other quarterbacks have seen their games stumble on nearly a weekly basis. Their struggles will most likely continue through Week 7.
These prominent passers (and a top-flight runner) have failed to live up to their elite billings thus far this season. And while it is still reasonably early in the season and their respective teams are by no means out of playoff contention, their early struggles have raised flags as to where these quarterbacks are leading their teams.
It has gotten to the point where the term "setback" may no longer be an accurate way of describing their play. Through six weeks (and yes, I am taking into account the bye weeks of two players), the three quarterbacks who have struggled mightily have combined for 19 TD passes, 16 INT and four lost fumbles. That stat line resembles that of David Carr after getting sacked 50-plus times year-in, year-out.
The identities of the three struggling stars?
Jay Cutler, Cam Newton and Joe Flacco.
Surprised? You should be.
These quarterbacks are lucky because they don't play in the bright lights of New York or Dallas, but they have struggled enough—and over a long enough period of time—to have been noticed for their poor play. As two of them are coming off their bye weeks, they'll look to resurrect their play to lead their respective teams to victory this weekend.
Yes, the Bears are 4-1 on the season, but it hasn't been because of Cutler's play. Cutler has been mediocre to say the least. His TD-INT ratio of seven touchdown passes to seven interceptions has left much to be desired. His 57.7 percent completion percentage marks the worst of his career.
He'll be going against a Detroit Lions defense that ranks 16th in the league in pass defense and has one of the best front fours in all of football. Cutler will be undoubtedly be pressured the entire game and rushed into tough passes, leading to silly turnovers.
Cutler has thrown seven picks this season, a number he put up in 10 games last season. And while he is not on track to break his horrific pick season of 2009 (26), he is on the fast-track to hitting 20-plus.
Expect Cutler to eclipse his 223 passing-yards-per-game average, but also expect a fair share of turnovers, especially given the conditions the game may see. With expected thunderstorms in Chicago Monday, Cutler should sit for fantasy owners.
Oh, and also expect Cutler to berate one of his offensive linemen.
Coming off a bye week and feeling re-energized, many would expect Newton to be a great start in Week 7. Right?
Newton has been all over the place this season, throwing four touchdown passes and five interceptions while also losing two fumbles. His running prowess, which was like nothing the NFL had ever seen before by a quarterback last season, has been held in check thus far. He has rushed for three touchdowns in five games this season—a total he eclipsed in only three-and-a-half games last season.
Cam will go up against a stout defense when he opposes the Dallas Cowboys Sunday. The Cowboys are second in the league in passing defense, allowing only 182 yards per game, and 13th in rushing defense, allowing 104 yards per game. The 'Boys have seen huge improvements in their secondary this season, and have stacked the line against rushing threats in their first five games, something that doesn't bode well for young Newton.
It just seems as though Cam has been ill-prepared going into a few games this season. His lack of vision and decisiveness has led fantasy owners to rue their decisions to draft him early so far. Going up against a defense that has allowed only six passing touchdowns this season, Newton will most likely have to use his legs to generate some inkling of an offensive game Sunday.
Flacco isn't known for being a top-five passer, but he is known for being a steady and fairly efficient one. But this season has been a very up-and-down one for the fifth-year signal-caller.
His completion percentage has fluctuated on a game-in, game-out basis, averaging out at 61.7 percent, which is 17th in the league (but is thankfully higher than the percentages of the aforementioned QB's, who rank 25th and 28th, respectively).
Another red flag is that Flacco, who started the season hot, throwing for 1,269 yards in four games in September, has only thrown for 421 yards in two games in October. Meaning that Flacco threw for an average of 317 yards in September, while only putting up 210 yards per game in October. He hasn't had a multi-touchdown game since Week 3, when Baltimore took on the Patriots.
The worst news of all?
Flacco and the Ravens are going against the redemption-seeking Houston Texans on the road. The Texans had allowed only one quarterback to throw for 300-plus yards prior to Aaron Rodgers' explosion in Week 6 (Peyton Manning in Week 3). The Texans still somehow have the eighth-best pass defense in the league, and will look to pressure Flacco the entire game.
The other thing is, Flacco simply cannot be trusted away from home. In seven of his last eight games on the road, Flacco has been "one or none" in regards to his TD output.
Stay far, far away.