3 NFL Players Who Are Absolutely Self-Destructing Down the Stretch

Marques Eversoll@MJEversollAnalyst IDecember 18, 2012

3 NFL Players Who Are Absolutely Self-Destructing Down the Stretch

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    There are a handful of NFL teams that have self-destructed down the stretch.

    The Baltimore Ravens have fallen back to the pack after being in contention for a first-round bye. The Ravens will still be in the playoffs this year, but the team is certainly not playing its best football as the postseason draws near.

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have thrown away any chance they had at making the playoffs this year, despite their offense being one of the most pleasant surprises in football.

    Not making the playoffs is one thing, but leading your fanbase to believe you're a contender only to show you're a pretender is another thing.

    There's no shortage of self-destructing teams in the NFL, but which players have crumbled during the stretch run? Let's take a closer look.

QB Eli Manning, Giants

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    The Giants are 8-6, and most experts would still argue that they’re one of the best teams in football.

    A late-season run into the playoffs has become an expectation for this team, but if they’re not careful, the Giants could miss out on the postseason entirely. The Giants have lost four of their last six games, dating back to a 24-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    A big part of the Giants’ late-season struggles has been Eli Manning and the passing game.

    Manning was sensational in the Giants’ last two wins. In a 38-10 win over the Packers, Manning posted a passer rating of 114.4, throwing three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Two weeks ago against the New Orleans Saints, Manning posted a passer rating of 99.6 and threw four scores.

    But in the Giants’ last four losses, Manning has thrown one total touchdown compared to five interceptions. His passer rating was 56 or lower in three of those four losses.

    The Giants face the struggling Ravens this week in Baltimore. And if the Giants want to turn their season around this week, Manning will need to be on his A-game.

WR Antonio Brown, Steelers

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    Brown isn’t on this list because of a lack of production. He played well against the Cowboys, including a key touchdown late in the game.

    But despite a solid day statistically, a slew of mental mistakes hindered the Steelers’ chances of pulling out the win. Brown fumbled twice, one of which was recovered by Dallas, and made a questionable decision not to fair catch a punt late in the fourth quarter.

    On the ensuing possession, the Steelers and Cowboys were tied as Pittsburgh faced a third-and-26 with 0:47 remaining. Ben Roethlisberger completed a short pass to Brown, who inexplicably ran out of bounds to stop the clock.

    This allowed Dallas to keep its final timeout with a chance to win in regulation. Ultimately, the Cowboys’ drive sputtered and the game was forced into overtime.

    But still, this is the kind of mental breakdown that could cause a player to end up in the coach’s doghouse. The Steelers now face an uphill battle in the playoffs. They won’t be able to make similar mental mistakes if they want to be playing in January.

QB Josh Freeman, Buccaneers

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    When you think of players who have collapsed during the stretch run, Josh Freeman is the first name that comes to mind.

    Four weeks ago, Tampa Bay was 6-4 and had its eyes set on the postseason. But the Bucs have since lost four consecutive games, and their attention has now shifted to next season.

    Between Oct. 14 and Nov. 4, Freeman’s lowest passer rating was 104.2—he was playing terrific football, and the Bucs went 3-1 over that four-game span. But in the Bucs’ current four-game losing streak, Freeman has been atrocious.

    In the last four games, Freeman has thrown more interceptions (five) than touchdowns (four) and has completed less than 50 percent of his passes twice.

    Surrounded by stud rookie running back Doug Martin and a talented group of wide receivers, the pieces are in place to make Freeman a successful NFL quarterback.

    However, due to the Bucs’ recent skid, Tampa Bay will likely have to wait at least another year before they make the playoffs.