8 Most Underachieving Teams from the 2012 NFL Regular Season

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2012

8 Most Underachieving Teams from the 2012 NFL Regular Season

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    The 2012 NFL season has its fair share of underachieving teams. The Philadelphia Eagles and Detroit Lions lead a crowded field of franchises who should hang their collective head in shame.

    The balance of the group is slanted more toward the NFC, indicating the greater level of parity in that conference. Six teams from that side of the NFL landscape make this list.

    Among them are three teams who failed to make it out of the NFC East. Once commonly regarded as the the strongest division in football, the East has grown significantly weaker in the last 20 years.

    Over in the AFC, one repeat offender makes an appearance. Only wholesale changes will cure the cycle of underachievement for this AFC West outfit.

    They are joined by the record Super Bowl winners, who will be struggling to work out how they missed the playoffs.

    Here is the list of teams who have underachieved the most during the 2012 NFL regular season.

8. Chicago Bears: 10-6

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    The Chicago Bears should have been a lock for the playoffs. Yet this multi-talented squad and its sulky quarterback contrived to miss out altogether.

    The Monsters of the Midway were 7-1 at the season's halfway point before troubles began. In truth, they had lived off turnovers, and when they didn't force as many, the Bears' obvious weaknesses were exposed.

    Those weaknesses included having Mike Tice as offensive coordinator and a woeful offensive line. When Tice calls the plays and the porous front isn't strengthened, you've got it all wrong to start with.

    However, the Bears will still feel the pain of having wasted talents like Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte and Henry Melton.

7. Dallas Cowboys: 8-8

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    2012 has been another season of mediocrity for the Dallas Cowboys. In all honesty, they were fortunate to still be in a position to win their division in the final week.

    Once again the play-calling on both sides of the ball has been questionable. Head coach Jason Garrett hasn't adequately used his running game, and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's schemes are too complex.

    In fairness to the Cowboys, their talented roster has been ripped apart by injuries. Any defense would struggle after the loss of players like Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Jay Ratliff.

    On offense, quarterback Tony Romo was a hero for most of December before his penchant for mistakes returned in Week 17.

    The Cowboys need plenty of work this offseason. Changes to the coaching staff would be a good place to start.

6. San Diego Chargers: 7-9

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    Even after yet another season of failure, it's hard not to be surprised at how the San Diego Chargers waste talent. A 7-9 finish just shouldn't be possible given some of the personnel on this roster.

    Whether it's mistakes or injuries, the Chargers always find a way to derail their playoff chances. Quarterback Philip Rivers can post impressive numbers, but he can also give the ball away at an alarming rate.

    Running back Ryan Mathews is as good as any at his position. That is when he can hold on to the ball and stay healthy.

    Defensively, the Chargers boast standout individuals such as Eric Weddle and Corey Liuget. However, they can never seem to mould an effective unit.

    It's time for a new era in San Diego. Wasting talent can no longer be tolerated.

5. Carolina Panthers: 7-9

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    The Carolina Panthers may have improved on last season's record, but 7-9 wasn't what anybody had in mind. The Panthers seemed primed for genuine playoff contention behind their dynamic offense.

    That was the plan at least, except the prolific offense regressed. Cam Newton moped his way through large portions of the season, and his ground game did little to help.

    Even more tragic for the Panthers was that their issues scoring undermined the improvement from their defense. The unit kept the team 6-10 in 2011 but enjoyed a significant turnaround this season.

    That's all Newton and company were supposed to need in order to seal a place in the postseason. Sadly, the offense just didn't hold up its end of the bargain.

4. Pittsburgh Steelers: 8-8

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    It has to hurt when you own the league's top-ranked defense and still don't make the playoffs. That's the reality the Pittsburgh Steelers are facing up to this morning.

    Most of their underachievement took place on offense. Losing Ben Roethlisberger for three games didn't help, but the Steelers' problems went deeper.

    New offensive coordinator Todd Haley never seemed a good fit. However, he wasn't helped by poor efforts from players like Mike Wallace and Rashard Mendenhall.

    The six-time Super Bowl winners look like a team in need of a fresh spark. Finding that spark could require some surprising changes and tough choices.

3. New York Giants: 9-7

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    The defending Super Bowl champions are fortunate not to find themselves higher on this list. That's after an appalling late-season collapse.

    Granted, it was probably too much to expect the New York Giants to repeat 2011's late-season heroics. However, that doesn't excuse the shocking way the G-Men capitulated towards the end of 2012.

    They seemed in firm control of the NFC East as recently as the end of Week 14. However, things soon turned to disaster for Big Blue.

    Blowout defeats to the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens followed a tough road loss to the Washington Redskins.

    During that spell the Giants were everything a Tom Coughlin-coached team shouldn't be. They committed costly penalties, turned the ball over and were easily brushed off the ball.

    The current roster is undoubtedly bloated with major egos; however, the coaching staff is not immune from criticism. Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell is overrated, and his offensive counterpart, Kevin Gilbride, rarely calls a balanced game.

    The Giants need a change of direction on offense and an infusion of talent defensively to return to contention.

2. Philadelphia Eagles: 4-12

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    It's hard to find a logical reason for why the Philadelphia Eagles have imploded so spectacularly this season. That's because most of their issues are self-inflicted, and nothing is more baffling than seeing talent defeat itself.

    The Eagles have had problems on the coaching staff with prima donnas Jim Washburn and Howard Mudd. Yet those issues are nothing compared to the egos that have crippled the playing staff.

    The likes of Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson have self-destructed, while the offensive line has been a mess. Defensively, no matter what the scheme or combination of personnel, the Eagles haven't managed to stop anybody.

    All of this has resulted in an ending former head coach Andy Reid didn't deserve. The Eagles need an overhaul and a major one at that.

1. Detroit Lions: 4-12

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    If Jim Schwartz survives the wreckage of the Detroit Lions' 2012 season, NFL fans will have witnessed a minor miracle. How on earth are the Lions 4-12?

    Their offense alone should be enough for at least eight wins. Yet despite finally finding a running game to balance their prolific pass attack, the Lions have just four.

    That's because the defense, Schwartz's supposed area of expertise, remains poor. Shaky linebacker and secondary play has been a problem throughout his tenure and has gotten worse this season.

    Then there is the problem of discipline. As if their catalogue of incidents off the field weren't enough, the Lions play with no discipline or fundamentals on the field. They take bad angles in tackling, surrender needless penalties and fail to protect the ball.

    Had they just missed the playoffs in what is a tough division, the picture might not look as bleak.

    However, managing to be one of the NFL's worst teams with some of the talent the Lions boast is a crime.