Having a letdown season has a lot to do with expectations. Many of the players on this list have had strong seasons, but simply won’t be able to duplicate production or meet expectations in 2013. Placing lofty expectations on someone isn't always fair, but it's meeting those goals that separates the good from the elite players.
In only his third season, Richard Sherman has already established himself as one of the better defensive backs in the NFL. He uses a combination of toughness and good instincts to generate game-changing plays.
Sherman isn’t shy about letting people know about his talent, which draws a lot of media attention and creates pressure to perform. He doesn’t have the luxury of letting his play slip, as the media will jump at the opportunity to attack.
Offensive coordinators in the NFL do a great job of reading and developing game plans. They’ll either look to attack Sherman’s weaknesses or target the other side of the field. This will make it difficult for him to reach the eight interception mark he hit last season.
Sherman’s aggressiveness is something that could cause issues in this scenario. If opposing offenses are focusing on going away from Sherman, he’ll likely take more risks. This is something that could lead to poor decisions and big plays for the offense.
Doug Martin had a terrific rookie season and was one of the more consistent offensive players for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers will look to feed him the ball again this season. However, he’ll have a tough time duplicating the numbers he produced as a rookie.
First off, opposing defenses now know that Martin is the team’s go-to player. They need him to establish a running game to help take pressure off the erratic Josh Freeman. Look for Martin to face more eight-man fronts this season.
It’s also important to note that nearly 600 of Martin’s 1,454 yards came in a four-game stretch. This includes the 251-yard performance against the Oakland Raiders.
The Buccaneers will give Martin plenty of opportunities, but he’ll face a lot more resistance this season.
For years, Wes Welker was the top target for Tom Brady. His consistency and ability to find openings in the defense made him a reliable player. Welker now faces an unfamiliar situation having signed with the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos have players like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker who’ll easily get more targets than Welker. Those two are young playmakers who need to be worked into the offense in order to continue their development.
Denver will find ways to get Welker the football, but it’s unlikely he’ll see 174 targets like he did last season.
This past year was full of great moments for Joe Flacco. His elite play during the playoffs helped the Baltimore Ravens win a Super Bowl, which then resulted in a monster payday for Flacco. However, that paycheck combined with Flacco's quality play during the playoffs generates a ton of expectations for this year.
Everybody is going to be looking to see if Flacco is in fact worth the money Baltimore paid him. This type of pressure has the potential to cause some issues. Flacco is aware that all eyes are on him and may find himself pressing.
The fact is, Flacco has never put up elite numbers during the regular season. He’s not magically going to start challenging players like Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady in categories like QB rating or completion percentage.
Von Miler is a great all-around player, but it is his ability to generate pressure on the quarterback that makes him so special. He has already tallied 30 sacks in just two seasons in the NFL. However, things will be a little tougher this season.
The paperwork mishap involving Elvis Dumervil leaves Miller as Denver's only legitimate pass-rushing threat. Opposing offenses can place even more attention on keeping him out of the backfield.
Players like Derek Wolfe and Robert Ayers just aren’t the type of threats that demand double teams. Miller will still get his sacks, but he can expect to see his numbers drop without Dumervil around.
The Arizona Cardinals defense played a major role in any success the team had in 2012. This group was led by Daryl Washington, who uses his quickness and instincts to make plays all over the field. However, an offseason of off-field issues will take its toll on Washington’s 2013 production.
Washington opens the year on a four-game suspension for violating the NFL Policy and Program for Substance of Abuse. He was later charged with aggravated assault and criminal trespass.
Both of these incidents create a major distraction for a player looking to continue his development. Washington won’t be able to dedicate his entire offseason to becoming a better football player, which is why we can expect to see a major drop-off in production.
Tim Jennings had a breakout season in 2012 where he led the league with nine interceptions. This was a major jump from his previous season high of two. In fact, he only had seven career interceptions heading into last season.
However, Jennings’ excellent year wasn’t just a fluke. He has always been a player who has a good feel for the developing routes and quickness to break on the ball. His confidence is what seemed to really fire this breakout performance.
Jennings should still have a solid year in 2013, but it’s highly unlikely he comes close to the nine-interception mark.
Despite Joe Flacco’s strong play in last year’s playoffs, it has been Ray Rice who plays the most important role on the Baltimore Ravens’ offense. He’s a consistent force who has topped the 1,000-yard mark in each of the last four seasons.
However, this season is going to be a different story. The Ravens need to hand the offense over to Flacco and allow him to earn his big contract, which is going to pull touches away from the ground game.
Baltimore is going to find a way to get this young quarterback a steady number of touches. The emergence of Bernard Pierce during last year’s Super Bowl run is also an issue for Rice.
Victor Cruz and the New York Giants are still locked in a heated contract negotiation. They can’t seem to find common ground on how much Cruz is worth to the team. Players with uncertain contract issues have a tendency to allow it to impact their play.
Despite the number of explosive plays he produces, Cruz also has a tendency to lose focus, which leads to drops. This contract issue is just another distraction that could result in more subpar play.
The Giants also have some good depth at the position with players like Rueben Randle, Ramses Barden, Louis Murphy and Jerrel Jernigan fighting for playing time.
The Chicago Bears had a busy offseason with most of the moves made with the intention of helping quarterback Jay Cutler. Hiring offensive guru Marc Trestman as the head coach was the first significant move.
This hiring finally gives Cutler someone capable of making the best use of his talents. The upgrades didn’t end there, though, as the Bears brought in free agents Jermon Bushrod, Martellus Bennett and Matt Slauson to increase the offensive talent level.
All these moves mean that Cutler faces a ton of pressure to raise his level of play. He needs to lead this team to the playoffs in order to avoid further criticism. Cutler may have a good season, but expectations are higher than ever for this young quarterback.