5 NFL Teams Who Could Have a Letdown in 2013
Yesterday, I published an article about five teams who missed the playoffs last year, but could very well enjoy a return to prominence and regular season success in 2013. Today's article deals with the opposite end of the spectrum. Here are five teams who are set for letdowns in the 2013-14 season.
Some of these teams made it to the playoffs last year, but likely will not be returning to the postseason this season. Others are teams hopeful about the coming year, but they are not likely to live up to the hype.
I wish the best for these teams (except, as an Eagles fan, the NFC East team on this list), but there's a healthy dose of skepticism among the good wishes. Anyway, on with the list...
Adrian Peterson merely had one of the greatest seasons any NFL player has ever had in 2012, rushing for 2,097 yards in a season that began less than a year after a surgery to repair torn ligaments in his knee.
While Peterson is undoubtedly the best running back in the game right now, it's apparent that he doesn't have the supporting cast around him for Minnesota to be a legitimate contender this season. Despite the signing of Greg Jennings from the division rival Packers this offseason, the Vikings don't have the quarterback in Christian Ponder to make a run in the loaded NFC North this season.
Running back Alfred Morris and quarterback Robert Griffin III were revelations in their rookie campaigns with Washington. But this year's NFC East, with New York and Dallas looming, will provide more challenges for the Redskins than last year.
For starters, Griffin is coming off of an ACL injury, the second that he's had since his career at Baylor University. Will he be able to come back as the same player, with the same lethal combination of throwing ability and mobility? Even with the signing of New Orleans' Josh Morgan (a good start), having Pierre Garcon and an aging Santana Moss shouldn't boost a passing offense which finished just No. 20 last season.
In addition, the pass defense of the Redskins finished No. 30 in the NFL last season. With no major additions made on that front, having a healthy Brian Orakpo at linebacker won't much help the team's glaring weak spot: the secondary.
This season, the Ravens' inevitable failure to return to the playoffs is understandable. The team can and should be given a grace period for their emotional and improbable Super-Bowl-winning run. However, fans should temper their expectations for a repeat performance in 2013.
Gone is Joe Flacco's best target, Anquan Boldin. Also gone are most of the defensive players that made the Ravens D a force to be reckoned with last year that shut down Tom Brady and the explosive Patriot offense in the AFC Championship Game. Here's a short list of starters who will not be returning: Hall-of-Famers Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Bernard Pollard, Cary Williams, Corey Graham, Brendon Ayanbadejo and Dannell Ellerbe.
Center Matt Birk also retired. In addition, the Ravens will have to contend with a Cincinnati Bengal team that finally looks ready to claim the AFC North division for themselves.
Hope springs eternal, but the Ravens' year looks to be one of rebuilding.
The Arizona Cardinals and their fans are looking forward to a season which is the next logical progression of a 2012-13 season that started out 4-0 for the team and then deteriorated beneath layers of quarterbacking incompetence.
This offseason, the Cards looked to remedy their signal-calling situation by picking up Carson Palmer from Oakland, who had a statistically good season (4,018 yards, along with 22 touchdowns) despite the Raiders' woeful record. Larry Fitzgerald will surely be happy to see a new quarterback at the helm who has a wealth of previous experience. The addition of electrifying cornerback and special teamer Tyrann Mathieu is also an added element for opponents to consider.
However, there are still problems for the Cardinals to contend in 2013. They could have helped some in the offseason, like bolstering a defensive line which ranked No. 27 in yards allowed in 2012, or finding more weapons to take double teams away from Fitzgerald. Other than Michael Floyd, the team's best targets are Andre Roberts and tight end Rob Housler.
Some issues, however, can't be helped, like the fact that they play in the NFC West, which will force them to face the Seahawks and 49ers four times this year, as well as the always feisty Rams (whom the Cards lost to twice last season).
Kansas City Chiefs
Much like the situation in Arizona, many feel that a new quarterback will cure all that ails the Kansas City Chiefs. It is true that Alex Smith represents an improvement from the inconsistent play of former starter Matt Cassel. Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe also each rank among the first class of running backs and wideouts in the NFL, respectively.
However, the Chiefs have many other problems which will hinder them from making the playoff run that many analysts imply might be in store for them. For starters, other than safety Eric Berry and all-purpose weapons Derrick Johnson and Tamba Hali, the defense is pretty much in shambles.
The Chiefs ranked No. 25 in the NFL in points allowed last season, and No. 27 in rushing yards allowed. Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe, two Combine wonders, still have yet to show that they can consistently stop opposing rush attacks, and no major offseason additions were made (unless you count new starting linebacker Akeem Jordan from the also-woeful defense in Philadelphia) on the defensive front.
In addition, Smith was one of the more efficient and turnover-averse quarterbacks in the league the past two seasons. That, however, was when he had the best offensive line in football giving him plenty of time in the pocket to make decisions and identify his checkdown options.
Now, Smith will be playing behind a line that needs so much help that they had to take an offensive tackle (Eric Fisher) with the first overall pick of the NFL Draft. Other than Fisher and left tackle Branden Albert, the corps protecting Smith still need a lot of help.