The 2013 NFL season has provided some fanbases a lot of excitement, while causing other fans agony every week.
Two teams, the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans, both of which I happened to pick for my Super Bowl matchup, are sitting with a 2-7 record and are surrounded by hundreds of questions about why they have underachieved with so much talent.
The disappointment isn’t just limited to those teams. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a move for superstar cornerback Darrelle Revis, thinking they could take the leap and compete this year. That hasn’t happened.
Despite being in a tie for the lead in the NFC East, the Dallas Cowboys are among the teams that have underachieved this season, mainly due to their defense.
Lastly, there are the Minnesota Vikings, who have a number of issues, none are more important than establishing who their quarterback of the future is.
Here is a deeper look at why these five teams have underachieved during the first half of the season.
Leading off is the dysfunctional organization known as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
After acquiring All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis from the New York Jets, the Buccaneers were considered to be a team that would improve and contend for a wild-card playoff spot. That hasn’t been the case, as Tampa Bay has started the season with a 1-9 record.
At the beginning of the year, everything seemed to be set at the quarterback position. Former quarterback Josh Freeman was expected to make the leap in 2013, but after a drama-filled relationship with Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano, Freeman was quickly released after being held inactive in multiple games.
After the departure of Freeman, rookie Mike Glennon took over under center.
Glennon has played well, possibly even well enough to be the team’s quarterback next season. Through six games, the NC State product has completed nearly 60 percent of his passes for 1,304 yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions.
Things inside the locker room began to settle down until news broke that three of their players broke out with a MRSA infection. That list of players included starting guard Carl Nicks, who fell victim to the infection last season as well.
Moving forward, the Buccaneers will find themselves at a crossroads in the offseason. They will have to make the decision on whether or not to keep Schiano, who has lost respect in the locker room, according to a story by Pro Football Talk.
The Buccaneers will also need to make decisions in regard to the quarterback and defensive line. If Glennon continues to play well, he will likely earn the right to start next season. The defensive line, with the exception of defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, has struggled to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks all season, only accumulating 19 sacks this year.
2014 will likely be another year full of struggle, hopefully with less locker-room drama. For Buccaneers fans everywhere, beware; the rebuilding process is just beginning.
It might seem unusual to see a team that is tied for its division lead on a list of the most disappointing teams in the league, but the Dallas Cowboys are an exception.
Dallas currently has a 5-5 record and is tied with the Philadelphia Eagles for the lead in the worst division in football.
The New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles all got off to slow starts at the beginning of the year, but the Cowboys were unable to capitalize.
Many people place the Cowboys’ underwhelming success on the shoulders of quarterback Tony Romo, although he hasn't been the source of the Cowboys' problems.
The oft-criticized Romo has completed 64 percent of his passes this season for 2,681 yards, 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Those numbers are pretty impressive; if he were on a team like the Texans, they would likely be sitting on top of their division and still be a team in the hunt for a Super Bowl.
The Cowboys offensive line shoulders part of the blame for the offensive struggles. The interior of their line, except for rookie center Travis Frederick, has been inconsistent all season.
When analyzing the Cowboys, the blame partially falls on defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and the Cowboys’ struggling defense. With the exception of DeMarcus Ware and his lower-than-usual amount of sacks, five, there isn’t much to be happy about on that side of the ball.
Dallas currently has the 24th-most efficient defense in the NFL. They are 185th against the pass, which is higher than their 25th placing in the category last year. They also have the 28th-best rush defense in the NFL. It’s hard to be too successful with a defense like that.
Another interesting fact about the Cowboys defense is its variance statistic. The variance statistic, which can be found on footballoutsiders.com, measures a team’s consistency on a weekly basis. According to Football Outsiders, Dallas has the 31st-most consistent defense in the NFL.
While analyzing how that compares with their division foes, the Cowboys have the most inconsistent defense in their division. The Giants rank 28th in the statistic, while the Eagles rank seventh and the Redskins struggle, ranking 23rd in the league.
Luckily for Dallas, they play four divisional games going down the stretch, and they are still the favorite to win the division. Football Outsiders gives them a 60 percent chance of clinching the division.
If Dallas is unable to win the division, look for a lot of changes to be made in the coaching staff and with the defensive side of the ball. Head coach Jason Garrett could lose his job, while the Cowboys could revamp most of their defensive unit.
The Vikings made a run for a playoff spot late in the 2012 season due mainly to Adrian Peterson’s incredible 2,097-yd, 12-touchdown performance.
This year, things aren’t looking as bright for the Vikings. They currently sit in last place in the NFC North with a 2-7 record.
Peterson has played well again this season, rushing for 786 yards and nine touchdowns through nine games.
The underlying problem for the Vikings this season is the same as it has been in the last few seasons, and that is the quarterback position.
Current starter Christian Ponder has played mediocre this season, but he has been unable to live up to the first-round billing that was placed on him when Minnesota selected him 12th overall in the 2011 NFL draft.
Ponder has completed 64 percent of his passes this season for 1,246 yards. He has also thrown five touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The Vikings made it apparent that Ponder isn’t their quarterback of the future when they signed free agent Josh Freeman to a $3 million deal. Freeman started one game in which he had a horrid performance, completing 20 of his 53 pass attempts for 190 yards and an interception.
Although the instability of the quarterback position has been troublesome for the Vikings this year, so has their defense, which is ranked 26th in the league in defensive efficiency.
Head coach Leslie Frazier, who was promoted to head coach primarily for his success as a defensive coordinator, looks like he is in over his head at times. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Minnesota move in a different direction this offseason.
Luckily for Minnesota, they have a solid group of young building blocks throughout the organization. They will likely have a top-five pick in the draft, so they might be able to find their franchise quarterback.
If the Vikings can develop their young talent and get them to produce quickly, the rebuilding effort might only last one or two more seasons.
The falloff of the 2-7 Falcons can be partially attributed to the injury bug.
They have lost both of their starting tackles, Sam Baker and Mike Johnson, for the season. Rookie Lamar Holmes, who was selected to step into the lineup for Johnson, has struggled to protect quarterback Matt Ryan all season, allowing 16 sacks this year.
Starting outside linebacker Sean Weatherspoon is set to return in the next few weeks after being placed on injured reserve with a designation to return after suffering a foot injury.
Although injuries have played a huge role in the Falcons’ struggles, the team has underachieved all year.
Running back Steven Jackson, who was signed in the offseason after leaving the St. Louis Rams after accumulating over 10,000 career rushing yards and 56 touchdowns with them, has struggled to produce when he has been healthy. Jackson has appeared in just five games this season, rushing for 151 yards and zero touchdowns while averaging an abysmal 3.2 yards per carry.
Ryan has struggled to limit his turnovers this season. He has 2,614 passing yards this year, which ranks seventh in the league (pretty good considering he hasn’t had Roddy White and Julio Jones a majority of the year). Ryan has also thrown for 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Ryan’s interceptions can be partially attributed to the struggles of the offensive line, but he is still making risky throws whenever he has time in the pocket.
The defense hasn’t been effective this year either.
The Falcons defensive unit ranks 30th in the league in defensive efficiency, and it also has the 30th-ranked pass defense and 21st rushing defense. They also have gotten to the quarterback just 16 times this year.
The Falcons could be contenders next year if they stay healthy and improve their offensive line and add a premium pass-rusher in the draft or in free agency this offseason.
The Texans have been the most disappointing team in the NFL up to this point of the season.
Considered to be one of the favorites to make a deep playoff run in the AFC, things couldn’t be worse for the Texans. They have a 2-7 record and have also lost two of their best players, inside linebacker Brian Cushing and running back Arian Foster, for the season due to injury.
Former starting quarterback Matt Schaub struggled mightily at the start of the season before suffering an injury and eventually being benched for Houston product Case Keenum.
In six games, Schaub completed 64 percent of his passes for 1,552 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions. Also, Schaub set an NFL record when he threw a pick-six in four consecutive games.
Houston’s defense has been average for most of the season despite having Pro Bowl defensive lineman J.J. Watt anchoring its defense.
The Texans defense ranks 18th in defensive efficiency, 21st against opposing passing attacks, but they also have the 10th-ranked rush defense in the league.
Although things seem gloomy for Houston this season, the fans have something to look forward to in the future.
Keenum has stepped in for Schaub, and he has been effective, despite losing all three games that he has started. Keenum has completed 56 percent of his passes for 822 yards, seven touchdowns and zero interceptions.
The front office hasn’t committed to Keenum as being the Texans signal-caller for the future, but they should have a high enough draft pick to select a franchise quarterback if they decide to move in a different direction.
Look for the Texans to be back in the hunt for a playoff spot in 2014.