Last year the Atlanta Falcons came within a play of making it to the Super Bowl and finished the season tied for the best record in the NFL at 13-3. They returned in 2013 with the same nucleus of players along with the acquisition of free-agent running back Steven Jackson to bolster their struggling running game. They even convinced tight end Tony Gonzalez to come out of retirement and return for one last shot at a ring.
Everything looked in order for another great season.
I could see the warning signs of a team that looked to be in danger of regression and predicted this to be the case, but not in my wildest imagination did I expect the Falcons to be sitting at 2-9 and out of the playoffs at this point.
Many people might point to injuries as the biggest reason for their disappointing season thus far, but we must keep in mind that injuries are an unfortunate inevitability of every team in the NFL unless you happen to be extremely lucky one year. Nearly every team must deal with the loss of a key contributor and is expected to weather the storm with capable backups when necessary.
Perhaps the Falcons’ weakness is they’re not built to survive the loss of a star or two. Or perhaps their offensive line has been abysmal while the youth in their secondary has been exposed.
Regardless of the reason, the Falcons have now lost five in a row and can see no end in sight to their unexpected suffering.
At least head coach Mike Smith can take solace in the fact that he is expected to return in 2014, according to owner Arthur Blank (via Michael Silver of NFL.com).
The Texans are another talented team coming off a successful campaign a season ago who have somehow laid a major egg in 2014.
This was perhaps the most surprising development of any team this year. At one point in the offseason, I considered Houston to be one of the most complete teams in the NFL.
It was a strong team up front on both sides of the ball with improved talent at the receiver position and in the secondary. Furthermore, the Texans had established themselves to be one of the more well-coached franchises over the last several years.
We even thought we knew what to expect in quarterback Matt Schaub. Oh how little we really knew.
Despite the 2-9 record, the Texans are in fact a pretty decent defense and may even play host to this year’s Defensive Player of the Year, J.J. Watt. The unit is currently ranked first in the NFL in total yards allowed per game. It has primarily been a struggling offense that has sent the Texans to the bottom of the NFL.
Long-time head coach Gary Kubiak is now on the hot seat and looking around for answers as to what went wrong. Last Sunday, they hit rock bottom with their ninth consecutive loss after folding to the unimpressive Jacksonville Jaguars.
If answers aren’t found soon, the city of Houston will be calling for everybody’s head on a stake.
Ryan Riddle is a former NFL player and current Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.
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