Seven NFL Teams Overrated by Their Fans Heading into 2010
Our team is the best! No, ours is!
Each season, fan bases all across the country chime in with the same belief that, "this is the year".
It will be the year where their team has 10 pro bowlers, dominate the league, and win the Super Bowl.
Well, I'm about to disappoint some of those fan bases.
There is always hope for every squad, but some take it a bit too far.
For example, Detroit Lions fans optimistic for an 8-8 season would be acceptable. But, if Lions fans were expecting a Super Bowl appearance, not so much (though, they really will).
So, who are the teams with the loftiest expectations, only to have their dreams shattered this year?
San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers are on track to do what they always do.
Overachieve in the regular season as part of a weak division, only to crumble in the postseason.
The schedule sets them up perfectly, and with their strength of schedule entering the season ranked 29th based on last year's records, the Chargers should win enough games for a playoff berth.
Philip Rivers will put up gaudy numbers, but the running attack remains a question mark. Even with rookie Ryan Matthews joining the fray, the offensive line was the worst when it came to running the ball. And with Marcus Mcneill's status up in the air, it may be even uglier.
A mediocre receiving group also hampers the team. The receivers will be weakened by at least a four game suspension of Vincent Jackson, and this is if he isn't traded too. Antonio Gates had his best season in years, but his body has taken a lot of abuse.
As for the defense, the Chargers are middle of the pack. The team was plus eight in the turnover category, but that was mainly due to the offense hanging on, not the defense creating large amounts of turnovers.
Shawne Merriman and Larry English were disappointing on the other side of Shaun Phillips and pressure on the QB was minimal. The team allowed over 300 first downs and allowed 40.4 percent of third downs to be converted.
The team has a lot more question marks than past years, but with Denver the only possible threat in the division, they should meet the same fate as always.
Expect and 11-5 record and a first round exit from the playoffs.
New York Jets
The New York Jets were very lucky last season, but they won't be this year.
The team snuck into the playoffs at 9-7 and heated up for a brief playoff run. The Jets also had the number one defense in the NFL last season.
Sounds great, right? Well, let's take a closer look.
There's an old saying, "statistics don't always tell the story," and that was the case with the Jets last season.
Weeks 16 and 17 for the Jets saw them face teams with clinched playoff spots. That meant in week 16, the Indianapolis Colts would take a lead and before the fourth quarter, bench their starters. It allowed the Jets to steal a win.
In week 17 against Cincinnati Bengals, the Jets played a team who essentially benched all their starters. The offense of the Bengals was bad enough even with their starters. Bring in the backups, and you have an ugly game.
There were other games that helped the defense look good as well. The Oakland Raiders at the peak of their collapse and Tampa Bay Buccaneers helped aid the process. They beat up on bad teams and teams with benched players, and it translated well.
Unfortunately, 2010 provides less golden opportunities for the team on the schedule.
As for the defense this year, they added some new players.
But, just because they look great on paper, doesn't mean they will be.
Starting with the secondary, two additions were made. Antonio Cromartie is a mediocre corner who won't be able to cover the other side for Darrelle Revis. The rookie Kyle Wilson should turn out to be a good pro, but will face a rookie learning curve that will take time to translate.
And then, Jason Taylor. Taylor declined at the second half of last season and doesn't have the burst he used to. He will contribute in select spots, but fans expecting him to make a 16 game impact are insulting themselves.
As for the offense, Mark Sanchez did not have a good rookie season. With an even more questionable offensive line this season, his 20 interceptions might once again be matched. The offense was purely run first and he was asked to control it. He won't win the games, which might be a problem when they find themselves behind more often in 2010.
As for that running game, Ladainian Tomlinson is a downgrade from Thomas Jones as a second back. He can catch out of the backfield, which should help replace Leon Washington, but his speed is nowhere close to where it used to be.
Shonn Greene is also a question mark. He had some great flashes, especially in the playoffs, but showed some deficiencies too. His three fumbles on 108 carries is worrisome for a full load. And his injury history from college and last year, makes people wonder if he can handle 250 carries at the pro level.
Look for the Jets to disappoint and fall short of the playoffs, behind the New England Patriots and Miami Dolphins for some extra insult.
Expect a 7-9 record and no playoffs for the "other New York team."
Bring in Mike Shanahan, add some Donovan Mcnabb, sprinkle in a few running backs, and you got yourself a championship recipe!
Well, not exactly.
The Washington Redskins optimism is higher than it has been in years. They have an improved offense that should be able to score more than 16.6 PPG, which hasn't been done since 2007.
To many fans, the playoffs seem imminent. Daniel Snyder finally has succeeded in spending enough money for a real NFL team.
But, let's take a little bit of a closer look.
While the offense will improve, the defense has been overrated the past couple years. Last season, they gave up 21 PPG and created only 17 turnovers -- last in the league.
And the defense may have gotten worse in the offseason. The switch the 3-4 will take time to fit the right pieces in and for players to adjust.
The secondary still has overrated talents in DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers manning the CB spots. Phillip Buchanon was asked to join the squad and has proven the past few years he will be of little help.
And let us not forget the front seven. Albert Haynesworth is a big question mark coming into this year for the defense, who needs someone to dominate inside. Brian Orakpo should flourish in his OLB role, but other LB Andre Carter isn't likely to have the same luck.
The Redskins also face a more difficult schedule. The division games are always tough, but playing the AFC South instead of West this year, won't help.
For Washington's "easier" games, they must go on the road to Detroit, where they lost last year, and head to St. Louis on the road as well.
Coach Shanahan should have them more prepared against lesser opponents than Jim Zorn, but these won't be cupcake games.
So for Redskins fans, the playoffs might seem guaranteed in July, but come January they will be nowhere to be found.
Expect: 6-10, no playoffs
New York Giants
The New York Giants didn't do too much to improve themselves over the off season, yet many have them winning the NFC East and into the playoffs.
The Giants are three seasons removed from winning the Super Bowl and fans believe not much has changed between now and then.
Last season, they had a hot start, but collapsed after injuries and a tougher schedule caught up to them. This season, they find themselves with one of the more difficult schedules in the whole NFL.
From a personnel perspective, the most high impact move was hiring Perry Fewell to replace Bill Sheridan as defensive coordinator.
The move was needed after the defense gave up 26.7 PPG, third worst in the league.
The team added some d-line help through the draft with Jason Pierre-Paul and Linval Joseph, but they both might not make immediate impacts. Their third round pick, Chad Jones, will likely miss the season after a car accident.
Through free agency, Antrel Rolle should help firm up the safety spot, but he will have to protect a mediocre group of corners. The team gave up 31 touchdowns through the air and 21 on the ground.
Osi Umenyiora is not what he used to be, and the team needs Justin Tuck to be fully healthy to have any chance of having a productive d-line. The linebackers are also a large question mark in improving the running stopping.
For the offense, the Giants offensive line and running game will determine a lot. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw need to both bounce back and stay healthy to alleviate pressure off Eli Manning.
Manning, who was also hurt through a good portion of 2010, should send mixed signals as to how could he will be. He made some mental errors with some of his interceptions, but had a nice command on the offense.
Manning's receivers will be important in the next step. Steve Smith will not repeat the previous season, but needs to stay a consistent safety valve so Manning doesn't force passes over the top. Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks need to play consistently and emerge as an extra threat. Manningham dropped the ball too much last season, while Nicks couldn't stay healthy.
The NFC East will be a tough division to compete with and the Giants will fall short once again.
Expect 8-8 and once again, no playoffs.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots are still living off of their reputation from 2002-2007.
It's understandable that fans would think they are going to win the Super Bowl each year, and after the Boston Celtics dug deep down to make the NBA finals, why not the Patriots?
Well, there are plenty of reasons why not.
Let's start with the basics. Wes Welker is still hurting, they still have a porous defense, and the running game remains questionable.
The Patriots lost six of their eight road games last season and this year, they face an even tougher onslaught of opponents, especially at home. If they cannot get their act together on the road, it is going to be a long year.
As for the players themselves...
There are problems on both sides of the ball, but mainly the defensive line. It just is no longer the force it used to be and that really hinders the rest of the team.
The secondary is decent because of the scheme, but lacks the talent of the elite groups. The linebackers are the best part of the defense, but if the d-line can't sustain pressure, the linebackers become vulnerable. The team only had 31 total sacks, putting them in the bottom third of the league.
On the offense, Torry Holt was brought in as an extra pair of hands. He won't be able to replace the production of Wes Welker, nor the declining skills of Randy Moss, but he is a veteran with strong pedigree and a leader in the locker room.
The team still needs a running back and any sort of player like Logan Mankins will not help the offensive line.
The AFC East as a whole is coming in overrated and that should work in the Patriots favor. With the more difficult portion of their schedule occurring in the first 10 games, the Pats should be able to take advantage in the final 6.
The team is nearing the end of their run, but should sneak in for another first round and out playoff appearance.
Expect: 10-6, first round exit
Some fans have the Pittsburgh Steelers coming out as a .500 team to start the year and dominate when Ben Roethlisberger makes his triumphant return.
Others have the Steelers winning all four games without Ben, and then continuing to dominate upon his return.
Whatever the case, fans are expecting too much.
As always, the defense will be solid, especially with Troy Polamalu back healthy. However, there are some glaring question marks.
An aging defensive line and linebacker core makes one wonder when will the defense crack. The Steelers were poor on third downs last season and with a porous offensive line and no Big Ben early, the defense may face early tests. It will be difficult for the team to maintain time of possession.
Last season, the Steelers gave up over 100 yards rushing in three of the four games they lost the "Time of Possession" battle. It may not seem like a big deal being only four games, but the longer the aging veterans are on the field, the harder it will be to get off. They have decent young depth, but the Steelers have a specific system they need to know well to get in the rotation.
With Willie Colon out for the season, a line that already struggles with pass protection will face even fiercer competition. The quarterback, whether it be Roethlisberger, Leftwich or Dixon, will find themselves lying on their back.
Hines Ward is joined by second year player Mike Wallace to replace Santonio Holmes. If Wallace struggles, the offense could be in a lot of trouble with teams stacking the box.
Rashard Mendenhall had a decent year, but was inconsistent, especially down the stretch.
The Steelers have an easy schedule throughout the year, and should be able to start 2-2 without Ben, but don't expect 12 straight wins when he returns.
The team will face some rough patches along the way and be fighting for the final wild card spot in the AFC. The Steelers have too many question marks for a Super Bowl run and it wouldn't be surprising to see them short of the playoffs.
Expect an 8-8 record and no playoffs.
I'll start with the obvious, Brett Favre will be back.
If somehow he isn't, you can ignore the rest of this because suddenly, team expectations will drop.
Let's start with last season. The Vikings had one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. They came in with a schedule ranked 31st based on 2008, and it did not disappoint.
This year, they come in with a middle of the pack schedule, which should lead to more challenges.
And challenges may not be so good for this team.
While their pass defense led the league in sacks, when the quarterback released the ball, they struggled allowing 63.7 percent of passes to be completed, while only having 11 interceptions.
The strongest part of the defense remains the defensive line. But, Pat Williams at 37, is starting to reach the end of the road. The question for them is can they stay healthy and will they continue to protect their mediocre linebackers.
As for the offense, start with the running game.
Adrian Peterson was good, but not great. The team was a middle of the pack running team and Peterson had only three 100 yard rushing performances all season. He isn't on the decline, but his violent running style continues to wear his body down a bit each year. Add in continuous fumbling problems and he may step another notch down this year.
By losing Chester Taylor, the Vikings lose a key component out of the backfield as well. Toby Gerhart can't be trusted to fill the same receiver, blocker, and substitute role Taylor had in his first year. Peterson will be relied on more heavily, which will end up hurting them in the long run.
The offensive line is still great and will help the team in short yardage situations. Not to mention Peterson will get his touchdowns, but don't be surprised to see a similar year to last when running.
Of course, the biggest factor is the passing game. Fans are convinced if Brett Favre comes back he will sustain last season's pace. He will not.
Favre made the ultimate, vintage mistake in last year's NFC championship game by showing a bit of bad decision making still remains. His seven interceptions were easily a career low and it might be asking a bit too much to expect a repeat. Favre won't fall apart, but should middle out.
Another factor to watch with Favre is his body. Will he begin to deteriorate physically? If he does, the Vikings are in trouble. Not because Favre won't play, but because he will play hurt and negatively impact the team in the process.
Favre still has solid receivers to work with in Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Bernard Berrian. All three had their shining moments during the season. They are made better by the quarterback, which could be key if there are times the team struggles.
Expect 10-6 and wild card spot, with a first round playoff exit.
Hit or Miss
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What teams do you think are most overrated entering 2010?