Oh The Heartache: Eight NFL Teams Who Will Be A Disappointment In 2010
With one month to go until the NFL season kicks off, this is a time for optimism. At this point, everyone feels like this could be the season for their team to win it all.
Unfortunately, for most of us, this will not be the year that our team wins the championship, and even worse this may not be a season in which our team even makes the playoffs.
In an effort to lower expectations for some people, I am going to take a look at eight teams that are going to break the hearts of their fans this season.
For a couple of years, the Arizona Cardinals have been on a magical ride. Seemingly over night, they have gone from one of the leagues doormats to America's sweethearts.
Unfortunately, the retirement of Kurt Warner, and the loss of Anquan Boldin means that the dream run is over.
With Warner out of the picture, the reins of the team are once again handed over to Matt Leinart, who thus far in his career has been a major disappointment. In four seasons Leinart is only 7-10 as a starter, and has thrown for only 14 touchdowns to 20 interceptions.
The loss of Boldin also means one less target for Leinart to look for. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet will both be asked to play larger roles as Arizona looks to find a compliment to Larry Fitzgerald.
The third strike against the Cardinals this season is the division. The last few years the NFC West has been a relatively weak division. The division as a whole is still one of the weaker ones in the league, but it is now a very evenly matched division. The 49ers are a team poised to challenge for the title, and the Seahawks are a team that you never know what you are going to get.
So, while it was fun seeing the Cardinals be one of the top teams for a few years, I think it is safe to say that this season will not be nearly as fun for Cardinals fans.
The Chicago Bears made some big early offseason noise when they acquired both Julius Peppers and Chester Taylor.
Peppers instantly upgrades any defense, and the Bears are hoping that he can return them to the form of a few seasons ago, when they were one of the NFL's top ranked defensive teams.
Chester Taylor, meanwhile, is a versatile running back that can come in and give Matt Forte a breather, all the while improving a Bears rushing attack that ranked 29th in the league last season.
The big problem for Chicago could be the quarterback.
Jay Cutler comes back for his second season under center for the Bears. To say that 2009 was a roller coaster ride for Cutler would be an understatement. After trading away two first round draft choices to get him, Cutler could only manage a 7-9 record, while throwing a league high 26 interceptions.
Cutler has a strong arm, but has to learn to control it. Too many times Cutler tried to make something out of nothing and threw it into heavy coverage and turned the ball over. Cutler has some weapons starting to take shape. Earl Bennett, Johnny Knox, Devin Hester, and Greg Olsen are all becoming trusted targets, but it still seems like the Bears are another year away from contending.
The Minnesota Vikings were one play away from going to the Super Bowl in 2009. The disappointment will come a lot earlier in 2010. Whether it be all the distractions or the hangover from the postseason disappointment, Minnesota will be a much different team than a year ago.
For seemingly the millionth time we are going through another offseason game of "Will he or won't he?" as it pertains to Brett Favre and his potential return for another season.
Whether they want to admit it or not, the constant questions have to become a distraction for the Vikings who are present for training camp. And to not know who is going to take your regular season snaps has to affect some of the preparations being made for the season.
Should Favre return for a second season as the Vikings quarterback, he will be entering his 17th amazing season, and at almost 41 years old, you have to really wonder how much longer his body can hold up.
After coming off one of his best statistical seasons it would seem like a strange time for Favre to hang it up. However, historically Favre will not be able to back up his 2009 outing should he come back.
2004 was the last time Favre had a season throwing for over 4,000 yards and at least 30 touchdowns, the following season was a disaster. In 2005 he threw a career worst 29 interceptions and and lead Green Bay to a dismal 4-12 record.
Should Favre not return, the Vikings would presumably hand the starters job over to Tarvaris Jackson. Jackson, through all of the scrutiny has posted a career record as a starter over .500 (10-9) and does have more touchdown throws than interceptions (21-18), but still Tarvaris Jackson would be an instant downgrade from Brett Favre. And a surefire recipe for disappointment in the twin cities.
After years of hoping, the Eagles fans got their wish. Donovan McNabb is finally gone, and in to replace him is Kevin Kolb, and his two career starts.
While Kolb has shown he can handle the game at the professional level, in his limited time on the field, he still has a long way to go.
The Eagles have a good young group of receivers that can spread the field. DeSean Jackson is a threat to score every time he touches the ball, and Jeremy Maclin showed significant improvement as the 2009 season went on.
The major concern for Philadelphia, aside from the lack of experience under center, has to be the running game. After parting ways with Brian Westbrook, the backfield now belongs to LeSean McCoy and Mike Bell.
In 2009, the Eagles ranked 22nd in yards per game on the ground, and ranked only 28th in rushing attempts for the season. For Kolb to have any success, the Eagles need to run the ball on a more consistent basis to take a little of the pressure of him.
To make matters worse for the Eagles, is the fact that their backup quarterback is receiving more attention than anyone who will actually see significant playing time this year. Every time you think that these Michael Vick sagas are going to end, something new pops up, and the rest of the team is left to answer all of the questions.
Sooner or later, the distractions are going to cause problems and it will be the Eagles on field performance that suffers the most. But, the biggest problem of all this seaon for the Eagles and their fans, Donovan McNabb isn't there any longer to get blamed for everything that goes wrong.
New York Jets
The Jets were the surprise team of 2009. Behind a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach, the expectations were limited. A trip to the AFC Championship Game later and 2010's expectations have become huge.
Unfortunately, 2009 may have just been a case of over achieving for the Jets. Mark Sanchez, was mediocre at best. He was only 8-7 as a starter and threw eight more interceptions than touchdowns. Those numbers have to improve, and he has to avoid a sophomore slump for New York to have any hope of repeating last years success.
It is no secret that the 2009 version of the Jets were lead by a ferocious defense and a bulldozing rushing attack.
The Jets defense ranked first in total defense and points allowed, which should come as no surprise for a Rex Ryan lead defense. This season however could be different. The defense is lead by all-world cornerback, Darelle Revis. And the longer his contract dispute keeps him out of action the more trouble the team could be in.
The backfield lost Thomas Jones, but replaced him with future Hall of Famer, LaDainian Tomlinson. The big questions with Tomlinson are, how much does he left, and how will he adjust to his new lesser role?
Shonn Greene will obviously see an increased role in the offense, but you have to wonder how his body will hold up in his first year of being the go to offensive weapon.
No matter how good the ground game and the defense are, the Jets success and failure all come down to Mark Sanchez. The addition of Santonio Holmes gives him another weapon (after his four-game suspension), but for the Jets to not be a one year wonder, Sanchez will vastly need to improve from 2009 and at worse cut down on the turnovers.
The Steelers have some of the most storied history of any team in the NFL. Unfortunately, the recent history does not add to that legacy.
Ben Roethlisberger's off field problems have become some of the most covered stories in sports over the last few seasons. And while he is still one of the better on field quarterbacks in the league, his early season suspension will dig Pittsburgh into a hole that they won't be able to dig out of.
Roethlisberger is scheduled to miss the first six games of the season. Byron Leftwich, the presumed starter in Roethlisberger's absence, is a viable option, but for his career is one game under .500 as a starter, and has a tough schedule to face. The Falcons, Titans, Ravens, and Dolphins are four of those games.
When Big Ben makes his return, the schedule gets even tougher. The first three teams that Roethlisberger is scheduled to face are the Saints, Bengals, and Patriots. All playoff teams from a year ago. That is a tall order facing someone who will not have had a regular season snap yet in the season.
The loss of Santonio Holmes, leaves the Steelers with over 1,200 yards receiving to try and replace. Mike Wallace proved to be quite a reliable target, but will see an increased role with Holmes departure.
The Steelers have always seemingly found a way to be one of the top teams in the league, but this year, with all questions surrounding Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers appear to be a team with more questions than answers.
A year after posting the best record in all of football, the Tennessee Titans had to rally from an 0-6 start to finish at a respectable 8-8. Unfortunately, respectable is not a recipe for a championship, but one for disappointment. And that is what faces Tennessee again this year.
Chris Johnson made defenses look like they were standing still at times last season as he became only the sixth player in history to rush for over 2,000 yards. For Tennessee to achieve any success this year, he will need to do it again.
Historically, he has no chance. None of the previous five running backs to post 2,000 yard seasons were able to even follow it up with a 1,500 yard performance. That doesn't bode well for Johnson, or the Titans who are relying on him to carry them.
Vince Young, like Roethlisberger, has had an offseason that has had more focus on off the field problems than anything else. Though he won't be punished by the league, Young will be walking a tight rope not only with Roger Goodell, but the team as well.
For his career, Young has proven to be a winner on the field if nothing else. He has posted a 26-13 record as a starter, but has also shown to be erratic as a passer. He has 32 career touchdown throws but 39 interceptions. Last season, in fact, was only the first time in his four year career that he ended a season with more touchdowns than interceptions.
For Tennessee to improve on last seasons .500 efforts, Young needs to be a more efficient passer, because as history indicates, Chris Johnson is not going to be able to back up his performance from a year ago. And with all of the off-field distractions that Young is going through, it seems like a tall order, and a potentially long season for the Tennessee faithful.
San Diego Chargers
The Chargers will face a different kind of disappointment this year, than the other seven teams on the list. None of them will make the playoffs, but the Chargers will.
That's as good as it will get though. The Chargers have the luxury of playing in one of the worst divisions in football. So, almost by default they have to make the playoffs. But for the Chargers, they have been expected to contend for Super Bowls for years now, and it hasn't happened. They are definitely a team on the decline so this season will be no exception.
The Chargers parted ways with LaDainian Tomlinson this offseason, and Vincent Jackson has been suspended to start the season. That leaves Antonio Gates, and a rookie running back, Ryan Mathews, as the big offensive weapons.
The defense seemingly had a bend but don't break philosophy, as San Diego ranked mid pack in total defense and points, but with an offense that will not be as strong as in years past, a mediocre defense will not be good enough.
The schedule plays into the Chargers' favor, as five of their first six games are against non-playoff teams, and the one playoff team that they do face, is a home game against the Cardinals who are definitely not the same team they were.
It is going to be a misleading season for San Diego yet again. It should have no problems winning the AFC West for the fifth consecutive year, but as is the case in all four of the previous years, the major disappointment will come in the postseason, when the Chargers fail to make any noise.