Heading into week six, the NFL standings look very different than what many of the pundits predicted. Teams that were predicted to be potential Super Bowl hopefuls, including the Cowboys, Vikings, Saints, Chargers, Packers, and the 49ers, have looked anywhere from mediocre to downright awful thus far.
Let's take a look at the five most disappointing teams heading into this weekend.
Heading into the 2010 season, the Green Bay Packers were a trendy pick among many of the pundits to be one of the NFL's top teams. In fact, Sports Illustrated's reputable columnist Peter King had the green and gold representing the NFC in the Super Bowl in his preseason projections.
At 3-2, it's way too early to give up on the Green Bay Packers. However, if the injuries continue to mount, they may have a tough road ahead of them. Their midweek injury report currently has 13 players listed.
In addition to those 13, safeties Derrick Martin and Morgan Burnett and running back Ryan Grant are currently on the injured reserve. Indications are that tight end Jermichael Finley and linebacker Nick Barnett will also be lost for the season.
These mounting injuries could spell disaster for the Green Bay offense.
While Brandon Jackson has been productive filling in for the injured Ryan Grant, one has to wonder if a running back who has never carried the ball more than 75 times in a season can continue to produce throughout the year. Also, the Packers have no viable replacement for the production of Jermichael Finley.
With the league's seventh best point differential at plus-30, the Packers should be able to continue to compete for a playoff berth if not an NFC North title. It simply comes down to how well they can replace the production lost due to their devastating string of injuries.
Okay, so a 3-2 record isn't all that bad, but considering it's only good enough for third place in the NFC South, it's make or break time for Drew Brees and company.
This year's Saints are a far cry from last year where they averaged 31.9 points per game. Sean Payton's once high powered offense is only scoring an average of 19.8 per game so far this season, and Drew Brees' five interceptions are nearly half of the 11 he threw all of last year. Combine that with a rushing game that ranks 31st in the league with just over 75 yards per game, and the Saints could be in for a long season trying to defend their title.
At this point in the season, the Saints defense has actually given up more points than their offense has scored. That's not exactly a winning combination.
Although the injury to Reggie Bush in week two definitely changed the dynamics of the offense, his return isn't going to turn the Saints' into one of the league's juggernauts when it comes to running the football. It's starting to look like maybe Mike Bell was more valuable than New Orleans thought.
Led by Philip Rivers, the San Diego Chargers were once again the consensus pick to win AFC West among many of the experts, including being picked to play in the Super Bowl by three of Sports Illustrated's nine NFL analysts. Vegas oddsmakers gave them 11-2 odds of winning the AFC championship.
Unfortunately for the Chargers, preseason predictions are completely meaningless once the season begins.
Ranked first in the league in total offense with an average of 461.8 yards per game and second in total defense with 246.2 yards per game allowed, on paper, the Chargers look to be the elite team of the NFL. However, despite these great statistics, three of their five games have resulted in them coming up short on the most important number of all: the scoreboard.
After their 2-3 start, Norv Turner hopes to have the same last season surge that have defined his teams the past few seasons. With both their offense and defense producing as well as they have in their first five games, the San Diego Chargers should have no problem competing with Kansas City for the AFC West title.
This was the year that the San Francisco 49ers were finally supposed to turn things around. They entered the season with more talent than they've had in years in a division that is quite possibly the worst in the NFL.
ESPN Radio co-host of Mike and Mike in the Morning Mike Greenberg even picked them to make it all the way to the Super Bowl. All nine of Sports Illustrated's NFL pundits picked them to win the NFC West.
After a 31-6 dismantling in week one by Pete Carroll's Seattle Seahawks, things didn't look very bright in the city by the bay.
After playing the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints close in week two, only to lose on a last second field goal, 49er faithful still had faith that this team was different. However, after five consecutive losses, it seems that the 49ers of 2010 aren't all that different from the 49er teams of the past half decade.
San Francisco's 15.2 points per game on offense puts them at 31st in the NFL, while their defense is allowing 26 points per game to opponents. Not exactly a winning combination.
Luckily for the 49ers, they play in a division where even an 8-8 finish could land them in the playoffs. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they are even close to having the potential to being a .500 team.
Brett Favre came back for this? It's quite possible he's wishing he hadn't received that visit from Steve Hutchinson, Ryan Longwell and Jared Allen convincing him to return.
With a 1-3 record, the Minnesota Vikings don't look anything like the team that came within three points of representing the NFC in the Super Bowl last season. What started with Sidney Rice's hip injury and Percy Harvin's migraines has quickly turned into the season that might have been.
Not many predicted Brett Favre to duplicate the success he had in 2009 when he threw 33 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, but no one would have predicted things to go this bad. Favre has already committed ten turnovers after committing only nine all of last year.
I'm sure that Vegas is quickly regretting the 12-1 odds they gave the Vikings to win the Super Bowl.
While the Minnesota defense has remained stout allowing only 289.3 yards per game, the 15.8 points per game that their offense is putting up is only good enough for 29th in the league. Hopefully for the purple and gold, the addition of Randy Moss and the potential return of Sidney Rice will give their offense the spark that it has lacked thus far this season.
With a pivotal game against the Dallas Cowboys coming up on Sunday, this may be the last chance the Minnesota Vikings have to get back on track.
With the Super Bowl being played in Dallas this year, Jerry Jones desperately wanted his Dallas Cowboys to be the first team ever to play a Super Bowl in their home stadium. After their first four games, the Cowboys look like anything but a championship caliber team.
The Cowboys opened the season with 10-1 odds of not only being the NFC champions, but also to win the Super Bowl. Loaded with talent, they were also the fashionable pick amongst the prognosticators to go deep into the playoffs.
Unlike teams like the Vikings, Packers and Saints, the Cowboys haven't had to negotiate a large string of injuries. Also, with nearly all of their stars returning, including 11 starting defenders, it seemed that with another year of experience and the addition of star rookie Dez Bryant, the Cowboys would only improve on last years 11-5 record that included a playoff victory.
However, things have gone completely opposite of what was predicted. At 1-3, the Cowboys are dead last in the NFC East, two games back from all three of their division rivals.
When the Dallas Cowboys head to Minnesota this weekend, it could be one of the most intriguing matchups of 1-3 teams in recent memory. The loser of this game will face incredibly long odds of making the playoffs.