Every fan has to live with it. That season when you feel that your favorite team would be in the playoffs for sure, if it was not for that one player, or that one group, who always let you down. With the current NFL season being so even at the quarter stage, I'm sure every team is ruing their achilles heel. The teams on this list can already feel that metaphorical achilles fraying, and need to hope for divine intervention from the gods to avoid it bruising completely.
Despite the rollicking, dominant start by the Jets, L.T and Shonne Greene have been carrying the team. Sanchez has been solid, throwing no interceptions and eight touchdowns, but has never had to chase the game or play outside his comfort zone except in their season opener against the Ravens. Baltimore shut down the running game, then teed off on Sanchez, and the result was a dark mark in the loss column.
If New York had a veteran leader at quarterback, then with their talented roster they would be red-hot favourites to win the Super Bowl. With Mark Sanchez taking the snaps, the uncertainty that surrounds his performances could cost the Jets a shot at the ultimate prize.
The Cincinnati Bengals have been one of the many surprise teams this season. After taking out the NFC North last season, they have struggled in 2010 despite adding more weapons in the passing game. The doctors prognosis for this is the sub-par play of Carson Palmer.
Palmer was once seen to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, but a horrific injury has curtailed his improvement. The Bengals have a good, aggressive defense with one of the best cornerback tandems in the NFL, a top running back in Cedric Benson, and finally a quality bunch of pass catchers with the addition of Terrel Owens and Jermaine Gresham.
Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis get a lot of press as speedy pass rushers, but run-stuffers they are not. Unfortunately, neither is the rest of the defensive line. The Colts only carry three specialist defensive tackles on their roster, and none carry enough weight to fill the nose tackle position.
Indianapolis then added another undersized pass rusher by the name of Jerry Hughes in the 2010 NFL Draft, which did nothing to alleviate the problem, and the result is the Colts being gashed by team after team, especially by power runners. This problem always becomes more acute during the postseason, when teams place a greater load on their running games. This is definitely one cause of Peyton Manning's relatively ring-less fingers.
Such a shame. After a career season last year, Brett Favre returned in 2010 to find out that his favourite target last year, Sidney Rice, was out for most of the season. This, combined with another year of wear and tear and a tougher opening schedule, has seen the Vikings fall to a disappointing 2-3.
Not all the blame cannot be placed on Favre, his indecision early in the post-season was the reason for the Vikings not developing a Plan-B, and his lower level of play has been disappointing for a team with title hopes. Favre has been throwing more interceptions and less touchdowns for less yards, at a lower passer rating. If Favre had been playing better, or they had gone and drafted another player, placed their trust in Tarvaris Jackson, or traded for McNabb, there could have been a lot more optimism in the Minnesota air.
(sigh) Beaten again...
For the improving Lions, there are a few areas of concern , but none are as pressing or have been present so long as the controversy surrounding Jeff Backus. The LT has been criticized heavily in past seasons, and after being blown away by Julius Peppers en route to knocking Matt Stafford out of the first half of the season, the question marks are returning.
Although solely speculation, I think the Lions would have beaten the Bears and the Eagles if Stafford was under center. He is the leader of the team, has more X-Factor than Shaun Hill and was coming off a very promising pre-season. A star at LT would go a long way to turn the Detroit Lions into contenders in the NFC North (check my other article for more on this).
Doesn't this sound like a perfect situation. A wide open NFC West. A talented roster. High hopes and playoff predictions. Only one person has stood in the way of this fairytale, and his name is Alex Smith. The 49ers QB has played below expectations, and although he cannot be blamed for the worse than expected performance of the defense, the offense's failings are primarily his concern.
Smith has been very streaky and not been able to get the ball into the hands of his playmakers Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree consistently. But most importantly, he has not taken control of the offense. They may have finally won a game this season, but it looks like it could be a long and painful one with Smith under center.
The Chiefs are the feel good story of the 2010 NFL season to date. They have been lead by a surprisingly stingy defense schemed by Romeo Crennel, and the best running attack in the game. However, they are missing a franchise quarterback to win in the fourth quarter when chasing games, or to help give the offense a semblance of balance.
Cassel, while not giving the ball away, has struggled to win with his arm, and has been ineffective when asked to make yards in 3rd and long situations. Maybe this is because of the absence of weapons on his team, but if the Chiefs want to push for playoff spots either this year or in the near future, they need Cassel to perform as he did in the 2008 season.
Mike Scifres gets blocked by the Oakland Raiders
Despite going into Week 6 with the top ranked offense and the top ranked defense in yards surrendered, the Chargers found themselves at 2-4 solely from the ineptitude of their special teamers. So far, they have allowed two kick return touchdowns, one punt return touchdown, had three blocked punts (1 TD, 1 safety) and kicked at only 78 percent. Without all of these mistakes, the Chargers would probably be at 5-1 or even better, and be without doubt the team to beat in the NFL.
Worst of all, in such a close season, these small mistakes could be the difference between hoisting the Lombardi trophy and being chased out of town.
Diagnosis for years of bad draft picks, trades and coaching decisions: it always boils down to the owner. And this is especially true in the case of the Oakland Raiders. In the last decade, they have managed to pick busts in almost every first round, with the exception of picking Nnandi Asomugha in 2004. They have also made blockbuster trades for players in the twilight of their careers (look at Richard Seymour for a first round pick, and that was one of the best).
Davis also signs players that show promise, justified or otherwise, to huge deals like the one that JaMarcus Russell penned. Finally, his propensity to draft physical specimens in the draft has backfired nine times out of 10, with Darius Heyward-Bey being the most recent example. Its time the Raiders started afresh, and with rational leadership, they may finally be able to climb out of the NFL's cellar.
NOT! I was just checking to see that you were all paying attention. Come to think of it, he is probably the player least deserving of inclusion on this list in the entire league.
For a team with title hopes, and an explosive offense lead by Matt Schaub and Arian Foster, the Texans defense has been terrible. They are the worst team in the NFL at defending the pass. The loss of Dunta Robinson has turned out to make a bad group even worse, and Kareem Jackson has been playing like, well, a rookie without a clue.
The biggest problem with Houston's secondary is that there is not chance of relief this season. No team will trade them a top corner back or safety because of the risk of turning the Texans defense into a monster. To summarize: an almost guaranteed franchise-first playoff season is being jeopardized by their porous pass defense.