Cowboys Top Vikings Among Most Underachieving Teams in the NFL

John Thomas@@JohnThomas227Correspondent INovember 14, 2010

Cowboys Top Vikings Among Most Underachieving Teams in the NFL

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    The 2010 NFL season has been full of many surprising teams, good and bad.

    Some of the good surprises include the 5-3 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 4-4 NFC West-leading St. Louis Rams, the 5-3 AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs and the 5-4 Oakland Raiders.

    However, some of the bad surprises include...well, just take a look at this slideshow. Keep in mind that these are not necessarily the five worst NFL teams, but the five NFL teams I believe have underachieved the most in the 2010 season.

No. 5: Carolina Panthers

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    Although I am a Carolina Panthers supporter and fan, it is not difficult to see that this team is one of the worst in the NFL.

    This season Carolina's offense has been nothing short of a disaster. They rank last in the NFL in passing yards, averaging just over 150 per game. Matt Moore was expected to lead the Panthers to a decent season following an impressive 2009 end-of-season campaign. However he has played very poorly, even getting benched for rookie Jimmy Clausen.

    After the rookie was sent back to the bench, Moore was given another shot, only to suffer a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder in a 34-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints. With Steve Smith as the only viable receiving target on the roster, the Panthers have very few weapons offensively.

    In addition, Carolina's highly touted running game has fallen flat on its face. In the preseason, DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart were believed by many to be the best running back tandem in the entire league. On the season, Williams has 361 yards rushing and one touchdown, while Stewart has accumulated only 208 yards and one touchdown. This ranks Carolina a disappointing 26th in the NFL.

    The Panthers have the largest point differential in the NFL—and not in a good way. It is currently negative-96, because Carolina has scored just 88 points in eight games this season.

    The only reason the pitiful Panthers are not ranked higher is because they were not expected to be a top team. Most believed they were not even playoff-worthy. However, 1-7 and an abysmal running game are definitely an underachievement.

No. 4: Denver Broncos

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    What in the world is wrong with the Denver Broncos?

    Judging by the statistics, it's not quarterback Kyle Orton. Through Denver's first eight games, Orton has thrown for 2,509 yards and 12 touchdowns to go along with just five interceptions. If this pace holds, he will throw for over 5,000 yards and 24 touchdowns. The Broncos gunslinger also has a better quarterback rating than such players as Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Schaub.

    The problem for Denver is not moving the football. Their offense is currently 10th in the NFL in yards per game. Instead, finding the end zone looks to be the problem. The Broncos are ranked 24th in the league in points scored per game and that's not usually going to cut it, especially in a division loaded with great offenses in 2010.

    One reason may be that Denver has difficulty converting on third down. They are ranked just 23rd in the NFL in conversion percentage at right around 37 percent.

    However, the main problem for the Broncos is their atrocious running game that ranks last in the NFL with just over a whopping 67 yards per game. Knowshon Moreno leads the team in rushing with an underwhelming 252 yards and two touchdowns, along with a meager yards per carry average of 3.3.

    The team's next leading rusher? Kyle Orton.

    Plus, Denver is currently minus-four in turnover margin, a number that puts them just 12th in the category in the AFC. With the way the Chiefs and Raiders have shocked football and with the Chargers making their annual comeback, the Denver Broncos' season may not get much better. Many believed this squad to be a playoff contender in the preseason.

    How about now?

No. 3: Cincinnati Bengals

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    Am I the only one that finds "Cincinnati" difficult to spell?

    Seriously, I get it wrong every time. I had to type in the first three letters on Google to make sure I got it right for this article. 

    Just like the Cincinnati Bengals seem to just barely get it wrong week after week.

    As I examined the statistics for this team, there is nothing drastically bad or good. In most offensive and defensive categories, the Bengals are at least respectable. If things go right for them, they can win a lot of games.

    But yet they are 2-6. How?

    With Cincinnati, it only takes an off-night from one side of the ball to bring them down because there is no consistency in the running game. If Carson Palmer is a little off or the defense has a poor showing, the running attack cannot be relied upon week to week to keep the Bengals competitive. I have Cedric Benson on my fantasy football team—I understand.

    Let's take a look at some of their losses individually to show you what I mean.

    In Week 1 vs. New England, the running game was rather respectable, gaining 87 yards. Not a great showing by any means, but it's something. But the Bengals lost the turnover margin by two, giving the Pats a victory.

    In Week 4 against the Cleveland Browns, Benson played poorly, leading the running game to just 67 yards. Because of this, the 79 yards worth of penalties committed by Cincinnati had a major effect.

    This happens in just about every single Bengals loss. The running game cannot make up for the one shortcoming the team happens to have that week. Maybe it's a little bad luck, but for a team expected to compete for an AFC North crown, a 2-6 record is very disappointing.

No. 2: Minnesota Vikings

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    The champion of the NFC North. A potential playoff and Super Bowl contender.

    These were just some of the labels given to the Minnesota Vikings prior to the 2010 NFL season. Now this team is 3-5 on the season, one that has been filled with controversy and drama.

    First of all, any team with Brett Favre running the show is bound to receive plenty of media attention. Everyone knows about the annual retirement discussion surrounding him. However, that has been the least of Minnesota's problems to this point.

    Sure, some of the team's issues cannot really be avoided, such as a decimated receiving corps due to injuries to Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin. Minnesota tried to solve this problem by bringing in Randy Moss from New England. His visit was short-lived and unhappy. The man who had wanted out of New England earlier in the season practically begged to return after several games for the Vikings.

    Four weeks after the acquisition of Moss, he was placed on waivers by Minnesota. Head coach Brad Childress received a great deal of criticism from this decision. Unfortunately for him, Vikings fans and many others were already pointing fingers in his direction. Before this incident, Childress had called out quarterback Brett Favre for his poor play—something that typically goes against all coaching principles.

    But Childress is not the only individual who has had a difficult season in Minnesota. Quarterback play has been another issue for the Vikings. After Brett Favre's excellent 2009-2010 season, many expected him to play in a similar manner this season.

    However, Favre has been nothing short of terrible this season. He has thrown for nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions to go along with three lost fumbles, and is a big part of why the Vikings are negative nine in turnover margin. Favre has accounted for 16 of Minnesota's 19 turnovers in 2010, and has a QB rating of 75.7, placing him behind players such as rookie Sam Bradford, Chad Henne and Shaun Hill.

    But you know what Favre should not be able to mess up?

    Handing the ball off to running back Adrian Peterson.

No. 1: Dallas Cowboys

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    How about them Cowboys?!

    They just won the award for the last-place division team with the largest fan base.

    At 1-7, Dallas is a team currently in shambles. Head coach Wade Phillips has been fired, which many believe to be the right move for the 'Boys. After losing 45-7 to the Green Bay Packers, fans and ownership had seen enough of Phillips, who was always under scrutiny throughout his tenure in Dallas.

    Granted, the Cowboys had a bit of bad luck. Quarterback Tony Romo went down with an injury against the New York Giants in Week 7. With the leader of the offense out for the season, aged veteran Jon Kitna took the reins. Although Dallas could do much worse, Kitna is no Romo.

    Plus, the running game ranks 31st in the NFL with just 75.6 yards per game on the ground. Felix Jones and Marion Barber have done nothing at all in 2010, making it even harder on the Cowboys when Romo was injured.

    Just as with Minnesota, turnovers have destroyed Dallas. They are minus-nine in turnover margin, last in the NFC only to the lowly Carolina Panthers.

    Expectations are always incredibly high in Big D. In most seasons, I believe they are too high. However, the Cowboys have not failed to live up to their expectations this drastically in recent memory. With their head coach and quarterback gone, Dallas is done for 2010. They are definitely the most underachieving team in the NFL and are certainly close to being the worst team in the league, period.