With the 2010-2011 English Premier League campaign half over, it's time to have a look at which teams have played the poorest football, and predict which three teams will be plying their trade in the Championship next season.
With 16-18 games played, depending on the team, Wigan Athletic, Wolverhampton Wanderers, and West Ham United currently sit in the drop zone, but 12 of the 20 Premier League teams are within six points of the relegation zone.
The following slideshow lists the six teams that I have selected that are most likely to be relegated at the end of the season (in descending order).
Blackpool surprised everyone by sneaking into the Championship playoff, and then dramatically winning both of their playoff games to compete in the Premier League for the first time since 1971.
Equally surprising has been Blackpool's performance in the Premier League so far this season. They started off the campaign with an emphatic 4-0 victory over Wigan Athletic.
While Blackpool have hit a couple of bumps along the way, they currently sit in 10th with 22 points from 16 games played. If they can maintain this level of performance through the end of the season, we can expect to see Ian Holloway's men entertaining their small home crowds in the Premier League again next season.
The reason that they made the list is the risk of Blackpool "pulling a Hull City"...starting off strong, and then crashing in the second half of the season.
Blackpool's creative inspiration has largely come from their venerable captain, Charlie Adam (pictured using his teammate as a camel).
Adam is currently suspended for having already picked up five yellow cards this season. They could find themselves in trouble if they were to lose their captain for a longer portion of the season.
Blackpool's owners have few resources (aside from a Premier League football club), so don't expect them to make significant moves in the January transfer market. They will largely have to make do with their existing squad as they strive to maintain their pace through the rest of the season.
Like Blackpool, Blackburn Rovers currently sit on 22 points over the Christmas break. They sit two spots lower than Blackpool because of fewer goals scored. Most significantly, they have already played 18 games, one shy of half their total for the season.
Despite sitting in 12th place, Blackburn are on the list because of instability off the pitch. The team was acquired by Venky's, an Indian company, on Nov. 19. One of the owner's first significant moves was to sack manager Sam Allardyce.
I think that sacking Allardyce was even a poorer move by the owners than naming their company Venky's. Big Sam was a good fit for Blackburn. He knows how to get teams to play physical and to avoid relegation.
As a result of the sacking, Steve Kean is Blackburn's manager through the end of the season (who is a total question mark) and there have been rumors of Christopher Samba handing in a transfer request.
Kean has stated that the club would not be looking to sell any player in the January transfer window, but that they would need to seriously consider moving a player if he wanted out and the price is right.
That sounds an awful lot like Blackburn giving tacit permission for other clubs to bid for their 6'4'' Congolese captain.
While things are not looking so hot for Blackburn upstairs at the moment, that all could change once the transfer window opens. It remains to be seen what Venky's will do in the transfer market, but that could make all the difference between relegation and Premier League football next season.
Wolverhampton currently sit in 19th with 15 points from 17 games. Thanks to some injury trouble and some poor results, the first half of the season has been less than desirable for the Wolves.
However, they have proven to be adept escape artists in recent years, and I predict that they will narrowly avoid relegation at the end of the season.
Manager Mick McCarthy has a well-organized side. What they lack in talent, they make up for in effort and attitude. In this respect, they have been compared to the Watford side that was relegated in 2007, but I would argue that those comparisons are unfair.
Unlike Watford, they have some quality players who can put the ball in the back of the net, most notably Irishmen Kevin Doyle and Nicky Hunt.
For so long, Sylvain Ebanks-Blake looked like yet another striker who could be prolific in lower leagues, but couldn't hack it in the PL. The 24-year-old appears to finally coming into his own this year, with four league goals, despite limited playing time.
The Wolves have an uphill battle to avoid the drop zone. They need key players to stay healthy, and to get some more production out of their existing players. Don't expect much action from Wolves in the transfer window, either.
Ben Foster is no doubt stunned over how boring his team is playing
Birmingham City currently sit in 16th place, with 18 points from 17 games.
As an Arsenal and Fulham fan, I have been obliged to watch the Blues play two games this season. They were unequivocally the most sleep-inducing displays of football that I have ever seen in my life.
Despite promises to the contrary, Carson Yueng's 2009 takeover of Birmingham City has done little to change the make-up of the Blues.
Manager Alex McLeish has brought in some talent, most notably Alexander Hleb and Jean Beausejour, but these and other incoming transfers (see Michel, Martin Jiranek, Enric Valles, and Matt Derbyshire) have largely been used to warm the Blues' bench.
This is an awfully perplexing transfer tactic that doesn't appear to be improving results on the field.
Recent transfer Nikola Zigic has gotten some minutes on the pitch, but he has been an outright flop.
Birmingham still don't have a single effective striker.
Did I mention that I think Birmingham are boring? Their defensive, counter-attacking football makes watching Tron seem exciting (in case you were wondering, it should be noted that I dislike watching lazer tag for two straight hours).
I expect the Blues to be relegated. When/if they do, I will be pumping my fists.
West Ham started the season off slowly...and have pretty much continued at that pace through Christmas. Two wins, seven draws, and nine losses finds Avram Grant's side in dead last with 13 points from 18 games played.
Owners David Gold and David Sullivan need to invest in the team next month in order to avoid relegation. However, there have been reports that they are willing to part with most of their regular starters if the price is right.
Avram Grant is a decent manager, and they would be smart to keep him in place, as replacing him with a Chris Hughton or Sam Allardyce would not offset the dressing room volatility that such a move would create.
West Ham will benefit from the recall of 21-year-old Freddie Sears from Scunthorpe United, but this surely won't be enough to turn around the Hammer's season.
West Ham's fate rest in the Davids' hands. They needs to keep Grant and bring in new players in order to avoid the drop.
Personally, I'd be surprised if either of these things happened, and astonished if both did.
Get ready to see this sight many more times in the second half of the season.
Wigan Athletic, who currently sit in 18th with 16 points from 17 games, win the award for being the team most likely to be relegated in 2011.
Like Wolves, Wigan have fashioned themselves as escape artists in recent years. Unlike Wolves, it is difficult to see where their goals will come from.
Mauro Boselli doesn't appear to be anything special. Franco Di Santo isn't the phenom Chelsea expected him to be. Victor Moses is garbage. That leaves the goal scoring onus on the shoulders of Hugo Rodallega.
Rodallega is a decent striker, but he has not been having the best of seasons. From 1,237 minutes played so far this season, the Colombian has four goals and a red card to show for himself.
Wigan have a decent manager in Roberto Martinez. Unfortunately, he can't do the scoring for them.
The team has 13 goals so far this season, which is a pretty hideous return. Their -15 goal difference ties them with West Ham for the worst in the Premier League.
If I were a betting man and it weren't so difficult to transfer money onto online betting sites in the U.S., I'd bet on Wigan being relegated.
Honorable mentions go to Fulham, Aston Villa, Everton and Stoke City. While all four of those teams are having seasons to forget, they have the quality to make up for it in the second half of the season.
Thanks for reading.