Every year, there is some widespread speculation for which teams will be in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy. It is a well known fact that there is a fifty percent playoff turnover rate in the NFL, meaning that every year, half the teams that made the playoffs the season before don’t make it back.
With this turnover rate in mind, analysts and fans usually have a wide array of teams picked to make it back to the postseason tournament that year. They range from the perennial playoff contenders to the sexy pick that year.
There are some teams every year that no one but the most diehard, blind fans select as contenders. That team, for whatever reason, doesn’t have it that year, and even those homer fans know somewhere deep down that their boys don’t have a chance at the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl.
Even though teams surprise every season by either surpassing or failing to meet expectations, there are rarely teams that are expected to do terribly in the preseason and then make it not only into the playoffs, but then run the gauntlet to the Super Bowl.
With that in mind, I’ve made a list of the eight teams I think will finish last in their division and therefore have no chance at making the Super Bowl. Even if these teams have surprisingly good seasons, a pleasant surprise would constitute third or even second place, but still no playoff berth.
Don’t agree with my selections for teams that have no chance in 2011 or have some of your own? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter (@JakeBRB). Enjoy.
The Bengals are just two years removed from sweeping the teams in the AFC North on their way to a division title. An early exit from the playoffs and a four-win season later, and it’s hard to imagine the Bengals competing with the Browns, much less the Steelers and Ravens.
It was in doubt whether Marvin Lewis would return for a ninth year as Bengals head coach. Shortly after, it was announced that he would be signed to a new contract, though former number one overall pick and franchise quarterback Carson Palmer announced that he would never play another down for the Bengals.
Palmer’s pledge to either be traded or retire appears to have been taken seriously by the Brown family and the Bengals organization, who selected TCU quarterback Andy Dalton with the 35th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Whether Palmer gets traded or not, it is clear that the Bengals have passed the torch to a new franchise quarterback.
Dalton might be thrown into the fray without receivers Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, which might be a blessing disguise, but he will have a young, inexperienced receiving corps to rely on. Also, Cedric Benson had one good season, but its proving to be more of an aberration than a case of under appreciation in Chicago.
Add to all this that Mike Zimmer’s defense didn’t perform nearly as well last season as it did two years ago, and Jonathan Joseph will likely leave in free agency. With four games between the Steelers and Ravens, it’s hard to imagine the Bengals with more than six wins, and that might be optimistic.
The Bills had a hard time finding a coach willing to come to Western New York before they settled on Chan Gailey. Gailey worked wonders with the beleaguered offense that he inherited, but there is still a long way to go. The defense is, unfortunately for Bills fans, far behind the offense in terms of progress.
The Bills curiously selected CJ Spiller ninth overall in the 2010 draft even though it was one of the few positions of strength for the team. Marshawn Lynch was traded to Seattle to make room in the backfield, but the rookie running struggled with transitioning to the professional game.
This year, the Bills concentrated more on defense, as shown by the third overall selection of Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus. Dareus will be able to anchor a defensive line whether the Bills coaching staff decides to play a 4-3 or 3-4 scheme.
Unfortunately, as I said previously, there is still a lot of work to be done. Ryan Fitzgerald might be OK as a stopgap, but he is not a franchise quarterback as the Bills know. They also understood that they needed to concentrate on defense, as shown with their first four picks filling holes on that side of the ball.
Building the franchise up will be tough. Buffalo has never been a great lure for free agents, so they will need to build through the draft. While that is a smart policy, it takes time, and the Jets and Patriots don’t appear to be declining any time soon. Coming in even second place would be a huge upset.
The Titans have put their fans through quite an offseason. First they fired their defensive coordinator Chuck Cecil for his unit’s lackluster performance in 2010. Then, owner Bud Adams forced Jeff Fisher, who at the time was the longest tenured head coach in the NFL, out of his position over a continued disagreement over quarterback Vince Young, even though they announced he would be cut.
So what was new head coach Mike Munchak’s first order of business? He repeated that Young would indeed not be with the team in 2011. That means that next season, the Titans will have a new head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator and starting quarterback.
Just as notable of a departure is defensive line coach and guru Jim Washburn, who left for Philadelphia. Washburn has made numerous defensive linemen productive who failed to be for any other team. The defense, specifically the line, has been the backbone of the team for a long time, but it would be hard to assume that will continue.
Jake Locker, who the Titans selected eighth overall from the University of Washington, is the type of mobile quarterback that the Titans seem to favor. By many accounts, though, he will need a lot of development before he is a finished product as an NFL signal caller.
The AFC South is a deceptively tough division with a high powered offensive team in Houston, a quietly good defensive team in the Jaguars and the consistently dominant Colts. With sizeable question marks on both offense and defense, it might be a rough year in Nashville next season.
John Fox was fired in Carolina after leading the team to the worst record in the league, and was subsequently hired by a team that tied for the second worst record in the league. Fox will bring his tough minded defensive philosophy to Denver that he has had since he was the defensive co ordinator for the New York Giants.
The other thing that Fox brings with him is the 4-3 defense. This means that the personnel on defense must be revamped after a switch to the 3-4 was just conducted two years ago when Josh McDaniels was hired. The other gift McDaniels had for the new regime was getting rid of the franchise’s quarterback and elite wide receiver.
To replace those two lost players, Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas were drafted last year. Thomas spent a good amount of the year hurt, while Tebow didn’t get on the field until late in the year. Fox will have to decide quickly whether to start the south paw sensation from Florida or the compensation for the old quarterback in Kyle Orton.
I have no doubt that Fox will give Denver a stout defense at some point, but it will certainly take some time. Rookie linebacker Von Miller has to make the unusual switch for a college player from a 3-4 to a 4-3 system, and the Broncos technically do not have a defensive tackle on the roster, despite needing to start two.
I happen to agree with the hiring of Fox, but his work is cut out for him. The AFC West has not been an especially tough division in recent years, but the Broncos have to undo the damage that was done by Josh McDaniels in his two year tenure. I would be shocked to see more than six wins next season.
Like the Bengals, the Vikings are just two years removed from glory although the team from Minnesota’s heights were greater. Without a Brett Favre interception in the waning minutes of the NFC Championship, the Vikings would have been headed to their first Super Bowl in three decades.
The team failed to get over the hangover from that defeat in the subsequent season, as they fell from first in the AFC North to last. Brad Childress was fired before the end of the season, and Brett Favre retired again, although it appears for good this time.
Many suspected that Minnesota would feel that they still had a team primed to make a run minus a starting quarterback and therefore acquire a veteran like Donavon McNabb. There is a chance that might still happen, although it looks as if they have conceded that they need to rebuild by taking FSU quarterback Christian Ponder 12th overall.
Pat Williams, the bigger half of the vaunted “Williams Wall”, may very well seek employment elsewhere once free agency starts. He is a huge reason (literally and figuratively) for the Vikings defensive line success, and Jared Allen's, as well as Kevin Williams’, production could suffer as a result of his absence.
Sydney Rice could leave as well, leaving Percy Harvin as the number one receiver. While Harvin is dynamic, he doesn’t fit the mold of a true number one guy. He also has been prone to the occasional debilitating migraine, which has kept him out of games in both of his NFL seasons.
Green Bay is on top of the world, Chicago won the division last year and the Lions seem have shaken the poor personnel decisions that left them in the cellar for so long. Unless Minnesota makes some moves, it wouldn’t surprise me to see them finish last for the second year in a row.
Redskins fans rejoiced when Mike Shanahan was hired prior to 2010, as he seemed to be the kind of coach who would stop owner Dan Snyder from interfering with the running of the team. Fans further cheered the hiring of Bruce Allen, a general manager with experience.
If they’re not careful, the love affair may come to an end soon. The Redskins featured a carousel between Donavon McNabb and Rex Grossman despite giving a second round pick to divisional rival Philadelphia for McNabb’s services. Now John Beck might be the starter.
Shanahan also brought in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett in, who turned Washington’s productive 4-3 defense into a 3-4 that was one of the league’s worst defenses. This 3-4 completely negated the skills of Albert Haynseworth who, just the year before, had been awarded the richest contract ever given to a defensive player.
The Redskins made no effort to address the quarterback situation in the draft, instead opting to trade down with Jacksonville, who selected Blaine Gabbert. Washington took Ryan Kerrigan at 16 and will attempt to switch the standout defensive end to outside linebacker.
The Redskins will likely lose Santana Moss in free agency, who, for years, has been the only productive receiver in Washington. They did select talented wide out Leonard Hankerson in the third round, but he joins a receiving corps abysmally devoid of talent.
The decision to possibly start John Beck has some people half jokingly suggesting that Shanahan is tanking the 2011 season in order to draft Andrew Luck. Whether that is the case or not, they may have a real shot at producing the worst record in the league next season.
Rome was not built in a day, and neither is an NFL franchise. Carolina had the worst record in the league last season, and while St. Louis pulled a pretty impressive turnaround from most losses to one game away from a division title, the same will not likely happen for the Panthers.
Whether you agree with Cam Newton as the first overall pick, it is clear that the Auburn product will need development before he can run a pro style offense. Not to mention that the Panthers’ best receiver, Steve Smith, may be traded before the season.
New coach Ron Rivera opted to stay with Carolina’s 4-3 system rather than the 3-4 he ran in San Diego, which I feel is a smart decision. Still, he may be without 2010 team sack leader Charles Johnson, who will likely be an unrestricted free agent once a new CBA is in place.
The Panthers will likely still have a productive running game despite DeAngleo Williams’ likely departure because of an underrated offensive line and two talented backs in Jonathan Stewart and Mike Goodson.
Still, the NFC South is one of the NFL’s toughest divisions. The Saints and the Falcons had quite a battle last season for the top, and the Buccaneers surprised everyone with their good play. It’s not farfetched to think that the Panthers could remain the division’s whipping boy for at least one more season.
Some might be surprised not to see Arizona here, but I don’t think they’ll be the worst team in the NFC West as they were last season. I fully expect them to acquire Kevin Kolb from Philadelphia, which will give their defense a chance to be good, because they won’t constantly be on the field.
The 49ers, on the other hand, will either be starting Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith. Smith has had too many chances to think that Jim Harbaugh will suddenly make a difference. Kaepernick, while a phenomenal athlete, is a very rough prospect at this point. Either way, solid quarterback play in 2011 is unlikely.
The 49ers haven’t had a good offense since Alex Smith was drafted first overall, but their defense was very good under defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. Now Vic Fangio takes over who led the expansion Texans defense to very poor results under Dom Capers, who has since proven in Green Bay that the problem wasn’t with him.
So the offense will likely be led by struggling quarterback, which is usual for San Francisco, but they may be without a strong defense which is not. You never know what can happen in the NFC West, as shown by last year’s results, but my money would be on the 49ers not contending for the lead.