NFL Preview: 10 Teams That Will Take a Step Back in 2011
Last season saw the normal amount of teams rise up from poor "analysts" predictions to perform much better than expected.
The lockout may prevent more turnover in a league that sees half its playoff teams from the year before miss it entirely the next. Some of these teams made the playoffs in 2010, and others were on the verge of doing so.
But just because the following franchises disappoint in 2011 doesn't mean their last season was a fluke. Here are organizations that will be drafting earlier than expected in 2012.
Kansas City Chiefs
They have played terribly so far in the preseason, and there are other signs pointing down for Todd Haley's unit.
Matt Cassel and the offense look completely different with the head coach calling the plays and not Charlie Weis. The schedule is much harder, seeing how the Chiefs have a five-game stretch that has them facing New England, Pittsburgh, Chicago, New York Jets and Green Bay.
Three of those games are on the road as well. Kansas City will find their way to the bottom half of the AFC West in 2011.
The NFC South was the best division last season, and many expect Tampa Bay to rise as they get more experience.
New England Patriots
Will New England really only lose two games this season like they did before? A loss against the Jets is likely, and how come they couldn't lose another two games out of playing the Chargers, Eagles, Steelers, Giants or Colts?
Great pass-rushes give the Patriots problems, and even division rival Miami has Cameron Wake to come after Brady. New England will still make the playoffs, and this team surely knows that regular season record doesn't matter at all come the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers
Jim Harbaugh is new to the NFL, but even he should know how bad Alex Smith is. Patrick Willis has no pass-rushers to play alongside him, losing what little they had in Manny Lawson.
Larry Fitzgerald won't be wandering aimlessly this season either, not with Kevin Kolb as his quarterback. Sam Bradford is expected to improve in his second year with Josh McDaniels as his new offensive coordinator.
The offensive line for the Ravens has regressed for the past two seasons. Joe Flacco needs time to look for deep targets, and his footwork is much worse with bodies around him.
It doesn't help that they only have Terrell Suggs to take advantage of poor blocking for Roethlisberger. Baltimore didn't address the pass-rush void opposite of Suggs, and if his play diminishes even slightly, the Ravens are left to rely on Sergio Kindle.
New York Giants
The depleted secondary looked decent against their city rivals, but that was against Mark Sanchez.
Going against the Cowboys and Eagles receivers and quarterbacks will be a much tougher task. Manning will continue to toss interceptions because of a fading offensive line, young wide receivers and no Steve Smith or Kevin Boss for a check down option.
Adding to that, Washington won't be as bad as many believe.
Losing running backs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown and replacing them with a Reggie Bush and a rookie is not an improvement.
Chad Henne will continue to make the same mistakes while Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Bills will take third place in the AFC East. Buffalo's pass defense will be healthy this season while Shawne Merriman looks to give the team an edge presence.
Marshall will put up big numbers with a new focus, but Henne won't look to any other reads. Such is the norm for Miami fans.
New England and New York twice isn't a positive sign going into every season. The only quarterback the Dolphins face that may be worse than Henne is Oakland's Jason Campbell and many would even disagree with that.
New York Jets
Will Shonn Greene step up this season while it's expected that Tomlinson's play decreases? New York's defense still lacks a formidable pass-rush, but luckily, they see very little elite quarterbacks other than Brady and Rivers.
Mark Sanchez will have to increase his completion percentage greatly in year three when the running game looks to be the worst in his career.
San Diego should be near the same record while Denver has looked surprisingly good so far. Kyle Orton is more trustworthy than Jason Campbell while both Rivers and Orton could light up this poor secondary like Drew Brees did in Week 3 of the preseason.
The newly imposed man-blocking scheme up front better keep the ground game strong because it's the only way for the Raiders to stay near eight wins.
Brian Urlacher and the rest of the defensive unit is aging without rebuilding on the fly. The receiving core hasn't been upgraded at all while the offense line stays the same, which is terrible.
If Matt Forte plays uninspired because of his contract situation, the Bears will have no chance finding their way back to the NFC Championship.
Marion Barber looks great in the preseason, but ask Cowboys fans about him. His legs don't hold up throughout the course of a season.
If quarterback play has improved for every team in the division, Chicago will have a tough time bailing all out on the run again like they usually do.