4 Teams Sure to Fail in Second Half of NFL Season
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In the NFL, a hot start is no guarantee of a hot finish, and not all teams expected to vie for a playoff spot will. As they do each and every year, the NFL's contenders are beginning to pull away from the pretenders as we approach the midway point of the 2011 season. And while nailing the posers can be tricky business at times, it almost seems obvious in retrospect.
With this in mind, here's my take on four teams whose lofty expectations are sure to get blown up at the point of attack.
The Browns expectations will comeback down to earth eventually.
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Of all the teams hovering around .500, the Browns might be the most obvious of this season's paper tigers. Although a far cry from mathematical elimination, coming away from Sunday's matchup against the 49ers at 3-4, it's really just a formality at this point because Cleveland's Christmas goose is not only cooked, it's smoldering.
Why? Because the combined record of the teams the Browns have beaten is a woeful 2-20, because they won those games by an average margin of four points and, finally, because they still have two games to play against both Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Not even Grizzly Adams can save the Bengals from the bitter truth.
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At 5-2, Cincinnati does an excellent impression of a playoff-caliber team. Like the Browns, though, the Bengals are a house of cards built on wins against the absolute dregs of the league. Their impressive victory over the up-and-down Bills aside, the combined record of the teams they've beaten is a foul-smelling 7-24.
While their record might lead one to believe otherwise, the Bengals are a rebuilding team, in the process of breaking in a rookie quarterback. As counterintuitive as writing off a 5-2 ball club may seem, the Bengals can look forward to spending quality time with friends and family over the holidays this season as their playoff hopes were killed by the NFL schedule makers this year.
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are praying for a miracle but won't get it.
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At 3-3 with a chance to get back in the thick of the AFC West hunt against the Chargers on Monday night, it might seem as though Kansas City is team in control of its own destiny. The reality is, however, that the Chiefs season ended when Jamaal Charles went down with a torn ACL against the Lions in Week 2.
Forget their big upset win against division rival Oakland Raiders, which only came about as a result of Kyle Boller and Carson Palmer combining for six interceptions. With Charles, the Chiefs are a legitimate contender and perhaps even a favorite to win the West. Without him, though, they're the third-best team in the AFC's third-best division with almost no shot at all at postseason play.
Even if they could find a way to take advantage of the worst-coached team in the NFL on Monday night against the Chargers, it wont help them much. With games still to play against the Patriots, Steelers, Bears, Packers and the Jets, along with one more against Oakland, the Chiefs may as well start playing for a draft pick and giving their most promising young prospects some valuable playing time.
The Bears are good but not quite good enough.
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The Bears very well may be the best team almost sure to miss the playoffs in 2011. Good enough to win a title in at least two other divisions, Chicago's only crime is not being quite as good as rivals Detroit and Green Bay.
Finally having secured a franchise quarterback in Jay Cutler, the Bears are the NFC's version of the Bills with a solid team in one of the league's two most competitive divisions. If not for the strength of the second half of their schedule, they might have a legitimate shot at the NFC's second wild-card spot.
With what is yet another brutal schedule down the stretch, though, Chicago is not likely to survive games against the Packers, Lions, Eagles, Chargers and Raiders with enough wins left to compete for a playoff spot.
Believing in miracles is one thing but betting on them is another thing entirely, and a miracle is what it will take for the Bears to still be playing football in January.