The beginning of each new NFL season is a great time for all fans. Before the games start, there are unlimited possibilities, and any team might get to the playoffs.
At the beginning of a new season, nobody wants to think that their team will ultimately disappoint them.
Three quarters of the way through the 2011 season, there have been many teams whose fans have had a reality check. We’ve reached the point where teams are starting to be eliminated from playoff contention, which is the ultimate letdown that a fan can face.
Of course, that gut-wrenching disappointment is even worse when a team was widely expected to be a force to be reckoned with this year. Those are the teams we’re going to take a look at in the next seven slides: the supposed contenders who turned out to be pretenders.
All of these teams are either on the brink of elimination from the playoffs or are already there, which is nowhere near where fans expected them to be at this point in the season.
Before the 2011 season, hopes were high in Indianapolis. Sure there were some questions about whether Peyton Manning would be able to start the year, but signing Kerry Collins was seen by many as a stopgap just in case there was a problem.
It turns out that the nightmare was only beginning.
Maybe there’s something in the water this season. Maybe Peyton Manning was truly covering up for a jaw-dropping number of flaws on both sides of the ball. Maybe Indianapolis has simply suffered from the perfect storm of bad luck.
All we know is that three-quarters of the way through the season, the Colts are 0-12 and are showing no signs of winning a game this season.
The Arizona Cardinals made one of the blockbuster trades of the offseason when they inked a deal that brought quarterback Kevin Kolb to the desert in exchange for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick.
At the time, Cardinals fans met the trade of arguably their best defensive player with cautious optimism. After all, after finishing 5-11 last year thanks in large part to a bout of quarterback roulette, it was nice to know that there was finally a starting quarterback in Arizona.
The Kolb trade soured after he helped lead the team to a 1-6 start before being sidelined by injury.
Things have turned around a little bit in the desert as of late, but that has been mostly thanks to better play by the defense and special teams. It seems that the Cardinals’ woes at quarterback will continue in the foreseeable future.
The Buffalo Bills were a big surprise when they roared out of the gates with a 5-2 start in the first eight weeks of the season.
In addition to looking like they might put together their first winning season since 2004, the Bills seemed well on their way to being the dark-horse contenders of 2011 when it happened: The injury bug stuck.
The slide started in October, when the Bills split the four games they played that month. Things went downhill from there.
Starting in the first week of November, the Bills began a losing streak that has stretched for five games and counting. They’re not quite out of playoff contention yet, but if they can’t right their ship soon, then the magical beginning to the season will have been for naught.
Every year, San Diego Chargers fans meet the new season with high expectations. They have an exciting quarterback in Philip Rivers, and a receiving corps that is known throughout the league. They’re still not that far removed from the squad that dominated the AFC West for years.
It seems that things have changed in San Diego, though, and not for the better. After appearing as though they might bounce back from a disappointing 9-7 season during the first few weeks of 2011, the Chargers dropped six games in a row.
Like the Bills, the Chargers haven’t been officially eliminated from playoff contention yet. Since they’re currently fourth place in their division, though, at this point it’s only a matter of time.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could have been a playoff team in 2010 if not for an NFL tiebreaking rule. They were a young squad that put together a surprisingly solid season, and who were widely talked about as being a team on the rise.
The season started out the right way for the Bucs. Heading into their bye week, they were 4-3 and had pocketed a win over division rival New Orleans Saints. It wasn’t the start the Buccaneers were hoping for, but there seemed to be plenty of room to improve.
Following the bye week, though, nothing has gone the Buccaneers’ way. The offense has misfired and the defense has been unable to keep points off the board. Josh Freeman has been inconsistent at best, and was sidelined by injury against the Carolina Panthers.
This is another team that is not officially out of playoff contention yet, but they have passed the point where they could beat or even match their 10-6 record from 2010. Clearly all of the hope that was generated after last year’s forward progress wasn’t enough to keep this team going.
Although they missed the playoffs, there was a lot of hope that the Rams could come into the 2011 season and build off the momentum they had generated a year ago.
Instead, the Rams have put together another disappointing season to add to their growing string. This is another team that has been decimated by injury, but even when he is healthy, it is clear that Sam Bradford is mired in a sophomore slump.
The highlight of the St. Louis Rams' 2011 season thus far has been the shock they were able to give New Orleans in Week 8. There’s not much else positive to say about a team that has struggled to even put double-digit points on the board most weeks.
After an aggressive free agency period, backup quarterback Vince Young opened his big mouth and called the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles the Dream Team of football.
Talk about a bad omen.
Every man on the team seems to be out for himself with no concern for the team. That lack of teamwork has showed every step of the way.
For a team that many had pegged as Super Bowl favorites, there is perhaps no bigger disappointment than the way the 2011 season has turned out.