2012 NFL Predictions: 6 Teams That Will Drop Off This Season
Greatness to mediocrity is commonplace for NFL teams every year.
Look at the Indianapolis Colts from a year ago. They were 10-6 in the regular season and lost in the first round of the playoffs. In 2011, Peyton Manning was out for the season and the Colts regressed to 2-14.
This year, there will be multiple teams that will drop off from their performances last year.
Here's a look at six of those teams that will drop off.
Let's start this off with a bang.
The Pittsburgh Steelers will not go 12-4 like they did last year. Instead, I'm predicting they go 9-7 or 8-8.
Throw in there the holdout of Mike Wallace and you have the two biggest playmakers sidelined.
Should Wallace continue his holdout and Mendenhall be out past September, the offense will be in real trouble.
Then, there are the concerns with Ben Roethlisberger and new offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
According to USA Today writer Jim Corbett, the relationship between the pair is a work-in-progress.
Yet Roethlisberger still seems resistant to Haley's expected run-first, balanced approach after spending the last five seasons in former coordinator Bruce Arians' user-friendly, spread-passing attack. Roethlisberger ultimately understands the wisdom of Haley's system, which should help keep Roethlisberger on his feet and away from the fierce pounding he took under Arians, now the Indianapolis Colts coordinator.
There will be uncertainty for Roethlisberger in the run-first approach. He understands Haley's system, but also understands that Mendenhall is out with injury. Can any of the other running backs step up?
The only thing that the Steelers can count on for sure is their defense. If they can continue to play Pittsburgh football, the team will still be respectable this year.
But there will be no division title and possibly no playoff spot.
New York Jets
This is another team where the fans won't be too happy because of their high expectations for the team.
But the New York Jets will also regress this year.
A year after going 8-8 and missing the playoffs, the Jets will go below .500 this year. And, it's not because Tim Tebow came to town.
Regardless of the issues you may think Tebow and starting quarterback Mark Sanchez have, the entire offense is the problem.
First, Sanchez and Tebow are not NFL starting quarterbacks. They're great players, but they'll never get their team to the Super Bowl.
Then, you have Shonn Greene at running back. Although he was a 1,000-yard rusher last year, he only had two 100-yard games and scored six rushing touchdowns.
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes is another issue. Sometimes I think his mouth is bigger than his play. He was a waste as a free-agent signing, racking up 654 receiving yards. That's not exactly what you want to see out of your big free agent.
Then you have the rest of the receiving corps. Rookie Stephen Hill may turn into something big, but for now, there is no legitimate No. 1 receiver for the Jets.
Next is the offensive line, which has allowed 12 sacks during the preseason. Now, I know it's only preseason, but five of those were on Sanchez.
If the offensive line doesn't get it together, Sanchez and/or Tebow will be lying on their back a lot.
Luckily the Jets defense is still good, especially in the secondary. But it won't make much of a difference if the offensive issues can't get worked out.
New Orleans Saints
The offseason has been a tumultuous one for the New Orleans Saints.
There was the bounty scandal that resulted in the suspensions of their head coach Sean Payton, general manager Mickey Loomis, defensive coordinator Joe Vitt, linebacker Jonathan Vilma and defensive end Will Smith.
Then there was the prolonged Drew Brees holdout.
Now, things seem to be better in New Orleans, but there are still issues that have to be worked out.
The defense has a small hole at cornerback in Patrick Robinson, although he could surprise this year.
On the offensive line, the loss of Carl Nicks is going to hurt with Ben Grubbs slated as his replacement. It's still a veteran group, but one hole in the line could make all the difference in the world.
Outside of that, Brees is going to have to again be the best quarterback in the league.
There have been too many distractions for the Saints in the offseason. Those will affect the team more than many believe.
Where do I start with the Tennessee Titans?
Matt Hasselbeck is getting older and the Titans have to start putting their confidence in second-year quarterback Jake Locker.
Locker has been unimpressive in his time in the NFL, but he has to start getting more time.
There are concerns over Kenny Britt, who should return to the lineup by the first week of the season. But what can you expect from a receiver returning from a knee injury?
Tight end is another weak position, as is the entire offensive line.
The bright spot on offense is running back Chris Johnson. Although he struggled at times last year, Johnson has shown flashes of brilliance in the preseason. He should return to form this year.
On defense, the weakness is in the middle of the defensive line with Jurrell Casey and Sen'Derrick Marks. Neither are NFL-caliber starters.
Then you have the secondary that is suffering from the loss of Cortland Finnegan, who signed with the Rams in the offseason.
So, the problems are many in Nashville. I'm predicting the Titans will be picking in the top five of next year's NFL Draft.
Green Bay Packers
Let me start off my saying that the Green Bay Packers will still make the playoffs.
But when you go 15-1 in the regular season, one would think it can't be duplicated for a second straight year.
The Packers still have one of the top teams in the league. The offense is top notch with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. I'd be remiss to not mention Jermichael Finley at tight end.
So, the offense is in good shape in Green Bay.
On defense, it seems that Charles Woodson is moving to safety after the departures of Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah. With Woodson's age and his ability to still have a good field of vision, the move is great for both parties.
Overall, the Packers are still in good position. However, to think they'll go 15-1 again is something I'm not confident in.
Take your pick—Kevin Kolb or John Skelton? Who do you want as your starting quarterback?
Neither are good NFL starting quarterbacks, and the Arizona Cardinals are going to struggle because of it.
Sure, they have a good duo of running backs in Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. Then, there's all-world receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
The biggest question is who will step up and be the No. 2 receiver? Will it be Michael Floyd, Early Doucet or Andre Roberts? All are good receivers, but we'll see what happens come the first week.
On defense, the only unit I'm confident in is the secondary. Other than that, I'm concerned about Arizona's ability to stop the run.
If there will be one failing point on defense this year, it will be stopping the run.