NFL Teams Destined to Disappoint in 2019

Marcus Mosher@@Marcus_MosherFeatured Columnist IMarch 7, 2019

NFL Teams Destined to Disappoint in 2019

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    Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press

    Nearly every year, half the teams that made the previous season's playoffs don't return the following season.

    Usually, it isn't hard to find regression candidates. They are typically the squads that won nearly every close game or had unbelievable luck go their way.

    Here are the five teams who are destined to disappoint in 2019.

         

Chicago Bears

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    David Banks/Associated Press

    The Chicago Bears were one of the NFL's most surprising success stories last year. They went from 5-11 in 2017 to winning 12 games and the NFC North title. However, they'll regress for several reasons.

    The most obvious is they'll play a first-place schedule rather than a last-place one. Their two games against same-place finishers include a home contest against the New Orleans Saints and a road tilt against the Los Angeles Rams. While the Bears are on the same level as those teams, they'll be tough matchups.

    Still, defensive issues could outweigh all that. The Bears had the top-ranked scoring defense in 2018, allowing just 17.7 points per game. But with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio gone to Denver, the group could take a slight hit in 2019.

    Even more concerning is the potential takeaway regression. Chicago had 36 of them in 2018—five more than the next team (Cleveland Browns). If that number dips even a little, it could be the difference in a few wins.

    The Bears are in one of football's most competitive divisions, and it wouldn't be a surprise if that catches up with them. Expect Chicago to be in the playoff hunt but to drop off some next season.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Don Wright/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers were possibly the most disappointing team last year. They started the season 7-2-1, looked poised to win the AFC North once again and potentially clinch a first-round bye. Then, the wheels fell off as Pittsburgh lost four of its final six games and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

    But could the Steelers disappoint even more in 2019? Since the team will likely trade Antonio Brown, this roster doesn't have the same explosiveness.

    To further complicate things, Pittsburgh lost offensive line coach Mike Munchak to the Broncos. Munchak is widely considered the league's best offensive line coach, as the Steelers have allowed just 69 sacks over the past three seasons. To compare, the Texans allowed 62 sacks in 2018 alone. With an older quarterback like 37-year-old Ben Roethlisberger on the roster, Munchak's loss could prove costly.

    Don't be surprised if Pittsburgh is just the third-best team in the AFC North, behind the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.

Dallas Cowboys

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    The 2018 Dallas Cowboys were a team of two halves. Initially, they looked like one of the league's worst entrants, winning just three of eight games. Their offense struggled by averaging 19.3 points per contest. Quarterback Dak Prescott looked lost as he adjusted to life without Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

    But then the Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Oct. 22, and he saved their season. Dallas won seven of its final eight games as the offensive production picked up. From Weeks 10 to 17, the Cowboys averaged 22.2 points per contest and became significantly more effective on third down. They finished 10-6, beat Seattle in the playoffs and then lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC divisional round.

    Despite the resurgence, there are significant reasons for concern. Dallas' point differential in 2018 (+15) suggests it was closer to an 8-8 squad. In addition, the team went 8-2 in games decided by seven points or fewer. If that number regresses, the Cowboys could be looking at seven or eight wins.

    Without a top-ranked quarterback or coach, Dallas is a prime candidate to disappoint.

Baltimore Ravens

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    Nick Wass/Associated Press

    There wasn't a more fun team to watch than the Baltimore Ravens over last season's second half. With Lamar Jackson under center, they won six of their last seven games—their only loss coming to the Chiefs in Kansas City in overtime.

    However, their playoff loss to the Los Angeles Chargers was easy to predict. It was the Chargers' second time seeing Jackson, and they neutralized his passing. It's a familiar storyline: A rookie quarterback has early success and then fails once teams have more tape on him. Baltimore's biggest concern is whether it can develop Jackson as a passer.

    Even outside the young quarterback, the Ravens have problems. They have a massive list of scheduled free agents, including John Brown, Terrell Suggs and C.J. Mosley. That list doesn't even mention Eric Weddle, who the team released Tuesday. It's possible free agency, which opens March 13, will induce a talent purge that could significantly impact Baltimore's defense.

    Don't be surprised if the 10-6 club regresses to 8-8 in 2019 unless Jackson can take a major step forward as a passer. 

Seattle Seahawks

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    Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

    The Seattle Seahawks were one of the NFL's most surprising teams in 2018. They started 0-2 but won 10 of their next 14 contests and secured the NFC's No. 5 seed. Seattle has been a model of success recently, winning at least nine games in seven straight seasons. But is that success sustainable?

    In 2018, the Seahawks finished second in the league in rushing attempts (534) and averaged a stunning 4.8 yards per carry. But teams could catch up to their run-first style. In the playoffs, the Cowboys shut down their rushing attack. If the Seahawks can't become a more successful passing offense, their ceiling will be limited. 

    Unfortunately for Seattle, it is at best the No. 2 team in the NFC West, and the 49ers should be significantly improved as Jimmy Garoppolo returns from a torn ACL. Seattle will likely compete for a wild-card spot once again, and it wouldn't be a surprise if it was among the few teams that don't return to the playoffs.