Granted, the preseason hasn’t even started yet, but the time for predictions has come as many media members and fans are trying to pick how NFL teams are going to wind up when it’s all said and done this season. It might be difficult to try and make these predictions right now, but we can already tell some things from what has happened this offseason in terms of how teams look heading into training camp.
So, after doing a lot research on each team in the NFL, looking at their offseason situation, their prospects heading into training camp, and their schedule, I have come up with a list of five teams that might take a bit of a plunge this season after either seeing moderate success or great success in 2009.
1. Cincinnati Bengals- The Bengals perpetual wheel of trouble keeps turning as running back Cedric Benson will join the long list of Bengals that have fallen prey to the wrong side of the law. With a potential suspension looming, the Bengals rushing attack, their bread and butter for a better part of the season in 2009, is in danger of disintegrating. If they can’t find a replacement for Benson (if it indeed comes to him being suspended) they could be in trouble.
Another problem that the Bengals will run into this season will be the fact that the Baltimore Ravens have improved and could win the division, and the Steelers, and maybe even the Browns, could be improved over last season. If that’s the case, the Bengals won’t have such an easy time of it winning the AFC North.
Will they sink? It’s possible that they will. Unless they get better in the passing game (compared to what they did last year), and their running game is okay after this latest round of trouble, this team could be headed downwards this season.
2. New York Giants -The Giants are a little bit difficult to figure out. One year they are up (on top of the world with a Super Bowl victory) and then they are sliding down with a defense that can’t stop anyone. They have made some moves to improve themselves going into the 2010 season, but there is some indication that they may not have done enough to keep pace with teams like the Cowboys and the Redskins in their division.
New York’s defense collapsed last season, but hopes are high that with the hiring of a new defensive coordinator (in former Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Perry Fewell) they will be able to turn things around. An infusion of some youth on defense may also help them in 2010.
Still, with improvements being seen in the division as well as with a majority of the teams on their schedule, things could get a little rocky for the Giants in 2010. Don’t be surprised if they fall in their division and miss the playoffs next season.
3. Philadelphia Eagles -This may get a lot of Eagles fans riled up, but after trading their star quarterback to a division rival this team is poised to take a bit of a tumble next year. New quarterback Kevin Kolb does have some experience, but not enough to handle what he is going to see playing in the NFC East. It’s going to be a tough learning experience.
Also, the Eagles may not have the services of quarterback Michael Vick any longer thanks to his latest run in with the law, so that takes the experience out of the backup quarterback position if it’s needed. Other issues this team has include some instability with their running game as well as continued problems in the secondary.
With the NFC East getting better across the board and the Eagles going through a transition, this could be a down year for them. What will be important for them is to get off to a fast start and play well within their division, or else they could find themselves third or fourth in the NFC East. Any way you look at it, it’s going to be a year of transition for the Eagles.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers -The Steelers are put here because they will lose their quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, for the first four games of the 2010 season. Even though they have some experience at the quarterback position on the roster without him (Byron Leftwich) it can be almost assured that the Steelers will struggle during the early part of the season.
However, there are some other reasons why the Steelers may have some problems in 2010. Their offensive line play has been poor the past couple of seasons, as their quarterbacks have been sacked more times than any other quarterbacks in the NFL. Also, their running game is now led by Rashard Mendenall, a player that really hasn’t proven himself to be a number one running back yet.
The defense is still solid and respectable, so if they can step things up and keep the offense on the field during Roethlisberger’s absence, they stand a chance of getting a good start. This will be absolutely crucial for them in order to stay competitive throughout the rest of the 2010 season. However, Roethlisberger’s absence, coupled with problems on the line and with the running game, could make things rough in Pittsburgh next season.
5. Arizona Cardinals- People say that losing quarterback Kurt Warner is going to send the Cardinals crashing down to where they were before a lot of their major changes started taking place. That’s not entirely true. Losses on defense will also cause problems for the former NFC champs, and this team will now relinquish its two year hold on the NFC West.
The Cardinals will start either Matt Leinart of Derek Anderson (formerly of the Cleveland Browns) at quarterback this season. And no matter who starts, we can expect a drop off in the passing game, which was basically their bread and butter for so long. If they can get their running game going strong then perhaps the Cardinals will be able to keep their heads above water.
Defensively, this team lost a key player in Karlos Dansby. And while they have made strides in replacing him, their band aid patches may not be enough to overcome his loss. They also lost safety Antrell Rolle, and will have to make up for his absence as well. The 49ers are getting better, but the other two teams in the division will struggle this season. If the Cardinals can keep their quarterback play solid then they will be okay, but they might not be able to do enough to keep the 49ers off their backs.