By: Joe Siniscalchi (@Joe_Siniscalchi)
A few days ago, I recently highlighted five teams that I think can turn heads this season. I mentioned I’d be going over five teams that I think can disappoint given expectations. I’m not saying these teams will go 0-16, but I think there is a good chance they underperform.
Miami Dolphins – Despite spending over $100 million in free agency, the Dolphins still have a gaping hole along the offensive line. Jonathan Martin was one of the worst offensive tackles in 2012 according to Pro Football Focus, and now he’s set to protect Tannehill’s blind side. Ryan Tannehill may have some nice new toys, but paying Brandon Gibson money to do the same thing a perfectly fine Davone Bess was doing doesn’t make sense. Dannell Ellerbe and Phillip Wheeler also had good seasons, but there’s no guaranteeing they will be successful in a starting role. The Dolphins also have the 8th most difficult schedule in 2013, and the last time I checked the AFC East runs through the Patriots. I’m sure writers will be giving the Dolphins a wild card berth, which is totally plausible, but expectations should be kept in check here. There are still holes on the defense, and Ryan Tannehill can just as easily regress as he can improve.
Washington Redskins – I love RG3 and am impressed with his hard work and determination with his rehab, but let’s not hail him the next AP. Peterson is a once in a lifetime freak, this generation’s Bo Jackson. We need to remember, however, that everyone is different. It’s one thing that RG3 is putting in the hard work, but actually performing well on the field is another. Most athletes typically take a full year to completely recover from a torn ACL. If he is unable to play in anyway, I don’t think the team is the same with Kirk Cousins at the helm. Pierre Garcon’s health is still unknown, the offensive line remains an issue, and while the Redskins addressed the secondary in the draft, it doesn’t mean the unit’s struggles have disappeared. While their schedule is nothing special, they play in the NFC East, where every year teams consistently beat up on each other. They can finish .500 or better, but that may not mean a playoff appearance in a suddenly very deep NFC. If RG3 struggles once he returns, the Shanahans will need to adjust their playbook, or it can be a long season in DC.
Houston Texans – As much as I loved the rise of the Texans from cellar dwellers to playoff contenders, their window is quickly fading. The defense has lost solid contributors the last few seasons in DeMeco Ryans, Mario Williams, Connor Barwin, and Glover Quin Jr., and the offense has lost fixtures on the line in Eric Winston and Mike Brisiel. If the Texans can’t recover from these losses, it can prove to be detrimental to the team’s success. Matt Schaub is a good, but not great quarterback, and Andre Johnson’s age is catching up to him. Arian Foster also may start to see a decline given his heavy usage over the last few seasons. Considering that every other team in the AFC South has made major improvements, the Texans may be feeling the heat more than they would let on to believe. Their schedule may be one of the easier schedules in 2013, but key games against the Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks, and 49ers, can make or break the Texans’ season.
Green Bay Packers – I think teams are starting to catch onto Green Bay. The spread offense is becoming less dangerous, and the loss of Greg Jennings is a huge blow to Aaron Rodgers. Jordy Nelson is one of the more overrated receivers in the NFL, and James Jones may have a hard time stepping into Jennings’ role. Jermichael Finley is nowhere near as consistent as he needs to be, and the offensive line still has some question marks. The defense also lost a leader in Charles Woodson. The running game was addressed in the draft, but Lacy’s ability to stay healthy is far from a lock. Like the Texans, the Packers find themselves in a division where everyone else seemed to have made significant strides. They also have the 6th most difficult schedule in 2013. I still think the Packers are a very good team, but their status as the cream of the crop of the NFC North is in jeopardy.
New England Patriots – This is a bold pick, but I’m sticking with it. The Patriots lost Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, and aside from the fragile Danny Amendola, the wide receiver corps lacks talent. Aaron Dobson and and Josh Boyce are talented, but Bill Belichick has an awful track record of drafting wide receivers. Rob Gronkowski is still having trouble recovering from a broken forearm, and Aaron Hernandez has yet to stay healthy for a full season. The offense has lost a lot of its luster. As I pointed out here, the Patriots have also been slipping on defense. While there is talent on the line and it is a young unit, the level of play just hasn’t been there. Usually the offfense’s stellar play compensates for the lack of defense, but this can be the year where it can no longer pick up the slack. Tom Brady is still Tom Brady, and Belichick is still a genius, so underperforming for the Patriots is a bit different than most teams. This season can mark the beginning of the end for the Patriots’ dynasty.
- One NFL analyst isn’t bullish on Texans (chron.com)
- 7 Reasons Why the Miami Dolphins will Make the Playoffs in 2013 (thephinsider.com)