With the 2016 NFL season just around the corner, and the anticipation at a fever pitch, there are a bevy of story-lines circulating around the league. As usual, the power of the hype train is in full operation, and many positive outcomes regarding some of the league's most notable names, are already being assumed. Of course, optimism levels are always at their apex in the Summer before the season gets underway, which typically leaves a lot of room for underwhelming results when the games start to actually matter.
Such is the case for the 2016 offseason. Following the conclusion of the many transactions and signings, a lot of time is being spent trying to rationalize the best possible scenario for all of the top coaches and players in the league. For some, it's warranted; for others, it's just an exercise in futility. The nature of the NFL always produces more failures than successes and this year will be no different. Many of the names and teams here are being predicted to have a shot at greatness in 2016, but there is another side of the coin that has to be considered, and has a greater chance of occurring than what the current narratives suggest.
Ranked below will be the 15 biggest disappointments for the 2016 NFL season.
15 The Bengals Will Miss The Playoffs
Since Marvin Lewis took over the head coaching reigns in Cincinnati for the 2005 season, the Bengals have been to seven Wild Card playoff games, and lost every single one. Last year's playoff loss, which featured several uncalled for and costly personal foul penalties, said a lot about the questionable construct of the team. It doesn't figure to get any better. Andy Dalton has proven that he struggles to produce in big games, and now they'll have to deal with, if healthy, an elite Steelers offense, and a Ravens team that has all of their key skill players returning from injury. The Bengals lost dependable weapons in Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu to free agency and have too many headcases on defense. They're a team that just can't seem to get over the hump, and 2016 will likely be Lewis' last season as head coach in Cincinnati.
14 Jeff Fisher Will Lose His Job By Season's End
With the well-publicized move to L.A., and the selection of California product Jared Goff as the first overall pick in the 2016 draft, Fisher and the Rams franchise appears to have invigorated itself for the new season. Unfortunately, the veteran head coach won't be able to improve the mediocre results he's achieved thus far, since becoming the coach of the team in 2012. Fisher has posted a flat-out bad 27-36 record, and the team hasn't won more than seven games in a season under his reign. It's tempting to believe that with elite RB Todd Gurley in the mix, that Goff can get out to a strong start to his career and carry Fisher's crew to a playoff birth, but with next to no other reliable skill players, the offense will take a hit. The defense lost multiple key starters in free agency, and overall, 2016 figures to be Fisher's last with the franchise.
13 Tony Romo's Health
The Cowboys have been a hot-button topic in the league for several years now, and most of the discussion revolves around ace their ace QB in Romo. Effectively elite when he's on the field, Dallas found great success in the 2014 season. When he went down for most of the 2015 season however, the team was awful, and pretty much cemented the fact that they need him to achieve a playoff bid. The running narrative is that the investment in the RB position during the offseason will take the heat off of Romo, but at age 36 and coming off a major injury, the veteran QB is at risk every play. It's only a matter of time before he goes down in the 2016 season, and if it's for an extended amount of time, Dallas will likely be sitting out of the playoff picture this season.
12 The Texans Will Suffer A Major Setback
One of the Cinderella stories of last season was the Texans gaining a postseason bid behind a very good defense, and the use of no less than four (mediocre) starting QBs during the regular season. Unfortunately for them, elite Colts QB Andrew Luck is returning healthy for this season, and both the Jaguars and Titans are improving at a rapid rate. Even with the acquisition of Broncos QB Brock Osweiler, the Texans likely have the worst QB in the division. To make matters worse, defensive juggernaut J.J. Watt is likely to be hurt for the beginning of the season, and former first overall pick Jadeveon Clowney still needs to prove that he can stay healthy and contribute. With these persistent question marks, and each team in the AFC South improving during the offseason, the Texans are fixing to take a big step backwards for this year.
11 Chip Kelly Will Fail In San Francisco
One of the most enigmatic coaches in the sport right now, there are a segment of people who believe that Kelly got a raw deal during his last season in Philly. That may or may not turn out to be the case, but it's difficult to see why he would elect to go to a team with such an inept roster. The 49ers have very little in the way of talent, and in a tough division that features the Seahawks and Cardinals, Kelly will have guaranteed elite competition to face every season. Neither Blaine Gabbert or Colin Kaepernick have the accuracy to effectively run his tempo system, and the defense is still rebuilding. It's more likely that Chip is in San Francisco, eyeing up a potential opening for the nearby USC job, and will head back to the college coaching ranks after a couple disastrous seasons.
10 Marcus Mariota Won't Take The Next Step
Despite missing a quarter of the 2015 season due to injury, Mariota showed flashes of brilliance for the Titans. The second overall pick was fairly accurate, and had strong mobility, allowing him to create plays out of thin air. That probably won't change for this upcoming campaign, but it's unlikely that he turns into the elite QB that some are predicting. Head coach Mike Mularkey has expressed the plan to turn to a power-running offense, and with the recent loss of Dorial Green-Beckham to the Eagles, Mariota doesn't have a consistently reliable WR on the roster right now. He has the raw talent to be a solid starter for this season, but won't cement himself as a top-ten league QB just yet. Fans will have to wait at least another year before Mariota hits his prime.
9 The Patriots Will Remain Atop The AFC East
Most of the football universe has been waiting for the dominance of the Patriots to come to a screeching halt for the past decade or so now. With a four-game suspension levied against Brady from the league, for his involvement of the "Deflategate" scandal in the 2014 playoffs, many assume that will begin to happen this year. Unfortunately, despite having to utilize the services of backup QB Jimmy Garappolo for the first four games of the season, the Patriots are still in prime position to repeat yet again as AFC East champs. Brady won't lose a step when he comes back, and the defense should be good enough to beat a relatively weak opening four games on the schedule. Factor in Gronk at TE, as well as the reliable Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola at WR, and New England shouldn't lose a step.
8 The Giants Won't Improve Despite Offseason Spending Spree
New York handed out some massive deals in free agency to CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Damon Harrison and DE Olivier Vernon, but it remains to be seen how much they'll upgrade the bottom line on an incumbent defense that struggled mightily against the pass for the past two seasons. New head coach Ben McAdoo will look for the offense to produce on a more consistent basis, but the Giants have been a six-win team each of the last two seasons, despite having both Odell Beckham and Eli Manning healthy for almost the entirety. With minimal additions to the offense, it's difficult to see how this will improve in the upcoming season, though there is certainly plenty of expectation to do so. The Giants seem to be destined for a similar record, only now with a ton of money tied up in free agent signings.
7 Hue Jackson And RGIII Won't Make The Browns Any Better
Considered by many to be the best coaching hire of the offseason, Hue Jackson brings a sharp offensive mind to the Browns, who have been looking for mere signs of life for most of the past 15 years or so. Additionally, the team brought in RGIII in hopes that new scenery will resurrect some kind of a spark in his career. That would be much more likely to happen if the Browns weren't the subject of a decimated roster at the current moment. The team suffered brutal losses in free agency, including WR Travis Benjamin, C Alex Mack, S Tashaun Gipson and LB Karlos Dansby. On an already weak roster, this doesn't bode well, and almost no amount of ingenuity from Jackson will be able to produce much improvement. The Browns are likely to finish with a four-win campaign, and hope to find a true franchise QB option in the 2017 draft.
6 The Cardinals Will Not Advance To The Super Bowl... Again
It truly is do-or-die time for Arizona this season. While the team has a ton of young talent on offense and defense alike, QB Carson Palmer isn't getting any younger, and the team has no viable replacement currently on the roster. They were the subject of a thrashing from the Panthers in the NFC Title game last season, and head coach Bruce Arians must be well aware that time is running out for this personnel group to win-big, with many players on rookie contracts, and an aging franchise QB still in place. Unfortunately, the Cardinals have a penchant for coming up a day late, and a dollar short. There's simply too many teams in a stocked NFC conference that have a history of coming up strong in big games, and Arizona simply doesn't. That will continue this season, and Arians will have to answer a lot of questions in the 2017 offseason.
5 Adam Gase Won't Be Able To Turn The Dolphins Around
Gase was a hot name on the coaching market this offseason, and the former Bears offensive coordinator hopes that he can take QB Ryan Tannehill and provide a spark for the Miami offense. The problem is, Gase lacks the authority needed to turn a historically undisciplined, lackadaisical franchise into a true contender. It doesn't help that he'll need to face the Jets and Patriots in a strong AFC East for a quarter of the season, and has all the signs of a coach who will lose a locker room quickly. Miami definitely has the raw talent to contend for a playoff spot, but Gase simply isn't the coach to do it, and a more distinctive presence will be needed. The offensive numbers may be nice to look at for this season, but the bottom line on the Dolphins won't be.
4 The Lions Will Realize They Are Stuck With Matt Stafford
At age 28, Stafford is in the prime of his career as a QB. As someone who has produced some impressive numbers during his career, it still hasn't translated into playoff success. With the loss of superstar WR Calvin Johnson, it isn't going to get any easier for the Lions to make that happen, and they'll have to realize that they're in a rock and a hard place with Stafford as their franchise QB. He's certainly too good to just get rid of, but hasn't shown any signs that he can elevate the team to the next level, which is ultimately the job of a franchise QB in today's game. The Lions just seem to be stuck, and there's really nothing they can do in the short-term to fix that. They currently have a QB, while talented, who has a penchant for throwing bad INTs and general inconsistency.
3 The Chargers Won't Make A Case To Stay In San Diego
With the Rams move from St. Louis to Los Angeles, a window of opportunity has opened for other NFL franchises to consider the same action. Another location that has been brought up recently has been Las Vegas, which the Chargers are in the running for in the next few seasons. Unfortunately for San Diego fans, there's little about the current situation that warrants the team staying. It's a bad team, with an aging QB, an old stadium, and a less-than-enthused fanbase in general. If attendance continues to drop and the Chargers face another poor season, considerations for them to make the move, will really be increased in the 2017 offseason. For now, they're hanging on the skin of their teeth, but there's little reason to believe the franchise will be able to pull themselves from the brink.
2 The Vikings Will Make Another First Round Playoff Exit
Mike Zimmer should be commended on the job he has done turning around the Vikings, from a certified losing team, into a division contender, but there's still a limit on how much they can achieve this season. Third-year QB Teddy Bridgewater is still an enigma at the position, and star RB Adrian Peterson, while coming off yet another great season, is getting older, which is always a concern. Minnesota will have to contend with Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay in the NFC North. With the Packers likely to win the division, the Vikings will probably receive a Wild Card placing, and have to play a top seed in the division, which will have the advantage in a playoff shoot-out. If Bridgewater can take the next step, the Vikings will be a real contender, but for now, they'll remain outside the top-three in the NFC.
1 The Broncos Will Regress And Miss The Playoffs
Denver's 2015 season was nothing short of compelling, and a Hollywood-esque walk-off for Peyton Manning. The team was able to overcome bad QB play, with a historically great defense and timely plays on offense. That won't be the case for this season. With the losses of LB Danny Trevathan and run-stuffing DT Malik Jackson, as well injury concerns to DE Demarcus Ware, the Broncos have been weakened on their defense. It still remains unclear who the teams starting QB will be, but whether it's Trevor Siemian, Mark Sanchez, or rookie Paxton Lynch, it isn't likely to be good. There simply isn't a good probability that they will be able to to overcome another season of inept QB play, particularly with some glaring holes on the defense. Factor in a brutally tough schedule, and the Broncos will be looking at less than eight wins, missing the postseason. Good fortunes will be halted in Denver, at least for the short-term.
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