We are more than halfway through the 2014-15 NFL season, a season that has been as entertaining and thrilling as any in recent memory. We have seen the usual teams themselves separate from the pack such as the New England Patriots, Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers. On the other end of the spectrum, teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, and Washington Redskins continue to hold down their sports as bottom feeders in the league. And of course we have had some surprises like the Detroit Lions, Miami Dolphins, and ,of course, the AFC North leading Cleveland Browns. The first half of the NFL season should have fans itching to see how things, such as the playoffs, draft order and award races, will shape up heading down the stretch.
For all of the good the NFL season has brought, there of course has been a large amount of disappointments. Certain teams and players have not lived up to either the hype or past success and it has shown throughout the first ten weeks of the season. This list will look at ten of the top disappointments in the NFL season thus far.
10. J.J. Watt/Jadeveon Clowney Pairing
We’ll file this one under the “we haven’t seen nearly enough yet” category. When it became apparent during the 2013-14 season that the Houston Texans would have the number one pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, many had then-South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney as the obvious choice. Which meant an eventual pairing between Clowney and All-Pro, All-World, All Everything, defensive end J.J. Watt, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year. A combination that would strike fear into the hearts of opposing offensive lines, quarterbacks, and offensive coordinators for years to come. The NFL and their fans have yet to see this duo in action for an extended period.
In just his first regular season game, Clowney suffered a torn meniscus and has since been out of action for the Houston Texans, forcing fans to wait to see how high the ceiling is for the team’s defense with Clowney at OLB and Watt at DE. This particular disappointment is no fault of Clowney’s, as injuries happen in the NFL. Well depending on who you ask, as it was reported that the Texans have been growing increasingly frustrated with Clowney’s inability to get on the field. Clowney, who seems to have healed from the torn meniscus, missed the November 2nd contest with an “illness.” It remains to be seen what becomes of the intriguing and downright scary prospect of the Watt/Clowney duo, but for now it has been an early season disappointment.
9. The Chicago Bears
This falls more on the Bears’ offense than the defense, which many expected to stink anyway. It’s hard to believe that an offense that features the likes of Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Matt Forte, and Martellus Bennett is 22nd in the league in scoring offense and tied for fifth in the league in giveaways. Giveaways… that’s when the quarterback of the team comes to mind, Jay Cutler. He just doesn’t get it and it’s possible he never will. It’s bad enough that he tries to get away with throws that only retired gunslinger Brett Favre could get away with, but his lack of care has gotten ridiculous. And it is apparent that his teammates, even Brandon Marshall who’s had a bromance with Cutler since their days in Denver, have grown tired of Cutler’s demeanor.
In recent days, Head Coach Marc Trestman has taken a lot of heat for Chicago’s 3-6 record, with many questioning whether he has lost the locker room. What a difference a year makes. as Trestman was hailed by many as an offensive genius just last year. The Bears ranked 2nd in the league in scoring offense and didn’t miss a beat when backup Josh McCown (now with Tampa Bay) was thrust into action as the starting QB. The Bears have regressed from it’s 10-6 record last season due to a myriad of problems that don’t seem fixable.
8. Cleveland Browns’ 1st Round Draft Picks
The NFL has not been kind to the picks of what was deemed (and still may be) a very successful first round for the Cleveland Browns in the 2014 NFL Draft. Let’s start with the guy who didn’t play QB for Texas A&M in college, CB Justin Gilbert. The Browns selected Gilbert with the 8th overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, hoping to pair him with All-Pro Joe Haden to form a lock-down CB tandem for years to come. But Gilbert has struggled mightily in his rookie season so far. At one point he was benched for undrafted rookie K’Waun Williams after going through a rough stretch of games in his first three starts. After Williams got hurt, Gilbert found his way back in the starting lineup but that would be short-lived as he was soon replaced by Buster Skrine, who is performing well with 4 interceptions on the year. All rookies struggle, but at some point Gilbert has to show Cleveland why he was top-10 pick.
Now onto everyone’s favorite clipboard holder, Johnny Manziel. He hasn’t done anything to be a disappointment but for all the hype that surrounded him, that he’s barely seen the field has been a disappointment. Hometown boy Brian Hoyer has done everything possible to keep Manziel on the bench, while leading Cleveland to a surprising 6-3 record and a first place standing in the AFC North. Manziel’s only highlight of the 2014 regular season was a trick play where he caught a pass for 39 yards that was called back for an illegal shift. It has gotten to the point where the Browns have to strongly consider giving a new contract to Hoyer who is 9-3 as the team’s starter, which of course would not bode well for Manziel. The Johnny Football Experience has been put on hold until further notice.
7. Nick Foles
After an amazing and record-breaking 2013-14 season that saw Nick Foles throw for 27 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions, expectations were sky high for him heading into the 2014-15 season. Even after losing leading wide receiver DeSean Jackson in the offseason, Foles was expected to flourish in his second season in Chip Kelly’s offense. The addition of multi-purpose back Darren Sproles, the return of WR Jeremy Maclin from an ACL tear, and the emergence of young tight end Zach Ertz were just three of the factors working in Foles’ favor for a successful season. But that hasn’t been the case.
Sure, in the games that Foles has started the Eagles are 6-2, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Eagles, for the most part, have been winning in spite of Foles. Before Foles went down to injury in a win over the Texans, Foles led the league with 13 turnovers (10 ints, 3 lost fumbles). Foles did make timely throws in the crunch time of games to help the Eagles to victory but some of his turnovers were the reasons why Philly needed to pull out late game heroics.
Foles won’t get the opportunity to clean up his mistakes as he is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a broken clavicle. Foles can only hope he is given the opportunity to quarterback the Eagles for the 2015-16 season and beyond.
6. The Defense Of The New Orleans Saints
This can be filed under the “what the hell happened” category, as the Saints defense has regressed from the 2013-14 season. The team finished last season ranked 4th overall in terms of yardage given up and points scored against it. The Saints also ranked 9th overall in average time per opponent’s offensive drive, which made way for Drew Brees and the high-powered offense to get on the field more.
It could only get better in 2014 right? The team added ball-hawking safety Jairus Byrd in free agency to go along with 2013 1st round pick Kenny Vaccaro and Keenan Lewis, a very good cover corner while cutting ties with former captain Malcolm Jenkins, who was considered a weak link in the secondary. But this version of the Saints’ defense doesn’t even belong in the same sentence as the one defensive coordinator Rob Ryan put out on the field last season. Byrd, who the team made one of the highest paid safeties in the league, was ineffective before going down with a season-ending lateral meniscus tear. Meanwhile, Jenkins has provided some stability to the Philadelphia Eagles’ defense and has three interceptions on the season.
5. Two Quarterbacks In The AFC East
Obviously we’re not talking about Tom Brady and (surprisingly) Ryan Tannehill. That leaves us with former first round pick E.J. Manuel and Geno Smith. We’ll throw the Jets’ backup QB Michael Vick in as well for playing horribly against the San Diego Chargers in a 31-0 blowout, after coming in for Smith and afterwards admitting that he “wasn’t prepared.” The quarterback position can’t be played much worse than what we’ve seen from Smith and Manuel this season.
Now Manuel hadn’t played terribly in the early part of the season, with 5 TDs and 3 INTs. But the Bills were 2-2 when Doug Marrone decided to bench Manuel in favor of journeyman Kyle Orton, who the team had just picked up a couple days before the start of the regular season. Not the biggest vote of confidence for a player Buffalo selected 16th overall in the 2013 NFL Draft and who was reaffirmed as the starter in the off-season.
Geno Smith has been a nightmare for the Jets this season. Throughout the offseason, the word out of New York was that Geno Smith had made major improvements to his game and that he would take the next step as a starting QB in the league. Smith so far has done everything to prove those statements wrong, as he’s tied for second in the league with 10 interceptions, with a lowly 56.2 completion percentage along with a 65.6 QB rating. Smith now finds himself back on the bench and if Vick performs and stays healthy, he may ride the bench straight out of New York after the season.
4. The Entire NFC South Division
Where do we even begin? The whole division has drastically underachieved, especially considering the high expectations coming into the season for three of these teams. To put things into perspective, the top two teams in five of the other seven divisions in the NFL combine for more wins than the entire NFC South division. Two of the teams in the division, the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints, made it to the divisional round of the 2013-14 playoffs with Carolina earning a 1st round bye at 12-4 and New Orleans winning on the road in Philadelphia, before losing to Seattle. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in the playoff predictions of a few bold predictors coming into the season after hiring Lovie Smith as the head coach along with having a solid free agency period and draft, but things have gone terribly. Things couldn’t have gotten worse for the Falcons, looking to rebound from a dismal and injury-riddled 2013-14 campaign that saw the team go 4-12, as the team finds itself with just one more win than at this point last season.
The division has been a disaster to this point in the season. The sad part is that one of these teams is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. Every team currently sits below .500 with no team separating itself from the pack.
3. The Adrian Peterson Situation
This situation has not seen its end, but in terms of Peterson’s prospects for playing this season, it’s still up in the air. As you likely know, Peterson was indicted by a grand jury in Montgomery County, Texas on September 12 for charges relating to child abuse. The charges stem from Peterson using a switch to discipline his 4 year old son causing wounds to his sons legs, which would later surface in pictures. He has since pled no contest to avoid jail time and has a hearing set for November 22nd to be removed from the Commissioner’s Exempt list.
This is a disappointing situation no matter how you look at it. It calls into question the character of a man that many perceive to be a good Samaritan who gives back to the community through charity and service. It also is disappointing form a fan standpoint, as the game has been missing one of its best running backs, and overall players, each Sunday. Peterson was on pace (and still could be) to eventually challenge and break Emmitt Smith’s all-time rushing record of 18,355 yards, but missing an entire season (1 game, 21 carries, 75 yards) is not what he needed. Hopefully this situation can be solved and All Day can get back on the field soon to resume his Hall of Fame career.
That being said, we don’t condone child abuse, we just want to see this unfortunate situation come to an end.
2. Sunday Night Football
Simply put, prime time football on Sunday nights has been a major disappointment this season. As a fan, after a long day of watching the early and evening games, we expect the Sunday Night game to be the perfect cap to an NFL Sunday. This season. however, it’s been hard to tune into the second halves of the SNF games. The theme for SNF this season has been, “if your team plays at home they will win big.”
SNF, and the season, opened up with two close contests between the Broncos/Colts and the Bears/49ers. Then things got ugly. Though Pittsburgh was away, the Steelers began the string of Sunday night blowouts bybeating the Panthers 37-19. Since then, each team that has hosted the weekly Sunday night game has shown their opponents no mercy, winning by an average of 25.6 points per game. OUCH! The rest of the SNF slate has the potential to not be one-sided affairs. But then again, so did the games played up until this point. We shall see.
1. Thursday Night Football
Let’s just be honest here, Thursday Night Football has been unbearable to watch (unless you’re a fan of any of the TNF winners). Of the 10 Thursday Night Football games broadcast this season, only two of the games have been decided by less than a touchdown. The rest? You won’t find less than a 14 point differential in any of the contests, with the largest deficit coming in a 56-14 beat down of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers by the Atlanta Falcons on September 18th. And the frustrating part for the NFL, and its fans alike, is that these games were supposed to be highly-contested and entertaining divisional matchups.
The latest Thursday Night Football contest saw the Cleveland Browns win by a score of 24-3 over the Cincinnati Bengals. That should tell you all you need to know about how TNF has gone this season. The rest of the Thursday Night schedule does not offer up great matchups going forward, but as a fan, you’d hope that these teams can make the games interesting.
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