BengalszoneBilly Posted November 16, 2007 Report Share Posted November 16, 2007 Eight disappointing teams, few with hope By Vic Carucci | NFL.com Eight NFL teams qualify as major or at least notable disappointments so far.They are, in alphabetical order: the Baltimore Ravens (4-5), Carolina Panthers (4-5), Chicago Bears (4-5), Cincinnati Bengals (3-6), Denver Broncos (4-5), New Orleans Saints (4-5), New York Jets (1-8), and Philadelphia Eagles (4-5).All figured to be strong postseason contenders. And while none has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, they face a difficult challenge -- some more than others -- to keep their hopes alive.As we move deeper into the second half of the season, the questions begging for answers are these: Are there any truly good teams in the bunch that will actually begin to play that way on a consistent basis? Are some, or all, of these clubs as mediocre or bad as their record says they are?Let's dissect the disappointments:Baltimore: The Ravens' record suggests they are hovering around mediocrity, but their three-game losing streak suggests something worse. Their defense -- which ranks fifth overall, second against the run, and 12th against the pass -- offers some hope that they could become more competitive. However, their lack of a decent starting quarterback is a serious problem that won't resolve itself by the end of the season. Steve McNair continues to look older and slower and nearing the end of the line. Kyle Boller doesn't look like he will ever be effective enough to provide the lift this team desperately needs. The Ravens, who have been outscored 59-14 in their last two games, will likely watch as the Steelers run away with the AFC North and the surprising Cleveland Browns battle for a wild-card playoff spot.Carolina: The Panthers' story is similar to that of the Ravens. Their record reflects mediocrity, yet in the NFC South, it puts them only a game behind first-place Tampa Bay. Still, the Panthers, like the Ravens, have lost three in a row. They also have a bad quarterback situation. Since losing Jake Delhomme to a season-ending elbow injury, the pickings have been slim for a replacement. Vinny Testaverde, 44, is struggling to move on a sore Achilles tendon. David Carr missed the Panthers' Week 10 loss against Atlanta because of a concussion. But even when he's healthy, he is a sack-fest waiting to happen. Rookie free agent Matt Moore is not ready to be a starter. The defense, which was supposed to carry this team, hasn't been anything special. Julius Peppers, once regarded as a dominant pass rusher, has produced only a sack and a half. Could the Panthers win their division? Anything's possible in the wide-open NFC South. Could they get a wild-card berth? Anything's possible in the wide-open NFC.Chicago: The Bears' Super Bowl runner-up season of 2006 seems almost as distant a memory as their Super Bowl-winning campaign of 1985. This is another team with quarterback problems. Rex Grossman did come off the bench to deliver a pretty, 59-yard pass to Bernard Berrian for the go-ahead points in the Bears' Week 10 victory over Oakland. However, that was his only appearance since his September benching for throwing six interceptions and only one touchdown pass through the first three games. Grossman has a long way to go to demonstrate he can be consistently effective. Brian Griese, who had taken his place, hadn't been much of an improvement before leaving the Oakland game with a shoulder injury. The Bears' other issues are the sluggish running of Cedric Benson and a defense that ranks 26th in the league against the run. They will likely watch as the Packers run away with the NFC North. Could they land a wild-card playoff spot? As I said, anything's possible in the wide-open NFC.Cincinnati: The Bengals' next-to-last ranking in the NFL in total defense pretty much sums up their dreadful season. Although they did beat Baltimore, 21-7 in Week 10, they hardly proved much by shutting down the offensively challenged Ravens. The biggest surprise in that game -- and cause for considerable discouragement for Cincinnati -- was the Bengals' inability to score a touchdown. Shayne Graham provided all of their points with seven field goals. If nothing else, the Bengals should be able to count on Carson Palmer connecting for big plays through the air to his talented group of receivers. But even that is no longer a given with this team. The Bengals will likely join the Ravens in watching the Steelers run away with the AFC North and the Browns fight for a wild-card berth.Denver: Defense, especially when it comes to stopping the run, has been the Broncos' biggest problem. It did rise to the occasion in Denver's 27-11 victory over Kansas City in Week 10. But the Chiefs have all kinds of offensive woes, including the lack of an effective quarterback and an injury that kept running back Larry Johnson out of the lineup against the Broncos. Even with starter Travis Henry out with a sore knee and facing a possible one-year suspension for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, the Broncos still managed to find a way to run the ball well. They plugged undrafted rookie Selvin Young into their zone-blocking scheme, and he ran for 109 yards, including a 20-yard scoring dash. Jay Cutler, who is playing through a sore leg, is solid enough at quarterback. As wide open as the AFC West is, the Broncos actually have a shot at winning the division and, at the very least, could be in the hunt for a wild-card spot.New Orleans: The Saints are tough to figure out. Having been left for dead after a 0-4 start, they ran off four consecutive victories. Drew Brees and the rest of their offense seemed to recapture the prolific form that carried them to the NFC title game in 2006. Then, the Saints go and lose to the previously winless Rams in Week 10. What gives? Brees was flustered by a Rams defense that, with a Week 9 bye, took full advantage of extra time to prepare. He found himself in deep trouble after St. Louis blew open a 34-7 lead. But the good news for the Saints was the way Brees was able to work the two-minute drill well enough to generate 22 points in the fourth quarter. The Saints picked a terrible time to stumble, but the loss doesn't kill their hopes of salvaging their season. They still have a legitimate shot at winning the NFC South and, at the very least, securing a wild-card berth.N.Y. Jets: This team is as bad as its record indicates. Poor offense. Worse defense. Time to focus on what it will take to improve in 2008.Philadelphia: On the brink of collapse, the Eagles managed to breathe at least a tiny bit of life into their season with their Week 10 victory over mistake-prone Washington. Their 20-point fourth quarter was impressive, as was the performance of Brian Westbrook, who ran for a touchdown and was on the receiving end of two others. Westbrook is capable of carrying as good a portion of the offensive load the rest of the way. However, the Eagles will continue to need the kind of game they got from Donovan McNabb, who at least temporarily quieted speculation he could be headed for the bench after throwing for 251 yards and four scores against the Redskins. The Eagles' defense is solid enough to allow this team to stay competitive and possibly land a wild-card spot as the Cowboys run away with the NFC East. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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