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Last week I posted about the teams that should get better in 2018. And some were obvious “duh” ones. This time, it is teams that will fall back in 2018 and it isn’t as easy as what it is made out to be. Some teams cling on for whatever reason or some teams do not make the right personnel moves that sets them aback or there just seems to be discord within the organization. And the teams I mention here fall in this, including one team in particular most will disagree with me on, but to each his own, right?
TEAMS ON THE DECLINE:
CINCINNATI BENGALS: Maybe the Bengals organization still has memories of nearly 20 years ago when Cincinnati was a religious 3-13 team. They have been a team that sees themselves in the playoffs and if ever Pittsburgh and Baltimore are down they sneak away with the AFC North. However, no playoff wins have happened since 1990 and Marvin Lewis doesn’t seem like he’s the guy to take them to any promised land. But somehow, the Bengals keep him. And as for Andy Dalton, he doesn’t get enough credit sometimes (unless you’re a Bills fan and then he is Buffalo’s hero) and probably gets ripped too much. But Cincinnati has one of the worst running games in the league, the defense cannot stop the run, and really the team is just flat most of the times. Seeing the off-season moves, there really isn’t anything noteworthy on top of it. The Bengals needed to make key changes and they failed. It isn’t out of the realm that the Bengals could finish 3-13 in 2018 given the schedule (NFC South and AFC West make up half of their games to go with their division).
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: Andy Reid is a good coach. Of course similar to Marvin Lewis, he gets ridiculed and criticized for his playoff failures in Philadelphia and now in Kansas City. I thought last year the Chiefs took the right steps to getting to that next level, but a Wild Card loss to Tennessee doomed that idea. With the Chargers coming on strong and the Raiders retooling as possibly the Broncos, a division title for a 3rd straight year is going to be very tough. And they will do it with a guy who hasn’t any experience yet in the NFL in Patrick Mahomes. I was not sold on him in an Air Raid offense at Texas Tech and I think he will have growing pains. He will have Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill to throw it at which is nice while handing it off to Kareem Hunt. But he is in a division where defenses are pretty good from top to bottom. Also, Kansas City struggled to stop the run at times last year which was a key reason why they lost to the Titans in the Playoffs and traded away Marcus Peters. I don’t see a massive drop-off but enough of one to see the Raiders and Chargers to finish ahead of them and maybe a 7-9 record. It is really more of an adjustment time in Kansas City and not a rebuild.
WASHINGTON REDSKINS: Kirk Cousins has been one of the most polarizing quarterbacks from an on-field standpoint. He’s been ridiculed that he isn’t good enough to lead the Redskins to the playoffs, but honestly, what could he have done? Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, and Josh Doctson isn’t necessarily what I call a WR trio that strikes fear into you like say Atlanta, New Orleans, and Pittsburgh do. But Cousins utilized the pieces as best as he could. I don’t see Alex Smith doing that in Washington and the Redskins opted to take Smith over Cousins, which to me is a bit dumbfounding. I think Smith fits well with what the Chiefs wanted him to do, better than what the Redskins want him to do. And evidently, Washington’s mentality on defense right now is to draft as many Alabama players to see if they can turn it around. It is a young defense over there and in a division where the offenses will be tough, I don’t know if it is going to be the best case situation for those guys to grow. It may be a long one in the Nation’s Capital in 2018.
GREEN BAY PACKERS: Yes, you heard me right. “But they have Aaron Rodgers! There is no way they will go backwards!” Well, Aaron Rodgers may be a slight part of the problem. The last few years there have been rumors regarding a rift among Rodgers and coach Mike McCarthy. The issue hasn’t changed after Rodgers criticized the move of Green Bay firing QB Coach Alex Van Pelt without having any say, and it sounded like he wasn’t happy of the release of Jordy Nelson. And now the rumblings of him wanting a new contract extension has come into play. I get the “well, he earned all of that” bit, but honestly, when do we hear of Brees, Brady, and Ryan gripe about the moves of their teams that are made? And if Rodgers has an offensive line similar to last year, he may miss a chunk of games if he continues to run around. While Green Bay let go of long time defensive coordinator Dom Capers, they added veteran help, but it isn’t earth shattering. If the Bears can make strides while Detroit and Minnesota remain competitive, I don’t know how Green Bay would fit in that equation, especially if you have an unhappy camper as your franchise quarterback. They may not fall like to 5-11 or even 6-10, but a 7-9 squad with Rodgers for a season may still happen.
CAROLINA PANTHERS: I mentioned in the past that wherever Cam goes, so do the Panthers. When he’s on his game, Carolina is a very tough out. When he is his own worst enemy, the Panthers collapse. Last year really wasn’t that case. There were times where Cam royally struggled and the Panthers won. And there were times (NFC Wild Card vs. New Orleans) where Cam played lights out and the Panthers lost. Last year was somewhere in between his MVP year and his awful 2016 season. He will have a new coordinator with Norv Turner replacing Mike Shula which caught people off-guard given how well Cam liked Shula. Jonathan Stewart is gone, which means Christian McCaffrey will be used as the feature back. McCaffrey is a great receiving back but as for running the ball, that is a huge question mark. They did add CJ Anderson, who got 1,000 yards last year in Denver, but he is not one who strikes major fear either. Carolina’s passing defense was middle-of-the road and while they addressed it in the draft especially, it is not something to have when you’re in the same division as the Falcons and Saints. And this year the Panthers get to see the Steelers, the Eagles, the Giants, and the Lions, all teams who have good passing attack offenses. The defense against the run was top notch last year, but will have to step up again. They may not take a huge fall, but one that may keep them out of the playoffs in 2018.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: Of all the teams I listed on here, this one is the biggest slam dunk of the decline. Legion of Boom is no more. Cliff Avril is gone. Michael Bennett is gone. There had been chemistry issues the last few years in Seattle which may not involve all Richard Sherman (who is now with the 49ers). Cliff Avril mentioned in essence the players didn’t fully trust Pete Carroll after the Super Bowl mishap. Players hinting at retirement (Kam Chancellor), poor drafts, questionable free agent signings, and losses of other key players (Jimmy Graham, Luke Wilson, Thomas Rawls) makes the Seahawks on the outside look more like a wreck of a team. And the “they have Russell Wilson” argument, a few things: 1. the offensive line is horrid which means he will continue to get hit way too much for a quarterback. 2. If he gets hit that many times, he will definitely be missing some games. I don’t care how tough he is. Adding on, the running game since the Super Bowl loss has been practically non-existent. To me, this team is more capable of getting the first overall pick than getting back to any Super Bowl right now.
Of course time will dictate how things pan out, but those are the teams I think we will see falter in 2018. Stranger things happen in the NFL of course, but it is fun to talk about it until then.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat