First of all, it’s way too early to be making these predictions. The preseason hasn’t even started yet and a lot could change between now and September. Forgetting all that, here are 5 teams destined for failure in 2014.
1. Dallas Cowboys.
The offense is full of question marks. Will Jason Witten be the same player at as he ages? Can Dez Bryant stay out of trouble? Who will be the other receiver opposite of Bryant? Can Tony Romo stay healthy? Do I even want Romo to start if I’m a Cowboys fan? (The answer to the last question is yes-If Romo gets hurt, Cowboys fans are looking at Brandon Weeden as their starting QB.) Romo has been one of the most un-clutch quarterbacks in recent memory. His regular season numbers are very good, but he always seems to find a way to mess up late in games and cost his team a victory, even if it’s something as simple as holding a snap for a field goal. Bryant is a poor man’s Calvin Johnson, which is still pretty darn good. However, Bryant is a hothead who is likely to get himself into trouble off the field, troubling news for an organization short on receivers. Running backs DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar are talented, but injury prone and inconsistent. Then there’s the defense. I’d like to say the defense has some holes in it. In truth, the entire defense is a hole in the team. When defense accounts for 45% of the team and the game, you’ve got a problem. Dallas let DeMarcus Ware walk, one of the league’s best pass rushers of the last decade, and then defense anchor Sean Lee went down for the year with a torn ACL. The defense was a question mark before the Lee injury, but now it’s generally believed that the Dallas defense will be among the League’s worst.
Predicted Record: 6-10 (-2)
2. Houston Texans
The good news for Texans fans is that it’s hard to get much worse that 2013’s 2-14 debacle. The bad news is that it’s not likely to get much better. The Texans axed Gary Kubiak an tossed Matt Schuab to the trash heap last offseason in a rebuilding effort. They replaced Kubiak with Bill O’Brien and Scuab with Ryan Fitzpatrick. O’Brien is thought of as a quality coach but it will be tough to win with this roster. Fitzpatrick is a mid-level backup in the NFL, but not starter material. Rookie Tom Savage has potential but is a couple years away from being ready to start. There’s no gurantee that bell cow Arian Foster wil stay healthy, and quality backup Ben Tate has left to pursue the starting job in Cleveland. Aging star receiver Andre Johnson is unhappy with the Texans having to start another rebuilding process but is unlikely to be traded. No. 1 overall pick Jadeveon Clowney just had sugery to repair a sports hernia. A healthy Clowney, JJ Watt, and Brian Cushing would form a terrific defensive trio to build around. No one question’s Watt’s greatness, but Cushing is injury prone and Clowney unproven. There is hope down the line, with Clowney and talented young receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Just not this year.
Predicted Record: 4-12 (+2)
3. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers won 12 games in 2013 and were one of the NFL’s top teams. The talent in Carolina is too great for this team to truly flop, but they will drop in the standings. The NFC south has retooled and amped up the pressure. The Saints went out and got Jarius Byrd, one of the league’s top safties. The Buccaneers have a new coach and offensive coordinator ready to turn Tampa Bay’s potential into production. The Falcons are gettign Julio Jones and Roddy White back, and added tackle Jake Matthews in the draft. Every team in the NFC south got better except for…Carolina. Cam Newton is as great an athlete in the world alive today. The guy can do it all. Unfortunatley, it doesn’t look like he is going to get any help on the offensive side of the ball. Steve Smith, a Panthers legend, was uncerimoniously booted from the team as they chose not to resign him. Ted Ginn Jr and Brandon LaFell are gone. DeAngelo Williams is old and Jonathan Stewart is injury prone, so there won’t be much help from the running backs. Defenesively, they still have reigning Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly and great defensive lineman. I don’t think the defense can do enough to get them back into the playoffs.
Predicted record: 8-8 (-2)
4. Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City got off to a blazing 9-0 start before falling off to finish 11-5 and get dropped in the first round of the playoffs. KC played a ridiculously easy schedule in 2013, aided by the fact that they had the worst record in 2012 (which gives you the easiest schedule the following season) and the fact that the play the Raiders twice a year. The Chiefs will have tougher schedule in 2014 and enter the season with several questions. The Chiefs narrowly avoided losses to the Bills and Browns last year, two of the league’s worst teams. The receiving core in 2014 is weak and the defense has been plagued by injury so far this offseason. There’s no doubt that the Chiefs were better in 2013 than in 2012, but how many of the 11 wins came by luck rather than skill is up for debate. The Chiefs will take a step back in 2014 but still have a chance to make the playoffs in a weak AFC conference.
Predicted Record: 7-9 (-4)
Let me know who you think will burn out next season. Teams that will rise coming soon.