[Edit by John B, 09/05/11 9:00 AM EDT ] Originally posted yesterday but one team needed to be added.
I am continuing my preview of the NFL in 2011. Today I will look at some teams that had good seasons in 2010 but will take a step back this year in my opinion.
It is due to inconsistency at the quarterback position. I am not a believer in Jay Cutler. I do not think he is going to lead a team to 11 wins two straight years. He is always a candidate to go out and throw 20+ interceptions. I almost think the controversy over his injury in the NFC Championship Game was a blessing for him because he got let off the hook for laying an absolute egg in the biggest game of his life. He was 6 for 14! His third string quarterback came in and badly outplayed him. The addition of Gabe Carimi to the offensive line will help, but I think Chicago really needs to reconsider J'Marcus Webb on Cutler's blind side. Olin Kreutz is in decline, but I think the Bears still may miss him.
What we have here is a cocktail of a mistake prone quarterback, a shaky offensive line, an offense based on long developing passes, and a combustible quarterback and offensive coordinator. It seems like a question of when it will fall apart, not if. I think the offense holds the Bears back from winning a very tough division again.
Chiefs fans are expecting big things coming off an AFC West title. I think KC will fall short of a second straight trip to the Playoffs. Part of it is because I do not think San Diego's special teams will blow three games again. Part of it is because they will not get a schedule as favorable in 2011 as they got in 2010. Their ten wins came against San Diego, Cleveland, San Francisco, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Arizona, Seattle, Denver, St. Louis, and Tennessee. That was not a murderer's row. I am not taking anything away from them. They still had to win. Things just do not look so favorable this year. They get the NFC North and AFC East. They also get dates with the Colts and Steelers. Finally, I think Matt Cassel's carriage will turn into a pumpkin now that he once against does not have Charlie Weis or Josh McDaniels. His only year without a top offensive coordinator was ugly, and I think he started to get exposed last year once Weis had a foot out the door.
I like what the Chiefs are doing. I think they have a good plan and are bringing talent to the roster. I just think they take a step back this year.
A team coming off a breakthrough 10 win season with an emerging quarterback is always going to be trendy. Like the Chiefs, I like what the Bucs are doing long term, but I think they are going to disappoint this year. It has to do with the defense. The front seven was the weakness of the roster last year both against the run and rushing the passes. Tampa Bay rated near the bottom of the league in both categories. They lost leading tackler Barrett Ruud.
They are depending on a lot of young guys along the defensive line to pick things up. One of them is Da'Quan Bowers. Some called him a steal on Draft day on the basis that some writer once had him going first in a mock draft. My hunch is the reason he fell to the middle of the second round is that teams saw his rumored knee was not in good shape. Gerald McCoy is a promising tackle, but this Devil's Advocate game of saying he is as good as Ndamukong Suh that has been happening since the 2010 Draft needs to end. He is not Suh. They are going to have four first or second round picks in the past two years on the rotation on the defensive line. (Adrian Clayborn and Brian Price are the other two.)
Also disturbing to me is the sizable dip in Josh Freeman's numbers against the best competition. In six games against Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Atlanta (two), and New Orleans (two) in 2010, Freeman threw four of his six interceptions all year. He also completed 50% or fewer of his passes in four of those game.
Add in a tough division, and I think you have a team headed in the right direction that is still a work in progress.
I know success is a relative term here, but the Seahawks did make it to the second round of the Playoffs last year. I think they will be worse than 7-9 this year.
I could talk myself into a young offensive line where there are a lot of high Draft picks joining free agent Robert Gallery and accomplished line coach Tom Cable. I could talk myself into Sidney Rice being a difference maker even though he is injury prone and has only had one good year. I cannot talk myself into Tavaris Jackson being the answer to the team's quarterbacking problems. And I do not see any impact moves to help a 27th ranked defense. I think the Seahawks go from worst to first. Unlike the other two teams profiled here, I do not think they are headed in the right direction. I do not think they even have direction under Pete Carroll.