The National Football League is full of surprises. Every year, without fail, players like Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan shock everybody by coming out of nowhere to play at an All-Pro level; big-name players like former New York Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis turn in substandard performances; teams like the 2016 Falcons go on unexpected postseason runs; and of course, teams like the 2016 Denver Broncos stun the rest of the league by falling flat on their faces and failing to live up to expectations.
In this article, we look at 10 teams that we believe have the potential to take a step back and have disappointing seasons in 2017. For some of them it will mean missing the playoffs or failing to defend a division title. For others it will mean contending for a top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Without further adieu, here are 10 teams that we believe will have disappointing seasons in 2017.
1. Dallas Cowboys
Nobody knew what to expect out of America’s Team last year as they came off a 4-12 season in 2015 and lost quarterback Tony Romo to a serious back injury last August during training camp. But as history would have it, the Cowboys jumped on the backs of a couple rookie sensations (quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott) and rolled to a 13-3 record, locking up the No. 1 seed in the NFC Playoffs.
In 2017, Dallas won’t be able to sneak up on their opponents. Barring injury, they will still have what is perhaps the premier offensive line in the league and one of the game’s best overall offenses. Defensively, though, the Cowboys could be in for a long year after suffering some serious attrition (they lost safeties Barry Church and J.J. Wilcox, cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, and defensive lineman Terrell McClain) this offseason.
At the end of the day, we see the Cowboys as a definite playoff team and one of the top contenders in the NFC. That said, we have concerns about their defensive holes; about their difficult schedule; about Elliott’s effectiveness in 2017 after taking on a massive workload (344 carries) in his rookie season; and about the fact that opposing coaching staffs will now have a full year of film to use as they gameplan against Prescott. As a result, we just don’t see the Cowboys matching their 2016 win total in 2017.
2. Kansas City Chiefs
Thanks to their salary cap issues, the Chiefs weren’t able to be very aggressive during free agency. They did sign defensive tackle Bennie Logan, but they also lost All-Pro defensive tackle Dontari Poe to the Atlanta Falcons. Bottom line: This team was two or three players away from competing for a Super Bowl when they entered the offseason, and they haven’t gotten any better. With one of the toughest schedules in the league, we expect the Chiefs to take a step back in 2017.
3. Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals had a highly disappointing season in 2016, and we see 2017 being even worse. They have one of the easiest schedules in the league, but Cincinnati still must find a way to make up for losing offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth and offensive guard Kevin Zeitler, who are both All-Pro-caliber players. Without Whitworth and Zeitler, the Bengals’ offense simply won’t be the same. Defensively, the Bengals have to start getting younger and they must find a player who can consistently pressure the quarterback. All said, we expect the Bengals to have a long season in 2017.
4. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals entered the 2016 season with Super Bowl aspirations, but ended up struggling to a 7-8-1 overall record. And unfortunately, we expect more of the same in 2017. Arizona’s extremely talented defense still has two of the best defensive backs in the league in Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu. However,they took a major hit when defensive end Calais Campbell signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, safety Tony Jefferson signed with the Baltimore Ravens, and D.J Swearinger signed with the Washington Redskins.
Offensively, the Cardinals have an explosive, game-changing running back (David Johnson) and a solid offensive line. But when it comes down to it, future Hall of Fame wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald will be 34 years old when the 2017 season kicks off, and we just don’t see Carson Palmer ever recapturing his All-Pro form. They could surprise us, but as of today, we believe the Cardinals will miss the postseason for a second straight season in 2017.
5. Minnesota Vikings
The Adrian Peterson era is over in Minnesota, and promising young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater still faces a long road to recovery. That means the Vikings will lack a true workhorse running back and will once again have Sam Bradford under center in 2017.
We really like what the Vikings have built defensively, and Adam Thielen and Stefan Diggs give them one of the better wide receiver duos in the league. But in the end, this team will likely only go as far as Bradford can carry them. The Vikings will be lucky to win eight games with the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner leading the way.
6. Detroit Lions
The Lions overachieved in 2016, thanks in large part to Matthew Stafford playing at an MVP level for most of the season. If he keeps performing at a high level, Detroit will continue to be competitive. But for them to truly take the next step as a team in 2017, the Lions will have to improve on the defensive side of the ball. And we just can’t envision that happening because they failed to truly address any of their holes on defense so far this offseason.
7. Los Angeles Rams
It’s hard to imagine the Rams being worse than they were in 2016 (when they went 4-12). But when you take a close look at the situation, all signs point toward a massively disappointing season for Los Angeles in 2017. Jared Goff is officially set to take over as the team’s full-time starting quarterback. Based on how he performed as a rookie in 2016 (he went 0-7 while completing only 54.6% of his passes for a quarterback rating of 63.6), the Rams could have one of the worst offenses in the league.
On the other side of the ball, the Rams have arguably the best defensive player in the league (defensive tackle Aaron Donald). However, they need much better play out of their linebackers and secondary to have any chance at competing for a playoff spot. On top of their other issues, the Rams will have a fairly difficult schedule in head coach Sean McVay’s first season with the team. We expect the Rams to “compete” for a top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
8. Washington Redskins
In case you somehow missed it, the Redskins have experienced an extremely dramatic offseason. It all started with the swirling rumors regarding Kirk Cousins’ future with the team, and it continued to worsen as the team parted ways with General Manager Scot McCloughan.
Aside from the aforementioned drama, the Skins also saw veteran wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson move on to new teams, and they weren’t really able to address their most pressing needs during free agency. They did sign promising wide receiver Terrelle Pryor to a team-friendly deal. However, there is no arguing the fact that (barring an outstanding draft class) the Redskins failed to improve this offseason.
9. Buffalo Bills
Rex Ryan is out and Sean McDermott is in as head coach, but in our eyes that won’t be enough to keep the Bills from struggling in 2017. They have one of the most difficult schedules in the league; Tyrod Taylor is talented but inconsistent; their defense has several holes to fill; and outside of LeSean McCoy, their offense lacks game-changing talent. We would be shocked if the Bills finish the 2017 season with a winning record.
10. New York Jets
The Jets have made it abundantly clear that they are in rebuilding mode. They cut ties with All-Pro veterans Nick Mangold, Brandon Marshall, and Darrelle Revis. While they made a couple of underrated free agent signings, the Gang Green still lacks a legitimate franchise quarterback. To make matters worse, the Jets also must deal with an incredibly difficult schedule in 2017. Expect the Gang Green to have their fair share of struggles.
Statistics courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.