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NFL: The Best of the Worst. Bright Spots for Non-Playoff Teams Pt 3

Welcome to the first of our new features shining a light on sport from across the pond. MatchPint's first ever international correspondent, Pete Dombrosky, has cast his eye over the NFL's also-rans. This is Part Two of four in an end of regular season round up. Head on over here to see Part Two. Enjoy.

 

New York Jets (6-10)

I enjoyed watching the Jets this year because I, like many Americans, enjoy a good dumpster fire. Just about everything that could go wrong did for Gang Green (short of someone actually getting gangrene). Mark Sanchez embarrassed himself most weeks, stand outs like Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis both ended the season early with injuries and America’s favorite Christian, Tim Tebow, didn’t do anything besides run for 3-yard gains and prance around in the rain with his shirt off.

 

Phwoooar, swoon, woof etc. It’s a shame being in shape doesn’t equal being a good quarterback. Sorry Timmy.

 

Here's an impressively bad advert he did recently. The editing, script and Tim's 'daddy cool' delivery make for one hell of a watch.

 

 

I could go on for pages and pages about how little the Jets seemed to care – from top to bottom – about giving their fans any reason to show up to the Meadowlands on Sundays, but as I stated at the top, this post is about optimism. So what was good about the Jets? Perhaps it’s the fact that Sanchez was so bad.

 

Jet’s fans collectively squint eyes, shake heads and say, “That’s it?!”

 

Ever since he led the team to NFC Championships in his first two seasons, he’s steadily regressed as a quarterback. The team around him has decayed, displaying his true colours and inability to lead as a starter. In light of his miserable form, maybe the organization will finally stop committing to him as their franchise QB and at least try someone else. Sanchez is due $8.25 million next year so the Jets can’t really afford to cut him and the return on a trade would probably be a massive bag of nowt, but they can still make him ride the pine and try someone, anyone else under center. You need a reliable quarterback to win in the NFL, not someone whose claim to fame is a butt fumble.

 

 

Buffalo Bills (6-10)

 

After losing four straight Super Bowls in the early ‘90s, the Bills organization decided it would hurt too much to once again reach the big game and lose, so they’re keeping things casual in a bid to avoid ending back in the big time. To the Bills, it’s not better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.

 

This season marked another successful avoidance of the playoffs for the Bills with the added bonus of the eighth-straight year without a winning record. Upon the completion of the season, the Bills fired head coach Chan Gailey and I wouldn’t be surprised if GM Buddy Nix got the axe by the time this post is up. We never know what kind of on-the-field turnover there’ll be, but if the Bills want to change their years of misfortune, they’ll promote running back CJ Spiller to the starting spot in 2013.

 

The Bills struggled in almost all offensive categories except for rushing yards per game, in which they ranked sixth with 138.6. Even though starter Fred Jackson fared well when he played, Spiller absolutely tore the field up when he touched the ball. He started only nine games, but he made the most of them by rushing for 1,244 yards and four touchdowns while hauling in 43 receptions for 459 yards and two touchdowns.

 

I sincerely doubt the Bills will turn it around enough to make the postseason next year, but with Spiller starting 16 games, an upgrade to their coaching staff and some defensive tweaks, the Bills just might surprise the city of Buffalo and win more than they lose.

 

Tennessee Titans (6-10)

 

Here are the wins for the Titans this year: Detroit, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Miami, the Jets and Jacksonville. What do those teams have in common? You guessed it; they are all on this list because none of them made the postseason. Tennessee did not manage a single quality win this season. Statically, they didn’t finish any better than 21st in passing, rushing, pass defense or run defense.

 

One of the primary problems came where there is no room for error: the quarterback. Jake Locker started for the first time in his young, two-year career but he was unable to go the full season because of injury. Veteran Matt Hasselbeck did an ok job filling in (2-3) but the Titans clearly want Locker as their quarterback of the future, so they’ll have to do a better job protecting him.

 

For the standout, I’m looking to Chris Johnson, which seems to happen every year I search for the positives in the Titans. He managed to run for 1,243 yards which put him in elite company. He’s rushed for 6,888 yards in his five-year career. The only other players able to rush for at least that many yards in their first five years are Eric Dickerson, LaDainian Tomlinson, Emmitt Smith, Earl Campbell and Walter Payton. Johnson clearly has gas left in the tank so he should continue to be an outstanding back to lean on for at least a few more seasons.

 

Arizona Cardinals (5-11)

 

After winning their first-four games (two of which came against the Patriots and Seahawks), the Cardinals were primed to run the table and finish the season undefeated – in an alternate universe. They did look like they could make the playoffs because of an air-tight defense and an offense that could do enough to win games. But the Cardinals ended up instilling as much fear in the opposition as an actual cardinal might and lost 11 of their last 12. Coach Ken Whisenhunt climbed onto the hot seat (at least it was a dry heat) and was fired at the end of the season. I feel like Whisenhunt got a raw deal because given the injuries to his quarterbacks and backfield, expecting him to magically win games was like expecting a brain surgeon to remove a tumour with a jackhammer.

 

What’s even sadder was that Larry Fitzgerald, a top-five receiver in the NFL, was rendered helpless this year. If he could throw the ball to himself, he would have. Four different quarterbacks started this year for Arizona and they were named John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer. None of them showed any proficiency at getting Fitz the ball and none of them should be starting in the desert next year.

 

The Cards still have that great defense to build off of next year so if Arizona want to find some victories, their new coach will have to upgrade the offense and put some points on the board.

 

Cleveland Browns (5-11)

 

Continuing down the column of coaches who got a raw deal and were fired prematurely, we have Pat Shurmur. I understand that the Browns went 9-23 during Shurmur’s two-year tenure. I realize that it is a win now league. But two years? Shurmur inherited a team that hadn’t cracked .500 since 2007. Even Romeo Crennel got four years to change the Browns fortune and he couldn’t coach his way out of a wet paper bag.

 

Regardless, the Browns certainly do need to upgrade in a few areas. There aren’t any legitimate target options for quarterback Brandon Weeden. Josh Gordon and Greg Little had nice seasons, but neither of them put the fear of god into defensive backs.

 

The clear offensive producer was Trent Richardson. For a frame of reference, Ravens DE Pernell McPhee said that Richardson is the hardest back to tackle in the NFL, and he might be right. Richardson is built like bowling ball at 5’9’’ 230 pounds and just looking at him will turn you black and blue. He rushed for 950 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Expect those numbers to go up next year.

 

Defensively, the Browns weren’t too bad. They finished the season with 36 sacks (which isn’t great), but D-lineman Jabaal Sheard finished with seven. He’s been in the league only two seasons, but he’s finished both of them with at least seven sacks. In the secondary, the Browns rank in the top-10 in passes defended (108) and interceptions (17). They’re still the Browns, but just because their colours are ugly and their logo is about as generic as it gets doesn’t mean they’ll be bad forever.

 

Pete Dombrosky

 

Does Pete know his stuff? Has anyone get an unfair slating here? Let us know on the comments below.

 

Coming up tomorrow - Part Four.

 

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