5 Teams That Will Crash and Burn During 2013 NFL Season

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5 Teams Who Will Crash and Burn During 2013 NFL Season

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly every NFL team feels a sense of optimism heading into a new season, as the slate is wiped clean and anything is possible. Unfortunately, every year there are several teams that set high goals for themselves and fall well short of those lofty expectations.

There a number of things that can go wrong throughout the NFL season, from injuries to locker room issues to a difficult schedule to just plain old poor play. Any combination of these factors will result in a team failing to be as good as it thought it could be.

Last season, teams that crashed and burned included the Kansas City Chiefs, Philadelphia Eagles and Tennessee Titans. All of those teams thought they could contend for a playoff spot, and all of them failed to get anywhere close.

The purpose of this list is identifying the teams that will follow that blueprint this season. I could sit here and tell you that the Oakland Raiders, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets will struggle this year, but you already knew that.

The teams that appear on this list are ones that believe they can be playoff contenders. A few of them have been playoff teams in recent seasons, and they all have big name players who fans will expect to lead the team to many victories.

Unfortunately for these teams, the pieces are not in place for that level of success. Each of these teams has fatal flaws that will prove to be their undoing, and none of these teams will be in the playoffs come season’s end.

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5. San Diego Chargers

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The San Diego Chargers were a disappointment last season, finishing at just 7-9. It was their first losing record since 2003, but it also marked the third straight year their record had worsened. In 2013, the Chargers are headed for a major fall, and they could end up as one of the worst teams in football.

The problems begin with quarterback Philip Rivers, who has turned the ball over 29 and 30 times over the last two seasons. He is not helped by San Diego’s atrocious line, which allowed the 4th most sacks in the NFL. The run game is just as bad, as the Chargers averaged just 3.6 YPA last season and scored only four rushing touchdowns. Ryan Mathews has missed 10 games in his three year career, and he is starting to look like a bust.

Defensively, the Chargers lost six starters from their very average unit, including both cornerbacks and sack leader Shaun Phillips. They will struggle to be league average, and with all the problems facing the offense, a weaker defense will result in a quite a few losses. The Chargers look like they’ll continue their downward trajectory, and the drop could be even more precipitous in 2013.

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4. Minnesota Vikings

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The Minnesota Vikings were a surprise playoff team last season, finishing 10-6 behind Adrian Peterson’s MVP winning campaign. However, don’t expect a repeat performance. For starters, the Vikings were forced to trade Percy Harvin, by far their best receiver and the only reason defenses didn’t put nine players in the box.

Beyond that, Christian Ponder has not shown any signs of being more than a game manager, which makes the offense one-dimensional. Greg Jennings will not be much of a help at receiver, and 1st round pick Cordarrelle Patterson is far from ready. Teams will load the box against Peterson, and as incredibly talented as he is, he will struggle to get close to last season’s success.

On the defensive end, the Vikings should be solid enough to keep them in most games. Peterson will carry the offense, but everything here comes down to Ponder. The Vikings are banking on Peterson repeating one of the best offensive seasons in NFL history, and all precedents in league history says that will be impossible. Ponder won’t be able to pick up the slack, and it will cost the Vikings a playoff spot.

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3. Pittsburgh Steelers

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The Pittsburgh Steelers have long been the model of consistent success in the NFL, and they’ve only posted a losing record once since the turn of the century. However, all signs this year point to a rare losing season, mostly due to age and health.

Ben Roethlisberger has only played a complete season once in his career, and as he enters his 10th season it appears to be a question when he will get hurt rather than if. The Steelers' offensive line was very poor last season, and the team finished 26th in the league in rushing. They also lost top receiver Mike Wallace in free agency, and Heath Miller may not be ready for the beginning of the season. Wallace can be replaced, but losing Miller for an extended period of time would cripple the offense.

On defense, age is taking its toll. James Harrison and Casey Hampton are gone, and Troy Polamalu only managed seven games last season. Even when healthy, Polamalu is not the same player he once was, and it greatly weakens the Pittsburgh defense. Every team must go through decline and rebuild, and the Steelers appear to be entering their decline phase. The injuries are too much to overcome, and a losing record looks likely.

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2. Dallas Cowboys

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Jerry Jones is still trying to convince the world that he has built the Dallas Cowboys into a Super Bowl contender, but nobody believes him. Unfortunately for Jones, he has made too many poor personnel decisions for this team to get anywhere near the championship game.

Tony Romo's struggles late in seasons and in the playoffs are well documented, and there is no reason to believe that they will change. The Cowboys' offensive line is still a work in progress, and their run game is non-existent, ranking 31st in the NFL in rushing. DeMarco Murray is constantly injured, taking away their only legitimate chance of having a rushing threat.

On defense, the team is making a very ill advised switch to a 4-3, moving stars DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff and Anthony Spencer out of their natural positions. The Cowboys have a lot of individual talent on defense, but their adjustment to a new scheme will take time and cost them games. Combine that with the turnover prone offense (-13 differential, 28th in NFL) and you get a team that will barely be able to reach .500.

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1. Miami Dolphins

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The Miami Dolphins went nuts in free agency, throwing boatloads of cash at anyone who would listen. Their pursuits landed them Mike Wallace and three new defensive starters, leading them to believe they are playoff contenders. However, most of those signings will prove to be mistakes, and the Dolphins won’t be much better, just more expensive.

Wallace is little more than a straight line deep threat, and the switch from Roethlisberger to Ryan Tannehill is not going to help him. The team already lost Dustin Keller to injury, leaving defenses to focus on Wallace. They are breaking in three youngsters at running back, and if no one emerges there will be far too much pressure on Tannehill. Most importantly, second year tackle Jonathan Martin does not look capable of handling the left side, and pass protection figures to be a major problem in Miami.

On defense, the team overpaid for linebackers Philip Wheeler and Dannell Ellerbee. No one knows what Ellerbee will be like outside of the Baltimore Ravens' defense, and the Dolphins are likely to be disappointed. The one good signing was CB Brent Grimes, but he is coming off a torn ACL and may not be the same player. The Dolphins are also switching to a 4-3, and the adjustment of Cameron Wake and the rest of the defensive line remains to be seen.

We have seen a trend in recent years that the winner of free agency is not usually the winner of the regular season. The Dolphins are the latest team to rush the process of rebuilding with ill-advised signings, and they will meet with the same results.

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