We've reached the halfway point of the NFL season, and some in the league just haven't performed to expectations. Sunday's loss at Oakland dropped the Pittsburgh Steelers to 2-5 -- and last place in the AFC North. The Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons -- two popular preseason Super Bowl picks -- also are 2-5, behind the uneven play of their respective quarterbacks, Matt Schaub and Matt Ryan. No one is above .500 in the NFC East, where Michael Vick can't seem to stay healthy enough to spark the Philadelphia Eagles. The Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, have lost four in a row after a 3-0 start.
So, which player or team can be considered the season's biggest disappointment thus far?
Bucs stand out in crowded fieldSo many choices. The New York Giants? After starting 0-6, maybe. But now that they've won two in a row, they're just two games back in the NFC East. Receiver Mike Wallace? He signed a deal with the Miami Dolphins that pays him $30 million in the first year -- and he's been mostly a non-factor. But that's not entirely his fault. Coaches haven't always taken advantage of his speed, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill hasn't always been able to deliver the ball.
That leaves the winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the biggest flop of all. They spent two offseasons loading up on free agents, and they traded for Darrelle Revis to help rebuild the secondary. But then they made the wrong bet on the starting quarterback and made Revis play zone rather than his preferred man defense. On top of all that, they were beset by myriad unsavory issues, from the MRSA infestation to leaks about Josh Freeman's behavior. For a team that hoped to contend for a playoff spot, the Bucs -- who are hearing calls for coach Greg Schiano's job at the halfway point -- are in a startling predicament, making them the worst disappointment of the season.
Redskins, Texans falling far short of expectationsWhen I think of how I viewed them coming into the season, the two most disappointing teams to me are the Washington Redskins and Houston Texans. I thought both could win their respective divisions, but at 2-5, both are far from where I thought they'd be. Both teams have been plagued by inconsistent efforts at the quarterback position, though for different reasons.
Robert Griffin III was coming off a major injury, so it was hard to predict how he was going to play early in the season. Through seven games, he's had just one outing (against Chicago in Week 7) in which he played at a level similar to last year's. As for Houston, Matt Schaub has had some fine moments, but he's also had some disastrous moments. It appears to me that Schaub -- who's been supplanted by backup Case Keenum for Week 9 -- has lost some of his confidence, and that can be a tough thing to regain.
Chip Kelly learning hard lessonsQuick quiz: How many NFL teams have yet to win a home game? Two are easy to list: the 0-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the 0-8 Jacksonville Jaguars. (The Jags, we should note, found a way to lose in London, as well. Maybe they can play a game in South America, so they can say they've lost on three of the seven continents.) But the third is the most surprising, and easily the most disappointing team in the NFL: the Philadelphia Eagles. That's right -- the Eagles are a big, fat 0-4 in Philly, where they've lost competitive games (against the Chargers and Chiefs) and non-competitive games (they combined to score just 10 points against the Cowboys and Giants over the past two weeks).
I was hopeful Chip Kelly's offense could work in the NFL, but through eight weeks, we can see why the team is struggling. The experts like to compare what Kelly is trying to do in the NFL with what he did at Oregon, where he had a very deep roster filled with tremendous athletes who made up what was, almost every week, the more talented team on the field. But in the NFL, it's not like that. The Eagles' opponents often are just as good as -- if not better than -- they are.
Life is easy when one is rolling over Pac-12 opposition; a system's importance can be over-inflated, because what looks like a level playing field really isn't. The Kansas City Chiefs aren't Washington State -- and Kelly is learning that the hard way.
Steelers, Schiano, Falcons make my top (bottom?) 10There are so many disappointments from which to choose that it simply wouldn't be right to name only one. So here's my top 10:
10) RGIII's comeback.
9) Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's inability to use Tavon Austin or the Rams' other young playmakers.
8) The Steelers' three losses to teams with a combined record of 7-14.
7) The Jaguars' all-time-ugly new uniforms.
6) The rest of the AFC East's perennial inability to pose a challenge to the Patriots.
5) Greg Schiano's inability to win a game with Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Darrelle Revis, et al.
4) The injury that ended Brian Hoyer's season -- and finished the Browns' Cinderella story before the end of the first chapter.
3) Matt Schaub's Houston Texans.
2) Chip Kelly's revolutionary offense.
1) The No. 1 playoff seed in the NFC in 2012: The Atlanta Falcons.
Eagles failing to inspire -- on both sides of the ballThe Philadelphia Eagles' offense has been the biggest disappointment for me so far. The unit looked so explosive in the first week of the season, but it has tailed off dramatically in recent weeks (though having to go with rookie Matt Barkley at quarterback will do that to an offense). The only consistency Philadelphia has seen with this team is the defense -- which has been consistently brutal. Seriously, the Eagles can't stop anybody.
It looks like Chip Kelly doesn't have the personnel to run his offense (which I still contend can be successful in the NFL), and that means things don't figure to improve much in the second half.