It is Election Day here in the US. Please go out and vote. It is the responsibility that comes with citizenship…
Since we are at the halfway mark in the NFL season, I assume that football pundits are beginning to formulate their pieces on who will make the playoffs and who will get the playoff BYE Weeks and the like. As is standard operating procedure here in Curmudgeon Central, I have looked at the league through the other end of the microscope to try to identify the worst team in the NFL. Trust me on this; it is just as difficult to project the worst team as it is to identify the best team at this point in the season.
Anyhow, I began the process by considering 5 candidates for the Dregs of the League. After looking at the 5 teams and their situations, I eliminated 2 of them from the final consideration. The fact that they were cast aside early in the process does NOT mean that I think these teams are any good; the fact that they made the initial list defines their substandard stature. Those two teams are:
- Browns: This team is no prize; make no mistake about that. Nevertheless, they have a few redeeming qualities that set them ever so slightly higher on the competency scale than the 3 finalists here. The Browns are a young team and so they should improve as the season progresses. Lord knows; they have ample room in which to improve. The Browns have a young QB who gives every indication that he can play at the NFL level, and it must be noted that the Browns have taken 4 opponents to OT this year including the Steelers and the Ravens – neither of which belongs anywhere near this list of ineptitude. The Browns have fired their coach already and will probably have a new one next year. That is not unusual under this owner; since he took control of the team in 2012, he has fired 4 coaches and is working with an interim coach at present. Browns’ fans should be wary of the next selection here; the ones made before this have all left a lot to be desired.
- Cardinals: Once again, let me reiterate; this is not a good football team. However, when I compare it and its prospects to the 3 finalists here, I think they are on a level more like the one the Browns inhabit as opposed to the bottom rung of the ladder. The Cards have a rookie QB who looks as if he can be their starter for a while and they have a top-shelf running back. [Both of those assets would be more productive if the Cards had a better OL, but such is the plight of bad football teams. The lack of offensive production from the Cards is rooted in their less-than-adequate offensive line play.] The Cards’ defense ranks in the middle of the league in terms of yards allowed and points allowed. That is a plus given that they are on the field a lot.
With that as prelude, allow me to present the finalists in the landscape of bad NFL teams to descend to the status of Dregs of the League. Since there are still a couple of months to go in the regular season – and there will surely be no post-season action for any of these three teams – I will present the teams in alphabetical order and make the case here why they could well be the team that is on the clock for the first pick in the NFL Draft in the Spring of 2019.
- Bills: The Bills rank 31st in offense in the league in terms of yards per game and they are dead last – by a comfortable margin – in the league in points scored per game. The Bills average 10.7 points per game; we are into November and the Bills have not scored 100 points since the season began on September 10th. In 7 of the 9 games played to date, the Bills have failed to score as many as 14 points. Underscoring the team’s offensive ineptitude – on the field and in the roster-building aspect of the game – this team has Nathan Peterman on the active roster and needs to start him in actual NFL games that count in the standings. Not intending to mollify Peterman’s ineptitude, but the Bills do not own a WR that any other team covets. That leaves the Bills’ defensive unit in a position where they have to win football games. The Bills’ defense is pretty good, but it is not the Steel Curtain. In fact, it would appear that the defense is wearing down since the Bills have lost their last 3 games by a cumulative score of 103 – 20.
- Giants: The Giants have won 1 game in 2018; they beat the Texans in Week 3. The Texans were so embarrassed by losing to the Giants that the Texans sprung to life and proceeded to win their next 6 games in a row. The Giants’ offense does not score a lot of points, but it does move the ball. In fact, ten teams rank below the Giants in yards gained this year – – including the Skins who lead the Giants’ division. The team has two good offensive players in Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham, Jr. Eli Manning is clearly on the downward arc of his career which limits the contributions that Beckham can make to the team in terms of finding the end zone. The Giants’ defense also ranks in the middle of the league. Those statistical rankings make it difficult to understand a 1-7 record to date. The Giants seem to find a way to do something wrong at a key time; for example, the team ranks 29th in the league in the number of third downs converted. On paper, the Giants look like a team that should be 3-5 or maybe even 4-4 at this point. The degree of their underachievement and their lack of any enthusiasm on the field makes me put them in the running for Dregs of the League.
- Raiders: One of the NFL adages is that games are won and lost in the trenches. I have seen all or part of three Raiders games this year and both their OL and their DL routinely lose that “trench warfare”. Individually, the linemen do not “defeat” the guy in front of them; they do not run the ball effectively; they do not pass protect adequately; they do not stop the run well at all; they do not generate any meaningful pass rush. Other than that… Compounding the problem(s) here, Jon Gruden is intent on vaporizing the team he inherited; already 3 of the best players on the Raiders’ roster as of August 2018 are gone. Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper were traded; Bruce Irvin was simply released. Even if I stipulate that Gruden can/will reconstruct a Raiders’ roster that is able to compete at something above the middle levels of the league, that is not going to happen in 2018. And just as icing on the cake, the Raiders have an owner who would need to add 50 “football IQ points” to achieve the level of “Incompetent”.
So, there they are. There are five bad teams. Three of them look to be a bit worse than the other two – – but none of them are any good. There will only be one head-to-head game among these 5 teams down the line:
- The Raiders and Cardinals meet in Arizona on Nov 18. Try to contain your enthusiasm for that one…
Finally, Scott Ostler had this comment in the SF Chronicle last week regarding the impending move of the Raiders to Las Vegas:
“Usually when a high-rolling loser comes to Vegas, the casinos set him up with a comp hotel room. With [Mark] Davis, they’re giving him a comp stadium.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………