The NFL season is approximately one-third finished – – now with 17 games in a regular season, there are no easily identified simple fractions for a season – – and there is about enough of the season in our collective rearview mirror to take a synoptic view of the league in 2021. Here is the difference between what I try to do here and what others who comment on and analyze pro football try to do:
- I want to focus on the really bad teams so far – – AND – –
- I want to focus on the teams I think are the most disappointing so far in 2021.
It is easy – and therefore commonplace – to comment on the positive surprises and the top teams in the league to date. But these words by H. L. Mencken explain why the curmudgeonly option is to do the opposite:
“Men became civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.”
I shall begin with the teams that have played most poorly to date in the 2020 NFL season. These are the bottom 6 teams to date:
- Lions: As the only winless team in the league (0-6) the Lions cannot possibly avoid being on this list; in fact, they really have to be at the top of the list even though I try to do these sorts of things alphabetically. With a point differential to date at minus -63, the Lions are tied with the Giants for the biggest scoring deficit in the NFC.
- Dolphins: They won a game in Week 1 and have lost 5 in a row since then. Hell, they lost to the sorry-assed Jaguars last week. This team was 10-6 last year but they have been awful in 2021. The Dolphins point differential is minus-78; they are losing on average by 13 points per game.
- Giants: They arrive at this party with a 1-5 record. Last week, the Giants honored the Giants’ team that won the 2011 Super Bowl, and the current version of the Giants went out and laid a giant rotten egg on the field of play.
- Jags: Yes, they won last week breaking a 20-game losing streak. Nonetheless, I will need to see lots of signs of life from the Dolphins over the next several weeks before I consider that Jags’ victory to be some sort of “breakthrough.”
- Jets: The Jets have won a game, but they have only lost 4 games as opposed to 5 games for other 1-win teams on this list. How can that be? The Jets had a BYE Week last week and it is extremely difficult to lose in one’s BYE Week. The Jets’ offense is anemic; it ranks 31st in the NFL gaining only 267 yards per game. That is simply not good enough.
- Texans: They too have won a game in 2021 – but it is sometimes hard to fathom how they did that. The Texans have the worst point differential in the NFL as of this morning at minus-80 points over 6 games which is ever so slightly worse than the Dolphins so far this year.
The six teams listed above are surely disappointing to their fanbase – – and probably to their owners. However, with the possible exception of the Dolphins, most folks did not expect much from teams on that list. Objective outside observers look at the list and say something along the line of , “So, what’s the big deal?”
I believe there are six other NFL teams where fans and owners should have expected a better start to the first third of the 2021 season and none of these six teams are close to being on the list above:
- Browns: The Browns were a fashionable pick to make to the Super Bowl this year as the AFC representative. As of this morning, the Browns are 3-3 with injuries and offensive inconsistency being the most prevalent storylines for the team. The Browns are not a bad team, but they have not lived up to the expectations of their fans.
- Chiefs: Maybe the football gods have inflicted the team with the “Curse of the Super Bowl Loser”. Or maybe, some of the defensive coordinators have caught up to the gimmickry of Andy Reid’s offense which is based in large part on the mobility and “arm-talent” of Patrick Mahomes. I do not know the answer there but here is what I do know: The Chiefs have been very successful for the past several years with a mediocre defense because that offense could bail the team out of more than a few desperate circumstances. And that has not been happening nearly as routinely in 2021 as it did in the past couple of seasons.
- Football Team: These guys won the NFC East last year and the expectation was that they would have a Top 5 defense that would shut down opponents. If only the offense could find a way to score 24 points in a game, the Football Team would be in a position to win that game. Not so fast my friend… The defense has been awful despite starting 5 first round picks in that defensive unit; opponents score an average of 31 points per game on that elite defense and that is the worst scoring statistic in the league.
- Niners: Like the Browns, the Niners had a significant following during the Exhibition Season as a dark-horse candidate to arrive at the Super Bowl as the NFC champ. I know; they have only lost 3 games in 2021; so, that achievement is not rendered impossible. But it is looking more and more improbable as the weeks go by. Trey Lance is starting at QB for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo – – no surprise regarding that injury status, please – – and I cannot see any way that a rookie QB will be able to carry the Niners through the tough divisional games presented by the NFC West.
- Pats: The team acquired free agents in the offseason and drafted someone who was supposedly “their guy” in the Draft to take over as QB. OK, the offense has struggled a bit with a rookie QB even with the genius of Josh McDaniels scheming and designing game plans. The real issue so far has been the defense’s inability to carry the team in light of the mediocre – and hopefully improving – team offense. There is lots of time left in the 2021 season, but I really do not believe that the Pats have the ability to catch the Bills in the NFC East.
- Seahawks: Calm down “Seahawk Nation”; I know that losing a top-shelf QB such as Russell Wilson ought to allow this team to get a pass from this sort of list. However, my problem is not with the Seahawks’ offense; it is with the defense that was supposedly upgraded and improved over the offseason. Well, as of this morning, the Seahawks defense has allowed an average of 433.2 yards per game and that ranks the defensive unit dead last in the NFL
Finally, I began this morning with some words from H. L. Mencken; so, let me close with another of his observations:
“[Hollywood] is the true and original arse-hole of creation. The movie dogs, compared with the rest of the population, actually seem like an ancient Italian noblesse.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………