Before we get ready for the official start of the 2015 season on March 10th let’s take a look back at the most disappointing teams of the 2014 season.
NFC South Division – The division which includes the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton at the quarterback position couldn’t get a team to the .500 mark. The Carolina Panthers ended up as the division winner with a 7-8-1 record, the second worst team to ever make the playoffs. It was so bad for the division this year that many media outlets and fans across the nation questioned whether the NFL should change the format of the playoffs to avoid sub .500 teams from earning a playoff birth. The defenses in the division struggled mightily as the Saints and Falcons had the worst team defenses in league, both teams made the list of disappointments below:
New Orleans Saints – The Saints came into the year with high expectations and were considered the favorites to win the NFC South, after all, they do have one of the four elite QBs in the league. Brees put up his usual numbers throwing for an NFL leading 4,952 passing yards and 33 TDs, but the departure of Darren Sproles affected their easy offense and the check down yards the Saints’ fans are accustomed to. Brees forced more passes downfield resulting in 17 interceptions, third most in the league. Rob Ryan’s defense underwhelmed after turning the unit around the year before last. With no pass rush and an anemic secondary the Saints have some work to do this off-season in order to get back to their glory days.
Atlanta Falcons – The Atlanta Falcons stressed all off-season that the team would play with more edge and physicality. Paying big money in free agency last season on Paul Soliai, Tyson Jackson, and Jon Asamoah coupled with their first two draft picks Jake Matthews and Ra’Shede Hageman it didn’t change much for the Falcons as the team was dominated in the trenches on both sides of the ball. The Falcons’ biggest need this offseason and for the last couple seasons is to find a consistent pass rush. The Falcons finished last in the league on defense while registering the least amount of sacks over the last two seasons. Similarly to the Saints, Matt Ryan and the offense was not able to make up for how poor the defense played week-in and week-out.
San Francisco 49ers – Coming into the season the 49ers had many question marks on the defensive side of the ball with the NaVarro Bowman injury and Aldon Smith suspension. Many thought Colin Kaepernick and the offense would of take a step forward and carry the defense until they got their stars back. Well that didn’t happen as Kaepernick hit a wall last season and struggled to get his receivers the ball. Kaepernick showed his inexperience as a one read, confused signal-caller who is still unable to go through his progressions and make the correct pre and post snap reads. The disappointing Niners lost four of their last five games including a loss to their Bay Area lowly rivals the Oakland Raiders. With the departure of Coach Jim Harbaugh to Michigan the new regime must fix Kaepernick quick, fast and in a hurry to have success next season.
Chicago Bears – Da Bears came into the 2014 season sailing high as their franchise quarterback Jay Cutler was healthy and had what many believed the best receiving duo in football, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey. Add in dynamic all around back Matt Forte and the gifted TE Martellus Bennett some projected Cutler as a favorite to win MVP (sorry Michael Irvin). As we all should know by now, Cutler is who we thought he was, a turnover prone QB who relies on his arm talent and not his mechanics and foot work. However, all can not be blamed on the signal caller as the Bears’ defense has been atrocious over the last two seasons. If Matt Ryan and Drew Brees can’t carry their team with a woeful defense, Cutler has no shot. The Bears need to target help on all three levels of the defense this off-season and hope and pray the new coaching staff is smart enough to make the “franchise QB” hand the ball off to their best player Matt Forte more often.