At the beginning of every season, an NFL team sets its goals for the upcoming year. In a what have you done for me lately league, the yearly goals for a football team set a bar that if not reached, will cost people jobs during and after the season concludes. Some teams have a championship or bust mentality but others are more modest.
With one week to go before the NFL season kicks off, it is time to discuss which teams will live up to, breakout, or falter compared to what is expected of them. These are three teams set to fall short of expectation in 2018.
3 NFL Teams Set To Underachieve in 2018
Pittsburgh Steelers (AFC North) – 2017 Record: 13-3
Despite finishing tied for the best record in the NFL in 2017, the Steelers were bounced in the first round of the playoffs. The 45-42 loss to Jacksonville was an interesting one considering that Pittsburgh lost to a lower tier QB while they managed 42 points on offence. This was also the second time on the year that Pittsburgh’s defence let them down against the Jags. The Steeler’s defence didn’t get any better during the offseason either.
Pittsburgh had a lot of success closing out games in 2017 but it was because they were frequently tied or down late in games. They even had a five-game win streak in which four of the five games the Steelers won, were decided by a game-winning field goal with under a minute left in regulation. Of their 13 wins, only five were decided by more than one score. That means eight of their wins were close games that could go either way depending on if just a couple things went wrong. This screams one thing. For the Steelers to win games they almost always needed their offence to bail out their defence.
The brightest spot on the Steelers is undoubtedly their offence but with Antonio Brown‘s outbursts, Ben Roethlisberger continuing to threaten retirement, and Le’Veon Bell‘s contract negotiation problems, Pittsburgh could turn into a large soap opera if they aren’t winning games. Also, factor in that they will meet with the Jags and Patriots again — two team’s they have had terrible trouble beating recently. With the Steelers lack of ability to convincingly beat bad teams and their inability to beat good teams, it’s hard to believe that they can have a lot of success in 2018 if their offence slows even a bit.
Atlanta Falcons (NFC South) – 2017 Record: 10-6
The Falcons managed to reach the playoffs in 2017 for the second year in a row but were ushered out in the second round by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Eagles. This marked the end to a relatively successful year but one that had its bumps. Atlanta snuck into the playoffs as the last seed in the NFC on the shoulders of a solid showing on both sides of the ball. The problem was the regression of Matt Ryan. The 2017 version of the 2016 NFL MVP much more resembled the form he had shown throughout his career as opposed to the one he portrayed a season prior. Ryan had one of his worst seasons to date finishing the season with his lowest totals in yards and touchdown passes over the last seven years.
Unlucky for Atlanta, they also have one of the hardest schedules in the NFL. They get their six usual division opponents (do not avoid the Jameis Winston suspension), the Super Bowl champs on opening night, and the improved rosters of the Giants, Ravens, and Packers. Even going .500 could be a challenge.
The Falcons will struggle not because they are a team that looks like it took a step back in the offseason but because there is so much competition in the NFC. New Orleans is looking like a true Super Bowl contender and Cam Newton has perhaps the best offensive weapons in Carolina he’s ever had. The Falcons were also 2-5 against playoff teams last season and lost or nearly lost some very winnable games (Chicago Week 1/Miami Week 6). In the toughest division in football, Atlanta looks like a team that is going to have to hope other teams sputter around them if they want to get back into the playoffs.
Kansas City Chiefs (AFC West) – 2017 Record: 10-6
The Chiefs were one of the hottest teams to start the 2017 season but went through a 1-5 stretch midseason that brought that fiery streak to a disruptive end. KC kicked off 2017 with a five-game winning streak on the shoulders of rookie sensation Kareem Hunt and would get into the playoffs despite their midseason struggles. They would then blow a huge 21-3 third-quarter lead to the Titans in their only playoff game reminiscent of their 2015 collapse in Indy.
Now in 2018, the Chiefs really haven’t done much to upgrade. Tyreek Hill made a bold statement claiming that the Chiefs would be the best offence in the NFL behind new starting QB Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes has a huge arm and the addition of Sammy Watkins along with Hill will give KC maybe the best deep-threat duo in the league.
However, their problem this year won’t be their offence (which was already a huge strength in 2017) but the defence. The Chiefs defence finished 2017 ranked 5th-lowest in total yards allowed and tied for 8th-lowest in sacks. They also lost their four-time Pro Bowler and leader on defence in Derrick Johnson as well as their best corner in Marcus Peters. This leaves the middle of the field looking shaky and the secondary looking leaky. Kendall Fuller could potentially lead the secondary in his first year as a Chief but has never had to play the lockdown role that Peter’s vacated.
With all the uncertainty on the Chiefs roster, they will find it hard to win games relying on a sophomore QB in his first full season as a starter. While always unpredictable, KC will have to leapfrog the Chargers and win a lot of games in which they will be seen as the underdog.
Embed from Getty Images