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CBSSports.com: Da Bears are Da disappointments of Da NFL


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By Clark Judge


New Orleans can't move. Miami can't win. And Chicago can't breathe.

If you're looking for busts this season you can start with those three and work your way down. There are plenty of things that were supposed to happen this year but haven't, and let's go now to St. Louis. Or is that Cincinnati? Denver, maybe?

Hey, the natives are restless everywhere, and that's why I'm here: To acknowledge the season's biggest and most unexpected disappointments. Lovie Smith and his Bears are at the front of the line, but you know what they say about misery.

The roll call, please:

1. The Chicago Bears: They're not Monsters; they're Imposters of the Midway, waiting on someone to plug the leaks in their once-magnificent defense. The problem was supposed to be Rex Grossman, but Brian Griese is almost as bad. He's 1-2, with as many interceptions and sacks as Grossman and two more fumbles. But poor quarterbacking isn't the issue here. Defense is. Plain and simple, Chicago's leaks -- and I have a series of Adrian Peterson clips to prove it. The run defense is especially awful, with Peterson shredding it for a gazillion yards last weekend. I know there have been a slew of injuries, but they had injuries a year ago, too, and weren't 27th in total defense and 23rd in points allowed. The Bears had a league-leading 44 takeaways then, too, and look what's happened there: Their 12 this season has them tied for eighth. Maybe that's why Chicago's time of possession is down by nearly three minutes. All I know is the Bears aren't winning as they did a year ago. Heck, they're not winning, period.

2. Drew Brees and New Orleans: The last time I checked, these guys were in the NFC Championship Game with Chicago. The way things are now, neither makes it back. In fact, neither makes it to the playoffs. The Bears have a chance, but New Orleans? Geez, until they met Seattle they looked dreadful, with no one worse than Drew Brees. A year ago he was the runner-up to LaDainian Tomlinson as the league MVP; now he struggles to find an open receiver. Look at the passer ratings: Only Marc Bulger, Matt Leinart, Tavaris Jackson, Grossman and Gus Frerotte rank lower. And that 3:9 touchdown-to-interception ratio doesn't cut it. I heard Brees last week saying the worst part of losing was having to answer a lot of stupid questions over and over. OK, then, how about doing something about it? How about winning?

3. The NFC: The AFC has the best teams, the best quarterbacks, the best running backs, the best receivers and the best defenses. The NFC? It has Tony Romo sits to pee and the Dallas Cowboys, and we just saw how far they must go to catch New England. Heck, they shouldn't have beaten Buffalo the week before. I can name the top four teams in the AFC without hesitation, but who's No. 2 in the NFC? I'd offer Green Bay, but the Packers aren't in the same stratosphere as Indy or New England. The Super Bowl won't decide who's best in the NFL; the AFC Championship Game will. Just as it did a year ago.

4. The AFC East: New England is loaded. But then what? Well, then we have three 90-pound weaklings that can't find the beach. The Jets were a playoff team a year ago. Now they're 1-5. Buffalo was 7-9 last season. Now it's 1-4. And Miami? Don't ask. Put the three together and you have a 2-15 record. Look for the Pats to wrap this thing up by no later than mid-November.

5. Cincinnati: When I spoke to a general manager this summer I asked which team he thought posed a greater threat to Baltimore in the AFC North -- Cincinnati or Pittsburgh. He answered Cincinnati, saying the Bengals had too many weapons to be ignored. I agreed ... until I watched them. Wow. Then I listened to them. Worse. Then I saw them self-destruct. What in the name of Ickey Woods is going on here? They stink on defense. They can't protect Carson Palmer. And team meetings produce nothing. One coach I trust said the Bengals suffer from a lack of leadership, and he might be right. All I know is over their last eight games, they lost seven. Marvin Lewis, start the bilge pumps. You're taking on water.

6. Julius Peppers: Jason Taylor was the league's defensive MVP last season, yet a majority of coaches, scouts and general managers believe Peppers is the game's premier defensive end. Or, at least, they did prior to this season. Good thing there's no re-count because, up until last weekend, Peppers did nothing but block a field goal. No sacks. No forced fumbles. No interceptions. Yes, he had a monster game against Arizona, but isn't he supposed to have monster games most weekends? After all, he is the best in the game at his position ... right?

Shaun Alexander and the Seahawks running game continue to be grounded. (US Presswire)

Shaun Alexander and the Seahawks running game continue to be grounded. (US Presswire)

7. Shaun Alexander and Larry Johnson: I guarantee they were two of the top five choices in your Fantasy football draft. Alexander set the record for touchdowns in 2005, and Johnson was supposed to set it last season. Instead, he carried 416 times and scored 19 times. So what's going on now? Nothing. And that's a problem. Until last weekend, Johnson didn't have a 100-yard game. In 2005 he produced nine in his last nine starts, including two of 200 or more. Alexander hasn't had a 100-yard game since Sept. 23. And neither can find the end zone without a compass. Alexander has two TDs; Johnson has one. Yeah, I know, Alexander misses Steve Hutchinson and Johnson misses Willie Roaf and Will Shields, but you'd think they'd combine for something more than 3.5 yards a carry. "Everyone wants to know what's wrong with these guys," said one personnel director, "but Larry Johnson hasn't changed. Shaun Alexander hasn't changed. Look what they have up front. Spotty."

8. St. Louis: No Steven Jackson. No Marc Bulger. No chance. "The Greatest Show on Turf" is the Greatest No-Show, with the Rams awful on offense, awful on defense and still waiting on their first victory. Once, you needed a calculator to keep up with this offense; now you can track it with an hourglass. Nobody scores less than St. Louis, held to a field goal in its latest loss, but at least the Rams are balanced: They're 24th in passing and 25h in rushing. Mike Martz, please call home.

9. Denver: Every year I figure the Broncos and Mike Shanahan for 10-6 and the playoffs. Not this season. They're lucky they're not 0-5, and I can only imagine the outcry if Jake Plummer were still in town. You're lucky you're not, Jake. The problem here is that Denver can't tackle anyone, and rewind the videotape to that 41-3 thumping by San Diego. Opponents shred the Broncos for an average of 188 yards a game, and I don't care if Jay Cutler is the second coming of John Elway; you can't win like that. The Broncos used to own this city, but not anymore. It belongs to the Rockies, and Oct. 29 can serve as the evidence: The Rockies are home for the fifth game of the World Series on the same day the Broncos host Green Bay. Trust me, the interest will be with baseball.

10. Miami: You knew the Dolphins were in trouble when they picked Ted Ginn Jr. with the ninth draft choice. Then they flubbed the Trent Green deal, bungled the Daunte Culpepper situation and started the season. And it's only gotten worse. Normally, you can count on the Dolphins defense to float this boat, but they're the guys who just got sand-blasted by Cleveland. They're 31st against the run and 29th in points allowed, and they're producing more lowlights than the U. "I don't see how it could get any lower than this," cornerback Will Allen said after the 41-31 loss to Cleveland. Somebody show him a schedule. You haven't played the Patriots, Will, and you get them twice.

Honorable mention

Atlanta's running game: So the Falcons went into the season without Michael Vick. At least they had the league's top-ranked rushing game. In fact, it was numero uno the past three years under Jim Mora. But Mora is gone, and so is the run -- partially because so is Vick. The last time I checked the Falcons ranked 21st. You want to know why Joey Harrington is getting killed back there? You must have the threat of a run to keep a defense honest.

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I'm tired of teams rehashing old nicknames like the Monsters of the Midway. That term has been used in Chicago since the days of Dick Butkus. We don't rehash the Hogs or the Steelers don't rehash the Steel Curtain. Give it a rest Chicagoans.

I think Julius Peppers needs a change of scenery. I think the Panthers D is getting stale to him.

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Does it bother anyone else that Cleveland, Oakland, and Detriot are all missing from this list? Man, 2007 is one weird ass season!

Why would they be there? The list is about "unexpected disappointments."

Each of those has exceeded my expectations already.

Hell, they could all pass their season win totals from last year with just one or two more wins.

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