This year’s most disappointing NFL teams

By: Toby Martin-Kohls

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All stats from this article were from Pro Fooball Reference and Sportrac. You can find more information here and here.

Every year in the NFL, each of the 32 teams has expectations, and their performances fall into three categoried: They perform better than expected, do about as well as predicted, or disappoint. 

However, doing poorly doesn’t just qualify a team as a disappointment. For example, the Bears are one of the worst teams in the NFL, but nobody expected them to be a playoff team in the first place. They traded away a lot of star talent such as Roquan Smith for future draft picks, and Justin Fields looks to be making some promising steps.

Here are three teams that have not lived up to expectations this season.

Los Angeles Rams

The Los Angeles Rams were fresh off a Super Bowl victory and even though there were key losses such as WR Odell Beckham Jr. and LB Von Miller, they were still expected to be contenders. According to Pro Football Reference, the Rams were tied for the fourth highest Super Bowl odds according to oddsmakers, only to completely collapse with little hope for the future.

In just one year, the Rams offense went from 7th in the league in scoring averaging 27.1 points per game to this year’s abysmal 26th ranked scoring team, averaging a mere 18.7 points per game. Of course, injuries played a critical role, with key posiiton players such as: Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald all missing time. 

But the biggest issue offensively had been the revolving door of offensive lineman. The Rams became the first team in the Super Bowl era to use a different starting five in each of their first nine games. This was on top of an already patchy unit that had lost starting LT Andrew Whitworth to retirement after last year’s Super Bowl run. Matthew Stafford also saw a regression from his previous seasons stats before he got injured.

Defensively, losing Von Miller to free agency was brutal for the Rams. Without a dominant edge rusher opposite Aaron Donald, this unit was average defending the pass, and Jalen Ramsey’s less than stellar play caused him to miss the Pro Bowl for the first time since his rookie season back in 2016. 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

According to Pro Football Reference, only three teams had better preseason odds than the Rams to win the Super Bowl. Two of them are very much at the top of their game right now, but another team stands out with the Rams.

As the season started, things looked promising for the Bucs. They jumped out to a 2-0 start, but things fell apart quickly. They then lost five of the next six, and squeaked into the playoffs with a losing record. 

In 2021, they were 2nd in the league in scoring, averaging 30.1 points per game. Fast forward to this season and they are 25th in scoring, averaging 18.4 points per game. If it wasn’t for their solid defense, this team would have been even worse off. So, how did they fall off offensively?

Coaching makes a big difference. In a stunning move, head coach Bruce Arians retired during the 2022 offseason. But the biggest problem was the offensive line. It’s become clear that the loss of key interior personnel has crushed this teams ability to run. 

In 2021, the Bucs possessed 3 Pro Bowlers on their offensive line, OT Tristan Wirfs, OG Ali Marpet, and C Ryan Jensen. Ali Marpet surprisingly retired after last season at the age of 28 and Ryan Jensen tore his ACL in training camp before the season even started. So, take away two Pro Bowlers and throw in a bunch of injuries and what you get is the worst rush offense in the NFL, according to stats on Pro Football Reference. This consequently negatively affects the passing game. 

Because of that, Brady has often looked out of rhythm. Also, with the loss of TE Rob Gronkowski to retirement, it’s clear that this offense lacks any sort of punch. The team as a whole looks flat on a consistent basis. Who would have thought that a regular season matchup between future hall of farmers, Aaron Rodgers and Brady would come up with a score of 14-12 on September 24.

The Bucs were dominated by the Dallas Cowboys 31-14 in the first round of the NFL Playoffs.

Green Bay Packers

In the recent history of the NFC North, the Packers have reigned supreme over the division, winning 8 division titles since 2011, including the last 3 before this season. This year they finished 3rd in the division, which was a surprise considering they were supposed to be one of the best teams in the NFC. They even got beat out by the 9-8 Lions who were supposed to finish near the bottom of the standings. 

Since Matt LeFleur took over in 2019, Green Bay’s defense has ranged from league average, to above average, with their weakest season coming this year, and offensively what made them elite in the past was all the brilliant production with the lack of turnovers. That all changed this season, with QB Aaron Rodgers throwing double digit interceptions for the first time since 2010. 

It was always known that once Davante Adams was traded, this offense was going to be in a bit of a transitional phase, but now it is evident that it was tougher than expected. Not only did Ridgers not play well this season, but the chemistry between him and his young receiving core has perhaps been the biggest obstacle this season. The Packers also have been one of the most penelized teams in the league this season. 

With Rodgers signing a 3-year, 150 million dollar contract ahead of this season, it’s hard to see how the Packers will be competitive in the coming years with the salary cap. According to Sportrac, the Packers are currently projected to be $14 million over the cap for 2023.

One thought on “This year’s most disappointing NFL teams”

  1. Far and away the best NFL article I’ve read in years. Martin-Kohl’s writes with a masterful level of nuance, and I look forward to reading his football analysis whenever it gets published.

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