We’re a quarter of the way into the NFL season. Be honest now – did anyone expect the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Rams to be sitting alone atop divisional races? So much for the surprises thus far in 2017.
But this week’s Talk of Fame Network poll focuses on the other end of the spectrum – the disappointments. Who/what has been the biggest disappointment after the first month of the season? We offer up six options:
Chargers crowds. Dean Spanos couldn’t wait to get out of San Diego, moving his team to Los Angeles last offseason. He should have left the team behind and taken his fan base up north instead. Without a home, the Chargers have been playing in a 30,000-seat soccer stadium in the suburbs. But the Chargers haven’t even been able to fill that small building. The Chargers have averaged 25,380 for their three home games thus far and have taken to blocking off empty seats in the second deck with tarps. The small crowds in San Diego used to be in the 50,000s. Spanos may long for the day his Chargers used to draw in the upper 60,000s for those AFC West rivalry games with the Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders.
Kaepernick still homeless. Colin Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers last March to become a free agent. At 29 years of age, Kaepernick was in his prime and looking to take a second team to a Super Bowl. But quarterback vacancies opened and closed in the NFL without a call to Kaepernick. The 49ers signed Brian Hoyer to take his place. The Jets signed Josh McCown. The Bears signed Mike Glennon. The Dolphins signed Jay Cutler. Kaepernick became a sideshow last season by taking a knee at the national anthem, and potential employers either didn’t like his politics or didn’t like his talent. So Kaepernick, just four years removed from a Super Bowl season, remains unemployed.
NFL officiating. Through 63 games, NFL officials are throwing their yellow flags at a record pace, calling an average of 14.1 penalties for 119.1 yards per game. The Kansas City Chiefs have managed to remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team despite the best efforts by the officials. The Chiefs have been penalized a league-high 316 yards on 36 penalties. There have already been 26 games where teams were penalized at least 10 times. The leader in the clubhouse is the crew of Tony Corrente, which has already thrown 67 flags and walked off 567 yards. That’s almost six football fields of penalties, folks – and that’s just four weeks of work by this crew. The less we see of these officials the better – and we’ve seen way too much of them already this season.
New England defense. The Patriots still have Tom Brady – and the way their defense has been playing, New England is going to need every completion, every yard and every touchdown Brady can generate. Once a franchise that prided itself on its defense under Bill Belichick, the Patriots have forgotten how to tackle and cover. They have allowed the most yards and second-most points in the NFL this season. New England is the only defense to allow a 300-yard passer in each of four of its games this season – Alex Smith (368), Drew Brees (356), rookie DeShaun Watson (301) and Cam Newton (316). It’s a testament to Brady that the Patriots are still breathing as a contender with their 2-2 record. New England is on pace to allow 512 points this season. Only two teams in NFL history allowed more.
NY Jets tanking effort. Remember when this was supposed to be the season of the tank for the Jets? With a handful of top-tier quarterbacking prospects projected for the 2018 draft, it was in New York’s best interest to draft as high as possible to give the Jets their best shot of finding a franchise quarterback for the future. To get to the top of the draft you need to lose games – lots and lots of them. The Jets appeared to be buying into the tanking philosophy last offseason, shedding nine of their household names from the 2016 season who combined to start 109 games. Darrelle Revis, Sheldon Richardson, Brandon Marshall, David Harris, Nick Mangold – see ya. But a funny thing has happened on New York’s path to the top of the draft order: They’ve been winning games. The Jets, supposedly without trying, have as many wins (2) after the first month as the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, who are trying.
Winless NY Giants. A month ago, the Giants were a fashionable pick to topple the Cowboys as NFC East champions and make a run at their third Lombardi Trophy 11 years. That now seems like a lifetime ago. The Giants are one of only four teams still winless after four games – and the other three either have new head coaches, new quarterbacks or both. The Giants can’t run the ball (they rank 31st in the NFL), and they can’t stop the run (ranking 28th against the rush). Eli Manning is still throwing interceptions (4 in 4 games), and Odell Beckham has more penalty flags (3) than he does touchdowns (2). The line couldn’t block last year, and the same group returned intact this season. Only one team in history has ever climbed out of an 0-4 hole to make the playoffs. Who thought the best team in New York after a month would be the Jets?