Cardinals, Panthers, Bengals, Packers - UGH!
The season wasn't supposed to go like this for the Cardinals and Panthers , Bengals and Packers . They combined to go 50-14 in 2015, all of them making the playoffs.
This season, heading into Green Bay's Monday night visit to Philadelphia, they are an ugly 15-26-2.
Maybe all of that losing is overlooked when the Browns are 0-12 and the Niners are 1-10, having dropped those 10 after winning their opener. It shouldn't be.
''It starts to wear on you,'' Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick says. ''I'm a winner. I've never been in this position.''
That position is 3-7-1.
''I'm just bummed,'' says Carson Palmer, whose Cardinals are 4-6-1 after making the NFC title game in January. ''It's disheartening, frustrating, and it hurts.''
How did it go so bad?
The Cardinals looked like the most-balanced roster in the NFL heading into September. While they've had their share of injuries - who hasn't? - their shortcomings have centered on disappointing performances from many of the people they were counting on heavily.
Start with Carson Palmer, who isn't making the big plays he produced last year and has thrown 11 interceptions to go with 15 TDs. He's made some bad decisions and hasn't gotten much production out of any skill position guys except running back David Johnson, who has been terrific, and the always reliable WR Larry Fitzgerald. Arizona struggles to protect the stationary quarterback, too.
Although the defense has some nice stats, it's also not making game-changing plays.
And special teams have been suspect.
Clearly the strangest collapse of 2016. The Panthers remain a dangerous opponent, as they showed Sunday by storming back from a 17-point halftime deficit at Oakland before losing 35-32.
Super Bowl losers tend to struggle the next season, and Carolina is no exception, particularly in the secondary. Removing the franchise tag from 2015 All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman, who landed in Washington, has plagued the defense all season.
The offensive line is a mess, leading to Cam Newton's falloff from his MVP showing. Jonathan Stewart's injury badly damaged a running game that only now is recuperating.
Carolina also can't close, being outscored 128-75 in the fourth quarter. Close games have been going the other way, too, with five losses by three points or less.
''We are done comparing everything to last year,'' standout tight end Greg Olsen says. ''The reality is that we are 4-7. It is a tough loss. Obviously, there are a lot of things that we could have done better to give us a better chance.''
Every coach, player and team executive will swear that past performances don't have much effect on current events. The Bengals might be better off living in the past, at least regular season-wise.
This franchise has made five straight trips to the postseason, losing in its first game each time. No matter what the Bengals say, that does wear on a team, particularly one with so many veterans who have gone through those January failures.
Cincinnati has the look of a group waiting for the opponent to seize control. Its meltdown in the wild-card matchup with Pittsburgh last season, a game the Bengals had no business blowing, sure seems to have caused a major hangover.
Add in having few complements to the wonderful A.J. Green, who is now sidelined; a leaky blocking unit; questionable coaching decisions by Marvin Lewis and his staff; and key mistakes by special teams.
When you have a quarterback with a Hall of Fame-quality resume like Aaron Rodgers, and you've been to the playoffs seven straight seasons, expectations remain high. Results in 2016 have been low.
Don't blame Rodgers, who's trying to carry the offense without a recognizable running game and with a line so jumbled it looks like, well, Swiss cheese.
Of all the 2015 playoff teams who are spiraling this season, the Packers have had the worst injury epidemic. Their secondary is so undermanned it sometimes seems there's no one left to line up at cornerback.
Questions even have begun to arise about the job security of Mike McCarthy, despite his stellar career record. That's the usual fallout when projected contenders fall apart.
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