The NFL awards will be decided during a two-hour event, beginning at 12pm (AEDT) on Sunday, February 2. Here are my predictions.
It’s been a big year in the NFL this season for quarterbacks and the passing game. A record-breaking five quarterbacks are on track to break the 4700 passing yards barrier.
After 27 years, Drew Brees became the first quarterback to break Dan Marino’s record of most passing yards in a season. Tom Brady is not far away. Aaron Rodgers has been nearly faultless and rookie Cam Newton threw for more yards than any rookie has before.
Yet as with every season in the NFL, there have been some quarterback performances that have fallen well below expectations, and have left fans scratching their heads as to what went wrong.
In descending order, these are my five quarterbacks who have been disappointing this season.
5. Sam Bradford – St Louis Rams
I was in two minds whether to include Bradford on this list. First, expectations would not have been as high with him as some other quarterbacks as he was only in his second year in the NFL. Many quarterbacks have fallen victim to the second-year blues, or as the Americans call it, the sophomore slump.
His first year showed some promising signs, throwing 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. A performance like that in a poor team like the Rams gave optimism for much greater improvement in 2011.
Overall though, for 2011, you have to say his stats represent a disappointing season, with just six touchdowns in ten starts.
The lockout really hurt Bradford. The Rams were moving from a West Coast offence to a more aggressive down-the-field under new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. Bradford would have had limited time to acquaint himself with the new system.
Then in week two he lost his safety valve Danny Amendola for the season. Donario Alexander, Greg Salas and Brandon Gibson all missed games during the season. Mike Sims-Walker was cut after week four. Week to week Bradford had different receivers starting, giving him no time to get comfortable.
To make things worse his receivers have had more drops than any other team in the league. The less said about the offensive line, the better.
Still there was enough optimism pre-season to expect much more, and there is always more expectation on No. 1 draft picks.
4. Joe Flacco – Baltimore Ravens
Flacco was slightly disappointing last season. Expectations were high that Flacco would finally take the leap to elite level, or at least knocking on the door thereof. It didn’t quite happen, but he improved gradually in his first three seasons, his touchdown count rising each year from 14, to 21, to 25.
Many were ready to forgive and hoped Flacco’s improvement this season would continue to track upwards, possibly moving into the 30+ touchdowns category.
Yet with one game to go this season his touchdown total has regressed to 19. His completion percentage has also dropped this season to 56 percent of passes completed, after being in the low 60s in his first three seasons. His average yards per attempt is at a career low of 6.7 yds per pass attempt.
Heading into the playoffs Flacco needs to show that he can lead his team deep into a playoff run. His record in four playoff games in the second and third week of playoff games has been poor. He has a 1-3 win loss ratio, has completed 51 percent of passes attempted at an average of 5.2 yards per attempt, with just two touchdowns and six interceptions.
Another poor playoff performance would lead to many questioning whether he’s the man to lead the Ravens in the future.
3. Josh Freeman – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Were we all duped by Tampa Bay’s soft schedule in 2010 in regards to Josh Freeman’s performance? Hard to believe he’s the same player this season that has seen the Bucs slide from 4-2 to 4-11. Freeman has gone from 25 touchdowns and 6 interceptions in 2010 to 14 touchdowns and 19 interceptions this season.
Many owners believed that like Joe Flacco, Freeman would be ready to move into the 30+ touchdown club.
Instead it seems Freeman has regressed. To be fair his receivers have been poor at times, and several of his interceptions have been tipped by his receivers. Unlike 2010 when defenders dropped several potential interceptions off Freeman, this season several have made outstanding plays.
Still, there is no doubting at times his judgement has been very poor, over-throwing receivers far more than he did a year ago.
Like Bradford, you get the feeling that a full pre-season and possible new coaching staff may see Freeman turn things around next season.
2. Michael Vick – Philadelphia Eagles
Vick was the comeback player of the year in 2010, starting the last 12 games for the Eagles, and passed for 21 touchdowns, just six interceptions and rushing for nine touchdowns.
Twelve starts this season and Vick has 15 passing touchdowns, 13 picks and one rushing touchdown.
The deflated expectations on Vick reflect those of his team the Eagles, with so much anticipation pre-season, and in the end, such a letdown.
Vick was actually better this season at picking up blitzes and getting rid of the ball more quickly, but too many times he seemed to try to do too much. That could be trying to run the extra yard, or failing to throw the ball away but instead forcing a pass that just wasn’t there.
Sometimes a simple feet-first slide would have been sufficient but Vick continually put his body at risk.
One reason why he has had only one rushing touchdown is simply that the offense has been less effective and in worse field position than last season.
However the Eagles’ offensive line has also been better this season so Vick has had to scramble less and therefore stay in the pocket more. He’s had 25 less carries this season.
The Eagles’ receiving has not helped. LeSean Jackson in a contract season has played half- heartedly, upset at not been offered a contract extension. Vick has missed Jackson as a deep threat. Also Jeremy Maclin has had personal issues to deal with that may have affected his play at times.
1. Philip Rivers – San Diego Chargers
Now to the most disappointing quarterback in fantasy football this season, Philip Rivers.
What’s that? you say. A quarterback who has just been voted to the Pro Bowl is your most disappointing quarterback? Well, yes, and it says a lot about Pro Bowl voting.
In fact in the last three seasons, Rivers has stepped up to be ranked among the best quarterbacks in the League, even mentioned among the top five. In those three seasons he has averaged just over 30 touchdowns a season and thrown an average of 11 interceptions.
This season, though, he has already thrown 19 interceptions, the most in his eight seasons in the NFL. 24 touchdowns is his lowest tally since 2007.
A quarterback with Rivers’ recent record should be very near the middle of their peak at around the age of 30. Drew Brees won a Superbowl, Tom Brady threw for 50 touchdowns.
Instead of establishing himself among the elite, Rivers has regressed. Yes, he’s improved the last few weeks, but too little too late.
After the first 12 weeks of the season Rivers had thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, something you expect from the most ordinary quarterbacks in the League.
Plenty of theories have been put forward to try and explain why his form has regressed. Many believe he may be carrying an injury. Some of his receivers have suffered injuries and have not been at their best, like Vincent Jackson. The offensive line has been seriously banged up this season and Rivers has often found himself with little time to set and throw.
Whatever reason, Rivers has suffered one of the biggest falls in performance this season and may not only cost Chargers coach Norv Turner his job, but the Chargers a place in this year’s playoffs.