Commentary

NFL musical midseason report: Part 3

Most of these teams can 'Dream On,' because they're 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door'

Originally Published: November 7, 2012
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

John Clayton concludes his epic musical midseason report with a look at teams who need a lot of help to make a playoff run.


ESPN.com NFL Midseason Report:
Musical Midseason, Part 1  |  Musical Midseason, Part 2  |  Super Bowl prediction Video
Clayton's All-Pros and NFL Nation's All-Division teams  |  Playbook: Midseason logo spoofs
SportsNation: Rank the teams  |  Vote for MVP  |  Rank the QBs  |  Your predictions


ONE-HIT WONDERS


21. Arizona Cardinals (4-5)

The 4-0 start is gone. A five-game losing streak has followed, and more holes have appeared. John Skelton isn't winning close games, because the games aren't close. The Cards are starting two rookies at offensive tackle. The defense is the key to keeping the Cards in games, but the offense is getting trumped each week.

Arrow is pointing: down



22. New Orleans Saints (3-5)

The return of Joe Vitt as interim head coach has helped the Saints come together, and they're coming off an impressive win over the Eagles. Boosted spirits may not be enough to get the Saints back to the playoffs, though. Their defense is still a problem. But the pride has returned. Now it's up to owner Tom Benson to keep Sean Payton as the head coach for next season after his contract extension was voided.

Arrow is pointing: sideways



23. New York Jets (3-5)

What happens when you put Tim Tebow -- a one-hit wonder for the Broncos in the mode of the Baha Men singing "Who Let The Dogs Out?" -- with the two-hit wonder of Mark Sanchez? The Jets have won more back pages of tabloids than games. Sanchez's numbers have gotten worse, and Tebow is averaging a little more than three yards per play for the limited times he has been on the field.

Arrow is pointing: down



24. Buffalo Bills (3-5)

My preseason pick as the surprise playoff team has turned into the same old Bills. The surprise is how badly the defense has played. I thought the addition of Mario Williams, Mark Anderson and Stephon Gilmore would upgrade this defense into the middle of the pack or better. That hasn't happened. Too many turnovers by Ryan Fitzpatrick have put the team in a tough hole that it hasn't been able to escape.

Arrow is pointing: down



25. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-4)

Doug Martin powered the Bucs out of the elevator shaft and into the one-hit wonder category. The Bucs were a one-hit wonder when they won 10 games in 2010 and then added only a new punter for the next year. Ownership spent well last offseason, and Josh Freeman is starting to get back to where he was a couple of years ago. Things are looking better.

Arrow is pointing: up



ELEVATOR MUSIC


26. Tennessee Titans (3-6)

Given that the Titans are based in Music City, it's sad to see them relegated to this grouping. What happened to the nine-win team of last year? Even with Chris Johnson starting to break big runs, the team keeps losing games. The defense has been horrible. That has been a big surprise. Owner Bud Adams probably heard some Muzak in the third quarter of Sunday's loss to Chicago, when he got in the elevator to head home because of his disappointment.

Arrow is pointing: down



27. St. Louis Rams (3-5)

The Rams' promising season came crashing down in a 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots, but this team has a chance to be a one-hit wonder next year. Jeff Fisher has brought toughness to the franchise. Despite a mess of an offensive line and a lack of top-caliber receivers, the Rams might be another draft away from turning close losses into close wins.

Arrow is pointing: up



28. Carolina Panthers (2-6)

I thought Cam Newton would be a rock star this season. A rookie sensation in 2011, Newton has instead been rocked by disappointment. Like Dallas, the Panthers can't seem to make the tough yard or two in the fourth quarter to win games. After the firing of general manager Marty Hurney, a head coaching change and more seem to be the future of this team.

Arrow is pointing: down



29. Oakland Raiders (3-5)

Raiders fans were tiring of 8-8 mediocrity. Now, they lack star power. Fans want AC/DC. Instead, they're getting the music you hear before you head into the doctor's office. In a cornerback age, the Raiders are fielding guys in the secondary who -- in dog years -- are older than KC and the Sunshine Band.


Arrow is pointing: down



30. Cleveland Browns (2-7)

This version of the Browns is more fun to watch than last year's team, which was an elevator version of "Feelings." You have to love the youth. A rookie right tackle. Two rookie receivers. A rookie running back. A 29-year-old rookie quarterback. The Browns are heading in the right direction, but this year they got carded and thrown out of the club … back into the elevator.

Arrow is pointing: up



31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7)

Watching the Jags is like riding 80 stories in an elevator playing the instrumental version of "You Light Up My Life." There isn't much light there. Blaine Gabbert looks marginally better than last season, but I never understood how this receiver-starved team could trade away Mike Thomas.


Arrow is pointing: down



32. Kansas City Chiefs (1-7)

Feelings. Nothing more than feelings. And these feelings can't take the lead. The Chiefs trail from coin toss to postgame prayer. Major changes are coming, starting with the eventual release of quarterback Matt Cassel. This elevator is in the basement and still going down.


Arrow is pointing: down


ESPN.com NFL Midseason Report:
Musical Midseason, Part 1  |  Musical Midseason, Part 2  |  Super Bowl prediction Video
Clayton's All-Pros and NFL Nation's All-Division teams  |  Playbook: Midseason logo spoofs
SportsNation: Rank the teams  |  Vote for MVP  |  Rank the QBs  |  Your predictions


John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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