You know the old saying: failure is in the eye of the beholder.
Okay, we've taken some liberties with that phrase. But in today's NFL, it's a short trip from the penthouse to the outhouse.
There's an excellent chance that three teams that won division titles in 2012 will completely fall to the bottom of their respective divisions this season.
We'll list the teams in alphabetical order in order not to influence anyone's choice.
Atlanta Falcons (13-3 in 2012, 3-10 in 2013): Entering 2013, only the New England Patriots had won more regular-season games the previous five seasons than the Falcons. But something funny happened on the way to a sixth straight winning campaign and a possible fourth straight trip to the playoffs. The offensively-reliant team has plenty of ability to score points but the lack of balance has been an issue two straight years. Atlanta ranks 30th in the NFL in both rushing offense and rushing defense and that's far from a coincidence. For the first time in his career, quarterback Matt Ryan won't throw more touchdown passes than the previous season. Should head coach Mike Smith be on the hot seat considering all of the team's injuries?
Houston Texans (12-4 in 2012, 2-11 in 2013): For the third consecutive season, the Texans "enjoyed" a record-breaking campaign. But after winning a franchise record 10 games in 2011 and topping that with a 12-4 mark a year ago, the franchise is in the midst of a team-record 11 consecutive losses. Quarterback Matt Schaub struggled early and backup Case Keenum has been up and down since taking over. Running back Arian Foster is on the shelf for the season and tight end Owen Daniels is on the injured list as well. And now defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has replaced Gary Kubiak as head coach. Two straight AFC South titles don't buy what they used to.
Washington Redskins (10-6 in 2012, 3-10 in 2013): Could it be? Do we have a little drama and politics in our nation's capital? What do we make of what's going on with one of last season's surprise teams, which overcame a 3-6 start to win its first division title since 1999? Well, Mike Shanahan's club was first in the NFL last season in rushing and no team committed fewer turnovers (14). But 13 games into 2013, quarterback Robert Griffin III and company have coughed up the ball 22 times and the somewhat-hobbled second-year signal-caller just hasn't looked like his sensational rookie self. And did we mention that no team in the league has given up more points (407) than the 'Skins this season?
Each of these teams had high expectations in 2013 and now all three are licking their wounds this season. So in order, how would you rank these clubs as disappointments this season? Good luck trying to decide.
Russell S. Baxter has been covering the NFL for 30-plus years on all platforms. He is the founder of ProFootballGuru.com, writes for numerous websites and publications across the country and is blessed with an encyclopedic memory. Ready to talk NFL? Follow him on Twitter at @BaxFootballGuru.
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