FOX Sports South takes a detailed and somewhat reluctant look at five NFL teams with non-losing records from last season ... that could be on the precipice of a 4-12 mark in 2014. To clarify, we're not projecting all five teams for calamitous heartbreak this year. However, if some club should experience an unexpected freefall to three or four total victories, it'll likely be one of the following franchises. After all, over the last five years alone, nine NFL teams have posted at least six fewer regular-season wins from the previous year -- the 2010 Bengals, 2010 Vikings, 2011 Colts, 2011 Buccaneers, 2012 Lions, 2012 Saints, 2013 Redskins, 2013 Falcons and 2013 Texans. (Photos: Kevin Hoffman/Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)
2013 RECORD: 8-8 ... WINS OF 4 POINTS OR LESS: 5 ... LOSSES OF 7 POINTS OR MORE: 3 ... REASONS THE SKY MAY FALL: 1) The schedule-maker did the club no favors: The Ravens don't have a bye until Week 11 ... and they're staring at a gauntlet of the Panthers, Falcons, Colts and Bengals and Steelers twice in the first eight weeks. 2) Neither Ray Rice nor Bernard Pierce looked sharp in Baltimore's backfield last season, cumulatively averaging 3.4 yards per touch. 3) The Ravens averaged only 18.4 points in their final 11 games; and their highest-scoring tally of that span -- 29 against Minnesota -- involved a 22-point spurt in the final 2:05. 4) Of his six regular seasons in the pros, QB Joe Flacco (above) has never accounted for three or more TDs in three straight games. He only accomplished the feat during the Ravens' Super Bowl run.
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2013 RECORD: 8-8 ... WINS OF 4 POINTS OR LESS: 5 ... LOSSES OF 7 POINTS OR MORE: 4 ... REASONS THE SKY MAY FALL: 1) The Dolphins' finish to last season -- with the playoffs at stake -- was an abomination. Seven total points, 24 first downs and double-digit losses to a pair of also-rans (Bills, Jets). 2) Miami's rebuilt O-line won't be whole early on, in lieu of center Mike Pouncey's hip surgery (might miss September/October). 3) The Fins defense surrendered 20-plus points 11 times last season. 4) It's hard to predict what will become of the Dolphins rushers (Knowshon Moreno, Lamar Miller, Daniel Thomas). Thomas and Miller averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last year. 5) QB Ryan Tannehill (above) and the Fins have a tough stretch from Weeks 6-14, hosting Green Bay and then traveling to Chicago, Detroit, Denver and New York (Jets).
2013 RECORD: 8-8 ... WINS OF 4 POINTS OR LESS: 3 ... LOSSES OF 7 POINTS OR MORE: 3 ... REASONS THE SKY MAY FALL: 1) The Cowboys could become the first team in history to post four straight 8-8 campaigns. Factoring in Tony Romo's offseason back surgery and Sean Lee's ACL tear ... .500 might be a blessing. 2) The Cowboys yielded the most first downs (24.2 per game) and total yards (415) in 2013, along with deplorable tallies for passing yards allowed (30th in league) and sacks collected (27th). 3) The Cowboys draw four games with the NFC West in '14. 4) Dallas had the NFL's worst run/pass ratio when holding a lead last year. 5) Romo (above) and Co. could be 0-4 early on, with home games against the 49ers and Saints and trips to Tennessee and St. Louis.
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2013 RECORD: 12-4 ... WINS OF 4 POINTS OR LESS: 5 ... LOSSES OF 7 POINTS OR MORE: 2 ... REASONS THE SKY MAY FALL: 1) In the 12 seasons since NFL realignment, the NFC South champion has never repeated. In fact, the champ has a cumulative follow-up record of 82-94.2) Carolina's O-line -- featuring center Ryan Kalil and tackle Byron Bell -- is a major work-in-progress. 3) The Panthers' wideout cast of Kelvin Benjamin, Jason Avant, Jerricho Cotchery and Tiquan Underwood has many warts. 4) It's hard to envision QB Cam Newton (above -- 3,964 total yards, 30 TDs/offseason ankle surgery) hitting his three-year average for rushing TDs (9.3). 5) The Panthers could be underdogs for six road encounters (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Green Bay, Philly, New Orleans. Atlanta). The difficult home slate: New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Chicago, Seattle.
Kansas City Chiefs
2013 RECORD: 11-5 ... WINS OF 4 POINTS OR LESS: 2 ... LOSSES OF 7 POINTS OR MORE: 3 ... REASONS THE SKY MAY FALL: 1) The Chiefs are the least likely countdown team to go south, in lieu of Jamaal Charles' extension. Charles (above -- 1,980 total yards, 19 TDs last year) stands with Calvin Johnson, Marshawn Lynch, Adrian Peterson, Richard Sherman and Luke Kuechly as the NFL's most valuable non-QBs. 2) After a 9-0 start, Kansas City dropped six of its final eight games. 3) The Chiefs' perpetual search for a No. 2 wideout continues, with Donnie Avery, Junior Hemingway and A.J. Jenkins serving as this year's so-so options. 4) Kansas City has a brutal schedule, featuring six games against the AFC West, four against the NFC West (NFL's toughest division) and a pair of conference clashes with New England and Pittsburgh.