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NFL Quarter Pole: The 5 Biggest Disappointments

Sam Spiegelman looks at the players and teams that have been most disappointing through the first four games and what fans can expect the rest of the way.

Tom Brady

We’re one quarter of the way into the 2014 NFL season, and thus far we’ve seen our fair share of both surprises and disappointments.

Perennial Pro Bowlers have failed to live up to the backs of their player cards, and teams that were selected as preseason favorites to make deep playoff runs are lagging in the standings department.

As we reflect back on the first month of the season, here were the five biggest disappointments.

Big-name wide receivers

Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas, DeSean Jackson, Marques Colston and Cordarrelle Patterson are among the No. 1-type wide receivers that have failed to show up through the first month of the season.

Fitzgerald’s lack of utilization in the offense made head-waves after the Cardinals’ Week 1 win over the Chargers, but so far 21 targets through three games is not Larry Fitzgerald-esque. Whether things turn around or not, he clearly isn’t the top option anymore in the desert.

Thomas is in a contract year, but so far he’s failed to be the marquee wideout in Peyton Manning‘s high-octane offense. Thomas has 13 catches through three games and has been just that — the third option behind Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas.

Every wide receiver-needy team had hoped to land Jackson once he landed on the free-agent market, but Washington scooped him up expecting he’d be the deep threat he was in 2013 for Chip Kelly. Instead, Jackson’s one good statistical game came against his old club, but aside from that he’s been a non-factor in what’s truly been a disappointing offense.

Colston was healthy entering this season, and Drew Brees‘ go-to receiver for the past decade has been nowhere to be found during the Saints’ slow start. Colston has turned half of his targets into catches, but his frustrating start is one of the reasons why New Orleans is looking up at the NFC South standings.

Patterson was pegged by many as a candidate to break out in 2014, and his Week 1 effort against St. Louis assured us all we were correct. Since then, however, Patterson seemingly has been missing from the offensive game plan, and since that 128-yard and one touchdown game, Patterson has racked up all of 148 yards.

The NFC South

Who can get a gauge on the AFC South, once believed to be one of — if not — the best divisions in the league, but now one of the more inconsistent and disappointing collections of teams.

The Falcons have the offense to go toe-to-toe with any team in the league, but it’s defense collapses when the pressure is put on. The team had trouble slowing down Matt Asiata Week 4, and can really only thrive when it can dial up the blitzes with a lead to work in its back pocket.

The Panthers looked sharp out of the gate, and the offseason losses appeared as if they would have no impact. But the defense eventually fell back down to reality in Weeks 3 and 4, while the injury plagued offense has been unable to hold its own. This team needs to get healthy, and fast, otherwise they have to makings of an 8-8 club.

The much-hyped Saints have been arguably the biggest bust among preseason favorites, dropping must-win games against Cleveland and Dallas. The much-improved defense of 2013 under Rob Ryan added even more talent in the offseason, but so far the personnel has not produced the desired results.

Nobody believed Tampa Bay would start this slow under coach Lovie Smith, but injuries along the defensive line and one of the most pathetic offensive fronts in football has put them in position to be picking in the top 10 again this spring.

New England Patriots

Like the Saints, the Patriots had a very impressive offseason in terms of adding more talent to an already seasoned playoff squad. But the trade of Logan Mankins to the Bucs, the failed development of young wide receivers, and a whiff on the Darrelle Revis signing has the Patriots right in the thick of the AFC East race.

Let’s not leave Tom Brady out of this blame rant either. It’s a classic chicken or the egg dilemma when it comes to the Pats’ longtime signal-caller, with Brady’s ability to throw downfield and make accurate passes as much of a question mark as the talent around him.

In a mediocre AFC East, the Jets, Dolphins, Bills, and Patriots are all still in it because of the four teams’ lackluster records. You’d still have to consider New England the favorite, though, right?

Our top four fantasy running backs

Back in August, when we landed one of the top-four fantasy backs, we thought a championship would be well in our hands. However, Matt Forte, LeSean McCoy, Adrian Peterson and Eddie Lacy have failed to live up the billing.

Forte and McCoy are the centerpieces of some of the NFL’s top offenses, but neither have been able to have as great of an impact as anticipated. Peterson — well, we know why he isn’t suiting up, and Lacy seems the latest in a line of running backs to suffer from a sophomore slump.

So much for fantasy championships. Time to start scouting for next year’s draft.

Nick Foles

Last year, he proved all of his doubters wrong with pinpoint accuracy and impeccable ball security. But this year Foles has been nothing short of a hindrance to the Philadelphia Eagles offense.

Foles is completing 57 percent of his passes, with six touchdowns compared to four interceptions in four games, which is already higher than the two picks he had in 13 games played in 2013.

The Eagles are still 3-1, and Foles is only a part of the reason why the team has gotten off to slow starts the first three weeks and came up short against the 49ers. But both he and the Philadelphia defense need to turn things around if the Eagles are going to have a legitimate shot at repeating as NFC East championships and make any noise in the playoffs.

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