One of the best aspects of the NFL season is its unpredictability. A team like the Cincinnati Bengals can be a basement-dweller one year and then a Super Bowl participant the next. Of course, unexpected results aren't always positive.
The 2022 season has seen its fair share of good surprises, like the 6-2 New York Giants. It has also seen teams and players with high expectations fall flat over the first nine weeks. We're here to examine the latter group today.
Below, you'll find a list of teams, players and some combinations of the two that could be considered busts in the first half of 2022. We'll examine both why the expectations were initially high, what's gone wrong and what needs to change to find redemption before the regular season draws to a close.
Entries are listed in no particular order.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers still have an opportunity to make the playoffs in 2022. However, this is a team that claimed the NFC's No. 1 seed last year and looked to be a title contender heading into 2022.
Bleacher Report's panel of NFL experts overwhelmingly (four of five votes) picked Green Bay to repeat as NFC North champions.
"The Packers still have the back-to-back MVP in Aaron Rodgers and a bright young defense with cornerback Jaire Alexander, edge-rusher Rashan Gary and nose tackle Kenny Clark," B/R's Brent Sobleski noted at the time.
While Rodgers is indeed still under center, his new-look receiving corps has been an issue. The offense as a whole lacks chemistry, and as a result, it hasn't performed well.
Green Bay came into Week 9 ranked 22nd in passing and 26th in scoring. With the Packers not running up the scoreboard, opponents have been able to exploit a run defense that has allowed 4.9 yards per carry. The defense showed life in Sunday's 15-9 loss to the Detroit Lions, but the offense is still sagging.
The result is a 3-6 record that is far worse than many predicted.
Is there time for the Packers to turn things around? Absolutely, but that will require the offense clicking, the run defense finding a way to consistently contain and perhaps a little bit of luck.
The 7-1 Minnesota Vikings have a strong grip on the division lead right now.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another team that was widely expected to win their division. Bleacher Report's experts unanimously chose Tampa as the favorite in the NFC South.
"The Buccaneers have questions (Chris Godwin's health and a defense that lost a couple of big pieces chief among them), but the Tampa Tommy Boys are still markedly better than any other team in the division," B/R's Gary Davenport said in July.
The Buccaneers can win the division, but at 4-5, they haven't reached expectations.
Tom Brady is still capable of playing at a high level, but the 45-year-old has rarely been on the same page with his pass-catchers this season, and Rob Gronkowski's retirement has left him without his favorite go-to target.
Injuries have also played a factor, especially on defense. Carlton Davis, Logan Wilson, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Antoine Winfield Jr. have all missed time, and star pass-rusher Shaq Barrett is out for the year with a torn Achilles.
That defense hasn't been able to carry an offense that has scored 20 or fewer points six times this season.
However, sloppy play and chemistry issues have plagued Tampa as much as anything.
"This Buccaneers team has looked poorly coached all year. Mistakes that just shouldn't be made, they keep making. Bruce Arians may not have gotten enough credit," Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk tweeted during a Week 8 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Getting healthy will go a long way toward righting the ship in Tampa. Brady needs to stay healthy, too, for this team to have a chance. Perhaps more than anything, though, new head coach Todd Bowles needs to instill some discipline, while offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich needs to get his unit in a groove.
We saw glimpses of both late in Sunday's win over the Los Angeles Rams, but Tampa still has a lot of work ahead of it. The NFC South can be had, but the Bucs need to start putting some points on the board if they're going to do more than win a middling division.