During every season in the NFL, there are teams that surprise you by how they outperform and blow past your expectations. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are teams that fall flat on their faces for various reasons. These teams struggle to stay afloat throughout the year and almost always come up short of their lofty goals. With that said, here are the three teams that were the biggest disappointments from the 2015 season.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Since the arrival of Joe Flacco in the 2008 season, the Baltimore Ravens have been a constant in the playoffs, reaching postseason play in five out of the last six years and winning no fewer than eight games in a regular season. However, all of this changed in 2015 as the team experienced its worst year record-wise since the 2007 season. It may have been the most frustrating campaign in recent memory for any team, as 14 of their 16 games were decided by eight points or fewer.
The Ravens were a competitive team through the season but just couldn’t come out on top in the close games. Flacco did post a career-high 64.4% completion percentage, but it was a difficult season cut short in Week 11 when he suffered a torn right ACL and MCL in the final minutes of the game against the Los Angeles Rams. Baltimore had just about worked themselves out of the playoffs at this point, with Flacco holding a 3-7 record in the first 10 games.
Much of that could be directly correlated to the team losing several key players, along with Flacco, to season-ending injuries (Justin Forsett, Terrell Suggs, Steve Smith Sr., and Eugene Monroe). We’re not making excuses for their poor play, but the absence of these veterans didn’t help their push for a playoff spot.
Things only worsened with Flacco out, as the team had to rely on the unexpected combo of Ryan Mallett and Matt Schaub. This equated to just two wins in the final six games, and they finished with the fourth-worst record in the AFC. The Ravens may not be a powerhouse team in the NFL, but their absence from the playoff picture puts them in the conversation of most disappointing teams in the 2015 season.
2. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys entered the 2o15 season as the overwhelming favorites to win a second straight NFC East division title despite losing star running back DeMarco Murray to the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason. Tony Romo was coming off one of the best seasons of his career, throwing 34 touchdown passes with just nine interceptions behind arguably the best offensive line in the league (that gave up just 30 sacks).
However, things went south quickly in the first two games of the season as Dallas lost Dez Bryant — for an extended period of time due to a broken foot — in the season opener, and then they lost Romo the following game after he broke his collarbone for the second time in his career. This forced the Cowboys to field a team that relied heavily on a couple of journeymen quarterbacks, Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassell, for much of the year. Lacking a reliable offense — outside of a resurgent Darren McFadden — proved too much to overcome despite playing in the weak NFC East.
In truth, the Cowboys season was doomed before it started with their two biggest offensive pieces missing significant chunks of the season. They also lost cornerback Orlando Scandrick for the entire season (he tore his right ACL and MCL) and running back Lance Dunbar in the fourth game of the year. For as much criticism Romo receives, there’s no question that Dallas is a much better team with him on the field.
1. Indianapolis Colts
Heading into the 2015 season, significant hype surrounded the revamped Indianapolis Colts due to the addition of two big-name free agent players, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson, who were expected to push them over the top in the AFC after reaching the conference championship game for the first time since 2009. Rising star Andrew Luck had the best year of his young career, throwing a league-best 40 touchdown passes along with career bests in passing yards (4,761) and passer rating (96.5).
It was clear that both Johnson and Gore were past the prime of their respective careers, but each looked to become critical pieces to the puzzle with the Colts in their first season. Indianapolis got off to a rocky start, losing five of their first eight games to collect an unimpressive 3-5 record. Adding more salt to the wound, the team lost Luck for what turned out to be the rest of the season due to a lacerated spleen and partially torn abdominal muscle. Prior to that, Luck wasn’t looking like the same quarterback he once was, recording a then-league-worst 12 interceptions.
On top of that, Johnson made four catches or fewer in all but one game and notched fewer than 50 receiving yards on 14 occasions, including three games with no receptions. Gore rushed for 60 or fewer yards eight times, but nearly collected his ninth career 1,000-rushing-yard season. That said, Matt Hasselbeck steadied the ship in Luck’s absence, winning five out of the last eight games to finish just one game short of the team’s third straight AFC South division title and earning a playoff berth.
In total, it was a lost season for the Colts with Luck being sidelined for the second half of the season, which could have been the next step in their young quarterback’s maturation process. He has brought nearly the same sustained regular-season success as his predecessor Peyton Manning so far, but the Colts’ 2015 season, although marred by injury, was the most disappointing campaign by any team in the league.