30. Haynesworth and Ocho land in New England: Not known for making splashes in free agency, the Patriots surprised everybody by bringing in two of the league’s most controversial figures in the offseason. On July 28, they traded for the highly irritable Albert Haynesworth and the big-mouthed Chad Ochocinco, both of whom didn’t seem to fit into the Patriot Way. Neither made a difference on the field, as Haynesworth was released in November and Ocho made only 15 catches, but it didn’t hurt the team either. After all, they ended up in the Super Bowl despite failing on both gambles.
29. Donovan McNabb lasts only six starts and four months in Minnesota: After being cast aside by the quarterback-needy Redskins, we should have seen this coming from McNabb. After putting up pitiful numbers for six weeks in Minnesota, McNabb was benched in favor of rookie Christian Ponder. He never took another snap as a member of the Vikings and was granted his release in early December. The end is near for the 35-year-old McNabb, who just doesn’t have it anymore.
28. The injury bug demoralizes the Chiefs, but they keep fighting: By mid-December, the Kansas City Chiefs had lost three of their most important starters to season-ending injuries, including a rising superstar safety in Eric Berry, a rising star tight end in Tony Moeaki and one of the league’s most electric backs in Jamaal Charles. Despite that, the young, resilient Chiefs were actually tied for the division lead through Week 8. Then they lost starting quarterback Matt Cassel for the year and it was too much too handle. That Kansas City still won seven games despite that terrible luck is pretty amazing. Todd Haley was a scapegoat.
27. Down go Cutler and Forte in Chicago: The Bears were probably the only team crushed as painfully by injuries as the Chiefs were. Chicago was a legit Super Bowl contender, with Jay Cutler and Matt Forte playing lights out. The Bears were riding a five-game winning streak in November when Cutler went down with a broken thumb. Two weeks later, Forte — who was third in the league in rushing at the time — went down with a sprained MCL. Without their one-two offensive punch, Chicago finished the season 0-5 and missed the playoffs.
26. Carson Palmer joins the Raiders: For a while there, it looked as though Palmer was truly going to sit out the entire season, and maybe never play again. He and Bengals owner Mike Brown were locked in a stare-down that didn’t seem to have an end in sight. But then Oakland lost Jason Campbell for the season and Hue Jackson pulled the trigger on a trade that sent two top-end draft picks to Cincinnati in exchange for the veteran quarterback. In 10 games with the Raiders, Palmer disappointed, throwing 16 interceptions and posting the second-lowest completion percentage and third-lowest passer rating of his career. With Jackson gone, the 32-year-old Palmer’s future is now a mystery.