Who Should We Be Freaking Out About In The NFL?

With the season two weeks old, some teams are looking up and some teams are looking down.  But there’s also the teams that could be a complete dumpster fire by the season’s end.  I picked out three teams that are already on that track, plus a list of random concerns I have about other teams in the league, good or not.

Arizona Cardinals

Though the Cardinals sit at 1-1, it’s been a pretty brutal opening two games.

In Week 1, Carson Palmer looked like someone who should have retired over the offseason, throwing three interceptions and missing what felt like every throw.  Palmer has always been someone capable of meltdowns, which has you holding your breath every time he throws.  These first two weeks, there’s been a lot of that.

Week 2 was a little better.  Arizona barely won against Indianapolis, a team that has one of the worst rosters talent-wise in the league.  Palmer wasn’t as bad, throwing only one interception, but that pick was an ugly one.

I mean, this is basic coverage-reading.  The Colts had one safety back, in this case rookie stud Malik Hooker.  When you drop one safety, it’s his job to help on the side the ball is coming to.  Hooker read where the ball was going and made the play.  Palmer, however, didn’t.

That’s where we’re at with Palmer.  Without David Johnson, the offense is relying on Kerwynn Williams and Palmer’s decision making, neither of which were able to get anything positive done against Detroit and Indy, two defenses that aren’t anywhere near the top of the league.  Chris Johnson had some nice rushes this past Sunday, but he’s been way too injury prone since his on/off stints with Arizona began.

I don’t know what happens when we play a team with a good defense.  Benching Palmer probably isn’t the answer, but him throwing you out of the game is always a possibility.

Just don’t let us become Jacksonville.

Carolina Panthers

Carolina might be 2-0, but it surely hasn’t been a convincing undefeated start.

They’ve only given up six points all year, which is why the defense is not where my concern lies.  I do think the six points are a little misleading; they have one of the best defenses in the league and they’ve played Buffalo and San Francisco.  When you’re defending those offenses, you probably should only be giving up three points each to them.

My concern with the Panthers lies on the offensive end, where slow starts have led to underwhelming performances.

First of all, Cam Newton has looked off.  He was fine in Week 1, throwing for 171 yards on 14/25 passing.  Most of his completions were chunk yardage after the catch, but one ball travelled an air distance of 33 yards per NFL.com.

In Week 2, Newton threw for a little more yards, but was sacked six times.  Carolina’s line struggled immensely with the Buffalo front; Buffalo the same with Carolina’s, another reason why the three points allowed really wasn’t all that impressive.  Cam was roughed up by the big boys among the Bills line, perhaps leading to a couple off-throws.

Not helping Newton either is the lack of a running game.  Jonathan Stewart got nowhere Sunday, rushing for only 40 yards on 15 carries.  First round pick Christian McCaffrey has struggled against NFL defensive lines, gaining only 57 yards in the first two games.  Buffalo and San Francisco have two of the stoutest D-lines in football, but McCaffrey and Stewart have to step up if they want to help out their QB.

This is probably an overreaction given that the Panthers are 2-0, but Carolina won’t be able to pull out wins against contenders with their offense in its current shape.

Cincinnati Bengals

This is where we definitely freak out.

The makings for a crappy Bengals season were there in August, but even I have been surprised by their brutalizing start.  Their offensive line is one of the worst in the league.  Andy Dalton has looked like Carson Palmer.  The defense is letting average offenses take advantage of them.  It’s been so bad that Colin Kaepernick’s name is being brought up by players.

The firing of offensive coordinator Ken Zampese felt like a scapegoat for Dalton, who’s clearly peaked.  The Bengals aren’t ready to admit it yet, which is weird since they have a decent Plan B.  There were some AJ McCarron trade rumors in the offseason, which were never confirmed to be true.  No matter what, the Bengals held onto their backup because they have confidence in him.  I mean, you have to think that they’ve had the “What if Dalton implodes?” conversation before.

Dalton’s been the main issue, an incredible turnaround from where I was before the season.  I published a piece that said I trusted Dalton more than Joe Flacco.  That looks great now.

Even if Dalton improves, it may not help Cincy out.  Their defense might keep them out of every game, and even though the Bengals have AJ Green, Dalton has a pretty weak cast of weapons, plus a brutal offensive line.

Dalton is gonna have to be great for the Bengals to turn this around.  If he’s not, a change should be imminent, but are you really getting better putting McCarron behind that O-line?

I should have seen it before the season.  This Cincy roster was extremely flawed and poorly put together.  When you have bad roster construction, there’s almost nothing you can do.

Other concerns:

  • The Saints have the worst defense in the NFL, and it’s tough to win when that’s the case.
  • The Patriots killed New Orleans in Week 2, but that shouldn’t overshadow Week 1’s loss to Kansas City.  The Patriots won Sunday because they’re infinitely better than New Orleans.  The loss to KC exposed some holes on defense though.  They have no linebackers, especially with captain Donta Hightower hurt.  They got killed by passes to Travis Kelce in Week 1, and he’s usually a linebacker’s assignment.  Secondly, the pass rush was non-existent.  Alex Smith had so much time that he actually threw deep!  And third, the secondary might be an emerging problem.  Stephon Gilmore blew multiple coverages in Week 1, and Malcolm Butler’s role has steadily decreased.  Chances are it was mostly a communication thing with Gilmore, but he must improve.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade Butler for a pass rusher and/or another receiver here soon.
  • The Chargers once again can’t win close games.  Poor Phillip Rivers.
  • The Cowboys defense also ranks as one of the worst in the league.  They were fine against the Giants in Week 1, but let’s be honest: It’s not hard to shutdown that offense.  They let Trevor Siemian do whatever he wanted Sunday, and CJ Anderson looked like Le’Veon Bell.  Monday night vs. Arizona will be a big reality check for them.  If they can’t hold that offense, then whose can they?
  • I tweeted this Sunday, but Carolina and Seattle are definitely the top two slow start teams so far this season.  The Seahawks were shut down by Green Bay in Week 1, and barely got by San Francisco Sunday.  You can blame the offensive line for the most part; those are two good front sevens.  But Seattle has to get creative about how they’re gonna score points.  They might miss Jermaine Kearse more than they expected to.
  • I’m just as close as you can be to freaking out about the Giants.  I didn’t include them up top because I trust their defense, and I didn’t expect them to be that good anyways.
  • I wrote in the NFC Preview how I thought this team was overrated.  The whole offense revolves around Odell Beckham Jr. breaking a slant route or something.  Brandon Marshall is over the hill (which was very evident last night), and Sterling Shepard is just kinda there.  Add in a crappy offensive line and Eli Manning missing throws, and you have an offense going nowhere.  We’re at that point.
  • Odell has to get healthy ASAP, or else this talented defense will end up like Minnesota’s last year: Broken down.