The Seahawks were supposed to be the favorites to win the NFC West again this year. The Browns were supposed to contend for a playoff berth in the AFC. Brad Childress’ (right) Vikings were the chic-pick in the NFC. The Jaguars and Chargers were supposed to be Super Bowl contenders.
But all five of these teams have started the 2008 season 0-2. And all five teams have major issues.
So is it time for these teams to the hit the panic button? Let’s take a closer look.
What’s gone right: Not much. The only real bright spot offensively has been TE Kellen Winslow Jr., who has 12 receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown. And DT Shaun Rogers, the team’s top offseason acquisition, has made an immediate impact with 10 tackles, one sack and two tackles for loss.
What’s gone wrong: Everything. The defense was brutal in Week 1 against Dallas, but bounced back in Week 2 against Pittsburgh (thanks in large part to bad weather conditions and Ben Roethlisberger’s bum shoulder). The offense that averaged over 25 points a game last year has managed just 16 points total in two games this year. Turnovers, penalties, poor quarterback play (Derek Anderson currently has a QB rating of 57.1), and bad coaching have buried this team so far.
Time to hit the panic button? Yes. The Browns’ poor preseason play has carried over into the regular season and the schedule doesn’t get any easier with the Ravens, Giants, Jaguars, Broncos and Bills coming up over the next eight weeks. Outside of Rogers, the offseason acquisitions Cleveland made on defense have not paid off and the offense has been non-existent. Worse yet, the Browns aren’t sneaking up on anyone this year and Romeo Crennel is starting to look overmatched once again.
What’s gone right: Even though they did play the Titans (and their below average passing attack) in Week 1, the Jaguars defense has held opponents to less than 200 yards through the air in their first two games. The run defense hasn’t been that bad either, even though they’ve allowed an average of 106 yards per game.
What’s gone wrong: The two things that made the Jags successful last year, the running game and David Garrard’s (above) mistake-free play, have both gone against the team this year. Shockingly, Jacksonville has averaged just 65.5 yards on the ground in two games and Garrard has already thrown three interceptions, which matches is entire total from last season. The defense has also been bad in the clutch, giving up go-ahead touchdowns in the fourth quarter in each of the Jags’ two losses.
Time to hit the panic button? No. Jacksonville is still a playoff contender, but they need to start executing. It doesn’t help that the offensive line is banged up, but Garrard must stop turning the ball over and the running game has to get out of its rut. The defense, which has been left on the field entirely too long, should be fine once the offense starts to pick up. But things don’t get any easier with the Colts and Steelers coming up in the next three weeks.
What’s gone right: Forget about RB Adrian Peterson having a sophomore slump; the second year back has already rushed for 263 yards and a 5.5 YPC average. What’s more impressive is that he’s been effective despite not having LT Bryant McKinnie (suspension) opening holes for him on the offensive line.
What’s gone wrong: A couple things. One, Tarvaris Jackson hasn’t done enough in the passing game. He hasn’t been bad by any means, but he needs to make more big plays, especially with defenses loading up to stop Peterson and the running game. Secondly, the team gave up a first round pick to acquire DE Jared Allen in the offseason and even though he registered his first sack of the season last week, his presence hasn’t helped the secondary like the Vikes thought it would. Minnesota’s defensive backfield, which ranked dead last in the league in 2007, continues to give up big plays.
Time to hit the panic button? No. The Vikings’ offensive line will get a boost when McKinnie returns in a couple of weeks and with Peterson running like a man possessed, Jackson simply needs to make more plays in the passing game for the offense to start clicking. One would think that Allen would eventually get going, which should only help the secondary. But these things need to start happening now because the schedule doesn’t get any lighter over the next three weeks with the Panthers, Titans and Saints coming up.
San Diego Chargers
What’s gone right: Philip Rivers has been absolutely fantastic in the passing game, completing over 60% of his passes for 594 yards, six touchdowns and a QB rating of 122.5. WR Chris Chambers has also resurrected his career in the early going, hauling in five catches for 127 yards and three touchdowns.
What’s gone wrong: LaDainian Tomlinson (right) has been limited due to a foot injury and the loss of LB Shawne Merriman (knee/ out of the season) has really hampered the Chargers’ defensive pass rush. Speaking of the defense, the unit has been shredded for big plays in the second halves of each of San Diego’s two losses. They gave up 31 first half points to the Broncos on Sunday and 486 total yards. The secondary has been absolutely torched and currently ranks dead last against the pass in the AFC.
Time to hit the panic button? No. Had the defense batted a Jake Delhomme touchdown pass down in the end zone in Week 1 and Jay Cutler’s non-fumble call go there way last week, San Diego would be 2-0. It’s only a matter of time before LT is healthy again and with Rivers playing as well as he is, the offense is going to be dangerous all season. Plus, even if Tomlinson misses time, Darren Sproles has proven he can keep the running game afloat with his game-breaking speed. But for the Chargers to turn things around, the defense has to prove it can generate a push rush without Merriman and the secondary has to stop giving up big plays. Brett Favre and the Jets will be a challenge next week but after that, the Chargers face the Raiders and Dolphins, so they could easily be 3-2 when the Patriots come to down on Sunday night in Week 6.
What’s gone right: Outside of Julius Jones rushing for over 100 yards against the 49ers last Sunday, not much. The run defense actually hasn’t been that bad either, allowing less than 100 yards per game, but teams are still finding ways to put the ball in the end zone while averaging over 30 points a game.
What’s gone wrong: Anything and everything. Aside from having practice squad players line up at receiver because the team has been ransacked by injuries, the Seahawks’ defense and special teams have been brutal, and Matt Hasselbeck (48.6 QB rating) is off to an atrocious start.
Time to hit the panic button? Yes. The passing game should get a boost when Bobby Engram and Deion Branch return in a few weeks, but with how bad the defense is playing the Seahawks could be starring at 1-5 or 0-6 by the time that happens. Had they held on to a two-touchdown lead at home against the 49ers last Sunday, things probably wouldn’t have seemed that bad. But with division rival Arizona off to a hot start, the Hawks’ reign in the NFC West seems to be coming to an end.
Tags: Adrian Peterson, Bryant McKinnie, Cleveland Browns, Darren Sproles, David Garrard, Derek Anderson, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jared Allen, Julius Jones, Kellen Winslow, LaDainian Tomlinson, Matt Hasselbeck, Minnesota Vikings, Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers, Seattle Seahawks, Shaun Rogers, Shawne Merriman, Tarvaris Jackson