Week 4 of the Panic meter has a few powerhouse teams exhaling a deep breath, division leaders who should be wary of who’s behind them, and others finding themselves back in the losing column.
Los Angeles Rams: Rejoice
Wow, what an offense they have out there in L.A. The recent explosion by quarterback Jared Goff has given this Rams team new direction, new hope, ad new expectations.
The Rams have begun their season 4-0, and in each of their contests have put up at least 33 points. This offense has put themselves in the conversation with teams like the Patriots record setting offense in 2007 or the 2013 Broncos team that broke those records under Peyton Manning.
Goff through for five touchdowns Thursday night, making it seem easy to keep ahead of a surging Viking comeback. Most notably from the night was Goffs ability to throw with ease even to newly acquired receivers like Brandin Cooks.
Goff through a perfect 50+ yard bomb down the seam to Cooks at the end of the first half, effortlessly threading the needle into great coverage for a touchdown.
This offense has had a whole month of constant domination against various competition, and shows no signs of slowing down. It is too early to make undefeated predictions, but it is hard to imagine any team on the Rams schedule being able to compete with 30 points a game.
Buffalo Bills: Panic
Yes, after pulling themselves off the panic meter last week, the Bills have plunged back into the spotlight after a poor performance in Sundays matchup against the Packers.
In Week three an unseen and not scouted Josh Allen shined against a good Vikings team on the road, throwing two touchdowns and running one in, including hurtling a defender as the highlight of the game. It seemed as if Allen could bring this Bills team around and save their season.
Unfortunately for Buffalo, the search for a franchise quarterback may continue. Just as last week did not solidify Allen as a permanent starter, this week does not immediately label him a bust.
Allen struggled against an average Packer defense, throwing two interceptions to no touchdowns, and completing only 16 of his 33 pass attempts. The teams offense failed to amount to anything offensively, with the teams rushing and passing numbers combining to just 209 yards total.
Another black mark for the team is star back LeSean McCoy, who has failed to reach 50 yards in any game he has played this season. The backs woes could possibly be a symptom of the team needing to rely on the passing game to comeback in losing games.
But regardless the veteran rusher does not seem like himself, and could see the boot at the end of the season amid an NFL investigation into an offseason home invasion.
Notably, the Bills one win this season has been the only game McCoy has not suited up for.
Allen may have some growing pains to start the season, and losing week after week could send his career in the wrong direction. Regardless, this team is not ready to challenge anyone in the AFC for the division or a wild card spot.
New England Patriots: Rejoice
Okay, add me to the list of NFL reporters who jumped on the Patriots downfall bandwagon too early. Once again the Patriots followed an embarrassing loss with a decisive win against a team looking to close the door on the Patriots’ reign. At 2-2, New England has been in the position before, and the result was Super Bowls.
On Sunday the Pats destroyed the Dolphins 38-7, with the game being over at half time and ending in backups taking the majority of snaps.
Brady managed to right the ship on offense, throwing for over 250 yards and three touchdowns. Supporting cast receivers like Cordarrelle Patterson and Phillip Dorsett each pulled in a touchdown, and new Patriot Josh Gordon pulled in two targets in his comeback game.
The most impressive player for the Pats on Sunday was rookie back Sony Michel, who achieved his first 100 yard rushing game and carried in his first rushing touchdown as well.
The defense, which has been pathetic to say the least, shut out the dolphins in a statement game before allowing the backups to score late. The Patriots played more man coverage this game, allowing their young athletes to make one on one plays rather than try to perfect complicated concepts.
This style of defensive play benefited cornerback Stephon Gilmore, as he shut down his side of the field for the majority of the game. Linebacker Donte Hightower also found his groove this week, anchoring the run defense and only allowing under 60 rushing yards.
25 rush attempts to the rookie and five pass attempts to Gordon are positive signs for this team going forward. If the Patriots can mange to put up 38 points without Edelman and with Rob Gronkowski limited to four receptions, then there is still hope for this team to be a force come January.
Atlanta Falcons: Panic
The Falcons managed to put up 36 points on Sunday behind an impressive throwing performance from Matt Ryan (over 4oo yards and three touchdowns with no giveaways). The run game managed to put six points on the board in a game primed for a shootout in the air.
After such an offensive success, why are the Falcons on the Panic Meter? Because they still lost and now find themselves 1-3, last in their division.
The Atlanta offense has had little to no concern since after week one, but the defense will be the achilles heel for this team. The secondary has allowed over 300 passing yards and at least three touchdowns by opposing QBs in each of their last three games. The run defense has also surrendered six rushing touchdowns through week four.
The Falcons are suffering the same fate their division rival New Orleans dealt with in the past few seasons, an impressive offense led by a MVP quality quarterback crippled by a defense that ranks last in most NFL categories.
During that span the Saints failed to make the playoffs.
An Atlanta team who is only two years removed from a Super Bowl runner up finish, and playing without running back Devonte Freeman, is not out yet. But if their defense continues to allow opposing offenses to have a field day, we may see a new division leader in the NFC south this season.
Cleveland Browns: Rejoice
Another loss sends the Browns record to a disappointing 1-2-1, however given the teams expectations are so low to begin with the franchise should try to look at the positives in this loss.
The Browns scored 42 points, and no that is not a typo.
Baker Mayfield did well in his first NFL start, completing 21 of his 41 pass attempts and throwing two into the end zone. Two interceptions is the downside to his stat line, but rookie quarterbacks are not perfect by any means.
Mayfield was able to throw the ball around to multiple receivers, completing his pass attempts to 6 different players on his team. Mayfield showed a good relationship with tight end David Njoku, who caught five passes for 50 yards, making this his best game of the year.
The Browns running back Nick Chubb also managed to find the end zone twice along with picking up 105 yards on the ground. Their other back, Carlos Hyde, racked up 82 yards and a score of his own.
The Browns defense is now the focus for the improving franchise, as they gave up over 400 yards to a struggling Raiders offense. Two picks and two sacks on veteran quarterback Derek Carr is a positive for the young team, but 45 points is too much of an ask out of the offense led by a rookie quarterback.
New York Giants: Panic
The Giants fall to 1-3 in yet another game where they had no chance early into the third quarter. The team continues to play pedestrian on both sides of the ball and teams are beginning to circle games against the Giants as easy wins.
Eli Manning hasn’t made many mistakes to start this season, but he also hasn’t done anything to help his team overcome this slow start. The QB threw a lot of passes this week at 41 attempts, and completed a high percentage at 31 completions.
But Manning only accounted for 255 yards and one touchdown. At 31 completions, he should have gained eat least 350 yards in the air throughout the game. The low number means Mannings passes may pad the stats, but the ball is not being thrown far enough downfield to make big plays.
Running back Saquon Barkley has tried his best to be the breakout star everyone expected at draft time, but his 44 yards in 10 rushes with one touchdown on Sunday is below expectations. Barkley needs 25 carries a game to be an effective back, unfortunately the only backs who came close to that number this week were in New England (Michel) and Oakland (Lynch).
The league has changed to an air raid and Manning does not seem able to get the ball to down the field the way he used to. Barkley will not get the touches he needs if the Giants continue to play from behind, which they have in every game.
Having a feature back is great, and necessary, but the Giants need to move on from Manning if they intend to turn their team around.
Chicago Bears: Rejoice
Mitch Trubisky had his own Patrick Mahomes moment on Sunday, throwing for over 300 yards and tossing a rare six touchdowns with no interceptions, five of them in the first half.
The second year quarterback could do know wrong in his matchup with Tampa Bay. Six touchdowns is a number greats like Brady, Manning, and Rothlisberger put up occasionally. Should this kind of performance be expected every week? Not at all, but it is nice for Bears fans to know he is capable of it.
Similar to what the Chiefs have done with Mahomes, and what the Rams have done with Goff, the Bears have the ability to create a team focused around the air raid and nothing else. Trubisky put together this performance on only 26 pass attempts, after this game the young QB should see 35-40 passes a game.
The Bears defense can’t be ignored either as Khalil Mack landed another sack this week and his peers on defense forced three interceptions between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jamies Winston (who was named the Bucs starter for their next game).
The Bears have something special in Trubisky, and he needs to be let free to throw the ball as he wishes, and make mistakes accordingly. Caging an animal arm like his only means bad news for the Bears.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Panic
Sunday night the Steelers lost 26 – 14 to arch rival Baltimore, sending their record to a mediocre 1-2-1, tying them for worst in their division with the Browns. Still without Bell until and alleged week seven return, the Steelers need immediate relief to save their season.
The run game was non existent for the Steelers, with James Connor only gaining 19 yards on nine rush attempts. Out of Big Ben’s 47 passes, only 27 made made it into the hands of his receivers — for under 300 yards. The Steeler offense combined gained less yardage than Joe Flacco of the Ravens gained in the air by himself.
The biggest panic for the Steelers is that they are no longer the scariest team in their division. Sunday proved that not only are the Ravens up for the challenge, but that they can win. The Bengals on the other hand are flying high offensively and will be hard to catch come December.
This teetering point in the Steeler franchise should panic fans across Pittsburgh. Rothlisberger has no more than two years left, if that, and Bell seemingly will be anywhere but in black and yellow next season. The Steelers aren’t winning and it isn’t getting any better in the future.
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