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NFL Panic Meter: Week 5

Give up or trade up?

Tom Spurling

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We are just two weeks away from the NFL trade deadline, and teams who are panicking might throw away their team for draft picks, while others look to find one more piece to their puzzle for a championship run.

Atlanta Falcons: Panic 

The Super Bowl 51 runner up just never recovered from that Patriot comeback and now two years later find themselves in “give up” time entering only week six.

Atlanta is 1-4 and their defense continues to put forth a pathetic outing every Sunday. The team has also struggled to protect their number one player in Matt Ryan, allowing him to be sacked 6 times last week and is on pace to be sacked the most times in the QB’s career.

The Steelers contest on Sunday was a telling matchup of two powerwhouse teams with early struggles hoping to turn it around. The Steelers showed up to work, but the Falcons took a sick day and lost 41-17.

The Falcons have a difficult road ahead, and they need more than just one trade to help their team. The Falcons still have the talent to score points, but not as much as their defense is asking for. Weakening their offense by trading for a defensive player would only hurt the team overall.

It seems the draft is currently the best bet to find a playmaking defender in the secondary, and maybe a few picks to beef up a sorry offensive line.

But there is one sliver of hope for Falcons fans this season. If the team decides they still want a shot at the postseason, the next five games will tell all.

They face the Bucs, Giants, Redskins, Browns, and Cowboys, all of whom are at .500. If the Falcons can win out and go 6-4 at the week 10 mark, they position themselves well for a potential wild card run.

But any losses against below average teams in these upcoming weeks and Atlanta should turn their attention to rebuilding their defense.

Philadelphia Eagles: Don’t Panic 

The defending Super Bowl champions have every reason to panic. They are 2-3, third in their division, and have struggled to compete with average teams.

But there is still hope, actually more than you would think.

The best thing going for the Eagles right now is that their division may be as bad as the AFC East. The Cowboys and Giants both find themselves panicking and with good reason, and the Washington Redskins aren’t quite ready to take the division by storm. At 2-3 Philly is still only a game behind the leader and the season is still young.

The Philly defense has been a bright spot for the team. They have yet to allow 30 points in a game this season to an opponent when it seems like every week NFL teams score 40 at will. The offensive opposition on the Eagles schedule isn’t getting any tougher, allowing them to continue the bend but not break method they have been using.

The loss of running back Jay Ajayi (ACL) is a setback, but Carson Wentz’s knee looks better and better each week, hopefully allowing him to pick up some slack in the run game, alongside Corey Clement and Wendall Smallwood. If just one receiver, any receiver, can put numbers up like tight end Zach Ertz, this team has a chance.

The game plan for Philly is to win out their divisional games or face going from champions to watching the playoffs from the couch. Winning out in the NFC East is very possible, but better competition in the playoffs make back to back Super Bowls doubtful.

Dallas Cowboys: Panic 

They should have re-signed Dez Bryant.

The Cowboys are 2-3 through week five, and even though they sit second in their division, it is only because of the poor performance of others. America’s team currently lacks any dynamic offensive playmakers besides Ezekiel Elliot, who finished Sundays game with only 54 yards and a 2.7 average on the ground.

Not one Cowboy receiver had 60 yards receiving or more than three receptions on Sunday. The ground game is the only threat for Dallas and opposing defenses know it. Dak Prescott has struggled tremendously in his third year, throwing five touchdowns in comparison to his four interceptions. He also has failed to reach 300 yards in a game this season.

Head coach Jason Garrett finds himself on the hot seat and is in danger of not even finishing out the season on the sideline. Owner Jerry Jones is known for making big moves and sending a message, and the message would be pretty clear by firing Garrett.

But the Cowboys lost a big piece of their team this year and that was long time Cowboy receiver Dez Bryant. The receiver couldn’t come to terms on a new contract deal with Dallas and remains a free agent.

Bryant not only provided a physical deep threat down the field that Prescott felt comfortable throwing to in key situations, but also was a symbol of leadership in the team’s locker room. His absence has been felt, and there is no doubt the franchise QB would want Bryant back on the team, but thats not going to happen.

Cincinnati Bengals: Rejoice 

The Bengals are riding the coattails of star wideout A.J. Green and his monster season. The team is currently 4-1 and leading an AFC North division that is still finding its identity.

Offensively the Bengals have had a successful air raid with Green catching five touchdowns for over 400 yards. Tyler Boyd has been a pleasantly surprising number two target, eclipsing 100 yards in two games so far and surpassing 90 in another. The run game has battled injury, but when on the field, both Giovanni Bernard and Joe Mixon have been effective running the ball.

Bengals running backs have reached 90 yards in four of five games this season, providing a nice compliment to Daltons successful passing game.

The defense has been shaky, but unlike the Falcons provide just enough of a points cushion to allow the Bengals to win games.

Three big wins for the Bengals have been over the Falcons, Ravens, and the Dolphins. A win over the Falcons proved they had separated themselves from the bottom of the barrel teams, beating the Ravens has major divisional playoff implications, and defeating the Dolphins, whom was another AFC division leader, gives the team hope to compete in the playoffs.

The Bengals seem to be a complete team, unless the Steelers and Ravens figure out their problems and beat the teams they are supposed to beat, the Bengals very well might run away with this division.

Green Bay Packers: Panic

The Packers currently sit second in their division with a 2-2-1 record after their loss to division rival Detroit last Sunday. The Packers have just as much of a chance as anyone else in their division, but looks can be deceiving.

The Bears sit atop their division at 3-1, with their only loss coming to the Packers in a week one game they could’ve won. Chicago has figured it out offensively and looks to build on their 48-10 blow out of the Buccaneers.

The Vikings are tied with the Packers at two wins and a tie, but have put up tough contests against a potentially Super Bowl-bound Rams team and won against an Eagles team trying to get their heads above water. Minnesota is healthier and younger than the Packers, and have better odds at taking the division, even with Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball for Green Bay.

The Packers find themselves, statistically, with the third best odds to win their division. That would likely place them just outside of wild card contention come playoff season. But there are a lot of “ifs” for their opponents to take the division.

If the Bears continue to improve on their young core, they will win the division. If The Vikings manage to get their offense and defense to play to their best ability on the same week, instead of taking turns like they currently have, then they could take the division.

If the Packers can stay healthy and avoid roughing the passer penalties, then they could potentially win their division. But with Aaron Rodgers continuing to nurse a nagging knee injury, and red zone favorite Randall Cobb struggling to get back on the field, the odds are against Green Bay this year.

New Orleans Saints: Rejoice 

Congratulations to quarterback Drew Brees as last night he broke the record for all-time career passing yards in the NFL, overtaking Brett Favre (3rd) and Peyton Manning (2nd) in the same night. Brees entered the record books in style, throwing for 363 yards and three touchdowns with no giveaways.

But there is even more to be excited about for Saints fans.

New Orleans clicked on all cylinders Monday night. The team rushed for three touchdowns last night, two of which from the fresh legs of Mark Ingram, who returned from his suspension this week. The other TD came from quarterback Taysom Hill, who has found a niche in the wildcat role for the Saints.

The defense has been subtly better for the Saints this year. They have given up under 20 points in three games, which is more than enough for this offense to surpass.

The Saints may be older and not as suspect as teams like the Rams and Chiefs, but they put up points with the best of them and show no signs of slowing down. The Saints currently trail only the Rams in total offense this season, and lead the league in points scored.

Notable storylines:

AFC South: Who could take the division 

The division is up for grabs. The Titans have had a surprising 3-2 start to their season and finally have quarterback Marcus Mariota back. But a loss to the Bills this week puts the consistency of the team in question.

The Jaguars have also started 3-2, but based on the teams they have played that record is slightly more disappointing. After a seemingly franchise changing win over the Patriots, the Jags lost to the Titans (who they should have beat) and were handled easily by the Chiefs (proving they aren’t ready to win the AFC yet).

The Texans on the other hand started 0-3, but have rallied to win two games in a row and have the talent offensively and experience defensively to potentially make a run at the division title. Wins over the Cowboys and Colts are nothing to get too excited over, but it is a start.

The Unbeaten: Who will lose first 

There are still two unbeaten teams after week five, and neither look like they could lose anytime soon.

The Rams have yet to score under 33 points so far this season, and they don’t even look like they are trying too hard yet. Jared Goff has made average receivers like Robert Woods look like superstars, even in a two interception performance like last week.

But the fun has to come to an end eventually, and then best odds against them comes week nine in New Orleans. On the road, against a team of equal offensive potential, Goff will have a tough time matching up with veteran Drew Brees.

The Chiefs toughest matchup doesn’t come until week 11, against none other than the Rams. In a head-to-head matchup, the Rams take the edge over Kansas City. QB Patrick Mahomes is an explosive player, but has made a habit of the comeback for his team in recent weeks.

The Chiefs don’t have it easy for now, as they face the Patriots in New England next week in a Sunday night contest. The Pats are back on track on both sides of the ball and have no intention of going 3-3. Kansas City has the edge in this game given their start, but if the Chiefs enter this game with any sense of over confidence, they will walk away 5-1.

Last season the Chiefs caught fire early on and quickly burned out, resulting in missing the playoffs. But this team is different, and all expectations point to winning their division this year. But the fire will dwindle a little, and the first loss could come week 11 and L.A.

 

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Tom is a student at Fisher College in Boston. Tom spends his time conquering video games and exploring his city of Boston. His favorite part of writing is the stories and hopes to tell them for years to come.

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