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NFL Panic Meter: Week 7

Teams pull away from the pack while others, well… are the pack

Tom Spurling

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The infamous trade deadline approaches and some teams are already making moves in preparation for a playoff run while others are finally realizing the season is over.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Panic

The Jaguars playoff stock has plummeted since their big win against New England in week two. Sunday the Jags lost the division to the Texans by losing to Houston at home 20-7.

In the loss, the Jaguars benched quarterback Blake Bortles before halftime for the underwhelming Cody Kessler. Bortles currently ranks 17th in the league in passing yards and is tied in third for most interceptions thrown this season. After his three-year, 54 million dollar contract in the offseason, placing Bortles on the trade block will be difficult.

On Monday head coach Doug Marrone told ESPN that Bortles would remain the starter for now.

With the passing game in question, the Jaguars need the run game to step up in order to keep pace in their division. T.J. Yeldon averaged a pitiful 2.3 yards per carry on 12 attempts Sunday afternoon, possibly opening the door for the Jaguars to entertain a LeVeon Bell trade. Leonard Fournette remains week to week with his hamstring injury.

The Jags are now one game behind the Texans, who have won four games in a row. Jacksonville also has two division losses with no wins.

Philadelphia Eagles: Panic

The Eagles fall to 3-4 with a 21-17 loss to the Panthers in which they held a 17-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Now they find themselves two games behind the Redskins in the NFC East division.

The Eagles have limped into every game this season, whether it be the quarterback position, the backfield, or in the defensive secondary. Carson Wentz put up a performance that should convince critics he’s back in action, throwing for over 300 yards and two touchdowns, while connecting on 30 of 37 passes.

But the run game, with the absence of Jay Ajayi, couldn’t even put up 60 yards on the ground and failed to reach the end zone. The running back by committee approach in the backfield is getting old fast and the Eagles need to make a move in order to make the playoffs.

LeVeon Bell and LeSean McCoy are still on the market, but with only a week until the trade deadline offers are beginning to stiffen. McCoy left Sundays game with a head injury, virtually ensuring he spends the rest of this season with Buffalo. Philly has stated they have no interest in acquiring Bell, so it looks like its panic time for the run game.

Houston Texans: Rejoice

Four wins in a row has launched Houston into first place in the AFC South after starting 0-3. With the rest of their schedule against sub-par competition, Texan fans have reason to be excited again.

Quarterback Deshaun Watson has continued to play game manager by putting up average numbers. Last week he only threw 24 times for under 200 yards and one touchdown. Those numbers won’t scare any defense, and they won’t win games in the playoffs.

But the Texan run game found some room this week with Lamar Miller rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown. His biggest stat line being his 4.5 yards per carry average, allowing the offense to rely on him to move the ball down the field while Watson struggles.

The Jaguars and Titans have continued to lose games that they shouldn’t, opening the door for Houston to take sole possession of the AFC South. The next five games for Houston only lines up two teams with winning records, and one of them being the Dolphins who have declined as of late.

Houston could very easily find themselves  9-3 at the start of December, maneuvering into prime position for a top four seed in the playoffs. As of now they control their own destiny, but Watson will have to play like his rookie self in order to do any damage come January.

Chicago Bears: Panic

The Bears lost a close one to the top seeded Patriots 38-31 after throwing a Hail Mary pass to Kevin White as time expired to the one yard line, crushing the hearts of Bears fans. Even though the Bears were one play away from beating the Super Bowl runner ups, the score does not accurately represent the way the game was played.

The Patriots turned the ball over once in the air, once on the ground, and once on special teams. The Bears scored 14 of their 31 points off early Patriot turnovers. None of these turnovers were necessarily caused by the defense, they were mental errors on the Patriots. Once New England had their head on straight, Chicago had no chance.

Bears fans watched Mitch Trubisky show the ball again and again Sunday, and watched incompletion after incompletion. Trubisky thew the ball 50 times and completed just over 50% of those passes, including tossing two interceptions.

The young QB also showed how uncomfortable he was in the pocket, scrambling six times, although successfully for 81 yards and a touchdown. Trubisky did not look like a quarterback who was ready to take his team to the playoffs.

On the defensive side of the ball, Khalil Mack has disrupted offenses all season, but on Sunday he had just one measly tackle. Tackle Trent Brown of the Patriots handled Mack all game combined with the blocking scheme New England came up with. Mack is still a great player, but now teams may have found a formula to slow down the explosive pass rusher.

Chicago has plenty going for them in the long run, but it looks like this won’t be their year to overtake Green Bay or Minnesota.

Washington Redskins: Rejoice

Washington has taken advantage of terrible starts to the season by their division rivals and is currently running away with the NFC East.

The offseason acquisition of Alex Smith to replace Kirk Cousins has panned out so far, Smith has played his role of game manager by taking care of the ball. He currently ranks 24th in the league in yardage but only has two interceptions this year.

Adrian Peterson gave the Redskins what they needed on the ground, coming one yard short of eclipsing 100 yards in this week’s victory over their division rivals, the Dallas Cowboys.

Redskins fans should be most excited about gaining their first win over a divisional opponent on the season. They face the Giants next week, brining them to a likely 2-0 start in the NFC East.

The division is currently Washington’s to lose, with Philadelphia being the only team who has the talent and experience to make a comeback in the division. The two teams play twice in December, bringing the division standings down to the last couple of games.

Notable Storylines: 

On Monday, the Oakland Raiders traded their best wide receiver, Amari Cooper, to Dallas for a first round pick. This move further solidifies the theory that Oakland head coach John Gruden is purposefully tanking in this season in order to build his team through the draft.

Cooper is arguably the best offensive weapon for the Raiders, right before the season Gruden traded away the Raiders best defensive weapon in Mack, now with Chicago. Oakland gave Gruden a 10-year contract starting this year and he seems to be ready to re-build the Raiders from the ground up.

The benching of Bortles by Jacksonville draws the eye of every team looking to trade away their backups for cheap. Jacksonville is sticking to Bortles for now, but back up quarterbacks like Nathan Peterman (Buffalo) or Tyrod Taylor (Cleveland) may be on the radar to take the helm for the rest of the season.

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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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