The trade deadline has passed and teams will move forward with their current rosters, leaving some deadline buyers hopeful with their new acquisitions, while others missed out on their chance to grab a game (or season) changing player.
Cleveland Browns: Panic
The Browns joined their fellow Cleveland franchise by firing head coach Hue Jackson just hours after the Cleveland Cavaliers fired head coach Tyron Lue. Jackson becomes the first NFL coach fired this season after a three game losing streak sent a promising start to the Browns season down the drain.
Now the Browns will play the rest of the season under defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who can’t do much worse than Jackson’s two wins in prior two seasons with Cleveland.
The problem for Cleveland is not that they have already been removed from playoff contention, but that in addition to Jackson leaving, the Browns offensive coordinator also got the boot into unemployment — leaving rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield with little direction for his development midway through his first season.
The question now for Cleveland is whether they are going to throw Mayfield to the wolves for the following eight games or bring in the appropriate combination of mentors for the young QB to develop with a changing coaching staff.
Mayfield has shown enough success through the first half of the season to earn the starting job in 2019. The best move for the Browns may be to tank their season, even if that means damaging Mayfield’s confidence, in order to surround their QB with more weapons for next year.
Or, the Browns can go with option two and give every team their best shot this year. If Mayfield continues to show starting quarterback qualities for a whole season then maybe Cleveland can become a landing spot for top free agents.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Panic
The biggest disappointment in the NFL continues to reside in Jacksonville, as the former AFC south champions have fallen to 3-5, tied for last in their division.
The Jaguars have attempted to model their offense after the Patriots, but didn’t realize that Blake Bortles is nothing close to Tom Brady in the passing game.
The Jags use their receivers minimally, focusing on using their speed backs as pass catchers. But without Leonard Fournette, and Carlos Hyde not panning out, the run game can’t support a “dink and dunk” passing game that New England has formulated to success.
The Jaguars aren’t getting the yardage they need on first down, forcing Bortles to throw the ball down field, which has proven to be a recipe for disaster.
Houston won again last week, giving them a two game advantage over the Jaguars, who have fallen as low as the Indianapolis Colts in the division. The Jags no longer have the ability to make the big trade after they went with Hyde over LeVeon Bell, leaving little hope for this offense to get back on track for a playoff run.
Its time for Jacksonville to move on from Bortles and find a quarterback who can make others around him better, not the opposite.
Carolina Panthers: Rejoice
The Panthers managed to stay a game behind New Orleans by beating the Ravens last week. Carolina managed to score 36 points on a top defense last week, giving them hope to compete with the power of the Saints offense.
Cam Newton seems to be back to his old self, racking up stat lines that he hasn’t seen since his rookie season. The veteran QB has managed to efficiently utilize his running ability to compliment his strong arm in the air. Newton has six touchdowns to only one giveaway in the teams last three games.
The Carolina defense, on the other hand, continues to rise as they managed to steal the ball from Joe Flacco twice last week.
The Saints very well may run away with the NFC South, but the Panthers are positioning themselves to lock down a wild card spot in January.
Green Bay Packers: Panic
The Packers lost on Sunday in a tough contest against the 8-0 Rams, losing their opportunity to make up ground in their division with the Vikings losing to New Orleans.
The Packers gave the Rams a run for their money last week, and the Packer defense stood out as they sacked Jared Goff five times. But the Rams offense proved to0 much for the Packers, allowing Goff to throw for over 300 yards once again.
A win against the Rams, ending their undefeated season, would have propelled Green Bay back into serious contention for the division. But a loss further throws the NFC North in limbo, with no clear contender emerging.
The Vikings are the favorite to win, and even though they lost to the Saints last week, they still completed at the level of a playoff team. Minnesota is only one game ahead of Green Bay and one behind the Bears, with matches against both teams still on the schedule.
The Bears currently lead the division, but with such a slim margin any slip up could knock them out of the lead and out of the playoffs. With young players leading Chicago, lack of experience down the stretch of the season may open up the door for Green Bay to take the NFC North.
The most important problem to work on for the Packers is their health, and with the playoffs looming, there is no time to heal.
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