NFL teams have begun to panic as they find out if their trade deadline moves will (or won’t) work out. Others may have tanked their season too soon and now find themselves in good draft position — but with no players to support their future rookies.
Oakland Raiders: Panic
In a season where the Raiders have traded or released top name talent like Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack — and cut linebacker Bruce Irvin — it isn’t a surprise that Oakland is among the worst teams in the league. New head coach John Gruden has made it abundantly clear this is his team and it’s his way or the highway.
But the highway is looking pretty good after the Raiders battled the other 1-7 team in the league, — the San Francisco 49ers — on Thursday night, only to lose 34-3 in embarrassing fashion.
The 49ers, behind the leadership of third string quarterback Nick Mullens, pummeled Oakland throughout the entire game. Both teams came into the matchup with fairly even odds at the number one pick, but now it is doubtful anyone will be able to tank as bad as the Raiders.
Gruden’s mission is to recreate the Raiders in Las Vegas. New stadium, new city, new coach, and new players.
The L.A. Rams are currently 8-1 and they relocated their team only two season ago. The difference is L.A. developed their defense with players like Aaron Donald and Marcus Peters to make it easier for a young QB like Jared Goff to thrive. Instead of throwing away all of their talented players, the Rams fostered an environment of winning in the future behind draft picks.
The Raiders, on the other hand, have given their players no inclination that they ever intend on winning football games. Their only win came against the Browns in an overtime game, a win in which most believe they didn’t deserve because of errors made by the officiating crew.
Tanking has been an unwritten rule for teams who know they won’t make the postseason. But completely decimating the core of your franchise is a dangerous game to play for a new head coach. If I were a Raiders fan, I would settle in for a few seasons of top draft picks… and maybe even an 0-16 season if those players don’t pan out.
New Orleans Saints: Rejoice
Dang this team is good.
On Sunday, the Saints ended the Rams undefeated season by a score of 45-35. Both teams played exactly as they have all season, the Rams scoring just under 40 and giving up more on defense than they should. While the Saints continue to put up 40-point performances that are hard to match score for score. (Unless you are capable of Fitzmagic, of course.)
Drew Brees out threw his competition by completing four touchdowns to four different receivers. One of those receivers was Michael Thomas, who had himself a day with 12 receptions for over 200 yards and a score.
The Saints hit on all cylinders against the widely-accepted best team in the league. Now bandwagon fans will hop on the “Who Dat” trail in New Orleans as Drew Brees looks to win another Super Bowl, a decade after his last.
Dallas Cowboys: Panic
America’s team went out and grabbed themselves Amari Cooper for a first round pick to turn around their offense. Although Cooper did lead the team in receptions, yards, and scores Monday night, the Cowboys only put up 14 points on offense.
The 28-14 loss to the struggling Tennessee Titans places the Cowboys in the bottom third of the league, with almost no mathematical chance to make a playoff run in 2018.
Cooper has made the receiving core look more formidable, but he has not created any solutions for Dallas. Allen Hurns continues to perform at the same level he did in Jacksonville, touchdown or bust. Cooper has no number two receiver to take pressure off him, and once secondaries start doubling him in pass coverage, the Cowboys are back to square one.
The defense of Dallas has failed to create turnovers this year, allowing teams to enter the red zone and increase their lead on a Dallas offense that does not have the ability to play catch up. Marcus Mariota has turned the ball over at will this season, but the Cowboys allowed him to throw the ball 29 times without giving the ball away.
The Cowboys still have threats on both sides of the ball, but for the meantime those threats have been neutralized. Whether it be the draft or through free agency, the Cowboys have to be buyers come this offseason.
L.A. Chargers: Rejoice
The Chargers have been forgotten about this season because they are the second best team in their city and the second best team in their division.
But second best has never felt better to a team currently sitting at 6-2 and clicking offensively and defensively.
The Chargers two losses this season have come at the hands of the Rams — the team that is currently ruling L.A. — and the Chiefs, the team currently ruling their division. Every other game this season has been a win for the Chargers, even though every other team they have played has had a sub-.500 record, L.A. is still winning when they are supposed to.
Phillip Rivers still has it at the age of 36. He currently has an incredible touchdown to interception ratio at 19-3. The veteran quarterback’s ability to take care of the ball has allowed his offense to be efficient and effective behind the rushing of Melvin Gordon.
The Chargers are currently the favorite for the AFC wildcard if they finish behind the Chiefs in their division, but anything can happen, as these two teams will face each other again in December.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Panic
Things couldn’t look much worse for the Jaguars right now. The team has fallen from 2017 AFC champions all the way down to last in their division following a four game losing streak.
The Jags are coming off a bye week in which the Houston Texans stretched their winning streak to six games, and every team who played in the AFC South won. The Jags didn’t even play a game last week yet they have fallen further behind in the playoff race.
The good news for the Jags is that Leonard Fournette, among a host of others, returned to practice after weeks of being sidelined with injuries. The essence of a run game will no doubt help the Jaguars offense get moving, even behind quarterback Blake Bortles, who has all but lost his confidence.
The other good news for Jacksonville is that they return against a Colts team who is just as bad as they are. The Jags have no excuse to lose again this week, given a loss would send their season in the direction of tanking for draft picks.
Jacksonville is still a good team all around, and with a different quarterback leading the team they could accomplish a lot. But Bortles is here for 2018, and that means the Jaguars will not be anywhere but the couch come January.
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