OK, I’ll own up to it. I’m not feeling all that great about my rosy predictions for the Cardinals and the Panthers. At this point, they’re only a quarter of the way into the season, but the playoffs already feel like a long shot for the way both of these 1-3 teams are playing.
The biggest surprise about both teams is how much they’re struggling offensively. For the Panthers, the trouble starts with their offensive line. They can’t seem to keep Cam Newton from taking A LOT of hits, and he left with a concussion this week. He was only sacked once this week, but the Falcons still managed to bring plenty of pressure. It worked too. According to Pro Football Focus, he was just 2 for 7 on throws when pressured. The running game hasn’t done much to help either, especially without Jonathan Stewart.
Arizona’s offense is struggling in part because Carson Palmer has been terrible so far this season. Unfortunately, they somehow forgot to get a viable backup/replacement for him, and now they’re stuck with Drew Stanton for a week at least. They still haven’t scored a touchdown in the first quarter.
Carolina’s defense has its problems as well. You may have heard a thing or two about Julio Jones’ 300 receiving yards and Matt Ryan’s 503 passing yards. Lowballing the secondary wasn’t such a great idea after all. But the front seven hasn’t done much to help matters.
The Cardinals defense hasn’t been terrible, but it’s not the same airtight unit it was last season. Tyrann Mathieu still does not look 100 percent healthy. And that side of the field that doesn’t have Patrick Peterson covering gives opposing quarterbacks an inviting target.
They both can still make the playoffs — only 14 percent of teams to start 1-3 since 1990 have done so — but it’s not looking good.
There’s also this:
Panthers are 8th team to start 1-3 or worse after SB app. under current playoff format. Only 1 of previous 7 tms made playoffs ('96 Cowboys)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 2, 2016
The Falcons seem legit
So now that the Panthers are terrible, the NFC South belongs to the Falcons. They became the first team in NFL history with a quarterback topping 500 passing yards and a receiver reaching the 300-yard mark. That’s good!
Even better is that the Falcons are on pace for 608 points, which would top the 2013 Broncos’ record for most points scored in a season.
Their defense isn’t great, but it’s good enough to sustain an offense capable of scoring 40 points or more in any given week. A point differential of 28 is second best in the NFC and third best in the entire NFL.
We’ll get a sense of just how sustainable this is over the next two weeks when Atlanta’s schedule get much more difficult. They’re on the road to face the Broncos and Seahawks in consecutive weeks, two of the NFL’s best defenses.
Side note: Some team is going to hire Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan as their next head coach (hello, Chargers!).
There’s still a Grand Canyon-sized gap between what the NFL says about player safety and head injuries vs. what they’re actually doing about it. That was apparent on the field Sunday morning during the Colts-Jaguars snoozer from London.
Colts linebacker D’Qwell Jackson launched himself at the head of Jaguars receiver Allen Robinson, who was a defenseless receiver in the process of catching the ball. Jackson got an unnecessary roughness penalty for that.
However, Robinson made the heinous mistake of spinning the ball after the play, clearly forgetting about the hurt feelings he might cause the opposing professional (and I used the term loosely when describing the Colts roster) football players and the shame it might bring to America’s youth. He got a taunting penalty.
Those two penalties were offsetting. A clear headshot is the equivalent to spinning the football on the ground, in the eyes of the NFL.
Something’s wrong with that.
Winless no more!
The Bears, Jaguars, and Saints all snapped their 0-3 streaks. None of the three teams inspired much confidence with those wins, but that’s the not the point. They won! They won’t be going winless this season.
Of all these teams, the Jaguars are still the most talented. Injuries finally forced Gus Bradley to start Myles Jack and use Dante Fowler in the base package. I’m not sure what took so long, but it paid off. However, Blake Bortles still struggled, but maybe a bye week will give the team some clarity going forward.
Bradley saved his job and that might be the worst thing that could’ve happened for the Jags.
The Browns are the last winless team in the NFL, which is more proof that life is terribly unfair. Cleveland has really and truly shown some heart this season, even some innovation, because they really don’t have much else besides that and Terrelle Pryor. But they’re like the Job of the NFL. They might have won this week, but no, the officials blew a call on a fumble the Browns had clearly recovered.
Last week the bogus taunting penalty. This week the phantom fumble. Johnson never lost the ball. How does this happen?? pic.twitter.com/Uo8JZ39Wu0— Jay Crawford (@jaycrawfordespn) October 2, 2016
The universe has a twisted sense of humor. The Browns are proof.
The Chargers collapsed again
That’s three blown fourth-quarter leads for the 1-3 Chargers. They’ve had the lead at the final two minute warning in each of their games this season. The rest of the NFL is 25-0 this season with a fourth-quarter lead of 13 points or more.
Look at their last three drives of the game:
One play, fumble
Only play, fumble
Four plays, interception
You can’t really hang the blame on any one player. Melvin Gordon and Travis Benjamin both fumbled. Philip Rivers threw the pick. It’s a system failure. Mike McCoy might end up being the first coach fired this season. Even if the Chargers wait until January, there’s just no way around it.
Oh, this is all happening at the same time the Chargers are trying to get voters to approve a raid on local tax dollars for a new stadium to keep the team in San Diego. Ownership pretty clearly isn’t all that engaged with the product on the field, and it shows. On the one hand, this is what happens when you have greedy owners. On the other hand, it sucks ass for Chargers fans who deserve much better than this.
Ha ha. Might want to hold off on that. Jacoby Brissett is a third-string quarterback, and a rookie to boot, something that was easy to forget in the hoopla of last week’s win over the Texans.
What the Bills did was simple. They brought pressure, lots of it, and the rookie quarterback struggled with pass rushers constantly in his face. They didn’t let the Patriots run the ball much either.
There is one statistic that ought to trouble you if you’re a Patriots fan: 12 fumbles and muffs this season. As a team, they’ve only fumbled or muffed the ball more than 15 times once in an entire season since 2010. Five of those fumbles this season came from Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, so that should take care of itself next week when you know who returns.
But Tom Brady comes back next week. DeflateGate is officially over. AND, they’re playing the Browns.
The Broncos, who will probably lose once this season too, and the Patriots still rule the AFC until further notice.
Cincinnati Bengals 22, Miami Dolphins 7
Jacksonville Jaguars 30, Indianapolis Colts 27
Atlanta Falcons 48, Carolina Panthers 33
Oakland Raiders 28, Baltimore Ravens 27
Chicago Bears 17, Detroit Lions 14
Houston Texans 27, Tennessee Titans 20
Buffalo Bills 16, New England Patriots 0
Seattle Seahawks 27, New York Jets 17
Washington 31, Cleveland Browns 20
Denver Broncos 27, Tampa Bay Buccaneers 7
Los Angeles Rams 17, Arizona Cardinals 13
New Orleans Saints 35, San Diego Chargers 34
Dallas Cowboys 24, San Francisco 49ers 17
Pittsburgh Steelers 43, Kansas City Chiefs 14
New York Giants at Minnesota Vikings, Monday, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
Allen Robinson spun the football and earned a taunting penalty, which cancelled out a penalty on the Colts for a high hit. Makes sense.
The Bills and Patriots couldn't even wait until kickoff to start fighting.
It only took a pair of three-and-out drives for Bill Belichick to smash a tablet.
This cameraman has excellent "stop, drop, and roll" skills.
Here's why 6'4, 274-pound defensive end Michael Bennett is wearing tiny kicker shoulder pads.
Earl Thomas tried his hand at officiating after the Jets fumbled.
Terrelle Pryor scored his first receiving touchdown for the Browns and did a LeBron celebration ... and was then penalized for it. Boooo.
Norman's old team, the Carolina Panthers, were helpless against Julio Jones and his 300 receiving yards.
Rex Ryan celebrated the Bills' big win by doing his favorite thing: messing with the Patriots.
A fan threw a helmet at Jerry Jones for an autograph and oops, it hit the Cowboys owner in the head.
The refs probably screwed the Browns, the last winless team in the NFL, on a fumble call.
The Buccaneers game was delayed by weather for the second straight week. They lost (again).
Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown was fined again for a touchdown celebration.
Cam Newton went head-to-head with a Falcons defender and left the game. The Panthers later confirmed he suffered a concussion.
Darrelle Revis left the Jets game vs. the Seahawks and did not return.
Trevor Siemian was carted off with a shoulder injury against the Buccaneers. Rookie Paxton Lynch took over under center.
49ers LB NaVorro Bowman headed to the locker room with a lower leg injury and did not return.
Carson Palmer left the Cardinals-Rams game with a concussion and is unlikely to play Thursday night against the 49ers.