We’re through two weeks of the NFL season, and all around the league, teams have given fans some reasons to be overly enthusiastically about the rest of the season, or reasons to descend into full-blown panic.
Maybe your team is sitting at 2-0, and you’re feeling pretty comfortable, even with rookie quarterbacks at the helm -- we’re looking at you, Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles. Maybe your team didn’t score anything but field goals on Sunday, but you’re optimistic because the Los Angeles Rams still pulled off a win over the Seattle Seahawks. Should you really be feeling this confident this early in the season?
Or maybe your team got blown out by the San Diego Chargers and you’re really mad about it, just like Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Jared Odrick. Perhaps you’re a Tampa Bay Buccaneers fan still reeling after Jameis Winston threw four interceptions and lost a fumble en route to a 40-7 blowout at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals. Is it time for you to panic?
Browns will start a new quarterback AGAIN
The Browns are sitting at 0-2 after blowing a 20-0 lead to be defeated by the Baltimore Ravens 25-20 in Week 2. Josh McCown, starting in place of an injured Robert Griffin III, was injured during the loss. Barring something crazy, like Cleveland throwing newly acquired quarterback Charlie Whitehouse out there under center, Cody Kessler will be the fifth quarterback to start for the Browns in the last five games.
Browns fans might be a little worried about this turn of events, but really, the person who should be doing the panicking here is Cody Kessler. Griffin and McCown both went down with very painful shoulder injuries, and with Cleveland’s starting center sidelined with a bruised lung, Kessler shouldn’t feel too comfortable, either. Being the Browns’ quarterback is a dangerous, often thankless job without much job security.
Panic index: It’s Cleveland. Don’t get your hopes up.
Washington's locker room is already melting down
Anonymous sources came out early this year. Following Washington loss to the Cowboys on Sunday, Pro Football Talk reported that "multiple offensive players" have begun complaining that quarterback Kirk Cousins has been indecisive and erratic on the field, with one play going so far as to say that he'd prefer Colt McCoy to start. Those players aren't wrong, necessarily. At least on Sunday, Cousins was decisively outplayed by rookie Dak Prescott.
More disturbing, however, is that players are sniping at each other at all. Plenty of teams struggle at the quarterback position every year and don't leak their discontent to the media. For some reason, every time a Washington quarterback has a bad game, it comes out that there's a cabal against him. The drama was supposed to have been ushered out along with Robert Griffin III. Now it seems the problem was Washington all along.
Panic index: You're stuck with this circus, Washington fans. Better to just accept it.
The Packers are wasting away
The Packers relinquished the NFC North crown for the first time in five years last season, then lost in Week 2 to the team that won the title. Right now, the Minnesota Vikings are the class of the division, even with Sam Bradford as their starting quarterback and Adrian Peterson sidelined.
That leaves the Packers suddenly trying to figure out their place in the world. The goal remains what it has been since 2010: Win a Super Bowl. The team wasn't consistent last season despite having perhaps the best player in the league, however, and at 1-1 the Packers don't look much better -- and mind you that's with a healthy Jordy Nelson, whose absence many argued was the reason the offense bogged down so often.
The Packers are famously adverse to making sweeping changes to the team and coaching staff. It's one of the reasons they've been so consistently good for so long. If the team keeps sliding, however, then a change needs to come from somewhere to right the ship.
Panic index: Everything is fine until it isn't.
The Dolphins are having an identity crisis
This is the umpteenth year that the Dolphins have been The Team That Could Really Surprise Some People. They're now 0-2, and yet it's easy to see the promise. In Week 1, the defense dominated an admittedly struggling Seahawks offense, but the Dolphins' offense couldn't move the ball against an admittedly strong Seahawks defense. In Week 2, the front seven was effectively neutralized by the Patriots' quick passing attack, but quarterback Ryan Tannehill closed the game on a tear after starting slowly.
If Miami could be its best self at all times, the team might be a legitimate playoff contender. There's still hope that it can be, though the Patriots and Jets will be continue to be tough outs this season. And, of course, there's still the chance that the Dolphins come out as their worst selves on both sides of the ball and lay down a clunker.
Panic index: Panic, sure, or maybe look on the bright side?
The Seahawks are bad now
A 1-1 record does not signal the decline of the Seattle empire. Plus, the Seahawks have a thing for slow starts (they didn't get above .500 until Week 12 last year and Week 8 the year before that) and losing four of their last five against the Rams probably says more about Jeff Fisher's team than it does Pete Carroll's.
However, the offense is averaging just 15 points through its first two games, a long way from the 26.4 they averaged last season and the offensive line can't even live up to the most pessimistic projections.
Take another look at the calendar: it's still September. Setting aside their weird inability to solve the Rams, injuries are probably the biggest culprit for Seattle's offensive failures. Tyler Lockett suffered a knee injury last week, back problems have bothered Doug Baldwin (and a knee injury), and Thomas Rawls sat out August with an ankle injury.
The main concern for now is Russell Wilson's high ankle sprain. He played through it last week, which probably wasn't a good idea. They could rest him this week at home against the 49ers, but that seems unlikely. Wilson says he's already feeling better, thanks to a thorough medical routine he's following: "... keep icing it, keep praying, and keep working." What could possibly go wrong!
If you're looking for a silver lining here, it's that the injuries should start getting better in time for later part of the season. Meanwhile, the defense is playing as well as it ever has.
Panic index: If we make it through September ...