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Eagles are winning again, but they could miss the playoffs

Also, Cam Newton’s not panicking about the Panthers, but maybe he should be. Here’s your Week 11 panic index.

Atlanta Falcons v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Eagles were rolling at the beginning of the season, starting off 3-0 with rookie Carson Wentz at the helm. Since then, though, Philadelphia has been a bit inconsistent, and they now sit at 5-4. Still, things are looking up. The Eagles made the dynamic, high-scoring Falcons look average at best in a big Week 10 win over Atlanta. Philadelphia seems to be hitting its stride.

Even if the Eagles continue to win, though, and finish with a winning record, it’s possible — likely, even — that they miss the playoffs. And that’s a familiar feeling for Philly fans.

The Eagles missed the playoffs in 2014 despite finishing with a 10-6 record. The Cowboys won the NFC East that year with 12 wins, and both wild card teams in the NFC, the Cardinals and the Lions, went 11-5.

Even with a winning record, Philadelphia is currently last in the NFC East. The dominant Cowboys have left everyone else in their wake, so the three other teams in the division will fight for two wild-card playoff spots. As it stands right now, the Giants and Washington are penciled in for the postseason, and both of those teams are looking tough.

The Eagles won’t win many tiebreakers, either. They’re 0-3 against division foes so far this season.

The Eagles have a chance to improve on that with games still left against all three NFC East teams. They also still have the struggling Packers, as well as the beatable Bengals and Ravens on the schedule this season. Still, even if Philly manages to get to nine or 10 wins, a playoff bid could be hard to come by.

Panic index: Better to pay homage to 2014 than 2015, Eagles fans.

Panthers and Chargers are playing the same heartbreaking song

Two teams with a lauded quarterback and playoff aspirations. Two teams with underwhelming starts laced with heartbreaking losses. Two teams that blew Week 10 fourth-quarter leads behind sloppy play. Two teams that need to win out to have any chance of a playoff bid.

So are the Carolina Panthers the NFC’s Chargers, or are the San Diego Chargers the AFC’s Panthers?

Each team has paved its path to a sub-.500 record on mistakes and heartbreaking losses. At no point was that more apparent than on Sunday.

Carolina took a 17-0 lead on a Kansas City team it’s trying to emulate on the path from 1-5 to the postseason, but fell apart on their home field. The Chiefs scored 17 unanswered points before handing the ball back to Cam Newton with 29 seconds to play. He threw a dart to Kelvin Benjamin for a 14-yard gain ... which was subsequently ripped from Benjamin’s hands by cornerback Marcus Peters.

Just 20 seconds later, Cairo Santos kicked a 37-yard field goal to fully erase that 17-0 deficit and push the Panthers to 3-6.

It wasn’t much better in San Diego. The Chargers led Miami 24-21 before Andrew Franks’ 27-yard field goal tied the game up with just over three minutes to play. That set Philip Rivers up for a game-winning drive as the clock wound down, but instead the five-time Pro Bowler wound up ineffectively chasing Kiko Alonso after the Dolphins linebacker intercepted him at the Miami 40.

Alonso wouldn’t be caught, and the Chargers fell to 4-6 in defeat.

For Carolina and San Diego, the issue hasn’t just been losing but how they’ve lost. The Chargers have held a fourth-quarter lead in all but two of their defeats. The Panthers have lost four of six games by three points or fewer. Each team clearly has the talent to run with any team in the league, but the execution has been heartbreaking.

Through 10 weeks, the Chargers are three games out of a playoff spot. The Panthers are 2.5 games back. The margin of error for a return to the postseason is tremendously slim; neither team can afford a loss, and there are seven more weeks of football before the Wild Card round.

Cam Newton isn’t ready to sound the alarms just yet, though.

“There's no need to panic. I think we have a couple key losses from some teams, so that's our optimism,” Newton said after the Panthers’ loss to the Cheifs. "When you look at it, whatever our record is, it's not good. But yet we have a locker room full of winners and a locker room full of guys that are full of fight still, and I know I am willing to go to battle with those guys.”

It’s entirely impossible both teams could win out. The Chargers visit the Panthers in Week 14. It will be like watching two parallel universes crash into each other.

At least the winner will be able to clutch to some dim glimpse at the playoffs at the end.

Panic Index: Playoff deposits in Charlotte and San Diego would be better served buying nice seats for the Belk and Poinsettia Bowls, respectively.

The Bears are paying for the Cubs’ World Series win

The Cubs got the goat off their back two weeks ago. Since then, nothing has gone right for the Bears.

First, they got routed by an average Bucs team, a game in which Jay Cutler turned the ball over three times. Then there were rumblings that the locker room was fed up with Cutler and “embarrassed” by his lack of preparation.

That same day, they lost Pro Bowl offensive lineman Kyle Long for the season due to an injury. Then their best offensive player, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, was handed down a four-game suspension for PED use.

The Bears were having a pretty dismal season already, but they were coming off their best game yet, a win over the Vikings on Monday Night Football, before the Cubs’ World Series title. Now, any hope they had of making waves in a wide-open NFC North is gone.

Panic index: Chicago fans probably don’t mind sacrificing a lost Bears season in order to break a 108-year-old curse.

The Packers defense is falling apart.

Over the past three weeks, no team in the NFL has given up more points than Green Bay’s 111. A second-year quarterback just torched the Packers for 295 yards and four passing touchdowns, and DeMarco Murray was responsible for a fifth. This fall, only three teams have allowed a worse quarterback rating than their 101.4. For comparison’s sake, any quarterback going into Lambeau Field has come out looking like prime Matthew Stafford.

Injuries have decimated a once-useful secondary. The Packers let Casey Heyward walk this season, and the finally healthy slot corner has had a revival in San Diego thanks to five interceptions. Green Bay turned to Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, and Quinten Rollins in his place, but the trio has been healthy for only 11 out of a possible 27 games between them. That’s pushed untested young players and unproven backups into the lineup, where they’ve been torched in a three-game losing streak.

The Packers offense has turned up the heat to help compensate for its patchwork defense, but it hasn’t been enough. Aaron Rodgers has thrown for more than 900 yards and tossed nine touchdowns since Oct. 30, but his team doesn’t have a single win to show for it. While there are other pressing issues — the fact a wide receiver has been the team’s most effective tailbacks recently among them — the fatal flaw here is clearly a defense with little recourse against accurate passers.

Panic index: Eek. Sam Shields is eligible to return in Week 15. The Packers have to deal with Kirk Cousins, Carson Wentz, and Russell Wilson before then. This could be bad.

The AFC North might be worse than the AFC South

It is entirely possible that the AFC North, which sent three teams to the playoffs just two years ago, could be the worst division in football this season. Yes, even worse than everyone’s favorite punching bag, the AFC South.

It looked early on like the Pittsburgh Steelers were going to be a Super Bowl contender, but since then, they’ve lost four consecutive games. They’re a dang mess, and the entire team knows it.

The Ravens are pretty similar. After winning their first three games, they lost four in a row. Now sure, they’ve won two games in a row, but they’ve come against fellow AFC North teams: the Steelers, and the 0-10 Cleveland Browns, who have been the lone winless team in the NFL for six weeks.

A win is a win, and two wins are even better, but the Ravens haven’t been all that impressive.

That brings us to the Cincinnati Bengals, who recently lost to the Giants on Monday Night Football in a game they probably should have won.

All season, the Giants have been the worst in the NFL at sacking the quarterback, and the second-worst rushing team. Not only were they able to sack Andy Dalton twice in a row on what ended up being the Bengals’ final drive of the game, but they ran out over three minutes of clock to seal the 21-20 win. The loss dropped them to 3-5-1, and yet, the Bengals still aren’t out of the division race.

Heck, even the Browns haven’t even been eliminated yet. That’s how bad the AFC North is.

Panic index: Even the worst divisions get to send one team to the playoffs.