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NFL Panic Index 2017, Week 8: The year terrible quarterbacks took over

Your team’s probably starting a bad QB. Sorry.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Bad quarterback play has become pretty much a constant in the NFL this season. Get excited, because we’ll see plenty of it in Week 8.

Joe Flacco has been the opposite of elite this year. He has five touchdowns against eight interceptions, and he’s averaging just 169.9 yards per game. He hasn’t thrown for more than 235 yards in any single game this season, and he’s in interesting company.

Somehow the Ravens have still managed to win three games despite Flacco’s play. The Jaguars are also winning and currently sit on top of the division with a 4-3 record, mainly because of a relentless defense that leads the league in sacks. It’s certainly not because of Blake Bortles, who’s thrown nine touchdowns against five interceptions.

Mitchell Trubisky has led the Bears to two wins since he took over the starting job — or has he? He’s averaging eight completed passes per game, and he has two touchdowns and a pick. The Bears could probably just let Cody Whitehair snap the ball directly to Jordan Howard and not really miss a beat.

A few teams are suffering through poor quarterback play because of injuries to starters. There’s a steep dropoff between Carson Palmer, who is out for the rest of the season with a broken arm, and Drew Stanton. It’s less of a plummet from Jay Cutler to Matt Moore, but the Dolphins are still going to be working with their third option at that position as Cutler’s sidelined with cracked ribs.

Jacoby Brissett is no Andrew Luck, but he wouldn’t be quite so bad for the Colts if his line blocked effectively for him. Trevor Siemian is struggling, but Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler are subpar options.

Andy Dalton is out here throwing it away on fourth down, and it’ll be a tall order for the 49ers to even win a game with their quarterback situation. The Browns may turn to Cody Kessler this week, but their revolving door at quarterback is a big part of the reason Cleveland is 0-7. What a mess.

Panic index: We won’t even be subjected to Bortles, Brett Hundley, Stanton, or Eli Manning this week because their teams are on byes. But brace yourself, because there will be plenty of spectacularly bad quarterback play to go around.

If only there was a capable free agent available to help teams in need of better QB play ...

Brett Hundley can’t even give a quote like Aaron Rodgers

Three years ago, Aaron Rodgers famously told Packers fans to "R-E-L-A-X." The team had gotten off to a laggard 1-2 start, and Rodgers looked uncharacteristically rusty. Despite the restlessness in the Lambeau air, Rodgers was right — the Packers went 11-2 the rest of the regular season. Only an overtime loss to the Seahawks in the NFC Championship prevented a trip to the Super Bowl.

Last year, following four straight losses in the middle of the season, Rodgers debuted a new saying that would soon be cross-stitched on pillows across Green Bay: “I feel like we can run the table.” Some scoffed at the time, but guess what? The Packers reeled off eight wins in a row, and once again, their season didn't end until the NFC Championship.

Things are different this year. The Packers' en fuego 4-1 start was quickly derailed when Rodgers went down with a broken collarbone. After back-to-back losses, and minus the beating heart of team until at least mid-December, nothing anyone says could give Packers fans much comfort right now.

Brett Hundley, the third-year passer filling in at quarterback, tried to give his best Rodgers impression after the 26-17 loss to the Saints on Sunday. Unfortunately, like his 87-yard passing game, Hundley failed to live up to his predecessor:

We're not going to ding Hundley too much here, even if the quote lacks the impish charm oozing out of Rodgers. He's doing the QB equivalent of following The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. And it’s not like his handcuffed performance was entirely his fault.

But it’s hard to feel too optimistic about the Packers at the moment.

Panic index: Let's not pretend that a quote from Rodgers was what turned the Packers around in ’14 and ’16. It was because he's Aaron Freakin' Rodgers. Still, even if Hundley underwhelmed in his first start, the 4-3 Packers aren’t out of this.

The bye week couldn't come at a better time for them. An extra week for Hundley to get more comfortable, and for the supporting cast to get healthy, is what could help get the Packers on the right path again. And if, like always, they’re playing in January, Hundley should be the first to say “I told you so.”

Not even Andrew Luck can save the Colts

Things are bad in Indianapolis. No, actually, they’re horrible.

Chuck Pagano will be the first to tell you:

T.Y. Hilton called out the Colts’ offensive line after their loss to the Jaguars, essentially blaming them for the loss. “It is the offensive line, they need to block,” Hilton said, via Charlie Clifford of WISH-TV. Hilton would later apologize (he wasn’t wrong), but oof, that’s bad.

Malik Hooker was looking like a promising piece on the defense, after having interceptions in three consecutive games. He then tore his ACL against the Jaguars.

The Jaguars really just ended the Colts, who were already in the dumps.

Panic index: There’s no need to panic, because everything is already lost. There’s really no reason to let Andrew Luck come back and play with a bad team like this — enough harm has already been done to his career.

Take this season for what it is, and keep it moving. Pagano probably won’t be a part of that future recipe.

Case Keenum returns to Twickenham, where he threw 4 picks last season

It’s been a year, but Case Keenum’s last game in London has probably stuck with him. Not only did he throw the ball 53 times for the Rams, he was intercepted four times, and sacked three. Somehow, the Rams still only lost that game by a score of 17-10.

He’s been able to shake off last season, and has gone 3-2 in his five starts as Vikings quarterback in place of Sam Bradford. On Sunday, they’ll be going up against the Browns in London, and he’s equipped with a much better team this time around in just about every way.

Oh, and the Browns are the Browns.

Panic index: Keenum should be just fine on Sunday. The Browns appear to be even worse than they were last season, and the Vikings have won three in a row. He might even have a great game!

Saints lead the NFC South, but can they stay on top?

The Saints are on top of the NFC South, but there are plenty of games left to play. Sean Payton doesn’t want his team to get ahead of itself.

And there’s good reason for that. The Saints have won four in a row, but they’ve got the same number of wins as the Panthers. They’re on top of the division by virtue of having already had their bye week, which gives Carolina one more loss than New Orleans. The Falcons won the division last season, and they’re just one game behind Carolina. So it’s not exactly a commanding lead.

New Orleans has gotten rolling thanks in large part to the success of the run game. Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara have combined for 121.7 yards per game. But yet another offensive line injury may throw things off. The Saints just got Terron Armstead back, and Zach Strief is on injured reserve, though he may return this season. Now guard Larry Warford is expected to be out for several weeks after he suffered an abdominal injury.

The Saints’ schedule isn’t a cakewalk. They still have the Bills, Panthers, Rams, and two matchups against the Falcons ahead of them. And while the offense has found its stride, the defense is still giving up 351 yards per game.

Panic index: Don’t order your “NFC South Champions” hats and shirts just yet, Saints fans.

Are the Raiders ever going to get an interception?

The Raiders have a dubious honor foisted on them this season. They’re the only team in NFL history without an interception through the first seven games of the season. That unhappy distinction coincides with a disappointing 3-4 start to the season, a year in which a lot of us believed the Raiders would be Super Bowl contenders.

But interceptions are kind of a funny thing. Every turnover is infected by a degree of randomness, determined as much by bad bounces and dropped opportunities. Last week an Alex Smith deep shot bounced off safety Keith McGill’s hands and into Albert Wilson’s waiting arms for a touchdown.

Last year’s Raiders had 16 picks, tied for the third-most in the league. They had an overall turnover ratio of +16, the best in the league and a big reason behind their 12-4 finish ... not to mention our lofty expectations for 2017.

Football Outsiders’ estimated wins formula had last year’s Raiders as a 9-7 team. They overperformed thanks to all those picks and a perfect 5-0 record in games decided by fewer than six points. It’s a formulaic script for falling back to the mean.

Panic index: The good thing about the randomness of interceptions means that they’ll come, probably in big bunches. Winning’s easier when the ball bounces your way, and it looks like the Raiders are due for a ... wait for it ... bounce back.

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