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NFL Panic Index 2017, Week 5: The Seahawks can’t hang onto a good running back

Seattle’s snakebit on running backs. Eli Manning leads the Giants in rushing TDs. Matt Ryan doesn’t look like an MVP. There’s plenty to panic about in Week 5.

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle offense had a slow start against the Colts, but when things started rolling in the second half, the Seahawks blew the game wide open. But just when the team was putting the finishing touches on a 46-18 win, rookie running back Chris Carson fractured his leg.

The seventh-round pick climbed to the starting spot in Seattle, but now they’ll have to go to the next man up, which isn’t anything to the Seahawks because they have the worst running back luck ever.

It started when Mr. Reliable, Marshawn Lynch, needed sports hernia surgery in 2015 — right after he got a two-year, $24 million extension — and missed most of the season. He promptly retired during the Super Bowl a few weeks after the Seahawks were eliminated.

But Thomas Rawls looked like the next star in the Seahawks backfield. Or at least until he fractured his ankle at the end of his rookie season, and then fractured his fibula in Week 2 of the next season.

C.J. Prosise briefly looked like he’d take the reins with 234 total yards on 30 touches in two starts during the 2016 season, but a fractured scapula ended that momentum.

Others like Eddie Lacy, Christine Michael, and Robert Turbin have had a chance to step up, but haven’t done much with the job.

Panic index: Losing Carson is disappointing for the Seahawks, but the biggest concern is the team’s offensive line. Asking anyone to hammer out more than a few yards per carry is a tall ask, but J.D. McKissic gave some reason to be hopeful. It’s not time to panic, but some decent luck at running back would be a welcomed change in Seattle.

The Rams were 3-1 last year too, and that didn’t end well

The Los Angeles Rams look like a good football team! They’ve started off the season 3-1, which is tied for the second-best record in the league. Pretty good, right?

Well, the Rams also started off 3-1 last season. They’d go on to finish 4-12 — not good!

The Rams have actually looked much different this time around, though. They’re fifth in the NFL in total offense, and have the No. 1 scoring offense. Their first three wins of last season was really just the Rams getting by. They had a -13 point differential, a -442 yardage difference, and a five-point average margin of victory.

This year, those numbers are immensely better. They have a +37 point differential, a +64 yardage differential, and a 14.7 average margin of victory. Jared Goff actually looks like the player the Rams hoped he could be, and Todd Gurley looks like the old Todd Gurley.

Panic index: Fisher is gone, Goff is good, Gurley is back, and the defense is making plays when they need them. The only panic should be about the lack of people in seats.

The Dolphins are regressing on schedule

Last year, the Dolphins were almost the reverse Rams. They started out so cold that their only win in the first five weeks was an overtime victory over the Browns, but then Adam Gase’s team went on a tear, eventually earning a spot in the playoffs.

This year, Miami’s start to the season looks the same. The Dolphins are 1-2, with their only win coming against the 0-4 Chargers. Then they almost got shut out by the Jets (the Jets!), and then did get shut out by the Saints, whose perennially awfully defense hadn’t blanked any team in five years.

But that was in London, and London games can get weird. Gase doesn’t seem too worried, either:

But why isn’t he? The Dolphins were always a top candidate to regress this year, and not only because Ryan Tannehill was lost before the season even began. Last year’s team rode a weak schedule and close wins to an 10-6 record. They went just 1-4 against teams that finished the season with a winning record.

This year, while Jay Cutler’s getting paid $10 million to basically show up and do the bare minimum like an 18-year-old with a bad case of senioritis, the schedule is much harder. None of the Dolphins’ opponents for the rest of the season have a losing record right now. That includes the Bills (twice), Patriots (twice), Falcons, Raiders, Broncos, and Chiefs. A turnaround like last season is much more improbable.

Panic index: It’s hard to panic too much about something we all thought was coming anyway. But here’s the best advice we can give to Dolphins fans: Follow Cutler’s lead and try not to give any effs.

Matt Ryan doesn’t look like an MVP

When the Falcons started 3-0, it looked like they might cruise right to the top of the NFC again this season. But over the past couple of weeks, Matt Ryan has looked like a shadow of the player who was named MVP and Offensive Player of the Year last season.

Ryan went nine regular season and postseason games from 2016 to 2017 without throwing a single pick. He’s thrown five of them over the past two games against the Lions and the Bills.

A step back was expected this season for Ryan and Atlanta’s offense. Former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan was a play-calling genius whose talent got him the head coaching job with the 49ers this offseason. Steve Sarkisian, Shanahan’s replacement, had no experience calling plays at the pro level before accepting this role with the Falcons.

The Falcons still pulled off the win against the Lions. They lost to the Bills, but Buffalo is actually good this season. Still, Ryan’s performance over the past couple of weeks look like a bigger setback than anyone expected.

Panic index: There’s some context needed here. Atlanta’s starting right tackle, Ryan Schraeder, is out with a concussion, and the right guard, Wes Schweitzer, is inexperienced. Plus, Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu both left Atlanta’s Week 4 loss to Buffalo with injuries. Let the Falcons get through their Week 5 bye and get healthy and the offense, and Ryan, should rebound.

Sean McDermott has an addiction ... to coachspeak

Every coach does it. They say inane things to answer questions without actually revealing anything of substance. But Sean McDermott took it to another level.

The good news is that the #process is not a banned substance under the league’s policy on substance abuse or the PED policy. So if the Bills are going to get hooked on something, the process seems like a safe enough place to start.

Panic index: The Bills are on top of the AFC East, so if they’re addicted to the process, it’s working.

Eli Manning is the Giants’ leader in rushing touchdowns

New York hasn’t done a great job of fixing its rushing woes of 2016. Through four games, Paul Perkins is the team’s leading rusher with *61* yards. Eli Manning is fifth on the team in rushing yards with 21, and has the only rushing touchdown on the season.

It was this spectacular athletic feat:

That 14-yard run was the team’s longest rushing touchdown since 2015. It also broke a streak of 21 games without a 10-plus yard rushing touchdown for the Giants.

Eli. Manning.

Panic index: The Giants are 0-4, and have no running game to help open up the pass. Something’s gotta be done — and they have to hope rookie Wayne Gallman can be that spark.

The NFL is home to entirely too many bad starting quarterbacks in Week 5

Week 5 will feature some dire quarterback situations. Derek Carr’s back injury will throw EJ Manuel into Oakland’s starting lineup; Manuel is 6-11 all time as a starter. If Marcus Mariota’s hamstring strain keeps him from playing, the Titans will have to turn to thrift store mannequin Matt Cassel in his place.

And then you have the veteran starters who have been microwaved trash. Cutler is earning $10 million to throw for fewer than six yards per pass. Blake Bortles is completing less than 55 percent of his passes. Joe Flacco, in the midst of his worst season as a pro, has thrown for just 150 yards per game.

Some help is on the horizon. Mike Glennon has been yanked for Mitchell Trubisky, who despite his rookie status, can’t realistically be much worse than his predecessor. Andrew Luck has returned to practice, which means the Tolzien-Brissett era in Indianapolis is coming to a close. Sam Bradford could return, uh, well anytime, according to his entirely unspecific coach Mike Zimmer.

But those glimmers of hope won’t help in places like Jacksonville, Baltimore, and San Francisco — all of whom could be looking at a lost season after just one month of play.

Panic index: Seems like there are a whole bunch of teams who could use a quarterback who once led his team to the Super Bowl. If only there were one who wasn’t signed for 2017 ...

Every game is an away game for the Chargers

There’s no such thing as home-field advantage for the Chargers. They’ve had three games in a row in their temporary stadium, the StubHub Center in Los Angeles. It’s a tiny stadium by NFL standards, with just 27,000 seats. But the Chargers can’t seem to bring in their own fans to fill them.

It was so bad on Sunday that when Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks tried to rile up the crowd to make things more difficult for Philip Rivers and the Chargers’ offense, it worked.

“Sixteen away-game season! Every game’s an away game,” a Chargers player yelled in the locker room after the loss to Philadelphia, according to Jack Wang of the Orange County Register.

Rivers tried to be a bit more circumspect when speaking to the media after the game, but admitted the crowd noise was a factor.

“I don’t think, in a lot of ways, it compares to other teams having three home games,” he said. “Yeah, it’s tough.”

The Chargers have nearly sold out every game at the StubHub Center, so attendance isn’t a problem. The problem is that their fans aren’t the ones showing up.

Panic index: The Chargers aren’t very good, and that makes winning over fans in a new city a lot more difficult. But look on the bright side: At least they only have five home games left on the schedule.


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