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NFL Panic Index 2018: Are the undefeated Rams cursed?

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Being 6-0 might not be all great. The Chiefs turned back into a pumpkin, the never-ending Eli Manning era and more frightening things that will have you chewing your nails off.

Los Angeles Rams v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Much of Week 6 in the NFL felt like a return to normalcy. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers methodically ripped out their opponents’ hearts. The Eagles and Vikings are back on track. The Steelers punked the Bengals. Vontaze Burict could be in trouble with the NFL. No one lost to the Browns or Bills.

It was a good lesson about not overreacting too early in the season.

Even if the outcomes were more predictable this week, there’s still an overwhelming sense of fun this season. Let’s take a second and appreciate that ...

... OK, now let’s get back to panicking.

The Rams are cursed as the NFL’s last unbeaten team

After Week 3, there were only three unbeaten teams left in the NFL. After Week 4, there were only two. Now, thanks in part to Tom Brady’s annoying clutch gene, there’s only one: the 6-0 Los Angeles Rams. That should be a good thing, right?

[Lee Corso Kool-Aid Mans in]

Not so fast my friend.

Lately, fate hasn’t been so kind to the last undefeated team. Last year, it was the Chiefs, who went on to lose in the Wild Card Round. The year before, it was the Vikings, who missed the playoffs. In 2015, it was the Panthers, who lost in the Super Bowl.

In fact, the last time the Rams made it to the Super Bowl in 2001, they were the NFL’s last unbeaten team that season. Then they lost to Tom Brady’s annoying clutch gene in the Superdome.

Since then, seven teams have made it to the Super Bowl after staying perfect the longest, and only the 2006 Colts took home the Lombardi Trophy.

That’s not great news for Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, and the Rams’ top-ranked offense, looking to prove they’re the 2018 version of the Greatest Show on Turf.

Panic index: The Rams’ only Super Bowl win came in a season when they were the NFL’s last unbeaten team. It used to happen a lot more than it does now, so it’s hard to really call it a curse. Besides, the Rams shouldn’t worry about potentially losing a Super Bowl just yet — they should concentrate on actually winning once they make the playoffs.

Eli Manning is the Giants best QB in 2018 ... and maybe 2019

The Giants decided against trading down in the 2018 NFL Draft, opting to select Saquon Barkley with the No. 2 overall pick. They also decided against taking a quarterback until Day 3 before snatching up Richmond signal caller Kyle Lauletta.

The good news for New York is Barkley is as good as advertised, the kind of player who can lift an offense thanks to versatility that stretches beyond “jack of all trades” designation. The bad news is Eli Manning will soon be 38 years old, throwing fewer touchdown passes than at any point in 15-year career, and currently the captain of the Giants’ 1-5 sinking ship. And there’s no clear progression plan behind him.

New York’s mission to groom a developmental passer to eventually take the reins at MetLife Stadium has now landed on Lauletta after striking out on players like Rhett Bomar, Ryan Nassib, a reclaimed Geno Smith, and Davis Webb - a 2017 third-round pick who didn’t even see year two with the club. Lauletta could develop into a stable NFL starter, but the track record for FCS Day 3 quarterbacks isn’t great; he’s more likely to become the league’s next John Skelton, Keith Null, JT O’Sullivan, or Doug Nussmeier than a Tony Romo or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

If Lauletta can’t be the team’s quarterback of the future, it’s unclear who can. The Giants are likely to have a premier pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, only it’s shaping up to be an underwhelming year for QB prospects. Will a player like Drew Lock or Justin Herbert prove worthy of a top three selection?

The free agent market could be similarly barren. Teddy Bridgewater could reunite with his old Vikings OC Pat Shurmur after his one-year deal expires, but he’s likely to be a commodity atop a seller’s market. Other pending free agents include Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brock Osweiler, and Robert Griffin III, which is ...not great.

So, yeah, it could be year 16 of the Eli Manning starting experience for the Giants in 2019. Based on how 2018 has started, that’s not going to make many fans happy in the tri-state area.

Panic index: Just have Odell Beckham play quarterback until you find the college quarterback you want. And if someone wants to trade you a 200% return for your elite draft slot come next April, take the deal.

It’s back into a pumpkin time for the Chiefs

Kansas City is undefeated no more. After a 5-0 start, the Chiefs came back down to Earth right on schedule with a 43-40 loss to the New England Patriots.

A year ago, the Chiefs started 5-0 and then the wheels fell off. They lost six of their next seven, and even though they rallied to win four straight and get into the playoffs, Kansas City was promptly bounced by the Titans.

The problem for the Chiefs in 2017 was that once the offense slowed down from its torrid start, the defense couldn’t pick up the slack. The 2018 Chiefs haven’t had an offensive slow down, but if they ever do — there’s no way in hell that this defense is going to save the day.

The 2012 Saints are the only team to ever allow more than 7,000 yards in a season and they just barely topped that number with 7,042. The Chiefs are on pace to allow 7,490 — easily the most ever.

Panic index: Patrick Mahomes is still cooking, even if Tom Brady got the last laugh on Sunday Night Football. As long as the offense is pumping out over 30 points per game, a 2017 repeat isn’t coming. But that defense sure is sketchy.

The Bears’ defense might not be as good as we thought

Playing Brock Osweiler in his first start with a new team seemed like a layup for the Bears. Osweiler hasn’t been a productive starter and the Bears have one of the best defenses in the NFL. It was far from a layup for the Bears, though.

Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns. Most of that damage came after the catch from Albert Wilson, but it was still jarring to see one of the better defenses in the NFL completely forget how to tackle.

Wilson took screen passes of 75 and 43 yards to the house — probably an outlier performance. Speaking of outliers, there’s something about Osweiler versus the Bears. His first start for all three of the teams he’s started for has come against the Bears, and he’s won all three of those games.

The Bears still have by far the best defense in the NFC North and the lead in the NFC North. There’s a good chance that they’ll be ok.

Panic index: Breathe, Bears fans. The sky isn’t falling. The offense has taken strides and the defense is still good, it was just a bad game for them.