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NFL Panic Index 2018: Why is the Eagles’ Super Bowl hangover so bad?

How is this team 3-4? Also, the Bengals look broken, the Bills have a date with infamy, and the Ravens defense flopped.

Carolina Panthers v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Talk about a hangover. Eagles fans are stumbling along, halfway through the season, with waning good feelings about the defending Super Bowl champs being 3-4 to start the season. The latest FanPulse survey revealed that just 38 percent of Eagles fans were confident about the direction of the team right now.

So what’s wrong with the Eagles?

You can point to a few different things. Big plays are one problem. The offense was the 15th best at generating them last season. This year, they are 19th after a loss to the Panthers. On the other side of the ball, the defense was the fourth best at preventing big plays; they’re 27th this year, so far.

As you can see, it’s just a lot of blah on both sides of the ball.

Carson Wentz is getting better since his return in September, but he’s still having a little trouble closing out games. He was 23-for-27 with 281 yards in the first three quarters of last week’s loss, but he was 6-for-9 with 29 yards and only two first downs in the final frame.

Bleeding Green Nation has a lengthier breakdown of the team’s problems here.

The good news is that these are all fixable problems. All four of the Eagles’ losses have been within one score. They’ve also got some room to make up in the turnover department, where the defense has just six so far this season.

Panic index: Relax. The Eagles could easily be 4-3, and you’d have to look under every rock in the city to find anyone panicked about it. The front office also keeps popping up in trade rumors — they offered a second-round pick for Amari Cooper and are currently said to be a suitor for Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, who could really help. Right now, Washington leads the division at 4-2, and everyone knows that won’t last. There’s plenty of time to reclaim a wide open NFC East.

The Steelers broke the Bengals

Just two weeks ago, the Cincinnati Bengals were riding higher than they had in a few years. They were leading the AFC North at 4-1, a record that included exciting come-from-behind wins over the Falcons and Dolphins, and a convincing victory over the Ravens in a Thursday Night Football game — yes, both the Bengals and Andy Dalton played well in primetime for once (little foreshadowing here).

Next up was a date with their most hated rival. The Steelers were 2-2-1 and came into Cincinnati much more desperate than the Bengals. For most of the afternoon, it looked the Bengals would finally break their seven-game losing streak in the rivalry. And then what always happens in the Pittsburgh-Cincinnati matchup happened — no, not Vontaze Burfict being a problem, though that did happen too.

The Steelers delivered a crushing blow to the Bengals’ hopes, dreams, spirits, and souls with a last-minute touchdown to win the game (of course there was controversy too).

It was a brutal way to lose to a team that has continued to own them, but the Bengals still had control of the division. It was just one game with 10 more to go in the season — including a rematch with the Steelers. All they had to do was dust themselves off and get ready for their next game.

But the downward spiral continued. The Bengals got humiliated on Sunday Night Football against the Chiefs in a 35-point loss that the NFL regrets flexing into the primetime slot. There’s no shame in giving up a lot of points to Patrick Mahomes and Co., but there is in not being able to move the ball against that defense. The Chiefs were allowing 468 yards and 29 points per game; the Bengals managed just 239 yards and 10 points.

And just like that, the Bengals surrendered their lead in the AFC North while the Steelers jumped up to first place — during their bye.

Panic index: In the NFL, teams can rebound from two straight losses, even two hard-to-swallow ones, without breaking a sweat. The Bengals are still in the division race, and their schedule is a mix of winnable games (Bucs, Raiders, Browns) and less so (Saints, Chargers, uh, Browns). And the best news for the Bengals is that they don’t play on Sunday Night Football again this season.

Congratulations, Buffalo, you might have the worst offense ever

This was always going to be a dicey year for the Bills. Buffalo followed up 2017’s drought-snapping playoff appearance by exiling quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland and rolling with the uninspiring trio of interception machine Nathan Peterman, Bengals castaway A.J. McCarron, and boom-or-bust rookie Josh Allen behind center. And then the club traded away McCarron, worked around Allen’s struggles before losing him to an elbow injury, and bore witness through gritted teeth as Peterman continued to be Peterman.

The end result? Seven games, 907 net passing yards, and a 2-5 record that, somehow, fails to capture how bleak things really are in New York.

Fortunately, we’ve got advanced stats for that:

Week 7 saw off-the-street free agent signing Derek Anderson step onto the field as a precautionary measure to keep Peterman off it. He had the opportunity to get his legs under him against a defense that ranked 26th in the league in opposing passer efficiency while giving up 280 passing yards per game. And the veteran ...needed 31 passes to throw for 175 yards and three interceptions in a 37-5 loss. Things got so bad, the Bills were getting effectively dunked on by an anthropomorphic horse with noisemaker boogers by the time they left Indiana.

Panic index: Things might get better when Josh Allen returns from his elbow injury. They might get worse. Either way, you’ve always got Madison, WI Minnesota.

The Ravens defense couldn’t hold on to a lead in the fourth quarter

Baltimore’s defense has been rock solid this season. The Ravens have easily the best defense in the league this year.

For three quarters and some change, they played like the best defense in the league against an explosive Saints offense. Headed into the fourth quarter, the Ravens were up 17-7 and it looked like their defense was slowly choking the life out of yet another offense.

Then, Drew Brees happened. In the fourth quarter, Brees completed seven of his nine attempts for 66 yards and a touchdown. He also picked up four first downs on those throws. His effort paired with Alvin Kamara’s two-yard touchdown run was enough to get the Saints the lead (Justin Tucker missing an extra point at the end helped too).

Panic index: Hey, shit happens. No need to worry about the defense if you’re a Ravens fan. They bottled up one of the best offenses in the NFL for the vast majority of the game in a time where playing defense is harder than ever. The defense is still the best in the NFL and might be the only defense capable of carrying a team to and through the playoffs this year.