Well, we got another wild weekend of NFL action, including several unexpected results. Now it’s time for the patent-pending Geoff Schwartz panic-o-meter focused on a few Super Bowl hopefuls.
Upsets happen every week, but it’s how the Chiefs, Cowboys, and Rams lost Sunday that needs to be discussed. Those three teams, and fanbases, find themselves in a different situation after Week 6. Let’s take a look at how things stand.
The fans are on edge, but the team won’t be
An Andy Reid-led Chiefs team will not panic at all. Remember 2015? They started 1-5 and finished with 10 straight victories to wrap up the regular season, adding a 12th victory with a 30-0 rout over the Texans in the Wild Card Round. This Chiefs team won’t panic, nor should they yet.
I, and many rational Chiefs fans, didn’t expect them to make the Super Bowl because of their defense. I wrote last week how the Kansas City defense played better than we thought against the Colts in the Week 5 loss. I wish I could say the same about the loss to the Texans.
The Texans ran 83 plays, had 35 first downs, didn’t allow a sack, and Deshaun Watson completed 30 of 42 passes. Frank Clark having almost no impact through six games is worrisome, as I figured he’d be the anchor of the pass rush, which still can’t get home. The Chiefs can’t rush the passer, stop the run, or stop holding in the back end. The defense is just a mess.
I know fans are nervous about the offense’s production recently, which is wild to say as the Chiefs entered the game with the second-best DVOA for offense. But it’s true: this offense hasn’t been as sharp in the last three weeks — and it starts with Patrick Mahomes.
Mahomes’ footwork has been even less crisp than usual, and when you factor in his bum left ankle, that isn’t shocking:
This play was the game.#Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes appears to re-injure his ankle and also smacks his head off the turf.— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) October 14, 2019
Before: 10/16, 189 yards, 2 TDs (about 20 mins. of game time)
After: 9/19, 84 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT (about 40 mins. game time) pic.twitter.com/ZqY0b2dTE1
While Mahomes has been outstanding at throwing off an unusual platform throughout his career, an injury to that plant leg is making things more unstable, which is leading to his arm dropping a tad and his throws being off.
It’s nothing that can’t be fixed, though, and I’m sure the Chiefs are working on it.
Injuries have also wrecked the offensive line. That’s hurting the offense because Mahomes keeps getting hit. However, the Chiefs should get left tackle Eric Fisher back soon, and that will help tremendously. Tyreek Hill returned Sunday, and Sammy Watkins shouldn’t be out too long. When the whole gang is back, we will see what the Chiefs’ offense really looks like.
So, to recap, Chiefs fans might be on edge after this latest loss, but the players won’t be. Reid has guided plenty of successful teams through two-game losing streaks, just like I’m confident he will do it now.
The fans are on edge, and the team might be too
The Cowboys started fast this season, especially on offense. It was against three very bad defenses: the Giants, Washington, and Dolphins. Nonetheless, we all got excited. I wrote gushingly about the changes on offense because it was so new. RPOs, a high dose of play-action pass, and Dak Prescott looking super confident on third downs. The offense was humming.
Then came the last three games against the Saints, Packers, and Jets. Those three games looked like the Cowboys’ offense we saw in 2017 and 2018. Boring. Predictable. Unproductive for the weapons they have. It appears Jason Garrett has taken back the offense from Kellen Moore after Moore was receiving the credit for the first three weeks. Seriously. I’ll work to confirm this if I can, but there’s no other explanation. Gone is anything creative. There seems to be no purpose.
I know, I know, they have injuries, but I’m so tired of blaming everything wrong with this offense, or Prescott, on injuries. Teams can be successful with injuries for a week, or multiple weeks. Prescott can’t handle his left tackle being out, while the Eagles won a Super Bowl with their future Hall of Fame left tackle out for half the season. Enough with the excuses, please.
As bad as the offense is playing, the biggest concern on the Cowboys is actually the defense. The reason I picked the Cowboys to win the NFC was their defense. It was under-the-radar good last season, finishing ninth in Football Outsiders’ DVOA. They have playmakers on every level, and most of the guys are relatively young. But they’ve taken a step back.
The defense entered the Jets game ranked 19th in DVOA and then proceeded to get gashed by Sam Darnold in his first game back. Yikes. You need to play better on that side of the ball to win with this offense.
So, can the Cowboys find their offensive mojo? Does Garrett let Moore take point again? Is the defense going to play to its potential? These are questions that can be answered quickly, but they are piling up. That’s why the team might be panicking.
The fans and the team are on edge
The Rams are 3-3 after the 49ers physically dominated them. Unlike the Chiefs and Cowboys — who just need injuries to heal, better playcalling, and some things to break back in their direction — the Rams are being whipped at the point of attack, something that’s new to them this season.
The offensive line, which was elite, isn’t anymore. Entering Week 6, Pro Football Focus ranked their run and pass blocking in the bottom three of the league! They replaced their left guard and center, and their right guard is just OK. Their tackles are talented but have been inconsistent.
This offense is built on the rhythm of their running game, which allows Jared Goff to thrive in the play-action game. None of things are happening when you can’t run the ball or pass protect early in the drive. Both Goff and the offense languish when you make them one-dimensional.
Also, I’m not questioning Sean McVay’s genius, but he’s got to make some adjustments. It’s time. New run schemes. A quick pass game. More abilities to exist without a strong offensive line.
On the flip side, where the heck is the Rams’ passing defense? A unit that’s been top-notch for years all of a sudden can’t stop a cold. Maybe the lack of the Rams’ pass rush is hurting the back end, but it’s not been the same this season. When the offense is struggling, the defense can’t keep up. When neither side of the ball can make up the slack, that has the makings of a poor season.
Lastly, the Rams are now two games behind the Seahawks and 2.5 behind the Niners, but since they’ve already lost to both, it feels like more. The Rams’ schedule allows for some breathing room, with the Falcons, Bengals, and Steelers coming up next, so they could possibly right the ship. They just need to do it fast.