Necessary Roughness, Week 4: Is it Time to Relax or PANIC for Your Team?
I’ve always found Week 4 to be one of great importance for many teams in determining how their season will ultimately play out. As the early-season nerves and kinks are ironed out, we start to see a clearer picture of each team’s identity and how that identity will help or hinder them over the course of the year. Aaron Rodgers kindly encouraged the Packers’ faithful to “relax” in spite of a lackluster 1-2 start. Presumably because of a side-job as a fortune telling sorcerer, Aaron’s advice proved prudent as the Packers marched into Soldier Field and pulled out a convincing victory over a solid Bears team to pull themselves back to a .500 record. Could this be the turning point for Green Bay? I think it will be. The Vikings come in to Lambeau on Thursday, and despite an impressive win over the Falcons, I don’t think a below average team with a banged up rookie QB has a chance in that stadium. It looks like once Week 5 is in the books, the Pack will be back to form with a winning record.
For other teams, relaxing doesn’t seem like the most appropriate thing to do after Week 4. In fact, I would recommend doing the exact opposite. So this week, I thought I would do something a little different and provide a team by team analysis on whether their fans should relax or PANIC! And for the record, I am totally in panic mode.
Philadelphia: Relax. Even after a tough road loss against the 49ers, the Eagles have thus far been the best team in the NFC East. There is an asterisk with this one though… If that depleted offensive line doesn’t figure out a way to protect Nick Foles from taking the pummeling he’s taken in the first month of the season I don’t see how he’s going to stay healthy. As the season progresses, I think Philly will rely more and more on the dual rushing attack of LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles, and with the general lack of defense in this division that may just be enough to get them into the playoffs.
Dallas: Okay, okay. Cowboys fans can relax. There, I said it. It’s usually not pretty, but your team is winning games. And they actually looked like a legit team against the Saints last night. I never thought the Cowboys would have a difficult time scoring, but the fact that they virtually shut down the New Orleans’ offense was actually pretty impressive. I still hate the Cowboys, and wish them much harm.
NY Giants: Relax. These guys are reminiscent of the 2012 team that started the season looking like a joke, and then somehow morphed into Super Bowl champs. No way in hell this team wins the title this year, but they are showing signs of vast improvement over the last couple weeks. And in a division with parity from top to bottom, Giants fans have a realistic hope for their team to get into the postseason.
Washington: Panic. With RGIII out for the foreseeable future, the offensive load falls squarely on the shoulders of the young and inexperienced Kirk Cousins. I expect Kirk will have an erratic season with crests of greatness, as well as troughs of pure incompetence. I’m not particularly impressed with the coaching of this team either. By season’s end, the Skins may find themselves in the cellar of the NFC East.
Detroit: Relax. It looks like the loss to the Panthers in Week 2 may have been a fluke, and the Lions seem to be hitting their stride. Golden Tate is proving to be a worthwhile acquisition, and while it looks like Ndamukong Suh might leave the lion’s den after this year, Detroit seems to be in the playoff hunt at least for the time being.
Green Bay: Just do whatever Aaron Rodgers tells you to do, and don’t ask any questions.
Minnesota: Panic. 2-2 ain’t bad, but Teddy Bridgewater is a rookie, and it remains to be seen if he will even be able to play on Thursday after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday’s game against the Falcons. Over the long haul, I just don’t see this team being able to compete week in and week out in this tough division.
Chicago: Relax. You can’t beat Green Bay at Soldier Field. You just can’t. No one knows why, but that’s just the way it is. Accept it and move on. The good news is that Matt Forte had a big game, and if he can consistently supplement the passing attack with big rushing numbers, the Bears will be just fine. Oh yeah, and Jay Cutler has to stay healthy. Maybe get some sleep or something. Dude always looks like he’s fresh off an all night high school kegger.
Tampa Bay: Panic. Despite the mind boggling victory over the Steelers in Pittsburgh, this team is going to struggle. Mike Glennon had a decent game, but he’s got very little experience and at some point very soon, he will be exposed and exploited.
Carolina: I feel awful saying this, but it’s time to panic. The Panthers’ defense is a shell of what it was last year, and with all the injuries on the offensive side of the ball, I don’t think my Panthers stand a chance. We were thoroughly dominated at the line of scrimmage yesterday. I’ll consider it a small miracle if we end up with a . 500 record.
Atlanta: Panic. You’re 2-2, but how the hell do you completely eviscerate Tampa Bay, and then turn around and get smoked by the Vikings? If you are Falcons fan, you have no idea what to expect from one week to the next. Maybe they get it together, maybe they don’t. But as of now, the lack of consistency has to be a concern.
New Orleans: Panic. You might think it’s weird that every NFC South team is in the panic column, but looking objectively at all these teams’ performances thus far and I think anyone would agree. This division is a mess. New Orleans is perhaps the most disappointing team in the league. Despite having copious amounts of talent and experience, these guys are struggling to establish any offensive momentum, and Rob Ryan’s defense is an absolute disaster. Dallas thoroughly embarrassed the Saints last night, and the Cowboys typically don’t make a habit out of embarrassing anyone other than themselves.
Arizona: Relax. Can we just go ahead and give Bruce Arians the coach of the year award? I mean, come on. The Cardinals sit atop arguably the best division in football and they are doing it with Drew Stanton, a guy no one had ever heard of until 3 weeks ago, at quarterback. I’m not sure if they can maintain this run throughout the year, but as of now, Arizona is one of the best stories in the NFL.
Seattle: Grab a coffee, grow an ironic mustache, read a book, and relax. You’re practically unbeatable at home, and Russel Wilson is proving to be more than just a game manager. This guy is an elite quarterback and bonafide playmaker. And that defense is still nasty.
San Francisco: Relax. If the 49ers hadn’t squeaked out a win against the Eagles yesterday, I’d be leaning towards panic. But they got the win, and it was a big one. SF hasn’t exactly looked like the team we expected them to be, but they still have a lot of talent. If they can get on a roll and string together a few wins in a row, this division could get really interesting. In their next 5 games, the Niners have the Chiefs, the Rams twice, the Broncos, and the Saints. They could easily go 4-1 in that stretch.
St. Louis: Relax. Look, we knew from the start that the Rams had no chance of making any noise in the NFC West. But you have to admire the effort of this team. Injuries have decimated them at quarterback, but they still manage to be competitive most weeks. Take this season with a grain of salt, and hope to land a solid draft pick in the offseason.
New England: Pats are in first place in the East, but I’m leaning towards panic here. They haven’t really shown any signs of dominance thus far, and for a team that has Super Bowl aspirations, they are taking their sweet ass time in materializing the on- paper talent of their roster. I expect them to right the ship, perhaps starting with tonight’s game in Kansas City. But as of now, New England has been disappointing.
Buffalo: Relax. While a playoff berth might be a longshot, this Bills team is headed in the right direction. EJ Manuel needs to limit his turnovers, but I like his upside. If not for an unbelievable play by JJ Watt yesterday, Buffalo could be 3-1 and in 1st place in the division.
Miami: Relax. After a week of suspense, Ryan Tannehill eventually got the start yesterday in London, and he delivered. The Raiders aren’t exactly an imposing adversary, but Miami needed a convincing win and they got it. And with the Patriots struggling to find themselves, Dolphins fans have to feel pretty good right now.
NY Jets: Panic. Geno Smith is showing signs of frustration, and with the Chargers, Broncos, and Patriots on the docket for their next 3 games, the Jets could be 1-6 before you know it. Expect some pretty awkward Rex Ryan press conferences in the near future.
Cincinnati: Relax. Along with Arizona, the Bengals are one of the best stories in the league. But don’t get too complacent…. Cincy has some tough games the next few weeks, including the Patriots, Colts, and Ravens. So the tide could turn in the blink of an eye. For now though, Andy Dalton and Co. are looking like an elite team.
Baltimore: Relax. The Ravens just throttled my Carolina Panthers and aside from a heartbreaking Week 1 loss against the Bengals, these guys have been dynamite. Joe Flacco has bounced back from a rough 2013 and having a new favorite target in Steve Smith has seemingly re-engergized this team. And of all the domestic violence suspensions, I think Baltimore has suffered the least. Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce, and Lorenzo Taliaferro have more than made up for the loss of Ray Rice.
Pittsburgh: Relax. But you lost to the Bucs at home. So don’t be stoked.
Cleveland: I’m going with relax here. Despite being 1-2, Cleveland’s competitiveness has exceeded the expectations of most folks, including myself. In their 2 losses, they’ve lost by a combined 5 pts. If the ball bounced a different way, this team could easily be 3-0!!
Houston: Relax. After a woeful 2013, any Texans fan is going to be fired the hell up about a 3-1 start this year. JJ Watt is making big plays on defense, and while Ryan Fitzpatrick is by no means putting up All-Pro stats, he’s doing just enough to win games. At some point though, this team needs a healthy and effective Arian Foster in the backfield.
Indianapolis: Cautiously relax. Still very much in the hunt, but the next few weeks are going to be a challenge. Ravens, Texans, and Bengals on the horizon. That giveaway loss to the Eagles could come back to haunt the Colts when it’s all said and done.
Tennessee and Jacksonville: Relax and watch college football for draft prospects.
San Diego: Relax. It took a while to get things going against the Jags yesterday, but eventually the Chargers put it together and won decisively. I like this team. Originally I thought they would squeak into the postseason as a Wild Card team, but now I’m leaning towards them as my favorite to win the West. Philip Rivers is thriving in this new offense and putting up gnarly numbers.
Denver: Relax, but maybe bite your fingernails intermittently. Peyton Manning is still really good, and will likely find ways to win games. But the Broncos have some tough games coming up including the Cardinals, Chargers, and 49ers. This division could get interesting.
Kansas City: Panic. I might change my mind if they beat the Pats tonight, but the Chiefs have essentially fallen apart since they started 2013 with a 9-0 record. And it doesn’t get any easier… KC has San Fran next week and then San Diego after a bye week.
Oakland: Relax. The A’s made the playoffs.
Phew. That was exhausting. Anyway, the season is still young and a lot can change, but that’s my assessment thus far. Monday Night Football gives us kind of a snoozer of a game if you ask me, with New England visiting Kansas City. I might not even watch the game. But I think the Pats will get the offense going and win 24-14. That’s it, folks. Have a wonderful week!