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Time to panic for Saints, Panthers and Steelers?

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It's still early, but a trio of teams are coming off brutal Sunday losses. Is it time to panic in New Orleans, Carolina and Pittsburgh? Let's take a look:

New Orleans Saints


Sadly, the Saints were my Super Bowl pick. I fell hard for the promise of their high-octane offense and a Rob Ryan-led defense that showed vast improvement last season. After four weeks, though, New Orleans has stumbled on both fronts.

The Saints have just one takeaway all season, while Ryan's defense is giving up 25-plus points per game on the road. New Orleans must have known that Dallas would attack with the run on Sunday night, but it didn't help. The Saints were manhandled at the line of scrimmage as DeMarco Murray ran free.

On offense, there's been no replacing Mark Ingram, who was among the NFL's best backs before his hand injury. Through the air, New Orleans hasn't lived up to its big-play potential. While Brandin Cooks and Jimmy Graham remain matchup nightmares, the Cowboys weren't the first team to erase Marques Colston this season.

Panic level: As long as Sean Payton and Drew Brees are on the payroll, there's hope. Still, we tend to overrate teams based on past success, and the reality is that New Orleans is 8-8 over its last 16 regular-season games. Seven remaining home tilts will help, but nothing we've seen to date suggests a Super Bowl team -- and that was the expectation.

Carolina Panthers


The Panthers have been exposed over the past two weeks as Carolina's celebrated defense has allowed 195.5 rushing yards per game since Week 3.

With no sacks or takeaways against Baltimore on Sunday, the Panthers -- stripped of Greg Hardy and Thomas Davis -- were beaten in the trenches and failed to put heat on Joe Flacco. Carolina has given up an identical 454 yards in back-to-back tilts against AFC North opponents.

On offense, Cam Newton has played well, but he isn't healthy. His limited mobility only magnifies an injury-riddled backfield reduced to Tauren Poole and rookie Darrin Reaves as DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert nurse injuries.

Panic level: Facing a brutal upcoming slate that includes the Bears, Bengals, Packers, Seahawks, Saints, Eagles and Falcons, it's fair for Panthers fans to run through the streets in meltdown mode.

Pittsburgh Steelers


The Tampa loss was ugly, but there's too much talent on offense to write anyone off here.

Ben Roethlisberger has been outstanding for a Steelers attack averaging 412 yards per outing. Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton have made plays weekly through the air while Le'Veon Bell has averaged 5.2 yards per rush in every game but one this season. He's been as good as anyone on the ground.

The defense is inconsistent: After allowing 342 yards rushing over the first two weeks, the Steelers have been better against the run. Pittsburgh, though, remains guilty of falling asleep at the wheel. After allowing the Browns to score 24 unanswered points in Week 1, Pittsburgh fell apart against the Ravens in Week 2 before watching Mike Glennon catch fire on Sunday.

Panic level: It's too early to freak out, but let's settle down with the hubris, Pittsburgh:

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