The 2021 NFL season is nearing the end of its second month. It's still too early to make definitive conclusions on most teams, but it's not too early for certain fan bases to be freaking out. Especially in the wake of a gory Sunday seven days before Halloween. Whole lotta blowouts, whole lotta mounting concerns.
Here are the Week 7 losers who should be panicking the most, Schein Nine style.
Sunday's loss: 27-3 at Tennessee Titans
I didn't pick Kansas City to make a third straight Super Bowl in the preseason, but I certainly didn't expect the Chiefs to be a 3-4 mess at midseason. Patrick Mahomes is struggling mightily, playing hot potato with the football to the tune of nine interceptions. NINE PICKS. Not only is that number an NFL high, but it's just two INTs fewer than his total from the past two seasons combined. We've become accustomed to weekly installments of Mahomes magic, but no one's under his spell in 2021. The 26-year-old just posted the lowest regular-season passer rating of his career (62.3), with Kansas City scoring the fewest points ever in the Mahomes era.
Of course, the quarterback wasn't alone in his Sunday struggles. The Titans manhandled the Chiefs' revamped offensive line all day, sacking Mahomes four times and eventually knocking the quarterback out of the game. Meanwhile, Steve Spagnuolo's defense continued its wretched season with a first-half no show. Tennessee's first five possessions on Sunday went touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal, giving the Titans an insurmountable 27-0 advantage at the break. Good teams are just clobbering these Chiefs, which is why they have a point differential of -15 -- a staggering figure for the back-to-back conference champions.
The AFC is too good this season to believe K.C. can simply flip the proverbial switch and retake the throne. Honestly, if you've been watching the Chiefs this year, there are few reasons to believe there's even a switch to be flipped.
Sunday's loss: 25-3 at New York Giants
The 3-0 start feels like a lifetime ago, with Carolina dropping its past four games to plummet into the NFC South cellar. In related news, Christian McCaffrey hasn't played a snap since Week 3, sidelined by a nagging hamstring issue. On Sunday, Sam Darnold was sidelined by a nagging ineptitude issue. The Panthers were absolutely thumped by a Giants team that entered the game with a 1-5 record. This is a low point for the Matt Rhule era in Charlotte, and it's hard to imagine these Panthers rising back up in the coming months.
Rhule said Darnold would remain the starter in the postgame, but he wasn't exactly enthusiastic about it. And I don't blame him. I loved the Darnold trade in the offseason, but that sentiment has proven dead wrong. Carolina needed Darnold to step up when McCaffrey went down. Instead, over the past four weeks, he's turned the ball over eight times, posting a ghastly 61.2 passer rating in the process. Darnold is fortunate P.J. Walker (3-for-14 for 33 yards with three sacks taken) looked just as bad in relief, or else the former No. 3 overall pick might've been in for an extended stay on the bench. The Panthers are clearly kicking themselves for picking up Darnold's fifth-year option back in April, guaranteeing the quarterback a cool $18.858 million for next season. Even so, Carolina's popping up in Deshaun Watson reports as the trade deadline approaches. Remember September, when Darnold was a serious Comeback Player of the Year candidate?
Sunday's loss: 38-3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Just over a year ago, Tom Brady lost track of downs in Chicago, and the Bears beat the Bucs in prime time. The win improved Chicago to 4-1, simultaneously dropping Tampa Bay to 3-2. Just think about all that has happened to both teams since.
I didn't expect the Bears to compete with the Bucs on Sunday, but man was that ever a grim showing for Chicago. And it could've been worse! Tampa scored 35 points in the first half -- a league-high for this season -- before essentially playing out the string after the break. Justin Fields continues to look in over his head, committing a whopping five turnovers on Sunday, but what is Matt Nagy doing to help out his rookie quarterback? It just doesn't seem like the Bears are building a game plan around the No. 11 overall pick's best physical attributes. And now Nagy will be absent from Halas Hall due to a positive COVID-19 test. This franchise is trending back down while the temperatures on multiple seats heat up.
Sunday's loss: 30-18 vs. Indianapolis Colts
Should've signed Tom Brady in March of 2020. Should've drafted Mac Jones in April of 2021. I'm not Monday morning quarterbacking or second-guessing with the benefit of hindsight -- I begged San Francisco to make each move at the time. But no: The Niners opted for Jimmy Garoppolo's low ceiling and Trey Lance's raw tools. Is this how you front a win-now roster?
During the offseason, we heard plenty of hype about second-year WR Brandon Aiyuk and rookie RB Trey Sermon. On Sunday, Aiyuk gained 6 yards on two touches, while Sermon's contributions were limited to 11 special teams snaps. What is going on with this team? San Francisco entered the season as a Super Bowl contender. Six games in, the 49ers rank 20th in points scored and points allowed. Is Kyle Shanahan on his way to a fourth losing season in five years at the helm?
Sunday's loss: 33-22 at Las Vegas Raiders
Week 7 represented a seventh consecutive week where I found myself searching for evidence that Nick Sirianni knows how to be the head coach of an NFL team. Which makes sense, because his hiring boggled my mind in the first place. The initial thinking was that Sirianni was hired to save Carson Wentz. But one month after bringing in the new coach, the Eagles traded Wentz to the Colts. This left Jalen Hurts as Philly's starting quarterback, and seven weeks into that experiment, the Eagles appear no closer to an answer at the game's most important position.
With five losses in the past six games, the Eagles have to hope this Ben Simmons saga goes on forever.
Sunday's loss: 30-28 vs. Atlanta Falcons
Another Sunday, another brutal last-second loss for Brian Flores' fried fish. At least the Dolphins didn't have to hop on a plane and fly across the Atlantic Ocean following this gutting defeat. I felt terrible for Tua Tagovailoa. The lightning-rod passer played well enough to win, which is quite noteworthy, given the omnipresent Deshaun Watson rumors in Miami. But this is the residue of dreadful design, with botched first-round picks and bungled offensive coordinator hirings. The backfield is barren, the offensive line is porous and the defense continues to grossly underachieve. Not a good brew.
Honestly, Miami is the most disappointing team in the AFC. Following a one-point Week 1 win at New England, the Dolphins have lost their last six games. Everyone wonders if owner Stephen Ross will look to make a move at the quarterback position before the Nov. 2 trade deadline, but could he aim to make more sweeping changes in the coming offseason?
Sunday's loss: 54-13 at New England Patriots
I love how Bill Belichick loves to destroy the Jets. The Patriots coach kept throwing the football until he tasted his delicious 50-burger. New England has now beaten New York 12 straight times, with a lopsided tally of 378-133 during this stretch of the "rivalry." Adding injury to insult, Zach Wilson was knocked out of the game with a sprained PCL that's expected to cost him the next 2-4 weeks. Robert Saleh's debut season in New York was always going to be a rebuilding year, but everyone hoped to see continued growth from the No. 2 overall pick. Now that's in limbo for the coming month.
It's still inexplicable that this Jets team somehow beat the Titans back in Week 4 for their lone win of the season, but now they're back on a losing streak with this three-game slate on tap: vs. Cincinnati, at Indianapolis (on Thursday night), vs. Buffalo. Helllllllooooooo, 1-8!
Sunday's loss: 24-10 at Green Bay Packers
I never took the cheese on the Football Team. Last season, Washington was a flawed squad that won a historically inept division with a 7-9 record. Then Ron Rivera and Co. chose to enter this season with one of the NFL's worst quarterback rooms, something I tried to warn everyone about right before kickoff. I was prepared for disappointment, and that was before the defense turned into an absolute sieve. The Football Team is giving up 30 points per game, the worst mark in the league. Purported Defensive Player of the Year candidate Chase Young has a grand total of 1.5 sacks, posting his fifth zero-sack game in seven outings on Sunday.
At 2-5 with double-digit losses in four of the past five weeks, it's panic time. It's past panic time. And Washington has yet to even face the clear class of the division, Dallas.
Sunday's loss: 31-5 at Arizona Cardinals
Given the state of the franchise, the dearth of talent on the roster and the lack of head-coaching experience for David Culley, I predicted in the preseason that Houston would become the NFL's first 0-17 team. And then the Texans went out and won their season opener vs. the Jaguars. But as we've seen in the ensuing six weeks, with Houston losing all six games by a combined score of 182-60, the Texans basically are who we thought they were.
Obviously, the Deshaun Watson situation has cast a pall over this organization for the bulk of this year. It's clear he's never going to take another snap for the Texans. The only question now is whether Houston will get rid of him before the Nov. 2 trade deadline or during the coming offseason. This roster has other veteran parts that could be on the move in the next week, as well, continuing a depressing trend for the franchise. Remember when the Texans were AFC contenders with a galaxy of stars, including J.J. Watt and DeAndre Hopkins? Now those guys are putting it on Houston as members of the undefeated Cardinals.