The sky is falling in nine NFL cities after their teams fell to 0-2 in Week 2: Indianapolis, Baltimore, Houston, New Orleans, Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit and New York where the Giants own the back page puns.
Take out the Bears, a team that looks just as dreadful as expected, and you are left with eight teams that had playoff pedigree and expectations. They combined to go 75-52 last season, and now they all have a tricky path to the playoffs. Removing the Bears from the conversation, which of these seven teams are in the most trouble?
0-2 teams with the bleakest outlook
1. New Orleans Saints: The first edition of this column had the Saints ranked as the 0-2 team with the most to worry about *before *we learned Drew Brees could miss several games with a shoulder injury. If Brees misses a few games, the Saints' season is essentially over. If he can't return by midseason, the Saints could be a candidate for the top of the 2015 draft.
It's hard to imagine a more discouraging loss than New Orleans' home defeat in Week 2 to the hapless Bucs. This was a Saints team in serious distress regardless of Brees' health. It's not like Tampa stole the game or won on fluke plays. The Bucs looked like the tougher team up front on both sides of the ball. Brees did not throw the ball well after taking a big hit in the second quarter, but that doesn't explain the Saints' early punts, the lack of room in the running game, or Brees' faulty protection.
The magic in the Superdome is gone. The Saints have lost six straight games where they are supposed to have the best home field advantage in the league. Their general manager is also running an NBA team and the long-term plan for the Saints seems to change every nine months. It's hard to become a run-first team when you get pushed around.
"It was if an impostor drone had been sent to the podium as Brees' proxy," Duncan wrote.
Perhaps Brees knew how bad his injury was. Perhaps he sensed the beginning of the end of an era. He's 36 years old and his organization hasn't proven capable of making the right decisions to become a champion again. They are already two games back of two teams in the NFC South, and they are headed to Carolina this week. The defense looks nearly unsalvageable and the luck in the secondary has been terrible. It's getting late in the season way too early for this team, and storm clouds are on the horizon for the whole organization if it doesn't change course.
2. Houston Texans: Bill O'Brien did a terrific job coaching up a mediocre team last season to nine wins. A step back this year almost felt inevitable because of the team's offensive problems. As good as J.J. Watt is, the defense as a whole isn't high quality enough to carry the team. It's hard to imagine a scenario where the Texans wins nine games again, although playing in the AFC South will give them some matchups they can handle.
3. New York Giants: You could view it as a positive that the Giants were up by ten points in both of their games. Or you could look at this roster honestly, and realize it makes all the sense in the world the Giants have given up more yards than any team in the NFL except Oakland. Yes, the division is poor. But there is no reason to believe this team is any better than a year ago.
4. Detroit Lions: The defensive line is nowhere near as scary this season, and has struggled to get off the field against San Diego and Minnesota. Matthew Stafford is struggling to make plays down the field. They have barely attempted any. While the Lions get to return home after two road losses, the upcoming schedule is brutal: Denver, at Seattle, and home for Arizona. This team will need some upsets to avoid a 1-4 start.
5. Indianapolis Colts: They have looked as bad or worse than any team on this list, and might be a candidate for last place if they still played in the AFC East. They are last in the NFL in points scored and there's not a lot to like about their offensive line or banged-up back seven. We wouldn't hit the panic button, however, because of two factors: Andrew Luck and the AFC South.
Luck is undeniably struggling, but there's every reason to believe he'll turn it around. Starting this week. Luck is 16-2 against the division as a pro, with the Texans, Jaguars, and Titans proving as a magical cure-all for any career bumps along the road. The Colts have three straight games in the division coming up. Odds are that the Colts will come out of that stretch back on top of the division.
They were counting on the offensive line to excel, but the running game remains a work in progress. Joe Flacco's weapons are probably worse overall than at any point in his career. Giving up 37 points and a last minute drive to the Raiders in the first game without Terrell Suggs was an eye opener. The Ravens rank high on this list in part because they play in the difficult AFC North.
The defense hasn't looked much different than expected. The running game and Sam Bradford's performance against the Cowboys are harder to explain. Kelly hasn't expanded a lot of his principles and scheme in the last two years. Has the rest of the NFL caught up with Kelly or did Bradford just have a flashback game to 2012? We think it's far too early to give up on this offense, especially considering the talent on the roster and division they play in.
8. Seattle Seahawks: The offense has started slow before. The difference this year is that the defense is not quite at the level of dominance we expect. Still, the Seahawks have lost two difficult games on the road. They showed a lot of progress in Green Bay and there is no reason to panic. The Cardinals have a two game lead, but it was far worse than that last season. The Seahawks trailed by three games on Thanksgiving and that worked out just fine.