When it involves what teams make the NFL playoffs in a given season, the one fixed is change. Although there are now 14 teams who qualify for the postseason as division champions or wild playing cards, there nonetheless would be the common turnover of near half the sector, six or seven teams. Right on cue, six of the league’s 2020 playoff teams have began 2021 beneath .500 popping out of Week 3.
In the AFC, the massive shocker is that the reigning convention champion Chiefs are 1-2, in final place in the AFC West after dropping to the rival Chargers on Sunday. The Steelers, who gained the AFC North season, additionally discover themselves in the basement at 1-2 after getting ripped by the rival Bengals on Sunday. The Colts, who completed 11-5 in 2020, fell to 0-3 by dropping to the robust AFC South favourite Titans.
In the NFC, the Seahawks are the shock. After routing the Colts in Week 1, they are 1-2, having misplaced consecutive shootouts to the Titans and Vikings, blowing double-digit leads in each video games. The two different teams do not shock anybody. Washington, which gained the East at 7-9 in 2020, is 1-2. The Bears, who had been the No. 7 seed at 8-8, are additionally 1-2.
With a give attention to Kansas City, beneath .500 for the primary time with Patrick Mahomes as its beginning QB; Pittsburgh, with main stumbles tied to the play of Ben Roethlisberger; and Seattle, which has by no means had a dropping report with Russell Wilson, let’s diagnose what’s improper with these half dozen teams, and whether or not it may possibly mounted in time for a return to the playoffs:
Kansas City Chiefs (1-2)
What’s improper: Bad protection and turnovers placing all of it on Patrick Mahomes
The Chiefs are lucky they are not 0-3 after Mahomes led his newest epic comeback to beat the 2-1 Browns in Week 1. The late-game heroics went in the favor of Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert, nevertheless, in the previous two video games.
That’s a reasonably robust opening slate, as Cleveland and Baltimore seem like the general finest two teams in the AFC North once more (sorry Pittsburgh) and Los Angeles profiles as a much-improved playoff-caliber group with ace rookie coach Brandon Staley. Still, the Chiefs additionally might be 3-0 with out self-inflicted wounds, together with 4 extra giveaways in a slender 30-24 dwelling defeat vs. the Chargers.
The Chiefs’ protection is having acquainted points in opposition to the run and backs and tight ends in the passing recreation with poor linebacker play with out Willie Gay Jr. Their go rush has struggled as edge rusher Frank Clark has missed two video games with a nasty hamstring. Cornerback Charvarius Ward got here up lame late with a quad harm late in the week, permitting Herbert to maintain roasting their secondary with Mike Williams and Keenan Allen.
Quarterbacks have been snug throwing all around the discipline in opposition to the Chiefs and opponents have been aggressive making an attempt to outduel Mahomes. The Chiefs even have been atrocious defending in the crimson zone and don’t get off the sector on third downs, both.
The protection ought to enhance when everybody’s wholesome and might make some large performs of its personal to show the turnover tide. Mahomes’ magic is not going away however his errors will. The Bills, Titans and Packers make up three of the following six opponents however the schedule will get simpler as they’ll get higher.
Every main contender in the AFC has a loss. The Chiefs aren’t far behind that tempo and will find yourself forward of everybody else to emerge because the anticipated high seed. Looking again, one will see they simply performed three fellow 2021 playoff teams.
Pittsburgh Steelers (1-2)
What’s improper: Bad offensive line and shaky Ben Roethlisberger placing all of it on protection
The Steelers do have that large win in opposition to the Bills in Buffalo in Week 1. But the house debacles in opposition to the Raiders and Bengals in the previous two weeks are their true id. Even with some defensive accidents, that aspect of the ball has held down the fort regardless of going through the next diploma of problem from the offense not staying on the sector because of brief drives and giveaways.
The wholesale modifications on the offensive line have led to terrible all-around play. Pittsburgh can’t run successfully with rookie first-round again Najee Harris to take strain off Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger is struggling to get the ball out shortly in the unfamiliar Matt Canada offense and the go safety is crumbling in dangerous down-and-distance conditions.
Roethlisberger not has the physique, arm energy or mobility to hold in the pocket and prolong performs out of it. He stays the weak dink-and-dunk passer who completed the 2020 season with a horrible playoff INT-fest in opposition to the Browns. It’s largely checkdowns to Harris and the massive performs want to return after the catch. Young large speedy deep menace Chase Claypool is being wasted. It does not assist that high wideout Diontae Johnson (knee) is injured once more.
The Steelers beat the Bills as a result of their protection stymied Josh Allen. Roethlisberger is incapable of outdueling most QBs, together with Derek Carr and Joe Burrow. Aaron Rodgers, Teddy Bridgewater and Russell Wilson all have the benefit in the Steelers’ subsequent three video games in opposition to the Packers, Broncos and Seahawks earlier than a bye.
The downside is, what can the Steelers do at QB? There’s little confidence Dwayne Haskins, with the identical form of systemic points, can do higher off the bench and most exterior choices would have a tricky studying curve with Canada. They additionally can’t justify a Deshaun Watson commerce given his off-field issues, particularly with Roethlisberger’s checkered historical past. The Steelers are caught tumbling down with Big Ben as a result of they did not stash a future franchise QB regardless of a number of first-round probabilities. Now fading behind the Browns, Ravens and Bengals, who all have younger franchise QBs, put an iron fork in them earlier than midseason.
Seattle Seahawks (1-2)
What’s improper: Defense, protection, protection and did we point out protection?
The Seahawks paid Jamal Adams some huge cash to wash up plenty of messes and be marooned on a island away from whole ineptitude. The cornerbacks are dangerous. The go rush does not exist. The run protection has wilted in opposition to Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook fill-in Alexander Mattison.
Wilson and the new-look offense with Shane Waldron are completely wonderful. They are operating nicely as common and taking full benefit of their extensive receiver and tight finish expertise with Wilson’s large arm. That’s good, as a result of the burden of profitable will fall on Wilson for many weeks when Seattle is going through a considerably potent, explosive and balanced offense, which Indianapolis wasn’t.
The NFC West is hard once more. The Rams and Cardinals are each 3-0. The 49ers are 2-1. The subsequent two opponents are the 49ers and Rams, earlier than breaks in opposition to the Steelers, Saints and Jaguars and a Week 9 bye. But then it is the Packers and the primary of two with the Cardinals.
There are room for 4 playoff teams from the West and the Seahawks do have a positive schedule exterior of the division going ahead. Beyond the 3-0 Panthers, there isn’t any different actual menace (together with the Vikings) to steal one of many wild playing cards from the South, East or North. But there’s little margin for error for Seattle with the way it’s already chasing Los Angeles, Arizona and San Francisco. Will 9-8 be adequate for Wilson to return to the playoffs? It could be, however the Seahawks can say goodbye to repeating in the West.
Indianapolis Colts (0-3)
What’s improper: Running recreation, protection and Carson Wentz
The Colts have been a well-coached and well-organized group in two earlier playoff-bound seasons in three years beneath Frank Reich. They have relied on the formulation of stout protection and a strong operating recreation behind a top-flight line. With Andrew Luck and Philip Rivers they obtained the precise complementary QB play; with Jacoby Brissett in between they didn’t.
Unfortunately, the early returns on the Wentz commerce with the Eagles are dangerous. He hasn’t gotten the assistance he wanted reunited with Reich to get proper. Jonathan Taylor and the dashing assault have not been dependable, hampered by line accidents. The passing recreation is severely brief on weapons with out T.Y. Hilton. The protection appears misplaced in opposition to each run and go.
The Seahawks, Rams and Titans are three robust opening opponents who’ve achieved no matter they wished to beat Indianapolis, the primary two on the highway. The Colts nonetheless must play the Ravens, 49ers, Bills, Buccaneers and Cardinals to stability out a manageable AFC South-heavy slate in any other case. Go forward and retire them to the secure, similar to the playoff-less 2019 season.
Washington Football Team (1-2)
What’s improper: Limited offense, underachieving protection and a tricky schedule
Stop proper now when you assume dropping Ryan Fitzpatrick after Week 1 and turning QB again over to Taylor Heinicke is the rationale they’re 1-2. Fitzpatrick did not play nicely in any respect in opposition to the Chargers, whereas Heinicke saved the night time in opposition to the Giants. He additionally did what he may reverse a red-hot Allen in Week 3.
Heinicke is working an offense that also goes by means of three gamers with out Curtis Samuel — Antonio Gibson, Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas, with a small aspect of J.D. McKissic. But the massive downside has been Chase Young and the protection, regardless of all of the front-seven expertise and a revamped secondary.
Before Allen ripped them, Herbert appeared fairly snug and Daniel Jones balled out as a twin menace. Former linebackers Ron Rivera and Jack Del Rio want extra from that aspect of the ball given the investments. WFT’s schedule has a few breaks with the Falcons and Saints, however then there are the Chiefs, Packers and Buccaneers, plus the Eagles and Cowboys twice. Speaking of which, this division to again to being Philadelphia vs. Dallas.
Chicago Bears (1-2)
What’s improper: Major quarterback transition, dangerous offensive line and worn-down protection
Justin Fields was imagined to be the savior, proper? He was able to do far more than Andy Dalton, bear in mind? But then once more, it is nonetheless supposed offensive-minded coach Matt Nagy and his questionable play-calling.
Fields had 6 completions in his rookie beginning debut in Cleveland in Week 3. He was additionally sacked 9 occasions and rushed for under 12 yards. On high of his restricted designed operating, the Bears could not benefit from his large arm to raised stretch the sector with proficient extensive receivers Allen Robinson and Darnell Mooney. The offensive line was an enormous concern going into the season and that has been confirmed.
Fields and Dalton had been imagined to be an improve over Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. But Nagy does not appear to have a well-defined plan for both QB, dragging down each the passing recreation and operating recreation that ought to be higher with David Montgomery taking part in off Fields. The protection is not a shutdown unit, both giving up simply sufficient chunks in opposition to the run and too many large performs in opposition to the go.
The complementary (or competent) soccer is not there in Chicago. It’s all including as much as Nagy blowing his method out of the Windy City after a roller-coaster 4 seasons.