NFL Power Rankings Week 9: Highlighting Teams in Free Fall
For some NFL teams out there, it’s not too early to push the panic button barely halfway into the 2012 regular season.
These struggling squads are sinking like stones. Luckily for them, they still have time to turn their respective underwhelming seasons around.
But if these teams don’t secure some wins soon, they’ll end up battling for the first pick in next spring’s NFL Draft as opposed to a playoff spot.
Even without Maurice Jones-Drew, the Jacksonville Jaguars put up an inspired effort against the high-powered Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field.
But in the end, a loss is still a loss. The Jaguars fell to the Packers, 24-15, and fell to 1-6 on the season. Maurice Jones-Drew or not, Jags' second-year quarterback Blaine Gabbert has shown few signs of progress in his young career under center.
Currently, Gabbert ranks 26th among starting quarterbacks in terms of quarterback rating (77.9) for the season.
Until Gabbert significantly steps his game up, the Jags’ offense will continue to have little bite. And as a result, the losses will continue to pile up in northern Florida.
Kansas City Chiefs
And the Kansas City Chiefs still haven’t led in regulation this season.
The Chiefs fell behind early to the visiting Oakland Raiders and never recovered. As a result, the Chiefs are an irrelevant 1-6 right now and in big trouble.
A major culprit for Kansas City’s awful start to the season is their ineffective offense. Quarterback Matt Cassel won his job back, thanks to a Brady Quinn injury. But he didn’t take advantage in the 26-16 loss to the Raiders.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s Quinn or Cassel under center. Kansas City has scored one offensive touchdown in its past three games—all losses.
If the Chiefs don’t start finding the end zone in bunches soon, they’ll have no hope of climbing out of an already deep AFC West hole.
The Carolina Panthers seem to be in the same boat as the Jacksonville Jaguars. Both teams have second-year quarterbacks under center (Cam Newton and Blaine Gabbert) who are struggling.
Both teams put up valiant efforts against quality NFC North opponents (Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers) in Week 8.
And despite that, both teams came up short and are sitting not so pretty with just one win on the season. Concerning Carolina, their season began with such promise.
However, the Panthers’ postseason aspirations continue to slip away with each gutting loss. With over 300 yards passing, Newton played reasonably well against the Bears. However, his pick-six to Tim Jennings arguably cost the Panthers the game against Chicago. At 1-6, Newton needs to recapture some of that magic from his rookie 2011 season, and fast.
If not, the Panthers are in serious danger of being the first team eliminated from postseason contention in the NFC.
Eagles fans must be experiencing déjà vu in Philadelphia.
Once again, a season that began with such promise is starting to unravel at the seams for Andy Reid’s team. Since starting the year 3-1, the Eagles have lost three straight, fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo and appear to be on the verge of benching the unimpressive Michael Vick.
Even if Reid is hell-bent on making these big changes, they won’t turn around the Eagles’ fortunes. Not unless the Eagles do a better job of protecting Vick, rookie Nick Foles or whoever else is under center.
And not unless the Eagles defense plays more inspired ball than they did against Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and the Falcons in Week 8. Until these events come to fruition, the so-called Dream Team will continue trudging through another nightmare season.
San Diego Chargers
Whether Rivers will admit it or not, there’s serious reason for concern in San Diego right now over the suddenly struggling Chargers. After starting the season 3-1, the Chargers have lost three straight.
The last two games have been particularly humiliating for Rivers and company. First, San Diego blew a 24-0 lead on national television in a 35-24 loss to the Broncos.
Then, the Chargers’ offense disappeared in a lackluster 7-6 road loss to lowly Cleveland. With the Broncos starting to heat up, the Chargers are at a major crossroads in their season right now.
If they don’t get back in the win column very soon, Denver could leave them behind in the AFC West race.
In that case, there’s really going to be a shortage of chill pills in southern California.
So much for that great start by the Arizona Cardinals.
After winning their first four games to open up the season, the Cards have dropped four straight. During this recent stretch of mediocrity, they’ve made quarterbacks like Ryan Tannehill and even Alex Smith (18 of 19 passing?!) look like world beaters. On the other side, since replacing the injured Kevin Kolb under center, John Skelton hasn’t won a game this season for the Cards.
The Cardinals will try to stop their epic slide in Week 9, but it won’t be easy. They have to travel to Lambeau Field to face a Packers team trending upwards.
The same can’t be said in the Arizona desert at the moment.