Every NFL Team's Kryptonite

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2018

Every NFL Team's Kryptonite

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    Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson Wentz
    Philadelphia Eagles head coach Doug Pederson and quarterback Carson WentzWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    No team starts the season with a perfect roster or finishes without flaws—even the triumphant champions who hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in February.

    A championship-caliber squad understands its strengths and minimizes weaknesses. Some of those shortcomings need small tweaks, but others could derail a season.

    Eleven weeks into the 2018 campaign, we can see the separation between the contenders and pretenders. It's becoming evident what went wrong for clubs with poor records. We can also see issues that continue to plague teams that are competing for a spot in the playoffs.

    With an emphasis on overall themes and trends, we'll go through every team's glaring weakness this season. What are the recurring lapses in recent performances?


Arizona Cardinals: Inability to Optimize David Johnson's Skill Set

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    Running back David Johnson
    Running back David JohnsonNorm Hall/Getty Images

    There's nothing worse than paying an All-Pro talent top dollar and failing to use him to the fullest extent.

    In September, the Arizona Cardinals signed running back David Johnson to a three-year, $39 million extension. He's the second-highest-paid player at his position behind Los Angeles Rams tailback Todd Gurley in terms of annual salary, per Spotrac. What's the return on the investment?

    Johnson logged his first 100-yard rushing performance of the season against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. He's averaging 3.7 yards per carry and looks nothing close to the dynamic playmaker who led the league in yards from scrimmage during the 2016 campaign.

    The coaching staff hasn't made the most of Johnson's receiving ability. The 26-year-old has accumulated more than 41 yards as a pass-catcher once this year.

    The Cardinals have to iron out the wrinkles with a rookie quarterback under center and a midseason firing that ousted Mike McCoy and elevated Byron Leftwich to the offensive coordinator position. The long-term outlook seems promising, but the team must rediscover its star running back to help Rosen's development.

Atlanta Falcons: Lack of Commitment to the Ground Attack

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    Running back Tevin Coleman
    Running back Tevin ColemanGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian should've explored a ball-control approach on offense to keep a wounded defense that ranks 29th in points allowed on the sidelines for longer stretches.

    Atlanta ranks 29th in rushing attempts and 31st in yards on the ground. Running back Devonta Freeman (groin) and guards Andy Levitre (triceps) and Brandon Fusco (ankle) have all landed on injured reserve. They're key components to the rushing offense, but the Falcons have to at least try to establish their ground game. Tevin Coleman and Ito Smith still remain active as a capable duo in the backfield.

    In the last two seasons, quarterback Matt Ryan averaged 33.1 and 33.4 pass attempts per contest. This year, he's averaging 39.5 and tossed the ball 52 times in a loss to the Cleveland Browns in Week 10. An aggressive offensive approach with several injuries on both sides of the ball won't lead to victories. This squad isn't built to win scoring shootouts with the available personnel.

Baltimore Ravens: Subpar Running Back Production Between the 20-Yard Lines

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    Running back Alex Collins
    Running back Alex CollinsWill Newton/Getty Images

    Last year, the Baltimore Ravens scooped running back Alex Collins off the free-agent scrap heap. He worked his way up the depth chart and secured the lead ball-carrier role. The 2016 fifth-rounder recorded 973 rushing yards and six touchdowns in 2017.

    Collins has seven scores on the ground in 2018, eclipsing his touchdown total from the last term (six), but he's averaging just 41.1 yards per contest. As a team, the Ravens are tied for 29th in yards per rush attempt with 3.9.

    Ironically, with all the attention fixated on quarterback Joe Flacco, the Ravens have been unable to complement a revamped passing attack, which ranks 12th in yards, with a reliable rushing offense to keep defenses off balance. Collins also accounts for three of the team's five lost fumbles.

    Because of Flacco's hip injury, Baltimore relied on quarterback Lamar Jackson's ability to run the football in Week 11. The rookie signal-caller provided a jolt to the ground attack along with tailback Gus Edwards.

    Baltimore's ball-carriers have to contribute with more consistency as Jackson establishes his throwing rhythm or when Flacco returns to action.

Buffalo Bills: Inability to Stretch the Field

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    Buffalo Bills wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin
    Buffalo Bills wide receiver Kelvin BenjaminTom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    There's only so much an offensive coordinator can do with Nathan Peterman, who the team released, a rookie quarterback with accuracy concerns in Josh Allen, 35-year-old Derek Anderson and Matt Barkley.

    Give the Buffalo Bills credit, though. Head coach Sean McDermott prepares his team to compete every week with a tough defensive unit that ranks No. 2 in yards allowed. Nonetheless, to win games, the offense has to move the ball to score points.

    The Bills rank last in yards per play (4.2) and list 31st in total yardage. Wide receiver Zay Jones leads the team's pass-catchers in receptions (37), and yards (392), but he's lining up opposite Kelvin Benjamin, who has an abysmal catch rate of 35.7 percent.

    The Bills offensive unit should undergo a complete makeover outside of the quarterback position during the upcoming offseason. Allen needs an upgraded group of playmakers on the perimeter for optimal results in the aerial attack.

Carolina Panthers: Poor Red-Zone Defense

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    Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera
    Carolina Panthers head coach Ron RiveraGregory Shamus/Getty Images

    Once a team sets up inside the Carolina Panthers' 20-yard line, there's a bright green light for the score. This club has allowed touchdowns on 81.5 percent of opponent red-zone trips, which ranks 31st in the NFL.

    We saw the Panthers defense crumble multiple times when the Pittsburgh Steelers approached red-zone territory in Week 10. Head coach Ron Rivera's group allowed four offensive scores at the 12-yard line or closer in that game.

    The Panthers have been generous giving up scores through the air, surrendering 23 this season. Teams can avoid challenging their top-10 run defense inside the 20 with a well-designed pass play over the top.

    Carolina's secondary has undergone changes; rookie Donte Jackson is starting on the boundary to replace Daryl Worley, and safety Eric Reid joined the group three games into the season. Perhaps it's a continuity issue, but it's one that must be solved going down the stretch.

Chicago Bears: Mediocre Running Back Production

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    Running back Jordan Howard
    Running back Jordan HowardBrett Carlsen/Getty Images

    The Chicago Bears rushing offense ranks 10th, but quarterback Mitchell Trubisky accounts for approximately 29 percent of the team's yards on the ground. The 24-year-old's ability to use his legs isn't a weakness, but it's fair to question the running backs expected to pull their weight as ball-carriers.

    This year, Jordan Howard averages a career-low 48.7 yards per game, down from 70.1 in 2017. The Bears will need him to ramp up his production and efficiency to close out games in December.

    Chicago has three consecutive outdoor games to start December: a trip to the Giants' MetLife Stadium in New Jersey followed by two home games. Windy conditions or precipitation could present obstacles for the passing attack. At 3.3 yards per carry, Howard's pace on the ground would put immense pressure on Trubisky. Tarik Cohen also has to flash his ability to accumulate yards in space as a ball-carrier.

    When facing solid pass defenses, the offense must find an alternative method to attack defenses en route to victory.

Cincinnati Bengals: Giving Up Big Plays

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    Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick
    Cornerback Dre KirkpatrickBobby Ellis/Getty Images

    Head coach Marvin Lewis' decision to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin after his group surrendered 51 points to the New Orleans Saints gives a hint of the Cincinnati Bengals' glaring Achilles' heel.

    According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Lewis will finish the season as the team's defensive play-caller. He's working with high-end talent. Carlos Dunlap and Geno Atkins have a combined 13 sacks as key cogs on the defensive line. Starting safeties Shawn Williams and Jessie Bates have accumulated seven interceptions on the back end.

    The Bengals allow 6.3 yards per play, tied for 28th in the league. They have surrendered nine scoring plays that started outside the red zone. It's a step backward after Paul Guenther's four-year stint as a defensive coordinator.

    Now, Lewis is tasked with putting a talented defensive group in the right spots to plug the leaks in the trenches and in the secondary.

Cleveland Browns: Not Converting 3rd Downs

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    Quarterback Baker Mayfield
    Quarterback Baker MayfieldDavid Richard/Associated Press

    A successful offense sustains drives to eat up the clock, which keeps the defense fresh, and finishes with a score. For the most part, the Cleveland Browns haven't been able to execute on third downs, converting on 32.9 percent. That's 29th in the NFL.

    The Browns booted their top offensive minds, head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Cleveland experienced a breakthrough against the Falcons before their Week 11 bye.

    In Week 10, running backs coach and current play-caller Freddie Kitchens helped this group convert 50 percent of third-down scenarios, but we'll find out if it's a sustainable improvement against the Bengals in Week 12.

    The Browns would benefit from short passes to Duke Johnson Jr. out of the backfield if quarterback Baker Mayfield feels mounting pressure in the pocket and Nick Chubb struggles to move the ball on the ground. Wideout Jarvis Landry and tight end David Njoku pose as viable pass-catching threats on the perimeter and down the seam. This unit should improve on a critical down with more suitable game plans.

Dallas Cowboys: Allowing Dak Prescott to Take Too Many Sacks

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    Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett sacks Dak Prescott
    Philadelphia Eagles defensive end Michael Bennett sacks Dak PrescottMatt Rourke/Associated Press

    Typically, when a quarterback has been sacked at an alarming rate, there's a knee-jerk reaction to blame the offensive line.

    Those who watched the Dallas Cowboys on national television against the Tennessee Titans and Philadelphia Eagles in consecutive weeks could see quarterback Dak Prescott hold on to the football a little too long in the pocket.

    Cowboys All-Pro center Travis Frederick (Guillain-Barre syndrome) has missed every game this year, and guard Zack Martin suffered a knee injury in the team's Week 10 contest, but that doesn't explain Prescott's league-leading 38 sacks taken. He's been sacked four or more times in six games this season.

    In a few situations, Prescott has to learn to throw the ball away when there's no one open downfield. As a signal-caller under duress, his decision-making has cost the Cowboys in field positioning. It's admirable that he's attempting to extend plays, but it's more important to avoid unnecessary hits.

Denver Broncos: Low Presence in the Red Zone

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    Quarterback Case Keenum
    Quarterback Case KeenumJayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

    Based on the surface numbers, the Denver Broncos offense has improved from the last term. It's a middle-of-the-pack group with young talent at the skill positions. Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay have become a solid rookie duo in the backfield. There's excitement for wideout Courtland Sutton's upside, which factored into trading Demaryius Thomas, per Kyle Fredrickson of the Denver Post.

    On the flip side, the Broncos don't see many opportunities in striking distance of a score. The offense averages 3.0 red-zone scoring attempts per contest—20th leaguewide. In addition to the low frequency, Denver has only converted 53.3 percent of its trips inside the 20-yard line into touchdown scores.

    While the ground attack, featuring a pair of rookies, has been a pleasant surprise, quarterback Case Keenum isn't the same player we saw in Minnesota. He's thrown 11 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions. He's experienced some bright moments but not enough to justify $18 million per year.

Detroit Lions: Limited Playmakers in the Secondary

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    Safety Quin Glover
    Safety Quin GloverJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    Aside from cornerback Darius Slay, the Detroit Lions don't have defensive backs who force quarterbacks to think twice about throwing in their direction.

    The Lions have recorded four interceptions in 11 outings; Slay snagged two of them. Rookie safety Tracy Walker forced a turnover in Week 11. Quandre Diggs swiped the other pick, but at 5'9", 200 pounds, he has some limitations despite his cornerback-safety versatility. The fourth-year pro isn't an ideal matchup against a bigger, athletic tight end or wide receiver who can pluck passes out of the air.

    Starting cornerback Nevin Lawson, who's also 5'9", hasn't logged an interception in five seasons. He's never accumulated more than nine pass breakups in one term.

    Detroit has surrendered 24 touchdowns through the air and gives up a troubling 11.6 yards per completion, which ranks 31st in the NFL. A top-notch quarterback can sling the football all over the field against this unit. The Lions desperately need another ball hawk on the back end along with Slay.

Green Bay Packers: Difficulty Stopping the Run

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    Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine
    Defensive coordinator Mike PettineMike Roemer/Associated Press

    In Week 6 against the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers gave up a season-high 174 rushing yards. That game started a concerning trend.

    The Packers have allowed 123-plus rushing yards in five consecutive contests. For a team that plays in cold temperatures at home and has a road game left against the Bears, there's reason to fret until defensive coordinator Mike Pettine finds a solution.

    Nose tackle Kenny Clark has forced his way through offensive lines as a penetrator with five sacks and seven tackles for a loss. His fellow defensive linemen and the linebackers have to provide some help along the front.

    The Packers secondary has looked solid over the last few outings, allowing 300 passing yards once since Week 2. The front seven has to catch up to solidify this unit.

Houston Texans: Wounded Cornerback Unit

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    Cornerback Kevin Johnson
    Cornerback Kevin JohnsonEric Christian Smith/Associated Press

    Despite the injuries at cornerback, the Houston Texans have avoided a collapse in pass defense, but halfway through the season, the unit continues to deal with bumps and bruises.

    Kevin Johnson, a 2015 first-round pick, hasn't suited up since Week 1 because of a concussion. Aaron Colvin has yet to return to action after suffering an ankle injury in September. August signing Kayvon Webster landed on injured reserve with a quadriceps issue.

    Though he suited up against the Washington Redskins on Sunday, keep a close watch on Johnathan Joseph, who sat out Week 9 with a sprained MCL and high-ankle sprain.

    Opposing quarterbacks will likely test the Texans' strength on the back end. The front office decided to acquire wide receiver help after Will Fuller V tore his ACL, but a cornerback seems like a much bigger need with all the ailing cover men on the roster.

    Houston ranks fifth in points allowed but ties for 18th in passing scores surrendered with 17 in total. Another injury to a thin unit could cause this team issues down the stretch.

Indianapolis Colts: Challenges Covering Tight Ends

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    Tight end Jonnu Smith secures a catch against the Indianapolis Colts defense
    Tight end Jonnu Smith secures a catch against the Indianapolis Colts defenseAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    The Indianapolis Colts defense has played better than the surface statistics suggest through 11 weeks. Despite ranking 18th in opposition scoring and 20th in yards allowed, the unit features four pass-rushers with at least four sacks. Linebacker Darius Leonard looks like a strong candidate for Defensive Rookie of the Year with 68 solo tackles, five sacks and three pass breakups.

    However, defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus must make some adjustments in the seam, particularly covering tight ends. According to Football Outsiders, the Colts allow 78.7 yards per contest to players at the position—the second-most leaguewide.

    Despite losing 38-10 Sunday, the Tennessee Titans made a concerted effort to exploit the Colts' blind spot in coverage. Tight ends Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt and Luke Stocker combined for 12 catches and 123 yards.

    Though linebacker Skai Moore flashed his coverage skills during the spring, he's yet to take on a vital role within the defense. In the meantime, the coaching staff has to identify a defender with enough size and awareness on passing downs to combat big-body pass-catchers downfield.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Inconsistencies in Passing Attack

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    Quarterback Blake Bortles
    Quarterback Blake BortlesMichael Hickey/Getty Images

    When quarterback Blake Bortles lit up the New England Patriots for 376 yards and four touchdowns, it seemed as though he made significant strides in his third season within Nathaniel Hackett's system.

    Bortles' Week 2 performance looks like a mirage. He's thrown for multiple touchdowns in just three out of 10 contests. The Jaguars offense sputtered without running back Leonard Fournette, who missed six outings with a hamstring injury.

    The front office's decision to acquire tailback Carlos Hyde suggests there's a need to field a solid ground attack to keep the offense rolling in case Fournette's hamstring costs him more games this season.

    In Week 7 against the Texans, head coach Doug Marrone benched Bortles for Cody Kessler, which isn't a good sign for a quarterback who signed a three-year extension through 2020 with $26.5 million in guarantees.

Kansas City Chiefs: Difficulty Covering Running Backs, Tight Ends

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    Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton
    Defensive coordinator Bob SuttonDavid Richard/Associated Press

    It's obvious the Kansas City Chiefs have leaks in their defense. They've allowed 500-plus yards in three games. Let's dig a little deeper to pinpoint the biggest problem area.

    Safety Eric Berry hasn't played a snap since Week 1 of the 2017 campaign. The team placed rookie fourth-round safety Armani Watts (groin) on injured reserve. Arrowhead Pride's Matt Lane broke down Week 6 film against the Patriots, highlighting Anthony Hitchens and Reggie Ragland's shortcomings in pass coverage:

    "We don't need to spend a lot of time on the ILBs in pass coverage, as it's a clear weakness. Hitchens simply can't match up with wide receivers, tight ends or running backs in man coverage—and at this point, he's even struggling to pick them up in zone, and break down in space to make plays on shiftier players. Ragland has been even worse."

    Between the injuries at safety and the poor coverage in the middle of the field, the Chiefs have struggled tremendously against pass-catching running backs and tight ends running down the seam. There are numbers to back up Lane's film study.

    According to Football Outsiders, the Chiefs allow 76.3 and 69.6 receiving yards per contest to tight ends and running backs, respectively. Teams have been successful attacking the middle of their defense and areas between the boundary cornerbacks.

Los Angeles Chargers: Scoring Decline in 2nd Halves

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    Head coach Anthony Lynn
    Head coach Anthony LynnThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    A team involved in several blowout victories wouldn't be alarmed with taking its foot off the pedal in the second half. The Los Angeles Chargers have four double-digit victories. At 7-3, they're a playoff contender but not a club that should ease up on opponents late in games.

    The disparity between the first and second halves is eye-opening for a club that came up short in a playoff race last year. Head coach Anthony Lynn must drill his team on finishing strong in preparation for a potential run through January.

    The Chargers average 16.0 points (fourth in the league) in the first half and 10.2 (26th) in the final 30 minutes of contests, per Team Rankings. Los Angeles still has the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chiefs left on the schedule. Currently sitting in a wild-card spot, there's no room for toning down the offensive intensity levels unless the coaching staff pulls the starters off the field.

Los Angeles Rams: Mediocre Pass Coverage on the Boundaries

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    Cornerback Marcus Peters
    Cornerback Marcus PetersEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    The Los Angeles Rams miss cornerback Aqib Talib, who's on injured reserve after undergoing ankle surgery. All-Pro cover man Marcus Peters hasn't played well either. Sosa Kremenjas of Turf Show Times tracked his lapses in coverage. The 25-year-old has also acknowledged his subpar play in a postgame interview (NSFW).

    On the other side, Troy Hill has started the last seven games but provided little impact as a playmaker with one interception and three pass breakups. Sam Shields logged starts in Week 4 and Week 11, but he's played less than 43 percent of the snaps. The 30-year-old didn't fare well against Chiefs wideout Tyreek Hill in the last outing.

    Talib can't return from injured reserve until Week 13, but he said on NFL Network earlier in November that he's optimistic about his ability to play again this season (h/t ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez). "I had a great visit with the doctor today," he said. "It looks like the week after Thanksgiving, I'll be full speed, ready to go."

    Until Talib laces up his cleats, the Rams need a strong pass rush to help mask coverage issues in the secondary.

Miami Dolphins: Lack of Availability of Offensive Personnel

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    Wide receiver Albert Wilson
    Wide receiver Albert WilsonWilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    The Miami Dolphins have been blown off the field in three of their last four games with losses by 11 points or more. Quarterback Brock Osweiler has started every game since Week 5 in place of Ryan Tannehill, who's recovering from a shoulder issue. He's set to return Sunday against the Colts, per ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe.

    The Dolphins lost consecutive games before Tannehill suffered an injury, but there's no denying the offense performs better with him in the lineup and his absence didn't bode well for Miami. Osweiler hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in his last three outings.

    Even with Tannehill returning to action, the Dolphins lost receiver Albert Wilson for the season because of a hip injury. Kenny Stills missed one contest with a shoulder ailment. DeVante Parker can't stay healthy, suiting up for five games this season. Jakeem Grant landed on injured reserve because of an Achilles issue.

    The Dolphins have eclipsed 24 points once since Week 3, ranking 27th in scoring and 28th in yards. Tannehill will need to make the most of the weapons around him in the final six games. 

Minnesota Vikings: Trouble Establishing the Run

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    Running back Dalvin Cook
    Running back Dalvin CookHarry How/Getty Images

    Running back Dalvin Cook didn't open his sophomore campaign as well as his rookie term. Last year, he ran for 127 yards against the Saints in the regular-season opener.

    Coming off a torn ACL, the Florida State product has shared the workload with Latavius Murray and failed to crack 50 yards in four out of five contests this season. Cook has battled a hamstring injury that sidelined him for five games. It's a letdown for the second-year ball-carrier, who flashed in the first four weeks last year.

    In Week 6 against the Cardinals, Murray logged the only individual 100-yard rushing performance for the Vikings. Quarterback Kirk Cousins' hot hand in the passing attack overshadows the team's lack of commitment to the ground game, which ranks 30th in rush attempts and yards.

    Going forward, the Vikings can only hope to see Cook at full strength alongside Murray to balance the offensive attack. 

New England Patriots: Leaky Pass Defense

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    Head coach Bill Belichick
    Head coach Bill BelichickRonald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images

    Typically, the Patriots defense bends but doesn't break. This year, it's a little different. Subtractions on defense may have adversely affected this unit, specifically in the secondary.

    Though cornerback Malcolm Butler isn't having his best season with the Titans, he was great for the Patriots. Former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia accepted an offer to become the head coach of the Lions.

    While it's too early to call for the Patriots' demise following a 34-10 loss to the Titans, we can see the pass defense needed some adjustments over the bye week. New England has allowed 21 scores through the air, which ranks ninth-most in the league. 

    It's an eyebrow-raiser when quarterbacks who've struggled to move the ball show up with some of their better performances against this group. Bortles had his best game against New England. After a rough start to the year, Mariota looked sharp in Week 10. Even in a loss, Trubisky threw for 333 yards and two touchdowns facing this defense.

New Orleans Saints: Difficulty Covering Top Wide Receiver Options

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    Saints cornerback Ken Crawley trailing Falcons wideout Julio Jones in coverage
    Saints cornerback Ken Crawley trailing Falcons wideout Julio Jones in coverageDaniel Shirey/Getty Images

    Opposing quarterbacks don't have to cycle through their reads to find an opening within the Saints pass defense. According to Football Outsiders, New Orleans allows the seventh-most receiving yards to No. 1 wideouts (81.3) and the most to the No. 2 wide receivers (93.1).

    It's a telling sign the Saints acquired cornerback Eli Apple from the Giants before the trade deadline and immediately inserted him into the starting lineup over Ken Crawley.

    Cornerback Marshon Lattimore hasn't performed at a level that propelled him to 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. He's logged nine pass breakups with only one interception.

    Last year, in pass defense, the Saints swarmed the ball, recording 20 interceptions. Before a strong defensive performance against the Eagles in Week 11, the group had six picks. While the defense has logged seven takeaways in the last two outings, the boundary defenders have to clamp down on wide receivers when the turnovers aren't piling up at a high rate.

New York Giants: Weak Offensive Line

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    Left tackle Nate Solder
    Left tackle Nate SolderBrad Penner/Associated Press

    The New York Giants have released two of their starting offensive linemen from Week 1, tackle Ereck Flowers and guard Patrick Omameh. Center Jon Halapio suffered a lower-leg fracture in Week 2.

    The Giants signed left tackle Nate Solder to a five-year, $62 million deal, and the investment looks like a complete waste. The 30-year-old has faltered in pass protection in multiple weeks. Perhaps there's room for improvement in a new system.

    Despite consecutive wins, pocket protection remains a critical issue. Eli Manning has been sacked 36 times this season, the second-most in the league. According to Football Outsiders, Giants ball-carriers have been stuffed on 22.3 percent of their carries—almost 3 percent above the league average at 19.5 percent.

    Between the sacks and the runs that go nowhere, it's clear the offensive line has failed this team.

New York Jets: Lackluster Effort, Losing Culture

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    Head coach Todd Bowles
    Head coach Todd BowlesBill Kostroun/Associated Press

    At times, a spectator will watch a game and take a guess on whether a team quit on its coach or didn't come prepared to play. The conclusion may be inaccurate with so many intangible aspects to the contest that may go unnoticed.

    New York Jets safety Jamal Adams sounded off on his teammates after an embarrassing 41-10 loss to the Bills, per ESPN.com's Rich Cimini. He said "no one came to play" and added that the sideline lacked energy.

    Based on Adams' comments, the Jets checked out early and took a 31-point loss without much of a battle. That's a major issue for a 3-7 team outside the playoff picture. It's fair to wonder if certain players turn their intensity levels down when trailing in games. After losing four consecutive contests, the morale could be at a low point in the locker room.

    A losing culture doesn't just creep into the locker room overnight. Adams cited "that vibe" during his rookie year, per Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne.

    "Everybody was used to losing. You can always tell that vibe. I came in, and it was like everybody wanted to do the bare minimum. They didn't want to go above and beyond."

    With playoff chances almost out of the question, Gang Green's biggest challenge comes before they take the field. Head coach Todd Bowles must find ways to motivate this squad to finish the season on a strong note with his job likely on the line.

Oakland Raiders: Lack of Cohesion

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    Head coach Jon Gruden
    Head coach Jon GrudenBen Margot/Associated Press

    Apparently, there's an ominous black cloud hovering over Raiders headquarters. Multiple veterans have requested their release, there's paranoia and unhappiness in the locker room, and one player retired midseason.

    Defensive end Tank Carradine and linebacker Derrick Johnson voluntarily chose to end their time in Oakland, per Michael Gelhken of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The latter served as a team captain. Neither player resurfaced elsewhere, which suggests both were poor free-agent signings. Cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie decided to hang up his cleats in October.

    According to Bleacher Report's Tyler Dunne, a veteran feels as though players in the locker room are walking on eggshells. "They're trying to find a reason," he says, "to get anybody out of here."

    The Raiders traded defensive end Khalil Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper—homegrown talents widely viewed as roster cornerstones. The team released Bruce Irvin, who provided vocal leadership in the locker room in recent years. 

    Irvin signed with the Falcons and seemed to take a jab at the Raiders during practice. According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution's D. Orlando Ledbetter , he shouted, "I'm free." The 31-year-old played in reduced role in Oakland, lining up for 250 snaps in eight games.

    Cornerback Rashaan Melvin took to Twitter to express frustrations with his situation in Oakland, and head coach Jon Gruden publicly answered back during a media press conference (h/t Vic Tafur of The Athletic). "Melvin is on his seventh team. Maybe he is confused about what technique he is using. He is frustrated. I can't blame him ... He is a good kid." 

    At 2-8, it's difficult to find happy people within an NFL locker room, but the constant turnover in a rebuilding period with in-house dissension only spells disaster for the season. A win over the Cardinals spritzed a little perfume on a putrid situation in Oakland. 

Philadelphia Eagles: Inability to Play Complete Games

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    Head coach Doug Pederson
    Head coach Doug PedersonWesley Hitt/Getty Images

    The reigning champions have been slow to start games. According to Team Rankings, the Philadelphia Eagles average the least first-quarter points with 2.1 and rank 24th in first-half scoring with 8.7 per contest.

    In Week 7, the Eagles held a 17-0 lead over the Panthers through three quarters and collapsed in the final frame. Philadelphia allowed 21 points in the fourth quarter and walked off the field in defeat.

    Perhaps this club needs some urgency. After a 48-7 loss to the Saints, falling to 4-6, the Eagles should have all the motivation needed with their playoff hopes on the line down the stretch. 

    Looking at recent games, Philadelphia doesn't have the sharpness early in games to put pressure on its opponents. 

    In a Week 10 loss to the Cowboys, the offense didn't score until the second half and played catch-up throughout most of the contest. Against the Saints, the highest-scoring team at home, the Eagles didn't stand a chance. They fell behind 24-7 in the first 30 minutes and then were outscored 24-0 in a listless second-half effort.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Penalties

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    Head coach Mike Tomlin
    Head coach Mike TomlinScott Halleran/Getty Images

    After a sluggish start to the season, the Steelers seemingly flipped the switch following a home loss to the Ravens in Week 4. They've won six consecutive games and just knocked off the Jaguars who beat them twice last year.

    On the surface, the Steelers have moved past the ills that plagued them early in the season. The pass defense hasn't allowed 250 yards since a blowout Week 5 win over the Falcons.

    Running back Le'Veon Bell decided not to report to the team by November 13, which makes him ineligible to play this season. This has allowed the team to move forward without having to answer questions about his return. Furthermore, James Conner has looked phenomenal in his place. The second-year ball-carrier has five 100-yard rushing performances. 

    Despite all the positives, the Steelers still need to work on their penalty problem. They're averaging 73 penalty yards per contest, which is the second-most in the league. Whether there's a discipline issue or poor technique, it's a problem that could cost them in a close game during the postseason. 

    Remember, football is a game of inches, and the Steelers are giving up too much free yardage.

San Francisco 49ers: Lack of Edge-Rushing

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    Defensive end Solomon Thomas
    Defensive end Solomon ThomasMarcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    General manager John Lynch should already have multiple rookie pass-rushers at the top of his draft board.

    With the exception of a breakout performance against the Raiders in Week 9, the 49ers' pass-rushing talents on the edges have not moved the needle. Reserve defensive ends Cassius Marsh and Ronald Blair aren't consistently collapsing the pocket. 

    Defensive end Solomon Thomas looks like a rotational run-stopper as opposed to a budding pass-rusher. Arik Armstead has shown improvement in breaking through the trenches for quarterback hits and solo tackles, but he's still just a step too late closing the deal on sacks. 

    It's fair to point to Jimmy Garoppolo's absence as a major reason for the 49ers' 2-8 season, but his replacements C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens have experienced bright spots as starters. The inability to pressure the quarterback off the edge has been an issue since Week 1 and continues to hinder this defensive unit.

Seattle Seahawks: Inconsistent Tight End Production in Passing Attack

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    Tight end Nick Vannett
    Tight end Nick VannettStephen Brashear/Getty Images

    The Seattle Seahawks allowed Jimmy Graham to walk after his 10-touchdown season last year. Though his receiving yards dropped significantly compared to his first two terms with the team, the pass-catching tight end served as a reliable red-zone target.

    To replace Graham, the front office signed Ed Dickson to a three-year, $10.7 million deal and selected Will Dissly in the fourth round of April's draft. 

    Dickson started the campaign on the NFI list because of a quad injury, which required him to sit out the first six weeks. He returned to practice before the Seahawks' Week 8 matchup and scored a touchdown against the Lions. However, quarterback Russell Wilson hasn't targeted him more than twice in a game.

    Dissly started his rookie term on a strong note, logging 105 receiving yards in his NFL debut and scoring touchdowns in consecutive weeks. He suffered a torn patella during Week 4, ending his season.

    Nick Vannett has started the last three outings and scored in two of those contests, but it's too early to call him a solid replacement for Graham in the passing game or specifically in the red zone. He's cracked 50 yards once in nine contests.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Subpar Ground Attack

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    Running back Peyton Barber
    Running back Peyton BarberJoe Robbins/Getty Images

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have the No. 1 passing offense in yards and list fifth in touchdowns through the air with 25. 

    Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick's three-week start to open the season generated a large portion of the production, but the offensive unit couldn't sustain the ball movement during his subpar performances. The Buccaneers may have been able to win more games with a balanced approach and a lead ball-carrier who can move the chains.

    The front office selected Ronald Jones in the second round of April's draft. He isn't ready to take over the lead role, as he's logged 19 rush attempts for 42 yards and a touchdown. The USC product also missed the first three games as a healthy scratch after a disappointing preseason showing.

    Peyton Barber, the featured tailback, logged his first 100-yard performance against the Giants in Week 11. He's scored two rushing touchdowns and averages 54.3 yards per contest. The Buccaneers rank 27th in rushing.

    Both Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston would've benefitted from the ability to hand off to a 20-carry running back capable of luring an extra defender in the box. The Buccaneers have explosive playmakers on the perimeter; they'd have more space to run after the catch with a viable run game garnering some attention.

Tennessee Titans: Lack of an Alternative Receiving Option to Corey Davis

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    Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe and quarterback Marcus Mariota
    Wide receiver Tajae Sharpe and quarterback Marcus MariotaStacy Revere/Getty Images

    Two years ago, the Tennessee Titans selected Corey Davis as the No. 5 overall pick to lead the wide receiver corps. Because of Marcus Mariota's inconsistencies in the pocket, the 6'3", 209-pound wide receiver isn't posting gaudy numbers every week. Furthermore, the offense doesn't have a viable No. 2 option to take pressure off him. 

    Between the 2016 and '17 seasons, Rishard Matthews and Delanie Walker were Nos. 1 and 2 in receiving yards for the Titans. Frustrated with his role, the former requested his release in September; the latter suffered a fractured ankle with ligament damage in the regular-season opener.

    Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor have moved up the pass-catcher pecking order, but they're not dynamic enough to demand extra coverage or divert the focus from Davis.

    Sharpe missed the entire 2017 campaign after undergoing foot surgery. He has scored four touchdowns in 26 career games. Taylor is averaging a modest 10.2 yards per reception this season.

Washington Redskins: Trouble Stretching the Field with Wide Receivers

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    Wide receiver Josh Doctson
    Wide receiver Josh DoctsonMark Tenally/Associated Press

    The Washington Redskins have a glaring issue that may pose a threat to their playoff bid that existed before quarterback Alex Smith fractured his fibula and tibia in Week 11. 

    After Week 9, Washington placed wideout Paul Richardson on injured reserve because of an AC joint injury. While recovering from a sprained ankle, fellow wide receiver Jamison Crowder hasn't taken the field since Week 5. 

    With the wide receiver corps at full strength, Smith struggled to stretch the field and keep players at the position involved in the flow of the game. He connected with Richardson, Crowder and Josh Doctson for a combined five touchdown passes.

    As quarterback Colt McCoy takes over, it's hard envisioning an increase in production through the air. He's thrown 61 passes since the 2015 term and doesn't have a reputation for slinging the ball all over the field.

    Doctson, the Redskins' top available wide receiver option, averages 10.4 yards per reception. He's eclipsed 50 yards in one contest this season.

    Washington ranks 25th in the passing yards with only 13 scores through the air in 11 games.


    Statistical rankings provided by Team Rankings.