But for these and other top competitors, they are so well positioned with their records and upcoming schedules that these shortcomings are not fatal. Everyone shouldn’t have any problems making the postseason – and maybe doing a run when they get there.
The same cannot be said of some of the teams on the verge of the playoff chase, each of whom have serious reasons to be concerned about looking outside. Here are the playoff competitors with the biggest cause for concern:
Baltimore Ravens: Believe it or not, the problem is defense. The Ravens have one of the most talented defenses in the NFL, but injuries have decimated it. With Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams lacking defenders, the Ravens are prone to resisting ongoing attacks with consecutive losses. The Tennessee Titans rushed 173 yards on 34 carries on Sunday, a week after the New England Patriots ran across Baltimore.
Suddenly the Ravens fell from the third best team in the AFC to a place in the playoffs. It doesn’t help that the Ravens play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Thanksgiving, which limits their ability to get both defenders back. (Baltimore is also looking at positive coronavirus tests that will at least prevent Mark Ingram II and JK Dobbins from running back.)
Coach John Harbaugh said the team’s tackles need to get better after losing to Tennessee on Sunday. Aside from Campbell and Williams, the Ravens aren’t that strong against the run. Defensive Ending Yannick Ngakoue is a great pass rusher but not as good as a run defender and first round rookie linebacker Patrick Queen has a Pro Bowl future but can be overwhelmed at £ 232.
Baltimore has time to turn things around (its last five games: Dallas, Cleveland, Jacksonville, New York Giants, Cincinnati) but to get back to the postseason it has to be better to stop the run.
Philadelphia Eagles: Any other year, Philadelphia would be miles away from playoff competition. But it’s still favorites to win the low NFC East, with four teams tied with three wins each.
Even so, the Eagles are playing so badly that they run the risk of losing the division’s title to Dallas, the New York Giants or Washington. Injuries have ravaged the offensive line and the receiving corps, but the problem now is Carson Wentz looks lost. He completes 58.4 percent of his passes and averages just 232.6 yards – and only 6.2 yards per attempt. He threw 14 interceptions and was fired 40 times.
Coach Doug Pederson said he has no plans to bench Wentz because he thinks it would signal the team that he is giving up the season – but if they don’t fix their problems on offense, the Eagles could be the worst Division didn’t win in NFL history. It doesn’t help that the schedule is brutal; Philadelphia will play against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night and then play against Green Bay, New Orleans and Arizona. The Eagles could play 3-10-1 in their last two games against Dallas and Washington.
Miami Dolphins: Before the season started, nobody would have thought the Dolphins would be in the playoff discussion, but they made it 6-4 and second at the AFC East due to the great coaching work of Brian Flores.
But after two great games by Tua Tagovailoa, the rookie quarterback was so bad in Sunday’s 20-13 loss to Denver that Flores put him on the bench. Tagovailoa will remain the starter and will get an opportunity to recover on the winning New York Jets this week, but it is clear that there will be a quick catch if he struggles.
Miami’s schedule ends with New England, Las Vegas and Buffalo – a difficult final stretch for a rookie QB.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals remain the best-improved team in football, and they differ from the other teams on this list in that the odds for the postseason are still in their favor. You’re 6-4, and the NFC may only have six or seven teams with record profits.
But Arizona’s defense line is in trouble. Last week defenders Corey Peters and Jordan Phillips were transferred to the injured reserve and Edge rusher Chandler Jones’ loss for the season is still not over.
To make matters worse, the Patriots and Los Angeles Rams, two successful running teams, are next on the agenda. You have the option to follow the formula Seattle used in Thursday’s win. During that time, it built a head start by running the ball effectively and quarterback Kyler Murray scoring plenty of hits. Murray isn’t expected to miss game time with the sprained AC joint in his shoulder, but it’s something to watch out for.
Chicago Bears: As for one of the teams that could steal a playoff spot in Arizona, Chicago have their own problems to deal with after losing four games in a row after starting 5-1. The Bears have no game in progress and their offensive line is a mess, but the core problem remains the quarterback game.
Nick Foles was injured in the November 16 loss to Minnesota, although he does not appear to have been seriously injured. It’s unclear whether he or Mitchell Trubisky will face Green Bay on Sunday night, but a postseason spot doesn’t seem likely for an offense averaging just 19 points.
All about the NFL
It was breathtaking to see that the Patriots weren’t as athletic in defense when they lost to the Houston Texans. On the one hand, it should come as no surprise how many players they lost in the free hand or through opt-outs. On the flip side, this was the league’s best defense last season.
In secondary school they are still okay, but the first seven are missing high-level athletes. Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson took advantage, completed 28 of 37 passes for 344 yards, rushed for another 36 yards and scored a total of three touchdowns. New England recorded zero sacks and only two quarterback rushes.
Given the patriots’ run addiction to the offense, they are not well positioned to come from behind. At 4-6 it will take a significant turnaround to get back into the playoffs.
Joe Burrow’s injury ended his impressive rookie season and unfortunately it was not a surprise. The Bengals’ problems on the offensive line meant that Burrow scored goals throughout the season. When he came into the game on Sunday in Washington, he was along with Daniel Jones of the Giants the most affected quarterback since 2000. His knee injury will keep him away until next season.
Although there are few fans in the stands, home advantage is returning. For the first nine weeks of the season, the home teams were a combined 65-67-1. For the past two weeks the home teams have been 21-7.