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Last month around this time, we finally inserted the nail in the coffin — for six NFL teams. We considered the seasons for the Jacksonville Jaguars, Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Titans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Jets and Washington all but over.
Fast forward to the aftermath of Week 10 in the NFL, and we’re ready to take out our forks once again.
Here are five more teams we’re throwing the towel in on for the rest of the 2014 season:
1. St. Louis Rams
However, a slow start for the Rams’ vicious pass rush combined with what finally proved to be a lethargic offense caught up with the team, resulting in a 1-4 record through the first month and a half. With such a relentless defense and capable offense, St. Louis pulled off upsets against both Seattle and San Francisco, and led into the fourth quarter against Arizona last week. But while the team is formidable, it doesn’t stand a chance at slipping into the playoffs.
This offseason, the coaches and front-office personnel need to do some homework on college and free-agent quarterbacks. Between Bradford and Davis, it doesn’t appear the Rams have a franchise quarterback in mind. Tavon Austin has never developed as a playmaking wide receiver, while the backfield remains in shambles. A lack of skill players continues to haunt this team.
At 3-2 through the first month entering a Week 6 showdown with NFC East rival Philadelphia, the Giants looked to be on the verge of returning to contention. But the Eagles quickly put that notion to rest, shutting down the Giants at the Linc, which spurred a four-game losing streak.
Eli Manning continues to look lost under center, and while his turnovers aren’t as atrocious as they were a year ago, he is not the same caliber of quarterback as he was during the two Super Bowl runs. The biggest issue here is whether Manning can ever thrive in first-year offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo’s West Coast system.
A solid draft has brought the Giants a number of long-term stars on the offensive side of the ball, including Odell Beckham Jr. and Andre Williams, and even tight end Larry Donnell and Rashad Jennings figure to be valuable contributors. The line is rebuilt, though there’s still room to grow. And defensively, the lack of solid linebackers continues to haunt the team.
Perhaps the biggest question mark is how much longer Manning remains under center, and if Tom Coughlin will still be on the sidelines by 2015.
3. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons came out of the gate firing on all cylinders to begin this season, and it looked like Matt Ryan, a newly rebuilt offensive line and a healthy Roddy White and Julio Jones tandem were poised to take the NFC back by storm. But more offensive line woes and sudden regression by Ryan has dropped the Falcons to 3-6.
Atlanta is still technically in the mix in the NFC South, but with that record at this point in the season it’s simply too much to actually consider them a realistic playoff team. There are so many areas of need for this team, beginning with the entire defense, as well as the numerous holes along the offensive line.
Defensively, only the Giants have given up more yards per game than Atlanta, which allows 404.8. Opponents complete 50 percent of their third-down attempts while averaging 26.4 points per contest. According to Football Outsiders, the Falcons’ pass protection has an adjusted sake rate of 5.5 percent through the first nine weeks of the year, having surrendered 18 sacks on Ryan this season and 53 total quarterback hits, good for ninth-most in the NFL.
There’s no guarantee Mike Smith returns to Atlanta next year, and if he does he’ll likely begin the season on a very warm cushion.
4. Chicago Bears
A preseason favorite to compete in the NFC North and to be a playoff team with a healthy Jay Cutler, the Bears have been one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments this season. At 3-6 they sit in dead last in their own division having lost three in a row and five of their last six games.
The Bears’ have been humiliated each of the last two weeks against playoff teams in the Patriots and Packers, and it raises serious questions about the future of this organization. Josh McCown outplayed Cutler in this offense a year ago, and it begs the question of whether Cutler can be a legitimate franchise quarterback. It also makes you wonder about coach Marc Trestman, an offensive guru who can’t get consistent production from Cutler, who has Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffrey and Matt Forte as his disposal.
There needs be changes in the Windy City next year, whether it’s upgrades in the defensive front or perhaps a new face under center. That’ll be no easy task considering Cutler’s paycheck. Perhaps that means it’s Trestman who gets a pink slip.
5. Carolina Panthers
Yes, like Atlanta, the Panthers are still technically alive in the NFC South race, largely due to a tie last month with the Bengals. But if you saw the show they put on Monday night in Philadelphia, then I don’t need to remind you their time is done for 2014.
Cam Newton is hobbled by injuries, probably because of the 42 hits his offensive line have allowed this season. We knew the Panthers were about to enter a rebuilding sort of year when they lost their left tackle, top three wide receivers and three of their four starters in the secondary. But fast forward a year and Ryan Kalil is the only returning starter on the O-line, rookie Kelvin Benjamin in the only legitimate deep threat among the receivers and the lack of Greg Hardy on the defensive line has completely taken away the ferocity of this defense.
Newton is a one-man team at this point, and he cannot possibly shoulder the workload any further. The Panthers need to realize that like we expected, they’re in a transitional phase. They just better hope they can find enough pieces to keep Newton around before his contract expires.
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