One glaring weakness of all NFL teams


BY CHUCK CONSTANTINOCouchsideshow.com blogger

After watching this weekend’s lineup of NFL games it is clear each and every team has one glaring weakness. Some larger than others. Some will keep teams out of the playoff race, while other teams will be able to overcome the obstacles. Here is a list of one glaring weakness for every team, in alphabetical order. Keep in mind, these are observations made after week two, there is a lot of football to be played and all teams will make adjustments.

Chicago Bears quarterback could either be a hero or a zero for his team this year. Photo by: SquaredB / Flickr

• Bears: While quarterback Jay Cutler‘s leadership skills have been under the microscope lately, I’d argue their offensive line is the team’s biggest worry. Since Cutler’s arrival to Chicago, the Bears always have a game like the one against the Packers, where the team looks sloppy and pathetic. Cutler isn’t going to change, he holds onto the ball too long, and will try to squeeze the ball into the tightest windows. But, if they can’t keep Jay upright or give him enough time to throw the ball, all the new additions to the squad won’t translate to wins on the field.

• Bengals – Cincy owns the largest offensive line in football and one of the youngest qb/wr combo in the league with Andy Dalton and A.J. Green. The addition of BJGE (BenJarvus Green-Ellis) is paying off and surprisingly, slot receiver Andrew Hawkins leads the team in receiving yards. The secondary looks weak, but they made some moves and some guys are injured. Geno Atkins is a beast on the defensive line, but if someone else does not step up as a legitimate pass rusher, the Bengals will not make the playoffs.

• BillsC.J. Spiller has stepped up big time in Fred Jackson‘s absence, something he was not able to do last season. The defense has not looked great, but I will give them a couple of weeks to get it together and mesh. Even though he is a Harvard guy, Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s decision making scares me, but if he can string a couple of consistent games together, then he looks good. What will hold the Bills back is their lack of offensive weapons. Stevie Johnson will continue to be doubled and tight end Scott Chandler is only a red zone threat. With no one to stretch opposing defenses, the Bills’ offense may struggle in the passing game.

• BroncosPeyton Manning will be fine. Yes, I saw the Atlanta game, but I also saw him make adjustments in the second half to put them within one touchdown to win a game they should have never had the opportunity to. The front seven on the defense looks good, if Elvis Dumervil can return to his 2010 form, watch out. While the statistics are in favor of the secondary, behind Champ Bailey and Tracy Porter there is no longer Brian Dawkins. The safety positions are weak, and if teams can exploit that on the deep ball, there is the game plan to beat the Broncos.

• Browns – Where to start with the Browns? Besides Joe Haden, who will be out for three more games due to his love of ADHD pills, they have no secondary. Never mind the fact the organization screwed up their draft by trading the house for Trent Richardson and selected a 28-year-old quarterback as the answer, there are way too many holes on the offense. Weeden will put up passing yards because of the way the league is run, a pass happy league. Richardson will get his 300 carries because, who else can they lean on? What will keep the Browns out of the playoffs is a lack of an elite receiver, someone who will command  double team. They don’t have someone who will move the chains.

• Buccaneers – Rookie head coach Greg Schiano is known for his work ethic and preparation, so far it’s shown. His team is competitive and looks good on both sides of the ball. Eventually rookie running back Doug Martin will hit the rookie wall and they will need some contribution from LeGarrette Blount. The defense is one of the best at stopping the run, and thanks to Eli Manning, the pass defense looks worse than it probably is. My guess for the secondary looking bad is the lack of pass rush from the defensive line. In two games so far, only three sacks and one is from Ronde Barber. Not good enough to sneak into the playoffs.

• Cardinals – The Cardinals shocked everyone and came away with the victory in Foxboro, thanks to a shanked field goal. Patrick Peterson has emerged as one of the top corners in the league and the front seven is relentless. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton deserves a lot of credit. The biggest problem with the team is the offense. Neither Beanie Wells or Ryan Williams have stepped up, and the quarterback position is far from set. If I had to pick one, the quarterback position is better off. The running game looks anemic, and with confusion at the quarterback position, they will need more of a contribution than 74 yards per game.

• Chargers – Leading the league in rushing defense with an average of 41.5 yards per game has to be encouraging. The new look Chargers have a lot to be excited about. They are averaging 90 yards per game rushing, which should rise when injured Ryan Mathews comes back. I expect Phillip Rivers to be an MVP candidate all season long. He has been sacked five times in the young season, but if he can get the ball out quick enough, they’ll be fine. They need cornerback Quentin Jammer to be more consistent, something he hasn’t done the past couple of seasons. Otherwise, that is where teams will throw the ball.

• Chiefs – We know they can run the ball, even if Jamaal Charles isn’t getting touches. Dwayne Bowe looks like Dwayne Bowe. The problem is, they can’t stop a nosebleed. While I have not been a fan of quarterback Matt Cassel since he left the Patriots, he has his days where he looks really bad, and then some games he shines. They can live with that. What the Chiefs cannot live with is the fact they are giving up an average of 142 yards per game on the ground, good for 27th in the league. The Chiefs made C.J. Spiller look like Barry Sanders, as he averaged 8.2 yards per carry on 15 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns.

• Colts Andrew Luck looks pretty good so far in the young season, and comfortable in an offense that looks similar to the one he ran at Stanford. The defense is going to struggle in the passing game, behind Vontae Davis at cornerback, there is no player to game plan around. Robert Mathis looks great in the new 3-4 defense, which I wondered about coming into the season. What will hurt the Colts the most this season is their lack of running game. With Luck in his rookie season, they need Donald Brown to step up and emerge as a feature back. He’s shown at Connecticut that he can do it, now he needs to where it counts, the NFL.

• Cowboys – After the Giants game, all the analysts were ready to crown them the NFC East champs, then they looked horrible against the Seahawks. While the Seahawks defense is one of the best in the league, in my opinion, the Cowboys will continue to be the inconsistent team they’ve always been with Tony Romo under center. If the secondary can hold up and continue to play well, then Rob Ryan and the rest of the defense could be one of the best on the league. I know this makes me seem like a hater, but Tony Romo will hold the Cowboys back. The Cowboys go as Romo goes. When he plays well, the Cowboys do. If they can overcome bad starts early in games and the lack of decision making by Romo, the Cowboys could sniff the playoffs. I wouldn’t bet on it though.

• DolphinsReggie Bush looks like the running back we all knew he could be, and Ryan Tannehill looks like the real deal. Even though they’re of the best defenses at stopping the run in the league, the Dolphins can not stop the aerial attack. The Phins currently sit ranked 30th with an average of 313.5 yards per game. That with the combination of having Brian Hartline as their number one receiver will not be a winning recipe for Miami. If they don’t draft a receiver with their first pick in the draft, then Jeff Ireland should fire himself.

• Eagles – Nine turnovers and wins by a combined two points have Philly sitting in first place in the NFC East and one of the only 2-0 teams in the league. While Mike Vick has been in the league for a decade, the man can still not consistently read a defense. The defense is starting to come together after some offseason moves and drafting some key players to plug in. I think teams will see if you can spread them out, you can beat them. If this team continues to turn the ball over at such an alarming rate, they will need to lean on some more bad calls by the replacement referees. There is no way the Eagles can continue to win by giving the ball away four to five times a game. Also, the way Vick plays, we all know he is going to get hurt at some point in the season, so they will need Nick Foles to play well.

• 49ers – San Fran looks to be an early Superbowl favorite amongst everyone. The defense is everything as advertised, and Alex Smith has played smart and has yet to turn the ball over. But, Smith has been sacked seven times already. The secondary has given up some yards, so I’m sure teams will look at where the Packers failed and will try to exploit the third and fourth cornerbacks. Assuming Smith limits his turnovers all season, the biggest weakness will be the depth on the defense. If there is an injury in the secondary or on the front seven, then we may finally see a chink in the armor.

• Falcons – Talk about Hot Lanta, Matty Ice has the Falcons humming after a 2-0 start. While Michael Turner hasn’t looked great, he can still get the tough yardage. After Brent Grimes went down with a season ending injury, my immediate response was uh oh. But, so far, so good. They managed to pick off Manning three times in the first quarter against the Broncos. The big concern on the offense is when will they stop dropping balls? Roddy White lead the league in drops last season, and Julio Jones is doing his best White impression this season so far. If they can catch the ball my biggest concern is the offensive game plan. They should have had the foot on the gas against the Broncos, but let them come back. IF the Falcons can be the team that put up 40 against the Chiefs and not fall back into last season’s conservative play calling, look for them to soar.

• Giants – Eli has looked like the better Manning this season, as he leads the league with 723 passing yards. The running game still looks as bad as it did last season, but that will not hold them back. Everyone knows how dominant the defensive front can be, but Corey Webster isn’t enough at cornerback. They need the guys behind him to develop faster and to stay on the field, in hopes that none of them get injured. If they can stay healthy and limit the big plays through the air on defense, look for another Superbowl run from the G-Men.

• JaguarsBlaine Gabbert looks better, but still looks bad. Which is saying a lot, they cannot move the ball through the air, as rookie receiver Justin Blackmon has only three catches for 10 yards. He won’t be a playmaker when he can’t get the ball. Hyped as a top ten defense coming into the season, the Jaguars may just be hype. Through two games they have two sacks and only one turnover. If the defense can’t get it right, this team has no chance. It may be time to give Chad Henne some more snaps and to consider moving to LA.

• Jets – Is it possible the Jets didn’t show anyone the plays they would run in the regular season be the reason they struggled in the preseason? Yes, it is possible. But, I’m not buying it. They have no running game, with or without Tim Tebow in the game. They have some playmakers, but no real identity on offense. Unless the defense can get back to those AFC Championship run seasons, the team will struggle. I believe the Jets game against the Bills was a fluke, and until they can move the ball on offense, I don’t see the Jets making much noise. But, they are currently tied in first with three other teams in the AFC East.

• Lions – The Lions don’t run the ball well, but that is no secret. Eventually, that is going to cost them games when they can’t consistently run the ball for first downs to ice games. The defensive line is all as advertised with seven sacks through two games. And the Lions/49ers game showed us the Lions have no depth in the secondary. But, the most alarming stat is Matthew Stafford only has two touchdown passes. Not good for Calvin Johnson Jr. who is facing a Madden 13 curse and the pressure of gaining 2,000 receiving yards as he hoped for. If Titus Young or Nate Burleson can step up and fill the number two receiver spot, then I assume the touchdown passes will go up for the Lions. If they fail to do so, things will spiral quickly for Detroit, who is coming off a playoff appearance last season.

• Packers – Green Bay has faced two good defenses so far in the season, coming away with a 1-1 record shouldn’t be a concern for them. The lack of running game will hurt them, but the Packers can and will get past that. What will hurt them is more dropped passes. The Chiefs game last season that prevented them from a perfect regular season was lost because of dropped passes. It has not been a big deal thus far, but watch for that. Also, if they can’t stop the run, it will be a long season for the Packers. It should be encouraging that Tramon Williams is back to his 2010 form.

• Panthers – They can run the ball with a astable of backs and Cam Newton can throw it deep. The offense is lacking a playmaker or so, but nothing Newton can’t overcome. They will need the secondary to make some big plays this season because currently, their pass rush is coming from one interior defensive lineman. If Charles Johnson doesn’t awake from his slumber, it could be a long season for Ron Rivera, a defensive oriented coach. If that is the case, they’ll be banking on Newton to outscore opposing teams, something that may work for some games, but not over the course of an entire season.

• Patriots – the lose of Aaron Hernandez will show just how valuable he is in the two tight end system New England runs. If Kellan Winslow Jr. can be a shadow of what he’s been over his career and pick up the offensive playbook and scheme, then stop gap found. I assume this means more targets and plays for Wes Welker. The defense is playing better than last season, and it looks like Belichick might have found some players in this year’s drafts. As fans saw in the preseason, there are holes in the offensive line for the Patriots. If they can’t protect Tom Brady, they won’t be able to find the end zone. If the Patriots can’t keep Brady upright look for the Patriots to struggle.

• Raiders – The passing yards are up for Oakland, but they are currently ranked 31st in rushing with only 34 yards per game. Oakland needs to run the ball better, especially with someone as talented as Darren McFadden in the backfield, plus the guy is in a contract year, I expect better. The Raiders still can’t stop the run. Their biggest problem, is their discipline. No matter how many different head coaches who made stops in Oakland, they still are amongst the league leaders in penalties. And although there isn’t a statistic for stupid penalties, I’ll bet Oakland has been the league leader in that made up category for the past seven seasons. Oakland will continue to be in the cellar of the NFL as long as they beat themselves with penalties.

• Rams – With the arrival of Jeff Fischer I expect the team to be competitive and be in games all season long. I wouldn’t be surprised if they upset teams who overlook them. I doubt too many teams do that now that they have a legitimate head coach in St. Louis. Besides Steven Jackson, Sam Bradford doesn’t posses many weapons on offense, I think they get past that pretty quickly and use what they have. They have some nice pieces on the defense, but they are still a couple of years from being relevant in the league. But, they are in the NFC West, which means anything is possible.

• RavensJoe Flacco looks like a more confident quarterback and the offense is starting to revolve around him. The defense looks great as always, except at the cornerback position. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis can only do so much. If they can get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, then that will ease the loss of Terrell Suggs. As long as offensive coordinator doesn’t forget about Ray Rice, the Ravens should march into the playoffs. That is a big if though, as the Ravens have shown they can be one of the most inconsistent offenses in the league.

• Redskins – If it wasn’t for the dumb mistake of wide receiver Josh Morgan, who earlier in the week said he couldn’t be in that situation and had to walk away, the Redskins could be 2-0. RGIII looks like he was worth trading for. They have offensive weapons around Griffen, which will help his development. It will be hard for Washington to overcome season ending injuries to Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker. The biggest issue for the Redskins is their secondary. They have no playmakers in the safety position and DeAngelo Hall is not the player he once was. Josh Wilson is a physical cornerback, but can he cover people? They currently sit at 31st in passing defense, as opponents are throwing an average 313.5 yards per game. Not a good look. At this point they will have to outscore opponents. I don’t see the Redskins making the playoffs, but they aren’t too far away.

• Saints – What to say about the Saints? Well, we now know that just because they have Drew Brees does not mean they will win. The defense is a mess and really misses the leadership and direction former defensive coordinator gave them. On offense they are no where near as dynamic without Sean Payton. The play calling looks different and no longer can Payton coach Brees up on the sidelines. Opponents are running wild on the Saints as they rank last in the league in rushing defense, giving up an average of 186 yards per game on the ground. They aren’t doing much better in defending the pass, currently they sit at 26th with an average of 275 yards per game. Without Payton or Williams, they won’t make the playoffs. Who dat gonna lose to the Saints, because that team must suck.

• Seahawks – Pete Carroll is giving it the old college attempt. He is truly running a college atmosphere where the best guy will play, despite paying Matt Flynn his offseason. Marshawn Lynch is in full on beast mode and it will be raining Skittles all season long. They will need the pass rush to step up, as they only have two sacks in two games. Russell Wilson looks like he is back at Wisconsin as he is being asked to dink and dump it and hand it off in order to prevent him from losing a game. The one thing that will hold them back is the lack of threats on the outside for Wilson or Flynn. Sidney Rice is decent, and not the player he was before his surgeries. He leads the team with seven receptions. I see a problem here, especially when teams begin to stack the box against the Seahawks.

• Steelers – They have no offensive line to speak of and it may be worse than it was last season. Which is saying a lot. No Rashard Mendenhall is really hurting the team, as the Steelers are averaging 70 yards per game on the ground. I’m not saying when he gets back it will be better, especially with the pass happy offensive coordinator Todd Haley. The defense looks good however, and once James Harrison comes back they’ll be fine. I’m not sold on the offensive line though, I think this is what will prevent them from doing the things they want to on offense and potentially hurting the chances of connecting on long balls to Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders.

• Texans – Wade Phillips has found his calling as a defensive coordinator in Houston, if he is wise, he won’t leave. The running game looks like it picked up where they left last season as Arian Foster has three touchdowns and Ben Tate has two in the young season. The Texans still lack a legitimate number two option in the passing game behind Andre Johnson. You could say it is Owen Daniels, but he is more of a chain mover than a playmaker. The one thing holding the Texans back is their secondary. It has major holes behind Jonathan Joseph. If opposing quarterbacks can get enough time to exploit the safeties down the field then it will most likely result in points.

• TitansJake Locker in his first season starting is going to struggle. Especially when he is leading his team in rushing yards with 32 on four attempts. This is still the team that has Chris Johnson, who has seemed to disappear after he got paid. On 19 carries this season, Johnson has amassed 21 yards, an average of 1.1 yards per carry with no touchdowns. They do have some good receivers with Nate Washington, Damian Williams and Kendall Wright to go along with Jared Cook. The defense has struggled, and cannot create any resemblance of a pass rush. If Chris Johnson can’t get it going, the Titans will not win many games.

• Vikings – I’m not sure Christian Ponder is the answer, but he hasn’t done bad thus far in the season. Adrian Peterson appears healthy enough to shoulder the load and playmakers like Percy Harvin are making an impact. Where trouble lies ahead for Minnesota is their secondary. It was horrendous last season and instead of drafting a cornerback early in the draft they elected to pick left tackle Matt Kalil, a wise choice, but probably not the team’s main concern. Here is to hoping the Vikings can create enough pass rush where the secondary won’t matter. Otherwise, it will be a miserable season for the Vikings.

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