#5: Cleveland Browns
After 2 weeks of action, it actually seemed like Cleveland wasn’t the worst team in the NFL, which is basically the equivalent to making the playoffs in Browns culture. In fact, they were arguably not even in the bottom 5! The Bengals/Giants/Niners combined to score 1 touchdown, the Jets were (and still are) in full trust the process mode and seemed to have a firm grasp on worst team in the NFL while the Colts were a complete dumpster fire with every useful player not named T.Y. Hilton injured & Adam Vinatieri uncharacteristically missing kicks.
Unfortunately for the Browns, this reign of non cellar-dwellering was short-lived. The 3 aforementioned offenses woke up and gave their teams close games (although still lost as we’ll see shortly), the Jets got a dominant W on the board (hard to write that without sounding extremely sarcastic) & the decimated Colts evidently defeated Cleveland by a score of 31-28.
This third straight loss, this time to one of the league’s worst teams, is further proof that the Browns are still very much a work in progress. Not that we needed proof of this, but we got some nonetheless.
While DeShone Kizer has shown more promise than any Browns QB in a looooonnnngggg time, he’s still far from a finished product or a sure thing to stick as the longterm solution. As for the defense, it has shown has a long way to go before becoming an effective unit, although it will be interesting to see if the eventual arrival of top overall pick Myles Garrett can elevate the unit.
Don’t worry Browns fans, your team might still be rock bottom of the NFL, but the youth on the roster and ten thousand early round picks in the next 2 drafts gives plenty of reason for the most optimism about the future than this franchise has seen arguably since joining the AFC North in 2002.
#4: San Francisco 49ers
You might think that playing the Seahawks close for an entire game and falling a 2 point conversion shy of taking the shiny new high-powered Rams offense to overtime would help the Niners grab a higher spot in the nfl’s cellar dwellers rankings.
However, those moral victories pale in comparison to the moral loss that is being one of 2 teams to go the first 2 weeks of the season without scoring a single touchdown. Sure they scored alot of points against a mediocre-to-decent Rams defense but I have a general rule of thumb: if Brian Hoyer is your quarterback you have an offense that lies somewhere within the bottom third of the NFL. This mentality has yet to fail me and I don’t see why it would start to now.
Sure, their defense had looked promising on the surface 2 games into the season, but in my opinion that’s more due to their first 2 opponents being the Panthers led by a seemingly broken Cam Newton and the Seahawks with their o-line that has more holes in it than the plot line to the last few seasons of Lost. Week 3 seemed to be a better representation of what we can expect from the 49ers defense this season.
#3: Cincinnati Bengals
Most casual fans are probably shocked that the bengals’ offense looked down right anemic to start the season, scoring as many touchdowns as I did through 2 weeks despite supposedly sporting a bevy of offensive weapons like Joe Mixon, Gio Bernard & of course A.J. Green. However, the bigger/more knowledgable NFL fans could have told you that the offense had some serious potential concerns going into the season, particularly in the trenches.
Who would’ve thought losing your 2 best offensive linemen (Andrew Whitworth & Kevin Zeitler), including their blindside protector (Whitworth), while not being bothered to find adequate replacements could lead to trouble scoring? SHOCKING!
I’m sure Cedric Ogbuehi & Trey Hopkins are nice people, but Ogbuehi is a 2015 first rounder that has been a borderline bust while Hopkins is an undrafted free agent from 2014 with 1 career game under his belt and he’s performed about exactly as well as you would expect an undrafted free agent playing in games for the first time 3 years after going pro.
You’re probably assuming I’ll pivot to praise for the Bengals now and talk about how at least the defense has looked pretty promising, particularly seeing some nice upside from rookie 4th round pick Carl Lawson. Well, in the words of Dikembe Mutombo, “no no no”! As a Steeler fan I’m just going to remind you that the Bengals bungled yet another game and blew a 21-7 halftime lead giving Aaron Rodgers his first career overtime win in 8 tries. Now here’s a flashback to when they completely blew a guaranteed wild card win:
#2: New York Giants
The Giants are very similar to the Bengals in the sense that they went out and made big acquisitions at the skill positions, in their case Brandon Marshall & first round pick Evan Engram, while neglecting to address their lackluster pass and run protecting unit.
Outside of Justin Pugh, there’s just simply a complete lack of talent from top to bottom on the O-lines’ depth chart. In fact, many people are saying that Ereck Flowers is the worst starting left tackle in the NFL. There’s only so much Odell Beckham Jr can do if Eli isn’t given any time to find him before being pressured. Yes, Odell will explode no matter what at times like he did against the Eagles on Sunday, but depending on him to do that on a completely consistent basis isn’t necessarily a recipe for longterm success.
With that being said, the Giants still possess a very very good defense. The G-men’s point stopping unit is filled with impact players and it was great to see All-Pro corner Janoris Jenkins healthy and doing his thing after missing Week 2’s 24-10 loss to the Lions and not practicing the entire week leading up to the Eagles tilt. He played pretty effectively, only seeing 6 targets and allowing just 4 catches for 38 yards while breaking up 2 passes.
#1: Los Angeles Chargers
Poor Chargers. When you look at the talent on the roster, they seem good enough to be at least a .500 team and did last season as well. However, the team was decimated by injuries last year crippling any chance it had a wild-card berth leading to a 5-11 season despite a relatively reasonable -13 point differential (about just -0.8 points per game).
If that wasn’t enough, they share a division with the Raiders/Chiefs/Broncos who were all above .500 with the Raiders & Chiefs both notching 12 wins in 2016. And guess what? All 3 of these teams look just as good if not better this season. That’s essentially a long-winded way of saying the Chargers’ division is the best in football and it isn’t even close.
So to get away from all the negativity that is the bleak reality of the Chargers dead playoff chances, let’s talk about the positive aspects of the team. Phillip Rivers belongs in the “very good” tier of qb’s in my opinion, somewhere in that 9th to 15th best quarterback in the league and he has a boatload of quality weapons, namely 2 pro-bowl caliber players in running back Melvin Gordon & wide receiver Keenan Allen.
Meanwhile, the defensive unit boasts one of the league’s best edge combo in reigning DROY Joey Bosa & Melvin Ingram who is currently 2nd in the NFL with 5.5 sacks through 3 games. Unfortunately for the Chargers, the injury bug has hit them once again this season as Pro-Bowl caliber corner Jason Verrett is set to undergo season ending knee surgery. Yikes. Here’s some LaDainian Tomlinson highlights to get the Chargers fans’, who probably won’t even read this, minds off of injuries and general bad luck: