Opinion: These six NFL teams should start worrying about their playoff potential
Week 10 in the NFL featured no shortage of compelling action, as a handful of fringe potential playoff teams and some expected contenders all suffered meaningful losses.
For some, Sunday’s defeats put them further behind divisional leaders. For others, the outcomes further exposed weaknesses that could wind up costing the respective teams their seasons.
Here’s a look at six teams that probably should start worrying when it comes to their postseason prospects.
Rams — The defending NFC champions' challenging season continued with a disjointed road loss to the Steelers. Sean McVay and his players entered the season believing that they would manage to avoid the fabled Super Bowl hangover thanks to strong leadership and another aggressive offseason of talent acquisition. But instead, the Rams certainly appear to be stuck in a fog, and they’re in danger of not even reaching the postseason. At 5-4, they’ve lost four of their last six games and remain 0-2 in the NFC West.
The effectiveness with which young quarterback Jared Goff played last season is nowhere to be seen, and chemistry remains an issue on the offensive line and throughout the defense. Overtaking the 49ers for the division, or the Seahawks as one of the top wild card teams, looks like a monumental task.
Cowboys —A loss to the Vikings at home raises a lot of concerns for the Cowboys. Though a 4-0 record in the NFC East certainly helps the team's cause, Dallas is drifting toward dangerous territory and now is in a tie with Philadelphia for the division lead after dropping four of its last six games.
Play-calling remains a big issue, as coordinator Kellen Moore has yet to figure out how to guide this offense toward the consistency needed to contend with the league’s elite. Even if the Cowboys do manage to capitalize on playing in such a weak division, it’s difficult to see this team—at least in its current state—making any significant noise this postseason.
NFL Week 10 winners, losers: Saints implode in stunning loss; Eagles win without playing
Panthers — Kyle Allen’s magic appears to be running out, as the Panthers have lost two of their last three games, with Sunday’s defeat against the Packers coming in last-second, heartbreaking fashion. At 5-4, Carolina finds itself in a crowded pack of NFC teams vying for a wild-card berth.
Initially, the Panthers hoped the undrafted second-year passer could help them tread water until Cam Newton returned. But it’s now Allen’s show with Newton on injured reserve. In the home stretch, however, the Panthers will need some X-factor play from their quarterback, who’s better suited as a game manager.
Colts —With or without Jacoby Brissett, the Colts should have been able to beat the Dolphins. But they didn’t. Indianapolis suffered its second straight defeat and now is 5-4. When they beat the Texans and the Chiefs earlier this year, the Colts seemingly signaled that they belonged in the dark horse conversation. But Indianapolis suddenly is trending in the wrong direction.
Though Brissett’s return could help spark this group, the team has the slimmest margin for error. The Colts aren’t built to blow teams out. They instead do it in grind-it-out fashion, narrowly outscoring their opponents this year 194-193. That only further magnifies their problem at kicker, where Adam Vinatieri has missed six extra-point attempts and five field goals.
Bills —Once again, an anemic offense represented the Achilles’ heel for this fringe postseason team. Buffalo has now lost two of its last three outings. Although their defense held the Browns to just 19 points on Sunday, the Bills managed just 16 points in what had been a winnable game.
Buffalo’s defense is the third-stingiest in the league with 16.7 points allowed per game, but you can’t win games without scoring. Josh Allen has yet to record a 300-yard passing game and remains highly inaccurate with a 56.1% career completion rate . As long as these offensive struggles persist, the Bills risk falling out of playoff contention.
Chiefs — Patrick Mahomes returned from injury to light up the Titans’ defense for 446 passing yards and three touchdowns. But it wasn’t enough to compensate for a Kansas City defense that continues to get gashed against the run. The Titans racked up 225 rushing yards and topped the 30-point mark for only the second time this season. Sure, the Chiefs had two botched field goal attempts in that 35-32 loss, but they shouldn't have needed to rely on those tries.
Mahomes is an exceptional talent, but Kansas City’s defense isn’t constructed well enough to give him the support he needs. The Chiefs still have a strong chance to win the AFC West, but their defense might just be their undoing, as it likely would struggle mightily in a playoff matchup with New England or Baltimore
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Mike Jones on Twitter @ByMikeJones and listen to the Football Jones podcast on iTunes.
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