There are slumps in the NFL, and there are SLUMPS.
Sure, the Jaguars, Titans, Browns, Bears and Redskins have poor records so far. That was pretty much expected.
What is going on in Seattle, Baltimore, Kansas City and Detroit, those are major flops so far.
And no, we’re not writing off the Seahawks as an NFC contender; conference teams have learned the past two years how unwise it is to underestimate what Seattle is capable of.
Still, the struggles those supposed Super Bowl candidates are experiencing are mind-boggling.
Pete Carroll recognized that after the Seahawks’ latest debacle, yet another blown lead in the fourth quarter in a 27-23 loss to Carolina. At home, no less.
Carroll immediately addressed Seattle’s standing at the bottom of the NFC West.
“We’re a team that has tremendous expectations,” he said. “To be where we are right now it puts us in a position of tremendous adversity for a team. It calls on you a lot of stuff, but it calls on us to believe in the guys in the locker room and believe in what we’re doing and hang together until we get things right.”
Most NFL observers believe the Seahawks will get things right, at least to the point they won’t be languishing with the dregs of the league for long. They get their first chance to make amends Thursday night at bitter rival San Francisco.
Here’s a look at what has ailed the most disappointing teams of 2015, and what might be ahead.
Surprisingly, the play of the defense has been most distressing. The Legion of Boom doesn’t have as much bite — All-Pros Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were left to stare at each other in disbelief after a wide-open Greg Olsen caught the winning TD pass Sunday. The pass rush is so-so, and when middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, another All-Pro, is hobbled or out of the lineup, the D struggles.
Only recently has TE Jimmy Graham begun to fit in the offense, whose line has been a huge problem; does Seattle miss center Max Unger, dealt for Graham, more than it is helped by the tight end’s presence?
Seattle also appears to be playing with too much confidence; yes, that can happen. Players believe their talent naturally will win out rather than working to make sure it does.
“We’ve been through too much together,” Carroll said. “We’ve got tremendous leadership, guys that really care. Not just about the game of football, but about one another. With all of the history that we’ve had, there isn’t anything over.”
There’s enough talent, know how, coaching acumen and pride for the Seahawks to right the ship. But it must be soon.
This is more of a mess than Seattle.
The Ravens desperately miss their prime playmaker on defense, Terrell Suggs (torn Achilles tendon). When there’s no pass rush, their secondary gets carved up, surrendering huge gains.
Like Seattle, they can’t close out games. The passing attack is patchwork, especially when Steve Smith is out or playing hurt. QB Joe Flacco looks as if he is forcing things.
“Execution in the clutch moments and giving up big plays when we can’t afford to,” cornerback Jimmy Smith said. “There’s no excuse. I’m not going to say it’s because we’ve been playing from behind. We’re in every single game, so that means we have the opportunity to win. It’s more magnified when we’re losing games.”
Turning this around will be extra tough: The AFC North is strong and the Ravens already are five games behind Cincinnati.
KANSAS CITY (1-5)
The Chiefs’ demise is particularly depressing because their best offensive player, Jamaal Charles, is done for the season, and the rest of their weapons pale in comparison. They’ve become undisciplined, too, and such standouts on defense as All-Pro linebacker Justin Houston and safety Eric Berry aren’t having much impact.
After basically handing away their only two home games, to Denver and Chicago, there’s not much comfort in Arrowhead, usually one of the most unnerving stadiums for opponents.
Coach Andy Reid and his staff need to re-evaluate while this season likely continues to spiral.
Had the Lions not responded Sunday when Chicago nearly put them away, who knows if coach Jim Caldwell would have lasted? Motor City is particularly sensitive about 0-fers (remember 2008’s 0-16).
One obvious issue here is the regression of QB Matthew Stafford. But when opponents know a team can’t run the ball — and Detroit can’t — it makes covering the likes of Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate more manageable.
Offseason decisions to let Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley walk as free agents haven’t helped, either.
At least the Lions won’t be going winless.