Early in the NFL season, it’s fair to expect teams to struggle offensively. After all, new players are still getting used to playbooks. Plus, chemistry between teammates gets much better as the year goes on.
However, through two weeks of the season, plenty of NFL teams need to be worried about putting enough points on the board. Some of those weren’t expected to be potent heading into the season, including the Jets, Bills, and Colts with Andrew Luck sidelined. Here’s a look at five surprising underachievers and why they should be worried going forward.
The talent on the Bengals offense simply isn’t producing at a level they’re capable of. They’ve become the first NFL team since 1939 to have zero touchdowns in their first two home games. It’s certainly tough to bounce back from being shut out with only three days rest, but there’s still no excuse for their lack of production.
There are multiple issues hindering Cincinnati. It all stems from the offensive line, which has allowed eight sacks after losing veterans Andrew Whitworth and Kevin Zeitler in free agency. The running game also hasn’t gotten going. Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard and Joe Mixon have all split carries while averaging under 3.5 yards per carry as a unit. Andy Dalton is suffering as well, but he’s certainly at fault for throwing four interceptions to the Ravens defense.
OC Ken Zampese was fired on Friday. The Bengals clearly know change was necessary in order to get better.
Arizona Cardinals (1-1)
It was easy to expect the Cardinals offense to regress after losing David Johnson for 2-3 months. Without another three-down back, they’ll have to lean on the aging Carson Palmer even more. Palmer may have been capable to do that in 2015, but he is no longer playing at the same level. He still managed to throw for 332 yards against the Colts, but completed only 53 percent of his passes with just a lone touchdown.
Arizona’s ability to improve is dependent on who emerges at running back. They brought Chris Johnson back after cutting him in the preseason to split carries with Kerwynn Williams. Yet, they would only combine for 66 yards in Week 2. They’ll have to perform much better in order for the Cardinals to improve.
Buffalo Bills (1-1)
The Bills were the second team to score only three points against the Panthers this season. That had a lot to do with shutting down LeSean McCoy but even more to do with Buffalo’s passing game. Tyrod Taylor threw for only 125 yards and didn’t complete a pass for more than 15 yards all game.
On an opportunity to win the game, Zay Jones dropped a pass on fourth down just a few yards away from the end zone. Still, the Bills had plenty of other chances to put together a good drive throughout the game. If McCoy misses time, we could see a lot more performances like this from Buffalo going forward.
Seattle Seahawks (1-1)
Seattle was lucky to escape with a 12-9 win in a divisional clash with the 49ers. Russell Wilson did not throw for more than 200 yards for the second week in a row. But he hasn’t thrown an interception either, which is a good sign for the Seahawks moving forward.
Wilson and the running game will have a hard time getting going early if their offensive line doesn’t improve. He’s been sacked six times and hasn’t gotten a decent running game to lean on. After Eddie Lacy was a healthy scratch in Week 2, rookie Chris Carson looks to be their lead back after getting 91 yards on 20 carries. They’ll need him to have a breakout similar to what Jordan Howard did with the Bears last year in order to have a balanced attack.
Carolina Panthers (2-0)
Cam Newton and company have two wins under their belt, which is good. But the offense is definitely not on the same level as it was in 2015. Newton has only thrown for two touchdowns. Moreover, he wasn’t able to get going against a lowly Buffalo secondary in Week 2. He’s been sacked seven times while only throwing for two touchdowns with a completion rate under 60 percent.
But it gets worse.
With Greg Olson now out due to a broken foot, Newton will need someone in the receiving core to step up. NFL rookie Christian McCaffrey is the team’s leading receiver with nine catches so far. If Kelvin Benjamin can step up with a bigger target share, Carolina can be just good enough to allow the defense to carry them. Meanwhile, Jonathan Stewart will have to average a lot more than 3.2 yards per carry to bring the Panthers back to the playoffs.