Giants, Jaguars, Steelers All Remain Defeated At 0-4
Four weeks into the NFL season and three teams are still looking for their first win. The New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and Pittsburgh Steelers all remained defeated on Sunday. At least Jags fans are used to it by now, it’s gotta be harder for the other two fan bases.
Of the three, the biggest surprise has to be the Giants, who have looked absolutely hapless through four games. The last time they even put up a fight was a Week 1 loss against the Cowboys—and even then, their late game surge had more to do with Dallas’ miscues than anything positive coming from the G-Men.
They barely registered against the dominant Broncos in Week 2, losing 41-23. And in the last two weeks against the Panthers and Chiefs respectively, the Giants were outscored a total of 69-7. They were shut out in Carolina and nearly shut out in Kansas City.
Considering they’ve given up 146 points in four games, it’s clear the defense isn’t entirely without fault. But to say they haven’t been helped by their offense, led by quarterback Eli Manning, would be the understatement of the year. He was productive against the Cowboys in Week 1, but his four touchdowns barely outweighed his three interceptions.
Manning’s performance has been in a free fall ever since. It’s actually difficult to pinpoint his worst performance this season, because he’s reached different lows—some of which have been career lows—in each of the last three games. Unless you count his four interceptions against the Panthers, which matched his career high.
Having seen how these Giants have performed over the last month, looking forward at their schedule, it’s not clear when and where their first win may come. Their best chance may be Week 10 against the Raiders, at which point they’d be 0-8. Yikes.
It’s got to be particularly frustrating for those within the organization, given the current state of the NFC East. All four teams have struggled early, leaving it ripe for the picking. This season the division winner could, realistically speaking, be 7-9.
If the Giants are the most surprising team to be 0-4, the Jaguars have to be the least surprising…ever. The best record they’ve had in Jacksonville since 2008 was their 8-8 season in 2010. Last year the Jags only managed two wins—this year it could very well be zero.
It really doesn’t get much worse than these Jaguars. They can’t pass. They can’t rush. They can’t protect the quarterback. They can’t defend. It’s not even worth going into third down conversions and red zone efficiency because they don’t convert and they don’t score. Ever.
This week the Jags lost to the Colts 37-3, definitely their overall poorest performance since their week one loss to the Chiefs. Jacksonville lost that one 28-2, meaning the only score of the game came courtesy of a Kansas City misstep. Indianapolis didn’t play mistake-free football by any means, but Jacksonville couldn’t capitalize on any of them.
Third year quarterback Blaine Gabbert is absolutely a bust—a straight-up disaster. He was benched after an abysmal performance in Week 1, but returned as a starter on Sunday, only because backup Chad Henne is equally dreadful.
Much like the futility of breaking down the team’s strengths and weakness, these guys are both so bad that it’s not even worth going into their stats because it just seems mean.
Running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who has wasted his entire career in Jacksonville, has been averaging 2.4 yards per carry this season and has one TD on the year. Former first round wide receiver Justin Blackmon still serving a suspension, leaving nobodies like Cecil Shorts and Ace Sanders to pick up the slack. Neither of which are qualified to do so.
And that’s all assuming Blackmon would be of any use even if he had been playing, which is a pretty big leap considering his career to date. It’s still just a bit too soon to tell for sure, but he’s another guy with ‘bust’ written all over him.
Right now the Jaguars are firing blanks on all cylinders and are going to be very difficult to beat out for the No. 1 selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. Which, they’ll no doubt, squander on someone terrible.
Of course, if anyone could possibly challenge them, it would have to be…
For the fourth straight week the Steelers made a game of it late, this time against the Minnesota Vikings at Wembley Stadium in London, and for the fourth straight week it was too little, too late. Given the rash of reports detailing unrest in Pittsburgh, it’s clear this team is having the hardest time adjusting to life on the bottom.
Last week there were reports that team veterans had banned players in their first three seasons from playing with the various toys in the locker room. Nobody on the team would comment, but reporters had spotted signs posted around the facility. That kind of baseless punitive action doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season, particularly when the problems of this Steelers team extend well beyond rookie mistakes.
More recently quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, who has never even bothered trying to hide his disdain for offensive coordinator Todd Haley, took aim at rookie running back Le’Veon Bell. Because publicly questioning your coaches and teammates is the best way to instill positive changes, right Ben?
During an interview with KDKA radio in Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger questioned whether Bell’s presence would add anything to the team, saying:
“You can’t get a read on him. One day, he’s practicing. One day, he’s not; one day, he’s going hard, the next day, he’s not. I wish I could. … If he was a guy like Heath Miller that you knew was busting his butt every day. Le’Veon is a rookie, I don’t know him quite well enough yet. But if he can come back and help us, we’ll take him.”
Singling out longtime veteran tight end Heath Miller is proof the aged Steelers vets and their war on rookies is going to be continuing behind the scenes, even if they continue trying to hide the outward animosity from the media. An ‘us against them’ mentality only works if ‘them’ aren’t sitting next to you at team meetings.
In London on Sunday, Pittsburgh was again passable in some areas of the game. Quite literally passable, if you consider Roethlisberger going 36-of-51 on pass attempts, with one TD and one INT. He was sacked five times by the Vikings, which puts his total at 15 on the season. At this rate it’s hard to imagine he’ll even be upright come december.
Despite his quarterback’s reservations, rookie Bell was the only thing even resembling a rushing attack the Steelers have seen all season. He ran for 57 yards on 16 attempts, averaged 3.6 yards per carry, and rushed for two touchdowns.
In this game is when it became abundantly clear that Haley’s offense and a wretched O-line aren’t the only problems in Pittsburgh. Vikings superstar running back Adrian Peterson rushed for 140 yards on 23 carries, averaging 6.1 yards per rush, and a TD. They rushed for seven first downs against the Steelers.
Minnesota quarterback Matt Cassel may have stolen an injured Christian Ponder’s starting position with his impressive performance. He was more than efficient going 16-of-25 for 248 total yards and two TDs. He had no turnovers, was sacked just once and averaged nearly 10-yards per pass. Cassel hadn’t looked that good since filling in for an injured Tom Brady in New England back in 2008.
And this was how the Steelers performed against a previously winless team. This is Pittsburgh’s Bye Week, which they should use to really take stock of where they’re at. If they return with the same ‘Vets. Vs.’ attitude, there’s a real chance this team could finish dead last in the NFL this season.
It might be time for coach Mike Tomlin to ban all players from locker room amenities.