It’s been an interesting 2018 NFL season. Remember when Carolina looked like a sure playoff team? And the Bengals… they were finally going to win the AFC North. A series of injuries removed the Washington Redskins from NFC East lead and might lead them to the bottom of the division. Each of these teams has suffered pretty noteworthy collapses this season.
CAROLINA In Week 9, the Panthers were 6-2 and had nearly an 80 percent chance to make the postseason. Sure, they are in the NFC South and New Orleans is clearly in control of the division, but Carolina looked like a sure bet for a wild card. Then, the wheels fell off the bus.
The Panthers have now lost five straight in Weeks 10 through 14. It started with a 31-point blowout loss at Pittsburgh then continued at Detroit (4-8) a week later. A three-point loss to Seattle was not a surprise, but a 24-17 loss to Tampa Bay (5-7) was. Cam Newton and company capped it all off with a somewhat embarrassing loss to Cleveland on Sunday.
What’s wrong? Well, a lot of things. One is the pass defense. Through the first nine weeks of the season, Carolina didn’t pressure the quarterback all that much and the secondary was able to hold its own. Since then, the Panthers have allowed opposing quarterbacks a 135.5 passer rating. Not good.
The Panthers were a top 10 offense in the first nine weeks. Since they are middle of the pack at 15th. Kicker Graham Gano was 11-of-11 on field goals in the first nine games, including a 63-yarder that beat the New York Giants. In the Panthers four games prior to the loss to Cleveland, Gano connected on just 2-of-5 field goals. He missed an extra point against Detroit and then hit the upright on a field goal attempt that would have tied the game late in the third quarter.
To sum it up, what’s wrong in Carolina is simply everything. The Panthers now have a less than 15 percent chance to make the postseason.
WASHINGTON The Redskins were 6-3 in Week 10 and led the NFC East. They had a better than 53 percent chance of making the playoffs. Fast forward and Washington has lost four straight to drop to 6-7. In a three-game stretch, head coach Jay Gruden watched helplessly as he lost three games and two quarterbacks. The leg injury to Alex Smith started the downfall. Just two weeks later, backup Colt McCoy suffered a similar injury – though not as bad – leaving Gruden with Mark Sanchez at quarterback.
Washington was by no means tearing it up on offense with Smith or McCoy, but the defense was keeping the Redskins alive with 21 takeaways in their first 10 games. Over the past few weeks, they have generated enough to count on just one hand. With Sanchez struggling, the Redskins will move on to Josh Johnson who was recently signed to the team. Washington ends the season with Jacksonville, Tennessee, and Philadelphia.
CINCINNATI When Cincinnati started the season 4-1, it looked like head coach Marvin Lewis would finally win the AFC North and have an excellent chance of winning a playoff game. The Bengals have won just once since and have dropped four straight most recently. At 5-7 now, Cincinnati has a 0.2 percent chance – yes, 0.2 – of going to the postseason. That means an entire league full of Christmas miracles have to happen before the Bengals make the playoffs.
What happened? Well, simply put it was the defense that collapsed. Since Week 10, Cincinnati has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 71 percent of their passes and post a passer rating of 122.3. Since Week 10, the Bengals have also allowed opponents to score nearly 28 points per game. You don’t win many games when you allow that many points. The result, of course, is one of this season’s epic collapses in the NFL.