NFL Handicapping: Teams That Went Winless in Preseason
by Trevor Whenham - 9/2/2011
There are, as I write this, three teams that have not won a game in the NFL Preseason. The Falcons and the Chiefs have wrapped up an imperfect 0-4 mark, and Oakland has one more shot on Friday night against Seattle to notch a win and become one of eight teams finishing up at 1-3. Right now the two 0-4 teams perfectly match the number of 4-0 teams (Detroit and St. Louis didn’t lose, though the Lions should be concerned because they also swept the preseason the year they went 0-16 in the regular season).
Going winless in the preseason is far from a death sentence. The two teams that did it last year — the Bears and the Colts — went on to win their division. Still, neither the Falcons nor the Chiefs — two teams with definite playoff aspirations — would have chosen to be quite so underwhelming this August. Let’s take a look at what went wrong with the two teams and whether there is cause for concern:
Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs started the preseason with an ugly 25-0 home loss to Tampa Bay. Next up they were blown away, 31-13, in Baltimore. The last two games were much more interesting. They lost 14-10 at home to the Rams then 20-19 in Green Bay last night to close things out.
The headline for much of the preseason was the play of Matt Cassel. It wasn’t pretty. He didn’t play in the opener, and then struggled badly in his next two games. He was much better in the final game — 15-of-17, though much of that came against the second string of the Packers because the champs had nothing to prove and little interest in the game.
Though Cassel looked better, there is still one glaring concern that came out of the game — they turned the ball over five times.
The Chiefs averaged only 10.5 points per game in the preseason, so it’s not hard to figure out that the offense is a bit of a concern — especially considering the tremendous amount of talent they have on that side of the ball.
There is an obvious excuse, though. Charlie Weis bolted for Florida, so Bill Muir had to step up from offensive line coach to offensive coordinator. He is an experienced coordinator under Jon Gruden,, but he has a different philosophy than Weis.
Without the offseason to make the changes he wanted to make he’s behind where he would like to be, and it seems to be showing with the lack of comfort of the offense.
They showed signs of improvement in their last game and they have four reasonably winnable games in their first six, so they have plenty of time to find their groove. The defense has looked acceptable, so there probably isn’t a lot of reason to panic. If they get beaten up by Buffalo in the opener, though, then there is a good reason to be concerned.
This one is much more surprising in my eyes. The Falcons were very good last year, they had a solid offseason, and they returned their core and their coaching staff so it seemed unlikely that they would struggle like they did.
They opened with a 28-23 loss to Miami, lost 15-13 in Jacksonville and 34-16 in Pittsburgh, and then finished with a 21-7 loss at home to the Ravens.
The preseason exposed some issues on both sides of the ball. Defensively the secondary has been a real issue. Dunta Robinson is dealing with injuries and they haven’t had a nickel emerge, so they have had to sign two castoffs of other teams this past week to try to plug the leaks. One, former Colt Kelvin Hayden, is likely to start despite not being prepared.
As concerning as that is, it looks solid compared to the offensive line. The Ravens were playing without most of their star players, but the defense still treated the offensive line like it was made of turnstiles. Center Joe Hawley has to start because veteran Todd McClure has had knee surgery, and he’ll be one of two guys on the line who will be starting their first NFL game in the season opener.
All in all what we have seen from Atlanta probably isn’t a major cause for concern, but it has certainly exposed some vulnerabilities. That’s good news for the rest of the teams in the division.
Ultimately, though, I thought that both of these teams were playoff teams before the preseason started, and that hasn’t changed despite the lousy way they ended the summer.
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