There are teams with reason to feel optimistic after their season openers. The Saints and Cardinals are among them — as are the Cincinnati Bengals, who outlasted the Minnesota Vikings for an overtime victory, and the Carolina Panthers, who blew out the New York Jets in Sam Darnold’s strong debut.
But there are also teams that might not be feeling so good. In sorting through Week 1, we tried to identify the teams with the most reason to worry after just one game. Here is our list of teams with cause for concern:
Chicago Bears: The Bears might have the worst offensive tackle setup we’ve seen in years. Because of salary cap problems, they didn’t re-sign right tackle Bobby Massie and released left tackle Charles Leno Jr. They planned on having second-round draft pick Teven Jenkins start on one side, but he could miss the entire season after back problems from college returned.
The Bears signed 39-year-old Jason Peters to play left tackle and were willing to go with former undrafted right tackle Elijah Wilkinson, but that didn’t work out. Peters suffered a quadriceps injury and couldn’t return in Sunday night’s loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Larry Borom, a rookie, replaced Peters before suffering a lower leg injury.
Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked three times and hit five times, and he never had time to get the ball downfield. He averaged just 5.4 yards per attempt. Naturally, most Bears fans would prefer to see rookie Justin Fields installed as the starting quarterback, but it’s fair to wonder whether he can hold up behind that offensive line.
Chicago will need to get a lot more out of its offense, seeing as how its defense gave up 34 points and 386 yards Sunday.
Baltimore Ravens: The concerns for Baltimore started in the lead-up to the season, when they lost running backs J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and Justice Hill along with cornerback Marcus Peters to season-ending injuries. The running game still appeared to be okay during Monday night’s 33-27 overtime loss at the Las Vegas Raiders, but the reliance on quarterback Lamar Jackson — who had 12 carries for 86 yards — is concerning. Can he really sustain that workload over a 17-game season?
The Ravens entered the season as maybe the fourth- or fifth-best team in the AFC, but the injuries have knocked them down a few pegs. They run the risk of starting 0-2 with a Sunday night game against the Chiefs on tap this week.
San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are a strong bounce-back candidate, and they got out to a big lead on the road Sunday in a win over the Detroit Lions. But unfortunately, injuries — which devastated them last year — have already begun to pile up.
On Sunday, they lost their best cornerback, Jason Verrett, for the season with a torn ACL. They were already without their other starting cornerback, Emmanuel Moseley, for the game because of a knee injury. The offense wasn’t spared, either: Running back Raheem Mostert injured a knee and will have season-ending surgery.
Combine the injuries with the fact that the Lions closed a 38-10 deficit to a 41-33 final score, and there’s reason for concern in San Francisco, despite the opening victory. The 49ers face the Philadelphia Eagles on the road this week.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts had a challenging offseason that included a foot injury and time on the reserve/covid-19 list for quarterback Carson Wentz. He played pretty well during Sunday’s 28-16 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, but his supporting cast was a cause for concern.
The Colts’ offensive line was destroyed by Seattle’s defense, with Wentz getting sacked three times and hit 10 times. The biggest issue is at left tackle, with Eric Fisher still recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon and Sam Tevi lost for the year with a torn ACL. Coach Frank Reich was able to manufacture a relatively effective running game with Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines (a combined 90 yards on 26 carries), but it is concerning that the duo combined for 12 catches while Wentz’s wide receivers had just 10 total.
The schedule doesn’t make things any easier. The Colts play the Rams this week before a three-game road stretch against the Titans, Dolphins and Ravens.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans entered the season with what I thought was the best chance to win the AFC South, given the offseason issues for Indianapolis and the overall struggles of the Houston Texans and Jacksonville Jaguars. But they got off to a horrible start, getting blown out by the Cardinals at home, 38-13.
The defense, which ranked fifth-worst in the NFL a season ago, looked terrible. Kyler Murray completed 21 of 32 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns, two of which went to star wideout DeAndre Hopkins. But the offense was just as concerning. Left tackle Taylor Lewan gave up five sacks to Chandler Jones. Running back Derrick Henry was held to 58 yards on 17 carries. Trade pickup Julio Jones had just three catches for 29 yards.
Coach Mike Vrabel will have his hands full in correcting things after this bad start. The AFC South remains wide open, but the Titans will have to play much better Sunday at the Seahawks to avoid an 0-2 start.