Last season, wide receiver Robert Woods and the Los Angeles Rams played in the Super Bowl. This fall the Rams have lost three straight and are in third place in the NFC West. AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

In the NFL, playoff teams turn over every season. In fact, since the league went to a 12-team postseason format in 1990, at least four teams have replaced playoff teams from the previous season every year, and over the past decade the average has been five.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that some of last season’s playoff squads are struggling in the early part of the 2019 season, but the ways in which some of them lost Sunday were cause for alarm.

Seven of last year’s postseason teams appear to be solidly in playoff contention, if not bona fide Super Bowl contenders: the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans and even the Andrew Luck-less Indianapolis Colts.

(We’re giving the Chiefs a pass, for now, despite back-to-back home losses to the Colts and Texans, who found a way to slow Patrick Mahomes. Still, the Chiefs are clearly the most talented AFC West team and will win the division. Coach Andy Reid will find a way to run the ball better and make life easier for Mahomes.)

But what about the remaining five? We ranked them from most cause for concern, to least.


They dropped to 2-4 after a Sunday night loss to a Pittsburgh Steelers team starting its rookie third-string quarterback – a stunning fall for a team that was 12-4 a season ago, averaging 27 points per game and allowing just 20.

But the past two weeks have exposed so many problems. First, you start with the injuries. You can’t expect to lose left tackle Russell Okung, center Mike Pouncey and safety Derwin James to injuries, miss halfback Melvin Gordon for four games with a holdout and wait for five weeks to get back tight end Hunter Henry from a knee injury, and expect a repeat of a 12-win season.

The Trent Scott-Sam Tevi tandem at offensive tackle isn’t working out. The receiving corps has been banged up. Philip Rivers is struggling in the red zone and the offense is averaging 20 points a game, and has been shut out in the first half of the past two games.

To make matters worse, the Chargers are 1-3 at home with a three-game losing streak and have had more opposing fans at their games than Charger fans. The AFC provides more opportunity to catch up in the playoff race than the NFC, but the Chargers have reason to worry.


After a 3-0 start, the Rams have fallen to third place in the NFC West and are on a three-game losing streak. More concerning is how the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers have caught up to them after they had such a position of dominance in the division.

The 49ers totally neutralized Coach Sean McVay’s offense in Sunday’s 20-7 victory. McVay still hasn’t found answers to the problems defenses have caused for them since the Detroit Lions put up a six-man defensive front against them last year in early December – a model the Patriots replicated in their Super Bowl victory. Take away the running game and you take away the key to an offense that can score more than 30 points a game.

On Sunday, the 49ers primarily used a four-man rush to limit the Rams to 109 meaningless yards rushing and held Jared Goff to 13-of-24 passing for 78 yards. Todd Gurley was out with a groin injury, but when healthy he’s been bad in pass-blocking and hasn’t had more than 16 carries in any game this year.

The Rams clearly look like the third-best team in their division – something no one would have expected even three weeks ago.


At 3-2 the Bears are still in a strong position to make the playoffs, but they have to worry about how competitive the NFC North is this year, with all four teams having winning records. The Green Bay Packers really improved their pass rush with the additions of Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith, and of course they have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.

Chicago feasted on the league’s easiest schedule during last year’s 12-4 campaign, but this year it has one of the four toughest schedules in the league. The offensive line has struggled and quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was up and down before suffering a clavicle injury. The Bears could have a tough time earning a wild-card spot if the Packers run away with the division title.


I put these two teams together because they are both 3-3 and face each other Sunday night. The loser will drop to 3-4. That’s a problem because the combined records of their next six opponents are 22-8 – meaning the team that doesn’t win the NFC East could have a hard time earning a wild-card bid.

For the Eagles, the biggest problem is injuries, particularly on defense. Starting cornerbacks Ronald Darby and Avonte Maddox are hurt, and cornerbacks Rasul Douglas and Sidney Jones have been inconsistent in coverage. They are thin at linebacker and banged up along the offensive line.

For the Cowboys, the answer appears simple: We’ve overhyped them. They started the season 3-0 against teams with combined records of 3-14. Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore was able to get away with more creative plays than this offense has seen in years because the defenses they faced weren’t any good. Over the three-game losing streak, the Cowboys are averaging 19 points a game after averaging 32 the first three games. Injuries at offensive tackle haven’t helped, and the defense, which is very talented, is simply giving up too many yards and points.

This is the third straight year the Cowboys are 3-3 after six weeks under Coach Jason Garrett, who is in the final year of his contract.

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