The ‘keep your composure!’ 0-2 NFL team rankings

The ‘keep your composure!’ 0-2 NFL team rankings

Bengals, Falcons, Panthers, Raiders, and Titans already testing their resolve a couple of weeks into the season

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The Dallas Cowboys sacked Cincinnati Bengals' QB Joe Burrow six times
Bengals QB Joe Burrow was sacked six times by the Cowboys
Image: Getty Images

The panic button is my favorite concept in NFL media. Is it red? Where is it? Is it behind glass? Who gets to push it? Why are we pushing it? What happens when it’s pushed?

There are five 0-2 teams — Bengals, Falcons, Panthers, Raiders, and Titans — and all of them are jamming the panic button like a child calling the elevator. (There’s a teenage-porn joke somewhere in this intro, but Mark Sanchez cornered that market.) For the franchises that haven’t gotten out of the gate yet, they’ll have to coach harder, play harder, and do everything harder because the percentage of 0-2 teams that make the playoffs is similar to the success rate of kids who do PCP before age 12. We all know the cutoff to angel dust introduction is 13. It stunts the growth, like coffee or Juul pens.

So in order for the NFL’s winless to avoid juvenile detention centers and short man’s syndrome, they’ll need to stop smoking that stuff and get in the victory circle with the rest of the D.A.R.E. kids. (Is that still a thing? Euphoria makes me think that’s not a thing anymore.)

Alright, from “we were supposed to suck” apathy to “I bought a brand new jersey for this shit?!” anxiety, let’s take a look at who’s wearing out the “panic” on their large red button.

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2 / 7

5. Atlanta Falcons

5. Atlanta Falcons

The Atlanta Falcons struggled against the Los Angeles Rams
Image: Getty Images

The Dirty Birds weren’t expected to be good, and that was more or less the plan before the season. They finally moved on from Matt Ryan, even though quarterbacking left Ryan years ago, and if Marcus Mariota wasn’t a path to tanking, the Falcons can always fall back on being the Falcons.

Atlanta gagged up a lead to the Saints in Week 1, and fell behind 28-3 to Los Angeles on Sunday. They made a valiant comeback, but turned into the Falcons when it mattered. Their fans are conditioned to expect collapses and false hope, but, unlike when Ryan was at his peak, there are no illusions of where this season is headed. The only question is how good will Stetson Bennett has to be for the franchise to justify taking him No. 1 overall (if they lose enough games to get there).

I like the energy, Bulldogs fans, and I would love it even more if you threw some support behind his pro prospects.

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3 / 7

4. Carolina Panthers

4. Carolina Panthers

Daniel Bellinger scores a touchdown for the New York Giants in a 19-16 win over the Carolina Panthers
Image: Getty Images

My guess is the Panthers’ locker room has the morale of an office that knows it’s about to get downsized. Matt Rhule’s job was in jeopardy before the year, and he just went into New York and got out-coached by Brian Daboll. Holding Daniel Jones to 176 yards passing would be encouraging if Baker Mayfield didn’t play worse than him (14 for 29 for 145 yards). The QBs took turns missing open receivers for touchdowns, and we’ll see how long Mayfield’s charisma keeps the starting job. (He’s thrown for 380 yards through two games, one spot behind Ryan Tannehill and one spot ahead of Jacoby Brissett.)

Whoever decided to mimic what Indianapolis did at quarterback, only with less-proven commodities, is the person who should really be let go. Since Cam Newton’s career went the way of his passes — in the fucking dirt — Carolina has started Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, Cam Newton for a second time, and Mayfield under center. If anything, this is a welcome beginning to the season. The fence-straddling can finally be eschewed, and people can stop saying, “You know who I kind of like? The Panthers.”

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4 / 7

3. Las Vegas Raiders

3. Las Vegas Raiders

The Arizona Cardinals rallied to beat the Las Vegas Raiders
Image: Getty Images

The Raiders are too fucking stupid to know what’s going on. They’re in a division with three teams eyeing the Lombardi Trophy, and think by proximity they’re contenders, too. Hiring Josh McDaniels like he was the reason Tom Brady was so great in New England was akin to Denver bringing in Nathaniel Hackett because he watched Matt LeFleur call plays for Aaron Rodgers the past couple of seasons.

You know how people always want to label QBs as system quarterbacks? There should be a distinction for offensive coordinators who coach all-time great QBs.

Just once in an interview, I’d like a GM to say, “I see here you have ‘Ran a top 10 NFL offense for a decade’ on your resume. Do you think it’s fair to take credit for that considering you had (insert HOF QB here)?” Sean McVay going to a Super Bowl with Jared Goff and winning one with Matt Stafford warrants an “Offensive genius” title. McDaniels is more of an offensive consultant. And the Raiders are more of an 8-9 team— maybe worse — than a contender.

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5 / 7

2. Cincinnati Bengals

2. Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati Bengals QB Joe Burrow was sacked six times by the Dallas Cowboys
Image: Getty Images

The thing about the Bengals is we’ve seen them be a dumpster fire more often than a well-run organization, so saying they’re panicking after a slow start is weird. This is the Bengals in their natural habitat; they should be at home at 0-2.

For as unflappable as Joe Burrow is, his feet have been pretty happy this year. The offseason was filled with talk of the Bengals fixing the offensive line, yet with 13 sacks and Burrow constantly scrambling, the outcome hasn’t reflected the narrative. We’ll find out very soon if the pressures were a product of T.J. Watt and Micah Parsons being unblockable, or if the line simply can’t block as they visit the Jets in Week 3. New York doesn’t have an all-world edge rusher (three sacks in two games) even if it’s been improved defensively this year.

Cincinnati desperately needs to find its offense. Joe Mixon has 139 yards on the ground in two games with a three-yards-per-carry average, down a full yard from a year ago. Tee Higgins caught a concussion in the opener and played OK in the follow-up against Dallas. Ja’Marr Chase looks like he could be himself with more usage. They’ve scored three touchdowns in two games, can’t block, can’t run the ball, and Eli Apple is still out there getting picked on mercilessly.

Other than that, everything is fine.

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6 / 7

1. Tennessee Titans

1. Tennessee Titans

The Buffalo Bills gashed the Tennessee Titans on the ground
Image: Getty Images

The most concerning thing about the Titans’ blowout loss to the Bills on Monday was the defense’s continued inability to stop the run. Tennessee has allowed the second most yards (339) in the league, ceding six yards per carry, also the second-worst mark in the NFL. I understand that the Bills are very good, and the Giants are 2-0. That said, the G-Men go as Saquon Barkley goes, and either Mike Vrabel didn’t sell out to stop him, or was worried about getting beat deep by Jones’ plethora of practice squad receivers.

Throw in a substandard Ryan Tannehill and an underperforming Derrick Henry, and the only music playing on Broadway Street is shitty, twangy, sad country songs. (Well, that, and the omnipresent “Take Me Home, Country Roads.”)

The departure of A.J. Brown left a hole that rookie receiver Treylon Burks is trying to fill. He leads the team in receiving yards (102), which is good for 48th among all pass catchers. The running game is supposed to open up the offense though, and Henry needs to get going for that to happen. Tannehill seems like he still hasn’t moved past last year’s one-and-done playoff appearance as a No. 1 seed, and, frankly, neither do the rest of the Titans. With four of the next five contests against the Commanders, Colts, and Texans, they could surely snap out of the malaise. Urgency is a must because the second half of the schedule is not as forgiving.

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7 / 7