The Patriots have just one quarterback on the roster, and he’s 40 years old.
Sure, he’s Tom Brady. And a backup signing has to be imminent. The Patriots won’t go into this week’s game without insurance behind Brady at the position. But can they find someone who’s as prepared as Jimmy Garoppolo?
Trade interest in Garoppolo has been high since he started in Brady’s stead while Brady served his four-game Deflategate suspension at the start of last season. But the Patriots wouldn’t budge. The assumption was that the team saw Garoppolo as the heir apparent to Brady.
But that’s not happening now. The Patriots unexpectedly shipped Garoppolo off to the 49ers in exchange for a 2018 second-round pick. And since the team also traded Jacoby Brissett to the Colts in September, there’s nobody waiting in the wings to take over for Brady.
Brady’s still one of the league’s best. He’s said he’d like to play until he’s 45 years old. Who knows, maybe his ridiculous diet and fitness regimen will keep him going strong. But the team needs a plan for life after Tom Brady, and the guy who was expected to slide into that role is in San Francisco.
Panic index: We’re talking about Bill Belichick. He has to have a plan, right? And who knows — Tom Brady may not even be mortal. His NFL career may outlive all of us.
The Texans are a Deshaun Watson injury away from being the Colts and just traded their left tackle
Deshaun Watson is the franchise quarterback the Texans have been searching for since … well, since forever. But what happens to this team if Watson goes down with an injury? Based on what we’ve seen from Tom Savage, it won’t be pretty.
Houston’s offensive line hasn’t been great this season. They’re hovering around the bottom of the league after allowing 26 sacks so far this season. That’s why it’s interesting that Houston was willing to part with its franchise left tackle, Duane Brown.
Brown held out in hopes of a new contract until last week, and he finally took the field against the Seahawks. Brown didn’t hold back his criticism of team owner Bob McNair over his controversial comments about player protests during the national anthem. Then all of a sudden Brown was traded to the Seahawks.
This team has been able to squeak into the playoffs in the past couple of seasons with a 9-7 record by virtue of the AFC South being generally terrible. But that’s not the case this year. The Jaguars defense is tough enough to carry the team in spite of a Blake Bortles-led offense. The Titans are currently on top of the division with a 4-3 record. Winning this division won’t be a cakewalk.
Houston is missing J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus, who are both on injured reserve and out for the season. Brian Cushing won’t be back until he’s done serving a 10-game suspension for a PED violation. The defense has carried this team for the past couple of years, but now the Texans need a healthy Watson to win games. And trading away their best lineman may not have been the best approach.
Panic index: Watson played without Brown for the first six games of the season and did juuuuuust fine. There’s no use worrying about hypothetical injuries — worry about whether Bill O’Brien will finally trust Watson with the game on the line.
This Jaguars defense just got scarier with Marcell Dareus
The Jaguars are actually good. Well, the defense is, anyway. It’s relentless and got even more reinforcements when the Bills shipped off defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville late last week.
The Jags are the only team in NFL history to post two games with double-digit sacks over the first seven weeks of any season. They have forced 19 turnovers on the season so far.
The addition of Calais Campbell and A.J. Bouye this offseason has taken that defense to the next level. Campbell already has 10 sacks this season, and he’s added two forced fumbles. Bouye has teamed up with Jalen Ramsey to give the Jaguars arguably the best lockdown corner combo in the league. Neither has allowed a touchdown yet this season.
The Jaguars still have games left against the Colts and Texans, which are the teams they posted 10 sacks against this year. They’re on pace for an NFL-record 75 sacks.
Now they have Dareus, who didn’t make much of an impression in Sean McDermott’s first year as the coach in Buffalo. Dareus’ production has fallen off the last couple of seasons, but he has the talent to disrupt opposing offenses. In his seven-year career, he’s racked up 35 sacks, including a career-high 10 in 2014 … when now-Jaguars coach Doug Marrone was the man in charge.
Panic index: If your team still has the Jaguars on the schedule, you should be worried about your quarterback’s health and well being.
Martavis Bryant drama isn’t over for the Steelers
Martavis Bryant has been more trouble than he’s worth for the Steelers. Since 2016, he’s been the cause of one year-long drug related NFL suspension, repeatedly made his displeasure with his role on the team clear, feuded with his teammates on social media, and found his way from the starting lineup to the scout team.
And despite all that, he remains on Pittsburgh’s roster.
Bryant had reportedly requested a trade from the only franchise he’s known, but the Steelers failed to move him before the 2017 trade deadline. As a result, head coach Mike Tomlin now has to figure out what to do with the once-promising wideout whose off-field concerns outweigh his on-field potential.
Bryant had been useful in his return to the field, hauling in 18 catches for 234 yards. However, that’s a far cry from his pre-suspension 2015 figures that suggested he could be a No. 1 wideout in an offense where he’s not stuck behind All-Pro Antonio Brown. The biggest question about Bryant he whether he could turn his talent into a consistent starring role — and do so in an offense where opposing defenses aren’t distracted by the other-worldly talent on the other side of the lineup. He won’t get the chance to prove anything in 2017 — other than the fact he’s a headache for his coaching staff.
Panic index: JuJu Smith-Schuster has proven capable of filling Bryant’s role. As long as he’s healthy, Bryant’s petulance isn’t a problem — at least on Sundays.
The Eagles just got another weapon on an already stacked offense
The Eagles surprised us all by trading for now-former Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi. The Eagles sent a fourth-round pick for Ajayi, who should fit in flawlessly with LeGarrette Blount in the Eagles’ backfield.
Blount has already been having a good season for the Eagles. On 100 rushes, he’s got 467 yards and two touchdowns. Blount is a very powerful back who will still be the starter per Howie Roseman. But Ajayi adds relief.
In 2016, Ajayi had three games in which he rushed for at least 200 yards. He finished fourth in the NFL with 1,272 yards. Although his numbers were down this year in a lifeless Dolphins offense, Ajayi still ha promise — and he’s just 24 years old.
Now, the Eagles’ offense features the two backs and one of the best pairs of WR1 and WR2s in the league. Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor have combined for over 800 yards and eight touchdowns this season. Let’s also not forget about Zach Ertz, who leads the team in receiving yards (528) and touchdowns (6).
Oh, and Carson Wentz has been pretty good too. He’s thrown for over 2,000 yards to go with his 19 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He’s looking like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL right now and a real MVP candidate.
Panic index: The Eagles are 7-1 and well on their way to a playoff appearance and maybe even a first-round bye. The Cowboys look like their biggest competitors in the NFC East, but if Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension holds up, that’s a closed race.
As for the rest of the teams in the NFL, this is an offense you want no parts of it. Come playoff time, hope that another team knocks them out before your team has to deal with them.
Kirk Cousins may never get out of Washington
It seemed like the perfect scenario: Kirk Cousins reuniting with Kyle Shanahan next season in San Francisco. The 49ers needed a quarterback, and Washington doesn’t seem terribly committed to Cousins. The team has kept him around the past two seasons on the franchise tag, making him prove again and again that he’s worth a long-term deal.
But on Monday, the 49ers arranged a trade with the Patriots to bring in Jimmy Garoppolo as San Francisco’s new starting quarterback. So where does that leave Cousins next year? Maybe in Washington.
There will be other teams who need a quarterback courting Cousins, but Cousins’ familiarity with Shanahan and the 49ers’ amount of cap space made them the best option. Removing San Francisco from the equation impacts Cousins’ position in negotiations with Washington and other suitors.
Cousins threw for 4,917 yards and 25 touchdowns last season, and the team wasn’t willing to lock him up for the future. He’s on pace to have a similar season in 2017. Maybe Washington will finally buckle down and give Cousins a long-term deal.
Panic index: At least Cousins has made nearly $44 million over the past two seasons under the franchise tag for his trouble. And hey, if Washington wants to try franchise-tagging him again, this time Cousins will earn about $35 million.
NFL Panic Index 2017, Week 9: Winners and losers from the trade deadline – SB Nation