NFL News & Analysis

The Panic Meter: Assessing the nine 0-2 teams and their panic levels

2RTDEDY Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) leads a huddle during an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

• It's time to panic in Chicago: While D.J. Moore has been solid (129 receiving yards), Justin Fields hasn’t been sharp. His 56.3 overall grade ranks 28th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks.

• The Bengals sit at 0-2 despite their talented roster: Joe Burrow's injured calf could keep him out in Week 3, and that might be cause for significant panic.

• The Texans and Cardinals are in rebuild mode: There should be no panic in Houston or Arizona, as both teams are in the midst of building their rosters back up.

Estimated Reading Time: 8 minutes

We are just two weeks into the 2023 NFL season, and there is a lot to dissect around the league. The Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers are 2-0. The NFC East and NFC South have three teams in their respective divisions who remain unbeaten heading into Week 3.

On the flip side, nine winless teams have already dug themselves into a hole. According to CBS Sports' Jeff Kerr, only 30 (or 11%) of the 265 teams that started 0-2 from 1990-2022 ultimately made the playoffs.

With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the 0-2 teams and address whether their panic level should be low, medium or high moving forward.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals entered the season with an over/under win total of just 4.5, the lowest of any team. Quarterback Kyler Murray stayed on the physically unable to perform list to begin the year, meaning he will miss at least two more games.

The team lost leaders on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins was released prior to training camp and J.J. Watt retired at the end of last season.

When considering this, and the fact that a new general manager and head coach were brought in this season, it’s clear that the Cardinals are in a full rebuild this year. Despite this, they have actually played better than expected through two weeks, as they led in the fourth quarter in both of their games.

Panic Meter: Low

Carolina Panthers

Expectations are tough to keep in check when a team trades up to the No. 1 overall pick to select their quarterback of the future. Bryce Young has gotten off to a rough start in the NFL, as his 40.8 overall grade ranks last among the 33 qualifying quarterbacks through two weeks.

In Young’s defense, Carolina's offensive line is already dealing with significant losses up front, which is tough for any quarterback to overcome. The team revamped their offense at the skill positions through free agency (Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark Jr., Hayden Hurst and Miles Sanders) and the draft (Jonathan Mingo), but it’s fair to question if any of those players will provide consistency.

The growing pains for Young and the Panthers were inevitable in a season not where many expected them to compete for a playoff berth. However, there are factors that could potentially hinder Young's development as the season progresses.

Panic Meter: Medium

Chicago Bears

Justin Fields was one of the top quarterbacks in the league in the second half of last season. While he displayed freakish athletic ability with his legs on a weekly basis, it was evident he still needed to develop as a passer to jump into the upper echelon of quarterback ranks.

The team traded for D.J. Moore this offseason in the hopes that he could bring a sorely needed element to the offense. While Moore has been solid (129 receiving yards), Fields hasn’t been sharp, as he’s thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and his 56.3 overall grade ranks 28th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks.

The Bears spent a lot of money in free agency but find themselves 0-2, and it doesn’t get any easier in Week 3 with a trip to Kansas City next up.

Panic Meter: High

Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals are the most surprising of the nine teams on this list. Not only were they favorites in the AFC North, but Cincinnati was also seen as a Super Bowl contender, just as they have been the past few years.

There are legitimate concerns about the health of quarterback Joe Burrow, who suffered a calf injury in training camp and is looking like he never fully recovered. Burrow’s 57.2 overall grade ranks 27th out of 33 qualifying quarterbacks to begin the year. With that said, nobody on the Bengals’ offense has an overall grade higher than 68.1, so it’s a unit that is struggling across the board.

Given the talent on the roster and the Bengals' few years of sustained success, it’s fair to assume that the team will get on track sooner rather than later. However, if Burrow is going to sit out Week 3 (or longer) — something that head coach Zac Taylor hinted at — it’s certainly going to be tough to overcome in a stacked AFC this year.

Panic Meter: Medium — becomes “high” if Burrow sits out Week 3

Denver Broncos

With head coach Sean Payton leading the way, the Broncos were a trendy playoff pick in 2023. The team is 0-2 but could easily be 2-0, as they had second-half leads in both games. To make matters worse, both of their losses came at home and they’ll be on the road in three of their next four games.

Russell Wilson has been solid but not spectacular, grading out at 65.2 overall — 22nd among 33 qualifying quarterbacks. The team was hit hard by injuries in training camp, most notably at wide receiver. The Broncos' defense ranks 27th in overall grade through the first two weeks, so they will also need to step it up if the team has any chance of competing for the playoffs this season.

Denver will be big underdogs in Week 3 as they travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins. Starting the year 0-3 and making the playoffs in the ultra-competitive AFC this season seems unlikely, so the pressure is on the Broncos.

Panic Meter: High

Houston Texans

Much like the Carolina Panthers, the Texans invested an early pick to draft their quarterback of the future in C.J. Stroud. Stroud’s stats look good to the naked eye (626 yards, no interceptions) but he has been fortunate with three turnover-worthy throws in the first two weeks that didn't result in giveaways.

Wide receiver Nico Collins has been a bright spot, as his 89.0 overall grade ranks fourth among 113 qualifying receivers. On defense, Steven Nelson’s 84.2 overall grade ranks third among 98 qualifying cornerbacks. 2023 third overall pick Will Anderson Jr. (72.1 overall) is off to a strong start to his career, leading the team with seven pressures through two games.

Much like the Cardinals, the Texans are clearly in rebuild mode. Their 0-2 start isn’t particularly alarming moving forward.

Panic Meter: Low

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers could easily be 2-0, as they lost their two games by a combined five points. For years now, they have been loaded with talent but can never quite get over the hump, consistently losing games in heartbreaking fashion.

On offense, the Chargers have six starters who rank among the top 15 players at their position — Justin Herbert, Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, Rashawn Slater, Corey Linsley and Gerald Everett. Slater, who has developed into one of the best tackles in football, has allowed just one pressure across 86 pass-blocking snaps.

The Chargers travel to take on the next team on this list — the Minnesota Vikings — in a Week 3 contest that holds a lot of importance for two teams with playoff aspirations.

Panic Meter: High

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had an incredible 11-0 record in one-possession games last season (an NFL record). That is naturally unsustainable, as this year’s version of the Vikings has come to learn, losing their first two games by one score.

No team is airing it out more than Minnesota in the post-Dalvin Cook era, as they’ve called a pass on 79.5% of their plays. It doesn’t seem like the worst strategy in the world when you have All-Pro wide receiver Justin Jefferson (89.5 overall grade), but the team could benefit from a more balanced run game, particularly in short-yardage situations.

The Chargers-Vikings Week 3 matchup has game-of-the-week potential despite both teams being 0-2.

Panic Meter: High

New England Patriots

The Patriots fell short against the Philadelphia Eagles and Miami Dolphins — arguably two of the top five teams in football right now — to begin the 2023 season. New England had an opportunity to tie or take the lead late in the fourth quarter in each of those games but ultimately fell short.

The defense ranks 14th in overall grade (73.2) despite facing two of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. Rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez has been the standout player on the unit, ranking fourth among 98 qualifying cornerbacks with an 82.6 overall grade.

The offense hasn’t been quite as good, ranking 23rd in the league (64.1). Mac Jones has been solid (73.6 overall), but injuries along the offensive line and a lack of dynamic pass-catchers have made it difficult for the offense to consistently score points.

A Bill Belichick-led football team is always going to be well coached and has the potential to win, no matter the opponent. But it's fair to question if they have enough high-end talent to compete for a playoff berth this season.

Panic Meter: Medium


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