NFL Nation: state of despair

State of despair: Chargers

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
1:17
PM ET
A quick look at a team that has not met expectations and is struggling:

What’s gone wrong: Everything imaginable. The 2010 San Diego Chargers are one of the most perplexing teams in recent NFL history. The Chargers lead the NFL in overall offense and defense, yet they are 2-5. Future coaches at every level should show their teams film of the first seven games of the Chargers’ season. They are poster boys for how miscues can spoil a season. Despite their dominant statistical play, the Chargers have killed themselves with a never-ending string of special teams mistakes, turnovers and penalties.

How to fix them: This is simple: If the Chargers stop making dumb mistakes, they will start winning games. This team could have won every game it has played. It just has to play better on special teams and stop turning over the ball. That’s it. But since we’re nearly halfway through the season, it is unclear if the Chargers can actually stop making these mistakes.

Panic meter: High. The Chargers have bounced back from slow starts each of the past three seasons under coach Norv Turner to win the AFC West. But it’s getting late and the Chargers’ floundering ways continue.

Coach on hot seat? The Chargers’ brass is behind Turner, who signed a three-year contract earlier this year. I think he’s safe.

State of despair: Broncos

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
12:07
PM ET
A quick look at a team that has not met expectations and is struggling:

What’s gone wrong: The Denver Broncos’ biggest problem heading into Week 7 was their inability to finish games. Save for a beat down in Baltimore, the other three losses in the first six weeks of the season were all competitive games in which Denver could have easily won. The Broncos outplayed the Jets in Week 6 and at 2-4 looked like a team that would always be in games. Now? Who knows? In the biggest stinker of the NFL season to date, Denver was decimated in a 59-14 home loss to the 2-4 Oakland Raiders who were using their backup quarterback. The Broncos are now 2-5 and are floundering. How can this team overcome that defeat and become a factor this season?

How to fix them: It’s probably a good thing Denver has to travel to London to play San Francisco on Sunday. It gives the Broncos a chance to regroup and become united to try to get over the embarrassment of the defeat to Oakland. Also, the Broncos are getting healthier on defense which should help. This team has been ravaged by injuries since the start of training camp. It needs a dose of good health to help it turnaround its season. A key on offense is the health of second-year running back Knowshon Moreno. He has had two long bouts with hamstring injuries since the start of August. The result has been the worst run game in the NFL to go with one of the best passing offenses in the league. If Moreno can give Denver’s offense balance, it could help it win some games.

Panic meter: High. Anytime a team loses by 45 points at home to a team that lost to a winless team the week before (as Oakland did against San Francisco) you have to worry.

Coach on hot seat? The Broncos’ brass likes Josh McDaniels, but he is not a popular figure in the city this week. If he loses a few more of these type of games this season, he could be out in Denver after two seasons.

State of despair: 49ers

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
12:02
PM ET
A quick look at a team that has not met expectations and is struggling:

What's gone wrong: Pull up a chair. This could take a minute. As I was saying, "The 49ers have dumped unhappy 2008 first-round draft choice Kentwan Balmer, watched their backup running back retire at age 23, negotiated a truce between offensive starters Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree, called an emergency late-night meeting following the first game, fired their offensive coordinator, lost their starting quarterback, demoted their second-team quarterback and even pushed back plans for a long-awaited new stadium."

How to fix them: Teams tend to take on their head coach's personalities. That might explain why the 49ers seem wound so tight. They can't get out of their own way. They self-destruct at critical moments. They've beaten themselves week after week. It's a long shot, but the 49ers (1-6) have to hope new quarterback Troy Smith can become a transcendent figure. They have to hope Smith's personality frees them to begin realizing their potential. There's no magic solution, particularly with starting quarterback Alex Smith sidelined by injury.

Panic rating: Mayday! Mayday! You know it's bad when the head coach has gotten the dreaded vote of confidence from ownership.

Coach on hot seat? Absolutely. Mike Singletary has yet to show he has answers for the problems ailing this team.

State of despair: Saints

October, 29, 2010
10/29/10
12:01
PM ET
A quick look at a team that has not met expectations and is struggling.

What’s gone wrong: The old cliché about a “Super Bowl hangover’’ probably explains some of what’s happened to the Saints (4-3). It’s not that they spent too much time celebrating their win. It’s just that following up a dream season like last year – and doing it in the same spectacular fashion – is almost impossible.

The Saints were playing a month longer than most teams last season and that disrupted the rhythm of the offseason. They’ve also had a series of injuries at key positions, namely cornerback (Randall Gay, Tracy Porter and Jabari Greer each have missed time) and running back (Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas have missed significant time).

The Saints are a walking target for every opponent who wants to make their season by knocking off the champions. They returned pretty much the whole Super Bowl roster, but the Saints haven’t looked much like last year’s team.

How to fix them: Getting healthy would be a great way to start. Bush appears to be close to returning, and the bye week is coming up Nov. 14. If the Saints can stay above water in the short term, the second half of their schedule doesn’t look all that difficult.

Quarterback Drew Brees has struggled and the defense hasn’t been as opportunistic as it was a year ago. But those might not be permanent conditions. Brees and the defense each have the talent to start clicking at any moment, and that could make the Saints dangerous again.

Panic meter: About three degrees shy of the boiling point. Sunday night’s game with the Steelers should tell us everything about the Saints. If they win, they’re right in the thick of things. If they lose, they’ll be trying to play catch up in the second half of the season.

Coach on the hot seat? Sean Payton might not be looking quite like the “genius’’ he was a year ago. But this guy still has silver polish from the Lombardi Trophy on his fingers. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

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