Three weeks into the NFL season, fanbases begin to get concerned if their team has stumbled out of the gate. Patriots, Cowboys and Raiders fans know that feeling well at the moment, as the three preseason playoff contenders have combined for a 2-7 record to open the season. The Patriots and Cowboys have lost their last two games after winning the opener, while the Raiders have gone winless in their first season under Jon Gruden.
What’s wrong with each of these teams?
Which team should be the most concerned by their lackluster start?
On the flip side, can the 3-0 Rams keep rolling after Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters suffered injuries this past weekend?
We posed all of these questions to Inside The NFL analyst Ray Lewis prior to the taping of tonight’s show. You can catch Ray, alongside Phil Simms, Boomer Esiason and host James Brown all season long on Showtime. (Editor’s note: This conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.)
CBS Local Sports: The Patriots, Raiders and Cowboys are a combined 2-7 to start the season. What are the biggest changes each team needs to make in order to get the season on track?
Ray Lewis: Well, let’s start with the Patriots. You always have to be careful about counting them out early. But one of the things that I think certain people don’t realize is that there are certain players that transcend the football field. When you think about the impact that Malcolm Butler had on that football team, if you had Malcolm Butler last year in that Super Bowl, things probably go a little bit differently.
When you remove those type of players, it has an impact. You go to the Dallas Cowboys without Dez Bryant. Without him, there is no passion. There’s something missing in that locker room.
Then you talk about the Raiders, you have to talk about the elephant in the room. You let go of Khalil Mack? There are certain players, certain people, that you just cannot get rid of. They change the scale of the way you look at football.
That’s why I think, when you look at those three teams, they’re definitely feeling the loss of those players so far this season.
CBS Local Sports: Of those three teams, which are you most concerned about and why?
Ray Lewis: Oakland. Definitely Oakland, because offensively, sure, they’re doing some things, but defensively, they’ve lost big leads after halftime each of the past couple games. There is no chemistry defensively. Who’s that one guy that they’re rallying around? Oakland also has a very tough schedule. They would be the team I’m most concerned about.
But I wouldn’t leave out Dallas. Dallas is in a lot of trouble as well, because when you watch Dallas play, you’re asking yourself, where is the spark going to come from? The front seven on defense is playing really well, but then you get to the back end, and there are concerns. If I had to pick one, Oakland, but Dallas concerns me as well.
CBS Local Sports: On the flip side, the Rams have burst out of the gate to a 3-0 start, with an explosive offense and suffocating defense. What’s working so well for them right now in your opinion?
Ray Lewis: Well, first off, the additions they made this offseason were huge. They were like the Warriors in the NBA, bringing in guys like (Aqib) Talib, (Marcus) Peters and (Ndamukong) Suh. Adding Suh to go along with Donald? That makes for a devastating combo.
Then, offensively, they have who I consider to be the best back in football in Todd Gurley. He’s a game changer by himself. The chemistry they have is special on the offensive side.
The only thing that I think can get in their way, and you’re starting to see it now, is injuries. Peters and Talib out, those are big injuries. Everybody deals with injuries, some teams in the beginning, some at the end of the season. The Rams are dealing with it right now. Hopefully it’s not season-ending, but they will have an impact.