FOX Sports South details the NFL's 10 biggest disappointments at the quarter-pole mark, a countdown that highlights individual players and some underwhelming team-centric occurrences to date. We even take umbrage with the NFL and Indy's Lucas Oil Stadium -- on sunny Sundays. (Photos: Brian Spurlock/Evan Habeeb/Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports)
Raiders' Lack Of Competitive Drive
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) Armed with a ton of cap space last winter, the Raiders acquired a number of prominent players during the offseason -- Maurice Jones-Drew (right), Matt Schaub, Justin Tuck, Donald Penn, Austin Howard, James Jones and LaMarr Woodley. But the group hasn't done much to change the franchise's losing ways (11 straight non-winning seasons -- headed for No. 12). 2) The Raiders are the only NFL team not to crack the eminently doable 15-point threshold this season. 3) As expected, head coach Dennis Allen (left) was terminated on Monday night -- maintaining the Raiders' tradition of canning coaches (Mike Shanahan, Lane Kiffin) after four games. 4) The Raiders' run defense has surrendered a staggering average of 158.4 team rushing yards in their first four games. Yikes! (Photos: Kirby Lee/Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)
LeSean McCoy's Ugly Start
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) McCoy (2,146 total yards, 11 TDs last year) has rushed 29 times for just 39 yards in his last two games. 2) In the waning moments of Sunday's defeat against the Niners, the Eagles essentially ignored the running game in the red zone. Adding to that disorientation, they rarely used McCoy as a decoy (via play-action fakes) when taking their at-close-range shots at the end zone. 3) In fairness to McCoy, the Philly offensive line has been decimated by injuries -- with all five starters missing substantial time to date.
Vikings' Lack Of Creativity With Cordarrelle Patterson
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) With a 2-2 record and fresh off a 41-point outburst against the Falcons (Sunday), tje Vikings have been a decent surprise to date. However, with Adrian Peterson out indefinitely, it boggles the mind to how Patterson has only touched the ball 16 times through four games. Being a top-shelf decoy is one thing ... but Minnesota must find a way to involve Patterson if the team harbors realistic playoff hopes. 2) Patterson scored on a 71-yard rushing play in Week 1 ... but logged only one total carry for Weeks 2-4 (minus-7 yards). 3) Patterson (nine overall TDs last year) is on the short list of the NFL's most explosive athletes.
The Lucas Oil Stadium 'Shade' Problem
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) The Colts shouldn't be allowed to host 1 p.m. EST games at Lucas Oil Stadium, given the non-uniform sunlight-to-shade points on the field -- for sunny days, at least. 2) Without fail, it seems like the visiting team will drop a routine red-zone pass every week, the result of losing the ball in the sun-shade haze. 3) In fact, the Browns were primed to knock off the Colts last season, but Josh Gordon (the NFL's leading receiver in 2013) lost a potential breakaway TD in the sun. 4) The Colts enjoy an almost-unfair advantage when playing early on Sunday at home (once again, on sunny days). The NFL, with its billions of dollars and millions of fans, doesn't need the once-unthinkable hassle of too much sunlight with indoor venues.
The Falcons' Rush-Defense Woes
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) The Falcons allowed the Adrian Peterson-less Vikings to rush for 241 yards on Sunday. 2) For the season, opposing offenses are averaging 153 ground yards per game. 3) Of its last 17 outings (dating back to last year), Atlanta has surrendered 100-plus team rushing yards to the opposition 16 times. 4) The Falcons made a concerted effort to get bigger, stronger and tougher during the offseason, with a special affinity for stout defenders like Paul Soliai (left) and Tyson Jackson (right). And yet, the Falcons remain one of the NFL's most vulnerable defenses, yardage-wise.
Jacksonville's Painfully Thin Rushing Corps
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) As a disclaimer, we had Toby Gerhart (above) ranked as the NFL's worst 'workhorse back' during the 2014 preseason. So, we're hardly surprised that he's averaging only 37.3 rushing yards and 0.3 touchdowns per game. 2) Our main beef, relative to this countdown: The Jacksonville front office praised Gerhart at every turn during the spring and summer, touting him as a hidden gem in free agency. As part of that, the club didn't fill up the tailback depth chart in exemplary fashion, leaning on Jordan Todman, Denard Robinson and rookie Storm Johnson -- in case of a Gerhart injury. 3) For the record, we like Johnson and hope the UCF product collects more touches in the coming weeks.
The Mediocre Ways Of The NFC South
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) The South stands as the NFC's only division without a winning club. 2) It's hard to pinpoint the 1-3 Saints' overall failures: QB Drew Brees (far right) has tallied a completion rate of 68-plus percent in all four games, and the Saints have produced 100-plus team rushing yards each time. 3) For Weeks 3 and 4, Cam Newton (second from right) and the Panthers incurred blowout losses (average differential: 23 points). 4) The Falcons defense has surrendered 153 team rushing yards per game and three outings of 300-plus passing yards. Tailback Steven Jackson (far left) has been meh, as well. 5) The NFC South has a 1-4 record against the AFC North. The lone victory goes to Doug Martin (second from left) and the Bucs. (Photos: Brace Hemmelgarn/Timothy T. Ludwig/Evan Habeeb/Matthew Emmons)
Chris Johnson Aging Before Our Eyes
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) Through four games with the Jets, Johnson (207 total yards, two TDs) has averaged only 42 rushing yards and 0.5 TDs 2) Johnson, who collected 1,400-plus total yards in his first six NFL seasons (with the Titans) has already capitulated into a secondary role with New York, ceding the majority of touches to Chris Ivory (345 total yards, two TDs). 3) At age 29, Johnson seemingly doesn't have the explosion to tally double-digit touchdowns with the Jets, although his 35-yard rushing TD against the Lions was an encouraging moment. 4) In Johnson's defense, the Jets are a bottom-five club in terms of overall playmaking talent. It's not a deep group.
The 49ers' Fourth-Quarter Foibles
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) It's mind-boggling to learn the 49ers -- with a slew of playmakers like Frank Gore, Carlos Hyde, Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, Anquan Boldin and Steve Johnson -- have only scored three total points in the fourth quarter. That's one field goal from Phil Dawson (left) ... in 60 total minutes of action (four fourth periods). 2) QB Colin Kaepernick (912 yards passing, six TDs) hasn't scored a rushing touchdown all season. Plus, on Sunday against the Eagles, he was seemingly running for his life on every second-half, drop-back snap. (Photos: Robert Stanton-USA TODAY Sports)
Eddie Lacy's Sophomore Slump
REASONS TO BE BLUE: 1) Through four games, Lacy has racked up only 161 rushing yards and one TD. Of equal deflation, the Packers back didn't register more than 15 touches for Weeks 1-3. 2) By all accounts, Lacy (1,435 total yards, 11 TDs) looked phenomenal in training camp and was seemingly primed to improve upon last year's sterling numbers. 3) Green Bay hasn't had a workhorse back since the respective golden days of Ryan Grant and Ahmad Green. 4) In fairness to Lacy, he encountered three of the NFL's best rush defenses for Weeks 1-3 -- Seattle, New York Jets, Detroit; and the Packers shredded the Bears on Sunday -- through the passing game.