There's no flawless team in the NFL. If there was ever an era where NFL teams could be constructed to perfection, free agency and the salary cap have left it helplessly in the past. Even the modern example of the closest thing to a perfect team, the 16-0 Patriots of 2007, lacked a great pure edge rusher and struggled with pass protection on the interior of the offensive line, as the Giants showed in Super Bowl XLII. The best teams just do a better job of minimizing and hiding their weaknesses.
Every 2016 playoff contender has a hole. Some of those problems were issues we could spot before training camps opened. Others became apparent during the preseason. A distressing few stood out upon a closer analysis of Week 1. The good news is that there are still 15 games to go, and in some cases, a plausible way for each team to find a solution to that concern as the season goes along. Players such as Dwight Freeney made an impact in 2015 after signing with their teams in free agency during the season, while the Panthers got some help from trade acquisition Jared Allen on their way to the Super Bowl.
Teams will be shopping this week because veterans added after Week 1 won't have their salaries guaranteed for the remainder of the season, as is the case with players on the Week 1 roster.
With that in mind, let's run through some -- but not all -- of the league's playoff contenders and pick out the spot they'll be trying to hide unless they add some assistance:
Let's start with an obvious pressing issue. The Patriots beat the Cardinals on Sunday by picking on rookie third-rounder Brandon Williams, who appeared to blow a coverage on at least one big play and was tested on seemingly every single Jimmy Garoppolo pass attempt by the end of the game. There's no obvious replacement for Williams on the roster in the short term, either: The Cardinals played Tyrann Mathieu almost exclusively at free safety while he continues to recover from a torn ACL, while special-teams star Justin Bethel was a mess in Mathieu's stead last year. Mathieu is one of the best slot corners in the league when healthy, but the Cardinals still need a corner on the outside after letting Jerraud Powers leave in the offseason and seeing Mike Jenkins tear his ACL in camp.
The good news is that nobody has gotten more out of seemingly finished veterans in years past than Bruce Arians and Steve Keim, and while Keim went on the warpath after Sunday night's loss, he won't let the Cardinals rot. With the Seahawks releasing corner Tharold Simon on Tuesday night, the Cardinals would likely love to see Simon hit the street, but he's likely to be claimed by a lesser team on waivers. The Colts added former Cardinals contributor Antonio Cromartie to cover up their own injury crisis (with limited success), so the Cards might look to somebody like Tarell Brown, who started two games for the Patriots last year before going down with a foot injury. Keenan Lewis, who was released by the Saints, also might be in play if his reportedly injured hip allows.
Problem: pass rush
It's the same familiar story for the Falcons, who haven't had an impact pass-rusher since John Abraham left town. Their 2015 first-rounder, Vic Beasley, already has been moved to strongside linebacker, while Freeney and Derrick Shelby are hopeful additions. Week 1 was a mess: The Falcons failed to sack Jameis Winston once in 33 tries, although they did knock him down six times.
The pickings for edge rushers are unsurprisingly slim, and the Falcons already have the sort of veteran flier you might hope for in Freeney. Greg Hardy is still a free agent, albeit a distasteful one. George Selvie is three years removed from his best season, when he had seven sacks for the Cowboys, but he could be a low-cost option for Atlanta.
The Bills have myriad holes to fill on defense, thanks to injuries to rookies Shaq Lawson (defensive end) and Reggie Ragland (inside linebacker). Star defensive tackle Marcell Dareus also is suspended, leaving Buffalo in dire straits. And with an untenable cap situation in years to come, the Bills can't afford any massive contracts or take on anybody else's mistakes. The defense played very well in Sunday's loss to the Ravens, with Jerry Hughes picking up two sacks and Leger Douzable chipping in with 1.5 sacks of his own, but this D could still use help.
They've already signed players like Brandon Spikes to fill in the back of the roster, but let's throw another bone to their front seven and give them a Pot Roast. Corbin Bryant is the team's nose tackle after starting 10 games last year, but you can never have too much depth up front. The Bills could add cheap, useful depth by signing Terrance Knighton, who was cut by the Patriots in August.
Early returns on rookie cornerbacks James Bradberry and Daryl Worley are mixed, given the fact that they were up against the rather limited Trevor Siemian during their Week 1 loss to the Broncos. Things won't get significantly tougher with the passing attacks of the 49ers and Vikings on the slate over the next couple of weeks, but after that, the Panthers face the Falcons, Buccaneers, Saints and Cardinals over a four-game stretch. Ron Rivera is going to want to have his cornerback situation settled by then.
Like Arizona, Carolina will find the corner pickings slim. Tarell Brown also would make sense for the Panthers if he's healthy and interested in playing. If Carolina wants to trade for a short-term veteran, as they did with Allen in 2015, they could inquire with the Browns about Tramon Williams, although Williams was burned by the Eagles in Week 1. A more ambitious trade would be for Joe Haden, but the Panthers might not want to take on Haden's salary given his recent injury history.
Problem: edge rusher
Dallas is perilously thin at defensive end until Demarcus Lawrence returns from his four-game suspension, and even then, it's not as if he's prime DeMarcus Ware. The good news is that the Cowboys already made a nifty move in signing Ryan Davis on Tuesday; the former Jaguars end was useful in limited time over the past couple of seasons, producing 10 sacks while suiting up for just 24.1 percent of Jacksonville's snaps. He's exactly the sort of unknown young player who seems to excel under Rod Marinelli.
While guard seemed to be an issue for the Packers after the team mysteriously decided to part ways with Pro Bowler Josh Sitton at the end of the preseason, replacement Lane Taylor mostly acquitted himself well against Malik Jackson & Co. during his debut as the regular starter in Week 1. The Packers seem comfortable running with Taylor at guard with Don Barclay and Jason Spriggs in wait as reserve linemen, possibly with Bryan Bulaga moving from tackle to guard as part of the process.
Cornerback, though, could become an issue. Sam Shields is out with a concussion, which is particularly disconcerting given that Shields missed the final three games of the 2015 season with a brain injury. If Shields is out for a lengthy period of time, the Packers suddenly look thin at corner, given that 2015 second-rounder Quinten Rollins had a rough go at times against the Jags. They're another team who could be in on Tramon Williams as a short-term option.
Problem: inside linebacker
The Texans have to be heartened with how fill-in center Greg Mancz played in his debut at the pivot in Week 1, but their new issue is at inside linebacker. Stalwart Brian Cushing tore his MCL in the opener and will miss 4-6 weeks, and given Cushing's injury history, it's tough to suggest that he'll be completely healthy and stay in the lineup upon his initial return. The Texans replaced him with special-teamer Max Bullough during the win over the Bears, but they may be in the market for a better short-term option.
One logical addition might be A.J. Hawk, who played in a 3-4 with the Packers and looked competent for the Bengals last season. Hawk is a free agent and is reportedly meeting with the Dolphins this week, but he also would be a good low-risk body with experience for the Texans.
Decimated by injuries at the position, Indy's top two cornerbacks during Sunday's loss to the Lions were Cromartie (who was signed a couple weeks ago) and journeyman Darryl Morris. Patrick Robinson suffered a concussion, while Vontae Davis and Darius Butler missed the game with injuries. The Colts may push Rashaan Melvin, best remembered for a disastrous performance in the 2014 playoffs for the Ravens against the Patriots, into a regular role by sheer necessity.
General manager Ryan Grigson has thrown draft picks at solving problems like this before with limited success, but he may not really have much of a choice. Indy has its first six picks in the 2017 draft, but they need something in the way of an option at corner. With Leon Hall losing the slot corner job to first-round pick Eli Apple, would the Giants give up the former Bengals veteran for a sixth-round pick? Otherwise, the Colts are probably looking in the discard pile at players like Trumaine McBride.
Problem: inside linebacker
The Chiefs have one excellent veteran inside 'backer in Derrick Johnson, but the spot alongside the Texas product was always going to be a question mark. The Chiefs had slotted Josh Mauga in that role, but he tore his labrum in the preseason and is out for the year. Justin March-Lillard, a 2015 undrafted free agent, made his professional debut as the starter during Sunday's comeback win over the Chargers with mixed reviews.
Kansas City added Sam Barrington as an astute waiver-wire pickup from the Packers, but they could be in the market for a veteran, and there are options on the wire. Joe Mays spent 2014 with the team, albeit while struggling with injuries. The Chiefs also could look at former Falcons inside linebacker Curtis Lofton, who spent 2015 with the Raiders before being released and undergoing knee surgery. Both those options are really run-thumpers, though, and the Chiefs could probably use somebody with more range in pass coverage.
Nobody in the league is more aggressive about taking a shot on a player with an early-season trade than Bill Belichick, who has added the likes of Akeem Ayers and Jon Bostic with autumn deals for late-round picks in recent years. With Sebastian Vollmer on injured reserve, the Pats are stuck starting Marcus Cannon at right tackle, and Patriots fans know how terrifying that can be. Cannon is a viable swing tackle, but he's nobody's idea of a 16-game starter.
Sadly for the Patriots, the NFL isn't exactly flush with offensive line talent these days. They could look to the Buccaneers for Gosder Cherilus, but he's probably not appreciably better than Cannon at this point. The waiver wire holds guards who fit best in zone-blocking schemes like Geoff Schwartz and Louis Vasquez, both of whom have experience playing tackle, but the pickings among pure tackles are limited to the likes of Cameron Bradfield and Sam Young. It might just be Cannon or bust on the right side.
Corner already was going to be a disaster for the Saints, who cut the previously mentioned Keenan Lewis in the preseason and planned to start 2015 third-rounder P.J. Williams, who missed his entire rookie season, across from budding star Delvin Breaux. That plan is out the window after Breaux fractured his fibula during the season-opening loss to the Raiders. Williams instead spent the game lining up next to a pair of rookie undrafted free agents in Ken Crawley and De'Vante Harris. This is about as bad as any team is at any one position in the NFL right now.
The good news is that the Saints cleared about $12.25 million in cap space with the Drew Brees extension; the bad news is that there's not really anybody to spend it on. They won't go after Lewis. Simon would be a good addition if he falls to them in the waiver process, but again, it's tough to imagine Simon slipping past the likes of Cleveland and San Francisco. The Saints are already down a fifth-round pick, but as a team that's all-in for Brees over the next two seasons, I wonder what the Browns would say if the Saints came calling with a first-round pick for Haden and a mid-round selection. I'm not recommending the Saints make that move, but they've done crazier things.
Problem: tight end
The Steelers have holes at cornerback, but they've at least stocked the cupboard with 2016 picks. Their biggest concern right now is at tight end, where Ladarius Green is out indefinitely with what has alternately been reported as an ankle injury or headaches stemming from a concussion. Backup Jesse James is a soft pair of hands, but he was badly exposed as a blocker in Week 1 by Washington's less-than-devastating pass rush.
James will play a role in the lineup, but Pittsburgh might want to bring in a veteran to fill in for some two-tight end looks and help out as a blocker. The Steelers were reportedly interested in Tony Moeaki when he was cut by the Bears, and that's a plausible move for both parties. The likes of Dante Rosario and Matthew Mulligan also would fit as partners for James.
Problem: backup quarterback
Well, the real issue in Seattle is that they don't have an offensive line, but let's deal with one of the aftereffects of that perennial problem and note that the Seahawks very nearly had to play Trevone Boykin last week. Russell Wilson appears to have avoided a serious ankle injury, but the feeling every Seattle fan had in their chest during the opener is not one that John Schneider will want to experience again himself.
Of course, there's nobody out there who is going to emulate Wilson, who is incredible and sui generis. The Seahawks seem hesitant to re-sign Tarvaris Jackson after their former backup was arrested on domestic violence charges (since dropped), and there aren't many quarterbacks of note available on the market for free. They could look to the Vikings for Joe Webb, but Webb isn't remotely as effective or creative as Wilson. They might have to be creative, and hopeful.