Who is the Best of the Best?
October 24th, 2015 by Brendan Pierce
For the first time since 1970, 5 NFL teams will be undefeated entering week 7. The Bengals, Broncos, Packers, Panthers, and Patriots are the lone remaining teams without a loss and all 5 of them have a legitimate chance of raising the Lombardi Trophy come February.
We know what Andy Dalton and company can do during the regular season, but the real question for the Bengals is, can they get the job done during the post-season? Dalton has made the playoffs in each of his first 4 years in the league however, he is 0-4 in the post-season. This is a different Bengals team. They are incredibly balanced on offense with a thunder and lightning rushing attack with Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, as well as a prolific passing attack featuring A.J Green. With the exception of the Ravens game, Green has been relatively quiet so far this season. It is the emergence of guys like Tyler Eifert and Marvin Jones that have really added another dimension to this offense. Eifert specifically has been extremely effective in the red zone hauling in 6 touchdowns leading all tight ends. This Bengals team certainly has the weapons to keep up with the elite teams in the AFC.
Peyton Manning has led the Denver Broncos to a perfect 6-0 start however, it has been far from easy for the veteran quarterback. The Broncos have won 5 out of their 6 games by a touchdown or less. Manning leads the league in interceptions and has thrown more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (7). Meanwhile, the Broncos sit on top of the AFC West and it looks like they are going to cruise to another division title riding a dominant defense. Their defense is one of the best in the entire NFL, as they are in the top 5 in all major categories including yards per game, points per game, and turnovers. This defense can come at you in all different directions. This includes Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware coming in off the ends, Aqib Talib and Chris Harris playing lockdown corner, and TJ Ward anchoring the defense in the secondary. Denver’s defense can lead them into the postseason and we know when push comes to shove, #18 will make big throws in crunch time.
The Packers started the season with devastating news as they lost pro bowl receiver Jordy Nelson due to a torn ACL. Many thought this would significantly impact their season, but Aaron Rodgers has shown he can win games without his star receiver. Ty Montgomery, James Jones, and Randall Cobb have stepped up in the absence of Nelson and this offense has not skipped a beat. Aaron Rodgers is an elite quarterback that can turn average receivers into pro bowlers and he is certainly doing that this season. The Packers have been pretty dominant so far this season as they have not won by less than a touchdown yet this year. Green Bay can almost put the rest of the season in cruise control as they already have a 2.5 game lead over the second place Minnesota Vikings. The Packers have bigger aspirations than just a division title though. Since Rodgers and company won the Super Bowl in 2010 they are only 2-4 in the postseason since.
The most surprising team to start the season with a flawless record is the Carolina Panthers. They have already almost totaled their wins in 2014 when they went 7-8-1 and somehow won the dreadful NFC South last season. Cam Newton is playing at a MVP type level right now. He has really matured as a quarterback and has developed into a prolific pocket passer that can be mobile when the time comes. The Panthers have also been winning games without the 2013 defensive player of the year Luke Kuechly. Kuechly led the NFL in tackles last season, but he has been out with a concussion in which he suffered week 1 this year. Kuechly returned last weekend against the Seahawks and registered a game-high 14 tackles. Although the Panthers are off to a hot start, I do not seem them winning the NFC South this year. The loss of star receiver Kelvin Benjamin really hurt this team from an offensive standpoint. They lack a true number one receiver and I think that will hurt this team as the season continues. Their main competition in the division is the Atlanta Falcons who dropped their first game of the season last Thursday night against the Saints. The Falcons and the Panthers square off two times in three weeks in December so, the winner of those games will likely determine the champion in the NFC South.
Much of the talk surrounding the New England Patriots coming into the 2015 season was not about Tom Brady’s 4th Super Bowl ring, but the mess that was Deflategate. Brady was originally suspended the first 4 games of the season, but instead he has played in every game and led the Patriots to another 5-0 start. The last time the Patriots got off to a 5-0 start, they ran the table and went 18-0 before losing in the Super Bowl to the Giants. The Patriots lost a lot of key members from last years Super Bowl team including, Darrelle Revis, Brandon Browner, Vince Wilfork, and Shane Vereen. Despite losing this much talent, Bill Belichick has his team on top of the AFC East yet again. The Patriots have won the AFC East 11 of the last 12 seasons and they have a strong chance to add another division title this year. This team is the most well rounded in the NFL and I would not be surprised if we see Brady hoisting his 5th Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season.