We are nearly finished with Week 3 of the NFL season and there has been great parity so far. There are only two teams without a win. The New Orleans Saints and yes the lowly Cleveland Browns. But there are only three unbeaten teams left as well. In past years we could take some guesses as to who they are. The Patriots. The Packers. The Saints. But none of them appear on this short list. The Houston Texans behind Arian Foster and a stifling defense are one of the three teams with three wins. Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons’ high-powered receiving corps with Julio Jones, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez also have not lost a game. But one team that is not normally on this list is the Arizona Cardinals and the NFL’s classiest player Larry Fitzgerald. Though the Cards are just a few years removed from a Super Bowl they are not normally a team that has an intimidating record. In fact, they only had a 9-7 record that year.
But which undefeated team has the best chance of posting an undefeated season? Though it has only been done once since the schedule was extended to sixteen games by the Patriots it is always an interesting topic.
The Arizona Cardinals have beaten the Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots, and Philadelphia Eagles to start their season. None of those teams are cake walks to say the least. However, their offense ranks near the bottom of the league. Only having Larry Fitzgerald as a legitimate threat it is amazing how well they have done. But they find ways to execute and having a top tier defense and special teams does not hurt. Giving up only 13.33 points per game means you just need two touchdowns to win the game. And the Cardinals have been able to do that in every game thus far. But after they play the Dolphins and Rams (assuming they get past them) they face the Bills (who snapped a road losing streak this week), the surprising Vikings, the 49ers, Packers, and Falcons. So they may be able to get off to a strong and very impressive 7-0 start but I can’t see them making it out of the Niners, Pack, and Falcons unscathed.
The Houston Texans have one of the best defenses in the NFL and have proven it by holding opponents to 11.66 points per game. That’s pretty much a touchdown and a field goal or four field goals. If you couple that with the running game of Arian Foster and Ben Tate it is a tough team to stop. Throw in Matt Schaub and a healthy Andre Johnson and they become a top team in the league. Most seasons I would say they have a great shot at nearing undefeated but they still have to play the Packers and Ravens in coming weeks. And the Patriots later in the season. But with those weapons and a dominant D they could surprise us.
The Atlanta Falcons have trounced the Chiefs, outscored Peyton and the Broncos, and demoralized the Chargers in the opening weeks. The Falcons know how to pass and also know how to stop the pass. They rank in the top half of the league in passing yards per game and opponent passing yards per game. But they lack a strong running game and are also vulnerable to the run. They are near the bottom half of the league in both of those categories. It will be interesting to see if Jacquizz Rodgers starts to get more of a role in the backfield and become the feature back ahead of the declining Michael Turner. As long as the Falcons don’t slip up against the teams that they ‘should’ beat they have the best chance of going undefeated this season. They still have to play the Cowboys, Eagles, and Giants but I think that their pass defense can disrupt all three of those quarterbacks. They just need to stop their running backs. They may run into some tough division games if the Saints turn things around. With a player like Drew Brees I do not see the Falcons sweeping the series this year.
The feat of going undefeated is so rare that it wouldn’t surprise me if all three of these teams slipped up in their next games–especially since I acknowledged that they have a shot at going undefeated. Just ask Murray State the day I wrote about their chances at being a top seed.
Will any team go undefeated? Will they all lose next week? Will the Browns win a game? Let me know in the comment section or on Twitter @Believelander.
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