After watching games, reviewing highlights and checking box scores of games from the league this week, one question stuck out in my mind…who is the best team in the NFL?
Here are the candidates:
New England Patriots – As expected they beat up on the Indianapolis Colts at home and made Andrew Luck look like a rookie quarterback. Luck threw for over 300 yards for the 5th time this season and had two touchdowns. He also threw 3 interceptions, two of which were returned for a touchdown. Here’s the problem for the Patriots, head coach Bill Belichick loves to beat up on bad teams and rub his opponents flaws in their face. He did it again against the Colts and on the last touchdown of the game, tight end Rob Gronkowski broke his forearm. There was no excuse for Gronk to still be in the game at that time (up 53-24), and now they will be without their superstar tight end for at least a month. With a very shaky defense and no Gronkowski on offense, the Patriots are not the best team in the NFL, but they deserve to be in the conversation.
Houston Texans – This team has to be mentioned because they have a 9-1 record and they are talented at almost every position. But this week the Texans played a very bad Jacksonville team and gave up 37 points to backup quarterback Chad Henne who threw for 354 yards, with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. Arian Foster was irrelevant in the run game, but the Texans pulled away with the win because Matt Schaub through for 527 yards and passed for 5 touchdowns. It’s a good sign for the Texans that they have a QB who can step up and perform like that, but this is not how the Texans are designed to win. This is a team that needs to run the ball well and play great defense. If they played anyone besides Jacksonville they probably would’ve lost this weekend.
Denver Broncos – As long as Peyton Manning is under center, this team will be in the conversation. This weekend they beat the Chargers by a touchdown at home, but the lost running back Willis McGahee to a torn MCL. He will miss 6-8 weeks. They should still win the division but will they be able to win it all if McGahee isn’t at full health in the playoffs?
Pittsburgh Steelers – Yes, you read that correctly…the 6-4 Steelers who are coming off a loss at home to the Ravens. After watching the game against the Ravens last night I realized that this is a very good Pittsburgh team. They lost by 3 points without quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Backup QB Byron Leftwich was awful and they were still in the game. They actually had a chance. Had big Ben played, the Steelers would’ve won by at least 10 points. If the Steelers get healthy, they certainly have a ton of potential.
Green Bay Packers – A 7-3 team that should be 8-2. They’re not as good offensively without Joe Philbin, but they’re still good enough to outscore their opponent, and that’s what their offense needs to do because their defense is still suspect. It should be a fun shootout next Sunday night against the Giants who are coming off a bye week.
New Orleans Saints – The Falcons will probably win the division only because they have jumped out to such a big lead in the division, but to be honest I do not trust that team at all in the playoffs. The Saints right now are on the outside looking in, but I think if they make it (and they have a good chance to) I think they are good enough to make a run. The defense is finally starting to get it together and with the injury of Darren Sproles, the Saints have finally seemed to find a running game with Chris Ivory.
San Francisco 49ers – First off the Chicago Bears should be ashamed of themselves. Jason Campbell was pathetic in replacing Jay Cutler this week. Bears fans, you have no right to ever boo Jay Cutler again because dare this team have to rely on Jason Campbell for much longer they won’t even sniff the playoffs this season. Also the Bears offensive line was just awful. Their lack of protection is one of the reasons they were without their starting quarterback in the first place, but tonight you would’ve thought the second string line was also out their with their backup quarterback, allowing 6 six sacks. Just disgraceful….that being said let me take nothing away from the 49ers. They too played without their starting quarterback, but the backup Colin Kaepernick looked pretty good. The way he picked apart the Bears defense, the Niners have to feel very confident with him going forward, shall Alex Smith miss more time recovering from his concussion. This Niners team has depth, they play physical, and lets not forget, they were a few Kyle Williams fumbles away from making the Superbowl last year. They certainly have a chance to go back this season.
The one thing you will notice, out of all these teams listed there is no clear cut Superbowl favorite. That is the way the league has been this season, and if I write a similar article in a few weeks some of these teams may have already shifted out of the picture, and others may have moved in. This what makes football the best sport in the world, because on any given Sunday you never know what will happen. What I do know is this..some teams just seem too good to playing down to the level of their opponent. If you take your foot off the gas for one game in this league, it can change the outcome of an entire season.
Brian C. Smith