The Last 2 Unbeaten Teams
And then there were 2…
The Patriots and the 49ers are the remaining unbeaten teams. Who’ll be the last ones standing? In this article, I’ll look through the schedule to see where potential losses may come as well as some, way too early, predictions for the playoff picture.
First up, the Patriots took care of business in Washington after a momentary scare. Washington made this a game for about 3 minutes at least, when Steven Sims scored on a 65 yard run through some uncharacteristic poor tacking by the Patriots. The Pats then marched right down the field and scored right back, even though they missed the extra point, the defence took over and Washington never got near the end zone again.
The Patriots are 5-0 although people are asking, who have they played so far? Aside from the Bills, the combined record of teams they have played is 1-17. However you can only beat who is in front of you and the Patriots have done just that without much trouble. This defence is arguably better than last year when they shut down several good-looking offences and put on one of the best defensive displays we’ve ever seen in a Super Bowl.
Looking at the upcoming schedule, the next three games are also against teams who haven’t hit full stride yet. The Giants are resurgent on the offensive side of the ball under Daniel jones, but Bill Belichick has historically eaten up rookie QBs, plus this Giants Defence still has issues. The Jekyll and Hyde Browns, then the return game against the Jets come next. Week 9 is when things get interesting. The schedule from then on reads; Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans and the Chiefs. I can certainly see a loss or even 2 in there, that’s a tough run of games together. The best of those teams I think at the moment are the Eagles but the Patriots will be coming off a bye week, and so could be rested and well prepared. The Ravens have been hit and miss but if they show up at home it could be tight, and also the Texans last 2 games against the Patriots have been close affairs. They’ve improved this year, Deshaun Watson is playing at an elite level, the only concerns is will the offensive line hold up against a Patriots front that has been good at sacking the quarterback. The Cowboys flashed brilliance in the first 3 games but have now lost to the 2 best teams that they’ve faced so far this season. The Patriots just about handled the Chiefs twice last year but I’d be wary of betting against them and it will likely be the biggest test for this defensive unit.
The San Francisco 49ers are rolling. They probably didn’t want a bye week after winning 3 games on the bounce but it didn’t slow them down. Monday Night Football had the Browns coming to town, and after they put it to a good Ravens team it had the potential to be a really interesting game. That was until Matt Breida broke the game open with an 83-yard TD run on the Niners first play from scrimmage. I say run, it was a sprint. He hit a hole and was gone, with no Browns defender getting near him. That had Cleveland on the ropes and they never got back off of them. San Francisco’s pass rush led by Nick Bosa, aka DROY, saw to that. Clear of the injury report for the first time this season, he was lighting up the Browns offensive line. Whether he was getting pressure or drawing attention for the others to get home, Mayfield was hurried and harassed into bad decisions all night.
Since Jim Harbaugh left the 49ers have been nothing but mediocre since. Not anymore. This is a well-rounded team with talent on both sides of the ball; a defensive front 7 that gets after the passer, a secondary that can capitalise on the pressure and create turnovers. The offense runs through teams for fun and that’s before we even talk about the QB position. Jimmy Garoppolo had pressure thrust on him to be the saviour of this franchise. Now he doesn’t have to be – he just has to be good enough to take advantage of what this defence and run game gives him. That to me, seems like a perfect recipe for Playoff success. The only downside is that they have the slight misfortune of being in the NFC west which also has very good Rams and Seahawks teams.
Looking ahead, you need to go no further than next week to see a test coming against the Rams in LA. The Rams, haven’t been playing up to their talent level so far this season and the loss to division rival Seattle dropped them to 3-2, and into third place in this division. So, they’ll be looking to prove a point. If the dynamic, offensive juggernaut of last season shows up this could be close. But I am giving the edge to the 49ers based on their front 7 being able to get to Goff much like the Patriots did in Super Bowl LIII. If the 49ers do get a win here, you’re probably looking to November against either
the Seahawks in week 10, or Packers in week 12 before pencilling in a potential loss. That Seahawks game is at home, they don’t go to Seattle until the last week of the season. Outside of those games, the next biggest test could be against the Saints in week 14 with Drew Brees potentially back in the mix. The best of the rest is the Panthers in week 8, which could be a trap game against a top 5 passing defence but on current form I am picking 49ers here.
So, assuming the Patriots and 49ers are the best in each conference, who could play spoiler? In the AFC it is pretty much the Patriots, the Chiefs and then everyone else. The Colts look good, after handing the Chiefs a loss on Sunday night they’re my pick to rise from the pack and be the third contender. They could be a tough out for anybody in a high pressure playoff environment. The Texans have shown signs of being able to protect Watson a bit better and that will be a great battle to watch for that division. The Chargers have struggled to get anything going thanks to an injury bug and The Ravens have come back to the pack a bit over the last few weeks after a hot start. It’s hard to bet against a rematch of last year’s AFC title game though and it’ll probably in Foxboro this year unless the Chiefs can keep pace and then pick them off in their regular season encounter.
The NFC is more interesting. I like what I am seeing from the Packers, stout defence and running the ball, finally. They have beaten a couple of good teams in the Bears and Cowboys, and Aaron Rodgers is always a match for anyone on his day. The Saints are still winning without Drew Brees, they will probably win that division and get him back for a Playoff run, although the Panthers might have something to say about that. The Eagles and Seahawks are contenders. I like the way these teams are playing. Another Seahawks vs 49ers postseason tilt would be fun to watch, while Carson Wentz might finally get a postseason run after having to hand the keys over to Nick Foles two years in a row. The Bears are as advertised on Defence, but have also struggled on offence in a few games. I can see them doing enough to make it to the postseason but coming up just short against one of these teams. The Vikings will go as far as Kirk Cousins takes them. Good Defence, Dalvin Cook gashing defences but here we are again asking about Cousins ability to get them over the line.
I’m going to chicken out of naming the 2 teams I think will face off in Miami. Except to say it won’t be Miami, sorry. I will say that Brady vs Jimmy G is a mouth-watering prospect. I would love to see that before Tom hangs it up. Mahomes vs Rodgers is also a storyline that writes itself, two gunslingers and the best of the old guard against the best of the new world order. And one random one, just for me is Deshaun Watson vs Russell Wilson, that would be a matchup between my two favourite QBs not named Tom Brady.