NFL Week 5: Ranking the Remaining Five Unbeaten Teams
The NFL sports five unbeaten teams heading into Week 5: the Denver Broncos, the Kansas City Chiefs, the Seattle Seahawks, the New England Patriots and the New Orleans Saints.
The first two are coincidentally locked in the same division, which is the suddenly mighty AFC West. The Broncos are leading the division thanks to their massive point differential favouring them; their 179 points are 52 ahead of the next team and more than double that of the Patriots.
The Chiefs and Saints are surprises on some level because both of them had poor 2012 seasons; the Chiefs were 2-14 and the Saints were 7-9. That wasn't due to a lack of talent, but both teams now have different coaches from the Andy Reid hire and the return of Sean Payton from suspension.
What a difference.
Meanwhile, nobody is surprised the Patriots are still contending despite the loss of their four best pass receivers from last year. There's a short list of unquestionable things in life: life, death, taxes and Tom Brady plus Bill Belichick equals a Super Bowl contender.
The Seahawks have been impressive in two of the biggest "look at me" wins of the season with their thumping of the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2 and their ridiculous come-from-behind win against the Houston Texans this past week.
All have their merits, but who are the best? Let's break down the list.
5. Kansas City Chiefs
Only because of experience; of the five teams, this core has been together the least. With Alex Smith taking over the quarterback spot and Andy Reid as the new head coach, we have a new leader on offense, new playbook and system and scheme.
It has certainly yielded good results so far. And their point differential from last season didn't suggest they were as bad as they were last season. So their improvement is no surprise, but I'm not ready to earmark them for even a playoff spot yet—especially since they're in the same division as the Broncos.
Again, the Chiefs have talent everywhere. The defense, left by safety Eric Berry, is one of the best in the league. Berry, along with Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson, Brandon Flowers, Tyson Jackson and maybe Justin Houston stand a chance at being Pro Bowlers.
Smith is leading the West Coast offense exactly how it should be led, and the Chiefs have finally figured out how to incorporate one of the most explosive weapons in the league in Jamaal Charles effectively into their game plan. He's on pace for well over 2,000 total yards.
Having said that, their schedule doesn't get easier. They have four tough divisional bouts against the Broncos and San Diego Chargers, along with the Texans and the Colts. We'll find out if the Chiefs are for real or not soon enough.
4. New England Patriots
They're only higher than the Chiefs because they've been so consistent year to year, and betting against the Brady-Belichick combo is never a good idea.
But truth be told, the Pats are the most uninspiring team on this list. You can argue that the only good team they have played so far are the Atlanta Falcons, and they almost blew that game.
Their best weapon, Rob Gronkowski is still out of action. They rank 17th in pass yards even though they have one of the best quarterbacks in the league and are 17th in pass yards given up. They are average (14th) in stopping the run.
They rank 11th in rushing. What once was a reliable, deadly red-zone rush game that always sealed the deal on 3rd-and-short has produced just one rushing touchdown—not to mention three fumbles.
It's not bad but pretty average. I can't have them higher than any of the next teams.
3. New Orleans Saints
Despite their lack of a postseason berth in 2012, it's pretty hard to say with a straight face that you expected the Saints to not be good this year.
That being said, most had them pegged for a wild-card berth given that they were in the same division as the 13-3 Falcons.
We know they have one of the best offenses in the league led by Drew Brees, a multipurpose playmaker in Darren Sproles, a reliable slot guy in Marques Colston and maybe the most consistently reliable pass receiver in the league in Jimmy Graham.
What we weren't betting on was the fact that Rob Ryan, who was average at best with the Dallas Cowboys, managed to coax this unit into having the sixth-best total defense in the league.
They've forced 10 turnovers (seventh-best in the league) and have garnered 12 sacks. The young guys are developing, Kenny Vaccaro is making a difference at the safety spot and they remembered how to tackle.
Don't be surprised to see the Saints getting a bye week in the NFC playoffs this year.
2. Seattle Seahawks
These guys will be playing in one of the last games of the season. Either they'll be in the Super Bowl, or half of them are going to make the Pro Bowl.
A dominant run game, an impenetrable defense and a smart, savvy quarterback in Russell Wilson who is as dangerous as anyone making plays with his legs.
Their only weakness might be that they don't have a dominant receiving corps. But when your defense is allowing an average of 12 points a contest, you don't need one.
The easier part was being San Francisco at home, but now they need to prove they can do it on the road. That being said, Seattle is for real and is one of the best teams in the league right now.
1. Denver Broncos
It's time for a numbers game.
The Broncos average about 45 points a game, which is more than the Buccaneers or Jaguars have scored so far this season. They are on pace for over 716, which, to put into perspective, is 176 better than the 2000 St. Louis Rams and 127 better than the 2007 New England Patriots.
To make it even clearer, the Broncos are scoring at such a high rate that if the Rams played four more games in the 2000 season and scored 45 in all of them, they'd just tie the Broncos' hypothetical 2013 total.
Peyton Manning is on pace for 64 touchdown passes and 5,880 passing yards. I would literally bet on him getting more than 55 touchdowns if it weren't for the possibility of some fourth-quarter sit-outs and not dressing for Week 16 or 17.
The last time Peyton even approached this level of success, he threw for 49 touchdowns in 2004 and had three 1,000-yard receivers (Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison, Brandon Stokley).
Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker are all easily on their way. And really, three 1,000-yard receivers isn't even that impressive right? It happened just five years ago with Kurt Warner's motley crew in Arizona.
I guess that's not enough for you. Let's throw in the fact that Julius Thomas is averaging just a shade under 60 receiving yards a game and is on pace for about 960. The possibility of four 1,000-yard receivers exists.
Also, just for fun, they are also giving up the least amount of rushing yards per game.
Maybe this isn't sustainable, but take a look at their schedule. Other than the Patriots, the best team the play again is the Texans.
It's a couple of cakewalks the rest of the way.