The early weeks of the NFL season present a slew of tests for teams to pass to prove their legitimacy. These squads will ace their exams on Sunday, proving yet again that they're for real.
It's easy to ignore 2-0, 3-0 or even 4-0. But 5-0? It hardly clinches a playoff berth, but it sure makes it a lot easier. A club that starts 5-0 can lose six of its final 11 games and still make the postseason.
Entering Sunday with undefeated records intact, the following organizations will leave with another win. That will make it awfully hard to question their legitimacy as Super Bowl contenders.
New Orleans Saints (at Chicago Bears)
These are not last year's Saints. Not by a long shot.
New Orleans surrendered 440.4 yards per game last year—the worst mark in NFL history. It couldn't stop the run, was even worse against the pass and dug an early hole at 0-4 that Drew Brees could not amend.
This year, the Saints defense ranks sixth with 304.5 total yards allowed per game. It has forced 10 turnovers while Cameron Jordan and Junior Galette have combined for seven of the team's 12 sacks.
Sunday's matchup with the Bears came very close to pitting two undefeated squads against each other, but Chicago spoiled it by falling 40-32 to the Detroit Lions. In the defeat, Jay Cutler reverted to his inconsistent ways with three interceptions while Reggie Bush ran for 139 yards.
The defeat illuminated some of Chicago's flaws that remained hidden with its 3-0 start. Jay Cutler will always blend brilliance with befuddlement while the secondary has permitted 278 passing yards per game.
If the Bears thought Matthew Stafford's offense was tough, wait until they face Drew Brees' crew. Brees has exceeded 300 passing yards in every game, and only the Denver Broncos have amassed more total yards as a collective unit.
Equipped with a dangerous defense to match the prolific offense, New Orleans is making its case as the NFC's team to beat.
Prediction: Saints 31, Bears 23
Seattle Seahawks (at Indianapolis Colts)
A win would be earth-shattering for the Indianapolis Colts, who enter the colossal showdown with Seattle fresh off two blowout victories. Imagine if the Colts could say they beat the San Francisco 49ers and the Seahawks.
Last week unearthed the Seahawks as beatable, on the road at least. They looked dead until a fourth-down scramble from Russell Wilson kept them alive, and Matt Schaub's questionable decision to not take a sack sent the game into overtime.
They now travel to take on another capable foe in the Colts, who are 3-1 after pounding the Jacksonville Jaguars. It's just the Jaguars, but Indianapolis defeated San Francisco by 20 points the previous week.
As amazing as an upset would be, it's not going to happen. Seattle displayed its dominant secondary during the second half when Richard Sherman baited Schaub into a pick-six. The squad also can't be sleepwalking into Indiana after facing such a frightening scare in Texas.
Neither of Indy's other wins against the Jaguars and Oakland Raiders mean much, so it's hard to buy into the Colts as a legit threat after one great game. The Seahawks are far from perfect without the 12th Man by their side, but the near loss should light a fire under Pete Carroll's crew.
Prediction: Seahawks 24, Colts 17
Kansas City Chiefs (at Tennessee Titans)
Have the Chiefs really been challenged yet?
After decimating the Jaguars (Blaine Gabbert, terrible, it's all been covered to death by now), Kansas City has feasted on the NFC East. Although it beat the half-decent Dallas Cowboys, the two squads battled neck-and-neck in a one-point victory.
The Chiefs then bashed the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, who rank as the bottom two defenses in terms of points allowed. They don't have a major statement victory yet, and well... this weekend won't produce it either.
They get the Tennessee Titans, who will play their first of many games without Jake Locker under center.
Losing their young quarterback stings, especially right as he was beginning to gain steam, but the Titans owe more of their success to their defense than to Locker.
The defense ranks seventh with 17.3 points allowed per game and ninth with 313.3 total yards relinquished per contest. It has produced nine turnovers with the help of Alterraun Verner's four interceptions.
This game could also be a clash of 4-0 squads if the Titans had fended the Houston Texans off in overtime. While this game won't leave everyone fully sold on Kansas city, it should fill up the bandwagon a bit more.
The Chiefs are for real on defense, rated second in opposing passing yards while owning 7.5 sacks from Justin Houston. Tennessee may not feel like a major victory, but neither will beating the Raiders next week—or the Cleveland Browns and Buffalo Bills shortly after that.
They could easily enter their Week 10 bye with eight or nine wins, depending on how they fare against the Texans. Easy schedule or not, that makes the Chiefs a playoff team. This isn't a defense anybody will want to run into during the winter.
Prediction: Chiefs 20, Titans 10
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