Just a few years ago, the notion of an NFL team going either undefeated or winless was dismissed as crazy talk. Now, with the 2007 Patriots going 16-0 and the 2008 Lions doing the opposite, it is a distinct possibility for teams to reach these heights (or lows).
This got me curious. Through five weeks of the 2009 season, there are five undefeated teams. Due to matchups between these teams, there are a maximum of three teams that can go undefeated. So what are the chances that each of these teams could win all their games? Let’s take a closer look at each one and find out.
New Orleans Saints (4-0)
The Saints have faced two challenges already this season and passed both with flying colors. While they faced Philadelphia without Donovan McNabb, they beat them on the road and put up 48 points on a solid defense. Then, two weeks ago their offense was held in check by the Jets, but the defense stepped up for two scores in a 24-10 victory.
The Saints face the Giants on Sunday, the only remaining undefeated team on their schedule, but if they can get past them, a last place schedule looms. New Orleans still faces Carolina and Tampa Bay twice, St. Louis, and Washington. The Saints’ only remaining road challenges would be at Miami and Atlanta, and they welcome the Falcons and Patriots to New Orleans.
With the way the Saints are playing on both offense and defense, it’s hard to see this team putting up less than 12 wins this season. If they can take their undefeated record into their Week 12 Monday Night showdown with New England and leave with it intact, I think they have a real shot.
Chances of Going Undefeated: 25 percent (increases significantly with a victory over NYG).
Indianapolis Colts (5-0)
If the Colts don’t get to 8-0 I will be shocked. Peyton Manning is having what is arguably his greatest start to any season, and doing it throwing to just two names anyone had heard of before the start of the season.
The Colts lead the NFL in passing by over 30 yards per game, and they are the only team averaging over 300 yards per game. The Colts are second in the AFC in points per game, and are tied for the second in the entire NFL in least points allowed, a pretty deadly combination.
The Colts’ schedule is favorable, especially because it includes the NFC West. If the Colts are going to take a run at 16-0, Weeks 10 and 11 are the main roadblocks they will have to overcome. The annual New England game is a Sunday Nighter at home, and if the Colts get past that, they have to travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens.
If the Colts can survive that stretch, only the currently undefeated Broncos and the New York Jets would stand in their way, but if anyone can solve those tough defenses, it’s Peyton Manning.
Chances of Going Undefeated: 20 percent.
NY Giants (5-0)
The Giants have been arguably the NFL’s top team so far this season, getting contributions from all over the offense, and they are tied for the second fewest points allowed per game. However, five wins so far this season have come against teams with a combined six victories, and the rest of their schedule doesn’t do them any favors.
The Giants face three of the other four undefeated teams, Denver, Minnesota, and a trip to New Orleans this coming Sunday, and all three of these games are on the road. The Giants still have both of their games against Philadelphia yet to play, and also face Atlanta and San Diego in consecutive games in November.
The Giants are a very solid team, but with the health of their QB in question and the difficult schedule upcoming, it’s hard to see them winning 11 more games in a row.
Chances of Going Undefeated: 10 percent.
Minnesota Vikings (5-0)
The Vikings were 10 seconds away from not being on this list, but here they are. Minnesota has a rough road ahead, facing a first place schedule, but on the other hand, they have Adrian Peterson.
There is no denying that the Vikings offense has improved with Brett Favre under center, but what’s equally impressive is the upgraded play of their defense. Having the Williams Wall not face a suspension helps, but they are a solid unit nonetheless.
The only remaining undefeated team the Vikings are still to face this season is the Giants, but that matchup will likely be a meaningless contest as it occurs in Week 17. The toughest stretch of Minnesota’s schedule is the next three weeks leading up to their bye, as they host Baltimore and then travel to Pittsburgh and Green Bay. And you better believe the Packers are looking for revenge at home.
If the Vikes can make it to their bye week unscathed, their toughest remaining challenges would be the Bengals in Week 14 and the Bears in Week 16. Playing in Chicago in December is no picnic, especially on Monday Night, and Mr. Favre has had his struggles in that situation before (I was there, it was awesome).
While the Vikings are a very good team that looks poised to make another run at the postseason, they just don’t look like a crew built to go 16-0, especially with their upcoming schedule.
Chances of Going Undefeated: 5 percent.
Denver Broncos (5-0)
If you thought before the season that the Broncos would be here right now, you’re either a member of the organization or lying. I’ll give the Sports Guy his due for nailing the 4-0 start (scroll to Prediction VIII), but nobody in their right mind could have predicted their victory over New England.
Even now, nobody thinks this team can go 16-0, but let’s look at the facts (and remaining schedule). They are by far the league leader in least points allowed, with just 43 points allowed through five games. That averages to 8.6 per game, nearly a touchdown better than the next best team. In addition, they have allowed just seven points in the second half all season. Seven!
The defense may be great, but the Broncos’ remaining schedule is not. Denver faces two of the remaining undefeated teams, the Giants and Colts, in the span of three weeks starting in Week 12. If they want to be undefeated at that point, they will have to get through the tough stretch they face over the next month.
The Broncos travel to San Diego this Monday, then after a bye head across the country to Baltimore before returning home to host the Steelers. The Broncos are good, but I don’t see them coming out of that stretch without a blemish on their record.
Chances of Going Undefeated: 5 percent.
So there you have it. Tune in tomorrow for a look at the four remaining winless teams and their chances of staying that way.
This article originally posted on Cubicle GM.