NFL Teams Benefiting From Soft Divisions and Softer Schedules
During the first few weeks of the season, two teams stood out as the big surprises. The Kansas City Chiefs and Tampa Bay Buccaneers both stated the season 5-2 (both currently 7-4), while the Jacksonville Jaguars have quietly played to their current 6-5 record.
While none of these records are spectacular, not many expected any of these teams to be here. The Chiefs and Jaguars sit at the top of their divisions, while the Bucs must play third wheel to the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.
However, a more in-depth look at each of these three teams, you will find their "success" to be deceiving. It does leave me wondering though if it is a move in the right direction or simply a season of good fortunes. Initially, I'd say for two of them it is the beginnings of good teams, with the third team overachieving this year.
First, let's take a look at the FIRST PLACE Kansas City Chiefs. They currently own a 7-4 record and sit at the top of the AFC West, with the Chargers a game back at 6-4.
The Chiefs came out of nowhere in the first seven weeks of the season, starting 5-2. Their week one win against the Chargers on Monday night came as a shock, especially since I had the Chargers as my week one team in the Eliminator Challenge.
They have four wins of 18 or more points so far, including my beloved San Francisco 49ers.
The biggest factor in their record could be their rushing game on both sides of the ball. Kansas City leads the league by gaining 174 YPG on the ground while only giving up 96.5, good for 7th in the league.
The passing game does need some work though, gaining close to 201 YPG and giving up about 247, good for 25th and 24th in the league, respectively. An improved passing game may have changed the outcome in both of their close losses.
30-47! This is the combined record of the teams the Chiefs have beaten. I did not expect the Chiefs to be where they are, but looking at it this way kind of waters it down for me.
Kansas City has five games left and I believe four of them are winnable. How many will they win? Three! Unfortunately for them, San Diego has five winnable games left and I believe they will win out and win the division.
I do not want to seem like I am killing the Chiefs, because I am not. I believe they are headed in the right direction quickly. They have a talented young core on both sides of the ball. I would not be at all surprised if Kansas City plays their way into the playoffs in the next couple of years.
Now on to the "Best team in the NFC". No? Well that's what head coach claimed after a 5-2 start.
Of the three teams mentioned in this article, the Bucs may be the most surprising at 7-4. I believe I had them at 2-3 wins before the season. Stupid me!
A lot of talk is being heard about second year QB Josh Freeman and his ability to lead the Buccaneers in comebacks. For a young quarterback that is pretty impressive and a good way to start a career.
LaGarrette Blount and Mike Williams are both rookies who look like they will develop into good skill position players. For Freeman to have them at his disposal is a good sign for things to come. And don't forget about the speedy Cadillac Williams, if he can stay healthy.
Besides Freeman, the other thing that usually gets discussed when talking about the Bucs is the fact that they have ZERO wins against a team with a winning record. Ending the season playing six, maybe seven teams with a winning record is not impressive.
What the Bucs need is a signature win against a good team. This week they play at home against Atlanta and in week 17 they travel to New Orleans to finish the season with the Saints.
A win against one, or both, would show me they are not just a product of an easy schedule, but growing into a decent team. I am going to say they are the latter.
If I had to bet, I would say they get two more wins and finish off 9-7. Too bad they do not play in the NFC West!
Here we are, heading into week 13 and the Jacksonville Jaguars are tied with the Indianapolis Colts atop the AFC South. Crazy right? Considering that the division has largely under achieved it's not that crazy.
Which of these teams is as good as their record?
Houston has been a big disappointment, Tennessee is a mess right now, and the Colts can not stay healthy. What I thought would be the best division in football this year is mediocre.
Like Kansas City, the Jags have relied largely on their ground game to get victories. When you have a RB like Maurice Jones-Drew, why wouldn't you? You'd be stupid not to.
Another team I did not expect much from to start the season, the Jags have made the best of a manageable schedule. They are 2-1 in the Division including a key win against the Colts. This could be important come playoff time.
With only two wins against teams with winning records, it's hard to judge exactly where the Jaguars are at this point. At this point I'm going to take it for what it is, 6-4 and tied for the division lead. Let's see where they are at in a month.
In three weeks the Jags have a key match-up against the Indianapolis in what could be the game that decides this division. I'm going to take a shot and say both finish 10-6, sending the Jags to the playoffs based on the tie-breaker.
*Note: Based on my predictions the tie-breaker went to the fourth level (Conference record) which would go to the Jaguars.
I do not believe the Jags are the best team in the AFC South, just the benefactor of the other major issues in the division.
Looking to the near future I don't see the Jags being more then a mediocre team, barring any major changes. Jack Del Rio has been on the hot seat for awhile and I feel losing him and making the right hire would be good for the Jaguars.
This NFL season has no doubt been a little crazy, and the overachieving of these three teams is just one of the factors. I, as are all of you, am looking forward to the rest of the season and seeing how it all unfolds. Good luck to your respective teams and enjoy the show!
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