Thursday, October 22, 2009

Who's been tested in the NFL?

With such a great number of undefeated and winless teams left, many are trying to predict the playoffs in October. Teams are being judged by their record rather than how they got it. What many fail to notice is that a lot of teams that hold an undefeated record have earned it by beating those with awful records. For instance, the Giants defeat JaMarcus Russell and are applauded for having the NFL’s best defense, while the Patriots have to take on the high powered Broncos offense. Peyton Manning destroys the Titans, who can’t beat anybody, and he's showered with praise. With this list I will look at some teams’ schedules and performance and evaluate who’s been tested and who is overhyped...
The Tested
The Cincinnati Bengals – The Bengals have gone against some tough competition this season and come out on top. They would’ve won the season opener against the now 6-0 Broncos if it weren’t for that ludicrous touchdown by Brandon Stokley. They then beat the Packers, Super Bowl champion Steelers, division rival Browns, and the much hyped Ravens. Only one of their wins came against a team that likely has no chance of getting to the playoffs. Despite Sunday’s loss to the emerging contender Texans, I think this team has a balanced offensive attack that will allow it to make it far this season.
The New Orleans Saints – The Saints have really only faced two bad opponents, The Lions and The Bills. Brees threw 6 Touchdown passes to dominate the Lions, and Pierre Thomas rushed for over 100 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 27-7 victory over the Bills. Most importantly the Saints have established their worth against noteworthy teams such as the Eagles and the previously undefeated Giants. It is clear that this team has been tested and has proved worthy of the hype.
The New England Patriots – The Patriots have perhaps been the most tested of any teams this year. Every team they had faced before Sunday was undefeated (excluding the Bills since it was week 1). When they finally faced a losing team they absolutely dominated in a 59-0 shutout. Even with Brady’s struggles recovering from knee surgery and a year off, the Patriots managed to win against strong teams such as the Falcons and Ravens - while getting two losses that could have easily gone the other way against the formidable Broncos and Jets. All the while, apparent elite teams were defeating the Browns, Redskins, Chiefs and Rams and getting all the praise. Shaking off the rust, Brady and the Patriots look to get back to old form for the rest of the season.
Honorable Mentions: The Broncos
Too Hard to Tell
The Indianapolis Colts – You can’t deny that Peyton Manning is having a great season. However, the undefeated Colts have yet to face a team with a winning record. They beat the Jaguars in week 1, then the Dolphins, the hung over Cardinals (their record was 1-1 at the time), the Seahawks without Hasselbeck, and the winless Titans. Next week they take on the also winless Rams. I don’t doubt Peyton Manning’s abilities but rather those of new head coach Jim Caldwell. He has not yet been faced with a very challenging team and sometimes having a great quarterback is not enough to win. Though I don’t believe the Colts are a bad team, I’m not buying the hype they’ve garnered this season or the great numbers Manning has put up. The Colts are most likely going to win their division and go to the playoffs, but their lack of challenging tests in the regular season could cause them to be overcome once again in the post-season.
The New York Jets – The Jets have shown flashes of greatness this year. However, I said it at the time and I’ll say it again, The Jets were massively over-hyped at the beginning of the season. The teams they defeated were: the Texans, a struggling Patriots team with Brady playing his second NFL game in a year, and the winless Titans. They then proceeded to lose to the Saints and two division rivals in a row, Miami and Buffalo. Though at times the Jets have proved that they can be someone to contend with, they are showing cracks early on. Their offense is mostly ineffective, Mark Sanchez being not everything everyone wanted him to be. Despite these weaknesses, the reason I put them in the maybe pile is that they have the potential to be good in the future. They have a tough defense which makes them a legitimate opponent for elite teams. With a relatively easy schedule for the season, the Jets have the potential to grab the Wild Card. However, with New England finding itself atop the division again, New York will probably be looking up to them from here on out.
The Minnesota Vikings – The Vikings could go either way to me. They have extraordinary talent with players like Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre. However, this is a list of who has been tested and the Vikings are just beginning to be tried. Half of the Vikings’ wins have come against 3 of the rock bottom teams. They managed to put together miracle victories over the decent 49ers and the Ravens. Excluding these, their one big victory was the one over The Packers, which was very impressive. However, for obvious reasons it’s hard to argue that they could play with such emotional intensity against any other team. Also, judging from last season it’s hard to tell whether Favre’s early success could last into January. If the Vikings can remain undefeated on Sunday against the Super Bowl champs I will qualify them as tested - until then it’s hard to tell.
The Untried
The New York Giants – I’m not saying that they’re a bad team but they are obviously not as untouchable as everyone wanted them to be. The Giants are a perfect case of people judging a team by their stats and record over their games. Of course the Giants had the best defense in the NFL before Drew Brees decimated it last Sunday. This may be because the combined records of The Giants previous opponents now total 8-21. When they finally faced a proven team they were absolutely dominated. Again, the Giants aren’t a bad team; otherwise they would have struggled against their atrocious opponents in the beginning. However, so many people were fooled by their record and stats and gave them the crown of the NFL so early. One analyst said it perfectly when watching playback of the Giants-Saints showdown, “Welcome to a real game, Giants”.

3 comments:

  1. Funny how a team looks on paper is not always a good predictor of their performance. Look a the baseball finals this year. Red Sox has always defeated the Angels in post season and everyone thought this year would be no different - NOT. CC and A Rod always choke in post seasons - NOT. So...

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  2. So how long is Brett going to last, is this the Sunday that he goes down? Don't get me wrong I am a fan!

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  3. Couldn't have said it better. The true test for some of these "hyped up" teams will come when they actually have to play a competitive team....yes that comment is directed to the Indianapolis Colts

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