After the Panthers’ fortunate 29-26 victory over the reeling Colts on Monday Night Football just a few days ago, history was made as for the first time there are four teams with a perfect 7-0 record. The other three teams with a round figure in the loss column are the Cincinnati Bengals, the Denver Broncos and of course the New England Deflators… excuse me Patriots.
All jokes aside, starting 7-0 is usually a pretty good sign of things to come for your favorite team. Any team in NFL history that has started 7-0 has made the playoffs. Subsequently of the 32 teams that have started 7-0, 15 have gone on to make the Super Bowl and nine have gone on to win the whole thing. The last team to do so was the Saints in 2009.
So yeah, if you’re a fan of any of those teams be happy, your team has the best odds to go deep in the playoffs and even win it all! While there is a lot to like about these four undefeated teams, I’m going to tell you their flaws that will ultimately hinder them from winning the coveted Golden Anniversary Super Bowl at Levi’s Stadium.
The Carolina Panthers
What I Like: Let’s start with the lone wolf in the NFC shall we. Truthfully, the Panthers are not great. In fact, of the four, they are the weakest of the bunch. However, the return of Jonathon Stewart has helped carry the Panthers to the No. 1 running game in the NFL. Carolina also has a top 10 defense led by shut-down corner Josh Norman who has looked like the best at his position in the NFL for most of the season. Cam Newton looks like he is finally taking on the leadership role and playing good, safe football.
Why They Won’t Win: However, one thing always bothers me with the Panthers; the lack of play-makers outside of Newton and Stewart. I mean seriously, anyone who saw the MNF game saw the Panthers almost lose because Newton’s No. 1 receiver, Ted Guin Jr., dropped the easiest touchdown catch ever.
True it was raining, but still, stuff like that is the difference between winning and losing a Super Bowl. And while I did give Cam Newton praise, the fact is he hasn’t been spectacular either. He ranks 26th in the NFL in Total QBR (the stat that judges every snap a quarterback takes) and even ranks below Colin Kaepernick, the guy that just got benched by Blaine Gabbert…. Let that sink in.
Ultimately, I don’t blame this on Newton, he has no help. His best receiver is his tight-end (and unless that is Gronk, that usually is not a good sign), and most nights he is his teams’ best running back. Newton is the reason they are 7-0 but he can’t possibly keep this up. If they were to play a Rams team in the first round which has a dominant defense, chances are Newton wouldn’t be able to win that game all by himself.
The Cincinnati Bengals
What I Like: The Bengals are a really good football team. Andy Dalton has played lights-out ranking 4th in total QBR. They rank 3rd in points scored and 6th in total offense. The running game has come alive in recent weeks thanks to the two-headed attack led by Giovanni Bernard and Jeremy Hill and they still have one of the elite receivers in A.J Green. Lastly, the offensive line has been great, allowing the third least sacks in the NFL with nine.
Why They Won’t Win: Andy Dalton finally looks like a top 10 quarterback on a consistent basis week in and week out. However, the playoffs are where he looks just god-awful. Just to give you some stats, Dalton has thrown only one touchdown in the postseason while turning the ball over nine times.
I love the way he has been playing this season and I do believe he won’t be that terrible in playoffs, but I can’t believe it until I see it. It also doesn’t help that his defense isn’t as strong as it has been in recent years ranking 22nd in total defense. The Bengals are allowing 5.0 yards per carry, second worst in the NFL. Best way to stop a high-powered offense is to control clock by running the ball, something the Bengals can’t stop this year.
The New England Patriots
What I Like: I mean honestly, they’re the Patriots. They are consistently great. They have the second most sacks in the NFL (Coincidently behind the Broncos), they have a top five offense, and they have weapons all over the field including new addition Dion Lewis, who has been sensational. Lastly they have freaking Tom Brady and Bill Belichick – who wouldn’t want those guys?
Why They Won’t Win: The Patriots still have many flaws however, one being the lack of a deep threat. This year Brady has been making short to intermediate throws to get the job done but that won’t work against a team like the Broncos.
Also, their cornerbacks are a huge question mark. After the departures of Revis and Browner, the Patriots No. 1 corner is Malcolm Butler, the same one that got torched by Antonio Brown in Week 1. If the Patriots play a team with a stellar receiver like AJ Green, who’s to say that lack of depth at corner won’t finally come back to bite them.
The Denver Broncos
What I Like: To be quite honest, I love Denver. They have the No. 1 total defense in the NFL, No. 1 against the pass and No. 3 against the run. I love teams that are led by defenses because as the old saying goes “Defense wins championships.”
The running game has also come alive as of late with Ronnie Hillman and CJ Anderson. Usually running game + great defense equals Super Bowl, just ask the Seahawks of two years ago.
Plus the Broncos just added Vernon Davis. If he could be the Davis of years past, the passing game just got a lot better.
Why They Won’t Win: I hate to say it but honestly this might be the first time we will blame Peyton Manning for not winning a Super Bowl. This team looks great on all fronts, but the weakest link is the QB play.
True, Manning did look good against Green Bay, but that was coming off a bye week. No more bye weeks anymore. He ranks 21st in QBR with 52.0 and his -4 touchdown-interception margin is the worst by any 7-0 QB since 1950. Usually Manning is the one carrying the team, but this year, we might have to ask how far the Broncos defense can take this team.