Halfway through the season, there are 3 NFL teams who have managed to win each game they have played, holding 8-0 records. They are the Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots, and Cincinnati Bengals. Each has their own unique roster and style of play, but they all share an unblemished record. It is extremely rare that teams make it even this far without slipping up in a game, so it’s pretty incredible that there are currently 3 squads that have made it to this point without losing.
The last team to have gone all the way through the regular season without losing is the Patriots in 2007, so the question is which of the teams that have not lost are most likely to remain that way for the remaining 8 games of the regular season on their schedules. Following are the remaining schedules for the 3 teams, along with some reasons that they may or may not be able to win the remaining games on their schedule.
- Vs Texans
- @ Cardinals Sunday Night
- Vs Rams
- @ Browns
- Vs Steelers
- @ 49ers Sunday Night
- @ Broncos Monday Night
- Vs Ravens
Why They Will Remain Undefeated
Andy Dalton is having arguably the best year of his career so far as the QB and the leader of the offense. He has 2228 yards, and 18 TDs to just 4 INTs and 0 fumbles lost. He has great weapons to throw the ball to in AJ Green and Tyler Eifert, and the offensive line is playing extremely well, allowing just 11 sacks so far. According to ESPN’s team website Dalton is getting the ball out in just 2.17 seconds after he receives the snap, which allows very little time for defensive linemen to get to him, and gets the speedy and skilled players on the offense the ball with time to make moves and gain yards.
The Running game of the Bengals is held down by two RB’s that could start for most teams, in Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill sharing carries and catches out of the backfield, each with different skill sets. Bernard is a smaller, quicker back who is gaining 5.6 yards a carry, and Hill is a big, strong back who gets a lot of the goal line carries and can run people over with his high strength. The passing game has been aided by this as well, as the high powered running game means that defenses have to put more people in the box, leading to effective play action plays and more open receivers downfield.
The defense of this team is also very stout, as it has been for a few years. They are allowing just 17.8 points per game, placing them at 4th in the league. They are also winning the turnover battle on the season, causing 12 and turning it over to the other team just 8 times, with Reggie Nelson intercepting 3 times and recovering 1 fumble so far at the FS position. As much of a weapon as the defense is, the defense is just as lethal so far, which is a recipe for success.
Why They Won’t Remain Undefeated:
One issue that a good amount of NFL experts have seen over the last few years with this team is that they fade a little bit in the spotlight. They are tied for the best record in the conference, and will get the best shot of their opponents every game from here on out. They have 3 remaining primetime games out of their 8 remaining, so they will have to prove that they can handle it.
The first one is 11/22 against the Cardinals in Arizona on Sunday night. The Cardinals are led by Carson Palmer, and have a set of wide receivers that are arguably as talented as any other team. They also have a solid defense that can shut down opponents and make big plays.
They also have to go against The Broncos 12/28 on a Monday night in Denver. Peyton Manning has not looked all that incredible for some of the games he has played this year, but they have maybe the best defense in the league, and you can never count Peyton out. Since it is the second to last game of the year, it could be that this game is important for securing home playoff games and seeds, so Denver could have a lot of motivation to win.
Dalton has been playing well, but history shows that he has not been able to keep up an elite level for more than a streak. The offensive line has been protecting him a lot, so a team that can pass rush and get pressure on him may be able to get some real disappointing results for the Bengals offense. It is hard to see them not getting at least one of the top 3 playoff seeds, but undefeated for 16 games seems like quite a stretch.
- @ Giants
- Vs Bills Monday Night
- @ Broncos Sunday Night
- Vs Eagles
- @ Texans
- Vs Titans
- @ Jets
- @ Dolphins
Why They Will Remain Undefeated:
It seems like it’s almost getting old, but Tom Brady, yet again, is proving himself to be a hall-of-fame QB, with new motivation to repeat as super bowl champions after the “deflate-gate” scandal. He is leading the offense to 34.3 points per game, placing them at 1st place in that category.
They are passing the ball for 325.5 passing yards a game, which is 3rd overall. With that mark, it could be even higher, as they are blowing out a lot of teams, and not attacking with the pass later in the 4th quarter of some of their contests. Rob Gronkowski seems pretty unstoppable, and Julian Edelman is one of the better possession receivers we have right now in the league. Both players have 7 TD’s each on the season, with Brady having thrown 22 TD’s to just 2 INT’s.
New England does not run the ball at a particularly great clip, averaging just 94.8 rush yards per game, ranking them at 26th overall. However, LeGarrette Blount is a huge force running the ball, and he is getting a good amount of goal line touches resulting in 5 TD’s thus far. They also do not fumble the ball very much in the running game, a huge part of successful football. They have not lost a fumble rushing the ball the entire year, with Blount just losing the ball one time, but the Patriots were able to recover.
The Patriot defense is also playing extremely well, as they are extremely well coached, and opportunistic on turnover opportunities. They are allowing 17.9 points a game, which is 5th in the league. With an offense that is scoring so many points, they can afford to attack other teams, knowing that if they make a few mistakes the offense can make up for some of the points given up. As such, they are playing very aggressively and getting a lot of stops, without so much pressure.
An underrated aspect of this team that could help them win a lot of games is the kicking game. Steven Gostkowski has made 19/19 field goals, and 31/31 XP’s. They are leaving no points on the field in the kicking game, which is extremely important in some of the close games they may have in the future.
Why They Won’t Remain Undefeated:
Like the Bengals, the Patriots have to go into Denver on a Sunday Night down the stretch against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, who seem to be able to shine when the moment is brightest a lot of the time. The Patriots will likely still be the favorite in the game, as they probably will be throughout the entire season, but that does not mean they can’t fall to a very solid opponent.
The rushing yard number is also very scary for the Patriots. They are definitely a pass-first time, and it works, but if some teams can figure out how to at least slow down the pass a little bit, they may need to rely on a running game that has not produced a ton of yards. Dion Lewis had been having a break out year before he recently became injured for the rest of the season. Lewis had been a main target out of the backfield on passes, and will be missed badly, especially in short-yardage plays.
The offensive line is also incredibly beat-up. They have been rotating different players around on the line all year due to injuries. This could be a real problem against teams with effective front-7s on the defense, who look to rush the pass and get pressure on Brady, which could result in sacks and turnovers.
The secondary on the defense has been pretty good up to this point, but they have some relatively unproven guys at the corner position. Nobody knew who Malcolm Butler was until his miraculous play that saved last year’s super bowl for them. He has played well, but it could be that the defense gets torched down-field by some teams with high-level QB’s and receivers.
- @ Titans
- Vs Redskins
- @ Cowboys Thanksgiving Day
- @ Saints
- Vs Falcons
- @ Giants
- @ Falcons
- Vs Buccaneers
Why They Will Remain Undefeated:
The Panthers are the lone undefeated team in the NFC, with their most important win so for coming last week against the Green Bay Packers. As the leader of the NFC South, the worst division in football last year, they do not have a particularly difficult schedule for the rest of the year. Their lone prime game comes against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, who are not playing well at all thus far in the season.
Cam Newton is one of the more entertaining players in the league, and his abilities to make a ton of different plays on the field has led this offense to 28.5 points a game, ranking them at 4th in the league. He has a huge arm, but can also run for yards and points if the games upcoming call for such plays.
Greg Olsen is Newton’s favorite target, out of the TE position. He has 584 yards and 5 TD’s so far on the year, great numbers for his place on the field, even with all the attention he receives from opposing defenses.
The Panthers can run the ball effectively as well, as they have for years. Jonathan Stewart continues to produce out of the tailback spot for 571 yards and 3 TD’s leading the rushing attack to a team average of 142.3 yards per game, placing them at 2nd in the league. Because they are so effective running the ball, it spreads the field for Newtown to make plays with his arm.
The defense of the Panthers will help them down the stretch as well. Thomas Davis and Luke Kuechly are both extremely productive out of the LB spots, as the top two defenders in tackles for the squad. Josh Norman has been placed at the CB against the best opposing receiver, and has shut them down effectively. He has already deflected 13 passes and intercepted 4 of them. Because he is able to be on an island and defend quality pass-catchers, he allows the other players on the team to attack rushers and QB’s and get more pressure, which looks good for the team’s future.
Why They Won’t Remain Undefeated:
The other team in the NFC south with a winning record is the Atlanta Falcons, who the Panthers have to play twice down the stretch. It is always tough to win on the road in the NFL, especially against a team with a 6-3 record and a plethora of stars, especially on offense. The Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys, even though they are not playing particularly well to this point, could be a trap game as well. Tony Romo should be back by that time, and even with a terrible record, the Cowboys might be motivated to fight for a playoff spot in a weak NFC East.
Though Cam Newton is playing well, the Panthers are also just averaging 216.6 passing yards per game, just 27th in the league. In the current NFL, passing is such an integral aspect of the game. If the Panthers are to go down a few scores, it will be difficult to come back and win quickly if they can’t pick up a lot of yards through the air. Part of the reason that they are so ineffective in passing yards is that they do not have a good receiving corps. Teams may be able to get more pressure on Newton and the offense if receivers can’t get a lot of separation quickly.
The defense is quality, but part of the reason they are playing well is that the Panthers offense is scoring a lot of points, which makes other teams out of their comfort zones and allows the Panthers to make plays on defense. In games later in the schedule that the offense may struggle, other offenses may not have to take as many chances, and thus may struggle a little big against the real game plans that other teams may throw at them.
Regardless of whether or not these teams are able to win every single game through the rest of the year, these three teams will likely be playing late into the playoffs. The NFL is tough, and it is likely that none of the teams will be able to go undefeated, especially if they are resting players toward the end of the year to preserve health. Either way, it will be exciting to see what they can do in the remainder of the season.
Latest posts by Eric Newman (see all)
- Jon Rahm looks forward to first Masters - April 4, 2017
- 2nd Annual Christmas for Sports Fans - December 13, 2016
- Entirely-Too-Early Minnesota Timberwolves 2016-17 Season Preview - August 1, 2016