October 15, 2019, 22:51

NFL’s undefeated teams: Super Bowl contenders or pretenders?

NFL’s undefeated teams: Super Bowl contenders or pretenders?

Eight teams have started the NFL season undefeated through three weeks.

Since 1930, there has only been one other season (1998) where this many teams started so well in the first three games.

Early success doesn’t necessarily mean a playoff run later down the line – the Miami Dolphins were 3-0 to start last season, and look at them now! – but with so many hot starts, we’ve decided to break down which teams are capable of going all the way, and which will crash back down to earth.

Are they Super Bowl contenders or pretenders?

Buffalo Bills

W 17-16 @ Jets, W 28-14 @ Giants, W 21-17 vs Bengals

The Bills have a tremendous coach in Sean McDermott – who guided them to the postseason in 2017 to end an 18-year drought. They also have a rising second-year quarterback in Josh Allen.

Although his numbers are moderate (64.1 completion percentage, 250 passing yards per game and an 83.4 passer rating), they are improved from 2018 (53.4, 181.8, 68.5).

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Allen is making plays when it matters – through the air and on the ground (26 attempts for 105 yards and two TDs). Plus, the defense is coming up big, and they rank fifth in yards per game allowed (299.7) and points per game allowed (15.7).

However, in order to go far, Allen’s attack will need to improve and put more points on the board. There’s no doubt this team is ready to ‘compete’, but will they be able to keep up with the high-flying Patriots, Chiefs and Ravens in the AFC?

Verdict: Pretenders

Dallas Cowboys

W 35-17 vs Giants, W 31-21 @ Redskins, W 31-6 vs Dolphins

Boasting the NFC’s top-scoring offense (32.3 points per game) and third-best defense (14.7 PPG allowed), Dallas look to be the cream of the conference so far. With two division wins, they are already separating themselves in the East, and all of their playmakers are getting the job done.

Dak Prescott, after three solid but unspectacular seasons, has come out firing with 10 total touchdowns through the first three games and outstanding numbers all-round.

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Ezekiel Elliott (55-289-2) is showing no signs of rust after his summer holdout and Amari Cooper (16-238-4) is proving to be worth the No 1 receiver price Dallas paid for him.

With young linebackers Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch also playing up to last year’s levels, the Cowboys are a legitimate force to be reckoned with.

Verdict: Contenders

Detroit Lions (2-0-1)

T 27-27 @ Cardinals, W 13-10 vs Chargers, W 27-24 @ Eagles

The last of four teams who have started undefeated after missing the postseason last year (Bills, Packers and 49ers), can Detroit make it back after just a two-year absence?

In Matt Patricia’s debut season, the Lions were in the middle or bottom of the pack on both sides of the ball, finishing with a 6-10 record and a fourth-place NFC North finish. This year, they already have two majorly impressive wins over the Chargers and Eagles.

However, tougher tests lie ahead. They host the Chiefs this week, visit the Packers next, and then host the Vikings. In a highly-competitive division, will Detroit be able to keep with the pace?

Verdict: Pretenders

Green Bay Packers

W 10-6 @ Bears, W 21-16 vs Vikings, W 27-16 vs Broncos

Under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, these Packers don’t look like the team we are used to seeing. Instead of a high-flying Aaron Rodgers-led attack, they are doing it with defense.

They rank second in scoring defense with 11.7 points per game allowed, fifth in passing yards allowed (197.3 per game), third in sacks (12) and lead the league in takeaways (eight).

The question is: can Rodgers and the offense get hot soon? Or at least by the time it counts towards the end of the season?

Verdict: Contenders

Kansas City Chiefs

W 40-26 @ Jaguars, W 28-10 @ Raiders, W 33-28 vs Ravens

Patrick Mahomes is on another level. Through 20 career games, he has the most passing yards (6,576), passing touchdowns (60) and highest passer rating (115.3) in NFL history.

With another terrific outing last weekend, he became the first player ever to record at least 350 yards, three TD passes and zero picks in three consecutive games.

Even without Tyreek Hill, and with injuries in the backfield, the Chiefs can’t be slowed down. They will no doubt be in the mix again after reaching the AFC Championship game last season.

Verdict: Contenders

Los Angeles Rams

W 30-27 @ Panthers, W 27-9 vs Saints, W 20-13 @ Browns

Last year’s runners-up have certainly not looked as crisp on offense compared to the previous two seasons under Sean McVay. They rank 22nd in yards per game (234) and eighth in points (25.7) after finishing in the top two in points in 2017 and 2018.

Quarterback Jared Goff has had his struggled (only four touchdowns to three picks, and a QB rating of 84.5) but it’s a sign of the strength of this team that they have been able to come through with some ugly wins.

Plus, this defense looks strong – they have held opponents to the third-fewest yards in the league (285.7) and Aaron Donald (one sack) hasn’t even got going yet. The Rams will be in the mix again.

Verdict: Contenders

New England Patriots

W 33-3 vs Steelers, W 43-0 @ Dolphins, W 30-14 vs Jets

There’s not much that needs to be said about Bill Belichick, Tom Brady and their six-time Super Bowl-winning side but we will indulge anyway.

Their season so far has been unreal.

They are 106-17 up on opponents so far, and haven’t conceded a single touchdown on defense (a muffed punt and pick-six thrown by backup QB Jarrett Stidham have resulted in the only points they have given up).

Quite simply, they are as dominant as ever.

Verdict: Contenders

San Francisco 49ers

W 31-17 @ Buccaneers, W 41-17 @ Bengals, W 24-20 vs Steelers

Not since Colin Kaepernick was quarterback for San Francisco in 2013 have the 49ers made the playoffs. Since then, three head coaches have departed and the team has stumbled to a 25-55 record in the last five seasons.

It’s now year three under Kyle Shanahan, and finally things are coming together. Their franchise quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, is healthy. The team is scoring points (32 per game) and the rushing attack is the fourth-best in the league.

Sourse: skysports.com

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