Every year the hunt for perfection in the NFL starts in week and and generally about halfway through the regular season, a handful of contenders emerge with a realistic shot at running the table. We’ve only seen an undefeated regular season team twice in history – and just once in a 16-game season.
The Carolina Panthers reminded us of all the possibility a perfect run can bring to the table, as they started off last year with a 14-0 mark before losing to the rival Atlanta Falcons. They didn’t go 16-0, but they did move on to the Super Bowl.
Fast forward to the present and there are just 16 undefeated teams heading into week two (that’s simple math, folks) and a maximum of 13 teams can enter week three at 2-0. The number obviously can only dwindle from there, but one thought we had is of the current 16 undefeated NFL teams, which actually have a shot at running the table?
Let’s see at who (for the moment) has that chance:
- New England Patriots
- Baltimore Ravens
- Pittsburgh Steelers
- Cincinnati Bengals
- Houston Texans
- Denver Broncos
- Kansas City Chiefs
- Oakland Raiders
- New York Giants
- Philadelphia Eagles
- Green Bay Packers
- Minnesota Vikings
- Detroit Lions
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Seattle Seahawks
- San Francisco 49ers
It’s a strange list, seeing as it doesn’t include some powerhouse teams like the Arizona Cardinals or Carolina Panthers, among others. Even weirder is that teams like the Lions, 49ers and Eagles are still in the land of the unbeaten.
We can probably start by safely eliminating those three squads from the hunt for perfection. Detroit was impressive in week one but doesn’t have the running game or defense to go the distance, Philly is working with a rookie quarterback and a rookie head coach and the Niners are paced by Blaine Gabbert.
Digging deeper into the trenches of the teams with the best odds to go 16-0, we can safely take down the Broncos, Raiders, Buccaneers, Vikings and Texans. Denver has an elite defense and nice running game but their division has gotten more competitive and Trevor Siemian is still unproven. Oakland impressed with a clutch week one win but their defense looks shaky all of a sudden and they could just as easily all ready be 0-1. Minnesota is another team with a strong defense and running game on paper, but their passing game leaves a lot to be desired at the moment. Houston also has a defense and improved during the off-season on offense, but we still don’t know if Brock Osweiler is the answer under center.
After we get past the obvious teams we’re stuck in no man’s land with teams like the Giants, Ravens and Chiefs. All three of these teams have playoff potential and Kansas City is coming off a crazy 2015 season that saw them win 12 games in a row at one point. They clearly have the ability to rattle off wins, but they needed OT to get a win in week one and their defense did not look elite. New York hasn’t been to the playoffs in years, too, and they beat a Cowboys team led by two key rookies by one lousy point. Something tells us they’re going to lose a game or seven. Baltimore is in play, too, especially if the defense we saw in week one sticks around. They have too many offensive lapses to survive an entire year without a loss, though, so they’re also out of the mix.
And then there were five:
If we’re being honest, none of these teams really stand out as a team that definitely can run the table. Each team has flaws or reasonable logic against them going 16-0.
New England still has three more games to go before Tom Brady returns. They could drop a game after he gets back, but the odds are pretty decent they trip up at some point in these next three contests. Pittsburgh oddly may be the best bet of this group if what we saw in week one is who they are. The Steelers offense is flat out insane and they don’t even have star rusher Le’Veon Bell yet. Of course, making it through the AFC North unscathed by itself could prove to be impossible.
The same goes for the Bengals, who actually face the Steelers right away in week two. That might cancel both teams out when you consider their odds, while Cincy is certainly the less likely to run the table of the two. The Bengals are even worse off as far as being undermanned, as they lost their offensive coordinator and two key receivers this off-season and may not have star tight end Tyler Eifert until mid-season.
Green Bay looked solid overall in week one, as they stopped a rising Jaguars team on the road and even had their defense stand firm late. That’s no easy task, but the Packers still have a lot to prove after a down 2015 season. An improved defense and the return of Jordy Nelson could give them a slight chance at perfection, but they’re still probably looking at 3-4 losses with a pretty brutal schedule ahead of them.
The same goes for Seattle, who did not look good offensively in week one and now have a less than 100% quarterback. Seattle has to face the Cardinals twice inside their own division, get Green Bay on the road later in the year and in general have a tough schedule. They’re bound to lose a few games in 2016.
Overall, we don’t see anyone realistically escaping the 2016 NFL regular season without a loss. Both conferences seem fairly wide open and at the highest level there are several quality teams that could contend for elite records and deep playoff runs. While we don’t foresee perfection, it’s likely that if it did happen, it’s coming from one of these five teams we just touched on.
Think someone is destined to go 16-0 in 2016? Let us hear your pick in the comments below!