Week 10 is almost upon us and there still remains three teams with undefeated records. This marks the first time in NFL history that this many teams have held an 8-0 record. The Patriots, Panthers and Bengals have all taken the league by storm this season.
Are you surprised at the remaining undefeated teams? ‘Cause I sure am. I don’t mean to bring this up (I hate non-football talk) but Tom Brady wasn’t even supposed to play for the first 4 games of the season. I highly doubt the highly touted Jimmy Garoppolo would’ve won all 4 of his starts. When Kelvin Benjamin was ruled out for the season, I completely ruled out the Panthers – with a lack of weapons, I figured them and Cam Newton would plummet in an improved NFC South. Boy, was I wrong about that. As for the Bengals, well, we all thought they’d keep on being the Bengals.
With three undefeated teams left standing in the NFL, who will be the next to fall? Who will be the last? Can any of these teams finish the season undefeated? I’ll answer all those questions for you.
Let’s start with the Patriots, shall we? The team that most anticipate to finish the season undefeated, if any of these teams actually do compete the feat. Tom Brady and the Pats have absolutely steamrolled through most of their “competition” so far this season, and they show no signs of letting up. This week they match up against Tom Coughlin’s New York Giants, a team that has beaten them twice in the Super Bowl. While they should leave East Rutherford with a win, it certainly will be a game to watch.
Looking down the line, they have three remaining division games on the schedule, two of which are on the road to end the season. The Jets get a rematch in week 16 – that’s the game that jumps out to me. At that time, the Jets will be very deep in a playoff race as they look to clinch a Wildcard spot. Plus, they want nothing more than to beat their bitter divisional rival after coming so close in week 8. Even before then they visit Denver; and while Brady always seems to get the best of Peyton Manning, especially at this stage of their careers, it makes for an extremely close football game.
The Patriots have shown glimpses of the 2007 squad that finished the season 16-0. They very well could repeat that this season, but I just don’t see it happening. I expect at least one or two losses from New England. I’m not sure when thy will fall, but they should have a loss after their week 16 matchup with the Jets.
Next we’ll take a trip down south to Carolina. It hasn’t been pretty for the Panthers, but they’ve rolled all season long and have gutted out victories in many close contests. I’ve been sleeping on them all season long, but they made a statement this past week with their win against the Packers which really opened my eyes and made me warm up to them.
Ron Rivera has done a tremendous job with this squad this year – they play a tough, physical, scrappy brand of football which is what it’s all about. I love how they’ve treated Cam Newton in the offense and have allowed him to say true to his role. Newton has really stepped it up this year and has made a legitimate MVP case. Even without Kelvin Benjamin, he’s led a good offense there in Carolina, and has made everyone around him better. The defense is a strong as they come for the Panthers as well.
This week they visit Tennessee in a game that I think will be a lot closer than many anticipate – a typical trap game. Spirits are riding high after a win over the Packers, but the Titans are an energized football team under interim coach Mike Mularkey, as you could tell over their upset victory over New Orleans this past week. Marcus Mariota played tremendous football last week, and I believe that’s a sign of things to come. With that being said, I’m calling the upset this week as the Panthers lose their first football game of the season, leaving no unbeaten teams in the NFC.
Now, if my bold prediction doesn’t stay true and the Panthers actually do pulverize the Titans which many expect; where else could they lose down the line? They play back-to-road games against Dallas and New Orleans. The Cowboys could be reloaded at that point with a rested Romo back under center. A road, division win is never easy – especially against Drew Brees. Then again a few weeks later they have consecutive road games. This time they visit the division rival Falcons and Eli Manning and the Giants – both games that could go either way.
I fully anticipate a Panthers loss by week 13, but as I said, I’m going with the upset this week. Overall, I could see Carolina ending the season with as many as 3 losses on the year.
Now for the Bengals. Entering the season, they were in afterthought in the AFC North. Many, like myself, were riding the Baltimore Ravens, but you see how that’s gone. Or even the Steelers with their high powered offense, but they’ve dealt with key injuries all year. While many thought of Cincinnati as a borderline playoff team, none could’ve predicted the scorching hot start they’ve gotten off to so far. (No, that’s not an Andy Dalton pun)
This week the Bengals will take to the big stage and visit the Houston Texans on Monday Night Football. MNF always seems to turn in close, competitive games that come down to the final drive, but I see Cincy running away with it this week against a battered Texans team. Look to week 11 where they visit the Cardinals. Straight up, the Bengals will lose that game. Carson Palmer will go off against his former team and bring an end to the undefeated frenzy going on in Cincinnati. The Cards are a tough, physical football team – especially on defense, more different than any team the Bengals have seen so far this season; maybe excluding the Seahawks.
After that, the Bengals still have three division games left – they haven’t gone undefeated within the AFC North since 2009 and have even been upset by the Browns each of the last three years. Other games to look for is their week 16 matchup where they visit the Denver Broncos.
While Andy Dalton has looked like a godsend this season while making a dark horse attempt at an MVP award, I predict the Bengals to lose their first game in week 12.
To summarize, I have the Panthers losing this week on a gut feeling against an upstart Titans team as they prove to be the next domino to fall. Following that, the Bengals will lose in week 12 against Carson Palmer and the Cardinals. As for the Patriots, it’s hard to predict when they will lose their first game, but I wouldn’t bank on them going undefeated. If they enter week 16 still with no losses, I can’t wait to see that New York Jets team and their drive to put an end to that.