Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Are these NFL Teams Really That Good?

Okay, so welcome to part 2 of our review of “surprise” teams, both good and bad, in the NFL. Luckily for us there is still half a season left to play, with playoff races wide open and some unlikely leaders at the top of some key divisions in the AFC and NFC. The fan in us always loves to see these teams come out of nowhere and dominate, the same fan that roots for the Rays to win it all and that Oregon State beats USC. Sadly, the Buffalo Bills and Carolina Panthers might not finish as strong as they started. Once again we are going to break these teams down to figure out whether they are as good as their record.

Why not Atlanta? Again, 3rd place in their division. Why not Arizona? Someone has to win that division. Why not Tennessee? Most people thought they were a playoff team. They might be overachieving, but they weren’t expected to be bad. Why not the Ravens? Good question...

Buffalo was a team that some people did think could make waves this season, but it was still considered to be the Patriots’ division to win and the Jets’ turn to battle for a wild card spot. Instead they sit at 5-2, tied with the Patriots for the division lead. However, they have yet to beat an opponent with a winning record! In fact, their 5 wins have come against teams that are a combined 12-24 this season. Their 2 losses, on the other hand, have come against 4-3 Arizona and 3-4 Miami. They have only played one game within the division, and games within the division are always tough. How will this team fare against elite competition like the Patriots? Luckily, they sport one of the easiest schedules down the stretch- facing off against the likes of San Francisco, Cleveland, and Kansas City in consecutive weeks. The numbers are tough to break down against such inferior competition, but this team has certainly improved since last season. But by how much is tough to determine. Even if this team is not as good as advertised their road the rest of the season is simply too easy for them not to make the playoffs. With an average schedule this is probably still an 8-8 team.

Given the schedule they DO have, this is a 10-6 team at the very worst.

Carolina was anyone’s guess. Jake Delhomme had been benched for injury reasons (and probably performance reasons) last season and prognosticators were talking more about the potential emergence of Matt Moore than the resurgence of the franchise passer. Aside from the three games Delhomme played last year, this season sports the highest passer rating of his career at 88.7- more importantly, his full recovery from Tommy Johns surgery has given the Panthers (finally) a healthy quarterback they can rely on and he has made defenses pay with a passer rating over 110 in 4 of his last 5 games, and in those 4 games thrown 8 touchdowns to only 1 interception. The defense however has performed even more admirably. They are allowing 6 fewer points per game than they did last season, and have jumped from 31st in the league in sacks to 22nd behind a motivated and healthy Julius Peppers. Without significant personnel changes, Carolina has found its rhythm this season.
As for their schedule, 3 of their 5 wins have come against opponents with winning records, and they have games against Oakland and Detroit after their bye week. Look for the Panthers to be 8-2 going before going back into the division against Atlanta. The only concern for Panthers fans is that they ate 5-0 on the road this season and only 1-2 away, with only 3 more home games left this season. However, this same team was 2-6 at home and 5-3 on the road last season, so go figure.

I see no reason why this team can’t win ball games, but they do have some tough games down the stretch. This is an 11-5 team this season if they keep playing like they have been.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo: Rick Havner)

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