This NFL season has been a weird one. We’re through Week 10 and no one’s that good. Practically every team has an issue, which means we might get the Rams in the Super Bowl. Yeah, Jared Goff in the Super Bowl! I’m ready, and you should be too. It seriously might happen.
For every team that’s worthy of a mention, I’m gonna make a case for and a case against them being the best in the league. Let’s go!
New England Patriots
Case for: The case for is a pretty obvious one: Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, and the feeling of being an idiot when you doubt them. So your best bet is to not do it. Also, New England’s remaining schedule is the Mexico City game vs. Oakland, which could go either way for multiple reasons, against the Steelers, and two games each against Miami and Buffalo. I guess you can count the Jets game as a win too.
Case against: The defense is still a disaster. Some are gonna say “They’ve only given up 36 points in their last three games!!!” OK, congratulations on shutting down Brock Osweiler, a Chargers team that can’t do anything right, and an Atlanta team whose defense is still young, inexperienced and pretty mediocre (Actually, bad! 29th in DVOA!). They have no pass rush, and the secondary has been frustrating (The Stephon Gilmore signing was terrible when it was made and is still terrible). The defense could be a fatal flaw. Can they shut down the Eagles?
Case for: I told you guys this team was gonna be good! I’m so proud of myself. I thought Carson Wentz was in for a monster season (He was my target QB in fantasy). This defense was loaded with talent, and the offense had weapons. Now, it’s all coming together. Wentz has it. The defense is top ten; don’t even try running the ball on this team (They’ve allowed 598 rushing yards all year. 598!). They’re hot, but the schedule is about to get tougher. Now comes reality.
Case against: Um… that nobody thought they’d this good? Is that why we can’t admit it? Is that our best case? Doug Pederson is the head coach? Wentz has no playoff experience and is only in his 2nd year? That the schedule gets hard? (Two games vs. Dallas, @Seattle, @Rams, vs. Oakland) If they’re the best team though, they need to win three of those five games. Besides those possible reasons, there is no case against.
Los Angeles Rams
Case for: Did I actually just type that? My God, what a weird season. Anyways, Los Angeles’ defense is as good as we expected it to be. They’re ranked 3rd in DVOA. The Rams defense is clutch. They’ll give up points and big plays, but when it matters, they get it done. The offense has been explosive, as Sean McVay has turned Jared Goff into a NFL player. Robert Woods is 13th in receiving yards in the league. Todd Gurley is back, and is tied for first in the league with seven rushing touchdowns. The offense is legit. They can keep up with practically anyone.
Case against: What if this Jared Goff season is just a big hot streak, and we’re due for an epic, complete nuclear meltdown from him and the Rams? What if the real Jared Goff is still lurking? The schedule is gonna get harder; they have Minnesota this weekend in the Case Keenum revenge/Oh my God how are these QBs good game, and Philadelphia (That game is gonna be 50-40 or 14-10), and a Seahawks team that I don’t really know what to expect out of. So, we’ll see. But don’t take these Rams lightly. The odds of them being good as opposed to bad are high.
Case for: Minnesota has a fantastic defense that’s probably still a little underrated (Personally: It’s the best league. Vikings fans can stop saying I don’t respect them. It’s just Case Keenum). The defensive line is a menace, and Anthony Barr knocked out Aaron Rodgers, which might be one of the biggest reasons Minnesota is as good as they are. The offense has become not only relevant but scary, with Stefon Diggs getting back on track and Adam Thielen turning into one of the league’s “How did he reel that in?” receivers. They still miss Dalvin Cook, but the emergence of a passing attack has covered that up. Oh, and Teddy Bridgewater might be coming back. Watch out. He’s hungry.
Case against: This is a hard one to make. Essentially, it begins and ends with the quarterback. Case Keenum has been playing out of his mind, but we can’t forget that he is in fact Case Keenum, and that math and logic tells us there’s a drop-off coming. There’s no way he can keep this up. The good news is that if he regress to the mean, the Vikings have Teddy Bridgewater locked and loaded. I’m on the Bridgewater Bandwagon. If he’s healthy and can be the guy he was before the injury, Minnesota will be home for the Super Bowl.
Case for: Pittsburgh doesn’t pass the eye test, but a 7-3 record has them in decent position. They’re a second half team, still have Le’Veon Bell and Antonio Brown, and a super underrated defense (4th in DVOA!). Martavis Bryant did some things Sunday, and JuJu Smith-Schuster has been just as exciting as we’d hope he’d be.
Case against: Maybe that this team has looked and played like crap for 75% of the minutes they’ve been on the field this season? What about the fact that they’ve almost lost to Cleveland and Colts? What about actually losing to Jacksonville and Chicago? Do we really trust this team? This has been the most inexplicable Mike Tomlin coaching season yet; it really doesn’t feel like these players have any confidence left in him. Oh, and what about the locker room? Are they all the way in on each other? What about Ben Rothlisberger? He hasn’t been totally fantastic this season and considered retirement in the offseason. Is he all the way in? I’m waiting for this team to fall apart.
New Orleans Saints
Case for: Drew Brees will never die, Alvin Kamara is unstoppable and the Saints defense actually isn’t a flaming disaster! That’s really all there is to it. New Orleans’ offense lights up scoreboards, with Kamara and Mark Ingram creating a deadly 1-2 punch and Brees turning dudes like Ted Ginn Jr. into reliable receivers. Also, Willie Snead came back; he’s a beast and will probably end up with 50 catches. The defense has been stunningly good; ranked 5th by DVOA, the secondary has shut down top receivers thanks to rookie Marshon Lattimore and Vonn Bell, another Ohio State product who’s having a breakout year. New Orleans isn’t being talked about enough.
Case against: The Panthers are their best win during this seven game win streak, and they were beat pretty soundly by Minnesota (A game I was at. Then, it seemed like last year’s issues would plague them) and New England. The other issue is similar to a bunch of teams: It just doesn’t feel right.
Kansas City Chiefs
Case for: Alex Smith is a MVP candidate, Kareem Hunt (like Alvin Kamara) has been unstoppable, and Tyreek Hill is a “Let’s run this defensive package and hope we catch him” type player. The offense has gone to levels we didn’t expect, and they can hang points on anyone. They also have wins over Philadelphia, New England and a good Houston team.
Case against: The defense, which has been a mainstay over the past three years, is 26th in DVOA and has been plagued by a terrible secondary. The loss of Eric Berry has killed them. They’ve been even worse up front, struggling to get to the quarterback with what seems like an aging group of guys. Also, don’t we have to ask the Keenum question here too? What happens if this is just one long hot streak by Smith? What if he regresses to the mean? KC has the offensive weapons to survive it, but a streak like this would regress to Blake Bortles-like levels.
Case for: If the offense can be at least average, then the defense should be able to carry them.
Case against: They’ve been incredibly inconsistent. You can’t watch any Panthers game and actually expect them to win. The offense has been mediocre and is now being torn apart by trades and injuries; Curtis Samuel was their primary receiver after the Kelvin Benjamin trade and now he’s gone. That’s leaving Russell Sheppard as the main target (Though Ed Dickson can catch balls like it’s nothing) and will increase Christian McCaffrey’s role, as if he needs the ball more. They still have Minnesota, New Orleans and Atlanta left on their schedule. Yeah… Carolina should be lucky they got a spot on this list.
Case for: Russell Wilson can do anything.
Case against: Wilson has been on the run all season due to a faulty offensive line, which can’t even protect him from the fronts of Tennessee and Washington (Though the Redskins’ line is underrated). The defense wasn’t the same at the beginning of the year and is now tattered by injuries, which now includes Richard Sherman being out for the year. Due to these issues, they’re always gonna be in close games and will look like crap for at least the first half. Can they get away with that in the playoffs (if they even make it)?
Those are the teams with the best cases. Since this is a weird year, most of them are surprises and don’t really seem fit to be there. But they have to be; like, the Rams are 7-and-freaking-2.
Here’s a couple teams I left out:
- The Falcons have gotten poor play out of their receivers, with multiple crucial drops. Matt Ryan hasn’t passed the eye test, and Atlanta seems to have the Super Bowl in the back of their minds (not surprising) because they cannot be trusted with any lead.
- The Cowboys’ defense isn’t what people are making it out to be. They have a pass rush (which is important), but it doesn’t mean much if the rest of the group can’t get it done. Dallas’ D is 22nd in DVOA, and stack up pretty average against the run and pass. But the difference is a big one; in their four losses, Dallas has given up over 30 points three times. They can contain bad teams, but don’t stand a chance against average-to-good ones. The loss of Tyron Smith and Ezekiel Elliot has been detrimental to the offense, as Adrian Clayborne proved. Dak Prescott and Russell Wilson are in pretty similar spots. It’s hard to see them escaping it.