The supposedly predictable AFC was shaken up last week as Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans took down the Kansas City Chiefs before Patrick Mahomes suffered his nasty knee injury.
Of course, it has been business as usual at the top with the New England Patriots leading the way with a 100% record.
Over in the NFC, however, the unpredictability is off the charts. Four teams have racked up five wins, another two have four and last year’s Super Bowl finalists, the Los Angeles Rams, are back on three. Throw in the Philadelphia Eagles, Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys and you have nine franchises who would still consider themselves contenders.
Let’s take a look at the odds on some of the teams we think are in contention and the six best placed for a trip to Miami in February and a Lombardi trophy run.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy G and Kyle Shanahan will take all the plaudits for the offensive scheme, but the West Coast side’s success has been built behind one of the most impressive defensive lines in the NFL. Coordinator Robert Saleh and line coach Kris Kocurek have shaped this group into a highly effective unit. The pressure they are bringing is putting the Niners in a strong position without the ball, giving their offensive colleagues the opportunity to win the games.
You have to praise the O-Line too. On Sunday they beat the Rams with one rookie tackle and another who was an undrafted free agent. Once players return from injury, you could see this team continuing to improve.
An impressive running game, a secondary which look as good as any and one of the most athletic tight ends in football. The hype is real and nine or 10 wins and a playoff run is not out of the question.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers and Matt LaFleur were very fortunate to come out of last Monday night’s game against Detroit with a win. A questionable call on Tre Flowers helped the Packers march down the field for the winning field goal. Without it, they’d be 4-2.
The offence has stuttered. Rodgers ranks 15th in passing yards per game and has a completion rate of 62.56%, behind Josh Allen, Gardner Minshew and Jacoby Brissett. Numbers not befitting of someone still considered an elite quarterback.
What has put NFC North side in the mix has been their defence. They restricted the Lions to mostly field goals in the second half, stopping any potential scoring drive dead in its tracks. They have 18 sacks this season, which ranks them joint sixth and they are joint fourth with seven interceptions.
If they can get Davante Adams fit and Rodgers can play like a potential league MVP, the Packers could still go all the way.
New Orleans Saints and Seattle Seahawks
This has been a contrasting season for both these teams. One is witnessing their quarterback playing some of the best football of his career, the other has to rely on an old flame rewinding the clock on past glories.
Week after week, Russell Wilson continues to astound viewers with some ridiculous passes, leading the Seahawks to wins over the Rams and unpredictable Browns. He has 14 touchdowns and no interceptions, plus his completion percentage of 72.5 is the highest of his career so far.
Of their next seven games, two of them are against Tampa Bay and Atlanta, but the other four come against Baltimore, San Francisco, Philadelphia and Minnesota. Come out of this run on top and Wilson will be an MVP candidate and the Hawks will be hard to slow down.
The Saints have survived the loss of Drew Brees, helped by the ever-improving play of Teddy Bridgewater. He’s thrown 109 completions, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions, which makes it his best season since his second year in Minnesota.
Sean Payton’s team have stepped up the intensity on defence. You don’t win extra points for style in the NFL, so they won’t care how they beat the Jags, a win’s a win. Cam Jordan and Marshon Lattimore have been immense, which is why they have gone 4-0 without their Franchise QB.
Brees is hoping to be back before the Week 9 bye. Week 10 is against the Falcons, followed by a visit to the Buccaneers. They will be looking at around 12 wins this term, and this is without Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas reaching their expected potential so far. Be afraid.
Out of the teams with three wins so far, you have to put most faith in the Eagles. Carson Wentz has played some excellent football, with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions. This is after having to go games without DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffrey.
In the opening weekend, Jackson had two catches for 50+ yards, but the Eagles haven’t managed one since. Nelson Agholor has looked lost at times and although Zach Ertz leads the team with 33 catches, he only has one touchdown. Amazingly, that’s only one more than he had at this stage last term. There’s definitely more to come from the big tight end.
Doug Pederson’s bigger issues come on defence, where they are frankly a mess.
Rebekah Vardy put up more of a fight than the Eagles secondary did against the Vikings last Sunday.
You are not going to win the NFL with Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas playing at cornerback. If they can get Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills back fit and up to speed, they could go on a run, but frankly, they need help. Lots of help.
Despite their poor start, at 3-3 they are on top of the NFC East with the Dallas Cowboys, who definitely look to be going in the opposite direction. The division is the Eagles to lose.