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Sorting Out Which Teams to Take Seriously This Season

Three games into the season, the teams that are strong contenders for playoff spots are emerging. If there’s a surprise, it’s that there are very few surprises.

An exception is the Los Angeles Rams, who’ve won two out of three. Led by QB Jared Goff – who is having the proverbial second-year step-up – and running back Todd Gurley, they are atop the league in points scored. The Rams, in passing on Carson Wentz, used the first overall draft pick in 2016 wisely.

The NFC Central Logjam

It’s not a surprise there’s a three-way tie for the NFC Central lead, with those teams all sporting 2-1 records. If the regular season were to end today, many would list them in order as Detroit (+22 in cumulative scoring differential), Minnesota (+10), and Green Bay (0).

Looking a little deeper into things, however, the Packers, in facing two quality teams, have had the toughest opposition. I’m not ready to consign the Bengals to a bottom-third grouping. Coach Marvin Lewis is a quality guy, and he won’t allow his players to roll over and play dead. In addition to the Falcons, I’m counting Seattle as a quality team, but as their 1-2 record shows, they will likely struggle to make the playoffs this year.

Detroit has faced the Falcons and two mid-rangers, the Giants and the Cardinals. The Vikings have played the Steelers, the so-so Saints, and the weak Buccaneers.

Packers’ Non-divisional Opponents

How are the rest of the remaining teams on the Packers’ schedule shaping up?

First in playing order are the Cowboys. They are 1-1 going into the Monday night game. Their 42-17 pummeling in Denver, however, suggests they won’t match their 12-4 record of last year. Both of their rookie stars of a year ago, Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott have come back down to earth a bit.

Next teams up are the Saints and Ravens. The Saints are clearly aging and in decline – a team who trades away receiver Brandin Cooks deserves to be 1-2. The Ravens, at 2-1, still have that tough defense, but how seriously can we take a team that loses to Jacksonville by 37 points?

We’re up to week 12 now on the schedule. When the Packers travel to Pittsburgh on November 26, it could be a Super Bowl preview.

The Packers start out December with a reprieve: games against the Bucs and the Browns, who continue to look like cellar dwellers.

The Panthers, who are 2-1 against mediocre teams, are an unpredictable group, and if they are in position to make the playoffs when they meet the Packers in Carolina on December 17, this should be a close game.

The Other Contenders

How are the remaining contenders looking?

The Seahawks are 1-2, and their win was by three points over the 49ers. They do not look like a playoff team at this point.

The experts predicted big things this year from the Raiders. Though they’ve won two out of three, they just got beat up, 27-10, by the Redskins.

As Tom Brady goes, so go the Patriots. He’s going better than ever so far, but I don’t see them matching their 14-2 record of last year.

We’ve already seen what the Falcons are capable of doing. At 3-0, they give every indication of again going deep into the playoffs.

That leaves a final contender: the Chiefs. They signaled their aspirations when they embarrassed the Patriots on opening day. Aided by a career winning percentage of .597, coach Andy Reid already has the 10th most coaching wins in NFL history. The Chiefs are undefeated after three games, and their record is 46-21 since 2012.

The Current Prognosis

By the way they have played through the first three games, the Packers’ stiffest competition for the NFC championship crown appears to be, in order, the Falcons, Lions, and Cowboys.

I’d say that the Chiefs, then the Steelers, and then the Patriots, are the current class of the AFC.

Quite astonishingly, after but three games only two teams have a perfect record, the Chiefs in the AFC West and the Falcons in the NFC South. Going into the Monday night game, four teams have yet to play their third games, but each have already recorded at least one loss. You wanted parity? You’ve got it!

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Rob Born

Someone else said it first but I popularized it: “Athleticism is important in athletic pursuits.” It took three years, but the Packers finally listened. My new mantra: “Trading down is fine, but never trade up.”

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3 Comments

  1. Kato September 25, 2017

    I don’t think the bucs are basement dwellers. Solid defense, and have a lot of talent on offense. I believe the seachickens still win the west. Does anyone honestly believe the rams are winning that division? They have looked better but I think three weeks into the season is too early to crown them

  2. PF4L September 25, 2017

    I don’t think anyone should think this Packers team is a lock to get in the playoffs this season. Much less have the talent to get to the Super Bowl as some might believe.

    A little FYI….Rodgers is on pace to be sacked 69-70 times this season. His highest sack total was back in 2012 when Ted and Mike thought starting Marshall Newhouse at tackle was a good idea. He was sacked 51 times that season.

    But not to worry, the Packers signed Ulrick John, who is flying in to join his 4th team in a little over 3 years, so help is coming. Mr. John is no stranger to practice squads, so he should be perfect for us as a draft and develop team.

    I’m thinking it’s safe to say the Circus Master is now in full “panic mode” and rethinking his free agent strategy. I’d like to suggest that all the attention seekers taking a knee, say a prayer for Rodgers since you’re already down there. He’s going to need it.

  3. Howard September 26, 2017

    This may still be a little early to look at how teams will project, but it is getting close.

    A couple of suprises are the Patriots defense. I would think Belechek will correct the problems. Right know they look like the Packers defense of last year.

    The Jaguars may be a playoff team. They won’t go far but they have to play against a week NFC west, a week NFC North except Pittsburg, and the weak AFC south. I like what Tom Coughlin has done there. I had hoped Coughlin would be hired in some important role for the Packers (replace TT) after he was released by the Giants, but that was wishful thinking. It would have caused a shakeup that is needed.

    Agree with PF4L Rodgers is not going to survive with the amount of sacks he is taking. He is also taking several hard hits when not being sacked. The QB hit total has to be very high at this point. The law of physics and averages says QB#1 cannot hold up without something changing or giving.

    At this point not sure anyone in the NFC can beat the Falcons in Atlanta. If the Falcons have to travel in the playoffs anything could happen. I would think the Steelers and Chiefs if they remain healthy are in the AFCC game.