Published 7:00 PM ET 18 October 2020
SportsPulse: Lorenzo is on a roll, like a Derrick Henry stiff arm kind of roll. He gives his top three bets in Week 6 of the NFL.
The NFL’s group of flawless teams is down on an elite quartet.
After five weeks, the Green Bay Packers, Seattle Seahawks, Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans are the last remaining outfits that have not yet suffered a defeat this season. But the road for them all is getting significantly harder as the Steelers face the 4-1 Cleveland Browns Sunday and the Packers face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While all teams remain perfect through this week (the Seahawks are in farewell), only one AFC undefeated team is guaranteed left after Week 7 when the Titans host the Steelers.
With that in mind, we asked NFL journalists and columnists from the United States TODAY Sports: Who will be the last undefeated NFL team to stand in the regular season?
Green Bay. I like the chances of a team scoring at least 30 points in each game. If the Packers come out of Tampa on Sunday with a win, their next four opponents – Houston, Minnesota, San Francisco and Jacksonville – have an overall record of 5-15. This team could not only take a 9-0 record in a late November game in Indianapolis, but along the way can get some symbolic revenge by showing that they can really beat the 49ers in Santa Clara while touring the landscape in 2019 playoff teams suffering through difficult times. Balance is the ticket. Sure, Aaron Rodgers is on fire and rolling the clock back to his NFL MVP season in 2011. Still, the cast has also been at the forefront. This includes Za’Darius Smith, the cantrusher that every team needs. And the Packers still have not committed to a turnover. How about a bonus question: If not the package? Seahawks mojo. Seattle is the only team to win five games – despite almost losing to the Patriots, Cowboys and Vikings and getting a whale of scare from the Dolphins. The defense keeps them in play and Russell Wilson wins them. It is a risky combination. But so far it has worked. Then again, these would mean that you have to spend for these processes.
No particularly strong feeling here … so given I have the Packers on top of the USA TODAY Sports’ NFL power rankings, might as well stick to them. Sunday’s game in Tampa Bay is hardly a given, but I think Aaron Rodgers and Co. get it done when it comes from a goodbye week. After the? It’s the Texans, Vikings, Niners and Jags for the Pack – a stretch that seems quite conducive for a 9-0 start. And considering the Titans and Steelers – neither of whom have played a particularly impressive schedule to date – meet in Week 7, while the Sea-Hawks of skin-of-their-beaks are running into the Cardinals (twice) , Bills and Aries? #GoPackGo seems like the most likely group to make an extended run perfectly.
To put it bluntly: the Seahawks, in a farewell week this week, are statistically most likely the last team undefeated on Monday. But I expect the Titans to beat a 1-4 Texans team, the Steelers to lose Cleveland to 17 straight losses in Pittsburgh, and Aaron Rodgers to win the not-yet-washed battle with Tom Brady in Tampa Bay. It moves us to week 7 when the Steelers and Titans face and not both come away with a win. Seattle travels to Arizona, which I expect will drive momentum after a win over JerryWorld on national television. Kyler’s mojo from a hometown returns just enough to try a Seattle team to get back in its groove after 14 days off. Meanwhile, Green Bay is hosting a Texans team that is blinking but not keeping pace with Rodgers’ explosiveness. All this is a roundabout to say: Give me Green Bay.
I really think it’s the Packers. When you look at their schedule, the upcoming slate includes the Bucs (3-2), Texans (1-4), Vikings (1-4) and 49ers (2-3). They definitely have a chance to win the next three and possibly the fourth. Depending on San Francisco’s health, it could end up being their most challenging matchup of the four because the Niners coaches have such a good understanding of Green Bay’s arrangements. The Seahawks have some division games on the way and they will be challenging. The Titans and Steelers play each other in a few weeks, so one of them falls from the ranks. But Green Bay’s level of play plus the way the schedule shakes out seems to suit them best in a long undefeated stretch.
I’m going with the Packers. For some reason, they seem to be underrated this season. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Aaron Rodgers, like with many of the most competitive athletes out there, a little motivation to close the hates goes a long way. When Davante Adams returns to health, the offense will get even better. The defense has a few concerns, but this is more about the remaining schedule. The toughest remaining opponents are the Buccaneers (this weekend) and the Titans (week 16). As long as the Packers take care of Tampa Bay on Sunday, they need to be able to cross until their matchup against Tennessee. And while the Bear is 4-1 and Green Bay faces them twice, I just don’t have that much confidence that Chicago is a legitimate threat at the conference.