Culture of Hoops

The NFL’s Elite Emerge From the Pack

Image courtesy of Craig Hawkins/Flickr.

Image courtesy of Craig Hawkins/Flickr.

We are through seven glorious weeks (miserable weeks if you’re an Oakland Raiders fan) of the NFL season and there are four teams that have only one loss. Realistically there is no point in the weekly power rankings that virtually every site out there produces as they mean nothing in terms of who will win it all at the end of the year, but just for fun let’s figure out who should be sitting at the top.

Denver Broncos: 5–1

The Broncos lone loss was an overtime defeat to the defending Super Bowl champions. While most of the power rankings have the Broncos at the top of the list I am less inclined. The San Diego Chargers, Dallas Cowboys and now the St. Louis Rams have beaten the Seattle Seahawks. The Cowboys even did it on the road. The offense is insane under Peyton Manning, but his playoff performance leaves a lot to be desired, as does his efficiency in the cold. A lock for the postseason, but I have reservations about the Broncos being a winner, even without the curse of the Super Bowl hangover. For those of you not in the know, the Super Bowl hangover is the fact that no team has ever lost a Super Bowl and won it the following year.

Philadelphia Eagles: 5–1

The Eagles lone loss was to the San Francisco 49ers (a team the Broncos just beat handily), but many of their other wins were not exactly impressive. Outside of the recent blowout of the New York Giants and their season opener against the Jacksonville Jaguars (who I struggle to call an NFL franchise) the Eagles have never won by more than seven points. The defense is giving up a ton of points, and Nick Foles really hasn’t looked like the Nick Foles we saw last year. The bottom line is this team has no depth anywhere and lacks a defensive presence. They play the 5–1 Arizona Cardinals this week, and that will be a test for both teams

Arizona Cardinals: 5–1

The Eagles and Broncos are built around flashy, high-powered offenses. The Cards are built around solid defense and a run game. The Cardinals only loss this year was to the Broncos, who beat them handily. They play the Eagles and Dallas Cowboys the next two weeks, and those will be fantastic tests for them. The Cardinals have good depth, and are the type of team that people are going to be scared of playing in the playoffs home or away. Their weakness (strength) is that the offense can be run by almost anyone with the same level of success. Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton have both played and had success as the team relies on a “running back by committee” system to average almost 100 yards a game. This limits the team as they will not be able to keep pace if teams do manage to torch the defense, and coming from behind is virtually impossible in this system.

Dallas Cowboys: 6–1

In many of the rankings the Cowboys are sitting third or fourth. The argument here is that outside of the win against the Seahawks they really haven’t beaten anyone that you would view as a top-flight team. Their only loss was the opener to the 49ers, a game that they handed over (literally) with four turnovers and 21 points as a direct result. Otherwise the stats bare out that Dallas should have won that game (looking at time of possession and yards). Dallas is the only one-loss team that hasn’t had its bye week, and have arrived to the party on the back of DeMarco Murray. The defense is playing well, and the offense is high powered enough that I’d argue this is the most balanced team of the bunch. Murray has been carrying the ball almost too much, and that is the real problem. Murray going down would kill this team, and given his propensity for injuries it seems more like “when” rather an “if”.

My rankings would have the Cowboys first, Denver second, Arizona third and the Eagles in fourth. It’s also worth noting that the 49ers have beaten both the Cowboys and the Eagles, and have lost to the Cardinals and the Broncos. I could argue that they should be perhaps fourth or even third (if you want to go Denver, Arizona as one and two).

End of the day it doesn’t matter. Murray could go down tomorrow and the team could go 0-9 in his absence. Denver could loose Peyton Manning and could easily not win another game after that. Philly is so mixed up I’m really not sure what to think of their fast start. The Cardinals will make the playoffs, but it’s a crapshoot how they go from there. With all that said it’s fun to break down the “who, what, where , why and how” of a teams success or failure. We have to do something while we wait for Thursday Night Football to roll around.

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