AFC Edition: Who will remain undefeated after week 3?

Entering week 3 in the 2016 NFL season, we currently have eight teams sitting undefeated at 2-0, with half of them competing in the AFC. However, in the history of the National Football League only two teams have gone undefeated in the regular season: 1972 Miami Dolphins and 2007 New England Patriots. The 1934 and 1942 Bears went undefeated yet this was pre AFL-NFL merger. A few teams have come close to touching immortality in the past: 2011 Carolina Panthers (15-1); 2011 Green Bay Packers (15-1); 2004 Pittsburgh Steelers (15-1); 1998 Minnesota Vikings (15-1); 1985 Chicago Bears (15-1); 1984 San Francisco 49ers (15-1); 1976 Oakland Raiders (13-1); 1968 Baltimore Colts (13-1); 1967 Oakland Raiders (13-1). Despite eight teams going 2-0, I am not predicting anyone to go undefeated this season, however, I do expect some to have a good shot at extending their undefeated streak for a few more weeks. In this article I am going to look at the teams currently sitting at 2-0 and tell you when I believe they will eventually chalk up their first loss.

 

New England Patriots

The Patriots stunned the rest of the league by winning their opening game away at Arizona against a team who many had and still have as red-hot Super Bowl favourites. The Patriots played without long-time franchise quarterback Tom Brady, who is suspended for the first four games, and without superstar and mismatch nightmare tight end, Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots utilised first time starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo’s quick release to avoid the Cardinals menacing pass rush as he connected on dink-and-dunks with his speedy shorter receivers. LeGarrette Blount also wore down the Cardinals Defense and added a touchdown. It took a Chandler Catanzaro missed 47-yard field goal attempt with 41 seconds left to seal the win for New England as they looked impressive and proved they could grind out results without Tom Brady as quarterback.

Week 2 saw a strange game as Garoppolo lit up the scoreboard in the first two quarters as he passed for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns in just 25 minutes. However, Jimmy G exited the game and did not return after sustaining a shoulder injury following an awkward landing after he took a shot from Dolphins Linebacker Kiko Alonso. The Patriots managed to hold on in the second half and won the game 31-24 despite playing with a rookie QB, 2x rookies on the O-Line, a Center who was undrafted two years ago and still missing Rob Gronkowski. Garoppolo is not expected to start week 3 and the Patriots now have a short week with Head Coach Bill Belichick only having three days to organise a game plan and get rookie QB Jacoby Brisset up to speed before the red hot Houston Texans roll into Foxborough.

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Rookie QB Jacoby Brissett was drafted by the Patriots in the 3rd round and went 6/9 for 92 yards against Miami, but did not throw a pass further than 5 yards from the line of scrimmage – (Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images)

Week 3 Prediction: I am predicting the Patriots to lose in week 3, as Bill O’Brien returns to Foxborough and gets one up on his old mentor Belichick. I am predicting that the Texans pass rush will overwhelm the Patriots offensive line and make it impossible for the Patriots to sustain offensive drives. Although I expect it to be a tight and tense affair, I do believe that DeAndre Hopkins will prove too much of a handful for the Patriots secondary, while rookie Will Fuller will continue his impressive start to the season. Final score New England Patriots 13 – 20 Houston Texans.

First Loss: Week 3 vs. Houston.

 

Houston Texans

The Houston Texans are currently sat 2-0 after two home wins against the Chicago Bears and Kansas City Chiefs. Newly signed Brock Osweiler has played ok during the first two games, while other new signing Lamar Miller has gone from 15 touches a game in Miami to nearly 60 through the first two games. The Texans will clearly have to address this if they don’t want Alfred Blue as their lead back, come week 9. However, the main storyline has been rookie Will Fuller who has put together back-to-back 100-yard games while DeAndre Hopkins has caught a TD in each of the first two games. The Texans Defense has played incredibly well and gave up only 186 passing yards week 2 and 216 passing yards in week 1. They have also not given up much in the run game with only 73 rushing yards in week 1 and 119 yards in week 2. The Texans also recorded 5 sacks in week 1 and 4 in week 2 as Houston starts to flex its muscles and stake its claim as a top-5 Defense in the NFL. The Texans are a good football team and improved massively in the offseason on the offensive side of the ball, to compliment their strong Defense. The Texans are a potential Super Bowl sleeper and I believe will remain undefeated until late October.

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DeAndre Hopkins is building on an impressive 2015 season as through two games in 2016 has 12 receptions for 167 yards  and 2 TDs – (Thomas CampBell/ USA TODAY Sports)

Week 3 Prediction: Read Above…

First Loss: I think the Texans can build upon the momentum of a week 3 win at Foxborough and go 6-0 before squaring off with the reigning Super Bowl champions in week 7. Denver are one of the most complete teams this year and I believe that the Broncos will be especially pumped up and that their Defense will have a game for the ages as they harass, pressurise and bully former Bronco Brock Osweiler as punishment for his defection this offseason. Final score Houston Texans 3 – Denver Broncos 20. Look out for 6 sacks, 3 INTs and 10 QB Hits!

 

Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers dispatched the Washington Redskins 38-16 in week 1 before defeating arch division rival Cincinnati Bengals 24-16 in a slugfest in week 2. The rain was relentless, as was the Steelers run game with back DeAngelo Williams shouldering 32 bruising carries for only 94 yards. The Steelers have been impressive through the first two weeks as has Williams who is currently keeping the Running Back position warm in Pittsburgh while Le’Veon Bell serves his three game suspension. With a rested Bell returning, Williams will offer a nice alternative as following his performance through the first two weeks, teams will be forced to defend against the run even when the Steelers have their backup RB in the backfield. The Steelers will therefore see a lot of single high safeties and man coverage, allowing Antonio Brown to go to work as he looks to defend his title as the NFL’s best receiver. I believe this Steelers Offense is entering juggernaut status and that their Defense is the perfect blend of veterans and young stars which is highlighted by a versatile Linebacking corps and front seven who make up for some of the deficiencies Pittsburgh suffers in the secondary.

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DeAngelo Williams is currently starting at RB as Le’Veon Bell serves a 3 game suspension. Williams through two weeks has 237 yards and 2 TDs off 58 carries (4.1 yard average) – (Jason Bridge/ USA TODAY Sports)

Week 3 Prediction: I am predicting the Steelers to beat the 2-0 Eagles in week 3. Although Carson Wentz has performed phenomenally in his first two games, I think this game will be similar to Pittsburgh’s week 2 match up with Cincinnati where the Steelers are just the better team and will overwhelm the Eagles on both Offense and Defence. The Eagles are 2-0 but have played 2 of the 5 worst teams in the NFL and playing Pittsburgh in week 3 is a different kettle of fish with their offensive firepower and dominant front 7. Final score Pittsburgh Steelers 34 – 10 Philadelphia Eagles.

First Loss: I believe that like the Texans, Pittsburgh will go 6-0 before losing to the Patriots at home. The Patriots will have a rested Brady and Gronkowski back and have a diversified plethora of offensive weapons with which they can bludgeon opposing Defences. While I believe it will be a close game I think New England will be too strong for Pittsburgh and the terrible towels at Heinz Field. Final score Pittsburgh Steelers 24 – New England Patriots 27.

 

Baltimore Ravens

From 2008 until 2014 the Ravens never went under .500 and Head Coach John Harbaugh took the team to three AFC Championship Games and one Super Bowl victory. However, last year the Ravens were shredded by injuries with many hoping that despite competing in the ultra competitive AFC North that Baltimore could once again challenge win the heavy weights in the AFC in 2016. The Ravens have certainly got off to a good start with a home win against Rex Ryan’s Buffalo Bills week 1 and a win on the road in Cleveland in week 2. Both games have not been huge blow outs, however the Ravens have done enough to get it done and had an impressive defensive outing against Cleveland, reminding many of what this franchise has long been famous for, hard-hitting tough Defense. Speedster Mike Wallace signed with Baltimore this offseason and after two weeks has already caught more touchdowns than he managed all of last season at Minnesota. He has 7 catches for 132 yards and has caught all 3 of Baltimore’s passing touchdowns. While the Ravens have a great coach in Harbaugh and did improve this offseason through the draft with Tackle Ronnie Stanley and through free agency with Safety Eric Weddle, WR Mike Wallace and TE Benjamin Watson, I think the Steelers and Bengals in the division are simply too strong and that the Ravens will be around .500 this year.

Week 3 Prediction: The Ravens play at Jacksonville this weekend, a team who received a lot of hype this offseason but have failed to deliver in their first two games. The Jags do have weapons on Offense and play makers on Defense but they’ve struggled to gel and the teams not clicking at the minute. While this Jaguars team does have potential to challenge in the AFC South at some point, I think that the Ravens will outcoach them and that Mike Wallace will continue his hot streak and pull in another TD. Final score Baltimore Ravens 24 – Jaguars 17

First Loss: Although the Raiders have been getting burnt on Defense the past 4 weeks, I think they simply have too many playmakers on that side of the ball and at one point Khalil Mack will simply snap and wreck a game plan single handily. I am also not sold on Baltimore’s corners and think that Derrick Carr will have a big day with Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree both going over 100 yards with a TD each. Final score Baltimore Ravens 10 – Oakland Raider 20

 

Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos have silenced many of their critics early in 2016. After winning Super Bowl 50, the team saw an exodus of players as QB Peyton Manning retired while backup Brock Osweiler left for Houston. The Broncos also lost Tackle Ryan Harris, Guard Evan Mathis and key pieces on Defense with DE Malik Jackson and LB Danny Trevathan exiting via free agency. However, free agent signing Russell Okung from Seattle has started strong protecting QB Trevor Siemian’s blindside and the Quarterback who was taken in the 7th round in 2015 has played well through two weeks. Siemian plays alongside a top-3 Defense and is tasked with game managing and not throwing the game away through turnovers.

The Broncos were impressive in their week 1 win over Carolina and followed this up with a win over Indianapolis in week 2. The Defense appears not to have taken a step back from its championship calibre last year, however, one slight knock is that they are not generating much of a pass rush inside and the loss of Malik Jackson inside is noticeable. Siemian has played steady over two games with 444 yards, 67.8% completion percentage, 1 TD and 3 INTs. Denver’s run game also appears to have improved dramatically and much of this can be credited to Head Coach Gary Kubiak whose system is known for producing 1,000-yard rushers. The Broncos took FB Andy Janovich in the 6th round this year surprising many as the Fullback position is considered to be going the way of the Dinosaurs. However, Kubiak has brought an old school style running game to Denver featuring a Fullback and a power-run style of play. The Broncos are an incredibly strong team and I believe they will lose very few games this year. However…

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QB Trevor Siemian was selected in the 7th round by the Broncos in 2015 and beat out Mark Sanchez and Rookie Paxton Lynch for the starting QB job in Denver – (DenverBroncos.com)

Week 3 Prediction: I believe that this Broncos team will lose its first game week 3 against a Cincinnati team still reeling from a loss against arch divisional rivals Pittsburgh. The Bengals will be pumped up and I believe that A. J. Green will continue his impressive 2016 and after roasting Darrelle Revis week 1, will do the same against a Broncos Secondary, which is a top-2 unit. The Bengals have also not found a way to get their run game going and I expect Head Coach Marvin Lewis will make an emphasis of getting RB Jeremy Hill involved early. I think Denver’s Defense will still play at their high-level, however, I believe this will be the first game where their Offense prevents them from getting the win. Final score Denver Broncos 13 – 14 Cincinnati Bengals.

First Loss: Week 3 @ Cincinnati

 

-Tom Like

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