You know, it’s been about a month since we checked in on our favorite league of grown men in tights running into each other. The beauty of the NFL is its volatility, that it’s the only league with real parity and that every week a team has a chance to win and change his fortunes, or at least that’s what the official line is. That being said, let’s check the state of the shield before week ten, looking at the five best and brightest teams (don’t worry, you masochists out there, I’ll talk about the basement dwellers next week).
The Golden Boys of the League:
Let’s start with the teams who actually have a chance, based purely on the fact that it is infinitely more enjoyable to revel in a team’s misery than applaud their successes, and we as a football consuming public have to eat our metaphorical vegetables first. Also, please excuse my stunted analysis of each team. I could go on for hours about all of the individually, but my editors INSIST on a word limit so I must censor myself.
5. Minnesota Vikings
This team probably has the best roster in the league. A staunch defense littered with pro bowlers on all three levels. The likes of Anthony Barr, Daniel Hunter, and Eric Kendricks have proved nightmares for opposing QBs while Xavier Rhodes locks up the secondary. An explosive Vikings offense takes full advantage of its defense, with Adam Thielen, Stephon Diggs, and Dalvin Cook all having excellent years. The only thing preventing this team from being ranked higher is its QB Kirk Cousins, who has been inconsistent this season, to say the least. One Sunday he looks excellent, and then the next game he looks like a shell of his former self. The only question surrounding this team is what version of Cousins will show up, Bruce Banner or the Hulk?
4. Green Bay Packers
Once again, we have been shown that any team led by Aaron Rodgers will be able to conted, and that giving him any help at all will make it a very dangerous team indeed. Problem is, the help that we initially thought Aaron had has not materialized. No doubt the Packers defense is better than previous iterations, but it has shown a tendency to falter in big moments. The offense remains productive thanks to Aaron Jones and Devontae Adams, but a lack of depth especially at receiver could prove a big problem. The only reason really that this team is ranked so high is that Rodgers is indeed a very, very bad man.
3. New England Patriots
It is with this team that the facade of parity in the NFL begins to fall apart. This team lost a plethora of pieces over the off-season to retirement, free agency and injury. By every perceivable metric they should have declined from their Super Bowl winning form last season, but of course they got better because New England. The Patriots’ defense remains ridiculous, cemented by the McCourty Twins, Devontae Hightower, and should-have-been-superbowl-MVP Stephon Gillmore. The Patriots offense has surely regressed when compared to recent years, but is still more than competent to compete in the weak AFC, especially considering the recent acquisition of solid veteran receiver Mohammad Sanu. It is time for us as fans to accept the inevitable. This team will most likely win the Super Bowl again this year. God is dead, all hail the Bill and the GOAT.
2. San Francisco 49ers
This team is really good, I mean you can’t not be good if you’re undefeated going into week ten. With multiple first rounders on their defensive line in Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, and Solomon Thomas, and staunch if past their prime veterans including future hall of famer Richard Sherman anchoring their secondary, terrifying enemy offenses are no problem. The 49ers offense has been a little more suspect. While they do have an excellent back field, anchored by Matt Breida and Tevin Coleman, and have an excellent tight-end play thanks to George Kittle, they lack a true number one receiver (yeah Emmanuel Sanders hasn’t been a number one for about five years now), which could come back to bite them. Luckily, Jimmy Garoppolo has shown an ability to carry the team even when the defense has faltered, dropping 51 on an excellent panthers defense, and outdueling the likely offensive rookie of the year Kyler Murray. Their schedule gets much more difficult the second half of the season, lets see how they hold up.
1. New Orleans Saints
The rumors of this team’s death have been greatly exaggerated. This is the same team that lost Drew Brees and proceeded to go undefeated over five weeks, something that no one outside of the organization thought they could do. With a stout defense cemented by the likes of Cam Jordan and Marshon Lattimore, moving the ball against this team is extremely difficult. And then of course there’s the offense, headlined by future hall of famer Drew Brees, running back Alvin Kamara, and wide receiver Michael Thomas. Though there are some questions with this 53 man roster, especially when it comes to receiver depth, this team is the premier powerhouse in the NFC if not the NFL. Then of course as I write this the Saints are getting blown out by the 1-7 Falcons, so what the hell do I know.