As we move into the second half of the 2015 NFL season and conclude with week 9, we’re left with just three undefeated teams: The Carolina Panthers, New England Patriots and Cincinnati Bengals, all at 8-0, as the Denver Broncos depart from this exclusive group.
The Broncos, boasting the league’s best defense going into week 9, got sidelines in Indianapolis but a (now) 4-5 Indianapolis Colts team that has looked very bad in recent weeks, but now stopping their three losses in a row streak. Andrew Luck might not be healthy, but he got sacked just one and avoided interceptions, the two things the Broncos defense are experts in. Losing DeMarcus Ware helped with that, as the Broncos gave up 365 yards and lost the turnover battle 2-0, with Peyton Manning throwing two interceptions (and two touchdown passes).
After falling behind 17-0, the Broncos rallied back to tie the game twice. It came down to Adam Vinatieri and a field goal with 6:13 left to play to seal the deal and put the Colts on top of the AFC South for good (at least for this week), while the Broncos lost to a team the Patriots manhandled (for one half) not too long ago, maybe telling us something about the talk of the Patriots and their so-called weak schedule, and how good the Broncos really are.
The Patriots you said? Well, it was a fairly easy afternoon for them against the Washington Redskins, winning 27-10 (after already leading 27-3). Tom Brady threw two touchdowns and only his second interception of the season. Brady didn’t see any pressure coming his way, put on duress just three times in 39 dropbacks. It comes from quick release and good protection, and mostly knowing exactly what he’s going to do once the ball is snapped. The defense held the Redskins to just 250 yards, forcing an interception out of Kirk Cousins and a fumble from Matt Jones.
The Cincinnati Bengals might have had an even easier time in their divisional beatdown of the Cleveland Browns. Andy Dalton couldn’t stop connecting with Tyler Eifert, maybe the big secret to the team’s success and especially Dalton’s this season. Dalton completed 21-of-27 passes, spreading the ball between eight different receivers, while focusing on Eifert in the red zone, which has been an incredibly successful strategy for the Bengals this season.
We finish with the Packers losing to another undefeated team, this time in Carolina. Aaron Rodgers didn’t get shut down for an entire game, but the Panthers jumping to a 37-14 lead in the fourth quarter was too much to overcome, as Cam Newton threw three touchdown passes and ran for another, while Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes but got going way too late, while having zero help from the struggling running game.
Potentially, this season can end with three undefeated teams. It’s already the first time in history with three teams at 8-0. The Patriots and Bengals don’t play this season. New England have a game in Denver and against the Giants, but other than that it seems like smooth sailing for them with their own division and the AFC South. The Bengals also play in Denver, at Arizona and overall have a more difficult route towards a perfect regular season. The Panthers do have to play in New Orleans and Atlanta, while their visit to Dallas is after Tony Romo returns, not to mention a road game in New York against the Giants isn’t going to be easy.