Staying undefeated for an entire season in the NFL requires more than just having a great team. It also means you need a little bit, or possibly more, of luck. So far, the Houston Texans and the Atlanta Falcons are the only two teams good and lucky enough to stay unbeaten in 2012.
One member of the undefeated club fell this week, in a bit of a surprising manner. Not the loss itself, because playing at St. Louis against the Rams isn’t a guaranteed W anymore, but the Arizona Cardinals were so bad offensively it was simply painful to watch, scoring only 3 points, having their quarterback Kevin Kolb sacked nine times and team getting only 45 yards on the ground. Defense is importnat, but it can’t carry you all the way through.
So that leaves us with two teams – The Houston Texans, improving to 5-0 after a 23-17 win over the New York Jets on Monday night football and the Atlanta Falcons, also 5-0, beating the Washington Redskins 24-17.
The stranger among the two records are the Falcons, who aren’t doing anything remarkably well so far. The only real standout is Matt Ryan, second in the NFL in rating with 106.1, just behind Alex Smith of the 49ers. Smith isn’t one of the best in the NFL, but he is efficient, and Ryan is producing some nice numbers this season (1057 yards, 68.3%, 13-3 TD-INT).
The Falcons are pretty decent when it comes to offense, ranked 10th in the NFL in total offense, but 20th when it comes to defense. Still, they’re allowing only 18.6 points per game, and that’s the bottom line. No clear advantage or dominance, but just making a different kind of adjustment in every win. This week against the Redskins it was a huge fourth quarter and a big game from Tony Gonzalez, while Michael Turner scored the winning touchdown late in the game.
The Texans are a bit more obvious in their claim for best team in the NFL right now, which is something no one would argue on behalf of the Falcons. The Texans simply play fast, rough and excellent defense, while grinding teams down with their running game, which opens up the opportunity for Matt Schaub to create.
Arian Foster is being worked hard this season, carrying the ball 26.4 times a game on average, but he’s producing yards (106.4 per game) and touchdowns (5) without fumbling the ball. Matt Schaub has only thrown two interceptions so far, in a team that plays rather conservative offense, but effective, and are very hard to score against.
The numbers? 4th in Opponents passing yards (189.6) and 9th in opponents rushing yards (86). They’re allowing only 14.6 points per game, while they’re sixth in the NFL in sacks (16) and among the best in creating turnovers with 7 interceptions and forcing six fumbles. Even better, they protect the quarterback better than anyone else, allowing Schaub to be sacked only three times this season.
So where do the streaks end? The Texans have both the Packers and the Ravens at home next. The way Green Bay have been playing lately, the Texas are definite favorites to win the game, especially at home. The Ravens? They’re our bet for best team in the AFC, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Texans fall at home on week 8. There’s also at Chicago and at New England further down the road.
The Falcons have a tough visit to Philly in week 8, but they will be coming off a bye week, and Philadelphia have plenty of problems with their offense at the moment. Further down the road? At New Orleans (not as bad as the record suggests) and later Arizona, but being in the NFC South this season sure helps make for a favorable schedule.