Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NFL: Which 2-0 team is the best?

There are seven undefeated teams left in the NFL after two weeks, and while two weeks is not a very large sample size to determine the legitimacy of teams like the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions, it's twice as much sample size as we had after one week.

Here's a brief look at the 2-0 teams, with thoughts on what their fast start might mean for playoff chances.

1. New England Patriots: The Pats are first in yards gained but second to last in yards given up. In other words, not a whole lot has changed for New England, who was porous at best in 2010, when they finished ranked 25th in the league in points allowed per game.

The good news for the Pats is that they find ways to win, and they find ways to get the big picks and fumble recoveries.

And all they need to do is have the ball last and their chances are good. New England hasn't won less than 10 games since 2002, and, barring injury to Tom Terrific, that shouldn't change this year.

2. New York Jets: The Jets look strong thus far, proving that they still have a penchant for winning close games and coming from behind against Dallas in week one, and proving that they have the team to dominate a decent AFC foe in Jacksonville, as they did in their 32-3 drubbing of the Jags.

The key for the Jets will be the development of Mark Sanchez, and whether or not the Jets coaching staff will let him take the training wheels off and make a difference in the game early. So far, he's been both good (4 td's) and bad (3 picks).

3. Buffalo Bills: Of the three undefeated teams in the AFC East, the Bills are probably the team most likely to drop off a bit. It's hard to say what we should glean from wins over Kansas City and Oakland in weeks 1 and 2, but we'll know a lot more once they've hosted New England on Sunday in a crucial week 3 match up. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown for 472 yds. and 7 td's in two games, so there's no doubt that the Buffalo offense is vastly improved.

The Bills are already half way to matching their 2010 win total of 4, but the "D" -- that's the "D" that got shredded by Oakland's Jason Campbell for 323 yds. -- will have to improve if they hope to get the best of their division rivals in the upcoming weeks.

4. Houston Texans: If any team stands to benefit from the injury to Peyton Manning, it's the Texans. The Texans hammered Indy in week one, and followed up on that win with a good effort over Miami. But the schedule stiffens, with a road game in New Orleans next week, and the Steelers at home the Sunday after that.

Bright spots for Houston have been the rushing of Ben Tate, who has filled in admirably for the missing Arian Foster with 219 yds. and the always stellar receiver of playmaker Andre Johnson.

Their defense, run by Wade Phillips, is ranked 1st in the NFL in yards allowed too.

5. Washington Redskins: Don't ask me how or why, but the Redskins are undefeated, with home wins over the Giants and the Cardinals to boast about thus far. Rex Grossman has been solid for the 'Skins, with 596 yds. and 4 td's to his name, and while the Redskins might not be a playoff team, they certainly have a well balanced attack and enough skill players (Santana Moss, Tim Hightower) to create problems for anybody they play.

6. Detroit Lions: The big question mark for the Lions is still there, and will remain there for the remainder of the season: Can Matt Stafford stay healthy for a full season? Stafford has been excellent so far, using his favorite target Calvin Johnson to stretch the field, and also getting tight ends Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew and running back Jahvid Best into the passing game. We've heard a lot about big D's vaunted D-line, but if Stafford stays healthy, and continues his current play in the red zone, the Lions could find themselves 3-0 for the first time since 1980 after traveling to Minnesota this Sunday.

7. Green Bay Packers: No surprises here. The pack was dealt a big blow when they lost safety Nick Collins for the year to a head injury, but they did the injury thing last year, and they did it quite well, thank you. With Aaron Rodgers at the helm, the Packers are currently the team to beat in the NFC north, and many people's pick to repeat as Super Bowl champs. They struggled early against a Cam Newton-led Carolina team last Sunday, but proved that no mountain is to tough for them to climb, coming from 14 points down to grab a victory on the road.

So, the big question is, which team will stay undefeated the longest?

My Pick: Green Bay

What's yours?