With the college football bowl season just around the corner, it’s easy to forget the NFL is essentially only at the midpoint of the regular season.
For struggling teams such as the St. Louis Rams, Detroit Lions and Kansas City Chiefs, some players on those squads may privately wish they could already head home for the holidays.
It’s too early for those teams to throw in the towel simply because the schedule says so. It’s also speculative – but fun – to say who will emerge in Miami come Super Bowl time.
Going on records alone, the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints seems like the safest bet if for no other reason than they are both a perfect 9-0.
This is hardly uncharted territory for the Colts and it’s a great start for rookie head coach Jim Caldwell. The Colts’ major issue has always been early playoff flameouts against the twin nemeses of the New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers. Anyone who pays marginal attention to football know what “4th & 2” means by this point in the Patriots’ befuddling decision to go for a first down late in the fourth quarter deep in Colts territory last Sunday night. They failed to convert, Peyton Manning got the ball and, as he ordinarily does, engineered a game-winning touchdown in the closing seconds.
The Patriots exposed weaknesses in the Colts’ young secondary, but few quarterbacks have the arsenal and experience Tom Brady has to take advantage of it. The next two weeks’ games are at Baltimore and Houston, two reasonably stout defensive teams. If the Colts survive unscathed, 16-0 is a real possibility.
The same could be said of the Saints. Quarterback Drew Brees – a tip of the cap to a fellow Purdue alum – has thrown 19 touchdowns against just 9 interceptions with a robust 104.6 quarterback rating. The key to Brees’ success is his ability to spread the ball around to a cadre of receivers, with Marques Colston (39 catches, 6 TDs) the top target. The running back trio of Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush give the Saints multiple points of attack unrivaled at this point in the season.
New Orleans’ path to potential perfection is a bit cloudier with New England and Dallas on the schedule, but both those games are inside the friendly confines and fast turf of the Superdome. Their toughest road date is at division rival Atlanta in the Georgia Dome. The only game where weather could be a factor is a Dec. 6th road date against the moribund Washington Redskins.
Are the Colts and Saints shoo-ins for the Super Bowl? Of course not. Last year the Arizona Cardinals took the infamous “worst team ever to make the playoffs” label and were an eleventh hour Pittsburgh Steelers’ drive away from a championship.
But will be it interesting to see them try? You bet.