And then there were four. This is week 5 of the National Football League season and there are four teams that remain undefeated with 4-0 records. They are the New England Patriots, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers. Of these four undefeated teams, Green Bay is the team that surprises most people to still be undefeated. There a couple of reason for the Packers success. Green Bay has a talented young and aggressive defense that has helped them remain undefeated.
Although Green Bay's defense is ranked 19th overall in the NFL, they only give up a respectable 16.5 points a game. The Green Bay offense which most people will say is behind it's defense is actually ranked 12th overall averaging 26.2 points a game. The reason for their success lies with quarterback Brett Favre who is not playing the gunslinger role of days past. Last year Favre had 18 touchdown passes and 18 interceptions and a passing rating of 72.7%. This 2007 football season Favre has 8 touchdown passes and only 2 interceptions and his passer rating is 97.3 %. To say the Packers are off to an amazing start is an understatement. Even future the Hall of Fame quarterback for the Packers, Brett Favre admitted in an interview that he didn't think the Packers would be undefeated at this point in the season.
Welcome to parity in the NFL. There are more surprises so far this season in addition to Green Bay being undefeated, how about a couple of teams with only one loss? The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Detroit Lions. Most experts picked last year's NFC Championship game finalists, the New Orleans Saints and Chicago Bears to win their respective divisions this year. While the season is still early with only the first quarter of the season having just been completed, the Saints have yet to win a game sporting an abysmal 0-3 record while the Bears are only slightly better at 1-3. While on the subject of disappointing teams, the St. Louis Rams have yet to win a game as well. Have they buckled under the high public expectations during the pre-season that had them challenging the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West Division crown? Injuries have played a part in slowing down the Rams, but even with a full team they were not getting the job done. Sporting identical 2-2 records there are two teams tied for second place in the AFC North having two entirely different feelings about themselves. Those two teams are the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens. The Browns are ecstatic that they are 2-2. No one expected them to have won two games this early. Then again no one expected the Browns offense to put up 51 points in one game this season either. The Ravens lost to the Browns last week scoring 27 points against what was supposed to be the vaunted Ravens defense. The Ravens expected to be 3-1 at the very least and never expected to lose to the Browns.
This gives more credence to the statement "on any given Sunday, anyone can win and anyone can lose." The thought here is that the New England Patriots already thought of that statement while sporting their new grey tee shirts that has the words printed "I eat this" on the front and "humble pie" printed on the back. This will serve as a reminder to the Patriots that they have not won anything important yet (i.e. playoff games) and as stated above on any given Sunday a team can win or a team can lose. The Patriots have heard all of the 16-0 hype that has surrounded the team in the last two weeks. Being a veteran team, they also know if they don't take their opponent seriously and work hard at practice, there is an upset waiting to happen on Sunday.
A lot of fans are pointing to next week's match up between the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys, but to a coach and to a man the Patriots are concentrating on this week's opponent the Cleveland Browns. Two familiar faces will be back in Foxboro this Sunday, former New England Patriot linebacker and current Browns linebacker, Willie McGinest and former Patriots defensive coordinator and current Browns head coach Romeo Crennel. They would probably love nothing better than to have their Cleveland Browns team walk away with a victory.
Earlier in the year before the games were played some people considered this a cupcake type of game for the Patriots. After watching Cleveland beat both the Cincinnati Bengals and Baltimore Ravens, the Patriots know this is not the case. Cleveland is ranked 11th overall in the NFL in offense averaging 27.2 points a game. They have good skill players at the wide receiver positions and tight end positions, a veteran running back with a Super Bowl championship on his football resume, as well as a strong armed young quarterback who threw for 328 yards and 5 touchdowns in the week two game against the Bengals. The Browns are proving they know how to score. They are also proving that they don't know how to stop anyone on defense. The Browns rank 31st in defense allowing an average of 29.5 points a game.
Looking at the Patriots, they are second in overall offense averaging 37 points a game and they are first in overall defense only allowing 12 points per game. The Patriots accomplished this without pro bowlers Richard Seymour on the PUP List and out at least until the six game of the year and Rodney Harrison who will be back from his four game suspension on Sunday. This increases New England's depth. The Browns on Sunday will look to establish the running game to set up the play action passes and also to control the clock. The Browns know the best defense against the Patriots will be to keep the New England offense off of the field. Knowing and doing are two different things. New England ranks first in the NFL in overall defense and ranks third in rushing defense allowing an average of 69.8 yards per game. This is where the game will be won on the defensive side of the ball. The Patriots defense will be able to stop the Browns whereas the Browns will have major problems stopping a New England offense that has scored in every quarter of every game this year.
When the Browns get behind they will have to scrap the ball-control offense and start throwing the ball. With New England knowing this it will make it harder for the Browns to score. The Browns may try some trick plays on offense to try and loosen up the Patriots defense. If the Patriots defense executes and carries out their defensive assignments, "staying at home" and not getting out of position, what should be a long day for Cleveland will get even longer. When it is all said and done, the Patriots should win their 5th straight game this season by 20 points or more. Next week, I'll take a look back at week five action and a look ahead to week 6.
Over/ Under: Pats vs Browns