NFL: Will Giants or Titans Finish Regular Season Undefeated?
by Trevor Whenham - 10/09/2008
Last year we finally had an undefeated team in the NFL over the course of the entire regular season. It didn't work out very well for New England in the end. Despite the fact that it was a bit anticlimactic, though, people still seem to want to see another season of perfection. We are only five weeks into the season, but if it's going to happen this year it is going to be one of just two teams. Tennessee sits at 5-0, and the Giants are at 4-0 with their bye already under their belt. Can either of these teams run the table? Not likely, but let's have a look:
Quarterbacks - We have a small sample to draw from to learn what kind of QB is needed to lead a team to an undefeated record. In Bob Griese and Tom Brady we have a current and a future hall of famer, so the standards are pretty high. I see one Manning brother in Canton, but it isn't Eli, and Kerry Collins will certainly have to pay admission when he visits. That doesn't look good for either team. There is a bit of hope, though. In 1972, Bob Griese broke his leg, and missed the rest of the season and most of the playoffs. He was replaced by Earl Morrall, pretty much the definition of a journeyman QB. He was able to get it done for a few reasons - the team was well coached and well prepared, there was a pile of talent in town, and he got hot at the right time. Though neither Manning nor Collins will redefine their position, each is more than capable of doing what needs to be done and avoiding too many stupid mistakes. It's harder to know what Tennessee would have if Vince Young was returned to action because he's just too hard to read these days. The Giants would have an advantage on the QB front, but I can't rule out either team's chances of getting it done based on who is taking snaps.
Coaches - As I see it, there are coaches who are good enough to keep a good team on track, and those that aren't. Norv Turner has shown he can waste as much talent as anyone will give him. Marvin Lewis couldn't lead a team out of a wet paper bag. Romeo Crennel isn't doing much to build his legend. Rod Marinelli looks like a general, but he clearly isn't respected like one. There are more on that list, but you can fill them in for yourself. On the other hand, there are guys who seem to have a good grasp on their jobs. In other words, they seem competent. Bill Belichick is the obvious king of that group, but neither Tom Coughlin nor Jeff Fisher would have to feel out of place in a room with him. Though a good coach obviously doesn't guarantee success, at least these teams don't have their coaching staffs working against them. Neither team has an edge.
Schedule - Even the best team in the world is going to lose occasionally if they play elite competition week after week. As impressive as both of these teams have been this year, there is no way you can mistake the teams they have played for the cream of the league. The teams played by the Titans and the Giants have a combined record of 11-30. Needless to say, there will be tougher times ahead.
The Giants have played teams that are 5-12, and even that dismal mark deserves an asterisk. Four of the five wins come from the 4-1 Redskins. The Washington team that New York beat in Week 1 bears precisely no resemblance to the one that is cruising through the NFC East of late. Besides that they beat Cincinnati, the Rams and Seattle. Not to take anything away from the defending champs, but there are at least 10 teams in the league that would be 4-0 this year against that schedule provided Washington played like they did. New York has a lot to prove. They have likely wins still to come against Cleveland and then at home to San Francisco, but then things get harder. Their last 10 games are highlighted by a trip to Pittsburgh, potentially challenging games at Arizona and against Baltimore and Carolina, and five of their six divisional games. It would take a freaking miracle to get through that run unscathed.
Tennessee has an easier run of things. Their opponents so far have combined to go 6-17, and none of the opponents have a winning record, though Baltimore did coming into their game. On paper they had a much tougher start than the Giants, but they got lucky to face Jacksonville, Minnesota, and Houston teams that weren't near their best. After their bye week this week they have a virtually guaranteed win against Kansas City, then very winnable games against struggling Indianapolis and Green Bay. They have trips to Detroit and Houston that don't have them losing sleep, and they host Cleveland.
So, are we going to see an undefeated team? I would be extremely shocked. Like shocked enough to eat this shirt I am wearing. Both teams have lots to like, but not nearly enough to love. If I had to choose on team of the two, though, it would be Tennessee. They are proven against better opposition, and there are a lot more obvious wins on their schedule than on New York's.