Since the 2007 New England Patriots proved it possible, the 16-0 season has been the goal of 32 teams over six separate regular seasons. In the seventh attempt, the list of possible ‘perfect seasons’ has already been whittled down to three: Philadelphia Eagles, Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals. Have any of them got what it takes?
There are two ways to look at the great start this team has made to the season. The optimist would suggest that their three amazing comebacks, and in particular their incredible second half scoring figures make this team resilient and hard to beat. As the Jaguars found out in week 1, you can have a comfortable 17-0 half time lead and still be on the wrong end of a 34-17 thrashing. Quarterback Nick Foles has thrown more passing yards than anyone else in the NFL so far, and their close schedule isn’t exactly terrifying. Wins against the 49ers, Rams and Giants will take them up to their bye week 7 with a 6-0 record. The cynic would argue that their 26th ranked defence will leak too many points for the offense to continue making up for, and the promising start will soon start to unravel. Judging by the evidence that they only just scraped past the Redskins, who are frankly the only team they have played with a respectable defensive record, they could find a trip to the West Coast to face the 6th ranked 49ers defence as a step too far. It’s hard to not listen to the cynic on this one. The Eagles will struggle to keep their record past this weekend.
Betting Instinct tip – the 49ers to end the Eagles’ dreams of a perfect season is -250 with AllYouBet.ag (all odds are subject to change)
If anyone foresaw the Cardinals being 3-0 at this stage in the season, they were ignoring every reliable indicator of NFL success that informs any logical prediction ever made. This is a team who have negotiated a tough start against a number of realistic Super Bowl prospects without their star QB Carson Palmer, all whilst being heavily reliant on rookie WR John Brown. If their unbeaten season goes past 8-0, this will be a fairytale to warm the hearts of any sports fan. With respect to the amazing achievements of this team so far, a 16-0 season is frankly a pipe dream. The bye week coming up is likely to be the only thing keeping their fantasy of a perfect season alive. The prospect of facing the formidable Denver Broncos in week 5, who themselves are very unlucky not to make the 3-0 club after an overtime loss to their arch-nemesis, Seattle Seahawks, will probably be a bridge too far for the Cardinals. They can view this start as a platform to launch a realistic playoff charge, but no more than that I’m afraid.
Now here is an actual prospect for a perfect season. The Bengals, unlike their two counterparts on a 3-0, have recorded three very convincing wins so far. The standout result in terms of revealing how good this team actually is remains the a 24-10 victory against the Atlanta Falcons, and limiting one of the most impressive offenses in the NFL to 10 points really does reveal the potential of this team. Their own offensive record doesn’t set the world alight, but QB Andy Dalton has been rock solid, and the team’s rushing productivity means that the weight is not all on his shoulders. Pundits have been so impressed by their potential that whispers of comparison to the Super Bowl winning 2013 Seahawks have already been heard. Their presence in the arguably much friendlier AFC means their schedule doesn’t look too daunting either. When the Bengals face the New England Patriots in week 5, all will be revealed, but a win at Gillette Stadium could set the Bengals up for a run which may only be truly tested with visits to Denver and Pittsburgh in the final 2 games of the regular season. If there is one team that can go 16-0, it is the Bengals. Watch this space!
Betting Instinct tip – The Cincinnati Bengals to win the Super Bowl is +1200 with Intertops.eu
SCOTT SIMPKIN is a young sports journalist with a particular interest in English football, particularly the relatively unexplored world of Conference football. He also has a growing interest in sports in the US, particularly American football and Baseball, and has previously contributed to Palatinate Online and FourFourTwo.