With 10 full weeks of the 2020 NFL season in the books, the contenders are beginning to separate themselves from the pretenders. But there are also some teams enjoying better records than their core quality level supports, and vice-versa.
As the stretch run comes into view, let’s take a look at six of the more untrustworthy records in the league. Below, you’ll find three teams that I think are better than their records — and three that are worse.
THREE TEAMS BETTER THAN THEIR RECORDS
The .667 winning percentage is impressive, but Los Angeles could easily be 7-2 or even 8-1 if a few things had broken differently in somewhat fluky losses to the Bills in Week 3 and the Dolphins in Week 8. Don’t forget that a controversial fourth-down pass-interference penalty helped keep Buffalo’s game-winning drive alive, while Miami made the Rams only the second team in NFL history to lose a game in which they gained 450 yards while also limiting the opponent to less than 150 yards. This Rams offense is not as explosive as the 2018 iteration — but it’s still in the top seven in the NFL. The defense, meanwhile, is led by the league’s most dominant interior force, Aaron Donald, and ranks No. 2 in points and yards allowed.
Now that the Giants aren’t beating themselves in games, they’re starting to beat their opponents. It’s no coincidence that their two-game winning streak against NFC East foes Philadelphia and Washington also marked QB Daniel Jones’ first career stretch of consecutive turnover-free contests. After being outscored 236-195 in their 0-4 start to the season, New York has gone 3-3, with the three losses coming by a total of six points. In a division where no one has taken charge, the Giants have a good shot at winning their first NFC East title since 2011.
An ongoing inability to close out games during an 0-5 start to the season cost Dan Quinn his job as Falcons coach. But Atlanta has turned things around since, winning three of its last four games under interim coach Raheem Morris. And the schedule is about to present an opportunity to really course-correct, with the next three games featuring two chances to face the NFC South-leading Saints, sandwiched around a showdown with the 6-3 Raiders. This stretch will go a long way toward determining whether the Falcons can still make some noise this season — and whether Morris will be able to remove the interim tag from his title in 2021.
THREE TEAMS WORSE THAN THEIR RECORDS
This isn’t meant as a slight of the Bears’ playoff-worthy defense (ranked 10th in yards allowed and seventh in points allowed) or special teams. And I don’t want to take any credit away from this team for earning comeback wins against the Lions and Falcons, even if those teams have struggled to hold leads this season. Offensive ineptitude is the real problem here, serving as the main culprit in an ongoing four-game skid that threatens to run to five games after the Week 11 bye, when the Packers loom. The Bears’ four opponents after that game — the Lions, Texans, Vikings and Jaguars — do each have their own issues, meaning there will be a chance to remain in the playoff picture. It’s just hard to imagine Chicago, which ranks 31st in yards, 31st in points scored, 25th in passing and 32nd in rushing, taking advantage. And that could spell trouble for coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace.
A 5-0 start made Russell Wilson an early front-runner for MVP honors — but we’ve seen since that even a quarterback as great as Wilson can only take this Seahawks team so far. Seattle has lost three of its last four games, with two of those defeats (against Arizona in Week 7 and Buffalo in Week 9) coming despite the Seahawks scoring 34 points in each game. That tells you just how bad this defense is, particularly against the pass; Seattle ranks as the worst team in the league in both total and passing yards allowed. The Seahawks have the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL heading into Week 11, based on opponents’ winning percentage, and after their upcoming Thursday Night Football showdown with the Cardinals, they will play only more one team that currently sits above .500. I expect Seattle to make the playoffs. But I can’t count on the Seahawks to do much once there, unless there is a stark defensive improvement ahead.
I was excited about the Titans after their 5-0 start — perhaps too excited, considering four of those early wins came against teams that currently carry losing records (Denver, Jacksonville, Minnesota and Houston) by a combined margin of 12 points. Horrendous third-down defense — stemming from a mediocre pass rush and the absence to this point in the season of cornerback Adoree’ Jackson — and the kicking woes of Stephen Gostkowski are ongoing issues, while the loss of left tackle Taylor Lewan to a torn ACL for the season will hurt the offense. I’m not going to write off this team, considering how hot Ryan Tannehill, Derrick Henry and Co. got at the end of 2019, but the next three weeks (at Baltimore, at Indianapolis, vs. Cleveland) are pivotal in the tightly bunched AFC.
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