Team: New England Patriots
How could anybody argue? The American Football Conference has seen better days. Coming into the season, I felt that the 3 best teams in the AFC were, in no order; New England, Denver and Pittsburgh. The Broncos and Steelers have had their struggles and question marks, while the Patriots are the Patriots. New England has the conference's best record at 5-1, and 3 of those wins happened without the greatest quarterback God ever created under center. Discredit them all you want; it dosen't matter. New England is the best.
Team: Cleveland Browns
Too easy. But I will say this about the Cleveland Browns; although they are 0-6 and, frankly, a bad football team, it's not as if they are getting blown away in every single game. They have been competitive in 4 of their six losses, and could easily be 3-3. Also, they are much easier to watch than they were one year ago, meaning that they have improved fundamentally. Cleveland has a long way to go to compete with the Cavs and Indians as far as winning goes, but records can be somewhat misleading.
Best Coach: Jack Del Rio
|Wrong Del Rio|
If you read my NFL Preview's, you know that I have developed a love for the Oakland Raiders, and am very pleased to see them off to a 4-2 start. I also love the job that Jack Del Rio has done with the silver and black. If you think about it, this team and this coach are made for each other. The Raiders string of losing started in 2003. Jack Del Rio's head coaching career started in 2003. The Raiders have been were a franhicse that was once glorious, but had lost their touch. Jack Del Rio had some sucess with the Jacksonville Jags, making the playoffs twice, but then he lost his touch, ending his reign in Jacksonville with 4 straight losing season. The Raiders were virtually exiled from the NFL, being thought of as the villians for the past 40 years or so. Jack Del Rio was banished from the sunshine state when the Jaguares gave him the boot.
When Del Rio was hired in 2015, he was taking over a frachise in shambles, coming off a 3-13 season in 2014. Del Rio's age (51) and record (68-71) did not provide much reason to think he would be the man to right the ship. Oakland made strides in 2015, going 7-9, and this year, The Raiders are 4-2 and tied for first in the AFC West. It remains to been seen what will become of Del Rio and this young team, but here's hoping good things are ahead.
Worst Coach: Chuck Pagano
This hurts to write, as I admire Chuck Pagano for his courage and character. However, I'm afraid he may have worn out his welcome in ''Naptown.'' There is no reason that the Indianapolis Colts should not be atop the horrendous AFC South. None. Before the season, the Colts and the Houston Texans were the only teams that had a remote chance to win this abomination of a division. The Texans (4-2) have been ok, but certainly nothing spectacular. Certainly, nothing that the 2014 AFC Runner-Ups can't handle. But nonetheless, the Texans are 4-2 with Brock Osweiler, and the Colts are 2-4 with Andrew Luck.
It doesn't help that both of Indy's wins have been against teams with a combined record of 3-9 (Chargers and Bears) and by a combined total of 10 points. The Colts are not dead yet. They can still make a push in the AFC South. But Pagano just hasn't been able to get his team and his quarterback to where they expect to be, and it almost cost him his job last season. It might be enough to cost him his job this season.
Most Surprising Team: Buffalo Bills
Buffalo's got a spirit, talking proud, talking proud. Yes, the Bills are rolling. After starting the season 0-2, many left the Bills and, in particular, Rex Ryan, for dead. But Buffalo has made a comeback, led by their fabulous running back, LeSean McCoy, and a solid defense, led by Zach and Preston Brown. As with Oakland, we don't yet know what will transpire, but getting a Wildcard spot in the weak cheese AFC is far from out of the question. Enjoy it while you can, Rex, and try not to screw it up.
Most Disappointing Team: New York Jets
I would give this to the Colts, but since I talked about them above, I'm going to speak about the Jets. Maybe I was a fool for thinking that Ryan Fitzpatrick could carry over his solid 2015 season into 2016. Nonetheless, the team that almost stole a playoff spot from my Steelers 7 months ago is now an awful 1-5. To make matters worse, only one of those losses have been by less than 10 points, so the Jets have been every bit as bad of their record would indicate. Todd Bowels is a good coach, and I don't think New York will show him the door, but this appears to be a lost season for the AFC team in the Meadowlands.
Now, on to the National Football Conference
Team: Dallas Cowboys
|Dak was always a boss (photo creds to Si.Com|
How bout em? As much as some of us hate hearing about them, the Cowboys are rolling at 5-1. Dak Prescott and Big Zeke Elliot have been both productive and electric, and they have done it without the human reality show that is Dez Bryant. Both the Seahawks (4-1) and Vikings (5-0) also have a case as the best team in the NFC right now, but I'm going with Dallas because I feel that their success is the most sustainable because of their offensive firepower. The Redskins think that they run the NFC East. That is just not true.
Team: San Fransico 49ers
1-5. 5 straight losses. A coach who probably wants out of the NFL at this point. Yeah, the 49ers tradition is going strong, and forcing out Jim Harbaugh hasn't caused any problems at all.
Best Coach: Mike Zimmer
What Mike Zimmer has been doing is remarkable. Before the season started, he lost his quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, for the season with a torn ACL. In Week 2, he lost his running back and leader, Adrian Peterson, likely for the season with a torn meniscus. But even with Sam Bradford at quarterback and Matt Asiata as running back, the Vikings have done nothing but win. They are 5-0, and Zimmer deserves all the credit in the world.
Worst Coach: Ron Rivera
I like Ron Rivera. But the truth is, He just hasn't accomplished a whole lot as a head coach in the National Football League. Since 2011, the Panthers have had just two winning seasons, and it looks like it might stay that way after 2016, as Carolina is off to a horrid 1-5 start.
Much like Chuck Pagano, I'd like to put a less likable guy as my worst coach, but the Panthers have been so disappointing that I can't do it any other way.
Most Suprising Team: Minnesota Vikings
I've already talked about why the Vikings are a surprise, and now I'll to talk about what makes them win. The answer is defense.
Xavier Rhodes, Terrance Newman, and Harrison Smith have all played significant roles in the Vikings secondary, while Lineval Joseph, Everson Griffen, Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr have all been forces on the front seven. The Vikings unit is the best in football, and both Mike Zimmer and defensive coordinator George Edwards deserve mad props. The Purple People Eaters are back, baby.
Most Disappointing Team: Carolina Panthers
Carolina has lost 5 times as many games this season as they did last season, and we are not even halfway done. I don't have to say anymore after that, but I will. Has Carolina been victims of bad luck? Sure. 3 of their 5 losses have been by a field goal or less. But is it more that they are unlucky in 2016, or they were very lucky in 2015?
Carolina was the best team in football in the regular season last year. But they weren't as dominant as their 15-1 record would have you believe. 7 of their 15 wins were by less than 10 points, with 4 of them being by 5 points of less. In 2014, they were 7-8-1, and 3-2-1 through 6 games. The point I am trying to get at here is; are the Carolina Panthers really just another team that rubbed a genie in a bottle the right way a year ago?
Have the 2016 Carolina Panthers been unlucky? Yes. Do they wish they had paid Josh Norman? Probably. But maybe, Cammy Cam and friends have come back down to earth.