The NFL has reached the quarter pole of the 2011 season and the race is on to determine the best team in the NFL. There will be riveting divisional races such as the NFC North battle between Detroit and Green Bay and we've got awesome players like Calvin Johnson putting together highlight reel plays every game. The NFL is back from the lockout and there are some fantastic stories.
And yet the most intriguing story of the season could prove to be the one involving the worst teams in the league. Even as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers show how good a football team can be, teams like the Indianapolis Colts, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins are putting on a clinic in bad football. And while they will never admit it, maybe they are doing it for a reason.
In 2011, bad football could land a team the ultimate prize in 2012. The worst team in the league could find itself in a position to land arguably the best quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning left Tennessee in 1998. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck has quietly led his Cardinal to a 4-0 record and remains at the top of the short list for the number one pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.
Luck remains the best QB prospect because of the combination of physical and mental attributes that make up a great quarterback. While his deep ball isn't perfect, Luck can make all the NFL throws. Additionally, he appears to have the mental make-up to be a dominant force in the NFL. It's always hard to compare a college QB to a future Hall of Famer, but Luck has the look of the most pro-ready quarterback since Manning.
Given how teams value a franchise quarterback, that makes the 2011 NFL season all the more interesting. Four teams currently reside at 0-4 with a host of other teams sitting at 1-3. Some of those teams like St. Louis would seem to have their franchise quarterback in place, but that doesn't mean they can't be part of the fun. Having that number on pick could bring a host of Godfather trade offers that could be impossible to turn down.
After four games of the 2011 NFL season, here are the current 0-4 and 1-3 teams. Tiebreakers are not factored into these rankings:
1. Indianapolis Colts - 0-4
2. Minnesota Vikings - 0-4
3. St. Louis Rams - 0-4
4. Miami Dolphins - 0-4
5. Kansas City Chiefs - 1-3
6. Carolina Panthers - 1-3
7. Philadelphia Eagles - 1-3
8. Denver Broncos - 1-3
9. Arizona Cardinals - 1-3
10. Jacksonville Jaguars - 1-3
11. Seattle Seahawks - 1-3
As we move into the second quarter of the season, certain teams are emerging as possible candidates for this pick and all the riches it entails
Favorites: Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks
Among the teams with a realistic shot at the number one pick (meaning sorry Eagles fans), the Colts have appeared as the favorite ever since word came down that Peyton Manning would likely miss the season. They've hung close against the Steelers and Bucs the last two weeks, but still managed to find a way to lose thanks to Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter.
The Seahawks hung close with the Atlanta Falcons this past week but in spite of Tarvaris Jackson's big day, they are not good. They are a bit of a wildcard because their home stadium is one of the best home field advantages in the NFL. Of course, if they lose all their road games home fans may stop going to games, which could prove beneficial in the long run. Jackson is not a franchise QB and Andrew Luck could provide the strong QB base to build around moving forward.
Wildcards: Miami Dolphins, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs
The Miami Dolphins are a serious mess with Tony Sparano on the verge of getting fired. The Dolphins have some talent but have struggled mightily in putting together. There are rumors floating around that Chad Henne has a serious injury. Combine a possible QB change with a possible coaching change and this team becomes wildly unpredictable. Could a new coach bring a sea of momentum that moves them just out of reach of the number one pick?
The Minnesota Vikings have managed to squander their own chance at a modestly successful season with Donovan McNabb showing how difficult it is to play football with a fork sticking out of your back. Considering this team has Adrian Peterson, it's hard to figure out how they haven't managed even one win. The problem for them is that McNabb and Peterson will likely do just enough every so often to get them enough victories to be removed from the top pick discussion. McNabb will do that to Vikings fans.
The Kansas City Chiefs have had arguably more significant injuries through the first month of the season than anybody else in the league. When you lose Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles, maybe it's a sign that it's time to Suck For Luck. They are a bit of a wildcard with Matt Cassel in place, but I think they would be a bit more likely to consider Luck than the Rams and Panthers, as described below. They pulled off a win over the Minnesota Vikings, which some would consider good in getting rid of that zero, and some would consider bad in the grand scheme of the 2012 NFL Draft. If you're reading this post, you probably know how we feel about the win.
Draft pick wildcard: St. Louis Rams, Carolina Panthers
The Rams are off to an abysmal start thanks to injuries and a bit of a regression to the mean. They could find themselves 0-7 before they get their shot at the thick of their division schedule. If they are sufficiently beaten down, they could be a strong candidate for the number one pick. On the other hand the Carolina Panthers are bringing optimistic play with Cam Newton, but they just lack enough talent on both sides of the ball to consistently win. I think they end up winning a few more games, but the number one pick is not entirely out of the realm of possibility.
The issue with these two teams is Sam Bradford and Cam Newton. They are in their first and second year, respectively, and the Rams and Panthers are building around them as franchise QBs. If either team ended up with the number one pick, can you imagine the trade market? Remember that there is a rookie salary cap which means the number one pick will no longer cost a franchise a ton of money. The trade rumors would be wild.
Darkhorse: Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos have remained somewhat out of the discussion as the worst team in the NFL but they are pretty bad. Kyle Orton is not working out and the fans are clamoring for Tim Tebow. They are a team filled with holes that could spring some upsets, but will likely end up losing a lot more than they win. For the Broncos, it could come down to how they perform against fellow candidates, the Kansas City Chiefs.
This race will heat up as we move into the winter months and could make for some compelling television. It will be hard to watch the football involved, but when you think of the greater good of landing a franchise quarterback, you will find it truly compelling to watch.
Week Five Andrew Luck Sweepstakes Schedule