For the first time ever, six teams remained unbeaten as we entered Week 6 of the NFL season. That changed in the first game of the week, when the Atlanta Falcons lost to the New Orleans Saints, 31-21, on Thursday night. The number of unblemished teams fell to four when the 7-0 Denver Broncos dominated the previously 6-0 Green Bay Packers on Sunday Night Football in Week 8.
Those same Broncos finally fell a week later, against the struggling Indianapolis Colts, surprisingly. A week later, the Cincinnati Bengals' seemingly impenetrable offensive line was dominated by the Houston Texans in a 10-6 loss.
The New England Patriots finally got their first loss in a wild overtime game against the Broncos. That left one team with an unblemished record after Week 12: The Carolina Panthers, who are riding the ox strength of Cam Newton.
Of course, we can't expect all these teams to finish the year 16-0. But if there is ever going to be a season in which multiple teams go undefeated, then this one, with more than half the games every week seemingly featuring incompetent quarterback play and dumbfounding coaching, would seem to be it.
So, which teams have the highest odds of going unbeaten the rest of the way? Let's take a look at the remaining schedules and find out.
Note: These predictions were originally made during Week 6.
Carolina Panthers (11-0)
Notable remaining games: Week 14 vs. Falcons; Week 15 @ Giants; Week 16 @ Falcons
The Panthers seemed like the weakest squad of the group to start the season. Their first four came against the cellar-dwelling Jaguars, Saints, Texans and Buccaneers, and they still don't have any major offensive weapons with Kelvin Benjamin out. Their defense is one of the league's best, and by now we've learned that Cam Newton knows how to eke out wins. But it's hard to win every week if you're not putting up a ton of points.
Prediction: First loss comes Week 6 at Seattle.
NOPE: The Panthers scored a go-ahead touchdown late and shocked the Seahawks at home, 27-23.
New England Patriots (10-1)
Notable remaining games: Week 14 @ Texans Week 16 @ Jets
The Patriots were the last team to finish the regular season without a loss and were also the best bet to finish undefeated this year. Not just because they've looked so dominant thus far, but more so because DEAR LORD LOOK AT THAT JOKE OF A SCHEDULE. You have to stretch just to list three games that could be considered difficult, and the New York teams are mostly up there because of their respective histories with the Pats.
Of course, there's always the possibility that New England drops a random game -- like maybe its Week 15 matchup against the Tennessee Titans -- but these post-DeflateGate Patriots seem focused and appear to be on a mission to destroy the league. And with this cupcake of a schedule, they just might do so.
Prediction: First loss comes maybe in Super Bowl 50.
NOPE: The Broncos stunned the Patriots in an overtime thriller in Week 12. New England may have suffered an even bigger loss when Rob Gronkowski got carted off the field with a knee injury.
Cincinnati Bengals (9-2)
Notable remaining games: Week 14 vs. Steelers; Week 16 @ Broncos
Perhaps the most surprising team of this group, but also one of the more impressive. The Bengals already have three nice wins, including Week 5's overtime victory over the Seahawks. The problem for the Bengals -- Andy Dalton is still their quarterback. While he's been great thus far (No. 2 in QBR), well, he's still Andy Dalton. That five-turnover game has to make an appearance sometime.
Also, the Bengals' remaining schedule is tough. The Steelers, especially when Ben Roethlisberger comes back, are a team no one wants to play. The Cardinals have proven themselves to be an elite team as long as Carson Palmer is healthy. The Rams might be the only team with a pass rush that can beat the Bengals' offensive line. And of course the Broncos aren't exactly slouches. Forget undefeated -- this Bengals team will be fortunate to escape with a record good enough for a Wild Card Weekend bye.
Prediction: First loss comes Week 8 at Pittsburgh.
NOPE: The Bengals beat the Steelers, and Dalton looked clutch in the process. They eventually fell in Week 10 on Monday Night Football to what had previously been a listless Texans team.
Denver Broncos (9-2)
Notable remaining games: Week 15 @ Steelers; Week 16 vs. Bengals
That ferocious defense has allowed the Broncos to thus far mask an offense that is, incredibly, last in the NFL according to Football Outsiders. But that's going to be harder to do as the calendar continues to turn. Imagine what Peyton Manning's ducks will look like if there's some wind swirling at Mile High? Denver still has to go through New England, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, and when your offense isn't good enough to blow teams out, you always leave the door open for some also-ran to pull off an upset. The Broncos will run away with the AFC West. But they'll lose a few games on the way.
Prediction: First loss comes Week 8 vs. Packers.
NOPE: The Broncos dominated the Packers on Sunday Night Football.
Green Bay Packers (7-4)
Notable remaining games: Week 14 vs. Cowboys; Week 16 @ Cardinals
The Packers are perhaps the most balanced group of this bunch -- they're No. 5 in offense and No. 4 in defense according to Football Outsiders. That will certainly help on this trek as it allows some margin for error from one side of the ball. Also, they have that Rodgers guy, who's pretty good, and who makes them a favorite in almost every game. But the remaining schedule is no walk in the park. Traveling to Denver is never easy, Arizona is great at home and the Packers have some other tough games sprinkled in between. This schedule screams 13-3.
Prediction: First loss comes Week 9 at Carolina.
NOPE: The Packers were dismantled in Week 8 by the Broncos on Sunday Night Football.
Atlanta Falcons (6-5)
Notable remaining games: Week 11 vs. Colts; Week 14 @ Panthers; Week 16 vs. Panthers
This slate gives the Patriots a run for their money; you have to list a home game against the laboring Colts just to get three "challenging" matchups in there. Then again, the Falcons do seem like a group that could drop a game to, say, the Vikings. But they don't play the best team in their own division, the Panthers, until Week 14.
Prediction: First loss comes Week 14 at Carolina.
NOPE: The Falcons lost Thursday night, Week 6, against the Saints.
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