So John Harbaugh wants to enter the #HotTake business. Before the winless Baltimore Ravens welcome the undefeated Cincinnati Bengals to town this weekend, Harbaugh has shown no hesitation to heap praise on the AFC North rival. The Ravens head coach even went as far as to call the Bengals "the most talented team in the league."
"We have great respect for them, for their coaches [and] the way they play," John Harbaugh said, via ESPN. "Obviously, it starts with A.J. Green, but the whole cast of characters there on offense is very talented and gifted -- tight ends, running backs, quarterback. The whole group is very good, and they have a heck of an offensive line. I'd say they're the complete package, talent-wise."
But we don't like it when NFL coaches try to do our jobs. Handing out #takes like which team is the most talented in the NFL is supposed to be our domain. If John Harbaugh wants to start opining on topics like this, then he should at least allow us to start calling Ravens plays. Until then, we'll stick in our lane and use Harbaugh's comments as an opportunity to hand out the super important award of Most Talented Team in the NFL. Here are the five nominees, ranked from last to first.
Notable players: A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Geno Atkins, Tyler Eifert, Jeremy Hill, Adam Jones, Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Dre Kirkpatrick, Giovani Bernard
The Good: Green remains one of the best receivers in the NFL, a player worthy of being in the conversation with Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Calvin Johnson and Odell Beckham Jr. for "top dawg." Hill and Bernard give the the Bengals perhaps the best running back duo in the league. The offensive line, led by Whitworth, Smith and center Russell Bodine, is one of just five units yet to surrender a sack this season and has never finished worse than third in pass-block efficiency over the past five seasons, via Pro Football Focus. A 2013 first-round pick, Tyler Eifert's emergence at tight end gives Cincinnati another weapon on offense. The defense, led by Atkins up front and Kirkpatrick, Jones and Leon Hall in the secondary, is one of the more balanced ones in the NFL.
The Bad: Andy Dalton. The Bengals are one of these teams that has elite talent at almost every position except the most important position in the game. Dalton is competent, which makes him better than half the quarterbacks in the league, but he's also not good enough to do any real winning in the playoffs. This, over the past four years, has become abundantly clear. Pro Football Focus had Dalton ranked ninth among QBs through Week 2, but that number will likely fall as the season goes on. It's hard to believe that, in his fifth season, Dalton has changed who he is.
The Verdict: Great at every position except quarterback puts the Bengals towards the top of this list. But you can't be
"the most talented team" in the league if your signal caller has never had a QBR over 56 and has thrown six interceptions compared to just one touchdown in four career playoff games.
Notable Players: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le'Veon Bell, David DeCastro, Ryan Shazier, Stephon Tuitt, Lawrence Timmons, Cameron Heyward, William Gay
The Good: Big Ben and Antonio Brown. The two have become the most dangerous QB-WR duo in the NFL. Roethlisberger is also playing the best ball of his career, while Bell is one of the best running backs in the NFL and is also a huge threat in the receiving game. The offensive line, led by DeCastro (and Maurkice Pouncey when he's healthy) is solid. Shazier, a first-round pick last season, has been a stud in the middle of the field through two weeks this season.
The Bad: The pass rush is nonexistent, and the secondary is average at best. That's a bad combination.
The Verdict: Great offense (as good as any in the NFL), but just not enough on defense to be named most talented team in the league.
Notable Players: Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Rodgers, Randall Cobb, Eddie Lacy, Josh Sitton, Clay Matthews, Julius Peppers, B.J. Raji, Casey Hayward, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Sam Shields, Aaron Rodgers
The Good: Aaron Rodgers is a cheat code at quarterback. If you took Russell Wilson's legs, Peyton Manning's mind and Jay Cutler's arm and put them together, that Frankenstein player still might not be as good as Rodgers is. Randall Cobb is one of the 15 best wide receivers in the league. Eddie Lacy is a top-10 RB, Josh Sitton is a stud at guard and the defense has talent at every level. Raji has rediscovered, well, whatever it is that once made him good: he's registered seven pressures through two games this season, per Pro Football Focus. Matthews remains one of the best pass rushers in the league. Hayward is great in the slot.
The Bad: Other than Sitton, the offensive line is pretty average. It has been for years. The defense, while talented, somehow always seems to underproduce. The Jordy Nelson injury means the Packers now must rely on James Jones, who was waived by two teams over the past year. Head coach Mike McCarthy lends new meaning to the phrase "deer in headlights."
The Verdict: Rodgers makes any team he plays for seem more talented than it is. Slot a mortal quarterback under center in Green Bay and what we'd see is a team with a weak offensive line and no wide receiver depth.
Notable Players: Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Dion Lewis, Nate Solder, Jamie Collins, Jerod Mayo, Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty, Bill Belichick
The Good: Not much that needs to be added about Brady, though the fact that he's thrown for 754 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions through two games is worth mentioning. Gronk is possibly the most valuable non-QB in the NFL. Edelman is off to a fast start and is doing a great Wes Welker imitation. Running back Dion Lewis might be the breakout player of the year. The front seven on the defense, led by monsters like Jones and Collins, is as good as any in the NFL. Also, that guy Belichick is pretty good as a head coach.
The Bad: The secondary. The Pats never replaced Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner, who both left New England during the offseason, and Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler has struggled trying to contain opposing No. 1 receivers. Also, while Edelman is great, and while Gronk is a beast, the team still has no deep threat for Brady. And even if it did, the one area where Brady has declined in recent years is throwing the long ball.
The Verdict: Definitely up there, but the secondary is too reliant on McCourty to cover up its warts. Also, if Gronk goes down, as he often does, the offense may struggle putting up enough points to cover up for the susceptible D.
Notable Players: Russell Wilson, Jimmy Graham, Marshawn Lynch, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bobby Wagner, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor
The Good: The defense is still the most talented in the NFL. Sherman, Thomas and the no-longer-holding-out Chancellor are all top-three players at their respective positions. Bennett and Avril are two of the best pass rushers in the league. Lynch has struggled this season (3.5 yards per attempt). Wilson has flaws, but is still a top-10 QB. And while Seattle has struggled integrating Graham into its offense, he still remains the second-best tight end in football.
The Bad: The offensive line. That's the unit most responsible for Lynch's struggles and the Week 1 loss to the Rams. It may be the worst unit in the NFL, which is what happens when you trade your starting center for a tight end. Also, the Seahawks still don't have a difference maker at wide receiver.
The Verdict: Ignore the 0-2 start. This remains the most talented team in the NFL. That's what happens when you spend years hitting on players like Wilson and Sherman in the late rounds of the draft. With Chancellor back the defense is going to once again become the best in the NFL, and Wilson, Graham and Lynch give Seattle more than enough talent on the other side of the ball.