Heading into Week 11 of the NFL season, only three teams remain with just a single game in the L column. But not all one-loss teams are created alike, and three SB Nation NFL writers have vastly differing opinions on which team is truly the best.
Who’s the best one-loss team, and why?
Christian: It’s gotta be the New Orleans Saints, even with their MASH unit of a receiving corps. They’ve got the best quarterback (with apologies to Patrick Mahomes and Jared Goff) in Drew Brees. He’s not only putting up the best numbers of his career — a 21:1 TD-INT ratio along with an absolutely wild 77.3 percent completion rate — but he can also claim 100 percent of the playoff wins among the group. The fact that he’s done this with Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and a lineup of Madden create-a-players behind them just makes this all the more impressive.
The New Orleans defense is rounding into form as well, making Week 1’s performance against the Buccaneers look like a real aberration. Cameron Jordan is on pace for another double-digit sack season. Marshon Lattimore is returning back to Pro Bowl form (albeit a little slower than the Saints had hoped). So far, that group has held three different opponents to 300 total yards of offense or fewer.
Plus, the Saints have the season’s best win — a 45-35 victory over the Rams. Maybe their defense isn’t up to the task, but 2018 seems intent on proving defense doesn’t matter. The Saints did enough to topple LA in Week 9, and that’s all the evidence I need to crown them as the league’s scariest team.
Charles: I think the Kansas City Chiefs are the best one-loss team in the league because they’ve been able to keep up their explosive offensive output while facing some of the tougher defenses in the league. They were able to score on the Browns, Seahawks, Cardinals, Jaguars and Chargers in a multitude of ways. Even in games where Patrick Mahomes wasn’t throwing for 400 yards and five touchdowns, like the game against the Jaguars, they were still able to put up 30-plus points.
The defense has developed into a bend-don’t-break unit after giving up an egregious amount of points at the start of the year. Since giving up 43 to the Patriots, they’ve allowed 10, 23, 21, and 14 points in the four games since. They’ve also upped the amount of turnovers and sacks they’re getting, too — they currently rank 11th in turnovers and 15th sack percentage. Those numbers won’t blow you away, but it paints the picture of a defense that’s learned how to play with a lead — something they almost always have.
Christian: Counterpoint! Those four games were against the Bengals, Broncos, Browns, and Cardinals and the Chiefs STILL rank 29th in the league in yardage allowed. The broke-ass Lions and Titans held the Patriots to 20 combined points while the Chiefs gave up 43, which seems ... problematic.
Charles: I don’t think yardage allowed is a good way to look at defense anymore. This is 2018, we don’t use volume stats. Their defense is seventh in opposing adjusted net yards per attempt, which is the passing stat that correlates the most with winning in the NFL.
So while the defense may not look great in terms of the statistics we use on TV, they’re improving drastically in the stats that matter most.
Adam: Hello there, let’s talk about the only team that looks the same offensively every week. There are only two times the Los Angeles Rams didn’t score between 33-39 points:
1. When they had 270 rushing yards against the Broncos and ate all the clock in a 23-20 win.
2. When Todd Gurley decided not to score against the Packers to preserve a 29-27 win.
If we’re looking for consistency, the Rams have never looked like anything other than an elite offense. The Saints and Chiefs have each had a couple less convincing weeks.
Charles: They did allow the Derek Carr-led Raiders to score more than one point, but I digress.
Christian: And they would have lost to the Packers if not for Ty Montgomery screwing up so badly that he’d be traded days later.
Which team has the best chance to win out?
Christian: The Saints still have two games against the Panthers, which looked a lot more intimidating before the Steelers hollowed them out and wore them like a mask in Thursday’s 52-21 win. This is double relevant because in between Week 15 and Week 17 dates with Carolina is a home date against Pittsburgh.
Conversely, if the Rams get past the Chiefs next week, four of their final five games are against teams with losing records. The only outlier in that lineup is the Bears, who may or may not actually be good despite leading the NFC North. Kansas City’s still got to deal with the Rams, Chargers (pretty good this year!), Seahawks, and probably-desperate Ravens to close out the season.
So yeah, LA’s got it easiest from here on out. If the Rams win Monday night, they could go 15-1 and force New Orleans into the mild inconvenience of playing a neutral field game on the West Coast.
Charles: I’m going to go with the Chiefs. If they can get past the Rams on Monday night, they have two games against the Raiders, a game against a potentially Lamar Jackson-led Ravens squad, and games against the Chargers and the Seahawks.
Christian: There’s a non-negligible chance a Lamar Jackson-led Ravens team is an upgrade over the man we’ll use as the definition of “replacement quarterback” someday, Joe Flacco, and the Chargers and Seahawks are sneaky great this year.
Adam: It’s gotta be whoever wins that Rams-Chiefs game in Mexico. If it’s the Rams, it’s probably safe to say the 49ers and Cardinals won’t put much of a fight against the Rams in the last two weeks, nor will the Lions to begin December. It really just comes down to the wildly up-and-down Bears or the consistently underwhelming Eagles.
Charles: That’s a good point about the Rams schedule. I might lean that way now that I think about it. The Saints are interesting too, but I think they might drop one of those games against the Panthers.
Which team had the worst loss and why?
Christian: The Rams lost to the Saints, who are good! The Chiefs lost to the Patriots, who are the Patriots. The Saints lost to Ryan Fitzpatrick and gave up 48 points in the process. Fortunately, this was way back in Week 1, but anyone who wants to roast New Orleans on that one isn’t going to get any argument there.
Charles: Yea, gotta give that one to New Orleans. There was a time over the first month of the season where the Bucs loss didn’t look terrible, but that team has completely imploded. It was in Week 1, but still.
Christian: Even if we’re chalking that up to #FitzMagic, it’s tough to excuse.
Adam: 529 yards allowed in that one! Yeah, that loss to the Bucs makes the Saints the easy consensus here.
What’s each team’s biggest vulnerability?
Christian: I’ll concede to Charles’ point the Chiefs’ bend-don’t-break defense is getting better, but it’s not like Kansas City has had an especially challenging path since giving up 43 points to the Pats. In their last four games, the Chiefs D has outsmarted two rookie quarterbacks (Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield), Case Keenum, and a Marvin Lewis-led team. I’m not sold.
Plus, is just being the Chiefs a weakness in itself? History suggests this gentle stream ends with a raging waterfall that cascades down to a 48-41 Divisional Round loss.
As for the Rams, Cooper Kupp (89 yards, 1 TD vs. NO) is out for the season with a torn ACL. And great veteran quarterbacks have done pretty well against them, whether it’s Brees’ 346-yard, four-touchdown performance or Aaron Rodgers falling one fumbled kickoff return short of a game-winning drive.
Plus, do we know what Sean McVay can do in the postseason yet? His only playoff appearance saw him stuck at 13 points against the Falcons in last year’s Wild Card round.
Ultimately, I think the Saints’ unfinished business from last year’s playoffs — losing on the Minnesota Miracle, somehow — gives them a little more pissed-off motivation down the stretch than either L.A. or Kansas City’s similarly-embarrassing playoff exits.
Adam: The thing that makes me worried about the Saints — aside from the fact that their wide receiving corps is Michael Thomas and ... uh ... nobody else — is that the defense doesn’t make many plays. Yards allowed isn’t as big of a deal in 2018, but if you’re going to get into shootouts every week, you need to create chaos. The Rams and Chiefs are top 10 in sacks, the Saints are 25th.
Cameron Jordan is a good player, but he doesn’t wreak havoc the way someone like Aaron Donald. Not even close.
Charles: I think the Rams biggest issue is their cornerback play. As Michael Thomas showed on the game-clinching touchdown against the Rams, Marcus Peters ain’t exactly the corner he used to be — whether he’s playing injured or not. The Rams rank 25th in opposing adjusted yards per attempt. It’s Aaron Donald vs. the world for them on the defense right now ... which admittedly isn’t the worst strategy. But even Donald needs some help from the secondary.
The Saints have an interesting dynamic with their pass defense as well. They rank 29th in opposing adjusted net yards per attempt this year, but it just hasn’t mattered that much with how dominant they are on offense. Every week it feels like the Saints’ pass defense is going to break down and lose a game for them, but Brees has been so good that they’ve been able to overcome it. Offense reigns supreme in 2018 and the Saints have to be the most clear example of that.
Christian: Guys, guys, guys, it’s not like the Saints have a history of catastrophic failures from their secondary in important games or anything.
Charles: I would laugh at the Saints for their defense failing them in big games, but unfortunately I’m an Atlanta Falcons fan.
Adam: The Rams adding Dante Fowler might make a big difference, honestly. As overrated as he is, he’s good for about one clean rush a game, and his one big moment against the Seahawks ended up essentially being a game ender. The Rams secondary is still a problem, but as long as the team keeps scoring, Donald, Suh, Brockers and Fowler are going to get chances to cause problems.
Christian: But it might not matter, because Marcus Peters could get spooked by a quick slant and get burned for a 67-yard touchdown in the two seconds between the ball being snapped and Aaron Donald crashing into the pocket.
Adam: Is that even THAT different than the Chiefs’ version of Marcus Peters? He’s pretty much always been an opportunistic player who forces turnovers, but doesn’t exactly lock receivers down.
Charles: His style definitely doesn’t look that good when the turnovers aren’t coming. Still wonder how much the injury is slowing him.
Who’s your pick for the best one-loss team in the NFL right now?
The best one-loss team in the NFL right now is?
This poll is closed
New Orleans Saints
Los Angeles Rams
Kansas City Chiefs