By: Anthony Paoli, Staff Writer
- Los Angeles Rams (6-0)
While the talk of the league has been all about the Chiefs’ high-powered offense, the Rams
have been sensational offensively as well. They are first in the league in rushing yards
per game and total yards per game, and rank inside the top five in passing yards per game, the only team to rank inside the top five in all three categories. The Rams offensive success is largely in part to the assortment of weapons they possess. 24-year-old Jared Goff has become a proven quarterback in the league and may have the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL to work with, with the addition of Brandin Cooks from New England, second year slot receiver Cooper Kupp, and the versatile wideout that is Robert Woods. All 3 receivers are top 20 in yards so far this season. This ability to beat teams through the air has opened up all sorts of space for Todd Gurley. Gurley is leading the league in rushing as well as touchdowns with 11 in just 6 games. He’s on pace for 344 rushes, 1,661 yards, and 29 touchdowns. Along with their high powered offense, the Rams are a top 10 team on the defensive side of the ball, being one of seven teams to allow less than 20 points per game. What’s even more impressive is the fact that they’ve been doing this while Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib has been on the injured reserve with an ankle injury. The Rams are looking like an early favorite for the Super Bowl.
- Kansas City Chiefs (5-1)
All eyes have been on Patrick Mahomes this season as the young quarterback has certainly shown what he can do when throwing the football. Mahomes became the first quarterback in the history of the NFL to throw for 13 passing touchdowns in the first three weeks of the season, breaking Peyton Manning’s previous record of 12. He currently leads the league with 18 touchdowns. With Patrick Mahomes slinging the ball deep, Tyreek Hill has been able to use his speed to catch passes downfield. Hill is currently 4th in the league in receiving yards with his touchdown plays coming on an average of over 50 yards. The Chiefs have also been able to run the ball effectively with second year back Kareem Hunt. Tight end Travis Kelce has also been a monster on offense. He’s second in both yards and yards per game behind only Philadelphia’s Zach Ertz in both categories. The Chiefs’ defense has been their one weak point. They currently sit at the bottom of the NFL in yards allowed per game and rank 27th in points allowed. If they want a chance to be in Super Bowl contention, their defense will have to stop letting teams walk all over them.
- New England Patriots (4-2)
The Patriots look like themselves again with Tom Brady’s main man, Julian Edelman, back. The Patriots have already flashed the potential of their juggernaut offense, averaging over 35 points per game over the last three weeks. Not to mention, we haven’t seen the best of newly acquired wide receiver, Josh Gordon. Brady has been raving about the skill level of Gordon ever since Gordon arrived in New England. The Patriots have lacked that big body wide receiver that can stretch the field and Gordon will give the Patriots one more weapon. Rookie running back Sony Michel, along with James White, have proved a dynamic backfield pairing. Michel has averaged over 100 yards the last three weeks and has scored four touchdowns over that time. White, more of a scat back, is averaging over six receptions per game this season adding five touchdowns of his own. Rob Gronkowski has been relatively quiet by his standards, but should he find his groove, the Patriots will be the team to beat this season.
- New Orleans Saints (4-1)
The New Orleans Saints may be the best team in the league. Drew Brees is a hall of fame quarterback with a great head coach in Sean Payton. Second year running back Alvin Kamara looks just as electric as last year, averaging 6.1 yards per carry, as well as adding 351 yards through the air which puts him in second place behind Saquon Barkley with one less game played. Mark Ingram had two touchdowns in his first game back from his four game PED suspension and gives the Saints that power back that can wear a defense down, something they were missing through the first four weeks. Even with Ingram missing time, the Saints are third in the league in points per game, behind only the Rams and Chiefs. The Saints aren’t thought of as one of the top defenses in the league, but they rank number one in the NFL in rush defense. Their one weakness is the fact the Saints are dead last in the league in yards allowed to wide receivers. With a tough schedule ahead of them, the Saints will have to prove to themselves as much as anyone that they are up there with the top teams in the league.
- Baltimore Ravens (4-2)
Joe Flacco has looked rejuvenated in his 11th season in the NFL. The Ravens’ offense came out roaring in the first week of the season, putting up 40 points vs the Bills while earning a shutout on the other end. The Ravens wide receiver core is completely new with John Brown, Michael Crabtree, and Willie Snead being added to the roster. First round draft pick tight end Hayden Hurst has returned from his preseason injury, which could prove very important as the Ravens’ tight ends have the highest target share of any team in the league. However, they’re only 12th in points per game and have struggled to get a consistent running game going. It’s their defense that has been their greatest strength. They are first in the league in sacks, in scoring defense, and in pass defense. The Ravens have allowed just nine points in the second half of games this season and are the only team to not allow a touchdown in the second half of a game. They aren’t a pretty team, but the Ravens have proved they can smother opposing teams on defense and grind their way to wins. With a lot teams lacking an elite defense, the Ravens could be a tough matchup for many teams in the NFL this season.