A fast start means a lot this year in the trek toward the NFL playoffs. After three weeks, there are seven undefeated teams (eight, if you count the 2-0-1 Detroit Lions) with wildly different odds to make the postseason. Three, or maybe, four of these teams seem like near locks to make it to at least to a wild-card game. But are they really that good? And what about the other undefeated squads? Are they just early season pretenders?
A lot of what passes for an undefeated start has to do with the competition a team faces in the early part of the season. So, which teams are really the strongest?
New England Patriots 3-0 and Buffalo Bills 3-0
The reigning champs and playoff perennials, New England Patriots, are off to a fast start this year. In years past, New England has struggled a bit before righting the ship. This year’s start has them a 94% favorite to make the playoffs.
The Buffalo Bills are in the AFC East with New England, but that is where the comparison ends. Buffalo has beaten the Jets, the Bengals and the Giants who, combined, have a 1-8 record. Buffalo currently has a 69% chance to be a playoff team.
The division may become clearer this Sunday when the Patriots travel to Orchard Park, New York to play the Bills.
Kansas City Chiefs 3-0
The Chiefs are 3-0. and listed as having a 95% chance to make the playoffs. A big part of that number has to do with the recent history of a very strong franchise. The Chiefs finished last season 12-4, and took the eventual champs, New England, into overtime in the AFC championship game.
The Chiefs are also in a weak division. The Denver Broncos are 0-3, while both the Oakland Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers are 1-2. The Chiefs are not likely to be challenged for the division crown, and are already playing for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Rams 3-0 and San Francisco 49ers 3-0
The NFC West is another division with two undefeated teams. The L.A. Rams are 85% to make the playoffs, while the S.F. 49ers are only 55%. A lot of those numbers have to do with last year’s full-season performances. The Rams played in the Super Bowl. The 49ers were 4-12.
In addition, the division also has the 2-1 Seattle Seahawks to contend with. But the Rams seem solid again, despite struggling to put away the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. The Niners remain an early season surprise. San Francisco has a bye this week before playing Cleveland at home, and then traveling to L.A. to face the Rams.
Green Bay Packers 3-0
The Packers seem solid again, but with a new coach and a new offensive system, time will tell. Plus, the NFC North was expected to be a toss-up with Green Bay, Chicago and Minnesota all pegged as contenders. Both Chicago and Minnesota are 2-1. No one is ready to call this division, but Green Bay has, at least, a one-game edge. The Packers are 64% to make the playoffs,
Dallas Cowboys 3-0
The much touted Dallas Cowboys are listed at 78% to be in the playoffs. This is perhaps the most questionable of the odds for any of the undefeated teams. The Cowboys have beaten the 0-3 Washington Redskins, the 1-2 New York Giants, and the 1-2 Philadelphia Eagles. Weak wins at best. On the other hand, those are the three teams in the NFC East division with the Cowboys, so not only are they weak opponents, but the Cowboys already lead the division by two full games. A soft division might be all Dallas needs to make a playoff run.
Detroit Lions 2-0-1
What the Lions are doing undefeated is anyone’s guess. In fact, with a 2-0-1 record, there are some who question whether the Lions really should be considered undefeated. The tie is kind of like an asterisk on their record, which could account for why the Lions are only listed at 40% to make the postseason. The Lions face Kansas City this Sunday, which could — or should — end Detroit’s claim to an undefeated season.
Undefeated Teams Odds to Make the Playoffs
Kansas City Chiefs 95%
New England Patriots 94%
Los Angeles Rams 85%
Dallas Cowboys 78%
Buffalo Bills 69%
Green Bay Packers 64%
San Francisco 49ers 55%
Detroit Lions 40%