With the Cincinnati Bengals falling on Monday Night Football, there are now just two undefeated teams left in the NFL. Only the New England Patriots have finished a regular season 16-0, and they are seeking to do it again eight years after they did it the first time.
The first of the seven remaining games on the Patriots schedule is against the Buffalo Bills on Monday night. Tom Brady has owned the Bills throughout his career with a 24-3 record against them. While Rex Ryan has brought a new energy to the Bills, it was not enough against the Patriots in Buffalo in Week 2 as Brady had a surgical performance against them with 466 yards and three touchdowns in a 40-32 win. In Foxborough, where they haven't lost a game in which they tried since the 2012 AFC Championship Game, the Pats should win.
Next they go on the road to face the Denver Broncos, which could be their toughest remaining game. The Broncos defense is arguably the best in the NFL and Brady has always struggled there. Without Julian Edelman, the Broncos defense will not have to focus as much on the secondary. Assuming DeMarcus Ware is back for that game, Denver definitely has a chance of winning.
After that the Patriots host the Philadelphia Eagles, which should be a win, and then take on AFC South foes the Houston Texans in Houston and the Tennessee Titans. The Texans pose a unique challenge because of so many former Patriots on the field and sidelines. Among them are Vince Wilfork, Bill O'Brien, Brian Hoyer,
Ryan Mallett, among others. The Texans have been stingy on defense since getting blown out in Miami, which means the Texans could pull an upset if DeAndre Hopkins goes off.
After facing Tennessee, which they should win easily, they go on the road to face the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. The Jets always play them tough, but can they pull the upset with Ryan Fitzpatrick and with their secondary looking as shaky as it has?
Then, they go to Miami to take on the Dolphins. The only thing going for Dan Campbell's scrappy bunch is that the Patriots always seem to struggle in Miami, particularly in December. They have a 6-7 record there overall in the Brady era (excluding 2008) and 0-4 in December games there. That said, Week 17 will extend to the first week in January this year. The two times these two played in January were both in Foxborough and the teams split the meetings. But who knows, Miami might be fighting for their playoff lives in that game while the Patriots have the top seed locked up.
What could keep them from going undefeated? A team that can manage the clock (because the Giants can't), an effective pass rush against a subpar offensive line that will put pressure on and hit Tom Brady, an effective ground game much like the Steelers were able to employ in Week 1, and keep Brady off the field.
Overall chance of going undefeated? 20 percent. Between the games in Denver, the Meadowlands against the Jets and Miami, one of them will beat New England. But if there is a team that can manage the expectations of an undefeated season, it's these guys.
Carolina will host the Washington Redskins this week. Kirk Cousins has had his moments this season and the Panthers secondary has shown vulnerability the last few weeks against the Indianapolis Colts and Green Bay Packers. The Redskins have a slim chance, particularly with the skilled front seven they have going against the Panthers running game. But it's hard not to think the Panthers won't take this game.
After that the Panthers will play back-to-back road games against the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving and the New Orleans Saints. The Cowboys have spiraled out of control, but Tony Romo is back so lets see if he can steady the ship at all. With that being said, the Panthers don't win this game. However, if they do defeat Dallas and are still undefeated, give them the edge over New Orleans on the road. The Saints have been absolutely atrocious on defense, prompting the firing of Rob Ryan. It'll be curious to see if Dennis Allen can get this unit working any better. But still, the Panthers rolled in the dome last year and should again.
After that they have a home game with the Atlanta Falcons, who are falling apart, then go on the road to take on the New York Giants -who nearly knocked off the Patriots and will be competing for a division title in December - so that will be a hard one. If they are still undefeated, It's safe to say they should be able to defeat the Falcons in Atlanta for the second time in three weeks and then beat the Buccaneers in the season finale.
What could keep them from going undefeated? Their secondary has been beaten at times recently by quarterbacks like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck. They still have some good quarterbacks left on their schedule - Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. It depends largely on their pass rush, which has gotten better but has gotten winded late in games. However, all of those quarterbacks have been somewhat inconsistent or their teams have been erratic. All of these teams would have to catch Carolina on a bad day to beat them. But that is certainly possible.
Overall chance of going undefeated? 30 percent. It looks like they should beat the rest of the teams on their schedule. But like they say, "any given Sunday." The biggest concern is going to be if they get behind in a game. Yes, they came back against the Seahawks in Seattle earlier this season, but could they pull off another dramatic comeback like that? Hard to figure this team can keep playing with fire, eventually they'll get burned. But one thing is for sure, you will not outslug or outwork this team. They just want to grind it out with you and they do it better than anyone.