Could Two NFL Teams Go 16-0?

Peyton Manning (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Drew Brees (AP Photo/Bill Feig)

For the first time in NFL history, two teams, the New Orleans Saints and the Indianapolis Colts, have started out 11-0. With just 5 games left in the regular season, we now face the possibility that not one, but two, teams could go 16-0 in the regular season. Since that is the case, I wanted to take a quick look at how these two teams compare against the 2007 New England Patriots, the only team to complete an undefeated regular season in the NFL.

Tom Brady & Randy Moss

Some of you may remember that before the regular season, I wrote a post asking how likely it would be for the Patriots to go 16-0 again with Tom Brady’s return. Well, we now know that won’t happen. I also wrote a post questioning whether we could expect the Colts to win 12 games again, considering the coaching changes this year with Tony Dungy’s resignation. That appears very likely at this point. And, a few weeks ago, I asked if the Saints were for real. They have since answered that with an emphatic yes, particularly in light of the way they disposed of the Patriots on Monday Night Football. So, now that the Colts and Saints are both 11-0, how do they compare with the 2007 Pats? The table below shows certain offensive and defensive statistics for each team.

  2009 Saints 2009 Colts 2007 Patriots
Score Tm 407 304 442
Score Opp 221 184 185
Offense 1stD 239 248 289
Offense TotYd 4685 4327 4778
Offense PassY 3029 3363 3412
Offense RushY 1656 964 1366
Offense TO 20 15 9
Defense 1stD 200 215 192
Defense TotYd 3672 3654 3097
Defense PassY 2393 2456 2149
Defense RushY 1279 1198 948
Defense TO 32 22 25

In most categories, neither the Saints nor the Colts meet up to the level that the Pats attained through their first 11 games in 2007. Offensively, both teams are a good bit behind in most categories. The biggest exception may be a big one though. The Saints have a more balanced offensive attack, with nearly 300 more rushing yards than the Pats had after 11 games. Defensively, as well, the Pats from 2007 were statistically superior in most categories. The Colts have allowed one fewer point after 11 games than that Pats team, though. The Saints main advantage here is in the number of takeaways, with 7 more than the 2007 Pats.

Overall, then, it appears that neither the Colts nor the Saints are quite as dominant as the Patriots 2007 team. So, does that mean that they are less likely to survive the regular season unbeaten? Let’s take a quick look at each team’s remaining schedule to see how tough it should be down the stretch.

2009 Saints 2009 Colts
@Washington Redskins Tennessee Titans
@Atlanta Falcons Denver Broncos
Dallas Cowboys @Jacksonville Jaguars
Tampa Bay Buccaneers New York Jets
@Carolina Panthers @Buffalo Bills

Looking at the teams left on their schedules, both teams have already faced their toughest opponents and they have won all of their games. So, each team certainly has a legitimate shot at winning the rest of their games. The Saints may have the biggest hurdle remaining. They have to play the Falcons in Atlanta in two weeks. But, with Matt Ryan hurt this week, his status for that game is uncertain. The Colts also face a divisional opponent who may be a significant obstacle when the Titans come to town. Since Vince Young has taken over at quarterback, Tennessee is 5-0, so I wouldn’t count that as a gimme.

I guess this is how I look at it. Right now, there are two teams in the running for completing the perfect regular season. As long as both remain unbeaten, I think that takes the pressure off of each to some extent. If one loses, I would expect the other to also lose before the season is out. Once only one is left, all of the media scrutiny will turn directly on that team, and the pressure will probably overwhelm them. But, in the long run, as the Pats found out, maybe it would be better for each team’s championship chances not to go 16-0. If you’re going to go 18-1, you’d rather have the 1 be in the regular season, right?

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