Through two weeks of the NFL season the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants lead the league in offense. Not shocking.
After back-to-back impressive wins against the Packers and Lions the San Francisco 49ers — who were a fumble away from the Super Bowl last year — are now number one in the NFL power rankings. Also, not shocking.
We could go on listing the several teams that many consider to be Super Bowl favorites; lists which include teams like the Patriots, Ravens, Packers, Bears and Jets in particular. But what I would like to do is highlight a few teams that no one is actually realistically mentioning to be favorites to make the Super Bowl.
Let's start with that team who always gets off to a hot start. The Houston Texans.
Definitely not the gutsiest pick here — Vegas just made them the AFC favorites — but I still think people underestimate the path the Texans could have to their first Super Bowl appearance.
We all know that Matt Schaub can play like a top tier quarterback on any given day. In 2009 the guy threw for over 4,700 yards and standing at 6-foot-5, he can throw over anyone. Also consider Arian Foster, one of the league's best running backs, and receiver Andre Johnson, arguably the league's toughest wide-out, and you have a trio that is scary. The reason it might not frighten you right now is because they haven't had the opportunity to click with on another. Because of injuries, before the start of this season, all three guys only played together for just one full quarter. That's it. One. Quarter.
Also, after two games the Texans are 2-0 and lead the league in defense, having only given up 17 points in two games. With a possible more than stellar offense combined with a great defense, this is a team that while you never see on SportsCenter, could very well represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Now onto a team that took a tough loss to the Falcons last Monday night. I'm talking about the Denver Peyton Mannings…er, I mean, the Denver Broncos.
Is this a little more bold of a pick? I think so. And it really comes down to whether or not you believe Peyton Manning is capable of playing the way he did circa 2000-2009. Personally, I'm buying.
The Broncos are in a weak division. The Chiefs and Raiders are much worse than we all thought they would be, and the Chargers rely too heavily on Philip Rivers — a man I would not want to put all of my money on. In my eyes, it really is Denver's division to lose.
Denver currently ranks 8th in total defense. Think about it this way: Manning threw 3 first quarter interceptions against the Falcons on Monday night, and still, they only lost by 6 points, 27-21. The Falcons are one of the best teams in the NFC, and if not for the turnovers, Denver would have had the W. Manning won't throw that type of game again this year. In week one against Pittsburgh, Manning had a quarterback rating of 129.2.
Pair up Manning's play-making capability with a solid defense, a Willis McGahee and a couple go-to receivers in Demaryuis Thomas and Eric Decker, and I could see a Denver visit to the Super Bowl for the first time since John Elway's teams of the late the 90s.
And now for the big shocker. My crazy upset special. The team that could surprise everyone, the Washington Redskins.
I mean, talk about a team that's been brutal for decades. I have really felt sorry for any fan I've met of the team. But with Robert Griffin III paving yet another Cam Newton-like path of rookie stardom, the Skins could be formidable.
Sure, they're 1-1, but only after a Josh Morgan 'oops of the season,' which means they should be sitting at a pretty 2-0. Washington is currently 4th in overall offense, averaging over 400 yards per game. If we know anything, we know that the NFL is now a pass friendly league and if your quarterback can run and stay healthy — which the league wants more than anything — teams can have tremendous success. Not to mention, while defense has been a problem for the Skins — giving up more than 400 yards per contest — it's their schedule that makes my eyes pop.
Granted Washington is in arguably the toughest division in football. The Cowboys, Giants and Eagles are all serious contenders. But when you look at their non-divisional opponents, you see it's actually a very friendly schedule. The Skins play the Buccaneers, Vikings, Panthers and Browns, while they face the Falcons, Bengals and Eagles all at home before week 11. After a current 1-1 start, this is a team could easily go 9-7 if they protect their home field. Also remember what Green Bay did just less than two years ago. If Washington ends the season hot, like the 2010 Super Bowl champion Packers — who only finished the year 10-6 — who knows where the Skins could end up come February.
Mike Shanahan is a Hall-of-Fame coach who actually might have his first true Pro-Bowl quality quarterback since Elway himself. At the same time, RGIII is just a rookie and will still be on some kind of a learning curve. The team rests in RGIII's hands, who will get his first true test against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium during week 7. That game should tell us all we need to know.
But then again, the Arizona Cardinals are 2-0 as well. Not that I'm not backing down from my bold predictions, but also know a little bit of a hyperbole when you see it.
Photo Credit: Juan DeLeon/Icon SMI