We’ve played 7 weeks’ worth of games in the 2015 NFL season, and it’s amazing how much we’ve learned. Who would have said, before the season, that the Seattle Seahawks would be below .500 this late in the season? Who would have guessed that the Patriots, improbably, would look even better than they did in their Super Bowl season last year?
Week 7, like every week before it, changed our minds about some teams. So whose stock is rising, and whose is falling? Here are our picks.
Buffalo Bills (3-4)
This is getting ugly. The Bills were a popular pre-season pick to surprise the league, but the only people they’ve surprised have been the ones who thought they’d be good. The team looks restless under new head coach Rex Ryan, and it’s easy to imagine that Ryan’s stay in Buffalo will be a lot shorter than the one he had in New York. London games are always a mess, but losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars? That’s just embarrassing.
Carolina Panthers (6-0)
How much longer are we analysts going to keep pretending that the Panthers aren’t for real? For the second straight week, the Panthers faced a team that analysts were sure was better than its record indicated (last week it was the Seattle Seahawks, and this week it was the seemingly-reborn Philadelphia Eagles and their newfound running game). For the second straight week, observers eagerly waited for the “overrated” Panthers to be exposed. And for the second straight week, the Panthers won anyway. We’re buying this team’s stock.
Indianapolis Colts (3-4)
Hey, remember when the Colts gave the Patriots a run for their money in a primetime game last week? It seems like ages ago now, after the Colts took an embarrassing loss at home at the hands of a relatively weak New Orleans Saints team. The Colts nearly overcame a massive deficit late in the game, but they failed, and now all anyone wants to talk about is how they accumulated that deficit in the first place. Chuck Pagano seems destined to lose his job at any moment, and now reports are circulating that the team’s owner and general manager got into a heated argument after the game – in the middle of the team’s locker room, with players present. Things are looking pretty grim in Indianapolis.
Kansas City Chiefs (2-5)
Is it too late for the Chiefs to recover this season? Maybe, but stranger things have happened. The Chiefs have taken a pummeling in the media for their weak record (they were 1-5 coming into this week), but they’ve had a brutal schedule: three of their five losses came against teams that are still undefeated. The collective record of teams that have beaten the Chiefs is 24-6, with the 2-4 Chicago Bears being the only victor with a losing record. The Chiefs punished the Pittsburgh Steelers this week, a team that has looked pretty solid even without starting QB Ben Roethlisberger. It’s a solid win from a Chiefs team that may be better than its record indicates.
New York Jets (4-2)
We rarely raise a team’s stock when it loses, but what the Jets did in a hostile environment this weekend was remarkable. For three quarters of their game against the New England Patriots, the Jets and their defense made Tom Brady and company look positively mortal. They were helped out by some Patriots drops, but they held the Patriots to virtually nothing in the first quarter (only a Jets turnover let the Pats score a field goal) and held their own until the final ten minutes of the game. The Jets aren’t as good as the Patriots, but they’re much better than we thought they’d be this year. And with the Bills floundering, the Jets look like the second-best team in the AFC East, not to mention a possible playoff contender.
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