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Judging which undefeated NFL team is most likely to go 16-0

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For the first time in the history of the National Football League, there are three teams with an 8-0 record at the halfway point of the season.

The reigning champions, the New England Patriots, as well as the Cincinnati Bengals and Carolina Panthers, have won all of their first eight matches of the season, so here we will take a look at which of the three teams is most likely to have the first 16-0 season since the Patriots accomplished the feat in 2007.

Most likely - New England Patriots

As noted by their status of current champions, the Patriots have been the best team in the NFL for the last season and a half and are aiming to be the first team to win back to back titles since they themselves did so in 2004 and 2005.


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This clearly makes them the favorite of the three teams to finish 16-0, but it is also helped by the fact that their schedule is, although not particularly easy, hardly the most difficult schedule in the league.

However, New England were dealt a devastating blow yesterday afternoon, when it was revealed that their receiving running back Dion Lewis suffered an ACL injury and will miss the rest of the season.

But the Patriots have shown their ability to cope with missing key players before and will hope to do so again, as Lewis' replacement as the back-up to LeGarrette Blount, Brandon Bolden, looked impressive during the second half on Sunday, including catching a pass out of the backfield and taking it in for a touchdown.

Even though they play five of their remaining eight matches on the road, there are just three that should seriously test the Patriots. Those three start this Sunday when they play at the New York Giants.

In reality, this game should not be as difficult as it seems, as though MetLife stadium is a difficult place to travel, the Giants defense has shown itself to be very poor in the past couple of weeks, notably giving up 52 points to Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in week eight.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who is possibly having the best year of his career aged 38, should have a field day. However, that may not be the case, as the Patriots offensive line has suffered so many injuries that Brady has very little protection ahead of him.

That offensive line could be exposed by Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, one of the best rushers of the quarterback in the NFL, who returned from injury for New York this past weekend against Tampa Bay.

Following this New England's two most dangerous games will come when they face two high quality defensive outfits in the Denver Broncos in the mile-high stadium in week 12, which is made more troublesome by the high altitude faced at the stadium in Colorado, and then at division rivals the New York Jets in the penultimate week of the season.

Second most likely - Carolina Panthers

I will preface this by acknowledging that the Bengals are the better team in comparison to the Panthers when you look at it player by player, so this opinion is based on the very kind schedule that Carolina have remaining.

Ahead of the season nobody would have expected that the Panthers would be 8-0, but, after losing their main wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin for the year before the season had even begun, they have more than made up for it by grinding out victory after victory.

Going back to the final four games of last year's regular season, the Panthers now have 12 consecutive regular season wins, the most in the short history of the franchise.

Their schedule sees them play eight very winnable fixtures in the second half of the season, with the most difficult coming in away games against the Dallas Cowboys, who should have quarterback Tony Romo back from injury by then, the New York Giants and the Atlanta Falcons.

But none of these games will scare the Panthers, who really have nothing to be afraid of. They possess a defense which is one of the top five in the league and can stifle any other team, what would be the worry is that offensively there will be a blip.

The Panthers weapons at the wide receiver position are very limited without Benjamin, which makes this 8-0 start to the season even more remarkable, and further pushes the case for quarterback Cam Newton to win the MVP award.

One added bonus for the Panthers is the fact that they are now two games ahead of their nearest challengers for the best record in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers at 6-2, after defeating the Packers on Sunday, so even a 14-2 record at the end of the season would ensure the top seed until the Super Bowl, if they were to get there.

Least likely - Cincinnati Bengals

Cincinnati have impressed almost everyone who has watched them this season, as they have combined a solid defense, that ranks fourth in the NFL in fewest points allowed, alongside a very balanced offense.

Cincinnati can score against you in any way when going forward. They have two strong running backs in Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard, as well as a very strong core of wide receivers, led by AJ Green, and one of the best pass-catching tight ends in the NFL in Tyler Eifert, who has been a revelation this season.

In previous seasons, there have been serious questions about the ability of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, who has regularly failed when, as they say, 'the lights shine brightest'.

Dalton has folded in big television fixtures and playoff games and the question still remains as to whether he is just a good regular season quarterback, or one who can actually take the Bengals on successful playoff runs.

So far this season Dalton has come through every test, passing for 18 touchdowns, as well as running for two himself, compared to just four interceptions and, as this season heads towards the business end of the year the Bengals possibility of going 16-0 rests on his shoulders.

The schedule for the Bengals in the second half of the season is far worse than that of the Patriots and Panthers, which is why I believe they are less likely to complete the perfect regular season.

In week eleven Cincy travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals, one of the best home teams in the entire NFL and another team who will be looking for a deep run in the playoffs, followed by a home game against one of the best defensive sides in the league, the St. Louis Rams, who earlier this season were able to snatch a rare win in Arizona.

Week 14 sees them face division rivals Pittsburgh, who they were fortunate to defeat just over a week ago and then, in the second to last week, travel to Denver in what could be a crucial match to determine the seedings ahead of the AFC playoffs.

Carolina Panthers
New England Patriots
Cincinnati Bengals

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