As we approach the 4th Quarter of the PML season, we currently have 2 clubs who remain unblemished on the campaign, the Los Angeles Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is a feat that would be impressive by one club to obtain, but we have the possibility of having 2 teams finishing the regular season perfect. The last NFL team to achieve this was the 2007 New England Patriots who were able to finish the regular season 16-0 but ended up falling to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl and ended at (18-1). The last team to complete the perfect season and post season, the 1972 Dolphins who completed the regular season at 14-0, before winning 3 post season games to hoist the Lombardi trophy (17-0). As I write this article, the Chargers have completed there week 12 game and improved to 11-0, while the Buccaneers sit at 10-0 with a game vs the New Orleans Saints looming. Let’s take a look at the numbers and the upcoming matchups for both these clubs as they both try and make PML history.
The Los Angeles Chargers continued their dominance on both sides of the ball in Week 12, with a 51-10 road victory vs the Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. The Chargers team statistics are off the charts. They are currently averaging 41pts per game and allowing 14pts per game both which are both tops in the PML. The upcoming schedule for the Chargers features 3 games vs teams with winning records but the toughest of the matchups will be week 13 as the Baltimore Ravens (9-2), make the cross country trip to SoFi Stadium. The Ravens feature a high scoring offense of their own averaging 36pts per game (5th) and they are no slouch on the defensive side 18pts (2nd) allowed per game. The Ravens two weeks removed from a heartbreaking 1pt loss to the New England Patriots (8-2), will certainly be fired up for this contest and looking to make a statement to the rest of the AFC as they jockey for playoff positioning and home field advantage. Week 14 and 15 feature matchups vs 2 NFC West teams the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals. Both these clubs are having solid seasons coming in at (7-3) tied for the lead in the NFC West, but most people around the league think this is a product of their schedule. Both teams feature stout defenses but the big question for these teams will be if they can muster any offense of their own against the top ranked unit of the Chargers. Week 16 is a matchup vs Deshaun Watson and the Texans (5-6), a team that has come on as of late winning 2 straight but do they have what it takes to slow the Chargers down on the defensive side of the ball as they rank in the lower third in all defensive categories. Week 17 features a game @ the lowly Los Angeles Rams (1-10) which may be used as a game to rest the starters. If the Chargers are able to get through the week 13 game unblemished, I think they will be able to throw the car into cruise control as they will be able to roll to the perfect season.
Week 13 vs Ravens (9-2). Win
Week 14 vs Cardinals (7-3). Win
Week 15 vs Seahawks (7-3). Win
Week 16 vs Texans (5-6). Win
Week 17 @ Rams (1-10). Win
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are led on offense by rookie signal caller Sam Howell who has exploded onto the PML scene leading the Bucs who are averaging 40pts per game (3rd). On the defensive side of the ball Devin White leads the 3rd ranked scoring defense which is allowing 22pts per game. 5 out of the 6 Buccaneers next games are against NFC South opponents 2 vs the New Orleans Saints (Week 12&17) 2 vs the Panthers (Week 13&15) and Week 14 vs the Falcons. Divisional games are always tough as familiarity with opponents and their tendencies can play a huge factor. All these teams remain in the playoff hunt so you will be facing a hungry team each and every week. The Carolina Panthers are averaging 27pts per game(21st) have run the ball well this year (7th) but come in the lower third in pts allowed (23rd). They will need a huge performance out of Justin Fields both on the ground and in the air to keep the chains moving and the clock rolling to keep the Bucs offense on the sideline and limit the possesions for Howell and Co. The Atlanta Falcons are in a similar boat to Carolina on offense as they are averaging 28pts per game (19th) and are (5th) in rushing yards per game. The Falcons feature a pedestrian defense as they are allowing 32pts per game (20th). The Falcons will have to use the same formula as the Panthers running the ball with Todd Gurley controlling the clock and having Micale Cunningham make plays with his legs for an offense that has struggled of late leading to 2 straight losses. The New Orleans Saints are my dark horse to knock off the Bucs, as they are now winners of 4 out of their last 5 games and seem to have started to click on the defensive side of the ball. If they are able to muster any offense with 2nd year Quarterback Trey Lance and running back Alvin Kamara and are able to limit mistakes I think they can pull off the upset of the Bucs. Tampa also features another heavy weight bout in week 16 when the Baltimore Ravens (9-2) pay a visit to Raymond James Stadium. This game will certainly have a playoff buzz as two of the best in the PML matchup, but ultimately I think it’s the Ravens defense making a stop late and prevailing. All and all this will not be an easy path to perfection for the Bucs down the stretch, but either way a successful season and they have established themselves as a Super Bowl favorite in the NFC.