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The NFL’s Cream of the Crop

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The NFL’s Cream of the Crop

New England's Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski arguably make up the most dangerous duo in the league.

New England's Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski arguably make up the most dangerous duo in the league.

Andrew Campbell

New England's Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski arguably make up the most dangerous duo in the league.

Andrew Campbell

Andrew Campbell

New England's Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski arguably make up the most dangerous duo in the league.

Christopher Starnawski, Staff writer

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The NFL season passed a quarter of its entirety and already been full of surprises. Many of the current undefeated teams have crept up from the basement and are reloaded and ready to take the current Super Bowl champion, New England Patriots to the limit.
New England has picked up right where they left off: bullying the AFC East and the rest of the NFL. Tom Brady has been in the zone under center and wasted no time feeding the ball to the league’s best tight end, Rob Gronkowski. Gronkowski alone can win his team a football game with his freakish athleticism and his ability to get open, even when he faces double coverage. Having him on the team creates opportunities for his teammates to make a name for themselves, which is exactly what Dion Lewis has done. Lewis has been the biggest surprise for New England’s opponents in the opening weeks, mostly because he wasn’t well known. His size can fool defenders as he sneaks under tackles for touchdowns. The dynamic at tight end and running back created by head coach Bill Belichick, is sure to create even more opportunities for the teams’ wide receivers. Julian Edelman has cashed in on those opportunities.Brandon Lafell is set to return from injury during week seven, hungry for his share of the Patriots’ success. New England is already the favorite to return to the Super Bowl and anything short of that would truly be an upset.
A sleeping giant that could pull off that upset in the AFC is the Cincinnati Bengals. The Bengals have made the playoffs the past four seasons and each time they’ve lost in the first round. A lot of the blame has been directed at their starting quarterback Andy Dalton. His playoff stats aren’t pretty as he’s thrown only one touchdown and has six interceptions. As a result, Dalton is arguably the most average quarterback in the league. There are fans around the world that wish their team would make playoffs, let alone be as consistent as the Bengals have been in recent years.

Through four games, Dalton’s shown the league and its fans that he is far from average. The “Red Rifle” came prepared this season reloaded with new weapons on offense. The Cincinnati gunslinger has been trigger friendly on offense, unloading bombs to his favorite target down field AJ Green.  Opposite of Green, the Bengals have Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu lined up, two receivers that could be a top receiver on any other team. If it wasn’t hard enough for teams to cover those talented wide outs, the emergence of Tyler Eifert has left opposing defenses scratching their heads trying to figure out how to stop this offense. If their opponents defend the passing game, the Bengals end up burning them on the ground with the dynamic duo of Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard.

The Bengals have made their case that they are the team to beat in the AFC. Cincinnati and New England unfortunately don’t play each other in the regular season, but if these teams end up meeting each other in the playoffs it will certainly be an instant classic.
If the Super Bowl comes down to the two best teams as it has the past two years, then it wouldn’t surprise anybody if the Green Bay Packers, led by Aaron Rodgers, is the team to represent the NFC. Just as he’s done in seasons past, Rodgers has controlled his opponents and found ways to bring his team to victory. This season, Rodgers is working with a young receiving core and is trying to find a new rhythm on offense after losing fan-favorite (and Rodgers’) target Jordy Nelson to a torn ACL. The Packers signed free agent receiver James Jones to fill Nelson’s shoes and to bring a veteran presence to the locker room. So far this season, Jones has certainly brought a presence to the field, specifically in the red zone where he has been a touchdown magnet. Randall Cobb was thought to be the Packers’ ace receiver this season, but he’s struggled this season too. This is the case for the Packers’ featured running back Eddie Lacy as well. Although both star players have had a slow start to their season, there is still plenty of time left for them to make an impact on their team.

Once this entire Packer team is healthy, they are primed to take off and take out their opponents. Look for this team to go far in the playoffs.
With every good offense, there is an even better defense. At least that’s the case with the Seattle Seahawks. Coming off a Super Bowl loss, the Seahawks have faced their fair share of struggles this season, primarily dealing with the contracts of their star players. The team re-signed quarterback Russell Wilson to a four-year extension which didn’t sit well with the team’s safety, Kam Chancellor. Chancellor held out until week three of the regular season because he wanted to restructure his contract and receive more money. With his return, the team’s defense was dominating again and put them back in position to be the league’s best defense.

Seattle’s offense has been a bit out of sync since trading for star tight end Jimmy Graham. In New Orleans, Graham was an unstoppable force and broke records. He has been very stoppable with Wilson as his quarterback. The identity of the Seahawks’ offense has always been to run the football with running back Marshawn Lynch. They haven’t made it to the past two Super Bowls as a result of their passing game, which made the Jimmy Graham trade quite intriguing. Many people were quick to assume that Wilson and Graham could create an immediate chemistry and march down the field. This hasn’t been the case because Graham is being used as a blocking tight end, a much different identity from what made him famous in New Orleans. Although the expected chemistry has not been made between Wilson and Graham yet, they have a lot of the season left to raise expectations.

In time, this team will only get better and that’s a scary thought for the Green Bay Packers who might end up seeing this team in the NFC championship game.

Although these four teams have stood out in the opening weeks, there’s still a lot of season left. Anything can happen in the NFL they have a lot of the season left to raise expectations. The Patriots, Bengals, Packers and Seahawks have the talent to stay ahead in their conferences and potentially headline the NFL’s 50th Super Bowl. If they can’t overcome adversities that are sure to arise, other teams will.

And if we know anything about the NFL, it’s that nobody’s safe.

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The NFL’s Cream of the Crop