sara.ziegler (Sara Ziegler, sports activities editor): Week 7 of the NFL season is nearly wrapped up, and we’re beginning to see some groups separate themselves from the remainder of the league. So this week, I wish to speak concerning the present crop of prime squads.

We at present have 9 groups with at the least 5 wins: New England, Buffalo, Baltimore and Kansas Metropolis within the AFC, Inexperienced Bay, Minnesota, New Orleans, San Francisco and Seattle within the NFC. The Patriots and Niners are undefeated, with the Pats but to play this week in the intervening time. Are these two the perfect of the perfect proper now?

joshua.hermsmeyer (Josh Hermsmeyer, NFL analyst): Not when you consider, as I do, that one of the simplest ways to forecast a group’s future efficiency is its early-down offense. The one drawback is that the No. 1 group by that measure — the Chiefs — simply misplaced their MVP quarterback.

neil (Neil Paine, senior sportswriter): We nonetheless listing the Pats as our prime Tremendous Bowl contender — what else is new? — at 26 p.c to win all of it. Our mannequin has been a bit slower to just accept San Francisco (eight p.c) as a real prime contender. Perhaps it’s as a result of the 49ers have nonetheless actually solely performed one opponent thought-about to be a prime group — the Rams.

The remainder of the Niners’ victims are fairly unimpressive: Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Washington.

Salfino (Michael Salfino, FiveThirtyEight contributor): For certain, the Patriots and Niners are the seemingly No. 1 seeds. Each are firmly in charge of their divisions. If I had been to choose two different groups which are good bets to win the Tremendous Bowl, or are at the least within the dialog, it might be two NFC groups, although — Minnesota and New Orleans. Whichever will get the first-round bye goes to have a giant edge. This assumes a wholesome Drew Brees, in fact, as a result of let’s face it: Teddy Bridgewater simply occurs to be successful these video games.

sara.ziegler: The Saints should be thrilled with how effectively they’ve performed with out Brees, although — and final week with out Alvin Kamara.

neil: Sure, I consider we (and everybody else) stated that if Bridgewater may simply preserve them from sinking too far, or simply preserve them round .500, they might survive. As a substitute, they’ve been undefeated with him at starter.

Salfino: The Saints are like these outdated Patriots Tremendous Bowl winners, pre-2007: simply stable in each space. The one query is whether or not Brees can play near-peak kind if wanted within the postseason. Perhaps the time without work helps him keep his play by way of the end line.

Kamara is a generational expertise, Josh.

joshua.hermsmeyer: * Chase Edmonds

sara.ziegler: * Latavius Murray

Salfino: Now we have to get Sara to speak concerning the Vikings, who’re, I swear, legit Tremendous Bowl contenders.

sara.ziegler: Mike.


joshua.hermsmeyer: Agreed!

neil: Each week we do that.

sara.ziegler: They’re not.

neil: Cousins was nice for a 3rd straight week.

sara.ziegler: You guys.

Salfino: Captain Kirk is the primary QB ever with three straight 300-yard passing video games with a completion proportion of 75 and a passer score over 130.

joshua.hermsmeyer: The Vikings are No. three in early-down offensive anticipated factors added per play amongst groups with at the least 5 wins, and so they’re extraordinarily well-balanced total. I feel they’re legit. Kirk can win them video games.

They should hope Thielen is OK, although.

sara.ziegler: Sigh.

Salfino: Cousins has made Mike Zimmer consider once more within the ahead cross, so, progress.

sara.ziegler: I feel it was opposing defenses that did that.

Salfino: I fear, although, that Thielen can be out a month along with his hamstring harm.

neil: Yeah, that’s an issue.

sara.ziegler: Although Bisi Johnson got here out of nowhere to be a good No. 2 broad receiver, behind Stefon Diggs.

Salfino: What a tender promote on Cousins by Sara. We’re all going to chip in and purchase you the Cousins jersey.

sara.ziegler: I can’t put on that.


Salfino: Revenge sport on Thursday for Case Keenum.

sara.ziegler: What concerning the precise chief within the NFC North, Inexperienced Bay?

neil: Aaron Rodgers is ELITE once more!

(We really do rank him third amongst present starters in QB Elo.)

joshua.hermsmeyer: A-aron will win the MVP on the power of 1 sport — you understand that is true.

neil: I used to be stunned that he had the primary excellent passer score sport in Packers historical past, given the QBs they’ve had through the years. (Now the Jaguars and Panthers are the one groups who’ve by no means had one.)

joshua.hermsmeyer: I’ll stan for Rodgers — you place up these performances in opposition to Oakland if you’re elite. Additionally, the operating sport is third-worst in yards per rush on early downs amongst groups with 5 wins. (Patriots and Chiefs are decrease.)

sara.ziegler: I’m a bit confused about why our mannequin charges the Vikings larger than the Packers.

Salfino: The Vikings are a lot better at successful the passing sport.

neil: A part of it could be that the Packers had been coming off such a down season final 12 months, too. Straightforward to overlook we’re not even midway into the 2019 season but, so there’s nonetheless some quantity of 2018 baked into the rankings proper now.

sara.ziegler: (The Vikings weren’t a lot better. 😞)

joshua.hermsmeyer: The Ravens look fairly wonderful, and Lamar Jackson must be within the MVP dialog, I feel.

sara.ziegler: I used to be tremendous stunned by the second half of the Ravens-Seahawks sport. Baltimore simply ran away with it.

neil: Such a formidable win for Baltimore. Going into Seattle, slowing down Russell Wilson — who’s having an MVP-type season himself.

Salfino: Lamar is unquestionably within the MVP dialog. His strategy is just not a sustainable mannequin with all that operating, nevertheless it’s working now. His passing since Week 1 — measured in just about each manner — has been “meh.” However who cares while you’re dashing for near 100 yards a sport. It looks as if we — which means soccer Twitter — all hate the run sport however LOVE when the QB runs.

neil: All of us grew up enjoying Madden 2004 with Mike Vick.

Salfino: Pete Carroll hasn’t been capable of cease a operating QB since Vince Younger within the Nationwide Championship Recreation.

joshua.hermsmeyer: The Seahawks deserved to lose a sport that was shut for lengthy stretches simply based mostly on their decision-making. Carroll likes to speak about protecting video games shut, as if it builds character or calluses, nevertheless it’s extra a operate of their lack of aggression on fourth down and an inability to maximize win probability.

neil: The 2019 Seahawks are type of the identical story because it’s been the previous few years: Wilson is wonderful, however the supporting forged — together with, in opposition to model, the protection — is questionable.

Salfino: Nothing got here straightforward for Wilson and the offense. That’s the best way issues was with him and Seattle, however this 12 months, that appeared to have modified. They had been getting straightforward performs in construction with out Wilson having to play like his hair was on fireplace. I feel Wilson has aged out of having the ability to succeed when enjoying in a typically chaotic state. He ought to solely be sprinkling it in now.

sara.ziegler: The Ravens have had type of a bizarre season — shedding to the Browns and barely beating the Steelers and Bengals.

neil: That win over Arizona in Week 2 is wanting higher and higher, although. 😉

sara.ziegler: Haha — true.

Salfino: I used to be shocked by how effectively Baltimore’s protection performed. I believed they had been only a identify model and had misplaced too many individuals. However Wink Martindale has coached this unit up after which some. They regarded dominant on Sunday. I feel that was the largest story out of that sport, not Lamar. They should add an edge rusher on the buying and selling deadline, although.

joshua.hermsmeyer: There are soccer narratives I don’t actually purchase, however having a QB who can punish a protection with deep passes actually does open up an offense. When Lamar has his deep ball working, I feel the Ravens are robust to beat. All that stated, there have been two fluky defensive scores Sunday, so we have to mood our expectations a bit for the Ravens’ offense.

neil: Marcus Peters wasn’t sufficient of an addition for you, Mike?

Salfino: That was good, nevertheless it’s not pass-rush. They appear to essentially battle there. As for Lamar, what’s fascinating to me is that the Chargers solved him within the playoffs by enjoying seven defensive backs on almost all downs after they had been pressured to due to accidents, simply a few weeks after getting gashed by the Ravens within the operating sport. I suppose this isn’t repeatable for groups as a result of they aren’t going to assemble a roster with all these DBs simply to beat the Ravens.

joshua.hermsmeyer: That very same protection was uncovered the very subsequent week, although.

Salfino: It wasn’t uncovered by the Ravens, although.

sara.ziegler: Wow, keep in mind when the Chargers weren’t horrible?

neil: OMG the CHARGERS

What number of methods can a group discover to lose video games?

joshua.hermsmeyer: It’s unhappy! The Chargers appear to be they need to be good, type of like a barely higher model of the Falcons, and but.

neil: The Chargers have been doing much less with extra for a very long time, however my goodness that sport Sunday.

Salfino: Greater soccer crime: Chargers shifting from San Diego or not utilizing the Human Cheat Code Austin Ekeler on extra snaps? Ekeler had 118 receiving yards on eight targets. At RB.

sara.ziegler: Again to groups that aren’t terrible, the opposite five-win group within the AFC is Buffalo. What do you make of the Payments?

joshua.hermsmeyer: A fermenting dumpster ready for a match. Of the groups with 5 wins, they’re the one one with unfavorable offensive EPA per play. I’m completely satisfied their success is a mirage.

neil: Their protection stays legit on the season (fifth in EPA), nevertheless it’s by no means nice to surrender 21 factors — and a fairly good QB sport — to Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Phins.

Salfino: Fitz gave that sport away with a choose after a primary and objective contained in the 5-yard line. A landing there would have made it 21-9 and “Homicide She Wrote” for the Payments. However then, Josh Allen took them 98 yards for the 14-point swing.

neil: Yeah, that was an enormous drive for Allen.

Salfino: Bear in mind, the Jets would have crushed the Payments in Week 1 if Sam Darnold hadn’t been half-dead.

sara.ziegler: Yeah, that’s the one purpose the Jets didn’t beat the Payments.

Salfino: “Spleen Speak,” Episode Six.

sara.ziegler: Hahahaha

neil: Can’t we speak about different organs for a change???

joshua.hermsmeyer: 🤐

neil: I’ll say this, Tre’Davious White is wonderful. He made one of many INTs of the 12 months.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Mike, I noticed you tweet one thing about Jimmy Garoppolo not having the ability to maintain onto the ball within the rain. I haven’t watched the total sport but — what was happening?

Salfino: He merely couldn’t throw a spiral. It was weird.

The factor is, January is the wet season in San Francisco. No less than, it was.

sara.ziegler: When the sector appears like this, you’ll take something you will get, proper?

joshua.hermsmeyer: Was Keenum any higher? My prior proper now’s that Jimmy G is common at finest.

Salfino: I used to be solely taking note of that display when the Niners had the ball.

neil: I’ll give Jimmy G a cross for the circumstances yesterday. However I preserve ready for one in every of two issues to occur:

  1. Niners cease successful
  2. Jimmy G places up a fantastic stat sport

Neither has occurred!

joshua.hermsmeyer: LOL

Salfino: Jimmy G is like Teddy B.

neil: In our Elo QB rankings, Garoppolo has had a below-average begin (adjusted for opposing protection) 5 instances in six video games this 12 months.

The one good one was in opposition to Cincy.

Salfino: The Niners and Garoppolo severely additionally remind me of these early 2000s Patriots groups. Additionally they unfold the ball round, lack fantasy significance, are very well-coached and crush the opposing passing video games. They usually have a QB who is just not lighting up the stat sheet however manages the sport (pre-2007 Brady).

joshua.hermsmeyer: Attention-grabbing comp. Is 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan as much as the Invoice Belichick comparability although?

neil: I stay up for Jimmy G’s stats lastly taking off after they commerce a fourth-round choose for Randy Moss Jr.

Salfino: How about A.J. Inexperienced?

neil: Haha. Inexperienced actually deserves higher than the Bengals.

Lowkey, they — and NOT the Dolphins — are final in our Elo rankings!

sara.ziegler: Ooof, Neil.

neil: Jogs my memory of how all of us assumed that the Orioles could be the worst group in baseball, and the Tigers had been like, maintain my beer.

sara.ziegler: So, you guys carry up an fascinating level: Which gamers on the market would make these top-tier groups higher?

Salfino: Groups that ought to go all in are those we began with, IMO.

The NFC is so sturdy that one commerce can tip the steadiness between the 49ers, Saints and Vikings. (Discover I didn’t say the Rams, who already made their commerce.)

joshua.hermsmeyer: The Niners ought to commerce for Broncos fullback Andy Janovich to avoid wasting their season.

Salfino: Within the AFC, the group that’s screaming out for a commerce is the Ravens. I might add Vic Beasley from the Falcons. A pure edge rusher.

neil: Looks like there are a ton of WRs doubtlessly on the commerce block.

sara.ziegler: NOT DIGGS, THO

neil: Properly, past simply Inexperienced, additionally Emmanuel Sanders, Mohamed Sanu, and many others.

Perhaps even Robby Anderson?!

Salfino: Julio Jones can’t be traded due to his contract. In fact, the Patriots desperately want a WR. They are often in on Inexperienced, too. The Chargers can’t dump. Tampa Bay ought to commerce Mike Evans, if the cap permits it. They don’t want two lead WRs, and so they can get two first-round picks for him. I do assume groups can do just about no matter they need with the cap, in the event that they put the ache off till tomorrow.

neil: Would like to see the Patriots purchase one more name-brand WR earlier than season’s finish. Only for their full listing of receivers for the season to be much more weird.

Salfino: There simply should not a variety of WRs on the market on the unhealthy groups. Allen Robinson? The Bears are going to maintain mendacity to themselves that they’re positive.

joshua.hermsmeyer: I agree that Mitch Trubisky most likely isn’t good, however he’s coming off an harm, so this week most likely isn’t the perfect time to lastly declare him a bust

Salfino: Marvin Jones to the Patriots for a first-round choose? Solely the third participant ever with two four-TD receiving video games since 1950 (Rice and Sterling Sharpe).

sara.ziegler: The Vikings ought to commerce away Kirk Cousins — like I did in fantasy soccer.


neil: Hey wait, Sara! I bought Cousins from you and was pleased with him! LOL

(Additionally, my common starter was on bye.)

Salfino: Wait a second! Sara traded Cousins to Neil? How am I simply discovering out about this?

sara.ziegler: It was a basic Cousins-for-Trubisky deal.

neil: I additionally bought a Chipotle lunch out of it.

joshua.hermsmeyer: Jelly.

Salfino: Steal.

Take a look at our newest NFL predictions.

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