The four teams at 7-0 entering NFL Week 9 is double the most ever at this point in a season. There haven’t even been as many as two since 2009. Naturally, then, the 1972 Dolphins are in mortal fear that the uniqueness of their Perfect Season might finally be matched.
I mean, seriously, when something hasn’t happened for 42 years in a row, is there a reasonable expectation the 43rd year will break the spell?
No, and we can quantify that based on analytics. As you know, “analytics” is the modern sports catchphrase for educated guesswork. We still can’t be sure when it comes to predicting anything, even with computer models, but the words analytics makes us feel smarter than we are.
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Anyway, the website Football Outsiders has a formula that has determined there is a 15 percent chance any of the four remaining unbeatens will finish the regular season 16-0, and only a 4 percent chance a team will run the table for a Perfect Season 19-0.
In other words there is a 96 percent likelihood Mercury Morris will be preening as always the day after the Super Bowl.
Each team’s chances of 16-0 and 19-0:
New England Patriots: 7.1% and 2.3.
Cincinnati Bengals: 4.0% and 0.9.
Carolina Panthers: 2.2% and 0.3.
And Denver Broncos: 1.3% and 0.2.
A competing analytic, ESPN’s Football Power Index, puts each team’s 16-0 likelihood at Patriots 5.7%, Bengals 1.2, Panthers 0.8 and Broncos 0.6.
Bengals were heavy favorites to stay unbeaten Thursday night over Cleveland, and Patriots are heavy favorites Sunday over Washington, but the two other unbeatens might be at risk this week. Panthers are underdogs to Green Bay. Broncos are favored over Indianapolis, but I like Colts in an upset.
▪ Rams’ Todd Gurley is first rookie back with four straight games of 125-plus yards. His 566 yards in first four career starts tops previous mark of 539 by Billy Sims in 1980.
▪ AFC South combined .300 win percentage (9-21) is second-worst division mark entering Week 9 since 1970 merger, better only than the 1984 AFC Central at .219.
▪ The Packers and Colts both are facing opponents with 6-0 records or better for a second straight game. Previously, that only happened twice: Lions in 1934, and Steelers in 2004.
▪ Denver has not allowed a first-quarter point through seven games. Longest such defensive streak to start a season is nine games by 1974 L.A. Rams.
▪ Saints’ Drew Brees has a TD pass in 50 consecutive home games, a record. Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger has next-longest active streak at 34. Both are home on Sunday.
▪ New England tight end Rob Gronkowski reached 60 career scoring catches in his 71st game, third-fastest to that plateau after Lance Alworth (64 games) and Jerry Rice (69).
▪ King Sport Halftime Awards: Watch for our midseason awards here next week, after every team has played at least eight of 16 games.