Is there a ‘best team’ in the NFL?

KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17: Quarterback Alex Smith
KANSAS CITY, MO - SEPTEMBER 17: Quarterback Alex Smith /

Going into week six, the Chiefs looked peerless atop power rankings and were seemingly the runaway super bowl favorites.

This hype may have been an overreaction given the mediocre starts of many of the league’s top teams, but it was believable and convincing.

A 5-0 start is obviously as good as it gets. And, as the only unbeaten team remaining in the league  it was certainly easy to pin them as the best of the bunch.

Andy Reid’s team had gone into Foxborough and handed the Patriots a damaging home loss. Alex Smith had been playing like an MVP, and they unearthed yet another offensive star in rookie running back Kareem Hunt.

Things were looking up heading into the matchup with a Steelers team that was reeling on the face of things.

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Pittsburgh stamped all over Kansas City’s coming out party on Sunday afternoon. They ran the ball often and straight down the throat of the Chiefs stellar defensive front. Leveon Bell had a day and the defense made Alex Smith run for his life all afternoon.

Their zone scheme limited the veteran quarterback’s effectiveness in the passing game and they shut down one of the leagues best offenses for three quarters.

They followed this up with a last gasp defeat against the Raiders on TNF. Coming off a short week a second straight loss could’ve been predicted, and they came up against an Oakland passing attack that finally clicked.

Amari Cooper had a coming out party with over 200 yards receiving and it just seemed like one of those evenings where the ball falls in the wrong corner.

The losses certainly don’t derail the Chiefs season. Nor do they remove them from the conversation regarding the best teams in football at this moment in time.

What it does do is throw greater ambiguity over the question of who the best team actually is. If there even is one right now.

Preseason favorites struggling

The Patriots entered 2017 with a favorites tag on them about as strong as any in history. Their offseason additions certainly looked to have bolstered both sides of the ball. It was hard to see how anyone could better them.

However, the loss of Julian Edelman and their defensive weakness being exposed early on have left them in a rather unfamiliar state. Tom Brady is almost willing them to wins but even so, they sit at 4-2 and that seems a kind record.

They have the leagues worst defense and that just doesn’t lead to championship seasons. They look vulnerable against all comers and could easily have lost in New York on Sunday if not for a controversial officiating decision.

This certainly isn’t the best team in the league like everyone thought it would be, nor is it close.

Much like the Patriots, the Falcons have struggled to live up to their billing. The offense has taken a predictable step back with the departure of Kyle Shanahan.

Additionally, the defense hasn’t taken the leap that many thought it would with a bunch of second year players on it. An awful home loss to the Dolphins on Sunday summed up their season so far in a way.

They certainly haven’t gotten past that Super Bowl loss at this stage and aren’t the leading challengers in the NFC just yet.

The Packers looked to be on the up after an Aaron Rodgers led comeback win in Dallas last weekend. But, when number 12 went down with a broken collarbone against Minnesota on Sunday their season sunk with him.

The Steelers offense was supposed to be outstanding. It has been everything but through week six. Ben Roethlisberger is making errors at an alarming rate and the running game is only just getting up to speed.

An up and down start to the year took a bad turn with an ugly loss to Jacksonville in week five. But, a convincing win in Kansas City seems to have set them on the right track.

In the conversation

There doesn’t look to be a clear front-runner at this moment in time. But, which teams are in the mix and could pull clear as the season develops?

The Chiefs are still an excellent football team. They may have fallen to the Raiders and the Steelers (again) but they play most other teams really well and have a balanced football team.

If Alex Smith can get over this small bump in the road and they continue to run the ball so well and play strong defense on all three levels, they will be hard to beat. Saying that, they will likely have to get the better of Mike Tomlin at some point to reach the Super Bowl.

Right now, the Steelers should be favorites in any game they play against KC. They have their own issues and aren’t a top team yet.

But in time they could well pose the threat that many thought they would coming into the season.

Le’Veon Bell is starting to get going and the defense is playing lights out. Limiting mistakes will be key for Ben Roethlisberger. The veteran QB looks a shadow of his former self, and needs to rely on the running game if he is to take his team to another Super Bowl.

The Eagles are now the only one loss team in the league and look to be the class of the NFC right now. Carson Wentz is playing excellent football and finally has some reliable weapons in the passing game.

The defense is led by an outstanding front seven and their offensive line is amongst the best in football. This team is built in the trenches and is ready to win games late in the year. They could be the best team in football right now.

However, steeper challenges are yet to come so the verdict isn’t out on them just yet.

Nobody has separated at this stage of the season. Others such as the Seahawks, Rams and Patriots could well go deep into the postseason.

But after six weeks of play, there isn’t a team that is the clear-cut ‘best’ in football. The league strives for parity and we certainly have it in spades in 2017.