NFL Nation: Undefeated 09

Unbeatens: Colts | Saints | Broncos Winless: Rams | Titans | Bucs

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Denver coach Josh McDaniels knows a little something about going undefeated.
Analysis: If anyone knows about going 16-0, it is Josh McDaniels. The first-year Broncos head coach was with New England when it ran the table in the regular season in 2007. McDaniels, 33, was much more than a bystander in the Patriots’ historic run. He was the offensive coordinator of the record-breaking unit. So, this isn’t too big for McDaniels. Yes, Denver’s 6-0 start is shocking, but McDaniels has his team playing remarkably well and believing in itself. The Broncos aren’t surprised by their start. They think they can win every game. It is highly unlikely for any team to go 16-0. But the thing about Denver is, it has simply found a way to win every game. It has made the right play at the right time on both sides of the ball. Denver has been spectacular in the second half as it has outscored opponents 76-10. Can the team go 16-0? Probably not. But who thought McDaniels’ outfit would be 6-0 at the bye?

Toughest challenge: The Broncos have several tough challenges, starting with their first two games after the bye. Denver plays at Baltimore on Sunday and then plays host to Pittsburgh on a Monday night. Denver is actually in the middle of a very difficult stretch. When the Broncos started 3-0, many league observers thought they were ready to crash because they were starting a nasty 10-game stretch. Yet, Denver dispatched Dallas, New England and San Diego before the bye. After dates against the Ravens and Steelers, games with San Diego, the Giants and Indianapolis loom. I’d say the toughest tests are going to be against Pittsburgh on Nov. 9 and at the Colts, whose record is also perfect, on Dec. 13. But the thing about the Broncos is, they don’t care who their opponent is, they believe they'll find weaknesses to exploit.

Broncos remaining schedule
Nov. 1: @Baltimore
Nov. 9: Pittsburgh
Nov. 15: @Washington
Nov. 22: San Diego
Nov. 26: NY Giants
Dec. 6: @Kansas City
Dec. 13: @Indianapolis
Dec. 20: Oakland
Dec. 27: @Philadelphia
Jan. 3: Kansas City
Playoff carryover: If Denver can beat the likes of the Ravens, Steelers and Colts, it probably will go to the playoffs full of confidence. That’s why these upcoming games are so important. Denver has to show the conference (and prove to itself) that it can play with anyone in the AFC. Denver also has to keep winning to try to play as much as possible at home in the postseason. Playing in Denver in January would not be a picnic for anyone.

Colts: Will they go undefeated?

October, 29, 2009
10/29/09
11:03
AM ET
Unbeatens: Colts | Saints | Broncos Winless: Rams | Titans | Bucs

Posted by ESPN.com’s Paul Kuharsky
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has passed for 1,880 yards and 15 TDs this season.
Analysis: The Colts are a premier AFC team that could wind up in the familiar position of having a playoff bye wrapped up well before their final game. There isn’t a unit on offense or defense that hasn’t improved since 2008. But the schedule so far and the schedule to come are quite different. Indianapolis has contributed to a combined winning percentage of .297 for the six teams it has beaten, none of which have a winning record. The 10 teams to come have a .538 winning percentage and half of them have winning records. Can they win them all? Yes. But an undefeated season is unlikely for anyone, and this team can certainly have a bad day, encounter a team having a great one -- or both.

Toughest challenge: Undefeated Denver will be difficult, two games against potentially blossoming Houston could be tough and a trip to Baltimore won’t be easy. But the league’s marquee game remains Colts-Patriots. New England visits Lucas Oil Stadium on Nov. 15 for a Sunday night game. The Colts have won four of the past five meetings (including the playoffs), but four of those games were decided by a touchdown or less.

Playoff carryover: The playoffs have always been the question in the Bill Polian/Peyton Manning Era.
Colts remaining schedule
Nov. 1: San Francisco
Nov. 8: Houston
Nov. 15: New England
Nov. 22: @Baltimore
Nov. 29: @Houston
Dec. 6: Tennessee
Dec. 13: Denver
Dec. 17: @Jacksonville
Dec. 27: NY Jets
Jan. 3: @Buffalo
The team is 7-8 with six first-game exits in nine appearances and a win in Super Bowl XLI. Hot starts are nice, but that big finish trumped anything the team has done. So far, this team appears to have the sort of depth needed for a deep playoff run and Manning has been as good or better than ever. The run defense is improved, but the rushing offense could be an issue against a tough defense.

Putting too much on Manning and the pass attack is what killed them last season in a wild-card game in San Diego, when their failure to get two yards that would have enabled them to run out the clock came back to bite them. If the Colts play as they have so far, they may not encounter such a tight situation in January or February.
Unbeatens: Colts | Saints | Broncos Winless: Rams | Titans | Bucs

Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas

Jonathan Brownfield/US Presswire
The Saints are more than just Drew Brees.
Analysis: After last week’s remarkable comeback in Miami and a huge home win against the highly regarded Giants, it’s looking like almost anything is possible for the Saints. Now that they have a defense, they can play with any team in the NFL and they’re growing more confident by the day. It’s no longer Drew Brees and best wishes on offense. With Marques Colston and Jeremy Shockey now healthy and the newly found running game clicking, the Saints are going to score enough points to stay with anybody. They’ve been relatively lucky with injuries. Losing left tackle Jammal Brown at the start of the season seemed like it would be a huge blow. But Jermon Bushrod has stepped in and the offense hasn’t missed a beat. Look at the remainder of the schedule, which includes five games in the electric Superdome, and there are only three games that look like they could present any trouble. One comes Monday night, when the Falcons come to town. There’s another on Dec. 13 in Atlanta.

Toughest challenge: The biggest test of all could come Nov. 30. That’s a Monday night game with New England. It’s at home and that will help because the dome should be louder than it’s ever been. The Patriots haven’t been dominant so far this season, but things could start clicking at any time for a team that has quarterback Tom Brady and coach Bill Belichick. If the Saints are still undefeated going into this one, the Patriots will be playing for pride. They’re the last team to go undefeated through a regular season (2007) and they’d like to keep that honor.

Saints remaining schedule
Nov. 2: Atlanta
Nov. 8: Carolina
Nov. 15: @St. Louis
Nov. 22: @Tampa Bay
Nov. 30: New England
Dec. 6: @Washington
Dec. 13: @Atlanta
Dec. 19: Dallas
Dec. 27: Tampa Bay
Jan. 3: @Carolina
Playoff carryover: The Saints don’t have a long history of winning playoff games. But this team is different from anything New Orleans ever has had. It’s outstanding on offense and very good on defense and special teams. There also seems to be a special chemistry with this team, something that was badly lacking the last two years and Sean Payton has grown tremendously as a coach. If this team can go undefeated through the regular season, home playoff games are a certainty and the modern Saints don’t lose in the Superdome very often. Winning the Super Bowl will be more of a challenge than anything the Saints will face in the NFC, but you have to like the chances of any team that has Brees.

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