Every year in the NFL there are a few teams that make a huge jump in success that fans do not expect. Now that we are five weeks into the season, we have a better idea of who the top teams are and who the bottom teams are. Teams such as the Bills, Chiefs, and Eagles are squads that we know will perform well for most of the season. On the opposite side of the spectrum, teams such as the Panthers, Commanders, Steelers are groups we know will underachieve. The fuzzy area is the middle of the pack. Currently there are 20 teams in the league with two or three wins, meaning that over half the league is about .500. Some fans still have a fixed mindset and do not see the improvement these middle of the pack teams have made and are underrating them. That is why I want to discuss the top three most underrated teams in the NFL through the first six weeks.
3) Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons had very low expectations coming into this year. Their offense seemed to be bare bones, being run by a QB who had been a backup the last 2 years in Marcus Mariota. There seemed to be only two high level players on the defense, CB A.J. Terell and DT Grady Jarrett. Somehow, they have been able to pick up two wins and keep every game within one possession. The most impressive part about this is that they have had no real standouts or breakout players. A.J Terell is having a down year in coverage, Kyle Pitts has been used more as a blocker than a receiver, and Cordarrelle Patterson has suffered injuries. They are 20th in overall defense and 31st in total offense. So how have they been able to put themselves in a position to win games? Look no further than their head coach Arthur Smith. Although they are almost dead last in offense, they are a top five rushing team. This is all thanks to Arthur Smith and how he makes the best of the lack of star power around him. Fantasy owners may be disappointed by Smith’s low usage of Kyle Pitts, but he has been an incredible run blocker that helps out the average o-line. Due to this wonderful run game, Atlanta has been able to hold on to the ball for long stretches in games, keeping the score low and their chances of winning high. Now I’m not saying that they are going to make a playoff push, but do not be surprised if they are in the hunt late in the season. They are just a quarterback and a few defensive pieces away from being a top team in the NFL.
2) New Orleans Saints
The Saints are a team many people seem to have given up on after being a popular sleeper for most fans. This is understandable considering the games they have won were very close matchups against weak opponents and they have had a fair share of bad losses. For example, games against the Falcons and Seahawks who have comparatively worse star power were only one score games. New Orleans then lost to the Panthers, the clear-cut worst team in the league, and did not even look competitive against a weak Buccaneers team. They have been riddled by injuries through the first half of the season, with Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, Andrus Peat, Chris Olave, Jameis Winston, and others all missing games. Any star level player you can think of on the Saints has missed some time at least. On top of that, they have a brand new head coach in Dennis Allen, which is a massive step down from future hall of famer Sean Payton. With these injuries and coaching adjustments, it is no wonder that the Saints have started off slow. I project a bounce back and even a playoff push as players become more healthy and everyone gets more comfortable with the system they’re running. They are already seeing preliminary results, as Kamara has back-to-back games with 100+ scrimmage yards since returning from injury. Their defense is my primary concern, as they have not stood out in the run or passing game, but their redzone and situational defense has shown enough promise that I think they can turn it around. Their main problem is at the quarterback position. Before his injury, Winston’s play was subpar at best. There are reports that Andy Dalton will supplant him as the full time starter even once he comes back from injury. Despite this, the Saints are loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, so it is hard for me to believe they will not make a comeback, especially in the incredibly weak NFC.
1) New York Jets
There were two teams I was deciding between for this top spot, and both happen to be New York teams. The Giants have definitely been disrespected, but appear to be earning the trust of fans now that they have defeated the Packers and Ravens in consecutive weeks. I have even seen sports analysts on social media making apology videos for their predictions at the start of season of what the Giants record would be. Right alongside them is the New York Jets, who are receiving way less credit. The Jets came into the season with expectations of improvement, but not a whole lot. A lot of analysts and fans were predicting a five to seven win season. Now through six weeks the Jets are halfway to that prediction. With their schedule getting lighter in the coming weeks, they are poised to surpass their predictions. Even with this hot start, the Jets continuously do not get the respect they deserve from fans and most analysts. Every win they have had comes with a caveat and excuse, whether it's a player being hurt or a team not being as good as previously thought. The fact of the matter is many players on the Jets are playing at an elite level and that is the reason they have won games. Sauce Gardner looks like a top corner in the league already, everyone on the defensive line is overperforming, and CJ Mosley is a great leader for the team. On the offensive side, the offensive line, despite injuries, has been holding up especially in the run game. Breece Hall and Michael Carter are an explosive one-two punch out of the backfield and Zach Wilson has limited his mistakes. They will hope that James Robinson can supplant Hall as a viable option in the backfield, as Hall is done for the year with a torn ACL. Wilson is playing at a higher level than he did last season and coming through in clutch situations for the Jets. Some analysts and fans may discredit him for his lack of stats but he has proven over the last three weeks he is a leader and knows how to win. Believe it or not, the Jets seem to be back and are primed for a playoff run.