February 22, 2024

A look at the NFL’s best teams with no winning records, the worst teams at .500 or higher: The Lions’ 8-3 is a mirage?

We’re twelve weeks into the 2023 NFL season and it’s getting a little easier to determine who’s real and who’s not. With six weeks to go before the play-offs, wins are now more important than ever.

The AFC is wide open, with many teams vying for playoff spots, especially those lower seeds. As the postseason picture begins to take shape, the teams with a real chance and those who may have just skated by beating easy teams will begin to separate.

Sure, wins and losses are a good indicator of who is a contender and who isn’t, but they don’t tell the whole story. When we look at all the teams with a winning record, we’ve picked out a few that may not be playing as well as their record indicates. On the other hand, we looked at the teams at .500 or less and identified which teams are actually on the rise and should be taken more seriously than their record reflects.

There are currently fourteen teams with a losing record, ten of which have four wins or fewer. The AFC North is the only division where each of the four teams has at least more than wins.

Best teams .500 or less

Las Vegas Raiders (5-7)

The Raiders won two games in a row after firing head coach Josh McDaniels. However, Las Vegas is currently on a two-game losing streak, so it may be surprising to see them listed as one of the top teams at .500 and under. Still, this list is all about looking deeper at teams’ losses and record.

In Week 11, they lost 20-13 to the Dolphins, who have the second-best record in the AFC and the fifth-highest point differential in the league (+88). Rookie quarterback Aiden O’Connell certainly didn’t have the best performance with three picks, but the team as a whole managed to keep up with an AFC powerhouse, and the defense picked Tua Tagovailoa and didn’t blow him up.

This week, the Raiders stayed in the game for three quarters against the Chiefs, leading the defending Super Bowl champions by 25 seconds in the first half when KC tied the score at 14 apiece. The Chiefs went on to win 31-17.

O’Connell also kept track of Patrick Mahomes. The Chiefs quarterback went 27 for 34 with 298 and two touchdowns, while the Raiders QB was pretty close, going 23 for 33 with 248 yards and one touchdown.

Cincinnati Bengals (5-6)

The Bengals are another team on this list that has suffered losses, but when we talk about teams under .500, we will see a lot of losses. A few weeks ago, the Bengals’ new starting quarterback had never completed a pass in the NFL. A team that goes from having the highest-paid quarterback in Joe Burrow to someone with no experience in the league would understandably be in shambles, but they showed plenty of fight in Week 12 against the Steelers. Jake Browning went a respectable 19-for-26 with 227 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Bengals fans should feel at least pretty good considering what their team is going through.

Los Angeles Rams (5-6)

Los Angeles is currently on a two-game winning streak after beating the Cardinals 27-14 in Week 12 and the Seahawks in Week 11, 17-16.

The Rams have had a lot of success scoring on the ground, with 11 rushing touchdowns, which ranks in the top half of the league.

Quarterback Matthew Stafford is coming off a four-touchdown game. The Rams offensive line has done a good job of protecting the quarterback this season, whether it was Stafford or Brett Rypien, as they are tied for the fifth-most sacks allowed this season (22).

Worst teams .500 and over

Detroit Lions (8-3)

The Lions are 8-3, which is tied for the third-best record in the league. They trail only the defending 10-1 Eagles for the top seed in the NFC, and aside from Philly, the 9-3 Ravens are the only other team with a better winning percentage.

So why did they make the choice here? I’m so glad you asked.

Detroit should and will, barring something wild, make the playoffs. However, among 8-3 teams, the Lions’ wins just aren’t that impressive.

Their first win of the season, a 21-20 victory over the defending Super Bowl champions, remains their signature win of the season. They also defeated the Falcons, who are now 5-6, the Packers, who are currently 5-6, the Panthers, who have the worst record in the league at 1-10, the Buccaneers, who are 4-7 , the Raiders, who are 5-7, the Chargers, who are 4-7 and the Bears, who sit at 3-8. Not a single win, other than against the Chiefs, is against a team that currently has a winning record.

The Lions were in their best spot in more than 60 years going into last week’s Thanksgiving game, but as tradition seems to be, they lost again on the holiday. This time it was a 29-22 loss to the Packers, who entered the game at 4-6.

Cleveland Browns (7-4)

The Browns have an excellent defense, but unfortunately it takes more than that to win games.

Rookie quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson earned his first NFL win in Week 11 in a narrow 13-10 victory over the Steelers, and there was some hope that even without starting QB Deshaun Watson, the team could make a deep playoff run to make.

That became less likely this week, when the team lost 29-12 to the Broncos, who entered the game with a .500 lead. Cleveland’s offensive line allowed four sacks in the loss and three fumbles were lost by the Browns.

Cleveland is still a respectable 7-4, in sixth place and has some very winnable games down the stretch, but the Browns offense needs to do more if they want to make a splash in the playoffs – if they qualify.

The Browns have the lowest completion percentage as a team in the league (55.5%), the second-fewest yards per pass attempt (5.7), they are 28th in passing yards (2,218), 31st in first- down percentage in passing (26.3%) and their quarterbacks have been sacked for a loss of 225 yards, 24th in the NFL.

Their rushing game is strong, but their passing game is miles behind. They have just nine receiving touchdowns, ranking second in the league.

Minnesota Vikings (6-6)

The Vikings took on the Bears on “Monday Night Football” and it was a rough performance by both teams. The Vikings were 6-5 heading into the game, while the Bears were 3-8. Neither team seemed to want to win, but the Bears eventually scored a game-winning field goal to win 12-10.

Quarterback Josh Dobbs threw four interceptions in the loss, with just one touchdown, and was sacked twice. No Minnesota player had more than 100 yards, with top receiver TJ Hockenson finishing with just 50 yards and Alexander Mattison rushing for 52 yards.

The loss comes after the Vikings narrowly defeated the Broncos, 21-20, in Week 11.

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