Who Will Finish with the Best Record in the 2018 NFL Season?

By Noah Davis
Published on September 21, 2018
NFL Logo Patriots Football Player

It’s somewhat hilarious how NFL experts change their tune so quickly.

Just two weeks have passed since the 2018 NFL regular season began, and before we got to this point, nobody was talking up the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, Denver Broncos, or Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Yet here they are, sitting atop their respective divisions, a perfect 2-0.

They’re all going to the Super Bowl, too. Yep, all of them. That’s how impressive they are.

Of course, they’re still joined by teams those experts did like as well. The Kansas City Chiefs were fine sleepers, the Los Angeles Rams are legit Super Bowl 53 threats, and the Jacksonville Jaguars got to the AFC title game last year.

The knee-jerk reactions run deeper than just a 2-0 start, though.

Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick are now the best passers in the NFL. Antonio Brown and the Steelers are doomed. Josh Gordon will turn the Patriots into Super Bowl contenders (oh, wait…), and Khalil Mack makes Chicago’s defense one of the league’s best.

Some of that, along with the assumption that 2-0 teams are to be feared, is actually accurate. It’s only been two weeks, though, so it’s impossible to know for sure what to trust.

While true, it’s everyone’s job – mine and yours as a bettor – to try to figure out what is real and what is a mirage. For one NFL prop bet in particular, you may want to consider which teams could go 16-0 and/or end the year with the best record in the NFL.

I tend to think they go together.

So, regardless of which prop bet you find and decide to bet on, let’s consider which NFL team has the best shot to close out 2018 with the best overall record.

It Doesn’t Have to Be an Undefeated Team

The first thing bettors need to embrace is the idea that the best team in the NFL may not necessarily end up with the best record. They might, and they probably should, but that isn’t always the case.

They also may not be undefeated right now.

The Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers, Philadelphia Eagles, New Orleans Saints, and Los Angeles Chargers were all viewed as legit Super Bowl 53 contenders before the season started.

All of these teams have avoided a dreadful 0-2 start, but they also all have a loss or tie on their ledger.

Some of these teams have been more impressive than others, but they all easily still correct their flaws and find a way to go on a hot run that results in them having the best record in the NFL.

They’re behind some of the other teams that have a shot to do the same, but they’re not out of the running.

It Probably Can’t Be a Winless Team

I won’t rule out the teams I mentioned, and I’m sure there are a few more that are 1-1 or 1-0-1 that you can build a case for. However, I won’t be pulling for any 0-2 teams.

Most bettors, experts, and fans alike pegged the likes of the Bills, Browns, Giants, and others as bottom feeders going into 2018. So far, they’re spot on.

Cleveland looks the best of that specific trio, while they honestly might be the best winless team I’ve seen in a while. If things broke even slightly the other way for them in the first two weeks, they seriously could be 2-0, and we’d be having an entirely different discussion.

0-2 teams don’t often make the playoffs, and even when they do, they don’t tend to vie for the best record in the NFL.

There are too many other teams that get off to hotter starts and dominate, and beginning the year 0-2 just puts you in the hole a bit too much.

They Need to Be Dominant

Starting 0-2 or even 1-1 really hurts you because in any given year, you’re probably going to need at least 13 wins to claim the league’s top record. It will often take 14 and maybe even 15 wins, in fact.

Just look at the best record in the NFL every year since 2000.

Year Final Score Team
2017 13-3 4 teams
2016 14-2 Patriots
2015 15-1 Panthers
2014 12-4 5 teams
2013 13-3 2 teams
2012 13-3 2 teams
2011 15-1 Packers
2010 14-2 Patriots
2009 14-2 Colts
2008 13-3 Titans
2007 16-0 Patriots
2006 14-2 Chargers
2005 14-2 Colts
2004 15-1 Steelers
2003 14-2 Patriots
2002 12-4 3 teams
2001 14-2 Rams
2000 13-3 Titans

The last 18 NFL seasons are a pretty good indicator as far as what it takes to get the top seed in the league and how the best teams exercise their dominance.

In that span, the best record in the league was 13-3 or greater 16 times. The only two times it wasn’t, multiple teams finished 12-4.

The latter is a rarity, and I don’t think this current rendition of the NFL is competitive enough to allow that to happen again this season.

The top team is probably going 13-3 or 14-2 this year. That means you have to ask yourself who is capable of doing that. If you can find the answer, you might be able to score big.

Here Are Your Contenders

Your answer for who the top NFL team will be can give way to a “best record” prop bet or a wager on whether or not someone will go 16-0.

It’s pretty unlikely anyone is going 16-0 this year. If anyone does, I think it’s going to be the Rams.

That doesn’t automatically rule out every other team from trying to get there, but take a quick look at the teams still in the running.

  • Jacksonville Jaguars (2-0)
  • Cincinnati Bengals (2-0)
  • Miami Dolphins (2-0)
  • Kansas City Chiefs (2-0)
  • Los Angeles Rams (2-0)
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-0)
  • Denver Broncos (2-0)

It’s very possible one of these surprise teams is this year’s Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Minnesota, or Carolina. All of these teams blew up in a year’s span recently, and it’s safe to say nobody saw it coming.

That’s important to note, but I just can’t take the Dolphins, Bucs, or Broncos that seriously. Maybe they’ll all prove me wrong and make the playoffs, but they don’t scream “best team” to me.

Tampa Bay’s defense isn’t elite, they can’t run the ball, and their reason for success right now is a 35-year-old quarterback who has largely been known for turnovers more than anything else. Tampa Bay is fun for now, but they’re a car accident waiting to happen.

Miami was a nightmare a year ago. They’ve ousted the Titans and Jets through the first two weeks by a combined 15 points. Color me less than sold.

The same goes for Denver. Case Keenum has been a hero through two weeks. They can run a bit and have the tools to defend, but without his late-game heroism, they’re 0-2, and nobody is thinking about them.

I’m not really buying the Bengals or Chiefs as 16-0 possibilities, either.

Cincinnati seems for real. They can defend, they should be able to run the ball with a healthy Joe Mixon, and Andy Dalton has his best slate of passing weapons possibly ever.

That could translate to a very good year and maybe even the AFC North title. However, the Bengals barely won in week one, and they have to face the Steelers (twice), Baltimore again, and also have Carolina, Atlanta, New Orleans, Kansas City, and others ahead of them on the schedule.

One of the Bengals/Chiefs for sure can’t swing it, as they face later this year. I’m a bigger believer in KC simply because Patrick Mahomes has looked unstoppable, and this Chiefs offense is explosive enough to potentially win a title.

The problem with the Chiefs, of course, is their defense.

Kansas City traded away Marcus Peters this off season, and through two weeks, their defense has given up 28 and 37 points. So far, their offense has made this a non-issue, but eventually, the Chiefs have to find a way to stop the opposition.

Looming matchups with the Broncos (twice), Chargers, Jaguars, Patriots, Bengals, and Rams almost make it certain they won’t go undefeated.

To me, that leaves us the Jaguars and Rams. Jacksonville has the defense, but the Rams have the defense and offense.

If any team goes 16-0 this year, it’ll be the Rams.

Of course, the upside of a team and their ability to maybego undefeated doesn’t have to necessarily mean they’re the best team in the NFL, will finish with the best record, and/or win the Super Bowl.

In this case, though, I actually think it does.

The Rams haven’t really been tested yet. Let’s make that abundantly clear. Smashing the Raiders in week one took very little. Shutting out the Cardinals in week two required even less.

LA’s NFC West division is in shambles, though.

The 49ers are their only real threat, and I’m not sure they can steal a win in two showdowns in 2018. The rest of the schedule is far from easy, but what defenses are equipped to stop Todd Gurley anda trio of receivers featuring Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, and Robert Woods?

Even if they do, those teams need an offense built to score on a defense loaded with studs like Aaron Donald, Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib, and Ndamukong Suh.

I still think you need to look at everyone, and depending on the odds at the site you bet on, perhaps there are superior flier bets. Teams like the Jaguars, Packers, Vikings, Chiefs, Patriots, Eagles, Saints, and maybe a handful of others are still in the mix.

Summary

Again, it’s been two weeks.

That being said, the Rams matured on the fly a year ago and finished 11-5. They learned some tough lessons along the way and now seem equipped to race through the 2018 NFL regular season with one major goal on their mind.

I don’t know yet if they’re the team to win it all, but if you’re looking for someone to simply end the year with the best record, I’m not sure you’ll find a better option than them.

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Who Will Finish with the Best Record in the 2018 NFL Season?
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The good teams are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the pack, but which have a shot at ending the year with the NFL’s best record?
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