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Undervalued NFL Teams

   by Bryan Leonard - 10/07/2005

We have four NFL weeks in the books, which gives us a good look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of all teams. The 49ers, for instance, are in complete rebuilding mode, which is not surprising after a 2-14 season. San Fran is allowing 473 total yards per game, last in the NFL, and it’s clear they are going nowhere, especially since they’ve decided to give rookie No. 1 pick Alex Smith the nod at quarterback this Sunday. There are some teams that are likely a bit better than they’ve thus far showed. Here’s a look at some teams that may be undervalued.

Panthers: Coming into the season I thought the Panthers were going to be one of the most improved teams in the NFL. They’ve had an unusual start, beating the defending champs, but also losing to the Saints and Dolphins – no potential playoff threats. However, Carolina has a good chance to improve on their 2-2 start. No. 1, the run defense is terrific, allowing 85 yards per game and just 3.5 yards per carry. While the offense hasn’t dazzled, they have talent, a capable QB and deep ground game. Also, this team is fifth overall in third-down percentage, a strong 46%.

Chargers: After that 0-2 start, San Diego has been hot, destroying the Giants and Patriots. This is a motivated, disciplined team under Marty Schottenheimer, with outstanding balance on offense with QB Drew Drees, RB LaDainian Tomlinson and TE Antonio Gates. They blew a lead at Denver losing 20-17, and were stopped near the goal line in an opening loss to Dallas. This talented team is very close to being 4-0. This offense is 7th overall and tops in third down percentage. Oh, and San Diego’s 31.8 points per game is second overall in the league, tops in the strong AFC.

Raiders: Oakland’s 0-3 start was tough, with a brutal schedule facing the Patriots, Chiefs and Eagles. Still, this team is 13th overall in offense, and 6th in passing. Most impressive has been a run defense which is 13th in the NFL, and 6th overall allowing just 3.4 yards per carry. NT Ted Washington and Warren Sapp are old, but they’re earning their money this season, and newcomer WR Randy Moss has improved what was already a good offense. After the bye this weekend, Oakland gets San Diego and Buffalo at home, before taking on rebuilding Tennessee. If they’re going to make a move, October would be the time.

Seahawks: The 2-2 Seahawks have improved their defense, especially against the pass (7th). They’ll need that to continue against the pass-happy Rams Sunday, which is an interesting revenge spot, as the Rams went 3-0 against Seattle last season, even knocking them out of the playoffs. The Seahawks have a talented, balanced offense and RB Shaun Alexander is leading the NFL in rushing. Their schedule is weak, too, playing the Rams (twice), 49ers, Cardinals, Dallas and Houston before Thanksgiving. They also play in one of the weakest divisions in pro football.

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