The 5 Hottest NFL Regular-Season Starts In The Past 20 Years

Written By Martin Derbyshire on October 15, 2019

Just two teams remain undefeated heading into Week 7 of the 2019 NFL season.

The New England Patriots are heavy favorites to go to 7-0 this week as they face the 1-4 New York Jets during Monday Night Football. The San Francisco 49ers are also big favorites to go to 6-0 facing the 1-5 Washington Redskins on Sunday.

The 49ers will undoubtedly face a tougher test in the currently 4-2 Carolina Panthers coming up in Week 8. However, the Patriots won’t face a team with a winning record until they match up with the Baltimore Ravens in Week 9.

Of course, the 1972 Miami Dolphins remain the only team in NFL history to run the table, going undefeated in the regular season and going on the win the Super Bowl.

The NFL’s two undefeated teams

Back then, they only played 14 regular-season games, but the Dolphins won them all. Legendary coach Don Shula helped lead the team to an additional two postseason wins before the Dolphins beat the Washington Redskins to win Super Bowl VII.

The 2007 New England Patriots also finished the regular season with an unblemished record, becoming the first team to go undefeated since the NFL schedule was expanded to 16 games in 1978.

The Patriots won two playoff games before losing in Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants.

While NFL regular-season perfection is nearly unattainable, these two teams proved it’s not impossible. And before you start betting on the Patriots and 49ers to post their first loss of the season, it’s important to remember several teams have come close to running the regular-season table before.

Here’s a look at the five hottest regular-season starts in the NFL over the past 20 years, outside of the two teams that finished undefeated.

2005 Indianapolis Colts

Legendary QB Peyton Manning and the Colts began the season 13-0. Then the San Diego Chargers rolled into the RCA Dome and handed the team a 26-17 loss.

The Colts ended the game’s third quarter by taking a 17-16 lead on Manning to Dallas Clark one-yard TD pass. However, the Chargers took the lead back on a field goal in the fourth. The Chargers finished the scoring with just over two minutes left when Michael Turner scored an 83-yard rushing TD.

Indianapolis set a record by winning 12 games throughout the year in which they never trailed.

The Colts went 1-1 in their last two regular-season games to finish the season 14-2. However, this Colts team lost in the Divisional Playoffs to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh went on to win Super Bowl XL.

2011 Green Bay Packers

Coming off a Super Bowl XLV win the previous season, the 2011 Green Bay Packers went 13-0 to start the next year. Then they met the 5-8 Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium in mid-December.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers was outdueled by an unheralded Kyle Orton and a Kansas City rushing attack that combined to own the time of possession. The Chiefs totaled 139 yards on the ground in a 19-14 win.

The vaunted Green Bay offense scored 40 or more points six times throughout the season. Plus, 30 or more points 11 times. However, they were held in check by Kansas City in this game. The losing continued when the Packers dropped a divisional playoff game against the New York Giants. The Giants went on to win Super Bowl XLVI.

2009 New Orleans Saints

The 2009 New Orleans Saints won 13 in a row to start the season. The Dallas Cowboys ended the Saints’ unbeaten streak in a Saturday game on Dec. 19 with a 24-17 win.

Saints QB Drew Brees went 29 for 45 for 298 yards, one touchdown pass, and an interception. However, Dallas pivot Tony Romo had the slightly better game, going 22 for 34 for 312 yards and a TD. Dallas led 24-3 when running back Marion Barber scored in the third quarter. The Saints came close, scoring two TDs in the fourth, but the comeback fell short.

The Saints didn’t win another regular-season game, finishing 13-3. However, they rolled through the NFC playoffs and won Super Bowl XLIV 31–17 over the Colts. Incidentally, the 2009 New Orleans Saints are the only team on this list to win the Super Bowl after their hot start to the season.

2009 Indianapolis Colts

The Colts started the 2009 season 14-0. By the time of the team’s Week 16 matchup with the New York Jets, they had clinched the AFC’s #1 playoff seed and decided to rest a bunch of starters.

Legendary Colts QB Peyton Manning started, but backup Curtis Painter finished the game with the Jets winning 29-15. The Colts also lost to the Buffalo Bills 30-7 to close out the regular season. Although they went on to appear in Super Bowl XLIV, they lost to the New Orleans Saints 31-17.

2015 Carolina Panthers

The 2015 Carolina Panthers started the season 14-0 behind the stellar play of star QB and eventual NFL MVP Cam Newton.

The team took its first and only loss of the regular season against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 16, two days after Christmas. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan went 23 for 30 for 306 yards and a touchdown. Ryan clearly outplayed Newton, who scored a rushing TD but threw for only 142 yards.

A week later, Carolina beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to finish the season 15–1. The Panthers rolled through the playoffs and were more than a field goal point spread favorites over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50. However, they lost 24–10.

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Martin Derbyshire

Martin Derbyshire has more than ten years of experience reporting on the poker, online gambling, and land-based casino industries for a variety of publications including Bluff Magazine, PokerNews, and PokerListings. He has traveled extensively, attending tournaments and interviewing major players in the gambling world.

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