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NFL Season: Who's Hot, Who's Not

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

We're only a quarter of the way through the season, and there have already been some surprising breakout teams and unexpected upsets in the National Football League. Joining us from Boise, Idaho, to help sort out who's on top and who's playing catchup is Andy Benoit, author of "Touchdown 2005: Everything You Need To Know About the NFL This Year."

Good morning.

Mr. ANDY BENOIT (Author, "Touchdown 2005"): Good morning. How are you?

MONTAGNE: Fine, thank you. So let's start with the fact that there are still some undefeated teams in the NFL. Let's talk about who they are and which team has the best chance of staying that way.

Mr. BENOIT: Well, right now you have heading into this week five, you have the Washington Redskins at 3-and-0; you have the Cincinnati Bengals at 4-and-0, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at 4-and-0 and the Indianapolis Colts at 4-and-0.

MONTAGNE: Not being undefeated, how long can that last?

Mr. BENOIT: Well, every year we go through this 'cause the only team that's ever gone undefeated in the whole season was the Miami Dolphins back in the '70s. So it's always a fun thing to see how long teams last, you know, who's the last team to lose a game. And I think for certain teams--I think the Redskins, their undefeated run here is really just more of a three-game winning streak. I don't think they're close to putting together an undefeated season. The Cincinnati Bengals I think I can say the same thing about. The team to really look at is the Indianapolis Colts. Probably with their schedule coming up, they'll go into New England on a Monday night game with an undefeated record on the line.

MONTAGNE: Now the New England Patriots, the defending Super Bowl champs, they're not. They got clobbered last week, didn't they?

Mr. BENOIT: They did. They lost, you know, and they're now 2-and-2. I don't think it's time to panic, though. I mean, you lose games; that's going to happen. If they can stay around 4-and-4 come middle of the season, they should be just fine. That division that they're in--I think the AFC East is a much weaker division than many expected.

MONTAGNE: So what are this week's best games?

Mr. BENOIT: Well, the morning game, the Falcons hosting the Patriots, that'll be fun because you have Michael Vick, who is maybe the toughest player in football to game plan for, and then you have the Patriots coaching staff, which is, you know, the best coaching staff in football for putting together a game plan. So it's kind of a chess match with a little athleticism mixed in. Also, the afternoon games, the Cowboys and Eagles, that'll be a game that carries major implications later in the season, I think, if Dallas can continue to play well or maybe even play a little better. The Sunday-night game, the Jaguars against the Bengals, I personally think Jacksonville will end Cincinnati's undefeated record this week. I think the Bengals will have a letdown there. And then I'll give you one more game, Monday-night football, greatest game of the week usually, you have the Pittsburgh Steelers going to San Diego. The Chargers just beat the Patriots, Pittsburgh coming off a loss to the Patriots. They've had two weeks to get ready for this one. That should be a grinded out, bruising game.

MONTAGNE: Andy, just to turn for a moment to you, 19 years old, started writing when you were in seventh grade?

Mr. BENOIT: Yeah, like, fourth grade. I just--I've always loved football. Even when I was two years old I loved it. So it's always been something that's come easy for me, just following the NFL and watching tape. You know, as I get older, I watch tape and make more of a job out of it.

MONTAGNE: Have you ever been actually to a game, or is it all on television for you?

Mr. BENOIT: No, I've never been to an NFL game, and the reason why, I live in Boise. So it's, you know, not real close to any stadium, for one. And then as of recently, I'm realizing now, I'll probably get to go to the Super Bowl this year. So the last couple years I've held out. I'm just trying to avoid games altogether so I can say later in life that the first game I went to was the Super Bowl.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MONTAGNE: Well, until we talk next time, thanks very much.

Mr. BENOIT: Yeah. Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Andy Benoit is the author of "Touchdown 2005: Everything You Need To Know About the NFL This Year," and he joined us from Boise State Radio in Idaho.

This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.