Is it possible for an undefeated team to be flying under the radar? The Pittsburgh Steelers might be doing just that. The Steelers moved to 10-0 with a 27-3 drubbing of the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 11, but they aren't the biggest story in the NFL this year. They aren't even the current Super Bowl favorites, as the odds still favor the Kansas City Chiefs.
Let's take a detailed look at the Steelers. How good are they really, and how much is their schedule an issue? Where do the Steelers stand among all the teams to start 10-0 in recent NFL history? And what are Pittsburgh's chances of completing a perfect regular season at 16-0?
How good is Pittsburgh?
Despite its unblemished record, it's hard to find an advanced metric that has Pittsburgh as the best team in the NFL this season. Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings list the Steelers third, trailing New Orleans and Tampa Bay. In ESPN's FPI ratings, the Steelers are third, trailing Kansas City and Tampa Bay. FiveThirtyEight's ELO ratings also put the Steelers third, and Pro Football Reference's Simple Ratings System also has them third.
There are two major reasons why advanced metrics do not have the Steelers ranked first. First, Pittsburgh has escaped a lot of close games. Based simply on points scored and allowed, we would project the Steelers to be 8-2 rather than 10-0. Five of their wins have come by a touchdown or less, including wins over lesser teams such as Denver and Dallas.
And that's the second reason why advanced metrics don't put the Steelers first: schedule strength. Seven of Pittsburgh's first 10 wins have come over teams with losing records. Six of those teams are ranked 25th or lower in DVOA right now. The average Steelers opponent this year has a DVOA of -12.6%. That's the second-easiest schedule faced by any 10-0 team since 1985, trailing only the 2005 Indianapolis Colts.