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Changes are here – Great analysis still is

We’ve had some radio silence here at FootballRelativity.com lately, in the midst of a lot of changes. For one, I work here now full-time. As a result of these changes, I haven’t been able to update this site with all of the links from my writing from EndZoneNews.com.

That’s right, I said EndZoneNews.com. The site formerly known as National Football Authority has rebranded and found a new home. I’m still a Featured NFL writer there, writing several times a week. My RSS feed is here.

So while I’m not able to write some of the old standards here – such as the Suicide Pool Suggestions and the Football Relativity comparison – you can still find my analysis by following the RSS feed.

I’ll also be posting some thoughts on Twitter, so you can interact with me there as well.

Thanks for being understanding. I hope to see you over on EndZoneNews.com or on Twitter. Enjoy the season!

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FR: Pro Football Hall of Fame 2012 class

Each year on FootballRelativity.com, we compare the 17 Hall of Fame finalists in terms of whom we think should be elected. So here’s a look at this year’s contenders for enshrinement in Canton. (Click on the Pro Football Hall of Fame category to find our analysis from past years.)

You can find the list of 17 finalists, along with outstanding profiles on each one, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. We didn’t have time to do our usual detailed post this year because of work commitments, but we did want to use our relativity poll to compare the finalists and say who we believe should be in this year’s class.

Is this Bill Parcells' year to make it to Canton? via profootballhof.com

10 – Bill Parcells – Now that Parcells is finally retired, he should make it in. His previous finalist berths in 2001 and 2002 were scuttled because selectors rightly suspected that Parcells was going to coach again. That reservation shouldn’t be a concern now.

9 – Cris Carter – We have believed that Carter belongs in the Hall for years, and we hope that Shannon Sharpe’s election last year clears the decks for Carter this year. He is more deserving than the other receivers in the class, Tim Brown and Andre Reed.

8 – Dermontti Dawson – The former Steelers center was the best player in the league at his position, and that merits induction. But a class that includes Willie Roaf and Will Shields could split the offensive line vote and leave all three out in the cold.

7 – Charles Haley – Haley, a long-time 49er and Cowboy, played well for great teams. And with Richard Dent’s election last year, Haley is the best defensive lineman left in the class (above Cortez Kennedy, Chris Doleman, and new finalist Kevin Greene). One of them figures to get in, and our guess is that Haley’s the one.

7 (con’t) – Jack Butler and Dick Stanfel – The two seniors nominees simply need to win a yes/no vote, and generally seniors candidates succeed. So our guess is that both make it to Canton.

6 – Curtis Martin – To us, Martin falls right on the borderline of Hall of Fame status. He deserves it more than Jerome Bettis, but Martin may not have quite enough on the resume to make it in.

6 (con’t) – Will Shields – Shields, a first-time nominee, joins former teammate Roaf in the class. Shields was a standout guard for many years, and unlike Roaf he was the best player at his position. It may come down to Shields vs. Dawson for a spot, and while we favor Dawson, both are deserving.

6 (con’t) – Eddie DeBartolo – DeBartolo, the former 49ers owner, is the contributor who could steal a spot in the class. He was a classic owner during the 49ers’ glory years, but the ignominious end to his tenure hurts. He’ll have strong support, but he’s not at the level that, say, Ed Sabol was last year.

5 – Willie Roaf – Roaf was a great left tackle for many years, but he wasn’t the best tackle in the league. That’s going to hurt him in this class, even though left tackle is a more important and more respected position than guard or center is.

5 (con’t) – Cortez Kennedy – Kennedy’s candidacy is slowing gaining, and he could jump over Haley to make the class. But a career spent in Seattle on bad teams hurts his profile.

4 – Tim Brown – Brown was a superstar, but he was never great. We have said throughout his candidacy that he falls short of Hall of Fame status.

3 – Jerome Bettis – Bettis saw a competitor make it into Canton last year with Marshall Faulk, but he still falls below Curtis Martin in the RB hierarchy. Ultimately, we don’t see Bettis as a Hall of Famer, despite his high profile and pleasant personality.

3 (con’t) – Kevin Greene – Greene moved into finalist territory for the first time after several years eligible, which is a nice step forward but also a sign that he will fall below other defenders like Haley and Kennedy in the voting.

3 – Andre Reed – Reed is hoping to make the leap out of the receiver gridlock this year, but we vastly prefer Carter and would endorse Brown before Reed. Just as Brown falls below the Canton baseline, Reed isn’t quite Canton caliber.

2 – Chris Doleman – Doleman was a terrific pass rusher, but he wasn’t a Hall of Fame player.

1 – Aeneas Williams – Williams, the former cornerback who spent most of his career in obscurity in Phoenix, was a great cornerback, but he wasn’t a Hall of Fame player. His move into the finalist group is recognition enough.

Our predictions for the class: Carter, Parcells, and Haley will make it in, along with the two senior candidates Butler and Stanfel. We believe Dawson should make it in over Shields, although that’s a toss-up, and that if a seventh player is elected, it will be Martin.

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Football Relativity: Divisional round

Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity comparison. On the comparison, the 10 level is reserved for the best teams, and the 1 level for the worst. Normally, we note throughout where teams have moved up or down from last week. We will do so this week, but we will discuss only the 8 remaining playoff teams.

WR Devery Henderson and the Saints sprinted past the Lions, via nola.com

10 – Green Bay Packers – The Packers made it through the bye week, and they should get WR Greg Jennings back in the lineup this week. That will help, but their matchup against the New York Giants is a tricky one. The Packers’ lines (on both sides of the ball) must do their job and keep the Giants from manhandling them the way they manhandled the Falcons on Sunday.

9 – Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints – The Ravens, who were on bye, will face the Houston Texans. Their defense has to be licking its chops at the thought of taking on a rookie quarterback on the road.

The Saints overcame an early deficit and thrashed the Lions 45-28. Once again, the Saints’ elite offense shined through, and once they got a lead they played from ahead as well as anyone in the league. They face a much trickier matchup this week at San Francisco, because the 49ers have an elite defense.

8 – New England Patriots – The Patriots dodged the Pittsburgh Steelers and instead will come off their bye against the Denver Broncos. Their 41-23 win in Denver a few weeks back looms large in that matchup, no matter how much magic Tim Tebow came up with on Sunday.

7 – San Francisco 49ers – The Niners come off their bye with the matchup everyone expected against the Saints. Getting New Orleans at home will help, but San Francisco must solve its red-zone problems and score touchdowns to have a shot. We are skeptical that San Francisco will score enough points to do so, even if they hold the Saints to 24 points or less.

6 – none

5 – New York Giants – The Giants put on a vintage performance in dominating the Falcons 24-2. As we said throughout last week, the Giants are finally getting healthy, and that allowed both lines to control the game vs. Atlanta. That gives them a chance against a Packers team that they nearly beat late in the season. But we still don’t see the Giants winning a shootout in Green Bay – which means they need to turn the game into a slugfest. If they can do that, they have a chance. Still, despite the fact that the Giants haven’t played this well all season, we don’t see them being good enough to pull three straight upsets and win another Super Bowl.

4 – none

3 – Houston Texans – The Texans looked better in beating the Bengals 31-10 than they had in the final month of the season. QB T.J. Yates hit some plays down field, which had been missing in recent weeks. That’s essential if the Texans are going to be able to challenge the Ravens this week.  The Texans’ defense, meanwhile, did a great job. That unit will need to play even better against Baltimore. The Texans will be undermanned against the Ravens, but they have enough pieces to pull the upset if they play at their best possible level.

2 – none

1 – Denver Broncos – The Broncos pulled off the upset of wild-card weekend, beating the heavily favored Steelers 29-23 in overtime. The defense played better than it had in a December lull, and quarterback Tim Tebow obviously made some huge plays down the field. We were impressed by WR Demaryius Thomas, who seems to be growing into his immense potential. We still don’t think the Broncos can knock off the Patriots, but they gave their fans a great moment, and Tebow showed that he has the ability to continue to develop as a starter.

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Football Relativity Week 16

Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity comparison. On the comparison, the 10 level is reserved for the best teams, and the 1 level for the worst. We’ll note throughout where teams have moved up or down from last week. Also, next week we will shift the comparison to focus on just the 12 playoff teams.

Saints QB Drew Brees broke the NFL passing-yards record vs. the Falcons, via nola.com

10 – Green Bay Packers – Green Bay bounced back from its first loss of the season with a convincing Christmas night win over the Bears. The blowout serves as a reminder that the Packers are the class of the league, after a week full of noise based on their worst performance of the season. Green Bay also claimed home-field advantage throughout the playoffs with the win.

9 – Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers – These four teams have serious shots to beat the Packers, although they wouldn’t be favored. We like the Ravens and Saints the best of this bunch, because at their best they are most dangerous. Baltimore can’t afford a let-down during the playoffs like they had in the regular season; clinching a bye next week would help. The Saints need to take a lead, because when they do they are deadly. Again, a bye would help avoid a trip to San Francisco that could be problematic. The Steelers will likely have to go to the wild-card route, which they have done before, but it seems like a longer shock this year because of Ben Roethlisberger’s health. The Patriots clinched a bye and still can land home-field advantage, but their defense raises too many questions.

8 – Atlanta Falcons, Detroit Lions (UP A LEVEL), San Francisco 49ers – The 49ers got another win and still can land a bye, but while we can see them winning a playoff game at home, we don’t expect them to go to Green Bay and come out victorious. The Lions blasted the Chargers. They will be the most dangerous wild-card team in the NFC and maybe in the entire league. Explosiveness is scary, and the Lions have that offensively. The Falcons once again showed that while they are consistent, they aren’t dynamic enough to win playoff games.

7 – Cincinnati Bengals (UP A LEVEL), Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Houston Texans (DOWN TWO LEVELS), New York Jets (DOWN A LEVEL), New York Giants (UP A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles (UP A LEVEL) – The Bengals took control of the race for the AFC wild-card spot with a win and a Jets loss. Cincinnati hasn’t beaten any elite teams, but credit to them for not losing any upsets either. The Jets lost to the Giants and seem to have a mess of problems. But they have had such problems before and still made playoff runs. If they make it in, you can’t completely count them out. The Cowboys and Giants will face off for the NFC East title. Neither team is great, but both have ceilings that can scare opponents. The Giants especially raise questions, because of the way they rose to the occasion against the Patriots and Packers this year. We’re writing off the Texans at this point. T.J. Yates can’t get the ball downfield, and as a result the offense isn’t scary enough. We don’t think even Andre Johnson can make a big enough difference. The Broncos fell apart in Buffalo and must show that their defense isn’t cracking. But with a win, they’re in. The Eagles are eliminated but are finally playing at a playoff level.

6 – Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers (DOWN A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans – The Raiders stayed alive with an overtime win against the Chiefs. But even if they make the playoffs, the Raiders are not a major threat to win in the postseason. The Chargers lost their momentum in Detroit and fell out of the playoff picture. The sum never equalled the parts in San Diego this year, and it wasn’t all Philip Rivers’ fault. The Titans stayed in the playoff picture with a win over the Jaguars, but playoff berth or no they aren’t serious threats.

5 – Arizona Cardinals, Carolina Panthers (UP A LEVEL), Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks – The Cardinals and Seahawks fell below .500, but both teams had game efforts. The Cardinals lost in Cincinnati, while Seattle couldn’t hold off the 49ers at home. Both teams have improved during the season to the point where they are at least competitive. The Bears fell apart after losing Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, but the talent across the board still merits mid-level placement in the comparison. The Panthers are streaking at the end of the season and have tons of reasons for hope for 2012. They need to add pieces defensively, but Cam Newton is the real deal.

4 – Buffalo Bills (UP A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins – The Bills finally broke a long losing streak by blowing out the Bills. The Dolphins fell after taking a 17-point lead against the Patriots. Both teams have been competitive, at least in stretches, but both need more help in order to make a run at the playoffs in 2012.

3 – Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Washington Redskins (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Redskins had some momentum but fell apart against the Vikings last week. It’ll be interesting to see who Washington rates as keepers and who the Redskins reject. The Browns have some nice pieces on defense but need a huge upgrade offensively if they are going to compete in 2012. The Jaguars also will need to figure out who to keep defensively as they address several huge issues.

2 – Indianapolis Colts (UP A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings – The Colts have built something the last couple of weeks. Dan Orlovsky has probably earned another job as a backup quarterback somewhere, and some of the defensive pieces have demonstrated value as well. The Vikings got a win in Washington, and Joe Webb is forcing himself into the quarterback of the future conversation.

1 – St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DOWN A LEVEL) – Both the Rams and Bucs looked like ascendant teams at the end of last season,but this year they have completely fallen apart. Tampa Bay has lost nine straight, while the Rams could end up with the No. 1 overall pick for the second time in three years.

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Pick ‘em Week 15

Last week, we crowed about moving over .500 in our pro picks. Of course, that precipitated a terrible 2-6 week. Let’s try to get back on track with this week’s picks.

QB Eli Manning and the Giants take on the Redskins, via nfl.com

NCAA picks
Boise State -14 vs. Arizona State (Las Vegas)

NFL picks
Washington +7 at N.Y. Giants
Oakland +1.5 vs. Detroit
Denver +7.5 vs. New England
N.Y. Jets +3 at Philadelphia
Baltimore -3 at San Diego
Pittsburgh +2.5 at San Francisco

Last week: 0-1 college, 2-5 pro, 2-6 overall
Season: 44-33-2 college, 39-41-4 pro, 83-74-6 overall

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Football Relativity Week 14

Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity comparison. On the comparison, the 10 level is reserved for the best teams, and the 1 level for the worst. We’ll note throughout where teams have moved up or down from last week.

*Note: We are reconfiguring the top of the comparison to better separate playoff teams, which may change the levels of some team

Texans QB T.J. Yates had a game-winning throw vs. the Bengals, via gannett.com

10 – Green Bay Packers – The Packers ran their record to 13-0 in a game we discussed in detail in this game post. Next up for the Packers is a trip to a Chiefs team that just fired its coach.

9 – Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers – These are the teams that we believe could beat the Packers in a one-off situation. The Ravens, Texans, Steelers, and Patriots are all 10-3 and fighting for the top seed in the AFC. Houston got a last-second win in Cincinnati, while the Patriots got a tough win in Washington. The Ravens took care of business against the Colts, and the Steelers did the same against the Browns. The schedule gets tougher for the Steelers (at San Francisco), the Ravens (at San Diego), and the Patriots (at Denver) this week. The Saints won in Tennessee and now face another road game, but this one on turf in Minnesota.

8 – Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers (DOWN A LEVEL) – This level features legitimate playoff teams who we don’t believe could beat the Packers. We discussed both the Falcons and the 49ers in Rise/Sink/Float. The Jets blasted the moribund Chiefs and now face a dangerous game in Philadelphia. The 49ers will host the Steelers, and they need a win to keep hold of a first-round bye. The Falcons host Jacksonville on Thursday night in a game they need to stay in the wild-card hunt.

7 – Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, New York Giants – This level features borderline playoff teams who are good enough to make a run. Both the Cowboys and Giants are likely playing for the same spot out of the NFC East. The Giants put together an incredible rally to win the first meeting between the teams, which means Dallas will need to win the Week 17 rematch. Both teams need wins this week as the Giants host Washington and the Cowboys visit Tampa Bay. The Lions jumped out to a huge lead against the Vikings but barely held on. Still, the win was big in the playoff hunt. They need another one in a trip to Oakland this week. The Broncos kept winning close, low-scoring games by overcoming the Bears late. But Denver will likely need to score a lot more this week as it hosts the Patriots.

6 – Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers (UP A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans (DOWN A LEVEL) – These are teams that have played well at moments this year but who ultimately fall short of playoff caliber. We discussed the Chargers in Rise/Sink/Float and the Raiders in this game post. The Bengals lost a last-second game to the Texans and haven’t shown they can beat a truly good team. The Bears lost in Denver despite another strong defensive performance. Chicago needs to beat the Seahawks this week or fall further down this list. The Titans lost a tough game to the Saints but have a chance to rebound in Indy this week.

5 – Arizona Cardinals (UP A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles (UP A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks (UP A LEVEL) – These teams have officially entered spoiler territory. The Cardinals knocked off the 49ers to move to 6-7, while the Seahawks also moved to 6-7 by thumping the Rams. The Cards can move to .500 against the Browns this week, while the Seahawks could do the same in chicago. The Eagles got their fifth win in Miami and now host the Jets in a game that could determine New York’s playoff fate.

4 – Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars (UP A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins (DOWN A LEVEL), Washington Redskins – The Jaguars got a blowout win at home against the Buccaneers, and Blaine Gabbert started to build a little momentum. Jacksonville needs that continue for the last three games. The Redskins played the Patriots tough but lost 34-27. The Dolphins saw their recent strong streak snapped by the Eagles in Miami, while the Bills lost yet another game. These teams can put a scare in opponents, even good opponents, but ultimately don’t have the quality to compete consistently.

3 – Carolina Panthers, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – We would have moved the Vikings down had Joe Webb not provided a spark as a backup quarterback and nearly rallied the team against the Lions. We’ll have to see if Webb can keep the Vikings afloat this week at home against the Saints. The Buccaneers got blasted in Jacksonville and probably should be slipping even further. The Panthers blew a lead against the Falcons and now face off against the Texans.

2 – Cleveland Browns (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Browns couldn’t mount any offense against the Steelers, continuing their season-long dilemma. That has to be job 1 in the offseason.

1 – Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Colts lost to the Ravens on the road by two touchdowns and now host the Titans. Indy has had a little more punch with Dan Orlovsky under center. The Rams had a decisive 30-13 loss to the Seahawks on Monday Night Football.

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Football Relativity Week 13

Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity comparison. On the comparison, the 10 level is reserved for the best teams, and the 1 level for the worst. We’ll note throughout where teams have moved up or down from last week.

QB Drew Brees and the Saints beat the Lions on Sunday night, via hitfix.com

10 – Green Bay Packers – The Packers overcame perhaps their greatest hurdle to an undefeated regular season with a 38-35 win in New York against the Giants. The fact that the Pack won a close game is a great sign. Now the question is whether they will keep their foot on the gas or put it on cruise control heading into the playoffs. Next up is a visit from the Raiders.

9 – Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans (UP A LEVEL), New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers, San Francisco 49ers – We covered the Texans in Rise/Sink/Float. This level is crowded, but all of these teams can make an argument that they are the biggest threats to the Packers. In the AFC, The Ravens took care of business in Cleveland and have a chance to continue to move toward the No. 1 AFC seed with a home game vs. the Colts. The Steelers host the Browns on Thursday night after blasting the Bengals at home. The Patriots cruised against Indy and should do the same this week in Washington against the Redskins. The Texans face a tough trip to Cincinnati this week. In the NFC, the Saints beat the Lions on Sunday night but face a tough trip to Tennessee this week. The 49ers, meanwhile, got back on track by blanking the Rams and have a chance to move toward a playoff bye with a trip to a surging Cardinals team.

8 – Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets (UP A LEVEL) – The Falcons lost in Houston, which isn’t a bad result. But they must rebound in Carolina this week to stay a step above the other NFC wild-card competitors. The Jets pulled off a win in Washington to move to 7-5, and they seem to be starting to build a little momentum as they traditionally have in December under Rex Ryan. Next up is a home game against a battered Chiefs team that is still fighting hard.

7 – Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos (UP A LEVEL), Detroit Lions, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans (UP A LEVEL) – We discussed why the Cowboys stay in place in Rise/Sink/Float. The Lions stay in place because, while they are self-destructing, they are still very dangerous in terms of playoff contention. But there’s no question this week’s home game against the Vikings is a must-win. The Giants fell to 6-6 but showed well against the Packers. They must beat the Cowboys in JerryWorld this week to stay in the NFC East race. The Titans and Broncos both move up after moving to 7-5. The Broncos control their own destiny in the AFC West, but they have to keep winning against the banged-up Bears this week. The Titans face a harder road to the playoffs, but they have been taking care of business lately. A win over the Saints this week will be a tough task, but it’s essential to their playoff hopes.

6 – Chicago Bears (DOWN A LEVEL), Cincinnati Bengals (DOWN A LEVEL), Oakland Raiders (DOWN A LEVEL) – The teams on this level have fallen out of being serious playoff contenders in our view. We discussed why the Raiders are falling in Rise/Sink/Float. The Bears lost RB Matt Forte, and backup QB Caleb Hanie laid an egg against Kansas City. Now a road game to Mile High to face the surging Broncos looks like a recipe for disaster. The Bengals showed yet again that they aren’t ready to compete against the Ravens and Steelers. That makes us believe a home game against the Texans will be another loss.

5 – Miami Dolphins (UP A LEVEL), San Diego Chargers – The Chargers righted the ship in Jacksonville on Monday night. Now a home game against the Buffalo provides another change to keep flagging AFC West hopes alive. The Dolphins won again, and while their record doesn’t show it, they’re playing quite well. That could lead to another win against the Eagles this week.

4 – Arizona Cardinals (UP A LEVEL), Buffalo Bills, Philadelphia Eagles (DOWN A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks – The Eagles laid an egg in Seattle and now must go to face a solid Dolphins team. Things have completely fallen apart for the dream team. The Seahawks and the Cardinals (who beat the Cowboys in overtime) both moved to 5-7. That’s not going to get either team in the playoffs, but it is a sign that they are starting to grow. Seattle should get another win against the Rams on Monday night; the Cardinals have a chance to upset the 49ers in Glendale. The Bills lost another close one and now must go across the country to face the Bills.

3 – Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DOWN A LEVEL), Washington Redskins – We discussed the Panthers and Buccaneers in detail in this game post. The Browns lost to the Ravens and continue to struggle offensively. The Jaguars played well for a half against the Chargers but then fell apart. The Chiefs got a win in Chicago, which is a strong statement about the character of the team. The Vikings lost a close game to the Broncos, while the Redskins couldn’t hold off the Jets.

2 – St. Louis Rams – The Rams were blanked in San Francisco and now must show off their pitiful offense (and third-string quarterback) on Monday night in Seattle.

1 – Indianapolis Colts – The Colts lost to the Patriots in a game that wasn’t as close as the seven-point final margin. Now they visit the Ravens in what figures to be loss 13.

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