Here is our Football Relativity comparison after Week One. We’ve noted where we’ve moved teams up a level or down a level from the season-opening comparison.
10 – New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers – Both teams won tight games, with the Steelers beating a really good team (the Titans) and the Patriots beating a who-knows-how-good-they-are team (the Bills). The fact that both teams found a way to win says a lot. Both teams have questions on defense, with the Steelers losing Troy Polamalu for at least 3-6 weeks and the Patriots looking undisciplined and slow. I expect the Patriots to get better on defense if ILB Jerod Mayo stays on the field. But if he’s out, the Patriots will have to prove they have a way to replace their best player. For now, though, we’ll leave both teams atop our rankings.
9 – New York Giants, Tennessee Titans – The Giants jumped out to a big lead over the Redskins and then played more conservatively to finish off the win. They’ll get a better test at Dallas this week, but that was a good opener. Tennessee looked pretty good at Pittsburgh despite the loss. The Titans showed more explosiveness offensively in the passing game, and they should get the run game going more against a less stringent front 7. We’ll see how Tennessee bounces back, but I still believe.
8 – Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers (UP A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers – The Falcons put together a solid performance against Miami. New TE Tony Gonzalez added a dimension to the offense as expected, and the defense created more pressure and more turnovers than it did much of last year. Green Bay had a come-from-behind win, overcoming the close-loss tendency that plagued it last year. The defense’s switch to a 3-4 looked good in the opening effort, which is a really good sign. The Eagles’ defense is still a pressure machine under Sean McDermott — Trent Cole is a great underrated factor on that unit — but the injury to Donovan McNabb keeps us from moving the Eagles up right now. The Chargers had to come back to beat the Raiders, but they got the win on the road, which is always a good thing.
7 – Baltimore Ravens, Minnesota Vikings – The Ravens looked explosive offensively against Kansas City, with Joe Flacco throwing for 300 yards and three TDs. That’s a good sign, but the defense’s inability to completely shut down the Chiefs is a bit of a warning flag. We’ll leave the Ravens in place right now until we see a more dominant defensive performance. The Vikings won according to their best-case formula – run the ball with Adrian Peterson and stop the run. That’s the way Minnesota needs to play to be at its best.
6 – Arizona Cardinals (DOWN A LEVEL), Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, San Francisco 49ers (UP A LEVEL) – The Cardinals lost to the 49ers, with the offense sputtering more than expected. If the Cards’ offense isn’t dominant, their playoff chances aren’t great. The 49ers, meanwhile, played hyper-solid football, and that’s going to be their recipe for success all year. We think that Mike Singletary can keep that recipe going all year. Dallas featured a big-play passing game in its win over Tampa Bay, but it didn’t create a lot of pass-rush pressure on defense. We’ll see how good the Cowboys really are against the Giants this week. The Saints had a huge offensive day from Drew Brees, but the defense didn’t seem to have solved the problems it had last year. The Dolphins lost a tough road game, and they’ll have to do a much better job of holding onto the football if they’re going to be contenders again this year. The Colts eked out a win over the Jaguars, but their passing game was Reggie Wayne and not much else. The defense was better than I expected, and if the Colts can maintain that trend they’ll move up this comparison.
5 – Carolina Panthers (DOWN A LEVEL), Chicago Bears, Cincinnati Bengals, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets (UP A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks (UP A LEVEL) – The Panthers looked awful against the Eagles and must address their QB crisis quickly or else they’ll lose this season. The Bears had an inconsistent performance from QB Jay Cutler, but they were in position to win on the road in Green Bay, which is a good sign. The Bengals had their game vs. the Broncos won until the ultimate fluke play, but the solid defensive performance is a good sign going forward. They’re still a dangerous team. The Jaguars lost a close game to the Colts, showing that they’re at least in the running so far. The Jets got a solid performance from Mark Sanchez and a great performance by the defense (especially CB Darrelle Revis vs. Andre Johnson) to beat the Texans on the road. That combination will work all year if the Jets can keep it going. The Seahawks overcame offensive line troubles to shellack St. Louis. That’s a good start for a team hoping to bounce back this year.
4 – Buffalo Bills, Houston Texans (DOWN A LEVEL), Washington Redskins – The Bills’ young offensive line held up against the Patriots, and the defense was able to get pressure on Tom Brady. Those are good signs, but choking a game they should have had away was not. We’ll see how the Bills bounce back, but they showed more than I expected. The Texans showed less than I expected in losing handily to the Jets. They need to show more both offensively and defensively. The Redskins’ remade defensive line wreaked a little havoc, but the offense started slow and never really got going. Washington’s going to need more from that unit to compete in the tough NFC East.
3 – Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos (UP A LEVEL), Kansas City Chiefs – The Browns put up a fight but ultimately lost to a better team in the Vikings. Aside from Joshua Cribbs, the Browns just don’t have enough playmakers on either side of the ball. The Broncos got a miracle win in Cincinnati, but they move up a level in this comparison because the defense played better than expected. It’ll be interesting to see if they can repeat that performance. The Chiefs played OK against the Ravens even without Matt Cassel, so they stay in place as well.
2 – Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders (UP A LEVEL) – The Lions showed a pulse offensively against the Saints, but the defense melted under the high-octane pressure of New Orleans’ passing game. The Raiders competed hard against the Chargers, and their offense showed some good signs. Richard Seymour made a difference as well. But they must cash in on opportunities to move up the comparison more significantly.
1 – St. Louis Rams (DOWN TWO LEVELS), Tampa Bay Buccaneers – I expected St. Louis’ defense to be better, but they were awful against Seattle. The fact that the offense got shut out at the same time does not bode well for the Rams going forward. The Bucs got a good game out of Cadillac Williams, but the secondary was terrible, and I still don’t believe Byron Leftwich can move the team when faced by pressure.