Here is our Football Relativity comparison after Week Three. We’ve noted where we’ve moved teams up a level or down a level from the Week Two comparison.
10 – New York Giants – The Giants, even without DLs Justin Tuck and Chris Canty, put together an ultrasolid performance and dominated the Buccaneers in a 24-0 road win. Right now, this is the best team in the league, and because of their pedigree we can project them to continue playing at this level going forward.
9 – Baltimore Ravens (UP A LEVEL), New England Patriots – The Ravens are the trendy pick for the No. 1 team in the league, and they’re good. But they’ve also beat up on two awful teams – Cleveland and Kansas City – in their impressive first three games. They’ve been tested once, and they delivered at San Diego, but we want to see another test before we move them up to the 10 level. Still, Joe Flacco is taking a monster step forward, and that combined with the always-sterling defense Baltimore has makes the Ravens a scary team. We talked about how the hand-wringing about the Patriots is premature in Rise/Sink/Float this week. But with Vince Wilfork hurt in addition to Jerod Mayo, the Pats are now playing without their two best defenders. Their championship mettle will be tested as they try to survive this period, but so far the defense really has answered the call and kept opposing teams off the scoreboard.
8 – Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts (UP A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings (UP A LEVEL), New Orleans Saints (UP A LEVEL), New York Jets (UP TWO LEVELS), Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers (DOWN A LEVEL) – Below the elite level, there’s a crowd of teams that are trying to establish themselves as true contenders. Minnesota beat its first quality opponent this week and will have another test at home against Green Bay next week. The Saints and Jets face off next week too in a game that will reveal the true colors of both teams. New Orleans has a win at Philadelphia, while the Jets have home wins against the Pats and Titans, so each team is starting to build street cred that would explode with a win next week. The Falcons lost a tough game in New England, and we won’t penalize for them unless it starts a streak. The Colts had their first blowout win of the season at Arizona, and for the first time looked like a team that could be a threat for bigger things than a winning record. The Eagles survived Donovan McNabb’s absence and established Kevin Kolb as a reliable backup, both of which are good things. The Steelers fell to 1-2 with road losses to two up-and-coming teams in Chicago and Cincinnati. It’ll be interesting to see if the Steelers can bounce back from those losses, but they need to do so quickly, or else Baltimore will run away with the division.
7 – Chicago Bears (UP A LEVEL), Green Bay Packers, San Diego Chargers – The Bears survived a trip to Seattle, one of the toughest settings in the NFL, and got another fourth-quarter comeback win. The Packers whipped the Rams to right the ship after losing to Cincinnati the week before. Both teams are still legitimate contenders to knock the Vikings out of the NFC North lead. The Chargers put together a solid win over the Dolphins at home, and they still look to be the best team in the AFC West, even if the Broncos have a better record this week.
6 – Cincinnati Bengals (UP A LEVEL), Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, Tennessee Titans (DOWN TWO LEVELS) – The Bengals won a statement game against the Steelers to demonstrate that they are true playoff contenders this year. This is a team with an emerging defense and a lot of good pieces on offense. Dallas didn’t look great in beating Carolina, but the Cowboys got the job done to stay in the NFC playoff hunt. San Francisco suffered a heart-wrenching loss to the Vikings, but the 49ers proved just how good of a team they are, and we believe that Mike Singletary can get his team to avoid a hangover to this loss. The Titans lost another close game, and they need to get a win ASAP if they have any playoff aspirations. This is still a talented team, and it’s not in meltdown in quite the same way the Panthers are, but Jeff Fisher’s Blue Crew can’t afford any more missteps.
5 – Arizona Cardinals (DOWN A LEVEL), Denver Broncos (UP A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins (DOWN A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks – The Cardinals melted down in the second quarter against Indy, and now you have to wonder where they go from here. They’re going to need to rally in a big way and do so on the road to be contenders with San Francisco in the NFC West. Seattle is playing hard enough to contend in that division, but injuries have taken away too many premium contributors for them to be realistic threats. Denver beat a bad team handily for the second week in a row, but we still don’t know whether this is a truly good team or just a good schedule for a team. Miami lost another tough game, and now with Chad Pennington out for the year the playoffs seems like the longest of shots.
4 – Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers (DOWN A LEVEL), Houston Texans (DOWN A LEVEL), Jacksonville Jaguars – The Bills continue to compete well, but they don’t have enough horses on the offensive line to move the ball consistently, and now their secondary is falling apart due to injury. The Panthers have stars but aren’t playing well together, and at this point they are what their record says they are. The Texans lost a must-win game against the Jaguars, and it makes their climb to try to surpass .500 for the first time in franchise history much more improbable. The Jaguars, who looked like their season was slipping away, got a win that at least keeps them in the conversation. Getting that kind of effort on the road shows that Jack Del Rio still holds some sway in the locker room.
3 – Washington Redskins (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Redskins played OK the first week against the Giants, played poorly but beat the Rams in Week 2, and then lost at Detroit in Week Three. The Redskins have better talent than at least 8 teams in the league, but they simply don’t get enough out of their talent. Jim Zorn needs to change that trend, or he’s going to be job-hunting by February if not sooner.
2 – Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders – The Lions finally broke their losing streak beating a stumbling Redskins team. The Lions are playing hard, but their talent level is wanting, especially defensively. The Chiefs got run out of their own stadium by the Eagles, while the Raiders stunk up the Black Hole in getting thumped by the Broncos. We’ve at least seen signs of life from these teams, but they need to continue at least competing to stay out of the cellar in this comparison.
1 – Cleveland Browns (DOWN A LEVEL), St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – These are three truly awful teams. The Browns changed quarterbacks, and Derek Anderson responded to his chance by tossing three second-half interceptions. The Buccaneers are changing quarterbacks to Josh Johnson, who is merely a placeholder until Josh Freeman is ready to start his on-field development. And the Rams changed quarterbacks because Marc Bulger (surprise!) got hurt – again. All three teams also got ransacked this week. Right now, all three teams are flatlining. We’ll see which first-year coach can restore a pulse for his team first.