Here is our Football Relativity comparison after Week Eight. We’ve noted where we’ve moved teams up a level or down a level from the Week Seven comparison.
10 – Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints – The Colts had their toughest game since Week 2 but eked out a home win over the 49ers. It’s a good sign that they could pull out a close one, but Indy must play better this week at home against the red-hot Texans if they want to maintain a stranglehold on the AFC South lead. The Saints won a big Monday-nighter against the Falcons, who are their biggest competition for the NFC South crown. The Saints have more weapons on offense than anyone – they use three tailbacks, three tight ends, and four or five receivers regularly. The defense has a few holes, but when they can score on their own they put opponents completely behind the 8-ball. The Saints are for real, and they are really fun to watch.
9 – Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Patriots and Steelers were on bye this week. Both have tough games this week, with the Patriots hosting the Dolphins and the Steelers visiting the Broncos a Mile High. The Vikings went into Green Bay and won Favre Bowl 2, which is more important for the division sweep than for No. 4’s bragging rights. That’s a great win to rest on during a bye for the 7-1 Vikes.
8 – Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, New York Giants (DOWN A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles (UP A LEVEL) – The Ravens beat the Broncos, making us look good for leaving Baltimore this high on the comparison despite its three-game losing streak. The Ravens remain a dangerous team because of their emerging offense. We won’t penalize the Broncos for a road loss to a good team, but it’s worth noting that the Broncos are going to be tested in the coming weeks with games against the Steelers, Chargers, and Vikings in the next four weeks. The Eagles blasted the Giants in a game that appears to reshuffle the pecking order in the NFC East. Philly had a bad loss in Oakland, but this win makes up for it. The Giants, meanwhile, have lost three in a row and must find some defensive answers soon to stem the tide. A home game for the G-Men against the Chargers is no gimme this week. The Falcons played the Saints tough in the Superdome, showing that they’re a legit team. Atlanta will need to win some of these key road games going forward, but for now we’ll give them credit as not a great team but a very good one.
7 – Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans – The Bengals had a bye week and now host the Ravens in a key AFC North showdown. The Ravens have a rep as one of the league’s hardest-hitting teams, but Cincy is no longer a pushover. The Cowboys had the kind of home win that good teams have by blasting the Seahawks. We’ll see this Sunday night in Philly whether the Cowboys are for real as a division contender or just a wild card hopeful. The Texans went into Buffalo and got a big win, though they lost stud TE Owen Daniels in the process. At 5-3, the Texans look for real, and they have a chance to prove it this week in Indianapolis.
6 – Arizona Cardinals (DOWN A LEVEL), Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets (DOWN A LEVEL), San Diego Chargers – Arizona lost at home to the Panthers, which is a bad loss even with the Panthers’ oversized revenge jones. The Cards have been better than expected on the road this year, but they’ve struggled at home. The Bears blasted a terrible Browns team to end a two-game losing streak – just in time to host the Cardinals this week in an intriguing game in the playoff race. Green Bay lost at home to the Vikings, which is a body blow in the division race but ultimately not a death knell to its playoff hopes. The Pack needs to get well at Tampa Bay this week. Miami went into the Meadowlands to beat the Jets for the second time this season. The Dolphins are still digging out of their 0-3 hole, but they’re a quality team that no one wants to play. But their trip to New England this week is a major test. The Jets, meanwhile, are falling down after their hot start and showing why they had to change head coaches in the offseason. The Chargers were on bye and now face a road trip to the Giants this weekend.
5 – San Francisco 49ers – The Niners gave a quality effort in Indy, but they lost and now have dropped four straight. This is a team that will have to scratch and claw to get to 9-7 and then will have to hope that’s enough for a playoff berth.
4 – Carolina Panthers (UP A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks – The Panthers won in Arizona in a win that keeps their flickering playoff hopes from being completely snuffed out. Carolina isn’t a great team, but at least the Black Cats are no longer a pushover. A win at New Orleans next week would be huge, but that’s still a long shot. The Seahawks lost in Dallas, and injuries have taken a toll. But we’ll leave them here for now and see if they get a panacea win at home against the Lions this week.
3 – Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars (DOWN A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans (UP A LEVEL) – The Bills had won two of three but lost a home game against the Texans that felt like a litmus test. The Bills now look like a six-win team at best. The Jaguars laid an egg in Nashville and let the Titans get their first win. Aside from very occasional friskiness, the Jags aren’t relevant. The Titans could get to five or six wins by the end of the year, but the most important trend of their first win was the fact that Vince Young showed signs of life. His continued development could make the ’09 season worthwhile yet.
2 – Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, St. Louis Rams (UP A LEVEL), Washington Redskins – We moved the Rams up in the comparison after they beat the Lions to join the ranks of one-win teams. Aside from that win, this group was its usual putrid self. The Raiders played the Chargers close for the second time this season, while the Browns got thumped in Chicago. The Chiefs and Redskins mercifully had byes.
1 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Bucs, who were on bye, now are the league’s lone winless team. They are at home this week vs. the Packers, which would be a nice first pelt to put on the wall.