Here is our Football Relativity comparison after Week 12. We’ve noted where we have moved teams up or down from the Week 11 comparison.
10 – Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints – The Colts came from behind in the fourth quarter for the fifth straight week to record an 11th consecutive win. That high-wire act will probably end at some point; Colts fans had better hope that happens before the playoffs and not during them. The Saints blitzed the Patriots at home, once again using their immense home-field advantage. If New Orleans can cement home-field advantage throughout the playoffs – which is no given considering the Vikings’ record – they’re going to be incredibly tough to beat in the Superdome.
9 – Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, San Diego Chargers (UP A LEVEL) – The Vikings continued to ransack bad competition in a 36-10 victory over Chicago. But the level of competition ratchets up this week as Minnesota travels to the desert to meet the Cardinals. San Diego won its sixth straight and should cruise against Cleveland next week. The Bolts are solid on offense and defense right now, and that means they can threaten even the Patriots and the Colts in the AFC. The Patriots got hammered in New Orleans, continuing their road woes this season. That’s something the Pats must correct, because there’s no way they’re getting home field throughout the playoffs. Even a first-round bye is unlikely for them at this point. We almost moved the Pats down, but we’ll leave them in place to avoid a Tuesday-morning overreaction to a Monday-night blowout.
8 – Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys (UP A LEVEL) – The Cardinals lost a heartbreaker at home against the Titans, and there’s no shame in that. But Arizona needs to show it can shore up its home-field advantage this Sunday night against the Vikings in a big conference tilt. Cincinnati didn’t blow out the Browns, but the Bengals didn’t bungle the gimme win as they finished the AFC North sweep. Cincy should get another simple W this week at home against Detroit. Dallas did what it usually does against bad teams on Thanksgiving by thumping the Raiders. At 8-3, we have to give the Cowboys credit for winning six of their last seven. If they can beat a lagging Giants team on the road this week, the Cowboys street cred will only grow.
7 – Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens (UP A LEVEL), Green Bay Packers (UP A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Ravens and Steelers find the same level on the comparison after Baltimore’s 20-17 overtime victory. It’s hard to ding the Steelers too much for a road loss without Ben Roethlisberger, but at 6-5 Pittsburgh is in real danger of missing the postseason. The bottom line is that the Steelers aren’t anywhere close to the same team when Troy Polamalu is out, and Polamalu has missed too much time this year. A home game against the Raiders could help the Steelers get healthier this Sunday. The Ravens finally won a close game to stay in the playoff hunt. Baltimore has made too many key mistakes this year, but if the Ravens can get out of their own way they are still a threat. Green Bay won its third straight on Thanksgiving to get a seventh win and stay in the playoff hunt. This week’s Monday-nighter with the Ravens visiting Baltimore is yet another key game for both teams. Atlanta eked out a win with backup quarterback Chris Redman playing in relief of Matt Ryan, and there’s something to be said for that. But with Ryan out this week against Philly, the Falcons will have a hard time maintaining the home-field success they have enjoyed all year. The Eagles come into Atlanta at 7-4, one game ahead of Atlanta in the wild-card chase, and a road win would be huge for the Eagles. Philly got a win over Washington, although it came with more heartburn than most fans would prefer. This week will be another separation week because of the matchups.
6 – Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Giants (DOWN A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans (UP A LEVEL) – The Broncos whipped the Giants on Thanksgiving night, which is a sign that Denver isn’t totally done and that the Giants might be. We won’t elevate the Broncos in the comparison because the schedule was so favorable in this win, but if they can get a road win in K.C. this week they’ll move up. The Giants are all but done, and now they must face the Cowboys this week. That may be a win-or-go-home situation for Big Blue. The Jaguars lost on the road in San Francisco, and there’s no shame in that for an average team, but it’s another sign that the Jags aren’t much better than average. Jacksonville must win at home this week against Houston to keep playoff hopes alive. Tennessee is making a huge run right now with five straight wins, including a clutch road win at a good Arizona team. Now the Titans will be truly tested in a trip to Indy.
5 – Houston Texans (DOWN A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins (DOWN A LEVEL), New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers – The Texans and Jets both suffered losses that all but crush their playoff hopes. Houston gave up a lead and lost to the Colts at home, while the Dolphins laid an egg (or the aquatic mammal equivalent) on the road in Buffalo. At 5-6, neither team looks to have many playoff hopes left. The Jets rode an early Darrelle Revis pick-6 to a home win over Carolina to stop a three-game losing streak. If they can win in Toronto against the Bills on Thursday night, they can keep playoff hopes alive. Getting that game in Toronto instead of Buffalo in December is a break for the Jets. San Francisco protected home turf against Jacksonville and continued to show that they can beat teams of similar level at home. If the Niners can win in Seattle this week, this young team would have a nice road skin to put on the wall.
4 – Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers (DOWN A LEVEL), Chicago Bears (DOWN A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins – This is the level of teams that can play OK even against good teams but aren’t a threat to win many of those games. That’s what Buffalo did against Miami. Seattle took advantage of a game against the lowly Rams to get a win, while the Redskins played the Eagles tough in Philly. Once again, QB problems doomed the Panthers as Jake Delhomme threw four picks against the Jets. The Bears got lit by the Vikings, which is the third time they’ve been blown out lately, but at least they have a home game against St. Louis to look forward to this week. Carolina should also get a win over Tampa Bay, while the Bills have a chance to knock off the Jets and the Seahawks host the Niners. The Redskins have the toughest task with a home game against the Saints.
3 – Kansas City Chiefs – The Chiefs got blasted in San Diego, but that was to be expected. We can likewise expect the Chiefs to give the Broncos a good game in Arrowhead this week.
2 – Detroit Lions, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Lions and Raiders got embarrassed on Thanksgiving Day, while the Buccaneers had a good effort in a 20-17 loss in Atlanta. If the Bucs can cause some turnovers, they can win an road division game in Carolina this week. Oakland’s trip to Pittsburgh and the Lions’ journey to Cincinnati are far less promising.
1 – Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams – These teams are both just plain sorry. The Browns were listless against the Bengals and now must host the Chargers. The Rams lost at home to a mediocre Seahawks team, and did so pretty convincingly. So while most teams would be looking forward to a trip to Soldier Field right about now, the Rams just can’t expect to beat or even compete with the Bears.