Here is our Football Relativity comparison after Week 13. We’ve noted where we have moved teams up or down from the Week 12 comparison.
10 – Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints – The Colts put together a solid win over Tennessee, and for the first time in more than a month they didn’t have to come from behind. That’s a good sign for a team that knows how to win week after week. The Saints all but lost in Washington, but somehow they figured out a way to squeeze out a win. If the Saints play like that again, they won’t remain undefeated for long, but after a big Monday-night home win a subpar performance on the road is understandable. Credit to the Saints for squeezing out a win in those circumstances.
9 – Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers – The Chargers posted their seventh straight win with a 30-23 decision in Cleveland. Now they must step up in class and travel to Cowboys Stadium to take on a Dallas team that has struggled in December in recent years. That will be a good test for San Diego, which still has the Broncos in hot pursuit. The Vikings got thumped in Arizona, and given their 10-2 record that’s not a huge sign of trouble. But when you consider how light the Vikes’ schedule has been this season, you have to wonder at least a little whether Minnesota’s dominance has been determined by opponents more than talent.
8 – Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Bengals took care of business against a terrible team for the second week in a row by knocking off the Lions. That guarantees the Bengals will finish with a winning record, but it doesn’t guarantee them success next week in Minnesota. The Patriots lost on the road again, and now those struggles look more like a fatal flaw than a statement about competition. While it’s hard to rule the Patriots out as a team that could make the AFC title game, the bottom line is that the results aren’t there to expect them to go on the road and win to get there. Plus, with the loss in Miami, the Pats opened the door to the Jets and even the Dolphins in the AFC East. That may prove to be costly. The Cards showed their upside by whipping the Vikings. While Arizona isn’t always consistent, at their best they can be scary good. They’re capable of beating any team in the league – it just has to happen on the right day.
7 – Dallas Cowboys (DOWN A LEVEL), Jacksonville Jaguars (UP A LEVEL), Green Bay Packers, Philadelphia Eagles – Dallas took a step back against the Giants on the road, and there’s no shame in that division loss. But now the Cowboys must prove they aren’t in the midst of another December swoon, and hosting San Diego next week won’t make that task easy. The Jaguars remained in the lead in the AFC wild-card race by taking care of Houston at home. Jacksonville doesn’t get the pub of other contenders like the Ravens or the Steelers, but the Jaguars are a solid, physical team that got a good passing performance out of David Garrard last week. Hosting Miami next week is another opportunity that’s a significant test. Philadelphia took advantage of a banged-up Atlanta team and got a lopsided road win. If they can get another win in Giants Stadium next week, Philly can take the NFC East lead. The Packers got a solid home win on Monday night against the Ravens. It was Green Bay’s fourth straight win and another step toward the playoffs. The Packers aren’t a great team, but at this point they’ve solved their offensive line problems enough that they can be a good team consistently.
6 – Atlanta Falcons (DOWN A LEVEL), Baltimore Ravens, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins (UP A LEVEL), New York Giants, New York Jets (UP A LEVEL), Pittsburgh Steelers (DOWN A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans – Atlanta lost a home game to Philadelphia, and with Matt Ryan and Michael Turner still hurting it’s hard to see the Falcons getting up off the mat at home against the Saints next week. But if the Dirty Birds don’t do so, they’re likely done with their playoff aspirations. The Steelers might be done with playoff hopes now after blowing a game at home against Oakland. It’s Pittsburgh’s fourth straight loss, and it’s a crusher. A game in Cleveland could be an elixir, but going on the road on a Thursday night is never easy. The Steelers can take nothing for granted anymore. The Broncos whipped Kansas City in Arrowhead, which is a nice win and a sign that the Broncos might have gotten momentum back after their four-game losing streak. But going to Indianapolis next week is a major test. The Dolphins came from behind to earn a home win over the Patriots that puts them back in the AFC East race. Now the Dolphins need to build on that win by getting a road victory in Jacksonville. The Giants broke their four-game losing streak with a desperately needed home win over Dallas. If the Giants can get another home win against Philadelphia next week, their slide will be reversed and they’ll be fully in the playoff chase. The Jets caught a break by playing the Bills in Toronto instead of Buffalo, and they took advantage to even their record. Now the Jets must go to Tampa Bay and earn another road win if they want to have a say in the AFC East chase. The Titans lost their lucky horseshoe in Indy, losing for the first time in six games. But the Titans don’t have time to mourn that loss. They need to take out the Rams in Nashville this week to remain on the fringes of the playoff hunt. The Ravens fell in Green Bay, which shouldn’t really be a surprise. Baltimore just doesn’t have enough to be a serious contender. They just have to hope they can sneak into the playoffs.
5 – Houston Texans, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks (UP A LEVEL) – The Texans desperately needed a win in Jacksonville, but they fell behind early and couldn’t get the win. That may be the game that puts the nail in Houston’s coffin this season. Seattle rode its home-field advantage to a win over San Francisco, leaving both teams at 5-7. Seattle is starting to play better now that some players are getting healthy again, while San Francisco is simply limited in terms of talent. Both teams should feel good if they make it to 8-8 for the season.
4 – Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Washington Redskins – The Panthers and Bears both got home wins, but did so against two terrible teams. Neither Carolina’s win over Tampa Bay or Chicago’s victory over Tampa Bay was convincing, so we’ll leave them in place. The Redskins took the Saints to overtime and probably would have won the game if not some critical mistakes down the stretch. But even the loss showed that the Redskins are playing the best they have all year right now. The Bills lost an ugly game in Toronto against the Jets in a game that could have given the Bills a chance at a .500 record. Too many offensive linemen have gotten hurt for Buffalo to truly compete against good defenses like the Jets’ D.
3 – Oakland Raiders (UP A LEVEL) – The Raiders went into Pittsburgh and took a win from the reeling Steelers. Say this for Tom Cable – he had his team playing its best down the stretch last season, and it seems like that’s happening again. Bruce Gradkowski is at least an average NFL quarterback, and that has let the Raiders’ other talent start to show its stuff – at least in moments. That makes the Raiders dangerous when they want to be.
2 – Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs (DOWN A LEVEL), Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Chiefs, who had played two solid home games in a row, got blasted in Arrowhead by the Broncos. That was a step back for a team that’s trying to move forward. The Lions lost in Cincinnati, which is no shame. But it may soon be time to shelve Matthew Stafford for the season so that he doesn’t suffer an injury that lingers into 2010. The Buccaneers have just one win, but they seem to be more competitive and have just a smidgen more hope than do the Browns or the Rams. That’s why Tampa Bay stays a level above those teams on the comparison.
1 – Cleveland Browns, St. Louis Rams – The Browns lost a home game to the Chargers, while the Rams lost to a mediocre Bears team on the road. Neither team seems to have much of a chance of notching a second win anytime this season.