Here is our Football Relativity comparison after Week 14. We’ve noted where we have moved teams up or down from the Week 13 comparison.
10 – Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints – The Colts beat another good team at home this week, beating Denver in a solid 28-16 final. Indy now has clinched everything it can clinch in the regular season, but on a short week it’s hard to see them changing much of their approach this week in Jacksonville. But the Colts would be advised to get backup QB Curtis Painter plenty of snaps down the stretch, because if they need him in the playoffs they’ll want him to have seen some live bullets. The Saints pulled out a tough win in Atlanta in a traditional rivalry that most around the league don’t really know about. The Saints, who still need a win or even two to clinch home-field advantage, have motivation to keep their sails set full Saturday night at home against Dallas.
9 – Minnesota Vikings, San Diego Chargers – The Vikings put a solid beating on a good Bengals team this week to move to 11-2. Minnesota isn’t a perfect team, but it’s a good club that’s playing at a high level. That should continue Sunday night in Carolina. San Diego reeled off its eighth straight win in Dallas, and now the Bolts face the Bengals at home. Tha’ts actually a key game that will all but determine whether Cincy or San Diego gets a first-round playoff bye.
8 – Arizona Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Green Bay Packers (UP A LEVEL), New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles (UP A LEVEL) – The Bengals lost big in Minnesota and now must travel to San Diego. Still, the Bengals hold a two-game lead in the division plus a tiebreaker, which leaves their magic number at one. Green Bay continued its strong play with a road win at rival Chicago. That’s the kind of grudge match in which style points don’t matter. The Packers are in the driver’s seat for a playoff berth and could strengthen their position by continuing the Steelers’ reeling in Pittsburgh this week. The Patriots won at home against Carolina, but all is not well in Foxboro. Questions about Randy Moss’ effort and Adalius Thomas’ attitude keep the Pats from having a happy home right now, and they are still just one game clear of both the Dolphins and Jets. That makes this week’s trip to Buffalo a key game. The Eagles took control of the NFC East (at least for now) by winning in Giants Stadium. With a one-game lead over Dallas and a two-game edge over the Giants, Philly is in good shape but must keep its foot on the accelerator Sunday at home against the 49ers. That’s a good draw, given that San Fran will be traveling across the country on a short week. The Cardinals looked awful in a Monday-night loss to San Francisco, showing once again that they are capable of more inconsistency than any other really good team. Still, at their best the Cardinals can scare any of the league’s top teams.
7 – Dallas Cowboys, Denver Broncos (UP A LEVEL) – The Broncos lost at Indy, but at 8-5 they’re still in good playoff hunt. Brandon Marshall’s NFL-record 21-catch effort keeps them at this level. Denver should be able to take care of business against Oakland this week at Mile High to maintain a hold on a playoff berth. The Cowboys lost a tough home game to the Chargers, and we could have moved them down a level, but the talent leads us to keep the Cowboys here, a level above the Giants. But Dallas needs to pull off an upset in New Orleans on Saturday night to stay on this level and, more importantly, keep playoff hopes alive.
6 – Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars (DOWN A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, New York Giants, Tennessee Titans (UP A LEVEL) – The Ravens destroyed the Lions to move to 7-6 and stay in decent playoff position. A home game against Chicago this week should provide another win. The Jaguars had a chance to take solid hold of a playoff spot, but they lost at home to the Dolphins. Now both Miami and Jacksonville are 7-6, with the Jags facing a Thursday-night home game against Indy this week. The Dolphins visit Tennessee, which whipped St. Louis to remain on the playoff push. That will be another key game in the AFC playoff race. The Jets, also 7-6, won at Tampa Bay to stay in the hunt as well. A win over a banged-up Atlanta team will help the Jets keep up with the Ravens and perhaps the Dolphins. After a key NFC East last week, the Giants lost a key home game to the Eagles Sunday night to once again slip down the NFC East totem pole. Now they must win a tough Monday-nighter in Washington to maintain hopes of a division crown.
5 – Atlanta Falcons (DOWN A LEVEL), Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers (DOWN A LEVEL), San Francisco 49ers, Washington Redskins (UP A LEVEL) – The Falcons have lost two straight home games at a crucial point in their playoff push. The Matt Ryan and Michael Turner injuries came at the worst possible time, and it’s going to cost the Dirty Birds a playoff shot. After losing four straight, the Texans took out their frustrations on the Seahawks. A trip to St. Louis this week should let Houston even its record at 7-7 and remain on the fringe of the playoff hunt. The Steelers blew a game at Cleveland that should have been a win, and now the playoffs are a long shot. A home game against Green Bay is no picnic, but if the Steelers can crack the Pack’s offensive line more often than their O-line gets beaten, they have a shot. The Redskins are just 4-9, but they are playing much better over the past month and look to play the role of NFC East spoiler down the stretch with games against the Giants (at home Monday night) and at Dallas the next two weeks. The 49ers stayed dormie in the NFC West by beating the Cardinals on Monday night. That’s a great win, but San Fran must go across the country and win in Philly this week before we can put them back in the playoff hunt. At least we can say Mike Singletary’s bunch is still playing hard.
4 – Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Seattle Seahawks (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Bills went into Kansas City and got their fifth win of the year. Buffalo isn’t a good team, but they’re good enough to dispatch teams of equal or lesser quality, and that speaks to the coaching they’re getting. Interim head coach Perry Fewell now has two wins, which is something to note as he goes for future head coaching jobs. The Panthers played New England tough up in Foxboro, but ultimately the Panthers didn’t have enough punch to knock out the Pats. Matt Moore isn’t a game-changing quarterback, and that leaves the Panthers short – especially when they fall behind. The Bears played tough against their rival Packers, but ultimately their season continued to circle the drain. The biggest problem is a talent drain on the offensive line. Seattle got whipped in Houston, which is another sign that the Seahawks are like the Bills in that they can beat inferior competition but really can’t move up in class.
3 – Oakland Raiders – The Raiders got whipped at home by the Redskins, but given how the Redskins are playing lately, that’s not surprising. We can count on the Raiders to pull off at least one more surprising win this season.
2 – Cleveland Browns (UP A LEVEL), Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs – The Browns finally beat the Steelers for the first time in 13 tries, and for the first time this season there are signs of life in Cleveland. The Browns got eight sacks in the game, which goes to show that maybe Eric Mangini is building something, at least on that side of the ball. The Chiefs lost a home game to Buffalo, but they’ve found their running back for 2010 in Jamaal Charles. Thank heaven for little mercies, I guess. The Lions got blasted by the Ravens, but that hasn’t been their character this year. We’ll see a better effort next week from them.
1 – St. Louis Rams, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Rams had to start Keith Null at quarterback, and his name proved sadly accurate against the Titans. The Buccaneers failed once again to score a touchdown in an ugly 26-3 loss to the Jets at home. This is now the Ndamukong Suh race.