Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity tool. There are some significant shifts this week as we now have three weeks of results with which to evaluate teams. We’ll indicate as we go which teams are moving up and down from the Week 3 comparison.
10 – Baltimore Ravens (UP A LEVEL), Green Bay Packers, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Ravens move up with a solid 17-14 win in Pittsburgh. Despite playing a tough schedule over the first quarter of the season, both teams are 3-1 and set up for big things this year. We covered the Steelers in more depth in Rise/Sink/Float. The Packers responded to a disappointing Monday-night loss to Chicago by eking out a win over the Lions at home. Green Bay isn’t firing on all cylinders right now, but Aaron Rodgers’ proficiency still puts them among the league’s elite.
9 – Houston Texans, New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints (DOWN A LEVEL), New York Jets (UP A LEVEL) – We covered the Saints’ descent in Rise/Sink/Float. The Texans went to Oakland and got a win, and now they get star OLB Brian Cushing back with a one-game division lead. That’s a best-case scenario for the Texans. The Patriots went to Miami and blew out the Dolphins in the second half to keep pace with the Jets in the AFC East after the Jets thumped Buffalo. Both of those teams have showed that they’re going to be in an AFC East dogfight throughout the season.
8 – Atlanta Falcons, Dallas Cowboys, Indianapolis Colts (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Falcons stole a home win against the 49ers thanks to Roddy White’s hustle, marking the second straight week they got a win they didn’t fully deserve. But at 3-1, the Falcons are still serious playoff contenders. The Colts lost their second division road game on a 59-yard field goal by Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee, and the troubling thing is that close games like this one are ones they normally win. Plus, Bob Sanders’ replacement Melvin Bullitt is now out for the season, weakening a secondary that wasn’t strong to begin with. We’re concerned. The Cowboys were on bye.
7 – Miami Dolphins (DOWN A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings – We’ve been big believers in the Dolphins, but losing two home games against AFC East opponents shows that they’re not yet ready to truly contend. The second-half meltdown against the Patriots was disturbing. The Vikings were on bye.
6 – Chicago Bears (DOWN A LEVEL), Cincinnati Bengals (DOWN A LEVEL), Kansas City Chiefs, New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles (DOWN A LEVEL), San Diego Chargers – The Bears couldn’t protect Jay Cutler against the Giants, and Cutler didn’t get the ball out in time. As a result, the Bears got their first loss and Cutler got a concussion. If he’s out, the Bears don’t have nearly enough on offense to be competent, much less dangerous. The Giants, meanwhile, broke out of a funk with a dominant defensive performance, and at 2-2 they’re tied for first in their division. So are the Eagles, but their home loss to the Redskins is a lost opportunity. And Kevin Kolb looked unwilling to try to throw down the field when he replaced the injured Michael Vick. The Bengals lost in Cleveland, and while the Browns aren’t terrible, losing against a lower-tier team is a danger sign. Cincinnati is 2-2 and must build consistency starting this week against Tampa Bay. The Chargers lit up the Cardinals at home, which is the first sign of the consistent playoff contenders that we’ve seen this year. They are 1.5 games behind the Chiefs, who were on bye, but that will likely be a race in the AFC West.
5 – Denver Broncos (UP A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans (DOWN A LEVEL), Washington Redskins (UP A LEVEL) – The Broncos went to Tennessee and got a win, leaving both teams at 2-2. The Broncos can’t run the ball worth a lick, but Kyle Orton is flinging it all over the field effectively. The Titans blew an opportunity at home to hang with the Texans and get a leg up over the Colts. Maybe we have the Redskins too low here, but at 2-2 they’re a flawed team. Donovan McNabb is definitely an upgrade, but he doesn’t have nearly enough weapons.
4 – Jacksonville Jaguars (UP A LEVEL), St. Louis Rams (UP A LEVEL), San Francisco 49ers (DOWN A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks (DOWN A LEVEL), Tampa Bay Buccaneers – We covered the Rams in Rise/Sink/Float. They’re 2-2 and tied with the Seahawks and Cardinals for the NFC West lead in what will be a battle of the mediocre. The Seahawks are dangerous at home, but their talent level shows on the road, even against lower-tier teams like the Rams. The 49ers almost got a win in Atlanta, but Nate Clements made a crucial mental error that cost them the game. They’re 0-4 but only two games back in the division, so all is not lost, but they need a win soon. The Jaguars got a big home win against the Colts, but at this point they look like a team that’s far more dangerous at home than on the road. The Buccaneers were on bye.
3 – Arizona Cardinals (DOWN TWO LEVELS), Cleveland Browns (UP A LEVEL), Detroit Lions (DOWN A LEVEL), Oakland Raiders (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Cardinals are 2-2 like two of their NFC West brethren, but their rotten quarterback situation gives us less confidence in them than in anyone else in their division. The Browns beat the Bengals, and they’ve been competitive consistently. The quarterback situation is still a question, but Peyton Hillis has been a nice addition at running back. The Lions win the close-but-no-cigar award once again, but at some point they’ve got to figure out how to get over the hump and win. The Raiders lost a home game against the Texans, and it appears that they’ll once again have a record that falls below their talent level.
2 – Carolina Panthers – The Panthers gave a game effort in New Orleans, but once again their lack of offensive punch proved fatal. And if Steve Smith is out for an extended period of time, that problem gets worse.
1 – Buffalo Bills – After a few decent efforts, the Bills got destroyed at home against the Jets. There isn’t much hope for better things in Buffalo this year.