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 8 comparison.
10 – Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, New York Jets, Pittsburgh Steelers – We believe the Ravens and Steelers are the class of this foursome, and this week’s performances bore that out. The Steelers went to Cincinnati on Monday night and jumped out to a 20-7 lead en route to a solid victory. Taking care of business in a division road game is always a plus. The Ravens beat the Dolphins 26-10 in a performance that was more impressive than the score indicated. The Jets escaped Detroit with a 23-20 overtime win, and while you have to respect the comeback victory, the fact that they were trailing is troublesome. They need to bounce back with a more solid performance, especially in the running game. The Patriots lost 34-14 in Cleveland, and for now we’ll chalk it up as one bad game. But if the Browns identified some trouble spots that others exploit, then our reservations about the Pats will grow.
9 – Indianapolis Colts (DOWN A LEVEL), New York Giants – We moved the Colts down after their two-point loss at Philadelphia. The Colts are still dangerous, largely because of Peyton Manning, but they’re so banged up that they’re now half a step behind the AFC elite. The Giants showed their chops by going to Seattle and dismantling the Seahawks 41-7. They are playing better than any other team in the NFC right now, and if their defense continues to dominate in this fashion, they’ll be a scary playoff team.
8 – Atlanta Falcons, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles, Tennessee Titans – It was a good week for most of the teams. Even though the Titans were on bye, they added Randy Moss. The Falcons won a key NFC South game against the Buccaneers, and they now have beaten both of their division rivals. The Packers obliterated the Cowboys 45-7 at home, taking care of business in impressive fashion. Green Bay is banged up, but they are finding ways to overcome it. The Saints blasted the Panthers 34-3 and seem to have the offensive rolling a little better despite continuing RB injuries. The Eagles won coming off a bye (as they always do), taking out the Colts 26-24. That’s a big time win for a team that’s looking more and more like a contender. The Dolphins lost in Baltimore, and perhaps we should have moved them down, but we’re giving Miami the benefit of the doubt right now because their schedule has been so nasty.
7 – Kansas City Chiefs, Houston Texans (DOWN A LEVEL), Tampa Bay Buccaneers – We covered the Texans’ decline and the Buccaneers’ holding steady in Rise/Sink/Float. The Chiefs lost in Oakland 23-20, and that game restored many of the classic games of the old AFC West. We still believe the Chiefs will hold off Oakland and the Chargers to win the division.
6 – Oakland Raiders (UP A LEVEL), San Diego Chargers (UP A LEVEL), Washington Redskins – The Raiders and Chargers got key wins to stay in the AFC West race. Oakland is really on a roll with three straight wins, while the Chargers have bounced back to 4-5 despite massive skill-position injuries. Philip Rivers is doing a great job keeping the Chargers in the race, and if they make the playoffs, he has a real shot at league MVP honors. The Redskins were on bye.
5 – Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings (UP A LEVEL), St. Louis Rams – The Bears and Vikings, who play this week in a key NFC North game, both got three-point wins that were unimpressive but necessary. The Bears won in Toronto against the Bills, while the Vikings came back from a two-touchdown deficit to beat the Cardinals at home. Neither Chicago nor Minnesota is great, but whoever wins this week will still have a chance to make a run at the Packers for the division crown. The Jaguars and Rams were on bye.
4 – Cleveland Browns (UP A LEVEL), Cincinnati Bengals, Seattle Seahawks – We covered the Browns’ ascension in Rise/Sink/Float. The Bengals lost 27-21 at home on Monday night to the Steelers, falling to 2-6. Cincinnati has talent, but they have fallen behind early in too many games this year. The Seahawks got blasted at home by the Giants, and backup QB Charlie Whitehurst looked lost. If Seattle can’t win at home, their playoff hopes will quickly evaporate.
3 – Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers – The Cardinals played hard in Minnesota but surrendered a 14-point lead and lost in overtime. Still, it appears that Derek Anderson gives them the best chance to win. The Lions had another close-but-no-cigar performance, losing 23-20 to the Jets in overtime. Even worse, QB Matthew Stafford was hurt again. With Stafford, the Lions could pile up some wins, but another injury leaves the Lions pretty toothless. The Broncos and 49ers were on bye.
2 – Dallas Cowboys (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Cowboys laid their third consecutive egg with a 45-7 loss in Green Bay, and as a result Wade Phillips got fired. We’ll see if Dallas leverages its talent under new head coach Jason Garrett in the second half, but until they do, their performance places them way down here.
1 – Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers – We’d probably pick the Bills, who lost by three for the third straight weeks, in a heads-up matchup against the Panthers, who lost 34-3 at home to the Saints. But Carolina has squeezed out a win, and the Bills have yet to do so. Buffalo, however, has shown far more reason for hope over the second half of the season.