Each week, we compare all 32 NFL teams using our Football Relativity tool. We’ll indicate as we go which teams are moving up and down from the Week 12 comparison.
10 – Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Falcons went into Tampa and came back from a late 10-point deficit to beat the Buccaneers 28-24. That’s an impressive win that ekes the Dirty Birds ever closer to the NFC No. 1 seed. The Ravens and Steelers played their typical slobberknocker, with the Steelers coming out on top this time. Fans can only hope for a third meeting in the playoffs in January. Both teams are incredibly physical and severe threats to any other team in the league. The Patriots blasted the Jets 45-3 on Monday night, establishing a lead in the AFC East. We don’t believe the Pats really are six touchdowns better than the Jets, but recording such an impressive win is a statement of where the Pats are in the pecking order right now.
9 – Green Bay Packers, New York Jets (DOWN A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles – The Packers played the 49ers close for a while but finally pulled away for a convincing 34-16 win. Green Bay trails the Bears by a game, but the Pack is definitely back to top form after a midseason lull. The Eagles took care of the Texans on Thursday night, showing once again that their offense can produce plenty of points. But the Eagles’ D has been fairly permissive in the last two weeks, which could become a concern over the fourth quarter of the season. The Jets’ streak of close wins fell apart as they got blasted by the Patriots 45-3. The Jets are better than they showed, but you have to wonder if the Pats once and for all exposed some of the problems that the Jets have been masking with comeback wins lately.
8 – Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, New York Giants – We covered the Bears in Rise/Sink/Float. Their home game against the Patriots this week will be a litmus test. The Saints needed a Drew Brees hard count to finally get past the Bengals, but winning on the road is always a good thing in the NFL, no matter the final score or the opponent. The Giants blasted the Redskins 31-7, looking like the dominant team we saw early in the season. That’s a positive sign that Big Blue is figuring out their offensive line situation despite myriad injuries.
7 – Jacksonville Jaguars (UP A LEVEL), Kansas City Chiefs, San Diego Chargers (DOWN A LEVEL), Tampa Bay Buccaneers – The Jaguars went to Tennessee and ran all over the Titans in a 17-6 win. We’ve seen a lot of the Jaguars the last couple of weeks, and we’re convinced that they can run the ball at an elite level. David Garrard makes his share of plays, and if he can avoid mistakes, the Jags can control the clock enough to cover for a vulnerable defense. The Chiefs beat the Broncos 10-6, and while it wasn’t pretty, the win gave K.C. a two-game lead in the AFC West. We continue to believe the division is theirs for the taking. The Chargers were contending with the Chiefs, but after a hot streak they laid an egg at home in a 28-13 loss to Oakland. They couldn’t stop the Raiders’ run game, and that does not bode well for this week’s crucial home game against the Chiefs. The Buccaneers played the Falcons close, but key mistakes late cost them the win. With the loss, the Bucs are a long shot to make the playoffs, but they are undoubtedly progressing and could still notch a winning season.
6 – Indianapolis Colts (DOWN A LEVEL), Oakland Raiders (UP A LEVEL), St. Louis Rams – The Colts are falling apart, and this week’s 38-35 overtime loss at home against the Cowboys is another sign. The more we think about it, the more we think the Colts were a 9-7 team last year that Peyton Manning somehow got to the Super Bowl. This year, the Colts have had even more injuries, and those issues combined with the ongoing problems with the offensive line and the running game, have been too much for Manning to overcome. Now, it appears he’s pressing and trying to make plays that aren’t there, and the result is his recent spate of interceptions. If Manning can ratchet down his aggressiveness, he may be able to right the ship and get some wins, but there’s no way the Colts can contend for the AFC title. After getting destroyed two weeks in a row, the Raiders bounced back with a convincing road win at San Diego. Oakland isn’t consistent, but the Raiders’ best is good enough to beat just about anyone. The Rams took care of business with a road win at Arizona that leaves them in charge in the NFC West. This week’s trip to New Orleans is intimidating, but we still believe Sam Bradford & company can get to 8-8 and clinch the division.
5 – Cleveland Browns (UP A LEVEL), Dallas Cowboys (UP A LEVEL), Houston Texans, Miami Dolphins (DOWN A LEVEL) – We discussed the Browns in Rise/Sink/Float. The Cowboys moved to 3-1 under interim head coach Jason Garrett with a 38-35 win in Indianapolis. Dallas isn’t without problems, especially defensively, but they are certainly showing more moxie under Garrett. The Texans put up some points and took a late lead in Philadelphia, but their abysmal defense doomed them again. The Dolphins blew another home game against Cleveland, all but burying their playoff hopes and perhaps hastening the doom of head coach Tony Sparano and QB Chad Henne.
4 – Minnesota Vikings (UP A LEVEL), San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans (DOWN A LEVEL), Washington Redskins (DOWN A LEVEL) – We covered the Titans’ decline in Rise/Sink/Float. The Seahawks fell behind early against the lowly Panthers but rebounded with 31 unanswered points for another home win. Seattle will likely keep pace with the Rams until their Week 17 clash. The 49ers fell to the Packers, and at 4-8 they would likely need to win out to have any division-title hopes. Like the Titans, the Redskins were absolutely blasted in the run game, and after being competitive in the first half of the season, the Skins are lollygagging.
3 – Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos – The Bills, who have largely been competitive this year, were not in Minnesota. It’ll be interesting to see if they’ve run out of gas or if they can rally with another game effort against Cleveland this week. Denver not only lost another game; they lost their head coach by firing Josh McDaniels. It’s an expensive move, but it’s the right one.
2 – Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions – The Bengals had a late lead against the Saints but fell victim to one of the oldest tricks in the book, committing an offsides penalty that set up New Orleans’ game-winning touchdown. As in most years, the Bengals simply find ways to lose. The Lions once again gave a strong effort but fell short 24-20 against the Bears. Detroit needs to win a close game or two down the stretch so that the team and their fans see signs of progress.
1 – Arizona Cardinals (DOWN A LEVEL), Carolina Panthers – The Panthers jumped out to a 14-0 lead against the Seahawks, but once Seattle got going, the Black Cats didn’t have a chance. The Cardinals laid another egg against the Rams, and now that rookie John Skelton is playing quarterback, there’s little hope for improvement over the rest of the year. They’re as bad as any team in the league.