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 13 comparison.
10 – Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers – We discussed the Patriots’ proficiency in this week’s game thoughts. The Falcons did exactly what a good team should do by going to Carolina and dominating a terrible team. The Falcons aren’t perfect, but they are a complete team that has home-field advantage in its grasp. The Steelers used two defensive touchdowns to beat the Bengals 23-7. Cincy is always a tough matchup for the Steelers, so getting a win was far more important than style points in this situation.
9 – Baltimore Ravens (DOWN A LEVEL), New Orleans Saints (UP A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles – We moved the Ravens down a level after their 34-28 overtime win in Houston on Monday night, more because of higher standards for the 10 level than anything else. Baltimore is a quality team, but its pass defense is too exploitable to leave them on the top level. The Saints moved up a level after dismantling the Rams at home. Don’t look now, but New Orleans is once again running full throttle. The Eagles won a tough division game 30-27 in Dallas on Sunday night, and the win keeps them in prime position in the NFC East. We still like the Eagles better than the Giants (who are coming on the next level) because Philly is more explosive offensively.
8 – Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers (DOWN A LEVEL), New York Giants, New York Jets (DOWN A LEVEL) – We discussed the NFC North teams on this level previously – the Packers in Rise/Sink/Float and the Bears in game thoughts. The Giants overcame travel difficulties to record a solid 21-3 win against the Vikings. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s a hangover effect this weekend against the Eagles for the G-Men. The Jets laid an egg at home, losing to Miami 10-6. New York needs to get out of its tailspin and fast, or else they’ll find themselves out of the realm of the relevant.
7 – Indianapolis Colts (UP A LEVEL), Jacksonville Jaguars, San Diego Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – We discussed the Colts’ rise and the Buccaneers’ floating in Rise/Sink/Float. The Jaguars remained a game ahead of Indy with a thrilling 38-31 win over the Raiders. But Jax must prove its mettle again this week by beating the Colts on the road. The Jaguars’ defense is vulnerable, as the Raiders proved, but Jacksonville’s running game has been so good lately that the Jags have overcome it. Jacksonville must control the ball and avoid turnovers so that its running game can keep the Colts in the stable. The Chargers took advantage of the Matt Cassel-less Chiefs and won a key AFC West showdown. San Diego seems to be getting healthy at just the right time, but they must avoid the kind of collapse they had in Week 13 if they want to beat out the resurgent Chiefs.
6 – Kansas City Chiefs (DOWN A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins (UP A LEVEL), Oakland Raiders – With Matt Cassel, the Chiefs belong up a level, but because he was out after an appendectomy and the Chiefs looked hopeless against the Chargers, we have no choice but to drop them this week. The Raiders put up a big fight but ultimately lost to the Jaguars. Still, Oakland is a team no one wants to play against right now, because the Raiders are capable of beating anyone. The Dolphins continued their strong if inexplicable road play with a win at the Jets. Miami is hanging on the periphery of the playoff race despite an offense that seems to be falling apart.
5 – Dallas Cowboys, Houston Texans, St. Louis Rams (DOWN A LEVEL) – Dallas played the Eagles tough, and despite another loss the Cowboys at least have more gumption under Jason Garrett. Now they need safeties who can play. The Texans had another furious come-from-behind rally before an overtime pick-6 cost them against Baltimore. Houston’s season has been a disappointment, especially defensively. The Rams got blitzed in New Orleans, but they continue to lead the NFC West. This week’s home game against the Chiefs is key to their postseason hopes.
4 – Cleveland Browns (DOWN A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins – And now we reach the level of mediocrity. The Browns descend after a road loss in Buffalo. The Vikings looked helpless without Brett Favre on Monday night. The 49ers blasted the Seahawks to stay in the NFC West race. San Fran still trails Seattle and St. Louis by a game, but they are somehow still in the hunt. The Titans lost on Thursday night against the Colts, falling behind a ton early. The Redskins found a way to lose to the Buccaneers on a botched extra point.
3 – Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions (UP A LEVEL) – The Lions caught a break with Aaron Rodgers’ injury but took advantage with a 7-3 win that broke a three-year-long NFC North losing streak. The Bills also got a win, beating the Browns 13-6. Both teams continue to play hard despite their records.
2 – Arizona Cardinals (UP A LEVEL), Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Cardinals blasted the Broncos, in part due to Jay Feely (Crazy Kicker of the Week alert) and in part due to a decent performance by rookie third-string QB John Skelton. The Broncos could really fall off down the stretch under interim coach Eric Studesville. The Bengals lost in Pittsburgh, playing hard but turning the ball over far too often.
1 – Carolina Panthers – The running game is a half a bit better, but for the most part things are hopeless in Carolina. At least the No. 1 overall pick is in play.