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 14 comparison.
10 – Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Falcons took care of business in the Pacific Northwest, overcoming the 12th man by creating a litany of turnovers against the Seahawks in a 34-18 win. It’s the kind of taking care of business win that the Falcons have routinely recorded this year. With one more win, the Falcons lock down NFC home-field advantage, and since Week 17 is a home game against the Panthers, that win looks like a virtual certainty. The Patriots faced a fight against the Packers on Sunday night, but they held off a late rally to hold on for a 31-27. Now they look to be the AFC’s home-field advantage team. The Steelers lost to the Jets at home, but it’s hard to dock them too much for losing a game that didn’t affect their seeding without Troy Polamalu in the lineup.
9 – Baltimore Ravens, New Orleans Saints, New York Jets (UP A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles – We focused on the Jets’ flight and the Saints’ staying put in Rise/Sink/Float. The Eagles used a stunning fourth-quarter comeback to KO the Giants and take control in the NFC East. If they can finish the deal, they’ll have playoff bye waiting for them. The Ravens knocked off the Saints at home, and while the Ravens still trail in the AFC North, they will be a real threat in the playoffs if the defense becomes sturdier. The talent is there, but the performance must be.
8 – Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts (UP A LEVEL), New York Giants, San Diego Chargers (UP A LEVEL) – The Colts and Chargers move back up after key wins. Indy took control of the AFC South by knocking off the Jaguars 34-24, while the Chargers kept the pressure on in the AFC West with a Thursday-night domination of the 49ers. The Packers showed a ton of fight in New England with backup quarterback Matt Flynn but ultimately fell victim to the Pats. Still, Green Bay controls its playoff destiny with a game against the Giants this week. Big Blue blew a key chance by losing a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter against Philly, but if they can take down Green Bay they’ll be back in business. The Bears took care of business against the Vikings, winning 40-14 in an outdoor night game on the road. That win puts the Bears in the playoffs, and with their defense, they have the chance to win at least a game once they get there.
7 – Jacksonville Jaguars, Kansas City Chiefs (UP A LEVEL) – The Chiefs move back up a level not just because of their 27-13 road win in St. Louis but because of Matt Cassel’s successful return from appendix surgery. The Jaguars lost an opportunity in Indianapolis, but if the Colts stumble in Oakland the Jags are ready to step in.
6 – Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (DOWN A LEVEL) – We covered how the Buccaneers’ vessel is sinking in Rise/Sink/Float. The Raiders took care of business against the Broncos to move to 7-7. They still have an outside chance at the AFC West title, which means this week’s game against the Colts in the Black Hole is going to be quite interesting.
5 – Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Cowboys continued their strong offensive play under Jason Garrett with a 33-30 win over the Redskins. They have something to build on over the second half of the season. The Dolphins blew another home game. If they had been halfway decent at home they’d be in the thick of the playoff hunt instead of stuck at .500.
4 – Cleveland Browns, Houston Texans (DOWN A LEVEL), St. Louis Rams (DOWN A LEVEL), San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks, Tennessee Titans, Washington Redskins – Welcome to the mediocre middle. These teams still have enough gumption to take down inferior competition or to s Of care better teams, but we don’t see them as threats to pull a major upset. That’s damning with faint praise, but it’s the truth. All 3 remaining contenders for the NFC West title are here, which is a statement of how weak that division is. Of this group, only Tennessee won this week (beating Houston).
3 – Buffalo Bills, Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Bills and Lions both won on the road in Florida, showing that despite their shortcomings they are still fighting hard. Both teams have reason for hope at the offensive skill positions but have work to do elsewhere. The Vikings lost big on Monday night, and Brett Favre’s career was ended by a hit (again). Without Favre, the Vikings go from mediocre to bad.
2 – Cincinnati Bengals, Denver Broncos – The Bengals ran it down the Browns’ throats en route to their third win of the year, snapping a 10-game losing streak. That’s nice, but it’s not a sign of things to come. The Broncos lost in Oakland, but the Tim Tebow era began and provides at least a glimmer of hope. The defense still needs a ton of work.
1 – Arizona Cardinals (DOWN A LEVEL), Carolina Panthers – The Panthers took advantage of East-coast advantage to beat the Cardinals 19-12 this week. Neither team has much hope, as against anyone else the odds would be severely stacked against them.