Each week, we preview teams that are moving up and moving down in our weekly Football Relativity comparison. We’ll analyze all 32 teams on Tuesday.
Rise – Chicago Bears – The Bears didn’t just beat the Jets; they won in a shootout, 38-34. We knew the Bears could play defense, but seeing Jay Cutler perform as well as he did in inclement weather was a great sign for the future. The Bears are 11-4, and while that record might be a bit inflated by a softer schedule, the fact that the Monsters of the Midway have taken care of business at home against playoff teams like the Jets and Eagles shows they’re not paper tigers. If Chicago can clinch a first-round bye, they could be an interesting matchup against the No. 3 Eagles in the divisional round. It’s time to include the Bears on the second level of contenders.
Sink – Jacksonville Jaguars – Yes, Maurice Jones-Drew was out, but a true playoff contender like the Jags claimed to be simply can’t lose a home game against an also-ran like the Redskins. The 20-17 overtime loss was keyed by two David Garrard turnovers, including one that set up the Redskins’ first touchdown. Jacksonville’s run-first style works, but only if the Jaguars can avoid mistakes. But turnovers like that one are killers that the Jags aren’t good enough to overcome given their identity. Ultimately, that formula (which also cost the Jags a game against the Giants last month) is what will keep the Jaguars out of the playoffs.
Float – Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens clinched a playoff berth by winning 20-10 in Cleveland. While the Ravens aren’t a perfect team, they do a lot of things well. They can throw the ball with a strong group of targets, and they can run the ball with Ray Rice. When the defense plays well, or at least forces turnovers, the Ravens become very tough to beat. Of all the AFC teams, Baltimore is the one we see with the best chance to beat the Patriots in a one-game scenario. However, the Ravens will likely have to go the wild-card route to do it.