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 15 comparison.
10 – Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Falcons lost on Monday night to the Saints, but a three-point loss in a rivalry game is part of the business. Still, with a home win over lowly Carolina this week, Atlanta can lock up home-field advantage. The Patriots have already done that in the AFC, as they ran all over the Bills on Sunday. New England sits in the pole position for the Super Bowl right now. The Steelers controlled the Panthers on Thursday night and have a couple of extra days of rest to prepare to try to clinch the AFC North and a first-round bye.
9 – Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears (UP A LEVEL), New Orleans Saints – We discussed the Bears’ rise and the Ravens’ steady status in Rise/Sink/Float. The Saints won 17-14 in Atlanta on Monday night, which was a great win, but because of their difficulties running the ball we still don’t feel comfortable putting the Saints with the league’s very best.
8 – Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, Kansas City Chiefs (UP A LEVEL), New York Jets (DOWN A LEVEL), Philadelphia Eagles (DOWN A LEVEL) – The Packers got a huge win against the Giants to seize control of their playoff destiny. The Pack still faces a tough game against the Bears this week, but the fact that they’re in the playoff hunt after losing so many players to injury is a tribute. The Colts won in Oakland and now seek to sew up the AFC South and win double-digit games once again. The Jets lost in Chicago, and while that wasn’t a big problem, the arrow on the Jets is pointed the wrong way this year. The Chiefs secured the AFC West title, which was a great accomplishment. They’re playing well enough now to be threats to win a wild-card round game. The Eagles lost their chance at a bye by losing a Tuesday-night home game to the lowly Vikings. If Michael Vick is off, as he was Tuesday night, the Eagles suddenly become very beatable.
7 – New York Giants (DOWN A LEVEL), San Diego Chargers (DOWN A LEVEL) – Both the Giants and Chargers saw their playoff hopes plummet because of disappointing losses. The Giants lost 45-17 in Green Bay and now need a Packers loss to the Bears to have a shot of making the postseason. The Chargers have no shot, as their loss in Cincinnati gave the division to the Chiefs once and for all. Both of these teams have talent, but they have been far too inconsistent and mistake-prone. Now it has cost them playoff berths.
6 – Jacksonville Jaguars (DOWN A LEVEL), Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – We discussed the Jaguars’ decline in Rise/Sink/Float. The Raiders are 7-8, but they have a chance to run the table in the AFC West with a win against the Chiefs this week. (The Chiefs have clinched all they can.) The Buccaneers romped over the Seahawks in the Battle of 1976 and still have playoff hopes against the Saints this week. It would be a big step up in class for them to take down a playoff team in the season finale.
5 – St. Louis Rams (UP A LEVEL) – The Rams took care of business against the 49ers to set up an NFC West showdown in Week 17 in Seattle. The Rams aren’t a perfect team, but they’re young and growing, and those are good traits. A few more pieces, and the Rams shouldn’t be struggling to get to 8 wins in 2011.
4 – Dallas Cowboys (DOWN A LEVEL), Detroit Lions (UP A LEVEL), Miami Dolphins (DOWN A LEVEL), Minnesota Vikings (UP A LEVEL), Washington Redskins – The Cowboys fell victim to a missed extra point, while the Dolphins fell victim to another home game. Both teams have talent but haven’t played to it. The Redskins got a road win in Jacksonville, and Rex Grossman established even more of a case to enter 2011 as a starter. (Redskins fans, start your shuddering now.) The Lions won their third straight and are building momentum toward a playoff push in 2011. The Vikings won on the road, getting a spark from rookie QB Joe Webb for an upset win. That win may be enough to cement Leslie Frazier’s job for 2011.
3 – Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals (UP A LEVEL), Cleveland Browns (DOWN A LEVEL), Denver Broncos (UP A LEVEL), Houston Texans (DOWN A LEVEL), San Francisco 49ers (DOWN A LEVEL), Seattle Seahawks (DOWN A LEVEL), Tennessee Titans (DOWN A LEVEL) – This is the vast expanse of mediocrity. Amazingly, the Seahawks are on this level yet still have a chance to make the playoffs if they beat the Rams. Some of these teams have shown sparks at times, and some (Denver and Cincinnati, especially) are showing spark right now. But none are good.
2 – Arizona Cardinals (UP A LEVEL) – We move the Cardinals up as a reward for their 27-26 win over the Cowboys on Christmas night. That Christmas present doesn’t change our long-term view of Arizona’s season.
1 – Carolina Panthers – Lost to the Steelers; now on the clock. (13 losses equals 13 words.)