Each week during the regular season, we compare all 32 teams using our Football Relativity tool. But now that the season has ended, we’re winnowing down our list of teams, this week going from the 12 playoff qualifiers to the eight quarterfinalists. You can see where teams fell on last week’s comparison here.
10 – New England Patriots – The Patriots still appear to be head and shoulders above the crowd, although a divisional-round game against a team that gave them one of their two 2010 losses is a bit troublesome. Still, New England is a much better team now in the post-Randy Moss era than it was back in Week 2 with Moss. That’s something the Jets couldn’t deal with in the team’s second meeting this year, and our sense is that the Patriots still have that edge.
9 – Atlanta Falcons, Pittsburgh Steelers – The Falcons and Steelers both come off their byes to tough matchups. The Falcons face the dangerous Packers, who took them down to a last-second field goal in the Georgia Dome back in Week 12. The Steelers face a Ravens team that always plays them close. Both games should be terrific contests, and home-field advantage should reassure the Falcons more than the Steelers.
8 – Baltimore Ravens – The Ravens fell behind early against the Chiefs, but once they started causing turnovers, they were able to pull away. Baltimore now faces a rematch against the Steelers in what is sure to be an incredibly physical game. The game will likely come down to the end, as the last four games between the teams have all been decided by a scant three points.
7 – Green Bay Packers (UP A LEVEL) – The Packers’ vaunted passing game once again showed up against the Eagles, but it was James Starks and the running game that provided the ultimate boost. Now the Packers go to Atlanta to visit the Falcons, who are a little less explosive than the Eagles but do provide a more physical challenge to the Green Bay D.
6 – Chicago Bears (DOWN A LEVEL), New York Jets (UP A LEVEL) – It’s not fair to move the Bears down a level after a weekend in which they didn’t play, but given the Packers’ newfound running game, we had to readjust the rankings. The Bears have a great opportunity before them with Seattle coming to town, but they must avoid mistakes and protect Jay Cutler much better than they did in an earlier loss to the Seahawks. The Jets move up not just because they beat the Colts but because of the way they did it – by controlling the ball for a long period of time with a resurgent running game. When the Jets run it well, they become a tough team to stop.
5 – none
4 – none
3 – none
2 – none
1 – Seattle Seahawks – Despite the Seahawks’ win, they remain far behind the pack among the eight playoff squads. Matt Hasselbeck’s first career four-TD game, along with Marshawn Lynch’s unbelievable TD run, are not necessarily repeatable performances. And the Seahawks’ defense gave up 36 points against the Saints, which is not a good sign. The Seahawks won in Chicago earlier this year, which was their best win and one of the Bears’ worst losses, so a repeat is possible. But Seattle would have to play above its heads again – and this time do it on the road – to get another win.