32.) Oakland Raiders (0-6 = 92-158)
They weren't utterly dominated against a good team, which is nice. They're definitely better than an 0-6 team, but then against most teams in the NFL are better than 0-6. The Raiders alternate good offensive and good defensive performances. Sooner or later, they'll get six of one and half-dozen of the other and win a game.
31.) Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5 = 120-204)
The Buccaneers went on a bye and somehow picked up a game and now are just two games back in the division. They have no real shot, but in any other division they would have LITERALLY no shot. That is how bad the NFC South is. Still, this team has been pathetic and hasn't even played many NFC South games yet.
30.) Tennessee Titans (2-5 = 121-172)
The Titans will play like 10 games this season that will be some variation of what they've done the last two weeks. One was a close win where neither team played well in their game against the Jags winning 16-14. The other was a close loss where neither team played well in their game against the Redskins losing 17-19. They'll probably play a 17-13 game at some point, than a 19-14 game, and a 20-17 game (which is probably too conventional a score for them).
29.) Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6 = 105-191)
Big win for the Jags. Somehow, despite winning by 18, this team is still getting outscored more than a team that has lost games 56-14 and 48-17. I'm not sure how that is possible. Blake Bortles alternates good and bad drives, but what I'll say is he has the pocket presence, at least for a rookie, that Blaine Gabbert never came close to having, and he gets past the picks rather quickly.
28.) Washington Redskins (2-5 = 120-160)
Colt McCoy is to Kirk Cousins what Kirk Cousins was to RGIII. He's a guy that will play well in a spot relief game, but then start looking horrendous in a week or two when people get film and he gets some real action. Let's just remember that three weeks ago people were saying that Kirk Cousins was going to unseat RGIII? That was a fun little period.
27.) Atlanta Falcons (2-5 = 171-199)
No team has fallen further than the Falcons. Four straight losses following that 56-14 demolition. I guess we realized that even bad teams can be awfully dominant against even worse teams on short weeks. The Falcons will likely win a few games, but their o-line injuries are mounting at a hilarious rate right now. Jake Matthews could be the best lineman by default.
26.) Minnesota Vikings (2-5 = 120-160)
For the second straight game, Teddy Bridgewater was a marginal player. For the second straight week, the Vikings defense gave up just 17 points. Of course, they were very different games. The first was a game the Vikings had no real chance in and stayed close because the Lions offense is pretty middling right about now. The second is a game the Vikings should have won if they stopped a 4th and 20.
25.) New York Jets (1-6 = 121-185)
Really rough loss for the Jets there. They played well; a really committed game on offense. They controlled the line of scrimmage. I was surprised at the lack of consistent pressure they got on Brady, but they flooded the zones like they usually do against Tom Terrific. Still, that 3rd and 19 was the real killer, not the blocked field goal. How can you go single high on 3rd and effing 19!
24.) Houston Texans (3-4 = 155-150)
Well, looks like when you take an aging player that was barely above average three years ago and try to let him lead your offense that doesn’t have a great o-line and has a, sadly, aging WR, you don’t get good results. JJ Watt may be amazing, and they may get Jadeveon back soon, but they’re already two games back in the division. That de-escalated quickly.
23.) St. Louis Rams (2-4 = 129-176)
As I said a week ago, you have to be somewhat good to outscore the Cowboys 21-0, the Eagles 28-6, the 49ers 14-0 and now the Seahawks 21-3. Yes, they've also been outscored by loads in those games, but bad teams don't have those runs. I hope they keep Fisher even if they go 6-10, because given the youth still on this team everywhere, they still have a bright, bright future.
22.) Cleveland Browns (3-3 = 140-139)
Well, now we get to return to regularly scheduled Browns programming. They suck again! That was one of the most hideous performances I have ever seen by a QB against a mediocre defense. How in lords name has this team managed to go from winning by 21 and then losing by 18? They say they are going to stick by Brian Hoyer, but I have to imagine even one half more of those performances (especially against Oakland), and we may see Johnny Manziel.
21.) New Orleans Saints (2-4 = 155-165)
Yes, they probably had their best game of the season in barely losing (and probably should be beating) to the Lions in Detroit, but very quietly the Saints are on pace for barely 400 points cored (which would be their lowest since a strange 2010 season), Drew Brees has a 11-7 ratio, and has quietly been worse than Tom Brady, and also aging, with no ‘Is Drew Brees done?’ columns to be found. They are less quietly 0-4 on the road, and not quietly at all horrible on defense.
20.) New York Giants (3-4 = 154-169)
The Giants played pretty well and still lost by 10. They had a 7-point lead, but then decided that 3rd down on defense no longer existed. I’ve seen Romo do that to teams before (go wild on 3rd and long), but never with that regularity. I have been severely disappointed by the Giants secondary this year. Losing Thurmond hurt, but guys like DRC have been doing nothing so far.
19.) Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3 = 154-162)
The Steelers needed that win. I still don’t think they are a very good team, and are likely battling for last place in that division (they’ll end up higher just because Ben > Hoyer/Manziel), but that was a big win for them. Obviously, turning a 0-13 game into 24-13 in three minutes is a little flukey, but anytime the Steelers force turnovers is a cause for celebration.
18.) Chicago Bears (3-4 = 157-171)
The Bears are so up and down. Figures for a team that employs Jay Cutler. Unsurprisingly, the team has become worse when he’s had to do more. From 2010-2012, with Cutler starting, the Bears went 29-14. Cutler was nowhere near as voluminous in those years, but he played more controlled. The defense is a weir combination of sometimes good pass rush and no coverage whatsoever, a combination that will likely be exploited to the high heavens by New England next week.
17.) Carolina Panthers (3-3-1 = 158-195)
The mediocre of the NFL is really mediocre that a team that has lost convincingly in three games is ranked barely below average. Now, that might be more faith in Ron Rivera and Cam Newton than anything else, but getting blown out by Baltimore and Green Bay isn’t too surprising given how good those teams are. They really have to do something about that defense though. It is amazing that the Ravens have become better sans-Ray Rice and the Panthers have become far worse sans-Greg Hardy.
16.) Miami Dolphins (3-3 = 147-138)
If they don’t blow that Packers game in epic fashion, they are 4-2 and half a game behind New England with a head-to-head win and an easier schedule going forward. Instead, they are lagging behind the Wild Card race and half-a-game behind Buffalo for 2nd place with a head-to-head loss. One game can mean SO MUCH even this early in the year.
15.) Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1 = 134-140)
Do you know who the Bengals remind me of? The 2012 Texans. That team started 11-1, and went to New England to play a MNF game. They were routed (14-42), and cratered, following up a 2-3 finish to that season with a 2-14 season in 2013. I doubt the Bengals follow through, but their nose-dive causing loss to New England happened a whole lot earlier.
14.) Buffalo Bills (4-3 = 135-142)
They should be 2-5. They had no business beating the Lions or Vikings, yet here we are. They are a game behind New England. Now, they already lost to the Pats at home and have no real shot at the division, but when you break down the AFC, that #6 seed is wide open. They really have as good of a chance as anyone.
13.) Kansas City Chiefs (3-3 = 142-121)
Well.. they probably have a better chance than the Bills. The Chiefs are just really well coached. I realize it is easy to hate on Andy Reid the game manager, but Andy Reid the game-planner is pretty damn flawless. I actually think their defense is better this time around than last year, or at least more sustainable. They’ll stay in this as long as they stay reasonably healthy.
12.) San Francisco 49ers (4-3 = 158-165)
With the great starts by at least two teams in the NFC North and East, there is a legitimate chance that both the 49ers and Seahawks miss the playoffs. That said, given who is coming back reasonably soon for the 49ers, they may get better. Still, some areas won’t get better. The secondary wasn’t great even when they were healthy. The o-line has issues. Kaep has issues. There is a more-than-50% chance they miss the playoffs.
11.) Philadelphia Eagles (5-1 = 183-132)
There are just a lot of good teams this year (and a defending Champion who has three losses) so I have to push the Eagles back. This is a team that needed special teams TDs to win games, and their only good win needed insane referee luck to actually win (the Colts game). Their schedule gets MUCH tougher going forward, starting from this very week and a trip to Arizona.
10.) New England Patriots (5-2 = 187-154)
In past years, I would have been upset that the Pats won another bullshit game, but I’ll give them credit. They are 5-2 once again. Sure, they have a hellacious six-game stretch coming up (five of their opponents are ranked higher than them on this list) that I would be surprised if they do better than 3-3 against. Brady may be back, but I still don’t think the team fully is.
9.) Seattle Seahawks (3-3 = 159-141)
Something’s wrong with that team. They’re really not doing anything that well right now outside of Russell Wilson scrambling. Wilson isn’t passing effectively. Lynch has been very spotty. The defense is still very good against the run (I guess I was wrong in saying they aren’t doing anything well), but the pass defense has regressed. They are getting no pressure, and outside of the two superstars, the secondary is average.
8.) San Diego Chargers (5-2 = 184-114)
Not a huge surprise to lose a toss-up game to a division rival that was a tad more desperate, but if the Chargers want to win that division, they can’t drop games to teams that aren’t as good. Philip Rivers looked human for the first time since Week 1, and the defense didn’t play all that well. Still, they made that game really close despite playing poorly, which is the sign of a good team.
7.) Arizona Cardinals (5-1 = 140-119)
No real idea why I’m dropping them since the return of Carson Palmer helped that offense play solid for the first time in a while. The defense is still humming along at a very good level despite missing so many players. They have a two game lead on the rest of the division, which given how strong the NFC West has been, is a little ridiculous and a lot unexpected. Not sure if they can hold up, but if they can go even 1-2 in the three games left against SF and Seattle, they should be fine.
6.) Dallas Cowboys (6-1 = 196-147)
Not sure why I’m dropping them, as that win really showed why Dallas is a good team right now. They didn’t play great, and still won by 10 points against a division rival. Romo was brilliant, I’m just going to say it. They have to stop running Murray 40 times a game at some point. That is probably the biggest concern; that or the clock hitting midnight on that defense.
5.) Green Bay Packers (5-2 = 199-147)
When the Packers are on, they look downright terrifying. Issue with them is that they are too often not on at that level. Their defense especially alternates between amazing and awful. And of course they really should have lost to Miami. Still, the Packers are very good, and Aaron Rodgers is the Mario Liemieux of the NFL, a guy who just won’t have enough games to have volume stats that are among the best all-time.
4.) Detroit Lions (5-2 = 140-105)
I’m keeping the Lions here because that offense will soon be made whole with Calvin returning. They managed to tread water with Calvin out, and I’m hoping that he can solve a lot of what is ailing the Lions offense right now. What is not ailing the Lions is that defense, which continues to be fantastic. Brees had a very good start, but finished the game 3-14 and a sack. They can clamp down better than anyone.
3.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2 = 193-104)
They remind me of a more explosive version of the 2009 Ravens, a team that went just 9-7 but won a handful of ultra-blowouts and had a really good point differential. The Ravens probably go better than 12-4, but I don’t know if they can beat the two teams above them come playoff time.
2.) Indianapolis Colts (5-2 = 216-136)
They are absolutely for real. First, their two losses were one-score games against two teams that are a combined 10-2. They have won five straight games by the average score of 33-15. Andrew Luck is on pace to throw for all of the yards. They have run 150 more plays than their opponents (not a lie). They have finally decided to be what they always should have been, a high-volume passing team.
1.) Denver Broncos (5-1 = 189-121)
I realize the 49ers were playing at half mast with a spate of injuries, but that was an incredibly scary 45 minutes of football to take the 42-10 lead. The best drive may have been the one after they made it 35-10. They took the ball back, ran all the time down the 49ers throat, and made it 42-10. Manning is actually on pace to basically have Brady’s 2007 season (project Manning’s season out to 16 games and it is scarily similar), and Ware and Miller have combined for 15 sacks. Everything is going well.
1.) Denver Broncos = 14-2
2.) Indianapolis Colts = 13-3
3.) Baltimore Ravens = 11-5
4.) New England Patriots = 10-6
5.) San Diego Chargers = 11-5
6.) Buffalo Bills = 10-6
1.) Detroit Lions = 12-4
2.) Dallas Cowboys = 12-4
3.) Arizona Cardinals = 11-5
4.) Carolina Panthers = 9-6-1
5.) Green Bay Packers = 11-5
6.) Seattle Seahawks = 10-6
Looking Ahead to Next Week's Games
Byes: New York Giants (3-4), San Francisco 49ers (4-3)
Did the NFL schedule basically back-load all of the byes? This is the fourth straight week with just two teams on the bye. We will have finished eight weeks with just 12 teams finishing their bye.
15.) Oakland Raiders (0-6) @ Cleveland Browns (3-3) (1:00 - CBS)
14.) Houston Texans (3-4) @ Tennessee Titans (2-5) (1:00 - FOX)
13.) Minnesota Vikings (2-5) @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-5) (1:00 - FOX)
12.) Miami Dolphins (3-3) @ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-6) (1:00 - CBS)
I call it “Reasons why you don’t need Sunday Ticket” Sunday, as these three games pit no teams above .500, and three of the most depressing situations in the NFL currently (Oakland, Tennessee, and Tampa). If the Browns start slow in this one Manziel might play – though Pettine seems very content never playing him. The Texans can somehow get to 4-4 despite playing badly for a solid month, and if the other results go their way, the Buccaneers can be just a game and a half back at the end of the day. Then, we get a classic Florida battle.
11.) Buffalo Bills (4-3) @ New York Jets (1-6) (1:00 - CBS)
10.) Washington Redskins (2-5) @ Dallas Cowboys (6-1) (MNF - ESPN)
9.) Baltimore Ravens (5-2) @ Cincinnati Bengals (3-2-1) (1:00 - CBS)
I call it “Some division games are fun… and some are terrible” Sunday and Monday, as we get four division games that pit together a whole range of teams. The Jets stink, but we get to see how they (mis)use Percy Harvin in this one. The Bills can also get to 5-3 in the game with a win, their best record through 8 games in decades. The Redskins get a chance to spoil the Cowboys parade – and be honest, this is the perfect place for the Cowboys Cinderella run to end. Finally, the Ravens get to put some distance between them and the Bengals in the AFC North and send the Bengals crashing back to .500 after their dominant 3-0 start.
8.) Detroit Lions (5-2) @ Atlanta Falcons (2-5) (9:30 - FOX)
7.) Chicago Bears (3-4) @ New England Patriots (5-2) (1:00 - FOX)
I call it “Both Games could suck, but I think one will be close” Sunday, as we first go to London for an early morning matinee. I don’t think I like the 9:30 game (I probably have a low chance of watching any of it). I think instead of doing the Super Early game, they should continue 2013’s tradition of the Super Late game (the 11:00 PM EST game they played last year). For the Bears, the Patriots are the better version of Miami, so that can spell trouble. The Dolphins do have a better defense though, so it may be a mini-shootout.
6.) St. Louis Rams (2-4) @ Kansas City Chiefs (3-3) (1:00 - FOX)
5.) Seattle Seahawks (3-3) @ Carolina Panthers (3-3-1) (1:00 - CBS)
4.) Indianapolis Colts (5-2) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (4-3) (4:25 - CBS)
I call it “Three Games I like for no real reason” Sunday, as we get first the battle of Missouri. Had the Cardinals beaten the Giants in the NLCS, we could have had this in the morning and then a KC vs. STL game in the evening. The Seahawks try to avoid a three-game losing streak against a team that is the opposite of streaky. The Colts get a chance to further their win streak. This is the type of game for them that the real #2 team in the NFL needs to win – a road game against a slightly above average opponent that is in more desperate position.
3.) Philadelphia Eagles (5-1) @ Arizona Cardinals (5-1) (4:05 - NBC)
2.) San Diego Chargers (5-2) @ Denver Broncos (5-1) (TNF - CBS)
I call it “Fives are Wild” Thursday and Sunday, as we get four of the 5-win teams playing against each other. The Eagles get their first real test since Week 2 (not counting the game they lost) in a trip to Arizona, who also gets their first real test since Week 3 (not counting the game they lost). I have no idea what to expect there. The Chargers come in off of a disappointing loss, which may actually help them in this spot. The Broncos are playing rather juggernaut-ish right about now, though.
1.) Green Bay Packers (5-2) @ New Orleans Saints (2-4) (SNF - NBC)
I call it “The Saints can’t be 2-5, can they?” Sunday, as the Saints look to avoid their first 2-5 start in the Payton/Brees era. Even in the Bountygate year, the Saints didn’t start 2-5 (and they did start 0-4). The Saints haven’t lost a road game yet, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t come close. The Packers take their game on the road to perfect conditions, and I can already see Rodgers shredding Rob Ryan’s stupid blitzes, but you never know.