Heading into the Thanksgiving games, we’re looking back at the last six weeks on the NFL schedule to rank all 32 of the teams in the NFL in terms of momentum and strength of schedule and overall talent. If you disagree with any or all of the rankings, I’m all ears and mildly impressionable.
1 – Green Bay Packers (10-0)
This one’s the easiest ranking of the group. The undefeated reigning Super Bowl Champions are still atop the heap, and I dare anyone to justify otherwise.
2 – San Francisco 49ers (9-1)
They started this six-week span (in which they’re undefeated) with a win over the Detroit Lions. Following their bye week they’ve looked lackluster against mostly bad teams. A win in San Francisco against the Browns following the bye should’ve been by more than 10. The victory over the Redskins by 8 was only decent because it was held on the East Coast. The New York Giants are on this list, so the win over them is resume-worthy, but the Giants had to travel across the country to play the game, so factor that in the 49′ers favor and maybe they should’ve won by more than 7. A win at home against the Cardinals last week is worth mentioning, but not impressive in the slightest. San Fran is nowhere near worthy to take the top spot from the Packers.
3 – Houston Texans (7-3)
Currently on a four game win streak, the Texans only have one loss during this time frame, but what keeps them in this spot is the fact that all of those four wins have been by double-digit margins, and two of them were road games in which they defeated their opponents by 4 or more touchdowns.
4 – Pittsburgh Steelers (7-3)
The only loss the Steelers have in this time frame was to the same team Houston lost to, but Baltimore is a divisional opponent, and the Steelers lost to them at home. Equally as uninspired is the fact that they only beat Jacksonville by 4 and Arizona by 12. The wins over the Patriots and Bengals were good, but they don’t warrant jumping ahead of the Texans.
5 – Chicago Bears (7-3)
Undefeated in this span, the Bears quite possibly deserve to be higher, but they lack signature wins. Sure, they beat the Lions at home by 24, but that’s all I have to be impressed by in this span. Beating Minnesota by 29 in Chicago? Not impressive. The Vikings are a bad team. Tampa Bay and Philly by 6 points each? Decent, but not strong. Lastly, the Chargers aren’t a good team either, and so the 11 point win over them in Chicago isn’t a huge resume-boost either. Still, they’re in the top 5 ahead of some teams who would like to claim they shouldn’t be.
6 – New England Patriots (7-3)
The last two weeks have shown that Bill Belichick is getting his team back on track, with a 3 touchdown win over the Jets in New York and a 31 point shallacking of the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. Keeping things in perspective, neither of those teams are on this list, and the Chiefs game was in New England against a team who is trying to deal with their starting QB being lost to injury the week prior. They beat the Cowboys by 4 at the start of this six-week span, but after their bye week the following weekend, they lost two straight to the only two good teams on their schedule. The losses were by single digits, which weighs well in their favor, especially because they are good teams.
7 – Baltimore Ravens (7-3)
During this span the Ravens have beaten two teams higher than them on the list, but they also lost more games in this span than either of them, and the win in Pittsburgh was basically a push because it was only by 3 points. Losing to Jacksonville AND Seattle? I don’t care if the outcomes were only by 5 points and the game on the road, those are both bad losses. The win against the Bengals last week was a resume boost, but the win by ONLY 3 points while hosting Arizona in Week 8 is almost a loss in my book.
8 – Atlanta Falcons (6-4)
Sure, they’ve only got one loss during the six-week span, and that was a home game loss to a tough divisional opponent in the Saints by a mere 3 points, but nothing else other than a win in Detroit by 7 is exciting in the slightest. Beating Carolina, in Georgia, by 14? Nothing special. A win over the Colts by 24 in Indianapolis? Everyone is beating up on the Colts. Letting Tennessee come within a touchdown of beating you in Week 11 when the game is being played in Atlanta? That’s rough.
9 – Dallas Cowboys (6-4)
The Cowboys are tough to rank because even they don’t know what kind of team they are. Losing in New England to the Patriots by just 4? That’s almost a win in my book despite their short-comings in week 6. In fact, I give them more credit for that outcome than beating the Rams in Dallas by 27 the following week. I don’t fault the Cowboys for losing to the Eagles in Philly, but the week 8 loss was by 27 points – which you can’t do against a divisional opponent. Beating Seattle by 10? Eh, not so great, especially since the Seahawks were visiting. The win over Buffalo by 37 points was huge in week 10, but then to travel to Washington and face a Redskins team which is struggling mightily and have the game go to over-time and nearly lose the game when the ‘Skins’ kicker had the chance to score the winning points? That’s as bad as a loss on their resume, if you’re trying to decide where to rank teams amongst playoff elite squads.
10 – New Orleans Saints (7-3)
Just like the Cowboys, I’m seeing two losses during this span on the Saints resume. Their losses were both on the road, but the Bucs and the Rams aren’t nearly the caliber of opponent Dallas lost to, and New Orleans only has three wins during the span to off-set those losses. The Falcons are on this list (as you’ve seen), but the other two aren’t. Sure, beating the Colts by 55 is impressive… unless of course you look at that offensive exertion as potentially the reason they lost the following week to the Rams.
11 – Cincinnati Bengals (6-4)
The Bengals have two divisional losses in as many weeks leading into this list, but at least Cleveland wasn’t one of those teams. The margin in both contests saw them fall by just a touchdown, which is something that weighed nicely in their favor considering that those two opponents are both in the Top 10.
12 – New York Giants (6-4)
This is where the majority of the analysis comes in, because for the Giants to get in, the Lions at 7-3 didn’t make the list, nor did the Raiders at 6-4. Detroit misses the list because they’ve lost three of their last five games, and although all three of those teams are on this list, two of those games were contested at Ford Field. Oakland misses the list because they lost to two teams not on this list and then had victories over sub-par teams by 7 points or fewer each time. The Giants have lost their last two, but one of those was by 7 points in a game where they played a 1-loss 49′ers team in San Francisco. The loss in week 11 to the Eagles isn’t saying much, but it was only by 7 points and it was a divisional game. Because that was a home game for the Giants and because two of the three AFC East wins the Giants got in the past six weeks weren’t very impressive either. The third was against the Patriots in New England, which does speak well and is probably a deciding factor in narrowly putting them into this list above Oakland and the Jets.
13 – Detroit Lions (7-3)
All three of their losses have come during this six-week span, and while two of their losses were by narrow margins to top tier teams, the rest of the resume doesn’t look great. The Bears are a division opponent, and the week 10 game was in Chicago, but a 24 point loss? Not good. The other two games were wins, but beating Tim Tebow and the Broncos is not a huge boost to the resume. Neither is a 14 point win against the Panthers in Detroit… but the week 11 win might be a sign that the Lions are improving back to where they should be.
14 – Denver Broncos (5-5)
There are a few teams who either have better records than the Broncos or are on par, but the 4-1 record by Tebow and the Broncos over the past five weeks gives them good momentum. The fact that two of their wins include the Jets (5-5) and the Raiders (6-4) in Oakland speaks a lot.
15 – Oakland Raiders (6-4)
The Raiders are in a weird spot. They lost two of the five games during this span, one of which was a blow-out / shut-out combination, but this span also sees them switching from an injured Jason Campbell to Carson Palmer, who is new to the team and fresh out of retirement. Carson Palmer gets closer and closer to being back to form each week, and that’s factored in, as is their current two-game win streak.
16 – New York Jets (5-5)
Currently on a two-game losing streak, the Jets did win their first three in the six-week period. Wins over Miami, the Chargers and the Bills are not great boosts to the resume, nor is a loss to the Patriots by 21 points when the game was in New York.
17 – Philadelphia Eagles (4-6)
Three wins and two losses in the past six weeks has Philly looking up, especially because they don’t seem to have lost too much ground despite Mike Vick not getting to play against the Giants. Having their two losses each by a margin less than 7 points is good, though the week 10 loss to the Cardinals looks really rough on the resume.
18 – Tennessee Titans (5-5)
Two wins and three losses since their Week 6 bye is rough. Losing at home to the Texans by 34 was really bad, but since then they’ve recovered quite a bit. The 17 point win over the Colts was alright, but not as good in my book as the 7 point loss to the Bengals, or even the Week 11 loss to the Falcons. The win in Carolina by 27 is good, despite the fact that the Panthers aren’t a good team.
19 – Seattle Seahawks (4-6)
They lost three in a row after their week 6 bye, two on the road and one at home. The home loss was to a good Bengals team, but it was by 22 points. Since that losing streak, they’ve won two in a row, and although the week 11 win over the Rams in St Louis by 17 wasn’t great, I do like the week 10 win over the Ravens.
20 – Cleveland Browns (4-6)
Sure, they beat the Seahawks, but that was at home by just 3 points, so that’s basically a “push”.
21 – Miami Dolphins (3-7)
They’ve only got three wins, but they are on a three-game winning streak. As we move down the list, it’ll become apparent how that puts them into this spot.
22 – Buffalo Bills (5-5)
One win over the past six weeks, and that was against a very rough Redskins team following their bye week.
23 – Jacksonville Jaguars (3-7)
Two wins in the past six weeks, and one of them was against the lowly Colts.
24 – Kansas City Chiefs (4-6)
They’re currently on a three game losing streak, which includes a 7 point loss to the Broncos – a team they should’ve dominated with their pass defense – and losses by 28 and 31 to the Dolphins and Patriots respectively. They got a win back in week 7 when they shut out the Raiders and put up 28, but that was the first game after Jason Campbell went down.
25 – Arizona Cardinals (3-7)
Losses to the Steelers, a 3 point loss in Baltimore and a loss in San Francisco all look forgivable when seeing them on a team’s resume. They’ve got two wins in the six-week span, which is more than most of the teams at the end of this list can say.
26 – Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-6)
They haven’t won a game since they beat the Saints back in week 6, a victory by less than a touchdown in a home game against a divisional opponent. Houston, Chicago and the Packers are all good opponents, so losses to them don’t look horrible, but they’re still 1-4 since week 5.
27 – San Diego Chargers (4-6)
Five straight losses, and although the Packers and Bears are top-tier, the same can’t be said for the Jets, Chiefs and Raiders, each of whom defeated the Chargers in that span.
28 – St. Louis Rams (2-8)
The fact that both of the Rams’ wins came during the past six weeks doesn’t change the fact that they only have two wins total, and they lost to the Seahawks and Cardinals in two of their past three games. The win over the Browns in Week 10 looked pathetic because it was only by a 1 point margin.
29 – Minnesota Vikings (2-8)
One win in the past six weeks is about on par for what you’d expect from a 2 win team after 10 weeks. The 3 point margin over the lowly Carolina Panthers speaks only loud enough to keep them above the Panthers on the rankings.
30 – Carolina Panthers (2-8)
Their one win over the past six weeks is only good enough to keep them above the Washington Redskins, and that’s not saying much.
31 – Washington Redskins (3-7)
Not a single win over the past six weeks in a span which doesn’t include a bye week… which they already had prior to the span. They should’ve been ready for this part in their schedule.
32 – Indianapolis Colts (0-9)
Self explanatory, isn’t it?