These rankings are based on how good the team is right now, so teams that were good but lost key players won’t get credit for those wins.
1: Kansas City Chiefs (Last week: 1)
Usually a blowout win against a team with a winning record is good justification for a high ranking, but we all know the Raiders aren’t actually all that good.
This week against the Patriots will be much more telling. The Texans just crushed them, so the Chiefs should be able to go into Foxborough and get a win.
The question is if Mahomes will continue the pattern of struggling in the 1st half against the Patriots. If he comes out firing the Chiefs should be able to win pretty easily.
The other question is if Brady is indeed getting old and declining. They’ve had a very easily schedule but when forced to play quality opponents Brady has struggled. If our defense is as good as they think they are they should also be able to keep him under 25 points.
2: San Francisco 49ers (Last week: 2)
3: New Orleans Saints (Last week: 4)
4: Green Bay Packers (Last week: 5)
5: New England Patriots (Last week: 3)
If I’m a 49ers fan I’m feeling pretty good about playing the Ravens again if it’s the Super Bowl matchup like everybody’s saying it is. Despite the loss, the 49ers were in a difficult spot because of the early start time (noon games Arrowhead time are 10 am for teams from the West Coast, which means they have to get up earlier than normal) and the bad weather (which obviously doesn’t have as much of an impact on a run-first team like the Ravens).
Despite these two situations working against them the game was still tied late with a chance for them to win. On a neutral field, at night, with the weather in Miami unlikely to be rainy and windy, the 49ers will be in a much better position.
Of course that’s assuming that matchup happens.
On the other hand this has been my first opportunity to watch the 49ers in a while, and I was unimpressed by Garoppolo. Yes the Ravens have a good defense, and they were facing those tough situations, but one of the most important skills for a QB to have is the ability to feel pressure and avoid it while keeping their eyes downfield.
Garoppolo seems to have a bad case of Alex Smith syndrome. If his initial read isn’t open he brings his eyes down and tries to run for it. This is obviously not good, and is absolutely killer if the other team is able to cover well.
It makes me hesitant to rank them #2, but the other teams are also flawed, so they stay there for now.
6: Baltimore Ravens (Last week: 6)
On the the other side of that game is the Ravens, who did get a big win against a very good opponent, but barely managed to score 20 points. Jackson had a hard time making the 49ers pay when they only rushed 4 and kept him in the pocket.
But lost in the Jackson hype is just how well the Ravens’ defense is playing. Outside the 73 combined point they allowed to the Browns and Chiefs, they haven’t allowed more than 23 points in a game this season.
This team reminds me of the 2012 49ers, who rode a mobile QB and a strong defense to a NFC Championship. That example is also why I’m a bit cautious about jumping on the Ravens bandwagon. While the 49ers were elite again in 2013, the NFL did eventually figure Kaepernick out and they declined quickly after that.
7: Seattle Seahawks (Last week: 7)
Be careful of getting too hyped about the Seahawks (he says as he ranks them #7). They have a very impressive 10-2 record, but they’re not as good as that record indicates.
Analytics has shown that point differential is a better predictor of future results than win-loss record. This has been proven many times, and is even proven in all sports.
It makes sense when you think about it. Every game has a bit of skill and a bit of randomness, but games determined by large margins have less luck contributing to that result while close games have more luck contributing to the result. In a close game one play could make the difference between losing and winning.
By extension a team’s record in games decided by 9+ points is going to be very indicative of how good they are (good teams will rarely lose by large margins) while their record in close games can indicate that they’re better or worse than their record.
Take the Chiefs for an example. We are 4-0 in games determined by 9+ points, and 4-4 in games determined by one score. This indicates that we might have been a bit unlucky in close games, but overall that’s about what you’d expect of a good team.
The Seahawks are 1-1 in games decided by 9+ points, but 9-1 in games decided by a single score. That’s a strong indicator that they’ve been very lucky, and are more like a 7-5 team (if they instead went 6-4 in those close games).
8: Houston Texans (Last week: 16)
9: Minnesota Vikings (Last week: 13)
10: Tennessee Titans (Last week: 19)
11: Los Angeles Rams (Last week: 10)
12: Dallas Cowboys (Last week: 8)
13: Carolina Panthers (Last week: 9)
14: Buffalo Bills (Last week: 11)
15: Philadelphia Eagles (Last week: 12)
16: Chicago Bears (Last week: 14)
17: Indianapolis Colts (Last week: 15)
18: Jacksonville Jaguars (Last week: 17)
The Jaguars may have lost to bring their record to 4-8, but Foles has been absolutely awful and forced them to make the decision they should have made all along. With Minshew back they should be decent (he was 4-4 as a starter after all).
But the Jaguars deserve some discussion.
Firstly, they should have never gone back to Foles, even though his bad performance was unexpected. The NFL is structured to reward teams who take risks on young quarterbacks and punish those who go with mediocre veterans.
A good young quarterback is cheap, which allows you to surround them with talent and increase your odds of success. A bad young quarterback will tank your team, which increases your draft stock and allows you to more easily draft their replacement.
A mediocre veteran costs a lot of money, which limits how much talent you can surround them with, and their mediocre consistency prevents you from both seriously competing for a Super Bowl and from getting high draft picks that you can use to get a better and cheaper one.
But this brings us to our second topic. Now that they seem to be committed to Minshew, what should they do with Foles? They can’t cut him, since that would actually increase his cap hit by $12 million. The only option is a trade (which saves them $3 million, and more importantly clears his contract after 2020), which will likely mean giving up some draft picks.
But it takes two to tango, and what team would want to take on his cap hit? The team that trades for him actually won’t have too bad of a deal. They’ll be on the hook for $15 million in 2020, but after that they can cut him with no dead money.
I believe the Dolphins would be the best fit. For one, they’ll have $101 million in cap space, the 2nd most in the NFL. They likely wouldn’t mind trading cap space for draft picks.
They are also likely going to draft a new quarterback, and NFL teams love spending high draft picks on promising quarterbacks to then force them to sit behind some crappy veteran they found in the NFL scrap heap, only to then be forced to play the rookie a couple games into the season as their crappy veteran surprisingly turns out to not be very good.
Foles would be perfect for this role, with his small cap hit of $15 million (which would likely make him the cheapest starter not on a rookie deal) and having no dead cap after 2020.
19: Detroit Lions (Last week: 18)
20: Pittsburgh Steelers (Last week: 22)
21: Oakland Raiders (Last week: 23)
22: Los Angeles Chargers (Last week: 24)
23: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Last week: 25)
24: Cleveland Browns (Last week: 20)
I’m dropping the Browns not because of their loss to the Steelers, but because of Baker Mayfield’s injury. He’s not going to miss any time, but everything I’ve seen indicates that he’s not at 100%. Considering how tenuous their grasp on competence already was this may be the final nail in the coffin that causes them to collapse.
25: Arizona Cardinals (Last week: 26)
26: Atlanta Falcons (Last week: 27)
27: New York Jets (Last week: 21)
28: Denver Broncos (Last week: 28)
29: New York Giants (Last week: 29)
30: Washington Redskins (Last week: 30)
31: Cincinnati Bengals (Last week: 31)
32: Miami Dolphins (Last week: 32)
Should Brian Flores be in the Coach of the Year conversation? The Dolphins may have the least talented team in NFL history, but Flores has gotten them 3 wins despite it.
It’s ironic really. He made his job in the future much harder by doing his job too well now.