After taking a week off from an extended work schedule, I return with the results of this week's statistical computation of how well all 32 NFL teams have done so far.
Remember, this is all mathematical—nothing subjective. If you don't like it, you can play around with statistical figures and come out with your own formula to put Team A over Team B.
32. Carolina Panthers
Basically, the only thing Carolina has to look forward to is the 2011 NFL Draft. And basically, it's offense. The 23 points they put up against the Browns last week was only the second time they hit the 20-point mark—and the other was their lone win. To say they've scored the least points in the league is one thing, but when you're almost 50 points behind the next rung up, that's just sad.
It's just a shame that they can't back up a defense that's not that bad.
31. Arizona Cardinals
Two years ago, Kurt Warner had this team in the Super Bowl. This year, Derek Anderson has them going nowhere. On both sides of the ball, this team is just futile. Only the Panthers have a worse point differential in the NFL. It was bad enough that they've allowed the second most points in the NFL, but the way Arizona's offense has been running, putting up 19 points in the last two games, they might be able to catch the Panthers for that first pick if they pick up two wins.
30. Detroit Lions
In previous rankings, I had them listed as a team that hung with the big boys but just didn't have enough to break through. Apparently, they never got that message, as the wheels have come off. After allowing the Bills their first win, they provided the Jason Garrett-led Cowboys and the Patriots good scrimmage practices, as neither game was as close is it seemed.
29. Cincinnati Bengals
Like the Lions, the Bengals seem to be also mailing it in, looking for that high draft pick to lure in a new coach with. Carson Palmer was keeping them in games, but Thanksgiving Day, he had his worst day in 2010.
28. Buffalo Bills
I knew this team was more "just bad" than legendarily pathetic. They were losing close games against good teams, and all they needed was a break. Since they finally beat the Lions, they have been continually staying on the field with good teams, but have now beaten teams of "their" level.
Every team they've lost to has a winning record. Every team they've beaten has a losing record. They have a great chance to prove themselves as scheduling victims against Brett Favre this week.
As with this ranking, they are simply the best of the worst.
27. Dallas Cowboys
My formula compiles the stats for the entire season. If I only did the last three weeks, the Cowboys would be much, much higher.
The Wade Phillips portion of this season should put them just in enough of a hole to give them a draft pick to become even more dangerous when all that talent Jerry Jones assembles gets coaching.
26. Seattle Seahawks
Yes. A first-place team ranks eighth-worst. That's how bad the NFC "Worst" is. For being one game under .500, having a minus-66 point differential isn't a sign you've been more good than lucky. Consider that they are 3-1 with a plus-38 point differential within the division, that leaves them with a 2-5 record and a minus-114 point differential outside the NFC Worst.
25. San Francisco 49ers
Yardage-wise, the 'Niners have out-gained their opponents for the season—although they needed help from the Cardinals on Monday night to do it. They have also outplayed their opponents on special teams and gotten penalized less than their opponents.
The problem is simply putting points on the board and allowing their opponents to score. Fix that, and they're that team we predicted to contend.
Note: The next three teams were bunched together closely in my points system. With finals scores in the hundreds of thousands, they finished within single thousands of each other.
23. Washington Redskins
I'm sure the offense isn't half bad—assuming they don't have to constantly play catch-up because of a defense that has allowed more yards than any other in the league.
22. Minnesota Vikings
Given that Brett Favre is old enough to remember it, maybe you could start singing with him:
"Turn out the liiiiights/ The parrty's overrrr/ Allll Good Thiings Must Ennnnnd"
While he has led the offense to more yards than the Bears, he has only managed to outscore the...Panthers?
There is no defense for an offense that shoots itself in the foot. Only scoring 17 points against the 'Skins with the weapons he has...(shakes head)
21. St. Louis Rams
When dealing with the NFC Worst, you have to look at things within the division and outside it.
Inside the division, they are 1-2 with a plus-10 point differential. Outside it, Seattle is 4-4 with a minus-28 point differential.
That's why they're better than Seattle.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
Again, as I said before, they are a beneficiary of scheduling. Record of teams they beat: 23-33. Record of teams they lost to: 32-23. And overall, they still have a minus-54 point differential for the season. Hardly first place.
19. Oakland Raiders
What happened? They were doing so well going into the bye week. I guess losing to the Steelers and Dolphins by a combined 68-20 will do that.
18. Houston Texans
I can see Jags fans now. "What? Hail Marys don't count?"
Well, the seemingly almighty point differential favors the Texans, as Houston is only minus-23. Then take the other measurement. Record of teams Houston has beat: 28-27. Record of teams they lost to: 37-29.
While they might have the worst passing defense in years, they still have Arian Foster and Andre Johnson to keep them in the game.
(I'd say they'd give them a "puncher's chance," but Johnson already covered that.)
17. Cleveland Browns
The problem with the Browns is that they play down to their competition. Fortunately, they couldn't play all the way down to the Panthers last week. Although they allowed Carolina their most points of the season, it had to come to John Kasay to deliver the ineptitude to finally show who wanted it less.
With the offense they have, they can do a great job of using Peyton Hillis to set up...well...Peyton Hillis.
16. Tennessee Titans
Please send Randy Moss to Carolina. I'm sure he really can't do any more damage there than he has in Nashville.
Houston Texans. Worst passing defense in years. Meets Randy Moss. Who gets three catches and 23 yards.
He can sing that song I suggested for Brett Favre as a duet if he's going to continue having that much impact.
15. Miami Dolphins
If not in the same division as the 9-2 Jets and the 9-2 Patriots, this would be a team to worry about. Especially when your QB gets a 100.3 rating against the second-best pass defense in the league.
One great stat about them? Fewest penalty yards in the NFL. Tony Sparano has them playing disciplined.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year, this team was amongst the worst. This year, with a 7-4 record through 12 weeks of the 2010 season, the Bucs seem to be a great turnaround story.
But they've had help, as their opponents collectively have the fourth-worst winning percentage (.438) in the NFL. Plus, they are the only seven-win team with a negative point differential. They have even been out-gained by opposing offenses by a collective 209 yards.
Want more proof? The teams they've beaten have a record of 20-57. The four teams they've lost to have a combined record of 33-11.
This week, they take on the 9-2 Falcons. Since I already did the math, you can figure what I expect from them.
13. Indianapolis Colts
6-5? Peyton Manning? Well, after a decade of double-digit win seasons, it seems to be about time the Colts lay a "stinker" on their fans.
While the last two weeks have been tough against their Two-headed Kryptonite Monster (New England and San Diego), there are more holes in Manning's cape than usual. A 22/11 TD-to-INT ratio just isn't what we're used to. Not bad, but good enough for, well, a 6-5 record.
12. Kansas City Chiefs
I want to say that the Chiefs are another beneficiary of their schedule, as their combined opponents' record is 49-72, tied for the worst in the NFL, along with the Bears.
But I can't. Just as they've had quality wins—against the now-6-5 Chargers and the now-6-5 Jaguars, they also have a narrow wins against the 2-9 Bills and 4-7 Browns. Throw in losing to the 3-8 Broncos by 20, and what you have here is basically a team that is finding itself.
Yardage-wise they have a cumulative 350-yard advantage over their opponents. They have a plus-54 point differential. While the Bucs have skated past bad teams and been exposed by better teams, Kansas City has played well against all their opponents despite all of them have a worse record than them.
11. Chicago Bears
Speaking of the Bears, they have also benefited from a schedule of teams that haven't done well. But last week, their defense, which has allowed the second-fewest points in the NFL, took it to Michael Vick and grounded him and the Eagles.
Riding a four-game winning streak, the Bears offense, under Mad Genius Mike Martz, has been putting it together, averaging 24 points a game, which is more than enough to cover what Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers and the defense will allow.
10. San Diego Chargers
If it's December, the Chargers must start winning. If they hadn't turned the ball over so much, they would've been one of the elite teams in the league this season. No offense has gained more yards. No defense has given up fewer.
If they continue like this, this is NOT the team you want to face in the postseason.
9. New Orleans Saints
If Drew Brees didn't throw two pick-sixes to Browns defensive lineman Bruce Bowens, they would be another 9-2 team. They rank second to the Chargers in offensive yardage and seventh in yards allowed.
Super Bowl hangover aside, they are still poised to join the league's elite once again.
8. New York Giants
A couple weeks ago, we were talking of an all-New York Super Bowl. Now we're wondering if the Giants will even make it to the postseason.
With the Redskins and Vikings coming up, they have a chance to prove that they are ready for a rematch with the Eagles and the Packers. One will likely decide the NFC East, the other will likely decide if the Giants can make at least a wild card.
7. Green Bay Packers
The Pack has allowed the fewest points in the NFL, and Aaron Rodgers has the offense running smoothly.
Consider this. All four of their losses have been by three points, against teams with a 28-16 record.
6. Philadelphia Eagles
So Michael Vick is human...but it takes the Bears to show it.
While the Eagles have the second-best overall offense in the NFL and are tied for second-most points in the NFL, they are also the second-most penalized team in the NFL.
However, no team with seven or more wins has given up as many points, besides the Patriots.
5. Baltimore Ravens
Average margin of defeat: 4.3 points. And two of them were to the Patriots and Falcons.
Average margin of victory: 9.4 points. And two of them were over the Jets and Steelers.
Notice I haven't mentioned those four teams yet?
4. Pittsburgh Steelers
Basically, two games put the Steelers this high—their wins over the Buccaneers and the Raiders. Without those two games, their average margin of victory in their wins falls from 12.4 points to seven. Those two games also accounted for 28 percent of their point output.
However, they have won, despite penalties/rule "changes," and difficulties with their offensive line.
For once, all the best records are together at the top.
3. New York Jets
Basically, what I see with the Jets is the same with the Steelers, only better.
The Steelers have four wins of eight points or more. The Jets have five. The Steelers have the third-best point differential. The Jets are second. The offense has gained 299 more yards than Pittsburgh, the defense has allowed 84 fewer yards. Lastly, the Jets are one game ahead in the all-important W-L stat.
2. Atlanta Falcons
Against the Packers, the Falcons have done what they do: take on good teams at home and narrowly beat them.
In their last three home games, they beat the Ravens, Buccaneers and Packers by a combined 14 points. Since both their losses were to the Steelers and Eagles on visiting turf, it's likely a shame for your team that they will likely enjoy home-field advantage this postseason.
1. New England Patriots
Consider that if you score 24 points, you have a great chance to win. In 176 games this season, 133 teams scored that much, and only 29 ended up on the losing end.
The Pats lead the NFL in points scored—by 24 points.
And when you score like that, you're the best.
Note: Now, four of my top five are playing each other this week: Steelers-Ravens and Jets-Patriots. It'll likely change.