In my Week 13 NFL Rankings, I received an anonymous comment:
These rankings are laughable. 49ers and Browns average with the Jets? Buccaneers better than the Bills? Do you watch football?
Legitimate questions (except for the "do you watch football?", but I will let that one slide).
So how can the 5-7 49ers and the 4-9 Browns be ranked alongside the 7-5 Jets? Quite simply, who have the Jets beaten? Tennessee (5-7), Buffalo (5-7), Miami (5-7), Detroit (2-10), New England (9-3), Houston (4-8), and Green Bay (4-8). Except for New England, that is a lot of mediocre competition. It should also be noted that the Jets lost to New England the first time they played this year, so it is actually a split series.
Who have the Browns beaten? Oakland (2-10), N.Y. Jets (7-5), Atlanta (6-6), and Kansas City (7-5). When you consider the worst team Cleveland lost to was the Steelers (6-7), and the worst team the Jets lost to was Cleveland (4-8), then they deserve to be ranked closely, at least on paper. With the Browns win over the Jets, that puts them at least one slot above the Jets.
Who have the 49ers beaten? St. Louis (5-7), Oakland (2-10), Minnesota (5-7), Detroit (2-10), and Seattle (8-4). While the 49ers are comparable to the Jets, I must confess that ranking them ahead of the Jets was a subjective move on my part based on what I have seen of both of them this year. The Jets strike me as a team with a mixture of aging (read: over-the-hill) talent and young talent. The 49ers are almost ALL young talent. The difference is the 49ers have the more talented young players. When the 49ers click on all cylinders, they rock. When the Jets click on all cylinders, they get it done.
Within the specific groupings (Elite, Good, Average, and Bad), I confess there is a certain amount of subjectivity, although I do try to use as much objective criteria as possible. However, between the groupings, I try to keep it on an objective level.
With that in mind, let us look at the Bucs (3-9) and the Bills (5-7). The Bucs have beaten Cincinnati (7-5), Philadelphia (6-6), and Washington (4-8). The Bills have beaten Miami (5-7), Minnesota (5-7), Green Bay (4-8), Houston (4-8), and Jacksonville (7-5). The rankings of both these teams come down to the best teams both have beaten: Cincinnati and Jacksonville.
The Bengals are a good team getting better as the season has progressed. Their victory over the Ravens (9-3) showed they are for real. On the other hand, the Jags are floundering. The best team they beat was the Drew Bledsoe-led Cowboys (8-4), and that was the first game of the year. I think it is safe to say the Jags would lose to the Romo-led Cowboys.
Would the Bucs beat the Bengals if they played again? I would say no, but I also would not have expected them to beat the Bengals the last time.
Another thing to consider between the Bucs and the Bills is to whom they both have lost. For the Bucs, the list is impressive: Baltimore (9-3), Atlanta (6-6), Carolina-twice (6-6), New Orleans-twice (8-4), N.Y. Giants (6-6), Dallas (with Romo, 8-4), and Pittsburgh (6-7). As for the Bills: New England-twice (9-3), N.Y. Jets (7-5), Chicago (10-2), Detroit (2-10), Indianapolis (10-2), and San Diego (10-2). While they both have had tough schedules, the killer for Buffalo was the Detroit loss. How can you take any team seriously when they lose to 2-win Detroit?
I stand firmly behind my ranking of Tampa Bay above Buffalo. However, I will grant you that I might have been a bit harsh putting the Jets below the 49ers, but not the Browns. Regardless, all three teams are merely "average" teams, and I stand firmly behind that categorization.