If you’re unfamiliar with my process, you can read about it here.
It’s been four weeks since my last Performance Ratings and it’s time for an update. It’s been a wild NFL season, and although my NFL Picks have been less than stellar this season, I’m still watching every snap of every game and grading teams’ performances. So hopefully these Ratings provide some value.
First, let’s talk about the big movers since my last installment in Week 8:
New England Patriots (17th to 7th)
I am a big believer that situation and coaching play a massive role in every young quarterback’s development. This season does not prove that Mac Jones was a better prospect than the other first round quarterbacks, but he is certainly playing like it. His progression has been steady, bolstered by a run game and defense. In fact, the real key to the Patriots’ rapid rise in performance has been on the defensive side of the ball. They have not put the rookie in any bad situations for the last four weeks thanks to a stifling defense. But their schedule is about to get a lot tougher.
Indianapolis Colts (18th to 11th)
In the offseason I projected the Colts to win the division for two primary reasons: their offensive line and run game would put Wentz in favorable situations and the Titans were too thin to withstand injuries. Early in the season the Titans were healthy and the Colts were not. Now the tables have turned, and it is finally playing out how I anticipated. The question is whether it’s too late. But this Colts team has put on a clinic with an elite offensive line and excellent play-calling from Frank Reich. Jonathan Taylor has obviously put in the work to improve his vision and decisiveness since early in his rookie season and Wentz (mostly) is playing under control. If not for their early season struggles, the Colts would be considered one of the favorites in the AFC.
Cincinnati Bengals (23rd to 16th)
This one may seem odd because the Bengals started the season 5-2 and are 2-2 since. But my Ratings are not based on results; they are based on true performance. Outside of a truly bad game against the Jets, this Bengals team is playing much better than it did early in the season. Even when the Browns beat them, a lot of high-variance plays went against them. And they are coming off a strong win against Pittsburgh in which they steamrolled them from start to finish. This is a new Bengals identity and they should be considered a true playoff contender if they can stay healthy.
Washington Football Team (26th to 19th)
Washington’s improvement has been twofold. On offense, Heinicke has calmed down, limited mistakes, and is seeing the field more clearly. On defense, Washington has upped the pressure on quarterbacks, leading to more stops, particularly on third down. These two elements are complimentary and have worked wonders in Washington’s turnaround. They are now a team that can grind it out, capitalize on mistakes, and win. With five divisional games remaining, they have not given up on the division title.
Pittsburgh Steelers (12th to 23rd)
Early in the season the Steelers were masking offensive issues by playing sound defense and hitting on enough deep balls (if you include defensive pass interference calls) to stay in games on the strength of that defense. When you get extra possessions from forcing 3-and-outs and turnovers, you eventually can move the ball on offense. But their defense has fallen apart. At first it was Covid, but then the players returned and they put up zero fight against the Bengals. Now they are a team with major offensive issues that also can’t make stops.
Carolina Panthers (15th to 21st)
This slide continues after a promising start for Carolina. Their defense is actually still one of the best (3rd), but their offense has fallen all the way to 30th. It doesn’t matter which quarterback they roll out there; there are some fundamental offensive line and scheme issues they have not been able to overcome. They have also suffered an inordinate amount of drops. In the offseason I questioned why everyone considers Joe Brady to be a great offensive coach when he has no track record to prove it, and this year has solidified my skepticism.
Cleveland Browns (7th to 13th)
This one hurts for me because I invested in the Browns in the offseason. Their defense has been elite but they just have not been able to overcome the offensive line injuries they’ve suffered. I was hoping Baker Mayfield would take a step forward but he has taken a step back instead. The roster remains solid but the system doesn’t work when they cannot establish the run game. With Jack Conklin now out for the season, it will be a tough uphill fight for the Browns to make the playoffs. They have the talent and the coaching, but they’ll need to play better than they have recently to have a chance.
Q3 Performance Ratings
- Buffalo Bills (+0.87)
- Tampa Bay Bucs (+0.81)
- Los Angeles Rams (+0.80)
- Kansas City Chiefs (+0.69)
- Dallas Cowboys (+0.68)
- Green Bay Packers (+0.52)
- New England Patriots (+0.46)
- Arizona Cardinals (+0.42)
- Los Angeles Chargers (+0.39)
- San Francisco 49ers (+0.38)
- Indianapolis Colts (+0.35)
- Tennessee Titans (+0.32)
- Cleveland Browns (+0.26)
- Baltimore Ravens (+0.22)
- New Orleans Saints (+0.11)
- Cincinnati Bengals (+0.04)
- Las Vegas Raiders (-0.01)
- Minnesota Vikings (-0.01)
- Washington Football Team (-0.21)
- Denver Broncos (-0.23)
- Carolina Panthers (-0.24)
- Philadelphia Eagles (-0.26)
- Pittsburgh Steelers (-0.28)
- Seattle Seahawks (-0.37)
- Miami Dolphins (-0.42)
- Chicago Bears (-0.44)
- New York Giants (-0.56)
- Jacksonville Jaguars (-0.58)
- Atlanta Falcons (-0.66)
- New York Jets (-0.93)
- Houston Texans (-1.12)
- Detroit Lions (-1.12)