NFL team records vs. winning squads: Contenders and pretenders revealed?

In breaking down Bears-49ers for my Week 11 predictions I found a kaleidoscope of factors that really made it tough to get a feel for this one.

Not only do you have the uncertain post-concussion states of Jay Cutler and Alex Smith but also two teams coming off lackluster home performances. Since this is a battle of ostensibly playoff-destined teams and we do have a nine-game sample size for each, I figured to also run their records against teams that currently possess winning records.

Then I went ahead and did it for the whole NFL:

ARI – 2-3
ATL – 1-1
BAL – 1-1
BUF – 0-4
CAR – 0-6
CHI – 1-2
CIN – 1-3
CLE – 0-4
DAL – 2-5
DEN – 1-3
DET – 1-4
GB – 2-3
HOU – 3-1
IND – 2-1
JAX – 1-5
KC – 0-4
MIA – 0-2
MIN – 1-2
NE – 1-2
NO – 2-2
NYG – 2-1
NYJ – 1-5
OAK – 1-4
PHI – 2-2
PIT – 2-1
SD – 0-3
SEA – 3-1
SF – 2-2
STL – 1-3-1
TB – 1-1
TEN – 1-5
WAS – 2-3

Draw what you will from this, but it does align with my feeling that some teams have been punching above their weight. The Miami Dolphins, Tennessee Titans, San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions have all amassed four wins on the season but are each teams I would confidently predict to fall short of the playoffs.

Same goes for the Cardinals, though their 2-3 record against currently above-.500 squads actually places them in the upper half of the league in that regard. Funny thing is the two wins were compiled in games Kevin Kolb finished and the three losses in contests finished under John Skelton. Not calling Kolb a world-beater and there are other factors at play, but he did protect the ball better as Skelton has thrown an interception in every game he’s taken the field.

It’s also interesting to see who’s been brutalized by the schedule-makers thus far, and whether this means the closing stretch provides good opportunities to gain ground.

The Cowboys hold sole possession of first in the NFL in total games played against teams that boast winning records as of now, yet only sit 1.5 games behind New York for first in the NFC East. Dallas (4-5, 2-5) now gets to close out with the bizarro version of their early schedule: vs. Cle, vs. Was, vs. Phi, at Cin, vs. Pit, at NO, at Was.

So 1 out of 7 for Dallas β€” compared to the 7 out of 9 through Week 10 β€” and that one game is at home, and the Steelers could fall sub-.500 while starting Byron Leftwich by then. And while Dallas loses Sean Lee on his way to an All-Pro year, Bruce Carter has really stepped up at the other ILB spot to help mitigate that loss. Such is life for every team that makes a run.

It is important to note that the Saints and Bengals could very well be in the playoff hunt with the momentum they have right now. Regardless, an ostensibly much easier Cowboys schedule down the stretch.

On any given Sunday it’s tough to count out Indy (2-1), New York Giants (2-1), Washington (2-3), Philly (2-2), New Orleans (2-2) and Pittsburgh if Big Ben returns (2-1) β€” even though there are valid concerns for picking each of them in difficult matchups.

Like the Giants, Colts and Steelers, the Chicago Bears only possess a three-game sample size, which makes it tough to laud a team for 2-1 much more than you would bash them for 1-2, or where the Bears stand. We’ve seen some dominant performances, but Chicago would inspire a lot more confidence if their sole win in this apartment wasn’t at home against a rookie quarterback in Week 1, even if that rookie is Andrew Luck.

Then there’s Green Bay at 2-3, which doesn’t seem right given their 6-3 overall record including winning five of their past six. Then there’s the year’s single-most impressive win in the NFL this season, on Sunday night in Houston. And there’s the Golden Tate catch, which in a just world flips their mark to 3-2.

This quick study wasn’t done just to say that Green Bay looks like they’re on the up-and-up, as the naked eye can come up with that quite all right. But the Packers’ numbers are just one of many factors in why a team’s performance against good competition thus far can help visualize who are the contenders and pretenders as December nears.

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