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Grantland: What do we really know about all 32 NFL teams?

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what its true level of talent and performance is in terms of the 2013 campaign. We know a lot more in Week 6 than we did before the season, but it's still not a heck of a lot. As I mentioned last week, remember that last year's Colts entered Week 6 at 2-2 and were blown out by 26 points by Mark Sanchez. They went 9-2 after that. After six games a year ago, each team in the AFC East was 3-3; the Patriots proceeded to finish 9-1, while the rest of the division went 10-20. The Redskins started 3-3 and were about to go on a three-game losing streak before winning the NFC East. There's a lot of football left to play, folks.

Of course, it's also true that we don't learn equal amounts of information about each team each week. Last year's Colts, obviously, were a high-variance team through five games: They had beaten the Packers, but they also got blown out by the Jets and lost at home to the Jaguars. It was clear some talent was there, but the possibilities were still pretty open-ended. A team like this year's Jaguars obviously isn't going to rip off a seven-game winning streak. They're a much lower-variance team, and we know a lot more about them right now than we did about last year's Colts.

So, with six games in the books for most teams, let's examine how sure we are — well, how sure I am, I guess — about the league's 32 teams. I've separated them into four groups and put together the first Confidence Level Tier Rankings. I'll also try to explain why I'm relatively sure or unsure about each team. I'm tempted to even separate the sureness tiers by how sure Joe Cabot was about the people on his team in Reservoir Dogs, but, let's face it, this is already a pretty Simmons-y idea as is. Another time.

Surer Than Sure

These are the eight teams I feel most confident evaluating; they're the least likely to offer up major surprises, for better or worse, over the remainder of the season.

Both are flawed but fun teams, but in different ways. The Bears, as Robert Mays mentioned this past week, have finally flipped the switch from being a team run by its defense to one being run by its offense. The Bears are going to move the ball with their passing game, but their defense can't stop the run and can only stop the pass with takeaways. Their front four is disintegrating more quickly than space stations in Gravity. If they force takeaways, they win; if they don't, they lose.

Meanwhile, the Browns are almost the polar opposite. They have a great defense that's going to keep them in a lot of games, with or without takeaways, but their offense with Brandon Weeden basically comes down to magic from Josh Gordon. There was a brief burst of competence with Brian Hoyer, and that might reappear if they turn things over to Jason Campbell, but with Weeden, they are the 6-10 team that CBS's fourth-string announcing team notes is the one you "don't want to play" as they lose 16-10 four consecutive weeks in December.

New Orleans
These are two of the league's best teams with the same game plan: throw the ball all over the field, rush the passer, and never get caught in a slugfest. Obviously, if Drew Brees or Peyton Manning get injured, they'll look dramatically different, but these two teams seem awful sure to win 11-plus games and claim their divisions comfortably.

Kansas City
The poor man's 2011 49ers, the Chiefs never turn the ball over, play stifling defense with an incredible pass rush, dominate field position, and wait for you to make a mistake. It's very clear this team is going to beat up every weak team on its schedule (and oh, there are still so many to come) and that it has very little hope of beating the Broncos or anybody serious in the AFC.


New York Giants
A way more expensive nope. After that Bears loss, it was incredible to see every Giants fan I know immediately start hoping the Giants end up tanking to get Jadeveon Clowney. Personally, I am just going to try to avoid mentioning it until it happens.

This is the same team every week: an offense that is going to look like a filtered version of the most exciting team in football from last year, and a defense whose angular, subversive dissonance with form tackles raises comparisons to D.C. legends like Q and Not U.


I'm pretty confident that with Weeden in as QB we will not be able to hang in the AFCN. Weeden is absolutely horrible. Very good write up and the rest is available at the link above.

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