Power rankings, strength-of-schedule, likes on Facebook -- there are many ways to assess NFL teams. As the home stretch approaches, Tuesday Morning Quarterback makes his annual contribution: the Authentic Games metric.
Authentic Games are those against other potent teams. The regular season is a smorgasbord of strong and weak; in the postseason, only strong opponents trot onto the field. That makes how a team performs against equal-caliber opposition the gauge TMQ likes.
The Authentic metric values most W's over best percentage. Thus I rank the Denver Broncos at 4-2 ahead of the Cincinnati Bengals and Indianapolis Colts at 3-1. The reasoning is that the more wins a team has versus power opponents, the better prepared the team is for the postseason.
Because some teams start slow and finish strong, while others do the reverse, I judge opponents as "authentic" based on current records. There is one exception. The asterisk in this ranking is the Green Bay Packers, since Green Bay is entirely a different team without Aaron Rodgers. Thus the San Francisco 49ers get credit for an authentic win for defeating the Packers, with Rodgers, to open the season. The Eagles don't get credit for defeating the Packers with Scott Tolzien at QB. Detroit's early loss to Green Bay with Rodgers counts as an authentic defeat, while Detroit's later win over the Pack led by Matt Flynn does not count as an authentic victory. Here are the Authentic Games standings:
Denver and New Orleans: 4-2
Cincinnati and Indianapolis: 3-1
Carolina, Kansas City and New England: 2-2
San Francisco: 2-4
This metric predicts a Super Bowl pairing of Broncos versus Seahawks. (If the teams are different, I will deny having said this.) Denver versus Seattle -- offense versus defense -- is a Super Bowl with tremendous potential audience appeal. Of course it's also outdoors in New Jersey in February, which won't bother Seattle.
In other football news, the Cowboys have won two straight, but now are doomed, doomed. Not because Tony Romo was just on the cover of Sports Illustrated, which is bad enough: rather, because December has begun. For his NFL career, Romo is a sparkling 24-5 in November, followed by a dismal 12-20 for the remainder of the season. Perhaps something in the Thanksgiving turkey doesn't seem to agree with Romo. But football is a team game, and the rest of the 'Boys seem to get tryptophan-drowsy and lose focus when Christmas approaches, too.
Whatever happens to Romo, doubt not the Sports Illustrated curse. Cover boy of the issue before the Dallas quarterback was AJ McCarron, with the headline, "On The Brink Of A Third National Title." No more! See Single Worst Play of the Season So Far.
In other sports news, what if your team lost 86-56? I'm not talking about your basketball team, I am talking about your large-school-division football team. See below.
Stats of the Week No. 1: Tony Romo and Joe Flacco are a combined 44-12 in the month of November.
Stats of the Week No. 2: The Giants and Jets, the New Jersey teams, are first and second for giveaways, combining to turn the ball over 58 times.