There are times in sports when a team loses but you don’t feel the need to knock them down 10 pegs in your power rankings or polls.  If, for instance, the #10 team loses to the #1 team by a touchdown, well, that makes sense.  The #10 team played as well as a #10 team should against a #1 team.  In the NFL, this translates to whether a team is truly as bad as its record or not.  Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are.”  While easily quotable and authoritative, Bill Parcells was just using that line to get out of a question in a press conference.  Of course there are teams that are better than their records.  Are the Arizona Cardinals as good a team as the Miami Dolphins?  Not by a long shot, but somehow or another the Cardinals are sitting at 3-2 along with Miami.  I decided to take a look this week at teams that lost this weekend but showed a lot, and teams that may have won but should worry going forward.

Losers on the Upswing:

Washington Redskins:  No, they couldn’t compete with Peyton Manning in the clutch, but who can?  The fact that they dropped a 3 point decision to the Colts at home is on one hand an indictment of a team that lacks any playmakers not named Santana Moss, but it also speaks volumes that they could still hang with Indianapolis.  I like the way the Redskins are playing, and I would put them up against anyone in the NFC right now.  Like McNabb’s Philadelphia teams, Washington could be a playmaker away from being explosive offensively.  The O-line has overachieved.

Baltimore Ravens: Yes, I am including the home team in this.  True, the offense sputtered down the stretch and eventually the defense caved in enough to allow the winning score in overtime.  Last season the Ravens met the Patriots in October riding high and Mark Clayton dropped that 4th down pass to end the game, and I saw a team that was not ready to compete.  This game was different.  The Ravens were efficient for the most part, and the defense was stout for most of the game against the best passer they have faced this season.  The Ravens went toe-to-toe with an AFC playoff team and lost by 3 on the road in overtime.  At home or at a neutral site, Baltimore holds on.  They were clearly a better team this time around than they were last October.

Denver Broncos:  It takes a lot for a team to have its explosive passing game stifled and still manage to nearly win against the top team in the AFC.  The Jets benefitted from some questionable calls down the stretch with regards to pass interference, and were forced to come from way behind in the 4th quarter.  The defense forced errant throws from Mark Sanchez all day after being demolished earlier in the season by quality quarterbacks (and Joe Flacco).  The Broncos won’t win 10 games this season, but their ability to keep it close despite a lackluster offense speaks volumes for their chances to compete in a watered down AFC West.

Winners who should be Worried:

Houston Texans:  If the Chiefs defense hadn’t gotten torched, Kansas City would be in my first group of teams, because their offense was clicking for the first time this season.  The Texans offense acquitted themselves nicely in securing another 4th quarter comeback, but the fact that they were forced to do so shows that Matt Schaub may be a great fantasy quarterback but he still hasn’t elevated his game to the point where he can be consistent for 4 quarters.  That pass defense has been shredded every single week, and it is making their decision to dump Dunta Robinson all the more confusing.  Underachiever,maybe.  But this team needs someone in that secondary who can take on man coverage.  Dwayne Bowe should not be lighting you up for 113 yards and 2 TDs.

Miami Dolphins:  As much as I love Chad Henne (I remember wanting to throw something at the TV when the Ravens moved up to draft Joe Flacco rather than sit where they were and take Chad Henne), there is really no excuse for this offense to just put up 16 points and need overtime to do it.  The Packers have a good defense, but without their best pass-rusher and with an offense that has sputtered to say the last, the Dolphins should have been able to capitalize.  Miami has a good offensive line, a true #1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, two high quality running backs in Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams, an explosive #2 option in Davone Bess, and an athletic tight end in Anthony Fasano.  Are they loaded?  No, but to me it falls on Chad Henne to make the right decisions- they could be doing a lot more, and they will have to if they want any hope of competing in the AFC East.

Honorable Mention: New York Giants (Drew Stanton almost beat you)