The San Francisco 49ers have been near unstoppable when they bring their “A” game. We’ve seen this in numerous showcase games this year, and most recently saw the best and worst in a short span when they jumped all over New England on the road to take a 31-3 lead, but nearly lost it. We have also seen them tie and lose to the Rams in two overtime games, and get blasted by the Giants at home.
Even with the near collapse against New England, that ranks as the best performance any team has had against the Patriots this year, as New England had previously lost two games by a point, and another by two points when they missed a field goal at the end. San Francisco is no stranger to putting up the best performance against an opponent. That was the fifth time this year they had put up the best performance of any team vs. one of their opponents (Buffalo, Chicago, New York Jets, Seattle also). Ten of their fourteen games rank among the Top 3 against a particular opponent.
Here’s what I did. I looked at each team and ranked each opponent by result/point margin against that team. We have 14 games, so teams were ranked 1 to 14 based on how they did against the same opponent. Losing a close game against a really good team would rate as a good performance. Winning close against a bad team like Oakland or Kansas City would not. Since we are grading on a curve, teams are compared to how they did relative to their peers.
The averages are very much in line with most objective rating systems. San Francisco, Denver and New England are at the very top. Kansas City, Oakland, and Jacksonville are at the bottom. One of the interesting things, though, is how teams vary in their performance.
The most consistent teams were Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Green Bay, and New England. You probably wouldn’t have guessed Dallas or Detroit, but the Cowboys have generally played close games when they play similar opponents to themselves. Their only bad losses (Chicago and Seattle) came against teams that have delivered far worse results to other opponents. Detroit has come up just short in many games, but generally played to the level of the opponent.
At the other end of the spectrum, the least consistent teams aren’t hard to guess. The New York Giants are #1, followed by Arizona, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and the Jets.
To compile the “At Their Best” rankings, I took the average and added one standard deviation. For the “At Their Worst” Rankings, I subtracted one standard deviation. The result is that the more inconsistent teams will move between the two lists. For example, we know the Giants at their best can win a Super Bowl, and they rank 2nd here. But they fall to 18th on the “At Their Worst” list.
At Their Worst Rankings: