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The Tier Hunter, Week 4: Quarterly reports

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Publicly traded companies have to report their earnings and have their performance analyzed after every quarter of the business year, so why shouldn’t NFL teams?

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NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Los Angeles Rams
Turn your head and Goff.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL ebbs and flows, changing so much from week to week it’s a fool errand to try and re-jigger your opinion of all 32 teams on a weekly basis. (That’s why they gave that job to me.) But every so often you need to really take a look at the teams to figure out what’s what.

The same can be said of the stock market. You’d drive yourself crazy if you look at your investment portfolio on a daily basis. (I know because I do it.) One day it’s up, the next it’s down. Some days the President tweets and it reverses direction. But that’s a story for another blog.

Financial advisors generally recommend you review your portfolio on a quarterly basis. It’s about the right interval to step back to see where you stand. NFL teams work similarly. If you take a snapshot of each team at the quarter-mark, we don’t have enough data to say where they’ll end up, but there’s enough to see where they are now, how they got here, and where they might be headed.

But it takes a lot of work. You have to be in top shape mentally, emotionally, and physically. To give you an idea of how hard I prepared for this exercise, I posted this video from one of my workouts.

Now that you’ve seen through that window into my process, I think you’re ready to look at this week’s rankings.

Tier I: Blue Chips

Dependable, long term investments. You hold on, enjoying the frequent good times, and weather (and buy more during) the occasional pullbacks.

1. New England Patriots (4-0)

Outlook: Strong Buy

They’re like Amazon — already so high it seems too late to buy, but it isn’t. They were tested on the road this week by an underdog off to an impressive start, but handled their business and got the W. That’s what good teams do. This entire regular season is a rehearsal for the AFC Championship Game.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (4-0)

Outlook: Strong Buy

Everybody loves a growth stock. Nothing’s growing faster than the legend of Patrick Mahomes.

He’s so mesmerizing, sometimes potential blitzers just stare in awe.

Tier II: Fair value

Investments that are trading just about where their true, intrinsic value lies. Not too expensive, nor too cheap, but just right.

3. Green Bay Packers (3-1)

Outlook: Buy

They lost to a banged-up Eagles team, but Philly was desperate a cornered animal. (Can you corner an Eagle?) It’s no surprise they won a game they had to have against an undefeated Packers team. On the bright side, the Packers offense looked much better. With an improved defense and Aaron Rodgers, they look like the clear favorite in the NFC North.

4. New Orleans Saints (3-1)

Outlook: Buy

Pretty impressive how they’ve reinvented themselves in Drew Brees’ absence. No longer a high-flying offense, the play of their defense and special teams have powered them past two 3-1 teams who made the playoffs last year. Everyone wondered if Teddy Bridgewater could hold the fort until Brees returned. The results so far are very encouraging.

Tier III: Buy The Dip

When an asset falls, sometimes it can seem less valuable than it actually is. This is usually a good time to snap it up.

5. Dallas Cowboys (3-1)

Outlook: Buy

Okay, they lost to the Saints without Brees, and their offense had real problems moving the ball consistently. But there’s a lot to like, and talent all over the roster. They have a chance to be the class of the conference, Sunday night’s result notwithstanding.

6. Los Angeles Rams (3-1)

Outlook: Hold

I’ve been slightly bearish on the Rams since the Super Bowl. It’s not that I think they’re not good, it’s that Jared Goff seemed like he was exposed in a way that’s hard to shrug off. At times, he’s been shaky. No more so than against the Bucs, offering up three picks and a(nother) fumble. With the Rams running game struggling, Goff’s being asked to carry the load, and the strain is showing. Bonus list: My top five Goff tweets from Sunday, in ascending order:

That being said, it’s one game. They’ve still been one of the better teams in the league. I’ll say the Niners are better when they beat L.A. (Notice I say “when” not “if.”)

7. Philadelphia Eagles (2-2)

Outlook: Buy

Even crippled by injuries, the Eagles managed to win in Lambeau. They are a talented roster and have a championship mentality. That cannot be overstated. Their record is not impressive, and their play hasn’t been great, but I’ll still bet on them being around at the end.

Tier IV: Momo Plays

What goes up usually keeps going up — or so the theory goes.

8. San Francisco 49ers (3-0)

Outlook: Hold

They’re the last undefeated team in the NFC, so why not a “Buy?” Because the hype train is rolling, and that scares me. Analysts suddenly love the Niners. So do the stats.

Not only are people calling them a playoff team, last week I saw some crediting them as 4-0 because struggling Cleveland was up next. The Browns demolition of Baltimore reminds us how quickly outlooks can change. I mentioned two weeks ago how the 49ers would face an unfamiliar situation — as favorites — and wondered how they’d react. The answer: five turnovers. Sure, they won, but it wasn’t a confident, “we’re ready for our close-up” performance. I’d love to see that Monday night.

Until then, I’ll be looking at this and this:

9. Chicago Bears (3-1)

Outlook: Hold

They’ve won three straight, and losing Mitchell Trubisky isn’t a fatal blow -- some might say it’s addition by subtraction.

Chase Daniel won’t embarrass you, but his a backup for a reason, and even Chicago’s defense isn’t good enough to win a championship on their own.

Tier V: High Beta

A stock’s beta is a measure of how volatile it is. All equities go up and down, but stocks with a high beta do so violently.

10. Baltimore Ravens (2-2)

Outlook: Hold

They’ve looked worse each successive week: A dominant win in Week 1 over Miami was followed by a less impressive win vs. Arizona at home, which was followed by a decisive loss on the road to KC, and then finally an embarrassing beatdown at home against Cleveland. A win would’ve put them in the driver’s seat in the AFC North. Instead, they’re .500 and tied with a Browns team who has the tiebreaker. With two wins over winless teams and one loss to an undefeated team, it’s hard to say exactly where they should be.

11. Minnesota Vikings (2-2)

Outlook: Sell

The Vikings are 2-0 at home with two easy wins, and 0-2 on the road, failing even to score until they were down double-digits. More than anything, this business has a clear, fundamental problem.

I’ll give you three guesses which one of those three Vikings fans are blaming.

Things like this don’t end well.

12. Los Angeles Chargers (2-2)

Outlook: Hold

The Chargers play up or down to their opponent, which is fine if you find a way to win those games. The Chargers find a way to lose them. They will get injured players back and go on a roll, but I’m no longer confident it’ll be in time to make the playoffs -- even in a weak AFC.

13. Cleveland Browns (2-2)

Outlook: Hold

Hello, first place! After all the talk about Baker Mayfield’s regression, Freddie Kitchens’s questionable game-calling abilities, and the Browns’ disappointing start, they are now .500 with a huge divisional win under their belt. If the bottom of their division is as bad as it looks, they could end up with five (or even six) divisional wins. That’s a great shortcut to the playoffs. But I’m not buying just yet.

Tier VI: Value Stocks

Investments that are worth more than what they are trading for. It’s what Warren Buffet built his fortune on. Who doesn’t like a deal?

14. Buffalo Bills (3-1)

Outlook: Buy

They stifled the Patriot offense and were in a position to take a 4th quarter lead when Josh Allen was knocked out. Matt Barkley made a couple of plays but couldn’t make the big one. It was a tough loss, but they should be proud and enthused by their effort. The same can be said of Bills Mafia.

15. Detroit Lions (2-1-1)

Outlook: Buy

The Lions have always had the worst luck with TD calls. That trend continued on Sunday.

Matthew Stafford fumbled on the next play because of course he did. Then this happened:

Losing two scores on two close calls not going their way feels very Lions. But Detroit has a different look this year. Not as defeated. They bounced right back from those gut punches to take the lead. Twice. Unfortunately, they were facing Patrick Mahomes.

They can run and play defense unlike previous Lions teams, and they could easily be 4-0 if... Well, if they weren’t Detroit.

Tier VII: Underweight

16. Seattle Seahawks (3-1)

Outlook: Sell

Sometimes, you don’t sell a stock because it’s a bad company, but because it’s become overvalued, presenting an opportunity to get out before it drops. Seattle isn’t bad, but they haven’t looked as good as their 3-1 record. I’d say they won’t make the playoffs in a loaded NFC, but Pete Carroll has a deal with the devil, and Russell Wilson is a witch. So we’ll need to use fire.

Tier VIII: Value Stocks II

My preseason ranking had all the AFC South teams in a row. Four weeks later, they’re all 2-2 and still together on this list, with just the Bucs dividing them. Reminder: One team will win that division. It’s a rule.

17. Indianapolis Colts (2-2)

Outlook: Buy

They were terrible on Sunday, losing an absolute stinker at home to Oakland. But they were without T.Y. Hilton, and everybody has an ugly performance now and then. I still believe in the roster, and think they could win the division. Unless...

18. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-2)

Outlook: Buy (and that includes a Gardner Minshew II jersey — mustache sold separately)

#MinshewMagic! Every time you want to count them out -- like when they were down 17-3 at Denver -- he does something to make you believe.

The Jags are a different team with Minshew. They should be 3-0 with him starting, and I don’t think Doug Marrone would make the mistake of not putting the ball in his hands the next time the game’s on the line.

19. Houston Texans (2-2)

Outlook: Hold

The Texans have lots of problems, but they also always have a chance. Why? This guy:

The only nasty thing I’ve ever written about John Lynch was a tweet after the 49ers passed on Deshaun Watson in the 2017 draft. I stand by it.

Tier IX: High Beta II

These are the true Jekyll and Hyde teams. And it all comes down to the QB’s.

20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2)

Outlook: Hold

You never know what you’ll get with this team, which you can pin on their QB, Jameis Winston. You could say the same about the guy drafted directly after him...

22. Tennessee Titans (2-2)

Outlook: Hold

Last week, I showed you a clip of Marcus Mariota looking as inaccurate as you’ll ever see. This week, I’m here to tell you he’s the only QB who’s started four games and doesn’t have a turnover. Oh, and this:

22. Carolina Panthers (2-2)

Outlook: Hold

Cam Newton: 0-2

Kyle Allen: 2-0

Just sayin’

Allen wasn’t as good as last week — he actually fumbled three times — but was still 24/34 for 235 yards and notched his second road win, getting the Panthers back to .500.

23. Oakland Raiders (2-2)

Outlook: Sell

Big win, ugly loss, ugly loss, big win. They are equally capable of impressing or depressing. They should actually re-sign Antonio Brown because he’d fit right in with their mercurial nature.

24. New York Giants (2-2)

Outlook: Hold

Eli Manning: 0-2

#DannyDimes: 2-0

Room for growth. They’re not there yet, and will likely be a losing operation this year, but with Jones and Saquon Barkley, they have lots of upside moving forward.

Tier X: Falling knives

They say, “Don’t catch a falling knife,” meaning that sometimes when a stock falls far enough it may appear to be of value because you think you’re buying low, but it could keep dropping.

25. Atlanta Falcons (1-3)

Outlook: Sell

The Falcons are one of the toughest teams in football to figure out. They have all the pieces you’d want to build a franchise, but often look lost. This is looking like a lost season.

26. Pittsburgh Steelers (1-3)

Outlook: Sell

Don’t let the Monday night game fool you. In investing, they call that a dead cat bounce.

27. Arizona Cardinals (0-3-1)

Outlook: Strong Sell

A year or two away from being a year or two away.

28. Denver Broncos (0-4)

Outlook: Strong Sell

I like Vic Fangio, so I take no pleasure in seeing him fail. But boy, is he failing. The Broncos appear headed to a nightmare season, and it’s hard to imagine him turning it around.

29. New York Jets (0-3)

Outlook: Sell

Live look at the Jets season so far:

30. Washington Redskins (0-4)

Outlook: Strong Sell

Get out. Fumigate the place. Then knock it down. Then burn the rubble. Then rebuild.

31. Cincinnati Bengals (0-4)

Outlook: Strong Sell

But Zac Taylor coached under Sean McVay!

32. Vontaze Burfict

33. Miami Dolphins (0-3)

Outlook: HAHAHAHA

Not in their own tier! They didn’t have a punt or turnover in the first half against the Chargers. They looked like a bad NFL team, and that’s a big step forward for them.

Poll

The Patriots and Chiefs are clearly the cream of the crop in the weak AFC, but who’ll end up atop the crowded NFC race?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Dallas Cowboys
    (11 votes)
  • 5%
    Green Bay Packers
    (14 votes)
  • 1%
    Los Angeles Rams
    (4 votes)
  • 21%
    New Orleans Saints
    (60 votes)
  • 2%
    Philadelphia Eagles
    (6 votes)
  • 65%
    San Francisco 49ers
    (180 votes)
275 votes total Vote Now