Three weeks in, and the rankings continue to have some unfamiliar names near the top. The AFC holds the top two spots, with the Bengals lapping the field right now. New England being #2 was so surprising that I had to double-check my numbers. They barely beat the Raiders and Tom Brady is not playing great football.
It turns out they are holding opponents to a 57.4 passer rating so far, which is just behind the Bengals (56.9). That gives the Pats a large passer rating differential despite Brady having low numbers by his standards. They won’t be able to play David Carr every week, though, so their spot feels tenuous.
Six of the top ten teams are NFC squads. The Bears own the top NFC ranking, thanks in large part to their surprising secondary play (71.0 opponent passer rating). That defense is just not good enough to last, so I expect them to drop.
The Broncos had the second biggest drop of the week thanks to the Seahawks. They have just a three point differential right now (25 ppg vs 22.3 ppg). They are certainly not off to the dominating start they saw last season.
Atlanta had a rout, and lead the NFL in scoring at 34.3 ppg, but they are allowing opposing quarterbacks a lot of success (91.7 rating). It is hard to take a team too seriously that is getting attacked that effectively.
Seattle is holding steady, but is well off their pace of last year when they were consistently over the 50.0 mark in team strength. Their offensive numbers are all up, but the defense is allowing a lot more points and a much higher passer rating. Much of that could be due to the quarterbacks they have played, but the team must prove it.
The Seahawks next opponent comes in at #10 this week. Their offense is strong, but their defense is weak. They are allowing opponents a 99.3 passer rating, and now have lost CB DeAngelo Hall for the year. Any team that can slow that offense should beat the Redskins.
This view helps to give you a view of how teams are grouped together. You will generally see tiers of strength develop as the season wears on.
Power rankings are always debatable. I don’t buy into the gut feel methods most places use to determine their rankings, so I developed a formula a few years back that attempts to take at least some of the subjectivity out of the discussion. My approach was simple, I measured offensive and defensive efficiency based on the Yards Per Carry (YPC) and Yards Per Attempt (YPA), as well as points scored and points allowed. The formula to calculate “Team Strength” was as follows:
(YPC (offense) + YPA (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) – (YPC (defense) + YPA (defense)+ Avg Pts/Game Allowed)
The formula has proven to be a pretty accurate predictor of success, but I am always looking for ways to improve it. I read a great article on ColdHardFootballFacts.com. There was one gem in there about predicting championship teams. The article mentioned passer rating differential as the “mother of all stats.” A full 69 of 72 champions have ranked in the Top 10 in this statistic. It is a stat after my own heart, as I believe offensive and defensive efficiency is the key measurable outside of point differential. Turnovers would factor in there as well, but I am not convinced a team has as much control over that. My power rankings use YPA and YPC differentials. I went ahead and replaced the YPA with offensive and defensive passer rating, to give me this:
(YPC (offense) + Passer Rating (offense) + Avg Pts/Game Scored) – (OPP YPC (defense) + OPP Passer Rating (defense)+ OPP Avg Pts/Game)