POWER RANKINGS

 

No team has more devastating injuries to deal with than the Minnesota Vikings. They have lost their quarterback, their running back and the left tackle. They also have had the tough task of facing the Packers at home and the Panthers on the road in two of their first three games. Not only have they overcome all those obstacles to start the season 3-0, but they have climbed to the top of our power rankings. Well earned.

Eagles fans may have a bone to pick with that result, and by some measures, they would be right. Remove the strength of schedule component and the Eagles would be far and away the top team on these rankings. Even with a game against the Steelers, the Eagles have the worst SOS thus far after having played the Browns and the Bears.

The eye test would say the Patriots have been the most impressive team thus far, considering the results they have had despite missing some of their best players. The main thing keeping them from the top in these rankings is some middling results on defense that include yielding an 85.9 passer rating to opposing quarterbacks and 4.4 yards per carry to opposing runners.

The Seahawks climb nine spots this week into the top ten for the first time. That has some historical significance as 70% of teams who rank in the top ten of these rankings by week three make the playoffs. Their defensive numbers are stellar, bettered only by the Eagles, Chiefs and Vikings. Now, the offense has a pulse. Their SOS is one of the lowest in the league, which drags them down. Remove that factor and their team strength would rank seventh.

Remarkably, they travel this week to play the team the rankings likes the least in the New York Jets. A dismal performance in Kansas City has their passer rating at 59.3 on the season and they are allowing opposing quarterbacks to post a 110.7 rating on average, along with 26 points. Even having the toughest SOS in the league did not help pull them out of the last spot.

Rankings Table

Bar chart

RANKINGS EXPLAINED

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 (roughly 70% of the teams ranked in the Top 10 by week 3 make the playoffs), 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)

As of September 23, 2014, I have added a strength of schedule component to the rankings as well.
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