It should come as no surprise in this wacky NFL season that the Seahawks make their first appearance in the top ten by doing absolutely nothing at all. Teams like Detroit, Green Bay, and Denver plummeted down the list with various levels of dismal performance. If a rising tide lifts all boats, a sinking tide makes the one sitting in dry dock look pretty darn high.
While Kansas City finally lost, they have been steadily regressing back to the pack. No team has lost more team strength in the last three weeks (-66) than the Chiefs. Lucky for them, they had plenty to spare. The more interesting story is the rise of the Texans (+51.8) and the Bengals (+44.9) during that same stretch. The Texans now have one of the most efficient offenses in football, behind only the Chiefs, Patriots, Saints, and Redskins. They likely would jump a spot or two if that first week of Tom Savage against Jacksonville was wiped off the books.
The Bengals were left for dead after their slow start, but that defense is keeping them afloat. Pittsburgh will have their hands full this week.
New Orleans surprised this week with their explosion against the Lions. Detroit had been one of the stronger defenses this year, but were no match for the Saints offense. Drew Brees has a reliable running game that is making them hard to stop. The defense has even been closer to NFL average instead of historically terrible. Their strength of schedule bumps them up a few spots, ahead of teams like Minnesota, Buffalo, Houston, and Washington. Each of those teams have more solid fundamentals, but beware the Saints.
Seahawks fans will be thrilled to know the Giants made the largest one-week jump of any team. There will be no gimme on the road in New York this week.
This view shows tiers of strength that develop over the course of the season.
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)