The rankings have stabilized and contracted a bit. The Chiefs have been steadily coming back to the pack, while other teams have moved forward. The Chiefs offense is arguably the best overall unit in football this year, but their defense is far from great. The best defense in the NFL remains in Buffalo, but the Jaguars may have something to say about that by season’s end. They just took big-name defensive tackle Marcell Dareus from the Bills via trade, with the hope of shoring up the league’s worst run defense.
Philadelphia owns the third spot, but suffered some serious injuries this week. It would not be surprising to see them land a new left tackle before the trade deadline. The loss of Jason Peters was huge, and the Eagles have a great shot to earn the top seed in the NFC as long as they protect Carson Wentz.
The Saints are the sleeper. Better on defense than people realize, and potent on offense, New Orleans has a real shot to win their division. Atlanta and Carolina better figure things out fast or the Saints will have a clear path to the top spot.
If Seahawks fans were not excited enough by the thrilling victory over the Texans, they should consider that Houston is among the best teams in football this year when looking at the underlying statistics. In fact, the Seahawks have beaten both top ten teams they have faced so far this season. Houston owns the second best offense in football, behind only the Chiefs. Losing DT Christian Covington for the season was a huge blow to a group that has already lost J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, and Brian Cushing.
The addition of Duane Brown could key a Seahawks run up in team strength. Their offense has steadily risen since the year began with terrible play at the left tackle spot. Ask the Rams how big a difference a good left tackle can make.
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)