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POWER RANKINGS

Here we are. In an NFL season where Jared Goff and the Rams are the best team in the NFL, the wobegone Saints are just a few decimal points behind them, and the perennial loser Jaguars round out the top five, one has to wonder if the playoff outcome will be just as unfamiliar. The Rams are even better than their team strength number indicates. This formula does not account for special teams play, and the Rams have a terrific group there. The Seahawks victory in Los Angeles while holding that offense to just 10 points gets more impressive each week. Seattle has a tough schedule with three games against top five opponents, but the Rams have it even tougher with four games against top seven opponents.

Minnesota is the most intriguing of those matchups given the quality of that Vikings defense. The Rams offense has struggled when facing top defenses like Seattle and Jacksonville, and devoured vulnerable defenses. New Orleans will be another fun game to watch as the Saints offense features one of the best run games in the league, and the Rams are still vulnerable in that area.

As for the Seahawks, they remain steady at #7 in the rankings despite two disappointing performances in their past two games. They face a Falcons team on Monday night who had their best game in weeks, and is roughly equivalent to the Redskins team that upset Seattle last week.

 

 

Rankings Visualization

This view shows tiers of strength that develop over the course of the season.

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.
As of November 22, 2016, I have increased the weighting of the run game and point differential. Yards per carry will be multiplied by 10 to make it more evenly weighted with the passer rating. It is still roughly half as important, but will have a greater impact. Point differential will be multiplied by two as it still should be among the most important aspects of measuring teams.

2 Responses

  1. Uncle Bob

    Hawk fans and the team had better not go to sleep on the Rams and afford too much significance to the earlier victory in the season. Their half time adjustments and subsequent beat down this past Sunday shows the strength of their coaching staff…………something to admire and maybe even envy. The same could apply to most of the top ten opponents.

    Reply
  2. Rowdy Yates

    I got an idea: What if the Hawks hired Peyton Manning to tutor
    Wilson on pre snap reads. Manning doesn’t need the money, but he might enjoy the work. He might, who knows, be bored, and see a Quarterback Tutorial as a wedge back into the game. And as a result Wilson might audible more, and audible better. Pete Willing.

    Reply

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