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.
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)