The Eagles have taken a firm grip on the top spot in the rankings. They have a sizable lead over the second place Saints, while featuring the top offense and the third best defense according to the rankings formula. Another team once had a similar story to tell this season. The Chiefs were absolutely dominating the NFL for five weeks, including a blowout win over the Patriots in New England and a victory over the Eagles. They had the best offense, one of the best defenses, and the toughest strength of schedule back in week five. Their fall since then has been precipitous. While still occupying the fifth spot in these rankings, they have lost over 50 points of team strength. That is more than the total team strength for the second place team!
Are the Eagles poised for a similar drop? Not likely. They are well balanced, and even if they lose some statistical power the next couple of weeks against quality opponents, they will gain in strength of schedule. Philadelphia does everything well. Run and pass on offense. Stop the run and the pass on defense. Their only weakness in the eye of the rankings formula is their SOS. They have played two teams ranked in the top ten and are 1-1, with the only win being a 26-24 win over a Chargers team that was not the same team they are now. Only the Patriots have gained more team strength in the past three weeks than the Chargers.
It is a shame the Saints were missing their starting cornerbacks against the Rams. The game was reasonably close, but I would have liked to have seen those two teams go at it closer to full strength. Anyone who thought the Rams were a mirage that was exposed by the Vikings were mistaken. I still don’t believe there is a team that has a better combination of offense, defense, and special teams than Los Angeles. They will continue to be vulnerable against teams with great defenses and good running games.
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)