Seattle delivered a powerful body blow to San Francisco on Monday night. The 49ers were on the cusp of taking over the top spot in the rankings, and now fall way back to the pack.

Baltimore is making their case for being the top team, with not only two signature wins over top five teams, but gaining a whopping 27 points in team strength over the last few weeks. Nobody has figured out how to slow down Lamar Jackson.

Minnesota had a big road win of their own, and will be traveling to the rising Seattle in three weeks in what should be a terrific game.

The Seahawks have climbed way up the ladder after spending the early part of the season in the low teens. Their second-ranked offense could be getting a boost from a defense that showed new signs of life against San Francisco. Seattle will also see their strength of schedule continue to climb as they have the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL.

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.

6 Responses

  1. Doug H.

    Open question to the subjective side of what we refer to as power rankings. Seems to me that there are certain players that can just will there unit to win on the football field. I’d say that Russell Wilson fits that category, Bobby Wagner fits that category, but there are some other rising players on this Seahawks team that appear to be making a case for it too. I’m just looking for a good conversation, so toss me your honorable mentions, and let’s trade notes if you’re interested.

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  2. Doug H.

    Jadeveon Clowney might be the catalyst on the defensive line that the Seahawks can’t live without…

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  3. Doug H.

    What about Metcalf driving Richard Sherman backwards for ten yards, on a NO You Don’t Play?

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  4. Doug H.

    Joey Hunt gets bull rushed in the first quarter, then comes back to dominate the second half of the game, against what was supposed to be the best defensive line in all of professional football…

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