Eagles fans are licking their wounds, but can console themselves with the top spot in the power rankings again. Their balance is something the formula loves, and one game does not undo what they accomplished in the previous eleven. A number of NFC teams are on Philly’s tail, though, with the Saints, Vikings, and Rams all within striking distance of the top spot. I am a big believer that the best, most dominant, single unit in the NFL is a key to winning the Super Bowl. Right now, that is one of these:

  • Saints Offense
  • Patriots Offense
  • Jaguars Defense
  • Ravens Defense

Watch out for that Baltimore team. The only thing that has been holding them back from being a top team has been a terrible offense. There are signs they are figuring out that side of the ball, and they only need to be average on offense to win most games. Jacksonville feels like the most dominant defense in football, but it a real question whether they can overpower a Tom Brady team in the playoffs. Believe it or not, their offense is not the worst in the top ten. It’s not even the second worst. Baltimore and Pittsburgh both rate lower on that side of the ball. The Steelers are averaging only 23.4 points per game, 3.7 yards per carry, and a 90.2 passer rating.

Seattle is in the middle of running a gauntlet of top teams. They just toppled the top-ranked Eagles, and now travel to face the 6th-ranked Jaguars, before coming home to face the 4th-ranked Rams. The Seahawks have beat both top ten teams they have faced so far this year.




Rankings Visualization

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)

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.

3 Responses

  1. Kurt Z

    I really hate, hate, HATE this game.

    One of the reasons that the Northwest teams, especially the Mariners struggle is the load of travel. This is two FULL days of travel, really nothing else. Jet lag.

    Only thing going for it is that they moved up the start time to 4pm EDT. After such an emotional playoff-like game on late Sunday night, we gotta trek all the way to that swampy shithole Jacksonville.

    I know they are having a cold snap back there, but the torrential rains at some point this weekend will turn the field to slop. cleats won’t matter. it will just be trying to stay on your feet.

    Russ does not do great in the rain or in cold weather. We might have both.

    God I hope Jacksonville moves to London. They at least have fields that deal with the rain.

  2. hawkfan1

    dude, this formula can not be predictive of anything if it is ranking KC above NE. I hate patriots very much but please, if KC does not make it to playoffs or if they do and get blown out in the first round by NE, could you just retire this?

    • Doug

      It is not intended to be predictive–it is an accumulation of “power” throughout the season. If you have been paying attention, KC has been dropping like a stone after starting off the season like a house on fire. If they continue on the path they are on, KC will end below the median.

      The season accumulation approach does miss out on trends though, and I wonder Brian if you could give weight to a moving average from (maybe) the last four games? I know that gets picked up in the “change” column but the trends (due to improvement, regression, or the impact of injuries) are an important component of power and sort of gets to the point that Hawkfan1 is making. That said, I really appreciate the rankings as they are!