NFL Power Rankings Week 8 — Seahawks Occupy Surprisingly High Perch

POWER RANKINGS

 

Many of you have asked me where the power rankings have been this season. Truthfully, life has been so hectic that even my early morning blog time has been overrun. Today, though, was different. I finally had time to compile the rankings and share the result. Much to my surprise, your Seattle Seahawks are third. For those who might be new to this rankings system and think that is the result of homerism, please read the formula explanation below and check the power rankings formula on the blog for past published rankings. So back to the results…

Seattle has the 6th-ranked offense, the 2nd-ranked defense, and the 13th-ranked strength of schedule. A huge area of strength for the Seahawks comes from their top-ranked passer rating differential of +30.0. They are a more balanced team than either the Rams or the Chiefs, who both ride ultra-powerful offenses to occupy the top two spots. Both have suspect defenses. The Rams allow roughly the same amount of points per game as the Seahawks (19.4 vs 18.7), but have a soft underbelly with a 91.3 opponent passer rating and 4.8 yards per carry.

Right behind the Seahawks are their opponent this week, the Los Angeles Chargers. They are second in the NFL in passer rating differential, but do it differently. They have the highest-rated offensive passer, but are middling in opponent passer rating. They are also pulled down by a weak strength of schedule.

Seattle is set to play every team in the top seven except for the Saints. They will also play the 10th-ranked Vikings. While nearly every one of those teams is likely not looking at Seattle as a significant obstacle, the numbers here suggest that they should.

 

 

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.
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