NFL Power Rankings Week 4

Let me just start by reiterating these rankings are calculated the same way every week, and they do not (directly) represent my opinion of which teams are the best. They formula I created represents what I believe is a reasonable approximation of how to judge team strength in a way I have time and resources to calculate on a weekly basis. Why the preamble this week? The rankings feel bonkers.

The Patriots on top makes sense. The Dolphins on the bottom makes sense. I even buy the 49ers being high in the rankings given how well their defense has played and the strength of their offense (they are averaging more points than the Patriots). 

Jacksonville at third almost made me spit out my tea, if I had been drinking tea. Tennessee at four? Kansas City at five (and not higher)? Tampa at eight? 

Let’s dig a little deeper. The Jags have a more efficient offense than most realize. They are only scoring 21 ppg but boast a 108.7 team passer rating and average 5.7 yards per carry. Their defense is okay, and gives them a spread in everything but points scored. What really helps the Jags is their strength of schedule, which ranks second in the NFL. If you remove the SOS as a factor, they drop to eighth. 

The Titans have an efficient passing offense with a 106.2 passer rating, but it is their defense that holds opponents to an 87.4 passer rating and 15.5 points per game that deserves real praise. They also benefit from a very strong SOS. They would only drop to fifth, though, if that was removed.

The Chiefs are a powerhouse with a suspect defense. They are surrendering a 92.9 passer rating and a whopping 5.9 yards per carry to opponents. They have been able to overcome it so far, but how will that play out in the playoffs? 

I am finding myself questioning the relative weighting of run versus pass in the formula. I made an adjustment a few years back when it was clear the run game was not being given enough importance in the calculation. If I go to a more pass-centric weighting, the rankings change to:

  1. NE
  2. SF
  3. KC
  4. TEN
  5. JAX
  6. DAL
  7. BAL
  8. DET
  9. TAM
  10. GB

Better, but not enough for me to change anything yet. If I use the heavy pass weighting and remove SOS altogether, we get this:

  1. NE
  2. SF
  3. DAL
  4. KC
  5. BAL
  6. TEN
  7. SEA
  8. GB
  9. CAR
  10. DET

It is possible I have SOS weighted too heavily as well. It is something to monitor. As much as I like seeing Seattle vault into the top ten in that last iteration, I have trouble arguing that a team that has struggled to beat bad opponents should be in the top ten. SOS helps keep things honest in that way.

Getting back to the actual rankings, Baltimore looked like a powerhouse early, but is falling back to earth. Their three week slide is ugly. The Rams fell out of the top ten with their loss this week.

It feels pretty wide open in general. 


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 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.

Founder, Editor & Lead Writer
  1. I can easily agree that SOS is probably skewing the relative rankings and creating a chart that doesn’t pass the “gut” test. Other power rankings have different skew factors and end up with a similarly questionable outcomes; Fairly accurate for the top and bottom 2 or 3 but suspect or mystifying in between. Early in the season those factors are mostly based on previous season performance which is pretty meaningless for some teams because of changes in coaches, players, and injury factors. All that said, the Seahawks at 14 at this point in the season seems spot on to my gut.

    There has been a lot of expressed worry about the D line for Seattle, with special moaning about Clowney not being effective enough. That is selling Clowney short for the disruption he causes without sacking the qb. His interception against Murray was an impact play and may be a positive sign that he’s nearing game shape and scheme understanding after missing camp altogether. Add in that a D line performs better as the guys get used to working together and have a better feel for formations and team mate reactions. This line is made up of nearly all new guys to the team, experienced individually yes, in sync with each other, not so much. But it’s getting better, and hopefully Ansah is healthy enough and gets up to speed quickly. Integrating Reed in a couple games might slow the process a bit, but, barring injury impacts, the second half of the season might see a strong unit (we hope). Linebacking is a strong suit, especially against the run, but a tad weak against quick passing games. That weakness is in part due to the backfield being in a constant state of flux as PC searches for a working combination. It’s clear they believe McD is better for the overall defense when he’s at SS, which is why the much lamented (in some circles) T2 is back as a starter. Poor T2. yeah, his tackling is wanting (he’s not alone this season though), but it appears he’s still the best overall FS available for now. An interesting aside, to me anyway, is how he is repeatedly compared to St. Earl the Great. Don’t get me wrong, Earl has been one of the all time best at FS. However, a whole lot of fans in Baltimore would argue against that right now. Seattle fans may not have as much visibility on that as we outside the market folks. Earl got burned so badly by Mahomes that even the guys on NFL network had a three play segment compilation showing how Earl got smoked. And that didn’t even include the big scoring play Hardman had. Then there were a couple plays in their loss to the Browns where Earl didn’t look good at all. There’s even an article about his causing problems in the locker room. Sad in all. But it just goes to show that beliefs and reality are not always in sync.

    The offense for the Seahawks is coming together reasonably well. WR is perhaps the oddest grouping as only one starter carried over and the rest are working in as time progresses. DK is, perhaps, the most exciting, but he’s still a raw rookie whose shown his vulnerabilities with each successive game. Hopefully we’ve got the coaching talent to teach him up. Moore is late to the table, and the maligned Brown had a good game that may be significant going forward. The rest? Wait and see. The O line started out as very troubling since it was mostly carry over guys who should have been used to each other and ready to work well from day one. Of course they didn’t, but seem to be working into form. Maybe the result of preseason being more about screening new talent than practicing/preparing for “real” games. Russ is in seasoned pro form, even with a few passing glitches that are normal. His decision making looks to have advanced even more, and his willingness to rely on the quick pass when appropriate is very good. And, we probably should give a shout out to Mrs. Schotty for kicking her hubbies butt to improve his play calling :).

    All in all, the Hawks have played like a middle third ranked team, but with enough youth to be very promising going forward. I still contend that our assistant coaches/coordinators are good but not great, which would mean we will be a respectable team that won’t get far in the post season this year. We look like we might edge into the top ten by season’s end, which wouldn’t be all bad considering.

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