NFL Power Rankings Week 9: Pats Cling to Top Spot

The previously undefeated and seemingly untouchable New England Patriots were walloped in Baltimore Sunday night, but they managed to hold onto the top spot in the rankings this week.

Part of the reason New England still ranks above the undefeated 49ers is because San Francisco also had a step back statistically after surrendering 25 points and not tormenting an opposing quarterback quite as much as they have throughout the year.

Baltimore has been climbing steadily and is now in the third spot. Winning in Seattle and at home against the Pats have to be the more impressive pair of victories and one team has on their resume this season.

Kansas City, Dallas, and Seattle are essentially tied at what looks like the third tier of teams. Seattle continues to be propped up by their offense, which now ranks first overall in these rankings, barely eclipsing the Ravens.

They have yet to beat a team ahead of them in these rankings. They will have two chances to do that in the next three weeks, starting with what looks like a mismatch in San Francisco.

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.