I decided to expand the ranking system. It’s not because I didn’t like the original one, but because I wanted to include more important statistical categories. There are now 26 statistical categories that factor into the rankings, giving us what I believe to be a more complete assessment of teams.
Here are the overall team stat categories: strength of schedule, strength of victories, winning percentage, point differential, turnover margin and penalty yards.
Here are the offensive stat categories: passing yards per game, rushing yards per game, points scored per game, yards per play, points per drive, 3rd down conversion percentage, yards per carry, sacks allowed, red zone TD percentage, percentage of drives that end in points.
And here are the defensive stat categories: passing yards per game allowed, rushing yards per game allowed, points per game allowed, 3rd down defense, QB pressure percentage, sacks, points per drive allowed, red zone defense, percent of opponents’ drives that end in points.
There are a couple of reasons I decided to expand the rankings to include 26 statistical categories: the first is that the more statistical categories you have, the more comprehensive and representative your final number will be. You’re making it less likely that you’re omitting important data points that could result in a team being either over- or under-rated. Plus, the more categories you include, the less likely it is that a team’s overall ranking is either over-inflated or under-valued due to its ranking in any one category.
For instance, if we do a simple statistical ranking system featuring only three categories (points scored per game, points allowed per game, and strength of schedule), you could have a team that is ranked highly in the first two categories but very low in strength of schedule and they’ll be under-ranked. Take the Steelers, for instance: they rank 7th in scoring, 1st in points against, but 31st in strength of schedule. This would result in their average being 13th, skewing their ranking lower just because of one very low statistical category dragging it down.
But with many different statistical categories, it ensures that outlier results don’t skew the results too much. It rewards teams that are consistently great across the board and allows them to rise to the top. In short, I feel that including more statistical categories allows me to be more confident in the accuracy of the rankings.
Additionally, I have started doing QB Statistical Rankings, which will be factored in to the Team Statistical Rankings. The QB Statistical Ranking system uses the same principle as the Team Statistical Ranking system: take a bunch of different categories, and average out where the QB ranks in all of them. For the QB Rankings, I am using the following 8 categories: total passing TDs, interception percentage, QBR, QB Rating, passing yards per-game, yards-per-attempt, adjusted net yards-per-attempt, and completion percentage. I am including the top 31 QBs in the league in terms of passing attempts, because Dak Prescott still leads the Cowboys in passing attempts. If and when Dalton gets into the top 32 in passing attempts, I’ll add him in to the rankings.
Once I get every QB’s average across those 8 stat categories, I then take the median and then compare all the QBs to the median to find out who is above the median, average and below the median. Because QB is the most important position in the NFL, the QB Statistical Ranking figure will be factored in to my Team Statistical Rankings.
So here are the Week 13 Statistical Rankings. And instead of doing the ranking average, I’ll list the teams by how far above or below the median team (15.6) they are:
1. Steelers: +6.3 over median: Look, I get that a lot of people are dumping their hypothetical Steelers stock after they lost to the WFT, but they’re still the top-ranked defense in the league overall. And while their running game is now non-existent, they still rank highly enough on offense to hold on to the top spot in the statistical rankings. It also helps that they lead the league in point differential and turnover margin. Yes, they rank 31st in strength of schedule and just 17th in strength of victories. But all that is factored in.
T-2. Packers, +5.9: A three-way tie for the #2 spot. The Packers are pretty average on defense, but they’re elite on offense. And I have Aaron Rodgers as the top-ranked QB in the league, albeit by an absolutely tiny margin over Mahomes.
T-2. Saints, +5.9: They’re just great at everything. The only truly bad category they have is that they are the most penalized team in the league. People think Drew Brees is washed-up, but I’ve got him as the 6th-ranked QB in the league this season. He ranks 6th in adjusted net-yards per-attempt (ANY/A), 3rd in QBR and 1st in completion percentage. He only ranks 21st in passing yards per game, but the Saints aren’t asking him to throw them to victory. They’re a run-first team now.
T-2. Rams, +5.9: The Rams are basically elite in everything, too. Their worst category is scoring drive percentage, where they rank 25th. They rank 5th in the league in strength of victories, which is much better than the Steelers, Packers and Saints. The Rams’ defense is only allowing opposing offenses to get 4.6 yards per play on average. The Jets offense is averaging 4.7 yards per play. That means the Rams defense basically turns opposing offenses into the Jets. Impressive.
5. Bucs, +5.2: People are bailing on the Bucs but they’re one of just four teams to have a winning record despite playing against an above-.500 strength of schedule. That means their combined opponents average a winning record, and the Bucs themselves still have a winning record after playing all of those teams. Yes, they’ve lost to the Saints twice, the Rams and the Chiefs (plus the Bears, their only real “bad” loss). But they rank very highly in just about every category. Their two glaring weaknesses, however: pass defense and rushing offense.
6. Chiefs, +4.6: I think Kansas City is under-ranked, but the Statistical Rankings knock them for having a below-average defense. They’re 27th against the run and 12th against the pass. Plus, they’re middle-of-the-pack running the ball, ranking 16th. Despite their below-average defensive ranks, they still rank 6th in points allowed, the one stat that matters the most on defense. I’m not worried about them.
7. Cardinals, +2.8: In my power rankings (the subjective counterpart to these objective statistical rankings), I have the Cardinals at 17. This is a team going in the wrong direction. However, the statistical rankings are cumulative over the course of the whole season, meaning they factor in what the Cardinals have done since week 1, not just their recent skid where they’ve lost 4 of 5. They’re still rated as a top-10 offense.
8. Ravens, +2.7: People want to bury them, but they’ve played the 3rd-hardest schedule in the league. They’re in that category with the Bucs as one of 4 teams to have a winning record despite playing an above-.500 strength of schedule. They’re highly-ranked on defense, and while their passing game is very limited, they’re the #1 rushing team in the league.
9. Colts, +1.8: They remain a very solid team. They’re a top-10 defense now, no longer the top-ranked defense, and their offensive numbers are below-average, and the fact that they’re not elite at anything limits their upside, but I think the Colts are right about where they belong at 9.
10. Seahawks, +1.4: They’re last in the league in pass defense, 5th in run defense, and 28th in 3rd down defense. They’re just not that good on defense. On offense, they rank highly in a lot of categories, but they’re just 24th in 3rd down offense, 30th in sacks allowed and outside the top-10 in terms of percent of offensive drives that end in points (11th).
11. Dolphins, +1.0: The Dolphins are a weird team. They’ve played the easiest schedule in the league, rank 30th in strength of victory as a result, are 15th in pass defense and 21st in run defense. They’re well-below average on offense. Yet they maximize their opportunities and play great defensive situational football: 1st in 3rd down defense, 2nd in points allowed, 3rd in points-per-drive allowed, and #1 in percentage of opponents’ drives that end in points. They just don’t allow points. On offense, despite being bad in most categories, they still rank 12th in scoring drive percent. They find ways to score. I don’t get it, and I don’t think it’s sustainable, but it’s working at the moment.
12. Bills, +0.9: They’re poorly-ranked on defense but an elite passing team. We know all this. They’re #2 in scoring drive percent, but 27th in scoring drive percentage allowed. They’re #3 in passing, but #23 in rushing. They’re not a complete team, but they’re winning games.
13. 49ers, +0.8: Probably the most over-ranked team thus far other than the Cardinals, the 49ers benefit from being fringe top-10ish on defense and slightly below-average on offense. They get a bump from the fact that they have played the 5th-hardest schedule and have 4th best strength of victory. They’ve done well-enough against a very hard schedule, I guess.
14. Titans, +0.7: They’re very good on offense, but abysmal on defense. They’re the 3rd of the 4 teams that have a winning record despite playing an above.-500 strength of schedule.
15. Vikings, +0.4: They’re pretty bad on defense but fringe top-10ish on offense. They get a boost from ranking very highly on 3rd down defense and red zone TDs allowed. Plus they’re 2nd in yards per play and 3rd in red zone TD percentage. They hold opponents to field goals in the red zone and score TDs when they get into the red zone. Doing this can make up for a lot of other deficiencies.
16. Patriots, +0.3: The last team above the median, the Patriots have a very limited passing game, but an elite running game. They’re average on defense but rank #2 in the league in putting pressure on opposing QBs. They’re right about where we’d expect them to be with a 6-6 record.
These are all the teams below the median:
17. Browns, -0.3: The most under-ranked team on the list, I’d say–other than maybe the Chiefs. The reason is because they’ve played the 29th ranked strength of schedule, are 28th in strength of victory, and 19th in point differential. They’re below-average on defense other than stopping the run, where they rank 8th. And on offense they are limited in terms of passing but elite in rushing. They also protect the QB well, and are 7th in red zone TD percentage.
18. Washington, -1.0: They’re elite on defense but very bad on offense. That’s about it.
19. Raiders, -1.2: They’re terrible on defense but slightly above-average on offense. Derek Carr is surprisingly my 8th-ranked QB in the league this season. They’ve played the 8th hardest schedule in the league and rank #2 in strength of victory. They’re the 4th of 4 teams that have a winning record despite playing an above.-500 strength of schedule. Somehow, they win games.
20. Falcons, -1.7: They don’t really excel at anything, and their defense has been surprisingly higher-ranked than their offense.
21. Giants, -1.9: The Giants are pretty good on defense, not quite elite, but terrible on offense. The only category they’re decent in on offense is 11th in rushing. And they’re 5-7 despite playing an easy NFC Least schedule.
T-22. Panthers, -2.9: They’re basically below-average in just about every category, although Teddy Bridgewater surprisingly ranks 9th in QB play.
T-22. Texans, -2.9: They’ve got the #2 passing offense in the league and my #3 ranked QB, but they’re dead-last in rushing and well below-average on defense.
24. Eagles, -3.3: They’re not that bad on defense and actually are pretty good in some categories. They’re #2 in the league in sacks, #7 in pass defense and #5 in yards-per-play allowed. But they’re 25th against the run and 19th in scoring defense. And on offense, they’re absolutely abysmal in everything except yards-per-carry, where they actually rank 2nd. But in rushing yards per game, they rank 14th. They’re apparently good at running the ball; they just don’t run enough. That’s one of the stranger rankings disparities I came across.
25. Broncos, -3.4: Hardest schedule in the league, pretty decent in pass defense (which explains why they played the Chiefs so tough on Sunday night), but terrible on offense and incapable of stopping the run.
26. Chargers, -3.7: They’re 3-9 despite playing the18th-hardest schedule in the league. That’s tied with the Seahawks in terms of SoS, but the Seahawks are 8-4. They’re good at defending the pass and throwing the ball (although I guess not against Bill Belichick’s defense), and that’s about it. A massively disappointing team.
27. Bears, -4.5: They’ve played a hard schedule. Their offense has been so horrendously bad that it has caused their defense to regress, even though it’s still ranked above-average.
28. Cowboys, -7.1: Trash on offense, trash on defense. However, actually ranked 6th in passing defense and still ranked 9th in passing offense, although I’m sure that passing offense stat is due mostly to the fact that they were ranked in the top 3 before Dak got hurt, and their ranking in that category is still boosted. They may be the 9th-ranked passing offense, but they’re definitely not the 9th-best passing offense. There’s a difference.
29. Jaguars, -7.2: Horrific on offense, horrific on defense. But they’ve played a tough schedule.
30. Lions, -7.7: The Lions fall below the Jags because the Lions have played the 24th-ranked schedule and are still horrible on both defense and below-average on offense. Matt Stafford is the 16th-ranked QB–he is the median QB in the league. He’s been perfectly average this year.
31. Bengals, -9.6: They weren’t that good when Burrow was healthy, and now they’re even worse after his injury. They do literally nothing well on either offense or defense.
32. Jets, -9.7: At least the Jets have the 11th-ranked run defense.
Here is the full table (you’ll probably need to zoom in):