As with the college football power ratings, I decided to streamline the process and use mainly net statistics, as it can kill two birds with one stone for a lot of my categories.
Here are the statistical categories I’m using:
To get a team’s rating, I averaged out their ranks across all the statistical categories listed above, and then subtracted the number from 101. The highest a team can be is 100.0 (i.e. ranking #1 in every statistical category, which is basically impossible because you’d also have to have the hardest schedule in the league in addition to being the best at literally everything), the lowest a team can be is 69.0, which is also almost impossible.
Strength of schedule is only single-weighted now. I just feel like it’s not quite as important in the NFL as it is in college football. In college football, teams vary wildly in quality. You have your UMasses and Alabamas, and the difference between the two is enormous.
But in the NFL, it’s not as drastic of a difference from the best team to the worst team. Plus, it’s not like playing a tough schedule is the only reason a team is considered “bad.” If you’re good, you’re going to win games, if you’re bad, you’re going to lose a lot of games. It’s not as if, say, the Lions would be 5-2 right now if they had the Bills’ schedule (although who knows, they might be).
Good teams in the NFL tend to have “easier” schedules because of the simple fact that they don’t play themselves, and the opposite applies to bad teams.
I also included a special teams category, finally. I just use Football Outsiders’ special teams DVOA rankings, as it’s all-encompassing. I didn’t want to include individual categories for field goal kicking, punting, net return yards, etc. because it would skew the rankings way too heavily towards special teams. Plus, there’s really not a big correlation between having a good special teams and being a good team. It’s kind of all over the map–for instance, the Bills are my top-ranked team, but they have the 30th ranked special teams. The Lions are my 27th-ranked team and they have the second-best special teams.
Here are the updated rankings reflecting all the action through week 7:
The Bills, despite losing to the Titans the last time we saw them, remain the #1 team in the NFL. They just rank so highly in almost everything–everything except penalties. They’re 28th in penalties.
The Bills, Cardinals and Bucs are the “elite” tier.
Then you have the Cowboys, Rams and Bengals–excuse me, the First Place in the AFC Conference Bengals–
The Vikings, Browns, Ravens and Saints round out the top-10.
I also included the ESPN FPI rating alongside my own as a means to compare where I have the teams vs. where ESPN has them.
The biggest differences between my ratings and ESPN’s:
- I have the Bengals at 6, ESPN has them at 17. I get the reluctance to buy in to the Bengals, but they just do a lot of things really well right now. They don’t, however, take care of the football well, but it hasn’t seemed to hurt them. I’d almost argue that having great stats and winning a lot of games despite having a lot of turnovers makes a team even more impressive in my eyes–they’re able to overcome turnovers.
- I have the Chiefs at 22, ESPN has them at 6. I don’t think the Chiefs are the 22nd best team in the league. But they are absolutely atrocious on defense, and my power ratings are based on net statistics, meaning while the Chiefs offense is really good, their defense is so bad that it basically nullifies all the good their offense does. This is reflected in their 3-4 record. Also, the Chiefs turn the ball over like crazy right now, and my rankings place a lot of value on taking care of the football.
- The Browns, who I have at 8, ESPN has at 16. The Browns are a tough team to evaluate, but statistically, they do almost everything either league-average or better, and they’re elite at both running the ball and stopping the run. Plus they get after the quarterback. They are #2 in Net Yards per game, which is huge, and #3 in Net Yards Per Play, which is also a strong indicator of a high-quality team. The only thing they don’t do particularly well is take care of the ball, but they’re not Chiefs-level bad with turnovers.
- The Raiders. I have them at 13, ESPN has them at 21. The only area the Raiders are really deficient is in the run game, both running the ball and stopping the run. And they get a lot of penalties. Derek Carr is also a very underrated quarterback and not a lot of people want to admit it. He’s arguably top-10 in the league, or at least right around there.
Another thing to note: despite the Lions being 0-7, both my ratings and ESPN think they’re better than their record. Not much better, but still, the Lions are not the worst team in the league.