Welcome to our first power rankings of the season, which are based on my own “efficiency” ratings. These ratings break down team performance into two categories- scoring and defensive efficiency. Scoring efficiency is a measure of how many points a team is scoring above or below their schedules average points allowed. Defensive efficiency is the exact opposite in which we score teams based on how many points teams are permitted to score compared to their seasonal averages. Overall efficiency is simply the sum of both facets of the game. The averages are adjusted to remove the games played against the team.
As an example if a team is averaging 20 points a game against a schedule allowing, on average, of 17 points per game they would have a scoring efficiency of 17.6%. If that team was allowing 20 points against a schedule that only scored 17, they would be graded a -15%. We read that as the team is expected to score 17.6% more than their opponents typically allow and to allow that team to score 15% more than their average scoring output. Adding both together gives the overall score for the team. I also have a model that I use for predicting end of season wins.
It’s still early in the season so these numbers at this stage fluctuate often, but it’s usually enough games to get some idea about the teams. I should note that no team in the years I have kept these rankings (I have them dating back to 2002) has been as bad as the Rams and Jacksonville and it kind of broke my equation, predicting them to have a negative record, which I bumped to 0.
Not surprisingly the Broncos rank with the dominating scoring performances. The Saints come in second with an extremely well balanced approach while the Seahawks skew heavily on point prevention. All three are undefeated so it’s no real surprise. The Chiefs are also undefeated but only rank 7th. This is because the scoring outputs have been below average when you consider the schedule and indicate a team that could have difficulty winning against teams with an offensive pulse in the future.
The first real surprise comes from the 1-2 Panthers but to some extent this is likely from not enough data points. They held the Seahawks to 12 points and shut out NY which skews their numbers much moreso with just 3 games than it will in week 5 or 6, assuming they don’t keep shutting teams down. Despite the negativity towards both the Ravens and the Texans they have actually done ok and would be in that mid tier of playoff teams.
The most disappointing teams thus far, IMO, are the Falcons, Packers, Giants, and Redskins. The hope for Atlanta and Green Bay has to come from their ability to score. The Packers defense has been brutal the first three games and Atlanta’s has been poor. Green Bay’s ability to score is second to only the Broncos, but the points being allowed are the worst in the NFL. New York and Washington have just been all around bad teams with no unit playing well. It would be hard to imagine them turning their season around, but the division is terrible which works to their advantage. Dallas is trending right around average so the discrepancy is not as bad.
As mentioned above the Rams and Jaguars are a different level of terrible. I think in the past the worst a team ever ranked was around -60 or -70, a distinction I believe held by the Rams. Just by dumb luck both teams have to get better spreads in their games. On the bright side for St. Louis they already stole one game so the 0 win season wont occur. The model right now actually predicted -0.8 and -1.8 wins, and for those who care the equation has a R2 value of about 0.85 and stdev of 1.3 wins based on 10 seasons worth of data, so the Jaguars could be in a really bad spot, but it’s still early and things certainly change fast in the NFL.
In terms of financials the best bang for the cap dollar through the early part of the year is projected to be the Saints, Broncos, and Dolphins. Not counting the Jaguars or Rams, who project to 0 wins, the worst spending looks to be the Steelers who are on track to have nearly $30 million dollars allocated to each win.
Power Rankings, Week 4
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