We are halfway through the season so in this weeks power rankings we’ll take a look at the best and worst divisions so far and look, who caught lucky breaks in the first half of the year and who is going to have a much tougher road in the second half of the season.
Not surprisingly the best division in our scoring efficiency metrics is the NFC East. They have two powerhouse teams in Dallas and Philadelphia, though the Eagles are trending down, and the Redskins and Giants are basically average. The 19.4% average performance is about 5% closer than the next closest division, which is the AFC West.
The AFC West is actually better than the NFC East in that all their teams are above average, they just don’t have the two monster teams to pull them up. The Chargers have faced a very difficult schedule and in terms of scoring/holding teams above their norms actually have done better than KC and Oakland. If the Chargers found ways to win some tight contests they would probably be a 5 win team right now. Oakland is actually very close to average (3.5%) which matches up with what many say about them. Teams that usually play at the level of the Raiders would win about 8 games a season and clearly Oakland should end with more than that.
The AFC East is third with a 11.4% average efficiency, but they are the first of the “good” divisions to have a stinker of a team- the Jets, who are currently at -35.3%. They balance out the surprising Bills who have played well and pretty much leave the grade up to New England, who is the only team in the NFL that looks dominant. They project to 13 wins. In most seasons you would have a few teams at that number or above at this stage of the season. In general the overall numbers seem way down this year with more teams trending towards average rather than really good or really bad.
The division that has probably surprised some the most is the AFC North, which traditionally has been good except for the Browns. They rank 6th with a -12.6% e. This was something I talked about in the offseason as potential for the Browns in the future, because you had a Bengals and Ravens team that was getting older and a Steelers team that is somewhere in between. Cleveland hasn’t taken advantage of it this year, but those other two teams could be in some long term trouble.
The NFC West is also way down. Seattle hasn’t fired the way they typically do while the Rams lack of scoring and the 49ers lack of scoring and defense puts them way down in the negatives, And in the no surprise category the AFC South remains the worst division in the NFL. Not one team has a positive overall efficiency score. They are just awful.
Monday on Twitter I posted the teams that had the easiest and hardest schedules based on records and here we’ll look at the efficiency ratings as an indicator of SOS. The Ravens had the easiest schedule in the NFL with their opponents averaging an efficiency of -13.7%. That’s the byproduct of getting the Jets, Browns, and Jaguars all in the first half of the year. The Titans were right behind with -13.6%, which is a big reason why nobody should get too caught up in their record.
Seattle had the third easiest run with a -9.6% which probably has some concerned about where they are headed. The Jaguars and Colts round out the bottom 5. Such is life in the AFC South.
The teams that faced the toughest schedules were the Saints (9.2%), Steelers (8.9%), Bengals (6.3%), 49ers (6%), and Texans (6%).
As we move forward the teams with the biggest increase in difficulty are the Ravens, who go from a -13.7% to a 12.1% average opponent, an increase of nearly 26 percentage points. Seattle has the second biggest increase with a 16.4% jump, but their average opponent is just at a 6.8% so their schedule is not really difficult, its just harder than in the first half. Oakland goes from a -4.7% to a 10.5% which means this will be their time to show if they are for real or not. The Redskins make a big 11% jump while the hapless Browns will see their difficult increase 10.3% points.
The other teams with a 5% point or more increase are the Titans, Jaguars, Lions, Buccaneers, Eagles, Rams, and Chiefs. In general these are all the teams that could have inflated records in the first half or have difficulty matching their first half record even if their current level of play remains steady.
The biggest break goes to the Patriots who have the easiest schedule in the league and move from a 3.8% average opponent to -16.4%. They haven’t played the Jets yet so that is a big part of it. Pittsburgh and Houston will both get significantly easier schedules in the second half and I would think that should make both big favorites to win their division. New Orleans and San Diego round out the top 5 and both could make a run at the playoffs if they can win a few games they would normally be expected to lose.
The other teams with -5% change are the Bills, Bears, Dolphins, Falcons, Bengals, and Vikings. These are the squads that should be able to either get back in the playoff race or improve on their standing if they continue to play at a similar level.
Here are this weeks power rankings:
|Rank||Team||Scoring Efficiency||Defensive Efficiency||Total Efficiency||Predicted Wins|
|1||New England Patriots||25.2%||-28.7%||53.9%||13.1|
|10||San Diego Chargers||18.4%||2.7%||15.7%||9.5|
|11||Kansas City Chiefs||-8.6%||-21.3%||12.7%||9.2|
|12||Green Bay Packers||10.7%||-1.6%||12.3%||9.1|
|15||New Orleans Saints||25.7%||24.7%||1.0%||8.0|
|18||New York Giants||-14.4%||-13.2%||-1.1%||7.9|
|26||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||-11.4%||11.3%||-22.7%||5.8|
|28||Los Angeles Rams||-25.8%||1.0%||-26.8%||5.5|
|29||New York Jets||-13.3%||22.0%||-35.3%||4.6|
|31||San Francisco 49ers||-4.3%||44.3%||-48.6%||3.3|
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.