With week 8 now complete we can compile our rankings for the week. I’ve gotten a few questions about these rankings, especially for certain teams, and I’ll try to touch on them throughout. These rankings measure the efficiency at which a team scores or prevents an opponent from scoring based on their specific schedule. So if a team has an 80% scoring efficiency it means they are scoring 1.8 times more than their specific schedule has allowed on average in all games not against that specific opponent. The predicted records are based on a regression formula from 10 years worth of data, with a standard deviation I believe around 1.2 and an R2 of about 0.85, for those interested in these type of things.
There was very little movement this week at the top of the rankings. The top 4 remain exactly the same while the 49ers and Packers flipped the 5 and 6 position. The only new entrant to the top 10 was the Bengals who climbed from 12 to 10 and replaced the Patriots.
The first two teams I have been getting questions about are the Panthers and the Chiefs, and I know there will be more this week based on standings. The Panthers, who just hit 4 wins on the year rank 7th while the undefeated Chiefs rank 8th. The two teams are essentially mirror images of one another with limited offensive output and great defensive play, What separates the two teams in real life is strength of schedule (Panthers played Seattle and have had 4 road games vs 3 road games and the toughest opponent being Dallas for the Chiefs) and coaching where the Panthers have had some trouble learning to win tight games while the Chiefs don’t have that issue. The expectation would be that at some point this catches up with Kansas City and they will lose some closer games.
In terms of Wildcard projections (and these are way early because teams go into tailspins at times after this point of the year) the Panthers and Lions would look to be the two favorites for the final spot in the NFC with the Cardinals being that outside team. The Panthers schedule is more difficult with two games against the Saints plus New England and San Francisco while the Lions only play one real top team in the Packers. Carolina’s numbers could plummet if they don’t play well against better competition. Arizona holds a head to head win against both teams and plays a relatively easy schedule until the Seahawks and 49ers come back to back at the end of the year. If one of those teams takes off in Week 17 it gives them a clear path to get there as well.
In the AFC the Titans would look to be the favorite for the final Wildcard spot provided Jake Locker is healthy. 8 or 9 wins looks to be enough in the AFC and they have five games remaining against bad teams (Houston, Jacksonville twice, Rams, and Raiders) which they have to win since they also play the Colts twice and the Broncos. The Ravens and Dolphins would be the other two strong candidates right now but Baltimore faces a somewhat harder schedule while the Dolphins may implode by the time their schedule lightens up.
Of course that brings up the questions about the Chargers and the Jets, the two teams that actually have 4 victories. Overall the Chargers have been a slightly negative team and they managed 4 wins against the easy part of their schedule. Remaining on their schedule is the Bengals, Broncos twice, and Chiefs twice. Those are all very difficult matchups. While they have shown the ability to beat high level teams (upsetting Indy a few weeks ago and beating Dallas) they have also lost to the Raiders and Texans. So they have been incredibly inconsistent.
The Jets I get a ton of questions about since this has projected them at 5-6 wins the last few weeks, a number that has now fallen to 3.3. For the most part the Jets have had the good fortune of winning close games against bad teams which credit should go to the coaching staff as a team like this normally would split those types of games. They have also been shelled by the Bengals and Titans and were non-competitive against the lowly Steelers. They will need to improve greatly to get to that 8 or 9 win mark, unless they end up being that rare team that just gets by a bunch of mediocre teams and gets wiped out against quality teams. The Colts were that type of team in 2012.
In terms of value the Panthers are getting the most out of their salary cap spending this season, while the least obviously belongs to the Jaguars. The Colts and the Saints are next in terms of efficient allocation of cap dollars this year. All told 8 teams are spending less than $11 million per projected win. 11 teams will likely be spending more than $20 million per win. Of those the Raiders, Jets, and Jets have significant dead money making up a portion of their cap so at least it’s a little more expected to project badly in their cases. The Cardinals, Panthers, Chiefs, and Cowboys also have a lot tied up in dead money (nothing excessive, just more than average) which makes them a little more impressive compared to others.
Power Rankings, Week 8
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