Week 14 NFL Statistical Rankings

I have made some tweaks to the system which I want to quickly go over:

  1. Doubled the importance of win %. I wanted the rankings to be as objective as possible, meaning the various statistical categories would not be weighted against one another subjectively and according to my own personal biases. But I did feel like winning percentage should be elevated in importance above the rest of the stats.
  2. Instead of tracking Red Zone TD% and Red Zone TD% allowed, we’ll now use points per red zone trip and points per red zone trip allowed.
  3. Hot/Cold: teams are now ranked by current win/loss streak. I wanted my system to be as accurate a picture as possible of how good or bad a team has been all season long. I don’t want one game to cause significant jumps or drops in the rankings, I want it to be cumulative. However, I do feel that some degree of recency bias should be factored in. I was going to simply track each team’s change in the rankings from week to week, but because I keep tweaking the system every week it doesn’t translate. Once I finalize the system I’ll do this for next season, as it’s too late now. But this season teams’ win/loss streaks will now be factored in.

The median is 15.86, and all teams are listed on how far above or below the median they are:

1. Rams (+7.00): The Rams are statistically the best team in the league. They’re 3rd in strength of victory, #1 in pass defense, #3 in run defense, #3 in scoring defense, #1 in yards per play allowed, #2 in third-down defense, #3 in sacks, #1 in points-per-drive allowed and #2 in percentage of opponents’ drives that end in points (not the same thing as points-per-drive). They’re clearly elite on defense. On offense, they’re not quite elite but they’re good enough: #12 in passing yards per game, #8 in rushing yards per game, #11 in yards-per-play, #6 in third-down conversions, and have allowed the 5th-fewest sacks. The only category they’re a bad in is offensive scoring drive percentage, where they’re #25. They’re also #17 in scoring offense, but 9th in points-per red zone drive. They rank #11 in yards-per-play on offense. I don’t personally think they’re the best team in the league, but I think they’re in the top 3.

2. Bucs (+6.17): A lot of websites’ power rankings don’t even have the Bucs in their top 10. I get that a lot of people have given up on them, but the Bucs are highly ranked in just about everything this season. They do have some glaring weaknesses, however: pass defense (21st) and rushing offense (26th). Having a bad pass defense is a potentially fatal flaw for a team to have in the modern day NFL, which is why I don’t buy them as the #2 team in the league. I have them ranked 6th in the power rankings, but even that is higher than where most people have them ranked right now. I still think the Bucs have enough talent across the board to win the Super Bowl, however. If they can ever put it all together, watch out.

3. Packers (+6.03): They’re a top-3 offense in the league and they’re above average on defense. Their run defense has been their weak-link this season, but they currently rank 11th in run defense over the course of the season. If they can hold up against the run, they’ve got a real shot at the Super Bowl.

4. Steelers (+5.59): Everyone’s giving up on the Steelers after two straight losses, and I get it, but they’re still ranked as an elite defense. However, they’ve had some serious recent injuries on defense in Devin Bush and Bud Dupree (both gone for the season), so their defensive ranks might be a bit over-inflated. Overall, the Steelers are a team trending in the wrong direction, especially their running game. Look at it this this way: the Steelers may seem too high at #4, but they were #1 last week.

5. Chiefs (+5.55): Obviously we all think the Chiefs are the best team in the league, but they do have a lot of weaknesses: 17th in rushing offense and 26th in run defense. 20th in 3rd down defense. 20th in sacks. They allow the second-most points per red zone drive to opponents. They’re one of the most penalized teams. And they have played one of the easiest schedules in the league, which is factored into the rankings.

6. Saints (+5.52): They’re a top-10 defense and a top-10 offense. However, their offense has slipped a bit in recent weeks after Brees got hurt and we saw that come to a head against the Eagles, where the Saints were held scoreless until the middle of the 3rd quarter. They need Brees back ASAP. And the Saints suffer in the rankings for playing the 3rd-easiest schedules in the league.

7. Cardinals (+4.24): How are the Cardinals ranked so high? Simple: they’re a lot better than people think on defense. They’re really just not bad in any of the statistical categories except for penalty yards, where they rank 24th in the league.

8. Ravens (+3.90): They’re technically not even in the playoffs right now as the Dolphins have the tiebreaker over them. But the Ravens are a scary team. I’m going to pump the brakes on the whole “Lamar is back!” talk because the Browns defense is not that good, but the Ravens are still standing. They’ve played the 2nd hardest schedule in the league, yet still rank #4 in strength of victory and #4 in point differential. They’re 16th against the pass and 13th against the run, which isn’t great, but they’re 5th in points allowed, 8th in YPP allowed, 3rd in 3rd down defense, and 5th in points-per-drive allowed. They’re middle-of-the-pack in terms of getting to the QB, so you’d like to see them a little higher there, but they’re still ranked #4 in percent of opponents drives that end in points. They have the #1 rushing offense, but the #31 passing offense, so that’s a major and potentially fatal disparity there. The only real question mark for this team is Lamar’s arm. Otherwise, they’re essentially elite.

9. Colts (+3.52): Their defensive numbers have slipped in recent weeks, which is probably a result of them playing the the toughest part of their schedule (Ravens, Titans, Packers, Titans, Texans, Raiders), but they’re still #5 against the run and #13 against the pass. They’re not really bad at anything, but they’re also not really elite in anything. Worst categories are #25 on 3rd down offense and #23 in offensive rushing yards per carry. They’re just a good, solid team across the board. Is that enough to win a Super Bowl? I don’t think so. Generally most Super Bowl teams are elite on either offense or defense. The Colts run game is improving lately, Jonathan Taylor especially.

10. Bills (+2.90): Same story with the Bills even after their big win over the Steelers: they’re below-average on defense, albeit improving in recent weeks. They have a mediocre running game, but Josh Allen has become an elite quarterback. Their strongest area is the most important area. Is Josh Allen enough to overcome all the team’s other deficiencies? We’ll see.

11. Seahawks (+2.72): Seattle is a similar team to Buffalo. They rely on the passing game to cover up for everything else. However, the Seahawks run defense is #4 in the league, and they rank #7 in sacks. Their pass defense, however, is ranked dead-last, and they’re 27th in 3rd down defense. On offense, they’re top-10 in passing and rushing, but they allow a ton of sacks and aren’t great on 3rd down. With the Seahawks, it all boils down to the same question as with the Bills: can the quarterback overcome all the other deficiencies?

12. Titans (+1.48): The Titans’ defense is bad. Like, really bad. 29th against the pass, 21st in points allowed, dead-last in 3rd down defense, dead last in pressure, dead last in sacks, and 24th in points-per-drive allowed. But they have an elite running game, they’re 4th in scoring, 3rd in yards-per-play, 3rd in points-per-drive, 8th in sacks allowed, 5th in scoring drive percentage, and surprisingly tied with the Bills for 4th in QB play.

13. Dolphins (+1.28): They’ve played the league’s easiest schedule and their offense is well-below average. They rank 18th in pass defense and 22nd against the run, yet somehow they’re #2 in points allowed, #1 in third down defense, #3 in points per drive and #1 in scoring drive percentage allowed. They just don’t allow their opponents to score.

14. Browns (+1.28): They’re below-average on defense across the board and 25th in passing yards per game on offense, but they actually rank 11th in QB play. They’ve got an elite running game, Baker looks like he’s getting better, they’re 8th in points-per-drive, 8th in points-per-play, they’re great in the red zone on offense and they have allowed the 5th fewest sacks.

15. 49ers (+0.34): Really? They’ve played the 4th-hardest schedule yet have the 7th highest strength of victory. They’re 5th in pass defense, 8th in run defense, 6th in yards-per-play allowed, 4th in 3rd down defense and 9th in points-per-drive allowed. They’re not great at getting to the QB, which is probably a result of Nick Bosa being done for the season along with basically everyone else on their team. They’re below-average across the board on offense, but Kyle Shanahan is one of the best coaches in the league.

16. Washington (+0.17): They’re on a 4 game winning streak and have become a legitimately elite defense. 3rd against the pass, 9th against the run, 6th in points allowed, 3rd in yards-per-play allowed, 6th on third down, 4th in sacks–they’re top-10 in every defensive category. Ron Rivera has really worked wonders with that defense. However, they’re near the bottom in everything on offense. They’re in first place in the NFC BEAST, so they’ve got a good chance to make the playoffs. If they do hold on to the playoff spot, they’re a team nobody wants to play.

Now for the bottom half of the league, the teams below the median:

17. Vikings (-0.17)

18. Patriots (-0.34)

19. Raiders (-1.24)

20. Eagles (-1.48)

21. Bears (-1.76)

22. Falcons (-2.21)

23. Giants (-2.34)

24. Broncos (-3.07)

25. Chargers (-3.55)

26. Panthers (-3.86)

27. Texans (-4.14)

28. Cowboys (-5.90)

29. Lions (-6.45)

30. Jaguars (-8.24)

31. Bengals (-10.14)

32. Jets (-10.45)

My next post will look at matchup advantages for week 15 based on these rankings. Stay tuned.

***

The table itself (you’ll probably have to zoom in):

Octavian

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