Blind Power Rankings Week 10: Changes on Top, Strength of Schedule and Average MOV

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Another week in the books! We look towards other teams to see what wins in the NFL and other ways to account for statistical troubles.

It's interesting that we keep finding ways to change the rankings, which goes to show how volatile the NFL really is. Some odd games this week ended up changing the rankings more than you'd normally expect heading into Week 10. A disappointing Seattle game against Tampa Bay coupled with a Kansas City game that saw them losing for longer than they were winning are somewhat notable, but the most bizarre outcome had to be the Indianapolis Colts' win over the Houston Texans.

On average, the Colts were behind in the game by -10.7 points. More interestingly, they were behind against a team that had just shuffled their starting quarterback and primary backup in favor of an undrafted free agent—local boy Case Keenum, who broke NCAA passing records by playing at the same school that produced another NCAA record-buster, Andre Ware.

While it is inaccurate to say that they played in the same system, it is easy to compare the two as system quarterbacks. Keenum plays under St. Paul, Minnesota native Tony Levine, who is playing with an Air Raid offense developed under Mike Price and Kevin Sumlin while Andre Ware played in a Run and Shoot offense, one that is both strikingly similar and the complete opposite of the Air Raid offense.

At any rate, neither of them provided the quarterbacks with the pedigree they needed (allegedly) to succeed at an NFL level.

Instead, an undrafted free agent in his second year nearly took on and upset one of the best teams in the NFL, led by the most ballyhooed quarterback prospect in twenty years.

And just to make advanced statisticians angry, Andrew Luck pulled off another come-from-behind win to "set things right". This has hurt the Colts' efficiency on both sides of the ball, but efficiency doesn't put you into the playoffs.

If this keeps up, Texas will have two teams led by amazingly talented undrafted free agent quarterbacks who carry the burden of not getting it done. But unlike Romo, Keenum has a lot of time to turn the narrative around. And in his hometown, no less.

Power Rankings

Ranks below, first organized without recency bias. Again, if you want to get a primer on what these shortcut words mean, take a look here.

Like always, I strongly prefer the efficiency ranks over anything else, even the average I have presented below.

Remember, all headers are sortable:

Power Rankings - No Bias
Team Efficiency Points Wins Average Average Rank
Seattle Seahawks 2 4 2 2.67 1
Kansas City Chiefs 4 5 1 3.33 2
Denver Broncos 5 1 5 3.67 3
New Orleans Saints 3 6 6 5.00 4
San Francisco 49ers 8 3 4 5.00 4
Indianapolis Colts 9 7 3 6.33 6
Carolina Panthers 1 2 19 7.33 7
Green Bay Packers 12 8 8 9.33 8
Dallas Cowboys 6 10 14 10.00 9
New England Patriots 11 11 9 10.33 10
Cincinnati Bengals 15 9 7 10.33 10
Detroit Lions 10 12 10 10.67 12
Arizona Cardinals 7 14 13 11.33 13
Chicago Bears 14 13 15 14.00 14
Tennessee Titans 16 15 12 14.33 15
San Diego Chargers 27 18 11 18.67 16
Buffalo Bills 17 21 20 19.33 17
Miami Dolphins 25 16 17 19.33 17
Philadelphia Eagles 13 20 26 19.67 19
Cleveland Browns 22 19 22 21.00 20
St. Louis Rams 18 23 24 21.67 21
Washington Redskins 20 22 25 22.33 22
Baltimore Ravens 29 17 21 22.33 22
New York Jets 23 27 18 22.67 24
Houston Texans 21 25 23 23.00 25
Atlanta Falcons 24 24 27 25.00 26
Oakland Raiders 30 30 16 25.33 27
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19 26 32 25.67 28
New York Giants 26 29 29 28.00 29
Minnesota Vikings 28 28 31 29.00 30
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 31 28 30.00 31
Jacksonville Jaguars 32 32 30 31.33 32

Whither the Panthers win total, who continue to lag behind despite the fact that they have been performing far better than average against the teams they have played, but have only gathered their wins against "weak teams" and have lost to the strong ones. Their early season foibles are being put in stark contrast to their late-season dominance.

I look forward to their game against the 49ers, followed by another important (for national perception, at least) game against the Patriots.

Speaking of the Patriots, it didn't take long for their play to catch up to their wins after putting up an impressive performance against the Steelers, even when accounting for the Steelers' terrible play this year. You'd think New England's first four games were an extended preseason, but their recency-adjusted scores are not entirely impressive (Reminder, all headers are sortable):

Power Rankings - Recency Bias
Team Efficiency Points Wins Average Average Rank
Seattle Seahawks 1 4 2 2.33 1
Kansas City Chiefs 4 6 1 3.67 2
Denver Broncos 6 1 6 4.33 3
San Francisco 49ers 8 3 3 4.67 4
Indianapolis Colts 5 7 4 5.33 5
Carolina Panthers 2 2 15 6.33 6
New Orleans Saints 3 8 8 6.33 6
Green Bay Packers 10 5 7 7.33 8
Cincinnati Bengals 12 9 5 8.67 9
Dallas Cowboys 7 10 13 10.00 10
Detroit Lions 11 12 10 11.00 11
Arizona Cardinals 9 13 12 11.33 12
New England Patriots 17 11 9 12.33 13
Tennessee Titans 13 15 16 14.67 14
Chicago Bears 14 14 17 15.00 15
San Diego Chargers 22 17 11 16.67 16
Philadelphia Eagles 16 16 26 19.33 17
Cleveland Browns 20 20 19 19.67 18
St. Louis Rams 15 21 24 20.00 19
Buffalo Bills 19 22 21 20.67 20
Washington Redskins 18 23 22 21.00 21
Oakland Raiders 24 30 14 22.67 22
Baltimore Ravens 30 18 20 22.67 22
Houston Texans 21 26 23 23.33 24
Miami Dolphins 28 19 25 24.00 25
New York Giants 23 24 27 24.67 26
New York Jets 27 31 18 25.33 27
Atlanta Falcons 26 25 29 26.67 28
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25 27 32 28.00 29
Minnesota Vikings 29 28 31 29.33 30
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 29 28 29.33 30
Jacksonville Jaguars 32 32 30 31.33 32

Ye Gods, the Jaguars are bad.

Two teams that could surprise us by performing much better than expectations (aside from the Panthers, who I've been saying this about all season) are the Dallas Cowboys, the Arizona Cardinals, and crazily enough the Philadelphia Eagles. On the other end of that spectrum are the San Diego Chargers, Indianapolis Colts, the Cincinnati Bengals and the Miami Dolphins.

Of course, no one would be surprised by the Dolphins given what's happening over there. The Jaguars, despite the recent suspension of Justin Blackmon, are far and away the most functional locker room in the state of Florida (among professional NFL teams).

I won't hold out hope for the Eagles given the state of their quarterback situation (I really doubt Nick Foles is as good as that game would even begin to imply) and defense, but I do think the Cowboys and Cardinals are worth watching.

Similarly, it will be easy to point to Leon Hall and Geno Atkins as the reason for the Bengals decline, although their offensive numbers may be ignored in light of Giovani Bernard's excellent performances. The truth seems to be that they've had some issues all year, and those two players' absences will only magnify the issues already there.

The data are folding in the loss of Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay has a two-point rank differential between their overall efficiency score and their recency-biased score) and Eli Manning's quiet improvement, but not quickly enough. So proceed with caution, as always.

Against the Spread

Week 9 Record ATS

Efficiency: 10-3
Efficiency ("What Have You Done For Me Lately - Recency Bias"): 10-3
Point Differential: 7-6
Point Differential (WHYD4ML): 7-6

Weeks 6-9 Record ATS

Efficiency: 31-24
Efficiency ("What Have You Done For Me Lately - Recency Bias"): 28-27
Point Differential: 31-24
Point Differential (WHYD4ML): 27-28

The numbers without bias seems to be doing well recently, and it'll be interesting to see how they do as the season progresses, especially in an unusually injury-heavy year.

Picks

Efficiency:

Washington over MINNESOTA (+3)
Seattle over ATLANTA (+6.5)
Detroit over CHICAGO (+2.5)
Philadelphia over GREEN BAY (-7)
TENNESSEE (-13) over Jacksonville
INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over St. Louis
Oakland over NEW YORK GIANTS (-7.5)
Buffalo over PITTSBURGH (-3.5)
Cincinnati over BALTIMORE (+1)
Carolina over SAN FRANCISCO (-6)
ARIZONA (-2.5) over Houston
Denver over SAN DIEGO (+7)
Dallas over NEW ORLEANS (-7)
TAMPA BAY (+3) over Miami

Efficiency (WHYD4ML):

Washington over MINNESOTA (+3)
Seattle over ATLANTA (+6.5)
Detroit over CHICAGO (+2.5)
Philadelphia over GREEN BAY (-7)
Jacksonville over TENNESSEE (-13)
St. Louis over INDIANAPOLIS (-10)
Oakland over NEW YORK GIANTS (-7.5)
Buffalo over PITTSBURGH (-3.5)
Cincinnati over BALTIMORE (+1)
Carolina over SAN FRANCISCO (-6)
ARIZONA (-2.5) over Houston
Denver over SAN DIEGO (+7)
Dallas over NEW ORLEANS (-7)
TAMPA BAY (+3) over Miami

The New York Giants line seems dumb, but what do I know. The efficiency score is not very confidence about the Chicago line and the recency-adjusted efficiency scores are iffy on the Tampa Bay game, but for the most part they are confident.

Point Differential:

MINNESOTA (+3) over Washington
Seattle over ATLANTA (+6.5)
CHICAGO (+2.5) over Detroit
GREEN BAY (-7) over Philadelphia
TENNESSEE (-13) over Jacksonville
INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over St. Louis
Oakland over NEW YORK GIANTS (-7.5)
Buffalo over PITTSBURGH (-3.5)
Cincinnati over BALTIMORE (+1)
Carolina over SAN FRANCISCO (-6)
ARIZONA (-2.5) over Houston
Denver over SAN DIEGO (+7)
Dallas over NEW ORLEANS (-7)
Miami over TAMPA BAY (+3)

Point Differential (WHYD4ML):

Washington over MINNESOTA (+3)
Seattle over ATLANTA (+6.5)
CHICAGO (+2.5) over Detroit
GREEN BAY (-7) over Philadelphia
TENNESSEE (-13) over Jacksonville
INDIANAPOLIS (-10) over St. Louis
NEW YORK GIANTS (-7.5) over Oakland 
Buffalo over PITTSBURGH (-3.5)
Cincinnati over BALTIMORE (+1)
Carolina over SAN FRANCISCO (-6)
ARIZONA (-2.5) over Houston
Denver over SAN DIEGO (+7)
Dallas over NEW ORLEANS (-7)
Miami over TAMPA BAY (+3)

I am glad the points model disagrees with the efficiency model so much. It really allows me to test some of the things I've looked at over the weeks.

Also, it seems like there's at least a small clue as to why the line for the Oakland-New York game was set the way it was—perhaps a slight overreaction to the Giants' recent improvement and the stinker the Raiders put up against the Chargers. Also, I imagine markets determine a lot of the line, and the New York betting market might be decidedly larger than San Francisco's.

Strength Schedule

This year, more than most years, it seems, the discussion of strength of schedule has played a big role. Naturally, for these types of rankings, I have a strength of schedule data table I use to adjust everyone's scores. Given the need for people to know these things in light of the Chiefs' and Bronco's respective records, we can take a look below.

But I want to stress that arguments about strength of schedule will mostly already be coopted by the data above. Saying that the "Chiefs rank highly but did it against poor teams" will make no sense at all, because they have performed better against those teams than other teams did—and by a significant margin. So on down the list.

Again, everything is nicely sortable. The ranked order is from toughest to easiest.

Strength of Schedule
Team Efficiency Points Wins Average Average Rank
Jacksonville Jaguars 6 1 1 2.67 1
Houston Texans 8 2 2 4.00 2
Arizona Cardinals 1 4 12 5.67 3
Buffalo Bills 7 5 10 7.33 4
Washington Redskins 12 6 5 7.67 5
New York Giants 3 3 18 8.00 6
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2 7 21 10.00 7
St. Louis Rams 5 14 13 10.67 8
Miami Dolphins 14 8 15 12.33 9
Tennessee Titans 16 18 13 12.33 10
San Francisco 49ers 10 22 7 13.00 11
Minnesota Vikings 11 10 20 13.67 12
Detroit Lions 13 11 17 13.67 12
Dallas Cowboys 17 17 9 14.33 14
Cleveland Browns 26 9 8 14.33 14
Atlanta Falcons 4 13 28 15.00 16
Seattle Seahawks 9 25 11 15.00 16
Green Bay Packers 22 12 14 16.00 18
Indianapolis Colts 24 20 4 16.00 18
Oakland Raiders 27 23 6 18.67 20
New York Jets 15 15 27 19.00 21
Cincinnati Bengals 23 19 16 19.33 22
Baltimore Ravens 28 16 19 21.00 23
Philadelphia Eagles 20 24 22 22.00 24
Chicago Bears 21 21 25 23.33 25
New Orleans Saints 19 27 31 25.67 26
San Diego Chargers 25 30 23 26.00 27
Carolina Panthers 18 29 32 26.33 28
Pittsburgh Steelers 31 26 24 27.00 29
New England Patriots 29 28 29 28.67 30
Denver Broncos 32 31 26 29.67 31
Kansas City Chiefs 30 32 30 30.67 32

No, the Jaguars do not have the toughest strength of schedule because playing them boosts all the scores. Removing games that teams have played in would produce the exact same results, because that is the point of the iterative function. The Jaguars have played the Chiefs, Broncos, Colts, Seahawks and 49ers, all of whom are top ten in every ranking system.

Their schedule gets easier from here on out (teams ranked 16th, 7th, 21st, 22nd, 21st, 17th, 16th and 9th in efficiency, respectively) but not as easy as many have advertised. More importantly, their performance against those top-ranked teams still kills their chances and emphasizes how bad they really are.

In all likelihood, the Vikings are fighting with the Bucs, Steelers and Falcons (and Giants and Texans) for spots #2, #3, or #4 (or $5 or #6) in the draft. The Bucs have the talent to win, but not the coaching staff, while the Steelers have an aging/injury problem as well as some pointed questions of their own coach they have to answer. The Falcons have significant injuries to deal with while the Giants and Texans are just a mess to deal with.

Everything, naturally, is subject to change. But I wouldn't hold out hope that the Jaguars won't get the top pick.

Perhaps that table does underscore, however, how bad the Steelers really are this year. Putting up those numbers against the teams that they did is truly abysmal.

Perhaps the best takeaway, however, is that half the teams at the top of most power rankings have had a weak strength of schedule. Isolating one doesn't seem right to me.

Of course, we'll want to look at remaining strength of schedule (headers sortable):

Future Strength of Schedule
Team Efficiency Points Wins Average Average Rank
St. Louis Rams 3 1 3 2.33 1
San Diego Chargers 9 2 1 4.00 2
Atlanta Falcons 2 3 8 4.33 3
Minnesota Vikings 7 6 5 6.00 4
New Orleans Saints 1 4 21 8.67 5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers 5 7 15 9.00 6
New York Giants 11 11 6 9.33 7
Carolina Panthers 6 10 14 10.00 8
Kansas City Chiefs 21 5 4 10.00 8
Oakland Raiders 13 14 7 11.33 10
Denver Broncos 19 15 2 12.00 11
Arizona Cardinals 10 20 9 13.00 12
San Francisco 49ers 4 13 23 13.33 13
Philadelphia Eagles 8 12 20 13.33 13
New England Patriots 14 8 18 13.33 13
Pittsburgh Steelers 23 9 10 14.00 16
Jacksonville Jaguars 12 22 17 17.00 17
Dallas Cowboys 15 19 19 17.67 18
Indianapolis Colts 17 25 11 17.67 18
Baltimore Ravens 24 18 16 19.33 20
Chicago Bears 20 16 26 20.67 21
Seattle Seahawks 16 23 25 21.33 22
New York Giants 26 17 22 21.67 23
Washington Redskins 18 21 28 22.33 24
Houston Texans 27 28 13 22.67 25
Tennessee Titans 28 30 12 23.33 26
Miami Dolphins 22 26 29 25.67 27
Green Bay Packers 25 27 30 27.33 28
Cincinnati Bengals 32 24 27 27.67 29
Cleveland Browns 30 31 24 28.33 30
Detroit Lions 29 29 32 30.00 31
Buffalo Bills 31 32 31 31.33 32

What strikes out at me is that there is a significant difference between strength of schedule and the strength of schedule of the other two measures. I'll be bold enough to say that this means most analyses of "remaining strength of schedule" are not that great because they rely on wins and do not concentrate on performance.

UPDATE: I read this second set of SOS data incorrectly when talking about it in the original posting of this entry. Ignore the things and read it like you read the one above it—lower rank number (1, 2, 3) means harder, higher rank number means easier (30, 31, 32). Go Bills!

Average Margin of Victory

I've liked this measure for some time as it does the best job of parsing out certain types of data and emphasizes who has been in control of a ball game. Unfortunately, it likes to de-emphasize the fourth quarter a bit too much, but I think it's the best points-related measure of team quality out there today.

To recap, it's simply the average point differential a team has at any point in the game—if two teams win 31-3, but accumulate their points at different times, they'll have a different average point differential. If the first team scored 10 points off the bat and steadily accumulated points over the game, they'd end up with a higher average point differential than the second team if that second team did almost all of its scoring in the fourth quarter.

Again, I stole this straight from Chase Stuart at Football Perspective, and he calls them game scripts and uses them for a purpose they are much better suited to: pass/run ratios. All I've done is adjust for strength-of-schedule and attach importance to it.

Still, it's demonstrative of something in some way.

Rank Team Average MOV
1 Carolina Panthers 6.9
2 Green Bay Packers 5.9
3 San Francisco 49ers 5.4
4 New Orleans Saints 3.9
5 Denver Broncos 3.7
6 Cincinnati Bengals 3.5
7 Dallas Cowboys 3.4
8 New England Patriots 2.6
9 Kansas City Chiefs 2.4
10 Seattle Seahawks 2.8
11 Detroit Lions 1.2
12 Atlanta Falcons 1.1
13 Indianapolis Colts 0.3
14 Arizona Cardinals 0.3
15 Buffalo Bills 0.1
16 Miami Dolphins -0.1
17 San Diego Chargers -0.2
18 Chicago Bears -0.3
19 Cleveland Browns -0.5
20 Philadelphia Eagles -0.6
21 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -0.8
22 Tennessee Titans -1.1
23 Minnesota Vikings -1.8
24 New York Giants -2.0
25 Oakland Raiders -2.1
26 Baltimore Ravens -2.7
27 Houston Texans -3.3
28 St. Louis Rams -3.4
29 New York Jets -3.4
30 Washington Redskins -3.9
31 Pittsburgh Steelers -5.3
32 Jacksonville Jaguars -12.2

They're beginning to flatten out in general, but the Packers took a big hit with Aaron Rodgers out. For the most part, there's been little change.

Also taking a large tumble are the Seattle Seahawks, which are really no surprise given their last two games.

Jacksonville will keep on doing it's thing. Normally dropping 1.5 points in this measure would move a team about 6 ranks. The Jaguars, however, stay at 32. The difference between the 32nd ranked team and the 31st ranked team is the same as the distance between 31st and 10th. Ouch.

For historical perspective, the Jaguars' non-SOS adjusted average MOV is -13.2. The 0-16 Lions and the 2-14 Colts were at -7.6 and -7.1 at the end of their seasons.

This is currently one of the worst teams in history. If their average MOV for the rest of the season is simply -1.0, they'll end with a season total at -7.1. And that will require consistent close play.

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