We’re roughly 30% of the way through the 2017 NFL season. While we think we have a good idea of how good and bad teams are, our eyes often lie to us. The Chiefs are 5-0, but are they the best team in the league? Is Jared Goff a good quarterback with Jeff Fisher gone? Are the Jets (gulp) serviceable?
To help answer these questions and more, we have this week’s power ratings. A very important note that most of you will ignore is that these ratings are 100% FORWARD-LOOKING. This is how we rate teams from this point in the season onward. If you want to know how teams have done so far, you need to look at standings for those answers.
I have also broken teams up into tiers. Note that there isn’t that much of a difference between a team at the top of the tier and the bottom of the same tier. I’ve also listed a percentage next to the team to show how much their rating has changed since the beginning of the season. A positive number indicates a team is better than we originally projected and vice versa. Without further ado, here are this week’s rankings:
Tier 1: The Favorite
- New England Patriots -6.3%
There were talks of 16-0 and is the best Patriots team of all time before the season. Those talks have been put to rest for good reason but New England is still at the top because of pedigree. Their defense has plenty of question marks but at the end of the day (and season), they still have Belichick and Brady and would be favored by our numbers against every other team on a neutral field.
Tier 2: Superbowl Aspirations
2. Seattle Seahawks -0.7%
Almost a complete opposite of the Patriots as their defense looks excellent but their offense has all of the question marks. Their defense proved to be up to the task by shutting down the Rams’ offense in Week 5. If they can get their offensive line situation figured out, they could be in line for another deep run in the playoffs.
3. Green Bay Packers -0.3%
For my money, they have the best quarterback of all time which is going to help your chances of winning going forward. Despite the recent injury, Ty Montgomery looks like he can anchor the running game for Green Bay and the defense just needs to be adequate enough to give Rodgers a chance each week.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers -4.1%
The Steelers were our 2nd-ranked team going into the season and they have dropped due to poor performance. But everyone can see that the talent is still there. If Pittsburgh can start getting their running game going and get Le’Veon Bell more involved in the offense, we could see a quick turnaround in the Steel City.
5. Kansas City Chiefs +5.5%
The Chiefs have shot up the ranks but we’re still tempering expectations at this point. Their 5-0 record is clearly impressive and they’ve done it against a tough schedule. The Patriots still hold the top spot but the Chiefs now have the 2nd best odds to win the Superbowl according to our simulations. A home win against the Steelers in Week 6 could see Kansas City continue to rise.
Tier 3: Contenders
6. Atlanta Falcons -0.3%
Last year’s runner-up is clearly in the mix again this year. Their biggest concern has to be keeping Julio Jones healthy who seems to always have a nagging injury that could knock him out at any time. The home loss to the Bills did expose some flaws but Atlanta doesn’t seem to be suffering from any kind of Superbowl hangover.
7. Oakland Raiders -3.4%
Oakland is just 2-3 in the standings but still figures to be a good team going forward. Their secondary has a lot of holes but getting Derek Carr back should help cover up some of those blemishes. They have two straight divisional home games to try to get back on track but it could turn ugly in the Black Hole if they can’t turn some of this talent into wins.
8. Dallas Cowboys -4.7%
Another 2-3 team with some question marks but still a ton of talent. They have a bye in Week 6 followed by a winnable game at San Francisco but after that the schedule gets considerably tougher.
9. Philadelphia Eagles +5.5%
The Eagles have been one of our biggest movers so far. The Eagles only have one loss and it was at Kansas City which is nothing to sneeze at. Carson Wentz appears to be as comfortable as any quarterback in the league right now which has made the Eagles the favorite to win the NFC East.
Tier 4: Early Surprises
10. Carolina Panthers +0.9%
Surprise probably isn’t the best word to use because we were actually high on Carolina going into the season. They still have many of the same pieces they had for their Superbowl run two seasons ago. Cam Newton has been able to dodge the distractions and lead Carolina to an early 4-1 record. They should be in a battle with Atlanta all season long for the divisional crown.
11. Denver Broncos +4.1%
The surprise isn’t the defense which most prognosticators figured to be very good once again. The surprise has been how well Trevor Siemian has played at the quarterback position. It seemed like Denver just went with the last option remaining under center but Siemian has played quite well in their early 3-1 start. He’ll need to continue that good play to keep pace with the Chiefs in the AFC West.
12. Houston Texans +1.7%
They just suffered some injuries on the defensive side including J.J. Watt, but they have to be pleased with the early play of Deshaun Watson. While Watt is a household name, he doesn’t affect the team as much as you might think and the Texans have made the playoffs without him before.
13. New Orleans Saints +3.5%
The Saints lost their first two games but rebounded nicely with two straight wins including a very impressive win at Carolina. Drew Brees can still lead a team to the playoffs if he can finally get some help from the Saints defense.
14. Jacksonville Jaguars +11.8%
The Jaguars have made the largest jump in our ratings from the preseason. They have the best point differential in the league and look to have finally found a formula to win. Great defense and running the ball with Fournette is the best way to not ask too much of Blake Bortles.
15. Detroit Lions +4.8%
Their two losses are by a combined seven points but we all knew that eventually winning all of those close games was going to regress towards the mean for the Lions. For now, it looks like Stafford is going to be able to play in Week 6, but any major injury would obviously drop Detroit down the list.
Tier 5: Middle of the Road
16. Minnesota Lions +0.6%
The Vikings are still pretty close to our preseason value for them, which is to say average. There are a ton of questions at quarterback as Bradford can’t stay healthy and there are whispers of Teddy Bridgewater making a return soon. Bridgewater at quarterback would certainly give this team a boost and help out a defense which is very solid.
17. Cincinnati Bengals -0.9%
After an 0-3 start, everyone was writing off the Bengals, but they now sit just one game back of the division lead currently held by the Steelers. They dug themselves an early hole, but they could easily get back into the playoff hunt by stringing a few more wins together.
18. Baltimore Ravens -2.3%
This may be the hardest team in football to figure out. They look great one week, then look terrible the next week which is really just a microcosm of the entire NFL. No team is ever as good or as bad as they look but the Ravens being in the middle looks just fine.
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers -0.5%
The Bucs were a popular “surprise” team this year to make the playoffs and it just doesn’t look that way so far. Jameis hasn’t seemed to make the leap that many were projecting. Tampa Bay is projected as an average team going forward which sounds about right.
20. Buffalo Bills +5.9%
The Bills are 3-2 with wins over the Broncos and Falcons so why so low? Well, for one thing we are using prior information and we don’t want to overrate just five games in the season. Another reason is that parity in the NFL makes ranking teams like this look worse than it is. For example, there’s only a 5% difference between Buffalo and 11-ranked Denver.
21. Washington Redskins +1.7%
If there was one team that I disagreed with the results on, it was this one. Again, this is all numbers-based so I don’t let games I’ve watched influence anything. Read the Buffalo ranking again, but this is another example of parity in the league. There’s just not a lot of difference between the tier 4 and tier 5 teams. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the ‘Skins climb up the rankings in the coming weeks.
Tier 6: Who Are These Guys?
22. Tennessee Titans -4.7%
With Andrew Luck out, many thought that opened the door for the Titans to take control of the division but that just hasn’t been the case so far. They don’t get punished too much for losing to the Dolphins due to the Mariota injury but they also haven’t looked particularly impressive overall.
23. Los Angeles Rams +6.9%
I know, I know. They are the surprise team of the NFL and they are going to continue to put up tons of points on the scoreboard. Well, the simulation is a bit skeptical. Perhaps Jared Goff becomes a great quarterback and Todd Gurley continues to run through opposing defenses. But let’s not forget the Rams looked decent through five games last year too. We need a bigger sample size before the numbers start to believe in the Rams.
24. Los Angeles Chargers -1.9%
The Chargers are the anti-Lions. They just love finding ways to lose close football games. That changed last week as they were able to take down the Giants (and all of their wide receivers) to get their first win of the season. They have a bad record right now but they aren’t as bad as that appears just yet.
Tier 7: Disappointments
25. New York Giants -9.1%
The Giants have dropped more than any other team by our numbers. An 0-5 start will have that type of affect. Now with their entire receiving corps being injured, the Giants might want to start thinking about a complete rebuild. Whether that involves Eli Manning or not will be an interesting storyline to watch.
26. Arizona Cardinals -7.4%
I don’t think people realize just how good David Johnson was until the Cardinals lost him at running back. Arizona did just trade for Adrian Peterson but he doesn’t make a dent in the projections with his recent performance. We’ll see if Carson Palmer makes it through the entire season given all the hits he’s taking on a weekly basis.
27. Miami Dolphins -6.0%
Fun fact: the simulation would bump up the Dolphins if they started Matt Moore over Jay Cutler. I’m not sure why Gase thought he had to make that move but they did and Miami’s offense has looked putrid ever since. It feels like Miami has a bunch of weapons it could utilize but they just can’t seem to put everything together.
Tier 8: Tanking Time?
28. New York Jets +2.9%
Leave it to the Jets to not even be able to tank correctly. Todd Bowles might be coach of the year (not a joke) with what he’s done so far with this roster. Again, the small sample size doesn’t mean we’re going to bump them up a whole lot but they have been more than impressive so far.
29. Chicago Bears -2.6%
Chicago made the move to Trubisky last night which is probably a good move just to find out what you have at this point. That’s about the only interesting thing about the Bears right now.
30. Indianapolis Colts -6.0%
So no Andrew Luck drops them to one of the worst teams in the league. If he were to come back, the Colts would be around 22 or 23 in the rankings. The front office has to wonder if that’s a smart decision or if you just decide to punt this season for good draft picks and then reload and take a run with Luck in 2018.
31. San Francisco 49ers +0.3%
The 0-5 49ers have actually ticked up a bit despite the winless season thus far. They’ve been able to hang in games but just haven’t been able to come away with a win just yet. That’s probably the best case scenario for a roster that still needs a lot of help in the coming drafts.
32. Cleveland Browns -3.1%
Who else did you think it would be? The Browns are bad, Deshone Kizer is bad, Hue Jackson is bad, the Browns are just bad. They are the clear favorite to get the #1 draft pick next year and we’ll see if they are able to not screw it up.