Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 4

At the quarter-pole of the season, we know about the extremes with a fair degree of certainty.  The Broncos offense is quite literally off the charts, and the Jaguars everything could be historically bad.

In the middle is where the room for significant variation still lies.  Eight teams moved at least six places in the rankings (though interestingly, only the Giants at 17 stayed in the middle third).  And yet, even with all this movement, five of the top six and five of the bottom six remained at their respective opposites of the totem pole.

Even though the small sample size caveat still applies, it's safe to assume the top and bottom are fairly fleshed out.  So now the goal is to find which lesser-heralded teams are contenders who could steal the Super Bowl, just as the Ravens and Giants have done the past two seasons.  Let's start in the top 10, where we find two teams who few would consider serious threats.


Sneaky Elite?

The NFC North-leading Lions were actually ranked fifth last week, but were only three-point favorites over Chicago, largely due to the Bears' shiny undefeated record.  Detroit demolished the Bears in dominating fashion, with the final eight-point margin not illustrating the lopsided quality.

Ironically, Detroit is almost the same exact team as last year, pairing an elite offense with an above-average defense.  But a year after finishing 3-8 in games decided by one touchdown or less, the Lions were due for a correction.  With a couple critical breaks going the right way, Detroit should find itself back in the playoff hunt.

The Chargers, this week's biggest risers, are a little tougher to figure out.  San Diego possesses the best non-Denver passing attack, an important ingredient that can carry a team far in today's NFL.  On the other hand, they continue to do very Charger-like things, such as blowing three-touchdown leads and having victory slip through their fingertips.

Moreover, with the 31st-ranked defense by efficiency and worst by EPA, it seems a bit impractical to expect San Diego to gun its way deep into the postseason with just an elite offense, a la the 2011 Patriots.  The Chargers might hang on until after their Week 8 bye, when they have to face the Broncos and Chiefs four times in their final eight games.  But with Denver and Kansas City looking likely to snag playoff spots, that would leave San Diego battling with about four to five teams for one wild card spot, unlikely odds in the end.

No Beasts in the East

Excluding the Eagles, who have a couple of anomalies working to buoy their ranking (top rushing attack, high SOS after playing the Broncos and Chiefs, etc.), six teams in the AFC or NFC East are clustered between 13 and 21, with only Washington falling below that ledger.

If we're searching for contenders, the Patriots are the most obvious choice based on track record.  The offense is actually ranked higher than the defense, a perception many miss simply both units have regressed from historical extremes to mere competence.

But asides from their typically positive turnover margin and low penalty rate, New England does not have much going for it.  That could change offensively with the impending returns of Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola, but Vince Wilfork's loss is a devastating blow.  The Patriots have long built their hybrid defensive schemes around Wilfork's foundation in the middle, and the numbers paint an ugly picture for a defense that had finally demonstrated some improvement.

The Dolphins and Cowboys seem like other logical choices, if only by default.  And yet, the Fins are below average or worse in nearly every efficiency category; with the exception of their defensive line whenever Cameron Wake returns, no unit appears particularly threatening.  Meanwhile, Dallas has earned its two wins over the 0-4 Giants and the 32nd-ranked Rams, only proving that they are not an atrocious squad.

Quick Hits

- The Titans are in a similar position to the Chargers in that they are a fringe AFC playoff contender who shot up the rankings this week.  However, Jake Locker's long-term injury throws a monkey wrench into those hopes.  Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven capable in short stretches, as Bills fans painfully recall, but if he costs Tennessee even one win, that's likely enough to knock them out.
- From the FYI category: There is a 0.10 GWP difference between 15th-ranked New England and 30th-ranked Oakland.  There is also a 0.10 GWP difference between Oakland and the bottom two teams, the Jaguars and Rams.  Yeesh.
- Lots of wide chasms between offensive and defensive rankings.  In the top half, there are seven teams with double-digit differences between offensive and defensive rankings, including six in the top 10.
- The Saints lead the league in defensive interception rate, en route to an above-average defense buttressed by a top-5 turnover rate.  In related news, 2009 was the last time the Saints had that formula, coincidentally the year they won the Super Bowl.

Here are the rankings at the quarter mark of the season:

RANKTEAMLAST WKGWPOpp GWPO RANKD RANK
1 DEN20.700.47124
2 NO30.670.4877
3 SEA10.630.4669
4 DET50.600.45810
5 PHI140.600.56318
6 IND40.590.42921
7 HOU170.560.53241
8 KC90.560.47283
9 TEN210.560.52115
10 SD250.550.55231
11 ATL60.520.49530
12 CAR80.510.531319
13 NYJ70.510.491011
14 MIA100.510.571514
15 NE120.500.491216
16 CLE200.490.46306
17 NYG110.490.56268
18 CIN190.480.462212
19 GB180.480.46432
20 BUF160.470.481813
21 DAL130.470.471925
22 ARI260.460.501715
23 SF220.460.50204
24 MIN280.460.491426
25 PIT240.450.482122
26 TB150.450.54292
27 WAS320.440.522320
28 CHI270.440.501628
29 BAL300.400.562517
30 OAK230.400.512727
31 JAC310.300.543223
32 STL290.300.483129

TEAMOPASSORUNSR%OINT%OFUM%DPASSDRUNSR%DINT%PENRATE
ARI5.9383.93.46.3652.50.42
ATL7.0461.71.47.4581.90.36
BAL5.6254.10.06.4562.20.44
BUF5.6412.35.16.1625.30.54
CAR5.3462.31.46.2563.00.28
CHI6.3404.13.07.7574.30.30
CIN6.3412.73.15.9592.60.46
CLE5.0413.30.05.0631.90.39
DAL5.9420.73.66.7642.40.34
DEN8.9470.00.06.9633.50.46
DET7.8421.96.16.2634.80.54
GB7.4482.52.68.2611.90.35
HOU5.9383.42.34.7651.90.58
IND6.4501.51.45.9574.90.22
JAC4.2324.70.06.6581.60.41
KC5.8351.41.44.5513.30.36
MIA6.0353.51.76.5522.90.22
MIN6.6374.02.06.7503.70.37
NE5.9391.31.65.8543.20.38
NO7.6352.41.55.4555.40.33
NYG6.3326.54.96.4642.50.34
NYJ6.4395.83.25.2710.70.64
OAK6.2332.63.16.8550.00.37
PHI7.6521.60.07.3521.20.44
PIT6.4303.11.36.4640.00.37
SD7.9441.40.07.6450.60.43
SF6.3363.43.15.6632.40.67
SEA7.1432.95.25.1635.10.53
STL5.2271.63.17.3620.80.45
TB4.8363.61.35.5653.80.64
TEN6.0380.00.05.6573.60.54
WAS6.4412.41.67.6581.40.42
Avg6.3392.72.16.3592.70.42

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15 Responses to “Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 4”

  1. James says:

    Anybody know what happened to NFL-forecast.com? It had a simulator that determined playoff odds using these GWP and the NFL schedule, but it hasn't updated for this season.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Interesting to see the eagles up so high, but I guess they lost to good teams and didn't get any picks thrown their way.

  3. dougalanlee says:

    The Broncos can't be 0% on offensive fumbling; they've already fumbled 8 times and lost 5 of them. Last week, you had them at 4.1%

  4. Andrew says:

    Hey Brian, have you ever checked to see if there's any correlation between a teams GWP and their Opp GWP? Since I can't imagine any reason the quality of a team should, in general, depend on the quality of their opponents if it turns out there's no correlation that might be a neat little proof that your model is handeling strength of schedule correctly.

    On the other hand if there's a positive correlation, then maybe your model is somehow subtly overestimating the effect of SoS, while if there's a negative correlation perhaps it's underestimating it.

  5. Nate says:

    What's the formula to calculate win probability from the two GWP's?

  6. Nate says:

    Andrew,

    There should actually be a negative correlation. The average team that's not Denver is weaker than the average team that's not Jacksonville, so you'd expect Denver's SoS to be slightly lower than Jacksonville's.

    The effect is small with 32 teams, but it's amplified by the fact that each team plays its division opponents twice.

  7. Anonymous says:

    It's not clear to me that the effect you describe is amplified by playing division opponents twice. It's certainly true for W-L records, since a team like Denver could hand each opponent in its division 2 losses, but it's not clear to me that it applies to GWP. Assuming GWP is actually an objective measure of a teams strength I don't see why Peyton Manning moving from Indy to Denver would suddenly make the Raiders worse. At any rate even if I'm making a mental blunder here you could remove division games from the equation, although it would presumably be slightly more time consuming than simply grabbing the numbers from the Week 16 columns.

    Alternatively if you wanted to get really fancy you could correct for the above described affect. Simulate an artificial NFL by assigning 32 "teams" GWP's randomly in a manner that matches the distribution of GWP's of teams in the real NFL, then run them through a schedule to create Opp GWP's for them. Since the GWP's aren't generated by the model, any SoS effects won't affect them. Do this a few hundred times to get the correlation due to the "31 other teams are not the Broncos effect" down and then you can subtract it out from the actual data.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Are your raw numbers accurate? I have much dif. OPass * D Pass numbers:


    from pro reference: I also ran my own from your formula : What have I missed?

    Mike
    1 ARI 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 5.5521
    2 ATL 2013 4 1 3 0 0.250 6.6778
    3 BAL 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 5.1768
    4 BUF 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 5.1631
    5 CAR 2013 3 1 2 0 0.333 4.6146
    6 CHI 2013 4 3 1 0 0.750 5.9481
    7 CIN 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 6.1097
    8 CLE 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 4.2950
    9 DAL 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 5.5342
    10 DEN 2013 4 4 0 0 1.000 8.7195
    11 DET 2013 4 3 1 0 0.750 7.6101
    12 GNB 2013 3 1 2 0 0.333 6.8409
    13 HOU 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 5.3989
    14 IND 2013 4 3 1 0 0.750 5.9504
    15 JAX 2013 4 0 4 0 0.000 3.5210
    16 KAN 2013 4 4 0 0 1.000 5.4459
    17 MIA 2013 4 3 1 0 0.750 5.3125
    18 MIN 2013 4 1 3 0 0.250 6.2574
    19 NOR 2013 4 4 0 0 1.000 7.1461
    20 NWE 2013 4 4 0 0 1.000 5.6000
    21 NYG 2013 4 0 4 0 0.000 5.7278
    22 NYJ 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 5.6689
    23 OAK 2013 4 1 3 0 0.250 5.5231
    24 PHI 2013 4 1 3 0 0.250 7.0511
    25 PIT 2013 4 0 4 0 0.000 5.8475
    26 SDG 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 7.6419
    27 SEA 2013 4 4 0 0 1.000 6.3932
    28 SFO 2013 4 2 2 0 0.500 5.8740
    29 STL 2013 4 1 3 0 0.250 4.8608
    30 TAM 2013 4 0 4 0 0.000 4.3151
    31 TEN 2013 4 3 1 0 0.750 5.5859
    32 WAS 2013 4 1 3 0 0.250 6.0791

  9. Chris says:

    NFL-Forecast.com is now updated and up and running for 2013

  10. James says:

    Nate, you can check Brian's Thursday articles for the game probabilities, but the equation is (H * (1 - A) * HF) / (H * (1 - A) * HF + (1 - H) * A * (1 - HF)) where H is the home team's GWP, A is the away team's GWP, and HF is the home field advantage factor (0.57 for football). If you want to know the away team's chances it's just 1 - (above equation). That might be hard to read/understand, but it is called the Log5 formula and you can google it for more information.

    And if you want to use these GWP to forecast the rest of the season, NFL-forecast.com is exactly the tool you want!

  11. Brian Burke says:

    Mate is correct. Good teams will tend to have weaker schedules because they can't play themselves. And vice versa.

  12. Alan says:
    This comment has been removed by the author.
  13. Alan says:

    The Pats are only a hair better than the Giants? Really? C'mon, this is wild, wacky stuff. I'm a believer in data, *crunched correctly*, being superiour to CW; but I think this model suffers from some weird glitches (I recall feeling that way last year too, though I can't remember specifics).

  14. mitch says:

    Trying to find sneaky teams like Gaints or Ravens to win the SB in week 4 or 5 is not possible.

    Those teams won't become visible untill in the playoffs , not before.

    Don't you remember last season ? Prior to the start of the playoffs Brain wrote an article on the Ravens, go back and read it.

    He said the model was correct in regards to the Ravens not being as good as their 9-2 record and the Ravens 1-4 finish proved the worth of the model.

    The Ravens were the largest WP underdog against Denver of any playoff game.

    The model could not find that sneaky SB winner after 16 games, how will it do it after 4 or 5, even stating that the sneaky SB winner was not as good as it's record said it was.

    Your headed down the wrong path my friend.

  15. mitch says:

    As far as GWP I've come up with a way to get a point spread using it.

    The big game this week would have Denver -4.5 over Dallas.

    The model is strongly suggesting the Cowboys cover the inflated line.

    That is assuming that a larger difference in WP would equate to a larger margin of victory in the game and not just a larger chance to win the game at ant margin of victory.

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