Green Bay Packers top Fancy Stats preseason NFL rankings

September 2, 2014

(AP Photo/Tom Lynn)

Each week Neil Greenberg will give his NFL Power Rankings based on myriad metrics, including traditional stats that reflect recent performance such as margin of victory and strength of schedule to more advanced metrics you would find at Football Outsiders, Pro Football Focus and Advanced NFL Analytics.

The preseason rankings are based on implied team strength from point spreads on every NFL game through Week 16, preseason performance plus how injuries and suspensions could impact the team’s future. As the season wears on, these will be phased out and recent performance weighed more heavily.

Agree or disagree with the rankings? Let him know on twitter @ngreenberg.

1. Green Bay Packers

The best quarterback-wide receiver tandem resides in Green Bay and Eddie Lacy put the league on notice after rushing for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns. Getting Aaron Rodgers, who missed most of last season with a collarbone injury, back is huge as he accounts for 88.9 percent of the Packers’ offense.

2. Seattle Seahawks

The defending Super Bowl champs had the highest rated pass rush last season, and Pro Football Focus had their pass coverage rated 38.4 points higher than second place (San Francisco, 47.2). Even without Brandon Browner, the “Legion of Boom” should continue to cause fits for opposing offenses this year.

3. New England Patriots

New cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner provide stability at the position, and Tom Brady should get more help from the offensive line (it took defenses an average time of 3.36 seconds to sack Brady, the fastest in NFL). Plus, a healthy Rob Gronkowski and improved wide receivers will see the Patriots contend with the Broncos for AFC supremacy.

4. Denver Broncos

The offense scored on 47.5 percent of its drives, and the Broncos bolstered their defense by adding DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. A rematch of Super Bowl XLVIII will not be a surprise.

5. New Orleans Saints

Drew Brees commands one of the most proficient offenses in the NFL (6.1 plays per offensive drive, 2nd most in league last season), which will help offset a defense with few bright spots aside from defensive end Cameron Jordan having a breakout year (12 1/2 sacks).

6. Carolina Panthers

Quarterback Cam Newton gives them a dangerous runner on offense (6.9 rushing attempts per game, 5.3 yards per attempt) while their defense could be one of the best front seven in the NFL. Pro Football Focus had defensive ends Greg Hardy and Charles Johnson rated in the top five for the pass rush and Hardy in the top five for stopping the run (24 stops on 276 plays).

7. Indianapolis Colts

Quarterback Andrew Luck has plenty of weapons to throw to (Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Hakeem Nicks) but if they can get Trent Richardson’s running game established (2.9 yards per attempt), this may be the lowest we see them in the rankings this year.

8. Chicago Bears

The Bears have the best receiving duo in the league and one of the best running backs in Matt Forte, but the jury is still out on their makeover of a defense that let up the most first downs last season.

9. San Francisco 49ers

It won’t be a surprise if the 49ers struggle early because of the suspension of Aldon Smith, reports of the arrest of defensive end Ray McDonald for domestic abuse against a pregnant victim and injuries to defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey and linebacker NaVorro Bowman. However, an above-average offense could carry them through to the playoffs.

10. Philadelphia Eagles

No team ran the “no huddle” offense more than the Eagles (51.2 percent, 14.48 percentage points higher than Denver, the next highest team) and it remains to be seen if the league’s defenses catch up.

11. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals, who have new coordinators on offense and defense, should get another trip to the playoffs – but the offense will need to take better care of the ball. Almost 15 percent of their drives ended on a turnover, the fifth most in the league.

12. Detroit Lions

In Seattle, Russell Wilson had a 102.8 passer rating on targets to Golden Tate, who, along with first-round pick tight end Eric Ebron make the Lions’ offense better. That could help offset Detroit’s weak secondary.

13. Kansas City Chiefs

They had six players on defense make the Pro Bowl and Jamaal Charles (1,980 total yards from scrimmage and 19 total touchdowns) gives the offense one of the best at his position in the game. Charles caused 41 missed tackles on the run and another 22 receiving, the most in the league among running backs.

14. Atlanta Falcons

The good news is Matt Ryan gets a healthy Julio Jones and Roddy White back in the lineup. The bad news is they play behind an offensive line where rushers averaged just 77.9 yards per game (last in the league), while allowing 44 sacks.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

On offense, they have a talented backfield with Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount (3.5 yards per attempt, 29th out of 32 teams) but the receiving corp is suspect (6.4 net yards per attempt, slightly higher than league average). As is their defense.

16. Dallas Cowboys

The losses on defense mount, but to take advantage of a weak NFC East the Cowboys will need to become less predictable. Last season, they ran the ball 26 times on third down, tied with Atlanta for fewest in NFL.

17. Baltimore Ravens

The offensive line took a step back last year, ranking 23rd in PFF’s pass blocking efficiency rating and allowing their quarterback to be hurried 152 times (sixth highest in NFL). As a result, Joe Flacco had a 10-to-3 interception to touchdown ratio.

18. Arizona Cardinals

Arizona finished 7-2 over the final nine games last season with those two losses coming to a pair of playoff teams: Philadelphia and San Francisco. The Cardinals defensive front is one of the NFL’s best, but their offensive line yielded 242 sacks, hits and hurries, second most in NFL.

19. New York Giants

Eli Manning has struggled with the offense installed by new offensive new coordinator Ben McAdoo, completing just 51.4 percent of his passes in the preseason. If that doesn’t turn around soon, the passing game will go from strength to liability in a hurry.

20. San Diego Chargers

Quarterback Philip Rivers won the AP Comeback Player of the Year award last season after throwing for 4,478 yards and 32 touchdowns averaging 7.54 net yards per attempt. The defense, however, yielded 6.1 yards per play, second most in the league.

21. Houston Texans

First-overall pick Jadeveon Clowney will be paired with J.J. Watt, who had the most sacks, hits and hurries (85) by a defensive end playing in a 3-4 scheme. Expect to see a lot of this.

22. Miami Dolphins

The defensive line is in good shape after re-signing defensive tackle Randy Starks, who was credited by PFF for the third most run stops in the league among defensive tackles (31).

23. Washington Redskins

The offense has already struggled in the preseason, and it could be worse if they don’t get better field position than last season, where they had an average start of their own 25.3 yard line on offense (worst in the NFL).

24. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New Coach Lovie Smith could see the Bucs climb higher if they do a better job in the red zone, where they scored the third fewest touchdowns last season (20).

25. St. Louis Rams

They lost Sam Bradford for the season before Week 1. That means a tremendous amount of pressure on the defense, who are anchored by Chris Long and Robert Quinn and combined for 27 1/2 sacks last season.

26. New York Jets

A quarterback controversy that was supposed to be a controversy but wasn’t and an aging Chris Johnson in the backfield won’t be enough to augment an offense that averaged the lowest adjusted net yards per passing attempt (4.2) in the league last season.

27. Cleveland Browns

Brian Hoyer is the starting quarterback over first-round pick Johnny Football Bench Finger Manziel. Hoyer’s 4.93 career adjusted net yards per attempt ranks 47 out of 74 active QBs with at least 100 career passing attempts.

28. Buffalo Bills

In a quarterback-driven league the Bills have E.J. Manuel, their first-round pick from 2013 who averaged 5.43 net yards per attempt and ranked 33rd out of 41 passers for accuracy after you factor in dropped passes, throwaways and spiked balls as a rookie.

29. Minnesota Vikings

New offensive coordinator Norv Turner should get the most out of tight end Kyle Rudolph, but until Teddy Bridgewater proves to be the quarterback of the future, this team will struggle in the NFC North.

30. Tennessee Titans

Hiring Ken Whisenhunt is a step in the right direction for the struggling franchise. Even if he can get quarterback Jake Locker on track, health remains an issue:  Locker has missed 43.8% of games the past two seasons due to injury.

31. Oakland Raiders

The defensive front seven looks solid (PFF ranked them 12th in the league for stopping the run) but the quarterback position remains as shaky as ever.

32. Jacksonville Jaguars

Vegas has them as the odds on favorite to finish as the worst team in the league, but bad luck on third down (32.0 percent third down conversion percentage, lowest in NFL) could help them crawl out of the basement.

Stats from Pro Football Focus or Pro-Football Reference unless otherwise noted.

 

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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