The NFL regular season is about to get underway, allowing us to quibble over how good (or bad) your favorite team will be. And to help us settle any debates, here are the first Fancy Stats power rankings of the season.
The method of creating our preseason power rankings is the same as last year. The weekly preseason point spreads released by CG Technology in May are turned into a Simple Rating System, which was then used to determine each team’s projected record, its opponents’ records and, finally, its power ranking using a scale of 1 to 100, with a higher number indicating a better team. (In the CG Technology projections, Week 17 is excluded because players sitting out the final week and teams jockeying for playoff positioning make projections fairly erratic.)
These power rankings take into account a team’s actual record (well, they will once the season begins); what its record should be based on points scored and allowed, also known as its Pythagorean winning percentage; and how much better or worse its opponents are in relation to an 8-8 team. A good team playing well against good opponents will be near the top, while those struggling against mediocre or poor teams will trend toward the bottom.
Agree or disagree with any of the rankings? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.
|Rank||Team||Power rating (1 to 100)|
|1||New England Patriots||68|
|2||Los Angeles Rams||65|
|6||Green Bay Packers||63|
|7||New Orleans Saints||59|
|8||Kansas City Chiefs||59|
|9||San Francisco 49ers||58|
|13||Los Angeles Chargers||57|
|22||New York Giants||46|
|26||Tampa Bay Buccaneers||45|
|32||New York Jets||39|
It’s a new year, but the same team, the New England Patriots, is at the top of the power rankings.
The oddsmakers listed Coach Bill Belichick and his Patriots as the favorite in 14 of the 15 games posted this season, the lone outlier a Week 15 matchup at the Pittsburgh Steelers. New England is a one-point underdog in that game.
The Patriots benefit from a weak schedule — their opponents are projected to average a win rate below .500 — and their offense should start to pick up steam early in the season. According to Sharp Football Stats, quarterback Tom Brady and New England’s passing offense will face the third-easiest set of pass defenses in 2018 and just three teams (the Jacksonville Jaguars, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings) that ended last season among the best red-zone defenses in the NFL.
The Philadelphia Eagles, on the other hand, have one of the tougher schedules this season. Based on win totals set by Vegas oddsmakers, the reigning Super Bowl champs have the seventh most difficult set of opponents and will defend their title with backup quarterback Nick Foles under center while Carson Wentz waits to return from an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his left knee.
Foles was instrumental in securing the Eagles’ first Super Bowl championship yet still must be considered a downgrade from Wentz. Based on its 2017 regular season performance, the team could be expected to win almost 79 percent of its games with Wentz under center, per ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, but just 31 percent of its matchups with Foles throwing passes.
Meanwhile, Khalil Mack could push the Chicago Bears up the power rankings in a hurry. The all-pro linebacker, acquired from the Oakland Raiders for draft picks, has never ranked lower than third in total sacks, hits and hurries since 2015, and his 79 total pressures in 2017 were almost as many as Chicago’s edge rushers combined for last season.
Adding a fearsome pass rusher like Mack could turn Chicago’s fortunes around in a hurry. According to data from TruMedia, teams scored almost two points per drive in 2017 when the offensive line didn’t give up a sack. That dropped to less than a point per drive when yielding one sack or more, making it easy to see how much of a momentum killer a sack can be. And with Mack, the Bears should be getting plenty more of them.
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