NFL Power Ratings Week 15

Last Updated: 2018-12-13

About a month or so ago, the elite of the NFL seemed pretty clear. The Rams, Saints, Chiefs, and Pats appeared on a collision course to meet in their respective championship games and in some combination matchup in Super Bowl 53. While these teams remain the odds on favorites to get to Atlanta on February 3rd, this past weekend showed that there are a hand-full of “other” teams who are capable of throwing a wrench into everyone’s plans. The Colts and Chargers on the AFC side and the Cowboys, Bears, and Seahawks on the NFC side have begun to demonstrate in recent weeks that they are certainly capable of playing with and in some cases defeating the “elite” teams of the NFL. The Ravens also should be added to that list as well as their near victory over the Chiefs Sunday showed that their defense can travel and shut down a very good offense in the right situation. The remaining few weeks will be interesting to see how things shake out regarding seeding for the upcoming playoffs as teams such as Pittsburgh and Minnesota will likely be playing for their playoff lives while others look to wrap up the all important home field advantage.

An important Week 14 of the NFL was made even better by the success of our picks last weekend. A great 2nd half by the Saints, along with the solid victories by the Colts, Titans, and Lions got us the cover while our teaser of Chiefs pick / Eagles +10 was needed on both ends in order to secure our 2nd 5-0 week of the season! This brings the yearly record to 40-26 (60.1%) for the season and 76-55-1 (58.0%) lifetime on the bangthebook.com weekly article. Our Week 14 totals leans continued to be solid with an 8-6 record last week according to the posted number. The totals leans have improved over the course of the season (likely due to a greater sample size and therefore more reliable data) and now stand at 97-75-3 (56.3%) for the season.

This week was the final major update for all teams this season. All player grades have been updated according to PFF and as always team rosters and individual player weights within the model have been adjusted to best reflect injuries and playing time. Special Teams grades have also been updated according to FO Special Teams DVOA and additionally, the metrics of Overall DVOA and Yards Per Play Differential have been updated as well. As I mentioned in a previous article, these updates become less and less impactful on the team grade as the season moves along being that player grades (the most important metrics within the model) change very little after the majority of the season has been completed.

Week 15 kicks off with a great Thursday night matchup against two of the aforementioned upper level teams headed to the playoffs as the Chargers visit the Chiefs. While Sunday (and Saturday!!!) are filled with a number of so-so matchups, Dallas @ Indy and New England @ Pittsburgh are excellent games with playoff implications. No guarantees on continued 5-0 weekends here however, we’ll continue to plug along and hope to wrap up the regular season strong!

Also note that there will be NO article for Week 17 due to the difficulties associated with formulating a model for that week given the nature of many of the games and the variability in player and team motivation.

Week 15 Overview

Teams Current Line Power Rating HFA Model’s Line
LA Chargers

Kansas City

 

-3.5

76.0

78.6

 

2.5

 

-5.1

Houston

NY Jets

-7 75.5

68.8

 

4

-2.7
Cleveland

Denver

 

-3

71.4

70.2

 

4

 

-2.8

Arizona

Atlanta

 

-9

66.5

74.8

 

2

 

-10.3

Tampa Bay

Baltimore

 

-7.5

67.9

72.0

 

4.3

 

-8.4

Detroit

Buffalo

 

-2.5

69.9

67.5

 

4

 

-1.6

Green Bay

Chicago

 

-6

75.5

73.2

 

3.5

 

-1.2

Oakland

Cincinnati

 

-2.5

67.0

67.0

 

3

 

-3

Dallas

Indy

 

-2.5

73.7

75.4

 

2.5

 

-4.2

Washington

Jacksonville

 

-7

69.0

70.4

 

2.3

 

-3.7

Miami

Minnesota

 

-7

67.6

73.4

 

4

 

-9.8

Tennessee

NY Giants

 

-2.5

73.8

71.5

 

1.5

-0.8
Seattle

San Francisco

-4.5 73.8

67.6

 

2.5

-3.7
New England

Pittsburgh

-2.5 79.1

73.2

 

3

-2.9
Philadelphia

LA Rams

 

-11

72.4

79.0

 

1.5

 

-8.1

New Orleans

Carolina

-6 79.5

73.0

 

2.5

-4

Likes (24-14):

Indianapolis -2.5: Huge wins for both franchises last week as both the Colts and Cowboys defeated divisional foes to greatly improve their playoff chances. The Colts have been good to us recently and I’m going to back them again in this spot although both teams are playing very well at this point. While the model favors the Colts slightly more than the market number (4.2 vs 2.5), this is not the sole reason for an Indy play this week. Coming off three straight home wins against tough teams in Atlanta, New Orleans, and Philly this appears as somewhat of a letdown spot of sorts. For the Cowboys, the NFC East is all but locked up and they are virtually assured the 4 seed in the playoffs. The same cannot be said for the Colts as they remain on the outside and with the same 7-6 record as the Ravens, Dolphins, and Titans. Home team with the better quarterback and coach fighting for their playoff lives laying less than a FG? I’ll take it.

Minnesota -7: No doubt the Minnesota offense looked terrible on Monday. But with the game still in the balance, a couple incomplete passes by Kirk Cousins at the goal line, a blocked field goal, and a scoop and score for the Seahawks made this final look a bit more lopsided than it was. Regardless of their record and appearance on Monday night the Vikings still are a highly skilled team which the model places as one of better NFC squads. Given their talent and remaining record the playoffs are well within their reach and a home matchup with the fraud Dolphins is just what the doctor ordered. The model places the Ryan Tannehill led offense amongst the worst in the league and the Minnesota defense among the best. Coming off what has to be the highlight win of the season for the Dolphins I’ll lay the TD here with the Vikings as they right the ship and win easily over the Fins.

Leans (16-12):

Kansas City -3.5: Consensus opinion among most NFL fans would be that Arrowhead is one of the most difficult places to play in the league. My numbers would disagree as I have the Chiefs with an average HFA among other NFL teams. Yet, despite this fact the model still places Kansas City as more than a 5 point favorite on Thursday night. Only a lean here, as I (and the market) respect for what Philip Rivers and the Chargers have done this season, yet I believe that with injuries to key player on both teams Patrick Mahomes will be able to keep pace with Rivers and win by more than the posted number.

Green Bay +6: Great rivalry game here as the Bears, fresh off their huge prime time win over the Rams, play against the Packers at home Sunday. As they demonstrated last week, these Bears can play some defense as they held the high flying Rams to just 6 points and are far and away the number one defense according to the model. That being said, throw the records out in this game. Despite their tough season, the Packers remember their Week 1 loss to the Bears and will have revenge on their minds. We have seen Aaron Rodgers do this many times before and in this rivalry I’ll happily place my money on the far superior quarterback getting nearly a TD.

Totals Leans (89-69-3):

Consider the following to be a lean on all totals this weekend based on a new totals model which is derived from the NFL model I currently use to choose sides. If you would like to use this information, I would consider each a LEAN and LEAN ONLY. I would either play all games or use this information to support or refute your thoughts on a particular game that you have identified.

A “No Play” occurs when the Offense (+) / Defense (-) number is on or very close to the totals trendline for the season. This would indicate that the total does not represent value according to the totals model. A lean and a “No Play” indicates a very slight lean one direction or another.

Week 15 Totals Model Leans

Game Offense Favored “+”

Defense Favored “-”

Lean on Total
LAC / KC +11.06 Over / No Play @ 53
CLV / DEN -0.1 No Play @ 45.5
HOU / NYJ -15.51 Under @ 41
ARZ / ATL -2.1 No Play @ 44
TB / BAL -3.0 Under @ 46.5
DET / BUF -4.22 Over @ 38
GB / CHI -2.53 Under @ 45
OAK / CIN +0.13 No Play @ 46
DAL / IND +4.69 Over @ 47
WAS / JAX -24.17 (Yikes!) Under @ 36
MIA / MIN -6.27 Under @ 44.5
TEN / NYG +0.03 Over @ 43.5
SEA / SF +3.22 Over @ 43.5
NE / PIT +8.13 No Play @ 52
PHL / LAR +3.03 Under @ 53.5
NO / CAR +6.38 No Play @ 51.5

 

-END OF WEEK 15 UPDATE-

 

(Editor’s Note: We’ll leave the process explanation up all season long so that you can see how Danny Vorgs came to his conclusions and what the methodology is for his set of PRs. For this week, we’ll leave his preseason numbers up as well so you can see the adjustments from the preseason to Week 1)

As summer begins to draw to its conclusion, many dread the upcoming back-to-school, cold weather, and return to routine that is typically associated with the three, less celebrated, seasons of the year. However, I surmise that most readers would argue that fall truly is “The Most Wonderful Time of Year” as it ushers in the return of football. I as well share that anticipation for the return of the NFL and am dually excited to return as a writer for Bang the Book again this year and share my weekly NFL Power Rankings and ATS picks with you.

For those new to the site or who may have missed my articles last year, I would like to use the first two articles leading up to the season to explain my process. Last year on the site we hit approximately 55% of all plays going 47-38-1 over the course of the year making it a profitable one for those who followed along. In an ongoing attempt to fine tune the formula, I’ve made some adjustments to the NFL model this year in hopes of better incorporating coaching and overall team philosophy into the final number. More on that below…

General Overview

The foundation for my thinking when I decided to devise a method to evaluate NFL teams a few years back was to take a mathematical / data driven approach. I understand my personal limitations in attempting to evaluate NFL talent and recognize that others are much better at it then I could ever hope to be. Therefore I decided to use the evaluative numbers of the scouting experts who do it for a living and create grades for each starting player on a team’s roster. The sources I use include Pro Football Focus, Football Outsiders, various NFL Draft guides, Warren Sharp, and even the current year’s EA Sports Madden game. These player grades and figures are then weighed according to how much impact each position or factor has on the entire team to create an overall team grade. To determine potential bets, team grades are compared to one another, home field advantage is added in (I also create these myself and will explain in the next article) and then examined in relation to the betting line. The greater the divergence between my number and the betting line then influences the likelihood that it will be a play that week.

Grading the Offense

It’s no secret that changes to the rules and the evolution of the quarterback / passing game have led to higher scores and a greater influence that offenses have on the outcome of a game. For this reason, my NFL model gives 52 out of a possible 100 points to the offensive side of the ball. These 52 points (or 52% percent of the team’s overall grade) are then divided up amongst the main parts of the offense. The greatest percentage of the 52 offensive points are given to the most important position of a team, the quarterback, (which comprises over 20% of a team’s overall score), followed by the offensive line, and finally the skill position players. The player scores or grades for each team, taken from the sources above, are then input into the model and weighted by position and influence (number of snaps). Let’s use the World Champs to illustrate:

Position Name Weight Player Grade Total Offensive Grade
QB Wentz 20.5% 86.1 17.6  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

43.6

RB 1 Adjai 2.5% 74.5 1.9
RB 2/ Utility / Scat Clement 2.5% 75.7 1.9
WR1 Jeffery 3% 82.4 2.5
WR 2 Wallace 2% 74.2 1.5
WR Slot Agholor 3% 78.5 2.4
TE Ertz 3% 83.6 2.5
LT Peters 3.75% 86.1 3.2
LG Wisniewski 2.25% 75.3 1.7
C Kelce 3.5% 92.3 3.2
RG Brooks 2.25% 88.1 2
RT Johnson 3.75% 84.8 3.2

Therefore the Eagles team grade would get 43.6 out of a possible 52 total points allocated to the offensive side of the ball. There are a few points I would like to clarify. First is that the value of a player or position for a particular team varies. Someone like Gronk has a larger weight (3.5%) in New England’s offense than Ertz in Philly’s. Likewise, Zeke Elliott carries 4% of weight within Dallas’s running offense while Ajayi represents 2.5% with the Eagles. Granted a player’s value and impact on a team could be debated ad nauseum and are fluid throughout the season however from previous experience, these weights have correlated nicely with the betting line impact of an injury to a player. Typically, losing nearly any positional player outside of the quarterback will cause at the most a 1 point deduction in a team’s overall grade whereas a quarterback injury could move a line by up 6-7 points in some cases like we saw with Aaron Rodger’s injury last year. The NFL model oftentimes reflects this pretty closely.

Grading the Defense

The defensive players of each team represents the next 41 of 100 total points for each squad. Again it is set up similarly to the offense with individual player grades and various positional weights. In this case the front 7 of the defensive unit comprises 25 points (or 25%) of the overall team score while the secondary is 16. Due to the high amount of defensive line substitutes and the extensive use of nickel packages common in the league some teams have up to 14 defensive players included in their defensive team grade. Again let’s use the Eagles to illustrate:

Position Name Weight Player Grade Total Defensive Grade
DE Graham 4.5% 92.2 4.2  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32.0

DT Cox 4.5% 91.6 4.1
DT Ngata 3.5% 72.2 2.5
DE Long / Barnett 4.5% 77.7 3.5
LB Grugier – Hill 2.5% 71.4 1.8
LB Hicks 2.5% 70.2 1.8
Rotation Rusher Bennett 3% 71.9 2.2
CB1 Mills 3.5% 72.5 2.5
CB2 Darby 3.5% 80.6 2.8
Slot CB Jones 3% 62.2 1.9
FS McCloud 3% 77.7 2.3
SS Jenkins 3% 79.1 2.4

Special Teams

No. For special teams I do not attempt to use grades for marginal roster players, rookies, kickers, and long snappers. What I do use is Football Outsiders special teams DVOA which is typically updated on their site midweek. To briefly summarize I take these numbers / rankings and modify them produce a score out of 5 points. Teams with the best special teams in the league earn close to the full 5 points while poor teams on special teams may only earn a point or 2. Because special teams are one of the more variable units from year to year (with the exception of the Ravens who are routinely very good on special teams), we start the year with the past year’s special teams numbers modified slightly so teams are more closely bunched together. In this case, for the first four weeks all teams in the NFL will have a special teams grade between 2 and 4 points which reflects how they did last season in that area. To continue our Eagles look, they finished 16th in special teams DVOA last year and will get 3 special teams points to begin the season.

Coaching / Overall Efficiency

As I mentioned earlier, this model is continually a work in progress in an attempt to fine tune it to best reflect the capabilities of each NFL team. This year I wanted to incorporate some data which relates to the overall efficiency of teams which I felt was lacking from past versions of my NFL model. To do this I looked at Warren Sharp’s website and choose what he refers to as the “Four Factors”. These include: Explosive Passing, Rush Efficiency, Pass Rush, and Red Zone Efficiency. Warren has demonstrated that these metrics are closely correlated with winning football games and this year (as least to begin the season) will count for the final 2 points of the team’s 100 possible points. Again I use a little math to make the numbers fit but basically teams better at these four key metrics according to Sharp will earn closer to 2 while those who do not will earn closer to 0. While 8 of the top 10 teams in this Four Factors metric made the playoffs last year, surprisingly the Super Bowl Champion Eagles were not amongst this top group. In fact the Eagles finished 21st in this category and earn .86 out of a possible 2 points. This gives the Eagles a total of 79.3 points; good for 3rd overall behind the Pats and Saints — assuming Carson Wentz is fully healthy for Week 1…

Summary and Preseason NFL Power Rank Numbers

I’d like to share some additional information about the NFL model regarding how it’s updated and how I would recommend using it. For the first few weeks of the season, the model grades remain largely unchanged regardless of how teams perform in their first couple of games. This is to prevent overreaction to a small sample size. Therefore the only modifications to teams early on will be due to injuries to starting players. From Week 4 on the player grades, special teams DVOA rank, and the Four Factors metric will be updated on a bi-weekly basis while injuries will continue to be updated weekly.

Finally, each week throughout the season I will pick a few games that I will be playing. Usually the model implies there is value against the line in the game and that is typically my starting point. However, that is not the only criteria that I will use. Carefully watching the games, identifying the ebbs and flows of the schedule, and many other factors are important and affect my choices as well. If you plan on following along this season I strongly suggest that not to use the Power Rankings as the only or “final say” in determining your weekly picks.

Below are my current NFL Power Rankings. These numbers currently reflect the most recent injury news, likely starters, and how players / teams performed last season. There are a few surprises and plenty to debate (Houston, NY Giants, and Minnesota – too low? / Cleveland – too high?) however time will soon tell the accuracy of these numbers. This fall I look forward to evaluating, learning, and (hopefully) profiting again in this “Most Wonderful” season of the year with everyone!

2018 Preseason NFL Power Rankings:

Rank Team Power Rank Number
1 New England 81.4
2 New Orleans 80.1
3 Philadelphia (w/ Wentz) 79.3
4 Atlanta 79.0
5 Pittsburgh 78.6
6 LA Rams 78.6
7 Green Bay 76.9
8 LA Chargers 75.8
9 Dallas 75.7
10 Jacksonville 75.4
11 Kansas City 75.0
12 Carolina 74.9
13 Minnesota 74.8
14 Tennessee 74.8
15 Seattle 74.8
16 Washington 74.6
17 Detroit 74.4
18 San Francisco 74.3
19 Baltimore 73.7
20 Denver 73.7
21 Indianapolis 73.5
22 Cleveland 73.2
23 Oakland 73.0
24 Chicago 72.6
25 Cincinnati 71.5
26 Miami 71.5
27 Houston 71.1
28 Tampa Bay 71.0
29 New York Giants 70.9
30 Arizona 70.2
31 Buffalo 70.1
32 New York Jets 68.9

 

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