NFL Power Ratings Super Bowl LIII Patriots vs. Rams Picks & Predictions

Date | AuthorDanny Vorgs

Last Updated: 2019-01-27

We have arrived! After 5 months and 266 NFL games, Super Bowl week is finally upon us. One last opportunity to watch the NFL till August in this all important game to determine a champion. What could be better? (Well, having it on a Saturday would be awesome but who am I to complain…) While this was not the most likely matchup according to the NFL model entering Championship weekend, nor was it the matchup most of America probably wanted to see, it is the matchup we have ended up with. (Thanks refs!)

Regardless of your take, a New England and LA Super Bowl certainly shapes up to be an entertaining and high scoring affair as the model ranks them as the #3 and #4 overall teams. In the championship preview, we thought the Saints and Chiefs would both cover and represent their respective conferences in the Super Bowl. We were wrong on both accounts there however both games could’ve gone either way and it’s my belief that the only “sharp” or correct side on those games was the Rams +3.5 late money. We did go 2-0 on both totals but again that Chiefs / Pats over was fortunate considering the game total was 24 entering the last 15 minutes of the game. For the playoffs our combined totals and sides record stands at a solid 14-5. For the season we’re at 50-35-1 for sides and 109-79-3 on totals.

There wasn’t much to update with regards to the model however I still went ahead and made sure that all player grades, injuries, and playing time was as current as possible for the final big game. All and all, these updates had little to no effect on the team’s overall grades as they are quite entrenched after 18 games of data for both teams. One of the only questions was what to do with the split between Rams running backs CJ Anderson and Todd Gurley. For the majority of the year Gurley’s grade was weighted a full 5% of the Rams overall grade as he received nearly all of the snaps from that position. Given the uncertainty regarding the recent playing time split between Gurley and Anderson I have slowly given Anderson a greater percentage of that 5%. For the Championship game the split was 4% Gurley and 1% Anderson however given Anderson’s large role in the offense so far in the Rams 2 playoff games I have moved an even greater percentage of the grade to Anderson. It currently sits at a 3% Gurley / 2% Anderson split of the LA running back weight. Again, this change had only a minor effect (negatively) on the Rams overall grade, otherwise not much else was adjusted with regards to player weight within the model.

As we put a bow on the 2018-2019 NFL season I would like to thank Bangthebook.com for again giving me the opportunity to write this weekly article and share my thoughts. Of course, I’d also like to thank those who followed and read this article week in and week out. Hopefully we both made some money! Writing it not only affords me the opportunity to share my ideas and model predictions each week but also motivates me to continuously update the model and make sure it is efficient as possible. In the offseason, I look forward to diving back into the data and predictions from this current year and further fine tune the NFL model from both a sides and totals perspective to improve its effectiveness for the future. So enjoy the game and the offseason and I look forward to another fun and profitable football season again next fall!

Super Bowl 53 Overview

Sunday, February 3, 2019
6:30 PM LA Rams & New England Patriots (New England -2.5 / 57)

  LA Rams New England Patriots
Overall Grade 79.1 (4th) 79.3 (3rd)
Total Offense (out of 52) 42.6 (4th) 43.4 (3rd)
Total Defense (out of 41) 32.1 (3rd) 31.6 (6th)
Quarterback (out of 20.5) 17.6 (8th) 19.1 (3rd)
Skill Positions (out of 16) 12.8 (4th) 12.3 (7th)
Offensive Line (out of 15.5) 12.1 (2nd) 12.0 (3rd)
Front 7 (out of 25) 19.5 (8th) 18.6 (19th)
Secondary (out of 16) 12.7 5(th) 13.0 (2nd)
Sp. Teams (out of 5) 3.0 (17th) 3.0 (16th)
Model Spread New England -0.2
Model Total 54.5
Model Projected Score 27 28

A quick review of the above listed rankings for both the Pats and Rams shows that from the model’s perspective, this should be a very tightly contested game. Despite the solid play of Rams quarterback Jared Goff and the slight decline of Tom Brady, the Pats still have a well deserved edge at the most important position on the field. Similar words could be said of the coaching matchup as well (which the model largely does not account for). Sean McVay has demonstrated that he is a very good coach but with just 2 seasons under his belt, Bill Belichick has more playoff wins (30) than McVay has total wins (26) in his NFL career. Although the same could have been said on both accounts in last year’s Super Bowl, both Brady and Belichick hold the advantages over their counterparts and are rightly favored.

Outside of the coaching and quarterback edge, the teams appear to be fairly similar. One example to highlight is along the lines of the Rams and Pats. The main weakness of the Ram offensive line is on the interior where Saffold, Sullivan, and Blythe are all average or below average. However, the Pats do not appear to have a interior defensive player who can fully exploit this weakness as DT starters Malcom Brown and Adam Butler grade out as average players while their lone above average interior player, Lawrence Guy, sees limited snaps (33 this postseason). Along the outside, the strength of the Pats line, the edge defenders, should be equalized by the Rams elite offensive tackles Whitworth and Havenstein so largely this matchup is a push. A similar conclusion can be reached with regards to the Rams excellent DL of Donald and Suh against the Pats underrated OL in which all starters are graded above the league average.

All and all this looks like a situation where the Pats should be slight favorites. The model suggests this game should be about New England -.5 or -1 (if we give them a .5 point or so based on Super Bowl experience) and this is essentially where the game opened. The massive money inflow on the Pats has moved the number to -2.5 and has even touched -3 in some spots. I gotta say, I’m bit surprised by the vorticity of this move as I figured it would stay around Patriots -1 or so and for this reason I have not yet gotten involved in this game from a side perspective. I will say if it gets to Rams +3 that will certainly be the play however at this point I will likely hope for a depressed moneyline at kickoff and/or play the game live. As for the total, the model suggests this number is a bit too high. I have bet the under 57 and would suggest that as a play and believe that the total will go down as we get closer.

For the past two seasons, we’ve relied on the NFL model and its been a profitable strategy. So, to cap off the year let’s hope it’s on target again. Look for a competitive and entertaining game in which the Pats win by a point or two and it stays under 57 points.

Side: Patriots ML (-130) / Rams +3 (if available)
Total: Under 57

-END OF SUPER BOWL 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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