2013-14 Week 3 NFL Rankings

In Bears, Football by myles54 Comments

Now that we have the bare minimum of games played to derive some meaning to how good football teams are relative to each other (and we really still don't, but here we are anyway), it's time to roll something out that I've been doing for a few years: an objective ranking system for NFL teams (well, 2 rankings). 

The first one I'd like to talk about is simple, and you likely already know it. It's just a pythagorean rating system: points scored squared divided by the sum of points squared and points allowed squared. That's simple enough; however, I've done a few more things to make the rankings more meaningful. I've included a stat called E[X], or expected wins. This stat is the number of wins this team is expected to win if they played their entire schedule over again. Since that’s not particularly meaningful, I then include aE[X], which is the adjusted win total (where they only play the games remaining on their schedule, and then add the wins each already has. 

It's important to note that I DO factor in home field advantage. The home team wins about 57% of the time, so when I factor how a team should perform in an upcoming game, I factor that in. 

The difference of these two expected win totals is what's interesting about this statistic. By definition, this is the difference between what a team is expected to do and what the team has actually done. I'm not sure you can attribute the difference to team skill or luck (surely it's a synthesis of both), but it's interesting to see what teams overperform their "peripheral" stats. You'd expect a healthy does of regression to the mean as the season goes on, but in my 3 years performing this analysis, I haven't really reached a conclusive resolution to this.

Here's the rankings for Rating (and then GRITS – Games Rescued In Tight Situations)

Rank Team Rating W L E[X] aE[X] GRITS
1 SEA 0.940 3 0 13.53 13.94 0.41
2 KC 0.851 3 0 12.16 12.82 0.67
3 CAR 0.819 1 2 12.15 11.00 -1.15
4 NO 0.810 3 0 11.23 11.76 0.53
5 DEN 0.799 3 0 11.40 12.08 0.67
6 NE 0.787 3 0 11.06 11.74 0.68
7 DAL 0.726 2 1 11.33 11.06 -0.28
8 IND 0.695 2 1 10.99 10.91 -0.08
9 MIA 0.688 3 0 9.89 10.85 0.97
10 CHI 0.644 3 0 10.50 11.44 0.93
11 DET 0.601 2 1 10.54 10.23 -0.32
12 CIN 0.593 2 1 9.56 9.69 0.13
13 BAL 0.561 2 1 9.14 9.46 0.32
14 NYJ 0.556 2 1 8.64 8.86 0.23
15 GB 0.551 1 2 9.79 8.59 -1.19
16 TEN 0.541 2 1 9.85 9.75 -0.10
17 SD 0.478 1 2 7.69 7.07 -0.62
18 ATL 0.475 1 2 7.91 7.52 -0.38
19 PHI 0.450 1 2 8.28 7.84 -0.43
20 BUF 0.432 1 2 6.77 6.96 0.20
21 HOU 0.407 2 1 7.42 8.22 0.80
22 OAK 0.405 1 2 7.14 6.61 -0.54
23 MIN 0.401 0 3 6.47 5.23 -1.24
24 CLE 0.325 1 2 5.62 5.70 0.08
25 ARI 0.307 1 2 6.22 6.29 0.07
26 WAS 0.289 0 3 5.18 4.53 -0.65
27 STL 0.282 1 2 5.57 5.70 0.13
28 TB 0.227 0 3 2.91 2.57 -0.34
29 PIT 0.197 0 3 2.24 1.96 -0.28
30 SF 0.178 1 2 3.43 4.26 0.84
31 NYG 0.143 0 3 1.27 1.16 -0.11
32 JAX 0.056 0 3 0.32 0.29 -0.03
               

 

Rank Team Rating W L E[X] aE[X] GRITS
1 MIA 0.688 3 0 9.89 10.85 0.97
2 CHI 0.644 3 0 10.50 11.44 0.93
3 SF 0.178 1 2 3.43 4.26 0.84
4 HOU 0.407 2 1 7.42 8.22 0.80
5 NE 0.787 3 0 11.06 11.74 0.68
6 DEN 0.799 3 0 11.40 12.08 0.67
7 KC 0.851 3 0 12.16 12.82 0.67
8 NO 0.810 3 0 11.23 11.76 0.53
9 SEA 0.940 3 0 13.53 13.94 0.41
10 BAL 0.561 2 1 9.14 9.46 0.32
11 NYJ 0.556 2 1 8.64 8.86 0.23
12 BUF 0.432 1 2 6.77 6.96 0.20
13 CIN 0.593 2 1 9.56 9.69 0.13
14 STL 0.282 1 2 5.57 5.70 0.13
15 CLE 0.325 1 2 5.62 5.70 0.08
16 ARI 0.307 1 2 6.22 6.29 0.07
17 JAX 0.056 0 3 0.32 0.29 -0.03
18 IND 0.695 2 1 10.99 10.91 -0.08
19 TEN 0.541 2 1 9.85 9.75 -0.10
20 NYG 0.143 0 3 1.27 1.16 -0.11
21 DAL 0.726 2 1 11.33 11.06 -0.28
22 PIT 0.197 0 3 2.24 1.96 -0.28
23 DET 0.601 2 1 10.54 10.23 -0.32
24 TB 0.227 0 3 2.91 2.57 -0.34
25 ATL 0.475 1 2 7.91 7.52 -0.38
26 PHI 0.450 1 2 8.28 7.84 -0.43
27 OAK 0.405 1 2 7.14 6.61 -0.54
28 SD 0.478 1 2 7.69 7.07 -0.62
29 WAS 0.289 0 3 5.18 4.53 -0.65
30 CAR 0.819 1 2 12.15 11.00 -1.15
31 GB 0.551 1 2 9.79 8.59 -1.19
32 MIN 0.401 0 3 6.47 5.23 -1.24

The first thing that pops out at me is that Carolina is in an extreme state of flux. A 38-0 pounding of the Giants will do that to you, of course. Part of the problem (early on) is that one game can have an inordinate effect on a team's rating. It's hard to imagine Carolina being the 3rd best team in the league (and GRITS has them as the 3rd-worst). San Francisco's ranking is equally troubling. For those prognosticating about the NFC North, Chicago's 11.4 wins has them comfortably ahead of GB (8.6), but just 1.2 games ahead of DET (10.2). 

Honestly, though, I don't think these GRITS rankings are all that good. The problem that pyth ratings in football is interconnectivity. Teams just don't play enough to really be linked together like they should (in baseball, teams have 162 trials, an order of magnitude greater). This is why I developed another proprietary statistic, which is the diametric opposite of GRITS. I call it, somewhat funnily, OATS (Opponent-Adjusted Total Score). What OATS does is measure how a team fared against it's opponents relative to each opponent's opponents. It's somewhat hard to explain, so I'll use an example. Chicago scored 40 points on Pittsburgh in Week 3. As a team, Pittsburgh allows 24.7 points per game. So, relative to what Pittsburgh normally gives up, Chicago was 15.3 points better. Do that for each team (and average them), and you start to get an idea how good Chicago is relative to the rest of the league. Do the same thing for defense, add them together, and you get an idea how good they are in general.

In GRITS, a high margin of victory is actually harmful (because it inflates your rating, so your losses mean more and your wins less). In OATS, there's no such qualm about it (and many times, games that seem to be utter blowouts really aren't. SEA won by 28, but were expected to win by about 21).

One last stat (that doesn't mean very much) is Evenness. That's just the absolute value of the difference between a team's offensive and defensive ratings. If the evenness is low, then aren't better at one or the other. With a higher number, they definitely are. For examples, in my rating, Dallas is slightly above average in both offense and defense, so they have a low evenness. On the other hand, the Giants have a horrendous defense but a league-average offense, so they have a high evenness rating (which, when I type it out, seems unintuitive. Perhaps it should be oddness?)

Rank Team D-Rate O-Rate OATS W L Evenness
1 SEA 6.56 5.11 11.67 3 0 1.44
2 DEN -3.44 15.00 11.56 3 0 18.44
3 CAR 10.78 -1.83 8.94 1 2 12.61
4 KC 9.78 -2.22 7.56 3 0 12.00
5 MIA 3.00 4.00 7.00 3 0 1.00
6 NE 5.78 -0.33 5.44 3 0 6.11
7 BAL 5.78 -0.44 5.33 2 1 6.22
8 NO 5.22 0.00 5.22 3 0 5.22
9 BUF -4.11 8.33 4.22 1 2 12.44
10 DAL 2.00 1.56 3.56 2 1 0.44
11 IND 3.44 0.00 3.44 2 1 3.44
12 CIN 4.56 -1.44 3.11 2 1 6.00
13 CHI -2.67 5.44 2.78 3 0 8.11
14 ATL -2.22 4.00 1.78 1 2 6.22
15 NYJ 0.89 0.11 1.00 2 1 0.78
16 TB 1.44 -2.22 -0.78 0 3 3.67
17 PHI -4.67 2.67 -2.00 1 2 7.33
18 OAK 2.44 -4.44 -2.00 1 2 6.89
19 SD -3.78 1.11 -2.67 1 2 4.89
20 HOU -4.11 1.00 -3.11 2 1 5.11
21 MIN -7.11 4.00 -3.11 0 3 11.11
22 DET -0.33 -3.00 -3.33 2 1 2.67
23 SF -0.22 -3.44 -3.67 1 2 3.22
24 GB -8.67 4.67 -4.00 1 2 13.33
25 TEN 2.44 -6.56 -4.11 2 1 9.00
26 CLE 3.78 -8.00 -4.22 1 2 11.78
27 ARI -3.00 -2.78 -5.78 1 2 0.22
28 PIT 0.22 -7.56 -7.33 0 3 7.78
29 WAS -4.11 -4.67 -8.78 0 3 0.56
30 STL -5.33 -3.78 -9.11 1 2 1.56
31 NYG -11.17 0.00 -11.17 0 3 11.17
32 JAX -6.89 -4.89 -11.78 0 3 2.00

Another bonus of OATS is that it gives you a predicted spread for an upcoming game. If you want to know if the Bears should be favored to beat the Lions, you can see that Chicago, as a team, is 2.78. The Lions are at -3.33. Since it's at Detroit, you'd give them 3 points of HFA, so add it together and you could say that the Bears should be around 3 point favorites (a word of warning; football DOES NOT WORK LIKE THIS. There are always, always, matchup considerations among other things. I haven't done extensive testing against the spread, but this isn't much (if at all) better than picking at random.) If you check Vegas, you'll see that the Lions are actually 3 point favorites.

 

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Comments

  1. Andrew

    I really dont think these types of advanced stats work in football. In baseball, every situation is the exact same, pitcher throws, batter either swings or takes the pitch. This makes it easy to encapsulate baseball with statistics. Things are easily measured. The offense should always score as many runs as possible nd the defense should always prevent as many runs as possible. This means that in basically every 5-4 ballgame, the game is as close as the score indicates.

    The final score of a football game is often not a great indicator of how close the game was, or even the quality of each team, in my opinion. Take the bears and steelers, that was to me a much closer game than it seemed by the score of it. Before the pass to Bennett for the touchdown, there was a good chance the steelers could win. The lead was extended because of the desparation of the steelers. If the Bears were up 40-10 going into the 4th, and the steelers scored 2 garbage time TDs and the final score was 40-24, it would appear the bears beat the steelers just as easily as they did in the actual game, however clearly this game was a blowout and should show that the bears are much better. For this reason, I prefer somewhat more subjective rankings for football teams. unlike baseball, it is actually pretty easy to watch the majority of the games played, or atleast watch a good amount of every team’s games to create a ranking.

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  2. Omar Little

    This is why I developed another proprietary statistic, which is the diametric opposite of GRITS.

    I like GRITS when combined with EGGS.

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  3. Omar Little

    One stat that I think holds up well is yards per play. More specifically, I like to look at yards per carry and yards per pass attempt. That tells you how effective a team is at moving the ball and preventing movement, which, to me, is the best indicator of ability.

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  4. WaLi

    Andrew wrote:

    For this reason, I prefer somewhat more subjective rankings for football teams. unlike baseball, it is actually pretty easy to watch the majority of the games played, or atleast watch a good amount of every team’s games to create a ranking.

    DirectTV has condensed games where you can watch a full game in 30 minutes! It goes by so quick you don’t know what’s going on until it’s over.

    I agree with what you are saying, maybe I’m old school but I have a hard time seeing how advanced stats work in football. Too small of a sample size and it seems teams change too much from year to year.

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  5. Omar Little

    WaLi wrote:

    DirectTV has condensed games where you can watch a full game in 30 minutes! It goes by so quick you don’t know what’s going on until it’s over.

    Thank you, Cris Collinsworth.

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  6. dmick89

    @ Myles:
    I don’t pay attention to the NFL anymore or even college football that much, but I agree with what you say here and what Andrew said earlier. Football is just a lot harder to analyze statistically so something simple like the YPP Ryno uses may very well be one of the better ways to look at it.

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  7. MVW

    Evenness would be more informative if it wasn’t an absolute value. Then at least we could see which teams are unbalanced (defensively) and unbalanced (offensively).

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  8. dmick89

    Who the fuck is Lim? I’ve actually watched more Cubs baseball over the last few weeks than the previous couple of months, but I usually stop lose attention by the time a reliever comes in. I checked out At Bat on my phone and saw Rusin pitched splendidly, but who the fuck is Lim?

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  9. GW

    i only remember him because the initial numbers that came out about his contract seemed outrageous for an old reliever coming off his second TJ… turned out to be a split contract, i believe.

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  10. WaLi

    @ Omar Little:
    Lmao so not only was that the worst season, that was possibly the worst ending to a tv show ever. Holy shit was that bad.

    @@@@@Spoiler kind of@@@@@ They were watching the dark knight rises and though “hey let’s have dexter go out like batman does when he goes out to see and blows up but somehow doesn’t die. The twist is though he won’t go see his girl in the exotic place. He’ll be a lumberjack.”

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  11. Andrew

    @ Omar Little:

    Maybe I’m biased because I’m a bears fan, but I think yards per play doesnt fully encapsulate how to have a successful team. Turnovers/takeaways are far too large of a component to how likely a team is to win a game. I think Peanut Tillman mentioned it in a postgame that if you’re +3 in the turnover difference, you win 95% of games or something. Idk if thats true but I could see that it is certainly plausible. The fact that teams with big leads will be more conservative and accept less yards per play whereas teams down big will go riskier and get more yards per play worries me about its usefulness as a statistic, especially this early. Looking at the offensive standings I see Philly #1, Washington #6, Oakland #7. Besides Philly probably, I wouldnt say those are among the top offenses in the game, and they certainly havent translated into success. On the defensive side, the fact that Cleveland is #2 while the Bears are #29, definitely hurts that stat for me. The Bears defense has clearly played a massive role in their success thus far.

    Baseball is so much easier in that a stat like OPS as well as FIP for pitching pretty accurately summarizes the best teams in baseball. This is because the outcome of every plate appearance is pretty much independent of any other action and determines the outcome of the game with some variance (i.e. sequence of the plate appearances, some luck either way). The same just isnt true with football. If I have 3 return TDs and you havent scored yet I am gonna run the ball, play soft defense, youll stop me, you’ll get your yards prolly some points too, and I know that im gonna win anyways.

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  12. Andrew

    Sidenote:

    interesting thought, if the Padres offered Cashner back for Rizzo right now, would you take it. Cashners pitched very well this year (albeit im sure with some petco help) whereas Rizzo has been disappointing (albeit with good peripherals). I’d certainly be tempted, especially with all the position players that are coming up (Bryant and Vogelbach would both have the bats to play 1st), and who knows maybe it means the cubs go big and sign Jose Abreu. I think I still lean towards keeping rizzo given the volatility of arms, but maybe the cubs made a somewhat bad trade here after all. Im sure ill look dumb for questioning it when Rizzo is hitting .300/.375/.525 next year and Cashner needs surgery, but oh well.

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  13. sitrick

    @ Andrew:

    I wouldn’t trade back, but I don’t know that I’d do it again if it were on the table today instead of two years ago, given the lack of high upside arms in the system and the hitting depth we’ve acquired in the time since.

    If we’re undoing trades, I’d give up Edwards, Olt, Ramirez and Grimm for Archer back. They can keep Fuld and Lee.

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  14. Omar Little

    @ WaLi:

    The only really good season of that show was the first one…which pretty much followed the book. It’s sad, because the show had such potential.

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  15. Omar Little

    @ Andrew:

    Plays near the end of a game can skew those numbers a bit, but their impact is relatively minor. The rankings typically match up with what I watch on Sundays, imo. If you had an objective NFL expert rank the offenses and defenses in the league, I suspect the rankings would look a LOT like the lists I linked.

    You’re right about turnovers affecting play. TO Margin is huge, but it’s also not predictive (defensively). Offensively, you can tell which teams will continue to turn the ball over (e.g. JAX will, KC will not) because most turnovers are the “fault” of the offense. INTs typically result from QB-WR miscommunication and tipped passes (the result of QBs staring down WRs).

    Defensively, turnovers are a virtual crapshoot. Teams rarely cause INTs these days, because QBs are being taught it’s OK to take a sack. Causing fumbles is predictive (and you mentioned possibly the best in football in Tillman), but recovering them is absolutely not.

    Long story short (too late), no single stat can rank NFL teams all that well. The closes thing to a single predictive stat I’ve seen is Net Passer Rating, but that leaves a lot of performance out of it. The best way I’ve found is to combine how efficiently a team moves the ball (OYPP), how well they prevent teams from moving the ball (DYPP) and the two most influential external factors (penalties and TO Margin).

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  16. dmick89

    Even in the final season they tamed down Deb’s vocal awesomeness. I only remember laughing a few times at things she said throughout the season. Early on it was a few times per episode.

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  17. Omar Little

    Berselius wrote:

    How do you feel about DVOA, Ryno? That seems to do a decent job, at least with the caveat that the biggest problem with analyzing the NFL is small sample sizes. It’s no ZORPS 3.1.

    It’s no ZORPS, but nothing is. I like DVOA quite a bit, actually, and it’s shown to be a very good way to quantify ability. Those guys as well as the guys from Pro Football Focus are doing a really good.

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  18. dmick89

    @ Andrew:
    I’d keep Rizzo because I don’t trust Cashner’s arm. If Casher had a really good 2014 and you ask me this, I might feel differently. I think both have potential to be very good. Both also have potential to not be good.

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  19. Omar Little

    I also don’t like how his need to kill just vanished (and not just in the last two episodes). This show was about a serial killer…a person who is compelled to kill people, usually in a ritualistic way. But it seemed like his need just went away at some point in the last few years, and he basically turned into a comic book character: A person who killed bad people.

    Maybe it’s just me, but the show, imo, made a mockery of Dexter’s “condition,” which was the basis for the entire story.

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  20. Omar Little

    If any of you are OCD or addicts of ANY kind, you’ll understand my problem with the show. Your compulsion or addiction doesn’t just vanish. You might stop engaging in the activity/behavior, but it never loses its grip on you.

    I think it bugs me because the show initially did a really good job of portraying the motivation for such a person. Why do some people consistently engage in destructive behavior? Some are just assholes, but many can’t help themselves. Literally. They had a chance to help “normal” people understand the mind of an addict, and they went and threw it all out the window. “Dexter just needed love.” Fuckin’ bullshit.

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  21. Mucker

    @ Omar Little:
    I’m with you Ryno. That was an extremely disappointing ending to an extremely disappointing show. That first season and the Trinity season I liked very much. The rest was pretty crappy.

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  22. dmick89

    Omar Little wrote:

    If any of you are OCD or addicts of ANY kind, you’ll understand my problem with the show. Your compulsion or addiction doesn’t just vanish. You might stop engaging in the activity/behavior, but it never loses its grip on you.

    The addiction part they did best in the first couple season and maybe in season 3, but the combination killing thing never worked on Dexter. They tried it in season 3 and in season 8. Failed both times though I did really like whatshisname’s character in season 3. An addict waits for no one and tells no other addict to wait for him. I’m just imagining one of the people I smoked crack with telling me “hey, wait for me and we’ll smoke this rock together.” Yep, that’s how it works. “Don’t drink until I get there.”

    The word ‘wait’ is not in the vocabulary of an addict.

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  23. Omar Little

    @ Mucker:

    Season 1 was nearly right on. Mostly because it followed the first book, which was perfect. If the show had followed the book exactly, the show would have been perfect, imo.

    Season 2 had moments that were perfect. Dexter’s attempts to understand his compulsion and Dexter v. Doakes were great storylines. Lyla ruined it.

    Season 3 was close. Dexter opening up to someone and accepting the idea of a partner was intriguing, but it didn’t quite deliver.

    Season 4 was pretty good. The plot was awesome. Lithgow was perfect. The thing that bothered me about this season was how it strayed from the original formula. To me, Dexter was entertaining when it combined dark subject matter with a light-hearted approach. Dexter used to be fun, entertaining and dark. This season is where it became a dark, almost somber drama.

    Seasons 5-whatever pretty much sucked. Season 5 should have been the final season, and they had plenty of directions to go.

    I still don’t know how Deb didn’t know Dexter was a killer until Season 7.

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  24. Omar Little

    @ dmick89:

    Agreed. They nailed it in the first season. Killing was an addiction, but the ritual was his compulsion. They made strides to address it in season 2, but they were a little too literal, imo.

    Maybe it’s nothing, but addiction is something not everyone truly understands. Dexter had a chance to show a lot of people what it’s all about and they whiffed. I think it would have made it a better show if you could have seen the internal struggle Dexter faced.

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