It took until week 16, but the last undefeated team has finally fallen. Conventional wisdom says the Colts basically threw in the towel in the second half, handing the game to the Jets. That line of thinking is generally reflected in the Power Rankings this week, with the Colts still holding onto the top spot in the subjective ratings, but just barely. Since the objective ratings can't account for teams that purposely do poorly, well, their ratings will suffer in games they just phone in.
So, who's giving the Colts a run for their money as the top-ranked team in the NFL this week? You'll have to follow the jump to find out (hint: it's not the Saints).
Subjective Power Rankings
Let's start with the subjective power rankings. As a refresher, these are where people (or groups of people) rank the various teams based on opinions. It's serves as a snapshot of how teams are doing right now, and as the conventional wisdom of the 32 teams in the NFL.
One thing I wanted to point out: SB Nation nor Vegas Insider have done Power Rankings posts for the last two weeks, so I'm leaving them off the chart.
Some notable quotes from various rankings sites.
The Colts' loss provided fuel for those tabbing San Diego as the league's best team.
Philip Rivers has still never lost in December, and privately Indy players admit that this is the team they fear/respect the most. The way they have been playing on both sides of the ball recently, maybe this is the year San Diego finally gets to the Super Bowl.
Their offense is scary. No defense looks capable of handling them for 60 minutes.
One of my favorite quotes this week as Don Banks was able to even get a dig in at the Raiders.
I know they've got some health issues to think of, but as well as the red-hot Chargers are playing, do you really want a first-round bye in the playoffs? I say Norv Turner scrambles together a local semi-pro team, or even the Raiders, to give his guys a little live competition at some point during the weekend of Jan. 9-10. Anything to keep the mojo flowing.
Overall Subjective Average
Even though they lost last week to the Jets, the pundits generally feel the Colts are still the best team in the NFL because they just forfeited against the Jets, they weren't beaten. However, USA Today and NBC's Pro Football Talk aren't so quick to give the Colts a pass; both sites have knocked down the Colts a peg (or two).
Taking the Colts' spot atop the rankings? Our beloved Chargers.
(Puns alert!) After losing two games in a row, the Saints are falling (down to 4th place), the Eagles are soaring (to 3rd place), the Vikings' ship is continuing to take on water after a poor performance and loss against the Bears. The Packers are holding stead, and the Patriots are surging a little bit.
What's most interesting is the difference in averages between the Saints and Vikings (4th and 5th place, respectively). Almost 3 full "points" separate the Saints and the Vikings (3.50 to 6.38). This indicates to me there's a solid consensus of the top 4 teams, which works out well to be split between 2 AFC teams (Colts and Chargers) and 2 NFC teams (Saints and Eagles).
Subjective Standard Deviation
Again, a quick refresher: standard deviation shows which teams rankings are most in agreement.
Hmm, would you look at that. Every single source has the Lions and Rams ranked 31st and 32nd, respectively. All but one site rank the Bears as 23rd, and all but one site rank the Chiefs as 30th. The Colts, Chargers, and Eagles round out the top of most consistently-ranked teams.
Taking a look at the bottom of the chart, we get a feel for the more inconsistent teams. By far, the most inconsistent team is the Jets. Handily beating out the Falcons, Panthers and Redskins. It's just too hard for the pundits to agree on how good, or bad, those teams are.
Objective Power Rankings
Now, let's jump over to the objective rankings. These rankings are based on actual numbers, statistics and more consistent methods; not merely opinion.
Overall Objective Average
Remember me mentioning above how the objective stats don't really take into account a team not producing on purpose? Well, it certainly has affected the Colts this week.
Objectively speaking, the Chargers are ranked higher than the Colts. Even though they have the exact same overall objective average, the Chargers get ranked higher because their rankings are more consistent than the Colts' (as reflected in the standard deviation number).
The Eagles and Patriots are playing some strong football right now as well. The Saints continue to slide down, not playing as strongly as they used to earlier in the season.
Bringing up the rear are the same 4 teams as in the subjective ratings: Seahawks, Chiefs, Rams and Lions.
Objective Standard Deviation
This helps us to identify which teams are playing about as well (or poorly) as they should be. If the various objective sources are in agreement, then the teams don't really have anywhere else to move.
This week, the Bills, of all teams, are playing the most solid football, as a 23rd-ranked team. Followed by the last-place team known as the Lions. But then we bounce back up to the fifth-ranked Cowboys.
How about the Chargers? Well, they're more middle of the pack, but greatly improving as the DVOA number keeps climbing and becoming more in line with the other statistics.
Comparing the Numbers
Let's compare the Subjective and Objective numbers to each other.
I have it listed as Composite Average in the chart, but it's the same thing. This is the average (mean) of all the ratings, both Objective and Subjective together.
The Colts are holding on to the top spot, but the Chargers are not far behind at all, just 0.25 points behind. The Eagles and Saints are able to get some separation, with the Saints falling a little bit more behind the Eagles.
For the most part though, the overall averages don't change the positions of the teams too greatly. It just helps to solidify where each team ranks
Overall Standard Deviation
Wow, across the board, the bottom three teams in the NFL are, without a doubt, the three worst teams in the NFL.
The highest-ranked and most-consistent team at the moment is the Eagles. Watch out for them in the playoffs.
The Chargers are now the 8th most consistent team. However, they're the 2nd-most consistent top-10 team, behind the Eagles. The Colts' consistency is affected by their poor showing this past Sunday in the loss to the Jets.
Taking a look at the bottom of the chart, if I were a Vikings fan, I'd be a bit worried. Their numbers just aren't lining up at the moment. Making up the bottom five: Cardinals, Jets, Falcons, Vikings and Panthers.
Differences in Average
This comparison should help to highlight which teams are overachieving and underachieving. Now, it's not a perfect comparison by any means, but it just goes to show where conventional wisdom just doesn't quite lineup with actual production and statistical ratings.
We have a new over-achiever! The Bengals have now been supplanted by the Vikings as the league's most over-achieving team. The Bengals have dropped to 3rd-most over-achieving team, with the Cardinals filling in the number 2 spot.
The Chargers are only slightly over-achieving, but not by much.
The Falcons, Eagles and Broncos are right where they should be.
The Giants, Panthers and Jets are this week's biggest disappointments as they're the biggest under-achievers.
Next week should be an interesting week. Some sites won't be doing any more Power Rankings next week as the season will be over, while other sites will post rankings all the way to the Super Bowl.
I'd like to follow the teams throughout the playoffs as much as possible, but it's up to the sites I use. I will keep an eye on the various sites and use the rankings where possible. I will post a status update later in the week next week as I know more.