Power Rankings from Around the Web - The Final Word

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the final installment of the Power Rankings from Around the Web series for the 2009 NFL season.  I've had quite a bit of fun doing it and judging by the reactions of you on this site, you've enjoyed reading it as well.  I do plan to do it again next season, but until then, let's take a look at how everything settled at the end of the season.

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.

I've left a few sources off the chart this week: Vegas Insider, SB Nation and Sporting News all did not post power rankings this week. Sports Illustrated posted rankings, but they only cover the 12 playoff teams so it wasn't exactly the same as the full 32-team rankings.

Notable Quotes

Some notable quotes from various rankings sites.

ESPN

The Chargers are gathering more steam as "hottest team in the league" and a Super Bowl pick.

Fox Sports

PLAYOFF PROGNOSIS: Why are the Colts wary of the Chargers more than any other team? For one thing, the Chargers are now officially the hottest team in football with 11 straight wins. San Diego has also KO'd Indy in each of the past two postseasons. The Chargers actually have the more explosive offense (the only team this season to score 20 or more in every game) and are one of a handful of teams who can keep up with Peyton Manning, making the Chargers a trendy Super Bowl pick these days.

Pro Football Talk

Bye or no bye, any given playoff weekend features a 60-percent chance of an L.T. injury.

Overall Subjective Average

The Chargers have finally cemented themselves as the top team in the NFL, thanks to their 11-game winning streak and the Colts losing their final two games. But honestly, how can you vote against a team whose 2nd string still beat the first string of the Redskins, which are a better team than the Bills team that handily beat the Colts. Not only do the Chargers have a strong first string, but they have depth, and after a rocky start to the game, their bench guys stepped up in the end.

Subjective Power Rankings
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Observations:

  • All 12 playoff teams make up the top-12 in the average rankings, funny how that works.
  • The Cowboys and Vikings are tied with the same average ranking, but the Cowboys get the nod for having a lower standard deviation, meaning they're closer to their average ranking than the Vikings are.
  • After knocking on the door for basically a month, the Ravens finally crack the top-10 in a few power rankings.
  • The Broncos continue their second historic collapse in as many years, becoming the first team with a 3.5-game lead to not make the playoffs. And as such, their stock keeps falling.

Subjective Standard Deviation

Again, a quick refresher: standard deviation shows which teams rankings are most in agreement.

I read an article yesterday that analyzed ESPN's pre-season power rankings and compared them to their final season-ending rankings. The consensus? It's much easier to see and rank the bad teams than it is the good teams. Or it's easier for a good-looking team to go bad than it is for bad-looking team to do better.  I bring this up because, take a look at the top of the list, the Lions and Rams are the number 31 and 32-ranked teams across the board.

Subjective Power Rankings
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Observations:

  • After fluctuating wildly throughout the season, the Steelers have finally settled in at 13-14
  • The Chargers are one of the more consistently-ranked teams. So the pundits, along with most of us on this site, feel the Chargers are consistently the best team in the NFL at the moment
  • One of the big questions, "how much should sitting starters affect the Colts' rankings?" Many pundits feel the Colts are still the best team, while others have knocked them down a few pegs, affecting their variance.
  • In spite of their high standard deviation, the Jets' ranking is much more consistent with everyone but Fox giving them an 11-12 ranking.

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

Advanced NFL Statistics didn't publish their ratings this week, so I left them off the chart.

Objective Power Rankings
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Observations:

  • With another strong game, Cowboys have jumped to the top of the Objective rankings, supplanting the Chargers. But it's not all bad, they have the same average placement, but the Chargers have a higher standard deviation.
  • Like with the subjective rankings, the playoff teams are well-represented in the top 12 with 11 of the 12 playoff teams in the top 12. The Panthers rise to 8th-place, while the Bengals drop all the way down to 17th.
  • Since the objective stats only take into account actual production and don't consider "reasoning", the Colts continue their fall, and now hold on at number-10.

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.

Objective Power Rankings
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Observations:

  • Huh. Would you look at that? The Seahawks are actually that bad.
  • It's still easier to identify the worst teams in the league because, well, they play poorly. The 6 most consistently-rated teams are all in the bottom half of the league.
  • Which Ravens team will we see tomorrow? The team ranked second by DVOA? Or the team ranked 12th and 13th on the other sites.

Comparing the Numbers

Overall Average

Overall Power Rankings
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Observations

  • The Chargers are definitively the best team in the NFL at the moment.
  • The Colts are being dragged down by their recent two stinkers. But the Cowboys are climbing fast.
  • The Vikings are still being held down by their inconsistency earlier.

Overall Standard Deviation

Overall Power Rankings
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Observations:

  • The bad teams are still easiest to pick, taking in 5 of the top 7 spots.
  • What to think of the Cardinals? There's some disparity in their play lately.

Differences in Average

Overall Power Rankings
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Observations:

  • If there are any teams likely to be beaten at home this weekend, it'll be the Cardinals and Bengals. Both are grossly overproducing lately.
  • The Colts seem to be overproducing, but again, it's because their objective ratings are being weighed down by their sitting of starters.
  • The Vikings turn in one dominant victory and the pundits put them back at the top, even if their objective ratings don't reflect their success as quickly.
  • The Chargers are playing more in line with their ratings, only slightly out-playing their ratings.
  • Those poor Panthers. If only they could have started as strong as they finished.
  • The Jets aren't to be taken lightly. People think less of them than they actual are doing. The Packers and Patriots, too, aren't quite playing up to their abilities it seems.

Conclusions

So what to think going into the games this weekend? Watch out for the Jets, Packers and Ravens. The Patriots could be trouble too, but it remains to be seen how much the loss of Welker will hurt.

Like I said earlier, this will be the last of the Power Rankings posts for this season. But watch for it to return next year, greatly improved with more analysis and trending.

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