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NFL Rewind - Week 7

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As we rapidly approach the halfway mark of another NFL season the picture is starting to become clearer on many levels. The cream is rising to the top, while a few upstarts who touted impressive early season records are starting to come back to their typical performance. But, this is the NFL, a league of ultra-parity, where truly in any week, for the most part, any team is capable of pulling off the big upset. Let's examine the numbers…

Performance Ratings (max grade is 160, 80 on offense and 80 on defense, calculated using 16 different stats with 5 points per stat being the best score = 16x5 = 80).

Performance Ratings
Category Offense Defense Total Team Blended
Wins Team Rating Rank Rating Rank Rating Rank SOS
6 HOU 50.2 4 50.3 2 100.5 1 31
5 SF 47.9 6 49.1 3 96.9 2 16
5 CHI 42.6 13 51.4 1 94.0 3 23
3 DEN 50.3 3 42.3 8 92.6 4 1
4 NE 54.9 1 34.6 22 89.6 5 29
3 PIT 47.6 7 41.0 12 88.6 6 22
3 PHI 42.3 14 45.5 7 87.8 7 14
4 GB 45.3 9 42.1 9 87.4 8 8
3 WAS 54.4 2 32.4 25 86.7 9 28
5 NYG 49.8 5 36.1 18 85.9 10 21
3 DAL 43.3 10 41.0 12 84.3 11 9
5 MIN 41.9 16 41.9 10 83.8 12 31
4 SEA 35.9 27 47.1 5 83.0 13 10
3 MIA 36.7 24 46.2 6 82.8 14 17
2 DET 41.6 17 40.8 14 82.4 15 2
3 SD 41.4 18 40.7 15 82.1 16 26
6 ATL 47.1 8 34.3 23 81.3 17 18
4 ARI 31.8 31 48.6 4 80.4 18 11
1 KC 41.4 18 37.6 17 79.0 19 25
2 TB 40.0 20 39.0 16 79.0 19 20
3 STL 36.9 23 41.1 11 78.0 21 5
3 CIN 39.2 21 35.1 21 74.4 22 32
5 BAL 42.2 15 31.6 27 73.9 23 13
3 NYJ 35.6 28 36.1 19 71.6 24 3
2 OAK 36.1 26 35.4 20 71.5 25 7
3 BUF 42.9 12 28.2 30 71.1 26 28
1 CAR 38.3 22 31.3 28 69.7 27 12
3 IND 35.5 29 33.6 24 69.1 28 19
2 NO 43.0 11 22.9 32 65.9 29 16
1 CLE 32.9 30 31.8 26 64.7 30 24
3 TEN 36.4 25 23.4 31 59.7 31 6
1 JAC 27.3 32 28.9 29 56.3 32 5


*Blended SOS is a weighted average of opponent's performance ratings and opponent's record

Back at the top of the heap are the Houston Texans, who continue to impress outside their SNF loss 2 weeks ago vs. Green Bay. That game was more a case of "probability" where the Packers needed that game and the Texans were overdue to pick up their first loss of the season versus truly whom the better team is in my opinion - which is supported by my numbers. If you follow this column you know for our money the Texans have been the best team in football extending back to early 2011 before QB Matt Schaub went down - and with him healthy and under center they have picked up right where they left off last season, including exacting revenge on the Ravens in impressive fashion this past Sunday.

What is interesting this season is the top 3 defenses in the NFL according to my numbers, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, currently comprise the top 3 spots in my performance rankings. Who says defense doesn't win championships anymore?

Denver remained strong at #4, as their Strength of Schedule (SOS) has continued to improve and currently sits at #1 in the NFL. Sitting at 3-3 that is not good news for the rest of the AFC, ESPECIALLY considering that according to my numbers, Denver will face the easiest closing schedule going forward as measured by opponent's performance stat ranking, and also according to opponent's record. There is a very solid chance DEN will wind up with the #2 seed in the AFC playoffs, believe it or not.

New England remains in the top 5, followed by the pair of keystone state teams trailing close behind at #6 and #7. Green Bay sits at #8, having faced the second toughest schedule amongst the top ten teams in the ratings.

Next up a trio of NFC East teams check in at #9, #10, #11 - Dallas has played the best thus far when adjusting the numbers for SOS - and their meeting with the New York Giants this week will be a critical game for NFC East superiority as a Cowboys win would give them the important tie-breaker by virtue of a season sweep over the defending champs.

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Behind that trio is a pair of surprise NFC teams in Seattle and Minnesota, both of whom have climbed the rankings this season driven by very strong defenses. Nine of the top 13 teams ending with Minnesota are from the NFC, further supporting the point of NFC dominance to this point in the season.

Detroit is the highest rated under .500 team sitting at #15 - a lot of their record is driven by a tough SOS which only trails Denver in strength thus far. Unfortunately for the Lions their schedule does not ease up much like the Broncos does, as going forward it is rated #2 according to opponents win %, and #13 according to opponent's performance stat ranking.

Atlanta, although still undefeated, sits way down at #17 against an average SOS - their offense is playing well but not elite checking in at #8, while their defense is still struggling ranking #23 in the NFL, including #32 vs. the rush. The Falcons have quite a few holes, and their hot start is a bit of a mirage - and likely money making opportunity as the calendar turns to November.

Baltimore sits way down at #23, the lowest they have been ranked at this point in any season since this analysis commenced. The issue with the Ravens is a defense that is being gashed for 23ppg, ranking #27 in my performance stats including #23 vs. the rush. If Flacco cannot lead that offense to significantly more consistency and production than the current 24.9ppg, Baltimore could miss the playoffs for the first time since 2007.

Right behind Baltimore are the New York Jets, who have been ranked between #24 and #29 since Wk2, driven by a subpar offense (ranked #28) and a tough SOS (ranked #3). Of the bottom six teams in the ratings five reside in either the AFC or NFC South, including surprise strugglers Carolina and New Orleans. Probably the most surprising team of the season in a bad way is New Orleans, who has not ranked above #27 in the performance ratings in any week this season. Many expected a step back for the Saints this year, but not many predicted a team that would have 2 wins thru the first 7 weeks of the season.

Next up, here are my projected standings after Week 7. As a reminder, this process involves playing out the entire season based on my power ratings for each team.

AFC East Wins Loss
NE 8.99 7.01
MIA 7.94 8.07
NYJ 7.42 8.58
BUF 6.93 9.08
NFC East Wins Loss
NYG 9.71 6.29
PHI 8.66 7.35
DAL 8.54 7.46
WAS 7.39 8.61
AFC North Wins Loss
BAL 9.15 6.85
PIT 9.05 6.95
CIN 6.60 9.40
CLE 4.72 11.28
NFC North Wins Loss
CHI 11.39 4.61
GB 9.54 6.46
MIN 8.38 7.62
DET 7.34 8.66
AFC South Wins Loss
HOU 12.85 3.15
IND 6.88 9.13
TEN 6.82 9.18
JAC 4.48 11.53
NFC South Wins Loss
ATL 10.70 5.30
TB 6.69 9.31
NO 5.87 10.13
CAR 5.38 10.62
AFC West Wins Loss
DEN 10.25 5.75
SD 7.83 8.17
OAK 6.31 9.69
KC 5.78 10.22
NFC West Wins Loss
SF 11.62 4.38
SEA 8.57 7.43
ARI 7.43 8.57
STL 6.81 9.19


AFC Playoffs:
#1 Houston
#2 Denver
#3 Baltimore vs. #6 Miami
#4 New England vs. #5 Pittsburgh

NFC Playoffs:
#1 San Francisco
#2 Chicago
#3 Atlanta vs. #6 Philadelphia
#4 N.Y. Giants vs. #5 Green Bay

I have updated the power rating of 10 teams, 4 up / 6 down, but maintained the balance in the ratings. Following those adjustments, and updating for actual wins and losses in Week 7, here are the teams that have a +/- 1 win move in the latest projections:

UP:
Pittsburgh +1.3
Chicago +1.2
Oakland +1.1
Tennessee +1.1

DOWN:
Cincinnati (1.0)

Interesting tidbit on this week's projected final standings goes is there was only two teams that moved in their projected finish in their division - New Orleans and Carolina flip-flopped spots with the Saints shifting to 3rd in the NFC South, and Carolina projected to finish in last place. The other 30 teams in the NFL all remained in their same spot I projected them to finish in last week's version - not bad, and shows as the season goes in this analysis really is accurate.

In the race for the 1st pick in the 2013 NFL draft Jacksonville remained the favorite, but Cleveland has moved even closer following their jump over Tennessee two weeks prior. Tennessee has picked up a couple of wins since QB Matt Hasselbeck has taken over, and would seem to be out of this mix if he continues playing. This race is Jacksonville's to lose, no question about it. If Jacksonville finished the season at their current rating of 56.3 that would be the worst season of any team since this analysis commenced; currently, the 2011 Colts hold the record for poor play as they rated 58.4 last season.

Last analysis for this week is my power rankings.

Power Rankings - Week 7
Rank Team
1 Houston
2 San Francisco
3 Chicago
4 Denver
5 Green Bay
6 New England
7 Pittsburgh
8 New York Giants
9 Dallas
10 Philadelphia
11 Seattle
12 Washington
13 Detroit
14 Atlanta
15 San Diego
15 New York Jets
17 Minnesota
17 Baltimore
19 Carolina
20 St. Louis
20 Miami
20 Arizona
23 New Orleans
24 Tampa Bay
25 Kansas City
26 Oakland
26 Cincinnati
26 Buffalo
29 Indianapolis
29 Cleveland
31 Tennessee
32 Jacksonville

  
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