Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I use a set of 17 weighted statistics--some of them traditional and some of them custom--as the core basis of my ratings, but I adjust the rankings slightly based on various qualitative factors (coaching, injuries, opinion, strength of schedule, etc).

Power rankings are good to have, but they only tell you where teams sit in relation to one another in the overall scheme of things. A team lower in rank could easily defeat a team above it if they matchup well with them--something to keep in mind when evaluating weekend games.

Rank Contenders
Rank near the top in 6 key categories, but still struggle with 3rd down and pass defense.
Have vaulted themselves to the top of the AFC power rankings and out of pretender status. The only category they rank in the bottom half in is penalties.
Steady climb up the list despite losing Johnson and Williams. Still need work in red zone offense/defense.
People keep waiting for the other shoe to drop and we might have had a hint of it vs NY. The numbers suggest they can bounce back.
Huge win in NE validated their stats. No one is quite sure how they are pulling it off given their injuries.
Finally earned their way into contender status. Still have glaring weaknesses on offense (3rd down/red zone), but winning the turnover battle compensates.
Just when people were ready to write them off, they demolish DEN on the road. They are 0-2 against contending teams though and they'll need to win one of those to remain in this group.
Have very quietly moved from pretender to contender without much notice. Big chance to stamp their names among the elite with a win over Drew Brees.
Sweeping PIT was impressive. Special teams and red zone offense are areas to work on. Can't afford a letdown in SEA.
Huge matchup against ATL this week for the inside track on the division crown. 32nd ranked red zone defense is a concern.
A big fall down the rankings for Brady and company. Not in danger of becoming a 'pretender' yet, but they aren't going in the right direction. Showdown in NY should tell us more.
Haven't moved much from this spot all season long. Three key areas are holding them back--O-line, red zone defense, turnover differential.

This group has grown to 12 teams at the halfway mark. There's been a lot of movement up and down over the past month, but the real tests are still to come. Half of these teams won't be here come December.

Rank (LW) Pretenders
A win in PHI was a step in the right direction, but still don't have a win over a legitimate contender. They'll get their chance at legitimacy this week against DET.
Another blown 4th quarter lead keeps them out of contending status. Would take a minor miracle for them to win the division at this point.
Moved out of 'bubble' status with a 6-2 record, but need a win against a top team to validate the record. Halfway through the season CIN have yet to play a top tier team.

No one is quite sure what to make of these teams yet. The potential is there, but their status remains in flux.

Rank (LW) On the Bubble
After what seemed like a promising start, this DAL team has become a middle of the pack team in almost every sense. Losing Lee hurt.
Defense still gives them a shot, but injuries and problems at QB have them on the brink of failure.
Another team without the kind of offensive production to make up for a bad defense. The clock on Hasselbeck is ticking..
Problems on both sides of the ball is derailing their season. Dennis Green said it best--they are who we thought they are.
3-0 vs bad teams. 0-5 against everyone else.
Inconsistency defines this team, but they've done enough to stay out of the basement--for now.
Carson Palmer isn't enough to compensate for a bad defense and leading the league in penalties never helps.
Biggest fall from grace in the entire NFL. Still have a chance to turn it around, but could very easily drop to the bottom tier of the league with a couple more losses.

With the exception of OAK, every one of these teams has a winning record against teams below them, but a losing record against the contenders and pretenders. If you are a fan of these teams--temper expectations down the stretch.

Rank (LW) "Suck for Luck" Sweepstakes
They've made strides in several key areas this season. The 2nd half will be about limiting the controllable mistakes.
Finally validated what I was saying about their defense with a win over BAL. Could continue to rise if Gabbert makes strides down the stretch.
Not a lot to say about a very bad team. Tebow has brought the circus to town which is the only thing keeping them in the news.
Getting dominated by a winless team doesn't entirely wipe out the improvements they've made, but they continue to be one of the most unpredictable teams in football.
Losing Kolb wasn't a big a step back as people might think. This team has been horrible all season.
Climbed out of last place thanks to a win over the Saints, but losing a game they should have won against ARI was a big blow to morale.
It's amazing to think this team travelled across the country and beat NY. Their one strength (run defense) failed them last week against DAL.
It's going to take more than one win over KC to rise much in the rankings. Let's see if they can follow it up with another strong effort.
Currently IND is the undisputed leader in the Andrew Luck sweepstakes. I can't recall a more intriguing last place team. Will they win a game? Will Manning come back?

None of these teams should be on prime-time for the rest of the season. It would be an insult to every football-loving fan.