Thursday, December 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
Still leaky on defense, but as long as Rodgers is healthy they'll remain at the top.
Good/great in most categories across the board. The only question remaining surrounds Flacco.
HOU is proving how good they really are when you consider their injury list. They don't rank in the bottom half in any meaningful stat.
NE have yo-yo'd up and down the contender list all season long. They are settling in as a legitimate threat, but not without flaws. The defense is showing signs of improvement though.
ATL remain under the radar, but they are a solid team in most areas. Their biggest problem is their record against top teams (1-4).
NY have slipped a bit in the rankings after going on a hot streak. Their archilles heel is still Sanchez and the O-line.
It took them a while to move up this list, but they've finally put together a good stretch of games. Red zone defense and turnover differential are worth keeping an eye on.
Not much movement here. Red zone defense is still a concern, but as long as they play at home they should be good to go.
Most people have SF higher on their rankings due to their record, but come playoff time their shortcomings in the fundamental areas (O-line, RZ offense) will hold them back.
A tough schedule has left them teetering with a 2-4 records against top teams. They are a good solid team in most areas, but can't compensate for untimely mistakes.
DET has dropped a bit, but some of that is due to injuries and some due to schedule. They will remain a contender once they get some guys back.
DAL have slipped into the contender group almost by accident. They continue to get killed by their lackluster red zone offense, but they are capable of making some noise. Romo will need to overcome his December record to stay here though.

I expected more teams to drop out of the contender group by now, but there is so much parity (or mediocrity) in the league that it's tough to differentiate these teams

from each other. They've all done enough to earn their spot here, but the next 4 games will separate the men from the boys.

Rank (LW) Pretenders
Losing Cutler was a serious setback. With him they would have moved into contender status. Without him, they'll remain a step below the rest. Play on both O/D lines are still a question mark.
People expected the other shoe to drop with BUF and it did. They have one of the biggest drops since mid-season. The defense was horrible and losing Jackson killed any hope they had at a turnaround.
Give them credit for now throwing in the towel when they could have. Still have serious flaws in key areas (D-line, 3rd down, ball control), but CJ's bounce-back gives them a new chance for success.


The pretender group remains small. These teams have enough to pull off a big win, but are too fundamentally flawed to seriously challenge teams above them. Another half-dozen teams will join them by the end of December.

Rank (LW) On the Bubble
Stick a fork in this club because they are done. To think that a couple wins over teams like ARI and SEA would have kept them in it is pretty pathetic. I expect Reid to keep his job, but the Castillo experiment was over before it started.
After rising out of the bubble group at the mid-season mark, they've dropped back down to where people thought they belonged. A tougher schedule will do that and they couldn't rise to the challenge(0-3 against top teams).
I have to eat crow for this ranking. I still think Tebow is a glorified backup, but you can't argue with results. Bask in the glory DEN fans and enjoy it while it lasts.
No team has had a bigger rise in the list than MIA. They are still 2-7 against the top half of the league, but give them credit for vastly improving in most areas.
JAX have quietly worked their way out of the bottom tier of the league. They are still average in most areas, but that's a lot better than the teams below them can say.

Give credit to DEN, MIA, and JAX for staying motivated this late into the season. Keep an eye on them during the last month. PHI and CIN remained question marks for most of the year, but November gave us a lot of answers.

Rank (LW) "Suck for Luck" Sweepstakes
Kudos for CLE for remaining a bubble team for half the year, but it was just a matter of time before the string snapped. 0-7 against the top half of the league isn't going to get it done.
Like CLE, they are winless against the top half of the NFL (0-9). The bad news is they are getting worse.
This team is in free fall. They are atrocious in most key areas and Freeman has regressed to the mean.
No big surprises here either. OAK is average across the board and dreadful in red zone/3rd down defense.
SEA have made a nice jump out of the basement. If they had a better defensive line they could actually scare some teams.
The hype machine for Cam had died down, but even Rodgers wouldn't be able to make up for all the team's pitfalls. They can be hopeful for 2012/2013 though.

Some people were a bit surprised when I had them in this group at the mid-season mark, but the truth behind the curtain isn't pretty. Still have the talent to do what they did against JAX, but on most nights they are going to be their own worst enemy.
I'm curious to see what they do about Kolb. They had a cold reality-check that he isn't the 2nd coming of Tom Brady like they had hoped. On the bright side, the defense have made strives in November.
Please go to my contact form if you have any idea what to make of KC this year. I don't have any answers.
The wheels have flown right off this organization. They started the year with so much promise on defense, but once they become average you see what happens.
Had a chance to turn it around against ARI, but 69 points from long drives isn't going to win you many games. Throw them in the hat with PHI and SD as the most disappointing teams of the season.
Is it too early to crown them the winners of the Suck for Luck sweepstakes? I hope for their sake they can at least get 1 win, but nothing in my system indicates that will happen.

If you are like me, my eyes glaze over whenever I see one of these teams on my TV.