NFL Power Rankings and No Love for Team X

Leave it to Bristol Connecticut-based ESPN to release a Week 5 Power Ranking that puts the entire NFC East Division in the top ten: New York Giants (1), Dallas Cowboys (3), Washington Redskins (6), and the Philadelphia Eagles (9), while their troubled .500 Patriots still get to linger near the NFL elite.

Obviously, the Giants look hella-good right now but prime-time darlings, the Cowboys, are over-rated as usual. The Redskins did well in Week 4 by beating Dallas but in my opinion, that should devalue “Americas Favorite Team” more than improve Washington’s standing. Keeping Philly in the top 10 after their loss to the Bears is also strange — granted they were sans Brian Westbrook, but that injury situation won’t be resolved before the next kickoff.  What’s more, shouldn’t the Eagles loss to an out-of-conference 1-2 team sink the East’s much-vaunted elite status?  Guess not.

 ***

Let’s do some abstract math. Let’s call a team, “Team X“. Mind you, this is all hypothetical…

Here is how Team X had fared so far:

  • Week 1: Beats #17 Ranked team (away)
  • Week 2: Loses to #7 Ranked team by 3 (away)
  • Week 3: Loses to #10 Ranked team by 3 in OT (home)
  • Week 4: Beats #9 Ranked team (home)

By these stats alone, where would you rank Team X? A team that has beaten the #9 and #17 teams, and has narrowly lost to the #7 and #10 teams. Well, certainly not at #18th (ranked BELOW the two teams they have defeated), right? RIGHT?!?!?! 

 ***

Purely coincidentally, Team X is exactly where the Chicago Bears find themselves in these rankings. As a local fan, this is very off-putting. The Bears are a 2-2 team, ranked 18th, which seems about right until you compare who sits above and below them…  They remain in the lower tier of .500 teams, just above the Jets (19), and Cardinals ( 20), with the 49ers (22) and Falcons (24) bringing up the rear.  What’s MORE questionable in the rankings is the SEVEN two-win teams ahead of them, and even a sub-.500 club, the 1-2 Colts (17), still ahead of them. 

What’s going on? You lose two games by the margin of a field goal to two top-10 teams (Bucs, Panthers) then you beat the Eagles and you wind up below ALL FOUR of them in the rankings?! It makes very little sense outside the NFL Buzz Bubble.

Meanwhile NFC North Rivals, the Favre-less (and now Rodgers-less) Green Bay Packers sit at #15 in the power rankings. The Pack went 2-0 early after two divisional games, beating the sputtering Vikings and lowly Lions. Then they lose to the Cowboys (who narrowly beat the Eagles), and then lost decisively to the Buccaneers, winding up at 2-2.

Would you not think that (*ahem*) Team X should be ranked above them? Considering Team X‘s wins came at the hands of lesser opponents and their losses were to teams that are on-par with those Team X has played. No?  Well then, you must live around Bristol.

***

For instance, the dude over at BeatPaths has a different way of visually-representing NFL Power Rankings which is easy to read, and even, dare I say, borders on functional art.  I’m really enjoying this site:

BeatPaths’ Post Week 4 Visual Ranking:

2008-4-Nfl-Clean

The site ranks team SOLELY on record, eliminating and subjectivity, and ranking teams directly based on two criteria: Number of wins & number of losses. It goes futher by color-coding the teams by divison, so if you’ll note, the NFC East is strong (but not ESPN strong), and the AFC North is being dragged down by the horrible play of both Ohio teams.  Meanwhile, the mediocre NFC North is just that — at about 5th/6th Tier with both 2-2 teams sitting alongside most other 2-2 teams.

These rankings are based on “beat paths” (strings of teams which successivly beat one another), and “beat loops” (groups of teams which have both won or lost to eachother).  

The divisional aspect comes into play because only teams in the save division play eachother twice in the regular season, “beat loops” in which teams split their divisional  help give us insight on how competetive each individual division is.  Click here for more details.

Also, the peeps over at BeatPath were inspired to do there thing because they have the same issues I have with subjectivity:

Seems like all the other major power ranking lists out there are in this category. A sportswriter or a committee applies their subjective judgment to all the teams and ranks them however the hell they want. You’ll see huge changes in the lineup every week because of the upsets. The main flaw with these lists is that they aren’t scientific, have huge variance in week-to-week performance, and aren’t really reflective of the overall quality of a team.

 Rah-rah, BeatPath.  Please meet my “Add To Favorites” button.

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One Response to NFL Power Rankings and No Love for Team X

  1. […] Brian Battle wrote an interesting post today onNFL Power Rankings and No bLove/b for Team XHere’s a quick excerptLeave it to Bristol Connecticut-based ESPN to release a Week 5 Power Ranking that puts the entire NFC East Division in the top ten: New York Giants (1), Dallas Cowboys (3), Washington Redskins (6), and the Philadelphia Eagles (9), b…/b […]

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