Wednesday, September 3, 2014

2014 Week 1 NFL Power Ratings (September 4, 2014)

It's that time of the year again, folks. The NFL is back!

With the 2014 season set to begin on Thursday night, I figured it was time to post my Week 1 power ratings.

As a reminder, I do not look at W/L records at all when making these ratings. I noticed that sites like ESPN and Bleacher Report basically just rank every team in order according to win/loss record to create their rankings, and those media sites are extremely influenced by what happened the week before. I'm pretty sure my nine-year-old cousin is capable of ranking teams in order (1-32) according to their win/loss records. I prefer to take a big picture approach considering I understand you can't overreact to a single game of football. I also realize that every team plays a different strength of schedule, and thus raw W/L records don't really tell us much about how good a team is compared to another.

For my power ratings, I assign numerical values to each team in order to get a better estimation of how much better one team is than another. Seattle is the best team in the NFL according to my ratings, but how much better are they than teams like Denver, Green Bay and New Orleans? I look to answer those types of questions when constructing power ratings.

Note: San Francisco has an * because they are missing some key players due to injury and/or suspension. There is no doubt in my mind that the 49ers are one of the best teams in the NFL, and thus they warrant a rating in the low-80's. However, at the beginning of the season, I wouldn't be surprised to see them struggle a bit out of the gate. With that said, I decided to keep San Francisco at an 83, realizing that teams like New England, New Orleans, and Green Bay may be better off as of now, but when it's all said and done, I expect the Niners to be right around that 83 mark. I didn't think it would be smart to move off of my number just because of the temporary absence of a few players. So please just keep that in mind when evaluating these ratings.

85.0 Seattle
84.0 Denver
83.0 San Francisco*
82.5 New England, New Orleans
82.0 Green Bay
78.5 Cincinnati, Philadelphia
78.0 Chicago, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis
77.5 San Diego, Baltimore, Arizona
77.0 Atlanta, Detroit, Carolina
76.5 Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Kansas City
76.0 Houston, Miami
75.5 Minnesota, NYJ, Washington
75.0 NYG, Dallas, Tennessee
74.5 Cleveland, Buffalo
73.5 Jacksonville
73.0 Oakland

Power ratings can be used to project the beginning stages of a point spread. For example, if Denver played Green Bay on a neutral field, my power ratings suggest Denver would be about a 2-point favorite. Other factors such as location, perception, schedule spots, etc. are then implemented into the number in order to create a more accurate point spread.

One thing that jumps off the page to me is the significant drop off between the top 6 and the rest of the aforementioned teams. While the NFL is known for it's competitive parity, and the playoffs are synonymous with underdogs getting hot and crashing the party, I don't see many viable contenders outside of the top six teams on this list.

I prefer to create my own numbers before checking out the Offshore/Vegas lines in order to avoid being influenced by the market. For example, when you go into a car dealership to buy a car, you want to have a price in your head before speaking with a salesperson. That way you can compare the sales price with your estimated price, and determine whether you are getting fair value or being overcharged. The same logic can be applied to the financial markets when trading stocks, commodities or futures. The trader usually has a predetermined price range in mind before exploring the market for opportunities. 

Projected Week 1 Point Spreads
Green Bay @ Seattle (-6)
New Orleans (-3) @ Atlanta
Minnesota @ St. Louis (-3.5)
Cleveland @ Pittsburgh (-6.5)
Jacksonville @ Philadelphia (-9.5)
Oakland @ NYJ (-5)
Cincinnati @ Baltimore (-2)
Buffalo @ Chicago (-6.5)
Washington @ Houston (-3)
Tennessee @ Kansas City (-4)
New England (-5) @ Miami
Carolina @ Tampa Bay (-2)
San Francisco (-4.5) @ Dallas
Indianapolis @ Denver (-8)
NYG @ Detroit (-5)
San Diego @ Arizona (-2.5)

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