Thursday, September 25, 2014

2014 Week 4 NFL Power Ratings (September 25, 2014)

With another interesting week of NFL football in the books, it's time to update the power ratings. 

Note: I decided to change up the scale for a couple of reasons, primarily because I was using '85' as an arbitrary number to represent the best team, which can be confusing and doesn't make much sense. As a result, '100' will be used as the benchmark instead of '85' from here on out.

Just to give a refresher, if Seattle played Cincinnati on a neutral field, the Seahawks would be about a 4-point favorite according to my ratings. By no means is this the end all, be all, but the ratings allow us to compare each team, and ultimately estimate how much better one team is than another.

Here are the updated power ratings for Week 4:

100 Seattle
  99 Denver
  97 New Orleans
  96 Cincinnati, New England
  95 San Francisco, San Diego, Arizona
  94 Philadelphia, Detroit, Indianapolis, Green Bay
  93 Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago
92.5 Pittsburgh, Carolina
91.5 Washington
  91 NYJ, Kansas City
90.5 Dallas, Houston, Buffalo
  90 NYG, Cleveland, Miami
  89 Minnesota, Tennessee
88.5 St. Louis
87.5 Tampa Bay
  86 Oakland
  85 Jacksonville

To give another example, if New Orleans played Dallas on a neutral field, the Saints would be favored by about 6 points according to the ratings.

Just a few quick hitters on some of the upper-echelon teams...

There wasn't really anything I saw from Seattle that concerned me, aside from maybe falling asleep at the wheel with a 17-3 fourth quarter lead. However, that type of stuff tends to happen in the NFL, and it's not always clear how to interpret these instances. To me, Seattle outplayed Denver for most of the afternoon, but went through the motions with a fairly large lead in the fourth quarter and allowed the Broncos to get back in the game, thanks to a textbook Peyton Manning drive. With that said, Denver showed us they can compete with the Seahawks, which a positive sign moving forward, and I didn't see a reason to upgrade or downgrade either team.

Cincinnati has been impressive this year, there's no doubt about it, but I'm not as high on them as most analysts, writers and math modelers. I believe that too much stock is being put into Cincinnati's home win against Atlanta in Week 2. Despite the Cincy beat down, it cannot be forgotten that Atlanta is a 'dome team,' meaning they are much better when playing at home as opposed to on the road. As a result, we can't confuse the Atlanta team that beat New Orleans and Tampa Bay at home with the Atlanta team that went on the road and got blown out by Cincinnati.

Additionally, Andy Dalton is still the quarterback of this team. Last time I checked, the quarterback is the most important player on the field and usually has the largest impact on the outcome of a football game. In the NFL, you're only as good as your quarterback, and I truly believe that. Hue Jackson appears to be doing a solid job with the offense, which should continue to benefit Dalton, but I'm still not sold on the erratic, fourth-year quarterback. However, I digress. If Cincinnati can win at New England next week, perhaps I will buy in and change my tune on this team.

There's no doubt that San Francisco hasn't looked like an elite team through the first three weeks, but I'm not writing them off yet. While I may be behind the curve with this one, the 49ers are currently installed as 4.5-point favorites in their matchup with the Eagles, which gives me some confidence that San Fran is still an above-average team. The 49ers are having problems specifically with the offensive line and defensive secondary, but with their backs against the wall versus Philadelphia, we should see an improved San Francisco team this week.

Philadelphia may be 3-0, but they are missing three of their five starters on the offensive line, which is a major problem that hasn't been talked about much by the mainstream media. Another concern is that the defense has looked pretty soft thus far, particularly in pass coverage. Kirk Cousins had all day to throw in the pocket, and as a result he lit up the defense for over 400 passing yards. Don't be fooled by the 3-0 record, as Philadelphia is very fortunate to be undefeated and has major issues on the offensive line that cannot be understated.

To their credit, Green Bay's defense didn't play poorly against Detroit last week, but overall I view the unit as soft. Dom Capers has overstayed his welcome in Green Bay as far as I'm concerned. They have trouble getting stops, as well as creating turnovers, which is a recipe for disaster on defense. Additionally, the Packers have a relatively weak offensive line, which has been a problem in both of their losses. It really makes you wonder what this team would look like if Aaron Rodgers wasn't running the show. Rodgers has held that roster together during the last couple of seasons and I would argue that he's the most valuable player to his team, as well as to the point spread.

The Vikings aren't an upper-echelon team, but I wanted to touch on their quarterback situation. It might take a few games to show in Minnesota, but Teddy Bridgewater is an upgrade over Cassel as far as I'm concerned. I wouldn't expect Adrian Peterson to return this season, and as a result, one would think offensive coordinator Norv Turner will start airing the ball out. Handing the ball off to Matt Asiata for three yards isn't going to win games in the NFL. Minnesota needs to become a high-variance team if they want a shot at the playoffs this year and I think Bridgewater will emerge as a competent NFL quarterback as he becomes acclimated to the league.

Week 4 Projected Point Spreads
NYG @ Washington (-4)
Buffalo @ Houston (-3)
Tampa Bay @ Pittsburgh (-8 )
Detroit (-1) @ NYJ
Tennessee @ Indianapolis (-7.5)
Carolina @ Baltimore (-3.5)
Green Bay (PK) @ Chicago
Miami (-4) vs. Oakland*
Jacksonville @ San Diego (-12.5)
Atlanta (-2.5) @ Minnesota
Philadelphia @ San Francisco (-4)
New Orleans (-3.5) @ Dallas
New England  (-3) @ Kansas City
*Game being played in London

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