NFL Combined Power Rankings Week 13 November 25, 2014

NFL Power Rankings: Each Tuesday morning (after NFL Monday Night Football concludes the week’s activities) several media outlets come out with “NFL Power Rankings” to rate all 32 NFL teams from 1 to 32 (why the word “Power” and not just “NFL Rankings”? Interesting…)

And sometimes the rankings are similar, sometimes there is a lot of disparity. Which is why I like looking at a number of NFL Power Rankings and combine them to come up with…

NFL Combined Power Rankings!!

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How do I come up with the NFL Combined Power Rankings?

This is something I’ve done on and off for awhile now. I figured maybe it would be fun to actually post this publicly.


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I use a system called Relative Placement. The basics of it: majority rules. The strength of it: when you have something very highly subjective to rank (such as professional sports rankings), you grab a number of “votes” and compare and combine them to come up with a final ranking. This is commonly used in dance competitions, and I think it works very well for the NFL Power Rankings.

For more about relative placement, you can read about it here:

How Judges Judge A Lindy Hop Competition

If you want to read more about my NFL Combined Power Rankings, read my first post about it here:

NFL Combined Power Rankings Week 6 aka Inaugural Post

On with the show! First..the NFL Power Rankings

My resources and criteria

  • Find 7 NFL Power Rankings. This was done googling “NFL Power Rankings” and selecting some links on the first page, not surprisingly they came from sources I already often read :)
  • A team must be ranked in the top 5 in one ranking to be considered. Mostly to save time. I didn’t want to apply the relative placement system to all 32 teams for all 7 rankings
  • Only top 5 scores are considered.. If a team is ranked in the top 5 by one ranking, they are eligible for this combined ranking. However, if they are not in the top 5 of a different ranking that I use, then for tallying purposes I assign them a “6th” place.

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NFL Power Rankings used

  • NFL.com
  • SB Nation
  • ESPN.go.com
  • CBS Sports
  • FOX Sports
  • Yahoo Sports
  • Washington Post “Fancy Stats” **

** The Washington Post “Fancy Stats” is the only ranking that relies on analytics and pure number crunching. The rest of the power rankings are all based on subjective analysis by the respective reporters. That is why I like including the Fancy Stats rankings. Interestingly, they are often the outlier: sometimes including teams the other rankings do not, and sometimes excluding teams the other rankings include. Very curious then how subjective opinion relates to number crunching so keep an eye on the Fancy Stats rankings as compared to the others as well as the combined rankings.

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Here are the individual NFL Power Rankings I used

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1. Patriots
2. Packers
3. Broncos
4. Cardinals
5. Cowboys

9. Seahawks (+1) While it’s still worrisome that Seattle’s offense relies so much on Russell Wilson’s legs (over 70 yards rushing for the third straight week), that was a huge win Sunday. Is it fair to say the bully is back, Seahawks fans? Or is that too fair weather?

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1. Patriots
2. Packers
3. Eagles
4. Broncos
5. Cardinals

9. Seahawks (+4) The Cardinals fall from their perch at the top spot after being thoroughly dominated by the Seahawks. Arizona could only muster 204 yards of offense. While the defense remains among the league’s best, you have to worry that Drew Stanton can’t lead the Cardinals to the promised land. Arizona’s 9-2 record is no fluke, but as we go down the home stretch of the season, even a Bruce Arians-coached team needs better than 50 percent passing from the quarterback. The Seahawks’ Legion of Boom is finally looking like the group that won a Super Bowl last year, but Seattle’s passing game under Russell Wilson is still a huge question mark

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1. Patriots
2. Packers
3. Broncos
4. Cardinals
5. Cowboys

7. Seahawks (+4). Russell Wilson was 11-of-13 for 153 yards against at least five pass-rushers Sunday. He was 5-of-14 against the Cardinals’ blitz in the Seahawks’ home loss to Arizona last season.


1. Patriots
2. Packers
3. Broncos
4. Cardinals
5. Cowboys

12. Seahawks (+2) The Seahawks are figuring out defense without Brandon Mebane and the 19-3 win over the Cardinals is a solid start on a run back to the playoffs. A short week with a Thanksgiving Day game in San Francisco will be a very big test. Russell Wilson is 0-2 in San Francisco with one passing touchdown and just 12 yards rushing.


1. Patriots
2. Packers
3. Cowboys
4. Broncos
5. Cardinals

6. Seahawks (+5) The Seahawks are beginning to patch up some of their key issues on the offensive line, but their defense heads into December a notch below where it was this time of the year against both the run and pass.


1. Patriots
2. Packers
3. Cardinals
4. Broncos
5. Eagles

8. Seahawks (+1) For either the Seahawks or 49ers to really get to where they want to go, they’ll probably have to sweep the other. That’s what makes this Thanksgiving matchup so good. Regarding the Cardinals still having them at #3: Not much reason to downgrade them for the loss at Seattle. It was a desperate Seahawks team, which is still really tough at home, and the Cardinals’ offense was shorthanded without Larry Fitzgerald. Nice win for Seattle, but not really a bad loss for Arizona.

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1. Patriots
2. Broncos
3. Packers
4. Cardinals
5. Eagles

7. Seahawks (+1) Arizona suffered a quick reality check against Seattle, where they managed just 204 yards of total offense. Part of the problem was that quarterback Drew Stanton couldn’t solve Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, completing just one of five passes on the right side of the field. The Seahawks looked a little more like the team we saw win the Super Bowl last year. Sherman held Stanton to just a 39.6 passer rating when he was targeted in coverage.

Here are my NFL Combined Power Rankings

Remember, a non-top-five vote for a team is assessed “sixth” place for tallying, otherwise a “novote” for display.

1st: New England Patriots (last week: 1st)

VOTES: 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1

2nd: Green Bay Packers (last week: 3rd)

VOTES: 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3

3rd: Denver Broncos (last week: 4th)

VOTES: 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4

4th: Arizona Cardinals (last week: 2nd)

VOTES: 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5

5th: Dallas Cowboys (last week: 6th)

VOTES: 3, 5, 5, 5, novote, novote, novote

6th: Philadelphia Eagles (last week: 8th)

VOTES: 3, 5, 5, novote, novote, novote, novote


Fell Out Of Rankings:

a.k.a. no 1st through 5th Votes this week
Kansas City Chiefs (last week: 5th)
Miami Dolphins (last week: 7th)



What It Says…

The Rankings Shakers

Not a lot of ranked games. While a few close upsets, there were no actual upsets (except for one) and the teams that you expected to win did win.

The one big ranking shaker (and upset) was my Seahawks (unranked) beating the #2 Arizona Cardinals. Which, strangely, if you were a betting man, you would have bet because the Seahawks were 6.5 point favorites.

Other than that, everything was status quo. Maybe just the calm before the storm because Thanksgiving weekend has a delicious buffet of games!

Natural Breaks From A Tally Perspective

Natural Break # 1 Patriots are a clear 1st. Dominating win over the peripherally ranked Detroit Lions. The Lions continued to have major woes, and the Patriots show just how dominant AND versatile they are, mixing up the offense each week.

Natural Break # 2 Packers are the clear 2nd. Basically because you might be hard pressed to find who you would place ahead of them.

Natural Break # 3 Broncos and Arizona. The two previously elite teams that have fallen a bit. An argument could almost be made to put the either of these teams with the Packers in Natural Break # 2. However, the Packers are showing enough momentum and control of the game it seems to eek out the better rankings from all the judges. While the Broncos still might have some questions on the O-line. And Arizona still has questions at quarterback.

Natural Break # 4: Cowboys and Eagles. Not to mention many other playoff contenders. Basically almost all the 8-3 and 7-4 teams could be in this break, and it’s just that the Cowboys and Eagles are showing the most potential out of that group. These are the only two teams in our tally, by the way, that did not garner a full seven votes which is telling. Also, this makes for an interesting Thanksgiving day matchup since these two teams play each other. (Drool)

For the most part, I like these natural breaks.

Fancy Stats Outliers

Since Fancy Stats is the non-subjective ranking, I like seeing how it matches up with the others. And if you’re the curious type you can reverse-engineer a bit the algorithm used to determine these rankings.

The outliers in this case are almost non-existent. As the season goes on I expect the stats to converge. The main outliers are that

Green Bay Packers: the only non 2nd place vote. But they got 3rd.
Denver Broncos: only 2nd place vote. All other votes got 3rd and 4th.

Normally I wouldn’t even consider these outliers, except if you look at the numbers these two votes bridge the gap between the clear majorities and natural breaks. It’s clear it’s Patriots all by themselves, then Packers, then Broncos and Cardinals in the third group. But these two votes bridge the gap between the Natural Break #2 and Natural Break #3 when in reality it seems these two groups are farther apart then that.

Relative Placement Fun

The two main interesting things

  1. Teams 1 through 4 (the “Elite”) all have seven full votes. This also meant fewer teams to be included in the actual tally. And Green Bay moves themselves fully into elite status
  2. Denver and Arizona are bordering on a downtick (sans the Fancy Stats outliers bridging the gap mentioned above)

Week 13 Potential Rankings Shakers

Of course, the rankings shakers are usually when two ranked teams play each other or when it looks like a ranked team will get upset by a non-ranked team. However, this week we also have one game where two unranked teams play each other.

In general, a lot of games with two winning records playing each other which should make for some exciting games

Let’s take a look:

Philadelphia (#6) at Dallas (#5)

Probably will be my favorite game after my own Seahawks game. Division rivals with the same record (7-3) facing off? On Thanksgiving?!! This one is going to be good. Loser is knocked to 8 and 4, possibly out of the top 5.

New England (#1) at Green Bay (#2)

I really don’t have much to comment on this game. The fact that it is #1 and #2 playing is huge. However, I think New England wins and shows some defincies in Green Bay. If Green Bay loses, this knocks them to 8 and 4, and possibly out of the top 5.

Denver (#3) at Kansas City (unranked)

To me, bigger than on paper. If Kansas City wins, I think that puts them right back in the rankings picture. On one hand, they have to be smarting after losing to Oakland. On the other hand, it is beating one of the elite teams. For Denver, losing of course will likely move them out of the top 5. However, bigger than that, winning might put them back on elite ground instead of in this area in between elite and good. While I thought Denver might be on a downtick, they had an impressive showing with the running game which may put their downfall on hold. So a big win against KC with all cylinders clicking might pull them back to # 2, esp. if Green Bay has a poor showing and since Arizona, even if they win, are playing a mediocre Atlanta team that still needs to learn how a play clock works.

And while it may not shake up the rankings, I have to mention:

Seattle (unranked) at San Francisco (unranked)

Okay, both are unranked, but this game is huge for a lot of reasons and you’ll find that discussion everywhere and elsewhere on this board. Since this is a post about rankings, while normally I don’t think two unranked teams at 7-4 playing would case a shake up, considering the games that are on tap:

  • Philly vs Dallas
  • New England vs Green Bay
  • Denver vs Kansas City


The first game, one team is falling to 4 losses. If Green Bay loses, they fall to 4 losses. If Denver loses, they fall to 4 losses.

It’s possible that the winner of Seahawks vs 49ers, if it is a dominating win, might finally squeak their way into the top 5. I am doubtful of it and give it a very low chance though

As far as the non-ranking implications of this game …. I only can say that this is a game I think every football fan is looking forward to. An old fashioned grinding physical take-no-prisoners war. It’s a good thing both teams will get 10 days rest after this one.

My personal opinion on the Seahawks

Last week I said the Hawks lost their swagger.

This week against the Cardinals, they brought it back. And in a series of post-game interviews, the players said as much. The coach said as much.

I had said last week:


The leadership on the team really needs to refind its own swagger and help the team get theirs on. If they can, they win this game at home. If this were an away game, I’d almost signal this the end of the season, not sure the Seahawks win away.

Taking a look this week at the swagger:

DEFENSE

  • Came ready to play. Holy cow, no letting up. All game swagger
  • Looked to attack each play Sure, they let a few runs through and passes through. Every game that happens to every team. The key to me was attitude and body language every single play. It looked like the defense was looking to be aggressive and hit someone. Tackling better, and it seemed you could just see that every single play, regardless of what happened before, each player was looking to make a play
  • Most telling stat: The Cardinals scored 3 points in the 2nd quarter. No points in the second half. For a team that prides itself on getting better as the game goes on and some incredible 4th quarter stats, the Seahawks pounded them all day long and they couldn’t get into it in the 4th quarter
  • The Swagger Interviews? Post-game interviews: clearly the defense found its swagger. Of course it helped both Kam Chancellor and Bobby Wagner had fantastic games

OFFENSE

  • One of Russell Wilson’s best games: While it wasn’t stellar, and there are things I could complain about, focusing on the really good: I thought Russell Wilson had one of his best games ever. Against an AZ team that is notable for forcing turnovers, we didn’t have one.
  • Can I mention Russell Wilson again? I chose the high road here: getting sacked SO MANY TIMES, he showed amazing poise and got better as the game went on. The Seahawks rushing/passing game seemed to pound the AZ team into submission too as Russell finally got his TD drive
  • Can I mention the Russell Wilson again? 6.5 minutes left in the 4th, Stanton leaves with an ankle sprain(?) but 3rd stringer Logan doesn’t get back in because the offense stays on the field the rest of the game.
  • Can I mention the offense? This is what I call commitment to the run. Even if it didn’t end up getting big yardage, the threat was always there and it wore down the D. This made for better decoys and heck who doesn’t think that at any given time Marshawn will explode
  • The Swagger Interviews? Offensively? Believe it or not, I see that while they need to work on things, they also feed off the same swagger and also found their swagger. How else to explain that one of the team’s leaders, Doug Baldwin, in his post-game locker room interview talks about how awesome the team is, playing for each other. Stat-wise, this guy only had 2 catches for 6 yards?!! Name another receiver who is considered one of the top options for that offense, only getting 2 catches for 6 yards, and being extremely excited about it?

Special Teams

  • Jon Ryan back to his form. Two punts within the 10
  • Blocked punt was NOT a called play. DeShawn Shead saw the opening and went for it.. that’s letting the game come to you.
  • Bryan Walters: actually had a 20+ yard punt return? That’s telling if the team-wide swagger reaches THAT deep that Walters had a good punt return. I had already settled on that he is good at taking care of the ball on punts, but wow… I was surprised to see him take advantage of whatever holes he saw and get that 20+ return.

Tying it into this week, believe it or not I am super happy it’s a short week.

I think the short week benefits the Seahawks a LOT.

The swagger and feel-good emotion, I know some people are wondering if it will last or not.

But guess what? In a short week, it will still be there to build off of as the Seahawks go on the road. If it were a full week, who knows if the momentum would die down a bit.

Going away from home, that momentum and team chemistry they all felt from Sunday I feel will be crucial in getting the best out of the Seahawks in a game I believe they must win

About Me and About Relative Placement

I come from a background of doing a lot of swing dance competition judging. Without getting into it, there are a lot of styles to swing dancing and at an elite level you have to basically compare apples to oranges and decide which you like better. So you have to combine the scoring of seven different judges and come up with a final placement.

For that reason, I’m always interested in scoring and rankings of any sort. Especially when it is subjective like NFL football. In this case, instead of taking any one specific ranking into account, I like taking them all into account to come up with a “final” power ranking (combined power rankings)

Believe it or not, my wife and I use relative placement for a lot of different tallying, not just for swing dance judging, from ridiculous situations to sometimes very important critical decisions.

That’s this week’s NFL Combined Power Rankings! Have a great week!

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