Happy Thanksgiving Power Rank fans!
Whenever I read any kind of article, especially of an editorial nature, I always wonder about what kind of bias the author might have. As a lifelong Packer fan living in America’s Dairyland it’s hard to not feel a swelling in my heart when I see that the unbiased rating of The Power Rank has put my beloved green and gold in first place, making them the first NFC team to earn that rank since the Saints held it in the 2009 season.
That heart swelling may also be related to my Wisconsin diet of beer, fried cheese, and bratwurst but I’m waiting on a second opinion on that.
What may surprise some fans is why the Packers have made the ascension to the #1 spot.
In the preseason rankings the Packers were expected to be an offensive powerhouse, but with key injuries to Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley the offense has only been 8th overall in points scored. Clay Matthews, Charles Woodson, and the Packers defense have carried them by tying the Bears for the least points allowed this season.
A key for the super-aggressive Packer defense has been staying away from penalties. When refs let them play, the violence of Matthews and Woodson create turnovers and terrorize ball carriers. When the game is called tightly, the Packers end up with many crippling penalties like the 18 they had against the Bears. Look for this to continue to be a decisive factor in Packer games this year.
Ok, ok… I’m done gushing over my team.
I want to talk more generally about the continued polarization of teams in this year of parity. In week six I wrote about the middle of the pack and the mass of teams near the zero rating point. In that week there were 16 teams between +2.00 and -2.00 in the ratings, now we are down to nine.
What’s more interesting as the playoffs draw closer is that there is only a 0.79 difference between the #2 Jets (5.60)and the #7 Steelers (4.81). That’s a smaller gap than that between the Steelers and the #8 Falcons (3.77). Since five of these six teams are in the AFC it’s apparent that homefield advantage is going to be more important than ever for the AFC playoffs, and that those playoffs should be very well matched and among the most exciting to watch in years.
Finally, I want to address the Parity Wheel that was released this week. It’s a graphic designed to show how every team in the NFL can be linked to each other through wins. On the original wheel (top) each team beat the team clockwise from them by the score indicated.
I thought this was especially interesting because The Power Rank takes this kind of information into account, and I wrote about the lack of parity in the NFL a couple weeks ago. So I decided to clear out the scores and replace them with each team’s current rank, at least for the top and bottom ten teams in the bottom graphic.
Not surprisingly both the top and bottom ten teams are grouped together on this graphic, just as they were on the graphs posted in this blog in previous weeks.
The Packers are starting to break away from the pack as a dominant top team, and the Panthers remain the most decisively bad team but within the top, middle, and bottom packs the competition remains tight.