Pittsburgh, still near top
Arizona, not so great
Bills near the middle
Week One in the NFL – a glorious time when half of the league’s team become undefeated and their fans begin talk of this being “the year”, while the other half of the teams wallow in winless shame and their fans open up the forum to the debate over whether to tar and feather or just fire their team’s head coach and general manager.
Here at the Power Rank we pride ourselves in diligently working to stay out of the emotional mire that surrounds the first few weeks of the season. In the past, we achieved this by quietly sitting back and waiting for a few weeks’ worth of data to roll in before beginning our own talks about who would be in or out of the playoffs. This year we are boldly stepping up to bring you rankings after only one week of games while still keeping a data-driven analytical view of the game.
This year the early season rankings will account for some past data as well as using this season’s data. This amalgamation has produced a ranking that places some undefeated teams near the bottom of the pile, while allowing other winless teams to hover near the top. Let’s take a look at a few key examples:
Pittsburgh – Still Near the Top
The Steelers took one on the chin last Sunday, losing 7-35 to a bitter division rival, the Baltimore Ravens. In spite of having the second worst season opener (after the Chiefs) in the league, Pittsburgh remains firmly in the top ten Power Rank teams at #8 with a rating of 4.34. The Power Rank’s algorithm was generous to last year’s Super Bowl runner up because of their stellar showings in 2010 and the fact that the Ravens are a powerhouse as well, starting the 2011 season at #3 in The Power Rank with a whopping rating of 10.15 that is no doubt inflated by coming out and dominating one of the NFL’s more solid franchises. With most of their talent returning it is a fair assumption to expect the Steelers to come back and earn their high standing in the coming weeks.
Arizona – Stuck in the Cellar
With all of the buzz surrounding the performance of rookie quarterback Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, some people seem to have forgotten that he didn’t get the most important stat a quarterback can earn: a win. Kevin Kolb arrived in Phoenix this year to help the Cardinals undo the damage the Derek Anderson inflicted on the franchise, if that is possible. Kolb started the season the right way by guiding the Cardinals to the win column, a place that was largely unfamiliar to them in 2010. So while Arizona shares the same record as the Patriots (#1), Packers (#2), and Ravens (#3) they are stuck near where they ended last season at #29 with a rating of -9.93. The Cardinals suffer because The Power Rank is not convinced by a victory over last year’s weekly #32 team, the Panthers, who find themselves in familiar territory in 2011 with a ranking of #32 and a rating of -13.02. In terms of both Arizona’s record and Newton’s 400+ yard performance The Power Rank is sticking with Public Enemy’s sage advice: Don’t believe the hype.
Buffalo – Bill-ieve the Hype
Ok, maybe not all of it… Ryan Fitzpatrick will not likely keep up his 4 touchdown per game pace and end the season with a record shattering 64 touchdowns. Nor will the Bills be likely to snatch an AFC East title away from the Patriots (#1) or the Jets (#7). On the other hand, the Bills earned a solid boost in The Power Rank by climbing to #18 with a rating of -0.02 by beating last year’s AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs, who fell hard to #31 with a rating of -10.66. Fans of perennially successful franchises may scoff at these numbers, but they indicate that the Bills might just possibly have a team good enough to break .500, or even maybe just possibly sneak into the playoffs. This is monumental for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 1999 season, and who have only had one winning season since that year. Yes, it is too early to say that the Bills are firmly on the rebound, but for Buffalo’s beleaguered fans it is never too early to start partying like it’s 1999.
Week 2 Matchup to Watch – Chicago (#4, 7.90) at New Orleans (#5, 5.22)
Coming off a huge win against 2010 powerhouse Atlanta, Chicago is looking to beat another NFC South juggernaut by stopping Drew Brees and the Saints on their home turf. With the visiting team holding a slight rating advantage the Power Rank is going to predict that this match is too close to call, and too exciting to miss.