Okay New England, we get it. You’re good at football. And St. Louis, it is likely that you’re already thinking more about the race to acquire Andrew Luck than the race to make the playoffs. But today I’m not interested in the highs and lows of The Power Rank, I’m taking a shot at it’s sweet, juicy center.
To get a look at what truly constitutes the center of the Power Rank grouping, I used a mathematical formula for Standard Deviation, something that defines the variation from the mean (or average) in a data set. If you’re enough of a nerd to not stick your tongue out at that definition and want to know more, you can look at Wikipedia’s explanation.
If you’re like me and most math classes made you go crossed-eyed and start drooling on yourself, all you really have to understand is that the bulk of a group (about 68%) falls within 1 standard deviation of the mean on either side, and that the bulk of the remainder (about 27%, for a total of 95% of the whole) falls within 2 standard deviations of the mean.
In other words, teams whose rating falls within 1 standard deviation of the mean (always 0.0 for the Power Rank) are all horribly mediocre. Ok, that’s my inner pessimist coming out. A more optimistic view for Eagles and Falcons fans might be to say that they are “on the bubble” when it comes to elite NFL teams (or horrible NFL teams, but we won’t dwell on that). On the other hand, teams that exceed 2 standard deviations of distance from the mean are truly in a class of their own, either high class or low class depending on which side of the curve they are on.
That’s about as much explaining as I can do, although further questions about the mechanics of this process can be emailed to Ed, who will no doubt be able to give you a thorough explanation of the math that goes into this process. For my part, I just plug numbers into a free online calculation program and analyze the output. Ah… sweet, sweet technology.
On to football.
The standard deviation in this week’s power rank is 5.49. That means that the bulk of teams will fall between 5.49 and -5.49, almost all teams will fall between 10.98 and -10.98, and teams beyond those ratings are truly special.
Congratulations to the Patriots (#1, 15.79) and the Packers (#2, 11.31) for pushing the limits and existing beyond the norm. Perhaps even more congratulations are deserved by St. Louis (#32, -9.89) for not exceeding the norm…
Very few teams fall between the first and second standard deviations. On the high side only Baltimore, Detroit, and New Orleans (by a hair) make the grade as especially good teams, whereas on the low end Denver, Arizona, Cleveland, Kansas City, Seattle, and St. Louis all currently qualify as truly not very good teams.
That leaves the other 21 teams in the true statistical middle of the road. Being in the middle isn’t all that bad, as you are supposedly as close to the top as you are to the bottom. This is great news for 2010’s weekly bottom dweller Carolina, who finds themselves just within the boundaries of that first standard deviation, but not great news for teams hoping to return strong and make another playoff run like Pittsburgh, Atlanta, or Philadelphia. Most importantly for these middling teams, their current ratings are not a death warrant for the season, they have no cause for alarm and no need whatsoever to join in the chase for the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes.
A few things to consider for these middle teams:
1. The current standard deviation is almost 1 point bigger than it was at the end of last year when it ended up at 4.59.
2. At the end of last season The Power Rank was a little more balanced with one team above 2 standard deviations (New England) and one team below (Carolina). Currently the two teams exceeding 2 standard deviations from the mean are both on the high side. Most likely, either New England or Green Bay will fall back into the sweet center during the season.
3. When one (or both) of the juggernauts fall they will bring that standard deviation down with them. This will cut some teams out of of the running for average status (look out Indianapolis, Jacksonville, and Carolina!) but on the upside a few teams may be thrust into greatness without needing to earn it (it may finally be the year for Houston or San Diego to go all the way).
4. When the standard deviation shrinks a couple struggling teams may also become hopeless. But come on, we are only one quarter of the way through the season! Now is the time for Vikings fans to Ponder over whether or not they can finish out 12-4, Miami fans to Marshall their courage, and Colts fans to… oh, who am I kidding? Without Manning they have lost their identity… they should focus on battling St. Louis and Kansas City in the race for the #1 draft pick in 2012.