Effect of lockout
What does The Power Rank say?
Have good leadership
Through the first six weeks of the season the results are decidedly lopsided.
Some of you faithful of The Power Rank are scratching your heads and thinking “Tom is off his rocker this week, doesn’t he remember that the average of all The Power Rank ratings always equals zero”? Even more of you must think I am insane, as the Power Rank shows that 18 teams have a rating over zero, while only 14 are below that magical mean.
But there is more to The Power Rank than just averages. To illustrate the lopsidedness of the league so far this season I created the following graph which shows the distribution of NFL teams by their rating (rounded to the nearest integer):
As you can see, the “0” row, which should be at the center of the main bulk of the teams, is actually closer to the high side of the middle of the main pack of teams. The reason for this are the transcendent outliers, the top three teams: #1 New England (10.63), #2 Green Bay (10.11), and #3 Baltimore (9.27). These three teams have been so consistent and solid that the Power Rank shows them as head-and-shoulders above all other competitors.
To be fair, there is a team that is as transcendentally bad as the top three are good (Sorry Temple). The Rams (#32, -9.68) are just struggling as a franchise even though the recent acquisition of Brandon Lloyd may provide the team with a target for Sam Bradford and the spark they have been missing. Until that turnaround happens St. Louis is still stuck in their hole far below the rest of the Power Rank field.
After removing these outliers the mean of the remaining 28 teams drops from 0 to -0.76, a fairly significant drop in Power Rank terms. Only six pairs of teams in the Power Rank are separated by a rating gap of more than 0.76:
#2 Green Bay (10.11) and #3 Baltimore (9.27)
#3 Baltimore (9.27) and #4 Detroit (6.58)
#5 San Francisco and (6.12) and #6 New York Jets (4.08)
#19 Washington (-0.28) and #20 Atlanta (-1.50)
#21 New York Giants (-1.64) and #22 Minnesota (-3.44)
#31 Kansas City (-6.93) and #32 St. Louis (-9.68)
0.76 rating points are significant enough that adding them to #18 Philadelphia (0.24) would move them four steps higher to #14, just ahead of current #14 Chicago (0.98).
To make matters worse, emergent powerhouses Detroit (#4, 6.58) and San Francisco (#5, 6.12) are stranded somewhere in the no-man’s-land between the blob of average teams and the island of Super Bowl favorites. Personally I think they belong with the majority of teams, but we may have some Lions or Niners faithful in the audience that would beg to differ. To please those fans, I also calculated the average ratings of only the yellow teams, making the assumption that the Lions and Niners are poised to continue their meteoric rises to join the ranks of the Patriots, Packers, and Ravens.
The average rating of the 26 yellow teams comes out to an unimpressive -1.27, a full half a point lower than the average with Detroit and San Francisco in the group. That means that the average performance rate of the yellow teams fall somewhere between the Redskins (formerly) Grossman powered team, and the Atlanta Failcons.
A lot of people went in to this season expecting chaos due to the lockout, players not being ready, and teams being in turmoil with new staff unable to get familiar with their athletes. I think what we are seeing here is a graphic representation of that chaos. The teams at the very top (New England, Green Bay, and Baltimore) all have had very few roster and organizational changes between this year and last. Stadium lockouts didn’t prevent Aaron Rodgers from calling a captain’s practice with Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson. I’d bet my left hand that Ray Lewis was on top of his teammates, making sure they stayed fit and ready to come back and win.
On the other hand teams without strong veteran leadership, teams that made significant roster moves (Eagles), and especially teams that are under new head coaches have been left adrift in this sea of yellow. One thing is certain. 12 teams are going to be in the playoffs. It is likely that the cream of the early crop, the teams highlighted in blue and green, will make the cut. But that will leave seven spots for teams from the yellow blob of mediocrity.
Are the 2-3 Cowboys (#7, 3.86) a playoff team? Their record would suggest that they are not. In fact, their record is tied with the #31 Chiefs (-6.93). And what about the future of the 4-2 Giants (#21, -1.64)? The Power Rank is not impressed, but they are getting wins.
Keep your eyes open. The surprises of the 2011 season are just beginning, and truly anything can happen. Just ask the Bengals and their newly gained draft picks…