I was in the process of gathering useless information (data, stats, records, opinions, etc.) to publish my first Power Ranking of the 2016 FL season when it dawned on me. This year, so far, has been unlike previous years in so many ways that I thought I would simply write about that useless information and allow the readers to form their Power Rankings (as if you don’t do that already).
After week four, only three teams remain undefeated, the Vikings (4-0), the Broncos (4-0) and the Eagles (3-0). Two of the three (Vikings and Broncos) were playoff teams in 2015. All three have a story line surrounding their starting Quarterbacks. The Vikings lost week 1 starter Teddy Bridgewater for the season and traded for Sam Bradford from the Eagles, the Broncos inserted relative unknown Trevor Siemian (a 7th round draft pick of the Broncos in 2015) and the Eagles shocked the world by naming 2016 1st round pick (2nd overall) Carson Wentz their starter for week 1 thus allowing them to trade Sam Bradford to the Vikings.
None of these three teams have opponent’s records over 0.500.
- The Vikings had their only win against a team with a winning record (Packers 2-1) in their home opener in a brand new stadium and that was by only 3 points. Surrounding that win were wins against the Titans (1-3) and Panthers (1-3) on the road. They did, however, come up with a convincing win in prime time against the Giants (2-2) in week 4. Total opponents record YTD is 6-9 (0.400).
- None of the Broncos opponents so far own a winning record. In fact, the Broncos opponents have the 32nd ranked combined record in the entire NFL. The Panthers (1-3), Colts (1-3), Bengals (2-2) and Buccaneers (1-3) have combined for a record YTD of 5-11 (0.313).
- The Eagles own perhaps the only quality win of the undefeated teams with a 34-3 thumping of the 3-1 Pittsburgh Steelers. Their other two opponents (week 4 bye) were the Browns (0-4) and the Colts (1-3). Total opponents record YTD is 4-8 (0.333).
On a more positive note, all three of these undefeated teams sport a favorable turnover margin. The Vikings are a +10 (rank = #1), the Eagles a +6 (rank = #2) and the Broncos a +3 (rank = #6).
AND, all three have a favorable scoring differential in games played so far this year. The Eagles outscore their opponents by an average of 21.7 points per game (rank = #1), the Broncos outscore their opponents by an average of 11.8 points per game (rank = #2) and the Vikings outscore their opponents by an average of 9.5 points per game (rank = #3).
Based on the above, however, I believe it is safe to assume that the 1972 Miami Dolphins will be breaking out the champagne somewhere around week 7.
The Almost Undefeated;
There are currently nine teams with only one loss so far this year. Of those nine teams, five were playoff teams in 2015. Eight stand at 3-1 (Steelers, Raiders, Falcons, Patriots, Cowboys, Rams, Seahawks, Ravens and Texans) with one (Packers) at 2-1.
Only one of these teams has a combined opponent record of over 0.500. The Steelers’ opponents YTD have a combined record of 9-6 (0.600, Rank = #8). Two others (Raiders and Packers) have a combined record that equals 0.500 (rank = #14). Just in case you are curious, two more (Patriots and Texans) have a combined record that equals 0.438 (rank = #21).
There’s really not a lot that separates these teams. Turnover margins range from +5 (Rams, rank = #3) to -3 (Texans, rank = #25). Scoring differential ranges from 7.0 points per game (Steelers, rank # 4) to -1.0 (Texans, rank # 16).
The next four weeks will probably separate the contenders from the pretenders. Make no mistake . . . the Steelers and the Patriots will both be in the playoffs. Week 7 has the Patriots on the road in Pittsburgh and that game will go a long way in determining playoff seeding.
At this point in time, it’s hard for me to jump on the bandwagon for either the Rams or the Ravens. Neither has faced decent competition and both appear to be narrowly winning with smoke and mirrors.
Five teams (Bills, Chiefs, Bengals, Redskins and Giants) own a 2-2 record. Only the Bengals’ and Giants’ opponents have a combined overall record of over 0.500. The rest of the 2-2 teams’ opponents to date are also at 0.500 for the year.
The Giants need to hang onto ball more. They are currently at -8 in turnover ratio for the year (rank = # 29).
Only the Bills outscore their opponents, on a per game average, (+4.8, rank # 9). The other four range from -1.0 to -3.3.
The Rest of the League;
Thirteen teams sit at 1-3 after four weeks and one more is winless. Let’s not spend a lot of time on this group save to say that most of them will remain close to the bottom for the balance of the season. The exceptions may be . . .
- Arizona Cardinals. Many “experts” picked the Cardinals to contend for the Super Bowl. So far, they are losing the turnover battle and with the exception of Tampa Bay (a 40 to 7 win) they aren’t outscoring anyone. Add in that they will be without Carson Palmer due to a concussion, and it doesn’t get any easier. However, they are still a solid team and will probably yet make some noise.
- Carolina Panthers. Another pre-season favorite of the talking heads. Something is seriously wrong in Charlotte as the Panthers are -3 in turnovers and are getting outscored by an average of 2.3 points per game. Still, they have a solid roster and will somehow rebound yet this year.
- San Diego Chargers. Even though they are barely on the plus side in turnovers (+1 for the year) and outscore their opponents by an average of 3.3 points per game, they have done this against the absolute worst overall opponent record in the league (5-11, 0.313 – rank # 32). Imagine what will happen when they start playing winning teams.
And then there’s the Cleveland Browns. What is interesting about this team is that they’re 0-4 on the season. Yea, they’ve been close to a win in three of those games but close only counts in horseshoes, grenades and atomic warfare. They’re in the red for turnovers for the year (-1, rank = # 31) and are being outscored by an average of 10.3 points per game (rank = # 31). But they have played the 8th hardest schedule so far (opponents combined record is 9-6, 0.600). And, even after losing their top two quarterbacks in weeks 1 and 2, their top receiver after week 1, the starting center and backup and have played musical chairs with the entire right side of the offensive line, they STILL lead the league in rushing and have the 2nd ranked running back (in rushing yards) after four weeks. Go figure.
So, even though I started this by saying I wasn’t going to publish a Power Ranking, I can’t resist giving out my top five teams through the first four weeks;
|1||That defense is a takeaway machine. If they slip, it will be because the offense lets them down.|
|2||Not too many teams could survive the missing pieces the Steelers had on offense and still win.|
|3||No Brady? No problem. No Garoppolo? No problem. Belichick just inserts rookie Jacoby Brissett. Somehow they just win.|
|4||Yes – They soundly defeated my number 2 team. But I just can’t get past the fact that their other two wins are against two of the worst teams in the league.|
|5||Another team that is undefeated because of their defense. Yet, I wonder about the quality of their opponents.|