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Power Ranking Analysis

We would like to state right off the bat that a team’s talent is just one of the factors that determines a team’s win-loss record and a possible playoff berth.

We wrote an article, where we highlighted four factors that contribute to a team’s final win-loss record. Those factors are randomness, schedule, home field advantage and team quality (traditional Power Ranking if you will). This page serves as background information for the article linked above.

Randomness:

In the article we stated: "We know that over the course of a season, a team’s final win-loss record is more than random luck. Much of a team’s success does depend on talent. However, imagine if you will, a scenario where all 32 teams are completely equal in the talent department and there is no such thing as a home field advantage.  If these conditions existed, what kind of records do you think you would see?" Below are 5 sample outcomes we did see with our spreadsheet experiment.

Pos Team W L Pos Team W L Pos Team W L
1 Bengals 12 4 1 Jets 16 0 1 Rams 14 2
2 Bears 12 4 2 Chargers 13 3 2 Ravens 13 3
3 Seahawks 11 5 3 Broncos 12 4 3 Steelers 12 4
4 Jaguars 11 5 4 Cowboys 11 5 4 Bills 11 5
5 Giants 11 5 5 Steelers 11 5 5 Browns 10 6
6 Raiders 10 6 6 49ers 11 5 6 Dolphins 10 6
7 Chiefs 10 6 7 Seahawks 10 6 7 Bears 9 7
8 Ravens 9 7 8 Ravens 9 7 8 Chargers 9 7
9 Saints 9 7 9 Titans 9 7 9 Panthers 8 8
10 Vikings 9 7 10 Chiefs 9 7 10 Seahawks 8 8
11 Patriots 9 7 11 Colts 9 7 11 49ers 8 8
12 Bills 9 7 12 Saints 8 8 12 Saints 8 8
13 Bucs 9 7 13 Packers 8 8 13 Colts 8 8
14 Titans 8 8 14 Texans 8 8 14 Jaguars 8 8
15 Dolphins 8 8 15 Giants 8 8 15 Packers 8 8
16 Panthers 8 8 16 Rams 8 8 16 Broncos 8 8
17 Browns 8 8 17 Vikings 8 8 17 Cowboys 8 8
18 Cowboys 8 8 18 Cardinals 8 8 18 Cardinals 8 8
19 Steelers 7 9 19 Panthers 7 9 19 Falcons 8 8
20 Packers 7 9 20 Bucs 7 9 20 Bucs 7 9
21 Eagles 7 9 21 Bengals 7 9 21 Lions 7 9
22 Rams 7 9 22 Eagles 7 9 22 Giants 7 9
23 Chargers 7 9 23 Bears 7 9 23 Redskins 7 9
24 Lions 7 9 24 Bills 6 10 24 Chiefs 7 9
25 Colts 6 10 25 Patriots 6 10 25 Texans 7 9
26 Texans 6 10 26 Lions 6 10 26 Titans 7 9
27 Redskins 6 10 27 Raiders 6 10 27 Eagles 6 10
28 49ers 6 10 28 Jaguars 5 11 28 Patriots 6 10
29 Falcons 5 11 29 Redskins 5 11 29 Jets 6 10
30 Cardinals 5 11 30 Browns 4 12 30 Bengals 6 10
31 Broncos 5 11 31 Falcons 4 12 31 Raiders 4 12
32 Jets 4 12 32 Dolphins 3 13 32 Vikings 3 13

Pos Team W L Pos Team W L
1 Falcons 13 3 1 Browns 15 1
2 Packers 11 5 2 Chiefs 13 3
3 Panthers 10 6 3 Saints 11 5
4 Lions 10 6 4 Bengals 10 6
5 Cardinals 10 6 5 Falcons 9 7
6 Broncos 10 6 6 Dolphins 9 7
7 Texans 9 7 7 Lions 9 7
8 Patriots 9 7 8 Panthers 9 7
9 Bucs 9 7 9 Vikings 9 7
10 Jets 9 7 10 Texans 9 7
11 Bears 9 7 11 Titans 9 7
12 Colts 9 7 12 49ers 9 7
13 Chargers 9 7 13 Colts 9 7
14 Chiefs 9 7 14 Chargers 8 8
15 Seahawks 9 7 15 Jaguars 8 8
16 Jaguars 8 8 16 Eagles 8 8
17 Rams 8 8 17 Bills 8 8
18 Raiders 8 8 18 Cowboys 8 8
19 Saints 8 8 19 Broncos 8 8
20 Titans 8 8 20 Giants 7 9
21 Ravens 8 8 21 Redskins 7 9
22 Bills 7 9 22 Bucs 7 9
23 Cowboys 7 9 23 Ravens 7 9
24 Bengals 7 9 24 Bears 7 9
25 Dolphins 7 9 25 Patriots 7 9
26 49ers 6 10 26 Rams 6 10
27 Redskins 6 10 27 Raiders 6 10
28 Steelers 6 10 28 Cardinals 6 10
29 Browns 6 10 29 Seahawks 6 10
30 Eagles 5 11 30 Packers 5 11
31 Giants 4 12 31 Steelers 4 12
32 Vikings 2 14 32 Jets 3 13

To refresh your memories compare those to actual records for 2006-2008?

2006 Actual 2007 Actual 2008 Actual
Pos Team W L Pos Team W L Pos Team W L T
1 Chargers 14 2 1 Patriots 16 0 1 Titans 13 3 0
2 Ravens 13 3 2 Packers 13 3 2 Giants 12 4 0
3 Bears 13 3 3 Colts 13 3 3 Steelers 12 4 0
4 Patriots 12 4 4 Cowboys 13 3 4 Panthers 12 4 0
5 Colts 12 4 5 Jaguars 11 5 5 Colts 12 4 0
6 Saints 10 6 6 Chargers 11 5 6 Ravens 11 5 0
7 Jets 10 6 7 Steelers 10 6 7 Patriots 11 5 0
8 Eagles 10 6 8 Giants 10 6 8 Dolphins 11 5 0
9 Broncos 9 7 9 Browns 10 6 9 Falcons 11 5 0
10 Cowboys 9 7 10 Seahawks 10 6 10 Vikings 10 6 0
11 Seahawks 9 7 11 Titans 10 6 11 Eagles 9 6 1
12 Chiefs 9 7 12 Redskins 9 7 12 Jets 9 7 0
13 Jaguars 8 8 13 Bucs 9 7 13 Cowboys 9 7 0
14 Steelers 8 8 14 Eagles 8 8 14 Cardinals 9 7 0
15 Panthers 8 8 15 Cardinals 8 8 15 Bucs 9 7 0
16 Packers 8 8 16 Vikings 8 8 16 Bears 9 7 0
17 Bengals 8 8 17 Texans 8 8 17 Chargers 8 8 0
18 Giants 8 8 18 Saints 7 9 18 Texans 8 8 0
19 Rams 8 8 19 Bengals 7 9 19 Saints 8 8 0
20 Titans 8 8 20 Bills 7 9 20 Redskins 8 8 0
21 Bills 7 9 21 Bears 7 9 21 Broncos 8 8 0
22 Falcons 7 9 22 Panthers 7 9 22 49ers 7 9 0
23 49ers 7 9 23 Broncos 7 9 23 Bills 7 9 0
24 Dolphins 6 10 24 Lions 7 9 24 Packers 6 10 0
25 Vikings 6 10 25 Ravens 5 11 25 Jaguars 5 11 0
26 Texans 6 10 26 49ers 5 11 26 Raiders 5 11 0
27 Redskins 5 11 27 Raiders 4 12 27 Browns 4 12 0
28 Cardinals 5 11 28 Chiefs 4 12 28 Bengals 4 11 1
29 Bucs 4 12 29 Jets 4 12 29 Seahawks 4 12 0
30 Browns 4 12 30 Falcons 4 12 30 Chiefs 2 14 0
31 Lions 3 13 31 Rams 3 13 31 Rams 2 14 0
32 Raiders 2 14 32 Dolphins 1 15 32 Lions 0 16 0

Not all that different, huh? Especially if you look at the Ravens who go from number two down to 25 then back up to number six when you sort just by records.

Schedule:

We looked at two sets of rankings (only focused on one in the article). Below is how the Wins and losses would work if we played these rankings against this year’s schedule neglecting home field advantage or any randomness. In this scenario, if a team plays a higher-ranked team, the lower-ranked team gets the loss while the higher-ranked wins. 

 

Power Rankings - A Power Rankings - B
Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L
1 Patriots 16 0 1 Patriots 16 0
2 Steelers 16 0 2 Steelers 16 0
3 Giants 16 0 3 Colts 15 1
4 Panthers 14 2 4 Cardinals 15 1
5 Colts 15 1 5 Eagles 16 0
6 Falcons 12 4 6 Giants 13 3
7 Ravens 12 4 7 Titans 11 5
8 Titans 12 4 8 Ravens 12 4
9 Bears 13 3 9 Falcons 13 3
10 Dolphins 9 7 10 Saints 11 5
11 Vikings 10 6 11 Chargers 11 5
12 Eagles 11 5 12 Texans 10 6
13 Packers 10 6 13 Panthers 8 8
14 Cardinals 9 7 14 Bears 11 5
15 Chargers 10 6 15 Cowboys 8 8
16 Cowboys 8 8 16 Bengals 9 7
17 Jets 8 8 17 Vikings 8 8
18 Broncos 7 9 18 Packers 7 9
19 Texans 8 8 19 Bills 8 8
20 Saints 6 10 20 Seahawks 7 9
21 Redskins 5 11 21 Jets 5 11
22 Bills 4 12 22 Bucs 2 14
23 49ers 6 10 23 Redskins 5 11
24 Jaguars 4 12 24 Jaguars 5 11
25 Chiefs 4 12 25 Broncos 5 11
26 Bucs 1 15 26 Dolphins 0 16
27 Bengals 4 12 27 49ers 3 13
28 Browns 2 14 28 Raiders 3 13
29 Seahawks 3 13 29 Chiefs 1 15
30 Raiders 0 16 30 Browns 1 15
31 Rams 1 15 31 Rams 1 15
32 Lions 0 16 32 Lions 0 16

We pointed out some things in the article about group a. But note in group be the number 13 Panthers end up with an 8-8 record while the number 26 Dolphins wind up 0-16. That means that by the Group B rankings the Dolphins don't play any teams ranked 27-32.  

Home Field Advantage:

For this exercise we used what we will call a "tight" distribution where the top ranked team was assigned a +8, the second team a +7.5, the third team a +7. Each team was graded 0.5 away from the one next to it, and the value of 0 was skipped so the bottom team had a -8. With this tight a ranking in our system, very small changes in the value of home field make a big difference. See the Group A and B results below, note the more home field advantage (HFA) is worth the more 8-8 teams you get:

Group A - 1% HFA Group A - 2% HFA Group A - 3% HFA Group A - 4% HFA
Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L
2 Steelers 16 0 3 Giants 16 0 1 Patriots 14 2 1 Patriots 14 2
1 Patriots 16 0 1 Patriots 15 1 3 Giants 14 2 2 Steelers 13 3
3 Giants 16 0 2 Steelers 14 2 2 Steelers 13 3 3 Giants 13 3
8 Titans 13 3 8 Titans 13 3 8 Titans 12 4 11 Vikings 11 5
7 Ravens 13 3 4 Panthers 13 3 4 Panthers 12 4 8 Titans 11 5
4 Panthers 13 3 6 Falcons 13 3 13 Packers 12 4 7 Ravens 11 5
6 Falcons 13 3 5 Colts 13 3 6 Falcons 12 4 13 Packers 11 5
5 Colts 13 3 7 Ravens 12 4 5 Colts 12 4 5 Colts 11 5
9 Bears 12 4 13 Packers 12 4 9 Bears 12 4 14 Cardinals 11 5
14 Cardinals 11 5 9 Bears 12 4 11 Vikings 11 5 9 Bears 11 5
13 Packers 10 6 14 Cardinals 11 5 7 Ravens 11 5 4 Panthers 10 6
12 Eagles 10 6 11 Vikings 10 6 14 Cardinals 11 5 6 Falcons 10 6
15 Chargers 10 6 15 Chargers 10 6 10 Dolphins 10 6 12 Eagles 9 7
11 Vikings 9 7 12 Eagles 9 7 15 Chargers 10 6 15 Chargers 9 7
10 Dolphins 9 7 10 Dolphins 9 7 12 Eagles 9 7 10 Dolphins 8 8
19 Texans 8 8 21 Redskins 8 8 21 Redskins 7 9 16 Cowboys 8 8
16 Cowboys 8 8 19 Texans 7 9 19 Texans 6 10 19 Texans 7 9
21 Redskins 7 9 16 Cowboys 7 9 17 Jets 6 10 21 Redskins 7 9
18 Broncos 7 9 18 Broncos 7 9 16 Cowboys 6 10 17 Jets 7 9
17 Jets 6 10 29 Seahawks 5 11 25 Chiefs 6 10 24 Jaguars 6 10
23 49ers 6 10 20 Saints 5 11 18 Broncos 6 10 25 Chiefs 6 10
20 Saints 5 11 17 Jets 5 11 29 Seahawks 5 11 22 Bills 6 10
24 Jaguars 5 11 22 Bills 5 11 24 Jaguars 5 11 23 49ers 6 10
25 Chiefs 4 12 23 49ers 5 11 22 Bills 5 11 29 Seahawks 5 11
22 Bills 4 12 24 Jaguars 4 12 27 Bengals 5 11 20 Saints 5 11
29 Seahawks 3 13 25 Chiefs 4 12 23 49ers 5 11 30 Raiders 5 11
28 Browns 3 13 28 Browns 3 13 20 Saints 4 12 18 Broncos 5 11
27 Bengals 3 13 27 Bengals 3 13 31 Rams 3 13 27 Bengals 5 11
31 Rams 1 15 30 Raiders 2 14 30 Raiders 3 13 31 Rams 4 12
30 Raiders 1 15 32 Lions 2 14 32 Lions 3 13 26 Bucs 4 12
32 Lions 1 15 31 Rams 1 15 26 Bucs 3 13 28 Browns 4 12
26 Bucs 0 16 26 Bucs 1 15 28 Browns 3 13 32 Lions 3 13

 

Group B - 1% HFA Group B - 2% HFA Group B - 3% HFA Group B - 4% HFA
Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L
2 Steelers 16 0 2 Steelers 15 1 2 Steelers 15 1 2 Steelers 13 3
1 Patriots 15 1 1 Patriots 15 1 1 Patriots 13 3 1 Patriots 13 3
6 Giants 15 1 6 Giants 14 2 6 Giants 13 3 4 Cardinals 13 3
5 Eagles 15 1 4 Cardinals 14 2 4 Cardinals 13 3 6 Giants 12 4
3 Colts 15 1 8 Ravens 13 3 7 Titans 12 4 3 Colts 12 4
4 Cardinals 14 2 5 Eagles 13 3 10 Saints 12 4 11 Chargers 11 5
7 Titans 12 4 3 Colts 13 3 3 Colts 12 4 7 Titans 10 6
9 Falcons 12 4 7 Titans 12 4 11 Chargers 12 4 10 Saints 10 6
11 Chargers 12 4 10 Saints 12 4 12 Texans 11 5 8 Ravens 10 6
10 Saints 11 5 11 Chargers 12 4 18 Packers 11 5 5 Eagles 10 6
8 Ravens 11 5 9 Falcons 11 5 9 Falcons 11 5 12 Texans 9 7
12 Texans 10 6 12 Texans 10 6 17 Vikings 10 6 9 Falcons 9 7
14 Bears 10 6 18 Packers 10 6 8 Ravens 10 6 14 Bears 9 7
18 Packers 9 7 15 Cowboys 10 6 5 Eagles 10 6 17 Vikings 8 8
15 Cowboys 9 7 17 Vikings 9 7 15 Cowboys 9 7 13 Panthers 8 8
17 Vikings 8 8 13 Panthers 9 7 16 Bengals 9 7 18 Packers 8 8
13 Panthers 8 8 16 Bengals 8 8 14 Bears 9 7 15 Cowboys 8 8
16 Bengals 8 8 20 Seahawks 7 9 13 Panthers 8 8 16 Bengals 8 8
20 Seahawks 7 9 14 Bears 7 9 20 Seahawks 6 10 20 Seahawks 7 9
19 Bills 7 9 23 Redskins 5 11 19 Bills 6 10 21 Jets 7 9
23 Redskins 6 10 19 Bills 5 11 23 Redskins 5 11 23 Redskins 6 10
21 Jets 5 11 28 Raiders 4 12 21 Jets 5 11 22 Bucs 6 10
24 Jaguars 4 12 21 Jets 4 12 28 Raiders 4 12 19 Bills 6 10
25 Broncos 4 12 24 Jaguars 4 12 24 Jaguars 4 12 28 Raiders 5 11
27 49ers 4 12 27 49ers 4 12 29 Chiefs 4 12 32 Lions 5 11
28 Raiders 2 14 26 Dolphins 3 13 22 Bucs 4 12 24 Jaguars 5 11
32 Lions 2 14 29 Chiefs 3 13 25 Broncos 4 12 29 Chiefs 5 11
29 Chiefs 2 14 25 Broncos 3 13 27 49ers 4 12 30 Browns 5 11
22 Bucs 2 14 32 Lions 2 14 32 Lions 3 13 25 Broncos 5 11
30 Browns 1 15 22 Bucs 2 14 26 Dolphins 3 13 27 49ers 5 11
31 Rams 0 16 30 Browns 2 14 31 Rams 2 14 31 Rams 4 12
26 Dolphins 0 16 31 Rams 1 15 30 Browns 2 14 26 Dolphins 4 12

 

Team Quality (Traditional Power Ranking):

Most “Power Rankings” authors are trying to enumerate teams in order of quality. In other words, best teams are ranked highest and the not-as-talented teams are ranked at the bottom. The question we always come up with is: How much better is the No. 1 team over the No. 2 team or even the No. 10 team?

An even distribution like we used in the “home field” analysis above is not a very realistic distribution. Below are three graphs of what distributions could look like (we used the "tight" distribution in the schedule section):

For comparison sake below is the Distribution of the 32 teams as measured by our Relative Performance Measure.

Below are some win-loss scenarios for a couple of groups and distributions (SM is the smooth dist above, Ex is the Extreme):

 

Group A Sm - 7% HFA Group A Sm - 15% HFA Group A Ex- 7% HFA Group A Ex - 15% HFA
Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L Rnk Team W L
2 Steelers 16 0 1 Patriots 15 1 1 Patriots 14 2 1 Patriots 14 2
1 Patriots 16 0 3 Giants 14 2 3 Giants 14 2 3 Giants 14 2
3 Giants 16 0 2 Steelers 13 3 11 Vikings 13 3 8 Titans 13 3
8 Titans 13 3 5 Colts 12 4 8 Titans 13 3 2 Steelers 13 3
4 Panthers 13 3 11 Vikings 11 5 2 Steelers 13 3 4 Panthers 13 3
6 Falcons 13 3 7 Ravens 11 5 7 Ravens 13 3 6 Falcons 13 3
13 Packers 12 4 4 Panthers 11 5 4 Panthers 13 3 5 Colts 13 3
5 Colts 12 4 13 Packers 11 5 6 Falcons 13 3 7 Ravens 12 4
15 Chargers 11 5 14 Cardinals 11 5 5 Colts 13 3 13 Packers 12 4
14 Cardinals 11 5 9 Bears 11 5 9 Bears 13 3 9 Bears 12 4
9 Bears 11 5 6 Falcons 10 6 12 Eagles 12 4 11 Vikings 11 5
11 Vikings 10 6 15 Chargers 10 6