There's one big difference between other rankings and the kind you'll find here. The rankings here are tuned to be predictive rather than explanatory. There's a lot of randomness in football game outcomes, and the model here is designed to ignore the noise and focus on the signal. This approach can sometimes produce curious results, as teams with relatively poor records are often ranked well ahead of teams with better records.
At the time this was written, a 2-2 team was ranked #1, while the two 5-0 teams were ranked #5 and #8. There was even a 4-1 team ranked #15, behind a 2-3 team ranked #13. Certainly, there must be something wrong here, at least if we're to believe the dozens of comments in the weekly rankings posts.
Maybe not. Consider a world in which all NFL teams were perfectly evenly matched. Every game would be little different than the flip of a coin. In this kind of world, there would likely still be at least one 5-0 team and one 0-5 team, despite being completely equal in team strength. In this hypothetical world, a power ranking based on team record would be an exercise in self-delusion.
The real NFL isn't too far off from the National Coin Flip League. Certainly there are better and worse teams, but there is also randomness. So although team records are not complete illusions, they are partially random and often misleading, especially early in the season.
The illusion of power rankings goes deep. Even if power rankings are not necessarily good predictors of future performance, they can still be sound predictors of final team records and playoff qualification. The reason is the wins-in-hand effect. Season-ending records and playoff qualification is a function of two factors: 1) to-date wins in hand, and 2) future win expectancy. Power rankings that are overly influenced by to-date wins in hand will appear to be far more accurate by the end of the season than they really are. Even objective quantitative rankings that over-fit to the noise of past performance will intuitively seem to be a much better gauge of team strength that they truly are. If you're grading someone's rankings according to how well they match final records, you're letting them cheat. They've glimpsed half the answer key from the teacher's desk.
This illusion also tricks us into thinking the NFL is more predictable than it really is. It feeds our hindsight bias because everyone's power rankings tend to end up matching the playoff seedings, if only due largely to the wins-in-hand effect. And worse, everyone's power rankings tend to match each other's power rankings, creating a mirage of predictability and certainty.
The model at this site focuses exclusively on factor #2: future win expectancy. You already know factor #1 (to-date team wins), so the last thing you need from us is yet another set of rankings based heavily on win-loss records.