Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 6

Not much movement in the rankings this week, at least compared to the first three installations.  As I alluded to last week, the GWP gaps should start to solidify as the sample size becomes larger and teams separate themselves more definitively.

We can see that immediately in our top 10, where only the Lions fell out.  This does not necessarily mean a team outside the top-10 cannot become a legitimate contender of course—at this time last year, the Super Bowl champion Ravens were 11th, and eventual playoff participants Washington and Indianapolis were 22nd and 27th, respectively.  Four of the top 10 teams also finished outside the postseason.

To figure out who might fall into that ignominious category in 2013, let's take a look at two of the most likely teams to miss the playoffs, despite what their current ranking might suggest.

Cardiac Cats

At first blush, it appears the Bengals and Panthers look like the best bets to find themselves home come January.  One could also argue the Eagles, but Philly's uber-efficient offense and extraordinarily weak division warrants a larger discussion outside the scope of this piece. 

It's interesting that the Bengals and Panthers are essentially mirror images of one another.  With the exception of Cincy fumbling slightly more and the Panthers intercepting significantly more passes (something that could regress given the mediocrity of Carolina's secondary personnel), the two teams have nearly identical efficiency ratings in every aspect of the game.  The most important similarity: both are middle of the pack in the passing game, a reflection of unsteady progress by third-year quarterbacks Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.

Your first instinct might target Newton as the more likely candidate to deliver consistently enough to elevate his team.  And yes, it's true that he has put up historically great early-career numbers.  But compare the EPAs of the two quarterbacks thus far:


Newton is all over the place, and Dalton continues to fulfill his destiny as Matt Schaub 2.0.  That might be ominous for Cincinnati's future Super Bowl aspirations, but before he started handing out pick-sixes like candy, Schaub was a very capable quarterback for a consistent playoff contender.

Considering their respective team strengths, Dalton's consistency is likely better short-term for the Bengals' playoff chances.  Cincinnati possesses a top five pass defense and a stout front seven that thrives in tight ugly games.  Meanwhile, the Panthers are a average or worse in both run and pass defense, and part of their elite offensive rushing attack is due to Newton.

Quite simply, Cam has much more on his plate, and with the Saints likely to win the NFC South, he must be consistently brilliant for the Panthers to earn a wild-card berth competing against the 49ers, Lions and Bears.  Dalton and the Bengals may have a lower ceiling, but in the weak AFC North, they seem like a more viable 2013 contender.

Forward Bearing?

The Chicago Bears have been a bit of a paradox in these rankings—the formula hated them when they eeked out a few close wins and were 3-0, but they have gradually risen since despite currently sitting at 4-2, with their lone win over the 0-6 Giants.


The number that jumps out right away is 30, namely their overall defensive ranking.  That's a product of their 32nd-ranked pass defense, which seems counter-intuitive given that the unit has the third-highest interception rate.

However, that very reliance on turnovers may be the Bears' undoing, at least defensively.  Turnovers are a generally high-variance year-to-year stat, but the Bears have defied the odds for a second straight year.  Opponents are losing more fumbles per game against Chicago than any other team besides Kansas City and Seattle.  The Bears do happen to force the third-most fumbles, which is a skill, but recovering fumbles is extremely fluky.  Needless to say, it is not safe to rely on long-term.

There exists a perception that Chicago has transformed into an offensive team, something they envisioned in acquiring Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall.  And yet, the Bears' defensive EPA still exceeds its rather average offensive production so far.  Perhaps that perception exists because of several crunch-time plays the Bears offense has produced, which has led to a higher WPA than all but the Broncos, Chargers and Eagles.

But again, relying on a spike in production in late-game situations is a shaky plan.  This is not to say the Bears are not a playoff-caliber team, as they are above-average in everything besides their aforementioned pass defense.  But their margin of error is less than many might perceive, and a swing in luck might leave Chicago out of the playoffs for the third straight season.

Quick Hits

- We have a new number one this week, with the Seahawks leapfrogging the Broncos for the top spot.  Seattle does not have a historically great unit like the Denver offense, but they also might not have an exploitable weakness.  Seattle ranks in the top five in both overall offensive and defensive efficiency; no other team is even top-10 in both categories.
- The Panthers were this week's biggest riser, and we already touched on their prospects.  The biggest faller?  The T.J. Yates-led Texans.  At 2-4, the reeling Texans are facing the Chiefs and Colts, with the Indy game following a bye.  Lost in the Matt Schaub hubbub has been Arian Foster's steady decline.  Since leading all running backs in EPA in 2010, Foster dropped to 23rd and 77th the next two years, and currently sits at 51st with a -6.7 EPA in 2013.
- The 28th-ranked Ravens don't look particularly threatening at the moment, but at 3-3, they sit just one game behind the Bengals for the AFC North lead.  Baltimore could greatly aid their cause by benching Ray Rice's doppelganger for the actual Ray Rice.  Rice is 66th out of 76 running backs in EPA per play, leaving the Ravens tied with the Steelers for the league's least efficient run offense.  Rice's form the rest of the season will be a huge factor in whether or not the Ravens get a chance to defend their title.

That's enough spiel for this week, here are the rankings after Week 6.

RANKTEAMLAST WKGWPOpp GWPO RANKD RANK
1 SEA20.740.5355
2 DEN10.720.46129
3 PHI40.690.51225
4 IND30.680.50915
5 NO50.680.41618
6 SF70.640.54114
7 GB50.610.42328
8 CIN100.610.42136
9 KC90.610.48301
10 CAR170.590.41158
11 DET80.550.451212
12 SD140.540.45432
13 DAL120.520.511021
14 CHI150.510.51730
15 CLE190.490.43292
16 NYJ110.490.40149
17 NYG180.480.621910
18 PIT200.470.402114
19 ARI240.470.491716
20 HOU130.460.52263
21 TEN160.450.571611
22 NE220.430.472513
23 MIA230.420.432322
24 ATL250.420.37831
25 BUF270.390.492019
26 WAS260.360.452224
27 MIN210.350.431826
28 BAL300.350.522423
29 OAK280.340.542817
30 TB290.310.46317
31 JAC320.250.583220
32 STL310.230.472727

TEAMOPASSORUNSR%OINT%OFUM%DPASSDRUNSR%DINT%PENRATE
ARI6.0395.02.76.3603.50.37
ATL6.9411.41.87.3581.70.37
BAL6.2283.41.56.6561.90.43
BUF5.3422.02.56.3604.20.45
CAR5.9453.31.55.7584.70.36
CHI6.9432.82.27.8604.50.33
CIN6.4432.82.55.4572.30.47
CLE5.2413.11.55.0632.10.44
DAL6.9431.42.56.9612.40.44
DEN8.7460.83.07.6633.60.41
DET6.9401.72.26.4614.20.51
GB7.8452.22.77.4631.10.41
HOU5.7404.31.65.2591.50.59
IND6.4501.61.16.1543.80.23
JAC5.1314.92.16.6571.50.40
KC5.4381.41.54.4564.40.34
MIA6.0342.72.36.6552.90.28
MIN6.1384.12.66.9523.30.38
NE5.4381.71.95.9533.20.29
NO7.4392.10.75.9533.90.30
NYG6.6356.92.26.7601.70.43
NYJ6.3415.22.15.7720.50.55
OAK5.7363.52.26.5561.40.45
PHI7.8501.02.26.8532.30.44
PIT6.5282.62.96.1631.30.38
SD7.7442.21.57.3461.00.36
SF6.6403.12.25.7613.90.52
SEA7.0452.43.35.3604.60.55
STL5.5351.31.67.2602.50.47
TB5.0373.31.96.1633.20.62
TEN5.7372.12.45.9552.90.47
WAS6.2422.42.37.3571.80.49
Avg6.3402.82.16.3582.70.42

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26 Responses to “Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 6”

  1. Anonymous says:

    How does only one team have a positive opponent GWP?

  2. Anonymous says:

    I mean above average.

  3. Anonymous says:

    The Giants have the hardest schedule this year, that's why! :P

  4. Anonymous says:

    Year after year, it seems like a lot of the high-powered offenses (which are almost always pass-first offenses, of course) have top 5 O Rank...and bottom 5 D Rank. In the past, I think GB and NE have been pretty consistent with this, and we see it here with DEN, PHI, GB, SD, CHI, and ATL. I'm not implying that these defenses are actually good, but is it possible/probable that a great offense correlates with a defense that gives up big yardage? Obviously, when GB is up 31-0 on WAS, they aren't playing the same style of defense that they are when it's 3-0. I know this has been discussed here before, I'm just wondering if there's any way to measure this "soft coverage" yardage.

  5. Memphis MOJO says:

    I find it interesting that Jacksonville is ahead of St. Louis.

    Eke is the correct word. Eek is a sound you make when you see a ghost, lol.

  6. John Black says:

    Team efficiency doesn't matter to real football experts that has played the game. What matters is that a team consistently wins the turnover battle, gains meaningful yards/points on offense, and doesn't allow yards/points on defense. Period. End of Story. I had always preached this at high level youth football teams and even pro games that I went to.

  7. Mike says:

    "What matters is that a team consistently wins the turnover battle, gains meaningful yards/points on offense, and doesn't allow yards/points on defense."

    I think you just roughly described team efficiency.

  8. John Black says:

    Mike, I've been handling fools roughly for a long time; and been sitting on the sideline for too long on this site and finally had to be more roughly with this efficiency nonsense.

  9. Brian Burke says:

    I apologize everyone. One of my sources of data has changed its formatting, causing some disruption in the script that makes the tables above.

    The rankings are correct, but the Opponent GWPs are being divided by 7 weeks of football instead of 6. In other words, if you multiply every Opp GWP by 7/6, you get the right answer. It's not going to affect the overall rankings, though, because the GWPs are normalized to a .50 average.

    I still have to verify and fix.

    My thanks to John Black for explaining some of the technical intricacies of the ranking algorithm. He's a genius!

  10. Jason says:

    The first question listed deserves an answer. Two weeks ago, the OPP GWP were spread out over .500, as you would expect them to be. Now, there is only one team with an OPP GWP over .500 (the Giants). Hopefully, Brian or Sterling can explain (and hopefully correct if the numbers are not right). Thanks.

  11. Mitch says:

    To John Black, well of coarse as a player or coach you would no coach or care about efficiency, but the best coached teams with the best skilled players = WILL BE MORE EFFICIENT = and the goal of indentifying the better teams is by looking at efficiency.

    The more efficient teams are more successful in sports, that's a fact John
    The goal s to indentify these efficent teams.

  12. Brian Burke says:

    The Opponent GWP numbers have been corrected. Sorry for the confusion this week.

  13. John Black says:

    Mitch,
    Nuh uh

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