NFL Efficiency Ratings
With a quarter of the season over for most of the teams in the NFL we are starting to see the trends form as to who is headed where in the league. I like to track the production of each NFL team based on how effective they are against their level of competition. It gives a good idea of how teams are actually performing and which squads are often getting by on a soft schedule and which teams are truly hard luck teams in the NFL. Iíll post these every 4 weeks and will put the rankings for all the teams in a table for the next breakdown, which is usually much more accurate after 8 weeks than the current 4 week period.
So what exactly are these efficiency ratings? Scoring efficiency is an indicator of how productive a team is at getting points on the board whether through offense, defense, or special teams compared to the averages that their specific opposition has allowed. Similarly defensive efficiency is how efficient a team is at holding a team below their scoring average. For example thru week 4, the New York Jets opponents are giving up an average of 23.6 points a game and the Jets are scoring 28.75 points a game, a difference of 5.15 points a game. Their scoring efficiency would be 21.8%, 4th best in the NFL. Jets opponents are scoring 24.5 points a game while the Jets are allowing 29 a game, leaving the Jets with a defensive efficiency of -18.4%, 6th worst in the NFL. The overall efficiency rating for the team is simply the two numbers added together, which for the Jets would be 3.4%, 15th in the NFL and 7th in the AFC.
Thus far you can make a case for up to six teams playing at an elite level. In order they are Dallas, Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Diego. The top 5 all have an OE above 29 while San Diegoís OE is 26.3. The second group of teams are the squads who look to have the early advantages for the playoffs. These are the teams between 10 and 23% efficiency. At the top of this group is the New Orleans Saints and includes teams like the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers. Of this grouping both the Bills and Giants are undefeated which most likely represents that they are playing a lower class of opponent than someone like San Diego or Philadelphia has faced. The Bills have faced the 19th, 26th, 28th and 32nd ranked teams while the Eagles have taken on the 1st, 4th, 10th, and 32nd ranked teams. Thatís a major reason why the Eagles are only 2-2 rather than 4-0 like Buffalo.
The next six teams all hope to show more improvement to make a run at the playoffs. Itís led by the New York Jets at 3.4 and finishes with the Miami Dolphins at an OE of -5.7. These are teams that are more or less playing at whatever level their opponent plays at. These are the teams, assuming they remain status quo for the rest of the year, that can win 10 or 11 games playing a soft schedule or 5 or 6 games against a tough schedule.
The bottom teams are really showing the change of power in the NFL. New England ranks 25th overall while the Colts and Seahawks rank 27th and 28th respectively. The Lions and the Rams round out the field with awful efficiency ratings of -71 and -79. Those teams are about as bad as the undefeated Patriots were good in 2007.
From a scoring standpoint the top 5 NFL teams are the Cowboys, Chargers, Broncos, Jets, and Bears. The least productive teams are the Rams, Browns, Patriots, Raiders, and 49ers. Defensively the Titans, Panthers, Steelers, Redskins, and Buccaneers make up the top 5 while the Lions, Texans, Rams, and Seahawks are embarrassments on defense.
So where does the power lie thus far in the NFL? Well it wont shock anyone to find out that the NFC East is playing far and away the best football in the NFL. The four teams ratings combined are a 97.7. The NFC South is surprisingly the number 2 rated division at 63.9, the only other division in the NFL to be in positive territory. The NFC is playing much better than the AFC right now, which coincides with the general thought that the NFC is now the better conference. The NFC combined score is a 2.3 compared to a -44 for the AFC and that includes the NFC having the two worst teams in the NFL who combine for an OE of about -150. No divisions in the AFC Stand out. The West, on the strength of San Diego, ranks highest while the South ranks the lowest. The NFC West is far and away the worst division in football.
Just based on schedules it looks like it will be hard for the NFC West, who play the NFC East and AFC East, and the AFC South, playing the AFC North and NFC South, to produce more than one playoff team this year. The schedules for the NFC East, playing the NFC west and AFC South, and the AFC East, playing the NFC West and the AFC West, give those divisions the inside track to getting a 2nd team into the playoffs via the wildcard.