FanPost

NFL Quality Rankings

Bumped from the fanposts. I'd been meaning to write something similar, and Steelin' does a great job laying out all the information cleanly and informatively. Thanks to him for the write-up. - Michael B. -

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At the midpoint of the season, how should we rank the top NFL teams? Most ranking systems are based on overall record. Instead, I will look only at games against quality opponents, ignoring games in which teams beat up a hapless loser. Who cares that the Patriots beat Buffalo? For my analysis, I define “quality opponent” as a team with a winning record or road game against a team with a .500 record. Note that opponents meeting this standard will change as the season goes on, because team’s records can change. For most of the opponents on this list, however, we can assume that if they have a winning record at the halfway point, they will probably continue to do so.

The following chart summarizes the record of the top six teams in the NFL when facing quality opponents:

 

Team

Overall Record

Quality Wins

Quality Losses

Quality Record

Steelers

6-2

ATL (6-2), at TEN (5-3), at TB (5-3), at MIA (4-4)

BAL (6-2), at NO (6-3)

4-2 (.667)

Ravens

6-2

at NYJ (6-2), at PIT (6-2)

at NE (6-2)

2-1 (.667)

Patriots

6-2

at MIA (4-4), BAL (6-2)

at NYJ (6-2)

2-1 (.667)

Jets

6-2

NE (6-2), at MIA (4-4)

BAL (6-2), GB (5-3)

2-2 (.500)

Falcons

6-2

at NO (6-3), TB (5-3)

at PIT (6-2), at PHL (5-3)

2-2 (.500)

Giants

6-2

CHI (5-3), at HOU (4-4)

at IND (5-3), TEN (5-3)

2-2 (.500)

 

The first conclusion from this chart is that the Steelers have played a brutal schedule that includes far more quality opponents than any of their rivals. Six of the Steelers’ first eight games, in fact, qualify as quality opponents. Of these six, four were road games, and four were played without the Steelers’ top two QBs. Despite these handicaps, the team persevered with four victories and two losses against quality opponents.

The Ravens and Patriots, in contrast, have gotten off light so far, playing only three quality opponents each. (The Ravens-Dolphins game does not count because the 4-4 Dolphins played in Baltimore.) Both teams have won two quality games and lost one, a respectable record. To the Ravens’ credit, their two quality victories both came on the road. Despite facing three of their four quality opponents at home, the Jets have just a 2-2 record in such games.

The Falcons also have a 2-2 record against quality opponents, besting two top NFC teams but losing to their only quality AFC opponent. The Giants have two quality victories, but they were blown out by the two strong AFC teams they faced by a combined score of 67-24. In addition, the Giants' six overall victories have come against a collection of pitiable teams with a combined record of just 17-31, helping them to run up their statistics, but it is hardly a record to be proud of.

In conclusion, the Steelers are one of only three teams in the NFL with a winning record against quality opponents. Among those three teams (all in the AFC), the Steelers have the most quality wins and the most quality road wins, establishing them as the best team in the NFL, in my opinion. I would rank the remaining teams in the order shown in the table. The Giants, however, are a fraud and should probably be ranked below several 5-3 teams.

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