For every week until the end of the season, I will be ranking the NFL teams from 1-32, power rankings style. They will be arranged into four blocks.
The biggest problem with traditional power rankings is they take too much in account of every week. Each game is exacerbated. Every loss is the end of the world. Every win is another stitch in a dream season. Part of it just goes along with football in general. These games happen only once a week. There are only sixteen of them. Exaggeration is just part of it. I'm going to try and remove that by looking at the big picture instead of bumping up and down based on one loss or one win. The rankings below are simply adjustments made based on what I thought heading into the season; in the future, they will be adjusted based on an entire body of work and trends, not because of a single HUGE win or one BAD loss.
32.)--Record: 0-14. Point Differential: -188. DVOA: -38.4% (32). Last Week: 32.
31.)--Record: 1-13. Point Differential: -170. DVOA: -22.0% (29). Last Week: 31.
30.)--Record: 4-10. Point Differential: -116. DVOA: -34.8% (31). Last Week: 30.
29.)--Record: 4-10. Point Differential: -131. DVOA: -22.1% (29). Last Week: 29.
28.)--Record: 2-12. Point Differential: -99. DVOA: -13.0% (27). Last Week: 28.
27.)--Record: 3-11. Point Differential: -72. DVOA: -1.9% (21). Last Week: 27.
26.)--Record: 6-8. Point Differential: -15. DVOA: -3.9% (23). Last Week: 26.
25.)--Record: 5-8-1. Point Differential: +15. DVOA: -5.5% (25). Last Week: 24.
If I knew had to make cool and fun things in Photoshop, I would have made an image of Bart Simpson at the chalkboard writing, "When non-elite quarterbacks enter their mid 30s and start to drop off, they really fall off." We've seen it before, and we'll see it again. Once players like Jake Delhomme or Matt Schaub, the historically really good but not great, begin to see their performance decrease, they plummet.
Carson Palmer is another member of this club. He's done. He showed signs of it at the end of last year. His problems were swept away by a finger injury turned narrative that Palmer himself claimed had zero effect on his play. He was able to play well enough against Green Bay until that cataclysmic NFC title game against Carolina when everything fell apart.
Those performances have carried on into this season. Palmer has a DYAR of 15 (24th), a DVOA of -10.7% (24th), and is averaging 6.9 Y/A (T-21st). These are numbers similar to Blake Bortles, a quarterback everyone wants to toss into a back alley dumpster fire. Last year Palmer had a DYAR of 1,698 (1st), a DVOA of 34.4% (1st), and averaged 8.7 Y/A (1st). He was the best passer in the league. This year he is in the basement rolling with the riff-raff.
On top of that, Palmer can't complete anything to his receivers with any efficiency or effectiveness. Larry Fitzgerald has been his best receiver and has 98 catches on 139 targets, but he's averaging just 9.7 yards a reception. Fitzgerald has a DYAR of 57 and a DVOA of -7.5%, which is 66th. No receiver on Arizona's roster has a DYAR above 50 other than Fitzgerald, and no one has a positive DVOA.
The only player Palmer can complete passes to with any effectiveness is David Johnson. Johnson has a receiving DVOA of 29.4% and a DYAR of 260 catching passes out of the backfield and from the slot. Arizona's bouncy castle has 73 catches on 109 targets for 800 yards. He's 21st in the league in targets behind Jordan Matthews, 27th in catches behind Amari Cooper, and 32nd in yards behind Jimmy Graham. He leads all running backs in the same categories and has 19 more targets, one more catch and 199 more yards than Le'Veon Bell, who is second in all running back receiving categories. Johnson has been the team's best receiver, one of the better receivers in the league, and the league's best receiving running back.
Because of all the different variables that go into an offense and how different things vary from team to team, it's difficult to factually compare players from different teams. They each play in different schemes, under a different coaching staff, with different receivers and quarterbacks, behind different offensive lines. In Johnson's case, he's been infinitely better than all the other receivers on a team that plays in the exact same setting. He's the only receiver with a positive DVOA and he has 0.8 yards per reception more than the team's best receiver (Larry Fitzgerald). He's been simply spectacular in the passing game.
In addition to this, Johnson has 1,138 rushing yards on 260 carries. He's averaging 4.4 Y/A and has 13 touchdowns. He isn't as effective running as he is in the passing game. His DVOA is just 3.8% (15th) and his DYAR is 143 (7th). But he is the sole focus of Arizona's offense and is playing behind a shoddy offensive line. To scrap his way to the yards he has, he's had to break a lot of tackles. Johnson leads the league with 75 broken tackles, 45 of which occurred on runs (4th) and 30 on receptions (1st). He breaks a tackle on 22.5% of his touches. LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman are the only players with more than 200 touches who have a broken tackle rate better than David Johnson's. Johnson doesn't just transcend his offensive line; he transcends the entire offense.
There is only one player in the league that has had as close as an impact on an offense as him, and that's Bell. When you combine their receiving and rushing numbers, you get the following.
Bell has been the better runner, Johnson the better receiver, but when everything is put together into a soup stained cauldron, it's obvious that Johnson has had the better season. Johnson's season is not only impressive for this season, but impressive historically. Only eight players in NFL history have had more than 1,900 yards from scrimmage.
With two games left against Seattle and L.A., Johnson should surpass Earl Campbell and O.J. Simpson. He could leap to fourth in NFL history if he has two games against a great defense and a mediocre one.
When you take in account how much better he's been than everyone in his terrible offense and the entire league, Johnson is a legitimate MVP candidate. But since Arizona won't make the playoffs, it's not going to happen. However, Johnson is an easy choice for Offensive Player of the Year, an award he should win to recognize just how incredible his 2016 season has been.
24.)--Record: 7-7. Point Differential: +23. DVOA: -4.2% (24). Last Week: 25.
23.)--Record: 5-8-1. Point Differential: -5. DVOA: -0.4% (20). Last Week: 23.
22.)--Record: 5-9. Point Differential: 0. DVOA: 3.2% (16). Last Week: 21.
21.)--Record: 6-8. Point Differential: +14. DVOA: 1.5% (17). Last Week: 22.
20.)--Record: 7-7. Point Differential: +5. DVOA: -2.3% (22). Last Week: 20.
19.)--Record: 7-7. Point Differential: +44. DVOA: 5.0% (15). Last Week: 19.
17.)--Record: 8-6. Point Differential: +17. DVOA: 6.4% (13). Last Week: 17.
16.)--Record: 8-6. Point Differential: -44. DVOA: -23.0% (30). Last Week: 16.
15.)--Record: 9-5. Point Differential: +1. DVOA: -0.3% (19). Last Week: 15.
14.)--Record: 8-6. Point Differential: -9. DVOA: 1.1% (18). Last Week: 13.
13.)--Record: 7-6-1. Point Differential: +2. DVOA: 7.5% (12). Last Week: 10.
12.)--Record: 8-6. Point Differential: +41. DVOA: 5.6% (14) Last Week: 9.
11.)--Record: 8-6. Point Differential: +43. DVOA: 9.4% (10) Last Week: 12.
10.)--Record: 8-6. Point Differential: +24. DVOA: 11.8% (6). Last Week: 14.
9.)--Record: 9-5. Point Differential: +16. DVOA: -10.9% (26). Last Week: 8.
The Lions have had the most exhilarating season. They are 9-5, but eight of their wins have been by an one possession margin. They started the year 1-3 in such games and are now 8-4 in close contests. Matthew Stafford has led eight fourth quarter comebacks and eight game wining drives. In the fourth quarter, his play hasn't been dramatically different. The only thing that really changes in the fourth is Stafford's Y/A jumps from 7.3 to 8.1. The wins and game-winning plays occur, but it's not like he's a wolf man bathing in full moon light once the quarter turns to four.
That's been the only thing the Lions have been great at this year. Their passing DVOA is 11th at 21.1%. Good, but not great. They can't run, or stop the run, and they have one of the worst passing defenses in the league. They are only good at something that varies from year to year. They haven't played well and are only good at winning games in an unsustainable way.
Even though they have gone 8-2 in their last ten games, they could still miss the playoffs. They play Dallas Monday night and end Week 17 against Green Bay. The Packers have won four in a row and play Minnesota this week. They beat the Lions earlier in the year, so a tie in record would give the Packers the division. If the Lions lose out, they could lose their playoff spot to Tampa Bay or even Washington.
Of all the potential playoff teams, the Lions are the weakest. I don't think they are going to win in Dallas. I don't think they are going to win at home against Green Bay. I think they are going to get bounced out of the before the playoffs start. Tampa should win out. Washington could win out. Both of these teams are going to be sitting underneath the trembling, tightrope-walking Lions with their mouths wide open, waiting for them to slip, devouring them once they tumble.
8.)--Record: 10-4. Point Differential: +22. DVOA: 7.8% (11). Last Week: 11. (Doesn't include TNF)
Out of all the teams in the NFL this season, the Giants have made the least amount of sense to me. They started the year off slow at 3-3. Then won six in a row and eight of their last nine. All while playing mediocre football led by their defense with their offense never fully clicking into place.
I didn't get how they were winning games. Then I read these two pieces. The first was by Ty Schalter, "Why Are the New York Giants This Good?". You should read it. If not, to sum it up, the Giants' defense has mastered stopping the short passing offenses that are all the rage of the league. Detroit, Dallas and Philadelphia have all struggled against a defense that has a DVOA of -15.8% (5th) against short passes.
The other is Football Outsiders' Week 15 rankings. The Giants have a variance of 2.5%, which is the best in NFL history. They are the most consistent team of all time at the moment. They have won games by playing great defense, playing steadily, and staying in every game.
The missing piece to this is the offense. They are 21st in offensive DVOA. 22nd in passing, and 25th in rushing. The run game has struggled because of the run blocking. But the pass game has been all on Eli Manning. The pass blocking is there. The skill players are there. But for whatever reason, the passing offense can't get going. Manning has struggled attacking the middle of the field in a quick passing offense, which is bad. He has overfed both Odell Beckham and Sterling Sheppard on the outside without getting anything going with anyone else.
Because of past Super Bowl runs, everyone thinks Manning is some December football monster who crunches up defenses once the stretch run hits. This isn't true. In December, Manning has a 27-30 record, a 57.58 completion percentage, a 83:65 touchdown to interception ratio, and averages 6.9 Y/A. In the postseason, Manning has a record of 8-3, a completion percentage of 61.52%, a 17:8 touchdown to interception ratio, and averages 7.07 Y/A.
With the defense playing as well as it has, the type of teams it has had success with, and the instinctual thing inside Manning that switches him into a good quarterback when the playoffs start like fruit bursting in the spring, the Giants are again going to be very scary this postseason. There is a path in place for them to get there. They could head to Detroit, a team they beat 17-6 by suffocating their quick passes. They could head to Dallas, a team they have beaten twice by doing something similar, and then could face either Atlanta, Seattle, or Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game, where anything could happen. If things go right and Eli becomes a murderer again, the Giants could break to the Super Bowl like an Odell Beckham slant route.
7.)--Record: 11-3. Point Differential: +41. DVOA: 11.2% (7). Last Week: 6.
6.)--Record: 9-5. Point Differential: +65. DVOA: 17.2% (3) Last Week: 7.
5.)--Record: 10-4. Point Differential: +45. DVOA: 11.1% (8). Last Week: 4.
4.)--Record: 9-5. Point Differential: +111. DVOA: 16.9% (4). Last Week: 5.
Matt Ryan should win the MVP this season. Not Derek Carr, who isn't as great as his surface level numbers indicate. Not Dak Prescott, whose play has dropped off a bit. Not Matthew Stafford, who has won games with Shakespearean dramatics. It should be Ryan, the best at playing the game's most important position.
Ryan has been the best in the league, whether you look at traditional counting level stats or the fancy bourgeoisie ones. Matt Ryan is third in the NFL in passing yards with 4,336 behind Kirk Cousins and Drew Brees. He's tied with Aaron Rodgers in second for touchdowns thrown with 32, behind Brees. He's third in completion percentage behind Brees and Sam Bradford at 68.6%.
The key here is that Ryan has attempted only 465 passes. That's 19th in the NFL. Brees has attempted 589 passes, Cousins 542, and Rodgers 533. The only players to accumulate more or the same number of yards and touchdowns than him have thrown at least 68 more passes than him. Ryan is averaging 9.3 yards per attempt, best in the league, and 1.1 yards more than second place Tom Brady. He's leading the league with 13.6 yards a completion, a half yard better than Cam Newton, who has a completion percentage of 53.8%, which is last among starting quarterbacks. All the while, Ryan has been sacked 32 times, which is the 8th most in the league.
Additionally, Ryan is leading the league in both DYAR and DVOA. His DYAR is 1,672, which is 254 points higher than second place Brees. His DVOA is 40%, which is 8.5% better than Tom Brady. He's been the most efficient and effective passer in the NFL this season, playing on the best offense in the league. The Falcons have scored 469 points (1st), are averaging 33.5 points a game (1st), and have an offensive DVOA of 25.6% (1st).
It's not even close who the best quarterback in the NFL has been. It's Matt Ryan. He's been the best quarterback in the NFL, leading the league's best offense. That's more important than Derek Carr's W-L record, or Matthew Stafford's game winning throws, or Dak Prescott's ability to play incredibly well after filling in for Tony Romo, or Aaron Rodgers' continued dominance. Ryan is the only choice for MVP this season.
3.)--Record: 9-4-1. Point Differential: +63. DVOA: 10.0% (9). Last Week: 3.
2.)--Record: 12-2. Point Differential: +132. DVOA: 20.7% (2). Last Week: 2.
1.)--Record: 12-2. Point Differential: +108. DVOA: 21.2% (1). Last Week: 1.
Bengals vs Texans coverage