All-32: NFL Power Rankings Heading Into Week 2
Our power rankings aren’t subjective - they’re based off of mathematical algorithms that take into account everything happening on a football field, creating what we call a "nERD" score. In essence, nERD is our calculation of how good a team really is, based on expected point differential against a league average team. If the team's nERD rating is 10, they would be expected to win by 10 points against a league-average opponent. For the early part of the season, the nERD score still incorporates some data from last season and our preseason projections. As the season progresses and a larger sample of games play out, the nERD scores will be a closer representation to a team’s play this season.
Each week, we’ll list all 32 teams from worst to best with a more detailed breakdown of five different teams. The highlighted teams will rotate each week, which will lead to each team being featured at least three times during the course of the season.
Let's take a look at the post-Week 1 rankings.
Didn't Start As Planned32. Jacksonville Jaguars (nERD: -10.59, 0-1)
We’ll start with team ranked last, to somewhat of a surprise. Halfway through their game against the Philadelphia Eagles, many would have subjectively put the Jaguars at the top half of this list. Thanks to two touchdowns from receiver Allen Hurns and multiple turnovers from Nick Foles, Jacksonville went into halftime with a 17-0 lead. However, that all went downhill in the second half.
The Jaguars were outscored 34-0 in the second half and they finished with negative Net Expected Point totals - adjusted for strength of opponent - on both offense and defense. Jacksonville finished with the second lowest Adjusted NEP on offense, but were 12th on defense. Apparently forcing two fumbles, recovering them both, causing an interception and sacking the opposing quarterback five times can help balance out your NEP, even when you give up 34 points in a half.
Outside of Hurns’ performance - which resulted in fourth highest Receiving NEP of any receiver in Week 1 - there wasn’t much to be excited about in the Jacksonville offense. Toby Gerhart had 18 carries which resulted in just 42 yards, for a 2.9 yards per carry average and -3.19 Rushing NEP. Chad Henne had respectable raw stats, going 24 of 43 for 266 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His advanced metrics weren’t nearly as favorable though. Of the nine quarterbacks who threw at least 40 passes in Week 1, only Tom Brady had a lower Passing NEP.
31. St. Louis Rams (nERD: -4.99, 0-1)
30. Oakland Raiders (nERD: -4.89, 0-1)
29. Cleveland Browns (nERD: -4.01, 0-1)
28. New York Giants (nERD: -3.87, 0-1)
27. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (nERD: -3.65, 0-1)
26. Houston Texans (nERD: -3.22, 1-0)
Holding Out Hope
25. Washington Redskins (nERD: -2.97, 0-1)
24. Indianapolis Colts (nERD: -2.94, 0-1)
23. Dallas Cowboys (nERD: -2.74, 0-1)
22. Baltimore Ravens (nERD: -2.14, 0-1)
21. New York Jets (nERD: -1.97, 1-0)
20. Buffalo Bills (nERD: -1.70, 1-0)
19. Kansas City Chiefs (nERD: -.79, 0-1)
Enough Things To Like
18. Chicago Bears (nERD: -.48, 0-1)
17. Minnesota Vikings (nERD: -.15, 1-0)
Before opponent adjustments, Minnesota had the highest Total NEP for any team in Week 1. Once we factor in the Vikings' opponent, the numbers are still really good. Minnesota finished the week sixth best on offense, and the best defense by Adjusted NEP. That’s not a bad way for Mike Zimmer to start his tenure as a head coach.
As a defensive coordinator, Zimmer was able to get the most out of just about any player the Cincinnati Bengals put on the field. He helped a second-round pick in Geno Atkins become a star, and an undrafted free agent linebacker in Vontaze Burfict become a Pro-Bowl player.
Some of that magic already started to show against St. Louis. Minnesota sacked the sad combination of Shaun Hill and Austin Davis five times. Two of those sacks came from defensive end Everson Griffen, who the Vikings had signed to a five-year, $42.5 million contract in the offseason. Griffen’s talent was never doubted, but he was never able to get significant playing time in his first four seasons and saw his sack total drop from eight in 2013 to 5.5 last season. He’s already more than a third of the way to last season’s total after just one game.
Adrian Peterson wasn’t very effective in the run game (3.6 yards per carry, -4.38 Rushing NEP), but that mattered less with the contributions of Cordarrelle Patterson. With Patterson performing so well in an “offensive weapon” role in the offense, Brian Schottenheimer was seen taking notes on the St. Louis sideline for how to use Tavon Austin. Coincidentally, those are the same notes Norv Turner took down watching the Seattle Seahawks use Percy Harvin on Thursday night. Patterson ran a jet sweep for a 67-yard touchdown, and his 8.03 Rushing NEP, which came on just three attempts, was the highest of any player in Week 1.
16. Tennessee Titans (nERD: .45, 1-0)
15. Pittsburgh Steelers (nERD: .75, 1-0)
14. Miami Dolphins (nERD: .83, 1-0)
Miami surprised a lot of the football world by defeating the Patriots 33-20 at home. The Dolphins exceeded expectations in just about every aspect of the game, except for the one that actually started with high expectations. Bill Lazor’s new offensive system was supposed to help quarterback Ryan Tannehill with quicker and smarter passes - types of throws Tannehill executed well in his first two seasons. On Tannehill’s 33 drop backs, he had a Passing NEP of -2.20, which put him between Joe Flacco and Tony Romo for the week. He only threw for 178 yards, but there were enough bright spots that, unlike Giants fans, Dolphins fans can be this could be a work in progress that might actually lead to some progress.
We can’t call the running game a complete turnaround success after just one game, but the Dolphins couldn’t even luck into a game this good on the ground last season. Their 191 rushing yards would have been a season high last year. Miami was one of eight teams in Week 1 to have a pass-to-run ratio below 1.0.
As a team, the Dolphins were fourth in Rushing NEP, a spot they got nowhere near last season. Some of that can be attributed to the new pieces on the offensive line, and some comes from free agent pickup Knowshon Moreno. Moreno had the highest Rushing NEP of the week for any player with at least five carries at 7.37. The next highest total for a back with at least 20 carries was Marshawn Lynch, who had 20 attempts and a Rushing NEP of 4.63. Moreno was an afterthought in free agency, and most expected him to be behind Lamar Miller on the depth chart throughout training camp. Through at least a week, he looks like a lead back with little competition.
The defense also played well against the Patriots, causing Tom Brady to have the worst Passing NEP of any quarterback in Week 1. The defensive line was able to penetrate the recently shifted New England offensive line. Miami sacked Brady four times, and Cameron Wake was able to force two fumbles, both recovered by the Dolphins. This was all without a few players due to injury or suspension. Dannell Ellerbe will be added to that list after he suffered a hip injury during the game and was placed on season-ending injured reserve.
13. San Diego Chargers (nERD: 1.16, 0-1)
12. Green Bay Packers (nERD: 1.37, 0-1)
11. Atlanta Falcons (nERD: 1.69, 1-0)
10. Arizona Cardinals (nERD: 2.94, 1-0)
9. Detroit Lions (nERD: 3.84, 1-0)
Before the season started, our metrics showed the Lions were better than their record showed in 2013. They made the suggestion look smart just four plays into their season. Admittedly, it’s easier to look good when all 11 defenders on the opposing team collectively decide to not cover Calvin Johnson.
The Giants got Matthew Stafford on the move on passing plays, but it seemed like the Lions were well prepared for Stafford to be moving around in the pocket. He had accurate throws on the run, leading to the highest Passing NEP in Week 1. And he even added in a rushing touchdown. Stafford has decreased his sack rate in every season since 2011, and a comfort with more accurate throws on the run could be a step in decreasing it again this season.
Stafford has always been a high-volume passer, accumulating large raw totals. He was incredibly efficient on Monday night, which could turn out to be the biggest piece of his development this season. He accumulated a 0.73 Passing NEP per drop back average, while the next highest total for the week was .53. Stafford also had the third highest Success Rate of passers during the week.
The defense finished ranked sixth defensively according to our numbers, but the sample we have should be taken with multiple handfuls of salt. The offensive unit they were playing looked like it could have struggled to advance the ball if only five defenders were on the field at a time.
8. New England Patriots (nERD: 4.13, 0-1)
7. Cincinnati Bengals (nERD: 4.31, 1-0)
6. Philadelphia Eagles (nERD: 4.36, 1-0)
5. Carolina Panthers (nERD: 5.25, 1-0)
4. San Francisco 49ers (nERD: 6.44, 1-0)
3. New Orleans Saints (nERD: 6.64, 0-1)
A League Of Their Own
2. Seattle Seahawks (nERD: 12.02, 1-0)
1. Denver Broncos (nERD: 12.08, 1-0)
The Broncos relaxed a little in the second half of their game against the Colts, but Indianapolis’ comeback shouldn't be the reason to worry. Peyton Manning had a typical Peyton Manning performance, going 22 of 36 for 269 yards, three touchdowns and the third highest Passing NEP of the week. Denver confirmed its position at the top of the AFC, but instead of rehashing how good the team is (spoiler: they’re ranked first on this list), let’s first go over a minor concern that could grow bigger as the season progresses.
We can probably safely assume the Broncos are going to have a lot of leads this season. A majority of those offensive drives with the lead will be spent running the ball to protect the lead because John Fox is still the head coach of this team. Indianapolis isn't known for having a strong defensive line, but Montee Ball was only able to amass 67 yards on 23 carries on Sunday night. That’s a 2.9 yards per carry average, which was reserved for a certain running back on the opposing team. Ball had the lowest Success Rate - percentage of plays with a positive impact on NEP - for backs who carried the ball at least 20 times. Of his 24 attempts, only eight were considered a success.
Switching back to the positives, Julius Thomas seemed to be the benefactor of Wes Welker's absence, especially in the red zone. Welker was a popular target last season as the Broncos got close to the goal line, and Manning looked to Thomas for touchdowns of three and five yards when they got into the territory Sunday night. That led to Thomas having the second highest Reception NEP of the week.