Week 3 Power Rankings
Bigger than usual shakeup in the NFL so far this season, with a couple teams outperforming the rest
One of the most difficult balancing acts in the early season is weighing the power rankings I had leading into Week 1 with the evidence we’ve gathered so far this season. I know successful bettors who basically eliminate all priors (i.e. pre-season ratings) by Week 5, and others who decay them much more slowly over the season. Two weeks into this season, my testing shows that the overall power rankings should still be based more on priors than 2023 evidence, although to a lower degree than my intuition. Results matter, especially those from a new season with big shake-up across roster and among coaches. While we assume the fan bases of great teams from last year who have struggled so far can R-E-L-A-X, it’s as often not the case as so.
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WHAT WE’VE LEARNED IN 2023
First let’s look at the team offensive and defensive efficiencies so far in 2023, using my adjusted-score methodology to measure performance, and factoring in strength of schedule, which is mostly based on 2022 performances.
As you might expect in a smaller sample of two NFL weeks, the results have bit outliers in both directions. The Miami Dolphins are a large cut above in the NFL in offensive efficiency so far this season, while the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Browns are the same defensively. In my predictive power rankings, offense gets roughly 1.5x the weighting of defensive (visualized in the dashed lines), so the Dolphins are in the top tier with the Cowboys, despite being worse defensively relative to the Cowboys offensive performance.
Moving on the second tier, the surprise team of 2023 has to be the Los Angeles Rams, though at 1-1 they won’t attract as much attention as "“surprise” 2-0 teams that haven’t performed as well fundamentally. My pre-season rankings assumed that their offensive performance would bounce-back with Matthew Stafford returning, but didn’t see him mimicking 2021 form, which had him in the MVP conversation and took the team all the way to the Super Bowl. Stafford has been top-12 in EPA/play and top-6 in PFF grading so far, after facing one of the toughest defenses in the NFL last week.