One of the best tools around for examining how various NFL teams are performing relative to each other is FiveThirtyEight.com’s NFL Predictions project. Though it’s not a “power ranking” per se, it’s one of the websites that I use in the weekly power rankings roundup due to 538’s ELO Ratings.
ELO Ratings are a metric that factors in the score of each game as well as the quality of the opponent and how expected or unexpected the result was. From there, 538 simulates 100,000 completed seasons and uses the results to predict each team’s final Win/Loss total and % chance to make the playoffs, win their division, get a 1st round Bye, and to win the Super Bowl. For more detailed information on the methodology, check out their website.
As you can probably imagine, the Broncos have enjoyed an extended period of maintaining a well above average ELO Rating over the past five years or so. The Peyton Manning era in Denver, and its overlap with the historic No Fly Zone secondary and now the Ground Control run defense, have combined to keep the Broncos among the premier teams in the NFL.
That, of course, appears to now be in the past... at least for the moment. The Broncos’ offensive collapse, and the string of losses that has resulted, have dragged the Broncos’ ELO Rating back down to league average. And if the trend continues, the team may very well end the season well below average for the first time since 2011.
The result? After peaking at 10-6 after the Week 2 blowout of the Dallas Cowboys, the Broncos’ predicted final record for the season is now 6.5-9.5, which might as well be stated as 6-10. Similarly, the team’s prospects in regard to the 2017 postseason are predictably rather grim. At this point the team’s chances of winning the Super Bowl, getting a 1st round Bye, or even just winning the division are all about 2% or less. 538 calculates that the Broncos still have a 12% chance to make the playoffs, but I think we’d all agree that that’s probably a bit optimistic.
That said, the Broncos are still stocked with considerable talent. They could quickly climb back up the ELO Rating chart in 2018 if John Elway and the front office can find a solution in a few critical spots: most notably quarterback, as well as right tackle, left guard, and perhaps inside linebacker.
Within the Division
How do the Broncos fare within the AFC West? No one should be surprised that the Chiefs are far ahead of the rest of the division, even after a short string of losses of their own. The Chargers started low and are finally beginning to trend up a bit. And the Raiders are slowly recovering after Derek Carr’s back injury sent them into a tailspin in the second quarter of their season. After being passed by the Raiders after last weekend’s games, the Broncos are still rated more highly than the Chargers. But their lead over Los Angeles isn’t large and further losses could cause them to lose it quickly.
The ELO Ratings project is a really neat tool for tracking teams’ relative strength, and includes ratings going back to 1920. And it doesn’t only include the current 32 NFL teams, but many defunct teams as well. You know, just in case you have a burning desire to learn about the relative strength of the Dayton Triangles for some reason.
You can also compare two teams’ historic ELO ratings, and get an idea of how they’ve fared relative to each other over the long term. Unfortunately you can’t do that for more than two teams at once, so I couldn’t include a 57 year chart for the entire AFC West. But I’d highly encourage you to check it out yourself sometime, as well as the other neat features.
What do you think of 538’s ELO Ratings? Are they pretty spot on in your opinion, or are they complete bunk?
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