As usual, the opening weekend of the NFL season provided plenty of fodder for analysts to over-digest. Team A is not what it was last year, Team B is a completely different team altogether, etc. It seems inevitable that over-analysis leads to overreaction. In adjusting my own power ratings after Week 1 of any NFL season, I always make a mental note to NOT overreact. Keep my wits and let the first few games of the season dictate the direction. I truly believe we won’t get a true picture of any team’s strength until they play under different circumstances, face varying levels of competition and make adjustments to things that aren’t working. As such, you will see that the biggest power rating move for any team this week is 2.5 points. Let’s take a look at how all of my strength indicators line up after the first week of games.
Power Ratings: Buffalo is a clear No. 1
Despite turnover problems and some other bad-luck scenarios in the first half of their season-opening win at the Rams, it was evident that the Bills are the class of the league. Quarterback Josh Allen showed his MVP form, and the addition of Von Miller on the defensive side of the ball looks to be an incredible boost to the pass rush. The Chiefs bumped up as well after a huge offensive outburst at Arizona, but they are 1.5 points behind the top spot. The Bucs, Chargers and Vikings round out the top 5. The bottom spot is shared by the Jets and Texans, although Houston moved up after a Week 1 tie with the Colts, while the Jets slid down after a woeful effort against the Ravens.
Biggest upward movers
1. Buffalo Bills (+ 2 points)
I’ll admit the Bills’ recent series of bad playoff losses had me a little skittish about their chances to rule the NFL in 2022. However, the defense dominated the Rams, intercepting three passes and recording seven sacks. The offense showed playmaking ability all over the field and QB Josh Allen is a rightful frontrunner for the MVP award. I was also concerned about the loss of former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, but replacement Ken Dorsey proved very creative himself.
2. Kansas City Chiefs (+ 2 points)
This is another team that I was worried about after an ugly AFC title game defeat, which was followed by the loss of some key pieces on both sides of the ball. However, the Chiefs seemed to put those concerns to rest with a 44-point outburst at Arizona. However, their schedule is brutal over the next six or seven weeks, so I’m still going to proceed with caution, as the Cardinals have their own issues, not the least of which was losing five of their final six games last season.
3. Minnesota Vikings (+ 2 points)
Optimism reigns in Minneapolis this week after a rather easy 23-7 win over the rival Packers. New coach Kevin O’Connell seems to have turned around the Vikings’ chemistry early at the very least. That doesn’t even touch some of the creative things he has injected into the offense. Still, I’m finding it strange that this team is nearly a 3-point underdog at Philadelphia after the Eagles nearly gave away a huge lead to the Lions in their opener.
Biggest downward movers
1. Los Angeles Rams (-2.5 points)
The defending Super Bowl champions were outgained 413-243 in their season-opening 31-10 loss at home to the Bills, and if not for a few turnovers they benefited from, things could have been much worse. Quarterback Matthew Stafford looked shaky, not trusting anyone besides wide receiver Cooper Kupp, and the ground game struggled to get anything going. The defense, with Von Miller now playing for the opponent, looked like a shell of its February self. Again, it’s just one game, and 2.5 points is all I was willing to deduct for now.
2. Green Bay Packers (-2 points)
The concern for Green Bay heading into the 2022 season seemed to surround the departure of WR Davante Adams and how he would be replaced. Those concerns appear to be warranted after one ugly loss. Of course, the Packers didn't count on being without their two starting tackles either. I’ve dropped this team two points after that loss, but remember, they looked even worse in last year’s season opener and rebounded to a 13-4 season.
3. Dallas Cowboys (-2 points)
The Cowboys shared a lot of the same concerns as the Packers did heading into the season, primarily the loss of some key weapons and the status of their offensive line. Both concerns were validated on Sunday in the 19-3 loss to Tampa Bay as the Buccaneers dominated the game up front on both sides of the ball. Now Dallas has another concern, the thumb injury to QB Dak Prescott, which will keep him out at least a month. I will be giving the Cowboys a 5-point in-game strength rating deduction until his return.
4. Arizona Cardinals (-2 points)
Since opening the 2021 season at 7-0, the Cardinals are 4-8 in their last 12 games. Is the latter more of a validation of where they stand than the former? It’s too early to say for sure, but their 44-21 opening loss is a very real cause for concern. The schedule is quite difficult and a 2-6 or worse start to the season wouldn’t be shocking.
Effective Strength Ratings
The Bills maintain their top spot in the Effective Strength indicator, in fact, separating some after their impressive season-opening win at the Rams. Their ESR of 11.3 means that they would be an 11.3-point favorite over the average NFL team on a neutral field, according to my statistical model. The Buccaneers are No. 2 in this rating set, with a figure of 8.8. The Chiefs are third at 7.2. Interestingly, the Cowboys maintain the fourth spot at 4.6, but “effectively,” by subtracting 5 points due to the injury status of QB Dak Prescott, their rating would drop to -0.4, moving the Vikings and Broncos up to the Nos. 4 and 5 spots. At the bottom of this list, you’ll find the Falcons and Jets, both tied at -9.6. However, the Falcons got a bit of a boost from their near-upset of the Saints, while the Jets are already in free-fall mode after a bad loss to the Ravens.
The Bettors Ratings are a reflection of what the betting markets think about the NFL teams in 2022. My calculations for the opening of any season in this measurement are based on last year’s finishing position, any adjustments made to overall strength since the end of last season, plus any unusual futures markets differing from my projections. Speaking of which, I already see a plethora of unusual variations between the market ratings and actual lines for this week, which would cause some significant movement to the Bettors Ratings after next week’s games close out. The Bills are currently the highest-rated team in my Bettors’ Ratings, with a 0.9-point edge over the Chiefs (-9.5 to -8.5) and a 2.2-point edge over the Bucs (-9.5 to -7.3). Obviously, the more negative the better for this rating set. The Jets are the lowest-rated team in the BRs at + 6.2, 0.3 points worse than the Texans at + 5.9. To use these ratings appropriately, the Bills would currently be set up as a 15.7-point favorite over the Jets on a neutral field, with an approximate + 1.5/-1.5 variation on home fields.
The recent ratings, which designate the teams playing best in recent weeks, won’t be fully in effect until teams have played three games on average. For this week, they somewhat closely mirror the Effective Strength Ratings. For this week and next week, they will continue to be based on manual adjustments. The Bills are the team currently atop this rating, with the Bucs No. 2. Interestingly, the Giants' big week 1 win at Tennessee wasn’t yet enough to pull them from the bottom spot after their atrocious end to the 2021 season.
Schedule Strength Ratings
The Schedule Strength Ratings, currently reflecting the difficulty of each team’s 2022 schedule, have been altered after the opponents played Week 1 games. Thus the Rams take over the top spot following their loss to the Bills, the league’s top-1 ranked team in my power ratings. The Cardinals’ home loss to the Chiefs puts them at No. 2. The Commanders played the league’s official “easiest” game this past Sunday, hosting the Jaguars. That was a slightly easier task than the Ravens faced in winning at the Jets. The Titans face the toughest game in Week 2, having to travel to Buffalo, while the Browns host the Jets for the easiest matchup. Those games will greatly affect each of the teams’ rankings in schedule strength in the next update.