NFL Strength Ratings update: Packers in free fall

November 8, 2022 02:30 PM
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In each of the last three NFL seasons, Green Bay won 13 regular-season games, with quarterback Aaron Rodgers winning back-to-back MVP awards. The 2022 Packers — and Rodgers — are virtually unrecognizable when compared to their predecessors. Although many experts did forewarn about the impact the loss of wide receiver Davante Adams would have on the team, many others did not, insisting Rodgers would keep the ship going in the right direction. 

After an embarrassing 15-9 loss at Detroit, the third time this season the Green Bay offense was held to 10 points or fewer, it can be confirmed that those predicting a doomsday scenario for the Pack were right. And unlike a recent season when Rodgers famously proclaimed that everyone just R-E-L-A-X, this time it feels like everyone should indeed P-A-N-I-C. The offense is not clicking and the injury bug engulfed coach Matt LaFleur’s team on Sunday, leaving little reason to believe the Packers are capable of bouncing back, especially with a home game versus red-hot Dallas on Sunday. 

Green Bay’s loss in Detroit was just one of several interesting results from Week 9. Top-rated Buffalo lost at the Jets and is also now in potential panic mode after it was revealed that quarterback Josh Allen may have an injured UCL in his right elbow. Second-rated Kansas City also nearly lost, winning on an overtime field goal versus the heavy underdog Titans. Elsewhere, Tampa Bay may have saved its season with a last-minute TD drive to beat the Rams, while in Jacksonville, the underachieving Raiders blew another big lead and fell to 2-6. 

It's been an incredibly interesting season so far, particularly in the upside-down NFC. Let’s take a look at how all of last week’s results affected my NFL strength ratings heading into Week 10. 

Power Ratings: No. 1 Buffalo takes a hit and suddenly has issues

Sunday’s Bills-Jets matchup was a hot topic on Brent Musburger’s “Countdown to Kickoff” show, with Brent, Johnny Avello of DraftKings and I dissecting the game. Avello discussed all the public money on the Bills, I offered up my pre-bye-week betting system showing the Jets in the envious scenario of facing a divisional opponent before their bye week (now 6-0 ATS in ’22), and Brent insisting it was just a lot of points for the Bills to be laying. I’m not sure any of us were confident enough to think the Jets would pull the upset, but apparently they were, eventually earning a huge 20-17 come-from-behind win. Since then, news leaked of a potential elbow injury for Bills QB Josh Allen, an MVP front-runner. Things can go from great to concerning just like that in this league. As it is, the Bills still maintain the top spot in my Power Ratings, but I did have to drop them a point after the loss. Kansas City maintains the No. 2 spot but dropped a half-point after a suspect effort against Tennessee, surviving as a two-touchdown favorite with an overtime win, another underdog pick that Brent, Johnny and I saw coming on Countdown. Philadelphia, Dallas and Baltimore hold their spots in the top 5, while Houston is comfortably at the bottom with a PR of 16.5, a full 17 points worse than the Bills. 

Biggest upward movers after Week 9

1. Tennessee Titans (+1 point)

This is the second straight week in which one of the biggest upward movers in my Power Ratings lost its game. However, the Titans' effort in Kansas City was a gritty one, and if quarterback Ryan Tannehill had played, they probably would have pulled the upset. The running game was dominant behind running back Derrick Henry as coach Mike Vrabel’s team earned its sixth straight point-spread win. Even with the loss, Tennessee is in fantastic shape in the AFC South.

2. New York Jets (+1 point)

For as big as the Jets' win was on Sunday, an outright upset as a 10.5-point underdog would typically mean more than a 1-point PR jump for me. However, I still have concerns here, and they stem 100% from quarterback Zach Wilson and the offense’s inability to produce a consistent passing attack. After gaining just 136 yards through the air, I’m still very conservative in projecting this team’s ceiling. It was the third time this season in which the Jets averaged fewer than 5.5 yards per pass attempt. Still, they have made huge strides and have a PR of 24, No. 13 in the NFL.

3. Miami Dolphins (+1 point)

The Dolphins have reason to think bigger than the Jets because their passing attack has been downright lethal. In running its record to 6-3 with a 35-32 win at Chicago, Miami scored 30+ points for a second straight game and put up 302 yards through the air, averaging 14.4 yards per attempt. The Dolphins have a big-play offense that can match up with anyone, and their yards-per-play equivalent PR is third in the league. The market has not shown a whole lot of respect yet either. That is usually a really good find.

Biggest downward movers 

1. Green Bay Packers (-2 points)

I already discussed the Green Bay struggles, but to show how much this team has fallen, the Packers are listed as 5-point home underdogs to the Cowboys on Sunday. At the start of the season, that line was at least flipped. This is the first time in the season that the betting public has officially abandoned the former NFC power.

2. Arizona Cardinals (-1 points)

Arizona and its lack of home-field advantage was another subject I discussed with Brent and Johnny on Sunday’s CTK. The Cardinals have had one of the worst true home-field advantage ratings in the league, according to my study last week. Predictably, they struggled against a rising Seahawks team and never really threatened to win the game. The defense allowed 421 yards to the ever-improving Seahawks offense.

3. Atlanta Falcons (-1 points)

If the Falcons are to maintain thoughts of winning the NFC South, they are going to have to avoid home losses like the one they suffered this past week at the hands of the underachieving Chargers. Atlanta played reasonably well, running for more than 200 yards, but a couple of fumbles cost them. This is another team that is hard to take too seriously because it doesn’t have a consistent passing attack.

Effective Strength Ratings

The Effective Strength Ratings are important in that they show how strong a team is statistically, as Power Ratings and Bettors Ratings don’t often accurately depict that. Buffalo maintains its top spot in the Effective Strength indicator even after its loss, and in fact, the Bills keep a pretty significant separation between themselves and the rest of the league. Their ESR of 13.2 is 3.7 points better than anyone else. Second on the list is Philadelphia at 9.5, while Kansas City has slipped into a tie for third with Dallas at 7.0. On the move upward after big wins are the Ravens, Bengals, Jets and Patriots, who make up the rest of the top 25%. At the bottom of this list, you’ll find Pittsburgh, at -6.7, although the Steelers did bump up a half-point without even playing last week, thanks to several of their earlier opponents playing well in Week 9. Currently, on a neutral field, using the ESRs as a barometer, the Bills would be expected to be a 19.9-point favorite over the Steelers. Houston is next to the bottom at -6.4, while the Colts have become the latest NFL disaster, slipping all the way to 30th after their loss to the Patriots. They have also fired their head coach. In terms of teams playing better statistically than their Power Ratings indicate after Week 9, the Falcons and Jets each rank at least six places better on ESR than they do on PR. The Chargers are the most “overrated” team on the other end of that argument, showing a PR ranking five spots higher than their ESR. Two teams to keep an eye on trending upward in the Effective Yards Per Play PRs are San Francisco and Miami. They rank No. 2 and 3, respectively. Surprisingly, Denver and New Orleans rank in the top 10 in this area as well and perhaps are closer to success than most people are giving them credit for. 

Bettors Ratings

As a reminder, the Bettors Ratings are a reflection of what the betting markets think about the teams. My calculations take into account the closing lines teams have played to in recent weeks, the power ratings of the opponents they have played, as well as any home/road, injury or other situational adjustments. Buffalo is the highest-rated team in my Bettors Ratings at -10.1, meaning the Bills are viewed as more than 10 points better than the average NFL team on a neutral field. Kansas City finally climbs to the No. 2 spot at -7 as bettors finally lightened up on their delusional support of Tampa Bay, which fell to No. 4. Philadelphia is third at -6.2. The Panthers are the lowest-rated team in the BRs at +6.8, 0.4 points worse than the Texans at +6.4. Continue to support Seattle as a team that the betting markets aren’t respecting as much as I am in my Power Ratings, as the Seahawks rank 14 spots higher in my PRs than in the markets. On the opposite side, there are three teams whose BRs rank at least 10 spots higher than their actual strength ratings: the Bucs, Chargers and Packers. In fact, according to the BR calculations, the market believes Green Bay should be in excess of a 2-point home favorite over the Cowboys this week. Insane. 

Recent Ratings

The Recent Ratings now show Seattle (11.7) in the lead, not surprisingly considering the Seahawks have won four straight games SU and ATS, including three via upset. Philadelphia is No. 2 with a RR of 9.7 and remains the league’s only unbeaten team. Up next for the Eagles is a Monday night game against Washington. Beyond that, you’ll see Kansas City, Dallas and Baltimore rounding out the top 5 for recent play. On the opposite end, note that the Texans have fallen to their customary spot at the bottom of the recent list. Indianapolis sits at No. 31, while Tampa Bay, despite its come-from-behind win on Sunday, occupies the No. 30 spot. 

Schedule Strength Ratings

The Schedule Strength Ratings, reflecting the difficulty of each team’s 2022 schedule to date, shows Pittsburgh as the team that has faced the most difficult slate, and by a wide margin. In fact, the Steelers have faced an average opponent more than 2.0 points tougher each week than the next toughest schedule. That team next up is the Jets, who come off the huge upset of Buffalo. Detroit has played the next toughest schedule, followed by Miami and Arizona. Undefeated Philadelphia has officially played the weakest schedule in the NFL, with an average opponent PR of 21.04. That would be equivalent to playing a team like Washington or Indianapolis each week on a neutral field. Dallas, Seattle, Minnesota and Denver round out the top 5 for ease of schedule so far.

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