NFL Strength Ratings: Who's on the move after Week 3?

September 28, 2022 04:19 PM

Through three weeks, the 2022 NFL season has already had plenty of twists and turns. Almost every team has demonstrated some Jekyll and Hyde traits, and as a result, just two winless and two undefeated teams remain. 

The two 3-0 teams have matched up in a Super Bowl (of sorts) before — in the hit movie “Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” when the return of QB Dan Marino and Snowflake the dolphin provided the decisive edge for Miami. 

You might have seen the stat going around over the weekend about 0-3 teams making the playoffs only 3% of the time. That certainly doesn’t bode well for the Raiders, who are not only three games below .500 but also playing in what was thought to be the toughest division in football (though all four teams in the AFC West have underachieved to this point). The other winless team is the 0-2-1 Texans.

Let’s take a look at how the Week 3 action impacted my Strength Ratings as we head into an intriguing Week 4 slate, with one particular game matching the Nos. 2 and 3 teams in my current Power Ratings.

Power Ratings

The Bills lost a tough one in Miami on Sunday despite gaining over 400 yards of offense and controlling over 40 minutes of time of possession. It’s difficult to deduct much from a team that put up those numbers against an undefeated opponent on the road. Still, a loss is a loss, and it could prove to be a key loss. I only took a half point away from Buffalo after the setback and the Bills remain No. 1 in my Power Ratings. With a PR of 32.5, Sean McDermott’s team has a 1.5-point edge over the No. 2 Chiefs, who lost last week in Indianapolis. I left Kansas City’s Power Rating alone as the Chiefs also should have won Sunday, outgaining the Colts 315-259. Tampa Bay remains No. 3 after a close loss to Green Bay, as the Bucs were dealing with a number of injuries and suspensions. When healthy, Tampa Bay is a strong team and the Bucs hope to be in much better shape for their Sunday night showdown with the Chiefs. At the bottom of the list are the Texans (No. 31) and Seahawks (No. 32). 

Biggest upward movers after Week 3:

1. Jacksonville (+ 3.5 points): Wow, what a difference two weeks can make. After opening the season with a loss at Washington, most analysts were screaming “same old Jaguars,” but the team has responded with two blowout wins, outscoring the Colts and Chargers by a combined 62-10. They have climbed up into AFC respectability and are now receiving some love for their chances to win the AFC South.

T2. Carolina (+ 1.5 points): The Panthers were arguably the least deserving 0-2 team after two weeks, having lost their first two games by a total of five points. Carolina righted the ship Sunday with a win over the division rival Saints as home underdogs. The Panthers aren’t doing anything great, and QB Baker Mayfield is last in the NFL in QBR, but coach Matt Rhule does have them competing.

T2. Indianapolis (+ 1.5 points): Having a chance to get to 2-1-1 this week with a win over the Titans sounds a lot better than being winless entering Week 4. That is the magnitude of the Colts’ victory as a relatively large home dog against the Chiefs. In truth, this team wasn’t as bad as its start, but it’s also not as good as everyone is trying to claim right now. They are somewhere in between and won’t rise a whole lot higher until they get better play from QB Matt Ryan, who has been a disappointment so far.

T2. Philadelphia (+ 1.5 points): How good is Philadelphia at this point? The Eagles are one of two remaining unbeatens and have been dynamic on offense in all three games. The defense has dominated in each of the last two weeks. However, they might not be as good as many analysts are proclaiming, with some saying they’ll be favored in all of their remaining games. With an Effective Strength Rating ranking of No. 3 right now, there’s still room for this team to get better. Be careful getting too invested.

Biggest downward movers:

1. L.A. Chargers (-3 points): The Chargers would love to go back to the third quarter of the Chiefs game in Week 2, when QB Justin Herbert threw a pick-six deep in enemy territory. They seemed poised to go up double digits in that game and secure a key divisional win. Since then, Brandon Staley’s team has imploded and has to be questioning itself. After a 38-10 home loss to Jacksonville on Sunday, this week’s game at Houston is gut-check time.

2. Arizona (-2 points): Anyone questioning why Arizona is struggling simply needs to go back about 11 months. Since starting the 2021 season 7-0, the Cardinals are just 5-9 in their last 14 games (including a playoff loss). Their 1-2 start this season is indeed a carryover. In fact, with as bad as they have looked in 2022, I would say this 5-9 slide is closer to the new normal.

3. New Orleans (-1.5 points): After watching the Saints’ putrid effort at Carolina on Sunday, a couple of things became quite obvious. First, this team misses former QB and now TE Taysom Hill. He brings an element that is tough to prepare for. Second, QB Jameis Winston is hurting and can’t sling the ball around confidently as we have seen in the past from him. The whole offense looks to be affected. Ignore the respectable yardage totals; New Orleans has gotten a lot of its production in desperation mode late in games.

Effective Strength Ratings

Buffalo maintains the top spot in the Effective Strength Ratings despite the loss. In fact, it keeps its 3.1-point cushion over the No. 2 team. Who is that second-ranked team? None other than the Jaguars, who have exploded with back-to-back blowout wins. With an ESR of 15.7, Jacksonville has flown by No. 3 Philadelphia (11.5) and No. 4 Miami (10.5). Tampa Bay locks down the No. 5 spot, just 0.1 points behind the Dolphins. Keep an eye on the Bengals and the two Los Angeles teams as being potentially overrated at this point, with statistical measures failing to live up to perception. At the bottom of this list is Tennessee at -9.7. To put that in perspective, using the ESR as a barometer, the Bills would be 28.5-point favorites over the Titans on a neutral field. Seattle is 31st at -9.5, while the Jets are 30th at -7.7. Note the statistical strength of the Falcons and Bears, two teams that might be better than people are giving them credit for. This is the first week in which the Effective Strength Ratings are based entirely on 2022 game data. 

Bettors Ratings

The Bettors Ratings are a reflection of what the betting markets think. This week’s ratings are also fully based on 2022 performance. Buffalo again sits on top of the BR at -8.1 (negative numbers are better), meaning the Bills would be laying 8.1 points to the average NFL team on a neutral field. They are currently rated 1.1 points better than the Chiefs and 2.7 points ahead of the Buccaneers. Minnesota and Cincinnati are rated Nos. 4 and 5, although their true worth remains in question after three weeks. The betting market’s least favorite team right now is Houston, with a BR of + 7.6. Essentially, bettors believe the Texans are 15.7 points worse than the Bills. No. 31 Seattle is 1.4 points better than Houston, and No. 30 Atlanta is 0.8 points ahead of Seattle. Keep an eye on Baltimore, Dallas, and Jacksonville, three teams the betting markets find definitively worse than my Power Ratings.

Recent Ratings

The Recent Ratings currently reflect the first three games of the season, so they are essentially mirroring the Effective Strength Ratings at this point. They will start to show some variation after Week 4.

Schedule Strength Ratings

The Schedule Strength Ratings, which reflect the difficulty of each team’s schedule for games already played, shows undefeated Miami as the team that has faced the most difficult three-game slate to open the season. This is very encouraging for Dolphins backers, as they have survived three relatively tough tests to get to 3-0. The challenging start continues on Thursday with a trip to Cincinnati. Other teams that have faced tough early season schedules include the Cardinals, Buccaneers and Bills. The easiest slate so far has belonged to the Browns, who are 2-1. I wouldn’t be too excited at this point if I was a Cleveland fan, as the combined record of the Browns’ first three opponents is just 3-6. Along those same lines, Denver has looked woeful against a bad schedule, while No. 29 San Francisco and No. 30 Cincinnati have won just once against some of the lighter competition in the league.

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