2017 NFL Power Rankings: Divisional Round Edition
The regular season may be over but our model is still churning out the NFL power rankings.
Seven of the teams in the top 10 are still vying for the Lombardi Trophy, as are the Tennessee Titans (21st overall), while the 7th-ranked Rams and 9th-ranked Panthers saw their seasons end over the weekend, while the 5th-ranked Chargers missed the playoffs altogether.
As they did at the end of the regular season, Philadelphia takes up residence in the top spot, but for the first time since Week 5, the Jaguars aren't in the top two. Despite their win over the Bills, Jacksonville dropped to third, while the idle Minnesota Vikings took their place.
Here is how the playoff field breaks down, followed by a few more notes about the rankings.
|Rank||Team||nERD||Rec||SB||Off. NEP Rank||Def. NEP Rank||Change|
|4||New Orleans Saints||7.90||12-5||11.8%||2||13||0|
|8||New England Patriots||5.16||13-3||25.3%||1||28||0|
-- While the Jaguars moved on to the Divisional Round last Sunday, it was hardly a convincing victory. Jacksonville did hold Buffalo to 3.6 yards per play but only averaged 3.9 themselves and were out-gained 263-230 (the Bills sustained drives, going 7-for-18 on third downs while the Jaguars were just 2-for-12). Both teams had matching 35.0% offensive Success Rates, but Buffalo came into the game ranked just 29th in our rankings, explaining why Jacksonville took a fall.
-- Score one for the randomness of a small sample: On Saturday night, the Rams outplayed Atlanta on both sides of the ball, gaining 5.6 yards per play (compared to the Falcons' 4.5) and had the edge in offensive Net Expected Points, also known as NEP (4.45 to 2.91). Los Angeles also came into the game ranked 1st in special teams NEP while the Falcons were 14th. Armed only with this information, you would be forgiven for assuming the game ended in a comfortable Los Angeles victory, but you'd still be wrong. The game swung on special teams blunders from the Rams (who lost two fumbles on returns), which undid their advantage on offense and defense.
-- It was just like old times in New Orleans Sunday -- the Saints defense (allowing 0.17 NEP per play) and running game (1.9 yards per carry, -0.23 Rushing NEP per carry) struggled, but Drew Brees bailed them out. The veteran quarterback netted 369 passing yards on 34 drop backs, with his 21.89 Passing NEP, 0.64 Passing NEP per drop back and 64.71% Passing Success Rate were all the best marks of the weekend by a wide margin.
-- The Eagles still top the league in terms of nERD, but their rating has been slipping since the injury to Carson Wentz. That number was all the way up to 12.32 after a Week 14 win against the Rams, but it's since dropped to its current level of 9.57 -- only the Houston Texans have seen a bigger drop over this span. Even if we exclude the team's Week 17 game in which they had nothing to play for, Philadelphia's nERD rating would be 11.00, which would've been the league's eighth biggest drop.
As you might expect, this decline has been most pronounced on offense, which can be seen in the below table that details how their Success Rates have changed during these periods of time.
|Eagles||Success Rate||Passing Success Rate||Rushing Success Rate||Success Rate Against||Net SR|
|Weeks 1 to 14||44.90%||48.00%||40.00%||41.80%||+3.10%|
|Weeks 15 to 17||37.37%||38.79%||34.38%||39.65%||-2.28%|
|Weeks 15 & 16||37.50%||37.97%||34.78%||42.41%||-4.91%|
While they have the benefit of being the NFC's top seed and are playing at home this weekend, they'll have their work cut out for them against the Falcons.