I discussed why I like the Football Outsider rankings of NFL teams and players here. Typically defenses and offenses are ranked by total yards (given up and gained, respectively). This is a really poor metric, as evidenced in part by the fact that Arizona is something like 3rd in the NFC in offense and 5th in defense by these traditional rankings. The better football outsiders team rankings are here.
A couple of observations
- Cincinnati #1 after five weeks. Wow! Both offense and defense in the top 6. I know it is early, but the Outsider's way of ranking teams tends to be more reliable than traditional statistical approaches. For example, last season after week 5 they had Philadelphia and New England ranked #1 and #2, and these two teams eventually met in the Super Bowl. Cincinnati has had a pretty easy schedule to date, which will get harder as the season continues
- San Diego is by far the best 2-3 team out there. They have had a brutal schedule, which gets better going forward. They still should be considered a good playoff bet.
- Washington is easily the worst 3-1 team out there. Expect them to start losing soon, particularly as their schedule remains tough.
- Philadelphia may continue to struggle. The rankings show that their 3-2 record is no fluke, and they have perhaps the toughest schedule left to play of any team in the NFL
- San Francisco and Houston are really, really bad. Historically bad. I had been hoping that Arizona had a chance in the Matt Leinart / Reggie Bush sweepstakes, but SF and Houston will be tough to beat.
- Chicago is working on the Baltimore Ravens award, with the #1 defense to date in the NFL and the third to last offense. Chicago has also been one of the least consistent teams (highest variance), but has one of the easiest schedules for the rest of the year, so still may have a chance if it can just to anything on offense.
- NY Giants and Indianapolis are solid #2 and #3, though you have to worry about the Giant's high special teams score pulling them up - these scores tend to regress to the mean over the season. Is there anyone who wouldn't love to see a Manning-Manning Superbowl?