2021 1st Quarter Performance Ratings

With four weeks in the books I’ve now watched every snap of 64 games (yes, that’s all of them). The proliferation of “Power Rankings” has begun. Most people create these rankings using some combination of team records, statistical metrics, their own observations (from watching some of the games and Redzone), and analyst opinions. I do things a little differently.

Every team gets an offensive and defensive performance rating for each game. Winning football games essentially comes down to how well you can move the ball down the field and get in the endzone and how difficult you can make it for your opponent to do the same. Everything else is noise. The team’s performance rating aims to represent numerically how well they performed on offense and defense in that game.

These ratings are weighed against the relative strength of the opposing team based on their season-long performance on each side of the ball. This relative performance dictates what I call a team’s “Performance Rating” to date. I have not touched the numbers or made any adjustments. These rankings reflect how well each team has performed on the field through Week 4 of the season.

Of course, a four game sample size creates some strange results. These numbers can only reflect performance relative to each opponent’s other opponents. For example, the Steelers have the 14th ranked offense. This is obviously absurd. But their opponents have faced bad offenses in their other games: BUF (HOU, MIA, WAS), LV (BAL, MIA, LAC), CIN (MIN, CHI, JAC), and GB (NO, DET, SF). So all this tells you is that the Steelers have performed about average when put in the context of those other opponents. As more games are played, these kinds of outliers will normalize.

Strange results also occur when a team faces an opponent in significantly better or worse shape than in their other games. For example, when the Saints visited the Panthers, they were missing significant players on both sides of the ball due to injury and several coaches due to Covid. So the Panthers get a nice boost in relative performance for a strong game against the Saints at their worst. These outliers will also normalize.

With those caveats out the way, let’s get to the Performance Ratings. Next update will be after Week 9. Enjoy!

Q1 Performance Ratings

1. Dallas Cowboys

Offense: 3rd
Defense: 6th
Context: Played PHI and CAR after notable injuries.

2. Carolina Panthers

Offense: 5th
Defense: 5th
Context: Played NO when heavily injured/impacted by Covid.

3. Kansas City Chiefs

Offense: 1st
Defense: 32nd
Context: Played PHI after notable injuries.

4. Buffalo Bills

Offense: 16th
Defense: 1st
Context: Easily the highest pure performance (not adjusted for opponent).

5. Arizona Cardinals

Offense: 7th
Defense: 10th
Context: Outplayed every opponent to date.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

Offense: 12th
Defense: 4th
Context: No significant context.

7. Cleveland Browns

Offense: 18th
Defense: 2nd
Context: Played HOU with Taylor at QB but CHI in Fields’ first start.

8. Los Angeles Rams

Offense: 2nd
Defense: 22nd
Context: Played CHI with Andy Dalton.

9. Tampa Bay Bucs

Offense: 6th
Defense: 13th
Context: No significant context.

10. New Orleans Saints

Offense: 20th
Defense: 3rd
Context: Player availability has varied significantly week-to-week.

11. Baltimore Ravens

Offense: 11th
Defense: 9th
Context: Played DEN with significant injuries.

12. Denver Broncos

Offense: 17th
Defense: 7th
Context: Higher pure rating but weak schedule to date.

13. Minnesota Vikings

Offense: 10th
Defense: 12th
Context: Mediocre pure rating but tough schedule to date.

14. Green Bay Packers

Offense: 4th
Defense: 25th
Context: Played NO at full strength and PIT when relatively healthy.

15. Pittsburgh Steelers

Offense: 14th
Defense: 14th
Context: Opponents generally faced weak opposing offenses; defense has dealt with significant injury.

16. Tennessee Titans

Offense: 13th
Defense: 18th
Context: Played IND with a hobbled Wentz and o-line injuries.

17. San Francisco 49ers

Offense: 27th
Defense: 8th
Context: No significant context.

18. Houston Texans

Offense: 25th
Defense: 18th
Context: Opponents have generally faced a weak schedule.

19. New York Jets

Offense: 29th
Defense: 11th
Context: Played TEN without its starting WRs.

20. Cincinnati Bengals

Offense: 26th
Defense: 16th
Context: No significant context.

21. Seattle Seahawks

Offense: 8th
Defense: 29th
Context: No significant context.

22. Philadelphia Eagles

Offense: 15th
Defense: 24th
Context: Tough schedule to date.

23. New York Giants

Offense: 9th
Defense: 23rd
Context: No significant context.

24. Las Vegas Raiders

Offense: 23rd
Defense: 20th
Context: Opponents have played a very tough schedule so far, bringing this rating down.

25. New England Patriots

Offense: 22nd
Defense: 21st
Context: Played MIA with Tua (who performed better than Brissett).

26. Washington Football Team

Offense: 19th
Defense: 27th
Context: No significant context.

27. Chicago Bears

Offense: 31st
Defense: 15th
Context: Opponents have played fairly difficult opposing defenses.

28. Indianapolis Colts

Offense: 30th
Defense: 19th
Context: Has dealt with injuries all season.

29. Jacksonville Jaguars

Offense: 24th
Defense: 28th
Context: Opponents have been relatively healthy (HOU, DEN in particular).

30. Detroit Lions

Offense: 21st
Defense: 31st
Context: Played SF at full strength for most of the game.

31. Miami Dolphins

Offense: 28th
Defense: 26th
Context: Played majority of games with Brissett.

32. Atlanta Falcons

Offense: 32nd
Defense: 23rd
Context: Relative performance has improved in each game.

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