2021 Week 8 Performance Ratings

Before I get into my Performance Ratings, I’m going to share some insight into my process. I talk a lot about trusting the process, and that’s easy to do because I know my process and believe in it. But it’s another thing to ask my followers to trust the process without explaining it. So I’m giving in. Here is how the sausage is made.

I watch every snap of every game. Every time a team gets the ball on a meaningful drive (ignoring drives clearly intended to get to halftime or garbage time drives after the game has been decided), I evaluate how successfully that team moves the ball. For most drives, the goal is to move the ball down the field and get in the end zone. There are a bunch of different ways to do this, obviously. Some are more repeatable than others. I grade drives as successful when a performance was convincing and repeatable.

Specifically, every drive gets a score from 1 to 10. I am not driven by stats, because all stats contain flaws. I treat each drive holistically, trying to incorporate all of the little things that happen that lead to success or failure. There is obviously a subjective element to this, but over time, and after doing this for over 400 games now, the skewing effect of errors gets smoothed out. It’s always difficult to account for every little detail but it gets easier the more I do it.

I focus on repeatable performance and give less weight to random or unpredictable events. So, for example, my system typically treats lost fumbles by running backs and receivers as random (as opposed to sack-fumbles, which typically result from pressure, carrying predictive value). So if a team is moving the ball at will but fumbles in opponent territory, I typically grade that drive highly even though it ended in a turnover. Similarly, if a team struggling to move the ball gets bailed out by a bad roughing-the-passer penalty, I typically don’t give the offense credit for that first down. I also ignore special teams in my official grades (although I do sometimes consider elements of special teams when evaluating matchups).

The average score for a team’s drives in a game gives them an offensive SharpClarke Rating for that game. The opposing team’s defensive SharpClarke Rating is simply the inverse of this number. A team’s Rating as compared to the opposing team’s average Rating allowed on that side of the ball gives the Adjusted Rating for that game. These numbers capture how effectively a team performed relative to the other teams their opponent has faced. These numbers form my Performance Ratings.

I build off this basic system in a variety of ways, and I’ll go into that more at a later date. But at its core, my process involves creating a numerical data point that reflects true performance in a game on each side of the ball with the goal of answering two questions: How effective was this offense? How effective was this defense? By answering those questions with a data point, I can then work to evaluate what elements are predictive and understand why a team may have outperformed or underperformed in a given game. I can also see the impact of different injuries.

These Performance Ratings do not include manual adjustments based on feel or narrative. They are simply the mathematical result of my process at work, unadjusted. If a number seems off, it’s because (for whatever reason) that team has not looked as impressive to me, averaging all of their performances, than it has to you. It could be that injuries suppressed performance, or they have faced an easier schedule (these ratings are fully adjusted for opponent), or their success (or lack thereof) is not sustainable.

Without further ado… here are the Ratings:

Q1 Performance Ratings

  1. Los Angeles Rams (+1.16)
  2. Dallas Cowboys (+1.10)
  3. Tampa Bay Bucs (+0.98)
  4. Buffalo Bills (+0.80)
  5. Arizona Cardinals (+0.76)
  6. Tennessee Titans (+0.45)
  7. Cleveland Browns (+0.43)
  8. Los Angeles Chargers (+0.41)
  9. Kansas City Chiefs (+0.39)
  10. Green Bay Packers (+0.30)
  11. New Orleans Saints (+0.28)
  12. Pittsburgh Steelers (+0.25)
  13. Minnesota Vikings (+0.19)
  14. Baltimore Ravens (+0.16)
  15. Carolina Panthers (+0.02)
  16. San Francisco 49ers (+0.02)
  17. New England Patriots (-0.01)
  18. Indianapolis Colts (-0.05)
  19. Las Vegas Raiders (-0.08)
  20. Seattle Seahawks (-0.09)
  21. Philadelphia Eagles (-0.30)
  22. New York Giants (-0.30)
  23. Cincinnati Bengals (-0.32)
  24. Denver Broncos (-0.40)
  25. Chicago Bears (-0.53)
  26. Washington Football Team (-0.53)
  27. Atlanta Falcons (-0.56)
  28. Miami Dolphins (-0.72)
  29. New York Jets (-0.78)
  30. Jacksonville Jaguars (-0.99)
  31. Detroit Lions (-1.00)
  32. Houston Texans (-1.01)

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