Tonight’s game has already started, so I won’t belabor the preview. The Bengals are favored by about a touchdown, which seems right given the pedigrees and expectations for the two teams. That being said, the Browns have been fairly solid so far this year, albeit against a pretty easy schedule. The models all have the Bengals as the favorite, but by more like a field goal. Instead let’s take a look at the power rankings about halfway through the season.
Here they are:
If you’ve been following the rankings each week, this one looks kind of similar. The Broncos, Colts, Pats, Ravens, and Eagles are all still at the top (the Chargers dropped down after their big loss to the Dolphins). But the bad thing about straight rankings is that they lose information about exactly how far apart teams are. If you look at last week, there was the Broncos and then everyone else. Now, Denver is still on top but not really different from the Colts. In other words, we went from having a one horse race to more of an open field.
The middle, as usually happens, shuffled because the teams are fairly close together. The Dolphins made a big jump after beating San Diego, moving from 16th to 7th. The Steelers also made a solid move from 14th to 8th. Dallas and Houston, on the other hand, dropped off. And there was some movement at the bottom; Tampa is no longer the worst team not because they got any better, but because Jacksonville got worse.
While ‘fancy’ models like these are supposed to reveal hidden truths about the league, I feel like they actually match up pretty well with perception for the most part. While the Cardinals have the best record in the league and the Lions and Eagles would be tied with the Broncos for third, Luigi has the Eagles as the highest of those first three but in 5th (and that could drop if Sanchez has to play for an extended period of time). Detroit and Arizona are ranked as much more middling teams, which I thinks fits their general perception. The Saints are 9th as they start rounding into something like the shape people thought they would be in before the season started. Maybe the 49ers are Luigi’s ‘surprise’ team; despite being 4-4, leading to some people writing some ‘should we be worried’ articles, the model has them well towards the back of the league, at 22nd and in more of the Falcons/Giants neighborhood than the Packers/Seahawks neighborhood.
That all being said, it’s only the halfway point. Teams make runs in the NFL, and 8 or 9 games only provides so much data. So enjoy the rest of the battle of Ohio and we’ll see what the weekend has in store.