Below is the 12th installment of our weekly PFFELO rankings. Like all ELO systems, PFFELO is an iterative system that updates each team’s rating after each game based on two things: how well they played against their opponent and how well they were expected to play against their opponent. The PFFELO rating system measures the former using our unique offensive, defensive and special teams grades, while the latter is determined by the PFFELO ratings leading up to the game and where the game is played.
For example, a heavy favorite playing at home is expected to outplay the visitor, so a victory would result in only a small rise in their PFFELO rating and a similarly-small decrease in the defeated team’s, but if an upset were to happen, the visiting team would see their PFFELO rating rise substantially, and the home team’s see a similarly-sized drop.
Sometimes in football the best team does not win, and PFFELO accounts for these oddities by using our grades. Hence there will be teams rated higher or lower in this system than their win-loss record would suggest.
LAST WEEK: 1
This position gets solidified each week, as the Patriots are winning in more convincing fashion with each passing opponent. The New England defense, still near the bottom of the league in yards allowed per play and in our rating system, gave up exactly one touchdown for the fourth consecutive game against the Raiders, as cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Malcolm Butler allowed just 92 yards on 16 targets into their coverage (5.8 yards per), breaking up two passes in the process. After another stellar day below the border, Brandin Cooks is leading all receivers in yards produced on deep passes (431), more than 100 yards clear of the next best player.
LAST WEEK: 2
We could say the same thing about the Eagles that we just said about the Patriots. Despite a mistake-riddled first half that left them behind 9-7 at the break in Dallas, the Eagles were able to produce a multiple-score win on the road to basically clinch their division through 11 weeks. While it took some time, free-agent acquisition Alshon Jeffery has emerged as a bona fide No. 1 receiver for second-year quarterback Carson Wentz, scoring four touchdowns and averaging 2.70 yards per route run since Week 8 (10th among receivers). With seemingly endless options in the backfield and a top-6 defense in our rating system, the Eagles are going to be hard to slow down moving forward.
LAST WEEK: 3
It took a while, but our bullish stance on the Steelers is starting to pay off. They put together a fantastic game against the Titans last Thursday night by featuring their best player, Antonio Brown, who turned 12 targets into 144 yards and three touchdowns against Tennessee, helping Big Ben post his highest-graded outing of the 2017 season to date. While Le’Veon Bell struggled to get much going on the ground, he showed his value through the air, hauling in 9-of-11 targets and 63 yards after the catch. While their defense (sixth in the league in yards per play allowed) has withstood injuries to this point, it will be interesting to see how they do moving forward.
LAST WEEK: 5
The string of seven-consecutive covers by the Saints had to end at some point, but it’s a good question as to when their eight-game winning streak will end. New Orleans struggled to deal with the injuries to Marshon Lattimore (92.7) and Alex Okafor (84.7) Sunday at home against Washington, but were bailed out by the splendid play of running backs Alvin Kamara (85.2) and Mark Ingram (78.1). Kamara’s leading all backs in yards per carry (6.4) so far this season, while Ingram has the fourth-most yards after contact (501) through 11 weeks. They should be able to eat again this week against the Rams, as the Los Angeles defense has allowed the eighth-most yards per carry (4.5) to opposing offenses so far this season.
LAST WEEK: 8
The Falcons are finally starting to catch up to their metrics, as they possess the second-highest rated offense and the fourth-highest rated defense coming into this week. None of their starters on defense has a PFF player grade below 61.9, and 10 have grades above a 71.0. Second-year players Keanu Neal (86.4), Deion Jones (82.5) and De’Vondre Campbell (80.2) have built on the promise of their solid rookie campaigns. Neal is second among safeties is total stops (24), while Jones has five pressures and five total pass breakups (including an interception) to go with his 27 stops. Campbell has improved the most in the group (having earned a 46.2 grade a season ago), and is allowing just 0.79 yards per coverage snaps (seventh among 4-3 OLBs).
LAST WEEK: 6
The Panthers had last week off, and with an upcoming schedule including the Saints, Vikings and Falcons, they likely needed the rest. The Panthers started to use their weapons more effectively against the Dolphins two Mondays ago, and it will be interesting to see if they continue to leverage the talents they have in the backfield in Christian McCaffery and Cam Newton, and on the outside in Devin Funchess and Greg Olsen (returning from injury). If they can score enough points, they will be contenders in the NFC South, as their defense has been stout up the middle with Kawann Short (89.6), Luke Kuechly (90.5), Thomas Davis (84.7) and Mike Adams (81.5) all having good seasons.
LAST WEEK: 4
Are we seeing a full-on freefall for the Chiefs? You can’t really blame their porous defense (third-worst in the league by our metrics) for their loss to the Giants. The Chiefs offense turned it over three times and gained just 229 yards through the air against a defense mostly depleted and disinterested in preceding weeks. The 229 passing yards last week represented the fourth game in the last five where the Chiefs failed to put up more than 260 through the air, and during that time Alex Smith has been just 12th in the league in yards per attempt (7.33), 11th in adjusted completion percentage (74.1), 23rd in passer rating when pressured (48.6) and 28th in passer rating when using play action (60.2). With a defense like Kansas City’s, the Chiefs need Smith to be at his absolute best, and they haven’t gotten that since their 5-0 start.
LAST WEEK: 11
What an impressive game by the Vikings last week at home against a hot Rams team. Despite giving up a long opening drive and a bunch of garbage yards at the end, the Vikings defense surrendered just 254 total yards to Los Angeles in a 24-7 win. The second-highest rated defense by our metrics has allowed just the third-most yards per play (4.7) to opponents through 11 weeks, boasting a starting unit with 10 players with PFF player grades over 75.7. Safety Harrison Smith has become the class of his position, surrendering 0.25 yards per coverage snap and generating a 28.8 pass-rushing productivity, both top-10 among his position group. The 17.9 passer rating he’s allowed in his coverage is the lowest among safeties that have played more than 400 snaps this season.
LAST WEEK: 7
As impressive as last week’s game as US Bank Stadium was for the home team, the Rams were humbled a bit by failing what was their first big test in more than a month. Quarterback Jared Goff struggled on his 16 dropbacks with pressure, completing just 5-of-13 passes for 3.1 yards per pass and a 47.0 rating (rating that is hard to accomplish without throwing an interception). Against the blitz he fared a bit worse (a 46.5 rating), showing that the code to their upstart offense can indeed be cracked. Things stay difficult this week against the Saints and their potent offense. If Alec Ogletree (37.0) plays more like his PFF grade than his reputation, and former safety Mark Barron’s size (214 lbs) continues to make him more of a coverage backer (83.8 grade) than a sufficient run stuffer (46.7), then the Rams are likely going to be playing from behind, further testing Goff and the offense.
LAST WEEK: 9
Despite injuries and disappointing home losses, this rating system has continued to stick with the Seahawks. Most of the reason for this has been the play of Russell Wilson, who, despite having most of the team’s weight on his shoulders, has had a fantastic year (he’s fourth among quarterbacks with an 86.4). Wilson’s success is despite having an offensive line that is third-worst in the league in pass blocking grades and fifth-worst in run blocking grades. He and his quartet of receivers, Doug Baldwin (87.1), Paul Richardson (79.9), Tyler Lockett (76.9) and Jimmy Graham (74.5), will keep them in every game moving forward, likely pushing the Rams for the NFC West crown until the very end.