News & Analysis

2018 PFF NFL Power Rankings – Week 5

By Eric Eager and Ben Brown
Oct 3, 2018

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Dec 24, 2017; Nashville, TN, USA; Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff (16) drops back to pass during the second half against the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Some order in week 4, with both Los Angeles teams, New England, Kansas City, New Orleans, and Jacksonville holding serve as favorites.  However, we saw both Pennsylvania teams go down as slight favorites, and the Falcons fail to keep a fourth-quarter lead for the third time this season.  Alas, we’re on to week 5.

Like all ELO systems, PFF ELO 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 PFF ELO rating system measures the former using our unique offensive, defensive and special teams grades, while the latter is determined by the PFF ELO 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 PFF ELO rating and a similarly-small decrease in the defeated team’s. However, if an upset were to happen, the visiting team would see their PFF ELO rating rise substantially, and the home team’s see a similarly-sized drop.

Check back to profootballfocus.com for weekly college spread picks using this model (as well as other information) and check out PFF Greenline for our NFL version of the product.

[Note: for Week 5 we’ve adjusted the ratings slightly to incorporate the return of players like Aaron Rodgers to the Packers from injury, as well as the injury to Jimmy Garoppolo.  These adjustments will be rare but will reflect the output of other quantitative models we use as a part of Greenline – in which PFF ELO is just one.]

 2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 1

The Rams are currently 3.3/1 on MyBookie to win the Super Bowl – the odds-on favorite to come out of an NFC and an NFL that has been less than top heavy so far.  Jared Goff is the main reason why. The former first-overall pick from Cal is one of two players generating over 0.40 expected points per dropback this season.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 2

According to our simulations, the Chiefs have the highest projected win total moving forward, at just over 11 wins. Patrick Mahomes is the other quarterback generating the type of value per throw that Goff is, and he’s doing so having produced only two turnover-worthy plays all season through four weeks.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 3

This has a great deal of the prior mixed in, as the Eagles started the season as our number one team. They have faltered in two of the last three weeks, in many ways because they have had difficulty in coverage after losing Patrick Robinson in the offseason and Rodney McLeod to injury.  They get something of a break with the league’s 17th-most-difficult schedule moving forward, but they need to hit their stride this week against Minnesota.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 4

At 11/1 to win the Super Bowl, there’s some value in backing the Saints moving forward. Running back Alvin Kamara has been one of the league’s best players so far, not only is he generating almost three yards per carry after contact, but he’s also on pace for more than 1000 receiving yards after the catch this season. Roger Craig and Marshall Faulk are blushing.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 5

After spending last week as not the favorite to win the AFC East, the Patriots took care of business against the Dolphins to the tune of 38-7. This is usually the time of year in which the Patriots step up their game, and while their schedule has gone from the 32nd-toughest to start the year to merely 23rd, getting Julian Edelman back and the 10 days off after Thursday’s (home) game with Indy, the Patriots are still set up nicely to make yet another run.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 6

Oh hi, Ravens. This is a team that was low-key close to having a rebuilding year with a rookie quarterback (their coach was one of the options for the “first to be fired” future in many sports books). They are allowing the fourth-fewest expected points added on early down pass plays, and Jimmy Smith returns this week. Will they win their first division title since 2012?

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 7

They let the Jets back into the game a bit, but last Sunday had the 2017 Jags feel to it – get out ahead with a stifling defense and an offense that is good enough to get the job done. Despite this, they are not the favorite to win the AFC South (Tennessee is), and you can see why when you look at their upcoming schedule, which includes a date in Kansas City this week. Buckle up.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 8

In today’s NFL, a bye can often mean winning, and with the Bucs and the Falcons going down in week four, the picture in the NFC South became a bit clearer for the team from Charlotte – it’s New Orleans’ (with a 52 percent chance to win the division). That said, there’s a lot to like about the Panthers this week against the Giants. Christian McCaffrey (5.9 yards per carry and 7.0 yards after the catch per reception) should have an Alvin Kamara-like performance against New York, opening things up for Cam Newton and an improving passing game.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 9

This team is a few plays from 4-0 overall and 4-0 against the spread, but here we are. Admittedly, we were probably too high on their defense, even before they suffered cluster injuries to their secondary. Their offense has been brilliant since Week 1 though, with Matt Ryan generating over a quarter of an expected point each time he drops back to pass.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 10

The odds-on favorite in our model to win the NFC North, the Bears, are quite literally a few plays from 4-0 and have by far the easiest schedule in the Black and Blue Division the rest of the way. Mitchell Trubisky will always be a concern, as he has generated more negatively-graded plays on his dropbacks than positively-graded ones so far, but their defense has been the real deal, allowing only a 27 percent success rate on early-down runs (best in the league), while still surrendering only -0.14 EPA per early-down passing play.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 11

The Chargers present a big question. Are they simple slow starters, in which case 2-2 is a BIG improvement over their 0-4 hole a season ago? Or are they merely an average team that many (us included) overrated as a possible contender going into the year? Derwin James has been a terrific “fall into your lap” draft pick – generating nine total pressures (three sacks), eight stops and defending three of the 13 passes into his coverage, including an interception.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 12

The Packers took care of business against Buffalo, and are odds-on favorites to win the NFC North on MyBookie. However, we don’t quite have them that high, with a 21% chance to take the division back from the Vikings. It will really depend on how quickly Aaron Rodgers can become Aaron Rodgers, as he’s generated only a little bit more than 0.0 EPA per passing play and just over 23% of his passes have been positively graded. If these move into the upper tier of the league, the Packers could be dangerous.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 13

This, like with Philly and Atlanta, is as much prior distribution as anything. Their defense has allowed more than 0.10 expected points added per pass play, despite facing the likes of Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick in three of the first four weeks. Things will likely not get any better this week against a Falcons teams whose offense has lit the league on fire the last few weeks.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 14

Welp.  We got a lot of flack for curbing some of the enthusiasm over the Vikings win total coming into the year, but they are likely heading to 1-3-1 this week in Philadelphia, with Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford (twice) left on their schedule. Their defense has regressed substantially as well, allowing the second-most expected points added per early-down passing play so far this year. That will need to change in a hurry for them to win their second consecutive NFC North title for the first time since 2008 and 2009.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 15

The Titans knocked off the defending super bowl champions at home in Week 4 and now find themselves at 3-1. The Titans are one of the most perplexing teams this season. Are they for real after beating both the Jaguars and Eagles in consecutive weeks?  Our numbers would suggest so, as they are currently the favorites to win the AFC South at just under 49%. Schedule difficulty (second-easiest in the NFL moving forward) a big reason why.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 16

The Bengals won a wild game in Atlanta and find themselves at 3-1 atop the AFC North. Even though they have an early season win over the Ravens, they are still second in the AFC North division odds on MyBookie and also in our model. Right now, they have almost a 60% chance of making the playoffs. Andy Dalton has looked the part of an elite level quarterback through four games, posting an EPA per dropback of .19. He has over twice as many big-time throws as turnover-worthy throws and has received a positive grade on over 27% of dropbacks.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 17

The Seahawks escaped Arizona with a victory thanks to a 52-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski. With the injury to Earl Thomas, this team is in shambles and needs an MVP type season and then some from quarterback Russell Wilson. Through four games, he has been effective from a clean pocket but has been under pressure on 37% of his dropbacks. They have to give Wilson time in the pocket and fill the gaping hole left by Earl Thomas if they want to see their chance come into fruition.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 18

The Cowboys needed some late-game heroics from Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott to beat the Lions at home. Prescott has been less than impressive to start 2018, and while some of the blame can be attributed to his receivers, he still has the third lowest adjusted completion percentage among current starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Our model pegs their playoff chances at 32% with a 20% shot of winning the division.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 19

After a bye week, the Redskins return to face the Saints on the road. Through three games, Alex Smith has generated an EPA per dropback of .16, and he ranks second (behind Drew Brees) with the lowest percentage of turnover-worthy throws in the NFL. With the lowest amount of successful passes allowed on early down attempts, the Redskins have one of the best coverage units in football, but the real test comes this week against the Saints. With a tough remaining schedule, we have their current playoff chances at 47%  with a 30% chance of winning the NFC East division.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 20

After a 3-0 start, the Dolphins went into Foxborough and got decimated by the Patriots. Adam Gase’s decision making is baffling from an EPA standpoint. Gase has made a negative EPA play call on over 50% of second downs, and this has resulted in a league-low success rate of 30.6% on those second down plays. If Gase wants his team to make the playoffs, he needs to start by putting his players in a position to succeed. 

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 21

The Lions let a fourth-quarter comeback slip through their fingertips as the Cowboys hit a game-winning field goal as time expired. The Lions offense continues to perform well with Matthew Stafford posting a passer rating of 132.5 when targeting Golden Tate. Stafford has an adjusted completion percentage of 79.1 along with the ninth-highest percentage of big-time throws in the league. Matt Patricia’s defense is the cause of their early season struggles. Although they have contested a high percentage of throws, their pressure percentage is the fourth-lowest in the league. 

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 22

The Ryan FitzMagic ride is officially over with Jameis Winston called upon to relieve Fitzpatrick as he regressed to reality. Whichever quarterback is playing will need more help from this defensive unit. The pass defense has been especially bad, with the worst EPA allowed on early down pass attempts in the NFL and they have been decimated on yards after the catch, allowing the second-highest amount per attempt.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 23

The Broncos defense held Patrick Mahomes in check for the majority of the game, but when it mattered most, they could not come up with a stop to secure the victory. Week 4 was encouraging, but they do not look like a dominant defense in 2018. They have contested a little over 8% of pass attempts, which is tied for the third-lowest amount in the NFL. Case Keenum is not capable of winning games with a defense performing this poorly.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 24

He needed overtime to do it, but Jon Gruden finally secured his first win since returning to the sidelines. The Raiders offense has been quietly productive, posting a successful pass on almost 60% of early down attempts. However, defensively speaking, they haven’t even been close to encouraging. They have the lowest pressure percentage in the NFL by a wide margin, and they’re allowing the third-worst EPA on early down pass attempts among teams from the AFC. 

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 25

C.J. Beathard performed well in his first start filling in for the injured Jimmy Garoppolo. Over 23% of his throws were positively graded, and his decision making was superb, as neither of his two interceptions was the result of a poorly thrown pass. George Kittle has emerged in his second season, having the highest PFF grade among all tight ends through four weeks.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 26

Sam Darnold’s performance in Week 1 is now a distant memory after facing off against two of the best defenses in the NFL in subsequent weeks. Among current starting quarterbacks, Darnold has the lowest generated EPA per dropback, and he has over twice as many turnover-worthy throws compared to big-time throws. The Jets schedule loosens up in the coming weeks, which should give Darnold more opportunity to showcase the type of quarterback he can be.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 27

Andrew Luck of yesteryear returned to the Colts on Sunday and posted an 87.8 passing grade. Talk of his arm not being right have to be squashed after throwing 62 attempts and having an aDOT of 8.6. Their defense took a step back in Week 4 and will need to improve on early down pass attempts, where they have now allowed over 57% of dropbacks to be successful from an EPA standpoint.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 28

The Texans required extra time, but they finally overcame the Colts with a last-second field goal. Deshaun Watson had his best game in 2018 and now has an EPA per dropback of .15. With Will Fuller getting banged up, rookie Keke Coutee emerged opposite Deandre Hopkins. When healthy, this trio of wide receivers is one of the most dynamic in the league and fits in perfectly to Watson’s strengths. The Texans pass-rush inexplicably has the second-lowest pressure percentage to start 2018, and this has to change if the Texans are going to have any success in pass defense.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 29

The Browns lost to the Raiders in a game many felt that they should have won. Baker Mayfield continues to perform well and has now received a positive passing grade on over 36% of his attempts, which is the highest rate in the league through four weeks. Myles Garrett has transformed into a prototypical edge defender. He has 14 pressures, 17 run stops and has only missed one tackle in the first four weeks.  

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 30

The Giants stumbled to 1-3 after a lackluster offensive performance. Eli Manning has been adequate when kept clean but hasn’t generated any explosive plays on deep passes. Manning has checked down to his running backs on 26.5% of attempts. From an early down EPA standpoint, the Giants have generated the second-lowest amount in the NFL on pass plays. Thankfully their defense has been better than expected against the pass. If this continues, they should be able to be competitive in most matchups.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 31

The change to Josh Rosen at quarterback ushered in a new found hope for the Cardinals offense. Rosen performed well across a small sample size of snaps and logged a big-time throw on 10.3 percent of attempts. The passing defense has been atrocious though, allowing a successful pass on over 65% of early down attempts.

2018 Week 5 ELO Ranking: 32

The Bills offense was shut out at Green Bay this past Sunday, and with the way Josh Allen performed it probably won’t be the last time. Four games into the season, he has the third-worst passer rating on throws traveling 20-plus yards downfield and has attempted the second-highest percentage of throws at this distance. The fact that he is taking so many shots downfield and not connecting is leaving this offense in long yardage situations, and if he cannot connect deep, this offense will struggle to move the ball.

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