A more accurate NFL rating system

(Jeff Hanisch/USP)

For decades, NFL offenses and defenses have been ranked based on yardage. Adding just a couple more factors creates a more accurate picture of offensive and defensive success. Check it out.

QBR, take a back seat to this more accurate rating.

For the better part of the last year, ESPN has tried to force feed the football public with its own quarterback rating, which seemingly was produced simply to make it go on a scale from 0-100 rather than the archaic passer rating system currently in place and used by the NFL.

Unfortunately for the fantasy suits at Disney, all it has really accomplished is finding a system that in most cases mirrors the passer rating totals just with different numbers. If ESPN really wanted to spend some time on changing ranking systems, they should delve into ranking of offenses and defenses. Wait. Maybe we should do that. OK, we will.

As it currently stands, according to NFL stats, the two worst defenses in the league were Green Bay and New England. Yet, both teams were the top seeds in their respective conferences. Yardage clearly isn't the answer in defining the effectiveness of an offense or a defense. If a team is consistently behind by two touchdowns late in games, they will amass "garbage yards" that unrealistically inflate their offense as well as unrealistically penalize the opposing prevent defense that is willing to allow short gains that keep the clock rolling and preserve wins.

A more accurate reflection should be taking in three factors, not just yards gained or allowed. In realistic terms, there should be two other criteria measured. Seeing as games are decided by points scored, that should be factored in. Also, there are defenses that are known as "bend, don't break." They allow yards, but, once in the red zone, they stiffen up and turn potential touchdowns into field goals.

While not a perfect system, the numbers bear out that this is a much more accurate reflection of the true value of an offense or a defense. According to the "official" numbers, the Eagles were a top-eight team in both offense and defense. Reality said otherwise.

What follow are VU's reality rankings of NFL offenses and defenses. Each team is ranked in three categories – yards, points and red zone touchdown percentage. The first figure is where offenses and defenses were ranked for comparison purposes.

Don't take our word for it. If you know your football, compare these rankings with the NFL's official offensive and defensive rankings and judge for yourself which is a more accurate reflection of success and failure in the NFL.

OFFENSE

1. New England – 2-3-2 (7)
2. Green Bay – 3-1-3 (7)
3. New Orleans – 1-2-6 (9)
4. Detroit – 5-4-4 (13)
5. Carolina – 7-5½-7 (19½)
6. San Diego – 6-5½-10 (21½)
7. N.Y. Giants – 8-9-8 (25)
8. Philadelphia – 4-8-14 (26)
9. Atlanta – 10-7-13 (30)
10. N.Y. Jets – 25-13-1 (39)
11. Buffalo – 14-14-11 (39)
12. Oakland – 9-16-16 (41)
13. Tennessee – 17-21½-5 (43½)
14. Baltimore – 15-12-17 (44)
15. Dallas – 11-15-20 (46)
16. Minnesota – 19-19-9 (46)
17. Houston – 13-10-25 (48)
18. Pittsburgh – 12-21½-18 (51½)
19. Chicago – 24-17-12 (53)
20. Arizona – 19-24-15 (58)
21. Cincinnati – 20-18-26 (64)
22. Miami – 22-20-24 (66)
23. Tampa Bay – 21-27-19 (67)
24. San Francisco – 26-11-30 (67)
25. Denver – 23-25-23 (71)
26. Washington – 16-26-29 (71)
27. Seattle – 28-23-22 (73)
28. Jacksonville – 32-28½-21 (81½)
29. Indianapolis – 30- 28½-27 (85½)
30. Cleveland – 29-30-28 (87)
31. Kansas City – 27-31-32 (90)
32. St. Louis – 31-32-31 (94)

DEFENSE

1. Baltimore – 3-3-1 (7)
2. San Francisco – 4-2-4 (10)
3. Houston – 2-4-9 (15)
4. Pittsburgh – 1-1-17 (19)
5. Cleveland – 10-5-3 (18)
6. Miami – 15-6-6 (27)
7. Seattle – 9-7-11 (27)
8. Tennessee – 18½-8-10 (36½)
9. Arizona – 18½-17-2 (37½)
10. Chicago – 17-14-7 (38)
11. Atlanta – 12-18-8 (38)
12. Washington – 13-21-5 (39)
13. Jacksonville – 6-11-23 (40)
14. N.Y. Jets – 5-20-16 (41)
15. Cincinnati – 7-9-25 (41)
16. Kansas City – 11-12-18 (41)
17. Philadelphia – 8-10-30 (48)
18. Dallas – 14-16-19 (49)
19. Detroit – 23-23-12 (58)
20. Denver – 20-24-15 (59)
21. St. Louis – 22-26-13 (61)
22. New Orleans – 24-13-28 (65)
23. Minnesota – 21-31-14 (66)
24. San Diego – 16-22-29 (67)
25. New England – 31-15-21½ (67.5)
26. Green Bay – 32-19-20 (71)
27. N.Y. Giants – 27-25-21½ (73½)
28. Carolina – 28-27-27 (82)
29. Indianapolis – 25-28-31 (84)
30. Oakland – 29-29-26 (84)
31. Tampa Bay – 30-32-24 (86)
32. Buffalo – 26-30-32 (88)

By using simply yardage as its guide for ranking offenses and defenses, the NFL is doing itself a disservice. If Jacksonville actually had the sixth-best defense, it would have had seven wins instead of picking No. 7 in the draft. If the Jets actually had the fifth-ranked defense, they would have been in the playoffs. Neither team did, but the answers are found in our rankings.

Like everything else in the NFL, maybe this system should be co-opted by others. Why? It works and when something works in the NFL it gets copied. At the very least, it's better than ESPN's fancied-up quarterback rating.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.


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