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Sep 14

NFL 2016 TABRankings

Like with just about every football publication, we like to do weekly rankings to track the progress of each of the 32 NFL teams. This allows us to create a points system for our weekly NFL Pick’em competition. This allows us to see the “power” of each match-up in the NFL season. In order to do that, we need a rankings system that includes key statistics in various areas of the game. That’s where the TABRankings come into play. Here, we can see which teams are truly the best and which teams are truly the worst.

For those who are new to the TABRankings, this is a system created long ago (and continue to tweak on almost a yearly basis) to look at the quality of play by a team. This is expected to go beyond each team’s overall record, although the standings matter a whole lot to the rankings formula. Other key factors, including outcome-based stats and efficiency stats, play a role in the formula as well. These rankings will then be used to help categorize (and even predict) games for the weekly Pick’em competition. Here’s our formula:

The TABRankings formula:
(Win Pct x 2)+(Pyth Pct)+(Div Pct x 0.5)+(Qual Pct x 0.5)+(3rd/4th Down Diff x 0.1n)+(TO Margin x 4)-(FK Diff x 0.8)+(Sack Diff x 0.8)+(Time Ahead Avg x 1.25)+(Time Ahead Big Avg x 1.5)+(Real Quarterback Rating Diff x 1.25)+(Relative Pts Avg x 1.8)

NOTE: The quality win percentage and relative points average will both be excluded until 2016 TABR adjustments are excluded.

This is only one change to the formula for the 2016 season. Instead of using a static 1.75 multiple for Third/Fourth Down Differential, the formula will account for sample size. That’s why the 0.1n multiple will be used, with “n” representing the number of games play. By season’s end, this stat will have a little less value relative to previous years, but we think it’s an all-around more accurate representation.

The TABRankings formula is based on three statistical categories (record stats, basic stats, advanced stats) with four totals in each category. Let’s remind everyone what’s going on by giving a breakdown of the stats that make up the rankings formula:

  • Overall Win Percentage: This should be quite simple to understand. This looks at percentage of wins out of games played.
  • Pythagorean Win Percentage: In a concept originally introduced by Pro Football Reference, the Pythagorean winning percentage focuses on an expected W-L record based on points scored and points against. While PFR uses 2.37 for the exponent, I have adjusted the total to 2.4 to compensate for the recent upturn in scoring in the NFL.
  • Divisional Win Percentage: See the overall win percentage, only for the subset of divisional games.
  • Quality Win Percentage: In this instance, the subset involves the team’s W-L percentage against teams with a .500 record or better. Cold, Hard Football Facts introduced their Quality Standings that only considered teams with a winning record. However, there are .500 teams that are strong teams and even successful playoff teams (see: 2011 Broncos, 2004 Vikings, etc.).
  • Third/Fourth Down Differential: This measures percentage difference from offensive third- and fourth-down success and defensive third- and fourth-down success. (Example: Team X goes 39 of 95 on third down and 1 of 5 on fourth down, resulting in a 40-of-100 conversion rate. Their opponents collectively convert 28 of 90 third down attempts and 2 of 10 fourth down attempts, resulting in a 30-of-100 conversion rate. This means the calculation becomes 40 percent minus 30 percent.)
  • Turnover Margin: This is very simple as well. Just subtract giveaways from takeaways for the margin.
  • Fumbles Kept Differential: To compensate a bit for luck, I’ve added a few points to take away from the teams that recovered more fumbles than their opponents. Simply subtract opponents’ fumbles kept from the team’s fumbles kept. (Example: Team Y recovers 4 of their 12 fumbles. Their opponents recover 8 of 12 their fumbles. This results in a negative-4 differential.)
  • Sack Differential: This is quite self-explanatory. Simply subtract the times sacked (offense) from the total sacks (defense).
  • Time Ahead Average: This involves the total time each team held a lead, divided by the total games played. (Example: Team Z led for 90 minutes through three games, thus having a 30-minute time ahead average.)
  • Time Ahead Big Average: This involved the total time each team held a lead by more than two possessions (15 points or more), divided by the total games played. (Example: Team Z led by 15 points or more for 15 minutes through three games, thus having a five-minute time ahead average.) This reflects bonus points for “leading big” in a game.
  • Real Quarterback Rating Differential: This stat originates from Cold, Hard Football Facts. Rushing stats, sacks and fumbles by the quarterbacks are combined with the passing stats to complete the passer rating formula. Given the slightly improved correlation of victory over Passer Rating Differential and the improving athletic stature of the average quarterback, this stat replaces Passer Rating Differential from past publications of these rankings.
  • Relative Points Average per Game: This might be a bit complicated. More or less, this total is meant to reflect a team’s point differential relative to their average opponent’s differential. First, subtract the opponents’ average points allowed from the team’s average points scored. Second, subtract the opponents’ average points scored from the team’s average points allowed. Finally, add those two totals together to get the Relative Points Average per Game. This idea originated from CHFF’s Relativity Index.

Check out this post every week to see the newest results for the TABRankings. There will be a new page for every week in the NFL season. We plan to update these rankings every Wednesday, just in time for the upcoming week’s predictions.

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