NFL Preseason Rankings & Season Projections For 2014

posted in Football, NFL

With the NFL season kicking off Thursday in Seattle, here is our annual post outlining our NFL preseason ratings, with season projections added for good measure, for every NFL team in 2014-15. Below the data table is more information on how we rank and project teams.

(By the way, if you’re playing in an NFL office pool this year, don’t forget to check out our 2014 NFL pick’em pool picks and NFL survivor pool picks.)

Preseason NFL Rankings Highlights

When we make comparisons to Vegas below, we are using Chase Stuart’s implied Vegas SRS Ratings as the basis for comparison. Those rankings are based on preseason lines that are several months old now, but they should still be close enough for our basic purposes here.

  • Agreement with Vegas regarding top teams. There is close agreement between us and Vegas on the top six ranked teams this year: Denver (#1 TR, #2 Vegas), Seattle (#2 TR, #1 Vegas), San Francisco (#3 in both), New England (#4 TR, #5 Vegas), New Orleans (#5 TR, #6 Vegas), and Green Bay (#6 TR, #4 Vegas).
  • Denver and Seattle a cut above the rest. From a ratings perspective, last year’s Super Bowl teams also project as the clear top two teams in 2014, and are only separated by one-third of a point. There’s a bit of a drop to San Francisco at #3, then the ratings of the next four teams are decently spread apart.
  • Our three most underrated teams. While it can be misleading to compare teams only by rankings, compared to Vegas, we’re most optimistic on the following four teams: NY Giants (#9 TR, #19 Vegas), San Diego (#10 TR, #20 Vegas), and Arizona (#11 TR, #18 Vegas).
  • Our three most overrated teams. On the flip side, compared to Vegas we’re the most pessimistic on the following four teams: Chicago (#22 TR, #8 Vegas), Kansas City (#23 TR, #13 Vegas), and Philadelphia (#15 TR, #9 Vegas).

Glossary

  • Team ratings (“TR Rating”) are expressed as points better (a positive rating) or worse (a negative rating) than the average team in the NFL, when playing on a neutral field
  • “Vegas” the implied Vegas ranking from Chase Stuart; “Playoffs” is odds to make the playoffs; “Division” is odds to win the division; “Super Bowl” is odds to win the 2014 Super Bowl
  • If you’re curious to learn more about how we come up with these numbers, you can check out a 2012 post that covered NFL preseason rankings components (although we’ve made some tweaks since then)

 2014 NFL Preseason Rankings & Projections

TR RankVegasTeamTR RatingWinsLossesPlayoffsDivisionSuper Bowl
12Denver Broncos7.6511.44.684%70%17.0%
21Seattle Seahawks7.2710.85.271%46%13.4%
33San Francisco 49ers6.5810.55.567%39%10.4%
45New England Patriots5.4110.85.279%66%11.1%
56New Orleans Saints4.189.86.259%44%6.1%
64Green Bay Packers3.549.66.458%46%5.2%
710Cincinnati Bengals2.909.36.755%37%4.5%
87Carolina Panthers2.679.07.048%34%3.9%
919New York Giants1.688.97.150%40%3.2%
1020San Diego Chargers1.248.67.444%21%2.7%
1118Arizona Cardinals0.947.88.227%10%1.6%
1211Indianapolis Colts0.918.77.350%37%2.7%
1317Baltimore Ravens0.808.67.444%27%2.4%
1412Detroit Lions0.658.47.639%26%1.9%
159Philadelphia Eagles0.388.08.035%26%1.8%
1621Houston Texans0.319.16.956%43%2.6%
1715Pittsburgh Steelers0.238.57.544%26%2.3%
1814Atlanta Falcons-0.737.38.723%14%0.9%
1922Miami Dolphins-0.998.17.937%19%1.5%
2016Dallas Cowboys-1.207.48.627%19%1.0%
2125St. Louis Rams-1.396.79.316%6%0.7%
228Chicago Bears-1.467.18.924%15%0.9%
2313Kansas City Chiefs-1.986.99.120%8%0.6%
2423Washington Redskins-2.367.09.022%15%0.6%
2529Minnesota Vikings-2.606.89.219%12%0.5%
2630Tennessee Titans-3.027.38.728%18%0.6%
2727Cleveland Browns-3.186.99.121%10%0.5%
2824Tampa Bay Buccaneers-3.256.29.814%8%0.4%
2928Buffalo Bills-3.606.59.518%8%0.4%
3026New York Jets-4.216.19.914%6%0.3%
3131Oakland Raiders-8.054.012.03%1%0.0%
3232Jacksonville Jaguars-9.324.012.04%2%0.0%

How We Rank & Project NFL Teams

Our preseason process has two steps:

  • Generate preseason team ratings. First we gather a bunch of data on teams. We feed this data into a model we built to generate our preseason team ratings and rankings. Every year, we re-calibrate this model based on having a new season’s worth of data.
  • Run simulations of the 2014 season. Second, we feed our preseason ratings into our season simulator (internally known as the “Awww-simulator” because we think it is awesome), which plays out the 2014 season thousands of times.

Thanks to randomness, every individual season simulation ends up looking differently. But once we run lots of simulations, the outcomes — such as the projected final win-loss record for each team — start to converge on the numbers that end up being our official 2014 preseason projections. The simulator is sophisticated, even accounting for the fact that our preseason rating for any given team may end up being wrong.

Unlike the vast majority of pre-season rankers out there, we do very little subjective evaluation of teams. This approach generally serves us well. Inevitably some years turn out better than others (occasionally for factors out of our control, like mid-season injuries to key players), but we’ve beaten Vegas at this game several times now, and we typically outpredict almost all of the NFL “experts” you see on TV.

Three Things To Keep In Mind

Before you make a comment about where we’ve ranked your favorite team and call us a bunch of no good bleepety-bleeps, please keep a couple things in mind:

  • We’re using a systematic approach to rank all 32 teams. Because our approach generalizes predictive factors, it’s going to get plenty of individual teams wrong, and a few of them very wrong, for many different reasons. The goal here is overall accuracy across the entire system of 32 teams, and to be right more than we are wrong when a projection of ours deviates the most from consensus opinion. If we wanted to maximize our odds of making the most accurate projection for only your specific favorite team, we’d likely take a very different approach.
  • Look at ratings, not just rankings. For example, less than a third of a point separates the #11 team (Arizona) from the #14 team (Detroit). Those four teams are all close to being equals. Often times, the distinction between two closely ranked teams is essentially negligible from a ratings perspective, so it’s not even worth debating.
  • Making futures bets requires more information. Just because our models think that a team has a higher or lower expected 2014 win total than the current Vegas line does NOT mean that it’s a good bet. Among other things, payout odds for futures bets make a huge impact on your expected returns. In short, hunting for value in current futures odds based on our projections is a more involved process than is covered in this post (here’s an example from 2012).