Aug 9, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz (86) runs out of the tunnel for warm ups against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
The 2018 NFL regular season is finally right in front of us! As Thursday night’s kickoff game quickly approaches, we at PFF are excited to again offer our readers the popular PFF NFL ELO Rankings, beginning with Week 1’s version.
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, but 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 weekly for 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 1, we’ve adjusted the ratings slightly to incorporate the return of players like Aaron Rodgers to the Packers. 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.]
After winning the Super Bowl without their starting quarterback, left tackle and middle linebacker, the hope is that the Eagles simply need to stay healthy to improve in 2018. The eventual return of Carson Wentz is a significant upgrade as his EPA per dropback was second in the league at 0.19 before his knee injury last year.
Despite the defeat in Super Bowl LII, QB Tom Brady had one of his most productive seasons at age 41 leading the league in big-time throw percentage at 5.9 and EPA per drop back at 0.21. The Patriots have the easiest schedule in football according to our opponent-adjusted rankings and this gives both their expected win total and Super Bowl odds value within our model.
The Falcons quite often find themselves as the darling of PFF Power Rankings, typically landing much higher than they appear in traditional rankings. After Matt Ryan finished 2016 with the most expected points per dropback in the league (0.29), his 2017 campaign left quite a bit to be desired. He did have the lowest percentage of turnover-worthy throws in 2017 and we like him to return to form and project Atlanta to finish above their 9.5 expected win total as they have one of the easier opponent-adjusted schedules in the NFC.
The Saints led the league with the highest percentage of successful pass plays at 55.01 percent in 2017. They face the fourth-toughest schedule this year, however, so their 9.5 expected wins fall in line with Vegas projections. We do see some value at 15 to 1 Super Bowl odds.
Drama continues to play out around the possible holdout or arrival of Le’Veon Bell. The truth is with Big Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and the emergence of JuJu Smith-Schuster, this passing offense will be fine. This passing defense was surprisingly effective allowing a successful pass on only 44.99 percent of attempts a season ago.
The significant turn around the 2017 Rams experienced under head coach Sean McVay led to a flurry of offseason transactions. These acquisitions are helpful but the real key will be the performance of Jared Goff in 2018. Goff had by far the biggest year-over-year change in EPA per dropback of any starting quarterback we have charted in the PFF era (2016 – 0.46 to 2017 – 0.13). The Rams ability to live up to their preseason hype will fall squarely on Goff continuing to improve as a passer.
The addition of Kirk Cousins has caused a significant amount of optimism in Minnesota. Cause for concern is his year-over-year change in EPA per dropback going from 0.16 in 2016 to -0.02 in 2017. What quarterback shows up in Minnesota is anyone’s guess but at $84 million guaranteed over three years, the Vikings paid him to be elite. The Vikings face the fifth-toughest schedule in the NFL in 2018 and at 10.5 Vegas projected wins, our model predicts some of the best under value of all win total projections.
The 2017 Jaguars pass defense is one of the best we have ever seen from an expected points allowed aspect. This team coverage capability gives them an opportunity to beat anyone. They face the fourth-easiest schedule to start 2018. If Blake Bortles is as adequate as he has been, they should have very little resistance to their second straight playoff appearance.
2017 Final Ranking/2018 Preseason Ranking: 8th / 9th (-1)
As a passing unit, the Chargers generated the second-highest expected points added in the league. Philip Rivers returned to an elite level with an adjusted completion percentage of 75.4 percent and they face the fourth-easiest schedule in the NFL yet our model still has them projected to finish under their Vegas win total.
2017 Final Ranking/2018 Preseason Ranking: 22nd / 10th (+12)
Aaron Rodgers had the highest percentage of positively-graded throws in the NFL in 2016 as he contributed 0.20 expected points per dropback in 2016 and a mere 0.05 in 2017. His return is the most significant addition to a roster in 2018 as their schedule gives…