Sep 23, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) throws a pass during the second half against the Indianapolis Colts at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Chaos was embraced again in week 3, as both double-digit underdogs went down at home, while New England lost consecutive games for the first time since 2015, the latter of which to a Detroit Lions team that was winless going in. The Bears lead the NFC North, the Dolphins the AFC East, the Bengals the AFC North, and the Titans the AFC South. Even after a rough night against the Steelers, the Bucs remain atop the best division in football, the NFC South, in a three-way tie with the Falcons, Saints, and Panthers. Will order be restored in week 4, or will we continue to see the apple cart upset?
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 PFFELO rating system measures the former using our unique offensive, defensive and special teams grades, while the latter is determined by the PFFELO ratings leading up to the game and where the game is played.
For example, a favorite heavy 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 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 4 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 PFFELO is just one.
Carson Wentz returned to lead the Eagles over the Colts at home. Wentz performed well under pressure but struggled from a clean pocket. Putting aside their struggles in Week 2, the Eagles pass defense has played exceptionally well. If they can continue to generate pressure on almost 40 percent of their opponent’s dropbacks, they will be tough to beat at any point this season.
Sean McVay has the Rams hitting on all cylinders to start 2018. They are currently our second most likely team to win the Super Bowl and favored to hit their over 10.5 win total. Jared Goff has made a positively graded throw on 34 percent of dropbacks and generated an EPA of .33. Their pass defense has been phenomenal so far, allowing a successful early down pass on under 38 percent of attempts – the best mark in the NFL.
New Orleans has the hardest remaining schedule in our model. Due to this, they are currently dogs to hit their over 9.5 win total. Their passing offense is as good as anticipated, throwing a successful pass on almost 70 percent of earl down attempts. As they showed in Week 3, even when they are down on the road, quarterback Drew Brees is absolutely capable of leading them to a come from behind cover victory.
The Chiefs currently have one of the easiest schedules (28th) in the NFL and the highest projected win total (10.83). This was a similar story last year, where they got off to a 5-0 and 6-2 start before falling off a bit mid-season. Will the league figure out Patrick Mahomes (who has a 7.8% : 0% big-time throw:turnover-worthy play ratio), or will Andy Reid continue to spin this yarn up and through the playoffs? What a compelling team.
The people get their wish – the Patriots are no longer a top-2 team in this rating system. They are surprisingly behind the Dolphins now in odds to win the AFC East via our simulations, but are still a top team in terms of odds to win the Super Bowl, demonstrating that – if they can get going – they still have the goods in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick to make something of this season despite the slow start.
What a frustrating Sunday for the Falcons. They got something close to a perfect game from Matt Ryan (151.3 passer rating when clean), a breakout 7-146-3 performance from Calvin Ridley, and another good performance in the red zone Sunday against New Orleans. It wasn’t enough, as their defense continues to allow underneath passes to kill them, evidenced by the 158 yards after the catch that they yielded to Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. This will need to improve for them to be a real contender.
The Steelers have played good football for stretches of all three of their games, but they have not yet strung an entire game’s worth of solid effort in all three phases. Additionally, when looking into the future, they have the most difficult schedule in the AFC moving forward, putting their chances to win a suddenly-formidable AFC North in question unless Big Ben can improve on his 4.6%: 4.0% big-time throw: turnover-worthy play ratio in the coming weeks.
Cam Newton has graded well to start 2018, and at 2-1 the Panthers are slight favorites to hit their over 8.5 win totals. Cam is off to his best season ever from a clean pocket posting a passer rating of 119.8. He has also expectedly performed well running the ball with 4.18 yards after contact per attempt. However, the Panthers pass defense needs to improve if they want to embark on a deep run in the playoffs.
After beating New England in Week 2, the Jaguars showed more of who they typically are in Week 3. Blake Bortles is closer to the quarterback who is neutral to negative from an EPA standpoint and not the quarterback who walked out of New England with a per dropback EPA of .36. This defense, although very talented, has yet to perform to the level they played at in 2017. This is concerning if Bortles is…