News & Analysis

2018 PFF NFL Power Rankings – Week 6

By Eric Eager and Ben Brown
Oct 10, 2018

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Dec 10, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) and quarterback Jared Goff (16) celebrate Gurley's touchdown in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL has been weird this year. While you can make an argument for four teams (i.e. Rams, Chiefs, Saints, Patriots) as teams you can buy into moving forward, it’s anyone’s guess who the fifth-best team in the NFL is right now. Additionally, while teams like the Cardinals and the Giants have struggled, one of them won last week and another probably should have. The Browns are at 0.500 right now! We’re onto week 6.

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 to profootballfocus.com for weekly college spread picks using this model (as well as other information) and check out PFF Greenline (link Cam) for our NFL version of the product.

Note: for week 6 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 they will reflect the output of other quantitative models we use as a part of Greenline – in which PFF ELO is just one.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 1

They had a scare in Seattle last week, but the Rams ultimately survived on three Todd Gurley touchdowns and a great call by Sean McVay to end the game on fourth down with a Jared Goff quarterback sneak. They face a Denver team that has been a much better outfit at home this year than on the road and are installed again as touchdown favorites. With the possibility of missing Cooper Kupp and Brandin Cooks, it will be interesting to see if they can stay undefeated moving forward.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 2

Unlike the Rams, the Chiefs are underdogs this week in their quest to go 6-0 in New England. It’s 100% because of their defensive difficulties, which are magnified when covering running backs out of the backfield. This week will be no reprieve in that area, as James White was able to turn 13 targets into 77 yards and a touchdown against the Colts last Thursday. Giddy up!

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 3

After probably overreacting to the Saints losing Week 1 at home to the Bucs and almost losing to a plucky Browns team there in Week 2, the Saints have come back to impressively win the last three weeks. They’ve done so without much from Michael Thomas (in Week 4) and Alvin Kamara (in Week 5), so they can beat you in multiple ways. They need to improve defensively, where they are allowing more than 58 percent of early-down passes to be successful, but it was about this time where they hit their stride there a season ago.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 4

After being slightly behind the Dolphins in terms of AFC East odds (in our mind) two weeks ago, the Patriots are now -1000 to win the division on MyBookie. They still haven’t really hit their stride yet, but they have been sneaky good defensively, allowing only 49.69 and 32.74 success rates on early-down passes and runs. If they can continue at that pace and Tom Brady can elevate his 22 percent positively-graded throw rate, we’ll be right back to where we started with the Pats.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 5

Someone had to go here, and while the Panthers struggled to hold off the Giants last week, they are sitting nicely at 3-1 in an NFC where only four teams have a winning record. Cam Newton has had an equal number of big-time throws and turnover-worthy plays, which has to concern Panthers fans. However, his rate of positively graded dropbacks (over 30 percent) is bested by just four quarterbacks so far this season – a sign of optimism for a passing game that has held the Panthers back the last two years.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 6

An impressive win in Philly has Vikings fans quite a bit happier about the prospects of the team moving forward.  While three of Kirk Cousins’ 10 most-pressured games in his career have come in the last three weeks, he has been delivering for the purple with a big-time throw rate of 5.6 percent through five weeks. If their defense rounds into form, look for them to continue to compete in what is an average NFC North, at best.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 7

They largely played Minnesota to a stalemate in Week 5, gaining more first downs and roughly the same amount of yards. Turnovers on Minnesota’s end really turned the game and left the Eagles with a losing record through the season’s first month-plus.  They’ve allowed more than half of the early-down passes into their coverage to be successful so far, a mark that will need to change this Thursday if they want to end the Giants’ hope of a division title right then and there.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 8

It was a long time coming, but we might have finally seen the Steelers team many expected last week at home against Atlanta. They kept Big Ben clean on 24 of 31 dropbacks, and their passing offense responded by generating a 139.6 passer rating in those circumstances. On the other side of the ball, they pressured Matt Ryan on 17 of 45 dropbacks in holding the Falcons to 17 points and zero completed passes over 20 yards in the air. This week in Cincinnati will go a long way towards determining if the Steelers’ road to their third consecutive division title will be an easy one, or if they will have to wade through the Ravens and the Bengals of the world to sneak in come December.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 9

When you thought that the Ravens were in a position to take control of the North, they go and lose to a Cleveland team that scored exactly 12 points in their home stadium. Joe Flacco was back to doing Joe Flacco things, generating under a 60.0 passer rating on his 42 (!) non-pressured dropbacks. He was 0-7 throwing the ball over 20 yards downfield and hampered by four drops, including three by Michael Crabtree. They go to Tennessee this weekend as short favorites in a game that could very well decide who gets one of the AFC Wild Card spots come January.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 10

Lost in the Chiefs’ brilliance so far this year is how good the Chargers and Philip Rivers have been at times. His dropbacks have netted Los Angeles 0.29 expected points added on average, and only 1.7 percent of them have been deemed turnover-worthy.  If their defense (allowing the most early-down passing EPA in the league) can improve to their 2017 standards, this could be a really dangerous team in the AFC moving forward.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 11

An impressive win at home against the Pats seems like a distant memory after ugly losses to Tennessee and Kansas City two of the last three weeks. Their defense remains one of the league’s best, allowing fewer than 30 percent of early-down runs to generate success, but it likely won’t matter if they get the bad Blake Bortles they got Sunday. Through five games, fewer than one in five of his dropbacks has been positively graded, and he is in the bottom half of the league in generating EPA on his dropbacks. Luckily, Tennessee lost in Buffalo last week, but this is not a shoe-in to win the AFC South by any stretch.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 12

After a week off, the Bears return to play atop the NFC North with a 3-1 record. This week will be a big test for Chicago, as they play a Dolphins team reeling after consecutive losses, with their early-season start slipping away.  While Mitchell Trubisky was brilliant against the Bucs, he’s otherwise struggled, with more negatively graded dropbacks than positively graded ones. The Dolphins defense, allowing less than 0 EPA on both run and pass plays, will give them a challenge this week.  Will they be up for it?

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 13

The Titans took a step back in Buffalo last week, losing 13-12 against a Bills team that has generated success on less than 30 percent of its runs this season and under 41 percent of its passes. Marcus Mariota has generated more turnover-worthy plays than big-time throws so far, while their early-down run plays have been successful just a third of the time. They are home underdogs this week against the Ravens in a game that very well could determine playoff positioning in the AFC come January.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 14

Words that few thought could ever be uttered, but Andy Dalton is hovering around elite quarterback play. Coming off of his worst passing performance in 2018, Dalton maintains a PFF passing grade of 84.9. The Bengals are still sitting atop the AFC North in what is shaping up to be the best conference in the NFL. Geno Atkins has been dominant for this defense with the fourth-highest pass-rush productivity among inside defenders, Atkins has also logged 13 run stops.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 15

The Falcons were rolled by the Steelers stumbling to 1-4. Their prolific offense only scored 17 points, but questions have to be answered about their defense and their capabilities of stopping anyone at this point. They have allowed the third-highest amount of EPA per dropback to opponents offenses while generating the second-lowest pressure percentage. They blitz at one of the lowest rates in the NFL with good reason, as they have the fourth-highest passer rating allowed when sending an extra pass rusher.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 16

The Seahawks gave the top-ranked Rams everything they could handle at home but lost after not being able to stop the Rams on 4th and 1 with less than two minutes to go. Russell Wilson continues to carry this team posting a big-time throw on 7.2 percent of dropbacks. Wilson’s connection with Tyler Lockett has been absolutely dynamic with a near-perfect passer rating of 158.3. This is the second-best passer rating between a quarterback and his top target. This combination has also generated the third-highest EPA per dropback at .90.  

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 17

The Packers lost to Detroit in one of the sloppiest games they have played in the Aaron Rodgers era. Even though he is slightly banged up and dealing with a number of injuries at the receiver position, Rodgers is still grading at an elite level. He has the lowest amount of contested passes per pass attempt and has faced the second-lowest amount of blitzes in the NFL. Defensive coordinators know not to send an extra pass rusher. Rodgers has picked apart defenses when blitzed, posting a passer rating of 122.9 with four touchdowns and zero interceptions.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 18

As others have said, the Cowboys’ defeat on Sunday night should fall squarely on the shoulders of Jason Garrett. He can defend his decision all he wants, but from an analytics perspective, it was absolutely the wrong decision. Possibly more concerning than the in-game decision-making is the quarterback play by Dak Prescott. In 2018, Prescott has generated -.15 EPA per dropback and outside of targets to Ezekiel Elliott has generated very little big plays in the passing game. Their offense doesn’t figure to gain much traction facing off against the Jaguars this Sunday.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 19

Woof, definitely not the Monday night display that the Redskins were hoping for. It is difficult to stop Drew Brees, especially at home, but the Saints didn’t even bother to punt a single time in their beatdown of Washington. Josh Norman appears to be a shell of his former self, posting one game with an average PFF grade and the last two falling in the poor range. He has allowed a passer rating of 156.3 when targeted this season. D.J. Swearinger Sr. is the lone bright spot in this secondary and has posted a near elite coverage grade outside of the matchup against the Saints.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 20

The Buccaneers received a well-needed rest as they calibrate their offense to Jameis Winston’’s talents. Desean Jackson is back to his game-breaking ways, leading the NFL in deep passing yards while playing one fewer game. Almost 32% of Jackson’s targets have come 20+ yards downfield. This defense has to improve their coverage coming out of the bye. To date, they have allowed the most EPA on early down pass attempts in the NFL.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 21

After jumping out to an early lead in Week 5, the Dolphins couldn’t do anything right in the second half and ultimately turned the ball and the victory over to the Bengals. So far this season, Ryan Tannehill recorded two freaky interceptions that resulted in defensive touchdowns. In 2018, Tannehill has twice as many turnover-worthy throws to big-time throws. Their defense is the sole reason they have won or stayed in as many games as they have. Their coverage unit has played well, allowing the third-lowest passer rating in the NFL.  

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 22

Detroit capitalized on a comedy of errors from the Packers and held on to the win heading into their bye week. The connection between Matthew Stafford and Kenny Golladay has emerged as one of the most successful to start 2018. When targeting Golladay, Stafford has a passer rating of 117.5 and generated an EPA per dropback of .83. This is the fourth-best EPA mark of any QB-WR combination in the league. The Lions’ defense is next to last according to PFF grades and has been a sieve in pass coverage.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 23

The Texans stole a victory from Dallas on Sunday night. Deshaun Watson was poised and efficient taking what the Cowboys’ defense offered him. He posted his lowest aDOT in a game this season while continuing to excel from both a clean pocket and also under pressure. Kareem Jackson has been the only adequate defensive back in coverage. Although the Texans have struggled to apply pressure, the main culprit is related to their inability to cover for an extended amount of time, as they have faced one of the lowest time to throws in the NFL through five weeks. 

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 24

In three games, Baker Mayfield has led the Browns to twice as many victories as they had in the previous two seasons. The future is now in Cleveland, as Mayfield has the fourth-highest percentage of big-time throws and the second-largest difference in percentage between big-time throws and turnover-worthy throws. Week 5 was his lowest-graded passing game to date, but that was expected facing off against the third-ranked coverage unit according to PFF grades.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 25

The Bills have put together a very formidable defense led by their edge defenders Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes. Although not elite in any one area, this defensive unit is solid from top to bottom. They are right outside the top-10 in pressure percentage while blitzing at one of the lowest rates in the NFL. Tre’Davious White does, however, appear to have taken a step backward in 2018, showing the instability of coverage play year over year.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 26

Isaiah Crowell transformed into a generational talent in Week 5, posting 219 rushing yards with 85 coming after contact and four tackles avoided. Crowell generated an unheard of 1.05 EPA per rush attempt. Sam Darnold posted his highest game grade of 2018 and for the first time had zero turnover-worthy throws.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 27

The Broncos defense fell apart in Week 5, and allowed the Jets to literally run away with the game. The Jets posted the highest amount of yards before contact of any team in any game in 2018 by 50-plus yards. Quarterback Case Keenum can be an effective game manager at this time, but with more turnover-worthy throws than big-time throws, he is simply not capable of winning this team football games when the defense underperforms.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 28

Derek Carr has a 0.0 EPA generated on dropbacks in 2018, and the offense is stuck in neutral as a result. Last week, Carr had one horrendous turnover-worthy throw in the end zone which stifled all momentum this offense had up to that point. Although it’s an unstable metric to evaluate quarterback play, Carr is still one of the worst signal-callers in the league when under pressure.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 29

Although they are 1-4, the Colts have to be encouraged with how Andrew Luck has looked to start the season. Through five weeks, Luck has an elite passing grade of 90.1 when kept clean from pressure and has tallied a passer rating of 106.3 in such situations. Malik Hooker has been a bright spot defensively,  grading out as the fifth-best tackler among qualifying safeties.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 30

Josh Rosen had an uneven performance on Sunday and received a passing grade of just 54.1. It will be a learning experience for the rookie, but he’s almost certainly an upgrade over Sam Bradford. His pass-catchers aren’t doing him any favors, as they’ve recorded six drops over the past two games. Defensively, they blitz at the highest rate in the league but have been middling at actually applying pressure when sending an extra pass rusher.

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 31

Kyle Shanahan deserves credit for any positives this team is able to accomplish in what is turning into a lost season. They have lost their top quarterback, running back and wide receiver for various stages this season. C.J. Beathard has dropped back over 100 times in two games, but he has the lowest aDOT in the league among starting quarterbacks. He has benefited immensely from pass-catchers with over 60 percent of his yards being recorded after the catch.  

2018 Week 6 ELO Ranking: 32

The Giants lost on the road in agonizing fashion with Graham Gano connecting on a 63-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Panthers over the Giants. Saquon Barkley continues to flash playmaking ability, especially in the passing game, but with the four rookie quarterbacks all winning on Sunday, the Giants’ front office has to be wondering what might have been. It is definitely simple math and on brand, but franchise quarterback > generational running back.

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