Rankings of sports teams are meaningless.
College football and basketball rankings often change drastically from the preseason to the first few weeks of a season. Things ultimately get settled on the field or court or ice or wherever. It’s a big reason why the NCAA Tournament is so popular and why we (finally) have a college football playoff.
Keep that in mind when you see ESPN’s Football Power Index, which released new rankings on Tuesday. First of all, here is a bit about that ranking. In a guide to its system, ESPN wrote “the ultimate goal when rating teams in the NFL is to measure team strength and project performance going forward. …
“At its core, NFL FPI is a prediction system for the NFL. Each team’s FPI rating is composed of a predicted offensive, defensive and special teams efficiency, as measured by expected points added per play, and that rating is the basis for FPI’s game-level and season-level projections.”
I bring this up, because the AFC West-leading Chiefs are ranked 11th in ESPN’s latest Football Power Index. Among the teams ahead of the 7-2 Chiefs: the 7-3 Broncos (third place in the West); the 4-5 Buffalo Bills (third in the AFC East); and the 3-6 Panthers (last in the NFC South) who just lost at home to the Chiefs.
So what gives? It seems the index at this point likes the Chiefs’ chances of making the playoffs, but maybe isn’t so inclined to see a deep run in the postseason.
Here is a bit more about the system from Zach Bradshaw, who is part of ESPN’s analytical team.
“A team’s FPI rating is just a means to an end,” Bradshaw wrote. “The ultimate goal of FPI is to correctly predict games and season outcomes such as the chance to make the playoffs or win the Super Bowl. Some teams are stronger than their records (lots of close losses) and others have favorable schedules, which are reflected in the game- and season-level projections.”