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NFL stat-based Power Rankings: Week 7, 2016

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With six weeks of data in the spreadsheet, yours truly presents the NFL Power Rankings derived from stats compiled off of Football Outsiders Drive Stats, Pro Football Reference, and Team Rankings.

Introducing Grumpy Bill, a classic meme used when talking about Power Rankings.
Introducing Grumpy Bill, a classic meme used when talking about Power Rankings.
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier this year, I did announce the Power Rankings would return but I held off on presenting the spreadsheet because of the effects that small sample size has. With a third of the NFL season now through, the teams have started to make their move and there is enough data that the stats can separate themselves. I've provided a link to the spreadsheet as well.

These are the Top 5 teams going into Week 7:

  1. Minnesota Vikings (5-0): The Vikings are the only NFL team that meet the 70(ST)/60(S)/60(D)/50(O) criteria where one of the 60 scores has to be schedule-related. The Vikings offense graded out as average (54) due to a turnover rate of 0, so you have to give Sam Bradford credit for not losing his team games at the QB position. The Defense ranked 2nd with a score of 69 and Special Teams 1st with a score of 74. The Vikings don't have too many weaknesses on the field, but could be in trouble if they take on a top-notch offense that can dink and dunk down the field like Dallas or New England in the playoffs. Vikings have to be the early Super Bowl favorite barring a 2nd half collapse or injuries.
  2. Buffalo Bills (4-2): If it were by opinion, I would have the Patriots ahead of the Bills right now for the #2 spot because the Bills aren't a better team than the Patriots on paper. However, the Bills have also compiled an impressive 4-game winning streak and feature the top graded defense in the Power Rankings sheet. The Bills rank 50 or better in every category, although the schedule grade of 59 and their defense at 69 keeps them slightly below the criteria of favorite to win the conference. A Week 8 matchup between Buffalo and New England will be the biggest test for the Bills, should the Bills win this week.
  3. Dallas Cowboys (5-1): If in March you said that the Cowboys would win 5 of their first 6 games and their only loss a result of a dumb decision by one of the WRs, I would have thought you were on drugs. However that's the situation we're in with the Cowboys, whose offense looks literally unstoppable. Dak Prescott has proven to be a potential franchise QB and perhaps we have a QB controversy brewing in Dallas. If the Cowboys continue to win, it's going to be very difficult for the Cowboys to put Romo back in there, much like was the case with Tom Brady back in 2001. Defense and Special Teams could be their Achilles heel, although their defense scored 49, so they're close to average.
  4. New England Patriots (5-1): The Patriots look like a team on a mission the last two weeks, outscoring their opponents 68-30. With Tom Brady under center and a healthy Rob Gronkowski, the offense is back to the unstoppable levels we saw the first eight games of 2015. While the Patriots have played the easy part of their schedule, they'll get a tough road test in Weeks 7 and 8 against the Steelers and Bills. While the overall score of the Patriots season look unimpressive (Offense 60, Defense 48, Special Teams 67, Schedule 67), they have the look of a team that's starting to gel on both sides of the ball. I wouldn't be surprised if the Patriots take back the #2 spot next week.
  5. Seattle Seahawks (4-1): The Seahawks started out slowly, but have picked it up of late although it took a non-call for them to help beat a very good Falcons team. The Seahawks are another team that rank 50 or better in every category. Wilson has gotten better as a passer out of necessity since his ability to run had been hampered early on. The Seahawks are arguably the most consistent team in the NFC since 2012, and they look like an early favorite to challenge the Vikings in the NFC.
The Patriots Week 7 opponent is the 6th ranked Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers are another team that scored 50 or better across the board, although they took a huge nosedive after last week's stomping by the Dolphins. With a team that's missing their QB and best defensive player for the game, this is an opportunity for the Patriots to kick a Steelers team while they're down. The win would significantly boost the Patriots schedule grade and if they can repeat an effort like they have the last two weeks, the defense grade might go back on the plus side of 50. They get the opportunity to face a backup whose been mediocre when asked to fill in and the Steelers could be missing their right tackle with an ankle injury. If the Patriots can go on the road and dominate a wounded Steelers team, we'll know for sure who the best team in the AFC is.

Yes, I'm well aware there are going to be people bad-mouthing the thing because it somehow depicts the Bills as a better team than the Patriots. I don't firmly believe the Bills are a better team, although they dominated some of the NFL's average and mediocre teams their last 4 games while the Patriots are 3-1 over that span. They do have to play a division game on the road one week ahead of a big divisional game against the Patriots, so the Bills could wind up falling for the trap game agains the Miami Dolphins. The Patriots have the same problem with the Pittsburgh Steelers this week as well.