Week 1 in the NFL is now officially over, setting the stage for the first week of overreactions to 60 minutes of play on the field and a fresh release of power rankings. ESPN’s Mike Sando just released their power rankings, including some good incite into the voting process and disagreements that some of the analysts had on the teams. They were also nice enough to include some data on the previous weeks rankings, which will be used to analyze the progress of the Rams within the NFC West and the NFC West as a whole, both within the division and in comparison to the rest of the league. We will start off with how the NFC West teams fared after Week 1…
San Francisco 49ers
Last Week: 4, This Week: 2 (+2)
High/Low: 1 (Sando, Graziano), 2 (Clayton, Hensley, Fox)
Last Week: 23, This Week: 20 (+3)
High/Low: 18 (Hensley), 25 (Clayton)
Last Week: 20, This Week: 26 (-6)
High/Low: 22 (Sando), 28 (Graziano)
St. Louis Rams
Last Week: 28, This Week: 27 (+1)
High/Low: 23 (Graziano), 29 (Hensley)
Looks like the Rams are still scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel of the NFC West, but are at least into the mid-20′s for the NFL as a whole. How much improvement should you expect after a loss, even against a quality opponent? Well, the Seattle Seahawks took a -6 drumming by the panelists following their loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday evening, dropping them down to 26th, which is only even that high because of the Seattle-native, Mike Sando’s overly high ranking. On the flip side, the St. Louis Rams got a quality +1 pump, raising them to the respectable 27th spot. It is clear that there was some consideration given to Rams near victory over the Detroit Lions, when comparing their loss to the one taken by the Seahawks.
The ‘Hawks dropped their game to a team ranked lower than them in the previous week (20 vs. 23), while the Rams tallied their close loss against the Lions who were sitting right outside a top 10 spot (12 vs. 28). In the big picture of the NFL, the Seahawks (-6) actually received the largest drop of any team, with the next nearest being the Buffalo Bills (-5) and New Orleans Saints (-5), Philadelphia Eagles (-5), as well as the the New York Giants (-4), Green Bay Packers (-4), and Tennessee Titans (-4). On the other side of the coin, the Cardinals (+3) got the large raise in the NFC West, although it was no where close to the extreme (likely, premature) jump of the the Washington Redskins (+9), or nearly as highly as the Atlanta Falcons (+4), Dallas Cowboys (+4), Denver Broncos (+4), New York Jets (+4), and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+4).
As far as conferences go, the NFC is proving to be the better of the two conferences, with an net increase of 4 spots in the rankings. To put that into context, the AFC had a net decrease of 4, with the AFC West (+4) being the only conference outside of the red. As far as divisions, the NFC West maintained their balance overall, with zero net change in ranking, primarily due to the significant drop by the Seattle Seahawks. The over-hyped, media powerhouse known as the NFC East was the most improved division as a whole, with the Giants (-4), Cowboys (+4), Redskins (+9), and Eagle (-5) tallying an 4 spot net improvement. The AFC East and AFC South anchored the lower end of the divisions, both with a net decrease of 3 spots, primarily as a result of the Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills pathetic showings in Week 1.
Improvement does not necessarily equate to prowess of a division, considering a top tier divison has less room for improvement than a lower tier division,
|AFC East||AFC North||AFC South||AFC West|
|NE (1)||BAL(3)||HOU (4)||DEN (9)|
|NYJ (17)||PIT (11)||TEN (22)||SD (14)|
|BUF (24)||CIN (18)||JAC (29)||KC (19)|
|MIA (30)||CLE (31)||IND (32)||OAK (25)|
|18 (6th)||15.7 (3rd)||27.7 (8th)||16.7 (5th)|
|NFC East||NFC North||NFC South||NFC West|
|NYG (7)||GB (5)||ATL (6)||SF (2)|
|DAL (10)||CHI (8)||NO (16)||ARI (20)|
|PHI (12)||DET (13)||TB (21)||SEA (26)|
|WAS (15)||MIN (28)||CAR (23)||STL (27)|
|11 (1st)||13.5 (2nd)||16.5 (4th)||18.7 (7th)|
If we average out the divisonal rankings, the NFC East is currently the “toughest” division, with all four team floating around the lower teens. The AFC South is easily the worst, with the Titans, Jaguars, and Colts all outside of the Top 20.
If this trend is any indication of the actual season, the Rams should have an interesting schedule during the rest of 2012. St. Louis will play the NFC North and AFC East, which are currently at opposite ends of the divisional spectrum. However, these are Power Rankings, so their value always has to be taken with a grain of salt.