NFL Power Rankings 2020

Week 13 Glance At All 32 Teams

The first 12 weeks of the 2020 NFL season are nearly behind us and teams are solidifying their status’ as contenders and pretenders.

There are tons of results and trends to sort through each week in the NFL and in an effort to keep you updated throughout the 2020-21 season, TheLines is providing weekly updates to our Power Rankings. We have had a consistent top three for several weeks now with the Chiefs at No. 1 and the undefeated Steelers at No. 2. The Saints are the NFC’s top representative, finding themselves at No. 3. Among this week’s biggest movers are the Titans – who moved up four slots – and the 49ers – who jumped up six positions. You can check out our Super Bowl page to see where those teams, and all the teams in the NFL, stand in terms of championship futures.

Odds are also always changing based on results, so check back at TheLines to stay ahead of the curve with updated betting lines.

Here are Nate Weitzer‘s Week 13 NFL Power Rankings.

2020 NFL Power Rankings: Week 13

KC Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes (39-for-47 passing, 462 yards) found Tyreek Hill (13 rec, 269 yards) early for 3 TDs and he found him late for a game-sealing first down to hold on against the Bucs. The only mistake Mahomes made was covered up by a questionable roughing the passer call on Jason Pierre-Paul.
PIT Steelers
An undefeated season will be even more impressive if Pittsburgh overcomes a wave of COVID-related absences and tops Baltimore Wednesday, then turns around and beats a physical Washington team on Monday.
NO Saints
Taysom Hill struggled as a traditional passer against the Broncos, but Denver’s unfortunate QB situation allowed the Saints to control the clock and rush for 229 yards in a rout. The New Orleans defense is quietly putting up league-leading numbers over the past month.
SEA Seahawks
Granted it came against an Eagles team that can’t block anyone, but the Seahawks defense finally looked sharp on Monday night while recording 6 sacks and limiting Philly to a meager 3.8 yards per play.
BUF Bills
The Chargers were surprisingly hesitant to test the Bills secondary in the red zone. With Justin Herbert dropping dimes across the field, that shows a healthy respect for Buffalo’s improvement at the back end. Now Josh Allen just has to show better ball security.
TB Buccaneers
While Tom Brady led a late charge, he still looked immobile in the pocket and couldn’t establish timing with his talented receivers for most of a 27-24 loss to the Chiefs. And early on, Tampa’s secondary looked incapable of making adjustments against Tyreek Hill.
TEN Titans
The Titans are back atop the AFC South after coming back to beat the Ravens and riding Derrick Henry (27 carries, 178 yards, 3 TDs) to a big 45-26 win over the Colts. 
GB Packers
After dispatching the Bears, the Packers have a clear path to at least earning the No. 2 seed in the NFC with only one winning team (Titans) left on their schedule.
LAR Rams
Aaron Donald took over in the second half to bring the Rams back against the Niners. But the offense couldn’t hold up its end of the bargain with Jared Goff struggling his way to a 52.9 passer rating.
IND Colts
As they were getting their doors blown off by Henry and the Titans, the Colts lost elite LT Anthony Castonzo to an MCL sprain. They’re now 2-13 in games where Castonzo leaves injured or doesn’t play. 
MIA Dolphins
Ryan Fitzpatrick started with Tua trending doubtful due to a thumb injury. The veteran went 24-for-37 passing for 257 yards and 2 TDs without a pick and the Dolphins defense did the rest against the lowly Jets.
SF 49ers
Even though Raheem Mostert coughed up a costly fumble, the Niners were galvanized by his return along with Richard Sherman and Deebo Samuel (hamstring), who caught 11 balls for 133 yards and set up Robbie Gould’s 42-yard FG to keep their postseason hopes alive.
BAL Ravens
The Ravens roster has been ravaged by positive COVID tests and they may have to face the Steelers with Robert Griffin III leading a patchwork squad. 
CLE Browns
With Myles Garrett (COVID) unavailable, the Browns let Mike Glennon and the Jaguars hang around but managed to deny him on two 2-point conversion attempts. Jarvis Landry (8 rec, 143 yards, TD) finally gave the Browns air attack some life. 
ARI Cardinals
Kyler Murray (170 passing yards, 31 rushing yards) was corralled in his second straight outing and couldn’t finish off the low-scoring Patriots despite going 6-for-14 on third down and possessing the ball for 34 minutes. 
LV Raiders
The Raiders have a long history of bombing in road games on the east coast. Add Sunday’s head-scratching 43-6 loss at Atlanta to the list. 
MIN Vikings
Chad Beebe went from goat to hero when he caught the go-ahead TD a few minutes after muffing a punt that seemed to doom the Vikings chances against Carolina. Lost in that headline is the fact that Kirk Cousins is averaging 283.2 passing YPG with an 11:1 TD:INT ratio over his last four starts. 
LAC Chargers
Bless Anthony Lynn’s heart, he simply can’t seem to make the right calls in pressure situations. The Chargers coaching staff gaffed multiple opportunities to come back and tie or take the lead in Buffalo with shoddy decisions and play calling that didn’t utilize Justin Herbert in key spots.
HOU Texans
Deshaun Watson averaged 12.7 yards per attempt on Thanksgiving while carving up the Lions secondary. The performance led to the Lions showing Matt Patricia the door. Houston’s defense even came up big with J.J. Watt recording a Pick Six.
NE Patriots
The Patriots will pound the ground, limit their mistakes, and beat less disciplined teams that don’t execute. But they average the third-fewest completions (18.8) per game in a pass-happy league.
CAR Panthers
Carolina’s rushing attack continued to sputter without Christian McCaffrey (shoulder), but Teddy Bridgewater still had his team in position at Minnesota. Joey Slye just shanked a 54-yard FG attempt to win it.
NYG Giants
Daniel Jones pulled a hamstring, but Colt McCoy was able to hold down the fort and secure a 19-17 win over the injury-depleted Bengals. The Giants defense forced several three-and-outs while holding Cincy to 22:34 of possession.
WAS Football Team
Ron Rivera has already changed the culture in Washington. Alex Smith leads a conservative offense that is averaging 375.7 YPG over their last three games and the Football Team is fourth in PPG allowed (18.3) in that span.
ATL Falcons
Credit the Falcons defense for contributing to the Raiders malaise in Sunday’s thrashing in Georgia. Under interim HC Raheem Morris that unit is holding opponents to a 34.8% conversion rate on third down.
CHI Bears
While Mitch Trubisky makes the Bears offense more unpredictable, he doesn’t necessarily make it better than it is when Nick Foles (hip) is healthy. The Bears defense certainly looked worse in Green Bay without Akiem Hicks (hamstring).
PHI Eagles
Philly has the third-worst turnover margin (-0.9) in the NFL, averages the second-fewest yards per pass (5.5), and allows a sack on a league-high 9.55% of plays. The Eagles couldn’t even get a first down for 25 minutes against Seattle’s league-worst pass defense.
DEN Broncos
Put in an impossible position with all four of their QBs inactive due to COVID protocols, the Broncos became the first NFL team since 1998 to record more interceptions (2) than completions (1) in their 31-3 home loss to the Saints.
JAX Jaguars
Mike Glennon (20-for-35 passing, 235 yards, 2 TD) gave the Jaguars a better chance than Jake Luton, but didn’t have the athleticism required to scramble for a 2-point conversion and force OT against the Browns. Gardner Minshew (thumb) makes that play if healthy. 
DAL Cowboys
The Cowboys repeatedly shot themselves in the foot and set Washington up for success in an embarrassing Thanksgiving Day defeat. 
CIN Bengals
Tee Higgins is going to be a stud WR for years to come. The Bengals would be wise to build around Higgins and Joe Burrow (knee) after they play out the string with Brandon Allen under center this season. 
DET Lions
Former OC Darrell Bevell takes over as HC following Matt Patricia’s overdue dismissal. Detroit’s 15th-rated offense (DVOA) is only marginally better than its 25th-rated defense. 
NYJ Jets
Sam Darnold (shoulder) returned but the Jets offense barely moved the needle in a 20-3 loss to the Dolphins. They can try to steal a win from the napping Raiders next week. 

How to use NFL Power Rankings

Stay tuned for updates to our power rankings all season long! These can serve as a valuable tool for placing NFL futures bets or planning how to bet on NFL games.

Of course, you have to account for factors such as travel time, home field advantage, and injuries as the season progresses. Yet early in the season, it’s possible to go against the betting public by sticking to your own process.

Bettors tend to overreact to recent results and are very reactionary in an “update league” like the NFL. Therefore, the betting market shifts to these reactions.

If you stick with the raw data, i.e. metrics on offensive line play, a quarterback’s record at home, and turnover differential, you might be able to cash big early in the season before oddsmakers and the betting public adjust. Trust your data and stay one step ahead with a comprehensive Power Rankings system.

How to handicap NFL games

What does it mean to “handicap” a game? At first, it might seem that you’ll be running advanced metrics and spitting out numbers and point spreads. In reality, handicapping is a fancy bettor’s term for preparing and researching. There’s dozens of game factors that need to be taken into account like injuries, matchups, and metrics but also market factors like line movement and public biases.

Surface-level factors

First are the surface-level factors that can determine a game like home field advantage (though in 2020, that is severely diminished), key injuries, and the weather. For injuries, don’t just browse the fantasy football injury report– a diminished offensive line or defensive secondary can be devastating to a team’s performance. For example, the Washington Football Team was able to record eight sacks on the Eagles’ Carson Wentz and overcome a 17-point deficit and underdog odds due to three key offensive line absences for Philadelphia in Week 1 of the 2020 season.

Traditionally, the home team is given a 2- or 3-point advantage for playing in their home city in front of their home fans. Even without fans in attendance, travel takes a toll on visiting teams and has some (albeit diminished) effect on the line. Also needed for consideration is the weather: rain, wind, and snow can hurt a pass-heavy offense and cold weather might hurt warm-climate teams. Teams playing at altitude (Denver) may also have an advantage over teams that don’t frequently play at altitude (Miami).

Strength of schedule is useful when looking at futures bet. For example, the Houston Texans averaged 23.6 points per game against the 13th-toughest schedule in the NFL in 2019. In 2020, the Texans were scheduled the 8th-toughest schedule in the NFL and traded away star receiver DeAndre Hopkins. Using this information, we could have determined that the Texans were likely to see a negative regression in points per game. Strength of schedules are also broken down positionally and should be taken into consideration, as well.

Deeper factors

Beyond those easily-identifiable factors are matchups, schemes, and metrics. If you aren’t a film junkie, don’t worry– there’s plenty of Twitter follows and websites that can help you break it down and make it easily understandable.

Look for size advantages in receivers and defensive backs; players like Julio Jones can make life difficult for a 5’ 8” corner and the Falcons might gameplan to exploit that advantage. Other positional advantages to keep in mind: pass rushers against inexperienced/struggling offensive tackles and athletic pass-catching tight ends against linebackers who struggle defending receivers. Schematic advantages are also worth noting. For example, seasoned vets like Josh McDaniels (Patriots offensive coordinator) or Mike Zimmer (Vikings head coach and former defensive coordinator) will have an advantage against a first-year play-caller.

Advanced metrics can be telling and expose weaknesses in teams, but with thousands of metrics out there, it can be difficult to tell which are really helpful. NBC’s Warren Sharp is a great resource for finding advanced metrics that make significant differences in outcomes. A quick tab on stats worth paying attention to:

  • Yards per play (rather than total yards)
  • Expected points per drive (rather than points per game)
  • Air yards per attempt (rather than passing yards thrown)
  • 3rd down conversion

These numbers will break down the efficiency and effectiveness of an offense (or defense, if you’re going with allowed) and remove the “garbage time” numbers plenty of players can pile on. Contrary to the belief that stats never lie, stats can actually be the best liars when used incorrectly.

If you’ve really got a handle on the NFL game, a popular focus recently has been on coaches’ understanding of analytics and their willingness to utilize probability factors in their gameplan. For example, failing to use analytics and probability both cost the Cowboys and Broncos opening-week wins (rushing on third and long, hoarding timeouts, settling for field goals inside the three yard line, etc.). Older coaches who’ve rejected the use of modern analytics can move lines (especially over/unders) and are worth keeping tabs on.

Market factors

Outside of the game itself, bettors should understand how lines move and react to sharp bettors and the general public. One thing to remember about public betting: they are easily and drastically influenced by recency bias and nonsequitur trends. For example, Sammy Watkins almost always comes out in Week 1 and dominates, but disappears for the rest of the year. Yet year-in and year-out, Watkins is picked up in thousands of fantasy leagues with hopes that he continues his streak. This affects statistical futures from the droves of public bettors that go and bet his over in receiving yards and moves the line up (say, from 405.5 yards to 425.5 yards).

Sharp bettors (professionals and those who prepare correctly) can take advantage of moving lines and get better odds for their wagers. Taking the Watkins example, bettors who take the under now have 20 more yards of breathing room and a higher probability of success. The same goes for good players who play a poor Week 1 (ex. Saquon Barkley). Their futures will decrease due to the public all betting under their totals, and gives sharp bettors more space to work with when betting overs.

This tactic is known as fading the public and has a long track record of success.

Power Rankings vs. Power Ratings

Everyone sees Power Rankings just about everywhere you look– SportsCenter, the Herd, just about every website– and those are useful in their own right. The concept is simple, just a 1-32 list of the best team to the worst team. Maybe it’s based on metrics, maybe it’s based on the eyeball test, maybe it’s both.

Power Ratings differ quite a bit despite sounding similar. Ratings quantify the numerical advantage one team has over another based on past scores and season performance. Ratings are drawn exclusively from quantifiable metrics (though those metrics may differ person to person) and are used to help predict future scores and outcomes, rather than saying Team X is just better than Team Y and should win.

How to build your own Power Rankings

For those looking to rank teams 1-32 based on last season, the games ongoing this season, and a looking quickly at the depth chart, you can do just that. However, it likely won’t serve as a useful tool when it comes to betting, especially against the spread; you’ll want to build (or find) a set of power ratings first. That way, you’ll have a more accurate and quantifiable justification to your rankings and remove potential biases.

To create these power ratings, begin with ranking the teams according to projected number of wins. This will give you a base to work with rather than working from scratch. Assign a number to each team, starting at the top with 16 and running down to the bottom where the last ranked team receives -16. From there, adjust the numbers– 16 through -16, with zero being the middle– based on projected point totals, defensive ranks, and personnel. If interested, look up formulas on expected point differentials to create a more pinpoint rating for each team.

Putting it together

Once you have your numbers, compare two teams (numbers in parentheses are hypothetical power ratings): Indianapolis (12) @ Los Angeles Chargers (-8).

The difference between these teams ratings, 4, is now your theoretical point spread. Add in a 2.5-point advantage for the home team (Los Angeles) for an adjusted point spread of 1.5 in favor of the Colts.

Now add in your factors (injuries, metrics, etc.) to fine-tune your spread. Derwin James is out for the season and creates a massive disadvantage for the Chargers’ defensive secondary (the numbers on this are worth looking up) and should benefit the Colts at least half a point. Your final spread for this game comes out to Colts -2 (-110) @ Chargers.

Now, take your projected spread of -2 and compare it to the Vegas lines. Say the opening line comes out to Colts -4.5 (-110) @ Chargers. That should be an easy bet, since our projected point total is -2 and we would take the Chargers to cover. The process will take some refining and new factors will emerge as the season goes on, but this is the basic process in handicapping your own NFL games.

Not only will this help you quantify point spreads and decide on feasible spreads, but it will help you dig deeper and find new metrics that create a new dimension of understanding for betting on the NFL.

2020 NFL Pre-season Power Rankings

RankTeamSuper Bowl Odds
1Kansas City+600
3San Francisco+1000
4New Orleans+1100
7Tampa Bay+1400
13Green Bay+3000
14New England+2200
19LA Chargers+4500
20LA Rams+4000
26NY Giants+8000
27Las Vegas+6600
31NY Jets+8000