NFL Power Rankings: Chiefs, Packers or Bills Number 1?

A Glance At Each Team Remaining

1

The league’s Elite 8 round has almost arrived, and here TheLines staff will collaborate to rank all of the NFL teams remaining.

Kansas City, like it has throughout much of the season, is our consensus No. 1 going into the Divisional Round. Once again low on our list are the top seed in the AFC, the Tennessee Titans. In fact, two members of our panel – Stephen Andress and Brett Gibbons – had them ranked dead last of the teams remaining.

NFL Power Rankings

#
Team
Chg
Rcrd
1
KC Chiefs
Patrick Mahomes made mincemeat out of the Steelers excellent pass defense for the second time in three weeks as the Chiefs rolled to the Divisional Round. With their offense clicking and their defense playing strong, KC should be the Super Bowl favorites. 
0-0-0
2
BUF Bills
Josh Allen led seven consecutive TD drives in Saturday’s rout of the Patriots and made it 19 straight drives without a punt against a talented Bill Belichick-coached defense. 
0-0-0
3
GB Packers
Linebacker DeVondre Campbell joined Aaron Rodgers and Davante Adams on the All-Pro First Team this season, proving that the Packers are more than just an offensive juggernaut. 
0-0-0
4
TB Buccaneers
It was not the Tom Brady show on Sunday afternoon against Philly. With several key skill players out, the Bucs star-studded front seven carried the load with four sacks and consistent pressure. 
0-0-0
5
LAR Rams
The Rams finished the season on a 5-4 stretch with shaky play at QB, but their elite defense is starting to round into form in time to host Kyler Murray and the Cardinals. 
0-0-0
6
SF 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo tossed his fourth postseason interception to open the door for a potential epic collapse, but the Niners defense was able to come up with enough stops to hang on in Dallas. They will need Nick Bosa (head) and Fred Warner (ankle) healthy to stop Rodgers and the Packers this coming Saturday. 
0-0-0
7
CIN Bengals
Joe Burrow (24-for-34, 244 yards, 2 TD) played well in his postseason debut, although the Bengals settled for a few too many field goals and benefitted from an inadvertent whistle that set up Burrow’s second TD strike to Tyler Boyd. 
0-0-0
8
TEN Titans
Derrick Henry (foot) gets an extra week to rest his foot and Julio Jones (hamstring) should also benefit from the bye week as the Titans will host the young Bengals in the Divisional Round. 
0-0-0
9
ARI Cardinals
Arizona’s steady defense has given up 28.4 PPG during a 1-4 stretch to end the season and they allowed the Seahawks to convert on 8 of 12 third downs in their season finale. 
0-0-0

How the rankings are determined

The sports betting experts at TheLines file individual NFL Power Rankings each Monday morning throughout the pro football season. Brett Collson, Matt Brown, Nate Weitzer, Matt Burke, Stephen Andress, Brett Gibbons and Mo Nuwwarah rank all 32 teams each week and we post the consensus rankings above.

Each person on staff at TheLines files their rankings based on week-to-week play in the NFL, providing a weekly snapshot as to how “powerful” each team is at certain points throughout the season.

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 was 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 then-Eagles QB 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. The Steelers and Ravens have the most difficult schedules in 2021, based on the combined 2020 record/winning percentage of their opponents. AFC North teams have a tough go of it in 2021, as those teams will play NFC West teams. The Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals all finished .500 or better in 2020, and the 49ers (6-10 in 2020) are a chic pick to be the comeback team of 2021. Be sure to factor in all division vs. division matchups when surveying the NFL landscape.

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 Titans 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. Failing to use analytics and probability can cost teams victories. Examples include 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 non-sequitur 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 in Week 1 of 2020). 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 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.

2021 NFL Pre-season Power Rankings

Here were our initial 2021-22 Power Rankings accompanied by their FanDuel Sportsbook Super Bowl odds at the time. Also included are current odds to win this season’s big game.

RankTeamSuper Bowl odds - FebruarySuper Bowl odds - September 7Super Bowl odds - October 26Super Bowl odds - November 23Super Bowl odds - December 14Super Bowl odds - December 28
1Tampa Bay Buccaneers+950+650+550+600+500+700
2Kansas City Chiefs+500+500+1400+750+500+400
3Buffalo Bills+1100+1200+550+800+1200+850
4Green Bay Packers+1100+1200+1200+1000+650+450
5LA Rams+1200+1500+800+900+1100+950
6New Orleans Saints+1900+3000+4000+8000+20000+16000
7Baltimore Ravens+1400+1400+1200+1400+3500+5500
8Tennessee Titans+2700+2500+1800+1800+2000+1800
9Cleveland Browns+2200+1600+2500+4000+3500+10000
10Pittsburgh Steelers+3100+4400+10000+10000+20000+28000
11Seattle Seahawks+2000+2000+10000+15000+20000OTB
12San Francisco 49ers+1300+1400+6500+5000+3500+3100
13Miami Dolphins+2800+3300+20000+50000+25000+10000
14Indianapolis Colts+2900+3300+5000+4000+2500+1800
15Dallas Cowboys+3300+2900+1400+900+1200+900
16Chicago Bears+6000+6000+20000+50000+100000OTB
17Arizona Cardinals+4100+4800+900+900+1000+2000
18Washington Football Team+8000+5000+20000+25000+20000+100000
19LA Chargers+3100+3300+1800+2000+2500+5500
20New York Giants+7000+7500+50000+50000+100000OTB
21Philadelphia Eagles+5000+9000+20000+6000+10000+7000
22Las Vegas Raiders+5000+7500+5000+10000+20000+14000
23Minnesota Vikings+4400+4400+10000+5000+10000+18000
24Atlanta Falcons+5000+6000+25000+100000+50000+100000
25Carolina Panthers+5000+9000+20000+25000+100000OTB
26New England Patriots+3700+3700+10000+1400+750+1700
27Denver Broncos+8000+5000+15000+10000+10000+100000
28Houston Texans+7000+55000+100000+100000OTBOTB
29Cincinnati Bengals+8000+12000+3500+4000+5000+2600
30New York Jets+6500+12000+100000+100000OTBOTB
31Jacksonville Jaguars+8000+12000+100000+100000OTBOTB
32Detroit Lions+12000+20000+100000+100000OTBOTB