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NFL Power Rankings Based on Early Vegas Point Spreads: Denver on Top, Ahead of San Francisco, Seattle and New England

Peyton Manning sad face after the loss to the Ravens

If you want to get some early action on NFL games, Cantor Gaming has released early lines on all games through week 16 for the 2013 NFL season (as summarized here by the National Football Post). Using those point spreads, I calculated a power ranking. While New England is the only team that is not an underdog in any contest, the Patriots do not come out as the highest rated team, or even in the top three. Due to schedule, Denver has to go to New England, where it is only a 1.5 point dog (and based on home field, confirms they are power rated higher). San Francisco and Seattle play each other with the home team favored in both contests, the only games that either are listed as an underdog. Here is a best fit power ranking for all 32 teams using the early lines:

Early power rankings based on point spreads NFL

Jacksonville is the bottom of the list, over 2 points below the 30th team in Tennessee. They are not favored in any game, joining Arizona, though the Cardinals face a tougher schedule.

While these ratings represent an average of all the point spreads, it is clear that it is not as simple as just applying a power rating with a home field adjustment. Some of the divisional rivals show a wider spread in home field adjustment than others, and the average settles in at 2 points.

Denver, for example, shows a higher rating early in the year, which you would suspect is a built-in adjustment for a Manning injury factor. In the first five games, the point spread is +0.7 higher than you would expect based on these numbers. None is higher than the opener, where Denver is listed at -7 against the Ravens, but these numbers would put it at 2.8 points before home field adjustment. That’s the game that any veteran quarterback (with no existing known injury) is most likely to play. By the last five games, Denver is a half point lower than you would expect applying these numbers.

A similar pattern exists for the New England Patriots with another veteran QB, where the largest difference is in week 1, and the first five games are almost a half point higher than you would expect, while the final five games are a half point below expected. Interestingly, there does not seem to be much adjustment to the Washington lines based on the uncertainty of Robert Griffin III and his return date.

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