Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 NFL Rankings - First Look

Green Bay Packer hearse
In this recent post, I took a look at the Week 1 opening point spreads for the 2012 NFL season in an effort to get an early read on changes in team strength. In the comments, it was pointed out that Cantor Gaming has published point spreads for the entire 2012 NFL season (except for Week 17). You can find them here (courtesy of beyondthebets.com).

Getting 16 weeks of point spreads is a virtual goldmine for my ranking system, as my rankings developed in-season are based on weekly point spreads that are constantly being re-calibrated to injuries, roster changes, etc.  I think there's a lot of interesting results to tease out of this data set, but for this post, I am focusing on just looking at overall rankings and how they compare to last year.


For reference, here is some background on how the rankings are developed.  The Methodology page also has a simple example.

The Rankings

The table below summarizes the rankings implied by the 16 weeks of point spreads. GPF stands for "Generic Points Favored".  It's what you would expect a team to be favored by against a league average opponent at a neutral site.  The "Last Year" column refers to the Week 16 rankings I published last year at Advanced NFL Stats Community.  "GPF Change" is the change in the team's GPF relative to last year's Week 16 GPF.

  • Green Bay and New England stand atop the rankings, nearly even.  There's a pretty big gap between them and the rest of the league.
  • There is definitely some regression to the mean baked into the point spreads.  You can see that most clearly in the "GPF Change" column.
  • If these rankings hold, look for Houston to have the AFC South locked up by Week 12.  There is a huge gap between the Texans and the other three AFC South teams.
  • The Texans, Broncos, Bears, and Chiefs all show significant improvement, most likely due to better expected quarterback play.  The Texans, Bears, and Chiefs are getting their starting QB back from injury, and we all know what the Broncos did in the offseason.
  • The Saints had the biggest drop in GPF.  Some of the drop is likely due to regression to the mean, but is probably also a reflection of the loss of Williams, Payton, and Vilma.


I did some testing of rankings week to week and could not find any evidence that Cantor "regressed" the point spreads for the later weeks of the season.  In a future post, I hope to take a look at what these rankings imply about team-specific home field advantage.

Thanks again to the anonymous commenter in last week's post who called these point spreads to my attention.