NFL Power Points: Bucs start out on top

The Buccaneers sit atop Insider's latest NFL Power Points rating system that mathematically credits, and debits, all aspects of the game.

Updated: September 9, 2003, 2:49 PM ET
By By Ryan Early | NFL Insider
Power Ratings are calculated to show a mathematical comparison among teams. My Power Points are unique in that they use a formula that measures how much a team's offense, defense and special teams units contribute to a game's final score using field position, turnovers and scoring plays.

For example, the Atlanta Falcons scored 27 points on the Cowboys on Sunday, even without Michael Vick under center, to hold their offense rating at a plus 2.6. However, their defense gave up a lot of yards and some big plays. As a result, their defense rating slipped to a negative 0.3, meaning they are slightly worse than the average league defense. Their kicker, Jay Feely, led the league in points last year and their special teams continue to be ranked highly with a plus 1.3 rating. That rating was increased thanks to a good day against Dallas. (The Falcons blocked an extra point and pressured the Cowboys kicker enough to force a field goal wide right.) Their overall rating is positive 3.6, or the sum of all three unit ratings. A rating of 0.0 is, by definition, the league average.

Statisticians like large sample sizes as it gives them more confidence in their data. They know that the occasional fluke data point will be averaged out in the long run. The problem we have here is that there are just 16 games in the books on the 2003 season. If we were to calculate our ratings solely on last weekend's action, we would think the Lions had the league's best offense and the Patriots the worst defense. That may turn out to be the case, but considering what we know of their personnel and past history, that is extremely unlikely. So for the first four weeks of the season, we will lean heavily on last year's Power Points to give us the baseline for our formulas. Once Week 5 starts, we will go back to our normal formula that uses only the current season's game results.