It's All Relative: Patriots, 49ers, Broncos NFL's Best Teams

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Nov 27, 2012



You can make a great argument that the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons are the best teams in football. 

After all, each team is 10-1 and on the fast track to earn the No. 1 playoff seeds in the AFC and NFC, respectively.

But who are the best teams in football week in and week out, relative to the quality of the teams on their schedule?

The Cold, Hard Football Facts Relativity Index has the answer each week. Right now, the Top 5 looks like this:

  • New England (8-3) – +13.83 points
  • San Francisco (8-2-1) – +12.03
  • Denver (8-3) – +10.85
  • Houston (10-1) – +9.83
  • Chicago (8-3) – +9.03

Denver, by the way, is the only team in the Top 5 of the Relativity Index both offensively and defensively. Those lists are broken out below.

Put another way, you can argue that Peyton Manning and the Broncos are the most balanced team in football, based on the relative performance of the offense and defense.

The 10-1 Falcons are No. 8 on the Relativity Index (+4.90) – a number which reflects the fact that Atlanta has won a lot of close games, most recently a 24-23 victory at Tampa Bay.

That win, even though it was by only one point, propelled the Falcons two spots up the indicator this week (movement indicated by the little red arrows and numbers on the chart) because it came against a tough opponent.

The Relativity Index awards teams for tight wins over tough teams as much as it does big wins over bad teams. As the name indicates, it's all relative.

So, is it more important to win more games and win them closely, like Atlanta, or to win fewer games but by bigger margins, like the Patriots, 49ers and Broncos? The Relativity Index helps us figure it all out.

Here's how it works: The Relativity Index measures the number of points each team scores against the average number of points their opponents surrender in all other games.

It also does the same on the other side of the ball, measuring the number of points each team surrenders against the average number of points their opponents score in all other games.

It then adds together those two numbers to tell us who’s outscoring opponents by the greatest average week in and week out.

Essentially, the Relativity Index adjusts for the quality of competition and spits out its findings in a very easy-to-understand number.

All our Quality Stats come in sortable charts, so you can rank teams in any individual component. Here’s a look at the top five in the Relativity Index on both offense and defense.

 

Top 5 Offense

The Patriots not only score 37.0 PPG, on pace to produce more points (592) than any team in history, they do it against opponents that surrender just 22.25 points in all other games. That +14.75-point advantage is easily the best in the NFL, double the number of the No. 2 Texans.

New England – +14.75 points

Houston – +6.21

Denver – +6.27

N.Y. Giants – +5.84

New Orleans – +5.19

 

Top 5 Defense

Like the Patriots on offense, the 49ers are No. 1 in scoring defense and also No. 1 by a solid margin relative to the opponents they have played. San Francisco surrenders 14.09 points per game against teams that score 23.55 points in all other games – an advantage of +9.46 points.

San Francisco – +9.45

Chicago – +7.12

Seattle – +6.45

Denver – +4.58

Pittsburgh – +3.67


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