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Ratings Nerd Fight: Seattle is #1 in Elo, Green Bay Is #1 in FPI

We relaunched our NFL Elo power ratings on Thursday with a nifty interactive that lets you track where your team stands and how likely it is to win each game. But Elo isn’t the only statistical power rating out there; in fact, our NFL previews used predictions and rankings generated by ESPN’s new Football Power Index (FPI), a system of far greater complexity.1 Since we plan to use both metrics in our NFL coverage throughout the season, we thought it would be interesting to look at how closely the two ratings mirror each other, as well as which teams fare better in each. (Note: To make an apples-to-apples comparison, I converted FPI to the same scale as Elo. I also updated the Elo-equivalent FPI ratings of New England and Pittsburgh to reflect Thursday night’s season-opening game.)

ELO FPI
RANK TEAM RATING RANK TEAM RATING
1 Seattle 1678 1 Green Bay 1653
2 New England 1675 2 New England 1653
3 Green Bay 1601 3 Seattle 1642
4 Denver 1595 4 Indianapolis 1635
5 Dallas 1590 5 Denver 1622
6 Indianapolis 1581 6 Dallas 1592
7 Baltimore 1577 7 Philadelphia 1564
8 Pittsburgh 1552 8 Baltimore 1553
9 Philadelphia 1545 9 New Orleans 1540
10 Arizona 1541 10 Pittsburgh 1536
11 Cincinnati 1540 11 Kansas City 1532
12 Kansas City 1540 12 Miami 1530
13 Detroit 1538 13 Arizona 1526
14 Carolina 1536 14 Cincinnati 1525
15 Buffalo 1534 15 Carolina 1515
16 San Francisco 1529 16 Buffalo 1510
17 San Diego 1523 17 Houston 1508
18 Houston 1505 18 Detroit 1501
19 New Orleans 1486 19 San Diego 1497
20 Miami 1484 20 N.Y. Giants 1496
21 N.Y. Giants 1480 21 Atlanta 1495
22 Minnesota 1479 22 St. Louis 1484
23 St. Louis 1477 23 Minnesota 1477
24 Atlanta 1462 24 San Francisco 1463
25 N.Y. Jets 1440 25 N.Y. Jets 1458
26 Cleveland 1422 26 Chicago 1444
27 Chicago 1419 27 Cleveland 1409
28 Oakland 1389 28 Washington 1394
29 Tampa Bay 1377 29 Tampa Bay 1358
30 Washington 1371 30 Jacksonville 1351
31 Jacksonville 1357 31 Tennessee 1349
32 Tennessee 1339 32 Oakland 1346

For the most part, Elo and FPI agree about the landscape of the league; the correlation coefficient between the two metrics is 0.94. But the fit isn’t perfect.

paine-datalab-elo-vs-fpi-1

Elo thinks more highly of 17 teams — including the San Francisco 49ers,2 Oakland Raiders, Detroit Lions, Seattle Seahawks3 and San Diego Chargers — than FPI does. Among the teams that FPI favors, on the other hand, are the Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers, Miami Dolphins and Atlanta Falcons.

It’s tough to pinpoint exactly why the discrepancies exist in many cases (so many factors go into the FPI’s construction, in particular), but they’re worth keeping an eye on as the season progresses.

Footnotes

  1. While Elo simply takes last year’s overall end-of-season ratings and regresses them to the mean, FPI adds some intricacies: It breaks a team’s quality down into components that measure its offense, defense and special teams, incorporates Vegas expectations, and employs subjective survey data from NFL experts.

  2. Probably because Elo has no idea they lost so much talent during the offseason.

  3. Thus continuing Elo’s ongoing crush on the Seahawks.

Neil Paine is a senior sportswriter for FiveThirtyEight.

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