The RODS rankings are my self-developed statistical analysis of NFL team performance, looking at all three phases of the game. The ratings are based purely on what happens on the field, taking into consideration no outside factors (such as strength of schedule and home/road games). For a further breakdown of how the ratings are derived, you can find the full breakdown of the RODS rankings here.
With the 2018 regular season in the books, I’ve crunched the final numbers and am ready to crown our champion and name the team destined to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy in Atlanta on February 3rd. As that’s only happened once in the 12 seasons I’ve compiled the RODS rankings (2016 Patriots), its probably not going to happen, but a bit of hyperbole never hurt anyone.
And so onto this year’s winner and it comes in the form of a team who did not manage to lead the rankings for a single week this season until the very end. The Chicago Bears leapfrogged both the Ravens and Saints in Week 17 to take home this year’s title after putting up a strong showing in the defeat of the Vikings (+54.3%), to finish with an overall 2018 grade of +24.4%. This caps a remarkable turnaround for the Bears, who finished 28th last season and have not finished better than 21st in any of the past 4 seasons. Credit to first year head coach Matt Nagy and his staff for turning around an ailing organisation and turning them into a powerhouse team in all three phases. They were led by the number one graded defense (-26.3%) and special teams (+18.8%), with the offense improving from 31st in 2017, to 13th this year (+42.0%), only the third time in 13 years they’ve had a top half offense (2013, 2015). Mitchell Trubisky showed strong progress in year two, increasing his QB Index rating from 41.3% in 2017 (33rd of 43 qualifying QBs), to 54.7% this season, good enough for 19th overall (out of 40) and with a rating 2% better than the league average. Trubisky was supported by and contributed to the number 11 graded rushing attack, as he finished with 421 rushing yards, 5th best amongst quarterbacks.
Though the defense led the league in many categories (points & touchdowns allowed, rushing yards allowed, 1st downs allowed, fewest Red Zone attempts and most interceptions with 27), their overall grade is the worst league-leading defense grade I’ve ever recorded at -26.3%, with the previous ‘worst best’ grade the 2007 Patriots with -25.3%. That being said, the Bears finished with the highest graded pass and run defenses this season, so were a dominant force in a league that went offense crazy in 2018.
Here are your historic RODS champions in the 13 years of their existence.
RODS Champions 2007-2018
|2016||New England Patriots||20.0%|
|2011||New Orleans Saints||28.4%|
|2010||San Diego Chargers||26.3%|
|2009||Green Bay Packers||29.1%|
|2007||New England Patriots||42.2%|
Behind the Bears come the Ravens, who were the favorites to claim the RODS title for the first time since 2008 as they led the rankings going into Week 17, but ultimately they fell at the final hurdle as they posted a -7.1% grade despite beating the Browns (+7.1%) and securing both the AFC North crown and a playoff place. The Ravens have been one of the most consistent teams all season, having been never lower than 6th all season and are the only team to finish the year with a top-10 rated offense (10th), defense (3rd) and special teams (7th). Offensively, they finished with the 5th rated rushing offense, with only the Seahawks averaging more than their 153 yards per game. Rookie Lamar Jackson contributed 652 of those rushing yards, which was 1st amongst quarterbacks, alongside 5 rushing touchdowns (3rd most). As a passer he finished with a QB Index rating of 43.7%, 34th out of 40 qualifying players. Defensively they were equally strong against the run and the pass, grading third in both categories and allowing the fewest yards of any team in 2018 (4686)
The Saints finished third for the second straight season, thanks to the number 2 offense and 12th rated defense. The Saints rested most of their offensive starters in Week 17, including MVP candidate Drew Brees and Alvin Kamara, and suffered a 33-14 loss and their second worst rating of 2018 with -34.3%. Their 2018 offensive rating of +55.2% is their best ever in the history of the RODS rankings, beating their 2011 mark of +55.0% and is the third highest I’ve ever recorded (2007 Patriots +60.5, 2018 Chiefs +57.5%). The defense has finished 12th for the second straight season, though the overall grade has slipped slightly from -34.0% in 2017 to -38.0% this year.
A shout out to the surging Colts who made it 9 wins out of 10 in their ‘win and in’ victory over the Titans and finished 4th in the overall rankings with a grade of +17.4%, their best since 2007 (+26.7%). That they finished 11 places above the AFC South champion Texans shows what a dangerous team they are and have a great chance to upset them on Wild Card Weekend.
If the Colts are the hot property heading into the playoffs, then we should pour one out for the Steelers, who missed the post-season by a narrow margin and finished 2018 as the 7th overall graded team and therefore ahead of half of this season’s playoff teams. The Steelers finished with the 5th rated offense (+51.4%), a record rating for them, however, they were let down by a 16th rated defense, who finished with their lowest grade in the history of the RODS rankings with a -39.4% rating.
As mentioned above, the Chiefs finished with the league’s top offense, finishing with the second highest ever rating with +57.5%, behind only the 2007 Patriots +60.5%. Led by first year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who finished with 5097 passing yards and 50 touchdown passes, the Chiefs offense was in the top 3 from week 3 onwards, leading the league for 10 of the 17 weeks of the season. Mahomes has finished at the top of my 2018 QB Index and should now be favourite to be crowned MVP.
At the bottom of the rankings we have the team set to pick first in the 2019 draft, the 3-13 Arizona Cardinals. They’d been on a trajectory to score one of the lowest overall ratings in the history of the RODS rankings and they didn’t fail to disappoint, finishing with a -35.9% rating, the 4th lowest I’ve ever recorded. Only the 2008 & 2009 Lions (-40.2%, -40.5%) and the 2009 Rams (-40.4%) have ever graded lower. They finished dead last in offense with a +13.8% rating, which puts them in the bottom 10 all time for offensive RODS rankings, with the 30th rated special teams (-15.9%), and a little more respectable 18th rated defense (-40.5%).
The worst rated defense came from the Raiders who posted a season long grade of -55.4%, the single worst I’ve ever recorded. The previous worst came from the 0-16 2008 Lions with -52.1%, so I think its fair to say that trading Khalil Mack to the number one rated Bears defense was a significant part of their defensive downfall in 2018. They finished as the 31st rated defense against the pass and 29th against the run and their overall rating of -31.3% is the 6th lowest ever RODS rating I’ve recorded.
2018 FINAL RODS Rankings
The 2018 Playoffs
In terms of the final standings and the 2018 playoff teams, 9 of the top 12 teams in the RODS rankings have made the post-season, with the Chargers coming in 13th, the Texans 15th and the Cowboys a lowly 18th. Based purely on the final RODS standings, that means the unlucky teams to miss out on the playoffs are the Steelers (7th overall), the Panthers (9th) and the Vikings (12th). That the Cowboys won their division with the 18th overall rated team, suggests a visit from the number 11 rated Seahawks on Wild Card Weekend will be quite the test and it will be strength on strength with the Seahawks number 1 rated rushing attack, facing the Cowboys’ 6th rated rushing defense.
From a strength of schedule standpoint, the Texans finished 11-5 facing the easiest strength of schedule of any team in 2018, with their opponents finishing with an average record of 0.438. On the flip side, the Eagles who snuck into the final Wild Card spot did so facing the toughest strength of schedule of any team in 2018, with an opponent record of 0.567. The Eagles with magic man Nick Foles under center will be confident heading to Chicago with 4 of their 9 wins coming on the road, including the crucial wins at the Rams and Washington in Weeks 15 and 17. The win over Washington earned them a perfect 100% RODS rating, only the second perfect rating of 2018, when the Eagles themselves lost to the Saints in Week 11. That’s the first time I’ve ever recorded a team have and concede a perfect rating in the same season.
My final note is to give my Super Bowl prediction, something I fail to get right every year but is always worth a shot. This year I’m going with Ravens against the Saints, with the Saints to win it all.