FanPost

NFL power rankings: What do they know?

Jamie Squire

From the FanPosts -Joel

Less than 48 hours from now, the NFL season will be underway. Earlier today, the vast majority of major websites covering the NFL released their final preseason power rankings. As football fans, it’s only natural for us to pore over statistics and depth charts as much as possible in an effort to prove that those power rankings are wrong and our team is better than x other teams that are ranked ahead of them. Usually it’s all of them, because our team is great, and your team sucks.

While most fans are rational enough to see the logic behind most power rankings (even if they disagree with them), the homer inside of us all always wants those extra one or two spots. It irks us when we’re ranked too low (and it’s always too low). Just how much do those so-called "experts" know, anyway?

Well, before the season starts? It’s not much. If we take a look at how a few major sports sites ranked the Chiefs right before the last three seasons started, we can see just how well those Week 1 power rankings reflect how good the team actually is.

As a reminder: In 2011, the Chiefs were coming off a division championship, but started with some terrible losses, fired Todd Haley and ended the season at a subpar 7-9. In 2013, the Chiefs had the #1 overall pick, but new additions Alex Smith and Andy Reid led the team back to the playoffs. And as for 2012? 2012 never happened.

I compiled historical power rankings from ESPN, NFL.com, Yahoo!, and SB Nation. There are other sites that are probably more popular/better forecasters than those four, but then, some people like to cover their tracks and obscure their prior prognostications from the judging eyes of the Internet (or at the least, I couldn’t find their old power rankings while distractedly searching for them in the back of a computer science lecture class)

* * *

ESPN

This year's ranking: 16

Chiefs quarterbacks completed 120 passes to wide receivers last year, lowest in the league. Despite the underwhelming performance, Kansas City did not draft or sign an additional wide receiver.

Sixteen!? Sixteen!? ESPN thinks the Chiefs are exactly in the center of the league? How could they make such an obvious error? What do they know?

2013 Ranking: 19

Andy Reid's Chiefs are more talented than last year's 2-14 record indicates. Top pick Eric Fisher, Alex Smith, Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe provide a foundation for offensive improvement.

2012 Ranking: 17

The Chiefs have loaded up on both sides of the ball, but it's all going to come down to how well QB Matt Cassel can play.

2011 Ranking: 18

It's often difficult to follow up a breakthrough season with a strong showing. That's Todd Haley's challenge.

So ESPN has ranked the Chiefs almost exactly the same in each of the past four years. Those years included both a 2-14 campaign and an 11-5 campaign.

Yahoo! Sports

This year's ranking: 21

New left tackle Eric Fisher, last season's first overall pick, struggled in the preseason. The Chiefs need him to be very good.

Twenty-first!? Twenty-first!? Yahoo thinks the Chiefs are worse than 20 other teams? Have you seen the New York Jets? How could they make such an obvious error? What do they know?

2013 Ranking: 20

Alex Smith did some good things this preseason. There's just no reason this team can't be in the hunt, now that it has a real coach.

2012 Ranking: 15

Multiple playmakers back from injury and a defense that could be one of the AFC’s best.

(No 2011 ranking available)

Like ESPN, Yahoo predicted a better finish for the Chiefs in 2012 (when they finished last) than they did in 2013 (when they made the playoffs).

NFL.com

This year's ranking: 13

You might not remember this, but 20 years (and an extra "XL") ago, Andy Reid coached Brett Favre's Green Bay Packers offensive line ... you wonder if Reid will get his hands dirty and coach up that unit, a la Bill Belichick coaching the linebackers during the Patriots' undefeated campaign in 2007. Why not?

Thirteen!? Thirteen!? NFL.com doesn’t think the Chiefs are a playoff team? How could they make such an obvious error? What do they know? (Actually, there isn’t much to complain about here.)

2013 Ranking: 27

Still waiting on the Chiefs and Alex Smith. As long as the new quarterback keeps tossing a bunch of none-yard outs, this team will be stuck in .500-to-sub-.500 neutral gear.

2012 Ranking: 17

The Chiefs were the pick here to win the AFC West. But for right now, they live behind the Broncos with Tamba Hali suspended, Brandon Flowers nursing a sore heel and three other starters on defense missing practice.

2011 Ranking: 18 (no comments)

I know a lot of early power rankings are based on last season, but if you ever want reassurance that preseason power rankings mean absolutely nothing, just take another look at where NFL.com ranked the Chiefs at this time last year.

SB Nation

This year's ranking: 15

Kansas City has a much tougher schedule this season, one that includes games against all four NFC West teams. That will put a questionable offensive line in the spotlight as the Chiefs try to prove their 11-5 record last season was no fluke.

Fifteen!? Fifteen!? SB Nation thinks that the Chiefs are an above-average but not quite playoff-caliber team? This disgusts me! How could they make such an obvious error? What do they know?

2013 Ranking: 20

Andy Reid takes over a talented team that underachieved last year. But it will still be a year or two before the Chiefs can challenge the Broncos for division supremacy.

2012 Ranking: 23

This has the look of a team who lead the league in rushing.

2011 Ranking: 13

Am I being a homer here? Solid team but that schedule is brutal.

I should point out that the power rankings for SB Nation in 2011 and 2012 were compiled by our fearless leader here at Arrowhead Pride (hence the "homer" comment in 2011). But I’ll also point out that he was the only person on any of the sites I looked at who came even close to predicting how horrifically terrible the Chiefs would be in 2012. I wonder why that could be.

And as for 2011? You might enjoy the very first comment on those power rankings:

Fair assesment. I also like the Chiefs at 13...great number for surprises!

I don't think 2011 was the surprise we were hoping for.

* * *

The honest truth is that no one has any idea what’s really going to happen in an NFL season until kickoff on Thursday night, Week 1. And most people don’t have a good grasp on the situation until Week 6 or 7, at the earliest. A lot of power rankings are actually accurate measurements of a team’s position in the league, backed up by solid analysis. A lot of power rankings are also completely and utterly terrible and off the mark, as well as other things I can’t type here. It’s best not to read into them too much.

But then, it is really fun to loudly complain about why my team should be ranked higher than your team. Isn’t that what football fandom is all about?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Arrowhead Pride's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Arrowhead Pride writers or editors.