Tuesday is officially NFL Power Rankings Day during the season, and I guess since we’re exactly 100 days from the beginning of the 2018 season, it’s Power Rankings Day during the offseason, too.
ESPN released their annual FPI rankings on Tuesday, ranking all 32 teams based on the following metrics:
You can read more about the process here, but the model considers each team’s win total at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, how that team performed on offense, defense and special teams last season, how many starters are returning, and who the starting and backup quarterbacks are.
Putting aside all of the numerous flaws in this method—Vegas win totals? Really?—it does provide an interesting look at the national perception of the Detroit Lions at this point in the offseason. With all of the coaching changes and major roster overhauls, expectations for this team are all over the place in 2018.
So where does ESPN spit out the Lions after their number-crunching? 17th overall, with an exactly average 0.0 FPI. That ranks them third in the NFC North, well behind the Vikings (fifth) and Packers (seventh), and just 11th in the NFC. Perhaps most shockingly, the Lions are a full seven spots behind... the San Francisco 49ers (10th).
Of course, these rankings mean little in terms of their predictive value. In 2016, FPI ranked the Lions 20th overall with 6.9 projected wins and just a 16.9 percent chance to make the playoffs. They would go on to win nine games and sneak into the postseason.
Last year, they were 20th overall in the rankings with just 7.5 projected wins. Again, the Lions outperformed their FPI predictions, finishing with nine wins for the second season in a row.
The Lions are projected, once again, to do a little better in 2018. Their projected win total is up to 7.7 wins, with a 25 percent chance of making the playoffs. While the Lions have proven over the past few years that these calculations have very little predictive value, it is a little comforting to see these projections increase every single year, even if it is at an incredibly slow pace. Maybe if the Lions win nine games again in 2018, they’ll be projected to win an entire 8.0 games in 2019!
Where would you place the Lions right now?