A return to normalcy after two weeks of notable upsets saw the playoff contenders and pretenders start to take shape. But how did the results on the field shape the ColdHardFootballFacts Quality Stats? And how will they offer insight into what's to come? Here's what we learned in our latest deep dive into the numbers following Week 11:
5) The Patriots are statistical kings again. Despite the 49ers pulling out a more inspiring — and arguably more encouraging — victory against Arizona, it was New England's win in Philadelphia that launched the Pats back to the top of the Power Rankings. Perhaps that shouldn't be so surprising, given that New England sits atop the categories for Bendability, Scoreability and most defensive stats, but the 0.38 edge it holds on top over the 49ers is both notable and should grow if the Patriots can keep winning, particularly with the 49ers facing the league's toughest schedule down the stretch.
4) Could the Ravens be the bigger long-term threat to the top of the Power Rankings? Baltimore moved up to No. 3 following an absolute rout of a talented Texans team. The trajectory for Baltimore to eclipse San Francisco's spot is there, too: The Ravens shed 1.57 from their Power Ranking score while the 49ers added 0.28. With a 0.76 difference between the two this week, it's unlikely that Baltimore leapfrogs San Francisco now, but then again any change on either side probably wouldn't hold up past Week 13; the 49ers visit Baltimore three days after Thanksgiving and that result should line up the top of the Power Rankings much more decisively. The Ravens are also dangerously close to overtaking the Packers for the No. 2 spot in the Intelligence Index. Maybe more Ravens should wear Lamar Jackson's shades on the sideline. It seems to be working.
Week 11's biggest winners were the Bills. Yes, you read that correctly. Buffalo took care of business against a Dolphins team that was coming off back-to-back wins and jumped up six places in the Power Rankings as a result. The Bills now sit 10th in the standings which ... is probably about right. The Bills' defense has posted strong defensive Quality Stat rankings all season and currently sits fourth in Defensive Passer Rating and seventh in the Defensive Hog Index. They have one of the league's best rushing attacks, ranked sixth in Offensive Rusher Rating. The passing game on offense? That's still a work in progress, though solid performances in back-to-back weeks has Josh Allen up to 19th in Real Quarterback Rating and 22nd in Offensive Passer Rating. That's no Mona Lisa, but it's a far cry from the finger painting-level passing performances Buffalo's offense turned in early in the season (when they continued to win!).
2) Want to get a quick handle on the true contenders in both conferences? Just take a look at the top 10 of the Passer Rating Differential standings. The "mother of all statistics," a strong Passer Rating Differential has long been a prerequisite for any Super Bowl team. We're still weeks away from the playoffs, but it seems unlikely that the two competitors in Miami the first week of February won't come from this list of the top 10: Patriots, Seahawks, Ravens, 49ers, Vikings, Chiefs, Saints, Packers, Cowboys and Titans. Yes, Tennessee is a bit of an outlier and has moved up at the expense of teams like the Rams (23rd!) and Texans (16th), but that 10th spot is barely holding on anyway. A contending core of Patriots, Ravens and Chiefs in the AFC and Seahawks, 49ers, Vikings, Saints and Packers in the NFC, with the Cowboys tossed in for Dak Prescott's insane recent statistics and the potential for their defense to regain 2018 form, feels like a fit for 2019 through 11 weeks.
1) The MVP award has become a "Most Valuable Quarterback" award in the modern game, so there's no better metric to take stock of the true contenders at this stage of the season than our Real Quarterback Rating rankings. The numbers there paint a remarkable picture of a three-way MVP race, with reigning MVP Patrick Mahomes also in position to make a late charge. The fact that Russell Wilson and Lamar Jackson sit just 0.01 apart in Real QBR speaks to A) how brilliant both have been this season, and B) just how hard it will be to hand out the award come season's end. Add in Dak Prescott's 101.06, just 1.86 behind Jackson's leading mark, and that triumvirate should make for a fascinating awards chase down the stretch and into the playoffs.