Best NFL Offseason Moves: Which Teams Moved the Needle According to the Numbers

The NFL offseason has it all: trades, free agent signings, retirements, the draft, and even new cities and stadiums.

With so many things changing, it is difficult to tell (outside of the obvious) which teams got better and which got worse.

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Building on the previous work done to calculate NFL power rankings, we can use the Simple Rating System (SRS) to put a number on how teams have changed in the offseason. The SRS simply looks at points for and against while adjusting for strength of schedule.

If we compare how teams finished the 2019 regular season against their implied SRS based on point spreads for 2020 regular season games, we can start to get an idea of what the numbers say about all these offseason moves.

2020 NFL Power Rankings Year over Year Change

Below you can see a table of every team’s SRS for last year’s regular season and the implied SRS based on point spreads for the upcoming 2020 season.

NFL Power Rankings Year over Year
NFL SRS Rankings and Change

You can see that a few teams were clear winners this offseason: Tampa Bay Bucs (+8 to #6), Philadelphia Eagles (+9 to #7), and Pittsburgh Steelers (+6 to #9). Some of the causes of these changes were obvious (see: Tom Brady), while others might be flying a little under the radar.

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On the flip side, there were also some clear losers: New England Patriots (-7 to #10), Minnesota Vikings (-6 to #12), LA Rams (-7 to #15), and Tennessee Titans (-7 to #16).

Winners: Fire the Cannon! (Duh)

The most obvious winner of the offseason was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Signing HoF QB Tom Brady and somehow convincing Gronk to come out of “retirement” were enough to launch the Bucs all the way up to #6 in the league.

Meanwhile the Philadelphia Eagles shot up all the way from a pedestrian #16 last year to #7 this year. Is a healthy Carson Wentz enough to propel the Eagles to a top 10 team? Adding CB Darius Slay from Detroit doesn’t hurt, but this jump might say more about how much the Eagles may have been over rated last year as opposed to saying that they will be that much better this year.

The Pittsburgh Steelers were probably one of the biggest surprises of the NFL last year. After losing Big Ben for the season and trading away Minkah Fitzpatrick, things were looking grim for the Steelers. The betting market sees another jump with Ben Roethlisberger (and his beard) back at QB.

An honorable mention has to go to the Indianapolis Colts. Taking a flier on QB Phillip Rivers seems to have the betting markets excited, pushing them up to #14 compared to a #20 finish last year.

Losers: Goodbye, Tom

On the other end of the spectrum you will find the New England Patriots leading the pack. This is not a surprise. What is surprising is how much respect the Patriots are getting without Brady and Gronk. They fall only to #10 after finishing #3 last year.

The Minnesota Vikings fell from #6 last year to #12 this year. After trading away WR Stefon Diggs, the Vikings may struggle to get the ball downfield. It’s up to you now, Captain Kirk.

Has the league figured out the Los Angeles Rams? They drop from #8 last year all the way to #15 this year. They lost RB Todd Gurley and WR Brandin Cooks in the offseason, and you have to wonder if the McVay magic has worn off.

The betting markets are not nearly as bullish on the Tennessee Titans this year, falling from #9 last year to #15 this year. A surprise playoff run last year doesn’t seem to influence their 2020 ranking up to this point.