We are now halfway through the 2021 NFL season, and things are not as they once seemed. Which teams have changed our minds over the first half -- for better or worse?
Entering the year, ESPN's Football Power Index (FPI) doles out ratings for every team. With each game, it updates its opinion on teams based on their performance in all three phases of the game, while considering strength of opponent and factors such as home-field and rest advantage. It always keeps its prior rating in mind, but stubborn, FPI is not.
Today, we're looking to see which teams FPI has upgraded -- and downgraded -- the most so far this season. Here are two important things to keep in mind:
FPI is predictive. It is not a reflection of the standings, or even exactly how teams have played. It is predicting how strong teams will be going forward for the rest of the season.
The rating indicates how many points better or worse the model believes a team is relative to the average NFL team. For example, the FPI-leading Buccaneers have a rating of plus-7.8. That means it would make Tampa Bay a bit better than a touchdown favorite over an average team (think: Steelers) on a neutral field.
Let's look at the biggest FPI risers and fallers since the preseason, starting with one of the NFC's top teams.