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27 Nov 2007

Week 12 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

Last week, I noted that the Patriots had won 10 straight games with a DVOA rating above 50%. They were far and away the best team ever measured by DVOA after 11 weeks.

Then, the Pats went out and nearly lost to Philadelphia --a slightly above-average team, not a possible Super Bowl opponent like Dallas. A big drop for the Pats' record-setting DVOA? Not at all.

The Pats no longer have won every game with a DVOA of at least 50%. They now have won every game with a DVOA of at least 49%. That's right: despite only winning by three points, the Pats had a single-game DVOA of 49.1%. They still have the best team ever at this point in the season, by more than 20 DVOA percentage points over the 1999 St. Louis Rams. They also still have the best offense ever, although the 2004 Colts are gaining on them. (We're now at the point during the 2004 season when Peyton Manning had those absurd games against Chicago and Detroit.)

Why did the Pats put up such a high DVOA in a narrow victory?

  • The surprise onside kick doesn't show up in DVOA at all. The play is so rare that it tells us nothing about how good each team really is -- but it handed the Eagles an additional possession in excellent field position.
  • Thinking about how the Eagles almost won the game, our memories are filled with all the good things that A.J. Feeley did for 56 minutes. Thanks to the last four minutes, however, Feeley ended up with three interceptions, which balances out all the yards the Pats gave up and gives them a defensive rating close to zero.
  • The Pats had no turnovers. They didn't even have a fumble that they recovered themselves.
  • The Eagles actually have an above-average offense this year, so the Pats' defensive performance gets a small boost in DVOA.
  • The Pats' offensive drives were very methodical, move-the-chains and matriculate-the-ball-type drives. DVOA likes consistent long drives.

Not only does New England's DVOA barely drop, but their rankings also improve. Thanks to the recent decline of the Tennessee defense without Albert Haynesworth, the Patriots are now in the top four in all three phases of the game.

Thanks to the strong opponent adjustments for playing the Patriots, the Eagles get a DVOA of 21.6% for the game, which is great for a losing team. Still, it doesn't help their ranking. The Eagles pass Washington, but in turn they get passed by Minnesota. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this year's Vikings is that, despite alternating huge wins with huge losses in recent weeks, they somehow do not lead the league in VARIANCE.

* * * * *

Here are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 12 weeks of 2007, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.) OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for opponent and consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season.

To save people some time, we request that you please use the following format for all complaints:

<team> is clearly ranked <too high/too low> because <reason unrelated to DVOA>. <subjective ranking system> is way better than this. <unrelated team-supporting or -denigrating comment, preferably with poor spelling and/or chat-acceptable spelling>


TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEI.
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NE 71.3% 1 71.1% 1 11-0 49.9% 1 -15.9% 2 5.5% 4
2 DAL 39.3% 2 38.6% 2 10-1 29.0% 2 -10.5% 6 -0.2% 15
3 IND 33.6% 3 30.6% 3 9-2 25.2% 3 -14.1% 3 -5.7% 31
4 GB 29.5% 4 30.2% 4 10-1 22.7% 4 -4.4% 12 2.5% 11
5 PIT 24.5% 5 22.5% 5 8-3 3.3% 14 -23.7% 1 -2.5% 20
6 TB 19.5% 6 18.3% 6 7-4 13.0% 8 -8.1% 8 -1.6% 16
7 SD 15.4% 7 17.6% 7 6-5 5.7% 11 -2.0% 14 7.6% 3
8 JAC 14.0% 8 15.3% 8 8-3 12.5% 9 2.8% 18 4.4% 9
9 SEA 13.3% 10 12.1% 9 7-4 0.9% 16 -6.9% 10 5.4% 6
10 MIN 9.6% 14 10.3% 10 5-6 3.6% 13 -3.4% 13 2.6% 10
11 NYG 7.6% 9 8.2% 12 7-4 2.5% 15 -7.2% 9 -2.1% 19
12 PHI 7.5% 12 5.2% 14 5-6 14.9% 6 2.3% 16 -5.1% 29
13 CLE 6.2% 13 9.1% 11 7-4 13.8% 7 15.4% 30 7.9% 2
14 WAS 6.2% 11 6.3% 13 5-6 -2.0% 21 -6.4% 11 1.8% 12
15 CIN 3.5% 18 3.4% 15 4-7 16.0% 5 12.3% 27 -0.2% 14
16 DEN -3.7% 16 -4.5% 16 5-6 8.5% 10 8.8% 23 -3.4% 25
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEI.
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 TEN -5.8% 15 -9.1% 19 6-5 -12.9% 24 -11.3% 5 -4.2% 28
18 ARI -7.4% 17 -10.1% 20 5-6 -1.6% 19 2.4% 17 -3.4% 24
19 BUF -7.8% 19 -5.1% 17 5-6 -7.5% 23 5.5% 19 5.2% 8
20 HOU -10.8% 21 -12.3% 24 5-6 -1.5% 18 10.7% 25 1.5% 13
21 NO -11.3% 24 -7.3% 18 5-6 5.2% 12 12.9% 29 -3.6% 26
22 DET -12.0% 22 -11.9% 23 6-5 -1.2% 17 5.7% 20 -5.1% 30
23 KC -12.2% 20 -11.9% 22 4-7 -18.8% 28 -9.9% 7 -3.3% 22
24 BAL -13.0% 23 -15.1% 25 4-7 -21.1% 29 -11.6% 4 -3.4% 23
25 CHI -13.2% 26 -10.7% 21 5-6 -21.8% 30 1.0% 15 9.6% 1
26 MIA -16.2% 25 -15.3% 26 0-11 -1.7% 20 11.9% 26 -2.6% 21
27 NYJ -22.0% 27 -19.9% 27 2-9 -6.0% 22 21.4% 32 5.4% 5
28 ATL -22.5% 28 -22.3% 28 3-8 -14.2% 25 6.5% 21 -1.8% 18
29 OAK -28.7% 31 -29.0% 29 3-8 -14.5% 26 12.6% 28 -1.6% 17
30 CAR -31.5% 29 -32.2% 30 4-7 -17.3% 27 7.2% 22 -7.0% 32
31 STL -36.6% 30 -34.5% 31 2-9 -22.8% 31 10.1% 24 -3.7% 27
32 SF -42.5% 32 -42.2% 32 3-8 -31.3% 32 16.6% 31 5.4% 7

  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles.
  • PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from least consistent (#1, highest variance) to most consistent (#32, smallest variance).


TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L ESTIM.
WINS
RANK NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
1 NE 71.3% 11-0 11.0 1 67.9% 4.8% 7 -4.8% 20 3.2% 32
2 DAL 39.3% 10-1 8.9 3 40.1% 1.2% 16 -0.1% 17 7.9% 23
3 IND 33.6% 9-2 9.0 2 32.9% 1.9% 12 -11.0% 24 15.2% 12
4 GB 29.5% 10-1 8.3 4 34.3% -1.4% 19 -12.8% 26 7.3% 24
5 PIT 24.5% 8-3 6.8 7 34.0% -6.9% 29 9.8% 10 29.5% 2
6 TB 19.5% 7-4 7.2 6 21.1% -5.0% 27 -29.6% 32 17.1% 8
7 SD 15.4% 6-5 6.2 14 8.6% 6.4% 6 -15.6% 27 24.0% 4
8 JAC 14.0% 8-3 7.4 5 15.9% -1.0% 18 -3.2% 18 5.7% 30
9 SEA 13.3% 7-4 6.5 10 23.4% -11.4% 32 -16.7% 30 13.0% 15
10 MIN 9.6% 5-6 6.6 8 8.5% 3.4% 9 -16.3% 29 21.0% 5
11 NYG 7.6% 7-4 6.2 12 5.8% 1.4% 15 16.0% 4 5.8% 29
12 PHI 7.5% 5-6 6.5 9 -1.1% 8.8% 4 10.3% 9 15.2% 13
13 CLE 6.2% 7-4 6.2 13 5.3% 1.6% 14 -19.0% 31 8.2% 22
14 WAS 6.2% 5-6 5.8 15 -8.5% 10.4% 2 8.9% 11 8.9% 20
15 CIN 3.5% 4-7 6.4 11 7.2% 2.8% 11 -16.2% 28 7.2% 25
16 DEN -3.7% 5-6 5.4 16 -1.6% 3.1% 10 -6.7% 22 27.2% 3
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L ESTIM.
WINS
RANK NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
17 TEN -5.8% 6-5 4.9 19 -5.7% -2.0% 20 1.0% 16 18.8% 7
18 ARI -7.4% 5-6 4.4 23 1.3% -9.3% 31 -12.7% 25 30.0% 1
19 BUF -7.8% 5-6 5.3 17 -19.2% 12.3% 1 2.8% 14 9.7% 18
20 HOU -10.8% 5-6 4.6 21 -9.3% -4.9% 26 14.4% 5 12.7% 16
21 NO -11.3% 5-6 4.8 20 -6.8% -8.4% 30 -4.0% 19 15.5% 11
22 DET -12.0% 6-5 5.1 18 -7.4% 1.1% 17 20.4% 3 19.5% 6
23 KC -12.2% 4-7 4.3 24 -11.6% 1.7% 13 -7.0% 23 15.7% 10
24 BAL -13.0% 4-7 4.2 25 -11.0% -4.7% 25 31.6% 1 7.1% 26
25 CHI -13.2% 5-6 4.5 22 -14.7% 3.8% 8 10.4% 8 6.6% 27
26 MIA -16.2% 0-11 3.8 26 -28.1% 7.8% 5 8.0% 12 4.6% 31
27 NYJ -22.0% 2-9 3.6 28 -29.0% 9.6% 3 10.8% 7 8.9% 21
28 ATL -22.5% 3-8 3.7 27 -17.8% -4.1% 22 -5.6% 21 5.8% 28
29 OAK -28.7% 3-8 2.6 30 -22.5% -4.6% 23 22.2% 2 13.8% 14
30 CAR -31.5% 4-7 3.1 29 -26.0% -3.8% 21 10.9% 6 15.9% 9
31 STL -36.6% 2-9 2.2 32 -31.7% -4.7% 24 6.9% 13 11.6% 17
32 SF -42.5% 3-8 2.3 31 -34.7% -6.3% 28 1.8% 15 9.4% 19

Best and Worst DVOA Ever Watch

BEST TOTAL DVOA
AFTER WEEK 12
  BEST OFFENSIVE DVOA
AFTER WEEK 12
  WORST TOTAL DVOA
AFTER WEEK 12
  WORST OFFENSIVE DVOA
AFTER WEEK 12
2007 NE 71.3%   2007 NE 49.9%   2005 SF -56.7%   2005 SF -40.7%
1999 STL 50.0%   2004 IND 47.8%   1999 CLE -50.9%   1997 NO -38.0%
1998 DEN 46.7%   2000 STL 36.3%   2004 SF -48.8%   2004 MIA -36.9%
2001 STL 44.2%   1998 DEN 35.8%   2000 CIN -48.0%   2004 CHI -36.8%
2004 NE 43.0%   2002 KC 35.0%   1998 PHI -44.1%   1998 PHI -36.5%
2002 TB 42.9%   2006 IND 33.2%   2005 HOU -43.5%   2002 HOU -35.7%
2004 PIT 40.2%   2000 IND 33.1%   2007 SF -42.5%   1999 ARI -32.2%
2005 IND 39.9%   2005 IND 31.4%   2000 ARI -41.8%   2001 CAR -32.2%
2004 IND 39.4%   2001 STL 30.6%   2002 HOU -38.6%   2006 OAK -31.7%
2007 DAL 39.3%   2005 SD 30.0%   1999 SF -37.3%   2007 SF -31.3%

Notice the very strange coincidence where the two most consistent teams according to VARIANCE are the 11-0 Patriots and the 0-11 Dolphins. I guess consistency doesn't really help if it means you lose every game by exactly three points.

Cincinnati seems to be pulling out as the team that is hard to understand this year. Thanks to their big win over Tennessee, the Bengals have a positive DVOA despite being 4-7. None of the usual explanations for a team outplaying its win-loss record seem to apply here. The Bengals have not played a hard schedule. They don't have poor fumble luck. (In fact, the defense has recovered 11 of 13 opposition fumbles, which is good luck.) They aren't particularly inconsistent from week to week. Opposing field goal kickers are doing well against them, but not by a huge amount. Opposing kickoff distance is average.

One last note: You may remember that a couple weeks ago, the Colts had the third-worst special teams game of the DVOA era. Well, now that game is fourth. Denver's game against Chicago is now tied for second on the list of worst special teams games, worth roughly -18.6 points. There is more to this than just Devin Hester's returns. Even though Robbie Gould could only get the ball past the 10-yard line on three kickoffs, Glenn Martinez averaged just 15.7 yards per return, and fumbled once. Martinez also had just two punt returns out of six punts, and they gained a total of five yards. You also had the value the Broncos gave up by kicking short after Hester scored a touchdown, and the blocked punt.

As for Hester himself, Chicago's special teams were worth 16.0 points over average, so the Bears are now tied for second on the list of best special teams games. The 2000 Ravens also had 16.0 points worth of special teams against the Jets in Week 17, and the 2002 Saints had 16.3 points worth of special teams against the Redskins in Week 6. If Hester hadn't muffed two punts, this would have come out as the best special teams game ever.

I know that Hester's two touchdowns have re-ignited the debate about whether or not you should kick to him. You may remember from a couple weeks ago that I feel you usually should. "Go ahead and kick to Hester" sounds stupid because, when we consider the question, our memories only pull out Hester's touchdowns. Stats pick out all the kickoffs and punts against Chicago, not just the ones in the highlights. When Hester takes one back all the way, you see the benefit to Chicago all at once. If you hand the Bears short field position over and over, the advantage for Chicago comes in small amounts of field position that build up over time.

The other problem with the "kick to Hester or not" question is that it is constantly presented as a binary choice. Yet there are different ways to kick and different ways to organize your coverage. We went over this in Audibles, but kicking to him right down the middle is the worst possible choice. Kicking to the side risks a kickoff out of bounds, but you also make it easier for your coverage guys to find Hester. If your kickoff coverage team tries to all converge on Hester at once, rather than keeping a couple of guys back a bit, Hester just has to make one move and he's home free. You also have to consider who your kicker is and where you are playing the game. If I have Neil Rackers, and I'm at home in Arizona, I kick to Hester. Rackers will boom it, and a couple of those are going to be touchbacks. If I'm on the road in Chicago, and the ball isn't carrying as well in the cold, and my kickoff guy can't get it past the 10, well, maybe it is time to consider avoiding Hester. Like everything else in the NFL, it's never an issue of "always do" or "never do."

Housekeeping: Everything should be updated, including individual and team stats pages, the premium database, the playoff odds, and the Loser League.

For (short) comments on every team, remember to look for DVOA on AOL, every Wednesday. (This will be linked on the FO Goes Mainstream page.)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Nov 2007

161 comments, Last at 04 Dec 2007, 5:16pm by Sid

Comments

1
by david (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:42pm

How on earth do the Broncos only rank 25th in Special Teams. Watching from Denver (and not just the chicago game) it really seems like we should be somewhere around 37th.

2
by hooper (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:43pm

Perhaps the Hester rule should be modified as such:

“Go ahead and kick to Hester unless your special teams unit sports a horse's head or an AISI logo on the side of the helmet.�

That sounds about right to me.

3
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:46pm

Interesting. Playoff Odds give NE a better chance of going 16-0 than of winning the SB. Which I suppose makes sense given the remaining regular season schedule.

4
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:52pm

Yay Dallas! One point away from being 7th all-time! Green Bay game should be good this week. My call is 34-20. You know who wins. But hey I'm biased. What do you all think?

Also I'm surprised Pitt didn't drop more? I know the defense was great but the offense, not so much... And it was against the Fins.

Oh and the niners game... awesome... I live in the bay area. Go to a sports bar every sunday. Everyone went nuts screaming when they won. And the whole place was completely silent when arizona had that big play to put them in figgie range. But me and my friend who's a skins fan (Yes we can co-exist!!!) were cheering like crazy when they won!!! I don't know why. (Damn patriots... lol) You just had to root for them there. It was like God blessed the bay area that day. Niners and raiders both win. First time either had won in seven weeks I believe.

5
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:53pm

I'm stunned that Philly only graded out to 21.6% DVOA in a game against the best team of the DVOA Era that should have gone into overtime if it weren't for AJ Feeley being...well, AJ Feeley. Especially since nothing really wacky happened and it subjectively felt like the score was reflective of the game. I guess it's because of the 3 INTs including a pick-6 and another one in the endzone when you're already in borderline chip-shot FG range. I'm still surprised, though.

And speaking of nothing wacky happening, I'd just like to contest Aaron's point about the onsides kick being the most important play in the game. Sure, it gave Philly an extra possession, but what'd they do with it. They went 3-and-out including a 9 yard sack and New England got the ball back at the 20. It was aggressive and exciting and unexpected, but it was basically useless.

6
by Ari (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:54pm

The Redskins are middle of the pack on variance, but I wonder where they would be if variance was tracked not from game to game, but from half to half. Sunday's game against the Buccaneers wasn't the first time that they were night and day between the first half (four lost fumbles) and the second (no first downs allowed). In four of their six losses, they led at halftime. What gives?

7
by jesse (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 6:59pm

Re 3:
not surprising, since there are many more variables in the super bowl equation--specifically, who their three playoff opponents will be. also, as you point out, the remaining regular season schedule features three mid-tier teams and two awful teams.

8
by Waverly (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:01pm

New England and Philly are #1 and #2 in rushing DVOA at +19.3%. That's surprising.

9
by nat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:01pm

5:
He's probably wrong about the "most important play", even if he meant - as I guess - "most valuable play" as in VOA. That would be the pick-six.

But a successful onsides kick is hugely valuable. It's like intercepting on the first play of the opponent's drive.

10
by admin :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:03pm

Re: 5. Heh. Forgot about the next drive not going anywhere. And yeah, the most important play was the pick-six. Clearly not thinking straight today... off to change.

11
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:29pm

According to the Playoff Odds Report, the AFC field is almost certainly going to be Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Chargers, Jaguars and Browns, unless the Broncos or Titans can make a miracle run, neither of which seems likely.

The NFC is more wide-open. Five teams seem like shoe-ins: Cowboys, Packers, Seahawks, Bucs, and Giants. That sixth spot is wide-open, though -- every remaining team is more likely to miss the playoffs than to make them, and the "favorite," at 34.5%, are the MINNESOTA VIKINGS.

This means the battle between the Seahawks and Bucs for the No. 3 spot is crucial. Whichever team finishes fourth will have to host the dangerous Giants. The third-place team will essentially get a bye against the Vikings, or the Lions, maybe the Saints...

12
by Jacob Stevens (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:31pm

Seahawks' previous opponents went a combined 8-3 this weekend (Cards & Rams losing, having played the Rams 2x now), and their DVOA strength of past schedule not only stays ranked at 32nd, but drops in DVOA as well. What exactly is accounting for that?

13
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:32pm

"Whichever team finishes fourth will have to host the dangerous Giants"

Dangerous to themselves, mostly.

14
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:32pm

The Vikings are now the favorite in the NFC for the last wild card at 34.6%. Can't say I'm surprised - been predicting it for 4 weeks now.

15
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:35pm

12: Very simple: their past schedule last week only counted the Rams once. Their past schedule this week includes the Rams twice now. The Rams suck, and adding another Rams game to their past schedule brought it down in DVOA.

16
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:36pm

This is hardly breaking news, but it appears from the rankings that the Steelers, despite their high variance, are the most likely team, according to DVOA, to upset the Patriots. That certainly makes sense.

One thing I'd be interested in is the 49ers' DVOA with Alex Smith versus with Trent Dilfer. Can that be done?

17
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:53pm

11:

The battle for the 3 seed is going to be huge, however the 3 seed could end up playing the Eagles and after watching the games on Sunday I think I'd prefer the Seahawks to play the Giants.

18
by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:53pm

RE: 2

I thought the Steelers were the AISI logo?

Speaking of the Steelers, they lost to the Jets and then proceeded to almost lose to Miami. They have not looked good the last two weeks.

But me and my friend who’s a skins fan (Yes we can co-exist!!!) were cheering like crazy when they won!!! I don’t know why. (Damn patriots… lol) You just had to root for them there

Most of the NFC was cheering for San Francisco, because that knocks a wild card contender back. Seattle in particular sure was happy.

Finally, the clock on the site is still on Daylight Savings Time.

19
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:55pm

I mentioned this in Audibles as well, but it's worth mentioning here: the one other thing that Philly's strategy against New England did was keep the game short. New England had 8 possessions that mattered. Eight! I think the average is about 11-12, so in an average game length, New England would've scored about ~36 (plus the 7 for the pick-six), which is pretty much what we expected.

The interesting thing about this is that while you can say "c'mon, the Eagles didn't slow down New England at all!", what limiting New England to 8 possessions does is make it feasible that A.J. Feeley can put together more scoring drives than Brady, or, at the least, the same number, and then clock management or a coin flip in overtime might win the game.

It's the same way Houston ended up beating the Colts last year. In Philly's case, New England was bleeding the clock because their drives were all short completions because Philly took away the deep pass.

I could definitely imagine that a similar strategy with a power running team with a defense capable of forcing them into short-pass situations could work even better. Keep the chains moving at all costs (you have to score on virtually every drive), and keep the clock moving as much as possible.

20
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 7:59pm

Unrelated, but is there any way to check on what players I put on my loser league team? I'm not sure I remember all of them, and I'm worried now that my mega-stud Cedric Benson is out for the season.

21
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:03pm

If the Vikings manage to win four of the last five, which I am NOT predicting, I'd say they probably will catch the Giants as well, given their tie-breaker over them. I think the Giants will lose three of their last five.

22
by Nick (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:04pm

How in the world are the Pats the #1 in rushing? Really surprising.

23
by David (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:10pm

Yaguar, they're all listed in each weekly status report.

And I feel your pain re: Benson. And the pain of anybody else who had Cleo Lemon on their team. And I apologize for the emergence of Sidney Rice as a passable wideout, which was apparently caused by my decision to retain him for my second-half team.

24
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:13pm

#21... Luckily for the Giants, they're getting Ward back this week and none of their upcoming opponents have DTs named Williams.

25
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:13pm

The Packers defense is dinged up as Nick Collins is trying to come back from a knee injury while his replacement, rookie Aaron Rouse, is almost certainly out. If neither can go it's the immortal Charlie Peprah at one safety position backed up by a guy Underwood who until this week was sitting at home. The Packers cut that guy in training camp. Ryan Pickett, the big D tackle, is nursing a gimpy knee and will likely be limited to 30 odd snaps.

Charles Woodson is talking tough but reports have him pretty iffy.

26
by Chief (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:15pm

#22--Because DVOA is a rate stat, not a counting one. The Patriots don't run much, but when they do, they're very successful. Just look at Sunday night--only 16 run plays, I think, but two were for touchdowns and a few more were for first downs.

Incidentally, I wonder if Pat's excellent post in #19 also provides an explanation for why the Patriots rarely run the ball. They know that long, clock-killing drives are not in their own interest.

27
by peachy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:16pm

Even after weeks of the same, it is still mega-freaky to see Jax third in variance. Although I'm a little concerned about the Peterson-less defence, I'm starting to think that Garrard might actually be the long-term solution.

28
by Jimbohead (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:16pm

as an aside, what is going on with rackers right now? As a niners fan, I'm not complaining, but he's completely blown two games (I think) for the cards by missing chip shot field goals and extra points. not to mention that carlos rodgers "misunderstanding"...

29
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:19pm

If Woodson is not healthy enough to be effective, then I don't like the Packers' chances.

30
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:25pm

I gotta say I never understood why anyone thought Leftwich was an obvious choice over Garrard. Clubfooted qbs with slow wind-ups are about as relevant to winning modern NFL games as saber tooth tigers are today in keeping the North American deer population in check.

31
by AndyE (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:26pm

Chief 26:
The Pats actually spend most of their games in long, clock-killing drives. They just accomplish them with short passes rather than short runs.

32
by AndyE (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:32pm

Interconference DVOA has dropped to AFC 2.8%, NFC -2.7%. Let's all wait for Wanker79's exposition on the restoration of conference parity (11 AFC teams have lower DVOAs this week than last, while 10 NFC teams improved). (of course, .25 of the 1.9 point drop is accounted for in the NE/PHI game, and another .27 in the IND/ATL game, so take that metric with a grain of salt).

33
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:32pm

11. Vince.. "The third-place team will essentially get a bye against the Vikings, or the Lions, maybe the Saints…"

That is the kind of statement I'd expect to read from someone like Peter King. It really shocks me that someone who writes for this site would say something so foolish.

34
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:35pm

Will - love the saber tooth tiger line...it had me in stitches.

35
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:35pm

The problem with the kick to Hester or not debate (and most statistical analysis such as DVOA) is that a game isn't played into infinity. Sure, playing the Bears with an infinite clock would tell you that kicking to him is the better idea since the field position overall would be worse for the Bears. But the game is played in a fraction of infinity (obvious quote of the year) so a return will basically kill you. And since we're working with a small set of discrete numbers (wins and losses) you can't afford this risk. So it becomes wiser to kick away from him (and even this doesn't work always as the blocked punt shows) because the short term benefit might be greater. At least the potential for disaster is less, and a football game is generally a management of risk adverse situations.

No matter what you do the Bears are fortunate to have a player like Hester. I believe that with a game using short amount of time, a fraction of sample size and with a win being so important, it makes sense to give them yards and not risk an actual TD.

36
by Andy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:38pm

While that's an interesting point about the Pats and Dolphins variance...how on EARTH are the Giants the fourth most consistent team in the league?

37
by tic toc (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:39pm

Re 22:
Probably because they run sporadically and in ideal run situations, ie. when the defense is expecting the pass. They also have less rushing plays that a run first team, therefore a better chance at a successful rating. The seahawks have been running better since implementing their pass first and pass often gameplan. Rushing yardage is roughly the same but their success rate is better. Lots of draws and delays.

38
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:39pm

19: Of course that's the idea, to keep it short.

It's the same thing as a casino. You can beat the house over a short time, but the more chances you give the house the more likely it is you're going to lose.

In this case, the Patriots are the house and every other team are the gamblers.

39
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:41pm

Pats activate WR Troy Brown, put LB Rosevelt Colvin on IR.

40
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:43pm

Pat is right on about the significance of the onside. Just look at the first half--New England had three possessions. THREE. They scored 17 out of a possible 21 points (OK, technically a possible 24, but that's kind of silly). So efficiency wise, they were fantastic, but Philly still managed to hold them to 17 points. Mainly because the Pats had so few possessions. Which was mainly because the Eagles took away the long play, and also had two extra possessions in that half (one for winning the toss, one for the onside). In the Audibles thread, someone brought up an interesting point--what if there had been no onside, and what if the Eagles had lost the toss, and everything else was the same. The Pats score a TD on the first possession, Feely throws the pick-6 on the Eagles first, and all of a sudden, the Eagles are down 14-0. Even if TD's are then traded, the score becomes 21-7. The game never feels as close as it was, and maybe a blowout ensues as the Eagles try to play catchup...

41
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:47pm

Pats activate WR Troy Brown, put LB Rosevelt Colvin on IR.

Ummm. I think that makes them a worse team. I can't imagine how adding another WR helps them--adding Troy Brown to a mix when you can already field a healthy Stallworth, Moss, Welker, Gafney, and Watson all at the same time--does nothing. But losing a pretty good pass rusher is a problem. The Pats will likely move Thomas outside, opposite Vrabel, which will help their pass rush a little, but then are forced to either play Seau and Bruschi inside full time (not a good idea considering the age and speed of those two players), play a not-stellar Eric Alexander inside, or switch to the 4-3 more often (which makes them less effective).

I wonder how bad Rosie's injury is, and if this is a case of the Pats' staff letting emotion (for Brown) cloud their good sense for once.

42
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:48pm

If there was any opponent for whom it would make sense for a team to mostly abandon the punt, and turn large parts of the field into four down territory, it is the Bears, especially given their defensive decline, and their continued futility on offense. I mean, why the hell punt at all against the Bears, except in the most ridiculous circumstances? Just call your plays like you have four downs to move the chains, and execute, perhaps with a lot of no-huddle offense.

43
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:49pm

And they signed (ick) LB Chad Brown.

So, I guess this means Adalius Thomas will move to OL to replace Colvin and the Three Very Old Men (Seau, Bruschi, and Brown) will be stuck rotating at IL.

Which means the Eagles' offensive strategy becomes even more viable since the Pats interior defenders now become even older and slower.

Crap.

44
by dbt (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:51pm

Using my hyper super duper math skills, I spent 30 seconds in excel and came up with the following list of

Risers (ΔDVOA > 2%): NO CLE BUF CHI SD STL NYJ

Fallers (ΔDVOA

45
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:51pm

The only thing Brown likely adds is some special teams play, and it sure doesn't make up for losing a pass rusher.

46
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:51pm

Re: #41

I can't see Belichick prematurely IRing Colvin just so Troy Brown could be activated.

47
by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:52pm

Oddly enough, the Pats run DVOA is great but their DPAR is pretty low overall. It's the case of a small sample size skewing the results; the Pats simply don't run it all that often. When they do it happens to be in goal line situations, so that improves the DVOA. It's like looking at Bettis' 3 carry, 3 yards, 3 TDs line and using that to extrapolate a season.

I think in a lot of ways the Pats this season break the mold of DVOA working. One obvious one is the strength of schedule, but the running game is another good example.

48
by Bionicman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:52pm

It looks like everybody has hit on the 'slow the game down' idea. I thought to myself this morning that this sounded like exactly the strategy teams used to use (and still do, to a lesser extent) to beat the Indianapolis Colts. As Pat said, Houston beat Indy last year by slowing the game down, as did Tennessee. In fact, I'd recommend reading the 'Any Given Sunday' article about the Titans beating the Colts (from last year). A lot of the discussion about 'slowing the game down' and 'fewer possessions' applies to the Patriots this year.

49
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:53pm

Another point about the "kick away from Hester" idea:

Most teams are better than the Bears. Kicking to Hester is a risk. Maybe kicking away from him, in the aggregate, is slightly worse, but you prefer to play in a risk-averse manner against the Bears because with even luck, you win handily.

50
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:56pm

Re: #41

If anything, it looks like 4th round pick Kareem Brown was sacrificed to make room for Troy Brown (Chad Brown was a "replacement" for Colvin). But Kareem has PS eligibility, so I imagine he'll be signed to the PS if nobody grabs him.

51
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 8:59pm

#33: Let's look at the NFC wild card candidates, by Weighted DVOA:
MIN: 10.3%
NYG: 8.2%
WAS: 6.3%
PHI: 5.2%
NO: -7.3%
ARI: -10.1%
DET: -11.9%

And perhaps you were right, I was giving the Giants too much credit, particularly when the Vikings just beat the pants off them. Maybe it's because I live in Seattle, but I fear the Giants' pass rush more than I fear the Vikings' run defense.

52
by Dom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:01pm

#22

Probably to do with success rate. Maroney is 3rd in success rate and Morris was 7th. Those sort of plays build high DVOA.

Or it might be a typo...

53
by Darrel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:01pm

35 -

Devin Hester can also fumble it (6 fumbles this year). Sure, sometimes he breaks one, but he can also put it on the ground, giving you the ball in good field position. No, the fumbles don't make up for the times he returns one but it isn't always a positive outcome for Hester.

54
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:05pm

Vince -

The problem with 'hoping' for a playoff matchup with the Vikings is this; if their rund D is known to be tops, and they're playing a team whose run O is 'bottoms', then (in theory) they can devote more defensive personnel and calls towards pass-rush and blitzing, and not have to worry as much about defending the run with more than the front 4 or 5.

As a 'Hawks fan, I'd much rather see the Giants at Qwest Field. Besides, as a joint 'Hawks/Vikes fan, I'm torn when the two play (although, on a cynical level, at least I can be sure that both my teams won't lose!).

55
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:09pm

Re #28
Kicker variability. In the IRC chatroom last night, we researched the issue and found that Rackers was 6 for 6 at the start of his career in kicks in the late 2 minutes or OT to win or tie games, but is only 2 for his last 6, notably including Sunday's game and last year v the Bears on that crazy MNF game. Personally, if I'm a Steeler fan, I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off right now because Reed is now 6 for 6 in the same situation and therefore inevitably doomed to miss 4 of his next 6 kicks in that situation. And because running around like a chicken with your head cut off sounds like a fitting things for a Steeler fan to do at any time.

I'd also like to point out that the Pats now have 11.0 Estimated Wins. That is, in as few words as I can manage, !#@$!@ insane.

56
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:10pm

By the way, big FU to the NFL for having the Packers play 3 games in 11 days including back to back road games.

Meanwhile, Cowboys get the same stretch all at home.

Cripes...

57
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:11pm

53:
Agreed, he even fumbles last week and lost it. It can happen, but is it a variable you can control? Kicking away form Hester is an action that can be controlled. Stopping Hester from scoring cannot be controlled when kicking to him. You run a risk of him scoring. Hoping for Hester to fumble is something out of your control as well.

So if I'm a football coach, I want to game plan for what I can control. In this case, I can create defensive strategies based around giving the team an extra 7 yards of field position by not kicking to him.

If the game was played into infinity, I'd follow the numbers. To me, kicking to him sounds like gambling and although you might win this bet over a long enough time, Hester has the ability to break you instantly. And I want no part of the fumbles for TD's business.

58
by Nick (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:12pm

I understand it's a sample size issue, I just didn't have the impression that the Pats were that succesful when they do run the ball on occasion.

59
by gmc (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:15pm

re: #8

New England and Philly are #'s 1-2 in rush DVOA -because- they run so seldom, not in spite of running so seldom. Teams that rush less often due to scheme issues, rather than lack of offensive line/RB talent, often post really great rushing DVOA because DVOA is per-play. New England is rushing against a nickel defense at least half the time, and you can't name one situation where you'd be sure Andy Reid would pound the rock.

re: Minnesota

Minnesota would be top 5 DVOA if they had a quarterback who was within a stone's throw of league average on their roster. Best offensive line in football, strong running game, strong front seven, totally useless starting QB, backup who is passable but without any potential...

Wow. They're the Ravens.

60
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:17pm

55:
I agree, its total crap. The Packers are already showing the adverse effects of playing too much too fast. Is it any coincidence that Charles Woodson, a guy who doesn't practice all week to rest his body, gets a serious injury on a short week? 4 games in 18 days is a little much. But, they will have 1 game in the next 17 days after this Thursday. So they do reap a benefit of getting a big rest for the stretch run.

I'm not sure how Dallas got all these home games over this stretch though.

61
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:29pm

The interrelatedness of the awful quality of the Vikings receiver and qb play is really hard to get a handle on. There are times when I think that if Jackson had a decent receiver to count on, in addition to a healthy Rice, he would be more than passable. There are other times when I think Jackson has been terrible no matter what. Lately, I've suspected it was more on receivers, who simply cannot gain seperation, thus very seldom giving Jackson an easy decision or throw.

62
by Mark from Pittsburgh (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:33pm

Okay, I'm a Pittsburgh homer. But that said, is it right to term the Patriots the "best team ever" or the "best offense ever" based on DVOA stats that only go back a decade? I think you still have some charting to do before you can make such an authoritative statement.

As for the victory margins, the passing game is much easier now than it once was, so the point spreads now are bigger than they were. Are all the football teams better now than the 1960s or 1970s teams?

Leaving my team out of it, Montana's legendary 1984 49ers outscored their regular season opponents 475-227* before taking out the Giants 21-10, then shutting out the Bears 23-0 in the NFC championship, and finally beating up Marino's Dolphins 38-16. They sent all 4 D-Backs to the Pro Bowl, not to mention Montana and 5 others. Maybe, just maybe, they might have had a prayer against New England.

* The Steelers were the only team to beat the Niners that year. Ha. I lied about keeping my team out of it.

63
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:35pm

On Colvin:

Agree there is NO way Belichick IR's Colvin to get Troy Brown on the team. He IR'd Colvin because Colvin broke his foot or his wrist, no one knows because there have been conflicting reports. This is why they signed Chad Brown. They released Kareem Brown, this year's fourth round pick, in order to put Troy Brown on the team.

If Kareem makes it to the practice squad, no harm no foul. If not, seems like a waste of a roster spot for Troy Brown to me.

This puts NE in a serious bind, though. A. Thomas moves to OLB, which is actually an upgrade in my opinion, but AD moving out of ILB leaves that area thin and old (Bruschi/Seau, or dumb and weak (Alexander/C.Brown).

But every team has injuries at this time of year, and the Patriots will probably be okay.

Besides, it wasn't Colvin giving up 20 yard pass plays down the middle to the AJ freakin Feeley.

64
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:37pm

The problem with the Vikings is they can't control anything besides the line of scrimmage.

They can't pass and they can't defend the pass. Passing is really all that matters in todays NFL. Look at the top 4 teams, they all pass extensively. Green Bay didn't have a running attack for half the season, New England doesn't use one, Dallas uses one for mop up duty and Indy has used one more because of injured WR's.

So, Minnesota can stop the run and run on people. This would have been great years ago. But not today. The NFL allows for a lot of offensive holding when passing and flags any defensive contact, often mistaking PI for good defense.

Until Minnesota gets some WR's, a QB and a secondary, they will be an unreliable team. They control the LOS, but this isn't the name of the game anymore. It's about controlling the secondary, exactly everything they don't do.

65
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:38pm

I wonder how bad Rosie’s injury is, and if this is a case of the Pats’ staff letting emotion (for Brown) cloud their good sense for once.

Well, you never know. They could be planning on using Troy Brown as a DB again. Jackson certainly wasn't cutting it Sunday.

66
by Joe in Seattle (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:40pm

#51

I think both teams (Vikings, Giants) present interesting and tough match-ups for the Seahawks.

I'm just hoping (praying to God) that the Hawks get the 3rd seed and Chicago or Detroit gets the 6th spot.

67
by Len (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:41pm

#55 and 59:

Yes, the NFL gave the Cowboys extra home games this year.

No, actually, while 3 in 11 certainly sucks, every team has their stretches. The Cowboys just came off 3 games in 14 days all against division opponents, including back to back road games in Phi and NY. No one mentioned it, though, since they won all three without major injury. The also finish with three of four on the road.

Meanwhile I see that GB stayed home after Sept 16, all the way until Oct 29. That must have been a nice stretch.

These things have a way of balancing out.

68
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:42pm

Any chance Belichik was enamored with Green Bay's 5 WR spread offense and wanted to copy it? Green Bay is having their way with anyone throwing 5 WR's out there. So he saw the opportunity with an injured Colvin as a time to see if 5 WR's can work for them too?

I don't believe any other team has sent 5 WR's out this year but Green Bay. I've seen spreads with a TE or a RB, but that's easier to match up with than 5 WR's, mainly due to speed.

69
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:42pm

I wonder if the Pats will switch to a base 4-3 so that Seau and Bruschi can rotate at MLB instead of having to both play.

70
by Len (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:42pm

#66: Oops, I meant to say had one on the road during that stretch. My bad.

71
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:45pm

Re: #64

I'm convinced he'll be used (to the extent he's used at all -- won't be shocked for a bunch of game day inactives for him) mostly as a DB. I can't see how he cracks the receiving lineup (absent injury). Unless Belichick has decided 4-WR sets aren't enough and plans to move to 5-WR sets :).

72
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:48pm

Actually, you know the real problem with my first post? I was basing it all off the Playoff Odds Report, where the Giants get a huge boost over the field because they've got two more wins in the bag.

73
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:48pm

Well, I do think the Vikings secondary would look much better on a team which could throw the ball, and thus score more touchdowns. They are good in the red zone, and trading touchdowns for field goals always works, assuming, of course, that one actually scores touchdowns.

74
by Crushinator (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 9:58pm

The Pats/Eagles high DVOA might just be due to being such pass-first teams, so when they do rarely run, it catches teams more off guard and is more successful. I think if they were more balanced teams offensively, those rushing DVOAs would drop.

75
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 10:42pm

Another possibility regarding Brown's activation is that perhaps Gay may be really hurt and out for at least a while. In that case, an extra nickel back would come handy.

76
by Richie (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 10:48pm

On the "kick to Hester" strategy, I can see the point that kicking to him would be worse over the long run for the Bears.

But is it really the best strategy in the short run for each of the Bears' opponents? So in their game vs. the Bears they give up an average of 10 or 15 yards in field position per kick, with a handful of kicks per game. Is that lost field position (and no return TDs) worse than the nearly 50% chance that he returns at least one kick in the game for a TD?

77
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 10:54pm

76:

I touched on that in 35 and 57. My argument being that in a game of infinite time, kicking to Hester makes sense. But since a game is of discrete time and of limited possessions, I feel there is too much risk in kicking to him. And since you can't control his fumbling and returns for TD's (and great field position), it makes sense to create a predictable game plan where you give them 7 more yards then usual but you know where they'll be. And that Hester can't single handily ruin your game. I'd advert the risk.

78
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 11:03pm

Len:

The 3 games in 14 days applies to every team on a standard schedule so I don't understand the relevance.

And I thought it was pretty obvious that the concern of the cumulative effect of a football season is greater in late November than 4 weekd into the season. Lots of hits by this time of year.

So no, the two are not equivalent.

But do write me off as a whiny Packer fan as opposed to someone pointing out a curious scheduling quirk.

By the way, NBC wanted the GB/Carolina game for the Sunday night before Thanksgiving and president Bob Harlan of GB had to all but beg the Commish to not have GB play.

I give teams like Indy/Pitt/NE a lot of credit for holding up under schedules that are all over the place.

79
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 11:25pm

72. Vince - I was reacting more to the notion that TB or Sea are anywhere near good enough to think of any team as a bye.

I just don't see TB and Sea as any better than Philly, NYG, Wash, or Minn. Obviously the homefield advantage that TB and Sea will hold will help, but I'd be surprised if at least one of TB or Sea didn't go down to the wild card team.

My guess is Philly and Minn are the NFC wild cards.

80
by hwc (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2007 - 11:47pm

When it comes to the Pats running game, do ya'll ever look at conventional stats?

I've seen several people above suggest that the Pats hardly ever run the ball. But, they are currently 8th in the NFL in rushing attempts (30.2 per game).

They are 7th in rushing yards per game (124.2 yards per game).

Average per carry (4.1 ypc) is only 11th in the league. However, that includes a lot of kneel downs and late game series (like Sunday night) where they are just pounding the ball into the line to kill the clock.

The Pats run game was VERY effective early in the season when they had both Morris and Maroney splitting carries. Both were averaging above 4.5 yards per carry, as was Kevin Faulk.

To compare:

Joe Addai has 202 carries averaging 4.3 yards a pop.

The combo of Morris/Maroney have 190 carries at 4.5 yards a pop. Add another 42 carries for Kevin Faulk at 4.4 ypc.

81
by MRH (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:00am

Re 76, 77, et al on kocking to Hester

Kicking to Hester might be the right move. But not only must the coach be convinced, he must be sure that his GM/owner is too, so that if Hester burns him, he doesn't lose his job over it. Otherwise, from a job (retention)maximizing standpoint, he'll take the apparent lower risk decision instead of the victory maximizing one.

A coach like Shanahan is in position to take a victory maximizing decision because he has job security. Most coaches are not. Better to live and fight another day, from their perspective.

82
by Len (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:01am

#78:

You're no more whiny than I'm a homer, who can't type a straight post without errors. I was trying to point out that Dal has the same 3 game stretch as GB right now, with Sun-Thu-Thu, albeit Dal at home, with their road stretches at other times.

Regardless, have fun Thu night. Our teams are both on the same page as far as being really good in a year that is getting crushed by the NE juggernaut.

83
by Vince Verhei :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:04am

79: Fair enough. I do have a tendency to exaggerate sometimes. I should have written something along these lines:

Seattle and Tampa Bay are dueling for the No. 3 seed. The loser will likely have to host the Giants, while the winner will likely play an easier opponent, such as the Vikings, Saints, or Lions.

84
by The Boilermaster (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:15am

@80

"conventional stats" are misleading for the patriots. Come up with a "conventional stat" for 1st quarter running attempts compared to the average...I bet it's a pretty small number.

When garbage time starts 25 minutes into the game, running stats get skewed.

85
by enderwiggins (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:41am

re #56 and #78

The cowboys are the only team in the league that play 4 games that are not on sunday yet you give credit to to indy/pitt/ne for playing schedules that are "all over the place". Sounds like a typical cowboy hater to me. The cowboys are normally the marquee game of the week for the NFL and they get moved all over the schedule.

86
by hwc (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:53am

RE: #84

Does the NFL (or DVOA) give extra credit for running the ball in the first quarter?

When a team has one of the five or ten best passing offenses in the history of the NFL, it would be kind of stupid to take the opening kickoff with a goal of "establishing the run" in a cloud of dust before starting to throw the ball later in the game.

The Pats offense is not looking to grind the clock early in the game. It is looking to score points.

87
by Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:59am

The Troy Brown signing is partially loyalty and partially because he is adequate at WR and DB and will be willing to play ST. I expect the LB rotation will be more complicated than Chad Brown -> MLB and AD -> OLB... you have Eric Alexander and Pierre Woods respectively as well. Hopefully, they can find a way for AD to play some OLB, some MLB and work those two into the system without hurting the overall performance (and maybe improving the pass coverage in the intermediate middle).

88
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:37am

DVOA doesn't count 1st quarter rushing yards any different than other yards. For garbage time, typically it's more difficult to run then because the defenses know the offense will be running the ball. So if anything, scoring points early makes it harder for the Patriots to pad their rushing yards per attempt.

89
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:44am

Okay, I’m a Pittsburgh homer. But that said, is it right to term the Patriots the “best team ever� or the “best offense ever� based on DVOA stats that only go back a decade? I think you still have some charting to do before you can make such an authoritative statement.

As Aaron has said, a "in the period for which we have DVOA" should be read into all such comments. He simply doesn't want to type it 500 times a season.

90
by AlexSmithJoe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:57am

16#:

If the Alex Smith vs. Trent Dilfer data were available, it would probably be misleading anyway. DVOA doesn't account for a guy playing half of his games this season with a separated shoulder or an additional "offensive consultant" being added to the staff (and suddenly having the non-QB offensive players begin to execute like professionals). Pre-Tollner and Post-Tollner DVOA might be a more interesting sample of data at the season's end rather than Smith vs. Dilfer. We could use it to quantify "replacement level coaching."

91
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:02am

Oh for the Patriots missing Colvin, isn't the easist solution to switch to a 4-3? They have plenty of good DL depth now that Seymour is healthy.

92
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:59am

gmc #59 and crushinator #74:

Philly's run DVOA is not from an infrequency of running (they differ from the NFL norm by about 1-2 rushes per game), but because Westbrook and the O-Line are REALLY good. You just have to watch them to see it if you can't believe that.

They are #2 in yds/att, #3 in rushing 1st down percentage, #5 in rushing 1st downs. Their stats aren't skewed by lots of long runs like Minnesota. Its Westbrook for a lot of 4 to 12 yard gains.

93
by Karl Cuba (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:00am

90: If you're going to post as a 'joe' then you have to be substantially more unreasonable than that. You haven't predicted that the niners will see anyone in the superbowl or advised anyone to book their tickets now.

94
by vijay (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:41am

Regarding the Cowboys schedule, one interesting thing is that they will play in the following slots:

Sunday 1pm
Sunday 4:15pm
Sunday 7:15pm
Saturday 7:30pm
Monday 8:30pm
Thursday 3:00pm
Thursday 8pm

So they play 16 games in a total of 7 time slots so they have the same disadvantage that NE/IND/PIT have of playing all over the place, and due to the last two weeks, I think they will play in the most potential time slots in the league.

I will admit that although I'm a Cowboys fan, I do think the three games in 11 days all being at home is a tad unfair. On the other end of the ledger, they did have the 3 division games in a row with 2 on the road and they will close the season with 3 road games in 4 weeks.

I think it tends to even out in the grand scheme of things but these little stretches do seem unfair at times.

And for Thursday, Go COWBOYS!

95
by Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:11am

#91 - That gets suggested a great deal when a Patriot LB is down or there is poor depth. The problem is that it doesn't actually make sense. Seymour and Warren are somewhere between Pro-Bowl and All-Pro 3-4 DE. They'd be terrible 4-3 DEs and lesser but still probably effective DT. They could play Green at DE definitely, but then you still need to take a OLB to act as DE (Vrabel most likely) and you're right back where you started. Plus, that leaves out other Pro-Bowl-ish Defensive Lineman Wilfork without a spot.
They'll play 4-3 in spots definitely, but their base defense is and will be for the foreseeable future 3-4.

96
by Jake (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:12am

I definitely use the word definitely too much when I'm definitely getting ready to go to bed. Definitely.

97
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 4:51am

I think there needs to be a stat measuring Cowboy homerisim. Every forum I've been to, the Cowboy fans are more and more the biggest homer's I've seen. Even here, where they are rational, logical homers.

What is with so many vocal Cowboy's fans having an explanation at every fingertip?

98
by Carlos (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:08am

re Loser League and Weekly DPAR leaders:

Ladell Betts was 5th best back according to DPAR, but scored a decent loser league week at 7 points. love it.

99
by Omar (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:21am

Re #97 -

Cowboys fans dont come anywhere close to the virulent responses of Pats fans whenever their teams honor/sportsmanship is called into question.

100
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:46am

99:

Good point. But at least it makes some sense to me. I mean, I'd probably agree with the hypothesis that every team cheats somehow and they just got busted because an ex-coach (who is dirty himself) ratted them out.

In terms of the Cowboys, I can't see a reason they will ever lose again from what I've heard. Never mind the fact they've beaten the 3 worst teams in the league (30% of their schedule) to more than fluff their numbers, they apparently are dominating at every corner.

I like the Cowboys this Thursday, mainly because they are at home, but I'm not certain they are as good as their DVOA and other numbers show. Footballs sample size is just too low and yards are very often a function of many different things. I mean, an 11 point game with 100 yards of difference won't make a DVOA too big or large, even though it's a blowout. Or even fewer yards or score.

Like I said, Dallas should win. But I'm not not sure it will be so easy.

But, I'm also very likely to be wrong!

101
by erebia (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 8:59am

100. evidently, you have'nt watched much cowboys football this year...they can only play who's on the schedule...the problem with cowboys bashers is that everyone is waiting for Romo to collapse, Owens to go psycho, Williams to quit the team or some other nonsense...Dallas plays the most fearsome front four every weekend but these fearsome defenses become lackluster and yesterdays hype heap after a Dallas win...quantify your opinions if you want them taken seriously.

102
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 10:32am

As a Browns fan it's difficult for me to believe they really have an almost 80% chance to make the playoffs. Their schedule is soft, but they will find a way to keep their opponents in every game.

103
by rick (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:12am

RE: 5 and 10

The onsides kick WAS important, for at least 3 reasons. First, while it was a 3 and out, the extra possession took time off the clock which NE never got to utilize. In addition, it gave NE the ball after the punt on the 20, when their average starting position was better than that. These first 2 points gave NE less time to score and more yards to cover...both items in Philly's favor.
Most importantly, however, it set NE on its ear with regard to how the game was going to be played. While NE expects teams to be aggressive against them, the scores so far this year really didn't reflect any (but 1) aggressive game planning...or at least execution. In this game, the onsides kick was a surprise that indicated both aggressive planning AND execution...something NE hadn't seen alot of this year. This meant Belichick and his staff had a lot of work to do at halftime.

These may seem inconsequential, but anyone who's played or studied football alot would recognize that sometimes seemingly meaningless incidents like an onsides kick that resulted in a 3 and out were more important than what was shown on the field.

Certainly the pick 6 was THE play that made a difference, since without it Philly is up by at least 4 as the game ticks away and they were running the ball well.
However, in its very early stages, with Philly not given much hope in this game, and already having surrendered 7 points without NE's offense appearing, the onsides kick represented a different ballgame.

104
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:15am

Post 85:

Sigh. I only mentioned Dallas because I KNEW, I KNEW, that if I didn't someone would crawl out and screech, "But Dallas has to play the same number of games over 11 games TOOOO!!!!!" or some similar comment.

I didn't lay out some grand conspiracy theory BS. I just pointed out that in late November when bodies are banged, battered and bruised the Packers were not only asked to play 3 games in short order but have two of them being consecutive road games.

And in referencing NE/Indy/Pitt I was highlighting three teams that have been good for several YEARS and as such are constantly featured TV events be it Monday, Sunday or otherwise. I could have listed Dallas. They didn't spring to mind.

Because I really don't think about the Cowboys all that much.

Now does that make me a BIGGER hater?

105
by dryheat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:49am

Why on Earth would the Pats move Adalius outside to put Eric Alexander/Chad Brown inside? The Eric Alexander experiment is a good reason why the Pats signed Adalius. The Chad Brown as an ILB experiment failed miserably the year before, although last I saw him he was still a viable pass-rushing OLB.

Why would the Patriots weaken themselves at two positions? Keep the Linebacking corps in exactly the same alignment as they've been all year, and replace Colvin with Pierre Woods/Chad Brown/Eric Alexander, who's played outside in the past. It's reasonable to expect the Patriots to play more nickel D than anything else this season, and the lineup changes won't be felt much in those situations.

Troy Brown provides nothing, provided the team suffers no more long-term injuries. He's return is largely ceremonial, and he'll be gameday inactive most weeks, just like Kareem Brown. But if another CB or, God forbid, Welker goes down for an extended time, there's insurance on the 53.

106
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:53am

105:

They might move AD to OLB because (1) they might feel that Seau and Bruschi can handle the inside in 1st and 2d down situations, (2) AD is a more natural fit there; (3) even in 3rd down situations, they may very well go to nickle and dime personnel that include neither Seau nor Bruschi, instead leaving two of their front four in and bringing in more safeties/corners.

Maybe you're right and they will try Woods or whomever on the outside. But there's probably a reason he hasn't been suiting up for games much, and so I doubt that will change unless there's another linebacker injury.

107
by nat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:04pm

103:
No one doubts that a successful onsides kick is very valuable, on average. But since you are talking about the way things played out, I disagree with your assessment of the effect it had in this game.

True, the Eagles burned an extra 1:32. But the Patriots would not have gotten an extra drive with that time. Instead, they would have simply consumed more time in their final drive of the half. In the event, they ran a hurry-up offense, so they could have easily burned more clock with the same number of plays.

True, the Eagles gained about 10 yards of field position. So that might have made the difference between a field goal and a TD. But maybe not. And it's hard to argue that 10 yards of field position is worth more than, say, a point.

Your third point is not very strong. Sometimes a play - even a failed one - can manipulate the opponent's thinking. But it's hard to see how an onsides kick would manipulate anything but a team's kick coverage. If, as you suppose, it caused the Patriots to plan for a more aggressive opponent, it could only hurt the Eagles by tipping their plan without any gain.

Don't get me wrong. I loved the onsides kick. More teams should do that, especially against the Patriots. It could have been huge. In this game, it wasn't.

108
by TED F!@#ING GINN!? (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 12:20pm

Re: 104

It doesn't make you a bigger hater, it makes you un-American.

Go back to Canada, hoser! We don't like people bashing America's team 'round here!

109
by Temo (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:05pm

This is about the most cowboys fan posts as I've ever seen on this site. It makes me all tingly inside.

As for cowboys fans being more likely to be homers... well that just comes with being the most popular team and all. You tend to get a lot of different fans that way. But while, even as a cowboys fan, I tend to hate the way other cowboys fans conduct themselves elsewhere, I have no problem with people on these boards have said.

Oh, and your comment about their DVOA being "fluffed" because a weak schedule doesn't make sense on the grounds of DVOA being opponent adjusted and all. As for this Thursday, I have a decidedly bad feeling about this. As much of a stat nut as I am, I can't shake the feeling that this is GB's season in the NFC and that Favre is just meant to beat his winless streak at Texas Stadium (since it's coming down after next year anyway).

110
by louis (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:06pm

"matriculate-the-ball"?? What?

111
by Darrel (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:06pm

New Orleans had a pretty good jump in WEI DVOA this week, I suppose the thrashing by the Colts/Bucs/Titans are meaning less and less.

112
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:13pm

#35: "the game is played in a fraction of infinity (obvious quote of the year) so a return will basically kill you..."

I like the "fraction of infinity" line (of course, everyone knows that a finite fraction of infinity is infinity, so it doesn't work mathematically, but we're not going to go all TMQ on you)... but the statement that "a return will basically kill you" is one of those kind of statements that begs for some statistical analysis.

Anyone care to calculate the correlation between returning kicks for TDs and winning games?

#55: I know you're being facetious, but "Reed's due to screw up" is the gambler's fallacy. Personally, as a Steelers' fan, I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off because the O-line sucks.

113
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:18pm

"#22–Because DVOA is a rate stat, not a counting one. The Patriots don’t run much, but when they do, they’re very successful. "

I'm sorry, but this statement is an absolute falsity. They are 7th in the league in rushing yards/game, and 8th in the league in attempts per game, at 30.2.

They have both more attempts, and more yards than the Giants, who everyone thinks is a run first team.

114
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:23pm

"So, I guess this means Adalius Thomas will move to OL to replace Colvin and the Three Very Old Men (Seau, Bruschi, and Brown) will be stuck rotating at IL."

I doubt it. I think they'll play a whole lot more 4-3 (they've been playing 4-3 on about 40% of their snaps this year), and when they play 3-4, Pierre Woods will take the 2nd OLB spot. They've been grooming this guy to replace Vrable, and he's looked good in limited action.

115
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:23pm

Post 108:

Between thinking about brats, cheese, the Packers, how many ways Rex Grossman can drop a football, how long before Jon Kitna loses a body part and if Brooks Bollinger keeps those incriminating photos of Brad Childress on his person or in a safe deposit box I just don't have many neurons to spare on Dallas.

Northern Wisconsin might as well BE Canada. Does that count?

116
by TomC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:23pm

When did Todd Sauerbrun's leg begin to atrophy? I would have naively guessed before last week's game (without knowing his touchback percentage) that he would be a good kicker to try the kick-to-Hester strategy with (at least on kickoffs). But he could barely get it to the 10.

117
by Israel (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:30pm

#83 writes Seattle and Tampa Bay are dueling for the No. 3 seed. The loser will likely have to host the Giants, while the winner will likely play an easier opponent, such as the Vikings, Saints, or Lions.

Why not just say that the #4 team has to play the #5 team, which is generally better than the #6 team, which is why they are seeded that way?

118
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:33pm

"But it’s hard to see how an onsides kick would manipulate anything but a team’s kick coverage. If, as you suppose, it caused the Patriots to plan for a more aggressive opponent, it could only hurt the Eagles by tipping their plan without any gain."

You don't think that trying to cover an onside kick while the opponent is kicking deep affects your return game?

You don't think the threat of teams going for it on 4th down makes you more likely to play the run in 3rd and 5/6 type situations?

119
by Ben (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:37pm

#102

As a Steelers fan, looking at the two schedules, I find it hard to believe the Browns have only an 18-19% chance of winning the division.

120
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:44pm

"Unless Belichick has decided 4-WR sets aren’t enough and plans to move to 5-WR sets"

Even then, I'm not sure he makes the field. Hes definitely 5th at best, but to be 5th, hes still got to beat out Washington, and Jackson, and I'm not sure (having missed half the season, and being 900 years old) he can do that.

I agree that hes gonna be a DB.

I don't like cutting Kareem Brown. He looked pretty decent in preseason and limited action during the season.

121
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 1:48pm

My thoughts on the Cowboys from an irrational cowboys hater. They are clearly the best team in the NFC, but they keep making stupid mistakes that keep opponents in the game. Watching their games, I see lots of dumb penalties, snaps going over Romo's head, and questionable decisions by Romo. The penalties, at least, don't show up in DVOA, so I think the team is overrated a bit by that fact. They'll win tomorrow, and they are the presumptive favorite in the NFC Championship, but these problems will lead to a loss in the Super Bowl, which will inevitably end up with a TO implosion next year.

122
by Yaguar (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:02pm

I think the Packers are trending upward more than the Cowboys are. (Weighted DVOA confirms this.) Now that they have found a good running game with Ryan Grant, I think they are the Cowboys' equals.

123
by Kai (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:06pm

Any complaints about the Cowboys scheduling issues around Thanksgiving are pointless. Jerry Jones fought for, and won, the right to play every Thanksgiving Day.

The added viewership/revenues of that game are more important to him than the scheduling difficulties it creates for the team.

If you wish to gripe about it, place the blame squarely on Jerry Jones, and leave the league out of it.

124
by crack (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:11pm

115.

Because according to DVOA that isn't even right. Vince apparently loves the Giants more than DVOA does.

The Vikings have to be a scarier team, their variance is enourmous. And while that doesn't indicate a good team, it does indicate a team that can be anywhere from awful to dominating. If Adrian Peterson is back. I don't expect the Vikings to win a playoff game, but why would anyone want to play such an unpredictable team with a running back who is the equivalent of a deep threat. You'd like to play that team for an entire season, but in one game you'd rather have a low variance opponent.

125
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:11pm

Cowboys fans don't come anywhere close to the virulent responses of Pats fans whenever their teams honor/sportsmanship is called into question.

Go ahead, call the honor and sportsmanship of the Cowboys into question, and we'll see.

126
by Dan (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:14pm

I don't see why it's so weird that the Patriots and Dolphins have the lowest variance. If your performances are all over the place, you're probably going to end up with a middling record. Contrapositively, if you're 11-0, your performances have to have been pretty consistent, or you would probably have lost a couple games in there somewhere.

127
by nat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:26pm

118:
I meant "kick return game", of course.

128
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 2:31pm

On Pats rushing:

Maybe there is a perception that the Pats don't rush all that much because of fantasy football... I don't play, but I understand from chatter here and from friends that do that in many circles Maroney was considered a solid 1st round pick, and Morris a solid late-round or waiver-wire option. No one expected the Pats to platoon their RB's the way they did when Morris was healthy, and no one expected Morris to go down (and when he did, no one expected Faulk to start getting the bulk of the playing time...Maroney must just be a horrible pass blocker or something!) Also, in most goal-line cases this year, the pats have passed for the TD or run Eckel or Evans in in garbage time, not Maroney. So every fantasy football player who has Pats RB's on their roster is getting burned by underutilization (relative to their expectations) and lack of TD's, which probably leads to a perception that the Pats don't run the ball.

On the onside kick:
One other important effect is being overlooked--not only did the onside kick take away a Pats possession (or burn clock, depending on how you look at it), it GAVE the Eagles an extra possession. It doesn't matter that that particular possession happened to be one that they went 3-and-out. You could look at it like "the Pats defense had X-numbers of stops in them that game", and they were forced to use up one of their "stops" on a possession that should never have occurred. Every team is going to occasionally go 3-and-out; if you give every team an extra possession per game, you increase the odds that one of their possessions will not be a 3-and-out dramatically.

On Cowboys fans:
One of the funniest things I remember happening this season was, after the Pats beat the 'Boys in Dallas, one of the Cowboys players complained to the media that there was too much cheering at the Pats success and too much noise when the Cowboys had the ball, and basically that the Pats had too many "bandwagon" fans. While I actually agree that there probably are too many Pats bandwagoneers, the irony of a COWBOYS player complaining about bandwagon fans was priceless!

129
by nat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:12pm

re MJK 128 on the onsides kick:
You're quite right that the extra drive for the Eagles was valuable. There have been two related themes on the onsides kick. One asks "was the onsides kick a valuable play?". The other asks "was it important to this game?". Depending on how you like your alternate histories, you can get different answers.

My take:
The kick definitely got the Eagles an extra drive, resulting in a small gain in field position. It did not (in this game) deprive the Patriots of a drive. I am unsure whether it changed the Patriots approach to kickoff returns enough to matter. So it could have been very valuable, but in this game was only somewhat valuable.

Overall, I liked the play. I think the Eagles should have tried it again at the start of the second half, unless the Pats changed their return personnel or scheme. (I didn't notice.)

130
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 3:17pm

101:
I wasn't bashing the cowboys, just pointing out some facts. They have played arguably the 3 worst teams in the league in St. Louis w/out Jackson/Bulger, Miami (who has been in close games, making them appear statistically stronger) and the Jets.

By a measure of RPI, they have played 6 teams in the top 50% of all teams. And 3 of the teams they played are way at the bottom. They have played the Patriots and since we are looking at such a small sample (11 games to date), their AVG SOS isn't a good indicator of games played in terms of RPI, because the Patriots is so ridiculously high, but they only count for 1 game and 1 loss.

Conversely, a team like Green Bay has played 9 teams ranked in the top 50% of RPI with Carolina being the only teams in the bottom 33%. So 90% of their opponents were either in the top 50% or near it. Things do get easier for them though.

You're right, you can't pick you schedule. I', not suggesting otherwise. I'm just saying, they've had the fortune of playing some really bad teams, in terms of record and RPI.

131
by Athelas (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 5:37pm

In re: Dallas-Green Bay
An interesting point from Dr. Z:
I think a big part of the Thursday nighter against Green Bay will be which officiating crew is assigned to the game. Various scribes and announcers have described Packers cornerback Al Harris as a "shutdown corner," which is nonsense. He doesn't shut anyone down, he roughs 'em up, and if it'll be the kind of crew that is fairly liberal, then he'll be in decent shape in his battle against T.O., which everyone assumes will take place all over the field. But if it's one of those prissy crews that calls everything tight, Al will get two, maybe three, interference calls and T.O. and Tony Romo will have a big night.

Thoughts? Will Allen, Badger, Cowboy fans?

132
by thestar5 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:15pm

Pats fans are the worst. End of story. Read what Rich Conley posts. I rest my case. ;)

Cowboys have played the 3 of the easiest teams. but at least they blew them all out. Thats all you can do with the schedule.

They only had really close wins versus the Bills and the skins. One was cause of a Romo meltdown that probably wont happen again. The other was partly because of 2 snaps over Romo's head that ended drives in skins territory. Your call on how likely that is to happen again. But it probably cost them at least 7 points, if not 10 or 14. Especially since one was on first down. So I don't think that game would have been nearly as close.

Meanwhile GB has only had 3 wins that WEREN'T close, in my opinion. Against the Giants, Lions, and Panthers (without Delhome, Steve Smith, and one TD on a freakin pooch punt!) I don't see how you can say the 'Boys schedule makes them overrated unless your just ignorant.

And Temo, how dare you doubt them!!!!! ;)

133
by mawbrew (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:20pm

Lots of commentary over the past couple of years about Jamal Lewis looking very bad for the Ravens. This year's performance suggests maybe it wasn't all Lewis. McGahee has a DPAR/DVOA ranking (38/39) this year virtually identical to Lewis in 2006 (40/39). Lewis's #s this year in Cleveland are considerably better (20/30), while McGahee's #s were much better in 2006 (24/27).

Not being able to pass the ball really hurts the running game (unless you're Minnesota).

134
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:30pm

In order for the Cowboys to have playe the three easist teams in the NFL, we would have to forget that the NFL has teams in the Bay Area. Actually, that't not such a bad idea. Any way we can send the Niners and Raiders to the CFL? No, that's mean to Canada. Maybe the Arena League 2.

135
by Tony (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 6:45pm

123: Jerry Jones? Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving every year since 1966, except for 1975 and 1977. The credit goes to Tex Schram for that tradition.

136
by M (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:02pm

#62 - average victory margins have consistently been in the 10-12 point range each season since the NFL went to the 16 game schedule - usually averaging just over 11. In the 1960's and 1970's seasonal average margins used to be larger than now, usually in a range of 12-14 points. That dampens the "awesomeness" of your 1970's Steelers, because most good teams were blowing out the opposition in those days. In a bit of irony, the run-first rules in those days made it difficult for bad teams to "close the gap" in routs, and it was hard to be accused of running up the score when you are running the ball on every play (even if you are leaving hapless defenders bloodied and beaten).

#132 I also "believe" the Cowboys are "slightly" better than the Packers, but you conveniently leave out games against the Vikings which would fly in the face of your argument. The Cowboys definitely looked better than Minnesota in their matchup, but it definitely was NOT a blowout. Conversely, the Packers utterly destroyed Minnesota a few weeks back. If both teams are healthy and playing on a neutral field, I think Dallas would win a little over half of the time. The playoff odds report seems to support this - giving both teams similar chances to go 15-1.

137
by Herm? (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:50pm

I'm surprised there's not more banter about Thursday's game...maybe because 90% of us won't see it, but I'm thinking it's been too long since I've gone to work hung over on a Friday. If you care about football and not just your home team, you HAVE to watch this game...
If only to find out why people are so high on Green Bay's defensive backs when DVOA has them ranked a mediocre 13th with the #10 pass rush.
I'm interested to see if another somewhat unheard of backup QB can step up and make everyone forget about Drew Bledsoe. This will have to be his first push toward the 2007 postseason that shows Romo's not afraid of big games.
But most of all I have to see what Favre has left and if he's really become a methodical drive sustaining QB (GB is #8 in drive sustaining! Is the heave-ho offense era officially done in GB?).

138
by Herm? (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 7:58pm

#116 TomC
wasn't Sauerbrun the kicker who was suspended for illegal performance enhancing drugs? Maybe he's off the juice now. It would explain a lot, but if they test kickers, why aren't Morten Anderson and Jeff Feagles in prison? Those guys have to be on SOMETHING.

139
by Nick (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 8:44pm

Kelley Washington is basically a special teamer now. He's been excellent on ST, but that's really all he is. I don't think he has 10 catches. It's not just loyalty with Brown, I think he can still make some plays, and I would say he's without question ahead of Washington and Chad Jackson at this point.

140
by idrankthekoolaid (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 9:14pm

re 121
"...and questionable decisions by Romo"

compared to who?

141
by idrankthekoolaid (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 9:15pm

"Any complaints about the Cowboys scheduling issues around Thanksgiving are pointless. Jerry Jones fought for, and won, the right to play every Thanksgiving Day."

You mean Schramm/Murchison

142
by Jerry P. (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2007 - 11:30pm

"I’d also like to point out that the Pats now have 11.0 Estimated Wins. That is, in as few words as I can manage, !#@$!@ insane."

Yeah, I wonder if they can manage to pull off a perfect forest index rating at the end of the regular season even if they lose a game.

143
by Herm? (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 12:10am

Troy Brown saved the Patriots season last year. That's 2 games ago to him. He's been doing this for a loonnngg time. If he is not your hero, you have no soul.
Tom Brady might go down as one of the greatest QB's all time. You might go back and say John Hannah was one of the best offensive linemen ever.
But Troy Brown is the greatest Patriot. Ever.

144
by Temo (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 12:49am

thestar5- I know, I feel out of place on this. All season, I've been the guy telling cowboys fans "no, they won't fall for the trap game." And "no, they won't have trouble with the giants or the eagles... hey look at this neat website called football outsiders, we have a much higher DVOA than they do!" (you're welcome FO). And also "no, Roy Williams is not the worst safety in the league".

But now it seems like everyone expects them to win tomorrow, but I'm feeling nervous. Although all the news of Packer injuries are reassuring (in a non-morbid way), I'm still scared. This is going to be one of those games (along with the NE game) where I'm going to have to watch it alone in a dark room with a bag of pretzels because I don't want to be around anyone I could offend incidentally if Romo comes out throwing INTs and Favre is heaving the same throws that somehow find their way into receiver's hands.

As for the thanksgiving thing, just a few points on that:
1. As others pointed out, we can all thank Tex Schramm for thanksgiving day cowboys football.
2. He didn't "fight" for it so much as made a smart business tradition, as at the time it wasn't conceivable (we're talking the very early days of the NFL now) that anyone would want to watch football on a day centered around family.
3. Any cowboys fan who complains about thanksgiving day games should just not talk anymore. It's one of the reasons they have the largest national fan base, and it can be argued that it's actually an advantage since the cowboys organization is well equipped by now to handle the short week in terms of preparation compared to their opponents. Also being at home for the short-week game is a decided advantage over an opponent who has three days to travel and prepare for a game.

145
by PatsFan (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:04am

Read Dr.Z's power rating blurb for Pittsburgh. Looks like he might be prime material to join the Church of ROBOPUNTER.

146
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:37am

137:

The problem with statistics in football is that football is a game of insanely small sample sizes. It's statistics 101, really.

Also, a blowout can happen in so many different ways in football. Some defenses give up yards but not points. Some offenses gain a ton of yards but can't score. Teams blow one another out and take a quarter off and let the other team gain yards.

So you get a lot of variables that can count against you more or less and coupled with a small sample size can create statistics that don't add up.

In the case of the Packers, they will let you catch some balls but they don't give up many big plays. They rely on the fact that long drives have a tendency to fall apart and that a lot of points in the NFL are scored on plays of 25+ yards. So, they'll let you chip away, tighten up with a smaller field and force you into a punt or a field goal. Then have the offense drive the field regardless. It's one strategy and works for them because of the personal.

So many variables in football: where you play, the weather, schedule, injuries, match ups and a small sample size.

I respect DVOA and it has a use. But looking at where a team ranks in DVOA as assuming that is how good they are at something is silly. It's as silly as assuming total yards or something means much.

147
by Scott de B. (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:43pm

I respect DVOA and it has a use. But looking at where a team ranks in DVOA as assuming that is how good they are at something is silly. It’s as silly as assuming total yards or something means much.

It's not silly, because DVOA correlates with wins better than points, total yards, or other metrics.

148
by vijay (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 1:45pm

I would like to think of myself as a reasonable Cowboys homer. Am I a homer, heck yeah! But I do see weaknesses on this team.

I think tonight's game will be pretty close. I am surprised by the talking heads all picking the Packers seemingly simply because of Favre. I believe that the matchup of the Cowboys offense vs. Packers defense will be a slight advantage for the Cowboys as opposed to the Packers offense vs. Cowboys defense. And as sexy as it is to talk about Romo, Favre, Owens, Driver, etc., this game will come down to O-Line and D-line. I believe that the Cowboys offensive line is good enough to slow down the Packers pass rush and the Cowboys pass rush will have opportunities to take advantage of the Packers o-line (both because of Packers injuries) and I think in the 4th quarter, the Cowboys will pull away and win. But the game will be close going into the 4th.

A couple of comments about Cowboys fans. I do believe that it's ridiculous for Cowboys fans to complain about bandwagoners but I'm not a big fan mainly since I've been a fan since the mid 80s when I was about 8 or 9 years old. So I don't like bandwagoners only because I've had to sit on the wagon with many of them who jump off when Campo shows up and jump back on when Owens is happy...

And one last comment about the Cowboys. If my understanding of DVOA is accurate, that number should be adjusted for the games against the Rams/Dolphins/Jets so the number still means that they are (based on DVOA) the 3rd best team in the league. And I will say this thread has brought more Cowboys talk than almost every other weekly DVOA post combined - I know I'm always looking for friends!

Hopefully my analysis was reasoned and not filled with "The Cowboys will kill the Pakcers because they're America's team" type analysis. And Go Cowboys!

149
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:08pm

147:

I think you took what I said way out of context. In the context I wrote that I was implying that a teams rating against certain receiver's needs to be analyzed. In the case of the Packers, it looks like they get killed by #3+ receivers. But could this be because QB's look to these guys more often against the Packers because #1 and #2 are more likely to be covered, resulting in higher gains?

My point wasn't that DVOA doesn't produce anything real. It was that there certainly are reasons why a statistic might be higher or lower for a team, as they might be interdependent on other things.

150
by Craig (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 3:41pm

What would be interesting would be some statistic showing the rise or fall of DVOA over the course of the past 4 games.

151
by Bob Coluccio (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 4:11pm

Maybe the chatter is lacking because the site keeps on crashing. Anyone who doesn't have NFL Network is welcome to watch at my house. I myself can't watch the Packers because I get too nervous. If they win I watch the DVR. Even halfway through the season when they were squeaking out wins every week I kept waiting for the inevitable collapse that has yet to come. It's pretty clear now they're for real, and the biggest difference for both Favre and the team is simply that he's NEVER had a receiving corps this good from top to bottom. The second is that McCarthy and co. have schemed very well to maximize that personnel.

At full strength they might have a chance, but as it is, probably not. I'd even be tempted to just sit Woodson, KGB, Tauscher, et al. and try to get them healthy for the rest of the season and a rematch in Dallas, which is why I am not an NFL coach.

152
by Bob Coluccio (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 4:16pm

One more thing - the talking heads are NOT picking the Packers. The pick is overwhelmingly Dallas almost across the board in most quarters. Even the Journal-Sentinel writers are going with Dallas almost unanimously.

153
by Temo (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 8:04pm

147. No, points scored vs. points allowed actually correlates more to wins than DVOA (though not by a big margin). The thing that makes DVOA cool is that it correlates better with wins in the future than points.

149. Again, DVOA is a rate stat, so it shouldn't be affected by QBs passing to their 3rd receiver more often. However, your other point, about how sample size, might be in effect here for all we know (and I don't). It IS possible that teams haven't thrown to the 3rd receiver nearly as much as the others, resulting in distorted stats. Just saying it's possible.

154
by Temo (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 8:05pm

152. It's weird, but I almost feel like the vegas line, which surprised most main stream people, though maybe not FO people, is scaring the talking heads away from taking the cowboys.

155
by Xian (not verified) :: Thu, 11/29/2007 - 8:48pm

#137 GB is #8 in drive sustaining! Is the heave-ho offense era officially done in GB?

I'm not sure there ever was a heave-ho era? From at least 92-98, it was a pretty classic Walsh/West Coast offense, timing passes and such. In the Sherman era, it was a little more power running & play action, but still influenced by the previous offensive regime. And under McCarthy, it's been again, pretty much slants and short timing patterns. I'm very willing to be corrected if Badger or someone else with a little better memory than me chimes in.

About the DBs? Harris and Woodson were great last year. This year, it seems that Harris has lost a little, and they're both constantly injured. As for the rest of the DBs, Atari Bigby has an awesome name and can hit, but his coverage is...questionable at best. Nick Collins has been solid when uninjured, but if he intercepts a ball this year, it will surprise me. Aaron Rouse looked passable (and intercepty!) in his recent starts, but he got injured at DET. 2 of the 3 extra CBs (Walker and Bush) have looked replacement-level or worse. The 3rd, Tramon Williams, looked good in the last game (to me), but hasn't seen much action. I'm leaving out Blackmon, because I can't remember if he's a CB or a WR. Either way, he hasn't played extensively (at all?) this year.

156
by Temo (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 3:52am

I just wanted to say that I was completely, totally wrong about today. And I couldn't be happier.

157
by Herm? (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 1:30pm

I guess there won't be an Any Given Thursday column.

158
by AlexDL (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 7:28pm

I was wondering where the "beatpath" guy is. I've been looking for it.

159
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 10:44pm

AlexDL (#158 )--

Here's a link.

160
by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Fri, 11/30/2007 - 10:45pm

Let's try that again: http://www.beatpaths.com/

161
by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 12/04/2007 - 5:16pm

so much for Miami being better than the Jets.