Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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15 Jan 2008

2008 Postseason DVOA II

by Aaron Schatz

Here are postseason DVOA ratings, including the first two rounds of the playoffs. Like last year, based on reader requests, we've ranked all 32 teams, whether they are in the playoffs or not. All numbers are weighted DVOA. That means that Weeks 1-5 are not included, while Weeks 6-11 are somewhat discounted. Any team that did not appear in the postseason is considered to have two bye weeks. A number of people have asked why I don't just end the weighted DVOA ratings for non-playoff teams at Week 17 instead of Week 19. The reason is that we already did this -- those numbers are the normal end-of-season weighted DVOA ratings. Just substitute those for these when it comes to non-playoff teams, and there you go.

Just to get this out of the way: Yes, the Giants are still very low. I'll discuss this a bit after we run the numbers.

There will be the usual comments over on AOL sometime on Wednesday, and they will be linked from the "FO Goes Mainstream" page. Playoff odds will be updated soon. You'll find the matchup pages available for the two championship games in the DVOA Premium database.

* * * * *

To save people some time, we remind everyone to put their angry troll hatred into the official zlionsfan angry troll hatred Mad Libs form:

<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>

I'm not going to bother to run the whole DVOA explanation; if you are new to the website, you can read about it here. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.


TEAM WEI.
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
W-L WEI OFF
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
WEI DEF
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
WEI S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NE 48.4% 1 17-0 40.1% 1 -6.4% 8 2.0% 11
2 GB 27.3% 5 14-3 22.4% 3 -2.4% 15 2.6% 8
3 JAC 26.9% 2 12-6 25.2% 2 -3.3% 12 -1.6% 18
4 SD 25.4% 3 13-5 11.1% 8 -9.9% 3 4.4% 5
5 IND 23.4% 4 13-4 21.3% 4 -7.9% 4 -5.8% 30
6 DAL 15.1% 7 13-4 12.3% 6 -4.1% 10 -1.2% 16
7 WAS 11.1% 10 9-8 4.5% 15 -7.6% 6 -1.0% 15
8 PIT 10.4% 14 10-7 0.8% 16 -13.6% 1 -4.0% 26
9 TEN 10.1% 18 10-7 -3.5% 20 -12.5% 2 1.1% 13
10 MIN 10.0% 12 8-8 8.8% 11 0.2% 18 1.5% 12
11 SEA 9.0% 8 11-7 7.8% 13 -3.3% 11 -2.1% 21
12 CLE 8.3% 6 10-6 8.1% 12 7.6% 22 7.7% 2
13 TB 6.9% 13 9-8 0.7% 17 -7.6% 5 -1.4% 17
14 HOU 4.9% 16 8-8 12.3% 7 13.3% 30 6.0% 3
15 PHI 4.6% 11 8-8 9.3% 10 -3.2% 13 -7.8% 32
16 NO 4.1% 15 7-9 18.4% 5 11.4% 27 -2.8% 22
TEAM WEI.
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
W-L WEI OFF
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
WEI DEF
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
WEI S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 CHI 3.7% 9 7-9 -15.6% 27 -6.9% 7 12.3% 1
18 NYG 3.4% 21 12-6 -3.2% 19 -2.8% 14 3.8% 6
19 CIN 3.2% 17 7-9 9.7% 9 10.1% 24 3.6% 7
20 BUF -1.9% 20 7-9 -3.9% 21 0.1% 17 2.1% 10
21 DEN -1.9% 19 7-9 6.4% 14 6.3% 21 -2.0% 20
22 BAL -9.7% 24 5-11 -12.2% 24 -6.1% 9 -3.6% 25
23 ARI -10.8% 23 8-8 -0.5% 18 5.4% 20 -4.9% 29
24 ATL -19.8% 26 4-12 -9.9% 23 12.1% 29 2.2% 9
25 KC -21.4% 29 4-12 -20.0% 31 -0.5% 16 -1.9% 19
26 DET -22.3% 28 7-9 -5.4% 22 13.9% 31 -3.0% 23
27 CAR -24.8% 25 7-9 -19.4% 30 0.7% 19 -4.6% 28
28 NYJ -25.6% 22 4-12 -14.6% 25 10.9% 25 -0.1% 14
29 OAK -27.9% 27 4-12 -15.6% 26 8.3% 23 -4.1% 27
30 SF -31.0% 30 5-11 -25.1% 32 11.5% 28 5.6% 4
31 STL -33.5% 32 3-13 -15.9% 28 11.0% 26 -6.7% 31
32 MIA -38.3% 31 1-15 -18.3% 29 16.7% 32 -3.2% 24

By beating the team that was previously ranked second (Jacksonville), the Patriots open up a healthy lead over the rest of the league that once again resembles their lead over the rest of the league during the regular season. The shocking change is that they move up from 18th to eighth in defense, but it isn't as shocking as it seems. The Week 7 game where the Pats let Miami score a bunch of meaningless points in the second half drops in weight in the formula, and the Patriots played a good game against Jacksonville. The defenses were so bunched up this year that those two small things are enough to raise the Pats 10 places in the rankings.

Before we talk about the New York Giants, here are the one-game DVOA ratings for the second round of the playoffs. Remember that these include opponent adjustments.


TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
GB 88% 65% -22% 1%
SEA -64% -15% 48% -1%
NE 73% 62% -10% 1%
JAC -12% 17% 27% -2%
SD 64% 62% -12% -9%
IND -16% 28% 50% 6%
NYG 46% 34% 0% 11%
DAL -18% 20% 34% -4%

In the end, the Colts-Chargers game wasn't anywhere near as "unlucky" as I thought while I was watching it. The Chargers were definitively better according to DVOA (although DVOA doesn't do anything to adjust for the weird bounce that put that Kenton Keith screen in the arms of Eric Weddle). One of the odd things from this game is that San Diego won despite a huge advantage on special teams for Indianapolis -- even though this was San Diego's clear advantage over Indianapolis going into the game.

As you can see, it was a tremendously offense-driven week. Seattle was the only team with a below-average offense, and that was just running the ball; they were positive passing the ball. Part of the reason: As you know from reading Quick Reads, only two offensive holding flags were thrown all weekend, not counting flags during special teams or interception returns.

So, let's talk about the New York Giants. At the close of the regular season, the DVOA ratings said that the Giants were clearly the worst team to make the playoffs. New York was the only playoff team that didn't end the season among our top dozen teams. Two weeks later, the Giants are in the NFC Championship game after becoming the first NFC team to knock off a number-one seed in the Divisional round since the playoffs went to six teams in 1990.

Are you waiting for me to say something about this being unprecedented? Turns out it isn't. This Giants run is entirely precedented. Not only have we been through this before, but we went through this just six months after Football Outsiders went online.


  2003 Panthers (11-5) NFL Rank 2007 Giants (10-6) NFL Rank
Pythagorean Wins 8.6 16 8.6 13
Total DVOA 0.4% 17 -0.6% 16
Offensive DVOA -7.2% 18 -1.7% 21
Defensive DVOA -7.1% 12 1.1% 14
Special Teams DVOA 0.6% 16 1.1% 14
Variance 5.4% 32 8.4% 30
Defense: Adjusted Sack Rate 7.3% 5 8.8% 1
Defense: Adjusted Line Yards 3.84 6 3.83 3
Turnover Differential (regular season) -5 26 -9 26
Turnover Differential (playoffs) +8   +3 (so far)  
Top Offensive Weapon RB tandem featuring veteran power back and shiftier rookie RB tandem featuring veteran power back and shiftier rookie
Top Defensive Weapon Pass rush Pass rush
Eventual Result Lost Super Bowl to New England Unknown

Not everything with these two teams is an exact match, of course. The 2007 Giants played a harder schedule. Their offensive line does much better according to Adjusted Line Yards. Their veteran power back is only a three-year veteran. The 2003 Panthers had better and healthier wide receivers, and a young defense-oriented coach instead of an older defense-oriented coach. The quarterback was an undrafted free agent, not a number one overall pick. Still, a consistently mediocre team that slips by with some close wins over bad opponents, then turns into a postseason juggernaut with no warning? We've been through this before.

A number of readers have asked whether the Giants' postseason success has revealed a major flaw in our advanced statistics. Now imagine the reaction if you had never heard of DVOA until two or three months previous, and this newfangled metric was based solely on information from a single season worth of play-by-play.

In the long run, it turned out that Carolina's playoff success didn't reveal any flaws in DVOA. I've worked on the formula many times, upgraded it, tried different things, and each time the 2003 Carolina Panthers come out as a mediocre football team during the regular season. The success of the 2007 Giants doesn't reveal flaws in the DVOA formula either. A team that outscored its opponents by only 22 points and lost the turnover battle for the season is one of the top four teams in football? Where's the indicator supposed to be for that? Is it supposed to be their 7-1 record on the road during the regular season? The 2001 New York Jets went 7-1 on the road and 3-5 at home, exactly the same as the 2007 Giants. They didn't go on a run through the playoffs; they went to Oakland for the wild card round and lost 38-24.

There is one reasonable idea here, which is that perhaps the weighted DVOA formula needs to consider fewer games come playoff time. That's certainly worth testing. However, we're still left with the question of when we were supposed to realize that the 2007 Giants were about to turn it around. Was one strong game against New England the indicator that the Giants were taking a leap forward? Plenty of teams have finished the year with a very strong game, only to get spanked in the first round of the playoffs. Two games? Perhaps, given that one of them is a postseason game. The weighted DVOA formula wasn't created with postseason games in mind. It is certainly worth exploring.

However, the most likely explanation for the 2007 Giants is that sometimes a mediocre team will go on a run where everything clicks, and the team plays really well for a couple of games. In other sports, a two-game winning streak over superior opponents is not a big deal. In football, because every playoff round consists of one game instead of seven, that little winning streak looks like a colossal achievement. The Giants making it to the NFC Championship is not much different from when the NCAA invites seven or eight different Big Ten teams to March Madness, and the team that surprisingly shows up in the Sweet 16 is the one that barely got in with a tenth seed.

This is what makes sports fun. We don't know what is going to happen. Predictions are about probabilities, not definites, and the better team going in isn't always the better team going out. There's no reason to believe the Giants were a good team before three weeks ago. There's very little reason to believe they will beat Green Bay. Who knows, maybe they will anyway. That's why we play the games.

LATE ADD: The playoff odds are now updated. With only four teams left, I might as well just give them here.

  • New England: 66% Super Bowl appearance, 45% Super Bowl win
  • Green Bay: 72% Super Bowl appearance, 31% Super Bowl win
  • San Diego: 34% Super Bowl appearance, 17% Super Bowl win
  • New York: 28% Super Bowl appearance, 7% Super Bowl win

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 15 Jan 2008

111 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2008, 2:26am by terry

Comments

1
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:16pm

So why has Chicago's defensive DVOA dropped back to #7? Did you discover a glitch?

2
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:20pm

So Green Bay hands the opposition 14 points, plays in bad weather, and churns out the best game of the weekend not just by inspection but by the numbers.

Very cool.

I find the Dallas offensive DVOA useful in that so many elsewhere are pointing to the yards gained as "proof" that Cowboys "outplayed" the Giants. Sure...

3
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:24pm

I think you're missing one obvious connection between the Giants and the Panthers. Two years before their Super Bowl run, the Panthers fired Tom Coughlin. Last year, everybody said the Giants should fire Tom Coughlin. So obviously the trick is to consider firing Tom Coughlin.

4
by Jon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:24pm

Most Giant fans will credit Coughlin finally forcing Gilbride to trim the option routes out of the playbook, and stop calling low-percentage bombs on every down.

5
by The Original Sam (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:27pm

One quibble: "Not everything with these two teams is an exact match, of course.... The 2003 Panthers had ... a young defense-oriented coach instead of an older defense-oriented coach."

Coughlin is primarily an offensive-minded coach. Exhibit A is his teams in Jacksonville. Exhibit B is that he played football on the offensive side of the ball. Exhibit C would be that as an NFL and college assistant I believe be worked exclusively as an offensive positional coach and as offensive coordinator. He was also an OC at Boston College.

Also, can we finally stop saying Jimmy Johnson was the last college head coach to succeed as an NFL head coach? He's taken his teams to the playoffs 7 times in 12 seasons (including one expansion season) and including 3 division titles. I realize that's not Vince Lombardi territory, but can't we call that a success?

6
by The Original Sam (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:28pm

3:

Tom Coughlin did not at any time work for the Panthers.

7
by Peter (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:28pm

Finally, we can put to rest the notion that the two best teams in the AFC are NOT playing each other for the right to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.

What's interesting is that, according to DVOA, the banged up Chargers played the Colts as well (or better) than the Patriots did in Super Bowl 41.5 earlier this year.

The game on Sunday should be a classic!

8
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:30pm

"Two weeks later, the Giants are in the NFC Championship game after becoming the first team to knock off a number-one seed in the Divisional round since the playoffs went to six teams in 1990."

No, they are first NFC team to do so since 1980 when the 12-4 Cowboys (a wild card team) knocked off the 12-4 Falcons.

They are also only the 9th NFC team with a bye (of 56 total) to lose since 1978 (excluding strike years).

Over in the AFC, #1 seeds lost in the divisional round in 2006, 2005, 2000, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1992, 1985, and 1979. Teams with a bye have lost 19 times in 56 opportunities in the AFC, and only in 10 of 28 seasons have both the #1 and #2 advanced to the Championship.

The just 2 in 3 shot at winning in the AFC with a bye is pretty dreadful compared to the 4 in 5 shot in the NFC and says something either about how bad teams #3-#6 in the NFC are or how good teams #3-#6 in the AFC are.

Only 10 of 102 #3-#6 NFC teams have advanced to the Championship game and only 2 to the Super Bowl (79 Rams and 03 Panthers), while 18 of 102 #3-#6 AFC teams have advanced to the Championship, 8 to the Super Bowl, and 5 have even won the Super Bowl.

The AFC is simply far more competitive than the NFC over the past 30 years.

9
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:31pm

re: 3
Coughlin coached the Jaguars, not the Panthers.

10
by JasonK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:31pm

As a Giants fan, I'm OK with that explanation. Anyhow, what could be more fun than being the Cinderella team in the Final Four? (Answer: Having eliminated DukeDallas on the way there!)

One correction: I wouldn't call Coughlin a "defense-oriented" coach. Although his teams tend to be strong on that side of the ball, Coughlin's background is on offense. He first made his reputation in the pros as a WRs coach.

11
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:31pm

This isn't meant as criticism (well, maybe a little) but there is some context being missed if one takes at face value the Vikings' number 11 ranking on offense, with their number 18 ranking on defense.

12
by Peter (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:32pm

Hey Aaron, while you're on the subject of the Kieth-tipped INT, can you explain to me how DVOA accounted for the at best ticky-tack holding call that deleted Antonio Cromartie's brilliant TD?

13
by JasonK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:34pm

That's odd. The strikethrough over "Duke" came through on the preview page, but not the final post.

14
by Rob (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:34pm

First off, I commend you guys for exploring the possibility (or maybe just humoring the naysayers of DVOA) in that the Giants' run is exposing something that DVOA cannot put its finger on.

However, since I've been reading, DVOA has done a fairly accurate job of indicating the winning teams (specifically teams with higher DVOAs when Vegas labels them an underdog). Finding a system that ranks this year's Giants higher than they finished would just be data-mining. Maybe you can tinker with DVOA, but no reason to change it to suit this year's results.

15
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:34pm

re: 7
How is that being put to rest? The Jags still rank ahead of the Chargers.

16
by RickD (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:36pm

I don't think there's any need to twiddle with DVOA to try to account for the fact that the Giants started playing much better three weeks ago. The Giants played like crap for quite a long time. DVOA is doing its job by reflecting that.

17
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:38pm

I know this has been asked before, but why are we using weighted DVOA when your own research says that full-season DVOA is a better predictor of playoff success?

Also, what would that do to the Giants' numbers? They were 16th in full-season DVOA at the end of the season, not 22nd; I would expect these past couple weeks to, while still being upsets, look less out of line with their regular-season performance.

18
by Peter (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:38pm

Re: 15

The Jags also rank above the Colts, the team the entire media seems to think deserves a spot in the title game over San Diego.

19
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:38pm

I just think there's just no accounting for talent and how many self-inflicted wounds a team causes.

Calling the Giants mediocre is fine based on their level play week to week. They certainly didn't perform at a top level all the time. However, this isn't a team that has mediocre talent. In their 5 games against Dallas, Green Bay, and New England, the Giants had a lead at halftime in 2 of those games and were tied in the other three.

The most interesting thing that wasn't addressed is how the Giants were affected when they went from the third worst special teams in week 11 to the 6th best at the current time. That's quite a leap.

20
by JasonK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:39pm

#2: I find the Dallas offensive DVOA useful in that so many elsewhere are pointing to the yards gained as “proof” that Cowboys “outplayed” the Giants. Sure…

Well, if you really want to see who outplayed who on that day alone, you'd want the raw VOA stats. DVOA give the Giants a headstart because Dallas is a more highly-rated opponent in most areas of the game.

21
by Peter (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:41pm

Re: 15 & 18

Emend that to say "...the team the entire media (including notable members of FO) seems to think deserves a spot in the title game over San Diego."

22
by Andrew (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:44pm

"Still, a consistently mediocre team that slips by with some close wins over bad opponents, then turns into a postseason juggernaut with no warning? We’ve been through this before."

See also the 1996 Jaguars (15th in DVOA at -0.8%), 1995 Colts, 1989 Browns, 1984 Steelers, 1983 Seahawks, 1979 Rams. With the 2003 Panthers and 2007 Giants, that's at least 8 mediocre regular season teams going on a playoff run in 28 years.

23
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:47pm

12: All Int returns are treated as random and not counted in DVOA. So DVOA treated that interception just like it would treat any other.

24
by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:48pm

I know this has been asked before, but why are we using weighted DVOA when your own research says that full-season DVOA is a better predictor of playoff success?

Because that research is based on a much smaller sample size than the research that weighted DVOA is based on.

25
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:51pm

21: I'm not sure what you're talking about. DVOA says SD beat Indy handily, and Ned just wrote an article explaining how SD went about attacking the weaknesses in Indy's defense, and, well, the FO staff seems to agree that the team with the higher score is the one that's supposed to advance in the playoffs.

26
by CA (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:52pm

There's no need for you to justify the DVOA ranking of the Giants, Aaron. The Giants' postseason success is by no means proof that they are better than DVOA indicates. Rather, the Giants are doing a great job of demonstrating that the better team doesn't always win. That's an important lesson for every football fan to learn. Perhaps if people come to understand this concept, they won't lavish excessive praise upon Super Bowl champions or level undue criticism against teams that happen to lose playoff games.

Re: 7 Finally, we can put to rest the notion that the two best teams in the AFC are NOT playing each other for the right to represent the conference in the Super Bowl.

I don't think the Chargers' current narrow edge in weighted DVOA, an edge that has actually shrunk during the postseason, overcomes the Colts' large advantage in unweighted DVOA throughout the regular season. Even by the weighted DVOA standard, the two best teams in the AFC are the Patriots and the Jaguars.

Re: 21 Emend that to say “…the team the entire media (including notable members of FO) seems to think deserves a spot in the title game over San Diego.”

Don't forget Vegas and the wagering public. Do you think for a second that the Colts would be 14.5 point underdogs?

27
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:54pm

26: The Chargers are pretty clearly better than the Colts having beaten them twice (once at home, once on the road) both times while badly banged up at key positions.

28
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:57pm

"[T]he better team doesn’t always win. That’s an important lesson for every football fan to learn." (CA, 26)
"The Chargers are pretty clearly better than the Colts having beaten them twice[.]" (Richard, 27)

I just love people.

29
by Peter (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:57pm

Re: 23

Thank you for making my point.

Re: 25

Referring to Aaron's insinuation that Eric Weddle's interception was a fluke.

Re: 26

Thank you for reminding me.

30
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:58pm

Jason:

Thanks for the reminder. I know better. Argh.

Regarding kevin's post on how the Giants played against good opponents the game against the Packers was close until the G-men fell apart late as the defense just packed it in for some reason giving up 21 points in the 4th quarter. DeShawn Wynn broke off a 38 yard TD run where I don't think he was touched until he hit the goal line. And Wynn couldn't fake out a dead man.

31
by SuperBears (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 6:59pm

If I understand this correctly the Bears victory over the Packers in week 5 was removed from weighted DVOA. This dropped the Bears from 9th to 17th, that seems like a huge move for just one game. Is there any current calculation that decreases the impact of such an outlier?

32
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:01pm

29: But it was a fluke.... And anyways, even if the Int didn't happen, SD would still have outplayed Indy (by DVOA).

33
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:03pm

32: It was a fluke, but that doesn't take away from it being an amazing play by Weedle.

34
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:06pm

33: Regardless of the likelihood of it happening again, two things are inarguable with regard to that play: 1) it was a horrible play by the Colts' runningback and 2) it was a great play by Weddle.

35
by Gerry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:06pm

I would argue that the 2003 Panthers' top offensive weapon was some guy named Steve Smith rather than their RB tandem.

But that's just me. It would be a phenomenal comparison had Burress not injured his ankle and had kept up his early pace (not necessarily on touchdowns, though).

36
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:07pm

34: And when was Aaron saying otherwise? Remember that when he refers to something as a fluke in terms of DVOA, all he's saying is that it's not likely to occur again, at least not in the manner and situation it did.
It seems like most of the negativity lately is due to people reading too much into what the authors are writing.

37
by Tom D (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:07pm

Re 31:

Other teams have their week 5 dropped too. So if other teams had worse week 5s than the Bears it would drop the Bears.

38
by patsfandan (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:16pm

Re #19 KevinNYC,

I think DVOA has it right. It's a 60 minute game and in 4 of the 5 games you listed, the Giants fell apart in the 2nd half, primarily on D.

39
by Kurt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:17pm

I'm curious how well regular season turnover differential correlates with postseason turnover differential. It just intuitively seems like an easier thing to fix than, say, pass rush or run blocking or WR speed or something like that. Mike Francesa commented before the Tampa game that considering the Giants were -9 and finished 10-6, and Tampa was +15 and finished 9-7, that there were lots of other things the Giants did better than Tampa. It's pure hindsight now, but maybe Tampa *needed* to win the turnover battle to stay with the Giants, and couldn't do it.

40
by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:19pm

re: Giants

Can't this simply be explained by turnovers? I was always hoping for a turnover-independent DVOA, because for any given game, a team which thrives on TOs can go cold, and vice versa. Since a team often times doesn't have any control over where the opposing QB throws it or whether the RB fumbles it, I consider TOs to be akin to BABIP: they can be rather flukey from year to year, and game to game as well. They often are the result of luck than skill, so calculating DVOA with TOs as a factor will skew the numbers in favor of teams who happen to have more interceptable balls thrown their way and opposing ball carriers who cough it up.

My beloved Ravens I don't think played terribly different compared to last year, but with one huge exception: their offense led the league in fumbles lost with 26, and their defense was last in the league with 6 fumbles recovered. When they don't turn the ball over (the Pats game), they seem to be an OK team.

41
by goathead (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:20pm

As a hardcore Giants Fan, I have no problem understanding them being mediocre in DVOA but winning the last 2 games. They have been amazingly erratic from game to game, and within games all year. Plus, until halftime against the Bucs, the coaching staff seemed convinced that drive-killer Droughns should get the ball on every 3rd down carry. I really think the decision to (FINALLY) stop giving him the ball in every short yardage situation is paying dividends.

42
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:24pm

#30... That exact play was when (I must admit) I almost gave up on the season. The Bradshaw fumble at 21-13 sank the team and they just flat out quit after that. No one tried to tackle that kid on the play.

My point wasn't so much that the Giants played "well", but that they certainly had opportunities to win ALL of those games. I wouldn't expect a team that's just mediocre to have those opportunities.

43
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:26pm

#24:

True. Still, I'd like to see the full-season DVOA beside the weighted DVOA, because a) it might quiet the whiners a bit and b) I'm curious.

#26: "Rather, the Giants are doing a great job of demonstrating that the better team doesn’t always win."

If you're going by full season stats, sure. The Giants have definitely been mediocre most of the year. But it's not like they're getting by right now on fluke plays- they've legitimately outplayed their playoff competition these past two weeks.

#35:

Yes, and this year's Giants also have a WR named Steve Smith. Coincidence? I THINK NOT!

44
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:28pm

#12 Hey Aaron, while you’re on the subject of the Kieth-tipped INT, can you explain to me how DVOA accounted for the at best ticky-tack holding call that deleted Antonio Cromartie’s brilliant TD?

If I'm not mistaken, DVOA treats return yards after a turnover as largely non-repeatable, and so it would have negated most of the benefit anyway.

45
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:29pm

42: Maybe you're onto something. The Giants are talented, but have struggled staying motivated through the season. But on Week 17, having a chance to knock off the Pats was enough to motivate them, and now, being in the playoffs is enough motivation, so we've seen 3 weeks in a row of them playing up to their abilities.

46
by Alyssa (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:39pm

First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate DVOA, Aaron Schatz and FO in general for the great football analysis. Over the last few seasons, I've really enjoyed it! However, it surprised me in Quick Reads yesterday that Aaron thought the Colts were "unlucky" and that the game would turn out DVOA-wise like the NE/San Diego game last year. It seemed to me and everyone else watching the game with me that San Diego had virtually EVERY call go against them... so how would that make Indy the "unlucky" one? When DVOA came out today and showed the Chargers clearly beat the Colts from any angle, it didn't surprise me at all- but it surprised Aaron, according to his analysis. I know he is much wiser than I am about DVOA, so how come I'm the one who saw this one coming from the get go? If anyone has any thoughts, I'd appreciate it! =)

47
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:46pm

"so how would that make Indy the “unlucky” one? When DVOA came out today and showed the Chargers clearly beat the Colts from any angle, it didn’t surprise me at all- but it surprised Aaron,"

because Aaron has tried SOO Hard to not appear biased toward the patriots.. that he gets confused some times.

When I was watching that game my thoughts through about 2/3 of the game was: The chargers are killing the colts, but they're not scoring enough points, and Peyton is gonna win this thing in the end.

48
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:47pm

Re CAR 2003
I have no idea how to describe the 2003 Panthers as anything other than a mediocre team that got reasonably lucky and won a bunch of games, then started playing much better in the playoffs. It's just one of those things that happens, and trying to find a reason why is like explaining why weather in Bangkok (or was it Kuala Lumpur?) correlated with the NYSE.

49
by Tom D (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:53pm

Re 42:

I think you underestimate what mediocre team can do in the NFL. For instance except for the Cowboys game, the Bears were within a touchdown in every 4th quarter this year.

50
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 7:56pm

46: I think it's fumble recoveries and tipped passes turning into interceptions. Fumble recoveries are treated as random by DVOA, and the tipped passes, well, they sure seemed lucky, even if DVOA treats them as regular interceptions.

51
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:00pm

#41 - What's driven me nuts about the Giants for the last three years is not their talent level, but, for lack of a better word, stupidity. If it were an official stat, I'd guess that the Giants led the league in drive-killing penalties over the last two years (replaced this year by drive-killing handoffs to Reuben Droughns). This year, they did lead the league in dropped passes (and, I would imagine, inexplicable deep passes in gusting winds).

Honestly, are there any Giants fans out there who didn't gnash their teeth in frustration at least twice a game?

52
by Jon (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:05pm

8, it's just not the case that the AFC has been superior during the past three decades. The NFC was completely dominant for a very long stretch of time.

Kevin, I agree completely with the ST sentiments and raised them here last week. Having Droughns glued to the bench makes a world of difference.

Did going toe to toe with the Patriots give them confidence? Maybe, but I still see the simplification of the offense as the primary factor in their success. It was really unfair to blame Manning for the deep balls, inaccurate passes due to blown option routes, or for poor WR play. The true benefit of the Patriot game was it let the team play loose, and gave them the freedom to see what a simplified offense would look like with little repercussions.

DVOA is right to say that the team hasn't been one of the better ones in the league this season based on their results on the field. But that's it. They weren't playing their best football. They weren't even putting their best players on the field, and the team wasn't being put in the best position to win.

53
by im_no_playa (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:11pm

41 - actually, NYG had a pretty consistent season, according to the VARIANCE statistic for regular season DVOA. Maybe Coughlin had his team play under the radar and then go with the hyper-variance tactic for the post-season.

54
by Bobman (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:13pm

#34 A godly play by Weddle, but pretty sure he was being blocked by C Jeff Saturday. (not a pass to Saturday, but it was tipped by either Philips or Merriman and got slightly off trajectory--but a one-handed grab over somebody's shoulder pad while he's actively blocking you--what a play. dammit.)

55
by Kulko (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:22pm

Re 46:
I think what Aaron and also DVOA are missing, is the fact, that there is an Element of "luck" which is not extractable from Play by Play and so DVOA cannot find it.
But an impartial TV observer can see that Manning put all these passes into the perfect spot and history tells us, that Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne can catch balls reasonable well. So when we see this, we think wow if the play next week again Reggie will wash the grease from his hands bevor the game and Indy will be much better.
But play by play just sees tons of unconverted plays and says the Colts were horrible.

But what DVOA teaches us, that you are probably right, Indy was lucky too that all the refereeing bounces allowed them to stay in the game until the end. This was not a close game skill wise, and the right team apparently won.

56
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:31pm

#48... I think the Bears-Giants game (as an example) shows why the Bears were mediocre this season and the Giants, well I'm not so sure about them.

IMO, only a mediocre team loses a home game in which they win the turnover battle 4 to nothing. That goes back to my point of the Giants having to overcome so much of their own crap. A "good" team (lucky perhaps) doesn't turn the ball over 4 times in a game. So what are the Giants? I have no clue.

57
by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:36pm

Re #51
You're misreading #8. His point was that the AFC #3-#6 teams were more competitive with the AFC #1 and #2 teams than the NFC #3-#6 teams were with the NFC #1 and #2 teams. This has nothing to do with whether or not the NFC was the better conference, which it generally hasn't been.

In fact, the lesson from the extended run of NFC Super Bowl dominance from 1984-97 was that the top of the NFC was better than the top of the AFC, but the AFC as a whole was generally at least as good as the NFC most years (IIRC, the AFC had a winning inter-conference record most of those years).

58
by Independent George (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:40pm

#53 - Don't forget the 60 yard punt. That was a thing of beauty; that doesn't even happen in Madden.

59
by bubqr (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 8:48pm

I'd like to bring some outside perspective.

Being a diehard other football(soccer) fan, there is some kind of anomaly in soccer too : The italian national team(And some italian clubs too). It seems like they are far from dominant, always on the edge, losing some games, winning other by a slight margin, but always present during big events. You can't mesure that. According to the stats, they do have a generaly good defense, but not exceptionnal, an above average attack, but somehow, without exceptionnal numbers, they end up winning competition or manage to go deep in the tournament. (While Brazil is the Colts, always dominant, should have won the previous 4 World Cups, but nearly always(94,98,06) find a weird way to lose )
It's just that often, in sports, there is more than meet the eye, and there's this thing in the air, where you know a team is going to win or not. You talked about swagger, but maybe swagger is part of a lot of things that you can't mesure with numbers, even for stats semigods like the FO staff.
Hard to put words on this, and I might look stupid(I probably do), but I hope some people here know what i'm talking about. There's something about this Giants this year, like without looking brilliant, you know they might find a way to win.

60
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 9:09pm

28: It's not like the Chargers won while being outplayed. They outplayed the Colts while beating them. That makes them the better team at least that day. They're clearly a more talented club and it showed.

61
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 9:11pm

36: I guess my point was that fluky isn't "lucky." On the play in question the Chargers' player made a great play and the Colt player made a bad play.

I also don't recall referencing Aaron specifically. Nor was I being inherently "negative."

62
by Nathan Z (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 9:17pm

The Giants beat a team they were better than (Tampa Bay) and a team they lost to twice and were bound to win (Dallas). I wouldn't get to up in arms about it.

They lost to New England, who hasn't been the same team they were the first half of the year, close like a few teams have already this year. The Eagles, Ravens, Jaguars, Colts all had a great chance to win also, but came up short.

Getting to play Dallas a third time was so valuable. At this level of competition, the ability to adjust after losing is so much more valuable going into a rematch than the confidence of winning. Green Bay lost to a Vikings team they beat twice in the regular season a couple years ago.

I'm not sure why everyone points out to this apparent slow start by Big Blue to start the year. They lost to 2 teams, Dallas and Green Bay which were objectively better than them and then won 5 in a row. Sure, they had some issues but so did Dallas (new coach) and Green Bay (no running back, no Greg Jennings). To me, they started the year as expected, as a team that was better than most but not better than Dallas and the unexpectedly great Packers.

The Giants are a good team without a doubt and deserve to be where they are. But before we get too excited about them, remember they beat a wishy-washy Tampa team (and they didn't kill them) and a Dallas team that they lost to twice, whom they didn't beat by much either. I think any team left in the Playoffs right now is obviously playing good football and likely better than they were in the first few weeks. Green Bay, New York and San Diego are all obviously much better teams and New England although not as dominant hasn't been stopped and is clearly the team to beat.

63
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 9:32pm

61 (Richard):
I'm very sorry, I had confused you with a different poster. I agree with you: lucky and fluky are two different things in a physical sense. However, Aaron uses them interchangeably in regards to DVOA (which I think confuses a lot of people at first). That's probably one area where he could improve; while I hesitate to say he should "dumb down" his writing, at times he gets a little too wrapped up in specific FO terminology, which can be a turn-off to newcomers.

64
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 9:55pm

63: I don't think it's a matter of "dumbing down" his writing. Non-predictive events aren't necessarily luck. Using the term "luck" to describe "unlikely to be repeated" isn't some kind of technical jargon.

65
by MJK (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 9:55pm

I wonder if the resurgence of the Giants and the 2003 Panthers indicates some different ingredients that should be put in Bill Barnwell (?) 's "special sauce". I.e. I wonder if a strong pass rush (according to adj sack rate) and a stout run defense (adj line yards) are more important factors when it comes to playoff success. I know two cases screams "small sample size" but I lay out a reasonabl argument why this might be the case...

In the regular season, teams play a mix of talent. Their aggregate DVOA is a function of their DVOA doing each particular type of thing, weighted by how often they have had to do that particular type of thing, I think. Correct me if I'm wrong. So a team that (thinks it) has a really good running back and hence chooses to run the ball more will be more strongly affected (in DVOA ratings) by its rush DVOA than by its pass DVOA, while a team that is (reputedly) weak against the pass will see more opposing pass attempts and have its pass defense DVOA affect its total DVOA more than its run defense DVOA.

We know that, contrary to popular wisdom, successful teams are usually the ones that build up leads by passing the ball, and then hold those leads by runnign the ball. In the playoffs, you face teams that tend to do this more often than not, since playoff teams correlate well with successful teams. Therefore, being able to rush the passer makes a weaker team more able to stay close in score to a stronger team, and if they do get behind, being able to stop the run gives them a chance to get back into it. Hence, maybe pass rush and run defense disproportionately help weaker teams when they are playing stronger teams.

Just a thought, and I know it's probably easy to poke holes in it. But it would be interesting to look at other "weak" teams that, despite regular season indicators, did well in the postseason, and see if they also share similarities with the 2003 Panthers and the 2007 Giants.

For that matter, could you just run a similarity score on the 2003 Panthers and 2007 Giants and see what other teams in the DVOA era had the most similar regular seasons, and then see how well they did in the postseason?

66
by George (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 10:10pm

Re:48
In defense of the 03 Panthers, they appear to be much more talented in hindsight than they did at the time. Steve Smith just edged out Muhammad statistically as the number one reciever, Jake Delhomme actually improved his numbers in following seasons and defenders like Will Witherspoon and Deon Grant, known at the time only to hardcore fans, have gone on to become productive players elsewhere. The offensive outburst in the second half of the Super Bowl was a bit of an anomoly but wins over a Rams team that lacked toughness and an Eagles team that lacked offensive firepower were not.

67
by Speedegg (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 10:11pm

Didn't the 2003 Carolina Panthers use a lot of "special sauce"? Weren't there reports that several members of the Carolina team were given HGH by a doctor under investigation for illegally prescribing the drugs? I don't think steroids were involved due to the NFL's testing policy.

I can't remember when the story broke, but I think ESPN covered the story a few months ago.

If that's the case, does this suggest the Giants might be using some "special sauce" also?

68
by Eddo (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 10:22pm

64: True, Richard. "Dumbing down" is probably not the right term. I moreso meant that Aaron should be careful to avoid terms where the common connotation is different than the FO definition. "Luck" is a good example.

69
by glen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 10:26pm

Richard,The Chargers clearly more talented than the Colts , your drunk right. At what key postion not QB ,WR and barely at RB,if the Colts don't turn over the ball with 2 fluke tipped int, or a fumble by a player that hasn't appeared in a game in 3 months it's a 10 point Colt victory,your Chargers will get killed this weekend, and the Pats didn't play much better than the Jags, only 2 dropped TD's kept it from it from being a 28-28 game.

70
by B (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 10:32pm

The Giants scored worst on Bill Barnwell's "Special Sauce" measurements. I do agree, however, that a good run defense/pass rush is important in the post season, perhaps even more than during the regular season. As a counter-example, the Broncos have had Champ Bailey not much pass-rush, and haven't done well in the playoffs in recent years.

71
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 10:53pm

The Giants/Cowboys matchup this year is not very similar to the three act contest put on by the Vikings and Packers in '04. In '04, the Packers really hadn't outplayed the Vikings at all in their two victories before the playoffs; both came on field goals on the final play, in games where the Packers had better than average fumble luck, if I remember correctly. The Vikings had been better on the line of scrimmage in both games. It was the easiest to predict playoffs upset I'd ever encountered. I wasn't surprised that the Giants won, but it wasn't nearly as expected as the Vikings victory in '04.

72
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 11:13pm

69: Yeah, I'm drunk. Watch the personal attacks.

The Colts are clearly stronger at QB, WR1, SS and RDE. The Chargers are clearly stronger at RB, FB, TE, LDE, DT, LOLB, ROLB & CB. Some of the other positions are arguable, but overall the Chargers just have more talent. Also, their depth and special teams are superior.

73
by Richard (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 11:14pm

72: Not "some of," but rather "the remaining."

74
by LdTisnotLT (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 11:49pm

I enjoy reading this site for comments like #40. Really very, very insightful.

I lost interest in baseball prospectus a few years ago, when, to quote Billy Beane "My s#@T don't work in the playoffs," failed to engender honest humility at BP. Winning is what its about, and both the Panthers and Giants are telling us DVOA is not "advanced" but rather just an alternative. Please correct the following: "The Giants are a mediocre team ACCORDING TO OUR STATISTICS"....

I do appreciate the hard work here and want to support the authors meal ticket. Please present the data, and your interpretation of it in line with wins and losses, because that what everyone (except Wade Phillips) is interested in.

75
by throughthelookingglass (not verified) :: Tue, 01/15/2008 - 11:51pm

Richard, the Chargers match up well against the Colts (and have had some plays go their way), but I'd rather look at the evidence of 17 games (or more over multiple seasons) rather than 2 games before calling one team "better" than the other.

76
by Chris M (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 1:41am

59: Isn't it all about the Italian style? They focus on defense and have enough offensive talent to win - so they always play nail biters but do have enough talent to play that style and win. (As an Italian-American, this has caused me no shortage of heart palpitations during World Cup elimination rounds).

And as a Giants fan - Aaron, you should know that anyone who's watched this team all year is just as shocked at them as you are. They're putting things together in a way that they hadn't been able to sustain before. It's a sight to behold, honestly.

77
by randplaty (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 3:08am

75: They are more talented, not necessarily better. A more talented team does not necessarily translate into a better team on the field. Teams can perform below their talent level for a number of reasons like coaching, getting used to or learning schemes, not enough experience etc.

78
by Paulo Sanchotene, Brazil (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 6:28am

Re: 59. We won the 1994 World Cup (with a defensive-minded team). I think you meant 1990 lost to Argentina in the Round-of-16...

About italians, the worst World Cup winner is 1982 Azurri. They were just terrible in the First Stage (3 games), and, somehow, managed to win their last 4 games.

As a Grêmio fan - a brazilian club that plays a German-minded soccer (perhaps the scum of this atack-happy soccer nation) -, I can tell you that I love this way of playing: strong defense + fast and letal counter-atacks (outscoring opponents by the huge margin of 1-0).

As also a Giants fan, I just want to end this saying that I ALWAYS love to be the underdog.

79
by lobolafcadio (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 10:24am

#56
I just want to precise about Brazil in 98 and 06 WC that they lost against superior competition :o)
Oh no, ok, they lost because Brazilian teams just can't beat Zizou. It's the same in rugby with the all-blacks. :o)

So, France, even with vastly inferior teams, routinely upsets Brazil (soccer) and NZ (rugby). Is there a football equivalent to that ?

80
by Chad (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 10:42am

#8 - No, they are first NFC team to do so since 1980

You are forgetting the Anthony Carter game in 1987, when Minnesota stunned the 49ers and advanced to the NFC championship despite an 8-7 regular season record.

One of my favorite stats was the huge (19 game) winning streak built up by NFC #1 seeds in the divisional round. Now, that is gone. :(

81
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 10:43am

Jon #52:

it’s just not the case that the AFC has been superior during the past three decades. The NFC was completely dominant for a very long stretch of time.

Not true. Even when the NFC was dominating the Super Bowl from 1981 to 1996 because the handful of elite NFC teams (49ers, Redskins, Cowboys, Giants) during that period were superior to the AFC teams that made the playoffs, the rest of the NFC was being dominated year in and year out by the rest of the AFC. Check the inter-conference results for the 1980's and 1990's - the AFC was winning most of the games. Even in 1989, when the AFC had just one team with double-digit wins, the AFC won half the inter-conference games.

82
by TracingError (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 11:35am

There are a few misconceptions floating through this.

First of all, DVOA is an attempt to measure team strength. As someone mentioned, VOA will give the measure of who "should" have won--though I add the caveat that this is only according to the assumptions in the DVOA model which put higher value on consistent gains than on big plays, fumbles, and interception returns.
[HINT--This is why I think FO should give us VOA rather than or in addition to DVOA in these single game tables in the playoffs.]

Now with the Giants--there is no need for DVOA to account for every single team performance. First of all, it measures the whole season, or the weighted season, not a few games. Teams often have performance streaks that vary from their average over a couple of games. Personnel might change, strategy might change, opponents' strategy might change, or there might be a run of luck.

Usually, those things revert to the mean. For instance, if teams prepare for the bombs away Manning attack, and then the Jints switch up and throw short for several weeks, improving their productivity, opponents may adjust and gain an advantage until the Jints go back to bombs away. Or if Ahmad Bradshaw comes in and shocks everyone for a few weeks, opponents may figure out what plays they run with him and shut him down.

Alternatively, perhaps there is a light switch that has gone on for the Giants. If so, then, like the 2003 Panthers, DVOA will catch it. If there were ten more games, DVOA would measure it (and in this case it would show up next year). But DVOA is a trailing indicator--it tells you what happened, and tries to approximate from that what the true strength of a team is. That gives a lot of purchase on what will happen, but it lags any secular shift in actual performance, and downplays short streaks as noise in the data.

Nonetheless, evidence from the past shows that odds are that the Giants' performance will revert towards their DVOA--eventually. When that happens is anyone's guess. There is no way to tell--with stats--whether the last couple of data points [no matter what the subject] are a random walk around the average or a secular shift without outside knowledge.

That's why we need to analyze what we see as well as what we see in the data.

83
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 11:35am

Re: 74

Since this entire site is dedicated to DVOA/DPAR, the "according to our stats" is just redundant.

And I think you're confusing "advanced" with "perfect". DVOA is advanced because it's (to the best of my knowledge) the only stat(s) that attempt to put context to it's numbers. It tries to do much more towards actually quantifying what happens on the field than any other stat, which by definition makes it advanced.

And asking the FO staff to alter their opinions to conform to the ultimate outcome of the game because "that's what everyone is interested in" is not only asinine and presumptuous, but it also flies in the face of basically everything this site stands for. The entire point of FO is to try to look past such superficial analysis. If that's all you're really interested in, you can just watch SportsCenter.

84
by slo-mo-joe (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 11:41am

#78: Sorry to diverge from the American football focus, but I can't let this offense pass. ;-)

The absolute worst WC winner in recent memory was without doubt Argentina in 78. Strong suspicions of game tampering and shady refereeing marred the entire tournament, in which the Netherlands clearly played the best soccer. Close second as bad-play winner was in my opinion Brazil in 2002, but in that tournament everyone played poorly (S. Korea and Turkey played for 3rd place, for Pete's sake!), and overall they deserved to win.

Italy in 82 did indeed start slow, in part because of nervousness caused by strong tensions between the team and the national press (the entire team went into a press black-out for the whole tournament), but after squeaking through the first round they beat Argentina convincingly, and Brazil in a close but fair match. They then easily dispatched Poland in the semi and simply destroyed Germany in the final (could have been 4-1 if Cabrini had not missed a penalty).

National honor restored, you may now proceed.

85
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 11:42am

I wrote this at the end of the NFC Audibles thread, but it seems more appropriate here so I'm just going to re-post it (with some minor adjustments).

And I still think DVOA is missing something about this team– that when we don’t beat ourselves we can play with anyone. DVOA sees that we often DO beat ourselves. It figures that will probably happen again. But small sample sizes are small, and over a small sample of just two more games it is possible for us to play without major, backbreaking mistakes. We could possibly make it. Any Given Sunday and all that.

I completely agree with everything in this paragraph except for the part about DVOA missing something. If the Giants don’t beat themselves they can play at a very high level. They’ve had three straight weeks of extremely good play. This may be the best three week span of Eli’s career.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that they are just as likely to beat themselves next week as they were five weeks ago. You (or anyone else including DVOA) can’t base your opinion of the team on "if they play to the best of their ability...".

I don’t think anyone (including most of the people who haven’t had very many nice things to say about them) could look at the Giants’ talent and not see their potential to be a very good team. But that thought was usually followed by images of Eli sailing a pass 8 feet over Burress’ head or Shockey getting hit square in the chest with a pass that ended up on the ground. I’ll give the Giants a lot of credit (and as an Eagles fan that’s not an easy thing to do), they’ve showed that they can limit their mistakes in far more consecutive games than I thought they could. If they continue to play at this level I wouldn’t be (very) shocked to see them beat anyone. But just don’t color me (or DVOA) surprised if the underwhelming team we saw in weeks 11-14 pops back up.

86
by Andrew (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 12:16pm

Chad #80:

You are forgetting the Anthony Carter game in 1987, when Minnesota stunned the 49ers and advanced to the NFC championship despite an 8-7 regular season record.

Win-Loss records from strike marred seasons in 1982 and 1987 are almost meaningless, so I discounted those years for purposes of evaluation. The 1987 records are especially suspect because some teams had real players cross the picket lines and others did not, and some coaches supported the players while others coached hard with the scabs.

The Vikings were not an 8-7 team, but an 8-4 team with real players. The 49ers were not a 13-2 team, but a 10-2 team with real players. 8-4 vs. 10-2 is not nearly the gulf of 8-7 vs. 13-2.

If both teams had played 16 games with real players, the Vikings might very well have ended up with an equal or better record to the 49ers (the Vikings lost strike games to the abymsal Packers and Bucs and the equal Bears and a scheduled game to the abysmal Chiefs, while the 49ers won strike games against Giants, Falcons, and Cardinals and missed a game with the okay Eagles), or the Redskins, Saints, or Bears might have had the #1 seed (the Bears were 9-3 in real games, the Saints were 10-2, and the Redskins were 8-4).

There's just way too many variables to fairly evaluate such a messed up season.

87
by mush (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 1:20pm

- New England: 66% Super Bowl appearance, 45% Super Bowl win

- Green Bay: 72% Super Bowl appearance, 31% Super Bowl win

Green Bay is less likely to be upset this week than the New England? Really?

88
by Rob S. (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 1:34pm

I have seen a lot about the tipped INTs playing a big part in the SD-INDY game. A couple of thoughts:
1) The Weddle INT was not as big a deal as everyone made it out to be as it turned out. The Chargers, backed up in their own end, went 3 and out, then punted and the Colts scored. How much did it matter? Hard to say.
2) Manning had 6 INTs in the first Charger game, and a lot of those I remember to be tips or flukes as well. May I posit that the Chargers hard hitting and the defense getting their hands up (and being aware) was part of their strategy in both games against Manning? I mean, it seems like Manning rarely makes mistakes on his accuracy so it takes a tip at the line (caused by good D-Line play), a tip by the receiver (a result of either inept offense or the "Oh geez I'm about to get slammed by the D), or a hurculean defensive effort (Cromartie's one hander in game one).

I can also remember that Merriman also deflected one of Manning's passes and couldn't quite hang on while on the ground. Look, bounces can be flukey, but teams can influence some of them. It just seems like the Chargers force Manning into these situations more than other teams.

We'll see if the "tipped ball theory" can work against Brady. As a Charger fan, I pray for it. As a rational human being, I don't see it working the whole game.

89
by B (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 1:49pm

87: Really, yes. DVOA still sees the Jints as a mediocre team and the Chargers as a good team. Personally, I don't see the Giants having much of a chance. The Packers have a balanced offense that's well suited to attacking the Giants defense, and the Packers defense can cover the Giants receivers.
On the other hand, the Chargers running game is just the kind the Patriots defense has been struggling with, and remember the playoff odds assumes a healthy LdT and Rivers.

90
by Jon (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 2:08pm

The NFC and AFC split interconference matchups this year, yet everyone thinks the AFC is a lot better because they're top-heavy, while the NFC has a lot more parity.

The NFC of the eighties and nineties was similar, with a handful of dominant teams beating up on their versions of the Raiders, Dolphins, etc...

91
by Tom (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 2:53pm

good Giants info, although there is one thing i disagree with. You seem to say that since this has happened before, DVOA is not wrong. The fact that twice in just a couple of years, a team has played significantly better than their DVOA numbers, and have extremely similar builds for their team may mean that DVOA for this type of team is wrong.

I am in NO way stating the giants are a top 4 team. in fact, there is no way. but i doubt they are worse than the bears... I am not suggesting that the numbers are off by a lot. but I would predict that SOMETHING isnt being given enough value. Clearly some amount of luck has played a part in their playoff run. And clearly things have clicked as of recently that normally havent thruout the year, and DVOA is judging performance moreso (not completely, just moreso) than future play. But the fact that two teams that are this similar with their playstyle and team setup were both ranked low yet made the playoffs and played well when they got there may mean that something should be tweaked. But who knows, i dont have a PhD in statistics :-P.

92
by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 3:13pm

Re: 91

Actually, I think the only thing it says is that it isn't a rare feat for a mediocre/decent team to pull it's act together and play well above what you'd expect from them come playoff time.

93
by Richard (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 3:19pm

87: I'm a little surprised by that, too. Is there an explanation of how the playoff odds are determined somewhere?

Using (WDVOA+HFA)*.5+.5 to determine WPCT and then using (A-A*B)/(A+B-2*A*B) to get expected chance to win you'd get 72% for NE & 70% for GB.

94
by Fire Millen (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 4:51pm

Is the key similarity between the Panthers and Giants the very low variance? Combining this with an average DVOA can give better than expected results. This is because games are binary events (win/loss) whereas DVOA is a continous statistic. A hypothetical example makes what I'm talking about somewhat clearer. Hypothetical team has a higher DVOA and higher variance, a reasonable explanation for this is that they had a couple great games, a few more bad games and the rest were average performances. Matching these outcome suppose they really have 3 potential performances, great, average, and below average with the following probabilities 20% great, 50% average and 30% below average. When the Giants play Hypothetical team they would win all of the games where the opponent plays below average, half of the games where the other team plays at an average rate and none of the games where the other team plays great. The result is that the Giants win 55% of the time but end up with a lower DVOA.

95
by vis (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 5:11pm

94 Nice theory, I'm intrigued.

You do realize that you're contradicting the popular "which eli shows up" argument?

Which leads to the question, if the Giants are really playing that far over their heads right now (and were below their abilities at other times), why is the variance so low? Our observation tells us their performance has been all over the place, the stats tell us they're the third most consistent team in the league. Hmmm.

96
by Rob S. (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 5:26pm

How do the following forecasts change anything, in the group's eyes:
Foxboro - Sunday - High = 23, Low = 7, Windy
Green Bay - Sunday - High = 4, Low = 1, Occasional flurries

Of course, still 4 days away, but one would think these would favor SD hanging closer and Green Bay coasting.

97
by Rob S. (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 5:26pm

Note, weather was from weather.com

98
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 5:50pm

Rob, winds would certainly hurt the passing game, but I think they're worse on the Chargers than Pats.

The Pats passing game is built on short crossing routes. The Chargers is built on deep P/A passing. I'd think the winds would hurt the chargers throwing deep more than the Pats "7 yards and a cloud of Welker" offense.

99
by Rhys (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 6:28pm

For anything but a monster storm (and sometimes even those), predicting weather in New England this far in advance is not even a little bit reliable.

100
by Roscoe (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 6:57pm

I'm not a statistics guy, but I wonder if part of the Giant's poor performance in DVOA is due to their first two and a half games. The defense was having a lot of trouble executing Spagnola's defensive scheme (exhibit A being Kiwanuka at linebacker). They got much better at running the defense later in the year.

101
by Kurt (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 7:03pm

100 - I don't buy it. The first time they even slowed down a really good offense was three days ago.

102
by Brooklyn Bengal (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 7:19pm

I think that the Giants are a talented team that underperformed during the regular season. Certainly the Minnesota game gave pundits a reason to doubt the Giants' ability to make a deep post-season run. However, if you actually watched the Giants play, you'd know that this was a team capable of putting together solid performances. There's nothing wrong with DVOA, per se, but DVOA -- like any metric -- is not capable of considering EVERY factor. In short...the Giants are for real (or at least capable of being for real on any given Sunday).

103
by jimm (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 8:02pm

Will - I suspect the 11th ranking for the offence is highly effected by some very dominant games against SD, Det, and Oak.

104
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 8:12pm

Rich,

The Pats passing game is built on short crossing routes (and WR screens--don't forget those) that are open BECAUSE teams fear the deep pass and keep their safeties deep.

The Jets game showed what happens when the deep ball becomes impossible and teams stop fearing Moss--the short routes get a lot harder to sustain drives with...

105
by Yinka Double Dare (not verified) :: Wed, 01/16/2008 - 10:00pm

79: This year, it was the Bears playing the Packers. Game 1 was won by the Bears in part due to bad coaching by the Packers staff in the 2nd half. Game 2 was a solid beatdown by the Bears. It almost made the season tolerable for Bears fans. Almost.

106
by ChrisFromNJ (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2008 - 12:10am

#100:

No, because the formula they're using right now is weighted DVOA, which doesn't even count the first five weeks of the season at this point.

Really, the second-half clunkers against Minnesota and the Redskins are far more damning than losses to top teams like Dallas and Green Bay, anyway. And since weighted DVOA discounts the early part of the season, they get extra weight.

107
by Paulo Sanchotene, Brazil (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2008 - 2:27am

Re: 84. Hahahahahaha! Being brazilian (and great-grandson of italians), I think I can accept Argentina as the worst champion ever (not 2002 Brazil though, great offensive power and a very solid defense)...

Talking football, the first game I ever watched was SuperBowl XXV, I was just 10 years old and felt in love imediately for the game. The whole concept of it. I can remember as it was yesterday: the oval ball; the uniforms; the designed plays; the battle for territory, moving the ball up and the field; the blocks and the tackles; the referee talking to the public in every penalty; the yellow flags; the n-players bench; the "y"-shaped goal-posts; the colourful game-field; the pile after a fumble. Everything looked so funny to watch and play! At the end, this brazilian child was rewareded with a game decided on the final second. KO! There was another "futebol americano" (as we call it) and Giants fan in the world.

108
by socalmikey (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2008 - 4:20am

I think a stat that might satisfy many in this thread might be XtremelyRecent weighted DVOA as in DVOA over the most recent 2-3 games/weeks. This could better show your stats on the "who's hot now" angle of things. Keep up the good work.

109
by Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2008 - 10:18am

I think the Giants during the regular season were the weakest team. They do seem to be doing better now, but trends like this are not unique. Are they the best best team? I do no think so.

In a given matchup with the Cowboys, who were on a downward trend, I would think that the Giants would lose about 60% of the time. Against the current Packers I would expect them to lose about 70% of the time. The playoffs are a very small sample size. It is entirely possible that the best team (as shown by DVOA or Sagarin or Power Rankings) may not win the tournament at the end of season. The winner of the tournament is called the Super Bowl Champion.

110
by TracingError (not verified) :: Thu, 01/17/2008 - 10:38am

Usually, to get meaningful stats, you need 20-30 data points. To think that looking at a few weeks would be meaningful is just silly. Right now we now the Giants overall have been average, and we know they have had a couple of very good to excellent games. There is just no way to know if they are like a coin that had head three times in a row (which happens frequently enough), if they've turned a corner, or if something has changed permanently.

If Crayton catches that wide open pass on the run in the middle of the field--which they had nothing to do with stopping, maybe Dallas wins. If Crayton runs out his route on the penultimate play, and then catches the ball which looked perfect, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Likewise if the Giants dropped as many balls as they did during the season. One of the mainstream sites talked about Toomer's sure hands, and as a Redskins fan, I had to chortle over his inexplicable drop when wide open deep five weeks ago.

The one thing the Panthers comparison points to is that maybe defensive line is worth more in the playoffs than the regular season. Funny thing is I had surmised that perhaps the opposite was true, since the increased holding (due to penalties not being called) might neutralize DLs. On the other hand, maybe a certain type of big strong line can overcome the holding, while others can't (thinking about Giants vs Seahawks DLs last week). Or maybe lines like the Panthers 2003 and the Giants 2007 can get pressure, if not sacks, despite being held, while bad or small fast lines can't.

On the other hand, maybe it's all about turnovers.

111
by terry (not verified) :: Fri, 01/18/2008 - 2:26am

dvoa should ELIminate teams "off" games such as giants first 2 games dallas last game tampas last two etc and come up a dvoa showing teams best possible proformance