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25 Nov 2008

Week 12 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

Are you ready for 2000 all over again? The nation planning for a new president, the New York Giants winning the NFC, Baltimore and Tennessee as the best teams in the AFC, a couple of the worst teams in NFL history playing in the same season... it's like everything old is new again. Well, according to the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, anyway.

It isn't quite like 2000, because this time the Giants are far ahead of the Ravens and Titans instead of the reverse. The Giants are now dominating the league like some of the great teams of the last dozen years. They aren't quite at the level of the 2007 Patriots, but they are up there with the 1998 Broncos, 1999 Rams, and 2001 Rams. The Giants are one of only ten teams with DVOA over 40% through Week 12 of the season, but more important is the huge gap between the Giants and everyone else. If the season ended today, the Giants would have the second-largest lead in DVOA history. The difference between the Giants and second-place Ravens is roughly equal to the difference between the Ravens and the ninth-place Green Bay Packers.


Top 10 Gaps Between Top 2 Teams in Total DVOA, 1995-2008
Year Gap #1 Team #2 Team
2007 18.9% NE 52.0% IND 33.1%
2008* 14.0% NYG 41.6% BAL 27.7%
2001 13.0% STL 38.5% PHI 25.4%
1996 11.2% GB 40.8% SF 29.6%
1999 11.0% STL 45.8% JAC 34.8%
1995 10.2% SF 41.0% DAL 30.7%
2000 7.6% TEN 37.8% BAL 30.2%
2002 3.3% TB 34.0% OAK 30.6%
2005 3.0% IND 33.7% DEN 30.7%
1998 2.8% DEN 29.7% MIN 27.0%

Obviously, hindsight is 20-20, and you can't predict games using future information. However, now that we know that they were on their way to becoming the strongest team in the league, last year's Giants run through the playoffs makes a lot more sense. If we could put together a hypothetical game between this year's Giants and last year's Patriots, a Giants win would be a minor upset, but not a major one.

It was hard to expect this given the history of "surprise" Super Bowl teams in the year after. The 1980 Raiders followed up their surprise upset of the Eagles with a 7-9 season. The 1987 Redskins were just 8-4 during non-strike games, won the Super Bowl anyway, and then went 7-9 the next year. The 2006 Steelers went 8-8. The 2004 Panthers went 7-9. The 2002 Patriots were 9-7. All of these teams missed the playoffs. The few teams that were good the year after a "surprise" Super Bowl were generally teams where the Super Bowl appearance actually came during a down year amidst a string of good seasons -- the 1979 Rams, the 1988 49ers, the 2006 Colts. Although they had made the playoffs in 2006, I don't think the 2007 Giants quite fit in with these teams.

The most similar team might be the 1996-1997 Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars snuck into the playoffs despite giving up more points than they allowed, then got hot and upset the Broncos in Denver. Sure, they didn't make it all the way to the Super Bowl, but that strong postseason run carried over into the next few seasons as the Jaguars won a string of AFC Central titles. Hey, who was the head coach of that Jacksonville team, anyway?

Returning to 2008, we can see down at the bottom of the league that the Rams are very, very bad. It turns out that I retired the "worst team ever" watch a bit too early. The Rams have gone below -100% DVOA in two of their last three games and are threatening the 2005 49ers for the title of "worst team in DVOA history." The Rams combine the worst offense of the year with one of the worst defenses of the decade. Oh, but no -- it isn't the worst defense of the decade, because that team is also playing right now: the Detroit Lions. Aren't we lucky to be witnessing one of the worst defenses in NFL history -- on national television, no less? Happy Thanksgiving!


BEST TOTAL DVOA
AFTER WEEK 12
  WORST TOTAL DVOA
AFTER WEEK 12
  WORST DEFENSIVE DVOA
AFTER WEEK 12
2007 NE 71.3%   2005 SF -56.7%   2008 DET 31.4%
1999 STL 50.0%   2008 STL -53.2%   2004 STL 29.9%
1998 DEN 46.7%   1999 CLE -50.9%   2005 HOU 29.4%
2001 STL 44.2%   2004 SF -48.8%   2002 KC 27.4%
2004 NE 43.0%   2000 CIN -48.0%   2000 ARI 27.3%
2002 TB 42.9%   2008 DET -47.5%   2008 STL 27.1%
2008 NYG 41.6%   1998 PHI -44.1%   2004 NO 25.7%
1995 DAL 41.1%   2005 HOU -43.5%   2004 SF 24.6%
1995 SF 41.0%   2007 SF -42.5%   2000 SF 24.2%
2004 PIT 40.2%   2000 ARI -41.8%   2000 SEA 23.8%

As for Philadelphia, what can I tell you? At this point, I've written too many times about why their DVOA rating was good through Week 10, and the last two games have been bad, but not bad enough to drop them below fourth place. The offense looked lost on Sunday -- but it looked lost against the league's top defense according to our ratings. No, I don't really think the Eagles are the fourth-best team in the league, or even the sixth-best team in the league, which is what they are according to WEIGHTED DVOA. For now, we just have to live with it.

* * * * *

It is no surprise that the worst defense of the DVOA Era is playing in 2008, because the whole league has been awful on defense in 2008. Bill Barnwell already noted that Week 12 was the highest-scoring week in NFL history, but that doesn't quite do justice to the spectacular offensive environment that has existed for the entire 2008 season. As some of you know, the DVOA ratings use an offensive baseline developed using the 2002-2006 seasons. Some seasons have more offense than others, so the league average is actually slightly above or below 0% each season.

This year, however, it is hard to use the word "slightly." The league DVOA for the season through Week 12 is 4.4%. The years with the strongest offensive environments before this were 2004 and 2007 -- and the league DVOA in each of those years was just 1.1%.

The offensive improvement seems fairly spread across the league, rather than being concentrated on a couple of outstanding teams. The Giants, this year's best offense, would be 18th all-time through Week 12. There are 20 offenses and 21 defenses currently above 0%.

Standard stats also show 2008 to be the strongest offensive year in NFL history. There has never been a season where the average team scored more than 22 points per game, but right now the league average is 22.5 points per game. NFL quarterbacks are completing 61.9 percent of passes, which would break the record of 61.2 percent set last year -- which was itself the first season over 60 percent in NFL history. Quarterbacks are averaging 35.5 pass attempts per interception, which would break the record of 32.8 pass attempts per interception set in 1997.

* * * * *

Individual and team stats pages are up now, except for a couple where I'm having some HTML builder issues (offensive and defensive lines, the new defense vs. receivers table). I'll try to have the premium picks updated by the end of today, a little earlier than usual due to Thanksgiving games.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 12 weeks of 2008, 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 to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. These ratings also include opponent adjustments. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. WEIGHTED DVOA is adjusted so that earlier games in the season become gradually less important. It better reflects how the team is playing right now.

As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

To save people some time, 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
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK
W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NYG 41.6% 1 42.9% 1 10-1 26.7% 1 -10.2% 7 4.7% 6
2 BAL 27.7% 4 26.4% 2 7-4 5.1% 19 -25.8% 1 -3.2% 26
3 TEN 25.4% 2 24.7% 3 10-1 9.2% 12 -16.6% 4 -0.4% 20
4 PHI 21.4% 3 19.7% 6 5-5-1 5.6% 18 -14.6% 5 1.2% 14
5 PIT 19.4% 7 19.8% 5 8-3 -0.7% 22 -21.0% 2 -0.9% 23
6 ARI 18.9% 6 20.6% 4 7-4 20.7% 3 -0.6% 11 -2.5% 24
7 TB 18.2% 8 16.8% 7 8-3 -0.1% 21 -17.6% 3 0.7% 16
8 CAR 15.6% 9 16.1% 8 8-3 8.4% 13 -7.2% 8 0.1% 18
9 GB 13.3% 5 14.6% 9 5-6 9.7% 11 -1.7% 10 1.9% 12
10 NYJ 12.9% 12 14.3% 10 8-3 8.3% 14 0.1% 12 4.7% 5
11 NO 12.3% 15 14.2% 11 6-5 22.9% 2 12.1% 21 1.4% 13
12 IND 10.8% 10 13.0% 12 7-4 18.0% 7 6.7% 17 -0.5% 21
13 ATL 10.7% 13 11.6% 13 7-4 20.6% 4 13.1% 23 3.2% 7
14 WAS 8.2% 11 5.1% 14 7-4 12.6% 9 0.5% 13 -4.0% 27
15 CHI 6.1% 16 4.1% 15 6-5 2.9% 20 -3.4% 9 -0.2% 19
16 MIA 4.1% 14 3.0% 16 6-5 18.8% 5 6.0% 15 -8.8% 31
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK
W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 SD 2.2% 19 0.4% 18 4-7 17.1% 8 17.0% 27 2.0% 11
18 NE -0.4% 21 0.8% 17 7-4 10.4% 10 13.2% 24 2.3% 10
19 MIN -0.5% 18 -2.2% 19 6-5 -5.1% 24 -14.4% 6 -9.8% 32
20 DAL -4.7% 22 -7.5% 22 7-4 7.6% 15 6.6% 16 -5.7% 29
21 DEN -6.3% 17 -6.8% 20 6-5 18.8% 6 20.7% 29 -4.3% 28
22 JAC -6.9% 20 -7.3% 21 4-7 6.2% 17 14.0% 26 1.0% 15
23 BUF -8.2% 24 -10.1% 24 6-5 -2.0% 23 13.9% 25 7.7% 1
24 HOU -10.8% 26 -8.6% 23 4-7 6.9% 16 20.4% 28 2.7% 9
25 CLE -12.8% 23 -11.5% 25 4-7 -7.3% 25 11.2% 20 5.7% 3
26 SF -15.0% 25 -16.4% 26 3-8 -14.2% 28 7.1% 18 6.3% 2
27 OAK -18.5% 29 -18.7% 27 3-8 -20.3% 31 3.3% 14 5.1% 4
28 SEA -21.1% 27 -20.4% 28 2-9 -11.4% 27 12.5% 22 2.8% 8
29 CIN -28.1% 28 -27.2% 29 1-9-1 -16.1% 29 9.1% 19 -2.9% 25
30 KC -35.9% 30 -33.9% 30 1-10 -8.7% 26 21.4% 30 -5.9% 30
31 DET -47.5% 31 -46.0% 31 0-11 -16.7% 30 31.4% 32 0.5% 17
32 STL -53.2% 32 -51.9% 32 2-9 -25.4% 32 27.1% 31 -0.8% 22


  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA gives performance without adjustments for schedule strength, fumble recovery luck, and weather/altitude on special teams.
  • 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.  Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
  • 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 most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).


TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
1 NYG 41.6% 10-1 45.3% 8.8 1 -3.3% 27 10.0% 8 19.3% 23
2 BAL 27.7% 7-4 26.1% 8.0 2 3.3% 8 -3.0% 19 18.2% 21
3 TEN 25.4% 10-1 26.2% 7.9 3 -1.5% 20 -10.2% 26 4.1% 1
4 PHI 21.4% 5-5-1 21.8% 7.1 5 -0.7% 19 12.8% 4 11.8% 10
5 PIT 19.4% 8-3 20.4% 7.3 4 2.1% 11 8.8% 9 5.9% 2
6 ARI 18.9% 7-4 20.0% 6.8 7 -2.9% 25 -13.5% 30 11.0% 8
7 TB 18.2% 8-3 23.3% 6.7 10 -4.8% 29 5.6% 11 17.1% 18
8 CAR 15.6% 8-3 15.1% 6.7 9 -2.0% 21 19.8% 2 18.4% 22
9 GB 13.3% 5-6 10.1% 6.4 13 0.8% 13 -10.9% 27 17.9% 20
10 NYJ 12.9% 8-3 18.7% 6.5 12 -7.8% 31 -11.6% 28 19.5% 24
11 NO 12.3% 6-5 13.4% 6.8 8 -0.7% 18 0.8% 14 14.0% 14
12 IND 10.8% 7-4 7.3% 6.9 6 5.4% 2 -17.5% 31 20.0% 25
13 ATL 10.7% 7-4 10.7% 6.0 16 -0.5% 17 -5.3% 21 26.0% 31
14 WAS 8.2% 7-4 9.2% 6.1 14 -2.5% 22 11.9% 6 8.0% 6
15 CHI 6.1% 6-5 6.9% 6.5 11 -2.8% 24 1.9% 13 8.4% 7
16 MIA 4.1% 6-5 12.4% 5.6 17 -0.3% 16 -24.9% 32 17.1% 17
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
17 SD 2.2% 4-7 1.2% 6.0 15 0.5% 14 -7.9% 24 15.5% 16
18 NE -0.4% 7-4 5.3% 5.5 18 -6.0% 30 -2.4% 18 21.4% 27
19 MIN -0.5% 6-5 -3.0% 5.4 19 4.2% 6 7.4% 10 6.7% 4
20 DAL -4.7% 7-4 -2.4% 4.9 21 1.7% 12 22.2% 1 23.5% 28
21 DEN -6.3% 6-5 -5.4% 4.8 22 -3.8% 28 -3.4% 20 24.0% 29
22 JAC -6.9% 4-7 -3.8% 5.1 20 -2.8% 23 11.8% 7 6.1% 3
23 BUF -8.2% 6-5 1.5% 4.7 23 -9.2% 32 -1.2% 17 11.8% 9
24 HOU -10.8% 4-7 -11.5% 4.0 26 0.2% 15 4.9% 12 13.9% 12
25 CLE -12.8% 4-7 -17.4% 4.6 24 5.0% 5 12.2% 5 21.1% 26
26 SF -15.0% 3-8 -14.7% 4.3 25 -2.9% 26 -9.1% 25 7.7% 5
27 OAK -18.5% 3-8 -21.2% 3.8 27 2.4% 10 -6.7% 23 33.1% 32
28 SEA -21.1% 2-9 -21.9% 3.7 28 2.9% 9 -6.6% 22 14.4% 15
29 CIN -28.1% 1-9-1 -38.5% 2.8 29 11.1% 1 -0.5% 15 13.9% 13
30 KC -35.9% 1-10 -35.0% 2.6 30 5.3% 3 -11.6% 29 17.3% 19
31 DET -47.5% 0-11 -46.6% 2.0 31 3.8% 7 15.3% 3 13.7% 11
32 STL -53.2% 2-9 -54.5% 1.1 32 5.0% 4 -0.6% 16 24.8% 30

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 25 Nov 2008

116 comments, Last at 02 Dec 2008, 12:08pm by Marmie's #1 Fan

Comments

1
by Not a Bronco Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:21pm

The Giants remind me of the 1997 Broncos. Yeah, they were 12-4, but they were a wild card team that had lost two of their last three games heading into the playoffs, including a drubbing by the 49ers in week 16. They won two playoff games on the road as underdogs and then beat Green Bay as a big underdog in the Super Bowl. That team played even better in 1998, going 14-2 and winning the Super Bowl without much resistance.

24
by Quincy :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:15pm

I agree. My dad made the exact same comparison a few weeks into this season. At the time I thought it was way too early to say something like that. But it looks pretty apt right now. The teams even have similar styles. I'd argue the 98 Broncos were the last team to win the Super Bowl with the running game as their biggest strength. Now, the Giants still have to finish the job for the comparison to hold up ...

57
by crack (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:31am

True, but the 1996 Broncos had the best record in the AFC. They lost to the aforementioned Jaguars. So, while the Chiefs won the Division the Broncos where hardly considered a surprise team.

2
by VarlosZ :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:24pm

So, any theories as to why the offensive numbers seem out of line this season? Any rule changes or points of emphasis in the off-season? I assume it's not just the fact that we haven't had the worst weather yet?

4
by ChrisFromNJ :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:42pm

If anything, I would have expected the rule changes to favor the defense (well, mainly just the elimination of the force-out rule).

64
by Aaron M. (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 4:53am

Maybe teams have gone away from the sideline pass in favor of more likely to be completed routes.

73
by B :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:57am

My theory is after the 2006 season, the NFL changed the way holding is called, so that the ref has to see the hold throughout the play to call it. In 2007, the Patriots took advantage of this rule change last year, and all the other teams have been studying their success and are now copying it.

3
by Tom Gower :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:33pm

Some of you may remember me writing something in this space last week about the Titans potentially having one of the top pass defenses of the DVOA era. Some of you may also remember also remember the Packers being close behind the Titans in the top pass defenses of the DVOA era. Umm, yeah, never mind.

5
by BucKai :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:49pm

Just a few weeks back, the Buc's had the easiest remaining schedule. Then we cleared the Lions, Chiefs and Vikings, at the same time the rest of the NFC South continued to climb. Suddenly, the cake walk is gone.

Gonna be a great 3 weeks of football for them though. Saints, Falcons & Panthers with playoff seeding/appearances hanging in the balance. Gruden must figure out how to get the team to play four quarters of football, because the 1st quarter rest-period experiment needs to end.

At least with the records so close, we may actually play the starters for the Oakland & San Diego games to finish things up.

Pipe dream I know, but I'd love to see #2 seed, Giants fall in Divisional round & Buc's play at home through the post-season & the the Super Bowl.

8
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:04pm

You're looking at it the wrong way. See, the Bucs are so supremely confident when playing teams like the Lions and Chiefs, that they can say, 'We're just going to consider the first half a bye week, okay? You guys go ahead and start without us.'

As for the 'starters against Oakland and San Diego - which is from the Gewrman word 'Sandiago', by the way - I'd certainly recommend not putting in scrubs against SD unless the playoff standings are salted away. Even with Norv coaching them, Tijuana North can play.

6
by doctorjorts :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:49pm

Whose leg do I have to hump around here to see the Eagles in the bottom half of the league where they belong? Sheesh.

10
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:05pm

I didn't know pomeranians could type, but...I'm your huckleberry.

32
by Lance :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:07pm

Win.

55
by BucKai :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:07am

My girlfriend has a Pomeranian. I've lived with a Pomeranian. I assure you that they cannot type, because typing is useful and the one thing I learned from having a Pom is that they serve no useful purpose.

The only way to know which end is front is to determine if it's winking or blinking.

You, my friend, are no pomeranian.

12
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:12pm

They don't belong in the bottom half of a list of teams meeting a mathematical tool for estimating teams past success on individual plays over the year.

on the other hand if you are confused about what DVOA is and are thinking this is some sort of "power ranking", than yes in your confused world they should be in the bottom half.

I see the Eagles as a good team who had bad luck, and decided to implode rather than soldier on. Maybe something like the 5th or 10th best team who played maybe even a bit better, got little reward for it, and is now tearing itself apart and playing horribly. Not a big mystery.

51
by vinyltoupee (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:42am

(**rolls eyes**)

54
by doctorjorts :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:00am

Look, I understand this is a formula, an unbiased mathematical equation to determine a team's worth apart from pure win-loss ratio. I'm saying that having the Eagles as high as they are is giving me serious doubts about the validity of said formula. I know they had some bad luck early in the season with field goals and such. But I still can't see that as an excuse for why they could logically be placed anywhere near the top 5.

65
by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 4:55am

DVOA is not broken. The correlation between wins and WeightedDVOA to date for this season: r=0.882. (Rsquare = .778)

If you remove PHI from the calculation, the correlation improves to: r = 0.894 (Rsquare = 0.800)

Other PHI ranks:

WGTDVOA = 4
WINS = 20
This is the strongest PHI related argument that DVOA is broken, PHI doesn’t fit. The almost 0.9 correlation between WeightedDVOA and Wins does suggests that PHI may be an outlier, almost all data sets have outliers; and therefore, perhaps PHI is the problem - I'm sure there are some PHI fans who would agree.

OFF Rankings:
OFFDVOA=18
PTS = 9
YDS = 9
YDS/PLY=14
PASS YDS = 5
NET YDS/ATT = 17*
RUSH YDS = 26*
RUSH YDS/ATT =19*
*Below the league average
OFFDVOA and traditional ratings of offense seem to be fairly close overall.

DEF
DEFDVOA=5
PTS Allowed = 10
YDS Allowed = 6
YDS/Play = 2
PASS YDS = 5
NET YDS/ATT = 3
RUSH YDS = 11
RUSH YDS/ATT = 6
DEFDVOA and traditional ratings of defense seem to be fairly consistent.

A cursory review of special teams numbers also suggests S.T. DVOA and S.T stats are tracking the same way.

It is simply difficult to make a strong argument that there is something significantly wrong w/ DVOA b/c of PHI’s performance.

7
by Tundrapat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 6:57pm

Look at that - NYG is in the top 10 in every category, including Special Teams. And they're still performing well without their top WR and top RB (granted, that's pretty recent).

Meanwhile, my Vikes continue their long, slow waltz with mediocrity. At least we 'control our own playoff destiny', and we can split with Chicago and get a game up on both them and Green Bay with a win this Sunday in the Hubiedome.

13
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:14pm

Yeah despite how poorly they have played this season things are not looking bad for that purple team this year. A win over the bears seems very plausible, perhaps even likely...

11
by Independent George :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:05pm

Maybe it's just my natural pessimism, but I just don't see the Giants being as dominant as DVOA makes them out to be. The defense seems about right, but the 26.7% offensive DVOA puts them in 2000s Colts territory. They're good, but they just don't look THAT good to me.

16
by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:20pm

It's because they're more of a running team, so their offensive point totals aren't as astronomical. But they're possibly the best running team that has been around in the DVOA era. So consistent, so productive. If my team were in the NFC, I'd be frightened as hell.

44
by Independent George :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 10:04pm

I don't think it's the fact that they're running; I think it's the fact that the Giants having a good offense is a very, very recent development. I'm just not used to the Giants being led by their offense.

The 2003 Chiefs, for example, had similar numbers: 26.6% Offensive DVOA, 30.4% Pass DVOA, 22.4% Rush DVOA. In my mind, though, I just can't see the 2008 Giants as being in the same league offensively. I remember thining those Chiefs teams were going to score on every possession; I think the Giants are good, but I just don't watch every drive thinking we're going to score.

Looking back, Dick Vermeil's Chiefs teams are fixed in my head as being offensive powerhouses hampered by lousy defenses. Except for the Jim Fassel era, the Giants had always been characterized by a tough, physical defense coupled with an adequate offense (sometimes). I think my brain just doesn't believe what my eyes are telling it.

67
by Dales :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:14am

I don't think it is a recent development that the Giants have a good offense. It has been good since Eli's sophomore year.

What is a recent development is that the offense is now, seemingly, VERY good. Like you, I find that hard to comprehend in a Giants team.

81
by E :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:32pm

I think the fact that the Giant's glory years (say '85-'90) were driven by a dominant defense - and were in spite of an average offense - has created an image in our collective minds that's difficult to shake. The fact is that the Giants have been more of an offense-led team than a defensive one for this entire decade. The Fassel Super Bowl team took off when the offense did, the 2002 team was probably even better with Collins and Toomer playing at a very high level and as you mentioned the offense under Eli has been very good (for the first few years because of Tiki, now more collectively). When I think Giants, I also think defense, but that hasn't really been the case for a while.

107
by Independent George :: Thu, 11/27/2008 - 10:11am

I think it goes beyond just the LT/Tuna years; going strictly by DVOA, the Giants defense was the stronger unit even during the Fassel Era

1995: -6.0% OFF, 2.7% DEF
1996: -27.6% OFF, 9.6% DEF
1997: -9.0% OFF, -14.9% DEF
1998: -12.7% OFF, -9.2% DEF
1999: -14.8% OFF, -6.1% DEF
2000: 4.4% OFF, -8.3% DEF
2001: -6.4% OFF, -2.4% DEF
2002: 5.4% OFF, 0.3% DEF
2003: -14.0% OFF, 2.1% DEF
2004: -17.0% OFF, -14.9% DEF
2005: 9.0% OFF, -6.9% DEF
2006: 8.6% OFF, -2.1% DEF
2007: -2.3% OFF, -3.1% DEF
2008 (11 games): 26.7% OFF, -10.2% DEF

Before Coughlin, 2002 was the only year where the offense played better than the defense (and just barely). I'm actually rather impressed - aside from that dreadful 1996 season (I believe that was during the Danny Kannell era), the defense has generally been pretty decent. The only negative offenses under Coughlin were Eli's rookie year, and the Super Bowl year.

This year's 26.7% Offensive DVOA is the only outlier, which lends credence to my gut reaction. This is either (a) an outlier, or (b) the start of a trend. I certainly hope it's (b), but my natural pessimism tells me that they're not really this good. This isn't to say the Giants aren't the best team in the NFL - just that they're not the overwhelming favorites. If you cut the offensive DVOA by 10 points, they go from being alone at the top with a great offense and a good defense, to being a very good, very balanced team slightly ahead of the rest of the league. That's what my gut (or confirmation bias) is telling me.

9
by Independent George :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:04pm

Arrgh. Double-Post

14
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:18pm

Just an idea, but in order to help people understand the site a bit better and perhaps defuse low-quality comments and criticism has FO ever considered running a power rankings article each week? Either a simple staff poll, or just one persons random musings accompanying a list. Might help the plebs keep a little perspective?

40
by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:50pm

It's always seemed to me that the whole point of this site was to provide objective rankings based on numbers. There are a million sites with subjective rankings, and some of them are written by people who understand football better than Aaron and co. Subjective rankings would play to the weakness of the site, while the objective rankings they have represent their unique strength.

It seems like when Aaron doesn't like the DVOA results, he discusses them in the commentary. How would subjective rankings be better than that?

(Formerly "The McNabb Bowl Game Anomaly")

49
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 11:24pm

They wouldn't be better, they would just be more content, specifically more content which might help people better understand the current content. These are not "objective rankings" in a way that contrasts them with more traditional subjective power rankings. They are objective but they are not even remotely trying to model the same thing.

52
by vinyltoupee (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:53am

As one who has jostled a bit here on the Eagles' ranking the past few weeks, I have no desire to see a FO "Power rankings." My point from the start has been that while this is an interesting site and I appreciate the analysis, if the formula creates a result that is just obviously wrong, then maybe, instead of blind allegiance to the formula, it might behoove its creators to take a closer look at what exactly is creating that anamoly. My contention is that the Eagles are obviously not a top 5 team in the league, and haven't been for a while if not all year, so what in the system skews them high? I think there's nothing wrong with asking that question, and I shouldn't be mocked and kicked out of the treehouse for asking it.

69
by Eddo :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:37am

Are the Eagles a top 5 team? No. However, any changes made to the system have to make it more accurate for the league as a whole. What if tweaking the formula to get the Eagles ranked 17th causes a whole lot of even weirder results (for example: Chargers top 10, Patriots bottom 5, etc)? Isn't it better to have one result that doesn't fit with common sense than to have multiple results like that?

Is it blind acceptance of a system? No. You're fairly new, right? My guess is that you see as commenters blindly following DVOA is commenters simply pointing out what Aaron has told us in the past. Additionally, we have to take Aaron's word that any tweaks he's making aren't giving better results.

72
by White Rose Duelist :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:49am

There's nothing wrong with asking, but nor is there anything wrong with the system. DVOA looks at every play and determines how successful it is. Pliladelphia is succeeding in a lot of plays, hence the high rating.

Look at their five losses:

37-41 @ DAL: Philly had the ball with 2:36 left and a timeout with a chance to win, but the drive stalled at midfield.

20-24 @ CHI: Couldn't gain a yard in 4 tries game. Prior to that series, the Eagles played well.

17-23 vs. WAS: The 'Skins got good field position on a pair of 15-yard penalties after a later 3rd quarter punt and ground out most of the 4th quarter.

31-36 vs. NYG: Philly had the ball with 3:14 left and the chance to win, but the drive stalled at midfield. Also, the Giants are the best team in the league.

7-36 @ BAL: No question Philly was outplayed here.

Consider the Cincinnatti tie, and the Eagles are just a handful of plays from being 10-1. On the other hand, their wins were by 35, 9, 14, 13 and 19 - none of those could be changed by a single play, as four of the five losses and the tie could be. So the Eagles are 5-1 in 2+ score games and 0-4-1 in close games.

I don't think the Eagles are really the #3 or #6 team in the league either, but it's not hard to see why DVOA would see it that way.

103
by Dales :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:44pm

While your comments on the Eagles-Giants game are true, they aren't accurate. The Eagles were, at several different points in that game, a single play away from getting blown out. Specifically, I am thinking of the Jacobs fumble, the McNabb touchdown on 4th down, and a Derrick Ward slip that prevented a Giants 3rd down conversion.

That was a game where the Eagles were hanging by a thread for most of it. The game was not as close as the final score ended up being.

79
by Alex51 :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:00pm

My contention is that the Eagles are obviously not a top 5 team in the league, and haven't been for a while if not all year, so what in the system skews them high? I think there's nothing wrong with asking that question, and I shouldn't be mocked and kicked out of the treehouse for asking it.

There's nothing wrong with asking why the Eagles are ranked as high as they are by DVOA. Everyone here has done that. But you have to be willing to keep an open mind, and consider the fact that maybe the Eagles are better than you think they are. Otherwise, you're just dismissing the analysis before you even read it. If you are really here to try to gain a better understanding of why NFL teams win, then nobody will have a problem with you. But if you just come here to say that DVOA is obviously wrong, and that your opinion/judgement on the matter is obviously better, then you're not really trying to learn, you're trying to lecture. You want FO to change DVOA to better conform to your opinions/judgements, but you're unwilling to change your opinions in response to DVOA.

if the formula creates a result that is just obviously wrong, then maybe, instead of blind allegiance to the formula, it might behoove its creators to take a closer look at what exactly is creating that anamoly.

How is this blind allegiance to the formula:

No, I don't really think the Eagles are the fourth-best team in the league, or even the sixth-best team in the league, which is what they are according to WEIGHTED DVOA.

That's neither blind nor allegiance.

As for taking a closer look at what's creating that anamoly, they have been doing that. If they knew of any change that could be made to the formula that would make it more accurate over the last 14 NFL seasons, they would make that change. But every change that they try out to put the Eagles lower in DVOA also pulls down teams that were very good (and had very good records) in past years.

Now, maybe the NFL has changed dramatically in ways that make the last 13 seasons inapplicable to the current one. But I don't see why we should believe that (or how we would know). Right now, the Eagles have 5.5 wins, while DVOA gives them 7.1 estimated wins. So, they're off by less than 2 games, and you want FO to change a formula that's based on over 3000 games?

My contention is that the Eagles are obviously not a top 5 team in the league, and haven't been for a while if not all year, so what in the system skews them high?

Well, if you want to know why DVOA has them so high, let's look at the categories that go into total DVOA: Offense, Defense, and Special Teams. Since DVOA ranks teams based on how many yards they gain/allow per play (adjusted for situation and opponent), let's look at where the Eagles rank in yards/play and compare that to where they rank in DVOA.

Offense:
Yards/play - 12th
DVOA - 18th

Ok, so DVOA hasn't yet professed it's undying love for Philadelphia, but maybe it just really loves their defense.

Defense:
Yards/play - 2nd
DVOA - 5th

No, not that either. Maybe it's the special teams?

Special Teams:
The following are Philadelphia's ranks in each category:
Avg. Net Kickoff - 20th
Avg. Kick Return - 10th
Avg. Net Punt - 12th
Avg. Punt Return - 15th

ST DVOA rank: 14th

Not exactly the stuff of romance novels, but hey, maybe their Kickoffs are overrated. DVOA loves David Akers!

82
by E :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:42pm

Even if we assume that DVOA is "wrong" about Philly (which Aaron sort of concedes), I don't understand why people feel that a system that misses on one out of 32 teams is considered "broken". Football is an imprefect science with success based on binomial results from a very small sample size (16 games, or in this case 11 to date). Obviously, since on any given Sunday many teams will play each other evenly, or close to evenly, but only one team gets to win, over the course of 32 teams these will not all even out. Luck and randomness should even out over the course of the season for any one given team, but it would be near-impossible (and statistaclly extremely unlikely) for it to even out for all 32 teams. Frankly, I'm surprised that there aren't MORE outliers.

93
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 3:49pm

Because people are stupid tribalistic partisans and one of the main reasons they come online is to tell other people they are wrong?

I swear 90% of the comments critical of DVOA, the comments that should actually be interesting and helpful to those who frequent and run the side, are devoid of value, and boil down to:

I disagree with this.
QED.

108
by Independent George :: Thu, 11/27/2008 - 10:25am

I actually find these comments some of the most interesting.

The way I look at it, (1) DVOA is the best analytical tool out there, and (2) it's fundamentally broken. By broken, I don't mean worthless, but simply that it does not - and, in fact, cannot - account for everything. There will always be variables which have a disproportionate impact on the game which cannot be measured objectively. That's just the nature of the game - in the long run, the stats win, but each season is, by definition, short-term.

Anyway, I don't find much value in the "Iggles suck therefor DVOA suxx" comments, but I think those are pretty rare. I find the comments trying to piece together why DVOA rates them so highly - or why they're underachieving so badly - tend to be rather insightful regardless of whether or not I agree.

61
by BucKai :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 2:00am

I see your point, but view an additional "power ranking" as a "peddling to the masses" sort of move. Rather, I would like to see a larger commentary section each week. DVOA is a power ranking, in that it compares each teams performance and ranks them ordinally, regardless of record.

When an outlier rears its ugly head, it generates curiosity which leads to new charts tracking how that outlier compares to historic occurrences.

I like the idea of random musings (a la Audibles) but would like to see them more focused on reactions to rankings and what they feel DVOA is seeing that "Joe the Fan" isn't.

Personally, I enjoy trying to determine why DVOA is currently experiencing a Man-Crush on Philadelphia, and would much rather try to understand the mathematical reasoning behind it than discounting how Peter King's Favre fantasies influence the SI power rankings.

15
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:19pm

Other than the New York Giants I just don't see much difference between the next 15-20 teams. Does anyone really think Dallas is 32% worse than Baltimore. GB has been horrendous 2 of the last three weeks that I watched them yet DVOA says they are the 9th best team in the league. The Jets are 10th - really 9 teams better than them.

I think this year is a major toss up. The Giants clearly look like the best team but they don't strike me in any way a dominant team, just a good one.

Fearless prediction - The Oakland Raiders will be a very strong team within 2 years. I think Russell and McFadden are going to be stars in this league.

17
by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:21pm

Have you seen some of Russell's other games?

19
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:29pm

Oh, I do not think it is so hard to see the NYJ as such. Remember they have lost to Oakland and have played such an easy schedule that looks will be deceiving. Breaking the league into tiers I don't think something like the following is so crazy implausible.

NYG
TEN

BAL
PIT
ARI

WAS
DAL
CAR
TB
ATL
IND
NYJ
PHI

GB
MIA
NE
MIN

DEN
BUF
SD
JAC
CLE

riff raff

DET

25
by scottyb (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:30pm

Um... Jets CRUSHED your proposed #2 and #5 teams and have won 5 in a row.

(I can live with them behind NYG, TEN, BAL, PIT, ATL, DAL and IND, but it's hard for me to see them as worse than (6 games against the NFC West) Arizona, Washington, Carolina or TB.

I get it, DVOA tends not to shift too quickly based on one game's performance. However, I think that, in this era of football, the development (i.e., offensive lines gelling, finding an unexpectedly good contributor) or deterioration (i.e., key injuries, coach losing the team) in team performance requires a heavier emphasis on the past few games- this would, for instance, drop Philly and GB significantly, and raise Indy, Jets, Atlanta, etc. It also would have accounted more for NYG late-season surge last year.

However, I have no major quibbles with DVOA- like any system, it has its flaws, but it incorporates more and better info than most "power rankings" do.

33
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:10pm

And the jets have played the leagues second easiest schedule and lost to SD and OAK, perhaps SD and OAK should be above them? You cannot simply look at head to heads, it misses the whole point...

75
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 11:38am

He does have a point though: DVOA doesn't do well when the team at the beginning of the season is not the team at the end. The Jets are a lot better team than they were in Week 1, just as the Patriots are.

Does anyone really think that the Patriots team that thrashed Miami this weekend is really the 18th best in the NFL?

92
by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 3:45pm

DVOA is not supposed to be good at this.

This just in thermometers don't make good mass spectrometers!

Next week on which measurement tool will we misuse we take the barometer to task for not telling us what the chemical composition of DNA is.

111
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 11/27/2008 - 5:46pm

I have no idea what the hell you're trying to say.

DVOA trys to tell us who is playing the best football. To do that, because of the small sample size, it has to assume that all data points be given equal value. In the case of teams like the Jets or Patriots this year, who've had huge offensive shifts, or like the Giants last year, who were playing much better at the end than the begginning, DVOA misses.

DVOA is like a thermometer that can tell you what the temperature has averaged over the last month, but can't tell you what the temperature is, right now.

28
by weinsteinium (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:43pm

Fearless prediction. The Oakland raiders will be between a 2-14 and 6-10 team as long as Al Davis maintains his strangle hold. Really, that front office is a disgrace. Except for the Lions, is there a less professional front office in the NFL? And now that Millen is gone, the Lions have a chance to upgrade.

I like McFadden, when he's healthy he has a really nice burst. He doesn't dance like Reggie Bush, he hits the hole and when he gets through cleanly his second gear is impressive.

Russell is harder to tell, I think that given the utter shambles in the front office I think that it's unlikley that the Raiders will get him the components he needs to succeed. His arm strength is impressive but I can't tell if he will have the accuracy, decision making and judgement to be a superstar at QB.

Lest I raise the ire of raiderjoe, I'd like to say that I'm an Raiders fan and until last year I had season tickets but I've really lost hope that anything will ever get better.

105
by Arkaein :: Thu, 11/27/2008 - 2:09am

Saying that GB has been horrendous twice this year shows selective memory.

Against Minny their pass blocking was horrible no doubt, yet they lost that game (on the road, to a team that now has a winning record) by a FG missed by inches. Why? Because they didn't turn the ball over and their pass D completely dominated MN's passing game. You could just as well say that MN in no way deserved to win a game in which they committed so many turnovers and allowed a punt return TD.

DVOA likes GB because they had, until the NO game, lost all close games (only one game, an 11 point loss to Dallas, by double digits), while blowing out multiple teams, including those with winning records (Colts and Bears).

18
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:25pm

4 games ago I predicted the Vikings would go on a 5-1 run winning games at home against Hous, GB, winning 1 of 2 on the road TB, Jack, and then beating the Bears at home and Det on the road.

The second part of my prediction was that they would lose 2 or 3 of the final 3.

I'm feeling pretty confident in that prediction.

20
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:46pm

Yaguar - regarding Russell I'm going strictly on these stats:

69% completion rate final year of college (and no I don't care he didn't have the required number of Lewin starts)

75 rating - 7TD, 4Ints, 6.4 yds/att -22 DVOA
The backup Walter
31.1 rating - 0TD, 2Ints, 4.47 yds/att -71 DVOA

Playing QB for Oakland is like a home run hitter trying to hit home runs in the old Astrodome. I think Russel's stats are quite impressive given his setting.

21
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:51pm

Sagarin Ratings has Tenn and NYG at the top with roughly identical ratings of 28. Then Pitt, Balt and TB fall within 2 pts and then 13 other teams within 6.

Most years there might be 5 teams within a TD of the top team, many years there is 0-3.

I think I read on this site that sites like Sagarin's Rating may have more in year predictive value.

His ratings match what I've watched. There simply isn't much difference between the top 15-20 teams.

58
by crack (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:39am

Nice triple lindy.

22
by Van Buren (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 7:58pm

I don't know what Giants team some of you have been watching, but the one I see is scary good. As a Skins fan, it is depressing. They lack flash, but they dominate both lines, they are deep at the skill positions, and they are well coached. I'd like to know who's going to stop them, and how. OTOH, look what happened last year to the league's dominant team...

23
by maxpower19 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:03pm

FWIW, the Eagles are favored by 3 in the Thanksgiving game against the Cards. So the oddsmakers seem to agree with weighted DVOA that those two teams are very close. Last week, they were 2-point dogs in Baltimore, implying they were slightly worse than B'more, and two weeks before that they were 2.5 point favorites hosting the Giants, implying they were slightly worse than the Giants. Obviously they lost both those games ATS, but the point is the books' opinion of the Eagles backs up the "opinion" of DVOA. Unless you think the books are idiots, or there's some bizarre conspiracy involving FO and Pinny, there's no need to try to rationalize the Eagles' DVOA, or to tweak the formula to lower it.

26
by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:34pm

Chargers are 17th in rank and Raiders are 27. Maybe comptuer broken?
Raiders going to shock Chargers on December 4.
Lets see JaMarcus Russell coming around, defense stout, McFadden back, coach getting used to coaching, confidence of team growing, also Raiders looking for revenge.
Menwahwile Chargers big mess. Norv Turner horrible coach, first drove Raiders into ground and now ruining Chargers. L Tomlinson not good anymore, Cromarti shaky, defense not really good.
I said Raiders going to get revenger on Broncos and got it. Well Raiders going to go into San Diego and knock around Chargers two.
Raiders have chance to win division. Broncos gong to lose to Jets this week, Raiders going to win. Worry about other weeks when December get her.

29
by navin :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:44pm

It's always good when your coach is getting used to being a coach.

Too bad that's not the case for Norv.

60
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:55am

rj, you complete me.

I make a motion that the complaint form about rankings be reduced to:

"(team) are (number) in rank and (team) are (other number). Maybe comptuer broken?"

68
by Dales :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:20am

And for the really special occasions, "Is computer drunk?"

77
by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 11:48am

I am excellent at making love (not verified)

We are all great lovers, in theory.

98
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 5:21pm

I think I'm pretty good, but I just haven't been able to get anyone to verify that yet.

76
by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 11:47am

The newest dark brew from Sierra Nevada: Defense Stout

99
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 5:22pm

HAH!

89
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 2:28pm

I said Raiders going to get revenger on Broncos and got it.

You know, I couldn't agree more. That was more than revenge; it was revenger! If they had won by 35, and a pile up on the sidelines had resulted in an injury to Mike Shanahan, it might have even qualified as revengest.

27
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:43pm

Jimm, I'm mildly surprised that the Vikings are above .500 at this point, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if they were to beat the Giants in week 17. The Giants are unlikely to play Manning, Jacobs, Burress, and any other starter with an injury more severe than a hangnail, for more than a series or two, if at all. Once again, the origin of the truism that when you play someone is nearly as important as who you play is revealed.

Due to that scheduling quirk, along with the fact that it might be helpful that the Cardinals will have their division clinched by the time the Vikings play them, gives the Vikings a better than expected (by me) chance to make the playoffs. Of course, "better than expected chance" is not a shout of confidence, as longs as it entails the Interception Return Machine, Gus Frerotte, and the Vikings punting unit.

I think the Vikings chances' of winning might improve if they inserted Adrian Peterson in the punt unit, as the up man, and had him take a direct snap on a running play half the time. Or just forgo a punting unit entirely. Declare the entire field four down territory, and scheme offensively with that in mind. I'm only 30% kidding.

43
by Anonymous Rex (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 10:02pm

"The Giants are unlikely to play Manning, Jacobs, Burress, and any other starter with an injury more severe than a hangnail, for more than a series or two, if at all."

That seems unlikely to me - if you remember the Giants/Patriots week 17 game from last year, the Giants decided to play their starters the whole game despite being locked into the 5 seed. I think they'd be likely to do the same this year, especially if they're going to be getting the next week off with a bye.

30
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 8:58pm

Will - What do you think of the punt coverage - is it Kluwe kicking low - it seems the Vikings defenders are 20 yards away when the kick is received. They'd be a lot better off if he just kicked a 30 yarder straight up in the air.

Frerotte has been truly awful in the last 4-5 games. From observation only it sure seems like the line is doing a decent job protecting him. His interceptions for the most part of come when there was little or no pressure. Watching on TV you can't see the down field so you tend to anticipate interceptions based on pressure and the type of throw. But with Frerotte things seem perfect and then bam he throws it to the wrong team - TD the other way.

The funny thing in all this is that Jackson did a hell of lot better job of protecting the ball than Frerotte has. At least Jackson could run around a little.

The fact that this team hasn't adopted some form of the Wildcat yet is very disappointing.

31
by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:00pm

Does anyone else think that this year really demonstrates the 4 team per division setup is deeply flawed? With so few teams, some divisions just stink, and yet get to send a team to the playoffs (AFC West). A perfectly average division like the AFC East has 4 playoff contenders all above .500 because they play the lousiest divisions.

I don't have a solution off hand, but having more teams in each division increases the likelihood of each division being more balanced with good and bad teams. The goal should be to have the best teams in the playoffs.

37
by MJK :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:27pm

I agree that the 4-team per division setup is deeply flawed, but I disagree that the AFCE is "perfectly average". I think it's a division of four somewhat-above-average teams.

But I agree that four team divisions is way too few.

I've been a proponent of four eight-team divisions and a seventeen-game schedule, where every team plays division rivals twice and plays one out-of-division game against each other division. Top two teams in each division, plus four wild cards league-wide make the playoffs. Now that would make teams truly earn the playoffs.

114
by David C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 8:10pm

How would that fix anything?

You need to increase the number of teams playing against each other, not decrease them. The Wild Cards would become much more useless because you would only have three inter-division games. In order for a division to win both Wild Cards under your system, they would have to have some really bad teams to prey on inside their division. If you have eight above-average to below-average teams in one division while the other division has two good teams, two average teams, and four bad teams, the two average teams are going to get the Wild Card spots in their conference, even if they ended up going 1-2 each outside their division.

The solution is much more simple. Just have all the spots be determined by a Wild Card. If none of the teams in a division are good enough to earn a spot in the playoffs, oh well. You could also decrease the number of division rivalry games per season from two to one. Three more inter-conference games would decrease the chances of a few really bad teams pumping the record up one average team.

34
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:16pm

I'm pretty darn sure Frerotte is getting above average protection for the most part. If the Vikings o-line were to be graded out with a stopwatch, I think that most quarterbacks in the NFL would be shown to have less time to throw on most passing plays.

He just sucks, and when he has to move around in the pocket at all, he sucks even more. A play in the 2nd half on Sunday was indicative of this. Frerotte drops back, surveys the field for a good while, and then starts to move out of the pocket, in the direction of his throwing arm. Taylor has moved into the right flat, about 6-8 yards past the line of scrimmage, and no defender has followed him. Frerotte, still at least four or five yards from any pass rusher, proceeds to throw it four yards over Taylor's head, and Taylor reveals his inadequacy, by not having a 100 inch vertical leap in full football gear.

Childress deserves firing if he endorsed signing this guy, given the huge doubts regarding the Intrepid Tavaris Jackson. Of course, if the Vikings sneak into the playoffs, Childress will keep his job, and the Vikings have a decent chance to get McNabb in the offseason. Anyone who says dumb luck doesn't play a role in a good many careers is mistaken.

35
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:18pm

jonnyblazin - of course the playoff system is flawed but so is every playoff system. If you wanted fair then we'd have each team play every team in there conference. The team with the best record is the conference champion. Play AFC vs NFC champs for the Super Bowl - you got fair but boring.

The way I look at it if you miss the playoffs because someone in your division was better than you during the year than what's your beef. Playoffs are about entertainment not finding the best team. I personally like the later because it keeps things interesting even when your team is mediocre.

36
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:24pm

By the way, I really am somewhat serious that the Vikings should scheme offensively as if they were not punting anywhere, say, between their own thirty or thrity five, and Longwell's kicking range. It seems as if half their punt attempts end up no better than 20 or so yards past the Vikings line of scrimmage. It's hard to tell on t.v. but it seems as if Kluwe really is nailing some low screamers.

38
by pete (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:40pm

Jonny,
every year there are a few teams that make the playoffs that have no business calling themselves one of the 12 best teams in the league. But as a previous poster said, the current system keeps more and more fan bases involved through december, and it is likely that the best team does at least make the play-offs.

the most unfair part involves home field and bye weeks. Under the current system, any non-division winner has to win three games to get to the super bowl. In some cases, that could be the team with the 2nd or 3rd best record in the conference. That team is at a severe disadvantage because of the system, whereas at least under the old format they might get one homegame.

63
by ammek :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 4:41am

Didn't bother the Steelers or Giants much, though, did it? The system ain't broke.

I like four-team divisions because you get more out-of-division games, which means more variety. I remember in the 1999-2001 AFC Central it seemed like the teams just kept on playing one another with no respite. Good for rivalries, bad for imaginative football.

39
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:47pm

Will - you know which play drove me up the wall - 1st and goal at the 2 - I think the Vikings were up ten or so. The call - play action rollout - the result a sack. I think the play summed the stupidity of the coaching staff and the inadequacy of Frerotte.

41
by Key19 :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 9:56pm

Have the Vikings ever attempted a Wildcat? I've never seen them even once this year so I wouldn't know.

As for DVOA:

Green Bay and Philadelphia stick out like sore thumbs.

Anyone else wish that the NFL pre-empted the Eagles out of the Thanksgiving game and put Baltimore in instead? They could still have their ridiculous "Birds Gone Wild" or whatever the stupid ad campaign is, and we'd get to see Arizona against a beast defense.

Every week I get more excited for Dallas/Pittsburgh. And New York/Dallas as well for that matter.

I really think the Jets are fine where they are. I'd even be fine with them being higher. They have been coming to play these last few weeks.

It seems odd to me that since Pittsburgh played very well against NYG's running game and Baltimore did not, the Ravens are still 1 and the Steelers are 2 (defensively).

Atlanta has beaten both the Panthers and the Saints in two of their last three but remain behind both. I guess losing to Denver didn't help their case?

Speaking of Atlanta, chances Michael Vick gets a starting job somewhere when he comes back?

One last thing: Glad to see Dallas got out of the 30s for Special Teams!!! Is it coincidence or not that most of the good special teams units are near the bottom of the league in total DVOA?

53
by Dales :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:59am

They can switch out one already-scheduled-for-that-week game for another already-scheduled-for-that-week game, but they can't suddenly decide "Baltimore, you play the Cardinals and we'll have the Eagles play the Bengals again instead".

42
by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 10:00pm

I have a great deal of sympathy for the Vikings' playcallers, or I would, if it wren't for the fact that they might be the same people who constructed the roster. When your offense is so entirely one-dimensional, in terms of passing talent vs. running talent, you are often practically forced to employ the substandard talent, even if you know it is likely to fail, if only to give your far superior talent a fighting chance to succeed. Sheesh, what a mess......

45
by Sid :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 10:11pm

I would've thought the Jets would do better in weighted DVOA, considering their recent dominance. They won in Buffalo and New England, they beat the hell out of the Rams (obviously the Rams are terrible, but the Jets' DVOA should still be high for that game) and then they beat up the Titans in Tennessee. The wins over Tennessee and St. Louis were very impressive in particular.

66
by Craig (N.S) (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 8:31am

Weighted DVOA would consider losing to the Raiders to mean a lot in the negative, I'd think?

84
by MJK :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:03pm

DVOA is a harsh mistress. Remember, it is less affected by single game swings, even weighted DVOA. The Tennessee win was huge, but it was only one game.

The Rams game doesn't help much, because of the collassal suctitude that is the Rams. Beating Buffalo probably doesn't help all that much either, because DVOA sees Buffalo as a bad team (-8% DVOA, ranked 23rd).

DVOA also doesn't think New England is all that great (although better than Buffalo), and remember, it's important to remember HOW the win occurred when thinking about DVOA.

The Jets beat New England because they won in overtime after a series of "non-predictive" events aided them (a NE fumble and subsequent Jets recovery, a botched snap that aborted another drive, NY winning the coin toss). As a result, I wouldn't be surprised that DVOA thinks that NE actually outplayed NY in that game (DYAR certainly thought Cassel outplayed Favre). The Jets won a shootout because they preyed on a horrible secondary (one of the worst in the league), while their defense almost gave up the game to an offense that is decent but not great (and, from DVOA's standpoint, isn't as good as it actually was in that game, because it doesn't know Cassel's maturing).

Give it time. If the Jets continue to win, and if New England continues to improve, the Jets WDVOA will continue to go up.

46
by Nick (not verified) :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 10:46pm

With the crazy offensive outburst this year, is anyone else finding it telling that the top 10 teams in total DVOA are all in the top 12 in defensive DVOA? While it may be a high scoring season, the best teams are still doing it with defense.

48
by RickD :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 11:21pm

That would appear to represent a flaw in the balancing of DVOA.

Unless you really think the Eagles and Packers are rated exactly correctly.

Ideally, the top 10 teams in total DVOA should be equally represented by the top offensive teams and the top defensive teams. The notion that defense is more important than offense is a fallacy of innumeracy.

50
by RickD :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 11:24pm

It occurs to me that six of the bottom ten teams in the rankings have special teams rated in the top ten.

78
by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 11:51am

THats a really interesting observation.

I've been watching the Patriots special teams DVOA get worse every week, at about almost exactly the same rate the Offense has gotten better.

47
by RickD :: Tue, 11/25/2008 - 11:18pm

Wow, the Eagles have just played two of the most turd-filled games of the season and they've dropped all the way to...fourth!

Right now, they are playing worse football than any other team in the top TWENTY!

There is a definite NFC skew to the ratings here. Do we really think the Packers are better than the Jets? The Saints are better than the Colts?

Really?

70
by Eddo :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:38am

"Right now, they are playing worse football than any other team in the top TWENTY!"

Yeah, right now, they're playing like crap. But DVOA remembers the first 10 weeks of the season, too.

56
by doctorjorts :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:10am

Hey, where can I find statistics on how well DVOA predicts games compared to just picking the team with more wins or going with an "expert's" subjective opinion?

I remember Gregg Easterbrook mentioning last year that selecting the winner of a game based solely on the team's records is actually the best way to make a prediction. He even tried tempering it with "common sense" in a few instances for games between teams within a couple games of one another, and that didn't help either.

We all know that the method behind the DVOA formulae certainly makes sense, but does it work?

62
by crw78 :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 2:20am

If you pay for premium content, you can get the site's picks against the spread and straight up each week. I can tell you that, straight up, the picks are 96-48-1, which equates to .6655. The site doesn't make straight up picks until several weeks into the season, so that's why the number of games is off from the actual number of games.

I have no idea how that compares to win-loss "experts", or to Easterbrook's theory. In general, I'm guessing Easterbrook is correct, but what's the fun in that?

Keep in mind a couple of things: The straight-up and spread picks are not based scrictly on DVOA, but other factors as well. I don't think Aaron has ever fully divulged that information.

The record against the spread is good compared to your average prognosticator, not sure how it compares to experts. All I know is, I'm winning my spread pick-em league with them!

59
by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:46am

The Packers are better than their record (and Monday night's game) indicates. They've hung with good teams while losing (TB, ATL, TEN, DAL, MIN), and blown out the Colts and the Bears.

Rodgers is better than could have been expected, but not Favrish yet. The O-line and D-line are the weak spots (and the punter as you may have seen last night). The D-line might get better when they get healthy. The O-line may need a complete revamp.

71
by Temo :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 10:40am

I say this every week, but... whatever it is that makes you guys love the Eagles, you're not alone. A lot of quantitative systems out there still like the team (though maybe not as much as you guys).

And most importantly... Vegas loves them. They're a 3 point favorite on Thursday against the Cardinals.

74
by Mark S. (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 11:30am

I have to agree. Giants fan speaking here, and I think people are more down on the Eagles than they should be because their 2 most recent games were all-time stink bombs. Their defense is good. The offense has been very inconsistent, and I think that's largely attributable to Westbrook's injury situation. That said, this team could also be very close to quitting, so I wouldn't rule out a bad stretch run for them.

80
by panthersnbraves :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 12:22pm

Although DVOA does emphasize recent games, so many of the objections people have are somewhat reflected in the slow starts that the teams with "new but really good" QB's had getting before getting settled in. Now they are doing well, but the DVOA stats are lagging. On the other hand, several teams that did well early are starting to fade, and DVOA hasn't caught up with that yet either. Things should settle out soon.

83
by ammek :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:02pm

Who are these "new but really good" QBs of whom you speak? Cassell I'll grant you. Favre's best games have been in weeks one, four and eleven (and his worst in weeks 7-9); Pennington seems, if anything, to be slipping a fraction as opponents get game tape on his mediocre receivers. Rodgers and Edwards are streaky, and JaMarcus Russell will have to throw more than 11 passes to qualify. Have I missed anyone?

85
by tabbs (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:09pm

matt ryan?

86
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:17pm

Count me among those that find the Eagle ranking puzzling, but don't think it needs to be changed. If DVOA is to be believed, the Eagles are a better team than their record would indicate. Uhh... isn't that EXACTLY why Philly phans are calling for Reid's head? I think that DVOA and common sense are actually not that far apart here. Expected wins says they should be about 7-4. Again, it's saying that their record should be better than it is.

It's just the ranking of 4th that seems unacceptable. If they were somewhere around 8th or 9th, it would look a little more palatable. But what's the difference between 4th and 8th? 6%. Not a trivial amount, but not some huge chasm. Are they the 8th best team? I don't know. Carolina and Green Bay aren't exactly world-beaters either.

Speaking of Andy Reid, wasn't there a feature on this site from back in the early days, comparing situations like the Eagles are in now, where the record of the team differed significantly from it's Pythagorean value? I remember it ended up concluding that Art Shell was a good coach, which is hardly a ringing endorsement of the method. I wonder what that kind of analysis would say about Andy Reid. I get the impression that he's not that great of an in-game coach. Not Mornhinweg-ian or anything, but a fair amount of strange play-calls and dubious decisions. That's the kind of thing that makes a huge difference in a close game, but not so much in a blowout. And as someone mentioned above, the Eagle are winning blowouts and losing close ones this year.

87
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 1:47pm
94
by MJK :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 3:52pm

I've argued this before, but I strongly disagree with Aaron's assertion in that article that a team outperforming its Pythagorean prediction is a sign of good coaching, whereas underperforming its prediction indicates bad coaching.

A poor w/l projection relative to actual w/l means that you tend to win bigger than you lose (sound exactly like this year's Eagles). While this does imply you tend to lose close games (which could be a sign of bad coaching), it means that you very rarely get beaten big (which could be a sign of good coaching). Maybe it just means that you win the games you "ought" to win by a lot, and manage to play above your level and make a better game of it when you "ought" to lose.

Aaron's premise there seems to be that poor clock management can cause a team to lose (or fail to attain) critical yards at the end of the game. This can certainly be true. And I would accept that premise that part of the difference between the pythagorean projection and the actual w/l record could be due to the clock management skills of the coaching staff. By extension, a difference could (but not necessarily does) imply good or poor clock management.

However, clock management is only one tiny, tiny part of a coach's job (and even then, it is shared...it doesn't matter how good at clock management the coach is if the QB takes a sack rather than dumping it off to stop the clock, if the QB makes a bad decision and throws the ball to the WR who is just a little too far from the sideline to make it there, or if the WR who catches the ball isn't quite athletic enough to get out of bounds). So even if you could say a coach had poor clock management, that doesn't mean he's a bad coach. Ideally you'd like to have a coach good at everything, but if I had to pick a weakness, I think I would perfer a guy with awesome X's and O's, motivational skills, organizational skills, and scouting acumen and poor clock management than a guy that is awesome with the clock but is critically lacking in one of those other categories.

Plus, clock management is probably only one of many, many contributing factors that could contribute to a mismatch between pythagorean projection and actual w/l. Dumb luck, ability of the opposing kicker, late-game injuries, a QB with a weak arm, a team built around running rather than passing, etc., could all be bigger contributors.

In short, to conclude that a coach is "bad" because of a poor w/l relative to a pythagorean projection is probably wrong. The most you could conclude by looking only at pythagorus versus w/l is that the coach might not be the best at clock management, but even that would probably require more information, since there are other factors that could account for the difference as well.

88
by vesini :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 2:18pm

And look at what DrewTS found!!! Andy Reid is listed as one of the top ten worst coaches from 98 to 02!!! So, this proves that I should hate Andy Reid, right?

Inconceivable!

vesini, who did not use the proper stats, and is dead.

91
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 2:35pm

It doesn't PROVE anything, but it adds some actual data to the discussion of whether/why he sucks.

95
by MJK :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 3:55pm

In defense of Reid, he does consistently field contending teams--when was the last year that the Eagles were out of the playoff picture at the midseason mark? And he is the third best playoff coach (looking at modified W/L precentage) of the modern era, so when his teams get to the playoffs, they tend to go deep. Eagles fans should be careful what they wish for when they want him fired...they could then wind up with someone like Wade Phillips or Lane Kiffin to replace him... That would give the Philly press something to wail about!

96
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 4:25pm

I agree wholeheartedly that if you're gonig to fire a coach, you'd better have a good replacement in mind. The classic example of this is the Chargers with Norv Turner. Schottenheimer might not be the greatest coach ever, but he's better than Norv Turner. And speaking of Reid fielding contending teams, that was another thing that always got me about Schottenheimer. That 5-13 playoff record was frequently used as a negative against him, but that glosses over the obvious point -- he got his team into the playoffs 13 times!

So yes, it bears mentioning that sometimes as fans we need to be careful what we wish for. There are more than a few teams that would happily exchange their HC/QB combo for Andy Reid and Donovan McNabb.

97
by vesini :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 5:00pm

Thanks, DrewTS ... Believe it or not, I support the same position. I think Andy's like a lot of great coaches before the made THE LEAP ... he needs to slightly adjust his thought process (and his in-game moves) and he'll be a standout.

I saw a neat comparison on the boards a while back comparing Reid to Cowher - through ten seasons their records were almost identical - then showing the elbow in the Cowher curve that represented the Super Bowl win.

There too is an interesting comparison - once Cowher was able to adjust, he was able to see that he truly needed a QB - not Maddox, or even Slash (McNabb lite?) - and then Rothlisberger came along, and there's your elbow bend, XL40, etc., etc.

So, maybe it's McNabb I should be angry with? Kolb seems to have Reid's fingerprints all over him - high completion rate, shotgun experience, high marks from Lewin's projection system - just the kind of stuff McNabb never brought to the table, and the kind of stuff tailor-made for Reid, right?

Weird related fact - I can't prove this, but in the past, a "David Lewin" was credited on the Eagles official website with the title "Statistician" - any connection here FO? Seems funny that the guy who projected Kolb as a can't miss prospect was possibly employed by the team that drafted him, and now no longer works there?

hmmm ...

As for other adjustments by coaches ... let's bring in Tom Coughlin! And for the hell of it, why not invite Kevin Gilbride along as well! Guy who like to throw the ball a lot and a guy who like to be in total control of things ... put them together and that's Reid, right? If they changed, why can't he?

vesini, who did not use the proper stats, and is dead.

100
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 5:46pm

It's very possible that McNabb might be the one to go. Either McNabb or Reid will have to go, and possibly both, or the fans will revolt. Not saying they're right, but that seems to be the way the situation has unfolded.

I'd say it's not too late for Reid to change his style, but the question will be if he wants to. For every Kevin Gilbride, there's a June Jones. In any case, he's probably not going to get that opportunity in Philadelphia, barring a miracle playoff run this season.

I don't think Vesini was done in by an improper use of stats. His downfall was overconfidence in his own intelligence.

101
by MJK :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 5:49pm

I'm an unashamed Schottenheimer apologist. I think he got a raw deal in San Diego, and while I'm not a fan of his style of play, I respect him a lot as a coach.

Among "contemporary" coaches (coaches who coached in 2005 or more recently) his 13 playoff appearances in 21 seasons coaching is 8th (out of forty or fifty somethign coaches), behind only Mike Sherman, Mike Martz, Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren, Bill Cowher, Joe Gibbs, and, incidentally, Andy Reid. That's pretty good company. I was doing some more sophisticated probabilistic analysis a while back on a coaches probability of reaching the playoffs given their expected regular season W/L percentage, and Schottenheimer came up fifth most likely--a 40.5% chance--to make the playoffs out of contemporary coaches (behind Martz, Dungy, Cowher, and Gibbs). So if you want to get to the playoffs, Marty is your man.

Granted, his teams tend not to win when he gets there. Playoff win %'s are decieving, because of the one and done setup, but even when you compensate for the different playoff structure, his probability of winning a playoff game is dismal--about 28%. But I think Raiders or Niners or Lions fans would trade their coaching staffs in a minute for a 40% chance of making the playoffs and a 28% chance of winning each playoff game.

(If you're wondering, Reid comes in at a 39.4% chance of making the playoffs, and a 62.4% chance of winning each playoff game--pretty good numbers).

102
by DrewTS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 6:25pm

Yeah, history is not really on Marty's side, as far as playoff results go. But I've always thought that the best way to win a championship is to maximize your opportunities. Get into the playoffs and then see what happens. The last 3 Super Bowl winners have all been teams expected to be also-rans in the playoffs. Football is like that. A few lucky bounces and a hot streak, and all of a sudden a wildcard team is a champion.

Complete tangent, but I said the same thing when the Broncos stupidly benched Jake Plummer for Jay Cutler when they were 7-3. The move was explained as "they can't win a Super Bowl with Jake Plummer." That may or may not have been true, but what's undeniably true is that they can't win a Super Bowl if they DON'T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS.

That's why Marty Schottenheimer was a better coach than most. Keep putting your team in a position to win, and sooner or later they'll do it.

90
by vesini :: Wed, 11/26/2008 - 2:33pm

Oh, and before I forget, did anyone see this link? It's called ...

WHO CAN'T OUTCOACH ANDY REID?

http://www.kesslerfreedman.com/football/index.cfm

It's a simulated game between you and Reid. You call your plays, both offense and defense and Reid calls his - pay special attention to any 3rd and long calls!!!

vesini, who did not use the proper stats, and is dead.

104
by Zachary S. (not verified) :: Thu, 11/27/2008 - 12:14am

Uh, so should I throw in the towel on my preseason prediction of a San Diego-Philly Super Bowl?

106
by David Ferrier (not verified) :: Thu, 11/27/2008 - 9:53am

All right, I'm convinced. Ties are better than overtime for the regular season. But I could also do a compromise where they just replace the coin toss-to-deetrmine-overtime-possesion thing with home-team advantage. The fact that the winner of the coin toss is voctoriouse in 64% of overtime games is pretty significant. The idea of kicking from the 40 instead of the 30 to give the receiving team worse field position is pretty good too especially since its so subtle.

109
by Sid :: Thu, 11/27/2008 - 2:48pm

I've been watching football for a fairly long time and this Lions defense is the worst I've ever seen. I'm convinced.

110
by tomgdavis@juno.com :: Thu, 11/27/2008 - 3:23pm

I defended Andy Reid here a few weeks ago on the basis of his won/loss record. I didn't attempt to defend his clock management. Since that time I have continued to read about how bad he is at managing the clock. So I went back and reviewed the play-by-play for all the Eagles close losses (CHI, DAL, WAS and NYG) and the tie against the Bengals. I couldn't find the clock mismanagement. Sure, the Eagles players failed in key situations but that is true of any team that loses any close game. IMO the four cardinal sins of clock management are:

1) Failing to keep the clock rolling when you can run three plays, punt and leave the other team with so little time that they have almost no chance of driving the field.

2) Failing to use your timeouts on defense when trailing late in the game and using them on offense instead.

3) Running out of time before you run out of downs when trailing by one score (assuming you got the ball back with adequate time to win or tie).

4) Failing to initiate a hurryup offense in the fourth quarter when trailing by 9+ points.

There are other ways to butcher the clock, (calling a timeout to discuss a key situation when leading late in the game without letting the play clock run down) but the four listed above constitute the bulk of the transgressions (again IMO).

I didn't find Reid committing any of these four sins. Can someone tell me what games and plays the hubbub stems from. Please be specific.

And before I get accused of being an Eagles homer...I've been a Cowboys fan since Roger was quarterback.

112
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 7:18am

TomGDavis-

As a lifelong Eagles fan, I've been watching Reid since the beginning, and I've always thought the clock mismanagement criticism was wildly overblown. There have been a few moments when he butchered the clock in his career, but that is true of any head coach with 150+ career games coached, even Belichick. My guess is that the rep stems largely from the fact that one of the most prominent cases of clock mismanagement in Reid's career came in the biggest game he's ever coached - the failure to go to a 2 minute offense when down by 10 in the 4th quarter of the 2004 Super Bowl.

My theory as to why the Eagles underperform their DVOA rankings is that Reid, while he is correct to favor the passing game over the running game, leans TOO MUCH to the former - but not because the team's run-pass ratio is too skewed to the pass as is typically charged. In football, there's generally a higher payoff to calling a play with a ~60% chance of a medium-to-long gain than a 90% chance of a short-to-medium gain with a lower likelihood of an extremely favorable outcome. Spread out over a large number of iterations, a pass first strategy will produce more yards, more first downs, and more points. Any coach who thinks it's better to excel at running the ball than passing it if you can only excel at one is an idiot. However, due to the rules of the game, there are specific situations - 3rd and 1, leading by one score with the ball and 2+ minutes left in the 4th quarter, etc. - where a 90% chance of a 3 yard gain is better than a 50% chance of a 10 yard gain from a strategic standpoint. A good running game is the best way to produce short-to-medium gains with a high degree of reliability, so in these situations - particularly the end game ones, in which defenders are fatigued and running the ball is easier - it's better to excel at running than passing. A team that favors the passing game to the point that it results in being deficient in the running game, as I think the Eagles have under Reid of late, is going to suffer, and indeed failure in obvious running scenarios (3rd and short, goal line, clock eating situations) has been a major culprit in several of the Eagles' losses this year.

It's not so much an issue of failure to call enough running plays as it as of play design and roster composition. Firstly, too many of the Eagles' running plays are designed as foils to their passing game - draws, delays, counters, spread formation pitches and tosses designed to get Westbrook to the outside, etc. These plays are excellent for keeping a defense honest in most game situations but useless in obvious running situations. The Eagles run relatively few running plays out of typical run-oriented formations, and without as much practice at them it's unsurprising they don't excel at them. In fact, they're one of the worst NFL teams I've ever seen at executing a straight ahead dive play, which is about the simplest play in football, and one of the best for reliably getting two yards. Secondly, the Eagles' roster is not built to execute a power running game. It's not the O line that's the problem, as some observers think - Runyan after all made his bones as a run-blocking RT, Andrews when healthy is possibly the best drive blocker in the game, and the other players are all above average NFL size for their positions - but rather the skill players. Westbrook is a great player but straight ahead power running is not his strong suit, and Buckhalter and Booker are similarly ill-suited for it (signing and activating Eckel is an indication the team's brain trust has belatedly realized this deficiency). They've played the season without a true blocking fullback (although Klecko is closer than Hunt, so again they've adjusted). Their TE's are all better pass catchers than blockers - keeping Schobel as a third TE rather than signing a pure blocker for that role was another mistake this preseason.

The tragic flaw of Andy Reid is that while in most respects he's an excellent coach, he's failed to recognize the importance of one of the most basic strategic tools a coach needs to call a game successfully - the ability to predictably move the ball forward one yard when one yard is the immediate strategic objective. What I think the Eagles need is not a new coach or quarterback, but a new offensive coordinator who values the running game more than Mornhinwheg does. They had that with Dowhower and Childress, and the team was more successful.

113
by tomgdavis@juno.com :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 10:30am

Xeynon, thanks for the well-written response. I agree 100% percent with everything you've written. Despite being a Cowboys fan I've spent almost my whole life in Eagles territory (northern Delaware) so I've gotten to see lots of Andy Reid. Your point about the Eagles running game being mostly a foil for their passing game is right on. With their present personnel I think they would do best in power running situations if they went with a spread formation but with McNabb under center. If the defense fails to respect the run then have McNabb sneak for a yard or two.

It's been a week since I reviewed the play-by-play for all the Eagle losses and tie, but my recollection is that they did not have the lead late in any of those games. They *could* have blown a game by failing to grind out the clock with the run but haven't done so.

I find it kind of funny that despite lots of people posting about Reid's mismanagement of the clock that no one responded for four days. I actually thought that maybe the thread had been closed with the start of Thursday's games.

115
by Xeynon (not verified) :: Mon, 12/01/2008 - 8:50pm

TomG-

I just actually opened this thread yesterday, so that's why it took me awhile to toss in my two cents.

When I mentioned failure to grind the clock from this season I was thinking specifically of the week 2 Dallas game, although that's not a perfect example as the McNabb fumble was a bigger factor than a pure lack of ball control there. There have however been quite a few losses in previous seasons (e.g. the Giants game two years ago in which they blew a 24-7 4th quarter lead) where inability to grind out the clock with a lead was a major factor.

As an Eagles fan I'm hoping that Reid will realize that having Eckel or someone like him on the roster, as well as actual run-blocking personnel and a few reliable power running plays, is a good idea for next season. Either that or the team will bring in a stronger-willed OC who will point out the weaknesses in Reid's offensive approach.

116
by Marmie's #1 Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 12/02/2008 - 12:08pm

I don't know if anyone noticed, but two of the teams that played worse defense than the 2008 Rams, the 2000 Arizona Cardinals and the 2004 Rams, had the same defensive coordinator, none other than class of '65 Eastern Kentucky graduate, Larry Marmie. Mike Martz was not wrong when he said, "Larry Marmie, he's the best." Good luck to Larry and the Seattle Seahawks secondary for the remainder of the season.