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Mike and Tom finally get around to a candid discussion about the oft-requested and never-implemented DYAR fantasy football league.

03 Jan 2011

Final 2010 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

Last year, the final DVOA column of the regular season was all about how strange the 2009 stats were. Not this year. This year, the DVOA ratings make pretty good sense. The best teams are high, and the worst teams are low. Hard to imagine there's much of a disagreement about the Patriots at number one, and I doubt there's much disagreement about the Steelers at number two either.

So instead of trying to explain why various teams are ranked in various places, we can simply enjoy going through and seeing where the teams and players of 2010 fit historically -- at least as far as the regular season goes. Remember that the "DVOA Era" currently goes back to 1993.

Teams

Let's start with the question a lot of people were asking me on Twitter last night: Are the 2010 Seattle Seahawks the worst playoff team in NFL history? At least as far as DVOA is concerned, the answer turns out to be a surprising "no." The Seahawks were so good in their final win -- their third-highest DVOA of the year, 46% -- that they climb to -23.6% overall. That puts them ahead of the 2004 Rams, who had -26.5% DVOA. The Seahawks do pass the 1998 Cardinals as the second-worst playoff team in DVOA history. What's scary here is that the 2004 Rams and 1998 Cardinals each won their first playoff game. New Orleans beware!

New England ends the year as the second-best team in DVOA history. They have the highest weighted DVOA we've ever measured, and the highest offensive DVOA we've ever measured. Their weighted DVOA seriously laps the field, over ten percentage points higher than any other team.

If you've been following things for the last few weeks, those numbers won't surprise you. What may surprise you is that the Pittsburgh Steelers are also in the all-time DVOA top ten. The Steelers are only the third team since 2000 with both offense and defense in the top five, and both of those other teams -- the 2007 Colts and the 2009 Packers -- were dead last in special teams, while the Steelers are average in special teams. Coincidentally, they end up with basically the same ranks as the 1994 Pittsburgh Steelers, who were also fifth in offense and first in defense, plus 15th in special teams. But since standard deviation for DVOA is a lot higher these days, the 2010 Steelers end up with a much better total DVOA than the 1994 Steelers.

BEST TOTAL DVOA
1993-2010
BEST WEIGHTED DVOA
1993-2010
Year Team DVOA Year Team DVOA
2007 NE 53.1% x 2010 NE 54.0%
2010 NE 44.7% x 2007 NE 42.9%
1995 SF 43.3% x 1995 SF 41.8%
1996 GB 41.3% x 1994 SF 41.5%
2004 PIT 38.1% x 2004 BUF 41.4%
2010 PIT 37.3% x 2004 PIT 41.4%
2004 NE 35.9% x 2010 PIT 40.0%
1999 STL 34.3% x 1995 KC 38.1%
1994 DAL 33.7% x 2005 DEN 37.8%
2005 IND 33.6% x 2009 GB 37.3%

The Patriots' record-setting offense does not set a record for passing DVOA. That record still belongs to the 2007 Patriots. But this team was much better on the ground, finishing with the seventh-highest rushing DVOA ever. Yet they weren't the most efficient running team this season. The Philadelphia Eagles end up with the third-highest rushing DVOA ever. Obviously, a lot of that is Michael Vick, but LeSean McCoy was also excellent this season, 18.0% DVOA (fourth among qualifying backs).

BEST OFFENSIVE DVOA
1993-2010
BEST PASS OFFENSE DVOA
1993-2010
BEST RUN OFFENSE DVOA
1993-2010
Year Team DVOA Year Team DVOA Year Team DVOA
2010 NE 46.1% x 2007 NE 75.4% x 2000 STL 34.4%
2007 NE 45.2% x 2010 NE 72.6% x 2002 KC 32.0%
2002 KC 38.0% x 2004 IND 69.1% x 2010 PHI 29.2%
2004 IND 33.2% x 2009 SD 63.7% x 2003 KC 28.6%
2004 KC 32.9% x 2009 NE 57.0% x 2006 SD 27.5%
2003 KC 32.2% x 2006 IND 56.9% x 1998 DEN 27.1%
1998 DEN 30.7% x 2008 SD 54.9% x 2010 NE 27.0%
1995 DAL 30.1% x 1995 DAL 52.4% x 2004 KC 26.6%
2009 NE 29.6% x 2003 TEN 52.1% x 2005 DEN 26.3%
2006 IND 29.0% x 1994 SF 50.3% x 1993 SF 25.4%

On the other side of the table, the Carolina Panthers offense improved so that the Panthers don't rank among the absolute worst offensive DVOA ratings in history. We end up with the Panthers tied for the eighth-worst, and the Cardinals as tenth-worst. Somehow, the Carolina Panthers with DeAngelo Williams (for part of the year, at least) and Jonathan Stewart finish dead last in rushing DVOA.

Defense doesn't really set any records this year for any teams. At one point, it looked like the Steelers might have one of the top three or four run defense DVOA ratings, but they end up tenth.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for...

WORST SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA
1993-2010
Year Team DVOA
2000 BUF -12.9%
1997 SEA -9.8%
1997 CHI -8.2%
2002 CIN -8.1%
2010 SD -8.1%
1998 OAK -7.7%
2004 STL -7.5%
1996 NYJ -6.8%
2002 WAS -6.7%
1993 MIN -6.7%

The Chargers, suddenly realizing they were playing reasonable special teams, desperately tried to return to their record-setting ways in Week 17, but it was no go. They simply can't beat the squib-tastic 2000 Buffalo Bills.

Players

Tom Brady ends the year with the fifth-highest passing DYAR in NFL history (2,141 DYAR) and the fourth-highest DVOA for a quarterback with more than 100 passes (53.4%). The top six DYAR seasons all belong to Brady (2007, 2009, and 2010) and Peyton Manning (2004, 2006, and 2009). Boomer Esiason's ridiculous 1997 actually sneaks into the Brady-Manning stratosphere for top DVOA seasons. Manning finishes second this year with 1,674 DYAR, a total that was topped by six different quarterbacks a year ago.

For the second straight year, Brady gets a nice bump from opponent adjustments, although he would be number one either way and the bump isn't as large as the one he got in 2009.

Rookie Jimmy Clausen, at -607 DYAR, is the clear winner for the title of "worst starting quarterback of 2010," but that total barely makes the all-time worst 20 quarterback seasons. Michael Vick's 210 rushing DYAR finishes as the third most valuable quarterback rushing season in DYAR behind Vick in 2006 and Vick in 2004.

Jamaal Charles narrowly passes Marshall Faulk to set the all-time record for rushing DVOA by a running back with a minimum of 100 carries. Charles finishes with 35.8% DVOA. Faulk had 35.0% DVOA in 2000, the year the Rams defense broke down and Kurt Warner only started 11 games (although Trent Green was pretty good as his backup). Only one other running back had 30% DVOA or higher in a year with at least 150 carries: Priest Holmes with 31.1% DVOA in 2002. Charles doesn't make it near the top of the DYAR lists, however, because of the Kansas City committee setup. Thomas Jones has -90 DYAR, ranking him next to last, ahead of only Chester Taylor. You can't just find this kind of quality running back management anywhere, you know.

Mike Wallace ends the year as the DYAR leader among wide receivers. Steve Smith actually finishes dead last in DYAR, and it is hard to use "the quarterbacks were awful" as an excuse given how good he was in 2005, when the Panthers had Jake Delhomme and no other receivers and forced the ball to Smith non-stop. Neither player comes anywhere near the all-time best and worst in DYAR, although Wallace's 48.6% DVOA is the fourth-highest for a wide receiver with at least 50 passes. Oakland rookie Jacoby Ford has 110 DYAR rushing, which tentatively sets a record for wide receivers who don't take snaps from a Wildcat or option package. However, it is possible we'll change some of those from rushing to passing in the next couple weeks if it turns out they were slightly-backwards wide receiver screens.

I explored Antonio Gates' astonishing record-breaking season in an Extra Point commentary a couple weeks ago. Gates didn't play another game after that, so he ends up establishing a new tight end DYAR record in just 10 games. I could probably learn five or six languages and still not have enough adjectives to talk about how awesome Antonio Gates is. Jermichael Finley also finishes in the all-time top five for DVOA by tight ends with at least 25 passes -- barely qualifying with 26 passes in an excellent partial season. Daniel Graham of the Broncos is dead last this year with -133 DYAR, the third-lowest tight end total in history behind Boo Williams in 2004 and Keith Cash in 1996. Graham had a catch rate of 49 percent, and tight ends shouldn't have catch rates below 50 percent. Ever.

All team and individual stats pages should be updated in the next few minutes. FO Premium is already updated with final 2010 ratings. We'll get all the 2010 stats onto the player pages sometime in the next couple weeks, as well as updated similarity scores based on 2008-2010 rather than 2007-2009. Loser League results will be announced in Scramble for the Ball on Wednesday.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through the end of the 2010 regular season, 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.)

Please note that ratings may change in the future as we get a chance to incorporate stat changes from throughout the season.

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. WEIGHTED DVOA is adjusted so that earlier games in the season become gradually less important. It better reflects how well the team is playing right now. LAST WEEK represents rank after Week 16, while LAST YEAR represents rank in 2009.

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
W-L LAST
WEEK
LAST
YEAR
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NE 44.7% 14-2 1 3 54.0% 1 46.1% 1 5.5% 19 4.1% 8
2 PIT 37.3% 12-4 2 10 40.0% 2 17.9% 5 -18.5% 1 0.9% 16
3 GB 23.3% 10-6 5 2 25.2% 4 14.7% 7 -10.8% 2 -2.2% 27
4 BAL 23.0% 12-4 3 1 27.8% 3 9.4% 12 -7.9% 4 5.6% 4
5 PHI 22.0% 10-6 4 4 21.4% 6 21.3% 3 1.4% 14 2.1% 13
6 NYJ 18.7% 11-5 10 9 14.9% 7 5.6% 16 -7.8% 6 5.3% 5
7 SD 17.6% 9-7 6 11 21.5% 5 19.3% 4 -6.4% 7 -8.1% 32
8 ATL 15.9% 13-3 7 18 13.5% 9 10.9% 10 1.3% 12 6.3% 2
9 NYG 14.5% 10-6 8 17 11.6% 10 11.4% 9 -8.1% 3 -5.0% 30
10 NO 11.0% 11-5 9 6 13.6% 8 9.7% 11 -2.6% 9 -1.3% 22
11 TEN 8.0% 6-10 11 22 1.1% 17 -0.7% 20 -4.1% 8 4.6% 6
12 TB 4.2% 10-6 17 27 9.4% 14 11.5% 8 6.9% 23 -0.4% 18
13 HOU 4.0% 6-10 18 15 9.8% 13 26.0% 2 20.9% 31 -1.2% 21
14 MIA 3.8% 7-9 12 16 2.3% 15 4.6% 18 -1.9% 10 -2.7% 29
15 IND 3.0% 10-6 14 8 -1.0% 18 16.6% 6 8.2% 24 -5.3% 31
16 CHI 3.0% 11-5 15 25 11.5% 11 -12.0% 28 -7.8% 5 7.2% 1
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L LAST
WEEK
LAST
YEAR
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 KC 0.1% 10-6 13 28 -11.3% 25 7.8% 13 6.1% 21 -1.6% 25
18 DET -1.4% 6-10 19 32 1.5% 16 2.9% 19 6.6% 22 2.3% 11
19 CIN -2.4% 4-12 20 19 -5.5% 21 5.0% 17 4.7% 18 -2.6% 28
20 CLE -3.3% 5-11 16 26 -6.2% 22 -1.4% 22 4.1% 17 2.2% 12
21 OAK -3.6% 8-8 22 30 11.1% 12 -4.5% 23 1.5% 15 2.4% 10
22 JAC -8.9% 8-8 21 23 -4.6% 19 7.7% 14 21.2% 32 4.5% 7
23 DAL -9.8% 6-10 24 5 -9.6% 23 -0.8% 21 10.0% 27 0.9% 15
24 SF -10.0% 6-10 26 20 -4.8% 20 -7.3% 24 1.4% 13 -1.3% 23
25 MIN -13.6% 6-10 23 7 -17.2% 28 -11.8% 27 0.9% 11 -1.0% 20
26 DEN -15.0% 4-12 28 12 -10.6% 24 6.2% 15 19.6% 30 -1.6% 24
27 WAS -18.3% 6-10 29 21 -23.1% 29 -7.5% 25 9.2% 26 -1.7% 26
28 BUF -19.4% 4-12 25 24 -16.2% 27 -9.3% 26 10.2% 28 0.2% 17
29 STL -20.0% 7-9 27 31 -15.9% 26 -15.2% 30 5.9% 20 1.1% 14
30 SEA -23.6% 7-9 30 29 -31.7% 31 -14.3% 29 15.0% 29 5.8% 3
31 CAR -34.3% 2-14 32 14 -31.5% 30 -31.9% 32 1.8% 16 -0.6% 19
32 ARI -36.2% 5-11 31 13 -34.7% 32 -31.3% 31 8.3% 25 3.4% 9
  • 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.
  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA does not include the adjustments for opponent strength or the adjustments for weather and altitude in special teams, and only penalizes offenses for lost fumbles rather than all fumbles.
  • 2010 SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative).
  • PYTHAGOREAN WINS represent a projection of the team's expected wins based solely on points scored and allowed.
  • 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 2010
SCHED
RANK PYTH
WINS
RANK VAR. RANK
1 NE 44.7% 14-2 39.9% 14.1 1 5.8% 7 12.3 1 18.6% 17
2 PIT 37.3% 12-4 34.0% 12.3 2 5.2% 8 12.1 3 13.9% 12
3 GB 23.3% 10-6 22.8% 10.9 4 2.4% 16 12.1 2 15.3% 15
4 BAL 23.0% 12-4 15.8% 11.5 3 6.1% 6 10.6 6 5.1% 2
5 PHI 22.0% 10-6 22.9% 10.8 5 -0.3% 20 9.4 10 9.3% 6
6 NYJ 18.7% 11-5 18.9% 9.8 8 7.1% 5 9.8 8 23.9% 28
7 SD 17.6% 9-7 23.1% 9.7 10 -4.9% 26 10.9 5 23.2% 26
8 ATL 15.9% 13-3 17.9% 10.5 6 -1.8% 22 11.2 4 4.9% 1
9 NYG 14.5% 10-6 17.0% 10.2 7 -3.3% 24 10.1 7 22.6% 24
10 NO 11.0% 11-5 15.2% 9.8 9 -5.4% 27 9.2 11 10.9% 8
11 TEN 8.0% 6-10 5.0% 8.9 12 2.8% 14 8.5 16 20.4% 21
12 TB 4.2% 10-6 8.5% 8.6 14 -4.4% 25 8.7 15 14.7% 14
13 HOU 4.0% 6-10 3.3% 8.2 16 3.3% 13 7.1 18 18.5% 16
14 MIA 3.8% 7-9 -0.8% 9.0 11 9.9% 3 6.2 23 13.8% 11
15 IND 3.0% 10-6 3.4% 8.8 13 3.5% 11 9.1 13 7.4% 3
16 CHI 3.0% 11-5 0.3% 8.3 15 0.9% 18 9.5 9 25.4% 30
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK 2010
SCHED
RANK PYTH
WINS
RANK VAR. RANK
17 KC 0.1% 10-6 7.3% 8.0 17 -6.8% 28 9.1 12 22.8% 25
18 DET -1.4% 6-10 -2.5% 7.8 18 4.1% 10 7.8 17 9.0% 5
19 CIN -2.4% 4-12 -12.0% 7.3 20 11.2% 2 6.1 25 12.0% 10
20 CLE -3.3% 5-11 -6.5% 7.5 19 9.5% 4 6.1 24 19.4% 18
21 OAK -3.6% 8-8 2.2% 7.0 22 -2.3% 23 8.9 14 33.9% 32
22 JAC -8.9% 8-8 -7.9% 6.7 25 0.9% 19 6.4 22 19.9% 20
23 DAL -9.8% 6-10 -9.0% 6.8 23 1.8% 17 7.0 19 22.3% 23
24 SF -10.0% 6-10 -4.0% 7.1 21 -7.4% 29 6.8 20 24.4% 29
25 MIN -13.6% 6-10 -16.9% 6.7 24 5.0% 9 6.0 26 14.0% 13
26 DEN -15.0% 4-12 -13.9% 6.2 27 -0.9% 21 5.2 29 20.6% 22
27 WAS -18.3% 6-10 -19.0% 5.9 28 3.4% 12 5.9 27 8.9% 4
28 BUF -19.4% 4-12 -27.9% 5.7 30 12.0% 1 4.4 31 19.6% 19
29 STL -20.0% 7-9 -11.4% 5.8 29 -10.2% 32 6.8 21 11.5% 9
30 SEA -23.6% 7-9 -22.8% 6.2 26 -7.4% 30 5.5 28 28.6% 31
31 CAR -34.3% 2-14 -37.7% 3.9 31 2.8% 15 2.4 32 9.5% 7
32 ARI -36.2% 5-11 -27.1% 3.7 32 -8.4% 31 4.4 30 23.6% 27

(Note: Although this post is titled "Final DVOA Ratings," unofficial postseason ratings will continue each Monday through the playoffs.)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 03 Jan 2011

202 comments, Last at 15 Jan 2011, 12:27am by otbricki22

Comments

1
by ChicagoRaider :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:02pm

Another week when Oakland beats a significantly higher ranked team, and the higher ranked team drops significantly, but Oakland doesn't rise significantly. Are you sure there isn't a hold-Oakland-down subroutine?

6
by FireOmarTomlin :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:23pm

look at the delta in weighted DVOA from week 16 to this week.

-------------------------------
Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

10
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:36pm

Another crazy Oakland tidbit. First team to win all their divisional games and not make the playoffs.

So you have a 7-9 team hosting a playoff game, and you have a team that went 6-0 in it's division and didn't make the playoffs. I'm not sure that says there is a real problem, but I do find it interesting.

11
by DavidL :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:41pm

The Oakland thing isn't any kind of systemic problem, just a curiosity; they have no one to blame for winning all of two non-division games but themselves. The Seahawks hosting the Saints is a bit more of an issue, yes, although fixing it without devaluing the divisional system is trickier than many people seem to think.

36
by luvrhino :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:15pm

Moreover, Oakland was 2-2 vs. the NFC West, so they have no room to complain.

They simply had a silly season, as indicated by their 32nd rank in variance.

38
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:17pm

All they had to do was beat the 49ers and Cardinals, and they're in the playoffs. Talk about not taking advantage of your schedule. Losing to the Cardinals is really unforgivable.

153
by Whatev :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 8:04pm

Sure, but the Chargers also went 2-2 against the NFC West, so what can one say?

17
by Jonadan :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:08pm

Well, the Seabirds used to play in the AFC West, so we can do a switcheroo and import the Raiders into the NFC West to take their spot for the postseason, right? I mean, we're still leaving out the Giants and Bucs, but excuses to include them aren't coming to mind.

34
by Dave0 :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:09pm

sure, only you'd do it with the chargers

100
by ChicagoRaider :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:41am

Actually, someone predicted that the Raiders would be better than the entire NFC West. According to W-L record and DVOA, that is true.

39
by Theo :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:20pm

how about the rams sweeping the division next year, going 6-10.

57
by Dan :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 10:36pm

Oakland's DVOA rose 4.0%, from -7.6% last week to -3.6% this week. KC's DVOA fell 3.8%, from 3.9% to 0.1%. There just happened to be a clump of teams by KC for them to pass on the way down (IND, CHI, TB, HOU), and no clump for Oakland too pass on the way up (just JAC).

78
by TotC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 6:52am

Yeah, it's called Al Davis.

2
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:17pm

"Graham had a catch rate of 49 percent, and tight ends shouldn't have catch rates below 50 percent. Ever."

Nice to see that ol' "Hands of Stone" Graham is doing what he does best... drop passes. The only passes he could ever catch for the Pats were when he was standing still, usually on a comeback of similar route. It's like his brain couldn't process catching the ball and moving his feet/head at the same time.

22
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:23pm

Funny, I had the exact opposite memory. Graham, like Watson, struggled with the easy ones but the harder ones where you don't have time to psych yourself out were usually caught. Anecdotally, I point to the 2003 Houston game where Dan made two incredible catches, including one for the tying score.

28
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:43pm

Eh, maybe my memory is fuzzy. At least we can agree that he certainly had a strong case of the dropsies.

3
by alexbond :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:18pm

The 2004 Rams beat the Seahawks in the playoff game mentioned so I wouldn't be too quick to tout that as the NFC West not sucking.

4
by langsty :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:19pm

"Steve Smith actually finishes dead last in DYAR, and it is hard to use "the quarterbacks were awful" as an excuse given how good he was in 2005, when the Panthers had Jake Delhomme and no other receivers and forced the ball to Smith non-stop. "

Delhomme was actually pretty good in 2005, so this makes zero sense.

23
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:25pm

That was their point. Smith was good in 2005 and bad in 2010 with lousy QBing as the consistent factor, thereby eliminating lousy QBing from consideration as to why Smith's 2010 was bad.

25
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:35pm

You didn't read that right. He said Delhomme was not lousy in 2005. Quick look at the stats show he was the 11th ranked QB by DYAR, so at the top end of "league average"* (14th in DVOA, again just a bit above average). So no that wasn't their point. Smith was great in 2005 with a slightly above average QB and bad in 2010 with a horrible QB. They did not eliminate bad QB from the equation at all.

*While bracketing based on ordinal rankings is somewhat meaningless I do kinda lump things as follows.

1-4 : Elite
5-8 : Good
9-12 : Above Average
13-18 : Average
19-22 : Below Average
23-26 : Bad
27-32 : Awful

49
by B :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:40pm

I'd say the only reason Delhomme was good in 2005 is Steve Smith, not the other way around. I'd reckon that his DVOA not throwing to receivers named Steve Smith would be awful.

60
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 11:21pm

Agreed. I'm still pretty sure I got the gist of the comment correct.

5
by Anonymous Dave (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:22pm

Dallas won the NFC East in 1998, not Arizona (10-6 vs. 9-7). I know, easy to forget given what happened in their playoff game, but still...

12
by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:47pm

Whoops. My error.

7
by Jerry :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:24pm

Where did the Steelers' DVOA yesterday rank among single games this tear? It's what dragged the team into the top ten.

42
by luvrhino :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:23pm

They were at 33.5% after Week 16, which probably would have had them 10th (virtual tie for 8th). Yesterday's bumped them to 6th.

Of course, all these require caveats based on how interested these elite teams and their opponents were in playing in Week 17.

8
by AnonymousD (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:25pm

"The Seahawks do pass the 1998 Cardinals as the worst division winner in DVOA history."

Dallas won the NFC East in 1998. As you mentioned later on, Arizona won a playoff game. It was against the Cowboys. Jake Plummer and Adrian Murrell still make me want to puke.

9
by AnonymousD (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:27pm

Oops, looks like Dave beat me to it.

13
by Bjorn Nittmo (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:53pm

I'm a general believer in DVOA, certainly over observer recollection and anecdote, but not seeing the '94 Niners, '99 Rams, or '98 Vikings among the top 10 offenses of the DVOA era make me question its validity. Each of those teams had virtually unstoppable offenses. (Yes, I know the '94 Niners scored 8 points in a game against Philly and the Rams struggled to score in the NFC championship game, but this year's Patriots had similar mulligans.)

15
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:03pm

I think the problem is that DVOA doesn't have a moving baseline for "average." The '94 9ers and '99 Rams are being compared to teams from after rule changes to make passing easier. The median offense by DVOA has moved from -2.8% in 1994 to 5.3% in 2010.

Although the '94 9ers were not very good at running by DVOA (ranked 11th), their passing DVOA is up there as top 10 all time.

194
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 2:12pm

Agreed. It is really no surprise that 6 of the top 10 offenses have been in the last 6 years.

The NFL has been slowly and steadily crippling defenses in order to get higher scores/bigger plays/better ratings.

195
by Eddo :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 4:37pm

If only that were true. Points scored per game has not increased significantly in the last decade(*).

A more accurate statement would be "The NFL has been slowly and steadily making the game less advantageous for defense. As players get stronger and faster, that naturally benefits defenses, since it effectively makes the field smaller. Therefore, it makes sense to implement rules that make it harder for the defense.

(*) From Pro-Football-Reference:

Mean points-per-game-per-team, since the merger:
1970: 19.3
1971: 19.4
1972: 20.3
1973: 19.5
1974: 18.2
1975: 20.6
1976: 19.2
1977: 17.2
1978: 18.3
1979: 20.1
1980: 20.5
1981: 20.7
1982: 20.2
1983: 21.8
1984: 21.2
1985: 21.5
1986: 20.5
1987: 21.6
1988: 20.3
1989: 20.6
1990: 20.1
1991: 19.0
1992: 18.7
1993: 18.7
1994: 20.3
1995: 21.5
1996: 20.4
1997: 20.7
1998: 21.3
1999: 20.8
2000: 20.7
2001: 20.2
2002: 21.7
2003: 20.8
2004: 21.5
2005: 20.6
2006: 20.7
2007: 21.7
2008: 22.0
2009: 21.5
2010: 22.0

196
by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 4:40pm

PTS/Game is probably good enough, but a better breakdown would be of points scored by OFF only. Good luck locating that easily.

"The NFL has been slowly and steadily making the game less advantageous for defense. As players get stronger and faster, that naturally benefits defenses, since it effectively makes the field smaller. Therefore, it makes sense to implement rules that make it harder for the defense."

Awesome point.

197
by tuluse :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 4:58pm

There is another point, the rules have only been changed to make passing easier, not running.

On the other hand, pts/game is not the best measure of offensive prowess. More offense could mean longer drives of shorter plays that lead to the same scoring, but a team can control the ball for multiple 10 play drives.

199
by Eddo :: Mon, 01/10/2011 - 4:05pm

Thanks, DeltaWhiskey and tuluse. You're correct that points per game is not the best way to measure offense; however, I was somewhat responding to the other poster's claim that the NFL wanted "higher scores", so I'll let myself off the hook somewhat.

On a side note, when I was digging out those numbers, I found another person who posted that return touchdowns per game has increased over the years, which would mean that offenses score less these days. I wasn't able to corroborate that info, though.

16
by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:05pm

All four of those teams (including this year's Pats) scored somewhere between 505 and 556 points. Now look at turnovers.

1994 49ers: 24
1998 Vikings: 20
1999 Rams: 31
2010 Patriots: 9

48
by Lyford (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:37pm

Actually, the Patriots had one yesterday, so they finished with 10. (The point holds, of course, but someone had to say it...)

53
by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 10:00pm

Hmm. Apparently ESPN needs to update their takeaways/giveaways page.

54
by Waverly :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 10:08pm

Brady's last interception was on a Hail Mary pass, if I recall correctly.

I believe that interceptions on Hail Mary passes are treated as incompletions in DVOA statistics. An interception in such a circumstance has exactly the same effect as an incompletion, since the play failed and there is no play afterwards.

But I don't see any mention of this in the DVOA explanatory pages.

59
by dedkrikit :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 11:10pm

Obviously, turnovers are bad but doesn't having more mean that those offenses were that much MORE potent to be able to put up such scores with fewer opportunities?

An incomplete pass (in most cases) still allows more attempts to gain yards, etc.

67
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:55am

You're missing the point. Turnovers don't just end drives, they give your opponents great field position.

And more turnovers also doesn't mean fewer opportunities:

1998 Vikings: 175 drives
1999 Rams: 182 drives
2010 Patriots: 147 drives

(We don't have drive stats for 1994.)

The Vikings and Rams (and presumably the 49ers) would occasionally turn the ball over, then their opponents would score, then they would get the ball back and usually score themselves. This year's Patriots don't turn the ball over. They go on long slow drives that eat up clock, that usually put the ball in the end zone, or at least they get to punt and pin their opponents deep. But they almost never put their own defense in a bad position.

193
by Vicious Chicken Of Bristol (not verified) :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 2:08pm

"Turnovers don't just end drives, they give your opponents great field position."

That is a gross generalization. Not all interceptions lead to great field position.

Some interceptions, say on 4th down, actually end up giving you worse field position (i.e. would have been better off letting the ball hit the ground).

Some interceptions/fumbles leave you with terrible field position (i.e. a defender catches the ball/recovers a fumble on his own 2 yard line and is immediately down by contact).

198
by AudacityOfHoops :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 5:01pm

Congratulations on successfully arguing against something nobody believes.

On average, a turnover gives your opponent better field position than they would have had without the turnover.

14
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 7:58pm

So at the season's conclusion, Chicago looks pretty good and about equal to the NFC South contestants.

I also think there is a good chance that DVOA underrates the effect of really good or poor special teams. Seattle, Chicago, and Atlanta all rode a special teams advantage into extra wins that meant winning their division, while the Giants and Chargers are sitting at home with huge holes in their special teams. The Colts were the only team able to over come terrible special teams to make the playoffs, and they have Peyton Manning and a great deal of luck (or rather a great deal of bad luck for their divisional rivals).

I also find it interesting that San Francisco ends up with the highest DVOA in their division. They were by far the consensus pick to be the best team from the west, and they were. Just couldn't translate it into wins.

18
by tally :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:12pm

That's a bit of outcome bias, though. Special teams can produce big swings one way or another, but if those specific plays are not exactly repeatable and instead reflective of luck (the same thing you cite the Colts as having used to overcome bad ST play), then incorporating them doesn't improve the predictability of the model, which is what I think DVOA is trying to do.

If you want more descriptive stats that incorporate high leverage ST play, then something like win probability added would be a more apt measure, but that's less predictive.

21
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:22pm

That's true, it could be similar to fumbles recovered, where it has a huge impact, but isn't repeatable.

On the other hand, Chicago has had excellent special teams for 5 years in a row now (and the Bills had an excellent streak before firing their coach who's name I can't recall now), and Indy has been terrible at special teams for like 10 years. So might be more repeatable than DVOA is giving it credit for.

I'm also not sure DVOA is measuring returns correctly. It was designed as a play-by-play system with down and distance being the most important thing, but returning is all field position. Without knowing how it works, I could see them undervaluing a play which is essentially a zero down play, and doesn't affect getting another first down.

116
by tally :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:10pm

Except that DVOA does acknowledge Chicago's great special teams, particularly in kick returns, so it's not as if it isn't capturing that aspect of the game and at least as accurately as conventional statistics. In fact, far more so, because it does adjust for conditions like weather.

On the other hand, SD's special teams has been progressively worse according to DVOA during that same period of time. Watching their games, I've had the same observation and suspect this is due to their loss of depth overall, and DVOA appears to confirm this.

From what I remember of how DVOA calculates special teams play, it is based on field position and something like expected points added, not on first down probability like offense and defense.

It's not as if DVOA is giving no credit to ST play.

120
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:33pm

I didn't say DVOA wasn't giving ST any credit, I just think at the extreme edges, it isn't doing the job right. Only one team with ST DVOA worse than -5% made the playoffs, Indianapolis, and no team with ST better than 5% missed the playoffs*. This makes me think that a 5% change in special teams makes a team more than 5% better.

Jacksonville and Tennessee just miss this cutoff with 4.5% and 4.6% respectively, although if this was on some kind of exponential scale, those differences would be bigger.

I'm aware they calculate ST differently, but I'm saying I'm not convinced they did so in the right way. Is going from added 1 expected point from returning to 1.5 points a 50% improvement or more?

Also, they undervalued ST a lot in the past, during the 2006 season they had to add a component for where a kick return started, in the past they were just measuring the length of the return.

174
by AudacityOfHoops :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 2:38pm

Give me a break. I have no opinion on whether ST is being over/undervalued, but your "evidence" is ridiculous.

"Only one team with ST DVOA worse than -5% made the playoffs"

Yes, and the the other 2 finished 9-7 and 10-6. So the worst 3 special teams units all had winning records. Seems special teams are getting the right amount of credit - not much.

Or, to go historically, over the previous 5 years (not including 2010), nearly half the teams (3 out of 7) with a STDVOA less than -5% made the playoffs. Include this year, and it's 4 of 10.

"no team with ST better than 5% missed the playoffs"

One of those being Seattle, at 7-9.

Over the previous 5 years (again, not including 2010), only 1 of 9 teams with a STDVOA over +5% made the playoffs. Include 2010, and it's 4 of 12.

Either way, the odds of a terrible STDVOA team making the playoffs has been better than the odds of a great STDVOA team making the playoffs recently. Not exactly evidence that that special teams are being undervalued.

175
by tuluse :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 3:31pm

It was just a thought, so no I will not give you a break. Special teams seems to have advanced several teams over higher rated total DVOA teams this year. It would be interesting to look over historical data, but I'm quite lazy. One year is certainly not a good sample size, and even over the past 5 years it only gives you 10 teams with STDVOA under -5%, plus there is so much noise. Lots of teams could be excellent in other areas to make up for poor special teams (I'm thinking of the Colts here).

177
by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 5:19pm

Here are my problems w/ STDVOA:
1. It measures both "offense" and "defense" simultaneously (i.e. FGs are an offensive act, a punts/kick are defensive).
2. The metric is unclear to me. I sort of understand success points, but I don't get how success points are awarded to ST.

179
by tuluse :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 7:02pm

That's a good point, it would be nice to see special teams separated more. Also, field goal kicking is a special-special teams as it's basically just the kicker against himself (and the wind). Kickoffs and punts both feature returning, so they're a little more normal.

Looking a little more closely at the special teams page, I see that punting and kickoffs are not represented as lower is better like defense is, and none of the factors are listed as a DVOA, but as total points above average. That seems odd.

181
by Jerry :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 7:38pm

The metric is scoreboard points above average. For field goals and extra points, it's the value of the kick (3,1 or 0 points) minus the expected value of that kick. For punts and kickoffs, it's the point value of the resulting field position minus the expected value from where the kick was taken or return was started.

182
by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 10:09am

Here are the DVOA correlations with wins:

TOTDVOA 0.854
OFFDVOA 0.658
DEFDVOA -0.512
S.T.DVOA 0.239

Here are the R-square values for the correlations:

TOTDVOA 0.730
OFFDVOA 0.433
DEFDVOA 0.262
S.T.DVOA 0.057

The Sum of the R-squares of OFFDVOA, DEFDVOA, and S.T.DVOA = 0.752.

This suggests to me that the calculations for TOTDVOA are pretty close to correct, and if you take 1/2 of the S.T.DVOA and add it to OFFDVOA and DEFDVOA you get 0.723.

184
by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 1:26pm

Forgive the double post, I hastily gathered the above data and posted before moving on. I've had some time to reflect and now can elaborate. The data set analyzed is 1994-2008.

The TOTDVOA R-square (which is the square of the TOTDVOA correlation) indicates that TOTDVOA explains approximately 73% of the variance in WINS. Similarly, the R-Squares for each of the other DVOA's reflects the amount of variance they account for in WINS. So, the SUM of the R-squares for OFF/DEF/S.T. DVOA = 0.752, which is virtually identical to the TOTDVOA of 0.730. This suggests to me that historically the calculation method for TOTDVOA is appropriate. The question remains as to whether or not the method for determining STDVOA is correct, as it only accounts of about 6% of the variance in wins. If I were going to tweak DVOA, this is an area I would look into.

2010 Correlations with WINS and R-square

TOTDVOA
r = 0.8134
R-square = 0.6616

OFFDVOA
r = 0.6381
R-square = 0.4072

DEFDVOA
r = -0.4820
R-square = 0.2323

STDVOA
r = 0.2246
R-square = 0.0505

186
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 3:22pm

Thanks for doing this work.

Now correct me here if I'm doing something stupid. According to FO research offense and defense are both 3/7 of the game, and special teams is 1/7. Does that mean that offense and defense should each account for ~43% of the variance in wins? If so that means they're measuring offense almost perfectly. Again if this assumption is correct defensive DVOA is accounting for about 54% of what is should, and special teams is accounting for only 35% of what it should.

I guess it just possible that 2/3 of special teams is random events which aren't predictive.

188
by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 4:06pm

First, when I apply that formula (3/7OFFDVOA-3/7DEFDVOA+STDVOA), I can't get it add up to TOTDVOA; however, when I sum (OFFDVOA-DEFDVOA+STDVOA) it comes pretty damn close to TOTDVOA, so I don't know if those weightings are correct or if I'm missing something in what appears to be simple math.

The R-sqare of TOTDVOA means that TOTDVOA correctly measures about 66% of what "it" takes to win. 34% remains unaccounted for. Similarly for OFF/DEF/STDVOA. Because the individual (OFF/DEF/ST) DVOA R-squares sum to the TOTDVOA R-square, I think they've got the formula close to right.

So what I think we can say is that winning is 40% OFFDVOA, 23% DEFDVOA, and 5% STDVOA. The remaining 32 to 34 percent is either random factors (luck) or factors that DVOA either isn't measuring yet or isn't measuring correctly. The key question to be answered is how much is left to measure and how much is random. Brian Burke has suggested up to 42% or a teams record is random http://www.advancednflstats.com/2010/11/randomness-of-win-loss-records.h... , which if correct, suggests that DVOA may be at it's upper limits.

189
by tuluse :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 4:20pm

The formula is already built into DVOA, so you can just sum them to get total DVOA.

My point was that according to FO, winning is 3/7 (~43%) offense, 3/7 defense, and 1/7 (~14%) special teams. Including any random occurrences into whichever unit was on the field.

So, if there was no luck in football, and DVOA measured it perfectly, would you expect R-squared to equal those values? If so there is work to be done on defense and special teams, that or those units are just far more luck dependent than offense.

190
by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 4:47pm

If so there is work to be done on defense and special teams, that or those units are just far more luck dependent than offense.

Or less predictive, which if I understand right isn't the same thing.

I could certainly see that being the case; defense, more than anything else, seems pretty opponent-dependent. If your defense's only weakness is defending tight ends, for instance, and you play the Chargers, Patriots, Falcons, and Colts (with Dallas Clark) in successive weeks your pass defense DVOA may well look horrible even though everything else about your defense could be good. On offense, you can gameplan away from your weakness; on defense, your opponent will gameplan AT your weakness (but only if they have the players to exploit it successfully).

191
by MJK :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 6:45pm

Aaron clarified this issue a while back.

The DVOA formulas are apparently set up so that you can just add the three together to get the total DVOA.

The 3/7 - 3/7 - 1/7 comes from the fact that offensive DVOA's and devensive DVOA's generally range for most teams between +30% and -30%, but special teams DVOA ranges from +10% to -10%. So if your special Teams DVOA is +10%, you have really fantastic special teams, but if your offensive DVOA is +10%, your offense is just a little bit above average.

Or, in other words, having awful special teams is only about one third as important as having an awful offense or defense would be. Hence 3 + 3 + 1, normalized.

192
by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 10:18am

Thanks, I must have missed that or it didn't register when I read it, or....

Anyhow, I would assume that "generally range between" means on average they're between +30% and -30%. There's a problem with this breakdown - it oversimplifies the data and is wrong. Below are the MEANS and SD for DVOAs from 1994 to 2008 (this is the database I have right now, I need to update eventually).

TOTDVOA
MEAN 0.50%
SD 18.66%

OFFDVOA
MEAN -1.32%
SD 14.45%

DEFDVOA
MEAN -1.74%
SD 10.96%

STDVOA
MEAN 0.08%
SD 3.46%

How you define "average" (or generally) is going to determine what the range is. For if we're consistent with my earlier postings of AVG being +/- 0.5 SD from the mean, then OFF typically ranges from 5.90% to -8.55%. If we use the standard statistical understanding of average as meaning within +/-2 SD of the mean, then the range is 27.57% to -30.22%, which is consistent with Aaron's assertion; however this clearly not going to be the case for DEFDVOA and for STDVOA the range is 7.01% to -6.84%.

tuluse:
"The formula is already built into DVOA, so you can just sum them to get total DVOA."

That's what I thought.

"My point was that according to FO, winning is 3/7 (~43%) offense, 3/7 defense, and 1/7 (~14%) special teams. Including any random occurrences into whichever unit was on the field.

So, if there was no luck in football, and DVOA measured it perfectly, would you expect R-squared to equal those values? If so there is work to be done on defense and special teams, that or those units are just far more luck dependent than offense."

I think, the above sort of addresses this. If there were no luck (randomness) in football, then we're at a point where DVOA measures 66% of what is going on in WINS. That would suggest then, that there is work to be done to account for the other 34% of what is going on; however, the question would be, can DVOA capture this, or perhaps there other factors such as OFFICIATINGDVOA, WEATHERDVOA, etc. that must be accounted for. The holy grail may not be to tinker with DVOA to capture these other factors withing the DVOA umbrella, but to identify them and model them in such a manner that when combined with DVOA a greater percentage of variance is explained. I believe DVOA may be pretty well maxed out and in fact I suspect that the inclusion of penalties such as false start may have been an error on Aaron's part and instead a separate penalty variable may be warranted.

For example, the simple ratio of points to yards is roughly 0.07, so a 15 yard penalty is roughly worth one point (1.05). Combining all the penalties in DVOA may not increase DVOA's correlation with wins as Aaron purports; however, OAK was penalized 1,276 yds this season for an average of 79.75 yds per game yielding an average of 5.58 potential points "lost." This is obviously a crude measure and could be better refined. FWIW the correlation between points and WINS is 0.734, not as robust as DVOA but not shabby either.

183
by ammek :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 11:17am

I find the Weather numbers totally counterintuitive, too. The adjustments are supposedly for "cold/warm weather, altitude and domes", yet this year's #1 is Buffalo, which played 14 times outdoors, plus the final pre-snowcrash game in Minnesota's dome, and once in Toronto. In the second half of the season, it played six games outdoors in the northeast/midwest, plus one in Miami and one in Minnesota. How can this be the most advantageous weather in the NFL?

Just as weird: the Giants are #3 and the Jets #29, even though they play half a season in the same stadium. Seven of the Giants' last eight games were outdoors in either the northeast or Green Bay. For FO, this is less advantageous weather than Atlanta's (#20) although the Falcons played six of their last eight in domes, and the other two in Charlotte and Tampa.

185
by AudacityOfHoops :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 2:44pm

I imagine it has to do with the fact that the weather affects both teams. So, Buffalo AND their opponents both had to kick in the crappy weather. If the other team had more field goal attempts, kickoffs, and punts, then they suffered more from the weather. I'll look it up...

FIELD GOAL ATTEMPTS
opponents: 39 (3rd most) [made 29 ... Only ARI opp's missed more (40/51)]
Buffalo: 21 (2nd fewest) [made 16]
NET: -18

KICKOFFS (calculating kickoffs as [TD + FG + 16], which ignores OT KO's & walkoff scores)
opponents: 91 (3rd most)
Buffalo: 66 (2nd fewest)
NET: -25

PUNTS
opponents: 71 (10th fewest)
Buffalo: 75 (13th fewest)
NET +4

So, Buffalo's opponents had 201 kicks of some type affected by weather, compared to only 162 kicks by Buffalo. I'd say that's why Buffalo gets a positive weather adjustment - both the Bills and their opponents had negative weather adjustments, but the net effect for Buffalo was positive because they put foot to ball so many fewer times than their foes.

187
by ammek :: Thu, 01/06/2011 - 4:02pm

I didn't think of that. Good point.

180
by AudacityOfHoops :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 7:31pm

I'm sorry my tone was so antagonistic there. I was letting real life grumpiness seep into my comment here. My point was just pretty much what you got at here - one year (6 teams?) is a tiny, tiny, sample. And DVOA is already saying that special teams were HUGE factors for:

CHI (ST as valuable as DEF)
ATL (ST 60% as valuable as OFF, 4x as far from 0 as DEF)
SD (more negative than their 7th-ranked DEF is positive)
NYG (30th ranked ST has negative value erasing ~60% of value of 3rd ranked DEF)

32
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:05pm

Not sure about the Colts' luck--I know you are referring to a weak division--but IRing the most players (tied with GB) and losing all but one starter in the defensive secondary is not what I consider luck.... The only healthy unit all year has been the DL (ironic, considering how Freeney's ankle injury affected the outcome of the SB last year) and, of course, Manning. starting street FAs at WR, LB, and S is not luck. Well, not the kind you want....

35
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:15pm

Sorry, I wasn't clear. I mean the division had bad luck in terms of winning games they probably should have. If the Jags win their last two games, which was probably 50/50, they're in and there is nothing Indy can do about it.

50
by John (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:45pm

I'm reasonably certain that once the Colts beat the Jags, the Colts controlled their own destiny, so the Jags winning their last two games wouldn't have impacted the Colts at all (other than perhaps adding more stress to the Titans game; who knows what might have happened then?).

51
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:49pm

You might be right. However, it doesn't strongly change the overall point that the other teams had bad luck.

Hell, look at the Texans finishing with higher DVOA than the Colts. Although that may overrate them as sometimes teams would choose not to throw passes at their secondary.

62
by Mr Shush :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 11:58pm

The Colts were actually 3rd in their division per DVOA - the Titans were better than the Texans.

I'm not sure DVOA or any other metric can truly process the mind-numbing ability of the 2010 Texans to throw away games, most often thanks to the pass defense (the Hail Mary play, letting Mark Sanchez drive the length of the field in about 50 seconds) but also in several games through dumb offensive turnovers at the death. In four separate games they came back from three scores down to lead or tie, and still lost.

Their pass defense DVOA is also inflated by the Rusty Smith game.

Going forwards, the 2011 Texans appear to be the control group for the 2009 Broncos. I guess we'll see how that works out.

87
by Boots Day :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:10am

The Texans' defense is also bumped up by the fact that the got to face the Jaguars in Week 17 without David Garrard and Maurice Jones-Drew. They allowed 491 yards to the full-strength Jags in Week 10, but held the Bad Jags to 322 in Week 17.

55
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 10:25pm

You could add in the collapses of the Titans and Texans as well. Not sure it was luck so much as all four of those AFCS teams eventually showing their true colors and exposing their fatal flaws. Colts weakest point came mid-season between a 6-3 start and a 4-0 finish--a peak in injuries ocmbined with facing the Eagles and Pats and Cowboys with a new coach helped the losing streak along. Titans just kind of spiraled down in flames after their own 5-2 start--Part of it was the QB issue, but I can't really start to explain the rest. Texans could not overcome their wretched D (and maybe their Game 1 super bowl win over Indy was their season peak). And the Jags are evolving into a more balanced team, but their D was pretty weak and despite a strong run game and efficient QB, they remain the team they have been for years--inconsistent, unable to quite get over the hump. Only without the dominant D. (There's a feel like the pre-Dungy Colts? Perhaps they need new leadership....) They DID come a 59-yd FG away from getting swept by the weakest Colts team in years.

The clearest real luck with others losing came with Oakland's win over the Chiefs this weekend, giving Indy the 3rd seed. That was a bit out of left field as far as I was concerned. I knew it could happen, but did not expect it. The Jags coughing up a furball in the finale could be largely the result of the Garrard and MJD injuries--too much to overcome all at once. That was certainly fortunate for the Colts--the flipside to their own injury bad luck, I suppose.

84
by mt (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:00am

I was also curious about this. I don't know how statistically valid this is, but I tried to derive the weightings from the data. Using all z-scores, I tried to optimize OFFx + DEFy + STz + SCHw = actual wins and then again against estimated wins. I found that estimated wins had special teams and schedule underweighted vs actual wins (using week 15 data). I ran the same algorithm for last season's data, and found schedule underweighted, and defense overweighted. The results look reasonable, the error in the function is higher for the actual wins vs the estimated wins, but the biggest errors using my weightings give the same teams/direction as differences in actual vs estimated. But the weights are very different between seasons, so in the end, I don't know how useful this really is. The weightings are:

2010 actual wins: OFF:0.834 DEF:-0.434 ST:0.495 SCH:-0.372
2010 estim. wins: OFF:0.868 DEF:-0.516 ST:0.227 SCH:-0.061

2009 actual wins: OFF:0.780 DEF:-0.203 ST:0.108 SCH:-0.13
2009 estim. wins: OFF:0.789 DEF:-0.402 ST:0.113 SCH:-0.0050

109
by Eddo :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:50pm

Interesting, tuluse. At first, I thought that perhaps there's some outcome bias here (which you acknowledge in a response). However, I'm also wondering if DVOA should necessarily treat special teams (or offense or defense, for that matter) linearly.

Rather than just adding (OFF) + (-1 * DEF) + (1/3 * ST), maybe each component should be squared. Or cubed. Or something else. Maybe special teams is disproportionately important at the edges; maybe going from +/-4% to +/-8% special teams DVOA has more of an effect on a team's overall quality than going from 0% to +/-4%?

And maybe Aaron has already looked at this and found that's not the case. What do I know?

115
by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:09pm

Your suggesting there be some sort of mathematical modeling aren't you?

My problem w/ STDVOA is I don't understand how it's calculated, but I know it's nothing like OFF and DEF DVOA which seem to be calculated in roughly the same manner, although on OFF a team gets penalized for false start but the DEF doesn't get the benefit of that (which I understand and am okay, but it means that the OFFDVOA of a team will be dif than their opponents DEF DVOA).

121
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:33pm

Yeah that was exactly my thinking. Although, I think offense and defense DVOA are doing a good job, I think maybe just special teams needs a different scale.

I would be curious to see how what it does.

19
by D :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:13pm

Aaron I believe the word you are looking for to describe Antonio Gates is "scrumtrulescent".

Also, where does the NFC West end up on the list of worst divisions ever according to DVOA?

20
by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:20pm

"Scrumtrulescent: does that mean "getting an erection while playing rugby?" Oh, wait, that's "scrumtumescent." Sorry, my mistake.

135
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:48pm

Yes, "scrumtrulescent" is the quality of a rugby player's scrotum giving out a clean, true light, without the yellow.

24
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:26pm

I explored Antonio Gates' astonishing record-breaking season in an Extra Point commentary a couple weeks ago. Gates didn't play another game after that, so he ends up establishing a new tight end DYAR record in just 10 games. I could probably learn five or six languages and still not have enough adjectives to talk about how awesome Antonio Gates is. Jermichael Finley also finishes in the all-time top five for DVOA by tight ends with at least 25 passes -- barely qualifying with 26 passes in an excellent partial season.

So Gates did his crazy stuff in 10 games. Finley in just 4 (he did play in a fifth but went out on like the 3rd offensive play for the Packers). I can't assume that Finley would have continued to play as well as he was with 27.25 DYAR per game. You also can't assume Gates would have been that awesome for 6 more games with his 37.1 DYAR/game. So yeah, if they would have you would have see 593.6 and 436 DYAR from those two guys. That would have been nuts.

It says a lot about Tight End play this year that two of the best (OK Finley was 13th in DYAR, a cumulative stat with only 4 games played) were injured that much.

63
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:01am

"You also can't assume Gates would have been that awesome for 6 more games with his 37.1 DYAR/game."

Um, yeah, but Gates hasn't just set the tight end DYAR/game record, he's set the tight end season total DYAR record. In 10 games. While seriously injured. That, I hope you will agree, is ridiculous.

69
by dmb :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:48am

Jason Witten, one of the premier TEs in the game, led the league in yards and was able to outgain Gates by 220 yards ... in almost twice as many targets (128 to 65).

123
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:41pm

I wasn't trying to say Gates wasn't awesome this year. I was actually trying to point out how awesome he was, and how even more insane it might have been had he (or Finley) not gotten injured.

The "you can't assume" was simply saying, that while he would have destroyed the DYAR record by an even wider margin, you can't assume he would have continued at the same pace. Heck he may have been even better than 37.1 a game.

Not sure how you read that as me saying Gates wasn't awesome.

156
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:35pm

Sorry, my misunderstanding.

Obviously Gates probably wouldn't have carried on posting 37.1 DYAR a game. At the same time, it would be hugely surprising if he hadn't added quite a lot of DYAR over those last six games, and thus blown away his own record instead of merely passing it.

26
by sswoods (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:36pm

A comment on the usage rates of Jamal Charles and Thomas Jones.

I'm in a clear minority in this opinion, but it's been my opinion the entire season. I think what the Chiefs did with Charles and Jones makes perfect sense. We know the Chiefs want to use a 2-back system, which is intelligent cosidering the high number of carries a lead back would get in a run-oriented offense if it was a lead back/back up type scenario. The Chiefs wanted to run the ball 500+ times this year - they ended up with 521 non-QB carries. (I seem to recall they claimed to want 600 carries, but I'm not sure if my recollection is correct.) In a two back system, where each back receives 45-50% of the carries, their cap would be 250 carries each. Jones finished with 245, Charles with 230, 47% to 44% respectively. The Chiefs built into their system a split in their respective carries that would realize those general percentages. The flip side is what the Chiefs did with Larry Johnson under Herm Edwards (and the Jets with Curtis Martin, in a nod to Herm), where the team didn't have a plan to contain his carries and he ended up with 86% of the team's carries and broke down afterwards (the whole curse of 370 and all). Herm's explanation was that he had to have his best player on the field, an understandable perspective but the effects proved to be negative (LJ's doucheness notwithstanding). I wasn't thrilled with the signing of Jones in the off-season, and still think a player with more power would be a better compliment - I think Jones benefited from the perspective that he's a good short yardage guy, something FO has done a good job repudiating in the past, especially on the goal line - but that's the direction they went in. Further, we also know (from statements from Haley and from actually watching the games) that the Chiefs used the two interchangeably, not really calling plays that fit one more than the other. This, along with always starting with Jones each game, leads me to believe that the Chiefs were trying to establish a tempo with Jones and then upping that tempo with Charles, who hits the hole faster and gets to the corner quicker. I believed this was the general idea behind their running game, and that's pretty much what played out. Again, if a team is committed to using a dual back approach - as opposed to a feature guy/back up guy - one would expect the kind of split the Chiefs achieved with Jones and Charles; this is what I think the plan was all along.

30
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:52pm

I'm with you that I don't think more carries for Charles would have been all that useful. Maybe like 3 games where they should have went to him more (with them coming earlier in the year when they were still finding what their team was).

However, there is a good argument they should have found a better back that Thomas Jones to give the extra carries to.

27
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:40pm

I wonder how AGL will compare with it, but the #1 (Pats) and #3 (Packers) DVOA teams each have 14 players on IR (or did the Pats add another one that I missed?). I'd like to see more how AGL and DVOA might relate to each other. But I know 14 players on IR, where they aren't just "stashed" there is a lot. The Pats obviously dealt with it better, but I think that comes down to the coaches. McCarthy is just not a very good game day coach I don't think.

31
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:52pm

But, but, but Indy has way more injuries than the rest of the league.....combined!

Love the Colts fans complaining about all the injuries they have had this year, except they haven't lost their QB, top WR, top two pass rushers, OL (they just just suck), but the best team in the league has had just as many, if not more, injuries and kicks ass each week.

(hey, it's been a long day and I felt like being a prick and start something).

33
by V. Barbarino (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:05pm

What important players did the Pats lose to injury this season?
It's a legitimate question, I'm not defending the Colts or anything. But I've seen this comment in here before, as Pats fans with puffed-up chests talk about how the team has thrived despite a certain number of players who were hurt. Who was hurt of any value? I don't follow the team, so I don't know. If it's a bunch of back-ups and practice squad guys, well...

40
by Dave :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:20pm

Warren.

To me, the Colts' biggest injury issues are not from the IR list itself (though that's plenty large), but from the number of games mid-year where they had medium-severity injuries and were carrying battered guys on the active roster that couldn't practice or play. For a while they had a really hard time putting enough guys on the field to practice properly. I think this had a lot to do with how bad the special teams were this year, too. Instead of having a merely bad unit composed of third stringers, they ended up with an awful one full of fifth stringers and guys off the street.

Sanders, Clark, and Collie are the only severe IR cases, which is why there's a glimmer of hope now. For once, the roster is actually starting to look the same from week to week. (Obviously they'd prefer to have one or both of those receivers back, and without them I can't take them seriously against the Jets or really anyone... but at least now they're getting some reps together.) Carrying Sanders on the roster all season really bit them in the ass, given that it cost them a now-healthy but unavailable Gonzalez.

45
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:29pm

I think the big difference is that the Pats losses have come from a wide variety of areas, for the most part, whereas the Colts kept losing members in certain positions, like WR. Get down to the third or fourth string and it's bound to be a weakness.

46
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:30pm

I think the big difference is that the Pats losses have come from a wide variety of areas, for the most part, whereas the Colts kept losing members in certain positions, like WR. Get down to the third or fourth string and it's bound to be a weakness.

142
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:29pm

The patriots losses didn't come in a variety of areas. Besides Kazcur, Neal, and Bodden, they're almost entirely on the defensive line.

DE:
IR:
Ty Warren
Ron Brace
Daryl Richard

Signicant games missed:
Mike Wright
Myron Pryor

Suspended:
Brandon Deadrick

41
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:23pm

Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden were hurt before the season started. Bodden was a decent CB last year, and I'm sure you've heard of Ty Warren. Others who have gotten hurt through the season...

Kevin Faulk (IR after Week 2)
Gostkowski (starting kicker)
Ron Brace (defensive lineman, 5 starts)
Brandon McGowan (young safety, started 11 games last year)
Stephen Neal (guard, started 8 games)

And not an injury, but Mankins was a holdout until Week 9 or so.

43
by tuluse :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:25pm

McGowan isn't that young, he was on the Bears like 4 years ago. Always liked him. Stuffed Jerome Bettis on a day when the rest of the team was getting run over every single play.

The Lovie Smith regime has produced nothing if not a bevy of average-ish safeties who occasionally wow you.

44
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:26pm

Slight mistake: McGowan was put on IR before the season. Also forgot to add that Kazcur went on IR and missed the whole season too. And Mike Wright, a service D-lineman who started 9 games last year, missed the last 6 games this year.

But ya know, nobody important. :)

64
by jprfrog (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:06am

If you must know: Kevin Faulk RB (3rd down and possession receiver), Fred Taylor RB (one of the all-time rushing leaders) Bodden CB, Wilhite CB, Gostkowski K, Neal G, TY Warren DE, Kazcur T, the last six all starters, and 8 others some of whom were marginal and others that we never got to evaluate because they were hurt early. That's why we have two rookies at the corners (McCourty the in Pro Bowl). Also, the youngest defense in the league.

But one of the reasons the Pats are consistently strong year after year is a great eye for potentially useful players that haven't been standouts elsewhere...e. g. Danny Woodhead, or are older but have something still in the tank (e.g. Crumpler this season and Dillon back when). Also there must be something in the coaching: When Tom Brady was knocked out in the first game two years ago, they still went 11-5 with a backup quarterback (Matt Cassel).

My chest is not puffed up, BTW...but for you guys too young to remember, the Pats were a sad joke for 30+ years, and I suffered along with them most of the time. So I think we long-term loyal fans have a right to enjoy our present status.

68
by Purds :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:39am

I think one of the things that hurt Indy so much, compared to NE, is that so many of the injuries for Indy came after the season started, and Indy had a hard time changing players on the fly. For example, Indy put 7 players on IR during October, November, and December -- NE put four. And, one of NE's was a kicker (a really good kicker, but a kicker nonetheless, and I can't think of a more interchangeable part than a kicker in terms of not needing to have taken any reps with the rest of the team). So, yes, NE had many injuries, but not very many during the year. The majority of the team, in comparison to Indy, was intact for the season.

Just because I looked it up, those IR's in season -- no comment on them, just info for you all:
Indy: S, RB, DB, WR, CB, CB, WR(4 DB's in season)
NE: OL, K, G, CB

Don't forget, no other team in the league besides NE GAINED an all-pro guard mid-season.

Now, that said, Indy does have a systemic problem with injuries they need to fix. Maybe they take too many small/fast guys who can't withstand the season's trauma, maybe they have a terrible training crew, maybe they didn't genuflect to #12 enough in the summer. Whatever, it's a problem they need to fix. And, I think it must be rooted in a problem Indy created, not luck (just joking on the #12 thing, I think).

143
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:35pm

"And, one of NE's was a kicker (a really good kicker, but a kicker nonetheless, and I can't think of a more interchangeable part than a kicker in terms of not needing to have taken any reps with the rest of the team)"

While kickers are pretty interchangeable, in a way, Ghostkowski getting hurt has hurt their ST significantly. NE's STs are a pretty signficant +10% across the board when you look at their component ST data. Their Kick Off DVOA? -5%.

I'd say that the drop from Ghostkowski to Graham has honestly been worth 3-4% of the team's total DVOA, and thats pretty drastic for any non QB player.

72
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:57am

jprfrog,

Enjoy your team's success--that's why we're fans. You should enjoy it and have paid your dues. (as have I--a winless 1982? 1-16 in 1991. You want to talk suckage? We're both spoiled right now, which is kind of funny for us, not so much for fans of many other teams. But I remember the dark years....)

I think some people object when, in order to enjoy Team A's success, some fans feel a need to denigrate Team B. (Which is why, growing up near NY I hated nearly all home town teams--the fans I knew could not just enjoy a win, but had to denigrate the losing team along the way. My father does it too, the big jerk. never calls me after a Colts win, but when the lose, it's "What happened to your team?")

I'm not saying you did/do this, in particular.

So by saying "oh, we're hurt just as bad as you" or "you're team's not really hurt" it's about as accurate--to my eye--as QB rating as a measurement of who is better or yards as the sole measure of team quality (i.e. the traditional official NFL stats of which offense/defense is #1). A mere count of the injured is too simplistic. Timing and depth matter as well. There was a SD game a few years back when Manning threw 6 INTS and the Colts lost. Man, he must suck! What's that, three receivers and THREE OTs were injured in that game? Oh, well, that's different.... yes, yes it is. (Plus Vinny shanked the potential winning 28 yard FG at the buzzer--how often does THAT happen?) Had it been six injured guys at six random positions, that game would be totally unmemorable as yet another Indy win despite a lot of injuries. But as they all affected the passing game and happened in the span of maybe 20 minutes of game time, leaving no room for adapting, all Manning could do was hope a guy names "Hey You" could protect his blind side from Merriman and a guy named Craphonso knew his routes (he didn't). In the rain. FWIW Rivers had a bad game as well but he was hurt and bailed out by TWO Sproles punt returns for TDs. Yes, the coverage units sucked, but without those OT/WR injuries, that is not an issue. (For the sake of clarity, Dallas Clark was included with the WRs.) And that was a relatively healthy year! Their playoff doom was attributed largely to Freeney's broken foot and the Pats' 16-0 reg season, as opposed to a slew of missing bodies.

80
by Harry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 8:16am

But your team didn't exist in 1982. Yes, there was a team called the Baltimore Colts in 1982 who went winless, but no one who was a fan of that glorious franchise actually roots for the impostors now based in a faceless Midwestern city, do they? (Yes, I'm still bitter).

79
by Harry (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 8:11am

I'm old enough to remember - and the Pats were "a joke" only for a few years in the early 70s and during the Victor Kiam era, other than that they were generally a competitive team. Arguably the most talented team in the league from 1976-78, and had multiple play off appearances and a Superbowl appearance in the 1980s. The Boston media at that time had a lot of contempt for the owner but the myth that the Pats were ever on the level of the Bengals or the Cardinals doesn't hold up. They were a middle of the pack franchise playing in a region that feels like it is entitled to only the best.

88
by Boots Day :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:19am

Arguably the most talented team in the league from 1976-78

Really? I'd like to hear that argument. The Steelers and Raiders and Cowboys and Rams all won more games than the Patriots over that three-year stretch. The Patriots didn't even win a single playoff game in that era.

If they were the most talented team in the league, they must have had the worst coaching in the history of the NFL.

112
by PatsFan :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:57pm

1976 Pats beat the Steelers and destroyed the Raiders 48-17 during the regular season. In the playoff game against the Raiders they had the game won but got jobbed on a phantom roughing the passer call that kept the Raiders' game-winning drive alive. (2001 was glorious payback for that :)

1978 Pats set a still-standing NFL record for single-season rushing yards. However, in typical pre-Kraft Patriots soap opera fashion, the teams 2nd-best coach ever (Chuck Fairbanks) decided to accept a job at UColorado (IIRC) the following season. Ownership then suspended him for the final regular season game, then reinstated him for the playoff game against Houston, where they came out flat and were blown out.

126
by Kstar (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:52pm

1977 may be the most interesting year of that stretch: John Hannah (the greatest pre-Brady Patriot) and Leon Gray held out for the three first three weeks of the season during which the Patriots started 1-2. As Bill Simmons of ESPN explored in an article and podcast with Hannah, they held out because Hannah and Gray learned they were amongst the lowest paid players in the league at their position despite their status as Pro Bowlers. Hannah's salary was a third of what his rookie brother made that year, primarily due to a lack of Free Agency in the league and the cheapness of the Sullivans. The team went 8-2 with Hannah and Gray, but were eliminated from the postseason before losing a meaningless final game to finish 9-5.

So, to summarize, the team owners destroyed the 1977 and 1978 seasons through inept management and the 1976 team lost in controversial fashion. Several Steelers and Raiders players have acknowledge the Patriots, especially in 1976, were probably the best collection of talent in that era (can't say best TEAM because the organizational management was beyond awful).

160
by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 8:16am

"Arguably the most talented team in the league from 1976-78 ..."

While John Hannah is one of the best lineman I remember seeing (and I loved that Patriots offense in Strat-o-Matic - Steve Grogan bootlegs for the win!), it would be hard to convince me that they had more talent than the Steelers on offense alone (Bradshaw/Harris/Swann/Stallworth/Wallace/Bleier), to say nothing of a defense that was almost entirely All-Pros (Greenwood/Greene/Holmes/White/Russell/Lambert/Ham/Blount/Edwards/Wagner/ is actually a credible All-Pro team, depending on the year, and it only got better when Donnie Shell and Ron Woodson joined the defensive backfield).

As Raiderjoe would remind us, the Raiders of that era aren't too shabby either (Stabler/Branch/Casper/Biletnikoff/Upshaw/Shell on offense alone); Will Allen could probably help us with the Vikings beyond Tarkenton/Eller/Page/Krause; the Cowboys boasted Staubach/Dorsett/Pearson + Doomsday II (White/Jones/Harris) ... oh, the Dolphins of Greise/Czonka/Warfield ... I don't know if I'm remembering them as better than they were, but it sure seems like there were some elite teams in the late 70's, and a ton of all-time great players.

165
by dryheat :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 10:11am

True all that, but I think the reason why we consider those Steelers to be all-time greats is because of the 4 rings. In a universe where they won 1 ring instead of 4, and let's say the Rams, Dolphins, and Patriots won the other three, some of those Steelers, indeed most of the offensive ones, don't make the HoF. Or, to say it another way, If you were to put John Stallworth and Franco Harris on the Patriots, and Stanley Morgan and Sam Cunningham on the Steelers, and the Steelers went on to 4 Championships, Morgan and Sam Bam are easy Hall of Famers, and Stallworth and Harris were good players on an underachieving team.

170
by DGL :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 12:51pm

Or perhaps the reason they got the 4 rings is because the talent level was higher? Perhaps if you swapped Stallworth and Harris for Morgan and Cunningham, the Steelers would have only won one SB instead of 4.

172
by dryheat :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 1:03pm

Also valid...which is the cause and which is the effect. However, I think it's been pretty well established that NFL dynasties put a larger percentage of players in the HoF, many of whom are considered borderline at best by many...especially in previous years.

Does anybody think that Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Willie McGinest, Ty Law, Adam Vinitieri, Richard Seymour, Matt Light, Troy Brown, Mike Vrabel, and Tedy Bruschi are all Hall-of-Fame worthy? If the Patriots won three Superbowls in the 60s or 70s, they might have all been enshrined. Super Bowl rings seemed to carry a lot of clout with those voters.

I have zero doubt that if Stanley Morgan played for Pittsburgh, Oakland, or Dallas that he'd be in the Hall.

178
by Jerry :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 6:55pm

While there were indeed other teams who were probably better, the Patriots of the late '70s were considered underachievers. The coaching and front office issues detailed above had a lot to do with it.

Nitpicking:

Do you mean Webster where you said Wallace?

Rod Woodson was drafted in 1988, after all the dynasty guys were gone.

108
by DGL :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:40pm

In the 36 years before Parcells, the Patriots had 16 seasons over .500, in 6 of which they went to the postseason. They only periods in which they were really a "sad joke" was a ten-year stretch before and after the merger (67-75 with only one season at .500) and the 5-year stretch from 89-93 that started with the last year of Rod Rust and ended with Parcells' first year: five straight years with double-digit losses including a 1-15 and a 2-14.

In the early AFL days (60-66) they only had two seasons below .500, and from 76-88 they were clearly not a sad joke (5 playoff appearances, only two seasons below .500).

I suspect you're over-remembering the 67-75 run and under-remembering the 76-88 period.

Now if you want to talk "sad joke for 30+ years", talk to any over-60 Steelers fan. In the 39 years prior to Chuck Noll (1969), the team was above 500 a grand total of 7 times, with their best record being 8-4 in 1947. Fortunately for me, I was three years old at the start of the Noll era and my first football memory is listening to the Immaculate Reception on the radio in our dining room...

176
by Crymeariver (not verified) :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 4:09pm

Here's what I love about football fans. The chest beating isn't only over which team is best, but which team is worst. We're #1! We're # 1! Whatever you got, we're #1.

47
by Bobman :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:32pm

I'll take the bait, without malice. Everyone knows that if Indy loses Manning, they're lucky to win 5 games. Well, maybe with this year's AFC S being sketchy, six. So throw him out. If he goes down it's all over. if he stays healthy, they always have a shot.

The only really healthy unit was DL--the OL does bite as you said, but they were also changing players left and right (except Jeff Saturday). They have had some personnel consistency the past few weeks and perhaps coincidentally have figured out how to run as their RBs got back on the field as well. (When your most productive RB was out of football for the past three months it says something about both your OL and your RB health.) Their injuries cut both broad and deep--nearly all units were affected, but the RB/receiver spots (I say "receiver" to inlcude Clark) and D backfield were hit the deepest. They started some games with street free agents in those spots and IRed three of their top five receivers and 3/4ths of their starting D secondary.

Manning's worst games coincided with the team's worth health at OL, RB, and WR. Coincidence...? (The OL and RB weakness allowed him to be hurried and hit a lot while throwing--some is his fault for not adjusting to crappy protection, but if the bodies were there to protect him, he would not have had to adjust.) Since they lost games to the mixed bag of good and bad teams like Jax, NE, Hou, Dal, and Phi by an average of about 2.5 pts, it's reasonable to say that if even one key starter had not been out of action for those games, they might have had 3-4 more wins and maybe HFA despite all the other injuries.

Some giant what-ifs there to be sure, but I'll pick one of the WRs--Gonzalez or Collie. If they were in every game and all the other injuries had happened as they did, the Colts would have easily been in contention for one of the top two seeds. And "all those injuries" would have been meaningless to non-fans. So yes, injuries can be overcome--even a lot of them. But at some point, they get to be just too much to overcome, even supporting role players. Especially if they tend to be concentrated in key units.

If you saw some of the games Collie played in, of ones where he left early. You may have noticed they were two different offensive teams with and without him. Despite all the injuries, Manning's season was very comparable to last year's 14-2 MVP campaign. If he had just one more guy whose name he knew before September, think where they'd be.

So the whining is justified (and really, there isn't too much that I have heard. There are no excuses, but the injuries are by and large why they lost six games. It happens. Every team has to deal with it.) Even if they win it all, some whining is justified. Some teams can withstand 5 key injuries, some 6 or more. But it depends on where those hit (the Pats masterfully overcame a debilitated D backfield in 2003 (04?) and Brady's injury in 2008, but what if they had one more healthy DB but no Bruschi or McGinnest back then? Do they still man-handle the Colts in the AFCCG without those seasoned LBs?). The Colts receiving corps, RB corps, and D back 7 were just too many units to be hit so hard.

The Colts are a team that has a wider margin of health than I would have thought--there is no wiggle room at DE or QB, some scant room at LB, C, and WR. It's the depth of injuries at places like WR/TE, RB, and DB that have killed. All injuries are not created equal.

52
by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:50pm

Indy was hit the hardest at DB, but the replacements have played well. RB and WR? Once again, their All Pro WR didn't miss any time and their replacement RB's were OK when not hit in the backfield. LBs? Yeah, they were hit there too, but they had people step up.
The Colts biggest problem had nothing to do with injuries, but the below average play of the OL, something that everyone knew before the season started was a problem.
They had a No. 1 draft pick that couldn't get on the field due to depth issues, how injured could they really be?

70
by turbohappy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:22am

They've drafted 10 o-lineman in the last 6 years. Only 1 of them is any good and sees the field, and IMO he is playing out of position (Charlie Johnson is a great RT). This is disastrous.

99
by jedmarshall :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:41am

The injury stack was definitely a big deal in many of the close losses. Most of the backups have stepped up and provided mostly adequate results. If Clark goes down and Tamme replaces 90% of his value then they aren't hurt bad. If Hayden gets hurt and Lacey/Tryon replace 90% of his value they aren't hurt bad. But if you start adding up all those 10% dropoffs it compounds pretty quickly.

During the bad stretch in the middle of the season they were down for at least a game
#1 and 3 RB with #2 playing hurt and a guy from the practice squad splitting carries
#2,3,4 and 5 WR.
#1 and 3 TE.
MLB and 2 OLB.
#2 and 3 CB.
#1,2, and 3 SS

Any 1-4 of those and it probably doesn't matter, but the dropoffs were too much to overcome every week.

The thing that worries me the most about the playoffs are all the receivers (including Clark) and safeties who are on IR.

56
by RichC (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 10:26pm

"The only really healthy unit was DL"

And the Patriots only healthy unit was their WRs... if you want to call Deion Branch healthy. Did the Packers have any healthy units?

Teams are beat up at the end of the season.

75
by RickD :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:22am

The Pats had a mostly healthy O-Line at the end of the season, with Light, Mankins, Vollmer, and Koppen all being regular starters. Throw in 2/3 TEs (and the one missing was the weakest blocker of the three.)

The flip side is that the Pats had all sorts of injuries on the D-Line. By the end of the season it was basically Wilfork and Gerard Warren and a bunch of delivery guys.

76
by RickD :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:24am

...apparently the Pats just had a bunch of D-Linemen in for tryouts today.

Tryouts. In January.

http://espn.go.com/blog/boston/new-england-patriots/post/_/id/4691155/mo...

110
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:54pm

Healthy O-line? Neal was put on IR halfway through the season. Kaczur has been on IR all season. Mankins skipped half the season.

As to the DL Tryouts, they put Brace on IR monday, and suspended Deaderick... although I can't find out what for. They're trying out guys because they really need more bodies.

114
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:00pm

I read yesterday that Deaderick was suspended for constantly being late.

58
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 10:44pm

I agree not all injuries are created equal and I would love a better way to quantitatively analyze it. AGL helps, but I don't have access to that data.

Trying to combine games lost with a past performance value would help some.

I mean I know the Packers better so you look at losing Ryan Grant (252 DYAR last year, -19 in 08 when he was fighting nagging injuries all year, and 149 in just 7 games in 07). That's a pretty big loss. You can expect a healthy Grant to get around 17 DYar per game (though I would accept the value of 10 or so per game counting the injured year). Rodgers was worth about 100 DYAR a game this season and they lost him for a game and a half. So they lost 150 DYAR with Rodgers this year and 160 - 272 from Grant. I don't mind that because a QB is generally more valuable than a running back so 1.5 games being worth nearly a full season for a RB I can handle.

But we don't have numbers for linebackers or offensive lineman like that, which is why I wonder about something like average value. The Packers put 3 of their day 1 starting LB's on IR in Brandon Chillar, Nick Barnett, and Brad Jones. Brady Poppinga was a starter last year. That is an entire starting LB core. Now Chillar was only a starter because the Packers played nickle the whole first game and AJ Hawk didn't play in the nickle last year and wasn't going to this year (but he's been on the field for pretty much every snap now). So they had some good back-ups and fortunately Dom Capers is an excellent defensive coach so they really absorbed them well. I was amazed at watching Eric Walden get 2 sacks and play pretty well against the Bears. Desmond Bishop has gone from horrendous to below average in pass coverage. So how do you quantify that? That's why I was thinking you tie in AV. Poppinga over the last 4 years accrued about .3 AV a game. He was out for 11 games this year so 3.3 AV lost. Nick Barnett was .58 AV a game over the last 3 years. He missed 12 so 7.0 AV.

The D-line had some folks on IR, and lots of other spot injuries, Cullen Jenkins was about .4 AV a game, missed 5 this year so that is 2.0 AV this year.

Those numbers relative to each other feel right to me. Barnett, and Jenkins were clearly more valuable than Poppinga.

Where does this fail, well rookies have no AV at all, since it factors in end of season awards and such. Players who spent a year or two on the bench have no AV.

I really don't mind discussing injuries. They are part of the game, and how a team deals with them impacts results.

I still think the Packers may have been the hardest hit team in terms of injuries this year, but despite losing 2 huge parts of the offense with Grant and Finley, Finley was on pace for over 450 DYAR, which would have been a DYAR record for tight ends. Grant I've mentioned in this post. They only lost Rodgers for 1.5 games. They lost Driver for only a couple. Jennings, Jones, and Nelson were pretty much healthy. They didn't lose much in the way of impact players, and some of them they had been planning for. Driver was having his role in the offense reduced by design anyway. When Tauscher, the right tackle, went down they had Bulaga and TJ Lang (Lang may not be a long term future starter, but I could see him being a starter for a few years) on the roster. They didn't have a plan at running back and that showed clearly. They had a plan at d-line so that losing Harrell and Neal to IR early in the season was rough, but they had depths. Still with Jenkins and Pickett both losing time they had to sign a free agent in Howard Green to help out.

The major losses were on the defensive side of the ball, which the coach, Dom Capers, was able to cover for. Though they didn't lose any time from Woodson, Williams, or Collins in the secondary and only 6 quarters for Matthews.

But they lost
2 starting caliber safeties in Burnett (though a rookie) and Bigby (not a great starter, but a starter) for 22 games. They lost two back-up safety in Anthony Smith and Derrick Martin as well.
5 starting caliber linebackers for 46 games (Barnett, Jones, Chillar, Poppinga, and Matthews)

Oh I'm gonna stop. The D-line lost a lot of games.

But they had stability at cornerback and the safety play despite the injuries there was good too. So that is how they played the scheme. They were using offensive linemen on the d-line in a few games, but they would run 5 linebackers (until too many linebackers got hurt too). Woodson hasn't been a great cornerback this year, but if you watch the games he was still utilized all over, in part to cover for injuries, after about week 6 when the coaches had gained more confidence in Sam Shields (Shields was on Calvin Johnson a few times in the Detroit games in man coverage), Williams was always relied on. So Woodson was used as a safety a bit (in the game after Barnett went down before Peprah showed he was vastly improved for a year ago), he covered tight ends and slot receivers at times, because the LB's were being used more like d-lineman so Woodson took their coverage responsibilities. He also got used on blitzes to help with pressure, but that would have happened with or without injuries. He still had a solid year as a defensive player, even if he wasn't as good as a cornerback (Williams was better and should have gone to the Pro Bowl instead).

McCarthy is also a good game planning coach. He does well during the week prep. He is only an average game day coach though. Which I think had more to do with the 6 losses than the injuries. I think a Belichick coached Packers team could have been 14-2 for instance, I mean 6 losses by 20 points total, they are a talented team. Masthay turning into a good punter for the last 10 games (the finished 15 in punting by FO stats, and they were down at 30th after the first Chicago game in punting) helped them a lot too. The way the running game has been I think Grant not going down might have gotten them 3 more wins this year as well and made a few other wins look even better because some of the bad play calling wouldn't have looked as bad with Grant running the ball over Jackson/Kuhn/Nance/Starks.

Ah well. We just need some parallel universes to test these thing out in. :)

73
by Bobman :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:03am

Good God, it's insane the Pack is still in contention. The one team Colts fans pity because of injury luck--the Packers. When they dismantled Indy in the 3rd preseason game--traditionally the only one the Colts do well in--I was a bit concerned. Even the GB backups looked like world beaters.

Wouldn't a GB/Indy SB be amusing? As many players in sweats on the sideline as in unis. The M*A*S*H Super Bowl. I hope it happens, though I imagine the NFL and network would not be too amused by small market midwestern teams full of backups hogging the spotlight.

127
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:05pm

Nah, it's not insane. That was part of my point in the rambling. I was mulling over ways to quantify injuries and have the more interesting discussion of how they were dealt with. :)

While I still think the injuries they suffered had more of an impact on them than any other team this year, I don't have a good way to actually compare to what the Colts or Pats or Steelers or Panthers or whoever lost. I don't think AGL fully captures it.

I think injuries and coaching issues are why a pre season super bowl favorite had to win in week 17 to make the playoffs. But I suspect this is often true. :) My lament is not having better data to be able to try and figure it out. :)

I'd love an Indy / GB superbowl. I actually took several of your comments as tongue in cheek or even sarcastic. I'm pretty sure both those teams have pretty large national fanbases. :)

128
by Ezra Johnson :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:18pm

I think football talent distribution is such that the vast majority of players are almost interchangeable with their immediate back-ups. While losing Finley was obviously significant in that the entire offense pretty much revolved around him, the case could be made that replacing those average linebackers actually helped the team by forcing them to see how good Bishop and Zombo could be. Zombo was at least as good as Jones was last year. In the playoff game last year, Barnett & Co. were pretty exposed, and Matthews was basically taken out of the game. Hawk's seeming improvement has been a pleasant surprise, but his tackling especially is still terrible for a MLB. I don't think he got Forte to the ground once on Sunday. The hyperbaric chamber doesn't seem to be working. While it's easy to speculate on a 13-win season if this or that had gone differently, I shudder to think how badly it could have gone if, for example, Clifton really was as done as he looked early in the season. Don't discount that bit of luck. I suppose the loss of Grant is pretty significant as well, but it might have more to do with Thompson's utter lack of a contingency plan in that area.

149
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 6:29pm

I'm not sure Clifton going down would have hurt that much. Like you say, some of the back-ups aren't that far behind. Bulaga is better at LT than RT and he was actually an upgrade of Tauscher at RT. So Bulaga would have been at LT and we've seen Lang playing RT and he would have been at least on par with where Tauscher ended up. I think the loss of Grant and Finley both hurt more.

While Thompson had no contingency plan at RB, I'm not sure you can have one at every position. RB and CB were the two positions he didn't really have covered. I know Barnett and Co got torched last year, but that actually had more to do with a horrible nickle and safety. One of the biggest reasons the defense didn't decline that much from last year was because Sam Shields was waaay better than anyone could expect. Morgan Burnett was as good as expected out of the draft, and who the hell turned around Charlie Peprah? The injuries on the d-line (and Johny Jolly being a drug pusher) and the back-up linebackers really affected the run defense, which was the major weakness. The pass defense being weak in the middle this year had a lot to do with that too. I don't want Hawk on the field for every snap. He's a solid 4-3 OLB, and good situational 3-4 ILB, but he is not an every down 3-4 ILB. Sadly I don't think Desmond Bishop is either.

I do agree that Zombo was as good as Jones last year. But it would have been nice to not lose both of them and have Eric Walden have to play despite him getting 2 sacks on Cutler. He was horrid in run support, much worse than either Jones or Zombo or even Poppinga. For a 4th string OLB Walden was a nice street free agent pick-up, but he's still a back-up.

I could have picked a worse group of players to lose 206 starts (that's the official count from the Packers so take it for what you will) sure, but I'm not sure it could have been much worse. Injury free I think the team would have been 13-3. Same number of injuries but to even more key players (Matthews for more games than he missed, Williams, Woodson, Rodgers, Collins, etc) I think they still manage to be 6-10 (they did have the Vikings twice, San Fran, and pre Garret Dallas on their schedule, still probably would have gotten at least one win vs Detroit). But if they had lost those players I think even opponents might have had some sympathy. That's like the Pats losing Brady, Welker, Wilfork, McCourty, etc.

As much hate as Thompson gets, he generally keeps enough solid back-ups around. It's the picks that look more like projects that are the big issues with him. Keeping 3 fullbacks and only two half backs is still stupid, even if Kuhn did a decent job as a spot half back. Keeping all the tight ends wasn't such a bad idea.

It's part of the game, I think the Colts and Packers clearly handled them pretty well. The Pats handled theirs even better. I think how you handle injuries is actually a pretty good reflection the GM. I remember the Packers under Sherman and what injuries did those teams. The Lions had more injuries this year than folks think, and the effect of a GM showed there too. Mayhew handled things pretty well. He didn't have to just rebuild from a complete lack of talent, he had to deal with a rash of injuries. Cutting players, doing low end trades, signing waiver and street free agents. the Lions had a crappy LB corps and they had nearly the same number of injuries the Packers had in that group.

132
by LnGrrrR :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:52pm

To be honest, I'm glad we live in the universe where Belichick and Brady are with the Pats, and we're not stuck with someone like Max Hall as our starting QB.

29
by Incognito (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 8:44pm

I understand the issue is pass-catching tight ends, but Graham was an outstanding blocking tight end for the Pats, and more than earned his keep that way during a couple of Super Bowl runs. Of course, it seems that after a 10-year search the Pats have finally found not one, but two tight ends who can both catch and block.

37
by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 9:17pm

I'm still out on the whole "How good does Hernandez block?" quesiton, but Gronk does both quite well. (Hernandez seems a bit speedier as a WR though.)

And yeah, Graham could block quite well, and Watson was a good pass-catcher. But looks like BB has finally found a TE who can do both. And it only took four 1st round draft picks! (Ok, slight, SLIGHT hyperbole there.)

61
by Athelas :: Mon, 01/03/2011 - 11:44pm

I'd say
one who both catches & blocks (Gronk)
one who blocks (Crumpler)
one who catches (Hernandez)

65
by JonFrum :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:16am

When a TE can't hold on to the ball, they start talking about what a great blocker he is. Did you really watch Graham every play to check on his blocking (that's a rhetorical question)? Graham was a 1st round choice, and everyone wanted him to be special. When he wasn't, he morphed into a 'great blocking tight end' in the media. Typical homerism. How about an poor receiver, who was kept in games to block?

And Hernandez is barely a TE. He's an H-back - or a taller than average receiver. He's never been known as a blocker in his young career - college included. When a tight end lines up in the backfield and the slot on consecutive plays, you know he's not a 'real' tight end. As a Pat's fan, I'm happy to have his tweener skill set. He's just not a guy you want to rely on to stay tight on the end and block on running plays.

66
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:27am

If Graham wasn't a good blocker why would the Pats put him on the field when he clearly wasn't a good receiver?

Unless you think the Patriot's coaches are idiots, that alone is proof enough he was a good blocker.

71
by Mr. Show (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:28am

And more specifically there were a handful of games (esp. playoff games) in the 2003 and 2004 seasons where Graham would be put in to block a bunch of times and it was pretty painfully obvious when he had him in blocking and when we didn't. He had a fantastic game in the Superbowl against Carolina, for instance, helping Tom Ashworth stonewall Julius Peppers all game long.

Plus the Broncos were at least semi-well run when they signed him for quite a bit of money when it was fairly evident that he wasn't a good receiver. Hell, the fact that they haven't released him shows that they're pleased with his blocking.

173
by Crymeariver (not verified) :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 1:40pm

The much-missed Dr Z, probably the only serious analyst of offensive line play in the national media, dedicated an entire column to Graham's blocking as key to the Pats Super Bowl win over the Panthers. You can look it up.

74
by Kasmirsen (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:21am

"Jamaal Charles narrowly passes Marshall Faulk to set the all-time record for rushing DVOA by a running back with a minimum of 100 carries. Charles finishes with 35.8% DVOA. Faulk had 35.0% DVOA in 2000"

Danny Woodhead getting knocked out of the Bills game appears to have cost him this record: he finished with 97 carries for a DVOA of 41.5%. He also led the league in running back receiving DVOA at 52.3%, so those 3 carries cost him double leadership as well. Pretty impressive given that he didn't even play until the 3rd game of the season, and yet he ended up with 185 rushing DYAR (7th) and 156 receiving DYAR (5th). Danny Woodhead may still be the most underrated running back in the league.

77
by Mr Shush :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:53am

Might be worth noting that the man who came second behind Charles was BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Now, I don't deny that both Woodhead and Green-Ellis are good players, but does it not seem likely to you that the offense they play in is significantly inflating their rate stats relative to their abilities? Especially given Maroney's highly impressive advanced numbers for 2007?

82
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 9:49am

Being a Pats fan, I'm going to say this: Ben-Jarvis Green-Ellis is not a good running back. He does one thing well: he hits the hole hard, and if there's a hole there, he'll go through it.

The next time I see BJGE juke someone, it'll be the first time. He has no speed whatsoever. He's basically Sammy Morris v2.

Woodhead, on the other hand, is legitimately good. He's a better receiver and RB than Faulk, has significantly better speed, and watching him the last couple games, I'm not convinced there's all that big of a difference in the blocking.

86
by Anonymous454545 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:06am

In a year or two some foolish GM is going to sign or trade for BJGE. BB and Pats will wish him (BJGE) well and find some other perfectly cromulent replacement. Both Graham and Watson are rare in that they at least play football after leaving the Patriots (for two of the worse teams in the league of course).

90
by nat :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:33am

He does one thing well: he hits the hole hard, and if there's a hole there, he'll go through it.

He does two things well: he hits the hole hard; if there's a hole there, he'll go through it; and he holds onto the ball.

He does three things well: he hits the hole hard; if there's a hole there, he'll go through it; he holds onto the ball; and he gets an extra yard before going down.

It's just possible that doing those three? things well is what it takes to be a good running back - but one who doesn't make the highlights.

It would be nice if he had breakaway speed. It would be nice if he reliably beat one man in the open field. But I've lived through RBs who don't hit the hole hard, don't see the holes, don't hold onto the ball, and go down without getting any extra yardage. No amount of speed or open field moves makes up for those deficiencies.

91
by Bobby Wommack (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:46am

Don't bother trying to explain things to RichC, he doesn't really understand football and loves to use hyperbole for everything. No rationale Pat fan should ever complain about BGE. You want Maroney back? How many things does he do well? lol

111
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:55pm

Could you please point out where I said any of those things?

133
by LnGrrrR :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:59pm

We won a few Superbowls with Antowain Smith... and I don't think anyone said he had a significant "burst".

Frankly, after Maroney, I love a runner who sees the holes and hits it. We just need the running game to keep people honest, and it's not like BJGE is averaging 3 yrds a carry or anything.

92
by Led :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:51am

Yeah, running as hard as BJGE does with as many yards after contact while never, EVER fumbling is very, very valuable. I think he's being regretfully underrated, particularly compared to Woodhead. Woodhead is a good player, but he benefits hugely from the very smart way the Pats use him and the talent around him. The Pats' offense reminds me of the Yankees in the late 1990's. Aside from Brady (the Mariano Rivera of the Pats!), none of the guys is a superstar (although Hernandez might be on his way to becoming one) but all of them are good and put pressue on the entire defense. One of Belichick's most important insights, in my view, is that it's usually more valuable to improve the team's weakest link than to improve its stongest. In the NFL, more games are lost than are won.

93
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:02am

Indeed. I've said it recently in another thread, but that's the running back I want....one who takes the ball to the designed hole and gets what's there while holding onto the ball. The offensive line looks better, because they know where the back is, and the ball doesn't go to the turf. He doesn't juke a safety and turn a six yard gain into a 15 yard gain? I can live with that. He also seems to be reliable in both aspects of the passing game.

97
by nat :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:20am

Good point about the passing game. Blitz pick-up is a must-have skill for a RB these days. Receiving skill is important, too. Both probably rank higher than speed or open-field moves in my RB wish-list.

102
by jedmarshall :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:49am

Exactly. He is a perfect fit for a team like the Pats. As a Colts fan, all I ask of our running backs is hit the hole, pass block/catch and don't fumble. Let Manning do the rest.

If you have a great QB, you just need solid/consistent RB play to make the offense churn. If you have AZ QB, you may want to look for a RB who can break off big gains and be the focus point of the offense.

113
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:58pm

We're gonna have to disagree here. I think hes a poor blocker. I think Woodhead actually blocks much better than BJGE

200
by otbricki22 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 12:05am

Maybe on running plays against CBs or small linebackers. However he gets run over pretty badly when trying to pick up defensive lineman in pass protection.

107
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:40pm

It's good that he can hit the hole hard. There are backs who don't even know where the hole is. Al Bogdan used to say about Ron Dayne that you could stick him in front of a hole in the wall, point to it, and yell "hole!" and he would still run into the wall.

131
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:36pm

And far more common are those that know where the hole is supposed to be, but don't like the looks of it from the jump, and decide to bounce everything outside...which usually leads to a two-yard loss as none of the lineman are now blocking for him. I love that Green-Ellis runs where the hole is supposed to be...if it's only blocked good enough for a one-yard gain, then he takes the yard. At least he's doing his part.

139
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:16pm

Maybe my statement was too strong.

Yes, its good to take 1 when 1 is there.

I just think, very often, BJGE takes 3 when 20+ is there. We're talking about a guy who through 330 career carries, has had 5 carries of 20+, and no carries of 40+.

I wouldn't mind seeing him as a short yardage guy, or something along those lines, but its clearly a position that could be upgraded. The Patriots rushing offense has been ranked by DVOA 2, 9 , 4, 2, the last 4 years. I would guess that the rushing DVOA correlatees quite highly with the passing DVOA in the Pats case.

Take this statement : "(A)BJGE has x DVOA while rushing behind the Patriots (B)line, with the Patriot's (C) TEs blocking, (D) Tom Brady setting up the playaction, and the patriots (E)WRs blocking downfield"

I feel like part A is the least important part of that statement, and by a very wide margin.

144
by LnGrrrR :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:52pm

There's something to be said for consistency though. Given your statements of his lack of 20+ and 40+ gains, he still has managed to average 4.4 YPC this year. That's a testament to his consistency. He's not relying on huge runs to pump up his YPC.

162
by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 9:33am

I agree that consistency is valuable, and I absolutely understand why DVOA thinks BJGE is good.

I just don't think it has much to do with BJGE, and has a lot to do with the other factors in the equation. I'm not a huge fan of ALY, but NE's is the highest in the league, and by quite a large margin. Don't forget, Woodhead rushed for 5.6ypc, and actually was used as a traditional RB quite a big (getting carries on 1st and 2nd down out of non-draws). Woodhead also had a higher dvoa than BJGE. Even Maroney had a very high DVOA behind this line last year.

I agree that BJGE's performance is valuable, I just don't think its his talent that is the determining factor in that performance. I think its the environment.

164
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 10:06am

Even Maroney had a very high DVOA behind this line last year.

Since when is 1.2% (good for 29th in the league, out of 50 backs with at least 100 carries) a "very high DVOA"?

If you want to say he had a very high DVOA three years ago, sure. Last year? Not so much.

158
by MJK :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 1:52am

Agree, but you're leaving out the most important thing (although you imply it, as do others). BJGE does FOUR things well: he SEES the hole, he hits it hard and goes through it, he holds onto the ball, and he gets the extra yard.

Seeing the hole is something that a relatively small subset of RB's actually seem to do (and sometimes the great ones don't...Chris Johnson certainly doesn't always seem to see it). I'd rather have a guy that always gets what's there than one who sometimes does amazing but often leaves yards on the field.

163
by nat :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 9:46am

I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition.

171
by MJK :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 12:57pm

NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition!

81
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 9:45am

This has probably been asked and answered before, but given Philly's more-overrated-than-usual rushing DVOA, but does DVOA distinguish between Vick's sacks on "traditional" dropbacks and "sacks" on scrambles where he doesn't reach the line of scrimmage?

129
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:23pm

No it does not. QB runs in the play-by-play are usually just listed as runs, not designated as designed runs or scrambles. We do collect that information in the game charting project, but won't have that until after the season.

Because of this, yes, on any of Vick's teams (or any other teams with running quarterbacks), the passing DVOA will be slightly deflated (because a lot of sacks will be failed scrambles/runs, not failed passes), and the rushing DVOA will be slightly inflated (because those scrambles will only count for rushing DVOA when they gain yards).

83
by Jetspete :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 9:57am

i'm looking forward to the 1991 DVOA recap, as that might skew the top ten. The '91 Skins were the best team i feel i ever watched (until the 07 Pats). I'm interested to see in a few months where they end up vs the '10 Pats.

85
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:04am

" Daniel Graham of the Broncos is dead last this year with -133 DYAR, the third-lowest tight end total in history behind Boo Williams in 2004 and Keith Cash in 1996. Graham had a catch rate of 49 percent, and tight ends shouldn't have catch rates below 50 percent. Ever.
"

Aaron, was there any split between Graham's numbers with Orton throwing to him vs Tebow.

89
by erniecohen :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:22am

I don't quite grok why the playoff odds report gives PIT a better chance of reaching the AFC championship game (and winning the AFC) than NE. Presumably this is because NE is more likely to face BAL in the second round, but presumably DVOA picks NYJ as the likely winner of the WC game, which gives NE NYJ and PIT BAL.

94
by joepinion :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:02am

Presumably that's a mistake. Maybe those numbers are reversed (switch NE and PIT numbers for those two games) I can't make sense of it otherwise.

124
by erniecohen :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:48pm

I'm not so sure. If you have a situation where there are two equally good 5/6 seeds and two equally bad 3/4 seeds, the 2 seed gets an advantage because it gets the bad team whenever one (but not both) of the 5/6 seeds win. I guess that's what's going on here.

130
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 2:30pm

Even more pronounced in the NFC. If Seattle and Green Bay happen to advance, the Falcons have a much tougher road to the Super Bowl than the Bears.

118
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:22pm

Assuming no errors in the playoff odds report, it comes down to PIT having a big edge in the divisional round match-ups because of their #2 seed. The AFC #5 and #6 seeds are about 15-23 DVOA higher than the #3 and #4 seeds. If one wildcard wins and one loses, PIT plays a much weaker team, while being only 7 DVOA behind NE. If both wildcards win or both lose, NE should have better odds than PIT, but not enough to overcome the difference.

95
by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:07am

TOTDVOA

AVG 1.07%
SD 18.97%

ELITE NE PIT
GOOD GB BAL PHI NYJ SD ATL NYG NO
AVG TEN TB HOU MIA IND CHI KC DET CIN CLE OAK
BAD JAC DAL SF MIN DEN WAS BUF STL SEA
HORRID CAR ARI

COMMENTS:
1. 8/10 ELITE or GOOD teams made the playoffs.
2. Did Special Teams really keep SD and NYG out of the playoffs?
3. Did SEA's special teams get them to the playoffs?
4. IND is GOOD on OFF, BAD on DEF, and HORRID on S.T. How'd they make it and SD didn't.
5. KC is AVG on OFF and DEF and merely bad on S.T., maybe that's why SD didn't make it.

WGTDVOA

AVG 2.07%
SD 20.38%

ELITE NE PIT
GOOD BAL GB SD PHI NYJ NO ATL NYG CHI OAK
AVG HOU TB MIA DET TEN IND JAC SF CIN CLE
BAD DAL DEN KC STL BUF MIN WAS
HORRID CAR SEA ARI

COMMENTS:
1. 9/12 GOOD or ELITE teams made the playoffs.
2. Thoughts about KC being bad at the end of the season and playoff implications?
3. SEA is HORRID recently.

OFFDVOA

MEAN 3.33%
SD 15.89%

ELITE NE
GOOD HOU PHI SD PIT IND GB TB NYG
AVG ATL NO BAL KC JAC DEN NYJ CIN MIA DET TEN DAL CLE OAK
BAD SF WAS BUF MIN CHI SEA STL
HORRID ARI CAR

COMMENTS:
1. NE IS OVER A FULL SD ABOVE HOU.
2. W/O NE in the mix, HOU is ELITE and ATL, NO, BAL are GOOD.
DEFDVOA
3. Alternatively, the level of suck at the bottom is greater than 2 SD from the mean, and removing them from the mix also moves HOU into the ELITE range and pulls STL into the HORRID range, CLE and OAK become BAD, and the NYG and TB become AVG.

MEAN 2.96%
SD 9.26%

ELITE PIT
GOOD GB NYG BAL CHI NYJ SD TEN NO
AVG MIA MIN ATL SF PHI OAK CAR CLE CIN NE STL KC DET TB
BAD IND ARI WAS DAL BUF SEA
HORRID DEN HOU JAC

COMMENTS:
1. PIT is almost a full SD above GB
2. DEN, HOU, JAC are 2 SD from the mean, removing them from the mix pushes NO into the AVG range, pushes NE STL KC DET and TB into the BAD range and makes SEA horrid.

S.T.DVOA

MEAN0.70%
SD 3.65%

ELITE CHI ATL
GOOD SEA BAL NYJ TEN JAC NE ARI
AVG OAK DET CLE PHI STL DAL PIT BUF TB CAR MIN
BAD HOU NO SF DEN KC WAS GB CIN MIA
HORRID NYG IND SD

1. 6/9 ELITE/GOOD S.T. teams made the playoffs, 5/9 ELITE/GOOD OFF teams made the playoffs, and 6/9 ELITE/GOOD DEF teams made the playoffs.

103
by sethburn :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:08pm

I wonder if the NE offensive performances against GB and Pitt (and the NYJ and Chi) show that great offense beats good to great defense in the modern NFL. If so, as much of a cliche as it is, to beat NE you must defeat them in a high scoring game.

Reminds me a bit of UNLV-Indiana in the 1987 final 4.

105
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:37pm

On the contrary, I think Green Bay had the formula. Keep converting 3rd downs and keep the clock running. Try to get a 2-1 possession edge. If a team can manage that, score touchdowns instead of field goals, and not turn the ball over, they stand a good shot of winning. Kansas City is obviously the weakest team on the AFC side of the tournament, but they could possibly follow the blueprint to a 21-17 win.

137
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:56pm

Green Bay did a good job of getting extra possesions by recovering an onside kick, and giving up a kickreturn (almost) TD, and a pick 6. Thats all the TOP difference was.

When you have twice as many actual drives as your opponent, having twice as much TOP isn't surprising.

140
by dryheat :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:25pm

Well, that's a bit dismissive. Sure, the Pats had a 1:09 drive after the Connolly kick return. On the other hand, the Packers drive that ended in the TD pass to Jones took less time than that. The Packers got the extra possession on the onside kick, but what matters is what they did with those possessions, which was to convert 1st downs and keep Brady on the sideline. Green Bay had 4 time-consuming drives that ended with points, plus another one at the end when they were (wrongheadedly) trying to kill clock:

11 plays, 6:15 elapsed, 3 first down conversions
13 plays, 6:26, 5
13, 6:56, 5
11, 5:05, 4
12, 4:22, 4

The Patriots' saving grace was that they forced GB to kick two field goals at the end of those drives. The huge plays were the defense holding GB to field goals after getting to 1st and goal from the 2 and 1st and 10 from the 11.

117
by Arkaein :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:12pm

NE didn't have great offense against GB. They got one defensive TD, and another TD needed only a 4 yard drive (requiring all 3 downs) after the Connolly kick return.

GB did a good job pressuring Brady all night. If Woodson just hangs on to a routine INT it wipes out a TD and NE's best drive of the game.

201
by otbricki22 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 12:20am

NE's big problem was the DL and LB corps were terribly depleted for that game allowing GB easily run the ball.

This is still an issue, although the return of Spikes helps a lot.

125
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:50pm

I don't think 2 games from a season allow any firm conclusion. My impression is that when elite offense and elite defense meet, it could just as easily be a near shut-out as a blowout or an even match. Weak offense versus weak defense seems more often to be an even match-- is there any study to confirm or refute this?

GB's defense did plenty well enough against the NE offense for NE to be defeated. PIT's defense will have to be better if they meet NE again, but PIT is capable of scoring plenty of points in a hurry, as they've done several times this season. If they'd recovered either of two onside kicks against NE, they would have been driving for a potential game-winning TD rather than just driving to soften the final score.

I think NE comes out with a firm lead in DVOA because they are that good and managed to win their regular season games against top opponents, not because elite offense is any kind of silver bullet against other NFL strategies. After all, NE lost 33-14 last year in the playoffs.

138
by CraigInDC :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:06pm

There is a feeling among Steelers fans that the Patriots offense is a nightmare matchup for the Steelers defense. The priorities of the Steelers defense are, in order: Stop the run, don't give up big plays, tackle the receivers after short receptions. The attitude is that if you can drive down the field on nothing but short passes, then we'll let you, but eventually we will get a sack, turnover, or you'll just drop some passes. The Patriots offense appears to be designed to drive down the field with short passes, and they are good enough to never do the bad things.

In the matchup earlier this year, the Steelers offense started slow, so they got behind, and I think the defense had a bad day tackling -- obviously the Patriots played really well, too, and are just a better team generally. Things could work out differently in a rematch, but I think it would take the Patriots having a bit of an off day for the Steelers to win.

151
by tuluse :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 6:42pm

Yeah Tom Brady is giving a lot of defenses fits these days. The Bears have similar priorities (although go about them complete differently), and they got lit up worse than they have in years.

Earlier this year, I thought the key was blitzing Brady, force him to make quick decisions and hope you get lucky with zone coverage behind the blitz. Now I'm not so sure. He has a complete grasp on what he's trying to do and how the defense is trying to stop him.

167
by erniecohen :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 11:56am

A glimmer of hope for PIT is that LeBeau revamped the pass D setup after the NE game, to cover short routes more aggressively at the cost of giving up more big plays. This has led to a fairly dramatic improvement in the overall pass D and, just as important, the ability of the D to get off the field. (Of course the flip side of the coin is that the NE D has also improved.)

96
by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:07am

Aaron,

What does this comment mean?

"But since standard deviation for DVOA is a lot higher these days, the 2010 Steelers end up with a much better total DVOA than the 1994 Steelers."

119
by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:29pm

It means a team has to be better now to have a #1 defense and #5 offense than it did in 1994. According to DVOA, there was more parity in 1994, whereas now, the teams' values are more spread out. Standard deviation gives a single measure of how spread out data is, when you expect the data roughly follows a bell curve.

98
by Jack Gallagher (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:36am

The Patriots high DVOA this year also seems to have had a big impact on the schedule strength ratings of the entire league. As a telling anecdote, the Pats are the only team in the top 11 of Schedule Strength that did not play against the Patriots. Sure there are confounding factors in some cases like the AFC north teams also having to play BAL/PIT twice each which certainly contributes to why all those teams are in the top 10 in schedule strength. But when even teams like Detroit, Indy, and Minn are in the top 11 the schedule strength contribution from playing the pats has to be a significant factor.

101
by grady graddy (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:43am

Ford did take a snap out of a wildcat-type package on 3rd and goal in one of the Raiders' losses to a Florida team, I forget which one. But it was his least successful rush of the year. None of his runs were designed passes.

104
by MilkmanDanimal :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:16pm

Tampa jumped 15 spots from last year, Arizona dropped 18. Hooray and/or ouch. Let's call this "The Freeman Improvement And/Or Lack Of Kurt Warner Index".

106
by Led :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 12:39pm

The Pats alltime great DVOA is based in significant part on turnovers. An almost supernatural lack of turnovers makes their great offense super great. And a very high number of forced turnovers makes their otherwise horrid defense passable. (If you look at their defensive drive stats, they are 31st in yards per drive and 31st in defensive success rate. But, of course, turnovers matter a lot.) I do think that the turnover numbers on both sides of the ball are outliers to a certain extent -- particularly on offense. The risk for the Pats (and hope for fans of the other teams) is that the Pats regress toward the mean in terms of turnovers and/or hit a streak of bad turnover luck. Seems to be the only way they're losing.

134
by LnGrrrR :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:15pm

Don't jinx us! We suffered turnover calamity LAST YEAR in the playoffs. This season has just been payback. :)

169
by t.d. :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 12:12pm

Brady has had a three interception game each of the last three postseasons he's played in

141
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 4:26pm

I'm not buying the "outliers" comment. I'll agree that NE is in rarely charted territory, but it isn't like the ball's been on the ground 2-3 times a game and they keep snatching it up. Woodhead and Benny have fummbled a combined 1 time all season. And Brady definitely has had some luck with dropped ints, but no more than every other QB.

I'll admit that numbers like the 7 TOs they got from Buffalo and 4 from Chicago probably are higher than I expect in the playoffs, but only a handful of teams have turned it over once, so they clearly have a hand in opposing team's mistakes.

FTR, here are the teams who only lost the ball one time or less, with Baltimore and the Jets being the goose eggs.

Pitt
Baltimore
NYJ (round one)
Cleveland
Green Bay

So, they beat 3 playoff teams without a significant TO advantage, and no advantage at all against Baltimore.

I suppose you could also say that NE would be in trouble if they turn it over multiple times and don't get any back, but to this I ask: What team isn't in trouble in that scenario? And why would NE be a more likely victim than any other team?

145
by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 5:12pm

"And why would NE be a more likely victim than any other team?"

B/c if you flip a coin 20 times in a row and it comes up heads, the next time it's got to come up tails.

146
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 5:15pm

If I lose to my brother in 1:1 basketball 10 times in a row, the odds of him beating me again are significantly different than a similar coin example.

147
by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 5:20pm

Turnovers are mostly random.

148
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 5:28pm

They are? I thought fumble recoveries were random. Seems to me that interceptions and fumbles are a lot more consistent and I've read nothing on FO to suggest otherwise.

Feel free to point me in the right direction if I am mistaken.

150
by Led :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 6:40pm

Getting interceptions and causing fumbles correlate to a certain extent from year to year and so are, to some extent, a repeatable skill whereas fumble recovery rates do not correlate at all. That said, just because there is some year-to-year correlation in causing interceptions and causing fumbles doesn't mean it is 100% skill and 0% luck or anything close to it. Moreover, even unquestionably skill-based performance will regress towards the mean if it is a far enough outlier. FO pointed this out with respect to the historic year Revis had in pass coverage last year. Brady's historic no-interception streak is like any other record -- by definition an outlier.

154
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 10:06pm

The streak is absolutely an outlier, but IIRC Brady has one of the lowest playoff interception rates in the history of the NFL. And BJGE has never fumbled, let alone lost a fumble, since high school.

At what point do we start to credit the player? Or are turnovers complete luck?

The luck angle strikes me as a "any given Sunday" storyline which limits discussion. If any team can lose to any other at any time, why even bother analyzing anything?

152
by B :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 7:22pm

Gambler's fallacy. If a flipped coin comes up heads 20 times in a row, or 100 times in a row, it's got a 50/50 shot of being heads on the next flip. Assuming it's not a two-headed coin, of course.

155
by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 11:14pm

No, if a coin comes up heads 100 times in a row, its coming up heads the next time because there's basically no chance its a fair coin at this point.

When your results are this far from the assumption, your assumption is wrong. In this case, the assumption that the Patriots turn the ball over at league average rates (and have been getting lucky) is the assumption.

159
by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 8:03am

"No, if a coin comes up heads 100 times in a row, its coming up heads the next time because there's basically no chance its a fair coin at this point."

There are a number of cases where that's not true. For example, if you tossed a fair coin a billion times, the odds that there's a 100-head streak in there somewhere are pretty good.

That said, it would probably take years of game-charting results to determine if the lack of fumbles is due to some innate talent of the ballcarriers (they don't fumble when getting hit in approximately the same way), the offensive line (they protect the ball from fumble-inducing hits), a slate of weak defenses ... and you'd still have trouble telling that from a random slick patch of turf causing the defender to not strip-sack Brady when he had the chance.

161
by Waverly :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 8:55am

That's true--in fact it's awfully close to 100%.

But what's the chance that a fair coin comes up heads for the first 100 throws?

And it's even more complicated with football statistics, where the "coin" is constantly trying to improve itself.

157
by MJK :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 1:49am

I think the Pats' turnover ratio is certainly partly due to some luck (i.e. Brady's dropped interceptions), but there are four factors that very clearly contribute to it that are demonstrably NOT luck:

1) Brady. I think everyone agrees he is an above-average QB, and above-average QB's generally have below-average interception rates. Maybe he's been extreme this year, but we certainly would expect him to throw fewer INT's than Joe Average QB.

2) The two RB's are extremely sure handed. Low (or high) tendency to fumble is a demonstrable skill (or lack thereof) of RB's. BJGE hasn't fumbled in a rush from scrimmage EVER (in 3 seasons, one as a full time starter), and Danny Woodhead has fumbled from scrimmage while playing for the Pats once (when his head was pile-driven into frozen turf this past Sunday).

3) Their defense has been playing with a "bend but don't break" philosophy this season, allowing many short and medium plays, but few big plays, and forcing teams to run lots of plays against them. More offense plays against obviously leads to more opportunities for defensive turnovers.

4) A big part of their document 3rd down defensive struggles have been because their defensive players, especially the LB's and the safeties, have been playing a bit of a gambling approach...as long as they know there's coverage behind them, they'll risk giving up the 3rd down conversion to try to jump the route. Usually this doesn't work and they give up the 3rd down conversion...but sometimes they get the INT. Hence they've gotten more INT's than in previous years. Interestingly, their CB's don't seem to gamble all that much, which could be why they give up so few big plays.

Granted, there is some randomness in each source of a turnover. But if you take two positive random variables that are nonuniform and weighted towards bigger numbers, and add them to two negative random variables that are weighted towards smaller values, then you'll obvioulsy expect the resulting distribution to be weighted strongly positively.

I'll agree that luck might have moved the Pats out into the very positive tail of that distriubtion instead of the merely fairly positive mean, but a fair part of their turnover ratio has been due to controllable factors.

166
by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 10:31am

At some point, an essay on "luck" (randomness) would be well warranted. I've had thoughts on it, but have never fully organized them to a significant extent. There are certainly many facets to the issue. For example, fumble recover is generally accepted on this site as being almost purely random in aggregrate, yet situational factors tend to benefit either the offense or defense for a particular fumble. Other elements of the game, which appear to be less random, often have a significant random component to them. For example, and this may not be a great example but serves for illustrative purposes, offensive holding penalties. Offensive holding is a function of the ability of the blocker and the rusher; however, whether or not the call is made is affected by position of the referee, his assessment, and his decisions. These factors are essentially random from the standpoint that they are not predictable. Additonally, there is what I call temporal randomness, which refers to the fact that there is no way to predict at what point or situation in the game the call will occur.

I think in #1 you begin to hint at the nature of what we're talking about. With interceptions, there are certain random factors that contribute to an interception, and Brady has a skill set that either reduces the effects of these factors or manages them better. Same for #2.

RE: #4. I don't know if your analysis is correct or not, but I think it was an awesome and clear analysis.

202
by otbricki22 (not verified) :: Sat, 01/15/2011 - 12:27am

Yes, but Brady's rate of dropped interceptions is also very low. It isn't a matter of luck that the interception rate is so low.

122
by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 1:34pm

I'll note again how badly I underappreciated the Patriots offense when they simply controlled the game against the Vikings defense, and I said it was the worst Vikings defensive performance since Denny Green's last year. It just wasn't apparent to me how historically great this group was. It probably has soemthing to do with Brady being the only obvious HOFer in the bunch, and the offensive line being nicked up. There just isn't anything which screams greatness, but they are great nonetheless. I do also think it is underappreciated how having two tight ends who can run, catch, and block is a rare luxury, and creates match up nightmares for defenses.

136
by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 01/04/2011 - 3:56pm

You are rethinking your position too much. NE wasn't nearly as good prior to the Pitt game as they were afterward. Minny was pretty bad in the 2nd half of that game and probably would have allowed 40+ to the NE team that ended the season.

168
by jmaron :: Wed, 01/05/2011 - 11:59am

In retrospect that was a pretty darn good performance by the Vikings D against NE at least for the first half. The Pats had one scoring drive of 75 yards but that should have ended in an interception when one of the Vikings safeties let an interception go right through his hands.

I used to hate NE - because I thought they won some SuperBowls they shouldn't have and that they were getting more credit than they deserve. But I can't hate Bill Belichick because he's just so smart compared to everyone else. He's 14-2 this year coming off some ridiculous string of double digit wins and he has 8 picks in the first 4 rounds - 2 in each. He has completely revamped the offence with no names and they are the best in DVOA history.

The man is a genius and I respect genius.