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» Catch Radius: Best of the NFC

Part I of our catch radius season finale spotlights the NFC kings of double coverage (Calvin Johnson), the sideline (Jordy Nelson), the drag route (DeSean Jackson) and the red zone (Dez Bryant).

18 Dec 2012

Week 15 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

Week 15 has a history of being a strange week with a lot of unexpected upsets and near-upsets. Scroll down a bit to our "Best Total DVOA Ever" table and you will notice it looks quite a bit different from the one we ran last week, because a lot of great recent teams stumbled in Week 15:

  • The 2011 Packers, 2009 Saints, 2005 Colts, and 1998 Broncos all went into Week 15 at 13-0, and all four teams lost. The 2011 Packers and 1998 Broncos lost to teams with losing records.
  • The 2009 Colts made it one more week, to 14-0, but they only beat the 7-7 Jaguars in Week 15 by four points, 35-31.
  • The 2010 Patriots nearly lost at home to the Packers, even though Matt Flynn started in place of the injured Aaron Rodgers.
  • The 2004 Steelers barely escaped with a 33-30 win over the 5-9 Giants.
  • The 2004 Patriots, just below Pittsburgh in DVOA, lost to the 3-11 Dolphins on Monday Night Football.
  • The 2002 Bucs slipped by the 3-11 Lions, 23-20.
  • In the middle of their early 90's mini-dynasty, the Dallas Cowboys lost in Week 15 of 1992, 1994, and 1995.
  • The 1996 Broncos went into Week 15 second in DVOA at 12-1, but lost their second game of the season. OK, sure, they lost to the team that was first in DVOA, Green Bay, but they lost that game 41-6.

Anyway, you get the point. It's likely coincidence, but Week 15 seems to be when the mighty fall and the weird stuff happens. Well, Week 15 was weird this year too, but for a different reason. This year, Week 15 saw a number of blowouts, many of them unexpected... yet the top eight teams in total DVOA remain exactly the same, in exactly the same order from one to eight. The only difference is in the ratings themselves: the top four teams are now packed closer together, while the New York Giants drop seven percentage points and go from a virtual tie for sixth/seventh to a virtual tie for seventh/eighth.

Around 10:00pm on Sunday night, it certainly looked like the Seahawks were going to pass the Patriots for the top spot, but then Tom Brady and the Patriots decided they were having none of that and came roaring back to turn a 49ers stomp-fest into a narrow 49ers win powered primarily by the fact that San Francisco recovered seven of eight fumbles. A lot of those fumbles were aborted snaps, which are more likely to be recovered by the offense than other fumbles, but still, that's damn good luck. By the end, you had two of the top 20 teams in DVOA history fighting to something close to a draw, so with opponent adjustments, both teams ended up with a good week. San Francisco gets 33.6% DVOA for the game, while New England gets 24.4% DVOA. I don't have time right now to go back and check, but I would not be surprised if this is the highest combined total DVOA for one game we've ever seen, despite the fact that the Colin Kaepernick aborted snaps are counted against the 49ers but don't help the Patriots' rating at all.

One way to see the importance of the fumbles is to look at the ratings with and without all fumbles counting for equal value. In VOA (without opponent adjustments), the Patriots offense outplayed the 49ers offense, 9.9% to -5.5%. However, if we count lost fumbles with full turnover value and fumbles recovered by the offense as if they didn't happen at all, the Patriots offense only outplayed the 49ers offense 3.6% to 1.4%. To show you how the tide of the game turned, here's a look at the Patriots' offensive and defensive DVOA ratings on Sunday night by quarter:

Patriots DVOA vs. 49ers, by Quarter
QTR OFF DVOA DEF DVOA
1 -82.6% -20.3%
2 -0.5% 48.8%
3 28.3% -24.1%
4 81.9% -49.2%

The power of the 49ers is a big reason why the Patriots are still number one. The Patriots' VOA rating dropped nearly five percentage points, but their DVOA rating dropped only two. The other reason the Patriots stay at number one is that Seattle gets a surprisingly low rating for its dismantling of the Toronto Sub-Argonauts, just 38.1% DVOA, which is over one hundred percentage points lower than Seattle's rating for Week 14. Seattle has about zero in both defense and special teams, leaving the offense as the one unit that really dominated. Seattle had the best offensive DVOA in the league for Week 15, but it isn't as good for what it was in Weeks 13 and 14 because the Seahawks went from playing the No. 1 defense (Chicago) and the No. 3 defense (Arizona) to blowing out the No. 27 defense (Buffalo). The Seahawks converted 5 of 11 third downs, plus the only time they went for it on fourth down, but they end up going from 55.6% VOA on third/fourth down to 2.5% DVOA because Buffalo's defense has been so god-awful on third downs this year.

The Seahawks and 49ers also trail the Patriots and Denver Broncos when it comes to their odds to win the Super Bowl, simply because there is so much more competition in the NFC this season. Losing to San Francisco made it very likely (over 70 percent) that the Patriots will be the third seed, which means they need to win an extra game and then travel to Denver in order to go to the AFC Championship. That change drops the Patriots' chances of winning it all from about 24 percent to just 19 percent. Denver is now our Super Bowl favorite at 20.1 percent. The other two members of this year's "big four" are San Francisco at 14.7 percent and Seattle at 11.4 percent.

Right behind Seattle is Houston with 11.1 percent chance to win the Super Bowl, but that's almost all based on the likelihood of having the top seed and home-field throughout the AFC playoffs. The Texans have been fading in recent weeks to the point where they aren't even the number three team in the AFC anymore in terms of weighted DVOA. Obviously, fading is a relative term here, since we're talking about the Texans winning games by closer margins over bad teams rather than losing straight out, but still, they've fallen behind the surprisingly hot Cincinnati Bengals. I've generally derided the Bengals as being the same team they've been now for four straight years -- slightly above average on offense, slightly below average on defense -- and their 8-6 record comes in part thanks to the easiest schedule in the league by average DVOA of opponent. However, there's no doubt they've been much better team in recent weeks, going 5-2 since their bye week with those losses coming by eight points to Denver and one point to Dallas:

2012 Cincinnati Bengals, Weeks 1-7 vs. Weeks 9-15
Weeks OFF DVOA Rank DEF DVOA Rank ST DVOA Rank TOT DVOA W-L
Weeks 1-7 -3.8% 19 18.4% 28 4.2% 6 -18.1% 3-4
Weeks 9-15 6.7% 11 -17.7% 2 5.3% 7 29.7% 5-2

That defensive improvement is phenomenal. The Bengals have improved against both the run and the pass, and on all three downs. Surprisingly, this defensive improvement has taken place even though Cincinnati's league-leading Adjusted Sack Rate has actually dropped, from 9.2 percent before the bye week to 7.9 percent since. The one personnel change that took place during the bye week was the return of veteran strong safety Chris Crocker, who missed the first seven games but has started every game since.

* * * * *

BEST DVOA EVER (OR AT LEAST SINCE 1991) WATCH

BEST TOTAL DVOA
THROUGH WEEK 15
x BEST OFFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH WEEK 15
x BEST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH WEEK 15
x BEST ST DVOA
THROUGH WEEK 15
Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA
1991 WAS 57.3% x 2007 NE 44.3% x 1991 PHI -41.3% x 2002 NO 11.4%
2007 NE 56.3% x 2010 NE 43.9% x 2002 TB -36.0% x 2012 BAL 10.5%
1995 SF 40.4% x 2002 KC 38.7% x 2008 BAL -29.1% x 1994 CLE1 10.2%
2010 NE 40.1% x 2004 IND 36.9% x 2008 PIT -27.9% x 2001 PHI 10.2%
2012 NE 39.8% x 2003 KC 36.2% x 1995 SF -27.3% x 2007 CHI 10.1%
2004 PIT 39.7% x 1998 DEN 36.2% x 2004 BUF -26.4% x 2011 CHI 9.8%
1999 STL 38.9% x 2012 NE 34.9% x 2012 CHI -26.4% x 1996 CAR 9.6%
2005 IND 38.5% x 1992 SF 34.4% x 2000 BAL -25.2% x 2009 CLE 9.5%
2012 SEA 38.5% x 2004 KC 33.6% x 2005 CHI -24.4% x 2000 MIA 9.4%
1996 GB 38.1% x 1993 SF 33.6% x 1997 SF -24.1% x 2006 CHI 9.4%
2004 PHI 37.4% x 2011 NE 32.3% x 2004 BAL -23.7% x 1997 DAL 9.3%
2012 DEN 37.2% x 1995 DAL 31.8% x 1998 MIA -23.1% x 2004 BUF 9.2%

Yes, parity be damned, that is in fact now three different 2012 teams in the all-time top dozen, as the current Broncos narrowly move ahead of the 1998 version that, as noted above, lost its first game in Week 15. San Francisco also ranks in the top 20. Given the teams that have gone on Super Bowl runs in recent years, it's hard to say something like "it's really hard to imagine a team that isn't in 2012's big four winning the Super Bowl," but, you know, it's still sort of hard to imagine a team that isn't in 2012's big four winning the Super Bowl. Unless it's the Giants. I've given up on trying to understand the Giants.

Also, as I've noted in other weeks, the quality of this year's top teams is not matched by an equal lack of quality at the bottom. As bad as they have been this season, the Kansas City Chiefs are still just 14th among the worst DVOA teams through Week 15, and the Jacksonville Jaguars aren't even in the bottom 30. This year's worst defense (as of this week, Indianapolis) wouldn't even rank in the bottom 40.

* * * * *

It took us a bit longer than usual, but as we do every year, we've put Football Outsiders Almanac on sale for those of you who want to see what you missed before the season. Witness the glory of us being almost completely wrong about Seattle and San Francisco! (I say "almost" completely wrong because we still had these two teams competing for the division title... at 7-9 or 8-8.) The PDF Version of FOA 2012 is now just $6.00 in the FO Store.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 15 weeks of 2012, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games. 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>

All stats pages should now be updated (or, at least, will be in the next few minutes) including snap counts. FO Premium database and Loser League standings should be updated tonight.

TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NE 39.8% 1 45.6% 1 10-4 34.9% 1 0.7% 16 5.6% 5
2 SEA 38.5% 2 44.8% 2 9-5 17.6% 4 -15.1% 6 5.8% 4
3 DEN 37.2% 3 39.5% 3 11-3 20.4% 2 -15.6% 4 1.3% 10
4 SF 34.8% 4 35.1% 4 10-3-1 18.5% 3 -17.1% 2 -0.8% 19
5 GB 23.1% 5 17.3% 5 10-4 17.3% 5 -6.6% 8 -0.9% 20
6 CHI 18.9% 6 17.0% 6 8-6 -14.1% 26 -26.4% 1 6.6% 2
7 NYG 13.3% 7 10.5% 8 8-6 10.6% 9 -0.5% 13 2.3% 9
8 HOU 13.3% 8 8.4% 10 12-2 4.8% 13 -15.5% 5 -7.0% 32
9 ATL 11.7% 11 7.3% 12 12-2 6.8% 11 -4.5% 10 0.4% 14
10 BAL 9.2% 9 3.3% 13 9-5 1.9% 15 3.2% 20 10.5% 1
11 WAS 7.1% 10 10.2% 9 8-6 12.7% 6 2.2% 18 -3.4% 26
12 CIN 4.4% 12 14.6% 7 8-6 1.6% 16 0.6% 15 3.4% 8
13 CAR 3.4% 16 8.1% 11 5-9 8.3% 10 -1.3% 11 -6.1% 31
14 DET -0.5% 13 -1.0% 16 4-10 10.8% 8 6.4% 24 -5.0% 30
15 NO -1.3% 22 1.5% 14 6-8 11.5% 7 12.8% 29 -0.1% 17
16 DAL -1.9% 17 -4.0% 17 8-6 5.3% 12 5.9% 23 -1.3% 21
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 PIT -3.0% 15 0.0% 15 7-7 -2.7% 17 0.0% 14 -0.2% 18
18 MIA -4.7% 20 -6.4% 20 6-8 -6.7% 21 -0.9% 12 1.2% 11
19 STL -5.1% 19 -5.2% 18 6-7-1 -7.2% 22 -6.2% 9 -4.1% 27
20 MIN -5.3% 18 -10.0% 23 8-6 -3.1% 18 7.0% 26 4.8% 6
21 TB -6.1% 14 -7.0% 21 6-8 3.3% 14 4.5% 21 -4.9% 29
22 BUF -10.0% 21 -7.8% 22 5-9 -3.2% 20 10.3% 27 3.5% 7
23 SD -11.8% 23 -10.3% 24 5-9 -10.4% 24 2.2% 17 0.8% 12
24 NYJ -12.1% 24 -15.4% 25 6-8 -19.1% 30 -6.7% 7 0.3% 15
25 CLE -12.4% 25 -5.5% 19 5-9 -16.1% 27 2.3% 19 6.0% 3
26 ARI -14.7% 27 -21.6% 27 5-9 -31.2% 32 -16.0% 3 0.4% 13
27 PHI -20.7% 26 -23.6% 29 4-10 -12.3% 25 5.8% 22 -2.6% 25
28 IND -21.0% 28 -18.8% 26 9-5 -3.1% 19 15.8% 32 -2.1% 23
29 TEN -25.9% 29 -23.0% 28 5-9 -17.4% 28 6.4% 25 -2.1% 24
30 OAK -28.2% 30 -28.1% 30 4-10 -8.9% 23 14.5% 30 -4.8% 28
31 JAC -33.6% 31 -31.5% 31 2-12 -18.8% 29 14.7% 31 -0.1% 16
32 KC -40.1% 32 -38.7% 32 2-12 -25.7% 31 12.5% 28 -1.9% 22
  • 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.
  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
  • PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).



TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
1 NE 39.8% 10-4 38.8% 12.5 2 1.2% 14 -19.1% 30 10.1% 10
2 SEA 38.5% 9-5 31.5% 11.3 4 3.6% 6 14.8% 7 13.8% 16
3 DEN 37.2% 11-3 36.2% 12.8 1 -3.5% 24 -26.2% 32 6.8% 5
4 SF 34.8% 10-3-1 29.6% 11.4 3 5.3% 3 11.9% 8 21.4% 31
5 GB 23.1% 10-4 13.8% 10.4 5 4.0% 5 -15.6% 29 10.9% 11
6 CHI 18.9% 8-6 15.6% 9.5 6 2.7% 10 -7.6% 22 12.7% 14
7 NYG 13.3% 8-6 11.3% 8.2 8 3.2% 8 -5.7% 21 33.7% 32
8 HOU 13.3% 12-2 21.9% 7.9 11 -2.8% 22 -13.2% 26 11.5% 12
9 ATL 11.7% 12-2 16.8% 8.4 7 -4.4% 28 -3.3% 17 14.1% 19
10 BAL 9.2% 9-5 11.7% 8.0 10 -2.2% 18 8.9% 10 16.5% 26
11 WAS 7.1% 8-6 10.6% 8.1 9 0.0% 16 -11.3% 25 9.4% 9
12 CIN 4.4% 8-6 12.4% 7.2 13 -7.3% 32 3.1% 14 16.4% 24
13 CAR 3.4% 5-9 1.7% 7.3 12 3.6% 7 -14.8% 28 15.4% 22
14 DET -0.5% 4-10 -3.0% 6.6 17 1.4% 13 15.3% 5 6.3% 3
15 NO -1.3% 6-8 -0.6% 6.1 21 2.1% 12 0.8% 16 15.2% 21
16 DAL -1.9% 8-6 -3.4% 7.0 14 4.1% 4 2.9% 15 6.7% 4
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
17 PIT -3.0% 7-7 1.2% 6.4 20 -5.2% 30 -4.0% 18 17.4% 27
18 MIA -4.7% 6-8 -4.1% 6.9 15 -2.3% 19 14.9% 6 15.0% 20
19 STL -5.1% 6-7-1 -10.0% 6.5 19 9.6% 1 16.2% 4 6.9% 6
20 MIN -5.3% 8-6 -4.0% 6.6 18 2.4% 11 18.2% 2 4.8% 1
21 TB -6.1% 6-8 -1.9% 6.9 16 -2.5% 20 3.3% 13 14.1% 18
22 BUF -10.0% 5-9 -13.7% 5.8 23 -0.2% 17 -8.4% 23 16.3% 23
23 SD -11.8% 5-9 -8.8% 5.1 25 -3.8% 26 -20.2% 31 8.4% 8
24 NYJ -12.1% 6-8 -12.5% 5.8 22 3.1% 9 -10.9% 24 18.2% 30
25 CLE -12.4% 5-9 -2.4% 5.7 24 -6.4% 31 17.1% 3 13.0% 15
26 ARI -14.7% 5-9 -23.1% 4.4 27 8.8% 2 26.8% 1 17.5% 28
27 PHI -20.7% 4-10 -23.3% 4.1 28 0.5% 15 10.2% 9 11.7% 13
28 IND -21.0% 9-5 -13.7% 4.8 26 -4.9% 29 -13.4% 27 8.0% 7
29 TEN -25.9% 5-9 -24.6% 3.1 30 -2.7% 21 -5.3% 20 17.6% 29
30 OAK -28.2% 4-10 -22.5% 3.2 29 -3.8% 25 -4.2% 19 16.5% 25
31 JAC -33.6% 2-12 -29.6% 1.9 32 -4.0% 27 6.9% 12 5.6% 2
32 KC -40.1% 2-12 -42.7% 2.1 31 -3.3% 23 8.1% 11 13.8% 17

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 18 Dec 2012

81 comments, Last at 24 Dec 2012, 2:06am by Andrew Potter

Comments

1
by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:52pm

Houston's 32nd ranked special teams gives the Vikings a prayer this week. If only Harvin could help.

76
by Mr Shush :: Sat, 12/22/2012 - 10:58am

The Texans run defense is really nothing special. Peterson could do a lot of damage, regardless of his field position.

2
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:53pm

Wasn't one of SF's fumbles on a 4th down? In that context, does it matter which team recovers?

13
by RickD :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:14pm

Well, the 49ers did recover one of their own fumbles and advance it for a TD.

Once you recover a fumble, you can advance the ball.

20
by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:24pm

That's not true on 4th down though, is it? I seem to recall a rule against the offense being able to advance a fumble in certain situations. 4th downs and after 2:00 warnings, I believe.

23
by Glen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:26pm

You're only not allowed to advance a fumble if you fumble forward in those situations.

24
by sundown (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:27pm

I believe that is correct.

25
by JIPanick :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:28pm

I don't know about 4th down, but you are correct inside the 2:00 warning - with the exception that the fumbling player can recover and advance it.

I think there may also be an exception if it is a backward fumble (i.e. it would be a legal lateral if it was intentional) but I am not 100% sure on that one.

31
by Travis :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:36pm

Intentional backwards passes that hit the ground (aborted snaps, missed laterals, whatever the Packers were trying to do on that 4th quarter punt) can be advanced by the offense even inside the 2:00 warning

27
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:29pm

In those situations, only the player who fumbled can advance the ball if it's recovered by the offense. If anybody else does, the ball's returned to the spot of the fumble.

29
by ODBvernon :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:31pm

EDITED:

Answered more accurately and quicker before I hit "post."

Also, based on some #'s Barnwell shared for recoveries on certain types of fumbles (muffed punts, aborted snaps), the fumble luck in this game only cost the Pats one recovery - hardly "damn lucky" (per the commentary).

3
by Ender (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:55pm

I wonder how close to the top 4 the Packers would be if they hadn't missed 300 FGs on the season.

7
by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:04pm

The special teams play against the Bears not including Crosby was horrendous

Jarrett Bush continues to draw penalties. The punt almost gave up a block. Hester had some big returns. Just an overall dreadful day.

17
by Nick Wells (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:20pm

The inexplicable coaching decision to try a gadget punt return, resulting in a fumble, when they were up two scores in the fourth quarter didn't help matters.

12
by Aloysius Mephis... :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:12pm

Not very. Their ST are just a notch below average.

39
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 1:07am

While this is true, they earner 3.0 points more than expected last year on FG/XP this year they are at -14 (something). It's likely that if Crosby was kicking at his career average that number this year would be in the -3 to 3 range (or 11 to 17 points better). That would probably translate into a couple of percentage points of DVOA putting them in the 2 - 5% DVOA range and pushing their overall to the 25-29% range which isn't that far out of the "Big 4".

Thanks mostly to the Chicago game they are now at -0.4 (Kick Return) and -2.1 (Punt Return) points but for the season on the whole they have been pretty average in those aspects.

Masthay of course on the punt team has been a true weapon.

I trust everything but Crosby for their special teams this year to not lose the game. Yes I know McCarthy tried his best to make punt return team do that vs Chicago, but I think they took his stash away so that shouldn't happen again.

4
by Yaguar :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 4:55pm

Question about playoff odds simulator: does it actually do all the tiebreakers properly?

I'm under the impression that it takes a ridiculous string of events for the Colts to miss the playoffs, where 14 of 15 games have to go against them. The Colts' odds of making the playoffs should be more like 99.9%.

68
by JohnD (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:20pm

I keep hoping for some staff comment on this, because someone is clearly badly wrong on the subject.

5
by nuk :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:00pm

I'm confused by the playoff odds. It lists the Colts as having a 91.2% chance of making the playoffs, but I've had a hard time finding ways for them not to make it. One site I saw gave a list of 14 games, any one of which would give the Colts a berth if won by the "right" team. That's like a 1-in-16000 chance of missing the playoffs if all games are coin tosses.

Was I mislead? What are some ways the Colts can miss out?

33
by RickD :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:40pm

OK, to miss the playoffs, the Colts would have to lose twice for starters. That includes losing to the Chiefs, no mean feat.

That brings them down to 7 losses. The Bengals have 6 losses and the Steelers have 7 already. In theory, they could both pass the Colts, even though the Bengals play the Steelers head-to-head.

If the Bengals beat the Steelers, the Steelers have 8 losses, and the Colts are in.

If the Steelers beat the Bengals, then the Steelers sweep the Bengals and get in ahead of them. They would then compare with the Colts for the #5 seed. Let's see...no head-to-head (Tiebreaker #1), identical conference record (Tiebreaker #2), common opponents are Ten, Cle, NYJ, KC. Pittsburgh 3-2, Indy 3-2 after loss to KC. Either that or it doesn't matter because PIT would play Cle twice and Indy plays Ten twice.

Next tiebreaker is strength of victory. Apparently Pittsburgh wins it.

Then Indy would be compared to Cincy in the same order, and would again drop to strength of victory. Apparently the Colts have a huge lead over Cincy there, but apparently it's not mathematically insurmountable.

So in both cases it reduces to strength of victory. The ESPN machine just locks in the current values for this tiebreaker: Pit > Ind > Cin. Any chance for the Colts to not make the playoffs seems to come down to really weird stuff going on.

37
by patman (not verified) :: Thu, 12/20/2012 - 10:52pm

I think it has something to do with Baltimore.

Right now Baltimore has clinched a playoff berth but can still lose the division to either the Steelers or the Bengals.

I think if the Colts missed out it would be Ciny winning the AFC North, and Pitts and Balitmore getting the wildcards.

38
by 617265962 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/20/2012 - 10:52pm

I think it has something to do with Baltimore.

Right now Baltimore has clinched a playoff berth but can still lose the division to either the Steelers or the Bengals.

I think if the Colts missed out it would be Ciny winning the AFC North, and Pitts and Balitmore getting the wildcards.

45
by evenchunkiermonkey :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:13am

What I'm most surprised about is IND is 9-5 but only has 4.8 est. wins. I was kind of stunned to see them so far down in the rankings.

6
by j (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:03pm

Based on games lost (which is not a subjective rating system) the detroit lions (#14) have lost to Minnsota twice (#20), Indy (#28), Tennessee (#29), and Arizona (#26).

How can one reconcile this? It can't be just luck as AZ blew them out and minnesota won by 10 and 7 pts.

32
by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:39pm

DVOA is just an average rating and is also not subjective. We can argue over its accuracy, and it's obviously a less important stat than wins and losses, but it still is objective. However, we can see that teams can have poor DVOAs and win just as they can have good DVOAs and lose. Detroit's DVOA dropped close to 3% in their loss to Arizona.

Watching the Colts, one can easily see where luck (no pun intended) has played a large role in their wins this season and why they can be ranked so lowly. Using point differential, a team could lose 3 games by a field goal and win 1 by three touchdowns. This would give them a +12 point differential, but a 1-3 record. I haven't watched enough Detroit games to give a very good explanation, but DVOA certainly doesn't guarantee who will win a given game.

8
by nat :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:05pm

Interesting on the Pats-Niners VOA. The perception that the Niners played better during the game doesn't hold up to VOA scrutiny after all. Chalk it up to fumble luck, turnover returns, and good timing. Regardless, the VOA numbers are close, as befits a close game.

This is what VOA and DVOA are good for: cutting through the commentary and narratives and emotion and prejudice, and giving an objective assessment of the quality of play.

Still, I'd rather win and play worse than lose and play better.

40
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 1:13am

Where have you found the VOA? Aaron gives the DVOA and the offensive VOA, or am I confused? If anyone is searching for post facto justification then the niner cause is buoyed by the NFL's announcement that the Delanie Walker fumble was a screw up, though I thought it was at least a 50:50 myself.

41
by nat :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 1:38am

Good point. You can compare offensive VOAs, and don't need the defenses if you do that, since you still cover all the non-kick plays. But you still need the special teams VOA. So it's possible that the deciding factor was special teams play, and not just fumble luck, etc. Other than a missed field goal, the Niners ST play was quite strong, and the Patriots ST were uncharacteristically weak.

67
by freddrick (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 9:17pm

The game changes when one team is way ahead. Happens all the time. The good team is able to rebound. I think it's in all sports. I used to coast in tennis & find it was hard to get my game back, even tho obviously better than my opponent. Team sports should be somewhat better in that regard than individual efforts.

9
by Anonymiss (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:07pm

Giants are really crushing the league in variance.

16
by Independent George :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:18pm

They crushed #s 4 & 5, and got crushed by #s 8 & 12.

I will not be surprised in the least when they obliterate Baltimore, then get give up 5 TDs to Nick Foles.

10
by ScottB (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:09pm

The Giants stay the stay the same despite getting their butts handed to them by a clearly inferior team? (That was sarcasm there). I think I might be about done with Football Outsiders.

18
by Glen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:20pm

You're kidding right? Their DVOA went down 7% and their weighted DVOA decreased 11%. That is hardly "stay[ing] the same".

34
by ScottB (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:40pm

Ok, good point. I'm still surprised the Giants didn't drop a couple of spots anyway. I guess I'm just an over-sensitive Falcon fan. It's been a rough 30 years or so.

Still, according to FO, the Falcons should have only won about 8-9 games. So I'm trying to figure out which 3-4 they should have lost. The first Carolina game probably, but outside of that I can't come up with one.

And as far not beating anyone, I count wins against 4 play-off caliber teams (Giants, Cowboys, Redskins, Broncos) which is about the same as anyone else at the top, so why the 'lack of respect' nationally?

I know these numbers are supposed to be objective, but for several years I couldn't figure out why the Eagles were rated so high in spite of a mediocre record. Now I see the Falcons rated mediocre in spite of a great record.

36
by JIPanick :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:56pm

It's not really "which" games - if their stats think you had an 80% chance based on how you played in each game over a 5 game stretch, and you went 5-0, they would think you overachieved in winning all 5 even though you clearly played better in each.

However, in any game which is even relatively close there is always a play that could have swung it - There have been relatively few games this year where I didn't think the Falcons had a solid chance to lose. Dallas, Denver, and Oakland come immediately to mind, as well as Tampa and Arizona game they won.

Finally, as a Cowboys fan, I have to disagree with your assessment of Dallas as "playoff caliber".

19
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:21pm

Their DVOA going from 20.3% to 13.3% is staying the same? Or was that sarcasm too?

21
by jimbohead :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:25pm

You're confusing cardinal and ordinal numbers. They dropped by 7 pts, which is a pretty significant, considering that it's one game's numbers against the weight of 14 other games (think about your senior year in college, where your apathy about everything other than finding a job is justified by the fact that an A in that GE you need to graduate won't help your overall GPA a bit, and a C really won't hurt it either). They keep their rank (note: rank is not identical to strength) because they were in a space where there was some distance between their nearest neighbors.

22
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:25pm

The numbers don't say the Falcons are clearly inferior to the Giants. They say the Falcons are very slightly inferior to the Giants - really, their per-play performance has averaged out to a very similar level - but the Falcons are also drastically more consistent. The Falcons would still have been favoured to win that home game by FO's numbers, just not by as huge an amount. The Bad Giants showed up, the Falcons played well, and a blowout ensued.

26
by KK Probs (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:28pm

I believe it was mentioned in the write-up that the Giants dropped a full 7% this week. The Falcons are 12-2. If you don't think they are legit, then maybe the 10-4 Packers team that the Giants beat 38-10 is propping up their rating. Football Outsiders factors in the other 14 games they have played in so far, too.

28
by KK Probs (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:31pm

Well, that was a 10-minute echo chamber. Sorry for the feeding frenzy, Scott.

11
by Nick Wells (not verified) :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:10pm

Good to see the Packers inch ahead of the Bears, after (despite?) completely dominating them for the second time this season.

14
by KCSVEN :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:15pm

Patriots have played 6 of the top 7 and 7 of the top 9 defenses and still have outside shot of most points in a season. That's with missing Gronkowski, the #1 rated Tight end by far, for the last month. he DVOA is not better than 2007 but a healthy offense this year might be better. They only played like 1 game with Welker, Hernandez and Gronkowski playing regularly so they can likely get better?

15
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:17pm

Amazing that the Giants still aren't the most inconsistent team in FO history. Well, maybe they'll end up being the most inconsistent team to make the playoffs.

By the way, I wonder if what happened with NY and NO these last two weeks has ever happened before, i.e., team A scores at least 50 points against team B, then the week after, team A scores 0 and team B gives up 0.

30
by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 12/18/2012 - 5:33pm

How is the Gore aborted snap touchdown counted in VOA? Does it count as a TD on offense or is it lumped in the "fumble returns are random" bucket?

42
by Kal :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 2:53am

Something on noticing that the top 5 teams in the list also happen to have the top five offenses - is it time to revisit the notion that offense and defense contribute equally to overall success? This year is an example. Last year was as well. The year before we had gb and their horrible defense. The year before that we had Indy and NO. the pats are always successful nowadays with their great offense and bad defense - just like the pats now.

Whereas teams with really amazing defenses don't seem to be sharing that success with wins. Sf and Denver are top 5 - but so is Arizona. Chicago right now doesn't remotely look like the 6th best team.

Any thoughts or experiments you have done?

43
by Kal :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 2:54am

Something on noticing that the top 5 teams in the list also happen to have the top five offenses - is it time to revisit the notion that offense and defense contribute equally to overall success? This year is an example. Last year was as well. The year before we had gb and their horrible defense. The year before that we had Indy and NO. the pats are always successful nowadays with their great offense and bad defense - just like the pats now.

Whereas teams with really amazing defenses don't seem to be sharing that success with wins. Sf and Denver are top 5 - but so is Arizona. Chicago right now doesn't remotely look like the 6th best team.

Any thoughts or experiments you have done?

44
by theslothook :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 5:11am

Total DVOA is supposed to weigh things equally, thus its implying the top 5 teams have top 5 offenses but decent defenses while the top defensive teams have horrible offenses.

If you want to make the case about wins however, then you could certainly make an argument that good offenses contribute more to winning than good defenses. This certainly has a ton of merit actually, since I've run correlations on the worst teams by record and generally, those teams are usually one's with a worse offense than defense.

46
by Purds :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:50am

Yes, and while top offensive DVOA has been great for regular season wins, if I am reading correctly (and my memory is correct for past SB's), only 2 of those top 9 won the SB (NE hasn't had a chance yet for 2012). So, we have to remember that while the DVOA system is objective and thoughtful, DVOA can't really predict what will happen in actual games. Or, offensive DVOA.

47
by Purds :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:53am

Oops, that's 2 of 11 (I thought that was a top-10 list, not a top 12).

But, overall DVOA is a closer SB predictor, but still not a bettor's gamble. I think four of the top 9 in overall DVOA won the SB (3 are this year's teams).

48
by Purds :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:57am

One other observation: while I know that NE hasn't had a whole lot of luck winning SB's with historically good offenses recently (2007, 2010, 2011), I had forgotten how good KC's offense was in the early 2000's, and that they couldn't translate that into championships (2002, 2003, 2004), losing often to the earlier incarnation of a more balanced NE of the early 2000's.

53
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:36am

There are 12 teams in each year's playoffs, so 2 of 9 is actually above what would be expected. Its more than double what would be expected. The sample size is too small to say anything with any confidence though.

70
by Arkaein :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:36pm

GB had a bad D last year (not terrible, you don't finish with 8 more INTs than the next best team if you're truly terrible, and GB's D was ranked 25th by DVOA), but their D was 2nd in 2010 (higher ranked than the O, which was 7th) when they won the SB. Pitt was 1st in D that year (and 5th in O), so your idea really only held for last year, and maybe 2009.

72
by theslothook :: Sat, 12/22/2012 - 12:21am

I have long felt the playoffs are just too subjected to randomness to draw any serious conclusions from it. Playoff success is as much about luck and circumstance than anything else. We need not look much further than last year, where both superbowl participants were the beneficiaries of good fortune. Naturally, they were still good teams, but the moment you start looking at the giants and saying, "gee, what is it about the giants specifically that makes them win superbowls," thats when you can start to be searching for answers that may not exist.

I think the best point to be made is - build a team that gets you in the tournament constantly and hopefully build enough depth so you can survive injuries. Beyond that, theres not a whole lot more than that.

49
by Nick Bradley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 9:58am

Well, It appears that Patriots' points/yards gained against an extremely soft prevent defense are the same as those scored against their normal defense, huh?

Nothing in the model for that? Win probability added isn't taken into account?

If you do look at WPA, the 49ers only had a WP% below 85% for about 3:20 in the 4th quarter. All those passes Brady threw didn't really change win probability all that much.

In fact, I'm almost certain that you did: Brady had a great game as far as expected points added (EPA) goes, but a poor game with Win Probability Added (WPA). At AdvancedNFLstats.com, Bradley had a WPA of -.12, while he had an EPA of 11.6. Kaepernick had a WPA of .11 and an EPA of 4.8

You're rewarding the Pats for a lot of 'garbage points'.

http://live.advancednflstats.com/index.php?gameid1=2012121613

50
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:21am

The game was tied in the 4th, how is that 'garbage points'?

52
by nickbradley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:35am

Um, it was tied for one offensive play.

like I said, Brady racked up DYAR and boosted his DVOA against a prevent defense playing with a 28 pt lead.

looking at win probability, most of Brady's passes didn't add much

55
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:45am

How long the game was tied was irrelevant. The game was tied with 3 minutes left, which means that nothing before that was garbage time.

I agree that the first 7-14 points the Patriots scored were against a soft defense, but the rest? The 49ers were back in base and couldnt stop them. And all that time the 49ers offense couldn't move the ball against the Patriots D.

58
by nickbradley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 7:19pm

You mean after Justin smith left the game?

56
by jebmak :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:56am

So if they had taken a little more time to score it wouldn't have been garbage?

You were watching the game and thought that the touchdown that tied it up was pointless because they were going to lose?

What you are saying makes no logical sense.

59
by nickbradley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 7:23pm

What I'm saying is that the patriot tied the game for just a few seconds -- one play -- before the 49ers jumped back up by 10. And in the last two drives, Brady didn't do much.

To say the game was even because the pats tied it up for 8 seconds is laughable

WPA shows this, DVOA does not

60
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 7:49pm

You are misunderstanding both DVOA and WPA. You don't get any credit for having a large area of the WPA graph in your favour. After the Pats tied it up they had a 45% chance by WPA, pretty close to even, they had tied the game up and this is reflected in the graph. That the niners then scored quickly is irrelevant to your assertion that the Pats scored in garbage time.

62
by nickbradley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:09pm

No. I'm making multiple arguments.

first is the fact that Tom Brady had a negative WPA and a strong DYAR tells you that something is unaccounted for. Namely, all those DYAR were collected when the game wasn't competitive.

My understanding is that DVOA and DYAR are similar to EPA, but not WPA, I.e. down, distance and field position is taken into account but not score and time.

second, I made the argument that its laughable to say the game was even when the pats only tied the game for a few seconds before the Niners turned it back on, both offensively and defensively.

63
by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:22pm

Your argument is, itself, laughable. You consider it laughable to call a game even when it's tied in the fourth quarter? Really?

...all those DYAR were collected when the game wasn't competitive.

You really need to explain your definition of competitive, because that game sure as heck looked competitive to me.

64
by nickbradley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:44pm

Not competitive = consciously letting the other team do whatever they want.

u a pats fan or something?

71
by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:40pm

If the 49ers were "consciously letting the other team do what they want" and that resulted in the other team tying a game which is still important to the 49ers' season, such a conscious lack of competitive play would very strongly suggest that the 49ers' players and coaches are idiots. I don't think the 49ers' players and coaches are idiots, based on the fact that they're one of the best teams in the NFL despite an ongoing deficiency at the most important position in the modern game, therefore I think your description of the phase of the game between the 49ers going up 31-3 and the Patriots tying at 31-31 as not competitive based on the above definition is silly.

69
by Judy (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:30pm

I am. Why didn't they stop the Pats from scoring before game got tied? That seemed kind of risky to me.

65
by Insancipitory :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 8:55pm

Though I'm not as familiar with WPA, it seems to me they're measuring the same outcomes differently. As one might compare weight to mass or number of molecules.

In your NE v SF example WPA sensitive to the ordering of events and starts from the perspective that the two opponants are evenly matched in every phase of the game. It's a measure of the relative value of the events in the manner and order they happened. DVOA/DYAR make other extrinsic observations.

66
by nickbradley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 9:00pm

WPA simply measures the change in win probability that results from a play. It is not adjusted for opponent strength

51
by Dave in Tucson (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:22am

The 1996 Broncos [...] lost that game 41-6.

John Elway sat out that game with a sore hamstring, and the Broncos started a hoodat by the name of Bill Musgrave, who did not have a good game (and Terrell Davis wasn't able to pick up the slack).

The Broncos D kept it close into the 3rd quarter, but pretty much collapsed after a big-play TD.

54
by nickbradley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 10:40am

Can anyone tell me what the odds are of zero holding calls on 65 pass attempts? Against the team with the most sacks in the NFL?

78
by Mitchell (not verified) :: Sat, 12/22/2012 - 7:45pm

About the same as the odds that the San Francisco 49'ers viewed the entire second half as "garbage time" and weren't worried as the Patriots tied the game in the 4th quarter.

Very low.

57
by Keasley (not verified) :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 11:16am

The Niners virtually secured the NFC West division title with their win at New England but is it safe to say that the Niners/Seahawks game this weekend is for the top spot in DVOA? I suppose it could be a brutal war of attrition with each team playing at the same level and the outcome decided by a lucky bounce or the officials and the DVOA rankings holding. But it seems more likely that one team will, at some point, outplay the other and that team will generate alot of opponent adjusted points.

61
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 12/21/2012 - 7:50pm

I'm just trying to work out how Aaron is going to massage the figures to get the Eagles to the top.

73
by Paul M (not verified) :: Sat, 12/22/2012 - 2:45am

Playoffs are about luck but also matchups. This year I think the matchups will narrow the field down to 5 and perhaps 6 (Belichick/Brady canot be discounted) legit contenders.

Irrespective of the outcome Sunday and despite their hype and terrific play lately, the Seahawks most likely must:

1) win on the road vs NFC East winner-- most likely Washington or New York

2) then win on road vs either Atlanta or SF, should the 6 seed defeat the Packers at Lambeau

3) then win on road vs either Atlanta or SF or GB, unless the 6 seed (yeah, might be the Giants) wins twice in which case Seattle would host that game.

Rodgers did it in his 3rd year as a regular and 6th in the NFL. I don't see a rookie Wilson duplicating the feat.

But for GB and SF, Sunday matters. Niners win and they get a week off and get to host the Packers (or the Seahawks) in the 2nd round. And vice-versa if Seattle wins and the Packers beat All-Day on the final Sunday. Neither team woud play the Falcons until the NFC title game, barring a Tennessee upset of GB this weekend and an upset of the Niners in the final week. This is a year where the week off and the venue will matter more than in the past. I don't see any of these three teams running a 3 week gauntlet though the Niners probably are best suited for it.

This time it looks like Atlanta or the 2 seed get to the final dance.

And as for the AFC, I would think playing NE at home at altitude is a huge asset for Manning and Co. And baltimore-cinci-pittsburgh-indy just all seem really weak and either incapable of beating Houston or incapable of beating Denver or NE on the road. I think this is probably a Denver-Houston deal now, barring the Broncos giving away the 2 seed, and I will trust DVOA over Peyton's postseason track record and make the Broncos the clear favorite.

So Denver vs. either: 1) GB in a rematch of the 1997 SB; 2) Atlanta in kind of a strange matchup since the Falcons get no love or 3) the likeliest game-- the team whose coach took a peek at Manning but ultimately decided on Kapernick instead.

74
by Paul M (not verified) :: Sat, 12/22/2012 - 3:02am

And of course DEN-ATL is a rematch of the 1998 Super Bowl. Who gets to play Eugene Robinson this time? And DEN-SF is a rematch of the 1989 Super Bowl. In fact all 6 of the teams the Broncos have faced in the SB could be there again this year: DALL, NYG, WASH, SF, GB, and ATL.

Other rematch possibilities:

GB-NE GB-PITT
NYG-BAL, NYG-NE
CHIC-NE, CHIC-IND
SEA-PITT (Bad officiating comes full circle)
SF-CIN
DALL-IND* (They were BAL then, of course) DALL-PITT (4th time around??)
MINN-PITT

Atlanta-Houston is not a rematch of anything. And will not challenge the GB-PITT 2010 audience ore previous records either.

75
by theslothook :: Sat, 12/22/2012 - 5:22am

Of course, your playoff pontificating could all be for naught if the NYG do a 2011 repeat and just cruise through road game after road game on their way to the title. That is perhaps what is most unsettling to all fans who are cheering for the favored. While you should be favored and conditions favor you, it is any given sunday and a plethora of drops, turnovers, and penalties can cost you the game and ultimately your season. Such is life in the nfl but i suspect the vast majority of fans would prefer this sort of any given sunday situation to the basketball situation of only a few teams are truly title contenders.

80
by LionInAZ :: Sun, 12/23/2012 - 11:02pm

The way that Seattle is playing right now I wouldn't be surprised if they plowed their way through to the Super Bowl, rookie QB or not.

77
by TomC :: Sat, 12/22/2012 - 7:37pm

One consolation from the Bears collapse (and it ain't much consolation, but I'll take it anywhere I can get it) is that they have basically remained the same team according to DVOA. They're now one of the big underachievers (estimated wins - real wins = 1.5) and likely to miss the playoffs after looking like a lock in week 9. Sigh.

79
by j (not verified) :: Sun, 12/23/2012 - 2:47pm

Not only is NE the best team this year, but the 4th best team EVER. That's why they are losing to the 2-12 pathetic Jacksonville Jags...13-3. DVOA is a joke.

81
by LionInAZ :: Sun, 12/23/2012 - 11:04pm

And of course they won the game. Where's the joke now?

82
by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/24/2012 - 2:06am

At halftime of one of their games the 1985 Bears were losing 28-7 to the eventual 2-14 Buccaneers. What's your point?