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» Week 11 DVOA Ratings

DVOA has finally climbed on board the Wentz Wagon! The Eagles move into the No. 1 spot, but they aren't the only strong, well-balanced team in the NFL this year. New Orleans, Pittsburgh, and the Los Angeles Rams make this one of the best seasons ever for multiple teams over 30% in DVOA, and Minnesota isn't far behind.

23 Dec 2014

Week 16 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

Seattle is the hottest team in the NFL right now, and that's almost-but-not-quite reflected in this week's Football Outsiders DVOA ratings.

The Seahawks have put up single-game DVOA over 50% in four of their last five games. The other game had a single-game DVOA of 39.0%, also pretty damn good. The Seahawks climbed this week into second place in both total DVOA and weighted DVOA. But they haven't quite made it into first place in either rating.

Those dominating early-season victories by the Denver Broncos are still being felt in our total DVOA rating. The Broncos' overall DVOA fell for the fourth straight week, and they had a single-game DVOA below 0% for the third time since Week 9, but the Broncos are still narrowly ahead of Seattle by less than a percentage point.

Going back to 1989-1990, the same two teams never finished 1-2 in DVOA, either in the same order or reversed, until Seattle and Denver did it in 2012-2013. And now, depending on what happens in the final week of the season, we may end up with the same teams finishing 1-2 for three straight years.

It's also interesting to see that over the course of the season, the Broncos and Seahawks are showing the same balance. Denver is currently third in both offense and defense, but 28th in special teams. Seattle is currently fourth in both offense and defense, but 21st in special teams.

The New England Patriots see their total DVOA drop this week after escaping with a victory in a close game against the Jets, and the Patriots dropped from second to third after Seattle's big win. However, New England's weighted DVOA continues to rise as the Week 4 blowout loss in Kansas City moves further and further into the rearview mirror. New England's lead over Seattle in weighted DVOA is much greater than Denver's lead in total DVOA, and the Patriots now win the Super Bowl in over 25 percent of our simulations. The Patriots are perhaps even more balanced than Seattle or Denver, since their balance includes special teams: the Patriots are top ten in all three phases of the game.

The Dallas Cowboys leap up from No. 13 to No. 6 in total DVOA after their huge victory over Indianapolis, but there's a huge gap of almost ten percentage points in between DVOA's top five and the rest of the league (in both total and weighted DVOA). One of the other members of the top five is Green Bay, which with a win this week will likely leave us with the top four teams in DVOA all having first-round byes. The other member of the top five is Baltimore, which may not make the playoffs at all.

That brings me to this question that came in via Twitter this morning:

Eliyahu Fink (@efink): What's the highest weighted DVOA team to miss playoffs ever? BAL / KC / BUF / MIA / STL in Top 10 & they may all miss playoffs.

What's funny about this question is that before writing today's commentary, I went back to look at what I wrote a year ago after Week 16 and guess what -- I wrote about this exact topic. A year ago, people were asking about the best teams to miss the playoffs because of the Arizona Cardinals, 10-5 at the time but stuck behind Seattle and San Francisco. As it turned out, the Cardinals weren't anywhere close to the lists of the best DVOA teams to miss the playoffs because their offense really wasn't very good. One year later, the Cardinals aren't as good but this time they will make the playoffs. And no, they won't end up on the list of the worst DVOA teams to make the playoffs, either.

This year, the main team that brings on this question is Baltimore. This week's terrible faceplant against Houston cost the Ravens three percentage points of DVOA, but they still rank fifth overall for the season. While it's true that a number of teams in our top ten may miss the playoffs, Baltimore is the only one that might appear on a list of the highest DVOA or weighted DVOA to miss the postseason.

Here are the lists of the best teams to miss the playoffs since 1989 by both total and weighted DVOA. I've added Baltimore with its ratings through Week 16 of this season. If you want to read about these teams -- and Buffalo fans, please don't torture yourselves -- you can read last year's Week 16 DVOA commentary.

Best DVOA to Miss Playoffs, 1989-2014   Best Weighted DVOA to Miss Playoffs, 1989-2014
YEAR TEAM W-L TOTAL
DVOA
RANK THAT
YEAR
x YEAR TEAM W-L WEI
DVOA
RANK THAT
YEAR
2004 BUF 9-7 31.3% 3 x 2004 BUF 9-7 41.6% 1
1991 SF 10-6 26.0% 2 x 2005 KC 10-6 33.3% 2
2002 MIA 9-7 24.9% 3 x 1991 SF 10-6 31.2% 2
2002 KC 8-8 24.4% 4 x 2002 KC 8-8 26.0% 4
2005 KC 10-6 24.4% 5 x 2000 PIT 9-7 26.0% 4
2005 SD 9-7 23.3% 6 x 2009 CAR 8-8 25.2% 5
2000 PIT 9-7 22.6% 4 x 1993 SD 8-8 25.2% 4
2006 JAC 8-8 22.5% 6 x 2002 MIA 9-7 24.0% 5
2014 BAL 9-6 22.2% 5 x 1999 OAK 8-8 22.8% 2
1999 OAK 8-8 21.2% 3 x 2001 WAS 8-8 22.3% 3
2004 BAL 9-7 21.1% 8 x 2014 BAL 9-6 22.0% 5
2012 CHI 10-6 20.5% 6 x 2006 JAC 8-8 21.5% 4
1991 PHI 10-6 17.9% 5 x 2008 NE 11-5 21.4% 8

The strangest part of Baltimore possibly missing the playoffs is that usually a harder schedule makes it easier to get into the postseason, right? Yet of the teams in the DVOA top five, Baltimore had by far the easiest schedule this year. Denver's schedule (not including the final game) ranks sixth, New England's tenth, and Seattle's 11th. Green Bay's is a little easier, ranking 20th. Baltimore is 30th. Yet the Ravens may be the ones staying home.

* * * * *

The Broncos' egg-laying in Cincinnati last night didn't just drop the Broncos into third place in weighted DVOA and blow their opportunity to win the AFC's No. 1 seed. It also seriously scrambled our ratings for quarterbacks in 2014. That scrambling also got a little help from the flu, or whatever the heck was wrong with Aaron Rodgers this week.

For the first half of the season, Peyton Manning led the league in quarterback DYAR and DVOA. After about midseason, Rodgers took over the lead in DVOA, and Manning led the league in DYAR, and that's pretty much the way things looked after every week. But not now.

This year's top quarterbacks are so close that Week 17 will assuredly mix things up further. But after Manning's four interceptions in Cincinnati, the new passing DYAR leader is Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has never finished in the top five for passing DYAR, and his current total of 1.436 sets a new career high, surpassing the 1,227 passing DYAR he had in 2009. Manning is still second, followed by Rodgers, Drew Brees, and a tight pack around fifth place that consists of Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, and Tony Romo.

If either Roethlisberger or Rodgers finishes No. 1 in passing DYAR, he will become the first quarterback other than Brady, Brees, or Manning to lead the league in that stat since Rich Gannon in 2002.

When we look at value per play, we have maybe an even more shocking league leader. Hey kids, it's Tony Romo at 29.5%! This actually isn't that out of line with some of Romo's historical numbers, as he put up DVOA ratings close to that in both 2009 (28.0%) and 2011 (26.9%). The real surprise here is that nobody is doing better than Romo. Going back to 1989, there has never been a year where the leader in passing DVOA was lower than 30.0%. The closest was Philip Rivers at 30.3% in 2008. Romo is certainly being helped by the Cowboys' run-heavy offense this year; he has 430 pass plays, while every other quarterback in the top dozen for DYAR has at least 520 pass plays. DVOA controls for the fact that DeMarco Murray puts Romo in easier down-and-distance situations, but it doesn't control for the fact that opponents have to focus on the run at the expense of covering the pass. But that's not meant to disparage the year Romo's having. Great year, Romo!

Rodgers is now second in passing DVOA behind Romo, followed by Roethlisberger, Manning, Derek Anderson (with 102 passes, I really need to change my minimums this offseason), and Brady.

* * * * *

Once again in 2014, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 15 Ultimate Team. Each week, we'll be picking out a handful of players who starred in that week's games. Some of them will be well-known players who stood out in DVOA and DYAR. Others will be under-the-radar players who only stood out with advanced stats. We'll announce the players each Tuesday in the DVOA commentary article, and the players will be available in Madden Ultimate Team packs the following weekend. We will also tweet out images of these players from the @fboutsiders Twitter account on most Fridays. One player each week will only be available for 24 hours from the point these players enter packs on Friday.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 16 are:

  • ROLB Clay Matthews, GB (24-HOUR HERO): 3 sacks, run TFL, PD
  • WR Dontrelle Inman, SD: 36 DYAR (7-for-9 for 79 yards plus a 12-yard DPI, 5 first downs) in his first-ever NFL regular-season game.
  • LOLB Telvin Smith, JAC: 15 combined tackles, 7 Stops, 2 Defeats.
  • DT Vince Wilfork, NE: 9 run tackles for a combined 15 yards plus partially blocked would-be game-winning field goal.
  • TE Luke Willson, SEA: Led all Week 16 TE with 58 DYAR (3 catches, 139 yards, 2 TD).

* * * * *

All stats pages are now updated with Week 16 information -- or will be in the next few minutes -- including FO Premium, snap counts, and playoff odds. You can also read the weekly playoff odds report on ESPN Insider to get more commentary on the current playoff odds.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 16 weeks of 2014, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for strength of schedule and 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>

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 DEN 29.2% 1 24.3% 3 11-4 20.0% 3 -13.6% 3 -4.4% 28
2 SEA 28.9% 3 29.1% 2 11-4 17.8% 4 -13.4% 4 -2.3% 21
3 NE 24.9% 2 35.8% 1 12-3 14.4% 6 -4.7% 9 5.8% 6
4 GB 22.5% 5 23.6% 4 11-4 23.0% 1 -2.3% 13 -2.8% 23
5 BAL 22.2% 4 22.0% 5 9-6 8.8% 11 -5.3% 8 8.1% 1
6 DAL 12.5% 13 15.7% 6 11-4 16.4% 5 4.5% 23 0.6% 12
7 PHI 12.1% 7 15.3% 7 9-6 0.0% 14 -4.4% 10 7.7% 2
8 PIT 9.8% 9 13.4% 8 10-5 23.0% 2 12.9% 30 -0.3% 15
9 KC 8.9% 6 9.6% 9 8-7 5.3% 12 2.6% 19 6.3% 4
10 BUF 7.6% 8 8.2% 10 8-7 -13.1% 27 -14.4% 2 6.3% 3
11 MIA 6.8% 11 7.0% 11 8-7 10.1% 9 -1.8% 15 -5.2% 30
12 CIN 6.4% 15 0.9% 15 10-4-1 -1.4% 16 -1.8% 14 6.0% 5
13 DET 5.7% 12 2.5% 14 11-4 -4.9% 19 -15.5% 1 -5.0% 29
14 SF 5.1% 16 5.9% 13 7-8 -3.5% 18 -12.1% 5 -3.5% 25
15 IND 2.9% 10 0.7% 16 10-5 -0.5% 15 0.0% 16 3.4% 7
16 SD 1.9% 14 0.2% 18 9-6 9.7% 10 6.0% 26 -1.8% 19
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 NO 0.2% 17 0.6% 17 6-9 11.5% 7 13.5% 31 2.2% 11
18 ATL 0.1% 20 -1.2% 20 6-9 11.5% 8 14.1% 32 2.7% 10
19 STL -2.6% 19 6.7% 12 6-9 -8.5% 23 -2.8% 12 3.1% 8
20 HOU -4.4% 21 -0.5% 19 8-7 -6.8% 22 -6.4% 7 -3.9% 27
21 NYG -4.9% 23 -4.6% 21 6-9 -1.6% 17 3.5% 22 0.2% 13
22 ARI -5.7% 18 -8.2% 23 11-4 -11.8% 26 -8.4% 6 -2.3% 22
23 CLE -7.7% 22 -11.7% 24 7-8 -11.0% 24 -3.2% 11 0.2% 14
24 MIN -9.0% 24 -5.7% 22 6-9 -6.6% 21 5.1% 24 2.7% 9
25 CHI -12.3% 25 -20.6% 27 5-10 2.4% 13 11.8% 28 -2.9% 24
26 CAR -12.4% 26 -11.7% 25 6-8-1 -5.9% 20 0.8% 17 -5.8% 32
27 NYJ -18.6% 27 -19.5% 26 3-12 -14.0% 29 3.3% 21 -1.3% 17
28 OAK -25.0% 28 -25.6% 29 3-12 -18.8% 30 5.4% 25 -0.8% 16
29 WAS -26.5% 29 -37.4% 32 4-11 -11.6% 25 9.2% 27 -5.7% 31
30 TEN -27.8% 30 -32.4% 31 2-13 -13.9% 28 12.0% 29 -1.9% 20
31 JAC -30.1% 31 -23.0% 28 3-12 -25.0% 31 1.4% 18 -3.6% 26
32 TB -32.5% 32 -29.0% 30 2-13 -27.9% 32 3.1% 20 -1.5% 18
  • 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 DEN 29.2% 11-4 26.7% 12.3 1 3.5% 6 -25.0% 28 9.0% 4
2 SEA 28.9% 11-4 24.7% 11.3 2 1.0% 11 -2.6% 19 13.5% 10
3 NE 24.9% 12-3 22.6% 10.4 4 1.0% 10 7.6% 10 16.1% 18
4 GB 22.5% 11-4 23.9% 9.8 5 -1.3% 20 5.7% 13 13.6% 11
5 BAL 22.2% 9-6 25.1% 10.8 3 -4.7% 30 -7.7% 23 9.6% 5
6 DAL 12.5% 11-4 12.8% 9.5 6 -3.8% 28 -26.5% 29 21.2% 28
7 PHI 12.1% 9-6 9.6% 8.7 7 -3.8% 27 -4.9% 21 15.5% 15
8 PIT 9.8% 10-5 12.0% 8.5 11 -5.2% 32 6.4% 12 14.4% 13
9 KC 8.9% 8-7 7.8% 8.6 9 2.6% 9 1.9% 16 21.1% 27
10 BUF 7.6% 8-7 8.6% 8.0 14 0.8% 13 24.9% 3 8.0% 3
11 MIA 6.8% 8-7 9.8% 8.7 8 4.0% 4 -18.6% 27 17.1% 19
12 CIN 6.4% 10-4-1 6.4% 8.5 10 -0.7% 17 9.8% 8 24.6% 31
13 DET 5.7% 11-4 11.4% 8.5 12 -3.6% 26 22.5% 4 7.6% 2
14 SF 5.1% 7-8 -0.7% 8.0 15 2.9% 7 -5.7% 22 15.6% 16
15 IND 2.9% 10-5 4.3% 8.1 13 -1.2% 19 -27.8% 30 18.4% 21
16 SD 1.9% 9-6 2.4% 7.9 16 3.7% 5 8.9% 9 15.4% 14
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
17 NO 0.2% 6-9 -2.4% 7.1 19 -0.1% 14 -32.5% 32 21.6% 29
18 ATL 0.1% 6-9 3.5% 7.3 18 -3.3% 24 -12.4% 26 12.1% 8
19 STL -2.6% 6-9 -2.0% 5.9 26 -0.4% 15 28.9% 2 28.3% 32
20 HOU -4.4% 8-7 3.3% 6.3 24 -4.9% 31 -30.1% 31 6.9% 1
21 NYG -4.9% 6-9 -8.7% 6.7 20 -2.9% 22 12.1% 7 18.5% 22
22 ARI -5.7% 11-4 -6.1% 7.3 17 4.8% 3 5.1% 14 9.9% 6
23 CLE -7.7% 7-8 -3.2% 6.7 21 -4.5% 29 22.2% 5 19.6% 24
24 MIN -9.0% 6-9 -7.8% 6.7 22 -0.6% 16 -12.3% 25 12.1% 9
25 CHI -12.3% 5-10 -17.6% 6.2 25 2.7% 8 -9.0% 24 10.1% 7
26 CAR -12.4% 6-8-1 -14.0% 6.5 23 0.9% 12 0.1% 18 14.0% 12
27 NYJ -18.6% 3-12 -22.1% 5.1 27 5.0% 2 6.8% 11 15.9% 17
28 OAK -25.0% 3-12 -31.7% 4.8 28 5.7% 1 29.2% 1 19.8% 26
29 WAS -26.5% 4-11 -23.3% 4.1 29 -3.2% 23 12.5% 6 23.6% 30
30 TEN -27.8% 2-13 -23.3% 3.9 30 -3.4% 25 2.9% 15 19.5% 23
31 JAC -30.1% 3-12 -26.9% 2.9 32 -1.4% 21 -4.4% 20 17.3% 20
32 TB -32.5% 2-13 -27.8% 3.4 31 -1.1% 18 0.2% 17 19.7% 25

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 23 Dec 2014

141 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2014, 7:45pm by mitch

Comments

1
by jacobk :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 6:56pm

The Seahawks have a shot at riding into the postseason with 6 straight double digit wins. Would that be close to a record?

2
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:13pm

In the 16-game era, looks like only the 1998 Vikings did that, and they had 7 games.

3
by Babylon :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:16pm

Looks like the 1987 49ers fit the bill: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/sfo/1987.htm

Though they promptly lost their first playoff game, so maybe that's a sign (hah).

5
by Scott Kacsmar :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:21pm

They do. Damn strike seasons. I just searched for games 11-16.

8
by swgallagher :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:27pm

Holy crap... look at 87 49ers' schedule. 6 of first 7 on the road.

They certainly benefited from HFA down the stretch.

74
by Travis :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 9:14am

The strike took away the Week 3 home game, and the Week 5 (Game 4) game was moved to Atlanta (with the Week 15 game moving to San Francisco) because Candlestick was hosting the National League Championship Series.

10
by jacobk :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:36pm

Interesting. They made it eight in the post-season before that crazy loss to Atlanta.

Not to get too chicken-county, but I like Seattle's chances against the ARI/ATL/CAR winner. Assuming they get through the Rams game unscathed, of course.

24
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:02pm

Those aren't the only possibilities. If whoever the six seed ends up being upsets Dallas Seattle will be playing them instead.

44
by EricL :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:56pm

And that could very well be Detroit. I'd be very interested in that matchup.

75
by coltrane23 :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 10:24am

The Rams game scares me. They seem to play with bad intentions. I'm expecting a win, but I'm crossing my fingers that we don't see a key player like Wilson or Lynch blow out a knee.

79
by Athelas :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 11:36am

Any game with a Jeff Fisher-coached team scares me for that reason.

107
by chemical burn :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 1:23am

Maybe you should be scared because they already beat the Seahawks once this year and have been playing improved down the stretch. That's probably more reasonable considering the number of times Seahawks players have been injured by Rams players...

91
by Rick_and_Roll :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 1:42pm

In 2012 Denver won 11 in row by more than 7 points, most of which were against lesser teams. Denver was overcoming a slow start and later playing for homefield to the end that season similar to Seattle this year. A perfect storm struck them in the playoffs.... They weren't used to playing close games, played an ascending team with a hot QB on a record cold day, had some bad luck with officiating and had a historic mental breakdown to close regulation. As a Bronco fan that game bothers me much more than SB 48 because the 2012 team is the best Denver team of the Peyton era...

Historical odds overwhelmingly favor at least one of the #1 Seeds not making it to the SuperBowl. There have been more than a few teams that looked unbeatable, but ended up losing to a hot team or choking.

4
by PaddyPat :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:16pm

A little confused about the NE defensive ratings. The eye test suggests to me that the NE pass defense has put together some amazing games this season. Are the numbers dragged down by individual poor performances, or have the "great" games been more mediocre than they appeared? I guess my question is are we seeing a pass defense with high variance or simply one that is good but never really great? (I know the run defense is leaky).

7
by Vandal :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:24pm

Patriots defense has always been a stumbling block for DVOA. NE runs a true "bend don't break defense", year after year. Usually these defenses are a mirage, but if you look at NE Points allowed per game, versus Yards allowed per game, they always, year after year, out perform their YPG. I think Aaron even wrote about it at one time, as the only team to do that consistently, ever.

And, since DVOA hasn't developed a "New England" exception, their defenses are usually better that their DVOA's indicate. (not being facetious,it would probably be a worthwhile exception"

11
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:40pm

The Herm Edwards Jets consistently bent, but didn't break.

14
by Led :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:41pm

I'm sure there is something to what you say. But, on the other hand, the NE defense is always given a lot of protection from excellent offense and special teams. They can afford to play bend but don't break defense when the opponent's starting field position is consistently bad. Plus they frequently have the advantage of playing defense with a lead.

23
by Vandal :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:01pm

I didn't explain my example perfectly. I am referring to the Ranking of the Patriots in YPG versus their ranking in PPG.

So if they ranked 27th in Yards/Game allowed, they ranked 18th in Point per game allowed. Or 12th and 7th, etc. This trend continues for 12+ years I believe. No other teams PPG outperforms YPG on a consistent basis, AT ALL, let alone for years in a row. Which is really the definition of "Bend" (allow yards) don't break (allow points).

25
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:11pm

I am referring to the Ranking of the Patriots in YPG versus their ranking in PPG.

And a large reason for that is because of the great field position their offense and special teams affords them. Here is New England's opponent's starting field position rank the last ten years:

2005: 6
2006: 5
2007: 2
2008: 6
2009: 2
2010: 6
2011: 2
2012: 6
2013: 3
2014: 4

Longer sticks can bend further without breaking.

62
by Vandal :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:59am

Of course that's a contributing factor. But here are NE insane splits, for this year alone:

23rd in Yards allowed per Drive
7th in Points allowed per Drive

I'm all for other factors, but I'm not willing to concede that a 2 yard difference in Defensive LOS, is the difference between the 9th worst defense, and the 7 best defense.

65
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 2:39am

I'm all for other factors, but I'm not willing to concede that a 2 yard difference in Defensive LOS, is the difference between the 9th worst defense, and the 7 best defense.

Considering that a 2-yard difference in Yards allowed per Drive is the difference between the 23rd-ranked team and the 12th-ranked team, I don't see why not.

Here's a chart showing the relationship between opposing starting field position and the bend-but-don't break nature of the defense for the last 10 years:

http://i.imgur.com/E1XOQNE.png

New England's data point for this year would be generated like this: their opponents start drives at their own 25.23-yard line on average. This is 2.39 yards lower than the league average of 27.62, and 1.21 standard deviations lower. Meanwhile, they allow 1.68 points per drive, 0.84 SDs lower than average, and 32.26 yards per drive, 0.39 SDs higher than average, for a difference of -1.23 SDs between those two values, which results in the point (1.21, -1.23).

So there's no secret to New England's defense. The correlation is consistent year after year, and that's without taking into account strength of schedule, which I imagine would only increase the correlation.

76
by bmay :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 10:49am

I'm guessing their high turnover differential has something to do with it as well (other than '05 and '08, they've been top 10 every year since 2001).

133
by Mr Shush :: Sat, 12/27/2014 - 8:59am

Except that it looks very much like the 2014 Texans defense, with its ex-Patriots coaching staff, is showing exactly the same trends in spite of the lousy 2014 Texans offense and special teams.

135
by CaffeineMan :: Sat, 12/27/2014 - 3:08pm

Ha. Another data point. I'm fascinated by the defensive scheme/play calling tradeoff question.

I think Belichick (like Crennel) is a pretty conservative guy and on defense he typically optimizes for taking away the big play.

BTW this is not intended to be a statement about the Pats defense, I just use that example because it's what I'm most familiar with. I know Belichicks' weaknesses in what kind of players he prefers, blah, blah, blah… All that to one side:

Does optimizing for taking away the big play necessarily mean trading off against the ability to stop the offense from gaining yards? To put it another way: Given the advantages the offense has these days, is it actually riskier to attempt to prevent yards when the offense has room on the field than it is to bleed slowly, try to force a mistake and eventually allow the red zone to reduce the number of options the offense has? If you take the risk, do you get a more boom-and-bust defense?

I think this may be the case. I know there are no absolutes here. As a coach, all of the trade-offs are dependent on the players you have. If you're fortunate enough to have the players to clamp down on defense all the time, you obviously do it. But if you don't have the players and you try to stop every single play on defense, do you end up with a defense that has more bust than boom to it? Kind of like what Rex and Rob Ryan's defenses look like this year. As opposed to what Rex Ryan's defense looked like when he had the players.

Obviously a more conservative bleed-slowly defense works better when complemented with a high-powered offense. But I think a bleed-slowly defense is the right tradeoff in the current competitive climate, given that most teams won't have the players to run the Seahawks defense. Or Rex's defense in its heyday.

Now measuring this tradeoff is something else entirely...

136
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Sat, 12/27/2014 - 5:09pm

I remember that the selling point of the Cover-2 was that it took away big plays and made an offense drive the length of a field. Every time the offense snaps the ball it is an opportunity either for a drive to stall, the offense to make a mistake or the defense to capitalise. They used to call it "playing the long field".

If you want a good example of why bend-don't-break defense is effective, look back to the Titan-Rams Super Bowl in 1999/2000 (XXXIV). The Rams went in with a high-scoring offense but in the 1st half were held to scoring 3 of 5 FGs - really they should have been up something like 35-6. When the Titans tied the game up 16-16 late in the 4th, the Rams immediately scored on a single 73-yd scoring play that decided the game.

137
by tuluse :: Sat, 12/27/2014 - 5:28pm

The good cover 2 defenses didn't really bend though. The Bucs, Bears, and Rams (under Lovie) simply stopped opponents.

138
by CaffeineMan :: Sat, 12/27/2014 - 7:11pm

My recollection of the history of Cover 2 was that it was particularly designed to stop the West Coast Offense. Don't know the details of exactly how, though.

The other thing that makes this analysis difficult is that I think the shift towards offense has increased even more lately, making it hard to use defenses much more than 5-10 years ago as comparison points.

139
by gomer_rs :: Sun, 12/28/2014 - 4:08am

The cover two defense of the Dungy/Kiffin/Lovie variety stopped the West Coast offense by using a passive pass rush (rush 4, rarely blitz), fast but often undersized LBs and DLs.

The West Coast was built around the concept of matching reads/throws to steps in a drop, step 3, read one, step 4, read two, step 5, read 3, step 6, read 4, step 7 read 5. This allowed the QB to throw breaking routes before the break rather than looking for the open receivers. The system breaks down in one of three ways, move the QB of the spot and out of the progression (Tampa 2, LeBeau zone blitz), knock receivers off the routes (Tampa 2), confuse the reads (LeBeau zone blitz).

Basically the Tampa-2 excelled at matching receivers in coverage and jamming them before the break. An approach that is risky without the safety help or on a blitz, but made up for by the two-high safety help. Additionally, the greatest weakness of the traditional 2 was TEs and Slot WRs attacking the gap between the safeties, but the Tampa-2 teams got undersized, very fast, MLBs that dropped as the play progressed until it became a cover 3/cover 2 hybrid.

Brooks,Urlacher,Tatupu, type players.

_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

85
by RoninX :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:50pm

Conceptually I agree, and the data passes the eye test. Though I also wonder about skewing due to the largely punchless offenses of the AFC East during the Pats run. I know "the East" being generally lousy gets thrown in the face of Pats supporters a lot and that as a division it hasn't actually been as awful as fans at large think of it. However, even when the Pats have had some in division competition those teams have been offensively challenged (especially in the red zone) due to lack of QBs.

Regardless, its only 6 or 16 games and I wouldn't be surprised if the Pats numbers are similarly skewed (it not to the same degree) outside of division.

124
by Brendan :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 10:32am

If there was any legitimacy to the division point (ahem: afc south is worst) than that is offset by the fact the patriots have to play a tougher non division schedule between playing all afc division winners from prior year plus whatever team peyton is on each year.

17
by Alternator :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:47pm

As a note, this is partially teams being forced to go for it on 4th down down late, and then New England making the stop - so credit the defense for succeeding, yes, but there's definitely some spillover from the offensive dominance, as well.

6
by swgallagher :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:24pm

Should Pete Carroll get more consideration for coach of the year?
The turn-around in producing a perennial power-house, literally of historic proportions is pretty stunning.

9
by jacobk :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:33pm

He hasn't had the one miracle year that seems to be the prerequisite. At this point it would take an undefeated season (or overcoming massive injury problems to highly visible players) for him to win. It seems that generally the reward for sustained excellence is getting a long term contract as opposed to a trophy.

The one award that I think looks a little foolish in retrospect is John Schneider missing out on executive of the year in 2012. That draft looks phenomenal from a few years out.

12
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:41pm

I think a dominant 14-2 would probably good enough. He might get it this year since no team is super dominant and there is no real Cinderella story.

20
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:55pm

and there is no real Cinderella story

Dallas or Detroit? 12 wins was roughly what people expected out of Seattle at the beginning of the season, but definitely not for those two teams.

45
by EricL :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:59pm

Isn't it kind of Bruce Arian's award to lose, though? 11-4 with the amount of injuries they've fought through?

46
by Raiderfan :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:10pm

Arizona, with all their injuries?

18
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:51pm

I don't think New England overcame anything major in 2010 apart from the loss of their defensive coordinator, and Belichick still won it that year. To be fair, there wasn't really another coach who was equally deserving.

And I just looked at the short list, wow. Here are the other vote getters:

Raheem Morris 11½
Todd Haley 4½
Mike Smith 1
Andy Reid 1
Lovie Smith 1
Steve Spagnuolo 1

So that's three coaches who would be fired the very next year, two fired after two years and one rumored to be fired after this year.

40
by MC2 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:30pm

Smith probably won't get fired if the Falcons win a playoff game, which is looking increasingly likely.

54
by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:35pm

Reid and Lovie are legit, despite Lovie's season in the cesspool that the ownership and Schiano left in Tampa. Lovie is a damn good coach, and probably the best remaining tampa-2 defensive coach in the league. Reid is a walrus. Coo-coo-ca-choo.

But yeah, Raheem Morris was only good in comparison to Schiano, and Todd Haley... is apparently not a terrible offensive coordinator.

55
by Joshua Northey :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:35pm

This should just reinforce that these awards mean absolutely nothing. It is just a silly vote for silly reasons. The idea that it is actually identifying anything like the coach who performed the best is laughable.

59
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:47pm

The awards are for fun. Just like the entire game and league.

87
by Joshua Northey :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 1:07pm

I guess, most people don't seem to have much fun with them, they just find them frustrating. The league is there to make money. It has nothing to do with fun.

88
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 1:20pm

It makes money by entertaining people. If you're not entertained you should fine another hobby. Don't take a silly end of they year vote so seriously.

98
by Joshua Northey :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:19pm

Umm my point was it isn't to be taken seriously...

104
by MC2 :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 9:27pm

If people didn't think watching NFL games, talking about NFL games, betting on NFL games, etc., was fun, the league wouldn't make any money, or at least not enough to stay in business.

Targeting masochists is not a successful business model.

99
by Dave Bernreuther :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:23pm

Belichick is the coach of the year every year. In the absence of any strong feel good narrative elsewhere he won the actual award that season.

That list of other candidates is pretty funny. I bet other years are similarly interesting too. Good stories, not actually good coaches.

19
by johnmatthewsinla :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:53pm

He's probably not getting enough credit for ditching Percy for next-to-nothing. Coincidentally, after that, locker room problems seemed to subside and they find themselves on their current streak. Easily the second ballsiest move after starting RW as a rookie. I'm a proponent for Arians winning, but if we compare teams on a head-to-head basis, why not coaches? Pete obviously gets the nod there (with an asterisk for Stanton/Lindley).

21
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:00pm

Carroll and Schneider's tenure in Seattle have been notable in two ways: never restructuring contracts by pushing money into future years and thinking nothing of incurring dead money if they feel a player isn't worth his pay. Lynch's future in Seattle is going to be their biggest challenge.

34
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:55pm

I love the job Carrol has done, but until you lose multiple QBs and multiple other players (some before the season even starts) and still win at least 11 (with some luck)you have to give it to the guy in ARZ.

51
by Blykmyk44 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:54pm

When Palmer is out they are 5-4....hardly coach of the year material. Seattle has lost plenty of significantly better players for periods,of the season and still ends up with a better record. The Arians love is over the top...

Especially if you see how poorly they rank in dvoa

56
by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:41pm

There are some valid arguments that can be made in favor of Carroll being COY over Arians, but comparing AZ losing their QB to Seattle losing some position players, regardless of quality, is not one of them. When starting QBs miss games Vegas adjusts the point spread usually by at least three points and often more depending on the quality of the backup.

I think Jason Garrett should be the COY, because no one expected the Cowboys to be any good and he operates under some bizarre circumstances with Jones.

57
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:42pm

Yeah, I think Arians and Garrett are the top two vote-getters, with Caldwell up there too if Detroit can beat Green Bay this week.

63
by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 2:16am

Jason Garrett, Coach of the Year? Seriously? Rule of thumb: If it was ridiculous to call a guy the best coach in the league a year ago, it's probably ridiculous today.

He'd be a total Dick Jauron "how dumb does that look in hindsight?" vote.

Basically the only reason people think he has a chance is because they've been underachieving for years with him at the helm and now they're not. Yippee!

66
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 2:42am

Just like Ron Rivera last year, right? Voters love redemption stories, even if they don't expect it to last beyond a year.

69
by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 3:37am

Yes, just like Ron Rivera last year. Doesn't that award look kind of dumb now? Does anyone think Rivera is one of the best coaches in the league?

Mind you, Rivera wasn't as ridiculous as Garrett would be given that he did at least change the way he did things eg. "Riverboat Ron".

I don't care for the whole "this is the way they've voted in the past" as it just perpetuates stupidity.

84
by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:37pm

I firmly think Ron Rivera was the correct choice last year. He first took a team up a level to 12-4. HE openly changed his coaching style, embraced a 'go for it' mentality that worked.

He's a defensive coach and the '13 Panthers defense was awesome, almost as good by the numbers as Seattle's last year.

Just because they were in cap hell, had to gut portions of the team in the offseason, doesn't make him any worse. They somehow have a shot at a playoff spot. He kept that team motivated and might become the first coach to repeat as NFC SOuth Champs.

108
by chemical burn :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 1:30am

Yeah, criticizing Rivera getting it last year is particularly weird because he's one of the rare examples where you can point to a guy winning it specifically because he made a change in his strategy and started making intelligent, unorthodox decisions. You can say "look at precisely what effect his coaching is having" in a way you can't with, say, Belichick (or John Fox) where there will always be some entanglement in their success with their QB's excellence. The Rivera choice was and is excellent - better than the standard "guy takes a team that just had a very bad record to the playoffs" choice that I feel like usually wins...

109
by Duff Soviet Union :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 3:35am

Except Rivera WAS the standard "guy takes a team that just had a very bad record to the playoffs" choice that usually wins. He basically won specifically because the team had underachieved the previous year which made his work the following year look better than it actually was.

I didn't mean to be that hard on him. He was a much better choice than say Dick Jauron or Jim Haslett (which is what Garrett winning the award would be comparable too).

89
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 1:21pm

I think Ron Rivera is one of the top 8 coaches in the league. Now the Panther's GM is another story.

60
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:49pm

You don't get votes for having good statistical numbers; you get votes for winning. If anything, they prefer coaches that led their team to a bunch of close victories despite not being among the great teams. Ron Rivera went 5-2 in one-possession games in 2013, Arians went 8-0 in 2012, Jim Harbaugh went 7-2 in 2011, Marvin Lewis went 6-3 in 2009, and Mike Smith went 6-2 in 2008. Three of those teams (Indy in 2012, Cincinnati in 2009, Atlanta in 2008) were thoroughly mediocre otherwise. Recently, only Belichick has won it while coaching the best team in the NFL.

97
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:12pm

Arian's is 5-4 with Stanton, Lindley, and Thomas.

Aka Lindley and the 3rd best QBs from MSU and VT.

35
by johnmatthewsinla :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:56pm

Good points; they've never been about running up the credit (so to speak) in order to maximize the odds of a near-term championship window. Aside from finding hidden gems -- the subject of dozens of articles, so nothing new -- they're also really good at getting guys to commit at market value or below. Mays over at Grantland called Michael Bennett's new contract highway robbery, given how well he's playing.

38
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:10pm

they're also really good at getting guys to commit at market value or below

Eh, only on the defensive side of the ball. Flynn, Rice, Miller and Harvin were all overpaid, and so's Okung if you take his injuries into account.

42
by tuluse :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:32pm

Well they've been pretty good at getting out of bad contracts too.

92
by Rick_and_Roll :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 1:51pm

They have been good at getting out of bad contracts largely because they have a high percentage of players on their first contract due to their incredible drafting of the last few years. They will have much less room for error when they have to start paying more of their key players, esp QB Wilson, market value.

93
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 3:09pm

They haven't handed out any potentially bad contracts in recent years apart from the Harvin one. In the early years they had to overpay because Seattle wasn't an enticing free agent destination, but the recent contracts have been very team-friendly: 4-year extension for Chancellor, 4-year extension for Sherman, 4-year extension for Thomas, 4-year extension for Bennett, 4-year extension for Wright, and 4-year extension for Avril. They're sacrificing extension inflation after those four years for the ease of cutting players if they aren't producing.

118
by justanothersteve :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 10:12pm

Its easy as long as you don't have an expensive QB. It will be far more difficult once Wilson gets a $20 million/year contract.

119
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 1:25am

How does Wilson getting a large contract affect the ease of cutting players? Their contract structure doesn't change when Wilson gets extended. Is Green Bay finding it hard to cut players because Rodgers has a $20 million/year contract?

120
by tuluse :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 2:22am

If you have extra cap space you can afford to eat hits for cutting or trading players. Wilson getting a market deal won't stop this by itself, but as big deals start adding up for the Seahawks they'll have less wiggleroom.

121
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 3:11am

My point was that these hits aren't very big with these recent contracts. Cutting Harvin accrued 6.93 million dollars of dead money this year and 7.23 million next year, but cutting, say, Chancellor, Avril or Wright one year before their contracts are up would only accrue $1 million, or $2 million if cut two years before.

128
by tuluse :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 1:45pm

Well it would be unprecedented for a team to avoid such a situation forever.

131
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 4:11pm

Cutting players won't be the issue when there's less money to spend. It'll be the difficulty in retaining your own players and signing free agents that's the problem, and Seattle already went through one iteration of it this season, when they lost Tate, Clemons, Bryant, McDonald, Browner, Thurmond, Giacomini and McQuistan, all starters at one time or another last year and a full 20% of their offensive and defensive snaps, and only signed one somewhat notable free agent in Kevin Williams. For all the talk about Seattle being cap-squeezed once Wilson and Wagner get their contracts, they were actually up against it this year with Harvin and Okung being massively overpaid. Also, Seattle has been fortunate that they haven't suffered any major injuries to their top players.

134
by Lance :: Sat, 12/27/2014 - 12:48pm

Maybe not. According to one site SEA is at $130 million now. Next year, that number drops to $118 million, with Wilson making $900k. The biggest hit in 2015 will be Sherman. Sounds like with some smart dealing (e.g. re-working Okung's contract, and perhaps Lynch's?) they should have enough room to lock in Wilson, perhaps sign a quality free agent or two if needed, and be OK with some good drafting. Much better than Dallas' situation where they have to think about Bryant and Murray (among others) and Romo having a cap number over $20 million and not much room to work with.

64
by ooter :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 2:35am

How much did trading for Harvin set Seattle's dynasty chances back btw? Can you imagine where they'd be right now if they hadn't given up those picks, the money, and the players they lost (most likely Tate and at least one of Clemson or Red) this season because of his money.

67
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 3:01am

It all hinges on how much you think Harvin helped them to beat New Orleans in the playoffs. With him, they scored on four of their five drives in the first half, averaging 5.1 yards per play. Without him, they punted on five consecutive drives to start the second half averaging 2.6 yards per play, including three 3-and-outs, until they finally broke through in the final minutes. Of course, without Harvin and with two extra picks they wouldn't have designed a game plan revolving heavily around him, but he did make a difference that day.

As for those three players, Clemons is 33 and Bryant is 30, so they would've moved on from them eventually anyways. And while Tate has been great for Detroit, maybe the rumor that he had an affair with Wilson's now ex-wife would have been just a big a distraction as Harvin was. The money certainly could have been put to better use, but likely not on the first two players and perhaps all three.

116
by LionInAZ :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 5:35pm

Banging your QB's wife??? That would be seriously bad juju, especially if you might face him in the playoffs.

13
by Dales :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:41pm

Alex Smith has had no receiver draw a DPI this year?

101
by MJK :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 5:57pm

That's because you generally commit DPI against a player who might score a TD on you.

15
by iron_greg :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:43pm

It will be interesting to see how Baltimore's Adjusted Games lost plays out. I'm not sure they'll be the league leader in AGL but they seem to be the one team in that top 12 to have had the injuries they could least afford to take.

Plenty of people are happy to see the breaks going against them by some weird sense that they deserve it due to the Rice thing (as people naively believe their teams to be paragons of virtue) but it does seem as if a perfect storm brewed to potentially take them out of playoff contention despite their significantly better DVOA than most. CIN on the other hand really has escaped by on some improbable breaks to fuel their berth. S*** happens I guess; NFL in a nutshell.

68
by JimZipCode :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 3:08am

As a Ravens fan I have to say that if missing the playoffs with a high DVOA this year is – along with having to watch last year's squad – if that's part of the karmic balancing act / cosmic bargain that allowed us to have the 2012 postseason: I am totally 100% fine with that. Great deal.

The Ravens *have* been this devastated with targeted injuries before, yes even down to losing most everybody in the defensive backfield: 2007 It's fascinating to compare this team, and where the organization stands overall, with that season. In that year, the CBs started dropping like flies, Rex couldn't really scheme around it, McNair got hurt, and the team basically gave up. The collective shudder when Kyle Boller came onto the field was obvious on TV. After the bye week, they really only showed up for one game: against the Imperfect Patriots. That game was infuriating, because they played awesome football and really had the game won: made it crystal clear exactly to what extent they were mailing it in the other 6 or 7 games that half of the season.

Flash forward to this season. The CB position has been a smoking crater most of the year. Starting tailback gone, abruptly. They lost another safety this past weekend, and both starting OTs. And yet they keep scuffling along and making most of the plays they can. They've been competitive almost every game – even this past week they were trying to claw back in the 4th Q. They are focused as hell. Scrappy, even. Honestly it looks like coaching.

It's not as simple as, "they're good this year, they were bad in 2007." That 2007 squad was a lot of the same players that went 13-3 in 2006 and to the conf champship game in 2008: there was a helluva lot of talent there. This year's team is many of the same players that struggled to go 8-8 last year; all season I've thought their high DVOA is a mirage.

Actually it looks like three things: personality of the players, quality of coaching, and the presence of an actual QB. I've never been in their locker room even one time, and have no right to psychoanalyze a single member of the organization; so let's dive right in. The Ravens of Billick / Rex / Ray Lewis had a whiff of "Big Time" to them: only caring about the big games, marquee matchups. They would routinely play down to the level of their opponents. These Ravens have a boring, button down, detail-oriented air to them. Obviously Harbaugh exudes that: but many of the players seem to have that personality too (not just the QB). Even T-Sizzle to an extent. Coaching: Billick's record is excellent, Harbaugh's is almost unbelievable. Harbaugh's coaching staff is experienced and professional; has much better balance offense/defense than any of Billick's staffs. And his focus on process, on the next practice and the next meeting, is palpable even thru the media.

And of course, as a player it's gotta be easier to believe that Flacco gives you a chance to win, vs believing that Boller does. (Yes, the bar is not high here in Baltimore.)

The difference between 2007 and this year is a nice thing to appreciate, as this season threatens a disappointing conclusion.

78
by dcaslin :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 11:25am

Clearly you missed the memo that this years team would be undefeated if they only had Ray Lewis in the locker room to pump them up!

83
by Raiderfan :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:29pm

I thought Aaron Rogers was the guy who needed to be pumped up.

94
by intel_chris :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 3:34pm

JimZipCode wrote:
As a Ravens fan I have to say that if missing the playoffs with a high DVOA this year is – along with having to watch last year's squad – if that's part of the karmic balancing act / cosmic bargain that allowed us to have the 2012 postseason: I am totally 100% fine with that. Great deal.

As a Bronco's fan I will give you 2012 as a wonderful trade-off. The game where you beat us for the AFC conference championship was really well played on your team's part, and one of those really memorable games that was exciting to watch from beginning to end. If I could have made that same cosmic balance, believe me I would in an instant--no hesitation. Of course, by making the same trade-off, I mean not only winning that conference game, but also the Super Bowl. :-)

16
by Dales :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 7:45pm

And what's up with Flacco and Smith with the DPI? Have they had a flag-happy crew more frequently than other teams?

30
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:41pm

Torrey Smith is well-known for his ability to draw DPIs. In his four years he has drawn 143 yards worth of DPI per year.

61
by Rocco :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:36am

The Ravens offense involves Flacco heaving it deep and the receivers begging for flags.

100
by Dave Bernreuther :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:31pm

I've always called the under thrown deep ball* that leads to a DPI when the unsuspecting DB runs into the receiver slowing down to catch it the Flacco Special. I'd say that's more "credit" to Flacco than Smith, though I suppose there's an art to knowing where the ball is without tipping off the DB...

*- (under thrown anything is ridiculous when you have Flacco's arm.)

22
by Sixknots :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:01pm

Is the weighted DVOA formula the still the same as when it was first added?

27
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:15pm

Don't think so, considering the page that introduced weighted DVOA (http://www.footballoutsiders.com/dvoa-ratings/2003/building-better-mouse...) has a footnote at the bottom saying:

Note: As of 2004, weights are different from listed here.

47
by Sixknots :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:12pm

So where can I find the current Weighted DVOA formula?

26
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:11pm

As good as SEA has been playing, shouldn't they be worried that the best QB they have playe against in their latest run is Alex Smith? And they lost to him? I don't see them holding up very well against DAL since they got their ass kicked by them last time, but I'm still not a believer the DAL D, currently #23.

28
by swgallagher :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:26pm

That is a totally legit worry for the Seahawks, slightly mitigated by early performances against the elite QBs shutting down Rogers, and Manning early in the season. You can only play your schedule right?

Regarding Dallas - In a match-up driven league, I think that is the single toughest matchup of the entire play-off field for Seattle.

Given the recent defensive resurgence I think it's a pretty different game than before, but still the toughest challenge in the NFC for the Seahawks.

I doubt anyone in Dallas thought they would go into Philly and get blown up again...

29
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:33pm

They didn't have Wagner back against Smith, or to put it more accurately, they didn't have Wagner back against Charles. That Dallas game is as useful now as that opening Green Bay game is, which is to say, hardly at all. Just as Green Bay's receivers now have a lot more rapport with Rodgers and some of their underperforming defenders have been moved around or benched, Seattle is quite a different team now. Wagner was either out or hobbled the majority of the game, and Maxwell was out the entire second half. Coupled with Lane still being out, that meant Burley and Terrell had to contend with Romo. On offense, they were still trying to employ Harvin into the gameplan, and the offense looks a lot different now.

Also, Dallas likely has to go through Green Bay and Detroit in some order to get another crack at Seattle, and that won't be easy.

32
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:42pm

They also had Mebane - they really did get their ass kicked and the score really didn't reflect what happened. SEA offense has gotten better since, so has DAL defense.
They better hope they play every game in SEA in the NFC playoffs.

39
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:18pm

Mebane's not that important considering his absence hasn't affected the run defense at all; Wagner has clearly shwon to be the more crucial member in the defense.

they really did get their ass kicked and the score really didn't reflect what happened

So nothing will change in a rematch? Did San Francisco's ass-kicking at the hands of Seattle in week 2 last year doom them to get blown out in the playoff rematch? Or New Orleans? Stop using that game as your crutch. Both teams will make adjustments and a rematch will likely look very different with regards to play-calling.

"SEA offense has gotten better since, so has DAL defense."

No it hasn't. They were at 0.1% after the Seattle game and now they're at 4.5%.

43
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:42pm

Their defense seems deeper than earlier in the season, how's that? DAL actually has had a pretty easy schedule (2 playoofs teams, ARZ and IND) since the SEA game and they really haven't dominated a team for 60 minutes until this past weekend so who knows.

52
by Blykmyk44 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:56pm

Flipping the argument around...if Dallas really kicked Seattle's ass and seattle played terribly AND Dallas needed a desperation 3rd and 20 play to even win the game...how much stock are you supposed to put into that game?

37
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:04pm

It's definitely a worry. I remember the 2011 Pats were similar. Their 8-game win streak to end the season coincided with them playing some truly awful QBs (Sanchez, Palko, Vince Young, Grossman, Fitzpatrick, Tebow). Then after all that they got some good QBs (Flacco, Eli) and nearly lost one and lost the other.

The Seahawks have a great defense, but the 33 points allowed in 5 games is skewed y some awful QBs.

41
by GoDog :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:30pm

While the Seahawks have played the dregs of the QB world, they also scored an average of about 23 points a game against some pretty stout defenses. Some of that is how the defense has given them short fields, but they have also put up some meaningful yardage on offense.

102
by formido :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 7:42pm

I struggle to understand why folks always say this. They said it last year, and then the play-offs and SB happened. You remember that Seattle totally shut down Manning and Rodger this year, right? Manning only scored on his last drive because Maxwell got hurt and Josh Freaking Thomas[0], who had been on the team for two weeks, immediately gave up a 40 yard play on his first play in. Seattle is 7-0 against Rodgers, Manning, Brady, and Brees with Wilson at QB.

Seattle is built to beat one-dimensional, high efficiency passing QBs. That's what they excel at.

1. No longer on the team, either.

31
by swgallagher :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:41pm

The odds makers say that the NFC playoff field will look like this...

1: Seattle
2: GB
3: Dallas - set in stone
4: Carolanta set in stone
5:Arizona
6: Detroit

Dallas(3) hosting Det (6)
Carolanta (4) hosting Arizona (5) in the terribowl

Detroit might be the worst possible matchup for Dallas in my opinion.

77
by Eddo :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 11:00am

Technically, Dallas is not set in stone as the #3 seed. They win any two-way head-to-head tiebreaker with Seattle, so if Seattle wins, Dallas wins, and Green Bay and Detroit tie each other, Dallas gets the #1 seed.

I don't believe Dallas can get the #2, though.

80
by Travis :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 11:39am

Dallas can get the #2 if 1) Seattle and Arizona both lose, Dallas doesn't tie, and Green Bay-Detroit doesn't end in a tie, or 2) Seattle ties, Arizona ties or loses, Dallas wins or ties, and Green Bay-Detroit doesn't end in a tie; or 3) Seattle loses or ties, Arizona wins, Dallas wins, and Green Bay-Detroit ends in a tie.

81
by Eddo :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:10pm

Thanks -as always - for the clarification, Travis.

82
by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 12:11pm

#1 actually isn't a 6 bumper, 7 balls, bank shot.

95
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:10pm

Dallas is a good draw. Its the only team the Lions can beat in a playoff game.

96
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:10pm

Dallas is a good draw. Its the only team the Lions can beat in a playoff game.

33
by Otis Taylor89 :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 8:50pm

DET could out SEA SEA if their offense woke up at all, which doesn't look like it will happen. Would love to see them knock off GB to really shake things up.
I think, outside SEA, the teams are fairly within range of each other and having a bye may not be for the best.

36
by swgallagher :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 9:01pm

My bored at work opinion....

With the above scenario, as a Seattle fan I'm rooting for Dallas big-time.

NFC match-ups vs. NFC field - in order of least to most challenging (excluding the NFC South impostors).
Seattle: Az, GB, Det, Dal
Arizona: @Det, @Dal, @Sea, @GB
Green Bay: Az, Dal, Det, @Sea
Dallas: Az, Det, @Sea, @GB
Detroit: nobody cares about Detroit. I don't think they even have the internet there.

49
by TomC :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:32pm

Detroit: nobody cares about Detroit. I don't think they even have the internet there.

I don't envy you on Xmas Eve, getting visited in the middle of the night by the ghost of MDS showing you a future where Seattle is a bankrupt, bombed-out wreck, and the Seahawks are 0-16 with Matt Millen at GM.

126
by ZDNeal :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 1:27pm

I hope Seattle sinks into the Bertha hole. See, I read something on the internet here in Detroit.

48
by Cythammer :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:19pm

The game between the 3. and the 6. seed in the NFC is going to be huge for the teams with byes, since it will determine who gets to play a seriously mediocre 4. or 5. seed. It's going to be a little weird. Both Arizona and the NFC South winner will be getting exactly the matchup they would ask for. Can't be too often that the two weakest teams in the playoffs get to play each other.

50
by jacobk :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 10:39pm

I'm looking forward to the thousand word column from Simmons lamenting that he can't bet against both Arizona and Carolanta.

53
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:25pm

The strangest part of Baltimore possibly missing the playoffs is that usually a harder schedule makes it easier to get into the postseason, right?

Those two should match each other.

Despite that loss, Baltimore is still the favorite to make the playoffs. They should beat Cleveland at home, and Kansas City is a tad better than San Diego especially with homefield advantage.

58
by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 12/23/2014 - 11:47pm

In AFC West games, Rivers usually plays better on the road. I would be very surprised if SD loses to KC.

70
by a2coupe :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 4:01am

No Russell Wilson for MUT? Seriously?

86
by RoninX :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 1:01pm

Aren't they limited in their picks by not picking 1) guys Madden chose to highlight in some other way this week 2) Having been MUT in the past?

I have no idea if either of these exceptions apply, but presumably Madden usually highlights the top couple QBs/RBs each week which is why these are supposed to be "under the radar" guys.

71
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 7:21am

What's the deal with Lovie and the Bucs?

I've not followed them but everybody says that Lovie is a great coach but I'm seeing them there at the bottom of DVOA and there at the bottom of league in record. Even Tony Sparano has managed to get 3 wins out of a pitiful Raiders team in the past few weeks.

Doesn't a good coach start to turn things around by midseason and begin to get the process going even if the wins aren't flowing?

Genuine question - I'm completely ignorant about what's going on there.

72
by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 7:30am

Lovie's a strange one. He left for a year and it suddenly seems like he's a decade behind the times.

His QB choice was terrible, but there's some really good talent on that defense, and a lot of people (like, um, me for instance) thought he'd be able to mould them into a formidable unit. Instead they were better off under Schiano.

90
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 1:26pm

Lovie is a great coach, he's a good one. The team is in transition right now, and generally it's expected a team will do worse in year 1 under a new coach. Chicago also got worse Lovie's first year.

73
by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 7:32am

It's kind of funny how similar New Orleans and Atlanta are. Literally the exact same offensive DVOA, 31st and 32nd in defense, 10th and 11th in special teams, same W-L record.

103
by formido :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 7:45pm

Of course, DVOA can't account for the fact that Seattle had a middle stretch when they were missing key players and these players not at all coincidentally returned at the start of this dominant stretch. Vegas can, though, which is why Seattle is the favorite (or tied with NE in a couple of cases) to win the SB. Seattle dominated Denver and Green Bay when they were healthy and they've dominated this stretch since they're healthy. Only bad luck or bad health is likely to stop them.

105
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 10:09pm

Seattle dominated Denver in a game that went to overtime?

106
by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 12/24/2014 - 10:27pm

In a weird way, yes. Check out the win percentage graph at PFR. Seattle's win percentage hit 75% midway through the second quarter and stayed there or higher for most of the game. In fact, Seattle actually had a 100% win percentage for a good chunk of the fourth quarter, basically right up until the Broncos hit the two-pointer to force overtime.

http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201409210sea.htm

113
by Perfundle :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 12:18pm

Well, that's a flaw in the way the win percentages are calculated then. The model accounts for the initial spread, the possession, the score, the down and distance and the current field position, but it doesn't account for the number of timeouts by the defense. A team with a 3-point lead and the ball is near guaranteed victory if their opponent has no timeouts, but definitely not if their opponent has three.

110
by heywood :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 4:28am

If you give Ariens credit for surviving Carson's crash, shouldn't he also lose points for counting on an aging injury prone QB who hasn't had a full season since he threw to Chad and T.J. Not very prudent planning imo.

112
by Perfundle :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 12:10pm

Didn't he have a full season just last year?

111
by heywood :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 4:39am

duplicate post -- sorry

114
by mitch :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 1:25pm

Patriots a 25 % chance to win Super Bowl ?

Your still counting the weighted DVOA as more important than overall the season, which your own research seemed to say was more important.

Cut that in half and the it is still to much. No way Patriots have a 25% chance to win the Super Bowl.

117
by Perfundle :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 7:18pm

Doesn't look all that off. Here are Vegas' Super Bowl odds right now:

New England Patriots 5/2
Seattle Seahawks 5/2
Green Bay Packers 5/1
Denver Broncos 6/1
Dallas Cowboys 10/1
Pittsburgh Steelers 18/1
Indianapolis Colts 25/1
Detroit Lions 30/1
San Diego Chargers 35/1
Arizona Cardinals 50/1
Atlanta Falcons 60/1
Cincinnati Bengals 60/1
Baltimore Ravens 75/1
Carolina Panthers 100/1
Houston Texans 450/1

Normalizing them so that they sum to 1 gives both the Patriots and Seahawks a 26.6% chance of winning. In comparison, Seattle was at 31.5% and Denver 25.2% at the end of the regular season last year.

115
by Sixknots :: Thu, 12/25/2014 - 3:01pm

MERRY CHRISTMAS to the excellent staff at FO and all the great posters here.

And a special Merry Christmas to Raiderjoe and Petet Kong and moist guys everywhere!

122
by big10freak :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 7:39am

Green Bay's defense regrouping after the Atlanta ugliness of a few weeks back.

Playing qbs who don't run helps. The soft underbelly of Dom Capers' defense is that running qbs gives it fits.

127
by ZDNeal :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 1:30pm

Like Matt Ryan?

123
by mitch :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 9:16am

Vegas odds are based on perception not reality.

The masses of public gamblers love the Patriots to win the Super Bowl. Yes, I understand this, the masses almost always use the wrong reasons to make their picks.

129
by Perfundle :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 2:28pm

Okay, let's work the percentages out. You said that half of 25% is still too much, so maybe something like 10%. That means the remaining 11 teams would have a collective 90% of winning the Super Bowl, or about 8.2% for each team. You don't think it's silly to declare that the Patriots only have a 22% better chance to win the Super Bowl than the average playoff team when they have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs?

130
by MJK :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 2:38pm

Or here's another calculation. The #1 seed has to win two home games and a neutral field game to hoist the Lombardi. Even if said team has just a 50% chance of winning each game, they have a 12.5% chance of winning it all. In other words, half of 25%, which you said is "still way too high". Given that home field advantage increases "average winning percentage to something like 55-60%, they ought to be at about 18%, even if you think they are equally as good as any team they will face, just due to the structure of the playoffs.

The patriots (or any #1 seed) would have to be MUCH worse than every other team they might face for "half of 25%" to be too high. And only a bit better than the other teams for 25% to be reasonable. Given their history this season (crushing the Bengals, beating Denver and Detroit and SD, and crushing Indy, barely losing to GB on the road), that's probably reasonable.

132
by intel_chris :: Sat, 12/27/2014 - 12:04am

The odds given weren't for playing in the SB, but for winning it. To have a 25%+ chance of winning the SB, it seems one would need an approximate 50%+ chance of appearing in the SB, which means a 50%+ chance of winning the conference championship game, which probably means a 75%+ chance of winning the divisional game, assuming you give them approximately a 66% chance of beating each of the opposing seeds at that level.

In other words, you give NE a 75% chance of winning its first playoff game and a 66% chance of winning its second playoff game (presuming it makes it) and a 50% chance of winning the SB (presuming it wins both its playoff games leading up to the SB). Those per game odds work out to be a 25% probability of NE winning the SB.

I'll leave it to the other readers to decide if these odds seem too high (or too low).

Oops after reading further, you were trying to get to 12.5% odds, and that is 50% * 50% * 50%, which is certainly not "too high", that's a coin toss for each game.

140
by nat :: Sun, 12/28/2014 - 10:40am

Scott Kacsmar reviewed playoff home field advantage a few years back at CHFF. It varies by round, which makes sense given how the seeding works.

Divisional round games are won by the home team 70.6% of the time. Conference championships are won by the home team 67.1% of the time. That's a combined effect of home field advantage and higher seeds usually being the better team. It puts the odds of the top seed getting to the Super Bowl at 47.4%.

The Playoff Odds page gives the Patriots a 45.7% chance. So they are slightly weaker than usual for getting to the final game, although favored to win it if they get there.

Neither of those ideas seem out of line. They haven't pulled away from the AFC pack very much. But there's a reasonable chance that the NFC will go to a weaker team that wins by a one-time upset, giving the Patriots an easier match up.

Still, it will probably be something like a Panthers-Chargers pairing. Because the playoffs are weird.

125
by ZDNeal :: Fri, 12/26/2014 - 1:26pm

John J. Todd should have been disbarred.

141
by mitch :: Mon, 12/29/2014 - 7:45pm

The odds are based on each person's ability to accurately predict Super Bowl Winners. Run all the math you want on home fields and what not, Patriots will not win the 2015 Super Bowl, period.