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» Four Downs: NFC West

Our offseason Four Downs series ends with a look at the NFC West's biggest remaining holes and their most notable UDFA signings. The Rams and 49ers have to kick-start their passing games, Arizona's offense lacks a big dimension, and the Seahawks continue to rely on Russell Wilson's magic tricks.

14 Oct 2014

Week 6 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

The Denver Broncos remain on top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings this week, despite their sort of-close call against the New York Jets on Sunday. Right below Denver is a surprising No. 2, Baltimore. And to some people, the team at No. 3 is even more surprising, because it is still Seattle despite the loss to the Cowboys. Yet Dallas, the team now being lauded as the best in the NFC by most NFL observers, is still only tenth in our DVOA ratings.What gives?

The issue is certainly not this Sunday's win. The DVOA system loved this weekend's performance, giving Dallas a single-game DVOA of 57.2%. The final score closer than the performances of the two teams because the Cowboys had special teams gaffes and didn't recover any of the game's three fumbles. The Cowboys also have nice, high ratings for their Week 2 win over Tennessee and their Week 4 victory over New Orleans. However, their very close Week 3 and Week 5 wins (over St. Louis and Houston) are around 0.0%. Put that together with their very bad Week 1 loss to the 49ers, and the Cowboys just don't come out looking like dominant team overall no matter how good they were in Seattle this week.

Another way that the Seattle win stands out: schedule strength. Based on DVOA, this is the only tough opponent the Cowboys have faced all season. We all may still think of the Saints as the team that should win the NFC South if they can just get the defense back to average... but that's not the team they've really been so far this year. They rank No. 25 in DVOA, with other Dallas opponents ranking No. 24 (Houston), No. 26 (Tennessee), and No. 27 (St. Louis). San Francisco right now is only No. 15.

That phenomenally improved Dallas defense? It's phenomenally improved, all right, but not to the level of "good." The Cowboys' single-game defensive DVOA of -50.3% against the Seahawks is one of the best games by any defense this year -- but the Cowboys defense hasn't come close to that in any other game. The Cowboys currently have a defensive DVOA of 0.1%, pretty much right at league average. . The running game has been fabulous, but the passing game has been good, not great -- No. 11 in offensive DVOA -- and you all know that passing matters more than rushing in the modern NFL. Special teams have also been poor except for kicker Dan Bailey.

We still have Dallas as a very probable playoff team, of course. It's tough to blow a 5-1 record, although it is easier to screw up when one of your division rivals is also 5-1. Although the Eagles are slightly higher than the Cowboys in DAVE, the Cowboys have an easier remaining schedule, so we have the Cowboys making the playoffs in 78.3 percent of simulations and the Eagles in 72.4 percent of simulations.

While Dallas is lower than many people would expect, Baltimore is higher than many people would expect. The Ravens are one of just two teams currently in the top ten for all three phases of the game. (Seattle is the other.) Baltimore has had three huge, dominating wins. Their opening loss to Cincinnati was very close (23-16, -10.9% DVOA). And their Week 5 loss to Indianapolis is one of those games where both teams end up with very high DVOA ratings. In fact, Baltimore has a higher rating than Indianapolis for that game. The Colts had more yards per play (5.4 to 5.0) but also more turnovers (four, if you include a fumble they recovered themselves, to just two for Baltimore). The big problem for the Ravens was a horrific 1-for-9 record on third downs in that game, but no team is likely to be that bad on third downs in the long run, so the DVOA system says Baltimore's good play on defense and special teams in Week 5 outweighed its struggles on offense.

It will be interesting to see what happens to the Ravens from here. The Football Outsiders "guts and stomps" theory says that those blowout wins over Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Pittsburgh really tell us something about how good this team is right now. On the other hand, as schedule strength gets more important in our ratings, the fact that the NFC South has been far weaker than expected this season will become a bigger and bigger deal. Right now, we have three NFC South teams at No. 22 or lower. The Falcons are still up at No. 12, but that's almost entirely because of their huge win over Tampa Bay; they've fallen from No. 2 to No. 12 in three weeks. A new tool in our playoff odds simulations allows me to look at how often a division can't produce a champion with a winning record, and right now no NFC South team goes better than 8-8 (or for Carolina, 8-7-1) in 44 percent of simulations. The NFC South champion has a losing record in 11.8 percent of simulations.

There are a few other issues I would love to talk about in this week's commentary. Why doesn't anyone notice that Seattle has played the league's toughest schedule so far? Where is this Cleveland offensive explosion coming from? Just how much better is the Detroit defense than the rest of the league right now, and just how much worse have their kickers been? However, I want to get all of this week's tables online for reader enjoyment before I dash off to the airport to catch my flight home from beautiful St. Louis. So those topics will have to wait for next week's commentary, or perhaps for special posts later this week. The same goes for my promised play-by-play breakdown of Robert Quinn against Joe Staley.

Thanks again to Kevin Demoff and the Rams for bringing me in for last night's game. It always expands my knowledge to attend games in person, especially somewhere new. You see more on the field, at least when it comes to defensive secondary coverage. You learn from the other reporters. (Everyone should get to watch a game next to Mike Sando.) And I love seeing the fans and getting the feel for the football culture of a city by hanging around outside a new stadium before the game. Unfortunately, the football culture of St. Louis... Sorry, it needs a little work, guys. If the Rams do end up staying in town, you can start by painting the seats in the dome blue and gold, for crying out loud. Red seats only make sense for that other sport.

* * * * *

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 6 are:

  • CB Darrelle Revis, NE (24-HOUR HERO): Limited Bills No. 1 receiver Sammy Watkins to just 2 receptions for 27 yards.
  • DT Sen'Derrick Marks, JAC: 3 run tackles for a combined minus-1 yard, plus a pass defensed.
  • RG Zack Martin, DAL: No sacks or pass pressures allowed; his blocks were essential to the final three DeMarco Murray runs of the touchdown drive that gave Dallas the lead.
  • LT Jason Peters, PHI: Held Jason Pierre-Paul of the Giants to 1.5 pass pressures with no sacks or QB hits; Philadelphia running backs had 67 yards on 11 carries to the left.
  • RB Antone Smith, ATL: Led all Week 6 running backs with 37 receiving DYAR (4 targets, 4 catches, 64 yards, and a touchdown).

Apologies to the Baltimore Ravens fans for not being able to fit in any members of their front seven, which dominated Tampa Bay this week; we already did C.J. Mosley recently and the Madden Ultimate Team folks have some future plans for some of those other players.

Also, we know we've done a lot of right guards but no left guards yet. We're looking to do a left guard in the next week or two.

* * * * *

All stats pages are now updated with Week 6 information -- or will be in the next few minutes -- including FO Premium, snap counts and playoff odds.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through six 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. Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are only at 60 percent strength; they will increase 10 percent every week through Week 10. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE. 

DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with current DVOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 19 percent of DAVE for teams with six games played, and 27 percent of DAVE for teams with five games played.

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>

1 DEN 38.7% 1 34.6% 1 4-1 21.5% 1 -16.5% 2 0.7% 18
2 BAL 28.2% 4 22.0% 4 4-2 18.2% 4 -7.0% 9 2.9% 8
3 SEA 26.8% 2 23.9% 2 3-2 12.1% 9 -9.3% 5 5.4% 4
4 GB 23.8% 3 22.4% 3 4-2 18.6% 3 -3.1% 13 2.2% 10
5 CIN 18.0% 5 14.0% 5 3-1-1 14.3% 5 -2.6% 14 1.1% 17
6 PHI 13.9% 13 12.2% 7 5-1 -4.0% 20 -6.4% 11 11.5% 1
7 DET 13.0% 9 9.1% 9 4-2 -5.7% 22 -28.6% 1 -9.9% 32
8 SD 12.9% 7 12.8% 6 5-1 14.1% 6 2.6% 20 1.3% 14
9 CLE 11.7% 18 5.1% 15 3-2 20.7% 2 10.4% 29 1.3% 16
10 DAL 11.6% 12 8.1% 10 5-1 13.2% 8 0.1% 16 -1.5% 20
11 NE 9.4% 10 10.2% 8 4-2 -1.3% 19 -6.9% 10 3.8% 7
12 ATL 7.5% 6 5.4% 13 2-4 14.1% 7 16.0% 31 9.4% 2
13 IND 6.6% 17 5.5% 12 4-2 6.0% 12 3.9% 21 4.5% 5
14 KC 6.0% 14 3.2% 16 2-3 5.1% 13 0.5% 18 1.4% 13
15 SF 5.8% 16 6.6% 11 4-2 -0.5% 18 -11.8% 3 -5.5% 27
16 CHI 4.7% 19 5.4% 14 3-3 3.9% 14 -7.1% 8 -6.3% 28
17 MIA 1.1% 21 -0.6% 18 2-3 -0.1% 16 -10.0% 4 -8.8% 31
18 BUF 0.2% 15 -0.6% 17 3-3 -14.7% 27 -8.0% 7 6.9% 3
19 ARI -0.2% 20 -1.6% 20 4-1 -11.9% 26 -8.9% 6 2.8% 9
20 PIT -1.5% 11 -0.7% 19 3-3 3.1% 15 6.0% 23 1.3% 15
21 NYG -2.9% 8 -2.9% 21 3-3 -4.6% 21 -4.1% 12 -2.4% 22
22 CAR -4.4% 22 -3.7% 22 3-2-1 7.3% 11 10.0% 28 -1.6% 21
23 WAS -8.8% 23 -9.4% 24 1-5 -0.2% 17 0.3% 17 -8.3% 30
24 HOU -9.9% 24 -9.8% 25 3-3 -6.3% 23 -0.3% 15 -3.9% 25
25 NO -10.9% 25 -4.8% 23 2-3 11.6% 10 22.6% 32 0.0% 19
26 TEN -19.9% 26 -17.6% 27 2-4 -7.9% 24 7.3% 24 -4.6% 26
27 STL -20.5% 28 -15.2% 26 1-4 -8.3% 25 8.8% 25 -3.3% 24
28 NYJ -21.0% 27 -17.7% 28 1-5 -24.4% 29 0.6% 19 4.0% 6
29 OAK -25.8% 30 -23.6% 29 0-5 -17.6% 28 10.0% 27 1.8% 12
30 MIN -31.5% 29 -25.9% 30 2-4 -28.1% 31 5.3% 22 1.9% 11
31 JAC -41.1% 32 -35.7% 31 0-6 -28.8% 32 9.3% 26 -3.0% 23
32 TB -47.4% 31 -38.8% 32 1-5 -24.6% 30 15.2% 30 -7.7% 29
  • 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).

1 DEN 38.7% 4-1 39.8% 5.2 1 3.7% 8 -0.5% 14 7.7% 7
2 BAL 28.2% 4-2 29.3% 3.9 5 -2.8% 22 -3.2% 22 9.6% 9
3 SEA 26.8% 3-2 18.4% 4.1 3 15.6% 1 -3.9% 26 17.7% 20
4 GB 23.8% 4-2 22.0% 4.2 2 -1.1% 19 -4.6% 29 15.0% 18
5 CIN 18.0% 3-1-1 18.4% 3.7 10 4.2% 6 -1.4% 19 13.1% 16
6 PHI 13.9% 5-1 15.1% 4.0 4 -10.2% 30 2.8% 9 10.6% 13
7 DET 13.0% 4-2 21.6% 3.5 11 -6.0% 26 -3.9% 25 11.8% 14
8 SD 12.9% 5-1 25.4% 3.8 7 -10.2% 31 8.8% 2 7.0% 5
9 CLE 11.7% 3-2 15.9% 3.8 8 -1.1% 18 -4.5% 28 4.9% 2
10 DAL 11.6% 5-1 9.1% 3.7 9 -4.8% 24 -2.6% 21 18.1% 21
11 NE 9.4% 4-2 15.7% 3.2 18 -5.3% 25 5.9% 4 26.8% 28
12 ATL 7.5% 2-4 14.4% 3.3 15 -11.7% 32 0.8% 12 26.6% 27
13 IND 6.6% 4-2 11.9% 3.9 6 1.7% 15 -3.3% 23 7.5% 6
14 KC 6.0% 2-3 5.6% 3.4 13 7.0% 4 -0.3% 13 35.2% 31
15 SF 5.8% 4-2 7.5% 3.2 19 2.6% 11 3.6% 7 10.1% 10
16 CHI 4.7% 3-3 5.4% 3.4 14 2.0% 14 -5.0% 31 12.0% 15
17 MIA 1.1% 2-3 6.7% 3.3 17 2.7% 9 -0.7% 15 10.3% 11
18 BUF 0.2% 3-3 0.2% 2.8 22 5.2% 5 -0.9% 16 6.9% 4
19 ARI -0.2% 4-1 -1.6% 2.9 20 9.1% 3 4.1% 5 10.4% 12
20 PIT -1.5% 3-3 0.6% 2.8 21 -6.9% 27 2.3% 11 15.1% 19
21 NYG -2.9% 3-3 -6.5% 3.4 12 2.6% 10 -1.4% 18 37.4% 32
22 CAR -4.4% 3-2-1 -7.6% 3.3 16 2.5% 12 -1.0% 17 19.2% 23
23 WAS -8.8% 1-5 -10.7% 2.2 23 -2.2% 21 -7.3% 32 25.7% 26
24 HOU -9.9% 3-3 -7.1% 1.9 26 -3.2% 23 -4.5% 27 1.5% 1
25 NO -10.9% 2-3 -6.8% 2.1 24 -9.6% 29 3.9% 6 14.3% 17
26 TEN -19.9% 2-4 -14.2% 2.0 25 2.1% 13 -4.6% 30 22.8% 25
27 STL -20.5% 1-4 -15.4% 1.6 28 -9.6% 28 7.2% 3 19.7% 24
28 NYJ -21.0% 1-5 -22.3% 1.7 27 11.2% 2 -2.5% 20 8.1% 8
29 OAK -25.8% 0-5 -28.1% 1.4 30 -1.5% 20 11.5% 1 5.3% 3
30 MIN -31.5% 2-4 -32.4% 1.5 29 3.7% 7 -3.4% 24 27.4% 29
31 JAC -41.1% 0-6 -38.1% 0.8 32 0.5% 16 3.5% 8 19.1% 22
32 TB -47.4% 1-5 -43.2% 1.4 31 -0.3% 17 2.3% 10 34.1% 30

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 14 Oct 2014

124 comments, Last at 19 Oct 2014, 4:47pm by theslothook


by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 6:18pm

The only ray of hope the Vikings have is the past schedule was the 7th most difficult, and the future schedule is 24th. The way they are blocking, however, I don't see how they score many points against any defense with even an average amount of talent. It wouldn't shock me if they were shut out in Buffalo on Sunday.

by Bobman :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 6:20pm

Colts ST have always been bad. It's one of those sunrise/sunset things I've come to expect. Punters who outkick their coverage, weak coverage units, and returners who appear to be the proverbial one-legged men in an ass-kicking contest.

So now they are #5. I know Vinatieri is perfect so far this year, and Griff Whalen is actually not a liability (one fumble aside) in the return game, but is most of that #5 ST ranking due to Pat "Boomstick" McAfee's punts, kickoffs, and OS kicks? When have you ever seen a kicker recover his own? I'm still suffering from Mike Scifres flashbacks... can a punter really be that dominant?

by theslothook :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 6:33pm

Pat McAfee is a superstar at his position - with one helluva personality to go with it.

by carljm :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:52pm

Looking at the special teams DVOA page, the Colts are moderately good (+2.9 points) on FG/XP, only slight above average on kickoffs (+0.8 pts), league-average at kickoff returns, below-average at punt returns (-2.9 pts), and second-best in the league on punts (+7.6 pts, second only to the Jets at +8.2 pts).

So basically, yes, McAfee is just killing it on punts. And these are cumulative stats, so being second to the Jets has to take into account how many chances the Jets have had to punt :-)

I'm really curious why the kickoff rating isn't higher, as I thought McAfee led the league in touchbacks? I guess maybe teams who don't get touchbacks but regularly smother the returner inside the 20 do better than teams with lots of touchbacks?

by Bobman :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:38pm

That's a really good question on touchbacks--he leads the league cumulatively because they are high scoring, but maybe not the highest rate? Also, the OS kicks have been insane and very valuable (he recovered one himself!) but are probably not incorporated because basically they're desperation/fluke plays like hail marys.
What happens to the computer models when someone starts using OS kicks regularly, strategically, and steals a new possession each game?
Anyway, their coverage on kicks is pretty good as well--I think the opponents' starting average LOS is about the 22, which includes all kicks, punts, INTs and fumble recoveries, etc. As a Colts fan, these are nice questions to have--better than the old days of "why can't we ever cover a punt/kick?"

by carljm :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 3:32pm

Yeah, I'd love to get a better understanding of what goes into that kickoff rating, and whether on-side kicks are considered at all.

by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 4:11pm

"Special teams ratings also do not include two-point conversions or onside kick attempts, both of which, like blocks, are so infrequent as to be statistically insignificant in judging future performance."


by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 4:26pm

Expanding on this: McAfee does in fact lead the league in kickoff-only value, and has only allowed four opponent returns. (Your amazing stat of the 2014 season so far: The Colts have recovered three onside kicks ... and only allowed four opponent kickoff returns.) They've done OK on coverage, but on only four returns it's hard to have a big impact one way or another. Most of the teams that rank higher than the Colts in total kickoff value have great kickers, and impactful coverage teams, and (and this is the big one) have forced at least one fumble on a kickoff return. And one forced fumble can make up for a lot of touchbacks.

by coremill :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 5:44pm

So forced fumbles on kick-off and punt returns are considered, but onside kicks and kick blocks aren't? Is forcing fumbles on special teams something that happens frequently enough that there's evidence it's a repeatable skill?

by Alternator :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 12:29am

Forcing fumbles IN GENERAL is something that happens frequently enough that there's evidence it's a repeatable skill. Some teams train guys to go for the strip (and accept more broken tackles), some teams prefer their players just wrap up the ball carrier and take him down immediately (cutting fumbles).

by coremill :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 11:11am

I know that's true in general for defenses. I'm wondering if it's true specifically for special teams, especially since a lot of special teams fumbles seem anecdotally to be muffed punts without actual contact by the coverage team. Perhaps they are coding and controlling for that (I think they control for that w/r/t defenses and botched snaps, which defenses mostly can't influence).

One issue with fumbles on special teams for DVOA purposes is that the total sample of plays is much smaller for special teams, so a fumble will have a disproportionate weight. An offense will run ~70ish plays in a game; a return/coverage unit might have not have that many plays (after excluding fair catches and touchbacks) in an entire season. One or two fumbles (which may really just be statistical noise) can skew the results.

by Alternator :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 6:47pm

Ah, now you're conflating issues even in your own head!

Unforced special teams fumbles are mostly muffed punts, yes, but we're talking about forced fumbles. Why *wouldn't* special teams forced fumbles be based, at least in large part, on the skill of the other team's players?

by coremill :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:28am

I'm not conflating anything. In theory, special teams forced fumbles could reflect skill, sure. The issue is whether the sample size for special teams is large enough to actually accurately measure this skill, or whether fumbles on special teams are mostly just statistical noise. Even the best special teams fumble-forcers can't have more than a few forced fumbles per year.

This problem is exacerbated if the data do not separate out types of opponents' special teams fumbles, since many of these (e.g. the muffed punts) are not forced, and add even more noise to the data. I have no idea if the data control for this.

by mcheshier :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 6:39pm

As much as I wish it weren't the case, Seattle is 3-2, not 4-1.

by junglejoe_lv :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 6:50pm

Just going to say the same thing. Seattle should be 3-2.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 7:03pm

That has been fixed.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 6:52pm

I think the Cowboys likely win 11 games. If they maintain their current defensive rank, I think they might win 13 or 14, given I think their offense is only going to get better from here on out. It's a pretty weird situation in that HFA is probably less valuable to them than any other potential division winner.

by Temo :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 9:20am

That stadium offered HFA for like, 5 games since it opened. As soon as people got over the grandeur of the place they suddenly realized they didn't like having two mortgages just to pay for season tickets. Thus, all available seats go to opposing teams fans.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:01am

Is it true that Jerrell gets about 50 bucks for the honor of a fan being able to park his car at Jerrell's taxpayer subsidized playhouse?

by Lance :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:35pm

Yeah, something like that. I'm going to the Thanksgiving game, and parking less than a mile away for $22. We're tailgating and all the rest and I won't mind walking for 15 minutes or so versus being slightly closer but paying an extra $30.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:37pm

The A-hole owners are the worst aspect of the NFL.

by mawbrew :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:15pm

I thought Jones footed the entire cost of the stadium?

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:43pm




The standard is the standard!

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:06pm

Yeah it's simply amazing. Yet another instance where tax dollars are going to subsidizing a billionaire. I imagine the proponents of it sell the idea that it will raise revenues for local economy. This is of course and outright lie, but what's more, its not just local tax money but MY tax dollars.

This sort of thing makes my blood boil, but sadly, this is actually pretty modest compared to the other things the government bleeds out without anyone else batting an eye. I guess it's just much easier to pretend that the sausage grows out of the ground.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:05pm

Nope, Jerrell's a billionaire welfare bum, like nearly all NFL owners. They really are a disgusting lot, to the point that it gives me pause, from time to time, to support their business with my eyeballs. Unfortunately, the creeps who run college football are even more revolting.

by PirateFreedom :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 5:11pm

It is pointless to let that bother you. All economic activity disproportionately enriches the already wealthy. It can't be helped, historically the return on capital is higher than the rate of economic growth, and that accumulation of wealth inevitably distorts societies to support its entitlements. Stadiums are just an egregious example.

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 6:12pm

I'm assuming you are referring to Picketty's r>g assertion. I should tell you, for most mainstream economists, this is a highly dubious assertion, as were most of his arguments. For the most part, at least in the US, the wealth disparity is coming from a skill disparity, rather than a direct or indirect leeching of wealth from the middle and poor. On the other hand, this is an example of that -but the evidence suggests that its a problem with politicians and general economic illiteracy than any kind of genius from JJ's part.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 8:32pm

(Cough) utter bull@##% (cough)

Plus, this is a football blog. Stadium funding is a relevant issue, this is not the place for debates about macroeconomics.

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 9:27pm

id be curious to know which of my statements you disagreed with. But you're right, this is a football site.

by rmonihan :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 9:40am

As an economist and football fan, I'm pleased to see someone mentioning this. Sure, this is a football blog, but part of the discussion is always going to be about money. As a result, good economic reasoning should be welcome.
I'll assume the person who coughed "bull*&$t" has some training in economics and can dispute your wise observation, or is just saying it because it's what he believes to be true, rather than it actually being true.

As this site is full of data which helps to dispel barstool theories about sports performance, you'd hope people would seek to be informed about barstool theories in economics, as well. Sadly, that is not the case.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:35am

However, this is not a site for proving or disproving theories about economics, whether proclaimed from barstools or any other item of furniture. There's a no politics rule here and that particular area of economic debate is loaded with political baggage.

Of course there are some economic matters that do relate strongly to football, from labour markets to stadium funding, but straying beyond that is not what this site for.

I probably shouldn't have been as dismissive as I was (sorry about that Hooky) but there were three things in his statement that I disagreed with our thought were far too strongly stated. I should really have just said that this isn't the right place for this. I'm sure you can find many websites where you can bin Picketty to your heart's content.

I will confess that your fourth sentence is correct. I do exist in your described spectrum between being a trained economist and having no training in economics, just like every person on the planet (and let's not forget the animals, insects, bacteria etc, there no need to disrespect them is there?).

by jimbohead :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 11:50am

Nevertheless, in the context of this football discussion, it's worth noting that Jerry World, like the 9ers stadium and every other publicly funded stadium project (which seems like EVERY stadium project in the last 20 years at least), is classic rent seeking. In this way, it does not reflect Picketty's assertion of r>g leading to generational wealth, or the assertion of the previous commentor that all economic activity necessarily and asymmetrically benefits the rich.

by theslothook :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 3:20pm

I still think Picketty would claim that r>g allowed Jerry to accrue the money and influence to corrupt and rent seek. He would argue that Jerry's vast accumulation of wealth over time allowed him to enter into another business and rent seek.

by jimbohead :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 4:17pm

That's at most a second-order consideration for Picketty. His argument is that capital markets outperform inflation, and thus people with access to capital markets outperform worker bees over the long haul. This requires no intervention, no immoral behavior, and no rent seeking.

by theslothook :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 3:21pm

That's fine Karl. I want to be clear about my intentions. rmonihan said it best, my aim was to correct or debate a view that I think is very common, but I won't go into much here, though I'm still curious what you disagreed with.

I want to clarify one additional point. I still think stadiums are built under the guise of helping the local economy, rather than any love for football. In stadium after stadium, you hear politicians all talk about how this will jump start a stagnant economy or create thousands of jobs and help businesses and so forth. I actually think the local politicians themselves believe this, but even if they are lying, I think most people believe this. That's a symptom of economic illiteracy.

by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 9:26pm

I've just crawled in from a night out, I'll try to give you the gist tomorrow. Right now all you'd get is gibberish.

by theslothook :: Sun, 10/19/2014 - 4:47pm

I hope you've managed to recover since then.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 6:56pm

Denver looks like they finally have a defense that can win even if Peyton doesn't play well, which is a significant positive change from last year.

I'm surprised their offense is rated so highly because they can't run at all and their pass-pro is overrated due to Manning's release. Their offensive line is going to be a problem going forward. The Jets dared Denver to run against them with 5 and 6 man fronts and Denver still only had 138 yards rushing with several carries going for zero or negative yards and they got pressure with 3 and 4 guys.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 7:00pm

Sanders is a significant upgrade from Decker, and with a qb who makes decisions of such speed and quality as Manning, a significant upgrade at one receiving spot is a big deal.

They really are too dependent on one player, however, come January and February, but on the other hand they only need to get lucky for one or two games, in terms of matchups.

by nat :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:00am

Statistically, Sanders is a tiny bit better in DVOA than Decker was last year and is getting an extra target per game. But this appears to come at a cost: Sanders' style of play - or the scheme they have fit to him - weakens the rest of the passing offense. Or perhaps it's a matter of opposing defenses using schemes that put the focus elsewhere than on stopping Sanders.

If Sanders were a big step up over Decker, we would expect Thomas and others to get a boost rather than getting their stats knocked back.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:10am

It might be any number of things, like Knowshon Moreno being a better running threat, or opposing defenses just having slightly better performances against the Broncos through this point of the season, or Manning just not being quite as accurate for a game or two, or the Thomases not being quite as sharp. There are too many variables, all of them in constant flux, to really suss out cause and effect with metrics.

I'd be shocked if Manning, in a moment of candor, would not say that Sanders is a considerably better fit for what he does, compared to Decker.

by nat :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:08am

Manning hasn't really said what you suppose he might say. Manning "might" say almost anything. He might say "Sanders is a different player from Decker, so we use a different mix of plays than we did last year."

So you're basing your "significant upgrade" conclusion on what real things?

One more target per game? And no demonstrated positive effect (even if you deny a negative effect) on the rest of the offense?


by Will Allen :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:04pm

Why would I have "optimism"? I don't care who wins.

If you want discount the value of watching players play, because it can't be readily translated into useful metrics that isolate individual player performance (and thus isn't "real"), well, golly, you just go right ahead, and then pretend that you can draw cause and effect from the large number of variable you can't control.

by rageon :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:51pm

As a Vikings fan you are obviously biased toward receivers playing their first year for the Broncos.

I don't have any numbers to back it up, but my eyes tell me that Sanders is a far better fit for Manning than Decker was. They are probably similar talents overall. If Denver was still employing their prior QB, I would believe they would be better off with Decker. But Sanders does seem like a perfect match for Manning.

by Bobman :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:45pm

I was thinking the same thing about Will's blatant pro-Broncos-rookie-WR-bias and I, for one, demand an investigation. It's been clear to me this past decade and I think it's nauseating, how he fawns all over first year WRs in Denver. Make him forfeit all his purple and gold gear!

Same about Decker/Sanders, too. I'd quote Tolstoy's first line from Anna Karenina, but I'll save you the time: Some people work together better than others--even if some work perfectly together 90% of the time and to all observers, are perfect together, there may be someone who is a better fit. Really only Manning can say for sure and he'd never tell tales out of school.

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:52pm

There are so many problems with trying to compare decker and sanders via dvoa. For one, we're comparing sanders in a 5 game sample with decker's full year. Furthermore, dvoa itself is a poor stat for measuring receivers since every player's dvoa will likely be tied to the team dvoa. And, as Will pointed out, there are a number of reasons why the team's offensive dvoa isn't as high as last years, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with Sanders.

Like all great offenses, they regress the following year for so many unknown reasons, but most of which involves the fact that it's simply too hard to be so perfect the next year. Team's get better defending you, the o line regresses, the qb just isn't quite in the same zone, the timing gets thrown off, etc etc.

Watching all 4 games, its very evident that Manning prefers a type of receiver like Sanders, based on what routes he is running and how he is being used. One could argue Decker was the 4th option on the team last year, while Sanders is third and arguably even the first option on the team right now.

by nat :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 10:31am

On sample size:
Eyeballs and DVOA see exactly the same plays. You can't claim to see a significant upgrade with eyes and complain that DVOA doesn't have enough plays to work with. Either the sample is representative enough, or it isn't.

(Splitting the response to separate the issues)

by nat :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 9:36am

On DVOA to measure receivers:
DVOA's weaknesses are that it doesn't measure how often a receiver is targeted (scheme, ability to get open) and that it can't take into account the quality of the QB throwing the ball.

Neither issue applies here. Peyton threw to both Decker and Sanders, and at about the same rate.

by nat :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 9:44am

On the link between team and receiver DVOA:
It's possible that a decline in the running game has allowed defenses to change. But did any team really focus on stopping the Broncos running game last year? No. So maybe the safeties can cheat a little bit this year. Were they cheating towards the proven D. Thomas or the unexpected Sanders? Take a guess.

Most of the link between team and receiver DVOA is through the QB's throws and decisions anyway. Teams with bad QBs have bad DVOA. So do receivers. This doesn't apply in Denver.

by nat :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 9:55am

On Manning "evidently" preferring Sanders:
If, as you say, Denver is using plays that feature Sanders while Decker was usually a fourth read, then why in God's name doesn't Sanders have more targets than he does?

As a fourth read, Decker could easily be open many times without getting the ball. As a first or second read, Sanders should get the ball every time he is open.

It could be that Sanders' skills work best if he is the first read. There are plenty of receivers like that. That doesn't necessarily make them better than other receivers. It's a scheme thing.

It's also possible that you are blowing smoke when you say Decker was a fourth option. After all, he had nearly the same number of targets as D. Thomas, and 25 more than the next target.

by nat :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 10:57am

On regression:
You want to discount Decker's 2013 stats because they came in an outlier season for Denver's offense, and outliers are almost always a combination of good play and good luck. The problem with that idea is that Decker's 2013 was less productive than his 2012 (by DYAR and DVOA).

You might rightly expect a regression towards the mean for Peyton or the passing game as a whole. But there was no reason to expect it for Decker if he had stayed with Denver. He was producing pretty much as he was expected to produce.

If you want to inflate Sanders' stats because you assume he's dealing with regression in Peyton's accuracy or decision making, I won't claim to know one way or the other. But that would be a true drop in skill, not the traditional regression towards the mean which deals with non-skill factors, such as injury, fortuitous tipped balls, weather, etc. It wouldn't be related to the peak season in 2013 at all.

by theslothook :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 3:43pm

I don't have time to argue all your points, so I'll address a few:

I believe, from watching sanders, that he's an improvement over decker. YOu want to argue using numbers that my statement isn't valid. That would make sense if the numbers were meaningful, but I don't think they are.

Decker had the 2nd most targets in 2013, but thats because he played in more games. If we adjust for that, he falls to third. And his per game targets are actually less than Sanders presently. Then again, IDK if targets are an effective way of determining option. Neither Gronk nor graham led their teams in targets. In Gronk's last full healthy season, he was actually third, behind welker and Hernandez. So I don't think targets tell the story there either.

Dvoa is a team stat, not an individual stat. It goes well beyond the quality of targets. The scheme, the talent overall, even just undefined idiosyncratic effects are at work that we can't really measure. They all go into determining the overall effectiveness of a pass offense, not just the qb or receivers. Did you know who led the league in dvoa in 2012? Denario Alexander. Did you know was second? Stokley. A journeyman and a 1000 year old receiver. Are those numbers meaningful? Maybe, but I don't think so.

To that point, I'm not sure there are any advanced stats that are going to paint an accurate picture of true receiver quality. I don't rely on them. In fact, most of my receiver judgement stems from consistency across years and a subjective adjustment for team quality. That's the best you can do IMO.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 4:55pm

So your argument is "I don't have a single thing to back what I think, I just disagree?" Or is it, "neither conventional nor advanced stats support my argument, so I think they're not just flawed but totally irrelevant." Either way, I read this thread with no dog in the fight: nat's argument is well researched and thought-out, while yours is "I've seen it with my eyeballs" which is extremely unconvincing. I think people rarely decisively win internet arguments, but nat really has won this one.

Maybe if you had something specific, like on this X play in Y Sanders does this and is better in comparison to Decker running the same X play in Y game? Or to say, look how the defense opens here vs. there on specific plays in specific games. I'm curious about this because the consensus seems to be that Sanders is a huge upgrade over Decker and so far eyeball tests & vague "he fits the system better" statements have been the only evidence offered.

FWIW, my personal take is that any even slightly competent WR will look great with Manning throwing him the ball and that there's almost no way to evaluate WR's in the context of Manning. Everybody looks All-World when he's throwing them the ball, so how can you know who's truly excellent? I guess then you could say "Well, Sanders looked good in Pittsburgh and Decker looks terrible in NY, so I'm right!" but I think the problems with that line of thought are obvious as well...

by theslothook :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 5:17pm

I started w the presumption that it was an opinion. He rightly countered w stats. I looked up two of the stats he used and thought about their implications, targets and dvoa. After thinking hard about them, i felt they were not convincing for reasons i listed above. Its not that no numbers will convince me. Id have to see decker play well over time w out pm and compare it to sanders pre pm. This is hard for all sorts of reasons, hence why i fell back on my subjective opinion.

Btw, i never stated my opinion as if it were some kind of fact.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 5:44pm

What is well thought out about citing two variables which can't be controlled, out of a larger number of variables which can't be controlled, over a small sample size, and asserting causality? Huh?

(edit) If you want something more quantifiable, I'll note that Sanders has better speed and quickness, and that Decker's size advantage is negated by the fact that he has not done a very good job of catching the ball in traffic since getting his jaw shattered his last year in college.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 6:40pm

Sure - but Sanders' supposed speed and quickness are not translating into ANYTHING quantifiable and having watched them both myself I see more top-line speed, but no more quickness off the line or out of cuts. If anything, he seems to suffer from those soft, rounding cuts that so many really fast guys seem to run (see DeSean Jackson and Mike Wallace for other examples.) That's what my eyes tell me! They say you're wrong about his quickness! See: it's a pointless argument! Teams aren't changing how they defend the Broncos because of Sanders, or least no one seems to be arguing that with any kind of specifics. The difference between what Sanders brings and Decker brought to the Broncos is negligible by any measure of production - what they might be able to do elsewhere for other teams is speculative and beside the point.

What is thought-out about nat's point is that he's showing how little of difference there is between these two WR's as related to their production on the Broncos and researching the #'s to prove it. He then addresses every argument against him carefully without creating straw-men or misrepresenting the position. That equals reasonably well thought-out. Certainly better than dubious "he gots his jaws broke and don't catch in traffic no more" assertions that certainly don't seem thought-out let alone supported. What Broncos WR's do catch the ball in traffic? Manning certainly throws the tiny slot guys into some tight windows and gets them creamed, but I've never seen him throw at Decker in those situations. Again, feel free to prove me wrong, I'm certainly no expert, but attempt to PROVE something. Otherwise, just let it go on this thread - we all agree WR #'s are affected by the QB and the offense and the other WR's and options. Try and use the advanced stats or conventional stats or specific plays to illustrate a single idea. I'm open to hearing "look at this play, how it's run with Sanders vs. how it was run with Decker" or "look at how on this TD Sanders beats a guy using his speed or quickness - here's Decker on a similar play failing to use his speed or quickness to achieve a comparable result."

I'm genuinely happy to be convinced - the pro-Sanders arguments are woefully unconvincing and strangely unyielding. Decker's #'s for 2013 and 2013 are pretty surprising, to me at least who doesn't watch a ton of the Broncos or Steelers and had just assumed that the current popular media consensus of Decker stinking and Sanders being awesome was open-and-shut.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 9:56pm

Look, if you want to discount the entire profession of actually scouting players, by watching them play, just go ahead and do it with some civility; there is no need to be such an ass as to write....

""he gots his jaws broke and don't catch in traffic no more"

....which is merely an attempt to shut down discussion. I am sorry I lack the means to show you every catch Decker made in college, prior to his injury (I saw nearly every one) with what I have seen in the NFL, especially last year, when I watched the Broncos closely. My perception is that his ball skills declined noticeably after the injury. If you wish to ridicule, by use of dialect, go ahead, be an A-hole.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:40am

I'm not asking for every single play, I'm asking for a single play. A single example of anything you guys are saying. Here's a play showing him shying away from contact. Here's where he eases up on a route because he's headed for traffic. Literally anything specific - also for someone notorious for your aggressive tone, it's funny for you to accuse anyone else of unnecessarily being an asshole. Just back up anything with a single instance of proof of anything you're throwing out in support. I'm genuinely interested in the subject because these aren't teams and players I'm intimately familiar with and nat's comments really seem to destroy the current "Sanders is a clear and obvious upgrade over Decker" narrative, a narrative that has a thread of "and Decker might not be any good whatsoever, too" coursing through it. Just point my eyeballs towards what your eyeballs are seeing...

by Will Allen :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 3:52am

I said you were an A-hole for employing dialect as a means of ridicule. This statement has the virtue of 100% accuracy. If I need to explain why this is typical of an A-hole, I think I'd prefer to simply end the exchange. You are now being inaccurate by implying I ever implied that Decker "might not be any good whatsoever".

No, I'm not gong to search You Tube for you. Last year, I commented regularly in this forum that Decker's ball skills had noticeably declined, from what I observed when he was in college and cited specific plays. I really don't care if you think or suspect that I made it all up.

by theslothook :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 11:51pm

I also was just responding to the argument of using Dvoa to wide receivers. From there...

by nat :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 9:40am

Thanks for noticing. I put a lot of effort into using the stats fairly, laying out my reasoning clearly, and avoiding straw man arguments and other dubious tactics. It's nice to know it did not go entirely to waste.

by Will Allen :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:20am

I'm trying to be far here also. How do you make a strong claim of causality, between two uncontrolled variables, in a small sample size that contains many other uncontrolled variables?

by Led :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 6:19pm

Not that you were necessarily asserting this, but I disagree that Decker looks terrible in New York. He is 20th in DVOA (higher than Dez Bryant, Steve Smith, for example) with Geno throwing him the ball. Compare his DVOA to the other NYJ receivers (if that's not damning with faint praise) and he's the only one providing any remotely positive contribution. Looking at receivers for the other QB black holes around the league -- Jacksonville, Minny, and Buffalo -- the next best DVOA is Sammy Watkins at -2.0% and I think that's actually gotten a recent boost from Kyle Orton. So, in context, Decker's DVOA in NY is amazing. My eyeballs also say he has played very well under the circumstances, other than the injury issues that have limited his snaps.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 6:49pm

Ha - that's funny actually! I HAVE watched all of the Jets' games and my impression is that he's at least competent and therefore stands out like a sore thumb amongst the Jets WR's of the past half decade. Truthfully, I think he runs great routes and has really impressive speed in and out of cuts and has played sort of amazingly through injury and against QB black-hole-dom. So maybe I am biased in Decker's favor, but I'm not a Jets fan (just live in NYC and have mainly Jets fan friends) so I basically don't care on that level. Sanders is a guy I've only seen a in a dozen games or so over the course of his career and everybody talks him up, so I've just been assuming he's somehow demonstrably better than a guy who I've seen be perfectly acceptable in an otherwise unacceptable offense...

(Also, thank you for using advanced stats to help make your point - you'd think on this site that wouldn't be so scoffed at...)

by Will Allen :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 10:00pm

Well, I didn't come close to asserting that Decker looks terrible, so you really aren't disagreeing at all.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:35am

I thought he was responding to me...

by Rick_and_Roll :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 10:34pm

Sanders was brought in as not just a replacement for Decker, but as Welker's replacement in 2015 as well. Decker is more of an end zone threat because of his size, while Sanders is a quick receiver that can play both inside and outside. To me they are both high end #2 WRs that are comparable in effectiveness. Julius Thomas' increase in red zone opportunities and TD catches is a direct reflection of Decker's absence.

Denver really misses Knowshown, but I'm I'm guessing Elway, Antonopolis (Trainer), et al didn't re-sign him because they had greater insight into his injury risk and passed, especially when considering how little Miami paid him.

by tuluse :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 1:32am

I think when you have Peyton Manning, and the choice between investing in the running game and the defense, you pick defense and assume the offense will be fine.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 9:13pm

I don't really know where to throw in my two cents on the Decker/Sanders talk, so I'll just do it here. The one thing that I can really point to that Sanders has done better than Decker is that he seems more likely to fight for a contested ball while Decker's usual move was to completely disengage and look around for a flag. If I remember correctly, it was actually you, Will, who directed me to the video of Decker getting his skull completely rocked in college, which could account for some of his reluctance to put himself in a defenseless position. By contrast, Sanders seems to display an alarming lack of self-preservation instinct, and Manning has hung him out to dry in Welkerian fashion a couple of times.
The other thing I will say about Sanders over Decker is that Sanders has not (yet) tripped over nothing with the ball in his hands and an uninterrupted field of green between himself and the end zone, which Decker did a couple of times.

by t.d. :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 7:21pm

while their line is overrated, the Jets have a particularly nasty front four, which few teams can match. If they can beat San Diego (which has upgraded defensively, also), they're still prohibitive AFC favorites

by BJR :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 7:46am

After watching Derek Carr torch them on Sunday I'm not sure San Diego has upgraded significantly on defense. They've played an absolute doss of a schedule so far. Other than Seattle (who they didn't do much to slow) they've faced the #26,27,28,29 and 32 ranked offences. There's nothing to suggest they can come close to slowing Denver.

by LinksterAC :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:17am

I've got to point you to all three of the Chargers' contests against Denver last year. Outside of Seattle, they were the most effective team defense against the Broncos.

Also, Seattle did not have a good game on offense against the Chargers.

by BJR :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:59am

That's fair. The Broncos were certainly slowed in 2 of the 3 encounters, although I might attribute that more to randomness, January weather and San Diego's ability to limit the Broncos time of possession, than outstanding defense.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:25pm

The only thing that 'slowed' Denver in the playoff game was themselves. There was a missed field goal, a fumble at midfield, a possible TD catch that was bobbled and ended up as an interception.

Denver dominated that game far more than the score. It was only due to these countless errors and the Chargers recovering a non-surprise onside kick that made it close late.

by BJR :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:34pm

Yeah, I'd class that under "randomness".

by LinksterAC :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:29pm

Denver was clearly the better team in that game. The offense was ok, but not near its usual level. They were held well below their season averages for first downs per game, yards per game, and TDs per drive.

Their defense was exemplary, though, and helped them hold the ball for 35 minutes.

Outside of the Seahawks, no one was great against Denver's offense last year, but the Chargers were certainly decent. The teams were evenly matched, and that should persist into this year.

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:54pm

The offense didn't punt the ball even once. If decker doesn't bobble a td pass, if thomas doesn't fumble on a first down play - at minimum, denver probably scores another 10 pts and we're not even discussing SD's "slowing" of denver.

by LinksterAC :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:06pm

That's a lot of ifs.

What if Ryan Mathews isn't injured?

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:08pm

I guess it depends on which if's you think are predictable. I think receiver fumbles and bobbled interceptions are in the highly improbable category, while say receiver drops or a sack are much more predictable events.

by LinksterAC :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:17pm

Both offenses had tougher-than-usual games. Without a doubt, both the Denver D AND O were better, but weather conditions (high wind) factored heavily into this game. Denver was able to turn to its running game, whereas San Diego could not.

In their two other meetings, both teams played each other close, and the San Diego defense held the Denver offense to lower-than-average outputs both times. Even in Denver's win during the regular season, the Broncos were 3 of 8 on third down. In the loss, they were 2 of 9. These stats might provide some insight as to why the Chargers were positioned to dominate TOP, and also suggest that the San Diego defense was better than most when it came to slowing down the Denver offense.

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:25pm

That's fair. SD has actually been a pretty good D overall against Denver, but that seems to be in line with the division itself outside of oakland.

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:25pm

That's fair. SD has actually been a pretty good D overall against Denver, but that seems to be in line with the division itself outside of oakland.

by Voldemort_Ravens :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 7:11am

Let me get this straight... Peyton Manning has a quick release, therefore his OL is overrated? That's logic to you? I'm sorry, but that's plain stupid. Are you basing this opinion completely on the one game against the (excellent) Jets DL?

The Broncos OL is actually very good in pass protection, I really don't see how you can argue otherwise. The only potential weak point is Chris Clark's move to right tackle from the left tackle position - he took over for Ryan Clady last year, and played at a pro bowl level, imo. He seems to be getting more and more comfortable on the right as the season matures.

by theslothook :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:56pm

manning has historically made his o line better w his quick release...thats not really a controversial statement. One need only glance at his average time to release and you recognize how much easier life is for offensive linemen. That said, they really struggled against Seattle and the Jets - two teams with great fronts but also two home teams.

I'm not sure how good the o line is playing in a vacuum to be honest. In theory, they should be great as they are still healthy and playing in the right positions, but it just hasn't been as good as advertised.

by Eddo :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:15pm

"Let me get this straight... Peyton Manning has a quick release, therefore his OL is overrated? That's logic to you? I'm sorry, but that's plain stupid."

Regardless of the actual quality of the offensive line in question - they can be the greatest of all time, or the 2009 Chicago Bears - a QB having a quick release will always make the line look better than it is. This is because, due to his quick release, the QB will get hit and sacked less than a QB with a longer release.

Does it actually make the line better or worse? No. But the line will appear to be better.

by Scott C :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 1:34am

By statistics yes.

By the eyeball test? not so much.

The Chargers O-line has decent FO pass blocking stats because Rivers gets the ball out fast, throws well from awkward / crowded spots, etc. But they don't look good. By PFP's charting data, they are down towards the bottom in pass blocking.

by jwmclean :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 7:36pm

Is the NFC South the division of shootouts now? They have three offenses in the top 11, but four of the five worst defenses in the league.

Offenses - Atl 7th, NO 10th, Car 11th (TB 30th)
Defenses - Car 28th, TB 30th, Atl 31st, NO 32nd

by Peregrine :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 8:21pm

This Falcons fan is personally insulted by our defense, and I'm appalled that there's another defense worse than ours. On the other hand, it's the Saints, so I find that highly amusing.

I wish there was a way to bet money on the Falcons DVOA being lower next week.

by qsi :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 3:54am

This Bucs fan is personally insulted by our defense, and I'm appalled that there are two other defenses worse than ours. On the other hand, it's the Falcons and the Saints, so I find that highly amusing.

I wish there was a way to bet money on the Bucs DVOA being lower next week.

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 8:55pm

I'm confused by the San Diego variance rating. Is that heavily for the Oakland game? They seem to be a pretty consistent team to the observer... I mean, compared to a team like the Patriots, which were horrifically abysmal for at least 3 quarters and probably parts of others, and then evidently among the top teams for 3 or so other quarters...

by bearsbball12 :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 9:12pm

Lower numbers mean less variance, so San Diego being 5th means they've been one of the league's more consistent teams.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 9:24pm

It's also calculated game-to-game, not quarter-to-quarter. The Giants are in last place because they have three wins, all by 10 points or more, and three losses, all by nine points or more.

by PaddyPat :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 9:28pm

Gotcha, I had jumbled the numbers in one of the columns in my mind. Makes sense now, ty!

Although, funny; I would have assumed it was variance, pure and simple, ie. highest peaks and valleys compared.

by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 3:29am

It is. Perhaps I explained myself poorly, so let's say it plain and simple: Variance is listing each team's DVOA for each game in a column, and then using the VAR function in Excel to measure the variance of that dataset.

by RickD :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:07am

"highest peaks and valleys compared"

That's not variance. If it's anything, it's variation.

Variance is E[(X-mu)^2], where E is the expected value function, X is the r.v. in question, and mu is its mean. Though as a practical matter, stat calculators return the sample variance instead of the true variance.

by Setzer1994 :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:46pm

Giants highest variance? Strangely comforting.

by intel_chris :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 9:33pm

It would be nice if there was a section which listed the odds of each conference getting 2 (or even 3) teams into the playoffs. I was thinking that the odds of both DAL and PHI making the playoffs together was less than 50%, but looking at the cumulative odds of them making the playoffs its 78.3 + 72.4 = 150.7, which might suggest that the odds of both of them making it might be >50%. Similarly, it looks like BAL, CIN, and CLE have a chance of making the playoffs as a triplet, not as good as DEN + SD as a pair, but still non-trivial. You see a similar situation for SEA, SF, and AZ--although GB + DET also put a wrinkle in that. Of course, these estimates are simply made by eyeballing the numbers, the simulation probably has estimated those results and could tell us how often they were predicted.

by t.d. :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 10:04pm

pretty sure to get the % for multiple teams, you multiply, not add, so dallas and philly both making it is around 50%

by intel_chris :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 10:30pm

Fair enougn, .78 * .72 = .56 so, that's still above 50%. (when adding, I was assuming you sutracted 100% since one of those teams must have a playoff berth for both of them to have, but maybe that's just voodoo math). Of course, I think multiplying actually requires independence which doesn't apply here, since 2 of the games in their upcoming schedules are against each other. Anyway, given all of the above, I think the odds calculations for 2 or 3 teams making the playoffs are substantially more complicated than the above, and that we'd get a better estimate by just letting the Monte Carlo method that the simulations provide, give us what it found, which is why I asked.

by RickD :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 11:43pm

You'd only multiply the probabilities if they were independent events.

Given that Dallas and Philly are in the same division, that's clearly not true. One expects negative correlation here; i.e., if Philly makes the playoffs, Dallas is less likely to do so, and vice versa.

Having said that, since the table is separated into "Division winner" and "Wild Card", it shouldn't be so hard to guesstimate the number. Basically you should add up the WC probabilities. The sum of the WC probabilities of the NFC East is 62.5%. Of course, you'd have to then subtract the probability of seeing three NFC East teams, but that would be small, one presumes. (We could bound it with the sum of the Giants' and Redskins' playoff odds - 11.9%. But it's probably much less than that.)

By way of comparison, the NFC North has a WC sum of 73.7% and the NFC West has a WC sum of 61.1%. (The NFC South has a massive WC sum of 2.6%!!!)

by Mr.Morden :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 9:34pm

When you list the projected wins in the playoff odds, how do list the numbers for tie games? For example, if Carolina finishes the season 7-8-1, do you list that as "7.5 wins" when you do the averaging of the number of wins for all simulations?

Also, with Detroit winning this week, you should add a couple of additional "special Super Bowl matchups" to the list:

Jim Caldwell reunion special (Det-Ind)
Caldwell-Manning reunion special (Det-Den)

by Paul R :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 10:16pm

In the long DVOA explanation page, it says "Special teams ratings also do not include two-point conversions or onside kick attempts, both of which, like blocks, are so infrequent as to be statistically insignificant in judging future performance."

In six games, the Colts have attempted three onside kicks and all have been successful. I've noticed their special-teams rankings are pretty good, and I wonder if these onside kicks are somehow having an effect.

by Voldemort_Ravens :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 7:14am

So you're wondering if the explanation is lying? I don't understand

by Bobman :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:53pm

The OS kicks are not included and therefore have no effect on the ST rating. They Do have an effect on their O performance and drive stats since they get another possession in great field position (and I thin have scored on all of them). NO effect on their D, aside from one fewer possession for the opponent.

So if anything, their ST effectiveness is undervalued here, but that's okay.

Now what happens if they kick OS 5-6-7 more times this year and recover them all? Then they have effectively broken the system, because it is not even acknowledging all those stolen possessions. Almost as if they're turnovers the Colts are forcing. Adding three to their turnover ratio would improve the D (or ST) I guess. Adding 8-10 by the end of the year would REALLY up the D (or ST) rating, no? It'd also be clear that it's not random and infrequent, as most OS kicks and 2-pt conversions are. But let's wait and see.

by Bernie :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 3:44pm

I would be shocked if the Colts had too many more onside kick recoveries this year. If the remaining teams aren't watching for the possibility on every kickoff for the rest of the year, then they are very poorly prepared teams.
The effect of this of course, is that it should aid the Colts in their kick coverage, because teams probably won't be in their maximal kick return formation. S

by Paul R :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 1:13am

Then it becomes part of the chess match, doesn't it?
The opposition is thinking, "there's no way the Colts will onside-kick again, not when everybody knows how often they onside-kick."

I remember years ago watching an early-season Patriots game where they came out and did nothing but pass plays. I don't remember how many, but it it was almost the whole first half. If I was the opposing coach, I would have gone crazy. "Surely, they will run on this play...won't they?"

by Andrew Potter :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 3:17pm

Are you thinking of this game? It was back in the Williams Wall days, and after Corey Dillon lost eight yards on the Patriots' first rushing play it was as though they simply decided not to bother -- the Patriots then passed on 11 consecutive plays. They ended up with 27 pass plays (including one Brady scramble) in the first half, to six runs, and led 17-0 at half time. Brady finished with 43 attempts in 31-7 win.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 7:06pm

It's also interesting that DVOA doesn't take the surprise kicks into account because if one is unsuccessful, it really hurts - they're essentially playing with fire in a way that it seems like the system should have SOME mathematical "opinion" on. If they attempt 4 more and all are botched, essentially giving their opponent unearned possessions at midfield, that's really bad. I just don't know what it means, but it feels like it's the sort of game-changing philosophy that advanced analysis should precisely be concerned with. I know DVOA has always been an uncomfortable mix of descriptive and predictive and it really shows in areas like this.

I mean, if you can get a huge advantage from this, what's the downside in terms of win probability? I think it also ties into FO's general dubious handling of late-game situations, especially in blow-outs - since most onside kicks are specialized late-game situations, DVOA doesn't really know what to do with them, other than say "well, this doesn't come up enough for us to make use of it in our model." I have a feeling that risking onside kicks very much outweighs the downside of field position, but I'd love to see it explored, instead of just be dismissed with "eh, our model can't handle it..."

My thoughts might be more on this because of my team's insane special teams this year, the Eagle's crazy return numbers, which don't seem like they could possibly be sustained and therefore I don't trust their #6 overall DVOA rating because it's buoyed by their insane special teams numbers. I'm also curious what FO has to say about their prediction that the Eagles would finish conclusively ranked #32 in special teams this year and how they literally could not have been more wrong so far - it just makes me dubious of their basic special teams models. Also, is their last-place prediction a cause for concern going forward, do they think the Eagles' ST is primed for a collapse? Or is it just "the prediction was wrong for x, y & z hard to account for reasons, forget about it going forward?"

I guess my larger point is, my impression is that the Colts ST play is actually brilliant (a clever strategy, perfectly executed) and Eagles' is a bit lucky (a few long returns and blocked kicks mixed in with pedestrian play) so why can't DVOA account for that? Or does it and it believes my impressions are wrong?

by nat :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 10:22pm

I notice the bottom third of the league is very stable, while there are big jumps among the rest. Poor Giants! Yeah, Browns!

by bearsbball12 :: Tue, 10/14/2014 - 11:16pm

Any insight as to why Arizona is only 19th? I know it's more complicated than this, but they've gone 4-1 against what FO considers the league's 3rd toughest schedule so far. Seems like that would at the very least get them into the top half of the league.

by PaddyPat :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:16am

They've had some doozy moments in the passing game while Palmer has rehabbed. They should recover well in DVOA if he manages to stay healthy from here. If you look at their numbers, defense has been very good, special teams have been very good. Offense looks lousy, but they've played the fifth hardest defensive schedule. On the other hand, their worst numbers are in the running game (32nd) and I don't know how much Palmer can help with that... but the drop-off from Palmer to Stanton is -13.6, with Palmer ranking a respectable 14.8 and 9th in DVOA for quarterbacks.

by Voldemort_Ravens :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 7:21am

You understand that DVOA is a stat completely independant of W-L record, correct? If you're new here, try googling FOMBC; I forget what year it was, but the 6-2 Falcons were rated quite low, which Falcon fans took to be "disrespect." Sure enough, they finished the season going 2-6, vindicating DVOA.

by RickD :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 10:08am

Well, it's not completely independent of W-L... :)

by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:36pm

By DVOA, they've played two decent games (the wins over SD and NYG), two essentially neutral games (wins over WAS and SF), and one completely terrible game (the loss to DEN). The DEN loss by itself wipes out any positive contributions from both the SD and NYG games. So, there you go.

ARI DVOA by game:

SD: 11.4%
NYG: 38.0%
SF: -0.7%
DEN: -51.0%
WAS: 1.1%

by theosu :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:34am

What would the Browns have to do over the next 3 weeks to increase their DVOA? Oakland, Jacksonville and Tampa Bay are so bad that these games will crush any opponent adjustments they've built up coming in.

by herewegobrownie... :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:40am

They would need to hope that the AFC North continues their out-of-division tear (without the Steelers passing them,) and that their other opponents win as many games outside the Browns' common opponents as possible, without passing them (a tall order given what we've seen of the two South divisions, as well as the matching AFC West team in Oakland.)

by Alternator :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 1:08am

They would need crush their opponents, to see quarterbacks driven before their linemen, and to hear the lamentations of their cheerleaders.

by Bobman :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 2:23am

Is that the law of the gridiron?
Man, that was awesome. I have to forward that on to my sons' youth league coaches. They won't get it, and will probably call the police, but it'll be so worth it. I swear.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 8:00am

Kosar, I have never prayed to you before. I have no tongue for it. No one, not even you will remember if we were good men or bad, why we fought, or why we drafted Manziel. No, all that matters is that twenty two stood against many, that's what's important. Valor pleases you, Kosar, and low variance - so grant me one request, grant me DVOA revenge! And if you do not listen, then to hell with you!

by Noah of Arkadia :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 12:16pm

Hahahaha. Good stuff all.

Who, me?

by ChrisS :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 11:27am

+1 or even plus more.

by big10freak :: Wed, 10/15/2014 - 8:51am

The Packers have apparently faced a lot of good defenses. The common theme of all them is the quality of the defensive line. Just some crazy good lines have been assembled across the league.

by DC21 :: Thu, 10/16/2014 - 10:27pm

I'm curious as to how teams like the Cowboys have put up wins when not as strong in DVOA. I know it's different, but Tebow's Broncos ring a bell as to how they tried to eat as much clock as they could and kept games close that way. I suppose I'm not basing this on empirical evidence but just seems as though something with the clock always running in their games changes their chances. Is it fewer plays for the opponent to run and thus less opportunity for the opponent to put up DVOA? I'm not usually one to care that much about time of possession when a team can burn up the scoreboard like the Broncos of last year, the 07 Pats, or the greatest show on turf, but when a team eats up around 7 minutes on a TD drive it has an impact on the game. Anyone have any data that supports or refutes that?

by Noah of Arkadia :: Fri, 10/17/2014 - 10:52am

Well, eating a lot of clock is usually a reflection of the fact you're moving the ball well, but it would have the exact same impact if you stopped the clock after each successful play. Those Broncos ate a lot of clock because they rarely passed, but they weren't very successful at moving the ball, they just felt it was their best chance.

Who, me?