Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

22 Dec 2015

Week 15 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

It just seems as if Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings like certain teams more than other teams, and over the last few years it seems the ratings like the Seattle Seahawks most of all. Seattle has finished No. 1 in overall DVOA for three straight seasons. It seemed like four straight was out of the question when the Seahawks struggled early this year, but they've been the hottest team in the league over the last few weeks. This week, Seattle passes Cincinnati and moves back into the top spot with two weeks left, ranking ahead of six teams with more wins including the 14-0 undefeated Carolina Panthers.

Actually, Seattle has opened up a bit of a real lead with 35.3% DVOA, five percentage points ahead of the Bengals at 30.3%. The Seahawks are even more impressive in weighted DVOA, which lowers the strength of earlier-season games. Weighted DVOA considers the last 14 weeks, which means this is the first time that a game has been completely dropped from the formula -- and that game happens to be the worst game the Seahawks had all year, with a single-game -30.3% DVOA in a Week 1 loss to the Rams. Seattle only has one other game all season with a DVOA below zero, and it's actually one of their wins (-3.3% DVOA in Week 8 against Dallas) instead of one of their losses. Otherwise, DVOA says the Seahawks have been above average in every single game this season once we adjust for opponent.

The most impressive thing is the run the Seahawks are on since they came back from their Week 9 bye. DVOA says the Seahawks outperformed the Cardinals in their Week 10 loss, but since then they've won five straight games by a combined score of 171-69. Two of those wins were over probable playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Minnesota). So Seattle has DVOA over 40% in six straight games. No other team has single-game DVOA over 40% in more than six games all year, period. Seattle actually has eight games that high. New England, Kansas City, and Arizona each have six. Carolina has only three (the win over Seattle, and the recent routs over Washington and Atlanta).

So Seattle's weighted DVOA is now 44.3%, which is far ahead of the rest of the league. Kansas City (36.9%) is the only other team with weighted DVOA above 30%. Seattle is not on the list of the best teams in DVOA history but it is now on the list of the best weighted DVOA teams, and you'll notice a lot of similarities with the Seattle squad that started the DVOA dynasty.

BEST WEIGHTED DVOA EVER THROUGH WEEK 15, 1989-2015
Year Team W-L DVOA Rk WEI DVOA Rk WEI OFF Rk WEI DEF Rk WEI ST Rk
1991 WAS 13-1 57.3% 1 50.8% 1 26.8% 1 -18.5% 2 5.5% 2
2007 NE 14-0 56.3% 1 49.6% 1 41.4% 1 -5.6% 9 2.6% 9
2012 NE 10-4 39.8% 1 45.6% 1 35.7% 1 -2.5% 14 7.4% 3
2010 NE 12-2 40.1% 1 45.5% 1 47.5% 1 3.5% 21 1.6% 13
2004 PIT 13-1 39.7% 1 44.9% 1 19.5% 6 -23.8% 2 1.6% 14
2012 SEA 9-5 38.5% 2 44.8% 2 26.6% 2 -12.2% 5 6.0% 5
2015 SEA 9-5 35.3% 1 44.3% 1 28.3% 1 -15.9% 4 0.0% 16
1997 PIT 10-4 31.7% 2 42.1% 1 20.0% 1 -19.6% 1 2.5% 12
2005 IND 13-1 38.5% 1 41.0% 1 30.0% 2 -14.7% 3 -3.7% 30
1995 SF 10-4 40.4% 1 41.0% 1 17.1% 5 -26.1% 1 -2.3% 23
2012 DEN 11-3 37.2% 3 39.5% 3 20.5% 3 -17.3% 3 1.7% 10
2013 SEA 12-2 40.4% 1 38.4% 1 10.2% 7 -22.1% 1 6.1% 5

The 2012 Seahawks also played their worst DVOA of the year in Week 1 and got really hot starting in October. The 2012 Seahawks also only lost games close, with no losses by more than seven points. (This year's Seahawks have four one-score losses, plus a 27-17 loss to Green Bay.) And you might notice that the 2012 Seahawks were also surprisingly strong on offense despite being known for defense, with a higher offensive DVOA than defensive DVOA, just like the 2015 Seahawks.

Unfortunately, the 2012 Seahawks also show how this could all go sour for Seattle in the playoffs, because those close losses will keep them from getting home-field advantage. The 2012 Seahawks lost a very close Divisional Round game to an Atlanta team which was inferior according to DVOA but had home-field advantage and a week of rest. The best team in DVOA isn't going to be the favorite to win the Super Bowl if it doesn't get home-field advantage to go with its stellar performance on the field.

For a long time we thought the Seahawks were getting a bit of a boost thanks to Jimmy Clausen, but that's really not the case. Football Outsiders opponent adjustments are uniform across the entire season, which does lead to problems when a team has one or two games started by a clearly inferior backup quarterback. Seattle's defensive rating for Week 3 against Chicago was adjusted based on how Chicago has played all year, and the Bears offense has been much better with Jay Cutler at quarterback. On the other hand, the Baltimore offense has not suffered as much as expected with Clausen replacing Matt Schaub as the Ravens' third starting quarterback this year. And Seattle's defensive DVOA is not much different if we ignore games against Clausen in Week 3 and Week 14. Remove those two games and Seattle's defensive DVOA would go from -12.1% (fifth) to -10.1% (seventh). The Chicago game was so long ago that weighted defensive DVOA would only go from -15.9% (fourth) to -15.6% (also fourth).

Of course, there's no question that backup quarterbacks have played a huge role in this year's ratings. Pittsburgh finally moves into the No. 1 spot in offensive DVOA this week, overcoming its performance in the weeks when Ben Roethlisberger was hurt, while Cincinnati drops from No. 1 to No. 5 because of struggles by A.J. McCarron against the San Francisco 49ers. The 24-14 win obscured the fact that the Bengals offense had major problems moving the ball and the defense carried the load all game. The Bengals' offensive DVOA dropped from 21.1% to 17.3% this week, while the defensive DVOA improved from -7.9% to -10.2%.

Here's a look at how certain teams have performed with starting quarterbacks compared to backup quarterbacks this season. These numbers are for team offensive DVOA, because a backup quarterback not only usually has a lower passing DVOA but also affects how opponents play against the run. Perhaps the best example of that is in Indianapolis, where Matt Hasselbeck managed to put up numbers similar to Andrew Luck's in his first few starts before fading, but the running game suffered immediately. For the season, the Colts' passing DVOA went from 2.1% to -14.8% without Luck, but their rushing DVOA dropped even further, from -6.6% with Luck to -45.2% without Luck.

I'm not going to break games into parts here, so this is based on which quarterback played the majority of each game. I'm not including Houston, a confusing situation where neither Brian Hoyer nor Ryan Mallett was really the backup and a lot of games had two different quarterbacks playing significant snaps.

Team Offensive DVOA with Starting QB vs. Backup QB in 2015
Team Starter Weeks DVOA Backup(s) Weeks DVOA
BAL Flacco 1-11 -2.3% Schaub/Clausen 12-15 -19.8%
BUF Taylor 1-5, 8-15 12.7% Manuel 6-7 3.4%
CHI Cutler 1, 4-15 9.0% Clausen 2-3 -26.4%
CIN Dalton 1-13 21.8% McCarron 14-15 -12.1%
CLE J.McCown 1, 3-8, 11-12 -13.3% Manziel/Davis 2, 9-10, 13-15 -10.8%
DAL Romo 1-2, 11-12 -24.1% Cassel/Weeden 3-10, 13-15 -13.0%
DEN Manning 1-10 -17.7% Osweiler 11-15 -2.5%
IND Luck 1-3, 6-9 -4.4% Hasselbeck 4-5, 11-15 -30.8%
NO Brees 1-2, 4-15 4.9% L.McCown 3 45.0%
PHI Bradford 1-9, 13-15 -5.6% Sanchez 10-12 -35.8%
PIT Roethlisberger 1-3, 8-15 26.9% Vick/Jones 4-7 0.3%
SF Kaepernick 1-9 -19.5% Gabbert 10-15 -14.9%
STL Foles 1-10, 12-13 -21.5% Keenum 11, 14-15 0.5%
TEN Mariota 1-6, 9-14 -9.3% Mettenberger 7-8, 15 -31.2%

Obviously, not every backup is worse than the starter. Sometimes you just have a small sample size fluke, like Luke McCown having a really strong game when the Saints nearly beat Carolina in Week 3. You also have times when the backup is a promising young player who probably wasn't "replacement leve" to begin with, such as Johnny Manziel in Cleveland. And then you have whatever circumstances actually led to Dallas putting up a lower offensive DVOA with Tony Romo at quarterback than with Matt Cassel or Brandon Weeden. I'm pretty confident that split wouldn't look the same if a healthy Romo played 16 games and we compared that to 16 starts by either Cassel or Weeden.

As for a team whose starting quarterback seems indestructible no matter how many hard hits he takes, I probably owe everyone a better analysis of how Carolina is just sixth in DVOA despite being 14-0 -- yes, they actually dropped one spot this week after blowing that 28-point lead to the Giants -- but that will probably have to wait until next week... when, I assume, they'll be 15-0 after beating Atlanta by a frustrating three points. (I'm sure people on Twitter think that I'm rooting against the Panthers, but that's not true. I just want them to stop winning close games. I hate feeling like I have to counter conventional wisdom on the Panthers instead of celebrating their accomplishments. Watching the Giants come back from what looked like a dominating Carolina victory was agonizing. Please, Carolina, either lose or win the next two games by a combined 80 points, okay?)

Our odds for Carolina going 16-0 are still just 55.8 percent but, as I've noted many times in the past, fans tend to always underestimate how often mediocre teams upset good teams in the NFL (certainly more often than the phrase "there's no way Atlanta beats the Panthers" would indicate). Carolina's odds of winning the Super Bowl actually go down this week because their odds of winning the NFC went down with Seattle and Arizona having big wins and rising ratings.

Before we go, let's just update our best and worst defenses of all time. The Broncos are still ranked high despite giving up a lot to Pittsburgh -- after all, the Steelers have this year's top offense, so even the best defense can't completely hold them down -- and the Saints are terrible and look even worse after letting the Lions move the ball easily on Monday night.

BEST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH WEEK 15, 1989-2015
  WORST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH WEEK 15, 1989-2015
Year Team W-L DVOA x Year Team W-L DVOA
1991 PHI 9-5 -41.3% x 2015 NO 5-9 25.7%
2002 TB 11-3 -36.0% x 2000 MIN 11-3 24.0%
2008 BAL 9-5 -29.1% x 1999 CLE 2-13 23.8%
2015 DEN 10-4 -28.0% x 2000 ARI 3-11 23.2%
2008 PIT 11-3 -27.9% x 2001 MIN 5-9 22.9%
1995 SF 10-4 -27.3% x 2001 ARI 6-8 21.8%
2004 BUF 8-6 -26.4% x 1999 SF 4-10 21.7%
2012 CHI 8-6 -26.4% x 2008 DET 0-14 21.6%
2000 BAL 10-4 -25.2% x 2008 STL 2-12 21.3%
2005 CHI 10-4 -24.4% x 2004 MIN 8-6 21.0%
1997 SF 12-2 -24.1% x 2003 ARI 3-11 20.5%
2004 BAL 8-6 -23.7% x 2004 STL 6-8 20.4%


Finally, a mea culpa on our playoff odds report. A bug in the tiebreakers prior to this week was giving Denver a tiebreaker over Kansas City that should have gone the other way. Therefore, our odds for Denver winning the AFC West were far too high. That has been fixed for this week, and we now have Denver only winning the AFC West in roughly 60 percent of simulations.

* * * * *

Once again in 2015, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 16 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 15 are:

  • ROLB Vontaze Burfict, CIN (24-HOUR HERO): 7 combined tackles, 3 PDs, sack, interception.
  • MLB NaVorro Bowman, SF: 12 combined tackles, 10 of which were successful by FO baselines. 7 tackles of 2 yards or less.
  • P Brett Kern, TEN: Averaged 54.4 gross yards on five punts.
  • RT Bobby Massie, ARI: Cardinals RB gained 134 yards on 14 carries to the right with a 64 percent success rate.
  • WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN: Third among Week 15 WR with 63 DYAR (10-for-16, 181 yards, TD, plus a 24-yard run).

Washington fans who are upset not to see Kirk Cousins on our list should have some patience and watch what gets added to Madden Ultimate Team over the next few days. Detroit fans who are upset not to see Matthew Stafford on our list should scroll up to that table about "worst defenses ever" again.

* * * * *

All stats pages are now updated with Week 15 information (or will be soon) including FO Premium, snap counts and playoff odds. You can also check out further commentary on our playoff odds report at ESPN Insider.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 15 weeks of 2015, 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. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE. 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.

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 SEA 35.3% 2 44.3% 1 9-5 20.4% 2 -12.1% 5 2.8% 9
2 CIN 30.3% 1 29.0% 4 11-3 17.3% 5 -10.2% 7 2.9% 8
3 ARI 29.7% 6 21.9% 7 12-2 19.4% 3 -12.3% 3 -2.0% 22
4 NE 28.2% 3 23.6% 6 12-2 18.0% 4 -6.2% 10 4.0% 3
5 KC 27.1% 4 36.9% 2 9-5 11.9% 6 -12.2% 4 2.9% 7
6 CAR 25.2% 5 29.3% 3 14-0 8.0% 8 -20.5% 2 -3.3% 26
7 PIT 22.9% 7 26.5% 5 9-5 20.4% 1 -2.2% 12 0.3% 16
8 DEN 17.1% 8 17.9% 8 10-4 -11.8% 25 -28.0% 1 1.0% 14
9 GB 14.8% 9 3.2% 14 10-4 8.0% 9 -6.8% 9 0.0% 17
10 NYJ 9.8% 10 8.1% 10 9-5 1.1% 14 -12.0% 6 -3.3% 27
11 MIN 3.7% 13 10.5% 9 9-5 1.1% 15 0.6% 16 3.2% 5
12 OAK 2.4% 12 4.5% 12 6-8 3.6% 12 -0.4% 14 -1.7% 21
13 BUF 1.4% 11 -2.7% 18 6-8 11.2% 7 11.3% 29 1.5% 12
14 DET -1.5% 15 4.5% 11 5-9 -2.0% 19 0.9% 17 1.3% 13
15 WAS -2.5% 17 3.3% 13 7-7 -1.5% 17 4.0% 20 3.1% 6
16 NYG -3.0% 14 -2.4% 17 6-8 0.8% 16 9.1% 27 5.4% 2
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 STL -3.8% 21 -8.4% 21 6-8 -16.9% 30 -9.8% 8 3.4% 4
18 BAL -5.9% 19 -7.2% 20 4-10 -6.9% 21 5.8% 22 6.8% 1
19 CHI -6.8% 20 0.7% 16 5-9 5.0% 11 8.9% 26 -2.8% 25
20 TB -7.4% 16 1.3% 15 6-8 -2.0% 18 1.7% 18 -3.7% 29
21 PHI -9.0% 18 -11.7% 23 6-8 -12.6% 27 -1.4% 13 2.2% 10
22 JAC -10.4% 23 -8.8% 22 5-9 -2.4% 20 6.7% 24 -1.3% 20
23 HOU -10.5% 22 -6.6% 19 7-7 -8.7% 23 -4.1% 11 -6.0% 32
24 ATL -15.5% 24 -19.9% 27 7-7 -7.9% 22 6.2% 23 -1.3% 19
25 SD -16.2% 29 -17.4% 24 4-10 2.2% 13 13.0% 31 -5.4% 31
26 DAL -17.6% 26 -17.7% 25 4-10 -16.3% 29 3.3% 19 2.1% 11
27 IND -17.9% 28 -18.7% 26 6-8 -17.5% 31 0.5% 15 0.0% 18
28 NO -21.0% 27 -22.3% 28 5-9 7.5% 10 25.7% 32 -2.8% 24
29 MIA -22.2% 25 -23.0% 29 5-9 -9.2% 24 10.3% 28 -2.6% 23
30 TEN -23.5% 30 -28.5% 32 3-11 -13.7% 28 5.7% 21 -4.0% 30
31 CLE -23.9% 31 -23.9% 30 3-11 -12.4% 26 12.0% 30 0.5% 15
32 SF -29.4% 32 -28.0% 31 4-10 -18.0% 32 8.1% 25 -3.3% 28
  • 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 SEA 35.3% 9-5 32.0% 10.9 3 0.6% 16 13.0% 6 11.5% 16
2 CIN 30.3% 11-3 26.5% 10.9 1 2.0% 13 5.6% 11 9.1% 8
3 ARI 29.7% 12-2 32.8% 10.7 4 -3.0% 22 25.0% 2 15.9% 22
4 NE 28.2% 12-2 31.0% 10.9 2 -4.6% 25 -6.2% 22 7.3% 3
5 KC 27.1% 9-5 25.7% 10.1 5 3.8% 10 -10.8% 23 18.5% 30
6 CAR 25.2% 14-0 32.1% 9.9 6 -7.8% 29 -11.4% 24 12.9% 18
7 PIT 22.9% 9-5 18.7% 9.7 7 7.4% 2 -14.9% 28 9.7% 11
8 DEN 17.1% 10-4 18.3% 9.1 9 4.0% 9 7.1% 9 12.8% 17
9 GB 14.8% 10-4 13.8% 9.1 8 1.9% 14 16.7% 4 16.5% 24
10 NYJ 9.8% 9-5 19.3% 8.4 10 -9.3% 30 14.8% 5 9.2% 9
11 MIN 3.7% 9-5 2.2% 8.0 11 3.2% 11 5.9% 10 17.3% 26
12 OAK 2.4% 6-8 2.9% 6.8 15 4.7% 8 5.5% 12 10.0% 13
13 BUF 1.4% 6-8 5.7% 7.0 14 0.2% 17 -3.9% 20 9.8% 12
14 DET -1.5% 5-9 -10.8% 6.0 19 6.6% 5 -18.1% 31 17.5% 27
15 WAS -2.5% 7-7 -1.9% 6.5 16 -3.2% 23 -13.3% 26 16.3% 23
16 NYG -3.0% 6-8 -0.1% 7.0 13 -5.7% 27 -2.7% 17 11.0% 14
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
17 STL -3.8% 6-8 -11.1% 7.1 12 6.4% 6 3.0% 14 13.2% 19
18 BAL -5.9% 4-10 -5.5% 6.2 18 2.5% 12 26.6% 1 3.4% 1
19 CHI -6.8% 5-9 -11.6% 5.8 22 6.8% 3 -4.5% 21 9.6% 10
20 TB -7.4% 6-8 -3.3% 6.0 21 -10.4% 32 9.2% 8 18.0% 29
21 PHI -9.0% 6-8 -11.9% 6.0 20 -1.0% 20 -2.7% 19 19.5% 31
22 JAC -10.4% 5-9 -4.5% 5.5 23 -6.8% 28 -15.8% 29 8.0% 5
23 HOU -10.5% 7-7 -8.5% 6.4 17 -1.0% 19 -16.9% 30 16.6% 25
24 ATL -15.5% 7-7 -7.7% 5.3 25 -9.3% 31 2.1% 15 7.4% 4
25 SD -16.2% 4-10 -18.2% 5.4 24 5.3% 7 9.8% 7 8.9% 7
26 DAL -17.6% 4-10 -18.7% 3.9 30 1.5% 15 -0.5% 16 4.4% 2
27 IND -17.9% 6-8 -21.3% 4.0 29 -0.3% 18 -22.8% 32 11.3% 15
28 NO -21.0% 5-9 -18.1% 4.1 28 -2.5% 21 -12.9% 25 13.6% 20
29 MIA -22.2% 5-9 -17.6% 4.4 27 -3.4% 24 5.2% 13 21.8% 32
30 TEN -23.5% 3-11 -22.3% 4.4 26 -5.2% 26 -14.2% 27 17.6% 28
31 CLE -23.9% 3-11 -28.9% 3.9 31 6.7% 4 25.0% 3 8.0% 6
32 SF -29.4% 4-10 -33.2% 3.4 32 10.2% 1 -2.7% 18 15.7% 21

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 22 Dec 2015

78 comments, Last at 29 Dec 2015, 6:03pm by DezBailey

Comments

1
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 8:58pm

The 2012 Seahawks also only lost games close, with both the 2012 and 2015 Seahawks having no losses by more than seven points.

The 2015 Seahawks did lose to Green Bay by 10. But if you raise the threshold to 10, that encompasses the Seahawks from 2012 to 2015.

2
by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 9:05pm

Oops! My mistake, I'll fix that.

3
by DezBailey :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 9:18pm

The Week 15 BES Rankings released earlier today - http://besreport.com/week-15-bes-rankings/

They seem more akin to the Week 15 Weighted DVOA but have Carolina No. 1, Seattle at No. 3 with the Chiefs No. 2 in BES Overall.

Also interesting is seeing the Lions 11th in Weighted DVOA and 9th in BES Overall. The BES and Weighted DVOA basically agree on the Packers and Steelers as well. Good stuff! Glad to see the BES not alone on the Lions.

33
by PirateFreedom :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 9:46am

That's an interesting list.
Very few people would have the deep insight required to see that teams like the Bears(13) and Texans(7) are better than the Patriots(14).

I remember watching Patriots-Texans and wondering who else could see the clear superiority of the Texan team and not be distracted by the results on the field.

34
by cstoos :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 10:11am

Comedy aside, NE is going into the playoffs as the 4th or 5th best team from the AFC. Obviously I wouldn't count them out, but it isn't going to be easy.

37
by PirateFreedom :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 11:53am

your rankings are also interesting

54
by cstoos :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 3:29pm

My rankings may be interesting, but they aren't my rankings. They are the rankings in this post above.

Weighted DVOA has NE as the 4th best team in the AFC. The 5th best, Denver, just beat New England so the argument could easily be made that NE is the 5th best team in the AFC.

59
by DezBailey :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 6:37pm

The BES rankings definitely have questionable alignments in some weeks but it was the only metric that had the Bears ranked higher than the Packers going into Week 12, that's for sure - http://besreport.com/week-11-bes-rankings/

Maybe it's a "broken clock" type of deal but the BES is moreso tracking momentum trends than stating Team A is better than Team B. Although if somebody used the Week 14 BES Rankings to pick winners in Week 15 they'd have gone 11-5.

78
by DezBailey :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 6:03pm

The Week 16 BES Rankings are out! - http://besreport.com/week-16-bes-rankings/

4
by formido :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 9:23pm

So has Indy's run game dropped due to Luck's absence even apart from Luck's own running? I've long believed that Russell Wilson is criminally underrated for his halo effect for RBs on the team. If folks want to say that Wilson "benefits" from a strong run game, they must acknowledge how much of that run game is due to Wilson tilting the field.

7
by gomer_rs :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 9:58pm

Unless they have been willing to use Luck to be responsible for a blocker, traditionally with a naked boot in the Shanahan type system or a backside option, probably not very much. Having not seen many Luck Colts games I honestly don't know the answer here. Though nobody would be afraid of Hasselbeck running at this point in his career. Luck would be greatly advantaged if he had a coach willing to use his legs some.

His 40 time is comparable to the likes of Thomas Rawls or Emmit Smith when he was drafted.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

14
by MC2 :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:20am

I haven't seen that much of the Colts this year, but I would guess that, even apart from Luck's own running, his presence helps the run game by changing the defensive formations. Even with all of Luck's struggles this year, I would imagine opposing defenses are more reluctant to stack the box against Luck than against Hasselbeck.

21
by Jerry :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 3:09am

I think that in most cases, the running game drops off because defenses say "Let's stop the run and dare the backup to beat us through the air," rather than the particulars on individual QB running.

26
by GoDog :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 7:54am

One of the keys that indicate how much Wilson means to this team is how well they play late in the year for the last four years. Most of the teams are banged up by now, including quarterbacks that are sometimes literally limping into the postseason (Aaron Rodgers last season is notable). Wilson seems to stay healthy throughout the year. Seahawks, in general, usually compare well with health issues and are deep enough to not lose too much if they must keep someone out. That said, it is remarkable that the loss of Lynch, Graham, Rawls (who surged like David Johnson has for the Cardinals), and the temporarily loss of Chancellor along with those nicked up slightly, hasn't slowed them down too much. Wilson's resiliency and consistency has kept them in the hunt. This never seems to be factored in when discussing his overall value as a QB.

55
by turbohappy :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 5:05pm

More than running, Luck stretches the field vertically throwing the ball much more than Hasselbeck consistently can.

5
by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 9:32pm

How many decimal places do you have to go out to break the tie for offensive DVOA between the Steelers and Patriots?

8
by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 10:10pm

I think you mean Steelers and Seahawks, and I too would like to know.

15
by dbostedo :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:26am

D'oh... messed that up.

You're correct, I meant Steelers and Seahawks.

6
by Thok :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 9:39pm

Out of curiousity, how often in your simulations does Atlanta win a wild card spot? I know it has to be low, (since they need every game involving Minnesota, Seattle, and themselves to go the right way), but I'm curious as to how low.

9
by osoviejo :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 10:15pm
12
by RickD :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 11:48pm

The tables only go down to 1/10th of one percent. Atlanta is listed as 0.0%. With 25k simulations, 0.1% would be 25. If they're rounding down, they would go to zero with 12 or fewer appearances out of 25k.

Seems low. Only six games, after all. If each were a 50-50 proposition, Atlanta's odds would be 0.015625. And the Week 17 matchups seem reasonably likely to go in favor of Atlanta.

We'd need to see
Week 16
Giants over Vikings - not all that unlikely
Rams over Seahawks - Rams do have that ability to play to the level of their opponent
Falcons over Panthers - I think we see the problem.

Week 17
Falcons over Saints
Packers over Vikings
Cardinals over Seahawks

Like I said, each of these are reasonably likely. All three desired winners are at home, after all. I expect the Packers at least will be favored.

Wondering if the code has a mistake in calculating the 3-way tiebreaker. 0.0% seems low.
Depends on how probabilities are assigned as a function of DVOA. Panthers over Falcons and Seahawks over Rams are both huge DVOA gaps. And, oh right. In week 17, even though both the Packers and Cardinals are in first place in their respective divisions, the Vikings and Seahawks have higher DVOAs.

16
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:51am

Falcons over Panthers - I think we see the problem.

This isn't a likely blowout like the previous 38-0 score suggests. Carolina's defense has struggled on the road in the last two games to two clearly inferior teams, including a Saints team worse than Atlanta. You could argue that Atlanta has checked out, but you could've said the same for New Orleans coming off of a 47-14 loss to Washington and a 24-6 loss to Houston. Seattle-St. Louis is still the biggest roadblock for Atlanta.

18
by andrew :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 1:20am

I think weighted DVOA plays heavily into the odds, as a look at how teams are playing right now.

Giants (-2.4%) at Vikings (10.5%) is a net 12.9% deficit before home field. The vikings have played a lot better the last two weeks, even with their defensive injuries (who may be back).

Rams (-8.4%) at Seahawks (44.3%) is huge, 52.7% deficit before home field.

This, not the Falcons-Panthers is the single biggest obstacle. As the article notes the Seahawks really are playing that well.

and lastly

Panthers (29.3%) at Falcons (-19.9%) is 49.2% deficit, then you do get home field.

I don't know how the differences translate into odds of each game in the simulation being won, but it has to be pretty bad.

what's more the timing of the games means each team will likely be playing for something.

The Panthers play first, so they won't know what the cards do in the late game, so they have to win to stay ahead in the race for the #1 seed (not to mention the shot at an undefeated season).

The Seahawks play a late game but due to the late flex they won't know what the vikings will do sunday night (that flex probably did hurt the falcons chances), so they need to win to stay ahead in the race for the #5 seed (which means playing a team from the NFC East instead of a likely trip to Lambeau (a few other possibilities, but all with teams with better records than the NFC East champs).

The only one of the 3 that might not matter is if the Packers lose to Arizona earlier then the Vikings might not have anything to play for as their matchup in week 17 results in the NFC north for the winner either way then (if the Packers win then the Vikings need to win for that, apart from clinching a playoff spot if that is still in the air). Well apart from clinching the playoff spot if the other two games didn't go their way.

On the flip side if the Redskins beat the Eagles earlier that day the Giants would be eliminated, and the only thing affected by the outcome for them is their draft position next year.

I think the odds are probably in the realm of a rounding error.

That being said, there's a chance.

By posting this I probably have invoked some kind of message board curse on the vikings so they do end up missing...

23
by Robbo :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 5:23am

I know the Falcons' chances are slim, but I don't think they are 0.0 yet. The FiveThirtyEight prediction shows the Falcons with a <1% chance of making the playoffs.

As I understand it, if Atlanta wins out and Minnesota and Seattle both lose out, there would be a 3-way Wild Card tiebreaker that Atlanta would win based on strength of victory (no head-to-head sweep, conference records all 6-6, and not enough common games between the 3 teams). The Vikings currently have a better SOV percentage, but an Atlanta win over a 14-0 Carolina team would change that in the Falcons' favor.

So the Falcons' chances hinge on specific results of 6 games - 2 ATL wins, and 4 losses by the Vikings and the Seahawks. If all those games were equal probability coin flips, Atlanta's chances would be 1 in 64 or 1.6%. Even with DVOA weightings in the model, the Falcons must still have around a 1% chance - but definitely not zero?

24
by Thok :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 7:46am

Atlanta needs slightly more than that; they're close to but not quite at the point of clinching the strength of victory tiebreaker (for a reference point, they would have clinched that tiebreaker if Detroit-New Orleans went the other way).

But yeah, the point of my question was to doublecheck how likely that scenario was, and as an idiot check to make sure that the three way tiebreaker calculation wasn't messed up.

25
by BJR :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 7:53am

No it's not 0.0%, but it's incredibly unlikely, far below the coin flip scenario. For example, acccording to the Vegas moneyline, the Rams only have about a 12% chance of defeating Seattle on Sunday.

35
by cstoos :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 10:45am

After seeing what KC has done this season, any non-zero odds need to be respected.

40
by RoninX :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:18pm

But incredibly unlikely is not that same thing as 0. When I read 0 on that table I assumed "eliminated". Less than 1% is what I want to see even if there are 32 games that need to fall exactly right for it to happen.

10
by DIVISION :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 10:41pm

The Cards are the most balanced team in terms of Off/Def DVOA.

You'd think their odds of winning the SB would be significantly higher than they are.

11
by emalgha :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 11:37pm

The playoff odds use weighted DVOA instead of full-season DVOA, where they are at a deficit to Carolina. Both teams make the CC in a similar percentage of simulations, but Carolina wins nearly two out of three appearances while Arizona wins well under 50%.

http://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/playoffodds

19
by Kal :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 2:02am

They're not, actually. By rankings they are (3rd/3rd), but the Seahawks are only lower by .2 DVOA on defense - and are significantly better in special teams.

Then again, DVOA thought that Seattle's offense was incredible against Arizona (50% VOA), so you might take that with a grain of salt.

20
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 2:51am

DVOA doesn't care about the four holding/personal foul penalties on first down in their first four drives, all of which essentially killed the drive right there. By the time that was over, Seattle was down 19-0. After the third one I was seriously wishing they would just spike it on first down the next time.

13
by techvet :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 11:49pm

It's amazing how bad the weighted DVOA is for Green Bay, but as a Packers fan, it's deserved. Their last three victories have been over teams with losing records and their losses to the Lions and Bears were atrocious.

48
by dank067 :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 1:54pm

Yeah, I saw that Arizona is only favored by 4.5 at home this week. It's not a completely unreasonable line, but if I had to guess, a Packers win is about as likely as a loss by 17+.

I feel they were very slow to make changes to the offense when things started going south, but at this point they really have tried quite a few different formations, concepts and personnel. Maybe they need to watch some Kansas City tape- not a great passing offense, but they get by without much of a deep passing game. At this point though it's probably too late for scheme-type changes to work. Rodgers isn't playing well and their skill position players are inconsistent and/or not good enough.

63
by Al Hirt Hologram :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 8:02pm

I was kind of thinking the opposite... they have been playing their best this season after everything they tried during a game didn't work either, and they had to go back to their usual stuff.

72
by dank067 :: Thu, 12/24/2015 - 12:09pm

Well, here's my view. They can't hit 10 yd hitches, slants, or anything breaking further downfield to receivers lined up in wide splits. They can only hit back shoulder to Jones if the guy covering him can't press (and never to Adams). With extra attention/man coverage, Cobb can't find space in the middle of the field. Those are the staples of their passing offense. Rodgers is barely completing 50% of his passes for around 5 NY/A right now because they can't execute these basic concepts on a consistent basis.

77
by Al Hirt Hologram :: Sun, 12/27/2015 - 12:02pm

Yeah. I'm also very down on Adams. And the man coverage is also taking out the very short passes.

17
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 1:02am

Shouldn't Christine Michael be on the running backs page? He has 31 carries split between Dallas and Seattle, which makes him eligible for the lower-tier category.

22
by MC2 :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 5:09am

Speaking of which, between Michael and Turbin, I'm starting to wonder if the Seahawks and Cowboys have worked out something like a foreign exchange student program, except using backup RBs.

27
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 8:06am

The surprising thing about DVOA and the Seahawks is that it ranks their offense at #2 - if you were asking me about great offenses I'd never think of them.

There are three 'juggernaut' scoring offenses:
- Carolina (449), Arizona (445), New England (435)

And then the Seahawks come in alongside:
- Cincinnatti (378), Steelers (378), Giants (373), Seahawks (370), Chiefs (365)

On the defensive side DVOA has them at 5th and their points allowed are 2nd best. Those two things don't seem too far out of kilter to me.

(Accepting that some of these points may have been scored by defense or special teams)

30
by Kopalec :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 8:59am

I'm not sure if you're making an observation or stating you don't agree with DVOA. If it's the latter, then as I understand it, DVOA doesn't simply look at points scored. It's a compilation of who is the most consistently efficient.

32
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 9:21am

Kopalec - I was making an observation, I'm not criticising DVOA - it does what it does - and we can see that generally agrees with how teams actually perform on the field.

It was just that when I read the headline that Seattle is #1 in DVOA I automatically assumed it would be from having the top defense (momentarily forgetting how vaunted Denver's is this year). So it was a surprise to see that their offense is ranked #2.

Pen - thank-you for your explanations. I haven't watched many Seattle games but what you're saying makes sense.

69
by Nogster :: Thu, 12/24/2015 - 2:03am

I'd also guess a Seahawks game runs less overall plays per game than some of those other teams.

31
by Pen :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 9:15am

That's because of Carroll's philosophy for offense. Run heavy. This eats up more clock the scores tend to be lower offensively, yet every season the Seahawks rank top 5 in DVOA offensively as well as in scoring since their DVOA dynasty began. It's an efficient system that DVOA recognizes, but it's different.

On top of that, this year the offensive line went through a couple major adjustments, one being reorganizing the line and dropping Nowak. The other having to do with some scheme adjustments and running more spread. At least, that's what I read somewhere a while back, about how the spread formations were having a huge impact and those just started when this streak started and right around when the personnel change happened.

But that effect has pretty much only been to lower their points scored.

And remember, in 2013 Denver scored 606 pts and so what? Seattle that season scored 417 and they're currently well on their way towards reaching that total with two games left.

36
by jacobk :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 11:52am

The Seahawks look better if you look at points per drive:

1. New England (2.51)
2. Arizona (2.50)
3. Carolina (2.37)
4. Cincinnati (2.33)
5. Seattle (2.24)

They're also 5th in TO percentage.

The Seahawks average fewer drives than most teams per game, which makes their defense look a little better and their offense a little worse than their efficiency metrics. For example, against the Browns their drive results were: TD, TD, FG, FG, Punt, TD, FG, End of Game. That's 4.3 points per drive when they're trying to score.

Your average offense gets 11.6 drives a game. Call it 11 since I threw out a drive above. In an average paced game the Seahawks would have scored ~47 points if they could maintain that efficiency (and Cleveland would have been ~20). Not every week is that extreme, but the trend is enough to skew the total points numbers.

39
by Sportszilla :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:13pm

How does this affect efficiency metrics? Per-play effectiveness is per-play effectiveness, no matter how many plays you run.

It clearly affects their totals, both on offense and defense, sure, but not any rate-based stats.

41
by RoninX :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:25pm

It doesn't impact per play metrics (like DVOA, right?). AQs you say, per play is per play. Which is why per play metrics have consistently been more impressed with the Seahawks offense (and slightly less impressed with their defense) than the conventional wisdom.

57
by jacobk :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 5:32pm

If you believe DVOA, then DVOA says the Seahawks are good and there's nothing else to it. If you're a little skeptical of DVOA, the per-drive stuff gives you another way of slicing the data that suggests the Seahawks are more efficient than the volume numbers would show.

42
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:52pm

Last game looks even more extreme if you compare it to the Carolina-New York game. Cleveland only had 7 drives, so the two teams had 15 drives total. Carolina and New York had 15 drives each.

61
by Pen :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 7:56pm

That's the Carroll philosophy in action. If Team A has a drive, then after that Team B has a drive. If you play a style that eats up the clock, there are less drives for BOTH teams. Then, if you have an efficient offense, which Seattle does and DVOA shows that, you couple that with a great defense to shorten the field and give good field position and you're going to outscore your opponents. Especially in the 4th quarter as they begin to tire defensively from the constant pounding by the running game.

This style keeps games close. That's the primary reason Seattle has only been beaten by more than 7 once from 2012 to present.

Then if you don't make turnovers, you tend to win. This year was the odd outlier early on when the Seahawks lost three games where they had a big turnover advantage. The offensive line was just that atrocious.

70
by Jerry :: Thu, 12/24/2015 - 4:55am

[Rubs chin.]

Mathematical analysis of sporting events usually claims that it's in the underdog's interest to minimize the number of possessions, since the more possessions there are, the more likely the results will reflect the true ability of the teams. So maybe with good Seahawk teams, Carroll would be better off opening the throttle a bit more.

71
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Thu, 12/24/2015 - 10:02am

Hmmm ... agree that it's favourable to underdogs for games or sporting contests to be over quickly. Whether that's by time, sets (e.g. tennis, volleyball) or series of games (e.g. baseball).

However I throw it out there as an open question whether it holds with American football because it's a fairly unique sport in that the offensive and defensive players are different?

If you speed up your offense to have more possessions, you're then putting your defense on the field more often and they're more likely to be tired by the end of the game.

75
by Kal :: Fri, 12/25/2015 - 2:06am

Well, the good news is that the Seahawks have been competitive in basically every single game they've played.

The bad news is that they've lost to some fairly meh teams because they didn't have an extra possession or two - and they came very close to losing to some other teams (like the Lions or Cowboys) because of this philosophy.

73
by MC2 :: Thu, 12/24/2015 - 2:23pm

I always thought the same thing about the Utah Jazz teams of the '90s. For those that don't follow the NBA, those teams featured John Stockton and Karl Malone, who were each among the Top 5 ever at their respective positions. Yet, in spite of having these two all-time greats for basically their entire careers, they never won a championship, and rarely came all that close. I always thought part of the reason was that their coach, Jerry Sloan, insisted on running a very rigid system, which may have stifled the creativity of these great players and prevented them from fully capitalizing on their superior talent. On the other hand, many analysts and other "experts" gave Sloan's system a lot of credit for what success the team had, and for the outstanding numbers Malone and Stockton were able to compile, so I guess it's kind of a "chicken or egg" thing, and the same probably holds true for the Seahawks.

74
by gomer_rs :: Thu, 12/24/2015 - 3:10pm

I think the rigidity of Carrol's system gives him a philosophical grounding around which to build an effective team, but with the team he currently has, especially with Wilson's talents which would be perfect for a more wide open spread/tempo style attack, he does hold the team back some. I think this has been evident ever since the Seahawks played two offensive systems, their base offense, and their "we're losing" offense the second much more effective than the first. What's separated them the last 5 weeks is they've gone pass first and abandoned their basic offense for the most part.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

43
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 1:02pm

The drive stats this year are wild.

Arizona has by far the best yards and points per drive. They're gaining almost 4 yards per drive more than 2nd place (Steelers). About the same as the difference between the Steelers and 11th place Minnesota, and they're only 6th in plays per drive. That Arians offense man.

45
by RoninX :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 1:12pm

Yup, and DVOA never seems to give Arians' offensive philosophy much respect. Not enough aggregate successful plays, too much reliance on big plays. I have to say that generally I share DVOA's opinion on that approach. In a year like this though, with passing game rules having swung so far that only the inability to determine what is or is not a catch seems to be holding back passing attacks, I start to wonder if DVOA and I are behind the times.

47
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 1:40pm

and DVOA never seems to give Arians' offensive philosophy much respect.

I think it's more that DVOA considers Arizona's offensive philosophy highly flawed. With the best passing offense and a merely average rushing offense, they shouldn't be running it as much as they do (and I'd say the same for Seattle and Cincinnati with Dalton). Pittsburgh's offense is a significant improvement over Arizona's for that reason. When the running game isn't working or when they're in a shootout, they're perfectly willing to abandon it altogether. Against Seattle, they had a 61/9 pass to run ratio, counting Roethlisberger's scrambles as dropbacks. Against Denver it was 58/14.

49
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 2:01pm

I suppose it depends if the goal is to have the best possible offense every game, or have Carson Palmer in the playoffs.

53
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 3:10pm

Good point, and Roethlisberger does have much better pass protection than Palmer. Also, David Johnson has been great after put into the starting role, so maybe they're near optimal efficiency. And it seems they'll need it, as their weighted defense has dropped to -7.0%, good for only 8th, and that's before losing Mathieu.

64
by gomer_rs :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 8:36pm

Another thing that Arizona, Cincinnati, and Seattle have in common. Playing a lot of games with the lead and thus more running even when it's less efficient. Despite Seattle's record they've led every game in the 4th Qtr and so have had some incentive to intentionally shorten the game and Arizona and Cincinnati have just had great seasons.

_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

58
by tuluse :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 5:44pm

I don't think there's any disrespect in DVOA for Arizona. They're #1 in passing offense. Also, they're #1 in VOA, but opponent adjustments lower them to *only* 3rd.

That's something drive stats won't account for, opponent strength. Pittsburgh and Seattle both get boosts for playing hard schedules, while Arizona is penalized for playing a weak one.

60
by Insancipitory :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 7:51pm

There's probably a chunk of Arizona's ability to solicit defensive penalties on offense that's counted as a penalty against the defenses they've faced.

Overall, the penalty split Arizona currently enjoys may not be sustainable, and that idea might be something captured in their DVOA rating.

28
by Bright Blue Shorts :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 8:07am

I'm sure it's been asked/answered elsewhere but has this been the worst year for QB injuries?

29
by Pen :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 8:48am

I'm a Hawks fan, but it still seems odd seeing Seattle at #1 this year.

38
by Sportszilla :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 12:11pm

A perhaps even more impressive (or depressing, if you consider that they've lost five games) fact about this year's Seahawks is that they've led in the fourth quarter every game this year.

44
by swgallagher :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 1:12pm

As I'm a glutton for punishment, I just re-watched the Sea @ Cin game... Hawks were up 24-7, 4 mins gone in the 4th, with the ball. How..?

To my eye, Seattle's clear problem defensively is interior pass rush.
Ineffective blitzing by the inside LB (rare for a reason imo) and no ability to collapse the pocket have consistently shown up week to week.

Nowhere was this more apparent in the losses to Carolina and Arizona (and the 4th qtr of last years super bowl). Our edge rushers consistently win and create 'hurries', but when the qb can comfortably step forward into a throw the hurries mean little.

I worry this weakness is what will most contribute to a repeat of the 2012 season - not getting out of the divisional round.

46
by RoninX :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 1:20pm

Seattle has brought blitzes up the middle more successfully at times the last few weeks. Wagner has gotten through the line an created havoc (if not gotten the sack) at least once each of the past couple weeks on limited attempts. He almost blew up a screen vs. Balt and he was the one that chased Manziel into the ref last week.

We'll have to see if Seattle better use of middle blitzes is the D coordinator finally getting a better feel for picking his spots, or if they are just in indictment of the Browns/Ravens o-lines.

56
by Joe Pancake :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 5:13pm

In the Green Bay game this was very apparent. They were consistently pressuring Rodgers, but he was subtly maneuvering in the pocket and completing passes. I've noticed an interesting pattern: the Seahawks do very well against terrible and mediocre quarterbacks and don't do as well against really good quarterbacks.

The main thing about the Seahawks is that they played a very difficult slate early in the year and came out on the wrong end of a few random experiments that are pro football games. Now things have evened out a bit (and they've legitimately gotten better on the o-line which has been a huge boon) and they have a good chance to end the season 11-5, which wouldn't be that far off from what one expected at the beginning of the year.

(Also, for what it's worth, in that Bengals, they got a bit unlucky in the 4th quarter. They missed a long pass by a few inches that almost certainly would have led to at least a field goal and eaten up much more time (so close the ref called it a catch on the field). And then the Bengals banked in the game-winning field goal because of how the goal posts where aligned vis-a-vis the rotation of the Earth.)

50
by aceofsween :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 2:22pm

I think I can explain the Panther's relatively low standings when you consider it against their record. And it's really not that hard. Their special teams are just awful.

Blocked punts, returns for touchdowns, turn overs, etc... It's been an ordeal in Carolina for years. If you ignore their abysmal Special Teams and look just at what their offense and defense is doing, the Panthers would be the 3rd highest rated team, behind Seattle and Arizona (who also has a relatively poor ST unit). And while Carolina's special teams are never stellar, so long as they avoid soul crushingly bad plays (cough blocked field goals that result in TDs cough cough...) they win games by a comfortable margin of victory.

I'd be very curious how often the simulations say the Panthers ST unit will botch a play of some sort and what the breakdown following those events look like, simply because it is uncommon for such tragically bad events to happen.

51
by mshray63 :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 2:44pm

As it stands right now:

Seattle will have played 12 games against teams ranked 19th or above in DVOA, including all of the NFC North, the rest of the NFC West, and all of the AFC North except Cleveland.

Carolina will have played 13 games against teams ranked 20th or below in DVOA, including all of the AFC South & the rest of the NFC South.

52
by Joshua Northey :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 2:46pm

I had a business trip to Kansas City after week 5 and people there were despondent regarding the Chiefs. I told them that KC was playing really well and had faced a tough schedule and that as a Vikings fan I thought the Chiefs were way better than the 1-4 and would give the Vikings a tough game. The KC people thought I was just being nice/condescending/crazy.

Now they all think I am some sort of football savant. Yay looking past records!

62
by Pen :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 7:57pm

One thing that sticks out to me is Baldwin and Lockette both have 0 DPI's. The refs flat out refuse to call penalties against the Seattle opponents. This is the second year running.

65
by gomer_rs :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 8:42pm

The most egregious example for that was the opening drive against Cleveland when the Browns jumped off sides and the DB tackled the WR because he was beat. The Cleveland fans on their SN page where completely flabbergasted that they didn't get hit with a PI, and completely unsurprised by the quality of their D. The FOX announcers also thought the play to Jackson should have been PI as well.

_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

66
by Perfundle :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 9:07pm

There was another one later in the game against Lockett. The announcers said that it was because the defender tripped and stumbled into Lockett, but it seems to me that if the refs don't call that, then a defender that was beaten slightly can intentionally trip himself into the receiver and prevent the catch without incurring a flag, and that may very well have happened on that play.

67
by gomer_rs :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 11:12pm

Well the rule is that if the player falls on his own, or their feet become tangled, it's not PI even if it impacts the WR. I think what you describe is exactly what happened on the Jackson wheel route the LB realized he was beat and "tripped" onto Jackson's legs and if so smart play.

I've given up on expecting the refs to call PI for the Seahawks. If they're going to miss Bailey tripping Kearse in the SB the Seahawks are just never going to get that call.
_______

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

68
by Perfundle :: Thu, 12/24/2015 - 1:42am

Jackson, not Lockett, right. Of course, both sides have several ways of exploiting the rules. The rules say that if a DB is turning to look for the ball, it's not pass interference is he collides with the receiver, so a DB can aim straight for a receiver that's beaten him and turn his head at the last second; Earl Thomas did this in the Super Bowl against Julius Thomas.

On the receiver side, there's the Torrey Smith special, which is to slightly outrun a pass, then stop and come back for it and wait for the DB to crash into them and draw a DPI if the DB's head isn't turned around. Or simpler yet, if the receiver sees that the defender is right behind him, he can slow down and jump in the air and again wait for the collision. Kearse appeared to do this in the endzone to draw his DPI.

76
by Duff Soviet Union :: Fri, 12/25/2015 - 5:13pm

I wonder if refs just call Seattle games differently to other games.

Much has been said about their grabby defense and how they commit a ton of uncalled DPI / defensive holding / illegal contact. Some of this is probably just sour grapes, but there's probably a little something to it as well. So maybe Seattle's defense gets away with a lot, but as compensation the refs allow the other team's defense to get away with more than they usually would against Seattle's offense rather than enforce the game tightly and end up calling a billion penalties.