21 Feb 2011
So, in the column announcing the winners of the FO reader awards, I noted that people voted for Hue Jackson as coordinator of the year "simply for not sucking in Oakland." One of the readers pointed out that by official numbers, the Raiders were a lot better than just "not sucking." Believe it or not, the Raiders ranked sixth in the NFL in points scored this year. I honestly had no idea. I've been going through the whole season thinking of them in terms of DVOA, where they ranked 23rd.
I didn't go back to check, but I've got to figure this is one of the biggest gaps between DVOA and points scored over the past two decades. 17 places in the standings is a BIG difference. So what is DVOA seeing that a simple look at points scored doesn't show?
1) Oakland had an easy schedule, 23rd in the NFL by average DVOA of opponent.
2) Oakland had a great fumble recovery record, 15 of 23 fumbles on offense.
OK, but even without adjustments for these two things, Oakland would have 1.1% offensive DVOA. That would be 19th instead of 23rd. There is still a lot of room between that and sixth. What else?
3) Defensive touchdowns? Actually no, Oakland had just three, which is pretty average.
4) Oakland ran a lot of drives, because the defense was very good at forcing three-and-outs. The Raiders had 199 offensive drives, third in the league.
5) Oakland had a lot of very long plays. As you may know, in the DVOA formula, the value of each additional yard starts to drop after about 20 yards, because longer touchdowns are only partly about making better plays. They're partly about field position, because you can't run for a 60-yard touchdown when you are past midfield.
The Raiders had 11 plays of 50+ yards, 19 plays of 40+ yards, and 35 plays of 30+ yards. In all three categories, they were second to the Philadelphia Eagles.
6) Some of what ended up as points is actually field position from defense and special teams. The Raiders ranked higher in defensive DVOA (15th) than in points allowed (20th).
Of course, it's still hard to believe that all this is still enough to get us from 23rd in DVOA to sixth in point scored. Is it possible our formula mistakenly underrated the 2010 Raiders? Perhaps. On the other hand, I doubt that Jacoby Ford is going 71 yards on an end around again in 2011.
40 comments, Last at 30 Mar 2011, 5:33pm by jimbohead
Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?