2012 DVOA Projections

2012 DVOA Projections
2012 DVOA Projections
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

The time has come for our annual preseason DVOA projections, updated from the projections that gave us the season forecasts in Football Outsiders Almanac 2012. Get out your Desmond Howard jerseys, because there's a very strong chance of a Patriots-Packers Super Bowl. Not only do New England and Green Bay have the two highest DVOA projections, they also have two of the three easiest schedules based on average projected DVOA of opponent.

We must start with the requisite link to an explanation of DVOA. For anyone new to our site, DVOA stands for Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and measures a team's performance on every play of the season compared to league average in the same situation, adjusted for opponent. I know a lot of people may be coming here from various message boards and this is just going to look like a jumble of pointless numbers. Trust me, there is a method to the madness, and over the past dozen seasons past DVOA ratings -- as well as these multivariable-based DVOA projections -- have been a far more accurate predictor of future performance than wins or points.

Offense, defense, and special teams DVOA are all projected separately using a system based on looking at trends for teams over the past decade. The equations include a number of variables based on performance over the past two seasons in different splits (by down, passing vs. rushing, red zone vs. whole field) plus variables based on recent draft history, injury history, offensive and defensive pace, coaching experience, quarterback experience, and even weather. Strength of schedule was then figured based on the average projected total DVOA of all 16 opponents for 2012. This year, most of the projection changes between the book and the opening of the season have to do with upheaval on various offensive lines (especially in the AFC North).

There are two places where we have made manual changes to the projections this season. First, we've given a small penalty to New Orleans on both offense and defense in order to try to account for the upheaval that has gone on around that team this offseason, the interim head coach situation, and the lack of the general manager for the next few weeks. (The player suspensions actually wouldn't make much difference, as some of those players are no longer on the Saints, and the team signed free agents specifically to account for a suspension to Jonathan Vilma.) The other manual changes are slight improvements to the projections for Houston, New England, and the New York Giants based on research we've done on predictive value of playoff performance. We talk about that research a bit in this video from the (now-cancelled) Sabermetrics Video Network. This year we had to account for that with manual changes; next year we'll have it automatically incorporated into the system. This boost does move the Giants ahead of the Eagles as the most likely champion of the NFC East.

Other than those changes, the numbers we are presenting here are exactly what the projection system spit out. As we say every year: "A few of them will look strange to you. A few of them look strange to us." By far our most controversial projection for this season, San Francisco coming out with a mean projection below 8-8, is addressed in this video. If you are looking for subjective projections, later today we'll be running our usual staff predictions article where we all talk about where we think the numbers are wrong.

As always, the offensive projections come out in a wider range than defensive projections because offense performance tends to be easier to predict (and more consistent from year to year) than defensive performance. You should also understand that the projections represent the center in a range of possibilities, not a forecast of the exact difference between teams. You'll notice that one team, New England, is far ahead of the rest of the league, while another team, St. Louis, is far behind the rest of the league. This doesn't mean that we think the season will end with the Patriots far superior to everyone else, and the Rams far worse. It means that the odds of the Patriots being among the league's best teams are stronger than similar odds for the Steelers or Packers; the odds of the Rams being among the league's worst teams are stronger than similar odds for the Cardinals and Browns. When we do simulations, that comes out as a higher (or lower) DVOA projection. The same concept applies to the offense and defense projections. We're not saying that three defenses are going to be far superior to the other 29; we're saying that Steelers, Bears, and Jets are very, very likely to be top defenses. The Ravens and Seahawks are more likely than not to be good defenses, but their odds of being below average are stronger than the odds for those three previously mentioned teams.

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Schedule strength really plays an important role in this year's forecast, something I've mentioned in pretty much every media interview I've done in the last month. In 2012, with a schedule including the NFC West and AFC South, the AFC North sent three teams to the playoffs. This year, both the AFC East and the NFC North play that same schedule. That's how the Bills end up as one of our predicted playoff teams despite ranking 16th in projected DVOA, and it's a big reason why the Patriots and Packers are such clear favorites this season.

The first postseason odds report of the 2012 season is also online, and I've added the playoff odds and Super Bowl championship odds to the table below. The mean wins forecast produced by our season simulation seems very conservative, as every team has a mean projection between 5-11 and 12-4. However, this kind of conservative forecast generally leads to smaller errors than a forecast that looks more like a real set of final standings with the best team around 14-2 and the worst team around 2-14. Obviously, the best team in the league will likely have more than 12 wins, and the worst team will have more than 11 losses.

Projected division champions are colored in light yellow. Projected wild card teams are colored in light blue. We're coloring Denver in yellow as a projected division champion, but the gap between the Broncos and Kansas City is very thin.

NE 37.9% 1 11.9 31.6% 1 -1.1% 11 5.2% 2 -5.9% 30 92.8% 25.2%
GB 23.9% 2 11.0 28.2% 2 3.4% 22 -0.9% 24 -6.4% 32 85.7% 15.1%
ATL 21.6% 3 9.9 18.4% 4 -3.0% 8 0.2% 15 1.4% 15 68.6% 9.9%
PIT 20.5% 4 10.1 3.9% 11 -15.3% 1 1.3% 7 -0.7% 20 75.1% 9.4%
NO 15.2% 5 9.0 25.3% 3 8.2% 32 -1.9% 27 4.8% 1 49.8% 4.5%
CHI 14.7% 6 10.1 -6.0% 22 -14.3% 2 6.3% 1 -6.0% 31 71.9% 7.0%
BAL 10.4% 7 8.8 5.9% 8 -4.1% 4 0.4% 13 2.7% 8 48.5% 3.4%
NYJ 9.3% 8 9.4 -3.9% 20 -10.2% 3 3.0% 5 -2.3% 22 54.4% 2.9%
NYG 8.2% 9 8.5 4.4% 10 -3.1% 7 0.7% 9 4.4% 4 45.7% 3.0%
CAR 7.9% 10 8.3 13.9% 5 5.1% 27 -0.9% 25 4.6% 2 36.1% 2.1%
DEN 5.8% 11 8.4 8.2% 6 0.2% 19 -2.2% 28 4.5% 3 45.6% 2.4%
PHI 4.8% 12 8.3 3.7% 13 0.9% 21 2.1% 6 2.2% 9 40.9% 2.0%
HOU 4.6% 13 8.4 6.7% 7 -0.6% 15 -2.7% 29 1.0% 17 52.2% 2.3%
DAL 3.6% 14 7.8 4.5% 9 0.2% 18 -0.6% 21 3.9% 5 30.8% 1.4%
KC 3.4% 15 8.4 3.5% 14 0.7% 20 0.5% 12 1.5% 14 44.6% 1.8%
BUF 2.7% 16 8.9 2.7% 17 -0.7% 13 -0.8% 23 -3.7% 27 43.5% 1.5%
TEN -1.2% 17 7.6 -0.8% 19 -0.2% 17 -0.6% 20 1.8% 12 34.1% 1.0%
CIN -2.9% 18 7.7 -4.6% 21 -1.1% 12 0.6% 11 0.2% 19 25.8% 0.7%
SD -3.8% 19 7.0 2.8% 16 4.8% 25 -1.8% 26 3.6% 6 19.9% 0.5%
WAS -4.3% 20 7.3 -7.4% 25 -3.8% 6 -0.8% 22 0.9% 18 21.4% 0.7%
DET -4.5% 21 7.7 -0.5% 18 4.0% 23 0.0% 18 -2.7% 24 21.9% 0.5%
TB -5.1% 22 7.1 2.9% 15 8.0% 31 0.0% 19 2.2% 10 15.2% 0.5%
SF -6.9% 23 7.5 -12.0% 26 -1.2% 10 3.8% 3 -5.4% 29 45.0% 0.8%
OAK -7.0% 24 7.0 3.7% 12 4.9% 26 -5.9% 31 2.0% 11 19.4% 0.4%
MIA -11.5% 25 6.9 -12.3% 27 -0.7% 14 0.1% 16 -1.4% 21 10.3% 0.1%
JAC -12.4% 26 6.5 -17.1% 29 -1.4% 9 3.2% 4 1.5% 13 15.8% 0.2%
IND -13.5% 27 6.4 -6.4% 23 7.1% 29 0.0% 17 1.1% 16 14.3% 0.1%
SEA -15.1% 28 7.0 -19.5% 30 -4.1% 5 0.3% 14 -5.1% 28 35.8% 0.4%
MIN -17.6% 29 6.3 -6.8% 24 4.6% 24 -6.1% 32 -3.3% 25 6.8% 0.1%
ARI -19.9% 30 6.1 -15.2% 28 5.2% 28 0.6% 10 -3.6% 26 18.6% 0.1%
CLE -22.7% 31 5.5 -24.1% 31 -0.3% 16 1.1% 8 3.5% 7 3.8% 0.0%
STL -47.0% 32 5.0 -33.8% 32 7.9% 30 -5.3% 30 -2.5% 23 5.8% 0.0%

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Finally, a couple of housekeeping notes. When we introduced the new DVOA v7.0 numbers online a month ago, I promised a series of articles giving updated lists of the best and worst DVOA and DYAR seasons. Unfortunately, I only got to the best teams and the worst teams before work to prepare for the 2012 season took over. My apologies. I promise to get to lots of fun historical "best and worst of DVOA" articles after the season is over. I also said I would try to address some of the questions that were asked by readers in the comment threads of those DVOA v7.0 articles, and I will try to do that with Tuesday's DVOA ratings commentary, since there isn't much to say about one week of ratings.

However, we've fully updated all the ratings pages online -- or at least, will have everything updated within the next hour -- with the new normalized ratings. The problem with VOA receiving ratings from 1992-1998 has been fixed. We've re-done the stats pages so that player names properly link to the player pages that give career numbers. We've also finally solved a longtime problem where we were inconsistent about how we counted Defensive Pass Interference. It was counted in Passes and Yards on the passing lists, but not the receiving lists. That's fixed now, so that the Passes and Yards totals do not include DPI. DPI is still integrated into the DVOA ratings, of course, and you'll now find separate columns with DPI numbers for all quarterbacks, wide receivers, and tight ends going back to 1991. You can use these numbers to learn that, for example, Brad Johnson laps the field with 464 yards off Defensive Pass Interference in 1999. No other quarterback has a season above 322 yards. You also see that Michael Irvin had 10 DPI plays in 1995, tied for the most of any receiver in any one year. That's one of the reasons why his 1995 season ranks as the best all-time according to DYAR.


87 comments, Last at 08 Sep 2012, 12:05pm

1 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

I don't think it's right for you to give a high estimate you don't believe to be an accurate value for, say, the NYJ defensive DVOA to imply you think it'll be some lesser but good value with high probability. Wouldn't it be a lot more accurate to give a mean (that you actually believe they'll achieve with high probability) and a small variance that implies it'll be about that good with high probability? Is that just too complicated for your audience?

36 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

" You'll notice that one team, New England, is far ahead of the rest of the league, while another team, St. Louis, is far behind the rest of the league. This doesn't mean that we think the season will end with the Patriots far superior to everyone else, and the Rams far worse. It means that the odds of the Patriots being among the league's best teams are stronger than similar odds for the Steelers or Packers; the odds of the Rams being among the league's worst teams are stronger than similar odds for the Cardinals and Browns."

I'm reading this as saying they think 38% is an overestimate of NE's DVOA over this season, but that they actually think it's likely to be, say, 30%, and are very confident it won't be worse than 20% (I'm obviously making up all the exact numbers, since I don't have their data.) I think this would be more honestly--if perhaps more confusingly for people who aren't, well, professional mathematicians like me--presented as 30% +/- 2% or what have you.

76 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

How I read it, and which makes complete sense with everything else written, is this:

The Patriots offense, Jets defense, Steelers defense, etc. all tend to score very high on the projections--and they rarely to never score average or even low.

The Ravens defense, Packers offense, etc. also tend to score very high on projections, but they also feature a number of much lower scores.

As a result, while the median might be the same, having a lower and longer tail will drop some teams, while others simply do not have that tail to bring down the mean.

2 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

I was curious to see how NE's defense would project, assuming we'd see improvement but still ending up in the high teen area. Surprisingly, they ended up even higher than I expected, and I'm bullish on their chances.

Is there something other than the defensive performance that indicates that kind of up-tick?

3 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Chicago's defensive DVOA projection looks shaky. Urlacher is 34 with major knee problems - how much longer can he play well? Additionally, Peppers, Briggs, Tillman, and Idonije are over 30. Looks like they're walking a fine line of a massive drop off.

St. Louis' DVOA projection would basically tie them with their 2008 incarnation as the 5th worst team of the DVOA era. The top four worst teams: '05 49ers, '09 Lions, '08 Lions, '91 Colts.

Considering the massive resources Philadelphia has allocated on defense the past couple of offseasons (signing Asomugha, trading for DRC, trading for Ryans, drafting two safeties in the 2nd round, the 2012 draft, etc.), finishing 21st in defensive DVOA would be a major disappointment. Of course, most teams don't hire offensive line coaches to coordinate their defense either, so..

10 NFC North Projections

In the "A few of them will look strange to you" camp, I give you the Green Bay special teams numbers. I'll take some regression to the mean on offense and defense, but between Crosby, Masthay and Cobb, I have a very hard time imagining them finishing outside the top half of the league, regardless of (presumably) facing Hester and Harvin each twice a year. Their ST group may not be in Chicago's class, but that's a very solid corps that I'd put up against most NFL teams.

As a Packers fan, I'm pretty optimistic (with obvious good reason). Considering last year's offense has lost few if any significant parts and the infusion of young talent on defense, Green Bay should make another solid run at bringing home another trophy and ring-set for TTMMAR&Co.

I also agree with the unverified Bill about the shaky Chicago defense. OTOH, I think their offense is likely to be better than 22nd DVOA despite the offensive line if both Cutler and Forte can remain healthy, so that may be a wash.

And what's up with the Detroit projection? Average or below average in all phases, despite Stafford's 5K+ yard season? As a young and improving team, Detroit scares me in the NFC North more than Chicago does - the Bears team feels like it has as much downside as up this year, while the worst thing Detroit has to worry about is implosion from immaturity.

I guess the less said about Minnesota the better. I don't believe AP will be healthy to start the year, and though I think Ponder has promise, he's clearly the #4 QB in the division. Them not winding up in the NFC North cellar for another year would be a highly improbable event.

12 Re: NFC North Projections

Gosh, the Vikings mean win projection really strikes me as too high. With any bad luck at all, I could see them winning 2 or 3 games.

Based on what the bald middle linebacker for the Bears has said about his knee, I don't think the Bears defense will perform as projected. Their offense may be better than projected, however.

The way the rules are enforced these days, the Packers would really have to screw up to not win 11 games.

The Lions will give insight as to how good a coach Schwartz is. There is talent.

15 Re: NFC North Projections

The Lions have a few supremely talented players, but I don't see the overall talent level of the team as that high. I don't think they have a single linebacker or member of the defensive backfield who would start on the Bears.

I think the Bear's season hinges on 3 things. 1) How well Tice can keep Cutler healthy and calm. With Cutler in the game and playing at his best the Bears offense has been about league average the past two years, with the upgrades they've made, they can push just beyond that with a bit of luck. How much (if any) that the pass rush improves, Melton needs to keep getting better, McCellin needs to have an impact, and Paea needs to have an impact. I agree with the other posters that the defense is on it's last legs and needs a young talent infusion, these are the guys who need to be that infusion. Which brings me to 3) how well the older players can hold off the specter of old age. I'm actually not worried about Briggs or Peppers at all. Peppers was playing hurt last year and he was still great. Briggs has in my view been declining for 2 years, but the decline is slow and projectable. Neither of them is going to "fall off a cliff" barring injury. Urlacher's knee definitely scares me, and Tillman has been up and down in preseason.

19 Re: NFC North Projections

I thought Tillman got hosed by the refs against the Giants and then there was the absurb PI call where the WR ran out of bounds. He's no spring chicken but still a very good player and coming off an entirely deserved Pro Bowl campaign.

It wouldn't suprise me if the offense actually turned out to be quite good. There is much more depth at WR, QB, RB and TE and Cutler has the weapons to play up to his potential. Gearing the playbook to his strengths and allowing more flexibility to attack the defense that they actually see instead of what Martz thought he would see and drew up on the chalkboard. Just generally an approach based more upon asking the players to do things that they are actually capable of instead of what a coach might want them to be capapble of in an ideal world.

26 Re: NFC North Projections

Well I haven't looked into how cornerbacks age, it wouldn't surprise me if one day they just didn't have the quick reactions to keep up with receivers anymore.

29 Re: NFC North Projections

One other thing to worry with older defensive backs: even if they maintain their level of skill, they tend to get hurt at an alarming rate.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

85 Re: NFC North Projections

I'm curious why anyone thinks Mike Tice will be a good coordinator. He was a bad head coach, keeping an incredibly stacked team in the 9-7 to 8-8 range. When Moss left, they fell from 6th to 26th in offensive DVOA and he got the axe.

2006 was his only year as a coordinator, but for whatever reason he was busted down to Asst. Head Coach/Tight Ends immediately thereafter. Then he comes to Chicago and fields terrible offensive lines for two years and gets a promotion. So why would one think that, absent Randy Moss in his prime, Tice will coach a good offense?

86 Re: NFC North Projections

1) Head coaching and coordinating are different jobs, and there have been plenty of coaches who were great coordinators but subpar head coaches (eg, Ryan, Buddy, Turner, Norv, Phillips, Wade).

2) There were a lot of extenuating circumstances with his head coaching position. If you care to read them, I'll bet Will Allen could write 5000 words easy on the subject.

3) I don't recall him ever being a coordinator, do you have a link about what happened in 2006?

I'm not saying I'm sure he will be a good coordinator, these things are really hard to tell, but I do give him better odds than most promotions.

33 Re: NFC North Projections

"The Lions have a few supremely talented players, but I don't see the overall talent level of the team as that high. I don't think they have a single linebacker or member of the defensive backfield who would start on the Bears."

Delmas probably would, at one of the safety spots.

On the flipside, I can only think of 3 Bears who would start on the Lions offense.

35 Re: NFC North Projections

Delmas might, it's hard to predict these things. Wright is a very sound player who fits in a cover 2 system very well. So even though, he's basically exactly average, the coaches might prefer him to a better player who freelances. I think Conte is great, and I'm not sure I can unbiasedly determine this.

"On the flipside, I can only think of 3 Bears who would start on the Lions offense."

Fair enough, let me go even further, I think a good number of the Lions starters would not even make the Bear's team. If you take away CJ and Marshall, I actually like the Bears receivers more.

Obviously the offensive line is a huge hole, but it's pretty much the only unit on the Bears that is a hole, whereas with the Lions I would say their secondary, linebackers, running backs, and receivers not nicked named after bad 80s cartoons are all areas of concern.

It's not that the Lions are less talented overall than the Bears (I'm not sure), it's that it's more concentrated, while the Bears it's more evenly distributed. For example, if the Lions lost CJ, Stafford, and Suh, and the Bears lost Urlacher, Cutler and Marshall (I picked him for ease of comparison, replace with Peppers if you like), who would have the better team left? I think it's clearly the Bears.

38 Re: NFC North Projections

"If you take away CJ and Marshall, I actually like the Bears receivers more."

I see the problem. I thought this was a debate with someone who was rational.

If I had to remove 3 Bears, I'd remove Cutler, Forte, and Peppers.

That basically leaves the QB situation (Campbell-Hill) and RB situation (Bush-Smith) about even. The Lions have the better O-line, better D-line (the Lions have ridiculous depth at DL), and better TEs. The Bears have the better secondary, far better LBs, and better WRs. How the passing attacks stack up is more complicated, because the Lions use Pettigrew/Scheffler far differently than the Bears use their TEs.

The problem with this comparison is that the Lions' three best players are better than the Bears' three best players. As far as player dependence, the Pats and Saints look pretty mortal as well without their QBs.

39 Re: NFC North Projections

The only Bears receivers who had positive DVOA in 2011 were (shockingly) Roy Williams, who is no longer with the team (or any team), and Johnny Knox, who last I heard, not expected to play anytime soon. I actually like Earl Bennett as a receiver, but in limited targets, he was almost exactly average. Alshon Jeffrey is a rookie, and rookie wideouts tend to struggle at first. If you're willing to involve tight ends in the discussion, it probably comes out as a wash when comparing non-Johnson, non-Marshall pass-catchers.

And how dare you call Transformers "bad". For it's time I thought it was excellent when compared to other children's cartoons of the time.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

55 Re: NFC North Projections

Nate Burleson is the only Lions receiver to have positive DVOA aside from CJ, and that's with CJ drawing double coverage on just about every play. So I don't think it's an irrational claim. As Aaron Brooks Good Twin claims. I might be wrong, but that doesn't mean I lack rationality.

When you add TEs, it helps the Lions, the Bears TEs are not very good, and I like Pettigrew even if his DVOA isn't so hot. I still think I would prefer to have the Bears group of pass catchers.

Also, Bennett wasn't targeted very much because he was hurt a lot last year.

Also also, the Bears receivers had to play 6 games with the Hanie experience which didn't help their DVOA.

45 Re: NFC North Projections

Resorting to insults when someone disagrees with you is not going to impress anyone.

FWIW I wouldn't rate the Lions' Oline as any better than the Bears'. I think both have problems and the Bears did not have the benefits drawn from an elite WR making blitzing a very dicey proposition. I would say that the Bears line run blocks better too.

I would also question whether Detroit's Dline is automatically superior. Peppers is the best defensive lineman on either team (yes I would take him over Suh for next year but Suh is obviously the better long term bet), Idonije is a very good player who should benefit from reduced snaps, McClellin should be fine to play passing downs and Wooton looks stronger and quicker this year (I expect him to be a good rotation end). Melton is very quick and seemed to developing better instincts over the second half of last year - he may approach double digit sacks - Paea played well last year and is healthier than he was. Toeinea is a good NT, strong, savvy and active in pursuit, Collins has played well in the preseason, well enough to be the fourth DT and Okoye will give them what he gave them last year (which everyone else seems to be impressed by but I have to confess I wasn't)

47 Re: NFC North Projections

"I wouldn't rate the Lions' Oline as any better than the Bears'. I think both have problems and the Bears did not have the benefits drawn from an elite WR making blitzing a very dicey proposition. I would say that the Bears line run blocks better too".

You may be right as far as run-blocking, as the Lions ranked 31st in adjusted line yards, but the Bears were scarcely better, at 24th, but it's not like it's a huge difference.

Regarding pass blocking, it's not even a contest, the Lions ranked 10th in adjusted sack rate, and the Bears ranked 31st.

I know there's more than one way to look at the quality of line play (I for one think Stafford makes his line look better than it really is by getting rid of the ball quickly), but those are the only objective numbers I'm aware of.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

61 Re: NFC North Projections

Using a historically large amount of the shotgun probably helped keep pass rushers off Stafford, and as I have already said having Johnson will have helped. Conversely the Bears started the season with Martz still trying to run the Greatest Show on Turf, then assumed realistic levels of ambition in terms of blocking execution and only allowed five sacks in seven games with Cutler getting the ball away from the rush similarly to Stafford - or many other top QBs. Then Cutler got hurt and Calosh McHanie got sacked every seventh pass attempt. Those two just loved holding balls.

I am not expecting anything truly marvelous from the Bears line but sane playcalling allowed Cutler enough time last year and hopefully a similar approach from the start of the season will reap rewards.

58 Re: NFC North Projections

Pretty sure FO believes the Lions O-line is better than the Bears. The Bears was often comically bad last year, to the point where you could have legitimately believed they employed Wayne Hunter.

As to LT, I'd take Backus over Webb. Both are mostly useless when rushing, but Backus can make a passable attempt at professional pass-blocking.

The Bears receivers comment was an allusion to the almost practical joke nature of the Bears receivers over most of this millennium. This year it seems they have actually retained paid employees at the possession, and not part-timers whose primarily source of employment was as a street pharmacist.

63 Re: NFC North Projections

Webb has some issues pass protecting but he is a good run blocker. The guy is massive, strong and nasty. If he displayed the same assertiveness and agression in pass protection as his run blocking he would be a very good tackle.

56 Re: NFC North Projections

"As far as player dependence, the Pats and Saints look pretty mortal as well without their QBs."

QBs are unusual in their ability to impact win/loss records. So take the 3 most important players on each time excluding QBs, and I think the Bears still have the better team.

"The problem with this comparison is that the Lions' three best players are better than the Bears' three best players."

No, that's actually the point of my comparison. The Lions best players are better than the Bears best players, but the Bears players 5-22 are better the Lions.

60 Re: NFC North Projections

I'm not sure who I'd say is the 3rd most important non-QB Lion. Avril is coming off a pro bowl season, but as to importance, it's probably Backus or Delmas.

Who would it be for Chicago, Tillman? Urlacher's mostly a figurehead at this point, isn't he?

68 Re: NFC North Projections

Only way to solve this debate rationally...Madden ratings!
For offense your team would be (12 players to give option of 3rd WR or 2nd TE):
Lions (8): QB-Stafford, WR-C.Johnson, TE-Pettigrew, TE-Scheffler, LT-Backsu, LG-Sims, C-

Raiola, RG-Peterman
Bears (4): RB-Forte, WR-Marshall, WR-Hester, RT-Carimi

On defense your team would be (12 players to give option of 3rd CB or 3rd LB):
Lions (7): DE-Avril, DT-Suh, DT-Williams, LB-Durant/Tullock, CB-Houston, S-Delmas, S-

Bears (5): DE-Peppers, LB-Urlacher, LB-Briggs, CB-Tillman, CB-Jennings

Special Team:
Bears (3): K-Gould, P-Podlesh, KR-Hester
Lions (0)

So there you go, unquestionable evidence of what a hybrid Lions/Bears team would look like.

71 Re: NFC North Projections

I think it's pretty funny that after wading through this Bears-Lions debate, I finally found someone who mentioned special teams (although just to opine on who has better specialists in the kicking and return games). One of the Bears' greatest strengths under Lovie Smith has been special teams play, especially since the arrival of Devin Hester. So often people forget about special teams play and just argue about who has a better offense and who has a better defense. The Bears have a decisive advantage on special teams against the Lions and against most teams because they really emphasize and value outstanding special teams play (and not just in their own return game). In addition to having an excellent kicker in Gould and an excellent punter in Podlesh, and of course the great Devin Hester, the Bears consistently have outstanding coverage units.

20 Re: NFC North Projections

Detroit do need to worry about immaturity implosion but they also need to worry about not having many decent back seven players, a very shaky offensive line and the most fragile RB corps in football. The last three are real issues, if they behave the first one won't be. Schwartz needs to take more accountability for controlling his team and setting an appropriate example to them.

24 Re: NFC North Projections

I think the "off-field immaturity" issue is overplayed, given a grand total of 2 players on the current 53 man roster (neither one a starter currently) had offseason legal problems. The bigger concern is stupid on-field penalties, which they cleaned up in the last quarter of the season last year, and it remains to be seen whether or not that carries over. The preseason was a mixed bag regarding that.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

23 Re: NFC North Projections

As a Detroit fan, the upheaval in a secondary that was mediocre even on it's best day scares me, so I think a projection of 23rd in DVOA is a little generous (although they managed to finish top 10 last year). Much depends on Suh and the D-line covering up for other weaknesses (like a poor-man's 2011 Giants). But I think bottom-10 sounds about right for now.

The amount of regression being projected on offense did surprise me a bit. Yes, they have an unsettled RB situation, but that's no different than last year. The passing game will be most likely be okay, unless Jeff Backus suffers a major decline (certainly possible given his age).

I'm also surprised that the Bears are projected to have a below-average offense, given that they have a very good/potentially elite quarterback, a top-5 running back, and a top-10 receiver. The offensive line can't hold them back that much, can it?

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

27 Re: NFC North Projections

I think it's clear that they don't expect Stafford to repeat his 2011 performance. (That said, I don't think they project Rodgers, Brees, or Brady to repeat their 2011 numbers either.) However, it's hard for me to see how that offense could be projected to be worse than Buffalo's or Oakland's. I think they may be overvaluing Jahvid Best's contributions. The Lions run game is a big mystery going into 2012.

At least they didn't project the Bears to have a better offense than the Lions...

I'm much more confused by the big drop in defense DVOA, since the Lions are returning all but one starter on the D unit. Here it looks like they think losing Eric Wright was a big setback for the secondary, although a lot of Lions fans would disagree. But it's true that the team is still shaking up the secondary, so it's hard to expect improvement in that area.

30 Re: NFC North Projections

I can understand the regression given that A)One of the projected starting corners is a 3rd round rookie, and B)50-75% of the secondary has been injured at any one time during august, and the Lions have been reduced to signing/trading for cast-offs from Washington and Denver for depth.

I personally think Spievey was a terrible safety, and if Erik Coleman is even competent, that could potentially cancel out some of the issues elsewhere.

-I'm not Billy Bad-Ass.

6 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

DVOA shows the Saints' defense as the absolute worst in the league? I'll be interested to see the staff's take on that in the predictions article. Yeah, I'm a Saints homer, but that just doesn't look right.

17 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Yeah, I don't buy that either. However, it does project the Saints with the hardest schedule. NFCE, AFCW, Pack, Niners--yep, it's pretty hard. If they force some turnovers, they won't be that bad.
IMO, if the Saints D faces higher than 20th in SCORING D (and around that in DVOA), they'll be pretty good.

21 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

As I said in the NFC South column discussion, I'm willing to bet the Saints defense won't be in the bottom 10 defenses by DVOA rating this year.

Also funny that we've been given a downgrade because of the "difficult" off-season. No-one can predict how that will affect the team, but the last time a team had a "difficult" off-season, didn't they go 16-0?

With a new DC, upgrades at DT, MLB and SLB, there's no way we're 32nd on defense. Any takers on that bet?

74 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

They aren't being downgraded for a "difficult offseason." They are being downgraded for a (unprecedented) loss of key coaching and front office personnel.

7 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

While I expected SF to regress somewhat, it's still very surprising to see them fall to NEGATIVE DVOA. Thanks for the link to the video, which has an excellent and in-depth explanation.

48 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Also funny that, despite the lousy projection for SF, DVOA still considers them the most likely division winner because the other three NFC West teams are all projected in the bottom five. DVOA really sees the NFC West as *horrible*.

8 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

It'll be interesting to see if New England can sniff this offensive projection, replacing three starters from the o-line. There's been a lot of talk on this site (the boards, not staff) that having a good line isn't as critical as it used to be, and this looks like a good test case. Brady's at an age that quarterbacks typically tail off (even Manning declined noticeably in 2010), but he's always been an outlier

34 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

New England, in particular, wouldn't seem to depend on a good OL. Their passing game is almost entirely built around short to intermediate routes, their QB has phenomenal pocket presence, and their running game is built around draws, quick stretches, and other plays that don't depend on individual players winning at the point of attack.

In addition, two of the new starters (all except Wendell) have significant experience playing in the system, and were very close to the level of the starters last year.

40 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Wendell has been in the system for 3 seasons, including a few starts last year. I worry about him far less than the tackles.

46 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

how would we know? they've had an above average line, at least, forever. Brady, from what i've seen, does seem like a guy bothered by pressure, and he hasn't had to deal with it much since early 2009

52 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

The above average line has been a function of Brady's ability to read defenses and NE's offensive scheming. They've had plenty of OL turnover and talent deficiencies that only seem to present themselves when playing againt the Giants. For instance, last year, NE started their 4th C in two games and played almost the entire season without thei #1. They also were missing their starting RT for nearly the entire season as well. No one mentioned or even noticed the injuries.

The Jets, b comparison, lose one guy and the entire offense goes in the toilet.

Last year is hardly an exception. Nick Kaczur as the starting RT on the highest scoring offense of all time? Going for nealy the entire 2005 season down two tackles and a center with a rookie LG?

The pass protection will be fine. If the OL struggles that much, NE will just provide a lot of TE help. I'm more worried about the run blocking which is harder to manuacture, particularly with the skill sets NE looks for on the OL.

72 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

For the last number of years, the Pats have had a (barely) above average left tackle, and an above average guard. Last year Waters was good at RG, but RG's been iffy before that. RT has hovered around average, as has C.

The big problem, to my eye, usually came when they faced teams with very athletic interior rushers. The Dwight Freeny's of the world would occasionally beat Light off the edge, but Brady could usually move around that pressure. HIs problem was when teams with multiple powerful, interior rushers (i.e. the Giants) could beat Koppen (or last year, whoever the injury replacement of the week at C was) and bring pressure up the middle. That limited Brady's ability to evade the pressure, and got in his throwing lanes to the middle of the field (where they do most of their damage, given that their outside WR's have sucked every year since 2004 except for 2007).

So I wouldn't characterize the Pats line as above average...just average, with a few good players, but a few weak links, too. Like many teams.

83 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Lighter and more agile... Better to get out on screens and hit the second level in the trap/draw game. It leaves them succeptible to being manhandled by d-linemen on plays that take some time to develop and on power runs.

9 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Really surprised to the Seahawks coming in below the likes of Indy and Jax. What are the main culprits? Unhealthy offensive line? Rookie QB? Unknown WR quality? Or a combination of all of them?

11 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Pretty shocking that a defense that added Ryans, Cox, Kendricks, and put Assoumgha back to his natural position, plus a healthy Nate Allen finally, isn't even in the top 20! They shut down NYG pretty easily at the end of last year without a lot of those guys.

14 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

U ALL R FOOLZ!!1!! Da Rams rnt gunna b DEAD LAST!1! jaymz laurenitisisisis yo! WOOOOOO!!!!

Too soon?

22 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Here's the thing with the Rams. Vegas puts their over/under at 6 wins. And if I were a betting man - and sometimes I am - I would run away from that line. It's right where it should be.


That's what makes them interesting. I don't know what their variance was officially, but I'd expect it to be quite high.

This is a team that could come out, win a couple games early, get on a roll, and have all the sportscasters talking about how "they don't know that they're supposed to be bad" and are "believing in themselves." If that happens, even 10-6 isn't out of the question (alhtough it's certainly a stretch). The problem is, it depends on all these esoteric things that we haven't found an effective way to measure.

And equally true, if this team drops a couple bad losses early, it could get a feeling of "here we go again," and the wheels could come off and suddenly it's another 2-14 year. They don't have 2-14 talent, but a young team with a tradition of losing could just as easily do that as they could be the next Cinderella.

As for their actual talent level, 6-10 splits the difference and feels about right. But you run a Monte Carlo and you're not getting 800 6-10 finishes. That might be the average, but it'll be a low mean. They'd probably have call it about an 18% chance each of going anywhere from 4-12 to 8-8 and a 10% chance of finishing outside there. But all 5 of those finishes - in my mind anyway - seem about equally likely.

25 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

I'm just curious as to why the system would rate Chicago so highly on defense and Philadelphia so low.

Both rode that hot streak of weighted defensive DVOA toward the end of the 2011 season, and both have had strong preseason performances.

I don't necessarily disagree with these projections, I am simply wondering why one (Chicago) is given such an edge over another (Philadelphia) without any noticeable differences in terms of talent or performance over the preseason and the latter half of the 2011 season.

28 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Seems pretty sane overall to me. I don't buy the huge jump from #1 to #2 though. I can see NE maybe being the best team in the league, but not by a large margin as the model seems to predict. If I had a subjectivity wand I'd give modest bumps upwards to:
BAL - I see a still very good defense even without Suggs and with a linebacker who used to be Ray Lewis.
HOU - I see some defensive regression, but expect it to be less than the model seems to predict.
CIN - Does the model predict some fall off from Dalton or something? I expect him to improve on an impressive first season and unfortunately to be somewhere between above average and very good for a long time.
SD - Rivers had a down year, but I don't think it was the beginning of the end. If it is they could be in some trouble.
STL - Like with NE I can see them being the worst, but just not this extreme.

and modest decreases to:
ATL - I don 't think they're going to be such a powerhouse on offense.
CAR - The Cam Newton hype machine may be angrifying me into the opposite stance irrationally, but I don't buy such a potent offense from the people they have there.
DAL - Just all around blah team. I guess they've an all around blah DVOA, but I think they're worse than this.

70 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Just to add to this one question: why is New England's defense ranked so high (#11) when they were so bad last year #30)? They will still be an elite team, n doubt, but what leads to the confidence in such a strong improvement in the defense? Did they make some off-season moves that I didn't see?

And, I don't think the weak schedule should change defense DVOA. Should it? I throught DVOA was a rating based against an average opponent.

73 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

I'm confused, too. Although I'm confused how anyone could predict anything about New England's defense this year. They've had turnover of something like 16 players, and over half the starters. Regression to the mean ought to get them to something like 20th, but are there indicators that say that if you draft heavily on defense and replace over half your starters, you'll rocket from almost last to top third of the league?

32 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

I think the DPI column should be between yards and EYDs columns. Just a small thing, but it would make it easier to follow the progression of things that add up to EYDs.

42 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

The Model essentially sees the 49ers as the 2010 version, plus Ted Ginn and David Akers on ST. The opposite type of forecast sees the difference between 6-10 and 13-3 (you can shift these towards the center for projected wins) as 100% Harbaugh and co. (over Singletary). But the defense in 2009 was as good DVOA wise as 2011. Probably in both cases the difference is mostly turnovers/health which are mostly regressed away.

In any case - the model sees something fundamentally different in similar teams like CHI/NYJ/BAL as compared to SF, as these teams more or less hold their value.

I do think the offense in 2012 has the potential to build on their modest gains and even be above average. Obviously DVOA disagrees. I didn't believe the Harbaugh hype before the 2011 season, but I have to at least acknowledge that he got essentially the same team playing much better.

I think a DVOA line would be SF +13 points @ Green Bay (3% DVOA = 1 point?) Vegas has it at +5 or so. That's one of the larger discrepancies I've ever seen.

44 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Judging by the comments, I think the omission of the "How to complain about DVOA" template was the biggest mistake on this season's chart. ;) I'll be looking forward to watching that video about the Niners' projection; the change interests me even though the Niners are just kind of there from my emotional standpoint.

49 Point spread value of DVOA

What do you guys think is the value of DVOA in terms of points? For example, if the Lions play the Rams, and have a 43% advantage in DVOA, how many points would that roughly equate to? Right now I'm using 6 as a constant, so that would be a 7 point favorite, but it feels like it should be higher (a lower constant, higher total). Thoughts?

53 Re: Point spread value of DVOA

7 points is a fairly big line in the NFL, especially when the better team is only average.

Patriots would be 14 point favorites over the Rams (85%), however throwing out the outliers, the Packers would be 7 point favorites over the Browns (45%), which seems maybe a little low. This is on a neutral field, though, so the same matchup would have a 9-10 point line in GB, which is pretty reasonable.

Reduce your constant even to 5, and the lines above become 17, 9, and about 12, which is getting pretty steep. NE would potentially be 20 point favorites at home!

50 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

I'm probably missing something obvious, but how are Mean Wins calculated?

Thank you!

51 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

With the usual turnover that occurs in the NFL, past performance is not a consistent indicator of future success. Why? The players change. Many times, those changes are either minor or are covered by changes in scheme or are offset by improvements in other personnel. Other times, the changes have a dramatic impact on the team (see the 2011 Colts).

Think Pats will be the same team now that Matt Light is gone and Brian Waters is a no show? It seems likely that the O-line problems evident in the pre season will still be present once the game actually count. Will that lead to a reduction in wins from 13 in 2011 to the 12 wins projected by DVOA this year? Seems like there would be more of an expected drop off than that.

Suggestion: it seems that teams that have players on the offensive line that have continuity perform better than teams with turnover on the offensive line. Would it be worthwhile to test that theory (e.g., teams that [allow the fewest sacks, have the greatest running success, choose your metric] have at least 4/5 of their offensive linemen on the team and playing the same position over the past three years)?


Acquired sig: Never let your mind remain so open that your brain falls out.

79 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

The Patriots replacements on the offensive line are all players who were with the team last year, so there is some continuity--it's not like they brought in completely strange guys.

Waters being a no-show is a big deal, because Waters is awesome. Light was basically average, maybe a little better. Koppen was already out injured, so it's not really a change at center.

I'd honestly worry about Vollmer's back more than anything else on the line.

87 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

It's preseason, but hasn't Solder looked pretty average?

I would worry about that line because when was the last time Brady had even an average line? 2005?

66 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

DET with a -DVOA offense is mind-boggling to me, but that's been hashed through above. (Though I find the "let's remove the QB and see what happens" hypothetical not that useful until Stafford goes down again. Especially w/r/t what happened in Chicago last time Cutler went down, I found the Bears' apologists somewhat over-optimistic. Though Marshall should help, and not-Martz likely as well.)

So instead: Jets at #8? I don't doubt their defense will be very good again, and Sanchez might improve, but the only way I see that actually happening is if McElroy ends up playing and is a revelation.

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

69 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Everyone is saying that the 49ers will revert to the mean, but from 07 to 09 they were a steadily improving team and suddenly had a bad season in 2010. Then they showed the typical bump last year and got back on track for the 07-09 trendline.

They probably got around 2 more wins than they should have, but if you look at the last few years, 2010 at 6 wins was much more of an outlier than 2011.

81 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

The prediction for the Bears' record (and, to an extent, the Packers') is interestingly tied to the two most controversial predictions for teams to decline: DET & SF. If the DVOA-tron instead decided that the Lions & Niners would stay where they were last year or even improve, all of a sudden the Bears' & Packers' schedule looks much, much harder.

82 Re: 2012 DVOA Projections

Denver 6th in Offense? Baltimore 8th? While possible, those seem a little too optimistic.

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