Week 9 DVOA Ratings

Week 9 DVOA Ratings
Week 9 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

So, which team has the best defense in the NFL this year? The Kansas City Chiefs have allowed just 12.3 points per game, the best figure in the league. The Houston Texans, as crazy as it sounds, are leading the league with just 273.5 yards allowed per game. Cleveland actually leads the league with just 4.5 yards allowed per play. And a lot of fans would just forget about which teams lead in these various categories and instead go with the defense with the strongest track record of dominance over the last season and a half, the Seattle Seahawks.

Well, DVOA doesn't have any of these teams as the top defense of 2013. It has a surprise team instead: the 4-4 Arizona Cardinals.

Yes, the Cardinals move into the top spot in defense at -19.1% DVOA despite not playing in Week 9, as Seattle's near-loss to Tampa Bay drops the Seahawks into second place. The Cardinals have a strong all-around defense, ranking second against the run and third against the pass.

Why does Football Outsiders put the Cardinals so far ahead of their rank in points allowed (21.8 per game, 11th) or yards per play (5.0, eighth)? Well, one reason is turnovers. The Cardinals are second in the NFL with 2.4 takeaways per game. (DVOA doesn't actually give them as much credit as that number would indicate, because they've recovered seven of ten fumbles.) The Cardinals also get better on more important downs. They're just average on first downs, but have the league's best defensive DVOA on second downs and rank third on third and fourth downs. Finally, there's the issue of schedule. So far the Cardinals have played the league's fourth hardest schedule of opposing offenses.

Some credit has to go to defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. We thought that the Cardinals defense was going to be in trouble this year, with previous defensive coordinator Ray Horton leaving for Cleveland. Horton has made the Browns better, but his departure has not made the Cardinals worse. Bowles looked like a terrible hire as defensive coordinator when you considered the way the Eagles defense crashed and burned when he took over as interim coordinator halfway through the 2012 season, and Arizona was due for some regression on defense after improving from 20th in 2011 to sixth in 2012. There were plenty of reasons to expect this defense to have problems in 2013, but they've been outstanding. Tyrann Mathieu has been a Rookie of the Year candidate, John Abraham has been a strong addition to the pass rush, and Darnell Dockett and Calais Campbell are both excellent on the defensive line. Patrick Peterson is now one of the league's top corners, and the Cardinals rank fourth in DVOA against No. 1 receivers and sixth against No. 2 recievers.

Unfortunately, Bruce Arians hasn't been able to put together an offense that complements the Cardinals' strong defense, even Carson Palmer providing an upgrade at the quarterback position compared to last year's mess. Arizona is just 29th in offensive DVOA. Add that to average special teams, and you end up with a team that's 4-4 and ranks 14th in the league overall.

* * * * *

In this week's Quick Reads, you saw that Nick Foles didn't make our list of the best quarterback games ever despite throwing seven touchdown passes. The main reason was quantity, not quality; because our list was based on DYAR, it gives more value to games where players have more passes or runs.

Team DVOA, of course is a different story. It's a per-play statistic, not a total value stat, and by measuring team DVOA we can also incorporate a strong running day where Eagles backs had 98 yards on 19 carries. Put it all together, and the Eagles end up with the fifth-highest single-game offensive DVOA in DVOA history. Here's a list of every game above 90.0%. The links in the scores will take you to each game's boxscore.

Top Offensive DVOA Games, 1989-2013 (Regular Season Only)
SD NYG 3 2005 113.8% 45-23 13
KC DET 15 2003 105.0% 45-17 21
SF CHI 17 1991 98.8% 52-14 6
STL SD 5 2000 98.6% 57-31 9
PHI OAK 9 2013 97.8% 49-20 27
DEN DAL 2 1998 97.0% 42-23 24
SD JAC 13 2011 95.1% 38-14 5
IND MIA 2 2009 93.6% 27-23 18
KC MIA 4 2002 93.1% 48-30 2
SD MIN 10 2003 91.4% 42-28 23
DAL NYG 1 2007 91.0% 45-35 13
NE MIA 7 2007 90.3% 49-28 31

The Chargers gained 485 yards in the best offensive DVOA game ever, or 8.7 yards per play, and their only turnover was a fumble recovered by the Giants. However, the game listed from the 2003 Chargers was probably even more interesting. The Chargers were 2-6 going into this game, and they stomped a Vikings team that came in 6-2. Drew Brees was injured, so Doug Flutie was the starting quarterback. Even more remarkable is the way the Chargers' offense collapsed the following week. In Week 10, San Diego beat Minnesota 42-28 with 458 yards, no turnovers, and 91.4% offensive DVOA. In Week 11, the same Chargers team again had Flutie at quarterback and lost 37-8 to Denver, with just 96 yards, four turnovers, and -98.0% offensive DVOA.

The other game that might stand out is the 2009 game where the Colts got one of the highest DVOA ratings ever with just 27 points. That was the Monday Night Football game that showed everyone how meaningless time of possession was. The Dolphins had the ball for 45:07 and 84 plays compared to just 14:53 and 35 plays for the Colts. The Colts gained 10.2 yards per play and won the game.


The gradual increase in the strength of the opponent adjustments mean that the Denver Broncos dropped a little bit this week without even playing a game. As a result, the Broncos have almost dropped off the list of the best teams in DVOA history. Only a dozen teams have ever put up at least 40% DVOA through Week 9, and the Broncos are the last team in that dozen.

Jacksonville was also saw its rating drop this week despite being on its bye week. In Jacksonville's case, the issue wasn't opponent adjustments getting stronger, but rather opponent adjustments changing as past Jacksonville opponents like Seattle, St. Louis, and especially Oakland all played worse than usual in Week 9. That moves Jacksonville back into the top spot (if you can call it that) as the worst team DVOA has ever tracked.

However, when it comes to watching for the best and worst DVOA ratings ever, I'm not sure anything quite matches what's going on with special teams this year. Houston special teams cost the Texans an estimated minus-10.4 points compared to average this week, mostly thanks to three missed field goals. That's enough to move the Texans down to 31st in special teams. Of course, it isn't like the Giants got better on their bye week. As a result, we now have three 2013 teams sitting among the dozen worst special teams DVOA ratings through Week 9, going back to 1989. That's just crazy. We estimate that the Giants have cost themselves 3.6 points per game with bad special teams, the Texans have cost themselves 4.0 points per game, and the Redskins have cost themselves 4.5 points per game. Houston and Washington are below average in all five phases of special teams that we measure. The Giants are above average on kickoffs and close to average on field goals and kick returns, but their punts and punt coverage have been horrific. Right now, we estimate that the Giants have cost themselves minus-23.4 points of estimated field position on punts. That would be the fifth-worst figure since 1989, and there's still half a season left.

The current version of DVOA normalizes every year to 0.0%, which means that these three pathetic special teams units (and the slightly less pathetic Tennessee Titans, at -8.1% DVOA) should skew the average and lead to more teams with positive special teams DVOA than with negative special teams DVOA. Surprisingly, that's not the case. We still have 16 teams above average, and 16 teams below. However, there are a lot more good special teams than bad. Ten different teams have special teams DVOA above 4.0%, while only the four teams mentioned in this section have special teams DVOA below -4.0%.

Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA
2007 NE 73.8% x 2007 NE 47.0% x 2013 JAC -66.3% x 2005 SF -47.9% x 2010 SD -19.0%
1991 WAS 58.8% x 1999 WAS 46.8% x 2005 SF -63.3% x 1992 SEA -47.8% x 2008 MIN -14.5%
2001 PHI 51.8% x 1998 DEN 38.2% x 1993 TB -58.3% x 2010 CAR -47.3% x 2013 WAS -14.3%
1996 GB 47.9% x 2004 IND 36.7% x 2009 DET -55.5% x 2013 JAC -45.1% x 1995 PHI -12.6%
1990 CHI 47.7% x 1993 DAL 35.8% x 2009 OAK -52.5% x 2007 SF -42.0% x 2013 HOU -12.8%
2007 IND 46.0% x 2013 DEN 35.5% x 1991 IND -52.2% x 1996 STL -41.9% x 1997 STL -12.5%
2003 KC 44.4% x 1995 DAL 35.3% x 1999 CIN -50.0% x 2002 HOU -41.1% x 1997 PHI -12.3%
2007 DAL 41.7% x 2000 STL 35.0% x 1996 STL -48.7% x 2009 OAK -40.8% x 1999 CIN -12.2%
2002 TB 41.4% x 2002 KC 34.5% x 2002 HOU -48.6% x 2006 OAK -40.1% x 1996 ARI -11.7%
1994 DAL 41.4% x 2000 IND 34.4% x 2007 SF -48.4% x 2004 MIA -38.6% x 1994 HOIL -11.6%
2009 NE 41.2% x 2011 GB 34.0% x 1999 CLE -48.2% x 1992 IND -38.5% x 2006 ARI -11.4%
2013 DEN 41.1% x 2005 DEN 33.9% x 1998 PHI -47.3% x 1991 PHI -37.8% x 2013 NYG -11.4%

* * * * *

During the 2013 season, we'll be partnering with EA Sports to bring special Football Outsiders-branded items to Madden 25 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 standard stats. Others will be under-the-radar players who only stood out with advanced stats, including DYAR, Defeats, and our game charting coverage stats for cornerbacks. 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, beginning Friday night.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 9 are:

  • Andre Johnson, WR, HOU (Limited Edition): 9 rec, 229 yards, 3 TD, led all WR with 116 DYAR
  • Duane Brown, LT, HOU: Allowed no sacks or hurries vs. Colts
  • Quinton Coples, OLB, NYJ: 3 QB hits, 4 hurries, TFL on fourth-and-1
  • Darrelle Revis, CB, TB: Allowed just eight yards on two pass targets
  • Ryan Succop, K, KC: 5-for-6 touchbacks on kickoffs, 3-for-3 FG

We also have some extra special Limited Edition players available this week, celebrating Football Outsiders' choices for the major NFL awards as of midseason. These are part of a big Madden 25 Ultimate Team content update on Thursday called "Road to the Playoffs."

  • MVP: Peyton Manning, QB, DEN
  • Offensive Player of the Year: Calvin Johnson, WR, DET
  • Defensive Player of the Year: Dontari Poe, DT, KC
  • Offensive Rookie of the Year: Kyle Long, RG, CHI
  • Defensive Rookie of the Year: Kiko Alonso, MLB, BUF
  • Comeback Player of the Year: LeSean McCoy, RB, PHI
  • Coach of the Year: Andy Reid, KC

A couple of these awards were pretty difficult to choose. We were also considering Justin Houston, J.J. Watt, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas for Defensive Player of the Year, and we were considering Eddie Lacy, Giovani
Bernard, Keenan Allen, and Jordan Reed for Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Here's a look at all seven special FO Midseason Awards players:

Here's a bit of a description of "Road to the Playoffs" from the guys at EA Sports: "As real-world NFL players build momentum into the playoffs, Madden Ultimate Team (MUT) players will also improve with game-changing upgrades. Elite and gold players that were in packs have been replaced by new versions, many with different chemistries and others with an overall rating increase. You'll also have an increased chance of finding your favorite players with the chemistries you want. All elite players will have dual-chemistries, and there will be multiple versions of players in packs boasting different combinations of chemistries. The midseason update will also include new solo challenges and collections."

* * * * *

All 2013 stat pages are now updated or will be updated in the next few minutes, including snap counts, playoff odds, and the FO Premium database.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through nine weeks of 2013, 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.)

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OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games.

Because it is early in the season, opponent strength is at only 90 percent; it will increase 10 percent every week through Week 10. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

To save people some time, please use the following format for all complaints:

<team> is clearly ranked <too high/too low> because <reason unrelated to DVOA>. <subjective ranking system> is way better than this. <unrelated team-supporting or -denigrating comment, preferably with poor spelling and/or chat-acceptable spelling>

1 DEN 41.1% 1 40.3% 1 7-1 35.5% 1 -0.2% 16 5.5% 6
2 SEA 30.0% 2 29.5% 2 8-1 6.4% 13 -17.5% 2 6.0% 5
3 CAR 26.0% 4 26.9% 3 5-3 10.7% 10 -13.6% 3 1.7% 14
4 CHI 24.2% 6 23.9% 4 5-3 16.5% 5 -4.8% 10 2.9% 11
5 IND 20.2% 3 20.8% 5 6-2 17.0% 4 1.7% 20 4.9% 7
6 SF 17.3% 8 17.0% 7 6-2 14.1% 8 -2.6% 14 0.7% 15
7 NO 17.1% 7 17.3% 6 6-2 14.8% 7 -2.7% 13 -0.4% 19
8 CIN 16.0% 5 16.2% 8 6-3 1.7% 15 -10.1% 6 4.1% 10
9 KC 14.7% 10 13.9% 10 9-0 -3.6% 18 -12.0% 4 6.3% 3
10 GB 14.4% 9 14.5% 9 5-3 23.5% 2 7.1% 26 -2.1% 25
11 NE 12.9% 13 13.6% 12 7-2 1.9% 14 -4.6% 11 6.3% 2
12 DAL 12.8% 11 13.8% 11 5-4 6.9% 12 0.9% 18 6.8% 1
13 DET 6.3% 12 6.2% 13 5-3 13.3% 9 5.1% 24 -1.9% 24
14 ARI 2.5% 14 3.8% 14 4-4 -16.5% 29 -19.1% 1 0.0% 18
15 SD -1.5% 15 -1.3% 15 4-4 21.4% 3 22.2% 32 -0.8% 21
16 PHI -1.6% 24 -2.1% 16 4-5 14.8% 6 13.4% 30 -3.0% 26
17 MIA -2.1% 22 -2.9% 17 4-4 -3.9% 19 -3.0% 12 -1.2% 22
18 ATL -4.5% 18 -4.9% 18 2-6 6.9% 11 10.9% 29 -0.6% 20
19 NYJ -5.1% 23 -5.0% 19 5-4 -22.3% 31 -11.0% 5 6.3% 4
20 BUF -5.5% 17 -6.5% 20 3-6 -8.6% 21 -6.4% 7 -3.4% 27
21 BAL -8.1% 19 -6.7% 21 3-5 -16.1% 27 -5.6% 8 2.3% 12
22 CLE -9.8% 21 -8.8% 22 4-5 -10.7% 24 3.5% 21 4.4% 9
23 TB -10.3% 27 -11.0% 24 0-8 -8.8% 22 0.3% 17 -1.3% 23
24 PIT -10.9% 16 -10.6% 23 2-6 -0.4% 17 10.6% 28 0.0% 17
25 MIN -11.7% 25 -11.1% 25 1-7 -9.9% 23 6.1% 25 4.4% 8
26 STL -13.2% 26 -13.9% 26 3-6 -10.9% 25 4.4% 22 2.1% 13
27 TEN -14.0% 20 -15.0% 27 4-4 -4.5% 20 1.4% 19 -8.1% 29
28 WAS -18.4% 30 -17.6% 28 3-5 0.6% 16 4.7% 23 -14.3% 32
29 HOU -22.6% 29 -23.5% 30 2-6 -11.9% 26 -2.1% 15 -12.8% 31
30 NYG -22.6% 31 -22.4% 29 2-6 -16.1% 28 -4.9% 9 -11.4% 30
31 OAK -36.1% 28 -37.2% 31 3-5 -22.2% 30 10.1% 27 -3.8% 28
32 JAC -66.3% 32 -64.2% 32 0-8 -45.1% 32 21.4% 31 0.2% 16
  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA does not include the adjustments for opponent strength or the adjustments for weather and altitude in special teams, and only penalizes offenses for lost fumbles rather than all fumbles.
  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
  • PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).

1 DEN 41.1% 7-1 51.3% 8.9 1 -15.0% 30 -4.2% 23 9.3% 16
2 SEA 30.0% 8-1 31.2% 6.8 2 -6.7% 29 -2.2% 19 12.3% 22
3 CAR 26.0% 5-3 30.3% 6.1 6 -4.4% 25 5.3% 8 11.7% 21
4 CHI 24.2% 5-3 20.4% 6.7 3 -1.3% 21 -1.4% 17 8.7% 12
5 IND 20.2% 6-2 21.6% 6.4 4 -5.0% 27 -12.1% 29 9.0% 15
6 SF 17.3% 6-2 19.2% 5.3 12 -6.1% 28 3.6% 11 20.8% 30
7 NO 17.1% 6-2 21.8% 5.6 11 1.5% 15 10.5% 2 11.1% 20
8 CIN 16.0% 6-3 16.6% 5.8 9 2.7% 12 -4.3% 24 15.0% 25
9 KC 14.7% 9-0 27.1% 6.2 5 -18.4% 32 6.4% 6 4.4% 2
10 GB 14.4% 5-3 16.9% 6.0 7 2.0% 13 -1.0% 16 7.2% 10
11 NE 12.9% 7-2 16.3% 5.8 10 -1.2% 20 2.7% 12 3.5% 1
12 DAL 12.8% 5-4 15.0% 5.9 8 -0.8% 19 -3.3% 21 5.8% 8
13 DET 6.3% 5-3 5.2% 5.1 13 3.7% 10 -3.4% 22 4.8% 3
14 ARI 2.5% 4-4 -1.1% 5.1 14 8.6% 4 -6.3% 27 9.5% 17
15 SD -1.5% 4-4 2.6% 4.1 19 -15.7% 31 8.4% 4 5.5% 6
16 PHI -1.6% 4-5 2.1% 5.0 15 -4.8% 26 4.3% 10 31.4% 32
17 MIA -2.1% 4-4 -2.0% 4.0 20 4.8% 9 0.0% 15 16.3% 27
18 ATL -4.5% 2-6 -7.7% 4.3 17 3.5% 11 8.8% 3 4.9% 4
19 NYJ -5.1% 5-4 -6.6% 4.4 16 1.5% 16 -5.4% 25 21.7% 31
20 BUF -5.5% 3-6 -6.7% 4.2 18 6.8% 6 -12.3% 30 14.0% 24
21 BAL -8.1% 3-5 -5.5% 3.8 21 -0.7% 18 5.9% 7 10.3% 19
22 CLE -9.8% 4-5 -4.8% 3.3 23 1.8% 14 -5.7% 26 8.9% 14
23 TB -10.3% 0-8 -15.2% 2.7 29 9.7% 2 5.2% 9 5.9% 9
24 PIT -10.9% 2-6 -13.8% 3.2 24 -2.7% 23 0.2% 14 5.1% 5
25 MIN -11.7% 1-7 -12.7% 3.4 22 5.0% 8 7.8% 5 8.9% 13
26 STL -13.2% 3-6 -13.7% 3.0 27 -2.1% 22 14.4% 1 15.8% 26
27 TEN -14.0% 4-4 -6.1% 3.1 26 1.1% 17 -13.4% 32 8.6% 11
28 WAS -18.4% 3-5 -21.8% 3.0 28 7.4% 5 -2.3% 20 5.6% 7
29 HOU -22.6% 2-6 -22.1% 3.2 25 5.7% 7 -13.2% 31 18.3% 29
30 NYG -22.6% 2-6 -33.9% 2.0 30 13.0% 1 -1.4% 18 18.0% 28
31 OAK -36.1% 3-5 -27.5% 1.6 31 -2.8% 24 0.4% 13 14.0% 23
32 JAC -66.3% 0-8 -66.1% 0.0 32 9.1% 3 -8.2% 28 9.8% 18


132 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2013, 6:28pm

#1 by whckandrw (not verified) // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:20pm

Wow is that Bears 10th ranked defense a joke. They're mistakenly getting a lot of credit for their performance against Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers on the sideline.

Points: 0

#12 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:40pm

I figured they were going to drop because how effective the Packers were at running.

IIRC, the Bears just shot up from 25th against the pass to 12th.

Points: 0

#115 by Bevo (not verified) // Nov 07, 2013 - 5:07pm

Based on Bears defensive ratings and KC's defensive rating, I'd say giving up lots of yardage on the ground doesn't seem to hurt you DVOA all that much. At least the Bears have giving up huge rushing totals to Washington and the Packers... better than getting gashed by the Browns and Bills.

What moved the Bears up in DVOA was most likely the production from the defensive line which had been bad up until now.

Points: 0

#2 by Alec B // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:21pm

Wow do things change...
Bears rankings go best on offense, then defense, and finally special teams... That has to be a long time ago for when they last went in that order.

Points: 0

#16 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:42pm

KC imports Dave Toub and they're following the Bear's formula to perfection.

Points: 0

#3 by Andreas Shepard // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:26pm

Chiefs are close in DVOA to the winless Buccaneers than they are to the first place Broncos. Cue the hordes of angry Kansas City fans, followed shortly thereafter by the cruel sting of the FO message board curse.

Points: 0

#5 by Bobman // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:31pm

I'm hoping that FO KC fans are a lot more "thinky" than most website KC fans ("9-0 baby, suck this!")

Points: 0

#40 by TomC // Nov 05, 2013 - 9:57pm

A fun little exercise is to imagine playing the few teams immediately above and below the team whose dvoa ranking you are wondering about. If I imagine KC on a neutral site against SF, NO, CIN, GB, NE, and DAL, I think they'd come out right around 3-3, which says to me their ranking is fine. The Bears, on the other hand, I think would be more like 2-4 or even 1-5 against the other teams in the top 7, which says to me they're too high (for reasons already gone into at length here and that are not DVOA's "fault").

Points: 0

#114 by Bevo (not verified) // Nov 07, 2013 - 4:54pm

You think KC would go 3-3 on a neutral field against those teams? REALLY? In case you haven't noticed they were playing much better early in the year when they eeked by Dallas. In my opinion, if they were to play any of those teams on Sunday on a neutral field they'd be lucky to go 1-5.

I watch every snap of every NFL game but I'm a Bears fan and know them better than I know any other team. My knee-jerk reaction to the Bears' ranking is that it's too high also. On the other hand I tend to think that people perceive the Bears' defense to be worse than it is. The unit still was solid against both the Bengals and the Saints... and say what you will about the rushing against Green Bay... they only scored 20 points. The defense is obviously struggling against the run, but the pass rush showed up against the Packers and I think that's the reason for them shooting up in the ranks. That offense is obviously getting it done.

Another thing that jumps out at me is the discrepancy between the outcry about the Bears defensive rank and the KC's. Why doesn't anybody question that defense that's been getting gashed on the ground as well? To me KC is a slightly above average defense that's good against the pass and terrible against the run. They've benefitted greatly from an easy schedule and playing back-up and third string QBs.

Points: 0

#76 by Buck B (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 12:59pm

Angry? I think KC fans are pretty happy, irrespective of output from FO DVOA algorithms. What matters is what happens, to who, on a cold February day in New Jersey...
Reporter: It seems like people want you guys to almost apologize for being 9-0. What are your thoughts?

ALEX SMITH: “The funny thing is, a little bit, I feel like, what are we even talking about? There’s a system in place in the NFL to find out who’s the best. It’s the 16-game season and it’s the playoffs. To be speculating right now, nine games in, who’s the best and who’s not is just talk. They don’t give any trophies out after nine weeks and we understand that and all the talk of any of that is just talk. It’s pointless in my mind. It has it set up to find out who’s the best and that’s our focus, just one game at a time and one week at a time, until we get there.”

Points: 0

#82 by TomC // Nov 06, 2013 - 1:50pm

Dammit, Buck B and Alex S., you aren't fulfilling your projected roles as irrational homers that the rest of us get to feel superior to. Don't you understand that enjoying your team's success and not worrying about the degree of respect afforded them by a computer algorithm is no way to go through life?

Points: 0

#98 by LionInAZ // Nov 06, 2013 - 5:50pm

I'm not Chiefs fan, but I can't help thinking: they have a new head coach, a new QB, and a new scheme. It seems to me that it would be very tough for a mediocre team to be 6-3 at this point, let alone 9-0, even against poor opposition under those circumstances.

I don't believe for a minute that the Chiefs will win even 12 games, but I don't think they're as bad as they were with Cassel at QB and Haley coaching. They are at least a very consistent team, and if they improve at that level of consistency they look like a real contender. The upcoming games against Denver and SD willshow how far they can go.

Points: 0

#99 by theslothook // Nov 06, 2013 - 6:03pm

I find it strange you're assuming that with cassel and hayley, they would be winning less when all indications have been that the chiefs offense is pretty lousy to this point. Their offense has been pretty much terrible across the board other than in turnovers. And since even cassel had a year with low turnovers, I doubt it would have made much of a difference. The point is, this chiefs team feels like the exact inverse of the 2011 packers team. That team had an otherworldly offense and a defense that was awful at everything but collecting turnovers.

Points: 0

#107 by Alternator // Nov 07, 2013 - 2:44am

Alex Smith, much like Donovan McNabb, is above all else phenomenal at avoiding turning the ball over. If that's one of your primary requirements for the offense, he's an outstanding choice for QB.

Points: 0

#109 by theslothook // Nov 07, 2013 - 3:09am

IS he? Or is that also context driven. An examination of the type of attempts he makes tells a much clearer story of alex smith's turnover skill than the raw numbers might imply. I live in the bay area and I have watched many smith games with the 49ers. One of the hallmarks of alex smith was his penchant for throwing short at all costs, rolling out whenever he didn't get a clear vision, and then throwing out of bounds when no one was open. He is risk averse to a fault. Is that ultimately better than throwing ints? MAybe...until you fall behind by 17 at home and you attempt to convert a 4th and 20 with a 5 yard checkdown to vernon davis...

Points: 0

#127 by Alternator // Nov 09, 2013 - 9:44pm

Being willing to play extremely conservative is not a mindset that most QBs possess, especially QBs who are also competent starters. If you are a running-and-defense team that is built around winning low-scoring games, it's a perfectly good attitude for your QB to have.

Points: 0

#110 by greybeard // Nov 07, 2013 - 3:27am

I find it mind blowing that you think they would been 9-0 with Cassel and Haley. Mind blowing that you think having Andy Reid instead of Haley makes no difference.

Points: 0

#112 by theslothook // Nov 07, 2013 - 3:17pm

Exactly what am I crediting andy reid for? Defense? Is that his schtick now, good defense? This offense has been poor at everything BUT turning it over. And if you back and look at hayley's 2010 chiefs, cassel had only 7 ints that year and the chiefs offense committed the 2nd fewest turnovers that year too. YOu know what's happened? We're seeing an uptick in wins and blindly crediting the qb/coach. Oh, how soon do people forget the lesson of tony sparano, the coach who took a 1-15 dolphins to a record of 11-5 the next year. Yes, the same tony sparano is now unemployed and has the horrible mark sanchez stain over him.

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#113 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 07, 2013 - 4:52pm

I think that a head coach is the coach of the whole team. Even if he doesn't come from a defensive background, he's still in charge of hiring defensive coaches, evaluating defensive players to add to team, and how much priority to give to defense.

Almost all Andy Reid coached teams have had good defenses, and I don't think it's a coincidence.

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#116 by theslothook // Nov 07, 2013 - 7:19pm

Maybe, but its really really hard to parse credit to head coaches, especially parsing credit for one side of the ball to a coach who isn't known for that side. Think about how often we do this for all head coaches. DO we think Dungy was responsible for the offensive success of the colts? What about Fox? What about lovie? Do we think his presence led to a much worse offense than the talent suggested? Or Rex Ryan? I'm not saying I know, I'm just saying I'm skeptical.

The biggest thing is...does Andy Reid do something personally to raise the defenses play? This I doubt. I think sutton calls the schemes and most of those defenders were drafted by pioli, so its not even like ANdy brought in HIS GUYS. Furthermore, its year 1 of the reid regime, so exactly how much of his style could they have been using?

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#118 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 07, 2013 - 9:21pm

I do believe Lovie was responsible for the Bears offense, which is one of the reasons he lost his job.

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#119 by theslothook // Nov 08, 2013 - 2:18am

I think I should make clear the distinction in my coming question. I don't think Lovie made the offense better - because that wasn't his area. Instead, I want to ask, was Lovie personally responsible for making the offense WORSE than it was. And if so, tell me how. I don't see how it was directly his fault that his qbs were grossman and orton and then when they landed cutler, the offensive line imploded and both tackles became huge busts. That feels more like a gm/offensive coordinator decision than Lovie directly. And if you want to blame lovie for his choice of coordinators, fine, but that doesn't mean he specifically was screwing things up on the offense.

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#123 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 08, 2013 - 12:08pm

The Bears ignored their offensive line for a long time, which is one reason it imploded. They also believed in Grossman so strongly they didn't bother with a veteran backup. Ron Turner and Mike Martz were questionable hires, and Lovie didn't rein in Martz when it was obvious it was getting Cutler killed. John Shea, the first oc was the worst coordinator I have ever seen.

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#122 by mrh // Nov 08, 2013 - 11:54am

Probably no one will see this but...

First This offense has been poor at everything BUT turning it over.
If you watched the Chiefs offense last year, you'd know this is not a trivial improvement. I'll grant that this may just be regression to the mean that would have happened regardless of who the QB/coach were. But Smith's running ability has also improved the offense.

Second, as to who assembled the defensive talent. I added up all the defensive snaps for KC so far this year. Here's the breakdown by the GMs who acquired the players taking those snaps:

Pioli 42% Houston, Berry, Lewis, Poe, Jackson
Dorsey 33% Smith, Cooper, Devito, Jordan
Peterson 25% DJohnson, Hali, Flowers

The named players are those with 300+ snaps.

Pioli certainly added the most snaps. Peterson acquired three of the best six players,along with Houston, Berry, and Poe from the Pioli regime.

Dorsey's 33% has not yet produced any stars yet but the addition of Sean Smith and Cooper has been key to how well the defense has played. The 2nd and 3rd cbs were huge weaknesses last year (giving $7M to San ford Routt to play half a season was a fireable offense all by itself).

Also, the depth of the defense has been almost all Dorsey - 7 of the other 9 players taking snaps were added by Dorsey. A decent amount of the snaps by those guys were taken by players who once played for Reid.

I find it interesting that KC record is knocked for playing 2nd string QBs - except Henne because he's seen as better than Gabbert. Ask IND and BAL if Keenum and Campbell were tougher QBs to face than Schaub and Weeden. I think in those cases, the 2nd/3rd string QBs were better (this year anyhow) than the 1st string guys they replaced.

The Chiefs have had a remarkable run of luck in schedule, injuries, turnovers, etc. But beating teams in the NFL is hard, even the bad ones. I'll take being a weak 9-0 team over being a strong 5-4 squad. And if 9-7 is all the Chiefs manage this year, it's been a good year.

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#117 by greybeard // Nov 07, 2013 - 8:46pm

"Exactly what am I crediting andy reid for?" Yes. Exactly. When has 9-0 become so easily attainable that Reid gets no credit whatsoever?

It is interesting that you would bring Sparano up. Sparano, a one good year and nothing else to show for coach, is a great match to Haley, a one good year and nothing else to show for coach. He is in no way an example for Reid, who has been successful coach many years. Haley is following Sparano's path really, if anything. It would not surprise me if he has no job next year after two unsuccessful years as OC.

If you really want to do a proof-by-analogy, Reid-Crennel is a lot like Harbaugh-Singletary.

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#121 by theslothook // Nov 08, 2013 - 2:31am

You scoff now, but what might you have said about Sparano when the dolphins went 11-5? Only a good head coach could do that right? RIght? Dig deeper into the numbers and it becomes clear why wins are a poor metric. Now let's examine the chiefs. They have a superlative defense, no doubt about it, but also a ton of un-sustainable good fortune. They got to face an easy schedule with a number of third and 4th stringers, had turnovers leading to tds, pristine health, and a bunch of close wins - the very things that tend to regress massively no matter who the head coach is. What's more, this chiefs team looks absolutely nothing like the majority of Reid's eagles teams, so we can't even say this is Reid's MO. So ultimately, I think you are committing a post hoc fallacy, of looking at wins and crediting the head coach, because of his prior success. That's fine, but as a bayesian, when the evidence doesn't support our priors, we really ought not to toss that away and just defer blindly to our priors.

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#124 by Rick S (not verified) // Nov 08, 2013 - 1:22pm

The Chiefs look like the mid-90s "Marty-ball" Chiefs. Good defense that creates turnovers complimented by a conservative offense. It's a proven regular season formula that isn't sustainable in the playoffs because turnovers are harder to get against playoff teams and they can't keep up if it's a high scoring game.

DVOA is essentially revealing who the real Chiefs will likely be, and that's a solid, but not great team.

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#125 by Rick S (not verified) // Nov 08, 2013 - 1:22pm

The Chiefs look like the mid-90s "Marty-ball" Chiefs. Good defense that creates turnovers complimented by a conservative offense. It's a proven regular season formula that isn't sustainable in the playoffs because turnovers are harder to get against playoff teams and they can't keep up if it's a high scoring game.

DVOA is essentially revealing who the real Chiefs will likely be, and that's a solid, but not great team.

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#129 by greybeard // Nov 11, 2013 - 4:34pm

"You scoff now, but what might you have said about Sparano when the dolphins went 11-5? Only a good head coach could do that right? Right?"
Wrong. I dare you to find anything I said positive or negative about Sparano. I did not follow Dolphins and Sparano had no track record before so there was nothing for me to write about.

Also they were successful because of wildcat AFAIK. Which was brought in by QB coach. I believe most of the people credited the wildcat (and as an extension the QB coach and OC) more than Sparano.

Also, why are we talking about Sparano? You said that they would have the same record with Haley and Cassel. Nothing about sustainability of the record.

As I understand all the players of Chiefs are crediting Reid and Dorsey for their success. What gives you deeper insight than them?

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#120 by theslothook // Nov 08, 2013 - 2:19am

And btw, Harbaugh wasn't a great coach, in my eyes, because he took a team to a 13-3 record. I've seen that done before many times by coaches who flame out. What separates harbaugh is the next year, he took a team that overachieved at 13-3 and made them a better team. That to me is a hallmark of a good coach.

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#130 by greybeard // Nov 11, 2013 - 4:36pm

So Harbaugh cumulative results accumulated over time made you decide that he is a good coach. I wish we had the same kind of record about Reid so we did not have to had this discussion.

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#4 by rfh1001 // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:29pm

We have to write something about the Bears, right?

Easy: please can Ben Muth explain what the heck has happened to their offensive line?

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#7 by Bobman // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:34pm

I saw a lot of wide open running lanes last night for both teams. As a non-NFC fan it was disappointing that Rodgers went down, but a great night for watching RBs perform in both phases of the game. Lacy looked a bit Marshawn Lynch-like. (eerily echoing the Profootballmock QBs on FB gag in which Rodgers declares Lacy to be Lace Mode to counter the Seahawks' Beast Mode.)

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#14 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:41pm

4 new players including one guy who's been to two probowls.

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#20 by rfh1001 // Nov 05, 2013 - 6:09pm

Yes, I get that. I was unclear.

I know that the explanation is the new guys, but I would love Ben to explain what they're doing and whether he's surprised to see them doing it so fast, because he's really, really good at it, and I'm really, really not.

(The driving narrative pre-season was not: wow, these guys have solved their o-line issues. It was: is Bushrod that great, like, really - didn't he get to the Pro Bowls off the back of Brees? And anyway, whoa, they're starting a fifth round rookie at right tackle, I doubt that ends well! Or am I misremembering. I might be.)

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#21 by whckandrw (not verified) // Nov 05, 2013 - 6:25pm

No you're not misremembering at all. Even Kyle Long was considered a questionable first round choice. The Bears offensive line being as effective as its been is a huge shock. But really its just one aspect of a complete page turn on offense. The play calling is much better, the quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball more quickly, there are more offensive weapons with the emergence of Alshon Jeffery and the signing of Martellus Bennett. Bennett is also a pretty good blocker in addition to being a threat downfield. The offensive line has been good, but it helps a lot that Phil Emery has literally addressed every problem he had on offense over the past 2 offseasons.

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#28 by Thomas_beardown // Nov 05, 2013 - 7:33pm

Both rookies being good is somewhat of a shock, but putting several good players together usually leads to a good unit.

Ben could explain how they're good, but the why is pretty obvious, talent upgrade.

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#43 by Steve in WI // Nov 05, 2013 - 10:35pm

Yeah, going into this season there was some optimism, but offensively things have gone pretty much as well as they possibly could (minus the Cutler injury, which may not make all that much of a difference). Kyle Long was judged by many to be a crazy pick and coming after McClellin last year had a lot of people doubting Emery's draft decisions. It's getting to the point where whatever happens next, it definitely wasn't a crazy choice, and best case they have a solid 10+ year player in him. Mills is a great surprise and Bushrod seems to be at least what they expected him to be.

Obviously I'm biased as a Bears fan, but can anyone else think of a team that has improved a unit so much in such a short time? I mean, the O-line has gone from their biggest liability to arguably one of their biggest strengths. Cutler was having a good year before he went down, but I think the 1.5 games of McCown that we've seen indicate that the biggest reason their offense is successful is that the QB is well-protected.

If only the defense was half as good as it was last year. Sigh.

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#6 by Led // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:33pm

You guys did not even consider Sheldon Richardson for defensive rookie of the year? Alonso is obviously having a good year too, don't get me wrong. He and Richardson seem to be the only guys potentially in the conversation. I'm not in a position to judge between them, but PFF has Richardson as their top defensive rookie.

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#8 by jalsonmi // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:37pm

Kiko Alonso as Defensive Rookie of the Year? Over Sheldon Richardson? Really?

EDIT: Led beat me to it.

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#15 by Aaron Schatz // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:41pm

Richardson is excellent, so is Tyrann Mathieu, but Alonso is the key piece in a Buffalo defense that has improved dramatically despite not having its top two defensive backs for most of the year. He's been involved in 18.9 percent of Buffalo's defensive Plays (i.e. tackles, assists, turnovers, etc.) which is fifth in the league, and he is fifth in the NFL with 19 Defeats.

It's not meant to be negative commentary on Richardson or Mathieu, of course, but we could only pick one.

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#47 by Albert (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 12:12am

That does make sense, but you guys at least have to make a football outsiders sheldon richardson card from the the way he has played, cause a 73 overall does not make sense lol

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#9 by Bobman // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:38pm

Interesting parallel? For AFC watchers, Den is #1 and Indy #5 and no other AFC teams in the top 7. CIN is next at #8. Then you flip to the QB rating page and Manning is #1, Luck is #9 or so, and just one other AFC QB in the top 10. (Rivers, having a great year, messes with the perfect parallel) A few spots later, Dalton.

One might infer that QB play is important here....

Also, looking at SOS, the Colts had #32 last week, but now that one HOU game is out of the way, they're at #29 and TEN has #32. A lot of sked overlap there between those two teams with a lot of division games on tap, so presumably Ten has both Jax games coming up.... Of course they also have the #5 Colts twice. I'm a little surprised that facing the #5 team twice in the final 7 results in the easiest remaining slate. The power of Jax's suck is not to be underestimated.

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#13 by PantsB // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:40pm

And yet AFC has a better interconference record (4 games over 500)

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#17 by Bobman // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:45pm

A few weeks ago I read a bunch of articles about how the AFC was dominant by ten games or so quite early in the season... so maybe things are swinging back. And if so, DVOA suggests they'll swing ALL THE WAY back.

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#36 by RickD // Nov 05, 2013 - 9:19pm

It's all a question of who has been playing whom. The Chiefs are 3-0 vs. the NFC and the Broncos are 4-0. But the Chiefs only have one more inter-conference game, while the Broncos have zero. Similarly, the Pats and Jets are 3-0 vs. the NFC. The Colts are the only AFC team above .500 that has more than one game left vs. the NFC.

Of course, the schedule isn't exactly randomized. Most of the interconference games have already been played. The Colts, Steelers, Bills, Dolphins and Raiders have two interconference games left, while the Ravens have three.

That's all from an AFC perspective.

From the NFC perspective, the Panthers have three interconference games left while the Cardinals have all four left. Both the Seahawks and 49ers are done.

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#37 by N8- (not verified) // Nov 05, 2013 - 9:30pm

Dallas, Philly, Giants. 3-0 versus NFC?? Big deal.

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#45 by RickD // Nov 05, 2013 - 11:32pm

Yes, the NFC East looks weak pretty much because they've been getting their butts kicked by the AFC East this season. You don't really get to say "big deal" when that's the reason the NFC looks weak. The NFC East is 11-11 against the NFC, and 3-9 against the AFC East.

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#67 by RickD // Nov 06, 2013 - 10:35am

Yes, the NFC East is playing the AFC West. The AFC East is playing the NFC South.

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#11 by PantsB // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:39pm

Top 3 teams record=20-5, SoS averages to -8.7% 6.4-1.9 pythagorean average
Teams 9-11 record= 21-5, SoS averages to -3.3% 6.1-2.5 pythagorean average

So basically indistinguishable.

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#18 by Bobman // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:55pm

Regarding the Players of the Year, Dontari Poe is certainly having a fine season, surrounded by an all-star cast. Your next comment is illuminating: "We were also considering Justin Houston, J.J. Watt, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas for Defensive Player of the Year."

Two of the considered guys have a teammate playing a few feet away also on the list (and a few more who are likely eligible). Watt, like Peyton Manning for MVP, could be considered a perpetual candidate, at least at this point in his short career. But the guys who are surrounded by elite partners--while having great yeas--are benefitting from those great partners to a degree that we cannot measure, and therefore should give us some pause.

What about Robert Mathis in Indy, sharing a DL with a bunch of misfits and castoffs? The only other former pro bowler on that squad is a safety, yet Mathis is leading the league in sacks, among the leaders in FFs, etc. And their D, while not elite, is laying much better than expected.

It's a "doing more with less" argument that I made last year with Luck's candidacy for OROY, where Griffin (and Wilson) had a pro bowl caliber RB and Luck had a competent but fairly ineffective run game to help him.

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#25 by Perfundle // Nov 05, 2013 - 7:13pm

20th is much better than expected? I think I would've expected improvement over last place.

"Luck had a competent but fairly ineffective run game to help him.

Luck also had the easiest schedule to help him, as well as a defense that, no matter how bad it was for the first three quarters, was great at holding narrow fourth quarter leads or ties.

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#58 by ticholson // Nov 06, 2013 - 8:49am

To be fair... the Colts D was 9th before laying down against Houston's #26 offense.

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#126 by Steve_B (not verified) // Nov 09, 2013 - 6:22pm

Luck has the easiest schedule? Colts opponents are 34-31....
Lets just compare quickly.

Colts Opponents 34-31 .523 win percentage
Broncos Opponents 26-41 .388 win percentage
Chiefs Opponents 28-49 .363 win percentage
Seahawks Opponents 30-43 .411 win percentage

Yes, Luck and the Colts have had it 'easy'... in fact they've had one of the more difficult schedules in the league.
(as of 11/09)

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#131 by Perfundle // Nov 12, 2013 - 6:21pm

"Luck has the easiest schedule?"

No. Luck had the easiest schedule. As in, last year. Which is what the initial post was about.

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#29 by 3Monkies (not verified) // Nov 05, 2013 - 7:46pm

Mathis has great stats and dominated in one of the most high profile NFL games of recent years. He should be in the conversation

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#19 by jebmak // Nov 05, 2013 - 5:59pm

Miami with three games as the opponent in highest DVOA games. That sounds about right.

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#22 by Anger...rising // Nov 05, 2013 - 6:31pm

Bruce Arians hasn't been able to put together an offense that compliments the Cardinals' strong defense

I'm sure they say things like "Great job, Peterson!" or "Looking good out there, Darnell!" all the time.

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#24 by Richie // Nov 05, 2013 - 7:11pm

No love for the Alex Smith reunion (KC-SF) in the Super Bowl odds?

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#32 by Mr. Morden (not verified) // Nov 05, 2013 - 8:27pm

They also don't list John Fox reunion (Den-Car).

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#26 by Vincent Verhei // Nov 05, 2013 - 7:23pm

The New York Giants have allowed seven punt returns of 15 or more yards this season.

The Seattle Seahawks have allowed 15 punt return yards, total, all year.

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#71 by The Ancient Mariner (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 12:07pm

Of course, the way teams have run the ball on us the last two weeks, they haven't *had* to punt . . .

Wagner's not healed, he's not getting the job done right now; sit him down and put Malcolm Smith back out there.

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#95 by Vincent Verhei // Nov 06, 2013 - 5:14pm

No, this is the Seahawks' punt coverage team, which means they only see the field when the offense screws up. Which hasn't been a ton, on the whole, but they have been out there a lot in recent weeks.

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#103 by RoninX (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 7:39pm

The Seahawks punt coverage team, featuring the entirety of the Legion of Boom. Its almost like using your best and fastest players in situations when a lot of yardage can be exchanged is a good football move (until someone gets hurt).

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#27 by Bjorn Nittmo // Nov 05, 2013 - 7:25pm

Surprised not to see JAX 39-36 win over 2000 Ravens among the best offensive games of all-DVOA. Probably accounted for about half of Baltimore's yardage and points allowed on the season in that game.

To nitpick: famous Colts 2009 win over Miami with less than 15 minutes TOP does not show "how meaningless time of possession" is. Overrated is not the same as meaningless, and in general TOP has still got to be well correlated with winning, just like turnover margin. FO of all places should acknowledge an outlier rather than overplay it.

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#30 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Nov 05, 2013 - 8:14pm

what were the stl-ten dvoa splits? surprised to see tennessee drop 7 spots, past st louis, after an (admittedly ugly) road win

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#31 by Bisquick McBob (not verified) // Nov 05, 2013 - 8:27pm

I like how the Broncos have an "estimated wins" of 8.9 when they have played only eight games.

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#34 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Nov 05, 2013 - 9:04pm

If I remember correctly, estimated wins pretends that no team has had a bye. So Denver would be "estimated" to have 8.9 wins if they had played 9 games.

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#35 by Perfundle // Nov 05, 2013 - 9:04pm

It's extrapolated to the number of weeks, so as to make comparisons easier. For eight games, it would be 8.9/9*8, so 7.9. What was more puzzling was why they were maxed out in expected wins for every single week until this week, despite actually losing a game and barely winning another.

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#33 by Aaron Schatz // Nov 05, 2013 - 8:32pm

Just a couple of responses on comments above.

1) I probably should have said something about this, and might write about it next week. Unfortunately, we can't change the opponent adjustments by week. Any decision about how important a single player is to the adjustments would end up being pretty much subjective, and anything based on objective analysis would likely be based on too few games to be worthwhile. This is where we have to use our common sense to go along with the numbers. However, Chicago still has an above-average defense at -0.5% DVOA, even if we don't include the Green Bay game.

4, et al) I will drop a note to Ben about the possibility of going off his usual schedule to do a Word of Muth on the Bears.

24) That one should be in there too. Something seems to be going wrong where the playoff odds report isn't picking up the last couple of listed "special Super Bowls." We'll get it fixed by next week.

I'm adding some text above to explain more about the "Road to the Playoffs" additions to Madden 25 Ultimate Team.

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#50 by whckandrw (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 2:13am

Thanks for pointing out the Bears's D performance sans the Green Bay game. My comment wasn't to say there's anything wrong with your methodology, just that the Bears' D isn't as good as the numbers make them look and there's an obvious reason why.

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#61 by mrh // Nov 06, 2013 - 9:11am

Over at the Audibles thread, Scott takes exception to the high DVOA rating of CAR. It would be interesting to see Aaron's comments on whether he thinks DVOA accurately reflects CAR's team quality or if he agrees with Scott.

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#63 by Karl Cuba // Nov 06, 2013 - 9:26am

Scott Kasmar's reasoning behind his lack of regard for the Panthers seems to come down to not liking Cam Newton as a qb and that they haven't beaten any great teams. However, FO generally like Newton more than most and tend to disregard 'can't win the big one' style narratives.

It isn't the only example of Kasmar running counter to FO's normal ways of doing things as the entire GWD series is the sort of low sample size overemphasis that FO has debunked in the past.

Personally, I think DBOA is closer to the truth on this one.

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#38 by nat // Nov 05, 2013 - 9:35pm

It might be time to drop the whole "best total DVOA through week X" thing. Judging from the 2000s and 90s, it looks like the Broncos are middle of the road for league leaders. Less, if you consider all of the 2007 teams that were better.

Better than an average league leader on offense, of course. But pretty typical overall. Perhaps it was all a mirage caused by the slow phase in of opponent adjustments.

Still, given how few teams have their shit together this year, you gotta like their chances.

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#39 by dmstorm22 // Nov 05, 2013 - 9:44pm

Well, they're less than a percentage point away from 8th through 9 weeks. I'm not sure what you're point is. Unless FO is extending their table to make sure the Broncos are included (which seemingly they aren't), the Broncos are the 12th best team through 9 weeks FO has measured. They, barely, merit inclusion on that list.

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#41 by nat // Nov 05, 2013 - 10:18pm

The point is that being good enough to be the fifth or sixth best league leader of a decade is not a news story anymore. It probably wasn't before, except the slow phase in of opponent adjustments gave a false impression. It's time to drop the pretense. The Broncos lead the league in DVOA, but not in any historically unusual way. They're pretty typical, actually. Compare them to the top three teams, who really stand apart from the rest, and from each other, too.

So, having a "best total DVOA" watch isn't realistic, and won't be unless something very strange happens. It's time to accept normalcy.

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#42 by Richie // Nov 05, 2013 - 10:30pm

It's still interesting. And they could still end up having a big game and moving back up the list. Once they clearly fall outside the range of best ever, that's when the item can be dropped.

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#48 by jebmak // Nov 06, 2013 - 12:18am

Since they are running the "Jaguars are just awful", the "Broncos have an amazing offense", and "wow those special temas" charts, why not run the other one too? It isn't like that is taking up a ton of space and words on it's own...

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#53 by nat // Nov 06, 2013 - 7:29am

By focusing on a "best" watch for an unremarkable DVOA leader, FO is missing real history in the making. For example, exactly how historically weak has KC's schedule been? Is it the weakest nine week schedule ever?

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#81 by Crushinator // Nov 06, 2013 - 1:37pm

Actually, the Chiefs schedule might be getting too much credit. They got the Jeff Tuel Bills, the Jason Campbell Browns, the Case Keenum Texans, and the Ryan Fitzpatrick Titans.

Granted some of those guys have outplayed the old incumbents, but if you count Blaine Gabbert, the Chiefs have had 5 of their 9 games against backup QBs.

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#85 by greybeard // Nov 06, 2013 - 2:03pm

I think Tuel and Fitzpatrick will stay as backups and Keenum and Campbell will remain starters.
And to say it makes a difference whether Gabbert or Hanne starts wrt a win against Jags is really splitting hairs.

So Chiefs played agains two backups. And some other teams who played agains Texans (Seahawks, 49ers) should be considered to have taken advantage of inferior QB.

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#89 by Crushinator // Nov 06, 2013 - 2:46pm

It's splitting hairs by win, but by DVOA, the difference between Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert is the same difference as between Chad Henne and Peyton Manning.

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#94 by greybeard // Nov 06, 2013 - 5:01pm

I don't understand your point. The other teams that played with Jags when Hanne was QB should get brownie points?
KC scored 28 points and Jags had 2 points from special teams play. For the win to be considered worthy it had to be by 50 points I guess.

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#101 by Cythammer (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 6:55pm

The general point is that teams have different starting lineups throughout the season as various players are injured and return from injury, which means they vary greatly in quality. DVOA ignores all that. In the case of the Chiefs they've had considerable good luck in facing teams that were starting backups. Look at the Broncos-Jags game. The Broncos won that game with far less ease than was expected (even if it was still a comfortable result), and that might very well have been because Henne was starting instead of Gabbert.

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#111 by Jerry // Nov 07, 2013 - 4:30am

Let's use the Packers as an example. I don't think anyone will dispute that they're a worse team with Wallace at QB than with Rodgers, and DVOA will reflect that. However, if you're evaluating the Packers' season as a whole, it will include the plays that Wallace ran as well as the ones with Rodgers in the lineup.

And while separating plays by quarterback isn't too hard, identifying which wide receivers or defensive linemen are on the field is much more problematic. There have been cases where we could point to a playoff team's DVOA being unrepresentatively low because it included games with an inferior backup quarterback, but that doesn't mean the DVOA wasn't an accurate representation of the team's whole season.

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#84 by greybeard // Nov 06, 2013 - 1:56pm

Here is how hard their schedule was and how hard the other winning teams' schedules:
Here is what it capturs:
X wins
record of opponents that lost to this team
record of opponents that lost minus their performance against this team
Y losses
record of opponents that beat this team
record of opponents that beat minus their performance against this team
record of opponents that played this team
record of opponents that played this team minus their performance against this team

9 Wins
27-40 40%
27-40 40%

7 wins
20-31 39%
2 Losses
5-2 71%
25-33 43%

7 wins
22-29 43%
2 Losses
9-7 56%
31-36 46%

8 wins
24-29 45%
1 Loss
5-2 71%
29-31 48%

6 wins
17-25 42%
2 Losses
10-6 63%
27-31 47%

6 wins
18-24 42%
2 Losses
12-3 80%
30-27 53%

6 wins
27-17 60%
3 Losses
10-12 48%
37-29 56%

Colts 6 wins
26-17 60%
2 Losses
5-10 33%
31-27 53%

Points: 0

#87 by Cuenca Guy // Nov 06, 2013 - 2:20pm

So on win/loss record, their SoS is still the worst. Measuring by DVOA, however, their schedule looks even more terrible.

Points: 0

#100 by greybeard // Nov 06, 2013 - 6:06pm

FWIW, I would say the data suggests to me that their win record is as impressive as Pats, Saints, Seahawks, Denver and 49ers.
They did not have losses because they did not played against a stronger competition. But the other teams (i.e. Pats, Saints, Seahawks, Denver and 49ers) did not get their wins against a harder schedule either.

Also, if they had not played Jags and had a bye week instead, and had a record of 8-0 then their overall SOS (27-32 46%): would have looked as hard as some of the other winning teams (i.e. Pats, Saints, Seahawks, Denver and 49ers).

Just shows you how you can make statistics say whatever you want them to say. In this case one can easily claim that KC had as hard schedule as the league's elite except for one cupcake game. (Just so we re clear I am not suggesting that, 49ers and Seahawks also played Jags, os obviously this is a flawed argument)

Points: 0

#104 by Unanimous (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 8:34pm

I don't think there's any way of making statistics claim that KC has played a hard schedule. Even if you take out Jacksonville entirely from each teams' SOS, they're still the worst, followed by Denver and San Diego, mainly because they've somehow avoided playing each other for half the season.

Points: 0

#54 by CBPodge // Nov 06, 2013 - 7:32am

But then bare in mind that every Broncos game this season has involved commentary on how they are breaking some record or other for most something or other through week whatever. So it's interesting to have the commentary on it to see how DVOA rates them.

I imagine a blowout or two in the next couple of weeks will see them shoot up the charts. Anything less, and they will fall off the all-time one.

The Chiefs game will be an interesting mark for it - DVOA doesn't like the Chiefs this year, but if the Broncos batter them it'll be interesting to see how closely DVOA and common perception (which would be OMG THE BRONCOS BATTERED THE UNBEATABLE CHIEFS!) come to each other.

Points: 0

#64 by Lyford // Nov 06, 2013 - 9:35am

common perception (which would be OMG THE BRONCOS BATTERED THE UNBEATABLE CHIEFS!)

Is there really a common perception that the Chiefs are unbeatable? Everyone that I talk to thinks that they're a schedule fluke and fully expects the Broncos to dominate them. The only team they've played that's better than .500 is the 5-4 Cowboys. The Titans are at .500, everyone else on their schedule so far is worse. Their opponents' cumulative record is 27-49. I don't know of anyone that thinks KC is a great team or better than the Broncos.

Points: 0

#102 by Cythammer (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 7:04pm

I had already written up a comment agreeing with you, but on looking at the ESPN power rankings, I see the Chiefs are actually ranked first. The Colts actually went up a spot after their weak performance against a bad Texans' team, so the Broncos are in third. ESPN's power rankings are determined by vote, so it's probably a fairly decent approximation of conventional wisdom.

Points: 0

#66 by intel_chris (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 10:24am

Unless the phase in of opponent adjustments is being done differently this year than it was historically, e.g. the historical measurements include opponent adjustments at full strength while this year's Broncos have/had only partial strength adjustments, then the comparison after N weeks was still valid. Presuming that opponent adjustments were not done differently, I don't think it would be very strange for the Broncos to end the year back near the best total DVOA. In other words, if the telemetry we collect to predict the final DVOA for a team is the same between the data being measured, then it shouldn't matter that we only have partial data. The noise in the data should be the same in both cases, provided that it is just noise, and not some systematic difference, such as using different formulas for different years' worth of data.

Points: 0

#68 by nat // Nov 06, 2013 - 11:09am

FO did it wrong the first time they did it, and then corrected things. They're comparing apples to apples now.

What's different about this year is that Denver has had a very weak early schedule (as have KC and SD). So, to the extent that the slow phase in of opponent adjustments warps the results - which it does - Denver's numbers were more affected than most (maybe all?) of the teams they were being compared to. That effect is 90% gone now, which is (part of) why Denver is now revealed to be a run-of-the-mill DVOA leader, not a historic one.

Denver is 32% off the pace that NE 2007 set. Of course, the Patriots faded that year to a "mere" 52.9% DVOA. So Denver could get there by booking something like a 60-70% DVOA for the rest of the season. Sure, that could happen. But then again, the same could be said of just about every year in NFL history: if the first half DVOA leader finished the season as well as the 2007 Patriots started theirs, it would have set records.

Whoopdee-doo. Nothing special going on with team DVOA here.

Points: 0

#78 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 06, 2013 - 1:01pm

Thing is, it's the defense dragging Denver down. And we only expect that to improve as injured/suspended starters return.

Points: 0

#44 by kamiyu206 // Nov 05, 2013 - 11:31pm

Peyton Manning is the MVP, but not the OPOY? OK, I know it happened before, but I don't buy it this year.

It's not like Megatron is having a season of last year's Adrian Peterson's caliber, when he was head and shoulders above other RBs. (You can argue Jimmy Graham has been almost as valuable as Megatron this season.) Peyton Manning is.

However, maybe FO wanted to put different player on every award.......

Points: 0

#51 by The Hypno-Toad // Nov 06, 2013 - 2:26am

Maybe I'm wrong, but I think those awards are almost always split between two players in the end of year awards. IIRC, even in 2007 Brady won MVP and Moss won OPOY? And if Brady 07 didn't deserve both, it's hard for me to conceive of a season that does.


Nope, I'm dumb. Brady scooped the pot that year. Well... Good for him. As I mentioned above, I believe he deserved it... I feel like there's a joke I should be making at my expense about the inherent lack of meaningful commentary in saying that 07 Brady deserved awards, but I just can't quite put it together.

Points: 0

#55 by CBPodge // Nov 06, 2013 - 7:39am

It isn't officially split, but most voters do tend to vote for MVP, and then vote for OPOY as "the best offensive player who wasn't MVP". Last year Adrian Peterson won both MVP (with 30.5 votes of the 50 votes to Manning's 19.5) and OPOY (getting 36 votes to Manning's 8).

Peterson lost to Manning on Comeback player of the year, with Manning getting 31.5 votes and Peterson getting 18.5. Which seems to imply that most people voted one for MVP, and the other for Comeback Player.

But I imagine for the purposes of Madden they didn't really want to release two cards of the same player!

Points: 0

#52 by Led // Nov 06, 2013 - 7:11am

In the interest of variety, it makes sense to me to treat the MVP as the "best quarterback" award and OPOY as "best non-quarterback offensive player" award. Otherwise the MVP (which should, and usually does, go to the best QB) will virtually always be the OPOY, which is boring.

Points: 0

#56 by Pied // Nov 06, 2013 - 8:02am

Your team is bad? The Colts will beat you. (32, 31, 29)
Your team is good? The Colts will beat you. (1, 2, 6)

Your team is average? The Colts don't stand a chance against you. (15, 17)

Points: 0

#59 by panthersnbraves // Nov 06, 2013 - 8:49am

Now we just have to find a way for them to play the #19 NY Jets on consecutive weeks and see if they split.

Points: 0

#60 by panthersnbraves // Nov 06, 2013 - 9:09am

Looking at next week's CAR/SF game, it would appear that DVOA thinks they are close, with the Panthers having a slight edge in each phase, but with it being @ the 49ers, it should be even.

The results of this game will define the Panthers narrative by the talking heads - if they win, then "the first two games become 'almost wins' against tough teams, and don't forget the Cardinals games was close for a while until they fell to a top-ranked Defense." ... but if they falter, then it is back to "the Panthers can't beat a good team, particularly in close games." Isn't attribution fun!

... and then it starts all over again with the Patriots on MNF the next week!

(I'm not sure I'm cut out for their DVOA to be so high!)

Points: 0

#62 by panthersnbraves // Nov 06, 2013 - 9:17am

I was looking at the playoff odds and for some reason, the Panthers' odds of winning the SB are better that the Saints, even though the odds of getting there are worse. Any explanations on those, or is is this a case of "It is what it is"?

Points: 0

#65 by DisplacedPackerFan // Nov 06, 2013 - 9:37am

Using DVOA, Carolina is a better team than NO, but NO has a one game lead in the division and thus a 10% better chance of making the play offs. But if Carolina makes the playoffs, and then makes the Super Bowl, being the better team they have a better chance of winning it. Basically it boils down to, NO is likely to get there more often in the simulations simply because they make the playoffs more often and have a better seed when they do, but they lose it more frequently than Car does so Car has a better chance of winning.

Points: 0

#75 by panthersnbraves // Nov 06, 2013 - 12:49pm

Thanks. That makes perfect sense.

Points: 0

#80 by QCIC (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 1:24pm

That usually means DVOA sees them as the better team, but sees their odds of getting a decent playoff seed as worse due to games previously played and future schedule.

Points: 0

#69 by MilkmanDanimal // Nov 06, 2013 - 11:30am

#23, 0-8.


Points: 0

#70 by hrudey (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 11:44am

Jacksonville is clearly ranked too high because they have reserve linebackers losing fights to British security guards and a star WR that just got locked down by Open Date. Jar Jar Binks: The Musical is muy muy bombad better than this. blayne gibbert tried out to be stromtrooper in new starwers movie but didn't get job cuz not able to match stormtrooper accuracy with blaster lol.

Points: 0

#79 by justme_cd // Nov 06, 2013 - 1:18pm

Sometimes this form can become stale for me. This was not one of those times.

Points: 0

#93 by Lance // Nov 06, 2013 - 4:48pm

I don't even get what this means, but it makes me laugh.

Points: 0

#72 by georgebowles (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 12:12pm

Da Bearss

Points: 0

#73 by MJK // Nov 06, 2013 - 12:17pm

There's a lot of talk about how easy the Chief's schedule has been. Didn't the Colts have some ridiculously easy schedule through the first nine weeks a few years ago? Wasn't that what prompted FO to develop DVOA 2.0 with an iteration on opponent adjustments?

How does the Colts schedule through nine weeks that year compare to the Chief's schedule so far this year?

Points: 0

#74 by Perfundle // Nov 06, 2013 - 12:42pm

"Didn't the Colts have some ridiculously easy schedule through the first nine weeks a few years ago?"


Apparently not. In fact, the weakest schedule at that time is still stronger than Kansas City's right now.

Points: 0

#83 by nat // Nov 06, 2013 - 1:51pm

Back in 2005, the Colts had a pre-week-10 record of 8-0 with a top DVOA and a SoS of -17.3%, only topped (bottomed?) by Tampa Bay's -18.0%.

So KC's -18.4% SoS is not a complete outlier. But it's still the weakest mid-season strength of schedule I can find. I emailed the FO team. I hope they can get us an answer about historical mid-season SoS numbers.

I'm pretty sure that the switch to second-order adjustments came at the start of that season. The end of that season still reported 1st-order DVOA as a column in the table.

Points: 0

#91 by Aaron Brooks G… // Nov 06, 2013 - 3:30pm

I see -21.1% for 2005 Indy (and -21.2% for TB that year) for week 9 DVOA. Indy had played the dumpster fire that was the 2005 49ers, as well as Houston and Tennessee. TB had played both the 2005 Lions and 49ers.

A good way to find low SOSs is to look at teams that show up fighting the Jags for worst DVOA through week 9...

Points: 0

#92 by nat // Nov 06, 2013 - 4:03pm

They numbered weeks differently back then. Week 9 was the article that came out before the week 9 games, not after them. The week 10 article came out after week 9, and was the midpoint of the season.

You can double check by looking at the W-L records.

Points: 0

#77 by JPW (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 1:01pm

The Broncos have an estimated win total of 8.9 games.
...but they've only played 8 games.

How can they have an estimated win total of more games than they've even played?

I think you likely applied the estimated wins for all teams out of nine games, forgetting to take into account the actual number of games played.

Just an observation.
Keep up the good work.

Points: 0

#86 by Eddo // Nov 06, 2013 - 2:20pm

That's exactly what has happened.

From the article itself (emphasis mine):

"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.""

Points: 0

#88 by Perfundle // Nov 06, 2013 - 2:41pm

Given that comparing actual wins to estimated wins is not feasible for the teams that have had byes, I wonder if it would cut down on questions of this sort every single week if the estimated wins were instead extrapolated to 16 games instead of to the number of weeks. Then it would be very clear what was going on, and as a bonus, it would be easier to relate to; 10.6 wins out of 16 is clearer than 6.6 wins out of 10, for instance. To make it possible to compare estimated wins and actual wins, you could extrapolate the actual wins over 16 games as well.

Points: 0

#90 by Cuenca Guy // Nov 06, 2013 - 3:08pm

That's a good idea. You do lose the ability to compare it to games played, however. Of course, the bye makes that confusing at best right now.

Points: 0

#96 by Burbman (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 5:43pm

So how is Tampa Bay doing on the best all time winless teams through nine weeks list?

Points: 0

#97 by Gaucho (unregi… (not verified) // Nov 06, 2013 - 5:50pm

The NY Giants is clearly ranked too low because it is in a 3-week not-losing streak, BEST IN THE POWERFUL ALL-MIGHTY NFC EAST. My own bias is way better than this. WERE GONNA BE THE FRSIT 11-9 SUEPROBWL CHAPMINOS!

Points: 0

#105 by Purds // Nov 06, 2013 - 10:40pm

I am not a mathematician, so I need some help with a solution, but I wonder if we can create a second way to judge strength of schedule, one that doesn't over value outlying teams. Let me give examples that will explain what I mean:

Using just average DVOA of opponents, one team could play one terrible team of -30% DVOA and five +6% teams, and the average SOS is 0% DVOA. A second team could play one great team of +30% DVOA and five -6% teams, also with an average of 0% DVOA.

So, on the surface, it seems like both teams play the same strength of schedule. One could reasonably argue, however, that the second team has a much better chance at having a good record than the first. The first team beats one bad team and then loses 5 close games against better opponents. The second team gets crushed by one great team, and then wins 5 close games. So, it might be reasonable to expect that these two teams would have very, very different schedules and records, even with the same average DVOA.


Points: 0

#106 by JIPanick // Nov 06, 2013 - 10:48pm

Estimated wins for an average team, given the schedule played?

Points: 0

#108 by Alternator // Nov 07, 2013 - 2:55am

A +10% DVOA team probably favors the first schedule, since it gives them a better chance to go unbeaten. A +40% DVOA team favors the second, since it's better to have one decent chance at an upset than five long-shots; you'll average out more wins.

Statistics are fun.

Points: 0

#128 by Buck B (not verified) // Nov 10, 2013 - 10:32am

DVOA is a per-play metric. I wonder if per-drive metrics have more predictive power. For example, KC D allows a lot of yards (per play), but is the best at points per drive. KC allows the most rushing yards per play of any team and the least points per game, especially in the 4th quarter. 1.9 PPG in the 4th quarter. An astounding 0.6 PPG in the 4th quarter at home.

But, on a per-play metric KC D is not that special.

Without having done the analysis to check, it feels like the ratio of PF/PA is the single best predictor of future outcomes. To get much better than that requires, I think, an understanding of how the teams match up to each other, specifically, not generally.

It is possible to check which of the many statistical analyses produce the most reliable W-L predictions. I haven't seen that done. Have any of you?

Points: 0

#132 by Perfundle // Nov 12, 2013 - 6:28pm

The ratio of yards per play vs. points per drive is highly dependent on turnovers, so such a team can easily run into trouble against an offense that doesn't turn the ball over. I think yards per drive correlates very nicely with defensive DVOA, with the only thing missing being the opponent adjustments.

Points: 0

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