Week 6 DVOA Ratings

Week 6 DVOA Ratings
Week 6 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

The Arizona Cardinals blew a 10-3 lead against the Pittsburgh Steelers this week and went home with a 25-13 loss. And with that strong loss, the Arizona Cardinals climbed back into the No. 1 spot in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings.

That looks strange, doesn't it? Don't worry, it looks strange to us too, but it was a very strange week.

It's probably wrong to say that the Cardinals climbed into the No. 1 spot in DVOA with a loss. It's more accurate to say that the New England Patriots slipped behind the Cardinals with a very close win. Both Arizona and New England see their DVOA ratings fall from a week ago, but New England's rating falls more for two reasons. First, Arizona's single-game rating for a loss to No. 6 Pittsburgh (11.4%) is higher than New England's single-game rating for a win over No. 19 Indianapolis (5.3%). Second, Arizona adds these plays to data set that included five other games worth of plays. New England adds their plays to a data set that included only four other games worth of plays. With a smaller sample, New England's good-not-great performance drags the Patriots' rating down more than Arizona's good-not-great performance drags their rating down.

These results were part of a week that showed how a team's performance can look different depending on the data you are using. There are a lot of ways to determine how well a team played on Sunday. Obviously, the most important variable is the binary one called "winning the game." That's what determines who gets to go to the playoffs and who wins the Super Bowl. But when we are trying to get a more accurate idea of how good a team really is and how good it is likely to be in the future, it's more accurate to look at points scored and allowed. Even more accurate than that is performance broken down at the play-by-play level. Usually, these two methods will agree. The team that scored more points usually was better at the play-by-play level, and when the scoring gap is bigger, the play-by-play gap is usually bigger. But that's not always the case, and we had a lot of those games this week. There were also a lot of close games where opponent adjustments meant the losing team rose in DVOA while the winning team fell.

I'm going to take a look here at each of these games. I'm listing both DVOA and VOA for each game. However, as with Any Given Sunday each week, the VOA listed here only removes opponent adjustments. Unlike the VOA rating listed on the team DVOA pages, this does not also remove weather/altitude adjustments to special teams, and fumbles are still penalized no matter who recovers.

  DVOA (adjusted) VOA (unadjusted)
PIT 21.7% -2.9% 16.7% 41.3% 5.8% 13.6% 16.7% 9.0%
ARI 15.8% -5.5% -9.9% 11.4% 13.4% 1.0% -9.9% 2.5%

We'll start with the game covered by Andrew Healy in Any Given Sunday. Arizona outgained the Steelers 469-310, but lost on a series of mistakes. Arizona committed the game's only three turnovers and racked up 111 yards in penalties, more than twice as many as Pittsburgh. Right now, the DVOA system does not include most of those penalties, including such things as offensive pass interference, which wiped out a Michael Floyd touchdown right before the half. (Every couple years I go through and test to see if I can figure out a good way to add more penalties to make the DVOA system more accurate, so a chance there is always a possibility for the future.)

  DVOA (adjusted) VOA (unadjusted)
DEN -30.4% -33.4% -11.0% -8.0% -21.3% -36.1% -11.0% 3.8%
CLE -16.6% -10.5% 5.5% -0.6% -36.5% -26.5% 5.5% -4.4%

A close game where the losing team ends up slightly ahead in DVOA because of the opponent adjustments. In addition, Denver recovered both fumbles in this game. One was a muffed punt, which isn't penalized much because it is usually recovered by the punt return team. The other was on a sack of Josh McCown.

  DVOA (adjusted) VOA (unadjusted)
NE 15.6% 14.4% 4.1% 5.3% 19.6% 11.3% 4.1% 12.4%
IND 20.2% -0.2% -2.6% 17.8% 14.6% 15.1% -2.6% -3.1%

Here's another close game where the losing team ends up ahead in DVOA because of the opponent adjustments. This is closer than it seemed for two reasons. First, onside kicks are not included in the special teams rating because they are so rare, and the Patriots were handed great field position in what was essentially a 50-50 toss-up of the officials determining who had recovered the Colts' surprise onside kick in the second quarter. Second, the backdoor cover touchdown by the Colts means just as much as any other touchdown in DVOA; it was indicative of the quality of the Colts offense and the Patriots defense because the game was still winnable by Indianapolis. The weird failed fake punt is counted in the current version of DVOA as just a rushing attempt on fourth down. (Eventually, I hope to remove fake punts and field goals from the regular pass/run stats.)

  DVOA (adjusted) VOA (unadjusted)
DET 1.2% 8.7% -9.5% -17.0% 10.1% 7.2% -9.5% -6.6%
CHI -0.5% 15.8% 11.4% -5.0% 5.0% 8.9% 11.4% 7.5%

This one is odd. Normally, you would expect the Lions to have a better rating when they averaged 7.2 yards per play to just 6.1 yards per play by the Bears. And the Lions do have a slightly better rating, without considering special teams. The difference in special teams comes because the Lions muffed two punts and had zero punt return yards while the Bears got actual yardage on most of their punt returns. And the Bears recovered those muffed punts; doing that twice in a game is pretty rare. But the field-position advantage didn't seem to actually translate into more points for Chicago.

  DVOA (adjusted) VOA (unadjusted)
CAR 5.8% -1.1% 5.5% 12.4% 7.6% 3.0% 5.5% 10.1%
SEA 20.3% 6.5% 2.9% 16.8% 12.3% 5.5% 2.9% 9.8%

This game was pretty much a tie between two good teams. Differences in opponent adjustments are generally caused by run/pass ratios. Yes, Seattle is still in the DVOA top ten despite being 2-4. The losses have been very close, and the system is probably giving the Seahawks too much credit for destroying the Chicago Bears without Jay Cutler in the lineup.

  DVOA (adjusted) VOA (unadjusted)
SF 2.9% 5.2% -4.1% -6.4% 6.6% 2.7% -4.1% -0.1%
BAL -4.8% 8.4% 9.4% -3.7% 7.5% 4.7% 9.4% 12.2%

Here's another one where the difference in VOA is in special teams, and that's almost all because of great punts by Sam Koch. The 49ers gained 7.1 yards but only achieved success on 29 percent of their plays according to our baselines. Most of their offense was three huge pass plays over 50 yards, which tends to be less sustainable over the long term. The Ravens had just 5.6 yards per play but a 53 percent success rate.

This DVOA result, combined with the big loss from Atlanta, helped Baltimore climb into the No. 13 spot in DVOA despite the 1-5 record. The Ravens do have a negative rating, though. Only 12 of 32 teams right now have a positive DVOA. As you would imagine given that there are five undefeated teams and no winless teams, the league looks very top-heavy this year.

  DVOA (adjusted) VOA (unadjusted)
GB 26.0% -0.6% 9.8% 36.4% 33.8% 4.2% 9.8% 39.5%
SD 17.8% 17.3% -7.4% -6.9% 9.0% 27.9% -7.4% -26.3%

I wanted to run this one to show that not all close games are close in DVOA. The Packers gained 7.6 yards per play compared to just 6.2 for San Diego, but the Chargers ran 89 plays and the Packers only 49!

  DVOA (adjusted) VOA (unadjusted)
MIN -54.1% 3.0% 4.4% -52.8% -48.2% -0.1% 4.4% -43.8%
KC 4.1% -35.4% 7.4% 46.9% 7.6% -43.8% 7.4% 58.8%

This is the craziest, kookiest result of all. These ratings look so insane that I had to go back a couple times to make sure I had not made any huge errors. But on a play-by-play basis, the Chiefs completely outplayed the Vikings despite losing 16-10. Kansas City gained 5.8 yards per play with a 47 percent success rate. Minnesota gained only 4.7 yards per play with a 33 percent success rate. However, the Chiefs failed on fourth down twice and lost a fumble while the Vikings recovered their own fumble. The Chiefs had 95 yards of penalties while the Vikings had only 50, and 15 of those were a taunting penalty after the game was effectively over once the Chiefs failed on their final fourth-down attempt. It's also remarkable how much the Chiefs did everything after halftime. Kansas City had 2.6 yards per play and -57.1% DVOA before halftime, then 7.5 yards per play and 35.5% DVOA after halftime. It wasn't enough. But this crazy lopsided "wrong team wins" game is a big reason why the Vikings are by far the lowest winning team, ranked just 26th in total DVOA right now.

* * * * *

Of course, it's extra strange to have a 4-2 team at No. 1 in a year where there are still five undefeated teams after six weeks. In the past couple of weeks, DVOA commentary articles have reported on the odds of teams going undefeated, and you may have noticed that we had those odds much higher than any other site that does similar simulations. This week we realized why our odds of an undefeated team were artificially high, and we've made moves to change that.

This year's playoff odds report, going all the way back to the odds given in Football Outsiders Almanac 2015, have been using what we call a "dynamic" simulation. Historically, our simulations had always ended with too many teams finishing near 8-8, with far higher frequency than the real NFL. Part of the problem was that our previous simulations never accounted for the fact that a win often indicates that a team is better than we thought they were going into the game. The new dynamic simulation added 2.0% DVOA to any team after a win, and subtracted 2.0% DVOA after a loss. This change meant that a team that began the season with a projected DVOA of 20.0% but went 14-2 would end up with a DVOA rating much closer to what we usually see from 14-2 teams.

We continued to include this dynamic aspect in the simulations as we got into the regular season. The problem, however, is that actual DVOA ratings have a much larger spread between low and high during the season than they have in preseason projections. This is particularly true early in the season, although incorporating preseason projections in the DAVE ratings blunts the effect somewhat. However, now a long winning streak wasn't adding 2.0% DVOA each week to a team that started out with a projection around 20%. Sometimes a long winning streak was adding 2.0% DVOA each week to a team that started out in the simulation with a DAVE rating of 41.3%, such as the New England Patriots a week ago. As a result, teams that were projected to start 11-0 or 12-0 were getting into the last month of the season with the simulator projecting their chances of winning each game as if they were better than the 2007 Patriots or 1991 Redskins. Thus, the odds we were getting for teams to go 16-0 were artificially high.

We've corrected this problem this week by altering the dynamic simulation. No longer do all teams get 2.0% DVOA added after a win. Now, the amount of DVOA added after a win is dependent on what the chances of a win were before the game, with between 0% and 3% DVOA added. For example, let's imagine that the playoff odds simulator gave the Patriots a 67 percent chance to beat Indianapolis last week. In that case, a win for the Patriots would raise their DVOA by 1.0% and lower the Colts' DVOA by the same 1.0% before the simulator did the projections for the following week. However, a Colts win would raise their DVOA by 2.0% and lower the Patriots' by 2.0% instead. Underdogs that win get a bigger boost to DVOA than favorites.

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In the long run, of course, a better simulator would simulate not just wins and losses but also how often teams would see their DVOA ratings change in different ways after a win or a loss. However, we won't have time to test and program anything like that until next offseason. For now, we think this fix does a good job of giving a much more accurate picture of how likely teams are to have a 16-0 season. Odds of making the playoffs or winning the Super Bowl don't change very much either way; this really only affected how often the simulations were ending with teams having records on the extremes.

The new playoff odds report uses this new method and the "CHANGE" column is based on the numbers from a simulation of Week 5 that also used this new method, not from the simulation actually posted on the site last week. Our total odds of at least one team going 16-0 are now listed at 11.0 percent. The odds after Week 5, which we listed on the site as 16.4 percent last week, now would be 10.1 percent. Here's a look at how the new method gives the odds for a perfect regular season after Week 4, Week 5, and right now:

Corrected Odds of a 16-0 Season after Week X
16-0 Odds Week 4 Week 5 Week 6
ATL 1.0% 0.7% 0.0%
CAR 0.04% 0.1% 0.4%
CIN 0.6% 0.9% 2.1%
DEN 0.4% 0.2% 0.3%
GB 1.0% 2.8% 4.2%
NE 1.9% 5.8% 4.4%
Any Team 4.9% 10.1% 11.0%

Those numbers use the DAVE ratings as they looked as of each of these weeks; the Patriots chances of a perfect season have dropped between Week 5 and Week 6 because their overall DVOA (and DAVE) rating has dropped.

* * * * *

Once again in 2015, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 16 Ultimate Team. Each week, we'll be picking out a handful of players who starred in that week's games. Some of them will be well-known players who stood out in DVOA and DYAR. Others will be under-the-radar players who only stood out with advanced stats. We'll announce the players each Tuesday in the DVOA commentary article, and the players will be available in Madden Ultimate Team packs the following weekend. We will also tweet out images of these players from the @fboutsiders Twitter account on most Fridays. One player each week will only be available for 24 hours from the point these players enter packs on Friday.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 6 are:

  • QB Philip Rivers, SD (24-HOUR HERO): Led all quarterbacks with 259 DYAR, best single game by a quarterback so far this season. 503 passing yards against the No. 4 DVOA pass defense in Green Bay.
  • LOLB Shaquil Barrett, DEN: 1.5 sacks, forced fumble, PD, and three run TFL. 8 of his 10 defensive plays stopped offenses short of a successful play.
  • RG Willie Colon, NYJ: No sacks allowed. Helped Jets running backs gain 88 yards on 12 carries up the middle. Key blocks included a 23-yard screen pass to Chris Ivory and a 54-yard Ivory run.
  • WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU: Fourth among all wide receivers in Week 6 with 59 DYAR (10-for-15, 148 yards, 2 TD).
  • ILB Christian Kirksey, CLE: 9 total tackles including 3 that prevented conversions after third-down completions.

* * * * *

All stats pages are now updated with Week 6 information including FO Premium, snap counts and playoff odds.

* * * * *

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through six weeks of 2015, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for strength of schedule and to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are only at 60 percent strength; they will increase 10 percent every week through Week 10. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE. 

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

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

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

1 ARI 45.3% 2 35.4% 2 4-2 23.6% 3 -19.9% 4 1.8% 13
2 NE 44.4% 1 37.5% 1 5-0 32.8% 1 -3.7% 8 7.9% 3
3 GB 39.3% 3 33.6% 3 6-0 21.3% 4 -14.9% 6 3.1% 8
4 CIN 33.5% 4 28.3% 4 6-0 32.3% 2 2.3% 16 3.4% 7
5 NYJ 26.9% 6 19.6% 5 4-1 5.4% 10 -29.4% 2 -7.9% 31
6 PIT 20.9% 5 17.4% 6 4-2 19.8% 5 -0.4% 14 0.7% 16
7 PHI 17.1% 12 15.2% 7 3-3 -5.1% 20 -20.7% 3 1.4% 14
8 BUF 13.4% 7 9.7% 9 3-3 12.4% 6 -1.6% 10 -0.6% 20
9 SEA 12.0% 9 14.5% 8 2-4 1.3% 12 -1.1% 12 9.7% 1
10 CAR 11.1% 11 7.1% 11 5-0 2.1% 11 -15.9% 5 -6.8% 30
11 DEN 6.3% 10 7.7% 10 6-0 -27.9% 32 -31.2% 1 3.0% 9
12 NYG 3.2% 8 2.0% 12 3-3 -0.9% 14 -1.5% 11 2.7% 10
13 BAL -0.5% 16 0.7% 13 1-5 -1.6% 16 5.2% 18 6.3% 4
14 ATL -1.6% 13 -0.9% 15 5-1 8.8% 7 5.9% 20 -4.5% 27
15 WAS -2.8% 15 -6.1% 20 2-4 -4.1% 18 -0.6% 13 0.7% 17
16 OAK -2.9% 17 -4.7% 18 2-3 -2.5% 17 3.9% 17 3.5% 6
17 STL -3.7% 18 -0.6% 14 2-3 -20.0% 30 -14.4% 7 1.9% 11
18 KC -4.3% 23 -2.5% 16 1-5 -0.6% 13 7.3% 24 3.6% 5
19 IND -6.5% 22 -4.1% 17 3-3 -1.2% 15 6.6% 21 1.3% 15
20 CLE -7.8% 19 -8.3% 21 2-4 -6.9% 23 10.0% 28 9.1% 2
21 SD -8.3% 20 -5.6% 19 2-4 6.7% 9 8.7% 26 -6.3% 29
22 MIA -10.5% 29 -8.7% 22 2-3 -4.4% 19 8.0% 25 1.9% 12
23 TEN -13.2% 14 -13.8% 26 1-4 -12.5% 27 -3.2% 9 -4.0% 25
24 DAL -14.5% 24 -11.3% 23 2-3 -6.1% 21 6.8% 22 -1.6% 22
25 NO -16.1% 26 -12.4% 24 2-4 6.8% 8 19.3% 32 -3.6% 23
26 MIN -20.3% 21 -13.4% 25 3-2 -15.3% 29 5.4% 19 0.4% 18
27 JAC -22.1% 25 -21.2% 28 1-5 -6.2% 22 9.8% 27 -6.0% 28
28 TB -24.6% 27 -21.7% 29 2-3 -22.7% 31 1.4% 15 -0.5% 19
29 DET -25.0% 28 -19.6% 27 1-5 -11.3% 26 12.2% 29 -1.5% 21
30 CHI -25.7% 30 -21.9% 31 2-4 -7.4% 24 14.5% 30 -3.8% 24
31 HOU -25.9% 31 -21.8% 30 2-4 -10.2% 25 7.0% 23 -8.7% 32
32 SF -36.3% 32 -30.2% 32 2-4 -13.0% 28 19.1% 31 -4.2% 26
  • 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 ARI 45.3% 4-2 49.8% 4.9 5 -14.3% 31 4.5% 8 15.6% 26
2 NE 44.4% 5-0 42.5% 6.0 1 -1.8% 20 2.8% 13 5.5% 6
3 GB 39.3% 6-0 40.1% 5.8 3 -11.0% 28 -7.1% 27 3.6% 4
4 CIN 33.5% 6-0 33.4% 5.4 4 1.6% 13 1.1% 15 8.0% 12
5 NYJ 26.9% 4-1 36.7% 6.0 1 -2.1% 22 2.7% 14 7.3% 9
6 PIT 20.9% 4-2 19.4% 4.0 6 6.8% 6 5.5% 5 13.9% 21
7 PHI 17.1% 3-3 16.5% 3.8 7 -0.8% 19 4.0% 9 16.1% 27
8 BUF 13.4% 3-3 19.3% 2.7 18 8.5% 5 3.5% 12 15.1% 24
9 SEA 12.0% 2-4 10.5% 3.4 10 4.9% 10 -0.8% 19 10.5% 18
10 CAR 11.1% 5-0 21.9% 3.8 8 -15.3% 32 -1.9% 22 1.1% 1
11 DEN 6.3% 6-0 20.1% 3.6 9 -10.1% 27 8.2% 3 1.7% 3
12 NYG 3.2% 3-3 2.4% 3.3 11 -4.1% 23 1.1% 16 7.5% 10
13 BAL -0.5% 1-5 2.2% 3.1 13 2.3% 12 5.5% 6 1.5% 2
14 ATL -1.6% 5-1 4.5% 3.1 12 -6.5% 24 -14.2% 32 7.1% 8
15 WAS -2.8% 2-4 -6.8% 2.8 16 5.2% 9 -0.6% 18 10.5% 19
16 OAK -2.9% 2-3 -1.5% 2.9 14 1.1% 17 0.9% 17 15.2% 25
17 STL -3.7% 2-3 -10.2% 2.6 21 23.0% 1 -7.8% 29 9.1% 16
18 KC -4.3% 1-5 -3.2% 2.2 23 1.2% 16 -1.5% 21 13.6% 20
19 IND -6.5% 3-3 -12.9% 2.2 24 3.9% 11 -7.6% 28 5.5% 7
20 CLE -7.8% 2-4 -5.6% 2.7 17 1.4% 15 12.1% 1 14.0% 22
21 SD -8.3% 2-4 -12.5% 2.8 15 6.8% 7 -6.1% 26 7.8% 11
22 MIA -10.5% 2-3 -3.4% 2.6 20 0.4% 18 8.5% 2 29.6% 30
23 TEN -13.2% 1-4 -16.2% 2.6 19 -7.2% 25 -3.7% 23 37.8% 32
24 DAL -14.5% 2-3 -21.6% 1.7 27 9.4% 4 7.5% 4 9.0% 15
25 NO -16.1% 2-4 -20.8% 1.9 25 5.5% 8 -10.7% 31 8.0% 13
26 MIN -20.3% 3-2 -4.0% 2.3 22 -13.5% 30 5.0% 7 21.5% 28
27 JAC -22.1% 1-5 -20.4% 1.6 28 -2.0% 21 -4.5% 25 5.3% 5
28 TB -24.6% 2-3 -23.2% 1.8 26 -13.2% 29 -3.7% 24 30.4% 31
29 DET -25.0% 1-5 -25.9% 1.1 32 1.6% 14 -1.4% 20 8.1% 14
30 CHI -25.7% 2-4 -27.7% 1.6 29 10.7% 3 -9.6% 30 15.1% 23
31 HOU -25.9% 2-4 -20.5% 1.5 30 -8.0% 26 3.6% 10 9.7% 17
32 SF -36.3% 2-4 -36.5% 1.3 31 14.7% 2 3.5% 11 25.4% 29


159 comments, Last at 06 Mar 2018, 8:16am

#1 by Mountain Time … // Oct 20, 2015 - 9:09pm

I believe I speak for every FO reader (except possibly RaiderJoe) when I say I hope the unforeseen circumstances aren't anything serious, and that you have license to take as long as you need getting everything written and posted to the site!

And I believe I speak for RaiderJoe when I say radesbset tema in afc wesd, d.car in pro bol. Raidara win supe bowl 2016 at lattest!

Points: 0

#122 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:17pm

Your post reminds me of a great scene from a Woody Allen movie, back when Woody Allen made great movies. Involves a play on the contraction of "Did you?".

Points: 0

#4 by Bobman // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:09am

Whew, what a relief that after six weeks the Colts are... about average. Based on what I had seen in both early losses AND wins, well, let's just say reports of their demise seemed UNDER-emphasized.

With Luck on the mend, Gore looking like Gore, and a DL that is amazingly well regarded here (all new: two rookies plus FA signing--maybe Grigson is not a total stiff), I'm hopeful that they break into the top 10 by season's end. That would be a huge improvement from where they started, but could be attainable.

Looks like a #4 seed is highly likely, so I really have to hope the best matchup of superior AFC undefeateds wins out. I know I am putting the cart before the horse(shoe) but in the AFCS you can usually take such liberties.

Speaking of AFC undefeateds, it's surreal and a bit sad to see where Peyton currently ranks.

Points: 0

#99 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:51pm

maybe Grigson is not a total stiff

I think there's a lot of evidence that both he and Pagano have made giant strides and have improved year over year since taking over there. (Which is why it's kind of depressing that they have this rift between them. Especially having seen their initial chemistry.) Judging by process only, it's hard to fault any of his big off-season moves, even if every single one of those older guys totally fails. You can only draft so many players, and in a weak AFC it's worth taking a shot. Calculated risk with easy to shed contracts, and so OK, Cole is invisible, Johnson looks old, etc... who cares? Two years ago this guy was paying big bucks to Cherilus, Walden, and Landry.

I've never fully bought into the "he has totally failed to build the OL and D" line (though I don't disagree that those are the weaknesses) just because it ignores just how much of a role luck and availability play in that. Those who hated the Dorsett pick are basically advocating that they drafted for need, which has been proven time and again to be pretty dumb. Plus they were way at the back of the first round. Obviously if you can guarantee to me that Malcom Brown or the safety the Giants took was going to be a superstar, the Dorsett pick was dumb, but you can't prove that...

and for all that complaining, he got two kids out of Stanford in the third and fifth that are starting due to merit, not injury. Isn't that what you want from a GM, to be able to find the talent beyond those obvious first rounders?

As for the OL, I just look at some of the total whiffs on the consensus top of draft guys and the state of the league OL play in general and throw my hands up in the air. There's no easy answer there, including a #1 overall pick. It's about coaching, I guess. If even a middling former O Lineman can't make it work, we're probably pretty stupid to assume that there's a way anyone can snap their fingers and do it.

I'm not trying to stand up for him here by any means. But I'm not convinced he's a terrible GM any more than I'm convinced that Schneider is an amazing one. (Let me qualify that: I have nothing bad to say about him. He found some great defensive talent at great spots in the draft, and that's exactly what we want; I'm just not going to anoint him because Wilson happened to be there in the 3rd and then happened to turn out to be exceptional. For as good as that D is, the last three years of history probably has a lot more 7-9 to 9-7 in it if, say, someone else ran the Jags and they skipped Gabbert and went for Wilson with their 2012 2nd rounder or something.) No GM gets everything right, and Luck fell into his lap and he deserves no credit at all for that... but he has done plenty of things right and has learned from the things he did wrong. Three years in, is that really so bad?

I'm as impatient as anyone, and I hate that they've wasted the cap flexibility given them by the rookie Luck contract, but I'm just not ready to blame the GM without a pretty convincing list of realistic alternative moves he could've made that'd have them in a more dominant position. Elite pass rushers and safeties don't grow on trees. One each of those and replacing Jackson with someone that could move and that suddenly looks like a worthy contending team (if you assume the OL and O itself will improve, which I think is still a good bet).

Now... all that said, if you wanted to say that Richardson for a first in a deep draft is still a near-fireable offense on its own, I can't really argue with you.

Points: 0

#108 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 5:23pm

In addition to the Richardson catastrophe, my issue with Grigson is this. Since drafting Luck, the Colts have had 12 picks in rounds 1-4. They have used a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th on offensive linemen. They drafted a once in a generation talent to a team with a horrid offensive line, and then didn't make building the offensive line the top priority. If I'm Luck, I'm not looking to hitch the balance of my career to that decisionmaker. I'd want out, and I'd instruct my agent accordingly. With so much money on the line, there is no room for anything but cold calculation. His window of time, in terms of market power, is not huge. One significant injury, or significant performance decline due to nonstop pressure (and we may be seeing a combination of both right now), and his market power starts to drop. It isn't hyperbole to say that there could be 200 million dollars or more riding on getting to the optimal situation for Luck.

Points: 0

#109 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 6:33pm

OK, but in those rounds those years, was there a great lineman available to them that they didn't take?

This is as much an honest question (as in: I am sure there are some I'm forgetting) as a "challenge," but other than not taking a flyer on La'el Collins (which I think every team was stupid to do by the end of day 3), was there some stud that they bypassed?

I know that there was major discussion about Cordy Glenn when he didn't get picked in the first round of Luck's draft, but ultimately they decided on Fleener due to questions about whether Glenn could cut it at tackle. I bet they'd like to have that one back, even with as comfortable as Fleener made Luck at first.

But this goes back to the drafting for need comment. Unless they're sure things, it's entirely possible that using half or more of those 12 picks would just have been total wastes. Hell, Polian spent much of the 06-09 drafts on linemen and whiffed on every one of them except Castonzo. And that was with Howard Mudd as his line coach.

I guess I've yet to be convinced that making that a priority in a draft has any real correlation to actually succeeding in that pursuit, which is the primary reason why all the best GMs stick to BPA rather than need picks.

(I'm also of the opinion that Luck is at fault for a lot of the hits he takes and that having a dominant line is slightly overrated, but that's another discussion entirely, and it also doesn't conflict with the idea that having a total disaster of an OL is still a very bad thing. Just that my baseline for what constitutes competent is probably lower than others.)

What would be the optimal situation, though, if we're allowed to pretend Luck won't get franchise tagged three years in a row if necessary? Dalton has it pretty damn good in Cincy... who else has a top tier pass blocking line (but also would be seeking a QB)?

The Jets, I suppose...

(Perhaps that speaks to my other point - there just seems to be so few good linemen available these days.)

Points: 0

#112 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 6:46pm

You aren't looking for studs in the third or fourth rounds. When I have time, I'll go look at which o-linemen were drafted after Luck, and see how they have done.

If I'm Luck, I mostly just ant to get to a team with a track record of decent roster management, and a good coach. Most of those have their qbs already, of course.

Points: 0

#116 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 8:36pm

Aside from Green Bay and New England, what teams can we say with certainty have that track record and can attribute it to a repeatable skill?

I'm not saying that to suggest that the Colts are among the top X teams, mind you... I just think that with the notable exceptions of the teams that always reach for mediocre QBs every three years, everyone else is pretty tightly bunched together. For every excellent 1-53 roster like Seattle and SF, there are still things that make it easier (getting lucky with Wilson, more specifically when they got him, his salary being so low, etc) or things that go wrong - Baalke and York vs Harbaugh (no blame assigned on the retirement exodus), still not really having gotten a top QB, etc. And just as with our other discussion of intelligence, it's sort of tough to measure them. Obviously there's the ultimate wins and losses, but how to assign credit to what leads to that... Surely some great plans by smart men have been foiled by a lack of availability, bad luck, or other factors, while mediocre plans by ordinary men have been rewarded by luck and/or an otherworldly talent. (Grigson?)

The fun part about discussing front offices is that even the good ones have notable whiffs in the drafts, and typical fans know even less about the GM and his process than we do about the coach. So the criticism is even more uninformed and ex post facto results-oriented (I'll defer to you on whether I used that latin correctly) than, say, arguing over whether Flacco is elite. We can (and people have) point our fingers at Polian, Wolf, Accorsi, Colbert, and even Ozzie (ah, forgot Baltimore up above) and make an argument about ways they've failed. And other than the equivelent of "scoreboard," the response is going to be equally uninformed, as perhaps the process that led to a missed pick or a bad player was sound.

Put more simply, we can't say for sure that Grigson hasn't wanted to build from the line out the whole time, but had to sigh and stick to the BPA guns every time they were on the clock because the guys he liked were gone already. Every time. It's possible. (For instance: Amini Silatolu. Grigson loved him. Had his eyes on him the whole time, but Hurney - who was fired shorty after - grabbed him early at 40. Maybe if that doesn't happen, the Colts have a mauler in the middle but no Dwayne Allen. At 34 (or even 64) I don't blame anyone for thinking that a guy out of Midwestern St was a reach, though.) Same with the free agents. Cherilus was a dumb signing (but even that one could've worked out, absent health issues... maybe) but maybe that was the best player willing to talk to them for under 75 million bucks. [Insert your favorite GM] could have faced that exact same problem. Without seeing a draft board - which could reveal that someone is just way out of whack with his scouting and grading systems - we can never know the process. Plenty of GMs have a great plan, starting with "get a good QB" but simply don't ever get the opportunity to get that QB. Maybe Grigson's plan was the OL all along but he just hasn't had the opportunity. I doubt that Didi Grigorius was even Brian Cashman's Plan C or D for post-Jeter, even with years to prepare. It's just that opportunities were limited.

Yes, I realize that that's a real reach, given that there have been 4 drafts now. But it's easy to say "he screwed up" without saying how it could've actually been done better at the time. It's that second half of that sentence that interests me. I'd rather have the guy who sticks to good principles than the guy who reaches for Locker or Gabbert.

(And that's to say nothing of the fact that maybe all their O Lineman are very talented and capable but could be getting horribly coached. Or that a fair amount of the blame for Luck's hits lies with himself and Pep Hamilton. Etc.)

I'm enjoying the fact that this is sort of a reversal of the coach conversation yesterday... I guess the tl;dr version is: in that position, since 2012, how might you have realistically addressed the OL differently? I think that even with the benefit of hindsight, it's really difficult to say.

Points: 0

#119 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:04pm

I think drafting as the Colts have, rounds 1-4 for o-linemen, is what teams with even good offensive lines should do. It's about 22% of your starting lineup, excluding special teams, and it comprises the people who have the most direct impact on your most important player. The Patriots, for instance have taken the same amount of o-limemen as the Colts have, rounds 1-4, since 2012. When you just drafted a guy who you sincerely hope will be playing qb for you for the nest 15 years, and your o-line is abominable, I think you may wish to overload. It's not as if you can really precisely know if the 96th player on your board, a running back, is significanyly better than the 112th player on your board, a guard. BPA is essential in the 1st round, it seems to me, but after that you have tobalance your judgement of BPA with an acknowledgement that you really don't have the ability to make super judgements between prospects' chances.

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#117 by Anon Ymous // Oct 21, 2015 - 8:38pm

"which is the primary reason why all the best GMs stick to BPA rather than need picks."

I'm not sure how much stock I put into this. Generally speaking, you can do a pretty good job of predicting the position chosen in the first round simply by looking at roster holes. If they go in a different direction you will almost always find A) the player selected was also at a position of need and B) the need you had higher is addressed shortly thereafter.

Most of my fan experience relates to the Patriots and I can say with confidence that Belichick's drafts follow this model. Other than inexplicably refusing to draft an edge defender in the latter 00s, avoiding CB this year and bypassing TE last year, pretty much every top need is addressed either in the first round or with a double dip by the 4th.

I'm not saying he promotes a middling prospect simply by virtue of playing the right position, but if need isn't a stand alone criterion, it is clearly a big part of BPA.

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#118 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 8:49pm

Belichick's understanding of other teams' needs goes a bit deeper than with most other GMs/coaches.

But yeah, to some extent they are all aware of that, no doubt.

Still, you just said it yourself - he addresses need by double dipping in the fourth, not by reaching in the 1st or 2nd. (Or worse, by foolishly trading up.) Their biggest need was a DB and he took a DT. Then after a safety at 64, a pair of DEs.

Actually that's a pretty strong criteria for separating the wheat from the chaff - just the ones that have the discipline and sense to trade down and accumulate as opposed to pay to trade up. That alone is a repeatable skill. More picks = more lottery tickets. Having 4 late round no-name tackles is twice as likely to produce a good fit with your coach and your scheme than having 2 late-round no-name tackles.

If we're being honest about attempts to fill needs, I think the more egregious failure has been at middle linebacker. Jackson can tacklet but that's it. And while I can't say anything bad about Freeman, there's little good to be said either other than that he has been a great value. And nothing at all ha sbeen done to address the coverage over the middle. (It's funny... during the previous era, the Colts had LBs like Cato June and Gary Brackett who could defend the pass but not the run. Now they sort of have the opposite. Irving and Sio Moore could be promising, I guess.)

Let's also keep in mind that even if you do draft for need and you do find a stud at that position, he's still going to be a rookie. The better approach is to anticipate the need a year or two in advance. There are exceptions, of course, as even some late-round and UFAs make immediate impacts every year.

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#124 by Rich A // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:59pm

Has anyone read "The War Room"? It's a book which is all about the 2006 Patriots Draft.

I read it in 2010 and so I may still have the epub file kicking around somewhere but I'm pretty sure there was a lot of debate about which RB to take.

I think on their board they had a need of RB and they had MJD and Maroney ranked the same and so they took Maroney shortly after his teammate but before MJD. I think. I don't remember and I'm too lazy to actually look up the proper order.

My point is that in the first round the Patriots try to fit both need and BPA.

In regards to the Maroney selection I believe it was Pioli who really wanted him and so Belichick deferred to him.

I'd really highly suggest reading it if you want to know more about the dynamics in play between Belichick and Pioli. I have no idea if it would be similar between Belichick and Caserio.

I wish I could remember more details to relay here.

Lastly, I find it interesting that the Patriots are often accused of so much subterfuge when as a team they are one of the most open and documented teams. Belichick was taped and video'd for a whole year for his documentary, he is constantly doing Belistrators and other film review each week on the Patriots website, they have numerous books where authors have documented conversations and interactions, and Belichick can discuss football history with the very best of him. I don't know if they'd ever be on Hard Knocks or not but I think it's certainly within the realm of possibility if they could control the message/spin a bit.

Points: 0

#127 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 22, 2015 - 12:59am

If Michael Holley had written the Brady-Manning book instead of Gary Myers it would've been excellent instead of reading like a 5th grade C student wrote it.

That and Patriot Reign are EXCELLENT looks into the front offices of several teams. It had a great pre-hire look at several other up and comers like Les Snead and Phil Emery as well.

I really wish Emery had worked out. I really liked him. Especially since he had so many different perspectives including that of strength coach. I had such high hopes for him and Trestman working together. Sigh...

I consider that book a must-read for anyone who has been a fan of football through the last 15 years.

I remember that draft... feels like ages ago. It was back when I used to pay attention to college football. I LOVED Maroney. Didn't have much of an opinion of Addai. That one made me upset when the Pats got him, but worked out well enough...

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#133 by Anon Ymous // Oct 22, 2015 - 9:18am

It isn't just 2006 either.

2004, lose Washington, draft Wilfork in the first and another DT in the second.
2005, have no one at LG, draft Mankins in the first round
2006, lose Graham and draft a TE in the 3rd and 4th
2007, Rodney injured in consecutive years and Wilson failing, take Meriweather in the first
2008, lose Samuel and little at LB, Mayo first and CBs in 2nd and 4th
2010, no TEs, Gronk/Hernandez
2011, questions about Light's return and virtually no depth at RB, Solder first and Vereen/Ridley in 2nd/3rd
2012, lost both DEs signed the year before, Jones in first and Bequette in 3rd

And on and on. I can honestly say that, despite knowing nothing about the college game, I am right about 70% of the time when predicting what positions NE will target in the draft. This isn't a case where NE eschews investing a high pick on a need for two lower ones, the will often invest high *and* double dip.

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#129 by Bright Blue Shorts // Oct 22, 2015 - 4:37am

Re: 108 - Will

I find it interesting that you believe Luck's primary concern should be how much money he can earn from his career.

For me, the primary concern is will this team ever be good enough to win a Super Bowl?

Both perspectives are underpinned by the same point about organisational drafting and set up but very different values about why it's important.

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#132 by aces4me // Oct 22, 2015 - 8:59am

I'm not sure a player should be considering any other factor. His skill are in high demand for a short and unknowable amount of time. He owes his organization nothing and his family and their future everything. Some players can make this a secondary concern due to external factors such as wealthy family or spouse. But it has to be the primary concern for 99.9% of NFL players.

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#138 by Alex51 // Oct 22, 2015 - 11:01am

"I find it interesting that you believe Luck's primary concern should be how much money he can earn from his career."

I'm not sure a player should be considering any other factor. ... Some players can make this a secondary concern due to external factors such as wealthy family or spouse. But it has to be the primary concern for 99.9% of NFL players.

Luck's rookie contract alone will get him $22.1 million. He is the wealthy spouse. That's enough money to live comfortably for several lifetimes. And even if his next contract is only half of what he could make if he maximized his income, he'll make more than enough money to provide for himself and his family for centuries.

I get that money is important, but once you've got as much as he does, you can afford to put that concern on the backburner and focus on career goals like Super Bowl rings.

Points: 0

#140 by Will Allen // Oct 22, 2015 - 11:21am

If he is tying to manage his career like a business, he is now working on getting to the best situation for his third contract. Yeah, I know. He's going to make a of of money regardless. The list of people actually turn down a couple hundred million, to obtain other goals, however, is pretty short. Happily for him, the goal of earnings maximization is in good measure congruent with the goal of winning championships. The worst situation for him is a club where the roster is such that he is exposed to more violent contact than is the norm for an NFL qb. Like playing behind a bad o-line, running an offense with a lot of deep passes.

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#142 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Oct 22, 2015 - 12:36pm

Almost no one manages their career like a business - and the universe of players who have played their entire career without testing FA is not small. Your assertions otherwise are unfounded.

People make career decisions for all sorts of reasons - and very rarely is salary the sole consideration. I see no reason to believe that it's any different for the entire universe of professional athletes.

Points: 0

#143 by Will Allen // Oct 22, 2015 - 1:12pm

Almost no one has the potential of earnings differences of many dozens of millions of dollars, based upon what career decisions they make. I never stated that someone needs to test free agency, but the universe of players who have the leverage similar to that which Luck has at this point in time, is quite small. That was my point. Also, I specifically wrote that there were matters besides salary which were worthy of considation, and in this case, were in good measure congruent with maximizing salary. Thus, on several fronts, it would be inaccurate to imply that I wrote that salary is the "sole consideration" for the "entire universe of professional athletes". You are arguing with something I didn't write.

If you don't think the basis for decisions change, when the effect of those decisions can mean a difference of more than 100 million dollars, compared to when the effect of those decisons can mean a difference of many thousands of dollars, or even tens of thousands of dollars, we will agree to disagree. A guy like Scott Boras has developed a net worth of 100 million dollars because he attracts clients by telling them he will maximize their earnings, and is quite single-minded in pursuing that outcome, with other considerations being quite distant.

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#145 by Alex51 // Oct 22, 2015 - 2:42pm

Let's put it this way: If Luck had to choose between making $80 million over the rest of his career and winning one or two Super Bowls, or making $200 million over the rest of his career and never winning a ring, what do you think he would do?

Now, I know that this is unrealistic. Realistically, he could probably increase his chances at a ring while increasing his earnings. But hypothetically, if he had to choose, I suspect he would pick a Super Bowl ring over an additional gazillion dollars that he's never going to spend.

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#146 by Will Allen // Oct 22, 2015 - 2:58pm

As I've stated, the winning of a championship, while playing well, is likely the lever that would be most powerful at the time his third contract is negotiated.

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#149 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Oct 23, 2015 - 9:38am

Will - you keep mentioning Andrew Luck's earning potential as a point in your favor - it's not.

Studies on wealth and earnings consistently show that once you get up into the upper class, there's almost no changes in quality of life, and happiness with additional earning power.

The difference between Andrew Luck making $150m over his career and $300m will make almost no difference in his life.

Yes he has leverage - we all get that. That doesn't mean that the leverage is useful for getting what he wants - because none of us have any idea what's important to him. Stop pretending you do.

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#150 by Will Allen // Oct 23, 2015 - 9:49am

Of course, I didn't do that. It was something you invented, for some unfathomable reason.

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#144 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 22, 2015 - 2:00pm

Most people do have other concerns besides making money in their careers, that's true. Things like not being consistently hit by 300 pound lineman would be at the top of mine.

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#147 by dmstorm22 // Oct 22, 2015 - 3:48pm

Darrelle Revis has quite successfully run his career like a business... and hey, he still managed to win a Super Bowl.

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#148 by Will Allen // Oct 22, 2015 - 4:30pm

Revis has managed his career as shrewdly as anyone ever has in the NFL, and I'd be surprised if he never reflected upon the possibility that being a great starter for a championship team is very, very, good for business.

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#151 by Independent George // Oct 23, 2015 - 10:32am

And for reasons only partly under his control, Maurice Jones-Drew severely under-earned his true market value over his career.

That's why I don't get upset when players hold out, or demand trades. It's pretty much their only leverage in directing how their career plays out.

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#139 by Will Allen // Oct 22, 2015 - 11:06am

Let me know when you've made a career decision with a potential 200 million dollar swing. Maybe you would put something other than career earnings at top of the hierarchy, but most professional athletes wouldn't, if the alternatives were quite stark, and disparity in earnings that large. What is a little different here is that the athlete needs to take active measures, and perhaps endure a pr hit, to make the alternatives stark. Luck is about at the peak of his market power now, absent starting to win championships while playing great. If he isn't confident that the structure and roster in Indy is ready to obtain those results this year or next (and how could he be?), he needs, if he is to give himself the chance to maximize earnings, which, again, could mean a gain in the range of a couple hundred million dollars, to get to a better structure A.S.A.P., with his next contract.

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#5 by Dan // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:33am

Instead of doing dynamic simulations, what I'd do is add some random factor every team's DVOA at the start of each simulation to account for the fact that current DVOA ratings are only estimates of each team's true DVOA.

For example, the Eagles currently have a 15.2% DAVE. But maybe they're actually a really good 25% DVOA team that has just happened to not quite play up to their true abilities for the first few weeks, or maybe they're actually a mediocre 5% DVOA team that has had a few good games early.

For the first run of the simulation, I'd draw a number from a normal distribution centered at 15.2% - let's say it's 22.4% - and I'd simulate the entire season under the assumption that the Eagles' true ability is 22.4% DVOA. (No dynamic adjustments when the simulation has them winning or losing.) And similarly for every other team.

For the second run of the simulation, I'd draw a new number from that same normal distribution (maybe it's 10.5% this time) and I'd simulate the rest of the season assuming that the Eagles are a 10.5% DVOA team.

Repeat lots of times, and the noise will average out in terms of predicting teams' average performance level, but there will still be a reasonable number of extreme performances (though generally not especially concentrated on any one team).

(You can look at historical data to figure out the standard deviation of the normal distribution that you draw from - one simple option is to just look at the distribution of season-long DVOA minus DAVE through 6 weeks.)

Points: 0

#11 by Mr.Morden // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:58am

I agree. The dynamic simulation as currently conceived makes no sense. Sure, a team winning a game means that maybe it was better all along than you previously thought. But why should that only affect future games? It puts too much weight on the games early in the schedule, if you do it that way. It’s like imposing a constraint on the simulation that a team that’s been winning is in the process of getting better while teams that are losing are getting worse. I don’t think that’s what you want to simulate.

If the issue is that DVOA as measured by the first six games of the season is only an estimate of the underlying DVOA, then just do what you suggest here: add a gaussian random variable to the DVOA for each team for each simulation of the season. The simulations in which the DVOA becomes higher will give more wins and those with a lower DVOA will give fewer wins. But you won’t have this problem of teams on a winning streak getting better and better as they go along.

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#37 by HPaddict // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:06am

While I agree that the current iteration of dynamical simulation leaves much to be desired, I do not agree that it puts too much weight on early games. The problem does not lie in treating past games and future games differently, clearly a proper simulation should respect the arrow of time. The problem lies in the treatment of past games and past future-games, that is games which appear in the past internally in a simulation. A proper simulation should treat them similarly, if not the same; the methodology you agreed with explicitly does not. In that methodology, past future-games are treated differently depending on their original designation of past or future: past games determine the skill through data while future games are already accounted for explicitly through random variable, A proper dynamical simulation would treat past games and past future-games the same by running the DVOA machinery inside of each week, and treating the updated DVOAs as inputs in the standard iterative procedure used to update the opponent adjustment.

This discussion seems to stem from a fundamental philosophical question when working with data: how comfortable am I using frequentist methods and how useful, and tractable, are Bayesian techniques? While I am not particularly comfortable using a random variable to include the effects of future games, I have no issue changing my belief in a team's ability based on a winning, or losing, streak.

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#12 by turbohappy // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:45am

You even have the possibility of including their current variance as controlling how large the spread is.

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#26 by leviramsey // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:25am

I'd perhaps segment historical DVOAs through n games into, say, 20 buckets (e.g. DVOA of between -0.2 and +1.8%) and then randomly choose from the full-season DVOAs that the teams in the bucket had. This neatly avoids adding assumptions about how likely a team with high DVOA after 6 weeks is to decline or get better, it's baked into the historical data.

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#42 by HPaddict // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:14am

I am not confident that DVOA is accurate to 2% even at the end of the season. I'm not particularly confident the accuracy is 10% and by that point I'd guess your boxes are too coarse. They could be made more fine through the inclusion of additional parameters, previous weeks measurement, variance, etc., but that complicates things tremendously.

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#6 by Eleutheria // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:34am

Baltimore is weird this season, I don't know exact numbers, but they probably lost VOA in Pittsburgh and won VOA in half their games that they've lost.

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#8 by Cythammer // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:41am

Wow, Jets are 5th, even in DAVE. Of course, they almost certainly aren't that good. While they're definitely better than they were last year, they can't have changed so much as to be a top five team. So far they've been playing over their heads and will come back to earth as the season comes on.

Anyway, it's a bit surprising to see Arizona jump ahead of NE, but maybe not really shocking. I figured DVOA wouldn't ding Arizona much for losing to the Steelers, since DVOA had Pittsburgh at 5 last week. Meanwhile the Patriots' narrow win over the Colts really is unimpressive, since the Colts haven't even been mediocre so far: two bad losses, then three close wins against the terrible teams of the AFC South.
Of course, what DVOA doesn't know is that the Steelers' were fielding backup QBs on Sunday, while the Colts' rating is depressed by the weeks Luck missed. Those factors are undoubtedly skewing things a little.

It's funny, the NFC East seems like it's a bad division, but right now it has three teams in the top 15, and one team that will massively improve when its major offensive stars return.

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#9 by Led // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:12am

I hope one thing on the Jets that is unsustainable is their world-historically bad punt team. (Note: I have no idea if -10 is even historically bad, but it sure feels like it.) That may settle down eventually, but I've no doubt Edelman is going to kill them on Sunday.

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#73 by mehllageman56 // Oct 21, 2015 - 12:51pm

they can't have changed so much as to be a top five team.

Um, they added Brandon Marshall at wide receiver, benched their young quarterback for a guy who has historically played a little better, signed Carpenter from Seattle to upgrade at guard (he's playing better in their system), used the 6th pick in the draft on the best player in the draft, and rebuilt their secondary. The one signing I was against, Marcus Gilchrist, has worked out well so far. Think about this; the Jets starting corners from the end of last year, Marcus Williams and Darrin Walls, are now their 4th and 5th string guys. And they just got back their third best defensive player from suspension. The defense isn't playing over its head, and FO predicted this. As far as when Fitz goes into the tank, well who knows? Right now they're good enough to soundly beat mediocre to bad teams, but the lone good team they played beat them (Eagles). So they'll take a dip in the rankings after losing this weekend, but somewhere in the top ten looks quite possible for this season.

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#10 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:37am

If you really want to grasp the strangeness of the Vikings/Chiefs game, look at the win probability chart at Pro Football Reference. By the end of the 1st quarter, the Vikings had a 73% chance of winning. With about 7 minutes left in the half, their win probability had climbed to 87%, and at the half, it was at 89%. With 7 minutes left in the third, it was still at 89%, and at the end of the third, it was at 93%. With 12 minutes left, their wim probability was at 99%. With 9 minutes left, it was still at 96%. Then, 45 seconds later, it plummets to 62% (long K.C. td pass), then 173 seconds later, it is back to a 95% win probability. 35 seconds later, it is down to 76%, and then goes back up for the last 4:46, with one more small dip to 84%, with 2:26 left.

So we have a game where the widely outplayed (on a per play basis) team never trailed, had an 89% chance to win at halftime, and only fell below a 90% chance of winning for about three and a half minutes, about halfway through the fourth. I don't even know what to think about that.

I also don't know how to assess the Vikings as a team. Their 29 rank on offense feels right to me; they can't block to save their lives, and nothing comes easy to them. Thus, Bridgewater's 29 rank in DYAR and DVOA aren't surprising, but there he still is, ranked at number 9 in QBR! How often has that sort of disparity occurred? Why is it occurring?

In contrast, their 19 rank on defense seems low to me, perhaps still in good measure due to making the 49ers offense on opening Monday night look like the 1962 Packers. It may be the ease of their schedule so far is playing a big role with regard to thier wins vs. rankings, but that'll rectify itself one way or another, given how hard the schedule is the rest of the way, especially the last 7 weeks.

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#47 by stevenemacks // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:29am

"How often has that sort of disparity occurred? Why is it occurring?"

That's a very good and important question. Remember a couple years back when Christian Ponder in the top 10 in DYAR for several weeks in a row. For what it's worth, I wondered if that was a sign that he was slowly improving while you rejected that notion, saying it didn't mesh with what our eyes were telling us. Time proved your assessment correct.

Here we have a similar, but inverted, situation. Film study shows that Bridgewater is playing well in spite of his line and receivers underperforming (though not as well as he had been playing in the second half of the year last year).

I've been getting the sense that while DVOA, DYAR, etc., do a good job of evaluating overall group/team performances, it's not the sharpest instrument for evaluating individual play.

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#59 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:09am

Yeah, my eyes tell me that Bridgewater is far ahead of The Ponderous One at their respective 17th starts. But my eyes might be lying to me. It is really hard to evaluate a young qb behind a terrible o-line. Of course, putting a young qb behind a line like that is good way to ruin a young qb, which is why Vikings management can be accused of a terrible failure. They have been trying to break in a young qb of some kind for the fifth straight year, and the o-line has been consistently bad the entire time.

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#60 by stevenemacks // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:16am

In the case of comparing Bridgewater and Ponder, our eyes and raw stats tell the exact same story. It seems to me that Frazier-Musgrave were more willing to tailor the offense to hide Ponder's weaknesses, even as it handicapped the offense as a whole, and for a short while that proved just effective enough to show decent returns on Quick Reads, whereas Zimmer-Turner seem to be saying, "Nah, we're running the full playbook. Our rookie RT can't handle block for seven-step drops? Well, this is how he'll learn."

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#63 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:33am

Yeah, management deserves some slack for this year. On August 1st, you don't plan on being down two starters on the o-line, perhaps your two best starters, by the opener. It isn't wildly far fetched that they'll get Sullivan back, playing close to his somewhat overrated norm, and that Clemmings will improve measurably in the 2nd half. If that happens, health elsewhere holding, they'll get better, but they'll need to, given the schedule. If they don't win three of the next four, and three of those four are on the road, there won't be much in the way of significant games from Thanksgiving on, it seems to me.

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#70 by canofcorn66 // Oct 21, 2015 - 12:43pm

Wow, these are my thoughts exactly, right down to the QBR disparity. The Chiefs really never looked like the better team in this game; the long touchdown was clearly a poor defensive call by Zimmer, and before that, the Chiefs hadn't made it past the MIN 40 until 6:00 left in the 3rd quarter.

I know that DVOA tries to take sequencing into account somewhat by de-emphasizing garbage time stats, etc., but it seems like a lot was lost in this case. Which is especially interesting considering that Zimmer is very clear in placing value on "important plays" as opposed to overall stats. Is there a Leverage Index in football the way there is in baseball? It's often discounted in baseball because performance in high-leverage situations is not thought to be repeatable, but I wonder if the same is true for football -- is it possible for a team to consistently execute on the plays that have the biggest impact on the outcome of the game?

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#13 by Raiderjoe // Oct 21, 2015 - 4:39am

Raiders 16 so appropriately iin top ahlf of keague ., should be higher than ravens and Squirrels though. Those are total,crap teams. Forker will win a few games because of coschand latter will win,some becauusse of horrible diciisiob they are in but c'mon they are combined 3-9 .

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#20 by Bright Blue Shorts // Oct 21, 2015 - 8:51am

Squirrels? That's a whole new one on me. RJ's new name for the Washington team?

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#28 by bsims // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:29am

Pretty sure they're a CFL team. There's the Alouettes, Argonauts, Roughriders, Eskimos, Roughriders again, and the Squirrels.

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#38 by Raiderjoe // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:08am

No Squirrels in Canadian Football Leage.

CFL teams-

Toronto Argonauts
Saskatehwan Roughriders
hamitlon Tiger-Cats
Edmonton Eskimos
Montreal Alouettes
britich Columbia Loins
qwinnapeg blue bombers
Calgary stampeders

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#86 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:47pm

I had a Britich Columbia Loin at dinner last night. It was quite tasty.

I miss when there were two teams with the same name. I pay so little attention to the CFL that I hadn't realized that it was 20 years since that was the case. (And somehow Ottawa managed to replace that situation with one even dumber. What's a Redblack?)

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#101 by Richie // Oct 21, 2015 - 4:19pm

Just this summer I learned that the Rough Riders (or the Roughriders?) folded some years back. I was quite disappointed by this news.

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#35 by Raiderjoe // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:01am

cororcet. Do not have big problem with "Redskins" but many people do (and i understabnd why) and so deciided tema really should change name. Squirrels would be tremendous name and would have tremendous lgoo especially if squirrelw as docile. sick of agrressive, mean-looking animals on logos. Football Cardinals fine- they were maybe first to have aggressive animal. Recent changes, though, are too much. Oregon State Beavers used to have nice logo. Now is mean-looking beaver and also ugly logo. Seahwkas used to have docile logo now is mean. Some others too.

Washington Redskins should change name to Squirrels. Will continue to call them Squirrels as long as they use Redskins as name,

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#36 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:05am

Too confusing.

There's a Flying Squirrels AA baseball team in Richmond. Would cause anarchy, rending of garments, etc.

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#39 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:08am

change their name to the Pteromyini

The standard is the standard!

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#40 by Raiderjoe // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:11am

well how about any of these?

Washington muskrats
Washington Labradors
Washiotn Possums
Washigton Trees

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#43 by HPaddict // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:16am

Definitely Washington Trees. Though then people may confuse them with the state.

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#102 by Richie // Oct 21, 2015 - 4:21pm

They could call them the "States". That would really be some fun confusion.

(A "State" would make as much sense as a "National".)

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#103 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 21, 2015 - 4:23pm

I think that would be great. The fans could call themselves the 51st State. The team slogan could be taxation without representation. Lots of fun to be had.

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#130 by Kevin from Philly // Oct 22, 2015 - 7:36am

Compromise. If you watched Boardwalk Empire, you'd know that squirrels are sometimes called tree-rats.

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#45 by bsims // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:22am

If you're going for rodents, I would vote for the Washington Whistlepigs. It's got alliteration, supports their weird swine thing, and it's a hilarious alternate name for a woodchuck.

Washington Whistlepigs for the win.

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#57 by BroncFan07 // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:59am

That's what a Whistle Pig is? Now I understand the name of the whiskey. Actually I still don't. But it's darn good whiskey.

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#82 by dbostedo // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:51pm

I'm guessing that it comes from that fact that some other marmots DO actually whistle, though it's more of a high pitched scream :


Add that with the whole hog/pig thing, and voila - groundhog = whistlepig.

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#134 by Noahrk // Oct 22, 2015 - 9:48am

Whistlepig is a great name. But if it doesn't catch, Squirrels it is.

Who, me?

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#87 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:48pm

As much as we've all grown to dislike TMQ since his days here long ago, I'll always have a soft spot for his nicknames, with the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons being at the top of the list.

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#64 by Bright Blue Shorts // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:41am

I vote squirrels with docile logo

Cardinals,Lions, Falcons and Dolphins also tried to aggress their logos up in recent years. Although how you create a mean Dolphin I'm not really sure ...

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#128 by Mountain Time … // Oct 22, 2015 - 2:51am

Sounds like you're ready to pick up David Brin's Hugo and Nebula award winning novel Startide Rising. There are enough mean dolphins in there to sate you for decades.

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#83 by Beavis // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:22pm

Most elegant solution I have read for the Washington franchise is to just change their logo to a bunch of potatoes and keep the name. Plus the Spuds would be a great alternative nickname. Sportswriters would love it, 'Dallas mashes Spuds', etc.

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#89 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:56pm

I love it. A bad season could be called "The blight of '15", etc.

It reminds me of a current controversey in the Twin Cities, where some folks think the biggest lake within the Minneapolis city limits shouldn't be named after South Carolinian advocate of slavery John Calhoun, so are advocating a change to various Lakota names, and are arguing over which one. Which has resulted in members of the Iowa tribe noting that the Dakota shoved them out of what is now Minneapolis before the Europeans arrived, and they think a traditional Iowa name should be used for what is now named after the rather unpleasant John C. Calhoun. The solution? Declare the lake to be named after iconic face wrestler of the '50s and '60s, Haystacks Calhoun! Erect a bronze statue worthy of a 640 pound grappler, and you're good to go!

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#90 by bsims // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:03pm

I support this as long as they also officially change the name of their secondary color from Gold to Yukon Gold.

I'm going to start calling Snyder "Mr. Potato Head." That seems appropriate whether they change their logo or not.

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#131 by Sakic // Oct 22, 2015 - 8:42am

I like Mr Potato Head for Snyder but to me the only true Mr Potato Head is Harry Crane from "Mad Men."

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#14 by Otis Taylor89 // Oct 21, 2015 - 6:34am

I wonder if one play and one drive really affected the IND--NE DVOA (interception, last IND drive) as that game really didn't seem all that close. The fact that IND was down by only 13, but with no timeouts, starting on their own 15 just screams prevent and probably shouldn't count as much as it did.

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#21 by Bright Blue Shorts // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:10am

It seems to me that the Patriots gave up on their DVOA after the fake punt debacle sucked the air out of the stadium. They went full Martyball to run the clock out and in the process achieved a touchdown putting them up by 13 then three consecutive 3&outs and finally a kneeldown.

Luck meanwhile killed his own team's drives by overthrowing receivers so there was no impetus on the Patriots to power their offense or DVOA back up.

Whether the Pats could have powered it back up remains open to question. Edelman did catch one ball in the 4th quarter and then made sure he stayed in bounds to keep the clock running. But he seems really key to their passing game and his drops in the 2nd-Q (including the tip for the interception) suggested that they weren't going to move the ball so well. Gronk got involved on the opening drive of the 3rd but Amendola and Chandler seem decidedly unreliable.

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#23 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:19am

DVOA has a lot of trouble valuing 'clock time' in these sort of games. There are a lot of examples of teams over the last couple years having 10+ play 8 minutes drives while down 14+ points late in the game, and DVOA seeing it as hugely positive.

Whereas if you look at it via Win% type stats - those sort of drives are often where the game becomes almost unwinnable.

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#27 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:27am

Boy, you see a lot of "Protect my job by narrowing the margin of defeat" coaching in those situations. A coach's team really needs to score a td prior to the two minute warning, in order to get the chance of victory out of the most extreme longshot range, but the offense will be willing to take yardage in 8 yard chunks, not getting that td until there is 25 seconds left. It really distorts the view of the contest, if you didn't watch it.

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#32 by Led // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:41am

To be fair, a team willing to give up 8 yard gains can pretty effectively take away downfield passes, and a turnover trying to force the ball downfield eliminates any chance of a comeback completely. Plus, the team that is losing will most often (but obviously not always) have an inferior quarterback, which makes negotiating the risk/reward problem even harder. So offenses in that situation are in a bind. It's a good reason to avoid being down by two scores late in the fourth quarter! So if you're talking about punts and FGs down two scores late, then I 100% agree it's coaching cowardice. But the garbage time problem often arises when both teams are employing optimal strategies.

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#46 by HPaddict // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:25am

Morris over at 538 loves to talk about 'gunslinging' in this context, with QBs increasing the risk and, allegedly, the reward by throwing downfield in this situations. While I am not convinced by the arguments, I don't think that the 8-yard and a cloud-of-dust offense is obviously the most effective. 10+ play drives are hard, especially when the defense knows your passing and a single play mandates the offense increases the risk.

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#52 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:38am

Too bad the player aren't robots, allowing us to replay the last 5 minures of the game 10,000 times, with two distinct strategies, to see if the high risk approach actually produces more comeback victories.

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#88 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:51pm

This was why I was impressed by the Broncos game a few weeks back where Del Rio just said "screw it, I'm going to kick the FG here and leave time for my unlikely recovery and TD drive." We're so used to the stuff you mention that actually doing the right thing like that is surprising.

(That was a two-score but not two TD type situation but same general idea anyway.)

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#15 by bubqr // Oct 21, 2015 - 6:41am

There is so much frustration regarding the Eagles' level of play that I think we as a fanbase might not be appreciating our defense like we should. Despite the loss of Kendricks/Alonso, the corpse of Demeco Ryans starting (and somehow making some plays despite being slower than anyone else on this team, DL/OL included), a Dime CB starting outside, a converted CB playing safety, this is a very impressive unit. Bennie Logan/Fletcher Cox up front, Jordan Hicks making plays as a 3rd round rookie, Malcolm Jenkins playing at an All-Pro Safety (and slot CB a lot of the time) level…
Can’t wait to see most of them in a Titans uniform next year while Mariota replace Bradford!

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#16 by Otis Taylor89 // Oct 21, 2015 - 7:43am

I totally agree. Cox is a beast and Graham has turned those naysayers around.They completely dominated the NYG after the 1st series and probably would have won by even more if they could have held onto the ball(of course, the reverse is also true). The Murray signing still baffles me and everyone else, but I'm one of those Bradford fans. They seem to be a playoff team, but probably aren't going to get away with playing the way they did against NYG in playoffs. And this is the exact type of team that a team like SEA matches up well against.

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#17 by oaktoon // Oct 21, 2015 - 7:47am

Chargers-Packers the classic "bend don't break" defensive performance and, because Packers offense was either very good or very ineffective, possession was heavily tilted toward SD. But for all of Rivers' brilliance, he got to the EZ just twice.

Which raises a question for Aaron and the team: are there/can there be significant correlations between teams whose defenses allow short to medium yard gains-- essentially surrendering the long drives as opposed to the explosive plays-- but whom are better than average in the red zone? Or is it turnover (or even sack) dependent-- the theory that the more times I force you to throw or run, the better chance I have to create a mistake... Or is all just noise? A team that allows 500 yards in passing-- to use the extreme example from Sunday-- wil sooner or later get torched for multiple scores and a much bigger score?

A long way of saying: "Can bend not break be a skill?" And btw, the Packer D has actually not been that in most of their other games-- lots of sacks, and also a fair amount of turnovers...

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#18 by MinisterCheevy // Oct 21, 2015 - 8:07am

Green Bay is clearly ranked too high because Rodgers has thrown multiple incomplete passes this year. Ranking teams by the number of Internet memes they generate is way better than this. Mike McCarthy sux and shld be fired like yesterday.

Seriously, though, do the Packers look like a 40% DVOA team? I guess I would still put them #3 because I don't know who else would go ahead of them, but they haven't looked that dominant to me. Admittedly I'm comparing them more to previous Packers incarnations than the rest of the league, and they're missing the giant plays they used to get with Nelson.

Regarding medium gains versus explosive plays, I seem to remember reading somewhere that "huge" gains (like 15+ yards) beyond a certain point don't make much difference, unless they're scoring plays. I think the rationale is that anything over X amount means that the defense screwed up and adding more DVOA penalty to account for that doesn't help predictability.

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#22 by Bright Blue Shorts // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:17am

Saying the defense "screwed up" on huge gains is perhaps sensationalising it. But yes, essentially once you've got the first 15-20yds it's mostly about whether you can stay on your feet and outrun the defenders.

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#33 by jtr // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:55am

Plus the really big plays are limited by your field position. The only difference between a 60 yard TD and a 90 yard TD is where you started before the play. Once you're at about a 30 yard gain you're probably past the safeties anyways, so as long as you can outrun the pursuit your gain is only limited by how far away the end zone is.

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#49 by Oscar Wild // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:30am

Agreed that the Packers look too high. The injuries are starting to chip away at that offense. I am pretty sure Lacy is hurt bad enough that it's forcing the coaching to change their running strategy. The defense and special teams (!) have been more responsible for the last two wins at least.

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#137 by big10freak // Oct 22, 2015 - 10:38am

I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that Lacy is just out of shape. Which surprises me as McCarthy has typically not been tolerant of players not conditioned to play their best when on the field.

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#19 by Led // Oct 21, 2015 - 8:17am

Can it be a skill? I would yes, on a team basis, but not if you look at the defense in isolation. The Patriots' defense for many years gave up a lot of yards and was mediocre (to bad) by DVOA standards but got a lot of turnovers and gave up relatively few points. That can only be effective for a team with a very good offense. Because such teams score a lot of points and are usually playing with a lead, the opponent is forced to be more aggressive and that leads to turnovers. Plus, if the defense does give up some scores early (because bend but don't break doesn't always work), the offense is capable of coming back and scoring quickly. The same defense on a team with a mediocre or bad offense would force fewer turnovers (and therefore give up more points) and would find it hard to get off the field quickly enough to give the mediocre offense sufficient chances to score.

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#69 by Alex51 // Oct 21, 2015 - 12:21pm

A long way of saying: "Can bend not break be a skill?"

It’s not so much a skill, as the lack of a skill. If two of the three units of your defense (line, linebackers, secondary) are exceptionally good, but the other is not, you’ll have a vulnerability that can be easily exploited between the 20s. But once you get to the red zone, the shortened field allows the two strong units to compensate for the weakness of the third. This leads to a defense becoming magically effective once the offense is in scoring range. Defense bends, but doesn’t break.

For instance, if your defensive line and secondary are excellent, but your linebackers struggle in coverage, you might give up lots of short/medium passes to TEs and RBs between the 20s. The safeties would be able to help tackle the receiver after the catch, but they wouldn’t be in position to break up the pass, since they would be busy making sure nobody got open deep. But once you get to the red zone, the safeties can play closer to the line, since there’s less field to defend. This allows the safeties to help break up passes that would have been completed if the linebackers didn’t have that help. That gives you a defense that allows teams to march down the field until they suddenly stall in the red zone. See: Andy Reid Eagles.

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#78 by mehllageman56 // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:09pm

Bend not break is a defensive style, not a skill or a lack of one. It may be an adjustment to a weakness in the talent level of the defense, but allowing short passes but complicating anything longer with traps, etc, designed to create turnovers is more of a style. Rex Ryan's defenses are not designed like this, but will have weaknesses good teams can exploit, like the inability of David Harris to cover people, but he's more concerned with getting the other team off the field immediately, and so calls blitzes on key downs to force hurried throws. The other thing about playing this style is that it's wasted if your players miss tackles. If guy misses a tackle on a short pass, there's the chance no one will catch CJ Spiller or Dion Lewis. That's the bend over and break defense.

I'm not an Eagles expert, but I thought Reid's defensive coordinator blitzed a lot, and it seemed like the Eagles were usually dominant on defense. Perhaps they weren't designed like a bend don't break defense, but trying to complete passes against Brian Dawkins in a small area like the red zone was really really hard.

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#80 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:19pm

FO did research on bend but don't break. Only a single coach was actually able to demonstrate the ability of bend but don't break over multiple years and it was Herm Edwards.

The Jim Johnson coached defenses with the Eagles were simply good.

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#96 by CaffeineMan // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:33pm

I was never entirely convinced by that research. I agree with Mel up there that it's a style. Some coaches use it more than others (Herm maybe?) Without charting data, I'm not sure you can draw any strong conclusions about the style's effectiveness in general, since you don't know really when it's being run. I think it's a good candidate for more research (in FO's copious spare time, I know :-)).

However, referring to BBDB as a "lack of skill" is misleading in the current modern offensive era, because I think it's rare to have a team be able to play don't-bend (shutdown?) defense and win a championship, and practically impossible to sustain that performance consistently over multiple seasons. To have the personnel to run it, you'd have to divert too many resources to the defense. I think successful modern defense is much more about tradeoffs and damage control than trying for domination. So mixing in some BBDB style is just being realistic about the way to be effective defensively in the modern era. But I can't back that up statistically, they're just my thoughts.

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#91 by Alex51 // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:06pm

I'm not an Eagles expert, but I thought Reid's defensive coordinator blitzed a lot, and it seemed like the Eagles were usually dominant on defense. Perhaps they weren't designed like a bend don't break defense, but trying to complete passes against Brian Dawkins in a small area like the red zone was really really hard.

Well, after Brian Dawkins left, the Eagles didn't really have a top-flight secondary anymore. Losing a HOF safety can do that. At that point, they stopped doing the whole "don't break" part. I should've clarified that. Still, for the first decade of Reid's career in Philadelphia, it was definitely a bend, don't break defense. Here are the Eagles' average defensive DVOA and average rank for each zone of the field from 1999-2008:

Deep: 1.2% (15.4)
Back: -4.0% (11.9)
Mid: -8.2% (11.3)
Front: -12.5% (10.1)
Red Zone: -19.5% (8.0)

That's as clear a pattern as you could hope for, over a long period of time. The shorter the field, the better they got. And while I agree that the Eagles were pretty dominant overall on defense in that period, they were especially good in the red zone, because that's where their secondary could make up for the so-so LBs. This includes the blitzes the Eagles were known for. When the field is short, you can call far more aggressive blitzes without worrying that someone will get open deep before you get to the QB (because in the red zone, there is no "deep" to get open in).

Now, you're right, I guess that's more of a defensive style or philosophy, but either way, it's dictated by your talent level. If you have elite talent on all three units, you don't need to bend or break. If you have serious weaknesses in more than one unit, you'll likely bend and break, regardless of style.

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#24 by EasyLikeSunday… // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:21am

The Pats project to 6-0 in 5 games? Cheaters!

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#29 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:29am

Obviously overly-inflated DVOA.

......is this mike on? these are the jokes, people......

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#25 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:24am

are the playoff/on-the-clock odds adaptable for a potential 4-8 game suspension of Lynch and Jackson? (like the Romo/Roethlisberger injuries)

The standard is the standard!

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#34 by jtr // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:59am

Local police emphatically denied that Lynch was involved at all. That doesn't necessarily mean that Lynch was actually not involved, or that Goodell won't decide in his glorious omniscience that Lynch was involved, but I'd say it looks good for Lynch to get away with this one.

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#44 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:18am

Well, the local police also deny there's evidence that anything out of the ordinary was going on. Despite the video/picture of the scene seemingly looking totally out of the ordinary for a typical accident? but cue conspiracy theory /preferential justice/blahblah . Anyways, I guess I wouldn't be surprised from anything out of Lynch given his history.

here's a Google Street View for the location. They supposedly drive out via this route all the time, so it shouldn't be unfamiliar (that there's a curve and stop sign right after it.

The standard is the standard!

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#53 by jtr // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:45am

I think it's pretty likely that Lynch was involved, and the cops just don't want to bust a popular player over an incident where no one got hurt. While it wouldn't be uncharacteristic for Goodell to impose his signature draconian justice based on TMZ's evidence, I have a feeling the owners will strongly suggest that he sits on his hands for this one. The way The Shield has gotten hammered in the courts every time Goodell takes the law into his own hands, I don't think the NFL wants to hand down any suspensions right now for something that law enforcement specifically says never happened.

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#141 by jtr // Oct 22, 2015 - 11:31am

Now TMZ and Deadspin have backed off from claiming Lynch's involvement to simply the involvement of a second vehicle. Still not good news for Jackson's chances of a suspension, but not even the High Court of Goodell can find Lynch to be at fault here.

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#30 by EasyLikeSunday… // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:35am

The Pats project to 6-0 in 5 games? Cheaters!

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#31 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:40am



The standard is the standard!

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#41 by RickD // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:14am

Second, the backdoor cover touchdown by the Colts means just as much as any other touchdown in DVOA; it was indicative of the quality of the Colts offense and the Patriots defense because the game was still winnable by Indianapolis.

Hardly. There was 1:44 on the clock, the Colts had no time outs, and were down by 7 points. They needed a successful onside kick recovery and a touchdown. It's much harder to recover an onside kick when there is no other strategy for the trailing team. Surprise onside kicks are much more likely to be successful.

The Pats switched to a soft defense in the 4th quarter to cut down the odds of a quick score. I don't think it's really an accurate measure of their defense to act like their prevent defense is the same as their regular defense. I can sympathize with the difficulty of trying to separate out "real defense" from "prevent defense", but let's not pretend they are the same.

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#50 by nat // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:32am

On the other hand, the Colts actually did improve their chances of winning, albeit in the 0.5% to 1.5% range. Assuming both teams were trying (which I do assume) that drive told us something about how well the Patriots' "prevent" defense does: not very well.

It was a fairly unimportant drive from a winning probability standpoint. But it was not a successful defensive effort, even by the low bar of taking time off the clock before giving up a TD.

Sure, it's situational. But being able to bleed clock on defense is an important skill, and one the Patriots failed at this time.

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#54 by dmstorm22 // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:47am

They also weren't great on teh previous drive, where Luck threw two bad passes in the red zone to end it - had the scored the TD there it was 34-27(28), before the 2:00.

This is also the second time the Patriots prevent defense gave up a TD in this situation - doing it in Week 1 also.

Points: 0

#71 by RickD // Oct 21, 2015 - 12:50pm

The purpose of the "prevent" defense isn't the same as the purpose of the regular defense. The prevent defense is less concerned with stopping a drive than it is with making sure the other team doesn't score quickly.

The Colts got the ball with 3:05 on the clock. They burned 1:44 on their scoring drive and didn't get the ball back. I would not say the Pats failed at the task of burning the clock.

The other 2nd half drives were 3 plays for 9 yards, 6 plays for 14 yards, 6 plays for 17 yards, 3 plays for -7 yards, 6 plays for 7 yards, and 9 plays for 56 yards ending with a loss of ball on downs.

In two of the three "close" games (vs. PIT and IND) their opponent did not have the ball and a chance to tie the game or take the lead in the 4th quarter. In their other close game (vs. BUF), the Bills had the ball at their 20 with 1:15 on the clock, down 8 points, and promptly threw a pick. The prevent defense drives fans crazy, but so far it's kept Pats' opponents from having any real shot of winning.

Points: 0

#79 by dmstorm22 // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:15pm

"the Bills had the ball at their 20 with 1:15 on the clock, down 8 points,"

That's a shot at winning. Not a good one, but it is not meaningless. Down 8 makes it more challenging definitely, but teams have scored TDs in those situations.

Points: 0

#136 by Noahrk // Oct 22, 2015 - 9:58am

Meaning the tie probability was 5.68% or about 1 in 20. That's still quite low. TO situation must have been bad?

Who, me?

Points: 0

#110 by Anon Ymous // Oct 21, 2015 - 6:33pm

It also wasn't a good example of a "prevent" defense since NE allowed several deep passes and quick TD drives. It was less prevent and more bad. But the other two were definitely intentional. Pitt didn't have time for a play even if they had recovered the onside kick.

Points: 0

#72 by Nevic // Oct 21, 2015 - 12:50pm

Kinda like the NFC Championship game then? So definitely still a competitive game!

Points: 0

#48 by RickD // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:30am

Ravens ahead of Falcons, eh?

I think it's time to give up on the Ravens. There's a bigger gap between "losing by a small amount" and "winning" than DVOA can recognize.

Points: 0

#56 by BJR // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:58am

Well there isn't anything suggesting the Ravens are a good team; they have negative overall DVOA. But I certainly believe DVOA when it says they don't belong in the doldrums of the league; every one of their games has been very close, and we have the evidence of several previous seasons under this head coach with most of this personnel.

Perhaps they should truly be ranked something like #20 instead of #13, but that seems like splitting hairs.

Points: 0

#74 by RickD // Oct 21, 2015 - 12:51pm

I'm also puzzled at the placement of the Falcons. Apparently going 4-0 vs. the NFC East isn't worth as much as it used to be.

Points: 0

#51 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:33am

Looking at the DVOA chart, the standings, and the schedule, it appears to me that being a Jets fan the rest of the way, which means being a (gulp) Ryan Fitzpatrick fan, is the best route to have an interesting AFC race, although maybe Andy Dalton really has become terrific, which would change everything as well. As much as I respect the version of the Patriots that Darth Hoodie has conjured the last few seasons, they just aren't all that interesting, for me, to watch, especially this year, for a top level team. The defense is good, but not exciting in it's dominance, like some great defenses are, and the offense is simply great, but simply great in a way that kind of bores me. The offensive line is extremely competent, but not in a way other great championship clubs have had very entertaining o-lines, like Jimmy Johnson's Cowboys, Gibb's Redskins, Lombardi's Packers (no,I didn't see them), or the trapping style of the Steelers in the dead ball era (yes, I did). The passing game is magnificent, of course, but good gravy, if you aren't the sort of fan with a Tawwmmy poster on your bedroom wall, or would have had one if you were still 8 years old, it really isn't that fun to watch, outside of the occasional catch by Gronk. All the rubs and underneaths with YAC, against an overmatched linebacker or 3rd corner, gets monotonous to me. I know, I know, Patriots Faithful love them some monotony, but I hope they can understand why you don't have to think Bob Kraft is part of The Illuminati to not be looking forward to seeing them play in the last game of the year again.

The NFC looks to have the potential to be dull, dull, dull, to me. Aaron Rodgers will quite likely carry the team to at least the conference championship, but that offense was more fun to watch when he had a receiver who could at least make a claim to being upper echelon. I don't trust the Cardinals yet, but maybe my opinion will change as they get into the difficult part of their schedule. They could make it interesting. The rest of the conference? Ugh, athough maybe Seattle will find its fun to watch defense again, which is what makes Russell Wilson fun to watch. Atlanta seem definitively to me to be a team utterly reliant on home field advantage and an easy schedule. The husk of Sam Bradford, who was not impressive pre-husk, leads the 3rd ranked team in the conference. I guess I'm rooting for Cam Newton to get really hot. I had hopes for Eli and his receivers, but those took a huge hit Monday night. If Romo and Bryant get back with effective health, that would be nice as well.

It's been kind of a "meh" year for me so far, but I haven't watched a lot of the Bengals, or Jets, so maybe I'm just missing out on what might be very entertaining.

Points: 0

#58 by Led // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:01am

Will, there is ALWAYS room on the Jets bandwagon. You don't need to find your seat quite this early. But they've been a fun team so far. As a Vikings fan who has seen plenty of good d-line play, you would appreciate the Wilkerson/Richardson/Harrison/Williams combo, and Bowles calls some interesting stuff. On offense, Chris Ivory and Brandon Marshall are very entertaining -- physical without being slow and plodding (as even the less bad Jets offenses have tended to be recently). They've marginalized their little slot receiver (Kerley) and never pass to a TE (because all their TEs stink), so in that sense they are almost the opposite of the Patriots offense. We'll see if the fun continues. Fitzpatrick is just competent enough to give you false hope and then break your heart, but they should be competitive in every game. And, at the very least, the prospect of disaster every time they punt will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Points: 0

#61 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:22am

When I think of a team which could go to Foxboro in January and win, a division rival with a terrific defense and sound offensive line seems like the best choice. Now, if they can pull it off 4 days from now, it isn't completely crazy to imagine them winning the division. Darth understands this as well, of course, which is why I expect him to fully employ his tools from The Dark Side this weekend.........IT'S A TRAP, JETS!!!!!!

Points: 0

#67 by Led // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:52am

Bowles seems to have the Jedi zen thing down, at least, which counteracts the Dark Side to an extent. I'm looking forward to one team having to beat the other straight up.

Points: 0

#68 by Will Allen // Oct 21, 2015 - 12:03pm

Darth Hoodie obviously mind-tricked Hapless Pagano last Sunday night........waving his hand...."this isn't the punt play you want, try something unusual instead..."

Points: 0

#84 by TomC // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:32pm

Among many strange things about this season: Jets-Pats is far and away the most interesting game this week, followed by Eagles-Panthers. Sherman, set the WABAC machine for 2004.

Points: 0

#94 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:17pm

I like your assessment of why they're boring. And I'm with you on the Jets.



So yeah, to me it's still totally crazy to imagine them winning the division. I just can't see them as having a realistic shot to beat a good team (or beat them regularly, anyway) with him at QB.

But then again, Rex did it with Sanchez...

Edit: All that said about the boringness, I still think this is probably the most interesting game of the coming week. I'm curious to see how the Pats' boring offense adjusts to Bowles. I expected the Bills to get to Brady and it seemed that they hardly tried; I think Bowles will try and actually succeed. But I also think the Patriots will still figure out a way to beat it.

Points: 0

#98 by CaffeineMan // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:45pm

Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this game as well. Fascinated to see how Bowles and Belichick game plans look and who can win the unit and individual battles.

I get why people think the Pats offense is boring (especially Will, who seems to be a fan of chaos). But hey, I ride motorcycles. I love a well oiled machine. :-)

I think Dave's right, Jets slow the Pats down, but the Pats win a close one.

Points: 0

#66 by Hummingbird Cyborg // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:46am

As a Broncos fan, it's a strange feeling to look at the rankings and wish that if you're offense can improve over the bye week, your team could emulate the Jets and have a reasonable shot at a championship with that team.

Points: 0

#75 by RickD // Oct 21, 2015 - 12:56pm

I don't see either Denver or the Jets having a shot at a championship until their respective offense improves considerably. Winning a playoff game or two? Sure.

If Manning going to improve as things get colder? He might start processing the Kubiak offense better, but, OTOH, it's likely his arm strength will fade just as it's done the past two years late in the season.

As for the Jets, well, they really need a much better QB to be a Super Bowl contender in today's NFL. The defense is good enough that they could beat any given team, but beating all comers would require a bit more.

Points: 0

#85 by Led // Oct 21, 2015 - 2:34pm

"they really need a much better QB to be a Super Bowl contender in today's NFL"

I guess that depends on what you mean by contender. I mean a team with a realistic chance of winning but not necessarily a favorite. By DVOA, Fitzpatrick this year and last year is playing better than Eli in 2007 and Flacco in 2012, as good as Brady in 2001, and comparable to Brady in 2003. That's 25% of the SB winners since 2000 with QBs that were a bit above average at best, without even playing the old Dilfer card (and not counting Brad Johnson in 2002, who played better that particular year). Will Fitz continue to be a little bit above average? Probably not, as he'll likely regress towards his performance over the rest of his career. On the other hand, 500+ passes worth of above average performance over the last two years is not nothing. If Fitz finishes the year with DVOA in 5-8% range and the Jets defense continues to be one of the top defenses, then I think you'd have to consider them a contender. Not a favorite, but a contender.

EDIT: Putting Fitz aside, I think the results of the last 15 years disprove the idea that you need one of the top QBs in the league to win the SB. But it definitely helps!

Points: 0

#93 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:15pm

The difference is that 01 and 03 Brady wasn't as likely to have a terrible game as the others are, and Fitzpatrick doesn't have the good game upside that Flacco and Eli had. I think once a competent defense has some tape on the Gailey/Fitz offense we're going to see an ugly game or two here that bring him back down to earth.

Everything is possible, of course, but we've seen enough of Fitzpatrick by now to adjust our expectations downward regardless of what their current DVOA is.

Then again, if he's up to 500 passes of OK-ness, that's more than I would've guessed. He's never going to be a guy that can beat you by himself, but the nice thing about these Jets as opposed to the parade of mediocre teams he's been on is that he doesn't have to.

Hmm. I seem to have changed my mind just while typing this post.

(Not enough that I want to touch a game with a 9.5 point line either way, but enough to have some optimism for a real race.)

Points: 0

#155 by mehllageman56 // Oct 23, 2015 - 9:28pm

I realize that this thread is almost dead, but one thing that could throw a wrench in this is the guy lurking behind Fitzpatrick. Geno has shown good game upside, seems to pick it up after a benching, and ending both seasons on a upswing. If the Jets end up in a Simms/Hostetler situation where Fitz goes down late in the year, Smith possibly increases their chances just by how huge his variance is. Personally, I think their chances as a true contender are really small, but they still could do some damage before getting knocked out.

Points: 0

#106 by Hummingbird Cyborg // Oct 21, 2015 - 4:34pm

Personally, I think that you're underselling exactly how good that defense has been to this point. I mean, around 30% DVOA on defense is very good and they have the personnel to keep it up. The offense has playmakers around Fitzpatrick as well and so they have a reasonable shot to be around average which they have been to this point.

So, yes, absolutely, they're contenders. No that doesn't mean that they should be favored to win against New England or Cincinatti, but a team of their calibre comes away with a win often enough against teams like that to have a legit shot at the championship.

I doubt that the Denver offense which has been absolutely atrocious to this point is unlikely to pick it up, but it wouldn't be unfounded. I mean, last year, through a good portion of the season, Denver's run game looked poor and then turned it on in the second half. This year, the line has no experience with each other and then got injuries before any experience could be built with a lot of very young players. I think the odds that they turn it on are extremely low, but a glimmer of possibility is still available.

Also, it's not hard to understand why Broncos fans are pining to see if Osweiler can perform better. We all knew the line was going to be a problem this year, but exactly how bad it's been at times has been stunning. Especially with Mathis and Vasquez who are well regarded.

Points: 0

#111 by Dave Bernreuther // Oct 21, 2015 - 6:36pm

You put the idea of Jets vs Bengals in my head with that post and it's a damn shame they won't play each other this year. That'd be a really interesting test of just how far Dalton has come, as you know the Jets would have constant pressure in his face.

Points: 0

#126 by Alternator // Oct 22, 2015 - 12:16am


1) Patriots
2) Bengals
3) Broncos
4) Colts
5) Jets
6) Bills

Bills over Broncos, Jets over Colts. Next up: Jets at Bengals.

There you go.

Points: 0

#62 by BJR // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:22am

At least the NFC has some semi-interesting divisional races going on. The AFC playoff field is virtually confirmed already.

Points: 0

#55 by BroncFan07 // Oct 21, 2015 - 10:57am

Heh, now I understand why Denver fans are freaking out over being 6-0. Ranked behind Philly? They're awful. It's funny, this ranking actually is in line with the 2009 team which was 6-0 going into its bye week and promptly came back and lost 4 in a row. Of course, that team had McDaniels and Orton so hopefully this turns out a bit better.

Points: 0

#65 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Oct 21, 2015 - 11:42am

Comparison of the last 3 seasons

2013: http://i.imgur.com/j7NAuHx.png
2014: http://i.imgur.com/LkQf2lw.png
2015: http://i.imgur.com/ELrDt5W.png
The standard is the standard!

Points: 0

#113 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Oct 21, 2015 - 8:09pm

Since there's no apparent interest besides from myself, I will cease bothering to post these.

The standard is the standard!

Points: 0

#115 by Anon Ymous // Oct 21, 2015 - 8:32pm

Would you mind elaborating on what these represent?

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#120 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Oct 21, 2015 - 9:06pm

Week 6 DVOA, histogrammed on a .1 bin width basis.

Best normal distribution fit overlaid.

The standard is the standard!

Points: 0

#156 by shoutingloudly // Oct 25, 2015 - 6:30am

FWIW, I think that's pretty interesting, though I'm not as regularly on here so much. (Too bad for me. But you're definitely my people.)

Just weird, right? I'll bet if you did 100 seasons, it'd be in top 3-5% for "That's definitely NOT a normal distribution" on a sheer eyeball of it.

Points: 0

#77 by techvet // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:08pm

For years, I have been in an office straight-up confidence pool. I have used different methods over the years (expert picks, etc.). This year, after the first week, I decided to simply compare the DVOA ratings for two teams (including DAVE). I didn't win any particular weeks but started climbing the overall ratings from 19th until 4th, but that was until this past week when that system fell apart as documented by Aaron.

Before last week, for picks I lost, I have pondered what I wasn't considering when two teams play each other:

- Injury factor for key players (someone who is returning or someone who is now out)
- Home field advantage
- Weather

I have thought about trying to adjust for those factors, but is there anything I should be considering that DVOA doesn't account for with head-to-head match-ups?

Points: 0

#81 by Tomlin_Is_Infallible // Oct 21, 2015 - 1:37pm

Incompetency of specific officiating crew.

The standard is the standard!

Points: 0

#92 by Roch Bear // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:11pm

Does anyone in your pool play a "Vegas line" strategy?

Points: 0

#97 by D2K // Oct 21, 2015 - 3:45pm

The entire league is based on match-ups and spots.

While no method will ever be perfect there are many telling metrics as well as motivational and situational spots that are relevant.

Consider Atlanta @ New Orleans a few weeks ago on TNF. The Falcons have to travel to a division rival, a team and coaching staff that knows their tendencies, after an overtime win against the Skins on 3 days rest with a very hobbled Julio Jones (the Falcons best player). The Saints coming off of a let down game where they were smashed by Philly on the road and whispers of Sean Payton being dealt in a trade as well as premature Drew Brees demise story lines filled the airwaves. On national TV against a hated rival, at home in a prove it game. This was the Saints Super Bowl and they delivered.

You can find motivational and situational spots every single week in this league. If you incorporate the metrics and injury reports that you're already using, you should be successful more times than not.

Points: 0

#154 by DezBailey // Oct 23, 2015 - 6:56pm

You could try cross-referencing DVOA with other sources for team rankings/data.
I like Pro Football Focus'(PFF) data as well. I like studying as many sources as I can when putting my picks together. So I strongly suggest gathering information from different sources and look for a general consensus.

Points: 0

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