by Aaron Schatz
You love them when your team is high! You hate them when your team is low! Once again, the famous Football Outsiders DVOA and DAVE ratings return for 2018.
Most Football Outsiders readers are familiar with DVOA, which we use all year round. Not as many Football Outsiders readers are familiar with DAVE, which we only use for teams during the first two months of the season. DAVE is our rating that combines the preseason projection with the results of early games to give us a better prediction of how each team will rank at the end of the year. For those who don't know the story, this metric is called DAVE as a reaction to criticism that our stats are too much alphabet soup. I mean, who can argue with a guy named Dave? (Technically, it stands for "DVOA Adjusted for Variation Early.") In this week's DAVE ratings, the preseason projection counts for 90 percent, and the current DVOA counts for 10 percent. The value of the preseason projection changes each week until we are only using current-year data after Week 8.
Of course, though I'm calling our main metric DVOA here, it is actually VOA because there are no opponent adjustments right now. We do not apply opponent adjustments until after Week 4, so in Weeks 1-3 DVOA and VOA are the same thing. Please don't get all nitpicky about it. Most readers know what's up, and if you don't, I just told you!
The New York Jets are No. 1 in DVOA after their big Monday night win over the Detroit Lions, and Baltimore is right behind after a huge win over Buffalo on Sunday. Jets fans should enjoy their spot at No. 1 while it lasts, because No. 1 has not been a common placement for the Jets in the DVOA ratings. This is only the third time since 1989 that the Jets have been No. 1 in DVOA at any time. The last time was after Week 9 of 2011, when the Jets snuck into the top spot for a week as part of a year without any particularly dominant teams. The other time the Jets were ranked No. 1 was after Week 4 of 1993, coming off a 45-7 pounding of the Patriots and rookie quarterback Drew Bledsoe. Both of those Jets teams finished 8-8, and I think that New York fans would happily take that result for the 2018 Jets. The Jets are still only 17th in DAVE, because we aren't writing off our preseason projections quite yet. Still, that huge win was enough to move the Jets up 13 spots from 30th in our preseason DVOA projections.
On the other hand, the Bills had an even worse preseason projection than the Jets and oh boy, do things look bad now after losing to the Ravens 47-3. Buffalo had a VOA of -130.6% for this loss, which is the worst Week 1 VOA of any team since the expansion Browns got shut out 43-0 by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first week of 1999. What's remarkable is that if the Bills had not lost so badly to the Ravens, it's the Detroit Lions who would have set a record for the worst Week 1 VOA since the expansion Browns. Here's a look at the ten worst Week 1 games since 1986, and again, these are without any kind of opponent adjustment:
|Worst Week 1 VOA Ratings, 1986-2018|
The good news for Buffalo and Detroit is that a horrific Week 1 is not a guarantee of a disastrous season. The 1989 Steelers finished 9-7 despite having the worst Week 1 in DVOA history. The 1997 Seahawks were 8-8. The 1991 Lions went 12-4, although I don't think the Jets or Ravens will be challenging the 1991 Redskins for the all-time DVOA title.
However, put that horrible Week 1 performance together with the worst preseason projection in the league and the Bills are way, way behind the rest of the league in the DAVE ratings. Almost 20 percentage points separate the Bills from the Lions and Giants (who are effectively tied at No. 30). The Bills ended up with a winless 0-16 record in 1.3 percent of this week's playoff odds simulations. That may not seem like a lot, but that's extremely high after just one game. Flip it around, and no team has a better than 0.2 percent chance of going 16-0.
Look at the DVOA ratings below, and you'll find that some of the games came out a lot closer in the final score than in the final DVOA ratings. Let's take a quick look at three of them that you might have questions about:
- How did Philadelphia end up so much higher than Atlanta when the Falcons gained more yards per play (4.6) than the Eagles (a miserable 3.6). The answer appears to be "third downs." The Eagles went 8-for-16 on third downs, and converted another with a DPI penalty. The Falcons, on the other hand, converted just 4 of 15 third downs and failed to convert on their one fourth-down opportunity as well. In addition, while the Eagles weren't moving forward as much as they wanted, they also weren't moving backwards. Not including penalties -- so many penalties, sigh -- Philadelphia had only three plays all game that lost yardage. Atlanta had nine plays that lost yardage.
- Pittsburgh and Cleveland tied, so why are the Steelers so much higher in DVOA after one week? This game was all about turnovers, and the Steelers did not have very good luck there. Pittsburgh averaged 5.9 yards per play on offense compared to 3.8 yards for Cleveland. But all four fumbles in the game were recovered by the Browns, three Steelers fumbles and one of their own.
- Minnesota only beat San Francisco 24-16, yet the Vikings are far ahead of the 49ers in DVOA. This one is particularly confusing because the 49ers actually gained more yards per play in this game, with 5.4 yards per play compared to 4.8 for the Vikings. It looks like the big DVOA difference here comes down to two things. First, the interceptions: three of them for the 49ers and none for the Vikings. Obviously, that's a big difference. Second, the 49ers constantly got bogged down in the red zone. So while the Vikings weren't getting many more yards on red zone plays, they were having more success. Minnesota had -18.2% offensive DVOA in the red zone, but San Francisco was at just -93.6% offensive DVOA in the red zone.
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We're running a bit late getting all the stats pages working with 2018 data, but we'll keep this space current with information about what's getting updated when. The annual stats pages are now updated with 2018 data except for OFFENSIVE LINE and DEFENSIVE LINE, which are always first updated after Week 2. However, you'll notice the "default pages" are still pointing to 2017 rather than 2018. Until we get this fixed, you can go to the 2018 pages by putting 2018 in the URL or by using the dropdown menus that appear on all the stats pages. We're also working on getting Week 1 into the premium database and updating the snap counts database and we'll let you know when we've got that done.
UPDATE 9/12 1:00 p.m.: Week 1 snap counts and Loser League scores are now updated. Both can be found in the dropdown menus on the top of the site. (On mobile, that's via the green menu button in the top right.) Week 1 has also been added to the premium database, although we need to do a little fixing to make our new abbreviations for the Jaguars, Rams, and Chargers line up with our old abbreviations.
UPDATE 9/14 1:00 p.m.: OK, all the default stats pages now point to the proper 2018 numbers, and the premium game charting is now updated for Week 1.
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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through one week of 2018, 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 to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.
Please note that there are no opponent adjustments in DVOA until after Week 4. (It's still listed as DVOA instead of VOA because I don't feel like going through and changing all the tables manually.) In addition, our second weekly table which includes schedule strength, variation, and Estimated Wins will appear beginning after Week 4.
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 90 percent of DAVE.
You'll notice something fun we're experimenting with this week: a sortable table! If everything works well with this over the next couple weeks, we'll start using sortable tables for a lot of our stats pages.
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>