DVOA Analysis
Football Outsiders' revolutionary metrics that break down every single play of the NFL season

Week 1 DVOA Ratings

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 2019.

Football Outsiders readers are familiar with DVOA, which we use all year round. By now, most Football Outsiders readers are also 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 9.

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!

It will surprise nobody that the Baltimore Ravens are on top of our ratings after just one week. They wrecked the Dolphins so bad it made Aquaman cry. Baltimore is in the top three for offense, defense, and special teams after one week, and they end up with highest Week 1 VOA rating in 20 years.

Best Week 1 VOA Ratings, 1986-2019
Year Team VOA Opponent Score
1999 PIT 177.6% CLE 43-0
1989 CLE1 154.7% PIT 51-0
1991 WAS 148.7% DET 45-0
1990 CHI 123.9% SEA 17-0
2019 BAL 119.3% MIA 59-10
1998 SEA 114.8% PHI 38-0
2005 PIT 106.8% TEN 34-7
1999 JAX 106.6% SF 41-3
1996 GB 106.4% TB 34-3
1997 DAL 104.9% PIT 37-7

That 17-0 game stands out among these top Week 1 games with a surprisingly high VOA rating. It's mostly defense, as the Bears held Seattle to 3.0 yards per play with three turnovers.

What's interesting is that the Miami Dolphins did not end up on a similar list of the worst Week 1 games in DVOA history. (VOA for one team is not just the opposite of the rating for their opponent, because certain adjustments are slightly different for offense and defense while plays like false starts and aborted snaps only count on one side of the ball.) You may remember that we ran that list last year, because two Week 1 performances in 2018 rated as worse than Miami's terrible Week 1 this year. Miami's VOA of -94.7% doesn't end up anywhere near as bad as last year's Buffalo Bills (-130.6% for a 47-3 loss to Baltimore) or Detroit Lions (-123.4% for a 48-17 loss to the Jets).

I haven't heard anyone even mention how badly the Ravens beat up on Buffalo in Week 1 last year. That's two straight seasons they've done this!

Miami may not come out as bad as last year's Bills did, but they had a preseason projection worse than last year's Bills so their DAVE rating is even worse. Last year, Buffalo had a DAVE of -34.0% after one week and came out 0-16 in 1.3% of our playoff odds simulations. This year, Miami has a DAVE of -37.0% after one week and comes out 0-16 in 1.7% of our playoff odds simulations. The difference between Miami and the No. 31 team, the New York Giants, is larger than the difference between the Giants and the No. 14 team, the Minnesota Vikings.

New England is No. 2 in VOA after Week 1, making them easily No. 1 in DAVE. However, the Patriots are not as strong as the Dolphins are weak. They go 16-0 in only 0.6% of our simulations. The team they beat, the Steelers, finish 31st in VOA but they're still 12th in DAVE because of their strong preseason projection.

Tennessee finishes No. 3 in VOA, and that plus losses by the rest of their division is enough to make the Titans new favorites in the AFC South. The Titans' VOA is much more positive than Cleveland's VOA was negative for the same game. Dallas and -- surprise! -- Oakland finish out the top five.

Only one game in Week 1 came out with the loser scoring a higher VOA rating than the winner: Washington (eighth) against Philadelphia (15th). This is an interesting one because the Eagles had the much higher success rate (50 percent to 40 percent) but Washington had more average yardage (6.98 compared to 6.24 for the Eagles). Some of the difference comes because the Eagles averaged just 8.2 yards to go on their plays while the Redskins averaged 10.3 yards to go. And part of the issue there was penalties, where Washington had 12 and Philadelphia only six. Washington had a lot of holding calls: five, including one on a punt. That's something that needs to go into the DVOA system next time I get to do a big overhaul on it.

New Orleans and Houston come out just 17th and 18th after that amazing Monday night game, but those ratings will almost assuredly improve once we start putting in opponent adjustments.

Despite choking a win away and settling for a tie, Detroit ends up with a higher rating than Arizona for their Week 1 contest. Detroit had an average gain of 6.0 yards compared to just 4.7 yards on average for the Cardinals. Turnovers were also an issue here: Arizona had an interception but no fumbles, while Detroit had no interceptions but fumbled three times and lost two of them. With the Lions putting up a slightly above-average VOA rating in Week 1 to go with their slightly above-average preseason projection, we still have the NFC North as a very tight playoff race. But the Packers and Vikings moved ahead of the Lions as division favorites thanks to winning their games and having higher Week 1 ratings than Detroit.

* * * * *

Football Outsiders playoff odds are updated through Week 1. The annual stats pages are now updated with 2019 data, although some of that data can be kind of sketchy after just one week (in particular the offensive line and defensive line pages). We're finishing up the update on the snap counts database and the premium DVOA database right now and that should be up by the end of this evening.

The new 2019 season also means a lot of new content on Football Outsiders, especially fantasy football content with our new senior analyst Scott Spratt. You'll want to check out the brand new FO Fantasy Podcast twice each week (click here for Tuesday's edition) and look for it now on the iTunes podcast app. There are also new articles on Tuesday (Win the Wire, about waiver pickups) and Thursday (Start and Sit).

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through one week of 2019, 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. The DAVE rating for Jacksonville incorporates a lower projection to account for backup Gardner Minshew playing for at least the next two months.

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>

RK TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
TOTAL
DAVE
RANK W-L OFF.
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEF.
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 BAL 119.3% 16.4% 3 1-0 55.2% 2 -56.8% 2 7.2% 3
2 NE 72.7% 24.0% 1 1-0 38.7% 5 -29.3% 7 4.8% 10
3 TEN 66.2% 10.6% 8 1-0 23.6% 10 -37.3% 4 5.2% 5
4 DAL 60.6% 10.7% 7 1-0 59.0% 1 0.4% 17 2.0% 14
5 OAK 50.4% -2.8% 19 1-0 33.8% 6 -7.0% 15 9.6% 2
6 SF 31.9% 1.5% 16 1-0 -25.9% 24 -58.7% 1 -0.9% 19
7 KC 22.3% 15.9% 4 1-0 51.5% 3 30.2% 25 0.9% 18
8 WAS 21.4% -13.6% 28 0-1 39.5% 4 19.2% 22 1.1% 16
9 MIN 12.8% 2.2% 14 1-0 -4.9% 17 -22.2% 11 -4.4% 24
10 GB 12.5% 3.8% 13 1-0 -32.8% 27 -40.3% 3 5.0% 7
11 SEA 10.9% 8.5% 9 1-0 -16.6% 20 -22.4% 10 5.1% 6
12 BUF 4.2% -9.1% 24 1-0 -21.7% 23 -24.8% 9 1.1% 17
13 DET 3.4% 2.2% 15 0-0-1 -3.7% 15 -24.8% 8 -17.7% 30
14 LAC 2.6% 14.8% 5 1-0 22.9% 11 22.0% 23 1.7% 15
15 PHI 0.2% 7.1% 10 1-0 32.4% 8 37.0% 29 4.9% 8
16 LAR -1.3% 13.1% 6 1-0 5.0% 14 -15.8% 14 -22.1% 32
17 NO -4.0% 18.7% 2 1-0 22.0% 12 30.8% 26 4.7% 11
18 HOU -5.3% 5.5% 11 0-1 19.1% 13 22.9% 24 -1.5% 21
19 JAX -5.8% -10.7% 25 0-1 32.7% 7 40.6% 30 2.1% 13
20 CHI -7.7% 1.5% 17 0-1 -42.0% 29 -29.5% 6 4.8% 9
21 IND -8.2% -7.2% 23 0-1 30.8% 9 17.3% 21 -21.7% 31
22 NYJ -9.7% -5.5% 21 0-1 -20.0% 22 -19.1% 12 -8.8% 28
23 CAR -10.6% 0.1% 18 0-1 -7.4% 18 -0.9% 16 -4.1% 23
24 CIN -10.6% -11.7% 26 0-1 -19.9% 21 -18.4% 13 -9.1% 29
25 ARI -20.4% -13.4% 27 0-0-1 -27.0% 25 3.4% 18 10.0% 1
26 CLE -39.8% -4.5% 20 0-1 -31.9% 26 13.8% 20 5.8% 4
27 DEN -44.3% -14.4% 29 0-1 -3.8% 16 32.8% 27 -7.7% 26
28 TB -44.4% -16.7% 30 0-1 -65.7% 32 -29.9% 5 -8.6% 27
29 ATL -55.8% -5.9% 22 0-1 -42.6% 30 7.1% 19 -6.0% 25
30 NYG -73.6% -16.9% 31 0-1 -14.1% 19 58.4% 32 -1.0% 20
31 PIT -83.8% 3.9% 12 0-1 -47.1% 31 33.4% 28 -3.3% 22
32 MIA -94.7% -37.0% 32 0-1 -41.8% 28 56.1% 31 3.3% 12

Comments

74 comments, Last at 16 Sep 2019, 3:12pm

65 Funny, but - let's just say,…

Funny, but - let's just say, based on recent and not-so-recent history, that the outcome of any Pats game in Miami is far less predictable than the objective assessment of the two teams quality would suggest. 

15 Special Teams.... kill me

After a couple decent years of ST work, Indy is back at it again. Given their O and D numbers, it looks like Adam Vinatieri alone dropped them about 10 spots overall. I won't kid myself, all those missed tackles helped, too. But Vinny, Vinny, you're killing me.

27 "With the Lions putting up a…

"With the Lions putting up a slightly above-average VOA rating in Week 1 to go with their slightly above-average preseason projection, we still have the NFC North as a very tight playoff race. "

ಠ_ಠ

There is no reality where the 2019 Lions make the playoffs. Not even the one where a giant meteor wiped out every other team. In that reality, the MSU Spartans won the title via 5 blocked FGs and a safety.

I know you need to pretend your simulation isn't spitting out nonsense. But you need to realize, the Ford family plays with loaded dice.

34 To be fair, Aaron Schatz…

To be fair, Aaron Schatz himself says he doesn't quite believe the numbers, and expects the Lions to go 7-9 or 8-8.  Right now, they're on pace to split that prediction at 7-8-1.

31 Very surprised to see the…

Very surprised to see the Seahawks nearly crack the top-10 after what seemed like a clunker win against the Bengals. VOA likes their defensive performance despite Andy Dalton throwing for a career high in passing yards. I guess it wasn't a very efficient performance (50+ attempts) outside of a few huge plays on blown coverages? The three fumbles (two recovered) probably helped.

One of the talking points on non-analytic blogs is that it was a fairly evenly played game -- maybe even Cincinnati played a bit better. That's what it seemed to me following from afar. But I've learned that DVOA is a more accurate assessor than my own intuition, so, as a 'Hawks fan, that's good, I guess.

Schottenheimer's two-runs-and-pray-Wilson-does-something-great offense is still excruciating to watch, and it foundered this week, but things started out slowly last year too, before really rounding into shape.  So, we shall see.

45 It’s probably not THAT…

It’s probably not THAT frustrating to be a seahawks fan, considering they won a super bowl this decade, but man, they are wasting Russel Wilson’s prime with some absolutely inane coaching and strategy choices. I really feel like the Hawks just lucked into a bunch of talent that led to their success and don’t have a sound strategy beyond getting ripped as possible and trying to out-tough guy every team

49 I think their continued…

I think their continued defensive competence is a testament to Peter Carrol as a coach. Yes the offense has had the same warts every single year, but try being a Colts fan or Packer fan and thinking over the what ifs on coaching. 

74 Catching a late-round QB will do that

Even if your 1st round QB is still on their Rookie contract, you just don't usually had the excess cap space like they did.  (I still think Giselle is the Patriots' MVP... Tahm being willing to take the paycut allows Darth Hoodie to have a few extra ducats to spread around)

48 Super Bowl Champs among highest Week 1 VOA

Doesn't mean anything, but interesting to note that 3 of the top 10 Week 1 VOAs were posted by eventual Super Bowl champions:

91 Washington
96 Green Bay
05 Pittsburgh

That 45-0 Washington win over Detroit was on Monday Night Football and it stamped them as the team to beat, as they opened the season 11-0 while outscoring opponents 361-139 over that span. I feel like that team gets overlooked a lot, though not here, where I believe they're ranked as the top DVOA team of all time. Washington met Detroit again that year in the NFC Championship, which ended with a slightly more competitive 41-10 score.

55 Lions

And the young 91 Cowboys gave Gibbs’ Washington teams fits. Their 24-21 Week 12 win at Washington kept DC from a perfect season (they subsequently tanked a Week 17 second half lead at Philly). So when Erik Kramer and the Lions knocked off Dallas in the divisional round, it helped Washington immensely 

50 The NFC North is so closely…

The NFC North is so closely packed that any divisional road win is pretty huge. The Packers really helped themselves last Thursday, and it makes their game in Lambeau Sunday with the Vikings unusually significant for week 2. These two teams had the same situation last year, and both shot themselves in the foot with a tie. Don't really know what to expect here.

56 How does DVOA handle punt blocks?

Does it get added as punt return value for the receiving team or is it just a negative for the punting unit? For example, there was a block in Chargers-Colts game. Yet I see the Chargers punt return is -1.3 (I presume that the muffed return heavily weights it). Also, the Colts' punt unit shows up as a net positive.

57 Like this:

"The other two items that special teams have little control over are field goals against your team, and punt distance against your team. Research shows no indication that teams can influence the accuracy or strength of field-goal kickers and punters, except for blocks. As mentioned above, although blocked field goals and punts are definitely skillful plays, they are so rare that they have no correlation to how well teams have played in the past or will play in the future, thus they are included here as if they were any other missed field goal or botched punt, giving the defense no additional credit for their efforts. The value of these three elements is listed separately as “Hidden” value."

 

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/info/methods

71 Interesting. Do you have any…

In reply to by Vincent Verhei

Interesting. Do you have any sense of how frequent blocks would have to be in order to be considered meaningful? If a team had, say, 8 blocked FGs/punts over the course of a season (0.5/game) my instinct would be that that is at least somewhat predictive.

72 Hypothetically there would…

Hypothetically there would be a point where it would be predictive, but considering the single-season record for having punts blocked is six, and nobody this century has had more than four, we're not anywhere close to that point. 

Exhibit A: the guy who had six punts blocked was Harry Newsome with the Steelers in 1988. He punted full-time for five more years after that, and only had three punts blocked that entire time. 

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/N/NewsHa20.htm