by Aaron Schatz
The San Francisco 49ers escaped Arizona with a win on Thursday, while the New England Patriots took their first loss on the road in Baltimore Sunday night. What's important for our DVOA ratings is that neither team lived up to its previous standard of play. San Francisco remains No. 1 this week (36.8%) and New England remains No. 2 (36.0%), but the gap between those two teams and the rest of the league in overall DVOA has tightened with No. 3 Kansas City moving up to 29.7%.
Kansas City may be the most balanced team in the league right now, sort of. There is no team that ranks in the top ten in all three phases of the game, but Kansas City comes closest: second in offense, 11th in defense, and eighth in special teams. Of course, the thing that keeps Kansas City from being the most balanced team in the league is just how unbalanced they are between the pass and the run. On offense, the Chiefs rank second passing the ball (behind Seattle) but 20th running the ball. On defense, the Chiefs rank a very surprising fourth against the pass but a hideous 28th against the run.
There are two teams that are in the top ten on both offense and defense, but not special teams. One is New Orleans, which moves up two spots in DVOA to No. 5 without doing anything this week thanks to NFC North teams dropping down. The Saints are eighth on offense and sixth on defense. The other is Minnesota, which drops a spot to No. 6 this week. The Vikings are probably the actual most balanced team in the league, since they rank seventh on offense and seventh on defense. Even more remarkable is how those two units split out: the offense ranks eighth in both rushing and passing, and the defense ranks ninth against both the run and the pass.
Filling out the top nine are three unbalanced teams that rank in the top six on offense but 20th or worse on defense. You might be surprised to see Baltimore only move up one spot to No. 7 after the convincing win over New England. Special teams is the big difference between the Ravens and the next two teams: Green Bay at No. 8 and Seattle at No. 9. Seattle has only outscored opponents by 18 points, which suggests that their 7-2 record significantly overstates how good a team they are. But DVOA believes that the point differential may in turn understate how good a team Seattle is, and Seattle's 5.7 "estimated wins" come out between their Pythagorean projection (4.9 wins) and their actual win total (7).
Getting back to the subject of San Francisco and New England, Week 9 was the first time all season that each team earned a single-game defensive rating above 0%, i.e. worse defense than average. San Francisco (36.1%) came out worse than New England (16.3%) primarily because of opponent adjustments, since Arizona is an average offense while Baltimore is one of the league's top offenses this season. San Francisco's defensive DVOA fell by more than 10 percentage points, while New England's rating fell by almost 10 percentage points. (Last week's ratings are here.)
Nonetheless, New England and San Francisco were so far ahead of the rest of the league on defense that the gigantic gap remains on that side of the ball. Last week, the gap between No. 2 San Francisco and No. 3 Denver was larger than the gap between Denver and No. 31 Cincinnati. This week, the gap between San Francisco and Denver is about equal to the gap between Denver and No. 28 Arizona.
Were New England and San Francisco's defenses in the first half of the season a mirage caused by easy schedules? We'll need more than one bad game to be able to say that. Yes, the Patriots and 49ers have now had a game above 0%, but I went back and looked at the top defenses in DVOA history and no defense has ever made it through a whole season without at least one game with defense above 0%. The 2012 Chicago Bears came closest, as their worst game of the year was 3.9% (a Week 13 overtime loss to Seattle, 23-17).
San Francisco's 36.1% game was worse than the worst game for any of the defenses I looked up, but it comes pretty close to the worst game of the 2013 Legion of Boom Seattle Seahawks, who had 34.6% in a Week 9 overtime win over Tampa Bay, 27-24. And a number of historically great defenses had a single game worse than the one that the Patriots just had against the Ravens, including the 2002 Bucs, the 2015 Broncos, and even the best defense in DVOA history, the 1991 Eagles.
With the big drop in total DVOA, both the 49ers and Patriots drop off the "best total DVOA ever" tables that I've been keeping here each week. But they still rank very high among the top defenses through this point in the season.
|BEST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 8 GAMES, 1986-2019
|BEST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 9 GAMES, 1986-2019
The lower ratings for the Patriots and 49ers definitely make a difference in the FO playoff odds report. Our odds of the Patriots winning the Super Bowl have now dropped to 26.0%, or roughly 3-to-1. San Francisco is second at 19.0%, or roughly 4-to-1. Of course, the odds of New England going undefeated are gone, but we're also giving San Francisco just 3.8% odds of going undefeated. I went through and ran the odds of them remaining undefeated through each of their remaining games, starting with Monday night's big test against Seattle.
Odds of San Francisco remaining undefeated through:
- Week 10: 70.4% (Seattle)
- Week 11: 60.6% (Arizona)
- Week 12: 42.0% (Green Bay)
- Week 13: 22.0% (at Baltimore)
- Week 14: 9.7% (at New Orleans)
- Week 15: 8.8% (Atlanta)
- Week 16: 6.5% (Los Angeles Rams)
- Week 17: 3.8% (at Seattle)
I also flipped things around and looked at similar numbers for the Cincinnati Bengals, who end up going 0-16 in 4.7% of our simulations.
Odds of Cincinnati remaining winless through:
- Week 10: 76.1% (Baltimore)
- Week 11: 59.4% (at Oakland)
- Week 12: 38.9% (Pittsburgh)
- Week 13: 22.4% (New York Jets)
- Week 14: 16.2% (at Cleveland)
- Week 15: 14.6% (New England)
- Week 16: 7.2% (at Miami)
- Week 17: 4.7% (Cleveland)
Of course, the winless Bengals are not the worst team in our DVOA ratings. They aren't even 31st anymore, as the New York Jets dropped one spot after handing the Miami Dolphins their first win. The Dolphins are still the worst defense we've ever tracked through half a season, but their overall DVOA and offensive DVOA keep climbing. The Dolphins-Jets game was one of those games between two bad teams where both teams end up negative in DVOA because of opponent adjustments, but Miami was only at -12.8%, pretty close to average! Miami's single-game rating has risen in each of the last four games, and against the Jets they finally achieved an important milestone: their first above-average offensive DVOA of the year at 25.0%.
|WORST TOTAL DVOA
THROUGH 8 GAMES, 1986-2019
|WORST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 8 GAMES, 1986-2019
With the improvement of the Dolphins offense in mind, I made an adjustment in our playoff odds simulation to account only for Miami's DVOA in games started by Ryan Fitzpatrick. The goal here is to try to get the closest estimate of how well teams will play from here on out, and it's reasonable to suggest that the Dolphins are a better offense with Fitzpatrick at quarterback. With that change, Cincinnati moved slightly past Miami in our odds for earning the No. 1 overall draft pick, even though the Dolphins have the lower rating even with the Fitzpatrick adjustment.
We do a similar adjustment with the New York Jets rating, using a sort-of modified DAVE rating that incorporates performance with Sam Darnold at quarterback and a preseason projection that included Darnold, and leaving out the Luke Falk games. However, that Darnold-specific rating is looking a lot worse after the last three weeks. And when you combine the terrible three games Darnold has had with the terrible games that Falk had, the Jets are now approaching the title of the worst offense ever in DVOA history, despite that anomalous win over Dallas in Week 6.
|WORST OFFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 8 GAMES, 1986-2019
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This week we introduce weighted DVOA, our rating that drops the strength of earlier games to get a better idea of how well teams are playing now. The last eight weeks worth of games are still at full strength or close to it, so right now the only game with less than 95 percent strength is Week 1, and the weighted DVOA ratings are very similar to the total DVOA ratings. In future weeks, they'll begin to diverge a little bit. We're also (mostly) retiring DAVE, our rating that combines in-season performance with preseason projection early in the season. I'm still using DAVE this week in the playoff odds report, but you won't find it on the team stats pages, because at this point the DAVE ratings are very similar to the full-season 2019 ratings. This last week of DAVE weights the preseason forecast at 8 percent for teams with nine games played and 15 percent for teams with eight games played.
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Stats pages should now be updated through Week 9, including playoff odds, the FO Premium DVOA database and snap counts. A quick note on stats pages: a computer error meant that the overtime of Tampa Bay at Seattle was left out of this week's ratings. We'll have that fixed and included by next week, probably sooner. It only meant a difference of a couple tenths of a percentage point in DVOA, but player stats such as Russell Wilson's touchdown total are listed incorrectly.
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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through nine weeks 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.
WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games.
Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are only at 90 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.
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>
- 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).