Week 3 DVOA Ratings
Last year after Week 3, I wrote in this space that "the 2019 NFL season has been very stratified so far." Seven different teams started the season 3-0 (Detroit was also undefeated at 2-0-1) and there were some teams with very high and very low DVOA ratings early in the season, including the New England Patriots with one of the all-time greatest starts and the Miami Dolphins with one of the all-time worst starts.
Here we are in 2020, and once again seven different teams have started the season 3-0. But this year, if Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings are to believed, the NFL season has absolutely not been very stratified so far. There are a couple of very bad teams, but the good teams are all grouped together. With last night's big Baltimore loss, we have no team that has really dominated the league through the early going.
Because the teams are so close together in ratings, this week's DVOA rankings are likely to be a surprise. That surprise starts with the team on top: Indianapolis is No. 1, thanks to a sufficating defense over its last two games. But Indianapolis is only slightly ahead of Pittsburgh, which is only slightly ahead of San Francisco. Seattle and Tampa Bay round out the top five.
The Colts are far from a dominant No. 1 team at this point in the season. Indianapolis is:
- The first team with a loss to be No. 1 after three weeks since the 1989 Cleveland Browns.
- The first team with DVOA below 40% to be No. 1 after three weeks since the 2014 Cincinnati Bengals.
- The lowest team by DVOA to be No. 1 after three weeks since the 2000 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were also at 35.2%.
Any look at the top teams in DVOA through three weeks has to insert the caveat that we are not yet including opponent adjustments. They begin after Week 4 and with the ratings so close, would likely have a big impact on the rankings, even at partial strength. The Colts' three opponents, for example, are all below average in DVOA and are a combined 0-6 in their other games. However, you can't completely write off the Colts' defensive performance by blaming the awful offenses in Philadelphia and Minnesota. First of all, Minnesota's offense is not as awful as you might think -- the Vikings did move the ball against the Packers, even if their defense couldn't stop Green Bay. And Jacksonville's offense ranks seventh so far this season; it's the Jaguars defense and special teams that have been the problem.
Pittsburgh is No. 2; DVOA believes that they have been much better than the scores of their games would otherwise indicate. (They've only outscored opponents by an average of 7.3 points per game.) However, two of those opponents were the Denver Broncos and New York Giants, who happen to be our current leaders in the odds to win next year's No. 1 overall pick.
Opponent adjustments will have an impact on San Francisco as well. The 49ers climbed from 15 to third this week by clobbering the New York Giants. They clobbered the New York Jets the week before. That's the two worst offenses in the league so far this season. The DVOA system, of course, does not know about the ridiculous number of injuries the 49ers have suffered this season; it's only looking at the plays on the field and how efficient the 49ers have been.
Based on average DVOA of opponent, only two teams in the current top ten have played an above-average schedule: No. 4 Seattle and No. 9 Kansas City. So things are going to get scrambled a bit once we get another week of data and have enough to start installing the opponent adjustments.
Which brings us to questions about how the Kansas City Chiefs only rank ninth after that dominating victory over Baltimore on Monday night. There are a few issues here. First, the lack of opponent adjustments means the Chiefs don't get a boost (yet) for playing Baltimore. Second, the Baltimore win was not as dominating as it looked early on, since the Chiefs did let the Ravens back into the game in the second half. Kansas City got 38.2% DVOA for the game. Third, the Chiefs' first two wins were not impressive according to the DVOA system. Week 1 was the rare game where both teams ended up with negative DVOA before we even apply opponent adjustments, and Kansas City is currently at -2.8% for that win. The win over the Chargers earned them 23.3% DVOA.
This is where DAVE comes in, our metric that combines 2020 performance with our prior knowledge (preseason forecast) to better project how we can expect teams to play for the remainder of the season. Kansas City is No. 1 in DAVE, because DAVE knows that we expected the Chiefs to be very strong going into the season. But DAVE has its own controversies. For example, the 1-2 New Orleans Saints are still second in DAVE. It's not just because of their high preseason projection. New Orleans is 11th in DVOA so far, higher than two different undefeated teams (Tennessee and Chicago). All three Saints games have earned positive DVOA, in part because a lot of their penalties are less predictive than runs and passes and are not included in our formula. If you missed it, I went more in depth into the loss to the Raiders in last week's commentary. The Saints' had their lowest rating of the year against Green Bay, but it was still positive. New Orleans had 4.3% DVOA and Green Bay had 8.6% DVOA, and both teams drop four spots this week. Both teams will (probably) see their rating for this game improve over time as the opponent adjustments gradually kick in.
Speaking of Tennessee and Chicago, they are very low for 3-0 teams before we even start considering opponent adjustments. Each team's three opponents so far are a combined 1-5 in their other games. Tennessee and Chicago rank among the ten lowest-rated 3-0 teams in DVOA history. Here's a look at where they rank and how those other teams did for the rest of the year. (Teams with an asterisk are measured in Week 4, so some opponent adjustments are included.) The majority of these teams ended up with winning records and made the playoffs and a couple of them really improved after their "slow" starts.
|Worst DVOA by 3-0 Teams, 1985-2020|
You can read more about Chicago's improbable Week 3 win in this week's Any Given Sunday column.
There's one other team I want to write about today, and that's the Buffalo Bills. If any members of Bills Mafia still read this website, they're probably a bit ticked off that the Bills somehow rank just 10th in DVOA despite their 3-0 record. The Bills are a very weird, unexpected team so far this year. They have essentially been the exact opposite of what we expected. In Football Outsiders Almanac 2020, we wrote that the Bills might have the best roster in the league outside of the quarterback position. Their defense had our No. 1 projection for the preseason. So what has happened instead? Josh Allen has had a spectacular breakout, currently ranking second behind Russell Wilson in passing YAR. But the Bills rank 28th running the ball and a very surprising 24th on defense. They've scored a ton of points but keep letting opponents back into games. It's not just the blown 28-3 lead against the Rams; Miami was beating Buffalo until 6:03 of the fourth quarter last weekend. The rest of the team is not living up to what Josh Allen is doing so far.
Because Allen is playing so well, it feels like this is the best Buffalo start to the season in quite a long time. It's not. It's really not. Buffalo started 3-0 just one year ago! But it's more than that: Buffalo has made a habit of doing this for years now. For the last decade, no team in the NFL has made a habit of starting strong and then stalling out quite like the Buffalo Bills.
This is the seventh season in the last ten where the Bills started the season either 3-0 or 2-1. In each of those seasons, the Bills ranked in the top ten of DVOA after three weeks. In fact, in five of those other six seasons, the Bills had a higher DVOA after Week 3 than they have this year. (None of these Week 3 numbers include opponent adjustments, although the final season numbers do.) The seasons without good starts are shaded:
|Buffalo Week 1-3 Starts, 2010-2020|
The biggest difference between this year and the previous hot Bills starts is that the quarterback performance makes it feel more sustainable. But we've seen that before as well. The Buffalo offense was just as hot in 2011 and 2015, although the 2015 offense was more of a run-based offense when it started out hot. Josh Allen has 409 passing YAR through three games, which exactly matches what Ryan Fitzpatrick did in 2011. Fitzpatrick finished the year with 185 passing DYAR, which means he was below replacement level the rest of the season.
None of this is to say that the Bills are guaranteed to fall apart this year the way they have in so many recent years. This is a different quarterback, a different roster, a different head coach and front office. And the last two times the Bills started hot, their DVOA may have declined but they made the playoffs anyway. What I want to point out instead is that this Bills start is only notable because its the quarterback leading the way, and because of what the expectations were for that quarterback before the season. They're going to have to keep this up for a bit longer before this year becomes different from all the other hot Bills Septembers we've seen over the past decade. If the defense started playing like we expected before the season instead of letting the Rams close a 28-3 lead, it would go a long way towards helping things.
The Bills are not the only team with a habit of starting faster than they finish, just the most extreme one. Here is a list of the five teams from the last decade with the largest average decline from DVOA after Week 3 to final DVOA. Obviously, what happened in 2010 and 2011 doesn't tell us anything about what's going to happen in 2020, but the list is interesting.
|Biggest Average DVOA Fall from Weeks 1-3, 2010-2019|
Atlanta was a bit of a surprise to me, although that's in part because most of the years where they declined significantly came early in the decade. They've gotten better later in the season in three of the last four years. Here's the same list, only on the other side, the teams with the slowest starts over the last decade. And hey, look who's on top.
|Biggest Average DVOA Rise from Weeks 1-3, 2010-2019|
New Orleans is the rare team where this might mean something because the Saints have been playing with the same coach and quarterback for the entire decade. In nine of the last ten years, the Saints have had a better DVOA at the end of the season than they had after Week 3. Just last year, the Saints were 2-1 after three games but ranked only 21st in DVOA. Only once in the decade, 2013, did the Saints rank in the top ten in DVOA after three games. Yet six times in the decade, the Saints finished the year in the top ten. The Saints have a habit of slow offensive starts, too. A year ago, the Saints ranked just 15th in offensive DVOA after Week 3.
When I wrote about this same trend a couple years ago, Pittsburgh was the team that really stood out, and here they are again. I also expected to find New England on this list but last year's super hot start ruined their decade-long record of getting better after September nearly every year.
The Raiders' average DVOA change from Weeks 1-3 to their final DVOA was exactly 0.0%. I thought that was fun.
One more thing on the subject of the Bills, since I enjoy picking fights with their fans so much. There's absolutely no denying that Josh Allen has been fantastic this season. He even has a positive (3.7%) completion rate over expectation according to NFL Next Gen Stats! We're told that we should have known that Allen was ready to take the leap this season. I certainly didn't hear that expectation from any film experts this offseason, but the numbers especially don't suggest that a huge leap forward was coming.
I went and looked for a list of quarterbacks who had similar passing performances to Allen in their first two years. I ignored rushing; we know Allen is valuable on the ground, but the questions were about his abilities as a passer. I found all the quarterbacks who fit these baselines:
- Less than 0 DYAR as a rookie with 200+ passes
- Between -250 and 250 DYAR in Year 2 with 200+ passes
Look at this list and tell me if we were supposed to expect Josh Allen to take the leap in Year 3:
|Similar Career Starts to Josh Allen, 1985-2020|
|Years||Player||Team||Y1 DYAR||Y2 DYAR||Y3 DYAR|
That's right, Josh Allen through three games has more quarterback DYAR than any of these other similar quarterbacks had in their entire third seasons. Obviously, like Ryan Fitzpatrick in 2011, he could go negative for the rest of the year and end up lower than this, but it's more likely that he'll play somewhere between his Week 1-3 performance and his 2018-2019 performance. Even if he's an average NFL passer, he has the best career out of anyone on this list, especially when you consider his rushing value.
Here are three more quarterbacks I thought were interesting. These are quarterbacks who didn't play much as rookies but hit the "similar to Allen" baselines if we look at their second and third seasons. There's a really intriguing comparable here, and it's not the guy who played for the Buffalo Bills.
|Three More Sort of Similar Career Starts to Josh Allen|
|Years||Player||Team||Y2 DYAR||Y3 DYAR||Y4 DYAR|
Josh Allen as the modern Randall Cunningham (only taking fewer sacks) would be a lot of fun.
* * * * *
Football Outsiders playoff odds, snap counts, and the FO+ database are now all updated through Week 3.
* * * * *
These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through three weeks of 2020, 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.) Our second weekly table which includes schedule strength, variance, and estimated wins will appear beginning after Week 4.
DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason forecast with current DVOA to get a more accurate projection of how a team will play the rest of the season. DAVE is currently 78% preseason forecast and 22% actual performance.
For certain teams with major injuries, offensive DAVE numbers are approximate, adjusted to split the difference between two ratings that are based on a preseason projection with and without the injured players (Carolina, Denver, New Orleans, and San Francisco).
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>
95 comments, Last at 02 Oct 2020, 1:24pm
#1 by theslothook // Sep 29, 2020 - 5:18pm
Yeah....this is one where I would say DVOA is not to be trusted. After they lost to the Jags, I wrote off the Colts completely and decided it wasn't worth the headache of searching reddit streams to watch them. Who wants to watch a middling team with a noodle arm qb that's only going to get worse over time? And somehow, unthinkably they are number 1?????????
#3 by Vincent Verhei // Sep 29, 2020 - 5:33pm
The Colts are giving up 4.7 net yards per pass play, a half-yard better than any other team. They also lead the league with six interceptions, two more than any other team. It helps to play Sam Darnold, but they obliterated Kirk Cousins in Week 2. Even in Week 1, when Gardner Minshew went 19-for-20, he was still sacked four times and only averaged 6.3 yards per dropback.
In a year (well, three weeks) with no good teams, the best pass defense in the league seems a worthy qualifier for the top spot.
#83 by Perfundle // Sep 30, 2020 - 9:01pm
If anything, that's a favorable spread for Indianapolis. I remember a 17% DVOA differential being roughly worth 3 points, so subtracting the typical 3-point home-field advantage should result in an even line. Of course, DAVE having a heavy preseason rating makes it inaccurate.
Converting VOA spread to point spread gives (35.2% - (-3.1%))/17*3 = 6.76 points, minus 3 points for HFA gives 3.76 points, so that's much closer to the actual spread.
#24 by RickD // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:07am
The Colts have played three opponents that are 0-6 against the rest of the NFL. Even with that schedule, the Colts have two home wins by large margins, but were unable to win in Jacksonville.
Their high ranking is solely because this is VOA, not DVOA. If they'd had Houston's schedule, they'd also be 0-3.
#67 by Dave Bernreuther // Sep 30, 2020 - 4:05pm
Not necessarily. I'd pick them over the Steelers (whose three wins are also over teams that are 0-6 otherwise) maybe 6 or 7 times out of ten. They're not a bad enough 3-0 team to qualify for the other part of the article, but they haven't done much to impress me, outside of the D Line play, either. And much like Rivers, I also expect Ben to fall off a cliff too.
#74 by DIVISION // Sep 30, 2020 - 5:06pm
Don't count out Big Ben just yet. He's lost several parts of the last few years to injury, which should mean he's got some extra tread left if his overall performance can hold up.
The jury is still out on Big Ben. If he can hold up this year, I think he can provide great value going forward.
Rivers, I'm afraid, has been done for the last two years.
This is Brees' last good year as well.
#2 by Perfundle // Sep 29, 2020 - 5:29pm
There's a massive gap between the top 4 QBs and the rest in both DYAR and ESPN's QBR, though the order of the top 4 is different. Also, Mahomes' -1.8 ALEX score is surprising, while Rodgers' 6.3 is anything but, as he has led the league for 4 straight seasons now.
#72 by DIVISION // Sep 30, 2020 - 5:02pm
...That the defense would be outperforming the offense this year. Not at all.
Looking at the Lions' DVOA, it looks more like Arizona gave that game away (Kyler INT's) more than Detroit won it.
Also, I still don't understand why Kliff didn't go for it on 4th and 9 or whatever it was in what turned out to be their last possession of the game. If you don't have faith that Kyler can pick it up at that point in the game, why are you putting so much trust in him to begin with?
That type of decision was emblematic of last year where the Cards blew some close games.
#9 by murftastic // Sep 29, 2020 - 6:26pm
You have to feel sorry for the DVOA compilers. Any human who watched the Chiefs in week 2 and week 3 could tell that Reid and Beinamy spent a lot more time game planning for Baltimore than they did against the Chargers. They clearly thought they could look past LAC a bit, and it worked, barely.
Unfortunately, there's no way for DVOA to capture that. Nor (unless there's something I'm missing) is there any way to capture the fact that all these teams are woefully under-practiced as a result of Covid.
Simply put, these numbers just don't mean much right now. There's too much going on that they aren't designed to capture.
#21 by Drunken5yearold // Sep 29, 2020 - 11:41pm
Yeah, I don't buy the above narrative at all. Most of Mahomes' lowest yardage games have come against the Chargers. I think the combination of decent pressure + cover-3 gives him a little bit more trouble than other defenses.
#16 by Insancipitory // Sep 29, 2020 - 7:53pm
I'm not saying I know this for a fact; but, what's going on is after Burt Reynold's died he went to heaven, and was sent back to Earth to help out someone in need. But instead he ran into Gardner Minshew, and while he didn't need any help Burt found him to be a pretty great guy, and just decided to hang out with him. For his part, Minshew was put at ease and became able to let go of his residual doubt with the revelation that not only was heaven real, but it was (kinda) on his side even if ghosts like Burt Reynolds thought it was overrated. This obliterated his natural 'Welcome to the NFL' anxiety and at the same time provided a sense of urgency that this was his time to revel allowing him to accept all things as they were in their glorious imperfection. Even the endless strip-mall purgatory of Jacksonville.
He's gonna keep his foot hard on the pedal, never mind them brakes, let it all hang out. 'Cause he got a run to make.
#19 by NYChem // Sep 29, 2020 - 8:46pm
The texans complain, but the jets have faced a murderers row, 1st the 10th, and then back to back the 3rd, and 1st best DVOA teams this year... Poor Adam Gase can't catch a break! And while they have Denver coming up, woudn't be surprised to see the Broncos ranked much higher next week.
#13 by oaktoon // Sep 29, 2020 - 7:09pm
They rank 4th after beating up on Lions. Go to NO to play the toughest team on their schedule so far (and along with TB and SF, one of three toughest all season)-- win solidly (I will grant you it was an even game until Hill fumbled. Well, turnovers matter) and they fall to 8th. Loving it.
#14 by Jimmy Oz // Sep 29, 2020 - 7:13pm
What are the odds all 4 NFC West teams make the playoffs? I'm guessing that in the play-off odds, it's too simplistic to multiply the 4 NFC West teams' combined playoff odds to come up with a 13.7% chance that all 4 teams make the playoffs.
More than likely all 4 teams end up with winning records after 5 weeks:
- Week 4 games: Seattle at Miami, Arizona at Carolina, Giants at Rams, & Philadelphia at San Francisco
- Week 5 games: Arizona at Jets, Rams at Washington, Miami at San Francisco, Minnesota at Seattle
#18 by theTDC // Sep 29, 2020 - 8:14pm
Alright let's see here, expected records:
Rams crush Giants + WTF: 4-1
9ers crush PHI + Miami: 4-1
Hawks crush Miami + beat MIN: 5-0
Cards beat Car + crush Jets: 4-1.
Of course, counting expected wins has been shown time and time again to be a frivolous pursuit, so expect worse. It's also somewhat irrelevant, since the divisional games are going to decide those teams success this year, not Miami or the Jets.
But yes, the combination of 4 strong teams + playing the AFC East and more importantly the NFC Least is going to lead to some really interesting results.
#27 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:27am
Amongst shared opponents, there are 3 challenges (DAL, BUF and NE), 2 Division A walkovers (NY and NY), and 3 should-win games (PHI, WAS and MIA).
SEA gets the nod here so far, having edged both DAL and NE. Rams are 1-1 against the challenges, while ARI has dispatched one of the should-win teams. SF is playing the role of King Phyrrus, winning two meaningless battles that may cost them the campaign, as no one else in the division should lose to either NY team either, and presumably won't take as many casualties in doing so.
#29 by theTDC // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:42am
Honestly, I agree, just not in importance. Love the term King Phyrrus btw.
This is a division where the divisional games are bordering on playoff games. All four teams are in contention for the wildcard, so you aren't just fighting for the divisional crown, but for that last playoff spot in all 6 games. Dropping the occasional game to WAS or NE is not that big of a deal. Much more important to steal that win against an NFC West team and get the tiebreak.
We could have some really interesting situations if there a few triangle sweeps in the division. eg. Rams sweep 9ers, get swept by hawks. Hawks sweep rams, get swept by 9ers. And since there are four teams in contention, it's unlikely but plausible to happen.
#28 by oaktoon // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:41am
Since they need all four. Problem is there are 12 losses to go around. If one team loses, say, 4 of the 6 game, which is more likely than not-- it would probably have to go 8-2 outside of conference to be assured a spot. 7-3 at worst.
And how confident are we in Seattle to make the playoffs, given possible injuries?
give them a 90% chance... Make the 49ers and Rams 75% chance each Cardinals can't be better than a 20-25% chance, i would think since they've already lost out of division as have the Rams though both were non-conference. So do the math and it comes to about 10% at best. i would think closer to 5%. In other words, Nah Gonna happen-- even with 7 teams qualifying.
#34 by Perfundle // Sep 30, 2020 - 3:08am
Another issue is who their competition is, and right now it's looking like one of Tampa Bay and New Orleans. I feel that both of those teams are strong enough to finish at least 10-6, which will knock out the 4th-place NFC West team; even 9-7 will probably do it.
#37 by Bright Blue Shorts // Sep 30, 2020 - 6:25am
18 years worth of 4-team divisional standings.
One time it could have happened - the NFC in 2007. The Eagles finished bottom of the NFCE with 8-8. They had the head-to-head over the Vikings. The Cards were also 8-8 but lose out on common games played (Eagles 3-2, Cards 2-3).
Teams also finished bottom of a division at 8-8 in AFC2002 when both East and West divisions did so. But the Colts and Browns had better records than those teams.
I don't think any 4th placed team is getting in with a losing record because there will almost certainly be a team in one of the other 3 divisions with a better record.
You have to have a lot of bad teams in the conference outside of your own division.
#49 by Bright Blue Shorts // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:10pm
I'm glad you explained that because it wasn't clear to me either.
On paper adding a 7th playoff spot has to increase the chances of a wildcard team qualifying at 7-9.
But I was specifically talking about the odds of all 4 teams in a division qualifying with one of them having a 7-9 record. I'm doubtful it happens because of the way schedules are constructed. I'm sure one of the other divisions will have a team at 8-8 or better.
* All this becomes moot when the NFL moves to 17 games.
#55 by Richie // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:50pm
He was looking at previous seasons to see if it would have happened if those seasons had that extra playoff spot.
Though that is not the most accurate method, because teams play differently in the last week or two depending on if they have a chance at a playoff spot. So some of the late season win-losses may have turned out differently if a playoff spot was actually on the line.
#60 by Joey-Harringto… // Sep 30, 2020 - 1:05pm
If you go further back, this scenario could have plausibly happened between 1990-94, which is after they added the 6th seed (a third wildcard spot back then during 3 division conferences), but before CAR and JAX joined the league (the AFC Central and NFC West were 4 team divisions). It never really came close to happening.
The closest it came was in one of the 5 team divisions, when in 1994 the top 4 NFC Central teams made the playoffs:
I may be missing other years where that happened in other 5 team divisions, but I didn't feel like cycling through 8 seasons of NFL standings.
#48 by Joe Pancake // Sep 30, 2020 - 11:56am
In the decade of the 2010s, an NFC West team played in the Super Bowl 5/10 times, with three different representatives, (and lost in the conference championship three additional times, with all four playing in at least once).
Four times they've had three teams finish .500 or better, and only twice did they have fewer than two teams finish below .500. They've never had all four team finish .500 or above, but they came very close in 2013 (Rams were the worst at 7-9), when they went 30-10 combined on the season against non-division opponents.
If you include this year and toss out 2010 (the 7-9 division champ year), the rolling ten-year records are going to be even better, significantly so.
Among Seahawks fans, you will often here grumbling about how the full potential of the "Legion of Boom" teams was never fully reached. But the fact they made the playoffs every year of the decade except one, and look poised to do so this year, is pretty remarkable.
The Patriots are the most successful team of the last ten years, without question, but it would be interesting to see what would've happened if they had to play McVay's Rams, Harbaugh's and Shanahan's 49ers, and Arians' and Kingsbury's Cardinals six times a year, while the Seahawks got to play the perennially terrible (with a few exceptions) Jets, Dolphins, and Bills.
#50 by Bright Blue Shorts // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:21pm
NFC Worst to NFC West in less than a decade ! It was putrid the second half of the 00s.
Patriots would have had a much more interesting time in the NFC West but only really from 2011-14 until Harbaugh left and then Arians. But BB would never have traded Grop to the 49ers without whom they've struggled to win.
The AFC North is the place I'd like to have seen them. Up against the Ravens, Steelers and even Lewis's Bengals. Every other division, I believe he would slowly have got a grip on and forced the owners to regularly fire GMs/HCs in an eternal cycle of doom!
#54 by sbond101 // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:42pm
"and forced the owners to regularly fire GMs/HCs in an eternal cycle of doom! "
This is what is least understood about the AFC East. The performance of the Bill, Jets, & Fins, is not an independent event from the existence of the Pats. I can quite easily make the case that the Seahawks never get off the ground if the Pats play in that division because Pete might have been gone by the end of 2012 - with three years of missing the playoffs.
#63 by Joe Pancake // Sep 30, 2020 - 2:53pm
Yeah, I'm not buying this "AFC East teams are bad because of the Patriots" argument. Where's the evidence to support it? Do you really think good teams would become terrible if the Patriots were in their division? Shanahan would become Gase? McVay would go 4-12 repeatedly and get fired? Kyler would play like EJ Manuel? C'mon, now.
As for Belichick versus Carroll, it should be noted that Carroll is now 3-0 against Belichick in the regular season, and since the two coaches have never played each other in the postseason, that's all there is to say about that.
#64 by sbond101 // Sep 30, 2020 - 3:13pm
"As for Belichick versus Carroll, it should be noted that Carroll is now 3-0 against Belichick in the regular season, and since the two coaches have never played each other in the postseason, that's all there is to say about that."
… I feel like there might have been a superbowl in their somewhere that your forgetting.
As to the broader argument; it's not that BB or the Pats make other teams bad. It's that if you are consistently good for a long time you cause your competitors to go into a Browns like cycle of coach-firing which is a massive self-inflicted wound. Carrol is the best example of this as in his first three years he won the division twice with teams that were not great. If you hypothetically put the Pats in that division, he looks like a bunch of AFC east coaches who miss the playoffs three times with average teams and get fired - and the great Seahawks teams of the 2010's never emerge. This pattern is not a complete explanation for the situation, but the cycle the Bills & Jets have been in for the last 20 years is not just an expression of unique organizational incompetence.
#66 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 30, 2020 - 3:55pm
I'm not buying it.
If you take Shula's peak with the Dolphins (1970-1985), only the Jets don't win the division at least once. Only the Bills don't get to at least the AFC championship game. Every team won at least 11 games once.
Or the Landry Cowboys. Every other NFC East team made a Super Bowl in his era, including the Vermeil Eagles, the Parcells Giants, and the Allen and Gibbs Redskins. Only the Eagles didn't actually win a SB. Every team won at least 12 games once.
Hell, even in the Favre-Rodgers run, every other NFC Central/North team has made at least the NFC Championship game and won at least 12 games.
#70 by Perfundle // Sep 30, 2020 - 4:40pm
"Carrol is the best example of this as in his first three years he won the division twice with teams that were not great."
No, he only won the division once in his first three years. He made the playoffs twice, once with a horrible 7-9 team, but also with the 2012 team who were third in point differential and first in DVOA.
#91 by Noahrk // Oct 01, 2020 - 12:46pm
No matter how great a team in your division is, you only play them twice a year. And the Dolphins, for one, frequently split the series with the Patriots even against peak Brady.
Nah, the Fins, Bills and Jets didn't suck because of Belichik, they sucked because they were sucky in a suckulent way.
#68 by Bright Blue Shorts // Sep 30, 2020 - 4:15pm
The first three years Belichick was in New England, the Dolphins and Jets were their equals (or betters); the Bills almost. So yes good teams that turned bad once Belichick arrived
2000 - Miami 11-3, Jets 9-7, Bills 8-8 ... Patriots cellar dwellars at 5-11
2001 - Patriots 11-5, Miami 11-5, Jets 10-6 .... Bills cellar dwellars 3-13
2002 - Jets 9-7 (win division), Patriots 9-7, Miami 9-7, Bills 8-8
2003 - Patriots 14-2, Miami 10-6
If you don't think Belichick causes other teams to make bad decisions you're not paying attention. He's traded lots of his players to other teams around the league who find those players weren't quite as good as they were in New England. Likewise his free agent players. Andy Reid has done the same thing with his backup quarterbacks.
#71 by theslothook // Sep 30, 2020 - 4:49pm
I think the problem is we cannot truly measure cause and effect. I can kind of buy the argument that a division overlord can create some bad habits among the other rivals, who feel a sense of desperation to compete. An easy one is trying to imitate the rival by hiring away his coaches; which predictably failed.
However, I think the biggest thing that ruined all of these division rivals is that they never hit on a true QB. Ryan Tannehill was the closest, but there were a lot more Geno Smith, EJ Manuel, JP Losman, Mark Sanchez types.
#69 by Perfundle // Sep 30, 2020 - 4:36pm
Well Seattle beat New England in 2012, and they went 1-1 against every single division opponent, so if you replace a non-Seattle team with New England Seattle would've still gone at least 11-5.
In any case, Carroll massively improved Seattle's point differential, going from -110 in 2009 to -97 in 2010, +6 in 2011 and +167 in 2012. No way he would've been fired even if he missed the playoffs with slightly worse point differentials due to the Patriots being in the division.
#87 by Kopalec // Oct 01, 2020 - 9:27am
I can quite easily make the case that the Seahawks never get off the ground if the Pats play in that division because Pete might have been gone by the end of 2012 - with three years of missing the playoffs.
If Patriots fans want to wrap themselves up in this narrative while they sleep at night, well you do you boo.
The Patriots dominance is to be respected regardless of opponents due to sheer longevity if nothing else. However, you're diluting yourselves if you don't believe that it was aided in no small part by playing 3 poorly run organizations each year.
Brady and Belichick are still great, we don't need to conflate it with some imaginary "aura of doom". That's something sports analysts push to "feed the goat" before their daily deadlines.
#81 by theTDC // Sep 30, 2020 - 8:35pm
I get what you're saying with Bellichick encouraging owners to fire coaches earlier than necessary, but I actually think that's a good thing for those franchises. First, even if it means that you have on average worse coaching, well so do 3 other teams in the division. NE has been consistently 12-4, but you still get to play two of the Jets, Dolphins, or Bills, twice each year, assuming you coach one of those teams. So it's still actually good for you to play in the AFC East.
On top of that, I think most coaches are idiots. McVay coming in and turning the rams around immediately with largely the same roster, after taking over from the idiot Jeff Fisher, is just the best example of this. Sean Payton took the 3-13 Saints to 10-6 the next year. I mean I could go on, but either a coach is good or they aren't, and if they can't win against the other idiots in the league, then they're average at best. Sure, maybe Shanahan gets fired after going 10-22 his first two seasons, but in that case you simply have an idiot owner, Belichick can't be blamed for that.
#76 by DIVISION // Sep 30, 2020 - 5:15pm
The Cardinals have given the Patriots fits in recent years.
The last time they played in NE, they out physicaled the Pats and ended up winning a hard fought game.
The Patriots in the NFC West would basically be like playing Seattle twice in terms of scheme and toughness.
#15 by jheidelberg // Sep 29, 2020 - 7:16pm
On the fan in Baltimore yesterday (a station on which Aaron has often been a guest) this question was asked by the host, "Are the 0-3 Houston Texans better than the 3-0 Chicago Bears". I wish we had opponent adjustments now, DVOA might say yes.
#77 by DIVISION // Sep 30, 2020 - 5:21pm
...to back up intuition.
As currently constructed, I think the Bears are better than the Texans. This is partially due to Nick Foles being the QB over Trubisky. Also, Psychological impact can't be denied. Houston is reeling due to their offense not having Hopkins and their defense can't stop anyone. A tale of teams headed in opposing directions.
In a case like this DVOA can't truly track momentum or future performance.
#20 by muscle417 // Sep 29, 2020 - 10:57pm
"Miami was beating Buffalo until 6:03 of the fourth quarter last weekend."
Miami had a lead for 4:12 of game time total. This phrasing makes it seem like they led most of the game.
No Bills fan expected THIS much of a leap from Allen, and I'm sure he'll taper off some, but those who really paid attention expected individual improvement for three primary reasons:
1) Pure athletic talent - which everyone agreed he had from the start
2) Work ethic/determination - His competitive fire is not quantifiable, but clearly evident. He's got the will that characterizes any great player.
3) Track record of improvement - '19 Allen was clearly a different player than '18 Allen, improving his short game and reducing turnovers, growing even as the season progressed. The Josh Allen that nearly upset the Patriots in week 16 was a very different QB than the one that played hero ball in week 4.
Combine that with Diggs, Beane and Daboll and there was quite a lot of subjective evidence that Allen was going to take another good-sized step forward.
#56 by Richie // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:55pm
Maybe not. I would guess there are more fans of the: Raiders, Rams, Steelers, Packers, Cowboys and maybe Patriots.
That would be great if there was some way to actually survey cities across the country and determine team popularity.
#26 by Bobman // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:24am
As a Colts fan, I find it highly amusing (and dubious) that they are where they are without being dragged there by Manning or Luck. The D hasn't looked all that impressive, so I will assume it's largely the opponents. But the D is mostly healthy, compared to their offensive health (two young promising WRs had procedures this week, the starting RB tore his achilles, top two TEs missed last week). The two really promising Jets drives early concerned me, even though one ended with a pick in the EZ. They looked too easy for an injury-ravaged offense. But that was it for the day.
But the Colts have the easiest early schedule, and it doesn't get much harder for a few more weeks. Unless Foles pulls a rabbit out of his helmet (will he do better vs Reich than Gannon vs Gruden in the SB two decades ago?), Chicago isn't likely to stop the trend. The Browns in CLE? Chubb is looking good but Beckham has yet to look like his old self. Cincy in Indy? Naah.
Now the D needs last year's snaps leader to return from his stomach procedure (Reich isn't saying what, when asked if it was appendix, but Rock Ya-Sin missed two games. Did he swallow a secret decoder ring?) and they will be stronger. Looks like renting Xavier Rhodes for a year was a good investment so far. After their bye, the Colts face the Lions, Ravens, Titans, and GB. The D might show a few signs of wear after that, especially if the O keeps settling for FGs.
And how about drafting Taylor when they already had a 1,000 yard RB? As much as I wanted to see two 900 yard RBs, they're still in good shape. Reminds me of when they moved up in the 2nd round to draft Tony Ugoh even though they had pro bowler Tarik Glenn at LT, who they figured had one year left, but he ended up retiring suddenly that August. Ugoh gave them two good years then fell off a cliff. Let's hope Taylor has more in his tank.
#78 by DIVISION // Sep 30, 2020 - 5:24pm
Only to see the depths of ineptitude these teams can demonstrate on National TV.
The Broncos will likely blow out the Jets, mainly because they have a defense and the Jets don't have much of anything.
It will be a dumpster fire of a game, like the Presidential debate.
#32 by Kopalec // Sep 30, 2020 - 2:35am
of positive tests for TEN, and by playing them MIN, it seems a little schedule shuffling will "contain" the issue if no further issues pop up. That said the Steelers having their bye moved through no fault of their own (BAL as well) and will have an effect surely. Mentally if not physically. I'm curious if the NFL will move in this way, or if they have other plans already in place?
Buckle up boys and girls.
#33 by RobotBoy // Sep 30, 2020 - 2:41am
I think I've read (here) that scoring goes down over the season, due to weather and defenses clicking. This years has had unusually high scoring, the presumed culprit being the condensed training camps and absence of preseason games.
Given the above, I wonder if there's any way to project what teams will benefit least, or most, from defensive improvements. If it's a constant across the league, then it doesn't make much of difference, although if games with higher scores have higher variance, the bad teams would benefit least.
However, if that isn't the case, it's interesting to consider what teams will show the most improvement. For example, Buffalo's D is unlikely to finish the season 24th in DVOA. The Patriots too, would be due for an uptick. While the team lost a number of D-linemen and linebackers (free agency, Covid), the main problem has been the secondary. Going forward, Stefon Gilmore probably won't be caught with a handful of jersey every ten snaps.
Then there's the question of what defenses would have seen the least early season drop-off. My guess would be veteran units without a great deal of turnover (or injuries, of course). Perhaps those units will also be the ones to show the least improvement, as they started off closer to their ceilings and won't heal as quickly as younger players.
Random speculation? Yes.
#94 by BJR // Oct 02, 2020 - 8:42am
Scoring ordinarily peaks around weeks 4-8, i.e. once teams have found their offensive rhythm, but before bad weather kicks in. Which is why I'm left a little confused by the current offensive explosion; normally it's the defenses that hold the upper hand in the early stages of the season whilst stuff is being figured out.
I suppose it is plausible that this particular off-season has hampered defenses more, in terms of conditioning and preparation. But to me it looks like a combination of lack of offensive penalties, along with no crowd noise making for easier offensive communication. There is also perhaps a long term trend towards more efficient play-calling/strategy (e.g. going for it on 4th down, increased use of play-action/misdirection, etc.).
#38 by cstoos // Sep 30, 2020 - 6:37am
Not because I want him to remain coach in NJ, but I'm honestly curious about what would happen if Trevor Lawrence comes out and says "I won't play for the Jets if Gase is there.
Imagine a player having enough away to get a coach fired BEFORE being drafted.
#40 by big10freak // Sep 30, 2020 - 7:57am
The eye test and the metrics definitely agree on the Packers special teams. Both kickers are doing well, the coverage teams have been very good (shocking for any Packer fan to see given the past decade or so) , and the return teams are adequate.
#93 by ImNewAroundThe… // Oct 01, 2020 - 6:00pm
Of the 30 teams that have taken a punt return (Jets and Vikes havent), they're dead last at 2 y/r (league average is 8.2).
A lot of talk about Ervin helping the team improve last year yet I've yet to see him be anything but average, whether on ST or O
#44 by Robopunter // Sep 30, 2020 - 10:30am
Just woke up from a dream where someone was telling me Philip Rivers had a pet chicken named Buick who was "killed by an electrical surge" and that in life Buick had really hated Matt Ryan. I'm 100% certain it's because I read this article right before going to sleep.
#52 by ZosoLZ4 // Sep 30, 2020 - 12:39pm
Maybe I missed the explanation somewhere, but if the Playoff Odds DAVE ratings for CAR, DEN, NO, and SF are being adjusted downward for injuries, why are they higher in the those tables than in the DVOA table above?
CAR: -17.4 vs -15.1 (+2.3)
DEN: -21.1 vs -18.8 (+2.3)
NO: 16.8 vs 18.9 (+2.1)
SF: 6.8 vs 9.1 (+2.3)
Are the Playoff Odds DAVE ratings being reduced for future games, but retroactively increased for past games to capture what it "would have been" if the players were present?
#62 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 30, 2020 - 2:35pm
Sorry for the confusion. The DAVE ratings listed in the playoff odds report are the ratings being used for the games when the injured players come back. That's why they are higher than the DAVE ratings being listed here.
For the games when the players are injured, see the ratings adjustments listed on the top of the page.
#95 by CMFJ // Oct 02, 2020 - 1:24pm
As a Broncos fan, I believe you have the Broncos ranked too high. :))
Like all bad teams, they find ways to not win games that are winnable. That's too bad, because I would like to see
the story about how they are the worst 2-1 team in DVOA history.