Schedule Will Get Harder for Steelers, Cardinals, and Giants

James Conner
James Conner
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 3 - Powered by the No. 1 defense through the early part of the 2021 season, the Carolina Panthers sit atop a tightly packed set of DVOA ratings for the second straight week. Less than three percentage points separate the top four teams: Carolina, Cleveland, the Los Angeles Rams, and Arizona. Denver ranks fifth, a couple more percentage points behind the top four.

But if you look at it a different way, the Arizona Cardinals have moved to No. 1 in the DVOA ratings after a 31-19 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. Denver is close behind in second place. The rest of the top five goes Cleveland, Los Angeles, and then Carolina.

The difference between the two lists? Opponent adjustments, and that relates to a change I decided to make for this season.

Historically, Football Outsiders has not applied opponent adjustments in DVOA until Week 4. But every couple of years, we run into a situation where the DVOA ratings just look kind of hokey after three weeks because the opponent adjustments aren't being applied yet. This year, for example, some of the teams at the top of the ratings have clearly picked on the have-nots of the league. Denver's three opponents, for example, are a combined 0-6 in their other games, although DVOA is surprisingly sanguine about the New York Giants. (They rank 18th!) Buffalo's three opponents have at least won games, but DVOA sure doesn't like them, ranking the three teams 23rd (Washington), 24th (Pittsburgh), and 25th (Miami).

So I went yesterday and did some research and experimenting, running Week 3 for the past few years as if it had opponent adjustments and comparing it to the actual Week 3 numbers that didn't include opponent adjustments. And what I found was... it didn't matter. The correlation between Week 3 DVOA with opponent adjustments and DVOA at the end of the season was the same as the correlation for DVOA without opponent adjustments.

So, I was left with a dilemma: include the adjustments or not? In the end, I felt that the ratings with the opponent adjustments passed the eye test better than the ratings without, and since the correlation was the same, I could reasonably go with either. And so, this year we've got opponent adjustments a little earlier than usual. However, I only did the adjustments at 30% strength so they fall in line with what we'll do in future weeks. Next week, the adjustments will go to 40% like they always do, they'll be 50% after Week 5, and so on until we are at 100% after Week 10. (Note that the individual stats do not have the adjustment for annoying code reasons; the adjustments on individual stats will begin next week like usual.)

If I told you that I was applying opponent adjustments early without showing you the table of the top teams in DVOA, you probably would guess that Carolina would be one of the teams to take a big hit. Surprisingly, the Panthers stay almost exactly the same. Sure, the Panthers have played the Jets, and the Jets have been very bad. They've also played the Texans, but the Texans haven't been horrendous in the early going. They currently rank 19th in DVOA. The Panthers also dismantled a Saints team that played phenomenal in its other two games, and now ranks eighth in DVOA. So there isn't much opponent adjustment for Carolina, and the Panthers stay in the No. 1 spot.

Here's a look at how the top ten change once we add in opponent adjustments at 30% strength:

DVOA Through Week 3, 2021
Original, No Opp. Adjustments New, 30% Opp. Adjustments
Rk Team DVOA Rk Team DVOA
1 ARI 45.3% 1 CAR 40.1%
2 DEN 43.9% 2 CLE 38.8%
3 CLE 41.0% 3 LAR 37.8%
4 LAR 40.6% 4 ARI 37.5%
5 CAR 40.5% 5 DEN 34.1%
6 BUF 36.4% 6 BUF 29.8%
7 SEA 25.1% 7 TB 24.2%
8 TB 22.7% 8 NO 22.7%
9 CIN 21.2% 9 DAL 21.6%
10 NO 21.1% 10 SEA 19.2%

Seattle is one of the teams that drops now that we're applying opponent adjustments, but you may be wondering what on earth the 1-2 Seahawks are doing this high in DVOA anyway. Seattle has positive DVOA for all three of its games this year, including both losses. In fact, Seattle had 25.3% DVOA for this week's loss to the Vikings, despite losing by double digits. Look closer at the box score and this does make some sense. The Seahawks outgained Minnesota on a per-play basis, 7.5 yards to 6.2 yards, and had no turnovers.

However, there's more involved than this. One of the weaknesses of DVOA is how it treats drives at the end of a half. I've never figured out a good way to get rid of these "meaningless yards" and improve DVOA's predictive ability. And the Seahawks had a lot of these meaningless yards in this week's loss to Minnesota. They had three passes for 54 yards at the end of the first half, including a 31-yard gain with one second left that didn't score and couldn't stop the clock for a field goal. They had another four passes for 39 yards at the end of the second half, going from their own 1 to their own 40.

How much do these "meaningless yards" change Seattle's DVOA on the season? The rating changes a lot, but the rankings don't change that much. Overall, Seattle's offensive DVOA falls 5.7% DVOA without considering these seven plays. But this would drop the Seahawks just one place in overall DVOA, from 10th to 11th, and just one place in offensive DVOA, from second to third. Over a 17-game season, the effect of these plays will become smaller and smaller and mostly wash out to where it won't make much difference by the time we get to the end of the year. And I'll keep looking in the offseason for the best way to disqualify plays based on the game situation -- or whether I should be disqualifying those plays at all. Perhaps it is more accurate to include them even if they seem meaningless. That's the result I've gotten in the past.

Meaningless yards don't play any role in how well we rate the Seattle defense, though, and the ineptitude of the Seattle defense does seem to be overstated by the Seattle fan base right now. This has not been the worst defense in the league, or close to it. The Seahawks rank 24th right now in defensive DVOA. They rank 26th in success rate allowed. Seattle ranks No. 1 in yards allowed because they rank No. 1 in opposing plays from scrimmage. Their 5.8 yards allowed per play ranks 17th in the NFL. (Compare that to Seattle's 7.4 yards per play, which ranks first in the league by more than half a yard.) It's hard to figure out why opponents have so many plays against Seattle. It's not like the Seahawks can't get off the field on third down -- they actually have a very average -1.4% DVOA on third and fourth downs! It's a bad defense, but it doesn't look anywhere near as bad as people are making it out to be.

Yes, as you can probably imagine, the Seahawks have a crazy halftime split in their performance. On offense, they go from 62.6% DVOA before halftime to -10.2% DVOA after halftime. There's no such change on defense, though, as their defensive DVOA is slightly better in the second half (8.7%) than in the first half (15.2%).

What team is the opposite of the Seahawks? Probably the Los Angeles Chargers. You're probably wondering how on earth the Chargers can be just 22nd in DVOA. Didn't they just beat the unbeatable Kansas City Chiefs? Yet the Chargers have negative DVOA in all three games this year!

OK, it's not that negative in two of the games. The Chargers currently get -1.4% DVOA for their close Week 1 win over Washington, which DVOA sees as essentially a tie. They currently get -7.6% DVOA for their win over the Chiefs, as the Chiefs have the slightly higher DVOA despite losing. Los Angeles will see that rating go up as the opponent adjustments get stronger, especially if the Chiefs are as good as we all think, but right now there's basically no adjustment for playing the Chiefs because Kansas City ranks just 15th overall. The surprising rating might be -24.1% for the Week 2 loss to Dallas, which seems low since that one was close as well, but the Cowboys did outgain the Chargers (7.0 to 6.6) and win the turnover battle.

Really, DVOA isn't that far off from other efficiency stats when it comes to the Chargers. Los Angeles is currently 13th in yards per play and 24th in yards per play allowed. They are 11th in success rate but 31st in success rate allowed at 56%. Only Kansas City (59%) has allowed success on a higher rate of plays based on our definition of a successful play.

Another team that will surprise you in DVOA is the 0-3 New York Giants, who somehow rank 18th, ahead of Green Bay and the Chargers. Well, you know how bad that Week 1 Green Bay loss was, so that part may not be a shock, but still, the Giants are rather high for an 0-3 team. In fact, they are the 10th-highest 0-3 team in DVOA history. (Before applying opponent adjustments, they would have been the eighth-highest 0-3 team.)

Best 0-3 Teams by DVOA, 1983-2021
Year Team DVOA Rk Final
2011 MIN 9.1% 13 3-13 -19.9% 29 None
2004 KC 7.8% 13 7-9 14.3% 10 None
2018 HOU 7.7% 12 11-5 10.4% 11 Won Division
2000 NE 6.7% 14 5-11 -6.4% 22 None
1986 STLC 4.5% 16 4-11-1 -17.2% 25 None
1986 LARD 1.3% 18 8-8 5.6% 11 None
1992 PHX -1.6% 14 4-12 -4.2% 14 None
1995 DET -1.8% 17 10-6 13.2% 7 Won Wild Card
2012 NO -3.6% 18 7-9 -1.2% 18 None
2021 NYG -3.7% 18 -- -- -- --
2004 BUF -4.9% 17 9-7 31.4% 3 None
1998 BUF -5.5% 17 10-6 19.3% 7 Won Wild Card
2000 PIT -7.1% 17 9-7 23.0% 4 None

This is another team where DVOA isn't far off from standard stats. The Giants have played two very close games, albeit against teams we think are not very good. They currently rank in the middle of the league in yards per play: 17th on offense and 19th on defense.

Unfortunately for the Giants, their schedule is about to get a lot harder. That's true whether we look only at DVOA through three weeks or whether we look at schedule through the lens of DAVE, our rating that combines early-season results with preseason projections to get a more accurate look at what to expect from teams the rest of the way. DAVE, for example, knows that the Kansas City Chiefs aren't really an average team, and it knows that the Carolina Panthers are probably not actually the best team in the NFL this season.

This is something I usually like to do after three weeks, look at how schedule strength for the rest of the season is different if you look at DVOA and DAVE. For example, if you look at Chicago by DVOA, they have an average remaining schedule. DAVE, which is more accurate, shows Chicago with the second-toughest remaining schedule. They play a number of teams that we think are better than they have shown so far this season, led by Green Bay twice but also Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Pittsburgh, incidentally, has the hardest remaining schedule based on DAVE ratings. Chicago, Arizona, Washington, and Green Bay round out the top five. The Giants are sixth after playing one of the five easiest schedules so far based on opposing DAVE ratings.

The Buffalo Bills have the easiest remaining schedule, whether we look at DVOA or DAVE. Other teams with particularly easy schedules the rest of the way include Miami, Indianapolis, Tennessee, and Tampa Bay.

Here's a full table showing schedule strength both so far and over the rest of the season. Both current DVOA and DAVE are listed.

Team Past
Rk Future
Rk Past
Rk Future
PIT 17.9% 5 4.7% 7 4.0% 9 4.4% 1
CHI 31.6% 1 1.2% 19 7.8% 2 4.2% 2
ARI -23.5% 31 10.4% 1 -8.8% 30 3.8% 3
WAS 4.5% 14 9.0% 2 -0.6% 20 3.8% 4
GB 0.9% 18 3.3% 13 1.0% 17 3.3% 5
NYG -11.7% 26 6.8% 4 -5.0% 28 2.6% 6
CLE -9.8% 24 3.2% 14 -3.3% 24 2.5% 7
BAL -7.1% 21 4.8% 6 0.7% 18 2.2% 8
LAC 4.2% 15 8.5% 3 7.3% 3 2.0% 9
DET 5.2% 13 3.6% 11 11.3% 1 1.9% 10
MIN 25.0% 2 -0.4% 22 6.0% 5 1.8% 11
CAR -6.0% 19 0.3% 21 -11.7% 31 1.7% 12
CIN -14.7% 28 0.3% 20 -1.5% 22 1.7% 13
DEN -28.5% 32 1.4% 18 -18.5% 32 1.3% 14
LV -9.0% 22 4.2% 8 3.5% 12 1.2% 15
LAR -9.5% 23 2.2% 16 1.6% 14 1.1% 16
KC 11.6% 7 4.9% 5 4.9% 7 1.0% 17
SEA -15.6% 29 3.6% 10 -3.8% 26 1.0% 18
ATL 6.0% 12 4.1% 9 1.7% 13 0.3% 19
DAL 3.0% 16 3.3% 12 1.2% 15 -0.3% 20
PHI -7.0% 20 2.5% 15 -1.0% 21 -0.5% 21
SF -13.3% 27 1.8% 17 -3.5% 25 -1.1% 22
NO 9.1% 11 -4.0% 25 4.8% 8 -1.4% 23
NYJ 22.2% 4 -5.6% 27 4.0% 10 -2.3% 24
HOU 11.2% 8 -6.0% 28 -3.9% 27 -2.3% 25
NE -11.5% 25 -2.7% 24 -6.6% 29 -3.1% 26
JAX 22.6% 3 -7.4% 30 -0.3% 19 -3.5% 27
TB 1.5% 17 -2.7% 23 1.0% 16 -3.7% 28
TEN 11.7% 6 -6.5% 29 4.0% 11 -3.7% 29
IND 9.9% 9 -5.1% 26 6.1% 4 -3.7% 30
MIA 9.3% 10 -8.0% 31 5.2% 6 -5.4% 31
BUF -16.6% 30 -12.1% 32 -2.4% 23 -5.7% 32

* * * * *

Football Outsiders playoff odds, snap counts, and the FO+ database are now all updated through Week 3.

A reminder that all our free stats pages, including DVOA and player position stats, now require registration to view. This is not a paywall! You only need to register (for free) and then log in to the site to view these pages. While you're at it, you can get a seven-day trial of FO+ and check out the FO+ features like a deeper DVOA database, weekly fantasy projections, fantasy football research tools, and picks against the spread.

* * * * *

These is the Football Outsiders Top 16 through three weeks of 2021, 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 VOA are adjusted for opponent and performance indoors and consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are currently at 30% strength. 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.

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. It is not currently adjusted for any backup quarterbacks.

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 CAR 40.1% 1 0.3% 16 3-0 6.6% 12 -38.8% 1 -5.3% 31
2 CLE 38.8% 9 10.5% 8 2-1 26.3% 4 -7.7% 10 4.9% 6
3 LAR 37.8% 2 14.5% 4 3-0 37.0% 1 -4.7% 13 -3.9% 29
4 ARI 37.5% 5 7.5% 13 3-0 14.8% 8 -17.8% 6 4.9% 5
5 DEN 34.1% 4 9.8% 9 3-0 15.5% 7 -21.7% 5 -3.1% 26
6 BUF 29.8% 13 14.9% 3 2-1 -0.1% 16 -31.1% 2 -1.2% 19
7 TB 24.2% 3 21.5% 1 2-1 23.8% 5 0.8% 17 1.2% 10
8 NO 22.7% 12 8.6% 11 2-1 -3.8% 19 -25.3% 3 1.2% 9
9 DAL 21.6% 14 9.1% 10 2-1 23.1% 6 -0.5% 15 -2.0% 23
10 SEA 19.2% 7 12.1% 7 1-2 32.8% 2 11.4% 24 -2.2% 24
11 CIN 18.3% 21 -1.6% 19 2-1 -10.9% 25 -22.7% 4 6.5% 2
12 SF 12.3% 6 8.4% 12 2-1 11.3% 10 4.1% 19 5.1% 4
13 BAL 8.6% 17 13.3% 5 2-1 4.5% 13 5.0% 20 9.2% 1
14 LV 5.5% 19 -1.2% 18 3-0 -2.4% 17 -7.4% 11 0.6% 13
15 KC 5.3% 16 17.3% 2 1-2 30.1% 3 28.9% 32 4.1% 8
16 MIN 1.9% 20 4.4% 14 1-2 14.5% 9 13.3% 25 0.8% 11

Click here for the full table.


56 comments, Last at 03 Oct 2021, 12:02am

#1 by theslothook // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:34pm

Its insane to me that the Falcons have a worse offense than the Bears, Jets, and Jaguars who rank 31st, 30th, and 29th respectively.

The Falcons had been trending down for years since their SB collapse, but this result feels like such an extreme outcome that I never saw it coming. Ryan has quietly turned into last year's Carson Wentz.   

Points: 0

#2 by Mark H // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:38pm

Honestly that is the thing that stood out to me the most as well.  You would think that with skill position guys like Ridley and Pitts and Ryan at QB there would be no way they would even be in the ballpark as some of those offenses, much less worse.  It's early, but they are going to have to finally find a way to get out from Ryan and start over.

Points: 0

#7 by jgov // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:58pm

I can't understand why DVOA hates the Falcons' performance so much. Compared to some of the other teams at the bottom, particularly the Bears and Jets, their traditional stats (yards, yards per play, and points) are better. They still rank toward the bottom in traditional stats, but it doesn't feel like they really have the worst offense in the league when the Bears and Jets also exist. 

Points: 0

#30 by dank067 // Sep 28, 2021 - 7:19pm

Hopefully not useless speculation because I haven't really watched them play, but while they're "only" 28th in passing DVOA at -22.0%, their rushing DVOA is an insane -49.1%. Looks like that's what drops them to the bottom of the list. I can't quite figure out what's going on there though - their running game has been pretty bad, but they only have one non-QB fumble and there are other teams that rank below them in stats like rushing yards/attempt and rushing first downs. (Pittsburgh... ouch.)

I see that Ryan is completing 71% of his passes but only averaging 6.0 yards/attempt. That is grim.

Points: 0

#44 by MC2 // Sep 29, 2021 - 5:00pm

I think a much better comparison than Wentz last year would be Philip Rivers, from 5 or 6 years ago.  Ryan's skills have clearly diminished a bit, but the much bigger problem is his supporting cast.  Yes, he has good receivers, but that doesn't help much when the five turnstiles that pass for an offensive line don't allow those receivers any time to get open.  (The putrid nature of the offensive line also keeps them from having any running game whatsoever, which doesn't help.)

In addition, Ryan knows that the defense isn't going to get many stops, so he feels like they have to score every drive.  This leads to him forcing throws and making mistakes.  A perfect example was Week 2, against Tampa Bay.  He actually made some great throws, and they clawed their way back into the game, only down by 3 at the end of the 3rd quarter.  Then, the Bucs scored to go up 10, midway through the 4th quarter.  At that point, Ryan started trying to force the issue, and the predictable result was a pair of pick-sixes, that made the game look like a total blowout.

Don't get me wrong.  Ryan is certainly not the player he was five years ago, when he won the MVP.  But he's not nearly as bad as his stats have made him look this year.  Give him an offensive line like the Cowboys or the Saints have, and I think the Falcons would be at least a league average offense, and maybe even Top 10.

Points: 0

#45 by af16 // Sep 29, 2021 - 5:12pm

Yeah, I actually thought Arthur Smith was going to make them at top 10 offense. Why are they so bad compared to what he was able to do in TEN?

I know they don't have Henry but this much of a drop off, really?

Points: 0

#3 by Mark H // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:43pm

Through 3 games, the Ravens are already at #1 in ST DVOA.  It's crazy how consistently good they are on ST.  Obviously having Tucker helps a ton, but ST are supposed to vary a lot from year to year.

Harbaugh and staff obviously place a big emphasis on it, and it pays off.  Just kind of fascinating to me what they and New England have done in this area over the years.

Points: 0

#4 by Pat // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:46pm

Harbaugh and staff obviously place a big emphasis on it, and it pays off.

It's almost like he might know something about special teams. I wonder if he spent some time focusing on it or something...

Points: 0

#12 by jheidelberg // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:22pm

The Ravens special teams has been positive for all but two years over the past two decades.  I commented about this last year.  A response from an FO writer was that the Patriots have a 25 year positive streak (you have to check my numbers, they are not exact).

Ravens ST have been great before and after Harbaugh.  I believe that part of the Ravens “secret sauce” is depth of talent which shows on special teams.

Points: 0

#40 by Pat // Sep 29, 2021 - 9:41am

I believe that part of the Ravens “secret sauce” is depth of talent which shows on special teams.

Oh, yeah. That's just Ozzie Newsome for you. To be clear, the Harbaugh comment was mostly snark: while he was a special teams coordinator for the Eagles for a long time, the main reason he turned into a great head coach is just attention to detail everywhere. Which is the exact same thing Newsome does. 

He just didn't screw up in the draft. It's nuts. I think there are like 4 drafts over his like, 23 year tenure with the Ravens where there wasn't at least one guy with at least 1 Pro Bowl appearance. The Browns had to go at least 4 years before they got one! Plus, of course, one of the best drafts ever with the 1996 draft. Just a phenomenal drafting team there.

Points: 0

#50 by jheidelberg // Sep 29, 2021 - 11:07pm

Look at the quantity of picks that the Ravens have over their history (see link below).  The average team gets slightly over 7 picks per year (there are 7 rounds plus compensatory picks)  The Ravens have mastered obtaining compensatory picks, and the trade down in the draft to obtain more picks.  Look at the number of years above 7 picks (most of the time) versus the number of years below 7 picks (rarely).  Its quantity and quality.  I would rather have 10 darts to throw at the dart board than 6-7 in my attempt to hit a bullseye, or a high scoring dart.

It seems that no one buys my philosophy that the Ravens success is duplicatable, that is, be a consistently good team without a Pro Bowl QB.  Maybe this will change with Lamar Jackson, but everyone can not have Brady, Manning, Mahomes, Rodgers, Brees, Wilson, etc., but few if any one but the Ravens, win consistently without the star QB.

Points: 0

#53 by Pat // Sep 30, 2021 - 1:47pm

It's actually 8 picks per year on average. There's exactly one extra round's worth of compensatory picks.

Points: 0

#27 by Mark H // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:52pm

Just because a coach has a background in a specific area does not mean his teams will excel in it.

Billick coordinated the record setting offense in Minnesota in the late 90’s and then came to Baltimore and had pretty terrible offenses most of his tenure. There are a million of these examples. 

Doesn’t take away from my original point, just because he coached special teams previously. 

Points: 0

#33 by Pat // Sep 28, 2021 - 8:00pm

I... have different opinions on why Brian Billick never had good offenses in Baltimore.

Points: 0

#6 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:48pm

Believe they're at the top for the most spent.

An edge would to be peel back at it and invest in more important areas. 

Points: 0

#29 by Mark H // Sep 28, 2021 - 7:14pm

Or maybe other teams should invest more in ST. Clearly it’s more important to have a good offense and defense, but having those things requires significantly more draft capital and salary cap allocation. 

It could be argued that other teams should invest more in ST because even if you spend at or near the top of the league in ST, it’s still not very expensive. Just playing devils advocate

Points: 0

#32 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 28, 2021 - 7:57pm

Does it? They just keep reupping their own guys which doesn't require anything but cap space (of which there is always money in the banana stand). Spend that 7th round pick on a LB5 or CB6, with a potential to play more than 11 snaps a game due to breaking out, injury, future starter, etc.

Looking at the correlation, NE was #1 last year, they didn't make the playoffs. Lowest team that made the playoffs was the Rams at #30. They even made the divisional round! CCG teams went #17>#4 and #26>#25 and in the SB #26>#17. 

Relatively inexpensive but same thing could be said of 2nd contract RBs, etc. But an edge is an edge. And most are only 1 or 2% anyway. A difference of ~$7M can net you a Casey Hayward (2nd/108 CB) + Charles Leno (22nd/74 OT) if you're savy enough. Maybe if you get those guys, maybe your team will score more than 16 points against the winless Lions that requires a record breaking kick to escape. IDK, maybe. 

Nice to have for sure but not much of an impact enough to keep reupping at non rookie contract prices imo. Stream ST isn't just a fantasy thing. Maybe a tag if it's a barren year or something but it seems to be positions that once a team has committed anything of significance to, they stop trying full stop on bringing in competition and that seems bad. That's just from what I've seen. 

Points: 0

#39 by TI // Sep 29, 2021 - 8:20am

On the other hand, the Chargers are (again) in last by a comfortable margin...points for consistency?  There has got to be something to learn here....

Points: 0

#5 by Raiderfan // Sep 28, 2021 - 4:47pm

“It's hard to figure out why opponents have so many plays against Seattle”.  It is Russ “Mad Bomber 2.0” Wilson.

Also, the Raiders are ranked too low because you assign them a below average offensive DVOA because DVOA does not recognise Carr is elite.

Points: 0

#34 by Dan // Sep 28, 2021 - 8:39pm

“It's hard to figure out why opponents have so many plays against Seattle”.  It is Russ “Mad Bomber 2.0” Wilson.

That can't be it. Seattle has faced an average number of drives (31, when league average is 31.2), but they've faced the most plays per drive (7.58, when average is 6.21). So it has to be an issue of what happens when they're on defense, not when they're on offense.

Points: 0

#8 by theTDC // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:00pm

Is there some reason why Seattle has given up the most plays against on defence that goes beyond “they can’t get off the field?” It seems to me watching them that teams can march up and down the field pretty well. 

Could possibly be more misleading even than that. I don’t know if this is the confounding factor, but running consistently for 6 yards per is far more valuable than passing for the same average, due to less variance. Whether it’s Henry running all over them, or a short passing game that’s just unstoppable, I think DVOA might be somewhat overrating their defence.

Similarly on offence, it seems a boom or bust strategy of “throw up to Metcalf or Lockett, LOL if that doesn’t work,” can be misleading. A single deep pass to Lockett for 80 yards can by itself really throw off the yards per play average, while possibly not being a sustainable path to success.

Then again, I’ve been wrong before.

EDIT: Is it possible that the deep passing attack leads to shorter possessions for the Seahawks? As in, a quick three and out with three deep incompletions, or a deep bomb TD pass, will both take very little time off the clock, thus giving both teams extra possessions over average in the game. Possible explanation.

Points: 0

#9 by AFCNFCBowl // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:06pm

I'm pretty sure DVOA already includes success rate (% of plays that result in a 1st down), but perhaps it's not weighted enough with SEA's defense. Both TEN and MIN had much better success rates than SEA in those games.

I'm also surprised DVOA dislikes LV so much. They've outgained their opponents in yards per play every game this season and have won turnovers in 2 of them.

Points: 0

#16 by Vincent Verhei // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:34pm

The short answer is yes. Seattle's offense is 11th in yards per drive, but 31st in plays per drive.

The defense is last in both yards per drive and plays per drive, but 24th in points per drive thanks to some quality play in scoring range (and an offense that never puts them in bad position with turnovers).

Points: 0

#41 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Sep 29, 2021 - 10:01am

I haven't watched any Seattle this year - but I have noticed in the past that teams with low plays-per-drive on offense tend to have high ones on defense. My general suspicion has been that the lack of rest wears out your defense. 

Have they looked worse in the 2nd and 4th than the 1st and 3rd?

Points: 0

#28 by gomer_rs // Sep 28, 2021 - 7:04pm

Seattle's defense is the answer to the question, "what would happen if I started backup corners and asked them to defend 3 and 3 with a 15 yard cushion?”

Points: 0

#43 by Seattle-Brian // Sep 29, 2021 - 4:22pm

I've watched all three Seahawks games, and the corners are consistently playing five to ten yards off their man. It's preventing the deep ball, but doing nothing to prevent underneath throws. The local joke is that their corners are 'social distancing'.

The result is a lot of short gains leading to just a whole bunch of plays. 

Points: 0

#10 by theTDC // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:16pm

Two more observations.

1) I have no idea how the Rams have an estimated 3.0 wins, when they played the Bucs who are at 2.1 estimated wins. The DVOA difference is only about 15%, so shouldn’t they at least be at something like 2.7 estimated wins?

2) Titans are the fifth worst team at 2-1? I am well aware that records are misleading this early, but after getting blown out by the Cards, the Titans appeared to play very well. Is the Cards game really that bad, or does DVOA think they just got lucky in those other games?

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#17 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:39pm

1) Estimated wins is just an equation based on splits of DVOA, it doesn't pay attention to who you played so it doesn't know that "1.0 estimated wins" for the Rams can't be more than 0 estimated wins for the Bucs when they played each other. It just really likes that the Rams have been so strong in the second half of close games and in first-quarter offense.

2) Yeah, that's surprising too! I missed that one in discussing the surprising DVOA teams today. Short summary: Absolutely dismal in Week 1. Tennessee had a lower DVOA than Seattle in Week 2 despite winning the game. Surprisingly low (8.0%) despite winning by two scores in Week 3.

Defense is particularly surprising because Tennessee is EIGHTH in success rate allowed yet near the bottom of the league in DVOA! Some of this is turnovers, they have only one takeaway so far. I'll have to look into it closer to know more.


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#18 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:55pm

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#19 by theTDC // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:05pm

I have to say I may now be more confused WRT estimated wins statistic. Instead of looking at overall DVOA and estimating wins based on strength of past schedule, we’re completely ignoring who the teams played against and just looking at overall strength? But not just overall strength, weighing play based on game situation?

I don’t see why first quarter offense and second half overall play is so important to the formula. Why does that specifically matter so much?

I think it would be much less confusing if you just looked at the past schedule, and made an educated guess like “74% chance to win vs x team in game 1 based on DVOA dif, 48% win in game 2,” etcetera. Taking variance into account of course.

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#21 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:10pm

From the glossary:

A response to a claim that total team DVOA rankings "missed the forest for the trees," the forest index (developed near the end of 2003) spits out an estimate of wins based on a formula that combines DVOA ratings in offense, defense, and special teams, as well as red zone defense, offense and defense in the second half of close games, offense in the first quarter, and variance.

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#25 by theTDC // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:38pm

I get it now, it’s just not intuitively what I would expect with “estimated wins.” Especially when past schedule strength is right there.

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#11 by DIVISION // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:18pm

Amazingly, they are top 5 in DVOA overall and well balanced on offense and defense, although the defense is stronger.  Most people think Arizona's offense is the strength of the team.

Maybe adding JJ Watt to go with Chandler Jones is starting to pay dividends.  I'm impressed with how well the secondary is holding up.  Byron Murphy is on his way to an All-Pro year.  Budda Baker is a stud at safety.  They have the best LB corps in the NFC West.

Looking forward to Sunday's big game against the Rams.

Should be good.

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#13 by andrew // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:30pm

how much would the Vikings dvoa (overall and defensive) jump if you remove those "meaningless yards"?

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#14 by poplar cove // Sep 28, 2021 - 5:32pm

Had commented here on why Seattle had better yards per play because of the meaningless played before the half. Then went back and read the article and realized you're addressed it already, I suck. 

One other big thing with that game: I'm curious your (or others) thoughts on RZ plays especially when one team runs a substantially higher amount than their opponent in the game.

The Vikings ran 18 plays inside the red zone for the game (the area of the field where a severely team limited by how many yards they can gain on a play) compared to just 2 plays overall that  Seattle had for the game in the RZ. I wonder what the percentage of times an NFL team has better ypp numbers than their opponent in a game when they run 15+ more plays in red zone.

As always keep up the great work! Look for forward to this every Tuesday. 





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#20 by theTDC // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:08pm

I can definitely see a team that gets lucky a few times with some 10+ yard TD scores in the redzone has massively inflated YPP versus even themselves with normal luck. Actually, come to think of it, even using success rate skews things, because it’s harder to make successful plays in the redzone. Really skews things doesn’t it?

EDIT: Could also be overvaluing the deep bomb TD passes because they just completely avoid the redzone entirely. Then again, maybe the fact that they avoid the redzone makes them undervalued.

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#22 by mike07030 // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:11pm

The Giants ranked 18th is baffling, because they haven't played well against some bad teams. Aside from that, they could very easily be a 2-1 bad team: They don't jump offsides on the missed field goal against WFT and they catch any one of two interceptions that hit them in their hands against the Falcons.

The point is, if these two plays go the other way we have a 2-1 team ranked 18th: not weird. EXCEPT we know they've played terribly: Weird. Its like DVOA is trying to justify itself. 

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#24 by poplar cove // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:34pm

Actually underrated team imo as seems most want to lump them in with the bad teams in the league. Reminds me lot of the Detroit Lions under Matt Patricia, just good enough to not be a bottom feeder but no threat to beat a good team either. They do just enough dumb things to make every game close also

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#23 by lauers // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:31pm

Does DAVE still use a weighted average of preseason and VOA in this table or is it preseason + DVOA? Personally, I'm still inclined to use DAVE at this point in the season. I bet the Panthers will end up closer to 16th than 1st by the end of the year, with or without CMC. What odds can I get on KC ending with more wins than Denver? 

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#26 by poplar cove // Sep 28, 2021 - 6:48pm

In reply to by lauers

They have no chance this way to overachieve. if you're 1 thru 5 that's only 5 places total. 

While from 16th you get to go on both sides of the 16 so 12 thru 20 only 5 spots away each side if that makes sense 

More fair imo ask maybe 8th so between 4th and 12th or between 12th and 20th? I had special interest in the Panthers. Not only an I a huge fan of Rhule and Brady the o.c but Actually made one big season win total bet this year and that was over Carolina.

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#31 by serutan // Sep 28, 2021 - 7:54pm

{Chicago} play a number of teams that we think are better than they have shown so far this season, led by Green Bay twice but also Pittsburgh and Baltimore.

While things could change, right now I would say the Steelers are what they are going to be.  They have a shambling corpse at QB ( Ben from late last season to now bears an eerie resemblance to Peyton Manning late 2014 - 2015) protected by a sieve of an O line, and I don't think the defense can carry them.  And oh yes if you want to go further back Terry Bradshaw was done in by an elbow injury. Hence my pessimism.

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#35 by bkjsun // Sep 28, 2021 - 9:12pm

Does week 3 DAVE correlate better than week 3 DVOA to final DVOA?

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#36 by jheidelberg // Sep 29, 2021 - 12:05am

They have the worst defense in football so far.  Despite this, the Chiefs offense is better than their defense is bad.  It is not likely that you can put 11 guys on the field that are so awful that they will allow more than Mahomes will produce.  The Chiefs pass offense at number 1, is leaps and bounds better than the ineptitude of their 32nd ranked pass defense.

Yes, the Chiefs started playing late last year and are still playing coin toss games, week in and week out.  Oh, and then there was that Super Bowl debacle.

I believe that the Chiefs horrific defense is temporary, so far 3 games, but let us say all 17 games.  Yes, 17 games is temporary, it is one season.  In this case, the Chiefs should still be expected to go 9-8 or 10-7.  Their defense will improve at some point, when are the Chiefs bashers expecting Mahomes to decline, next year, in five years, in 10 years?

Drew Brees had a similar situation with the Saints one year, with horrifying defense, the Saints went 8-8.  They had a pretty good decade of football including that season.

The Chiefs appear to be in a mighty good position for the next decade in my opinion.

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#37 by Raiderfan // Sep 29, 2021 - 7:47am

Well, I suppose that depends on expectations.  They won one SB during Bree’s time.  They had four 7-9 seasons in the last decade.  I am sure many teams and fans would be thrilled with multiple double digit wins seasons and playoff berths.  Would that be enough to satisfy to those who consider Mahomes The Kid (aka Baby Goat—which is what a kid is)?  My impression is no.

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#46 by greybeard // Sep 29, 2021 - 6:42pm

They had 5 consecutive winning seasons with Alex Smith, so the expectations with Mahomes is generally SB or bust.

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#38 by jheidelberg // Sep 29, 2021 - 7:57am

Use the Saints as a floor as to what to expect from the Chiefs and it looks mighty good.

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#49 by LionInAZ // Sep 29, 2021 - 10:26pm

I want to echo the complaints that the full 32 teams aren't included in the DVOA table here. I don't see a valid reason to cut the table short here. There are plenty of reasons to go to the other tables (offense/defense DVOA, player rankings, drive stats, etc.) that I see no reason to cut this table off at the groin (not the knee, obviously).

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#51 by Raiderjoe // Sep 30, 2021 - 6:55am

Raiders not being in top 10 is not good. Is Computer drunk?

My magic eight ball says, "Signs point to yes"

Broncos beat all crap teams. Giants. Jaguars. Jets all stinkbombs right now

Jets could be okay by end of year. Jaguars quarterback will be improved.  Giants seem biggest mess..but still none playing good right now.


Meanwhile, Raiders bear good Ravens and Doplphins . Also beat Pitt which seems like average team. 


Raiders wins definitely more impressive wins than Broncos wins. Even a crap team like Loins could go 3-0 with that schedule. 


The Raiders will beat Broncos two times in regular season and will show on field who is boss

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#54 by fynsta // Sep 30, 2021 - 5:26pm

You should really read about how DVOA is calculated. It's not as easy as you think.

The important thing is how the wins went down, play by play.

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#55 by KaosTheory // Oct 02, 2021 - 8:42am

Raiderjoe is a beloved (?) member of the community. Think PFTCommenter.

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#56 by jheidelberg // Oct 03, 2021 - 12:02am

<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>

Raiderjoe criticism checks all of the boxes, the subjective ranking system is way better than this is implied and thus, this is clearly the top DVOA criticism this year.  Extra credit for excellent denigrating comment--(Is Computer Drunk?) and more extra credit for the number of misspelled words.

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