Chiefs Rising Up DVOA Ranks

Chiefs Defense
Chiefs Defense
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 14 - The Tampa Bay Buccaneers widened their DVOA lead over the rest of the league with this week's win over the Buffalo Bills. Tampa Bay also has the easiest remaining schedule in the league, which is why we now favor the Buccaneers to win the NFC's No. 1 seed (48% of simulations).

The New England Patriots remain No. 2 in overall DVOA for the season and also remain our top team in weighted DVOA, which lowers the strength of older games to get a better idea of how well teams are playing now. The Dallas Cowboys climb up to No. 3 in DVOA after a win over Washington that was bigger than the final score of 27-20 indicates -- although it should also be noted that the Cowboys managed to recover all five fumbles in this game, two of their own and three by Washington.

Dallas hops over Buffalo, which drops a little bit with the loss to Tampa Bay. The Bills lose their title as "most inconsistent team in DVOA history" this week because they went out and played a game with a DVOA very close to their average DVOA for the entire season. All of a sudden, they were randomly consistent. What's particularly remarkable is that the Carolina Panthers now have a variance almost as high as Buffalo's after this week's loss to Atlanta. So this Sunday, we're going to see a matchup of two of the five least consistent teams in DVOA history. Anything could happen in this one!

Back to the top 10, the Rams move up to No. 5 with a victory over the Arizona Cardinals, who drop a spot to No. 6. Then at No. 7, we've got the Kansas City Chiefs moving up two spots, and that's the team I want to focus on this week. The Chiefs also moved up to No. 4 in weighted DVOA this week and they are now the No. 3 Super Bowl contender in our playoff odds simulation behind New England and Tampa Bay. The markets now have Kansas City as the top team in the AFC, as do a number of other metrics around the Internet. We still have the Patriots higher because New England has been so, so good over the last 10 games, but Kansas City is on the rise and catching up to them.

Here's a look at Kansas City's week-to-week graph. You can see the Chiefs really have only two negative games, but their losses to Buffalo and Tennessee were pretty bad. Then there are a lot of good-but-not-great games, and finally in the last month a couple of dominant wins.

Kansas City week-to-week graph

Kansas City gets 82.7% single-game DVOA for this week's victory over the Las Vegas Raiders. This week's game seemed very similar to Kansas City's win over Las Vegas on the road back in Week 10, but this one ended up with a much higher DVOA rating. The Chiefs had a bigger advantage in success rate than back in Week 10, and a much bigger advantage in yards per play and turnovers.

Comparing KC-LV Games, 2021
Week Score KC
Week 10 41-14 22.8% 6.8 5.9 53.3% 44.4% +1
Week 14 48-9 82.7% 6.5 4.8 48.2% 37.7% +5

What's remarkable is the way that Kansas City is now winning with defense instead of offense. You probably know this already, because the discussion has been all over the football world, but the numbers are pretty stark.

For Weeks 1-5, the Chiefs had 30.7% defensive DVOA. That ranked 31st in the NFL. Only Jacksonville was worse in the first five weeks. Since Week 6, Kansas City has -17.9% defensive DVOA. That ranks third in the NFL. In the last nine weeks, only New England and Dallas have been better on the defensive side of the ball.

On the other hand, the offense has not played up to its usual standards. Let's look at the same period we looked at for defense. In Weeks 1-5, Kansas City ranked second with 33.2% offensive DVOA. Only Tampa Bay was better in the first five weeks. Since Week 6, Kansas City has 0.8% offensive DVOA, which ranks just 13th in the league for that time period. This is not just an issue of turnovers. Kansas City's average yards per play have gone from 6.48 in the first five weeks to 5.66 since. Kansas City's success rate on offense has gone from 55% in the first five weeks to 47% since.

The Kansas City offense has turned things around in the past five weeks, as you can probably tell from two games scoring more than 40 points. 21.5% offensive DVOA since Week 10 ranks them fourth in the league. However, that period is only four games. Only three of them were particularly good on offense and two of those games were against the same team, Las Vegas. (The other game with a good offensive DVOA is the 19-9 win over the Cowboys; there are pretty strong opponent adjustments for playing the Cowboys defense at this point.) It's reasonable to wonder if there's something about the Las Vegas defense that makes the Raiders a particularly matchup for Kansas City. (As I suggested during this week's game, the Raiders don't play as much of the two-high safety defense that has bothered Patrick Mahomes this season. They also have problems at safety and depth issues at cornerback.)

Oh, and I should also add that Kansas City ranks second in special teams DVOA this season, including first in weighted special teams DVOA. They have slightly negative value on returns but the Chiefs have been strong on field goals, kickoffs, and punts.

The Sinking AFC North

The Patriots, Chiefs, and Indianapolis Colts are all significantly better in weighted DVOA than in total DVOA. There are other teams going in the other direction, primarily teams in the AFC North. All four teams in the AFC North are higher in total DVOA than in weighted DVOA, and three of the five biggest gaps belong to AFC North teams:

Biggest Negative Gap, Weighted DVOA vs Total DVOA
Rk Dif
CLE 4.9% 14 -0.2% 16 -5.0%
ARI 19.6% 6 15.1% 9 -4.5%
BAL 3.5% 16 -0.3% 17 -3.8%
NO 6.9% 13 3.3% 15 -3.7%
PIT -11.5% 23 -14.5% 24 -3.1%
SEA 2.5% 17 -0.6% 18 -3.1%

Cleveland is the biggest faller in recent weeks and it is mostly about offense. The defense is actually a little better in weighted DVOA than in total DVOA, but Cleveland's offense drops from 6.2% to 1.7%. Baltimore's drop is also about offense, which is 0.9% in total DVOA but -3.4% in weighted DVOA.  Pittsburgh's decline in recent weeks is evenly split between offense and defense. (Cincinnati is the only AFC North team where the offense isn't playing worse over the last few weeks.) The NFC teams on this list can pretty much all be explained by quarterback injuries.

* * * * *

Football Outsiders playoff odds, snap counts, and the FO+ database are now all updated through Week 14. A reminder that all our free stats pages, including DVOA and player position stats, 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.

* * * * *

Here is the Football Outsiders Top 16 through 14 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 DVOA are adjusted for opponent and performance indoors and 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 gives recent games more strength than older games to get a better idea of how well teams are playing now.

You'll notice that DAVE (DVOA Adjusted for Variation Early) is now gone from our tables; with 13 games played for every team, the use of preseason priors has fully washed out of our system.

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 TB 30.8% 1 29.6% 2 10-3 28.4% 1 -4.2% 7 -1.7% 24
2 NE 27.9% 2 37.9% 1 9-4 8.0% 10 -17.3% 2 2.5% 4
3 DAL 26.3% 4 25.2% 3 9-4 8.3% 8 -15.7% 3 2.3% 7
4 BUF 24.6% 3 23.1% 5 7-6 5.9% 14 -17.6% 1 1.1% 14
5 LAR 23.0% 6 20.9% 6 9-4 13.7% 4 -9.4% 6 -0.1% 18
6 ARI 19.6% 5 15.1% 9 10-3 5.1% 16 -12.8% 4 1.7% 10
7 KC 18.8% 9 24.3% 4 9-4 13.5% 5 0.6% 17 6.0% 2
8 SF 15.4% 7 18.0% 8 7-6 12.7% 6 -3.5% 8 -0.8% 21
9 IND 13.7% 8 18.5% 7 7-6 8.4% 7 -3.3% 9 2.0% 9
10 GB 10.7% 10 14.1% 10 10-3 17.9% 2 0.6% 16 -6.7% 32
11 LAC 9.5% 12 12.0% 11 8-5 17.0% 3 2.2% 20 -5.3% 31
12 MIN 8.6% 11 10.0% 12 6-7 7.7% 11 1.6% 19 2.4% 6
13 NO 6.9% 13 3.3% 15 6-7 -3.2% 19 -9.8% 5 0.4% 16
14 CLE 4.9% 14 -0.2% 16 7-6 6.2% 13 0.1% 15 -1.3% 22
15 PHI 4.4% 15 5.6% 13 6-7 8.1% 9 3.7% 22 0.1% 17
16 BAL 3.5% 16 -0.3% 17 8-5 0.9% 17 3.7% 23 6.4% 1

Click here for the full table.


54 comments, Last at 18 Dec 2021, 5:27am

#1 by IlluminatusUIUC // Dec 14, 2021 - 3:21pm

The Bills lose their title as "most inconsistent team in DVOA history" this week because they went out and played a game with a DVOA very close to their average DVOA for the entire season. All of a sudden, they were randomly consistent.

No, what happened is that they accelerated their mood swings to happen in halves rather than weeks. When you average together their godawful half and their excellent half, they meet in the middle.

Points: 0

#24 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 14, 2021 - 9:47pm

This.  It was almost like two different teams played H1 and H2. 

Points: 0

#47 by Mike B. In Va // Dec 15, 2021 - 3:14pm

That's nothing new. It was happening a lot of last year, too, just not many of you saw it.

Points: 0

#2 by fynsta // Dec 14, 2021 - 3:38pm

Just fyi, in this preview table the ordering by W-L is broken. It puts the teams with double-digit wins in the wrong place (probably comparing strings instead of integers?)

Points: 0

#3 by Bobman // Dec 14, 2021 - 4:01pm

And now we suddenly have three teams in the top-10 across the board.  The Colts had been close in recent weeks and now slip in at 7/9/9.  The Pats are 10/2/4 (man that should be a good game, unless Indy has prepared for 65 runs and NE out-game-plans them with 90% passes), and Dallas rears it's star-shaped logo at 8/3/7.

Of course the Bucs, Bills, Rams, Niners, and Packers thumb their noses at that whole concept. Special teams? We don't need no stinking special teams.

Points: 0

#4 by Mike B. In Va // Dec 14, 2021 - 4:27pm

The Bills are at least around average. How Tampa is not losing more points from ST is a mystery to me.

Points: 0

#7 by Raiderfan // Dec 14, 2021 - 4:35pm

Nah, clearly the Packers say we really want stinking special teams, and we are going to work to get them, the stinkier the better.

Points: 0

#8 by Romodini // Dec 14, 2021 - 4:40pm

At the rate the Dallas offense is regressing, I wouldn't be surprised to see them fall out of the top 10 in that category. The offense has already fallen to 13 in weighted DVOA, and yet they're still 3 in overall weighted DVOA due to defense. But I don't think it's realistic for them to be able to win games on that alone when the Rams, Packers, and Bucs are all top 4 in offensive DVOA and they'll likely have to face all of them before getting to the Super Bowl.

Points: 0

#6 by nat // Dec 14, 2021 - 4:34pm

You’ll probably see a slightly pass-heavy game from the Patriots, since run defense seems to be the Colts’ strength on defense. But you never can tell until the game with the Patriots.

A cool thing about the Patriots is that they remain in the top ten everywhere even when you consider run and pass offense and defense separately. That’s insanely balanced.

It ought to be a great game. 

Points: 0

#32 by Bobman // Dec 15, 2021 - 1:10am

That IS crazy and allows them to morph as needed.  Indy's pass D has been hit or miss this year--missing their top two safeties is part of that, and they had some injuries earlier.  Not sure who specifically is supposed to cover TEs, but I still have nightmares about Mark Andrews shredding them late in the game a couple months ago. Reminded me of a playoff loss to SD when MLB Gary Brackett was injured and Antonio Gates did whatever the hell he wanted. Ugh. Maybe Darius Leonard's ankle is healing with a couple weeks of rest and he'll be mobile once again.

No NFL Network; must find a local bar where I can park my rump for a few hours. The local Seahawks fans will wonder why I'm so worked up and ask to change the channel to Antiques Roadshow....

Points: 0

#44 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Dec 15, 2021 - 1:23pm

Yup.  There's this strange impression (that Buffalo didn't help) that they're a run only team with a weak passing game - and that really hasn't been true at any point. 



A top 10 passing game is way more effective than a top 5 running game. 

Points: 0

#9 by oaktoon // Dec 14, 2021 - 5:06pm

They have played 4 teams ranked ahead of them in DVOA   Won 3 and have better records than all three (tiebreaker over ariz) only loss was at KC without Rodgers. The special teams are a hot mess. But they have played consistently better on both sides of ball than any other team in league since the first week rout v saints.  They hold tiebreakers v. Both bucs and cards. So unless you think Jackson. Is good enough to beat them this weekend. Or Vikings or browns at lambeau. Or Detroit!! They may very well be headed to 14-3 and the 1 seed. But for that they probably get Dallas or Rams followed by Brady in a repeat of last years title game. The other weird thing is this. 11-2 v spread.  It’s as if everyone has swallowed the DVOA kool aid and decided they’re really not that good.  And they prove those folks wrong week after week.  

Points: 0

#13 by Romodini // Dec 14, 2021 - 5:34pm

I wonder to what extent a matchup with a team that has good special teams DVOA will affect their playoff chances? Interestingly, two of GB's losses this year have come to teams in the top 10 in special teams DVOA -- KC and Minnesota, although it probably makes more sense to say Rodger's vaccine status cost them the KC game. They also nearly lost to the Cardinals who are currently 10 in special teams.

Should the Packers be more worried about facing Dallas and Minnesota in the playoffs than other teams since they have good special teams to go with above average offensive and defensive efficiency (except for 19th ranked Minnesota defense)? I personally doubt it, but would be interesting to see any past examples.

Points: 0

#15 by Wifan6562 // Dec 14, 2021 - 6:08pm

We’ve talked Packers DVOA before and I won’t re-hash. I just found an interesting tangent that sounds fun to discuss: The Vikings

I think the Vikings are capable of beating and losing to literally every NFL team, and always in a 1 possession game. I wonder if any other team in NFL history has gotten this late in a season with only 1 game decided by more than 8.

It feels like when they’re up, especially late, both their offense and defense disintegrates. Offensively they run on 1st and 2nd in these situations - nearly the only exception being if they end up losing yards on 1st down. On defense they’re very happy to give up 10-20 at every opportunity. When they’re down, they go into beast mode and the opposite happens. 

Here are some interesting Vikings notes:

* total games trailing for the entire 4th quarter: 2

* current playoff teams played: 6 

* 4th quarter leads against playoff teams: 5 

* blown leads in the 4th quarter: 7

* 4th quarter comebacks: 6

Points: 0

#17 by oaktoon // Dec 14, 2021 - 6:27pm

Let's assume seeds are TB/GB #1 0r 2 in some order; ARIZ and DALL

LAR the 5 seed, SF the 6 seed  and MINN the 7.

Vikings open up at TB or GB (Would be second Lambeau game in a month); LAR at DALL--  a coin flip game if there ever was one; SF at ARIZ-- Cards won both regular season games-- one without Murray-- but Niners appear much better now than they were. Would not be shocked to see at least two of the road teams winning those games.

Meaning second weekend could be:



(Or the Vikes in  one of those games)  and again the road team would have a serious chance... What would be current odds of a SF-LAR NFC title game at Sofi?? 50 to 1??

Points: 0

#18 by jheidelberg // Dec 14, 2021 - 7:08pm

Above is the game log of the 2015 Baltimore Ravens.

The 2015 Baltimore Ravens started the season with 12 consecutive one score games and finished with 14 of their 16 games decided by one score.  The team wen 5-11 and had -4.4 DVOA.  It is the only sub .500 season in the John Harbaugh era 2008-present.

Points: 0

#11 by thatoneguy123123 // Dec 14, 2021 - 5:30pm

Really struggling on how the numbers spit out that Texans have been the 13th best defense this year. 

Rushing - They have given up 4.7 yards per rush and 22 rushing TD's, which are both 2nd worst in the NFL.

Passing - They have given up 7.8 yards per attempt which is 6th worst in NFL.  They have given up 22 TDs/14 INT's which is pretty solid and better then I thought.

Even factoring in their very hard strength of schedule I just don't see how they are 13th.  There rushing/passing yards per attempt are way too high to be 13.  To note there game vs Patriots should have some sort of asterisk next to it since Pats got late news and had there entire starting offensive line out for covid.

Any thoughts or reasonings as to what I am missing with the Texans defense?

Points: 0

#12 by thatoneguy123123 // Dec 14, 2021 - 5:30pm

Oops you can delete.  Posted same thing twice

Points: 0

#14 by Alternator // Dec 14, 2021 - 5:51pm

Are they perhaps facing more runs, percentage wise, than average?  This sounds like an example of Simpson's Paradox in action.

Points: 0

#16 by Wifan6562 // Dec 14, 2021 - 6:26pm

I think this is a volume thing since about 50% of their plays are against the run. Though they are not good at defending those run plays, run plays are still less effective than passing plays leading to an overall inflated rating. I think this means that the Texans, somehow, are actually worse than their rating (probably significantly). 

Points: 0

#25 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 14, 2021 - 9:53pm

As discussed below, the likely answer is that HOU is losing so many games badly that their opposition is frequently running out the clock against them in H2.  That artificially makes their defense look better because they're facing more runs and fewer passes than they would if their games were more competitive.

Points: 0

#38 by takeleavebelieve // Dec 15, 2021 - 10:02am

DVOA is a per-play metric, so averages are mostly irrelevant to decoding it. Usually the answer to this question is contextual, e.g. great performance on third down, bad luck recovering fumbles, etc. Consider this sequence - 8 yard rush on first down, incomplete pass on second down, and 1 yard rush on third down. That’s still 4.5 yards per carry allowed, but DVOA cares a lot more about getting off the field on 3rd down than allowing the chunk play on 1st that didn’t get a new set of downs. 

I don’t watch enough Texans games to know if this is what’s happening here, but I’d assume their opponents might be intentionally adopting inefficient strategies to run clock and protect a lead. 

Points: 0

#54 by thatoneguy123123 // Dec 18, 2021 - 5:27am

They are 22nd in defensive 3rd down percentage. They are at the bottom 1/3rd of the league in most important defensive metrics.  

It is true that teams run more on Houston and throw less.  So that is an obvious flaw in DVOA.  There is no advanced metric that should put Texans defense 13th. They are absolutely awful on defense. Awful

Points: 0

#19 by batbatt // Dec 14, 2021 - 8:17pm

Wonder what the DVOA for the Packers special team was for the Bears game.

Points: 0

#22 by DisplacedPackerFan // Dec 14, 2021 - 8:53pm

I don't currently have premium to check. But I do know they went from l think it was 11.6 points added over the season from punting to 1.3. So their only good unit cratered so badly that it nearly wiped out 12 games of positive value. It's still 14th in the league so they still have something in the top half (which is typical they usually have one specialist to keep things semi afloat in one aspect). But they are dead last in FG/XP, Kickoff Return, and punt return. They are only 24th in Kickoffs so that's the other bright spot!

On the actual bright side the offense is 2nd in the league now and still climbing. The defense is still holding steady at 16th, though pass defense has slipped a bit these last 3 weeks it was top 10 and is now down to 13th. So I still enjoy watching them a lot and even with the ST gaffes I never really had any worries the Bears would actually get back in the game. Teams do seem to have found ways to attack the defense to create mismatches for big plays, MN was really good at that, LA did some of the same things with less success, and Chicago busted out 2 plays that got them 100 of their 210 passing yards that were good designs to get mismatches. But I do see Barry adjusting things to help with that so while I sure with more and more film out there to study other exploits will be found, at least they seem to be closing them. Pettine didn't do that as well and the same issues could be attacked game after game.

If it weren't for these medical bills I would already have premium. I admit I was curious enough that I almost sprung for it just to find out the answer to this question.

Points: 0

#26 by dank067 // Dec 14, 2021 - 9:57pm

Hopefully not violating a site policy here but I think it's a fun discussion. GB ST was -30.9% against the Bears, which is pretty bad! It's their worst special teams performance of the season, beating out the FG kicking nightmare that was the Cincinnati game (-22.8%) by a fair margin. The Bengals were merely -12.9% in ST DVOA that day. The KC game was also pretty bad for GB at -19.3%. The rest of the games are actually all within +/- 4.0%, although only two of them were positive.

It would be fun to see where -30.9% ranks all-time. It might not actually be that low. I know that when I think bad special teams, I think of the Chargers, and it looks like they had two games that were even worse last season: -33.8% against the Jags and -45.7% (!!!) against the Patriots. The Vikings also had multiple games last season that were narrowly worse on ST than GB vs CHI.

Points: 0

#28 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 14, 2021 - 10:10pm

If you're trying to remember how the Chargers managed a -45.7% Special Teams result against the Patriots last year, I bring you this friendly summary:

- a 70-yard NE punt return for a TD

- two additional NE punt returns for a combined 75 yards

- no return yards for LA on NE punts, one of which was a touchback, the other three of which pinned LA inside their 20

- a blocked FG attempt returned for a NE TD

- one additional missed FG attempt

- no made FGs (no points whatsoever, LA was shut out)

- six kick offs returned by LA for an average of 21 yards per return, with the best result being a 31 yard gain


So all of that really wasn't all that good.

Points: 0

#30 by dank067 // Dec 14, 2021 - 10:34pm

I did remember that NE returned a blocked kick for a touchdown in that game, but wow. That is impressive to see laid out in total.

Points: 0

#41 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 15, 2021 - 10:50am

Points: 0

#43 by dank067 // Dec 15, 2021 - 12:37pm

Thanks for sharing - that's an incredible number. Looks like a crazy game, too, with multiple defensive touchdowns and a safety. Chris Berman opens up the highlight with "this is the part of the show we call comedy central:"

Points: 0

#39 by Arkaein // Dec 15, 2021 - 10:09am

Packers ST performance was most remarkable in that they were bad in so many different ways. However, they mostly didn't repeat the same mistakes.

Only one return TD allowed, and every FG/XP was successful, which probably eliminates them from most worst ever lists. They also didn't have a punt or kick blocked.

But the variety: allowed punt return TD, muffed kickoff out of bounds, muffed punt, multiple long returns allowed, failed onside recovery.

Points: 0

#40 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 15, 2021 - 10:49am

The onside kick is not included in special teams DVOA because it is not predictive. At some point I need to create two types of special teams DVOA: one that includes every play (how well a team played) and one that's specifically predictive (how well a team will do in the future).

Points: 0

#37 by dryheat // Dec 15, 2021 - 9:10am

Not nearly as low as it would have been, if the kicking team could still advance muffed punts and onside kicks.  That performance was comically bad.  I mean like the Denver Broncos team that Hank Scorpio bought for Homer Simpson bad.  All it lacked was the Benny Hill theme.

Points: 0

#20 by RickD // Dec 14, 2021 - 8:38pm

That's what that DVOA chart tells me.


Points: 0

#23 by mrh // Dec 14, 2021 - 9:31pm

That was what I thought at first, then I looked more closely.  DVOA thought the first game at the Raiders was pretty good - the first very high peak is actually the Dallas game.

Points: 0

#21 by DisplacedPackerFan // Dec 14, 2021 - 8:40pm

Are the 6-7 Atlanta Falcons the team with the most wins for being at the bottom of the DVOA ratings this far into a season?

-34.4% DVOA the next worst 6 win team is MIA and they have a relatively healthy -13.7% DVOA. So that points to weird.

They have a 2.7% "lead" over the Kneecap Biters who sit at -31.7%. It's not like Atlanta has had a super soft schedule either. Average opponent DVOA is right at 0.0% which ranks 20th. The Kneecap Biters have a 2.6% average opponent DVOA and are at 7th in sos. So I can see some of the explanation for 1-11-1 vs 6-7 by that. But not the general 6-7 ness of ATL taken as a whole.

ATL pulls off the trifecta of DVOA suck too. 29th in offense, 30th in defense and 30th in ST. The offense is 28th in Weighted DVOA, but the D and ST are still 30th so it's not like they are really improving either. And their remaining schedule @SF, DET, @BUF, NO. So they have a chance to pick up a couple more wins while also losing more DVOA! The DVOA loss might depend on which version of Buffalo and SF they get. But we could have an 8 win team sitting at the bottom of the rankings!

With all that it feels like they might hold off the other low win teams. 1-11-1 DET (-31.7%) and 2-11 HOU & JAX who both have -30.3%. The 3-10 NYJ are miles away at -22.8% at this stage and the 4 and 5 win teams are even better than that. Of course losing tends to lower DVOA so any of those teams losing out could shake it up. But as mentioned ATL still has a great chance of dropping DVOA even if they win. Also as you will see in detail. They can lose out and take the crown for most wins by the worst DVOA team.

I took a look at the bottom of the full season DVOA barrel. I know we've had some 5 win teams at the bottom, 2019 MIA comes to mind. But I've got some time in this hospital bed so I will compile them all. The full list is at the end of the post.

  • 5 wins is the best happening 4 times in 2007, 2015, 2016, and 2019.
  • Twice we've had 0 wins
  • Five times it's been 1 win
  • Fourteen (14) times it's been 2 wins
  • Five times it's been 3 wins
  • Eight times it's been 4 wins with one one of those 4 win seasons also having a tie.

Note that the shortened season in 87 means 2 win ATL may have had more in a longer season

Other Tidbits from the list
San Fran tops the list of most finishes at dead last with 4. ATL*, CLE, IND, and NYJ are nipping at their heals with 3. *ATL needs to hold on this year to get their 3rd entry and the 87 season is weird too so maybe they are only at the 1 in 2003 if you like. So those 5 teams cover 16 of the 39 seasons. Suck does seem to concentrate and hang around. We've had several back to back bottom dwellers. JAX (13,14), DET (08, 09), SF (04, 05 then 07 for good measure), CLE (99, 00). You had the fun NE/IND/NE/IND pattern from 90 to 93 as well.

11 teams have managed to not finished dead last in DVOA. Teams we didn't get to see at the bottom are BAL, CHI, CIN, DEN, GB, LA/STL Rams, NO, NYG, PIT, SEA, WAS. I'm surprised by a few of those.Technically no TEN either but if they inherit the Oilers history then they are on there.

  • 2021 - ATL (6-7) -34.4%
  • 2020 - NYJ (2-14) -30.5%
  • 2019 - MIA (5-11) -38.8%
  • 2018 - ARI (3.-13) -38.5%
  • 2017 - CLE (0-16) -28.7%
  • 2016 - NYJ (5-11) -24.5%
  • 2015 - SF (5-11) -28.3%
  • 2014 - JAX (3-13) -31.3%
  • 2013 - JAX (4-12) -40.2%
  • 2012 - KC (2-14) -43.5%
  • 2011 - IND (2-14) -34.5%
  • 2010 - CAR (2-14) -38.2%
  • 2009 - DET (2-14) -48.6%
  • 2008 - DET (0-16) -45.2%
  • 2007 - SF (5-11) -35.4%
  • 2006 - OAK (2-14) -34.7%
  • 2005 - SF (4-12) -57.7%
  • 2004 - SF (2-14) -43.1%
  • 2003 - ATL (4-12) -43.1%
  • 2002 - HOU (4-12) -41.4%
  • 2001 - CAR (1-15) -24.7%
  • 2000 - CLE (3-13) -41.5%
  • 1999 - CLE (2-14) -41.3%
  • 1998 - PHI (3-13) -37.0%
  • 1997 - SD (4-12) -31.2%
  • 1996 - NYJ (1-15) -33.6%
  • 1995 - ARI (4-12) -30.3%
  • 1994 - HOIL (2-14) -29.9%
  • 1993 - IND (4-12) -38.9%
  • 1992 - NE (2-14) -41.5%
  • 1991 - IND (1-15) -49.2%
  • 1990 - NE (1-15) -40.8%
  • 1989 - DAL (1-15) -37.5%
  • 1988 - KC (4-11-1) -25.9%
  • 1987*- ATL (2-10) -43.2%
  • 1986 - TB (2-14) -44.9%
  • 1985 - BUF (2-14) -37.5%
  • 1984 - MIN (3-13) -41.2%
  • 1983 - HOIL (2-14) -31.6%



Points: 0

#27 by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Dec 14, 2021 - 9:58pm

If ATL manages to squeak into the final playoff seed, the #2 team in the NFC won't technically have a bye, but man, it should be the closest thing to a bye you could get.

Points: 0

#29 by jgov // Dec 14, 2021 - 10:29pm

The Falcons' DVOA rating has seemed low to me all season. By no means are they a good team, but they are the type of team that can beat the bottom feeders fairly consistently, which shows in their record. 

Falcons wins: NO (13), MIA (24), NYG (25), CAR (27), NYJ (28), JAX (29)

Falcons losses: TB 2x (1), NE (2), DAL (3), PHI (15), WAS (21), CAR (27)

So they have four losses against the top three teams by DVOA (all by multiple scores), another blowout loss to #15, a close loss to #21, a split of two games with #27, a close win against #13 starting its backup QB, and wins against four botton-10 teams. None of their wins feel particularly fluky, and I think they'd be favored in a rematch against all of the teams they beat except for the Saints. 


Points: 0

#31 by DisplacedPackerFan // Dec 15, 2021 - 12:05am

That also nicely illustrates some of the issues (and I don't have a good solution) with SOS being just an average of opponents DVOA. That's 5 games against the top 25%, 2 against the 2nd quartile, 2 against the 3rd quartile, and 5 against the bottom 25%. So yeah a 0% average DVOA makes sense, but I definitely see a vast difference in win probability. I know Aaron has poked at doing sos with various win probability models and it didn't really make much difference and I get that with only 16 games (OK 17 now) you don't always have the best interconnectedness and it's tough to judge, but that single number can lose a lot.

I admit I haven't really watched them at all this year, not even in highlights. I just noticed a data oddity and did some quick digging since I enjoy that and hoped it would spark exactly this kind of nuanced discussion so I could learn more.

I did know the schedule quirks and figured they had some massively negative DVOA in the blowouts to the tough teams and only moderate at best against the weaker teams they beat. Their remaining schedule continues a similar pattern too. @SF (8 2nd quartile), DET (31 bottom Q), @BUF (4 top Q), NO (13 2nd Q). Which is why I thought they could pick up a few wins but still lose a bunch of DVOA as SF and BUF could both stomp them but they could beat DET and NO but have negative or very low DVOA in the process.

DVOA measures efficiency. I don't know the regular season numbers for DVOA predicting wins or for the playoffs (though that wouldn't take too long to figure out). This whole season has posed the question of if that measure relates to winning as well as it used to. If that's true Atlanta is a data point against it. Atlanta may also just be a weird outlier. Either way I find it interesting.

Using current DVOA what are the odds of
-34.4 beating -13.7% (MIA), -15.0% (NYG), -19.1% (CAR), -22.8% (NYJ), -30.3% (JAX)
If you do a simple .5 - diff in DVOA (for easy spreadsheet manipulation) you get:
29.3%, 30.6%, 34.7%, 38.4%, 45.9% for those win probabilities and winning them all is 5.5% if I'm doing my math right I might not be, pain meds means foggy head. That's rare but not impossible. It's interesting but not an indication that DVOA is wrong.

The beating 6.9% NO would screw that up a lot since that would be a 8.7% single game by my slap dash DVOA probability and winning all 6 would be a 0.5% chance. But if it's more like beating a -15% team when you factor in the back-up QB. Now your at 1.7% for all those wins. Of course those are me just pulling chances somewhat out my backside.  Still a very rare thing but it happening once in 40 years isn't outrageous.

But it might also be an indicator that DVOA is missing something or that play by play efficiency as a measure of team quality isn't as predictive as we thought or that the D adjustments are off, or lots of other things. Any of the answers (pure chance, something being missed, adjustments could be better, my probability math being wrong) are interesting to me.

Points: 0

#50 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Dec 15, 2021 - 9:28pm

This is like flipping a coin 16 times, picking up only the 8 heads, and then saying the odds of that happening are 1 in 2^8. 

Points: 0

#52 by bruddog // Dec 16, 2021 - 2:39pm

This is the cosmic makeup luck for last season when they blew 2 games in a row with a 99% win probability and also blew a few other high win probability games.

Points: 0

#35 by AFCNFCBowl // Dec 15, 2021 - 8:24am

The 4 worst playoff teams ever by DVOA (2010 SEA, 2004 STL, 2016 HOU, 1998 ARI) each won their first playoff game.

Points: 0

#33 by Bryan Knowles // Dec 15, 2021 - 1:11am

"Are the 6-7 Atlanta Falcons the team with the most wins for being at the bottom of the DVOA ratings this far into a season?"

I believe they are indeed.  I'd have to go back and check the '80s, but since 1989, the most wins a last-place team has ever had was five, and most of those were at the end of the year:

*2001 Vikings (5-9, 5-10 and 5-11)
*2010 Cardinals (5-11)
*2015 49ers (5-11)
*2016 Jets (5-11)

Points: 0

#36 by AFCNFCBowl // Dec 15, 2021 - 8:26am

2016 NYJ was a really bad one, actually managed to fall below 1-15 CLE in DVOA. Some wins with okay DVOA but most of their 11 losses were horrendous.

2015 SF was interesting too. Negative DVOA in 14 games (2 positive games both very good), some close wins with negative DVOA and lots of blowout losses.

Points: 0

#34 by andrew // Dec 15, 2021 - 8:19am

Is there such a thing as variance variance?

Points: 0

#42 by takeleavebelieve // Dec 15, 2021 - 11:06am

There’s a rule of thumb in process managment that 14 consecutive data points alternating up and down is when a process is officially “out of control”. 

Points: 0

#46 by theTDC // Dec 15, 2021 - 3:05pm

I missed this last week, but I'll do it now. The Lions at 1-11-1, and a DVOA of -31.7% appear to be far worse than the Bucs at 10-3, with a DVOA of 30.8%. However, this is flat out wrong.

The Lions beat the Vikings, which makes them better than the Vikings. The Vikings have beaten the Packers, which makes them better than the Packers. The Packers have beaten the Rams, which makes them better than the Rams. And the Rams have beaten the Bucs, which makes them better than the Bucs.

I didn't initially believe it, but the logic checks out. Lions are the best team in the league.

Points: 0

#48 by Wifan6562 // Dec 15, 2021 - 5:10pm

I literally can’t argue with this one. It’s legit. They’re the best. And I would love to play them in the playoffs anyway. Thanks for the fun analysis. 

Points: 0

#49 by DisplacedPackerFan // Dec 15, 2021 - 6:11pm

I am so happy you can finally get the full beatpath out there! Gotten good chuckles out of these most weeks and so happy you kept posting them.


It would be best if DET was bottom for DVOA, but as you can see I'm pulling for ATL to keep the worst DVOA and take the most wins for the worst DVOA in the league crown. But I would settle for worst DVOA team having a beatpath to being the best team if it ends up that way.

Points: 0

#53 by TomC // Dec 17, 2021 - 2:26pm

Whatever happened to tunesmith?

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Aaron
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and Aaron Schatz. Use promo code SCHATZ to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Aaron.