Final 2019 DVOA Ratings

Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Sitting starters? Not a problem for the Baltimore Ravens, whose league-leading DVOA rating barely moved after their 28-10 Week 17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Ravens didn't take the No. 1 spot in DVOA until after Week 13, but they had an absurdly dominant last half of the season. The Ravens had a single-game rating over 30% in their last ten straight games of the year. The only other team to finish over 30% for the season was Kansas City, which moves up one spot into the No. 2 spot in DVOA this week. The Chiefs pass the Patriots, who fall to third in total DVOA and sixth in weighted DVOA with their shocking upset loss to Miami.

Baltimore's losses are so far back in the rearview mirror at this point that the Ravens have a weighted DVOA of 50.9%. Their performance this year is so far past any other team that they win the Super Bowl in over 40% of our playoff simulations. The Ravens finish the season in the top ten for all three phases of the game, including first on offense and fourth on defense. If we look only since Week 10, the Ravens are second on offense (behind, here's a shocker, Tennessee) and second on defense (behind Pittsburgh).

So how do the Ravens end up among all teams ever tracked by DVOA, since 1985? We've been updating this list each week throughout the season and we end up with the Ravens at No. 7.

BEST TOTAL DVOA, 1985-2019
Year Team W-L DVOA
1991 WAS 14-2 56.9%
2007 NE 16-0 52.9%
1985 CHI 15-1 52.5%
1987 SF* 10-2 47.0%
2010 NE 14-2 44.6%
1996 GB 13-3 42.0%
2019 BAL 14-2 41.5%
2013 SEA 13-3 40.0%
1995 SF 11-5 40.0%
2012 SEA 11-5 38.7%
2015 SEA 10-6 38.1%
2004 PIT 15-1 37.6%
*only 12 games due to strike

If you've been reading each week, you also know that part of this list each week has been updating where the 1985 Bears stand historically. Now that the season is over, we can reveal that the 1985 Bears -- often considered the best team in NFL history -- only end up third for regular-season DVOA behind the 1991 Redskins and 2007 Patriots. If we include their dominant postseason, the Bears move up to No. 2, but still rank behind the 1991 Redskins, who also had a pretty good postseason run. The Bears also don't end up as the best defense we've ever measured. For the regular season, the Bears are behind the 1991 Eagles and tied with themselves, the 1986 Chicago Bears. Including the postseason, the Bears are all alone in the No. 2 spot.

We'll reveal the rest of the 1985 DVOA and DYAR numbers in February after Super Bowl LIV, but for now, let's return to running down the results from the 2019 season.

If we measure weighted DVOA instead of total DVOA, looking at how each team was playing going into the playoffs, the Ravens are sixth since 1985. The teams ahead of them are the 2010 Patriots, 1985 Bears, 1991 Redskins, 1987 49ers, and 2015 Seahawks. The Ravens hope not to join the 2010 Patriots and 1987 49ers, who despite being red hot going into the playoffs suffered two of the worst postseason upsets in NFL history.

For the most part, Baltimore's comfortable Week 17 win means we don't need to have a long drawn-out discussion of why we don't adjust DVOA ratings for teams sitting starters at the end of the season. However, I did make a fun little table and I would hate to see it go to waste. This table shows the top 20 teams in DVOA if we removed games where teams sat starters because they had clinched playoff position. Teams such as the 1999 Rams, the 2005 Colts, and especially the 2004 Eagles climb our ranks if we remove these end-of-season games. The teams in red have adjusted ratings due to sitting starters.

Top 20 Teams by DVOA Adjusted for Sitting Starters, 1985-2019
1 1991 WAS 56.9% 14-2 57.9% 15 14-1
2 2007 NE 52.9% 16-0 52.9% 16 16-0
3 1985 CHI 52.5% 15-1 52.5% 16 15-1
4 1987 SF 47.0% 10-2 47.0% 12 10-2
5 2010 NE 44.6% 14-2 44.6% 16 14-2
6 1996 GB 42.0% 13-3 42.0% 16 13-3
7 2019 BAL 41.5% 14-2 41.8% 15 13-2
8 2004 PIT 37.6% 15-1 40.7% 15 14-1
9 2013 SEA 40.0% 13-3 40.0% 16 13-3
10 1995 SF 40.0% 11-5 40.0% 16 11-5
11 2012 SEA 38.7% 11-5 38.7% 16 11-5
12 2005 IND 32.1% 14-2 38.5% 14 13-1
13 2015 SEA 38.1% 10-6 38.1% 16 10-6
14 1999 STL 34.0% 13-3 38.1% 15 13-2
15 2004 PHI 23.7% 13-3 37.4% 14 13-1
16 2012 DEN 36.5% 13-3 36.5% 16 13-3
17 1994 DAL 32.9% 12-4 36.4% 15 12-3
18 2017 LAR 27.7% 11-5 36.0% 15 11-4
19 1989 SF 36.0% 14-2 36.0% 16 14-2
20 2010 PIT 35.4% 12-4 35.4% 16 12-4

While sitting starters doesn't really affect Baltimore's DVOA much, it did have some impact lower down on the table, in particular with the game between Tennessee and Houston. The Titans moved up from 13th to ninth in total DVOA this week, and they are now all the way up to fifth in weighted DVOA. That comes in part thanks to the benefit of playing Houston's backups in Week 17. The Texans fall from 15th to 19th this week and are down to 23rd in weighted DVOA. The Texans would be the lowest playoff team in DVOA even without the effect of Week 17, but holding out players such as Deshaun Watson and DeAndre Hopkins just exaggerates the difference. Therefore, we've removed Week 17 from Houston and Tennessee in the ratings we're using for our playoff odds simulation. We did the same for Baltimore, Buffalo, and Minnesota.

Baltimore finishes the year No. 1 in offensive DVOA, and the Ravens are No. 1 both passing and rushing the ball. Only five teams in history had accomplished this feat of leading the league in both passing and rushing DVOA: 1988 Bengals, 1993 49ers, 1995 Cowboys, 1998 Broncos, and 2002 Chiefs. The Ravens are the first team to do it in 17 years. Surprisingly, given the fact that they broke the all-time rushing yardage record held by the 1978 Patriots, the Ravens do not even come close to having the best rushing DVOA in history. They aren't even one of the top 20 rushing teams we've ever measured. (No. 1 is the 2000 Rams.)

The Ravens were 15th in offensive DVOA in 2018, and their rise in 2019 matches one of the major stories of the 2019 season which is that it was a season of change. The year-to-year correlation of offensive DVOA is usually around .50, but for 2018 to 2019 it was only .30. A number of teams made huge leaps in offensive efficiency, including Dallas (24 to 2), Tennessee (22 to 6), Oakland (25 to 9), and Arizona (32 to 13). In the meantime, Pittsburgh and Carolina saw their ratings plummet after losing their starting quarterbacks.

The correlation wasn't high for defense either: .28, compared to a usual correlation around .38. But the year-to-year correlation of total DVOA was higher, .44, because of a number of teams that saw their units essentially "switch places." There were a number of teams that had significant defensive improvement paired with offensive decline. New England is the most obvious, but also Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and the Los Angeles Rams. The Dallas Cowboys were the opposite, with significant offensive improvement paired with defensive decline.

Both Miami and the New York Jets threatened to rank among our worst offenses ever early in the season, but it's Pittsbugh that ends up in last place on offense, narrowly falling below the Jets. Miami ends up as the worst running team, so congratulations on trading Kenyan Drake. (I'm kidding, of course, since everyone on Twitter now knows that running backs don't matter. Congratulations on trading Laremy Tunsil instead.) The Jets end up as the worst passing team, followed by Carolina, Pittsburgh and Washington.

Let's move on to defense. Just as we've been tracking the Ravens against the best teams in DVOA history, so too have we been tracking the Patriots against the best defenses in DVOA history. Well, after a very bad game against the Dolphins in Week 17, the Patriots are no longer one of the top dozen defenses in DVOA history. Specifically, they fell to No. 16. But the Patriots still end the season as the No. 1 defense of 2019. The 49ers, who like the Patriots saw their defense decline in the second half of the season, finish No. 2. The Pittsburgh Steelers, they of the worst offense in football, had the best defense in football over the second half of the year and end the season at No. 3.

There is a 2019 defense that ends up among the ten best defenses in DVOA history, however: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Todd Bowles engineered a shocking turnaround for the Tampa Bay defense this year, as it went from dead last in DVOA for 2018 to fifth for 2019. And most impressive was the run defense, which allowed just 3.3 yards per carry, a yard below the NFL average. The Bucs come out as the No. 6 best run defense we've ever measured.

Year Team W-L DVOA
2000 BAL 12-4 -36.6%
1991 PHI 10-6 -34.9%
2015 NYJ 10-6 -33.3%
1998 SD 5-11 -32.9%
2014 DET 11-5 -31.4%
2019 TB 7-9 -30.6%
2006 MIN 6-10 -30.5%
1995 KC 13-3 -30.5%
2018 HOU 11-5 -30.1%
2010 PIT 12-4 -29.0%
2008 BAL 11-5 -28.6%
2016 NYJ 5-11 -28.1%

The worst run defenses are never as bad as the best run defenses are good, but this year also had one of the worst run defenses in DVOA history. Charlotte resident Scott Spratt has been lamenting this all season long in Audibles, and drawing attention to it whenever he recommends you play your running backs against the Carolina Panthers in his Sit and Start columns.  The Carolina Panthers allowed a league-worst 5.2 yards per attempt and 31 rushing touchdowns when the next-worst team was Jacksonville with 23. So the Carolina Panthers have the worst run defense DVOA of the century. It's interesting that most of the worst run defense DVOA ratings are from before the year 2000. This continues even if you go down to the top 20 or top 30.

Year Team W-L DVOA
1986 TB 2-14 21.2%
1996 WAS 9-7 20.1%
1986 MIA 8-8 19.2%
1992 LARM 6-10 18.8%
2019 CAR 5-11 18.5%
1998 WAS 6-10 18.3%
2008 STL 2-14 18.0%
1989 MIA 8-8 17.8%
2005 ATL 8-8 17.8%
1990 DET 6-10 17.8%
1999 CLE 2-14 17.8%
1985 SD 8-8 17.7%

2019 also brought us one of the worst overall defenses of DVOA history. The Miami Dolphins offense improved significantly over the course of the year, ranking 20th from Week 10 onwards. The defense did not improve anywhere near as much, ranking 30th from Week 10 onwards. For the entire season, Miami gave up 30 or more points in ten different games. Despite a 5-4 record over their final nine games, despite the upset win over the Patriots, the Dolphins end up as the No. 6 worst defense in DVOA history and the No. 4 worst defense against the pass.

Year Team W-L DVOA
1986 TB 2-14 26.1%
2015 NO 7-9 26.1%
2000 MIN 11-5 26.0%
1987 MIA* 7-5 24.4%
2008 DET 0-16 24.3%
2019 MIA 5-11 22.2%
1999 CLE 2-14 22.2%
1986 MIA 8-8 21.9%
1996 ATL 3-13 21.6%
2004 MIN 8-8 21.6%
1992 ATL 6-10 21.3%
2008 DEN 8-8 20.7%
*only 12 games due to strike


Year Team W-L DVOA
2015 NO 7-9 48.1%
1996 BAL 4-12 42.0%
1999 SF 4-12 41.7%
2019 MIA 5-11 41.5%
1996 ATL 3-13 38.0%
2009 DET 2-14 36.5%
1989 DAL 1-15 36.4%
2016 DET 9-7 36.2%
2009 JAX 7-9 35.8%
1991 LARM 3-13 35.4%
2000 MIN 11-5 35.2%
1996 ARI 7-9 35.1%

Finally, the Cincinnati Bengals may have had the worst win-loss record in the NFL but they also had the best special teams unit in the league. The Bengals led the league in kick return value and were also above-average on field goals, punts, and kickoffs. It was a very condensed year for special teams, with every team within ten percentage points. The Bengals were No. 1 at 4.6% but that would not have been the No. 1 special teams unit in any other season other than 1993, when the Lions led the league in special teams at just 3.9%. Although the Dallas Cowboys had the worst special teams unit for most of the year, they climbed out of the cellar at the end, so the Los Angeles Chargers end up last in special teams.

Another interesting thing about special teams this year is that it was very consistent from last year, unlike offense and defense. 2018 to 2019 is the rare year-to-year period where the correlation of special teams (.50) ended up higher than offense or defense. Eight of the top ten special teams units from 2018 also made the top ten in 2019.

Oh, and the New England Patriots, despite going through four different placekickers, ended up the season 11th in special teams DVOA. That makes this the 24th straight season where the New England Patriots had above-average special teams, a streak that goes back before Bill Belichick to the end of the Bill Parcells era and the 1996 Super Bowl team.

A couple of other notes from the 2019 season before we run the big tables:

  • The Green Bay Packers end up the second-worst 13-3 team ever according to DVOA, trailing only the 1999 Colts. You can find the list of the worst 13-3 teams here in this tweet. Four of the previous six worst 13-3 teams lost in the divisional round, although the 1999 Titans did make it all the way to the Super Bowl and almost won it.
  • The star-crossed 2019 Dallas Cowboys end up sixth with 17.1% DVOA, which makes them the fifth-best 8-8 team in DVOA history. They rank behind the 2002 Chiefs, 2006 Jaguars, 1999 Raiders, and 1993 Chargers.
  • This year's hardest schedules by DVOA were all in the NFC: Los Angeles Rams at No. 1, then Seattle, Arizona, Carolina, and Atlanta. Houston and Cincinnati had the toughest schedules in the AFC.
  • The easiest schedule in the league, as projected before the season, belonged to the New England Patriots. Then came the Colts, Bills, Titans, and Jets. The easiest schedules in the NFC belonged to Philadelphia and Dallas.
  • Miami, Cleveland, and Baltimore played easy schedules on defense but difficult schedules on offense. Denver, Tampa Bay, and Chicago played difficult schedules on defense but easy schedules on offense.

* * * * *

All player/team DVOA stats pages are now updated through the end of the regular season, as are our playoff odds. We'll review the best and worst player stats of the year in a special Quick Reads tomorrow. Snap counts and the premium DVOA database should be updated by the end of tonight.  Drive stats and pace stats are updated with final numbers. Matchup View in FO Standard Premium will be added for the four wild-card games sometime on Tuesday.

Please note that while this article is called "Final 2019 DVOA Ratings," we will continue with our unofficial postseason weighted DVOA ratings each Monday through the playoffs. There will also be small changes in the final 2019 DVOA ratings based on postseason changes to the play-by-play.

We'll announce our December stars for Madden NFL 20 Ultimate Team in next week's DVOA ratings article on Monday.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through the entire 2019 regular season, 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. WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

LAST WEEK represents rank after Week 17, while LAST YEAR represents rank in 2018.

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 BAL 41.5% 6 1 50.9% 1 14-2 27.5% 1 -12.7% 4 1.3% 10
2 KC 30.2% 1 3 33.2% 3 12-4 22.7% 3 -3.4% 14 4.1% 2
3 NE 29.9% 7 2 19.0% 6 12-4 4.1% 11 -24.6% 1 1.2% 11
4 NO 29.3% 4 5 38.5% 2 13-3 21.3% 4 -4.3% 11 3.6% 3
5 SF 27.9% 30 4 22.2% 4 13-3 7.2% 7 -19.8% 2 1.0% 12
6 DAL 17.1% 21 7 13.3% 8 8-8 24.0% 2 3.0% 19 -3.9% 30
7 MIN 15.4% 10 6 16.2% 7 10-6 4.6% 10 -9.9% 7 0.8% 14
8 SEA 13.8% 12 8 11.8% 9 11-5 17.4% 5 2.7% 18 -0.9% 20
9 TEN 8.6% 20 13 20.4% 5 9-7 12.9% 6 1.0% 16 -3.2% 29
10 GB 7.7% 19 9 4.8% 13 13-3 6.5% 8 -1.1% 15 0.1% 18
11 PHI 6.5% 16 12 5.2% 12 9-7 2.6% 14 -4.0% 12 0.0% 19
12 LAR 5.5% 2 10 4.6% 14 9-7 0.3% 16 -6.9% 9 -1.8% 23
13 BUF 2.7% 28 11 8.3% 10 10-6 -7.3% 22 -11.3% 6 -1.2% 21
14 TB 1.5% 24 14 5.7% 11 7-9 -7.3% 21 -11.5% 5 -2.8% 28
15 CHI -2.1% 5 16 -2.6% 17 8-8 -10.1% 25 -7.1% 8 0.9% 13
16 IND -5.0% 8 17 -7.2% 22 7-9 -3.1% 19 2.3% 17 0.4% 16
17 ATL -5.0% 18 20 2.4% 16 7-9 2.0% 15 4.4% 20 -2.6% 27
18 PIT -5.5% 9 18 -6.7% 20 8-8 -25.4% 32 -18.5% 3 1.4% 9
19 HOU -5.8% 11 15 -12.1% 23 10-6 0.3% 17 8.9% 26 2.9% 5
20 ARI -5.8% 32 21 3.6% 15 5-10-1 3.8% 13 7.2% 23 -2.4% 26
21 LAC -6.7% 3 19 -5.2% 18 5-11 3.8% 12 5.4% 21 -5.1% 32
22 DEN -9.0% 13 23 -7.1% 21 7-9 -10.7% 26 -3.7% 13 -1.9% 24
23 CLE -10.1% 17 22 -13.6% 24 6-10 -4.6% 20 6.3% 22 0.8% 15
24 OAK -11.0% 31 24 -14.5% 25 7-9 5.6% 9 14.6% 31 -2.0% 25
25 DET -12.1% 26 25 -20.3% 28 3-12-1 -2.9% 18 10.7% 28 1.5% 8
26 NYJ -15.8% 25 26 -6.4% 19 7-9 -25.0% 31 -5.8% 10 3.4% 4
27 NYG -17.5% 15 27 -17.3% 26 4-12 -7.3% 23 10.5% 27 0.3% 17
28 JAX -18.0% 22 28 -29.1% 31 6-10 -9.5% 24 11.0% 29 2.5% 7
29 CIN -25.2% 23 31 -18.8% 27 2-14 -16.5% 29 13.3% 30 4.6% 1
30 WAS -25.7% 29 29 -23.8% 30 3-13 -20.5% 30 7.9% 24 2.7% 6
31 CAR -26.9% 14 30 -40.8% 32 5-11 -14.4% 28 8.1% 25 -4.4% 31
32 MIA -36.7% 27 32 -23.8% 29 5-11 -13.0% 27 22.2% 32 -1.4% 22
  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL VOA does not include adjustments for opponents and for measuring all fumbles equally no matter who recovers.
  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles.
  • 2019 SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative).
  • PYTHAGOREAN WINS represent a projection of the team's expected wins based solely on points scored and allowed. Our "Pythagenport" formula uses a variable exponent based on the offensive environment of each team's games to get a more accurate projection.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).
RANK 2019
1 BAL 41.5% 14-2 44.5% 13.0 1 -2.2% 24 13.4 1 16.1% 21
2 KC 30.2% 12-4 27.8% 12.1 4 0.4% 13 11.6 4 8.6% 7
3 NE 29.9% 12-4 33.7% 12.3 3 -5.9% 32 13.1 2 12.3% 14
4 NO 29.3% 13-3 32.6% 12.8 2 -1.5% 22 10.9 6 8.5% 6
5 SF 27.9% 13-3 26.1% 12.0 5 0.5% 12 12.0 3 13.4% 16
6 DAL 17.1% 8-8 22.1% 11.2 6 -3.1% 26 10.9 5 9.7% 9
7 MIN 15.4% 10-6 18.2% 10.4 8 -1.3% 20 10.8 7 6.6% 2
8 SEA 13.8% 11-5 6.9% 10.9 7 4.8% 2 8.2 14 8.4% 5
9 TEN 8.6% 9-7 14.6% 9.4 10 -3.9% 29 9.9 8 18.2% 24
10 GB 7.7% 13-3 6.7% 9.9 9 -0.8% 17 9.8 9 17.6% 22
11 PHI 6.5% 9-7 7.7% 9.2 11 -3.4% 27 8.8 11 18.2% 25
12 LAR 5.5% 9-7 1.5% 9.1 12 5.4% 1 8.8 12 19.8% 29
13 BUF 2.7% 10-6 6.5% 7.7 14 -4.0% 30 9.8 10 10.4% 11
14 TB 1.5% 7-9 3.5% 7.1 20 -0.9% 18 8.2 13 8.7% 8
15 CHI -2.1% 8-8 -6.8% 7.7 13 2.5% 9 7.4 20 7.2% 3
16 IND -5.0% 7-9 -1.3% 7.4 16 -4.4% 31 7.7 17 11.6% 13
17 ATL -5.0% 7-9 -9.4% 7.6 15 3.2% 5 7.5 19 15.3% 19
18 PIT -5.5% 8-8 -4.9% 7.3 18 1.4% 10 7.6 18 9.8% 10
19 HOU -5.8% 10-6 -5.7% 7.3 19 2.8% 6 7.8 15 14.6% 18
20 ARI -5.8% 5-10-1 -11.2% 7.1 21 4.0% 3 6.0 23 17.7% 23
21 LAC -6.7% 5-11 -5.3% 5.8 27 -2.1% 23 7.8 16 11.6% 12
22 DEN -9.0% 7-9 -6.4% 6.6 22 0.4% 14 6.9 21 12.7% 15
23 CLE -10.1% 6-10 -14.1% 6.2 25 2.7% 8 6.4 22 18.4% 27
24 OAK -11.0% 7-9 -10.1% 7.4 17 -1.5% 21 5.2 28 18.4% 26
25 DET -12.1% 3-12-1 -13.9% 6.0 26 1.4% 11 5.9 24 6.4% 1
26 NYJ -15.8% 7-9 -11.3% 6.4 24 -3.5% 28 5.6 25 24.9% 32
27 NYG -17.5% 4-12 -17.9% 4.0 30 -1.2% 19 5.3 27 7.5% 4
28 JAX -18.0% 6-10 -16.7% 6.5 23 -2.7% 25 5.3 26 22.0% 31
29 CIN -25.2% 2-14 -28.8% 4.3 29 2.8% 7 4.3 30 13.5% 17
30 WAS -25.7% 3-13 -23.7% 4.5 28 0.1% 16 3.7 31 19.1% 28
31 CAR -26.9% 5-11 -30.6% 3.9 31 3.4% 4 4.9 29 19.9% 30
32 MIA -36.7% 5-11 -35.7% 3.0 32 0.2% 15 3.6 32 16.1% 20


78 comments, Last at 03 Jan 2020, 12:56pm

#1 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2019 - 7:11pm

Baltimore should also have a clean path to sb. They avoid having to face both NE and KC and the Texans and both wildcard teams are far more palatable opponents.

For the record, I went 4-2-2 on my season long bets(damn you Minny for resting starters). I bet big that the Ravens would finish under 10 wins. I was very very wrong and simply did not see this year coming at all. I certainly didn't see Jackson developing like this. They are going to be a brutal test in the postseason, but I believe a few teams do have the goods to do it.

Points: 0

#2 by JudoPrince03 // Dec 30, 2019 - 7:55pm

Many felt this way about the Ravens prior to the season. I’m just curious as to why: they went 6-1 down the stretch last season behind a 21 yr old rookie. Shouldn’t the upward trajectory have been obvious?

Points: 0

#3 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2019 - 8:15pm

For me it was a combination of a few things, but mostly, I expected them to be a lot like Chicago.

As Aaron wrote last year, the Ravens under Lamar weren't any better offensively by the numbers than under Flacco. In fact, they were winning tight contents behind defense and just enough special teams and offense. I made a pretty big wager in their playoff game and it played out almost exactly as I had expected. 

I basically expected slight offensive progression, a big defensive regression, and more losses in close games - which worked out to something like an 8-8 team. 

Points: 0

#16 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 30, 2019 - 11:47pm

FO has research that shows QB performance typically makes big jumps in years 2 and 5 iirc. Trubisky had his year 2 jump already, so that was on reason to think of them differently

Points: 0

#23 by JimZipCode // Dec 31, 2019 - 9:24am

And year FIVE??  That's interesting.  Any theories as to the 5th year?

Points: 0

#25 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 31, 2019 - 10:23am

I think one theory was possible maturation as most QBs are entering their late 20s at that point (a 22 y/o graduate is 27), but nothing was decided. This was a long time ago though. I think they were predicting big things for the Chargers as Rivers was about to start his 5th year.

Points: 0

#30 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 31, 2019 - 11:09am

I honestly don't remember the year five thing. Or if we did use that at one point, we don't anymore.

Points: 0

#4 by footballfanspot // Dec 30, 2019 - 8:25pm

Jackson didn't play all that well last year, especially considering the easy schedule he faced and then he flat out stunk in their playoff loss. Their defense was dominant and carried them down the stretch last season, but they lost a lot of players this off-season. I don't think anyone saw Jackson doing what he did this year and their defense was really underwhelming until they added Marcus Peters and Josh Bynes. Credit Jackson for making one of the biggest year 1 to year 2 leaps of any quarterback in NFL history, but that wasn't exactly predictable.

Points: 0

#9 by RickD // Dec 30, 2019 - 9:06pm

In reply to by footballfanspot

I'd still have to go with Marino at #1.  His rookie season was better than Lamar's, but his sophomore season was the best of his career and one of the best seasons by an QB, ever.  

Points: 0

#39 by Richie // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:25pm

In reply to by footballfanspot

Wow, Lamar Jackson ended up with the 5th-best TD% since the merger.  Behind Peyton Manning, Ken Stabler, DeShaun Watson and Aaron Rodgers.

Points: 0

#7 by RickD // Dec 30, 2019 - 8:53pm

they facepalmed in the first round, looking remarkably average versus a Chargers team that itself went nowhere further.   And their 6 wins in that stretch were: Bengals, Raiders, Falcons, Bucs, Chargers, and Browns.  The only playoff team in that bunch was the Chargers who, again, thrashed them in the rematch. 

Before the season started the Ravens looked like a solid rushing team that had a seriously flawed passing attack.  

Lamar Jackson made an enormous leap between 2018 and 2019.  There was no reason to anticipate a 58.2% passer would suddenly become a 66.1% passer.  

Greg Roman should be in contention for Coach of the Year.  I don't care that he's not the HC.  What he did this past offseason was incredible.  And in a passing era he built an offense that broke the 41-year old rushing record for team yardage in a season that was set in the first year of the 16-game NFL season.  (Nobody had come close to that Patriots' record in a long time and given how much the league had changed to passing it was seen as the kind of record that might "never" be broken.)

Points: 0

#50 by Sid // Dec 31, 2019 - 10:52pm

"And in a passing era he built an offense that broke the 41-year old rushing record for team yardage in a season that was set in the first year of the 16-game NFL season. "

Points: 0

#26 by JimZipCode // Dec 31, 2019 - 10:23am

@JudoPrince03 — Of course the upward trajectory should have been obvious.  Lamar last season had the highest passer rating of any 21yo starter in NFL history.  (By the tiniest margin, decimal points over Jameis Winston.)  The list of QBs who even played at all as 21-yr-olds is pretty small to begin with: and all of them pre-2018 went on to prove they had legit NFL skills.  Players like Drew Bledsoe & Alex Smith & Matthew Stafford, etc.  (  Not Hall-of-Famers; but legitimate NFL QBs.  (except for poor Deshone Kizer, I guess)

There's a fair amount of self-justification in this comment stream.  For example:

Lamar Jackson made an enormous leap between 2018 and 2019.  There was no reason to anticipate a 58.2% passer would suddenly become a 66.1% passer.  


I don't think anyone saw Jackson doing what he did this year ... Credit Jackson for making one of the biggest year 1 to year 2 leaps of any quarterback in NFL history, but that wasn't exactly predictable.

Both read like comments that could only come from someone who read the box scores but didn't watch the games.  From the "scouting" standpoint – breaking down the tape on plays Lamar made and failed to make – it was obvious that Lamar made many great plays and some very fixable mistakes.  Basically he completed the hard throws and shanked the easy throws.  He would make a beautiful anticipation pass to throw a receiver open in a narrow window between defenders downfield; then on the next play fail to set his feet when he turned his body to throw a swing pass, and just dirt a ball in the flat behind the line. 

The tape showed a QB who was very advanced on the hardest aspects of playing the position, and just needed a ton of drillwork on the easiest stuff.  The exact opposite of the average prospect, in many ways.

I'm not trying to say I had Lamar leading the league in TD passes this year and being named MVP.  That's lofty.  But I am saying it was 100% predictable that Lamar would be at least above-average to good this year.  Any close & careful look at the tape (rather than the stats) would have shown that.

Hell: Lamar was a better passer statistically last year than Baker & Darnold & Josh Allen are THIS year!

Many people didn't look carefully at Lamar's 2018 season.  Period.  It's flat-out wrong to say there was "no reason to anticipate" that Lamar's comp% would make a big jump, or that a big statistical leap "wasn't exactly predictable".


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#33 by dank067 // Dec 31, 2019 - 12:25pm

Unless you went out of your way to watch the Ravens (and I didn't), the only full game many people would have watched Jackson play last season was the Chargers playoff game where he really struggled, and so a lot of the expectations for him this season were set on a one-game sample + residual media idiocy dating to the pre-draft discussion of him.

I'll never claim to have any real insight into how to evaluate a QB, but it's extremely tiring to hear people continue even today to describe Lamar Jackson like he was Tim Tebow coming out of college. I think a lot of people would look better if they just admit they hadn't really ever watched him play, or only saw his Heisman highlights, which were often of his big runs. He had to read defenses and throw from the pocket in college, and was extremely productive doing so - this isn't the type of transformation that people seem to think it has been.

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#35 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2019 - 12:45pm

I didn't watch him much in college, so I didn't have a strong opinion, but I did think it was odd, from the small sample I did see, that his pure throwing ability was so discounted by many.

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#42 by theslothook // Dec 31, 2019 - 3:19pm

It's still farfetch'd for me to believe anyone saw his rookie season and predicted this. I can guarantee the Ravens themselves never did. 

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#78 by JimZipCode // Jan 03, 2020 - 12:54pm

>> It's still farfetch'd for me to believe anyone saw his rookie season and predicted this.

Eh: it sorta depends what you mean by "this". 

Here, let's use me as an example.  I've been an enormous Lamar stan basically since the Ravens drafted him.  Didn't know much about him at first (I don't pay a ton of attention to the college game).  But the more I learned about him, the more interesting he seemed.  Since then I've obsessively read & watched everything I could find on him, with special attention to Waldman & Fahey & Baldinger et al. 

I've been comping Lamar to Steve Young since before the 2018 season.  Lofty enough? 

So I'd like to claim that I predicted "this".  When you comp a QB to a Hall of Famer, that implicitly predicts some MVP-caliber seasons.  Doesn't necessarily mean winning outright: Drew Brees hasn't taken that particular piece of hardware home.  But he's certainly had "MVP caliber" seasons, where he's been in the running for the award (like top 3 or 5) multiple times over the course of his career.  HOF career implies some MVP caliber seasons.  So my comping of Lamar to Young ought to give me some "I toldja so" ammo, right?

Except: my wild optimism was SO unbridled, that I thought this level of play might even manifest as soon as the 2022 season.  So – even when I was right about Lamar, I was wrong.  You could say I predicted "this".  But no way did I predict it for this soon. 

Us fervent supporters of Lamar totally predicted "this"; and we were still totally wrong.

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#43 by theslothook // Dec 31, 2019 - 3:21pm

I have seen quarterbacks regress from rookie years. Mayfield and Sam darnold both did it

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#5 by BearDown103 // Dec 30, 2019 - 8:27pm

How did you handle teams that rested starters for only part of the game, like played their starters the first half then rested them in the second half?

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#31 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 31, 2019 - 11:10am

If you're talking about the table above, I removed the game entirely.

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#49 by BearDown103 // Dec 31, 2019 - 7:37pm

I mean the Top 20, 1985-2019 table. If a team rested its starters for any part of the game, the entire game was removed?

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#6 by dank067 // Dec 30, 2019 - 8:47pm

There's been a lot of back and forth here the last couple of weeks about Dallas being so high, and they end the season at #6. I think I've seen/heard a few different places today that they're the first team to ever finish with a point differential better than +100 but not a winning record. They were definitely a... unique team this season.

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#8 by RickD // Dec 30, 2019 - 9:03pm

18-point win vs. Giants, 10-point win vs. Washington, 19-point win vs. Giants, 31-point win vs. Redskins.

Throw in a 25-win over Dolphins and a 27-point win vs. Eagles in their first meeting and a 23-point win over Rams.

But they were pretty bad outside of their division.  5-1 in division, 3-7 outside.  The wins over the Rams and Philly were impressive.  But they also lost to Jets, Bears, Vikings, and Bills.  Really weird season.  Very inconsistent.  



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#11 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2019 - 9:12pm

The next coach is also inheriting a weird cap situation, with good qb and number 1 receiver not currently under contract, but 40 million in cap space devoted to a running back over the next 3 seasons.

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#51 by Sid // Dec 31, 2019 - 10:55pm

The 2019 NFC East is one of the worst divisions I have ever seen.


Dallas and Philadelphia were/are average teams. The Redskins and Giants were bad teams.


Things are not looking up for Dallas. Their salary cap situation is getting to be untenable because Dak thinks he's a top 5 QB and Cooper thinks he's a top 5 WR. They're already paying huge money to an RB, always a bad idea.


The OL probably suffers as a result.

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#12 by BlueStarDude // Dec 30, 2019 - 9:22pm

To have the #1 QB, #1 RB, and #3 WR by DYAR and still not manage a winning record. The defense even ended up close to average. And the team was relatively healthy all year. 

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#10 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2019 - 9:07pm

The largest possible DVOA upsets in this year's tournament are a Super Bowl victory of the Eagles over the Ravens, with a spread of about 35%, and a Packers win over the Ravens not far behind. None of the potential intraconference upsets would be nearly as momentous. The other huge DVOA playoff upsets of the past 35 years that leap to mind are the two Giants Super Bowl wins over the Patriots, one having a spread in the low 50s, the other in the low 40s, and the Vikings win over Niners in the '87 divisional round, which was in the low 50s as well. No upset within the conferences this year would be.all that shocking, by comparison.



Holy Point Spread, Batman, I completely forgot the Bills are playoff bound. Yes, if the Bills meet and beat the Ravens, the DVOA spread of about 40%:would be pretty damned notable.




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#14 by Independent George // Dec 30, 2019 - 9:46pm

Interestingly, the common factor in the three DVOA upsets you cited were a dominant performance by the underdog's defensive line. I don't think any of the teams likely to follow that template can rightly be called underdogs.

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#56 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 01, 2020 - 9:23am

if Buffalo wins round one, there's a good chance they fit the template. Their D Line has flashed being ridiculously good this year but seldom put it all together.

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#13 by Joe Saints Fan // Dec 30, 2019 - 9:32pm

What is the Saints offensive DVOA for just the games that Brees played in?

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#18 by tunesmith // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:00am

Weird to see Denver ranked so much lower than a year ago, when everyone is so much happier with how this season turned out.

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#19 by jheidelberg // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:21am

1. You mentioned that the Ravens are not even in the top 20 in rushing DVOA history. I was wondering how touchdowns are calculated. The Ravens were not special with regards to rushing TD's, they did not even lead the league this year, despite leading the league in rushing attempts by nearly 100, and had 200 or more rushing attempts than 14 teams. The 2000 Rams who are first in rushing DVOA history, had 5 more TD's in more than 200 fewer attempts than the 2019 Ravens.

2. For DVOA purposes are QB scrambles a running play? They are for NFL stats, however, I would argue that they are passing plays when figuring out efficiency. One of the most effective "rushing" plays for many teams is a QB scramble. Conversely, one of the least effective passing plays for any team is the sack. I am talking about Jackson, (take him out if it skews the data too much) Murray, Watson, Josh Allen, Minshew, Wilson, Tannehill, Fitzpatrick and more. My point is that the massive sack takers (Tannehill especially) would be rewarded in run efficiency by taking out all of their negative plays (sacks). Bottom line, if scrambling is considered a run for DVOA purposes, I believe that it means that passing plays are even more efficient than running plays than is already stated by DVOA, due to the unintended consequence that many passing plays end up being effective quarterback runs.

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#32 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 31, 2019 - 11:12am

Yes, right now we include scrambles as runs not passes. I hope to change that eventually in the next version of DVOA although I'm not quite sure how I will handle things before 2005 when quarterback runs were not specifically noted as scrambles or not scrambles.

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#20 by t.d. // Dec 31, 2019 - 4:33am

The thing that stands out to me is that it appears the Saints were one Drew Brees injury away from being in the 'historically great' discussion, themselves (and less wear-and-tear on Brees probably helps their SB chances, in the long run). Looks like they should be considered bigger favorites in the NFC than they currently are

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#22 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 31, 2019 - 8:24am

They have outdoor road playoff games coming. Brees has never done well in those.

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#24 by Joseph // Dec 31, 2019 - 10:05am

and road playoff game in general. The Saints have only won one of those in history (against Philly a few years ago).

Caveats--losing a road playoff game means you were the lower seed--so it's not really surprising that a team loses on the road in the playoffs. Also, dome teams do not tend to do well outdoors in playoff games. Third, it's not as stark any more, but playoff teams that had a bye used to have about a 75% winning percentage in their first game--for obvious reasons--they're better, they're rested, and they're at home.

I asked this question in the QR thread--how is it that 2x in the last ~10 years, the Saints go 13-3 and have to play on wild-card weekend? At least we are at home this time (the other time was at 7-9 SEA in the Beastquake game).

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#27 by Joe Saints Fan // Dec 31, 2019 - 10:25am

Brees has played six games on the road in the playoffs - he completed 62% of his passes for 345.5 yards per game (7.3 YPA) with 13 TDs and 7 INTs. I believe that he has the highest YPG average of any quarterback on the road in the playoffs.

His road playoff games, where he put up those numbers were against Chicago in 2006 (#2 in Defensive DVOA), Seattle in 2010 (#29 in Defensive DVOA), SF in 2011 (#3 in Defensive DVOA), PHI in 2013 (23 in Defensive DVOA), SEA in 2013 (#1 in Defensive DVOA) and MIN in 2017 (#2 in Defensive DVOA). That is four incredible defenses, and he has the highest YPG average of any QB on the road in the playoffs. 

The saints are 1-5 in those games. If Roman Harper makes a tackle on Vernon Davis inbounds, and Marcus Williams makes a tackle on Stefon Diggs inbounds, and anyone makes a tackle on Marshawn Lynch at the line of scrimmage, they are 4-2 on the road on the playoffs. On all three of those plays, Brees was on the bench, so its extremely silly to act as if he has a problem on the road in the playoffs. Like all QBs, his home/road splits favor the home games, but the notion that his amazing success only happens at home is reinforced by people like you parroting a tired line.

Brees has led 5 come-from-behind go-ahead drives in the last five minutes of road playoff games (twice against SF, twice against MIN and once against PHI) and lost two of the three games, for his trouble. 

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#41 by Richie // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:37pm

He also won a Super Bowl outdoors.

His first outdoor game this year would be at Green Bay.  He has played at Green Bay 4 times in his career, and averaged 387 yards/game there!  Though the games were in September or October, so not too cold.


" and anyone makes a tackle on Marshawn Lynch at the line of scrimmage "

That's not accurate.  The Seahawks were already winning at the time he made that run.  There was 3:38 left to play.  Does anybody publish win-probability charts any more?  I wonder if that run actually increased New Orleans' win probability.  (Because Seattle scored too quickly.)

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#44 by Joe Saints Fan // Dec 31, 2019 - 5:33pm

It was 2nd and 10. They had the run stuffed at the line of scrimmage. You think that the Saints would have been better off down 41-30 with 3:20 left and getting the ball than down 34-30 with Seattle facing a 3rd and 8 from their own 34 with 2:40 left? Even once he got the first down, if they make the tackle, and then get the Seahawks to punt on the next set of downs, they still would have been getting the ball back down 4 with about 1:30 to go.

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#45 by Richie // Dec 31, 2019 - 6:11pm

Yeah, I guess that's a pretty bad spot.  PFR has a probability calculator.  Before Lynch had the run, the Saints only had a 37% chance of winning.  If they stuffed Lynch, their probability would have dropped to 32%.  But after Lynch scored, their probability dropped all the way to 9%.

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#52 by Sid // Dec 31, 2019 - 11:08pm

The Saints probably lose that game even if they manage to tackle Lynch. 

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#47 by Joseph // Dec 31, 2019 - 6:19pm

I'm not bashing Brees at all--just stating general things about teams in the playoffs in general.

For sure, the media narrative is that Brees doesn't play well. While the defensive shortcomings in the worst moments are way too vivid in my mind (and highlight tapes), 62% completion ratio and basically 2-1 TD/INT ratio is short of Brees' general extremely high standard of play.

Specifically this year, I would much rather that the Pack be coming to NO for a round 2 game after NO had a bye, instead of the probability of it being the other way around.

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#53 by Sid // Dec 31, 2019 - 11:09pm

New Orleans has consistently had one of the wider home/road splits so any year it's pretty critical for them to get a bye. 

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#29 by vrao81 // Dec 31, 2019 - 11:08am

Correction, the saints went 11-5 and played the seahawks on the road in 2010. In 2011, they were 13-3 and missed a first round bye but still hosted the lions in the wildcard round before losing to SF in the divisional.


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#48 by theslothook // Dec 31, 2019 - 6:32pm

In reply to by Joseph

I sympathize with you and others who have to constantly defend the charge that Drew Brees puts up pretty statistics in part because he has to play in a dome. 


It was a similar charge people used against Peyton Manning until he had three prolific seasons playing outdoors in Denver. 


That observation leads me to the following conclusions. 


1) the effects of being outdoors are greatly overstated primarily because players and coaches prepare for the typical environment they play in. They practice in that weather.


2) there are only a handful of games out of the year that have passing prohibitive weather. And passing prohibited weather seems to be limited to extreme rain, extreme snow, and extreme wind. Having a snowy field or it being very cold doesnt seem to be a sufficient condition to prohibit passing. 


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#55 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 01, 2020 - 12:20am

Unlike Manning, Brees has a large career indoor/outdoor split.

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#62 by BJR // Jan 02, 2020 - 7:42am

Anecdotally, it is field conditions - rather than simply weather conditions - that are a huge factor in limiting offensive production. Heinz Field and FedEx Field are notably bad in this regard - witness the awful Redskins/Niners game from earlier this year.

Not trying to knock Brady, who has had to play in many cold/bad weather games at Gillette. But never on a sloppy field.

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#28 by t.d. // Dec 31, 2019 - 11:03am

Rodgers is only 3-2 in home playoff games, I suspect he prefers playing in domes, also

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#21 by big10freak // Dec 31, 2019 - 8:00am

is seeing this table having the Packers with a top 10 offense when there is not a Packer fan around who regards this offense as 'good'. Meanwhile the defense is right in the middle and save for a few key players again the fanbase looks at the defense askance.

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#34 by Robopunter // Dec 31, 2019 - 12:32pm

Their run offense is very efficient. Passing is incredibly frustrating to watch with Rodgers’s off-target throws and unreliable targets outside of Adams and Jones. So Top 10 in DVOA but not really ‘good’ compared to the Actual Good Offenses. I suspect you know all this as I’ve seen you make Packers comments in other threads and assume you track them pretty closely.

I buy the defense as average overall, would look worse except for a good pressure rate (carrying over from last season), 10 more INTs than last season, and holding teams to FG attempts instead of TDs. In the weeks they had no sacks or turnovers the team really struggled. No surprise there but they need the defense to carry them to some extent.

They could beat anyone or lose to anyone and it wouldn't surprise me. Funny to be a "bad" 13-3 team but it's been a fun season so let's keep suckin' all the way to the bank, baby. Wait that didn't sound right. I'm just gonna leave it.

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#36 by dank067 // Dec 31, 2019 - 12:49pm

Co-sign all of this. We might be able to come up with a better slogan than that, but it's definitely more fitting of the way they've clawed to get just enough done to win games this year than the "all gas no brake" that they couldn't get rolling with.

You know, when you look at GB's offensive DVOA, it's obviously one of those cases where the ordinal ranking (#8) belies the fact that they just happen to be at the top of a mass of slightly above-average teams, and are quite far off the most efficient offenses. You know what's actually shocking - San Francisco is just one spot above the Packers, and less than a a percentage point higher in offensive DVOA. That offense looks unstoppable at its best - they averaged 8.3 yards per play on Sunday night at Seattle.

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#37 by sportzboytjw // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:13pm

It's kind of surprising to see them ranked above ~15th, because while it's looked good (and explosive) lately, up until they picked up Emmanuel Sanders they were struggling at times. Kittle was always a beast, but he was beat up, and while Deebo can be terrifying, they were only getting 2-3 of those exciting plays per game with him early on, leaving the offense a little toothless. Shanahan was scheming big runs and utilizing the tools he had pretty well, but it's the last few weeks that they've looked truly dangerous and "good" at offense (aside from being that way when they had the lead and could run the ball 20x to close a game out). 

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#64 by Cheesehead_Canuck // Jan 02, 2020 - 9:05am

I'll second that comment. Rodgers has just not looked the same these last couple seasons. I thought last year was due to the effects of that leg injury in Week 1 and McCarthy terrible-ness. But I believe his production is pretty similar this year, though I will maintain ditching MM was the right move and overdue. I believe the difference is the defense is better (even average is better than most years!) and Aaron Jones is fully healthy and more integrated into the offense. They really need Lazard or someone to become a legitimate #2. It's painful to see MVS and Geronimo out there so often.

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#38 by Richie // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:20pm

Am I reading that Bucs section right? They finished fifth this year, but top ten all-time?

"There is a 2019 defense that ends up among the ten best defenses in DVOA history, however: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "

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#40 by Boots Day // Dec 31, 2019 - 2:27pm

That tripped me up too. It should have said "There is a 2019 DEFENSIVE UNIT that ends up...."

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#54 by Sid // Dec 31, 2019 - 11:12pm

As the previous comment said, it should have specified 'defensive unit' or something to that effect, because they certainly were not a top 10 all-time defense. They were a 'funnel' all year, as they were very difficult to run on, but ok to pass against, and everyone knew it.

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#58 by ammek // Jan 01, 2020 - 1:37pm

I'm guessing the Monsters might have had the highest VOA, unadjusted for opponent, especially if the postseason is included. More than two-thirds of the Bears' foes finished the season with a negative points differential, and even Dallas – whom they famously shellacked – was only +24, despite winning the NFC East. The following season, the 1986 Bears had a Patriots-like schedule, with opponents averaging -6% dvoa.

Poor Dan Marino, eh? I hadn't noticed that the 1986 and 1987 Dolphins were on the list of the worst defenses. The 'Killer B' defense of the early 1980s declined very precipitously didn't it? Having basically dragged the David Woodley offense to SB17 in the strike year, it was already slumping two seasons later when Marino had his breakout, allowing a league-worst 4.7 yards per rush. I wonder if run defense was more predictive of overall defense year-to-year in the 1980s as it is now. (And as a sidenote, how did AJ Duhe make the pro bowl in 1984 while missing more than a quarter of the season and recording just one sack and one interception?)

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#59 by Vincent Verhei // Jan 01, 2020 - 3:06pm

They were also last in defense in both 1988 and 1989.

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#60 by theslothook // Jan 01, 2020 - 8:48pm

Rings be damned, Marino belongs on every goat convo. Its a shame I never saw him play.


I have spoken to a lot of the graybeard fans who followed the 80s. I have asked them, pick a qb who you are convinced would transcend scheme, talent, and coaching. In the 10 I asked, nearly all said Elway, though I suspect its because he essentially lived his career in that thought experiment till the end. 


I am always curious if this is how others see it.

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#67 by johonny // Jan 02, 2020 - 9:56am

Joe Robbie the owner during that era put a lot of the team's resources into building a new stadium. They wanted out of the Orange Bowl. Shula's best coordinators seemed to all have skipped town by then too. But their drafts were terrible over that period and they had bad luck as players like Hugh Green broke down after trades. The stadium was built, he died in 1990 and while the team rebuilt in the wake (they were really good in 93 and 94 when free agency and good drafts restocked the team and then again in the wake of Jimmie Johnson's rebuild) they never again have had that stable owner like Robbie was in the 70s and early 80s. Marino masked a lot of the teams problems over the era. Ironically the new ownership stripped Robbie's name off the stadium multiple times. 

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#61 by TPMCD // Jan 02, 2020 - 2:32am

Coming in late on this post, but in any event - curious as to why/how the 2004 Steelers are ranked so high. I don't have a dog in the hunt (I don't care that they're ahead of other teams), just seems odd to me. Compared SRS ratings to DVOA and that PIT team is ranked 78th when looking at all teams 1985-2019. I understand the difference between SRS (points per game) and DVOA (per play evaluation), but man, that's a huge difference...are the '04 Steelers really a "better team" than the '04 Patriots (and not just because beat them in playoffs, won SB) or the '98 Vikings?

Probably a deep discussion, but anyone have an idea why this would be so? Thanks!

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#65 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 02, 2020 - 9:16am

It doesn't seem wrong. They were 15-1 and had comfortable wins over the 2004 Pats and 2004 Eagles, who were themselves really good teams.

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#66 by Eddo // Jan 02, 2020 - 9:34am

That was my gut reaction, too, but looking at pro-football-reference, they were relatively weak for a 15-1 team.  By point differential, SRS, net yards per play, they were more like the 3rd or 4th best team that season.  It does seem curious that DVOA likes them more than most other metrics.

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#69 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 02, 2020 - 10:26am

SRS really likes blowouts (check out the 1989 Bengals). It's love for the 2004 Colts is based on a 4-game stretch where they wrecked teams by at least 27 points each game. They were nearly break-even over their other 12 games.

The disagreement in 2004 is really about the Colts. SRS loves them; DVOA liked them, but agreed with their playoff seed.

Funny part is, this year DVOA loves the Cowboys more than SRS does, even though they were also the kings of random blowouts.

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#72 by Eddo // Jan 02, 2020 - 11:21am

Good point regarding blowouts skewing SRS, but it's not really just the 2004 Colts that are the outlier here.  The 2004 Steelers are fourth by SRS - well behind New England (and Indianapolis), about even with San Diego, and only a little ahead of Buffalo.  (As an aside, the Eagles come in at TENTH by SRS that year, which is mainly due to every AFC team having a positive SOS and every NFC team having a negative SOS.)

I think it's a good question as to why a team that was nearly four points of SRS (12.8 vs. 9.1) behind the league leader (New England) isn't just #1 in DVOA for that year, but has the 12th highest DVOA over a 35 year span.

Here are the ratings for the DVOA all-time top 12:

Team / DVOA / SRS

1991 WAS / 56.9% / 16.6

2007 NE / 52.9% / 20.1

1985 CHI / 52.5% / 16.1

1987 SF / 47.0% / 13.3 (DVOA over 12 games, SRS over 15)

2010 NE / 44.6% / 15.4

1996 GB / 42.0% / 15.4

2019 BAL / 41.5% / 15.6

2013 SEA / 40.0% / 11.6

1995 SF / 40.0% / 12.4

2012 SEA / 38.7% / 10.4

2015 SEA / 38.1% / 11.3

2004 PIT / 37.6% / 9.0

With the exception of the 2012-2015 Seahawks, all the other teams were significantly higher than the 2004 Steelers.  I think it's perfectly fair to ask why DVOA liked that Steelers team so much more than other metrics.


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#73 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 02, 2020 - 11:52am

It was a run-heavy team that went 15-1 with a rookie QB.

Yes, that rookie eventually turned himself into a HOF-caliber QB, but in that season, he was carried by the rest of the team. You're essentially looking at the 1986 Bears when you consider 2004 Pittsburgh. Really good defense, O-line, RB. Enough from QB and WR to win. Not as good as the same team with better QB play.

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#74 by Eddo // Jan 02, 2020 - 12:01pm

I don't think those points really address the question being asked, which is "What does DVOA see in the 2004 Steelers to rank them so highly among historic greats that other metrics don't?"

There is no bonus in DVOA for having a rookie QB or being run-heavy.  And the 1986 Bears aren't close to the top 12, so that's not really a great explanation for the 2004 Steelers being 12th.  In fact, the Steelers being at ~30% DVOA, like the 1986 Bears, instead of 37%, which they are, would match up with expectations a bit more.

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#75 by Eddo // Jan 02, 2020 - 12:22pm

I went and found the final DVOA rankings article from 2004.  Interestingly, at the time, the Patriots actually had a higher total DVOA, 35.6% to 35.4%.  (The Colts were third, at 34.7%.)

So over the past 15 years, subsequent iterations of DVOA have bumped the Steelers up 2.2% (to 37.6%), the Patriots down 1.4% (to 34.2%), and the Colts down 8.8% (to 25.9%, in fifth).

Aaron, if you're still reading this, is it easy for you to tell why there were such shifts?

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#76 by theslothook // Jan 02, 2020 - 5:32pm

Aaron mentioned a few years ago that DVOA was now being normalized so that each season the average dvoa was always 0.

Doing so will augment final DVOA results

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#77 by Eddo // Jan 02, 2020 - 6:03pm

Ah, very true - though I would have assumed that would have more uniformly raised or lowered all teams in a year.

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#63 by BJR // Jan 02, 2020 - 8:00am

What always stands out to me about those all-time team lists, is how remarkable the Seahawks mid '10s run was.

I expect there are some other 'repeat' teams lurking just outside the top 20, especially from the pre-free-agency days. But we could be waiting a long time before see another run like that.

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#68 by Will Allen // Jan 02, 2020 - 10:14am

If you want to reflect on how fundamentally sound Gibbsian football was, think about the greatest team of the DVOA era (although I can't wait to see how the '84 Niners measure up) being quarterbacked by Mark Rypien.

Points: 0

#70 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 02, 2020 - 10:32am

Rypien was a pretty good QB until he wrecked his knee.

He was more in the Gannon/McMahon mold -- he not be likely to fully carry a team, but he wasn't a caretaker in the Johnson or 70s Dolphins QB mold, nor was he a Banks/Dilfer liability.

1987 seems a better illustration of what Gibbs could do even getting nothing from the QB position.

Points: 0

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