Final 2020 DVOA Ratings

Photo: USA Today Sports Images

The New Orleans Saints have been on top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings for the entire second half of the season, and they had another big victory in Week 17, so it's no surprise to see them on top of our final regular-season ratings for 2020. This is the fourth straight year that the Saints have ranked in our top two, but maybe this time they won't suffer a dreadfully painful loss in the playoffs. The Saints also ranked No. 1 (using our current formula) in 2011 and 2017. The year they won the Super Bowl, they finished only sixth, due in part to sitting starters in the final week of the season.

Of course, like so much in this weird season, the Saints' rating comes with a bit of an asterisk. In Week 12, their defense got to face a Denver team without a quarterback. If we were to take out that game from the Saints defense, then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be a surprise No. 1 in DVOA for the year. The Buccaneers had one huge blowout loss to New Orleans and a number of close losses where they actually end up with positive DVOA. In fact, the loss to New Orleans is the only Tampa Bay game all year with negative DVOA. Meanwhile, the Bucs also had seven different games with DVOA over 40% including DVOA over 70% in their final two games of the season. They were the only team this year to finish in the top five for both offense and defense.

The Green Bay Packers finish the year third in DVOA, including No. 1 on offense. Thanks to the first-round bye and a couple of weaker teams in the NFC field, the Packers also stand as our Super Bowl favorites going into the postseason, winning Super Bowl LV in 24.3% of our simulations.

Fourth, we come to the Buffalo Bills, who end the year as the top team in the AFC. The Bills are also red hot right now with DVOA over 40% in six straight games. In our weighted DVOA ratings, which lower the strength of early games to get a better idea of how teams are playing now, the Bills have narrowly passed New Orleans to rank as the No. 1 team going into the postseason.

Seattle moves up to fifth this week, passing the Kansas City Chiefs. Of course, that's because the Chiefs sat starters in the final week of the season, picking up their worst single-game rating of the year. (Surprisingly, the decline was mostly on defense, not offense.) Take that game out -- which we did for the ratings we use in our playoff simulation -- and the Chiefs would be back up to fifth. However, as we've detailed multiple times this year, our ratings have the Chiefs lower than conventional wisdom because they have played so many close games. With 19.5% DVOA, the Chiefs finish with the third-lowest rating ever for a 14-2 team, ahead of the 1990 49ers and the 2009 Colts.

Let's look once again at where the Chiefs stand compared to the Pythagenport projection based simply on points scored and allowed. Because of their Week 17 loss, the Chiefs don't end up as the "luckiest" team in recent NFL history, but they come pretty close. So do the Cleveland Browns. Each team outperformed its Pythagenport projection by 3.3 wins.

Biggest Pythagenport Overperformance, 1970-2020
Year Team W-L Pct PF PA Pyth
1992 IND 9-7 0.563 216 302 0.319 5.1 0.244
2012 IND 11-5 0.688 357 387 0.450 7.2 0.238
1982 LARD 8-1 0.889 260 200 0.662 6.0 0.227
2004 PIT 15-1 0.938 372 251 0.719 11.5 0.219
2020 KC 14-2 0.875 473 362 0.666 10.7 0.209
1976 OAK 13-1 0.929 350 237 0.721 10.1 0.208
2020 CLE 11-5 0.688 408 419 0.483 7.7 0.205
2019 GB 13-3 0.813 376 313 0.611 9.8 0.202
2016 OAK 12-4 0.750 416 385 0.549 8.8 0.201
1999 TEN 13-3 0.813 392 324 0.616 9.9 0.197

The Browns would have the worst DVOA in history for an 11-5 team if not for those 2012 Colts that are listed above them in that table. That Colts team put up a mind-blowing -16.2% DVOA using the current formula despite finishing with an 11-5 record!

The Baltimore Ravens led the league in Pythagenport wins this year at 12.0, but they only finished the year seventh in DVOA. That's the lowest DVOA finish ever for the team that had the best point differential in the league.

On the other side of the coin we find the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons were outscored by just 18 points all year but finished 4-12, which means they underperformed their Pythagenport projection by 3.5 wins. That's the third biggest underperformance since the merger.

Biggest Pythagenport Underperformance, 1970-2020
Year Team W-L Pct PF PA Pyth
1981 NE 2-14 0.125 322 370 0.416 6.6 -0.291
1971 CIN 4-10 0.286 284 265 0.541 7.6 -0.256
2020 ATL 4-12 0.250 396 414 0.472 7.5 -0.222
2001 SD 5-11 0.313 332 321 0.520 8.3 -0.208
2017 CLE 0-16 0.000 234 410 0.206 3.3 -0.206
1989 CIN 8-8 0.500 404 285 0.702 11.2 -0.202
1979 SF 2-14 0.125 308 416 0.322 5.1 -0.197
1990 SD 6-10 0.375 315 281 0.567 9.1 -0.192
1987 LARD 5-10 0.333 301 289 0.524 7.9 -0.191
2008 GB 6-10 0.375 419 380 0.562 9.0 -0.187

The Falcons ended up 17th in DVOA despite finishing just 4-12. That's not the best DVOA finish ever for a 4-12 team, as the 2012 Lions and 1996 Ravens managed to finish with positive DVOA despite a 4-12 record. Atlanta's high DVOA wasn't just because of their play-by-play performance; the Falcons also ended up with the hardest schedule in the league by average DVOA of opponent. It turns out that in a year that was supposed to be unpredictable, schedule strength was very predictable. The two teams listed in Football Outsiders Almanac 2020 with the toughest schedules, Atlanta and Carolina, ended up with the toughest schedules. The two teams listed with the easiest schedules, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, ended up with the easiest schedules.

Speaking of Pittsburgh, they end the year with the best defensive DVOA in the league, followed by New Orleans and Washington. New England finishes the year No. 1 in special teams. That marks an astonishing 25 straight years where New England has put up positive special teams DVOA, going back to when Bill Parcells was head coach in 1996. And in that entire amazing run, this is the first time New England has finished on top of the league.

There were a number of other units that looked like they were set to be historically good or bad this year but didn't finish that way.

  • Kansas City through Week 12 was putting up one of the best pass offense DVOA ratings in history, but things settled down after that. The Chiefs had 59.5% pass DVOA through Week 12, but 26.4% pass DVOA in Weeks 13-16. In fact, the Chiefs' pass DVOA was actually higher with Chad Henne in Week 17 (31.2%) than it had been over the previous four games! As a result, the Chiefs were passed by the Packers as the No. 1 passing game of the year and, after we adjust for the overall offensive level of this season, neither team finishes among the top 20 pass offenses in DVOA history.
  • The Houston running game came out among the worst in NFL history for most of the season, but then David Johnson had a couple of good games at the end of the year. Houston ends up with -27.9% run DVOA, which is 13th from the bottom of all teams in DVOA history and not really far below other bad running games in 2020 including Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and the Los Angeles Chargers.
  • New Orleans and Tampa Bay ranked among the best run defenses ever around midseason but both defenses gave up more rushing efficiency in the second half of the year. Tampa Bay ends up the top run defense of the year at -31.4%, which comes in at 14th in DVOA history.
  • At one point, Baltimore or Miami looked like they might finish among the best special teams we've ever measured. Both units faded down the stretch.

There's one unit, however, that couldn't get itself off one of our historical best/worst lists: the 2020 Los Angeles Chargers special teams. The Chargers special teams were bad for most of the year but they really got noticed when they basically handed a 45-0 blowout to the Patriots in Week 13. At that point, the Chargers looked like they could challenge the infamous 2000 Buffalo Bills to reign as the worst special teams unit in history. Well, I'm happy to say things turned around and the Chargers actually put up a positive rating in three of the last four games. Still, this unit was in such a ridiculous hole from its performance in the first three months of the season that the Chargers end up still finishing as the third-worst special teams in DVOA history. But hey, the Chargers are not alone! The Minnesota Vikings made a push downwards over the final month of the year and they also make it onto this list of the dozen worst special teams units since 1985.

Worst Special Teams DVOA,
Year Team DVOA
2000 BUF -15.4%
2013 WAS -12.0%
2020 LAC -11.8%
1997 SEA -11.1%
2010 SD -10.2%
2002 CIN -9.4%
2020 MIN -9.3%
1998 OAK -9.3%
1997 CHI -9.2%
1992 TB -9.2%
2004 STL -9.0%
1985 STLC -8.6%

The Chargers were absolutely horrendous punting the ball, worth an estimated -37.8 points of field position after adjusting for weather and altitude. That's the worst punting figure we've ever measured. The Chargers had three punts blocked and allowed the Patriots to return punts for 70 (a touchdown) and 61 yards. If we count non-returns as 0 yards, the Chargers allowed opponents to return punts for an averge of 9.9 yards when no other team was above 6.3 and the league average was 3.6. The Chargers were also below average in field goals, kickoffs, and punt returns. They ended up average on kick returns.

The Vikings had more evently distribued poor performance on special teams. They too were average on kick returns but finished 31st or 32nd in all four other elements of special teams.

Other worsts of the year: Washington made the playoffs despite having the worst offensive DVOA and the worst pass offense. Detroit ends the year with the worst defensive DVOA and the worst pass defense. New England, surprisingly, has the worst run defense of 2020.

Usually in these end-of-season DVOA commentaries I write something about the correlation of the ratings to the previous season. With all the weirdness of COVID, and players opting out and missing random weeks because of close contacts, you might expect there to be very little correlation between how well teams played in 2019 and how well teams played in 2020. This was certainly true for certain teams, whether they were risers such as Miami (from 32nd last year to 12th this year) or fallers such as New England (which fell from third overall to 22nd). However, overall there was the same amount of correlation between 2019 and 2020 as there is between any two years in the NFL. Usually the correlation coefficient for offense is around .50, and it was .53 this year. Usually for defense it is around .38, and it was .40 this year. And usually for special teams it is around .30, and it was .25 this year.

A few more notes on 2020 before we get to the big table:

  • The San Francisco 49ers went only 6-10 but managed to finish 11th in DVOA despite the cascade of injuries they had to deal with this season. Part of that finish comes from the adjustment for having the third-toughest schedule in the league. The 49ers also had poor fumble luck, recovering about one-third of fumbles on both sides of the ball.
  • Other teams with particularly poor fumble recovery luck in 2020: Detroit and Las Vegas. Teams with particularly good fumble recovery luck: Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.
  • Three NFC East teams ended up with the hardest offensive schedules: New York, Philadelphia, and Dallas in that order. However, all three teams had easy defensve schedules. NFC West teams also had tough offensive schedules and easy defensive schedules. The nine hardest offensive schedules (based on average defensive DVOA of opponent) belonged to NFC teams!
  • Four of the five easiest offensive schedules belonged to the AFC South teams.
  • Chicago, Atlanta, Denver, and Minnesota had the toughest defensive schedules.
  • Cleveland had the easiest defensive schedule.
  • Speaking of Cleveland, they are the worst of the playoff teams according to DVOA, but they aren't a historically terrible playoff team. Cleveland doesn't even make a list of the 20 lowest-DVOA teams to make the playoffs since 1985.

* * * * *

Football Outsiders playoff odds, snap counts, and the FO+ database are now all updated through the end of the regular season A reminder that all our free stats pages, including DVOA and player position stats, now require registration to view. This is not a paywall! You only need to register (for free) and then log in to the site to view these pages.

We'll review the best and worst player stats of the year in a special Quick Reads tomorrow.

Please note that while this article is called "Final 2020 DVOA Ratings," we will continue with postseason weighted DVOA ratings each Monday through the playoffs. There will also be small changes in the final 2020 DVOA ratings based on postseason changes to the play-by-play.

* * * * *

Here are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through the entire 2020 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 for 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.

LAST WEEK represents rank after Week 16, while LAST YEAR represents rank in 2019.

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 NO 33.3% 2 1 34.3% 2 12-4 10.7% 7 -19.0% 2 3.6% 5
2 TB 31.5% 14 2 33.6% 3 11-5 19.8% 3 -14.6% 5 -2.9% 26
3 GB 25.9% 9 3 31.4% 4 13-3 29.1% 1 0.5% 17 -2.7% 25
4 BUF 23.8% 13 5 34.5% 1 13-3 15.6% 5 -2.2% 12 5.9% 4
5 SEA 20.1% 8 6 22.0% 5 12-4 13.7% 6 0.4% 16 6.8% 3
6 KC 19.5% 4 4 19.4% 6 14-2 23.9% 2 4.9% 22 0.5% 17
7 BAL 18.6% 1 9 15.7% 7 11-5 4.3% 11 -6.9% 9 7.4% 2
8 PIT 16.8% 19 7 13.5% 10 12-4 -4.7% 22 -20.2% 1 1.4% 14
9 LAR 15.4% 12 8 14.1% 8 10-6 4.4% 10 -17.0% 4 -5.9% 30
10 IND 14.3% 20 10 13.5% 9 11-5 2.8% 12 -9.5% 7 2.0% 10
11 SF 5.4% 5 12 4.3% 11 6-10 -2.4% 20 -9.9% 6 -2.1% 23
12 MIA 4.6% 32 11 3.5% 14 10-6 -2.1% 18 -3.3% 11 3.4% 6
13 ARI 3.6% 17 14 1.2% 16 8-8 -2.4% 19 -6.6% 10 -0.6% 19
14 TEN 2.9% 10 13 4.3% 12 11-5 18.4% 4 11.1% 29 -4.4% 28
15 CHI -0.5% 18 15 1.8% 15 8-8 -10.6% 25 -7.5% 8 2.6% 8
16 WAS -2.3% 30 16 3.6% 13 7-9 -21.8% 32 -18.3% 3 1.1% 15
17 ATL -4.2% 15 17 -0.6% 17 4-12 -3.1% 21 -0.1% 14 -1.2% 21
18 CLE -5.6% 24 21 -0.7% 18 11-5 5.4% 9 7.4% 25 -3.6% 27
19 LV -6.3% 25 20 -10.0% 21 8-8 1.8% 14 9.6% 28 1.6% 13
20 MIN -6.4% 7 19 -12.9% 24 7-9 6.4% 8 3.4% 18 -9.3% 31
21 CAR -6.7% 29 18 -10.0% 20 5-11 -0.2% 17 7.4% 24 0.8% 16
22 NE -7.1% 3 23 -7.7% 19 7-9 -7.3% 23 8.0% 26 8.1% 1
23 DAL -11.1% 6 22 -10.9% 22 6-10 -8.5% 24 6.0% 23 3.4% 7
24 HOU -12.5% 16 24 -15.6% 25 4-12 2.7% 13 14.3% 30 -1.0% 20
25 NYG -13.8% 27 25 -11.8% 23 6-10 -11.8% 26 3.8% 19 1.8% 12
26 LAC -14.7% 22 27 -17.4% 27 7-9 1.5% 15 4.4% 20 -11.8% 32
27 DET -15.7% 21 26 -21.0% 29 5-11 0.0% 16 17.7% 32 1.9% 11
28 PHI -18.8% 11 28 -16.5% 26 4-11-1 -16.9% 28 0.2% 15 -1.6% 22
29 DEN -22.1% 23 30 -20.5% 28 5-11 -20.3% 30 -0.2% 13 -2.1% 23
30 CIN -24.7% 31 29 -23.7% 30 4-11-1 -18.2% 29 9.1% 27 2.6% 9
31 JAX -27.9% 28 31 -32.6% 32 1-15 -12.6% 27 15.2% 31 -0.1% 18
32 NYJ -30.5% 26 32 -30.0% 31 2-14 -20.5% 31 4.8% 21 -5.3% 29

For the full table, including variance, schedule strength, and non-adjusted VOA, visit the Football Outsiders DVOA database.


101 comments, Last at 26 Aug 2021, 1:18am

3 On the other hand, their…

On the other hand, their defense improved considerably down the stretch, so their overall quality remained high. Given that their weighted DVOA is 1.9% higher than their total DVOA, they're arguably better now than they were early in the year. They definitely have a good chance to win it all, though the Bucs, Saints and Pack will be tough to overcome.

9 Seattle D resurgence

Yeah, I had been hearing local gripes about Ken Norton and how he should get fired as DC and suddenly, the D turned around and ole Kenny's just fine. Fickle local fans.

76 As a die hard Seattle fan, Ken Norton talk always annoyed me...

Not that I think he was doing a good job or anything... but Seattle clearly had a Jimmys and the Joes problem on defense not an Xs and Os problem.

Seattle probably had more player personal transactions on the defensive side of the ball this year than in any year since 2010 or 2011 when Carroll came in and stripped out the Holmgren team and rebuilt from the ground up.

2 Packer Offensive DVOA

When the Packers failed to draft a receiver and their only free agent WR opted out to COVID, I would never had bet that the Pack would top the offensive DVOA chart. After Adams, the WR corps was (is) composed of walk ons and 6th/7th round picks. 

Rodgers was terrific in Lafleur's offense. I hope GM Gudekunst gets out the checkbook and gets Rodgers a three or four year extension. Rodgers could easily play 5 more years in this system. This offense is  so much better than the stale playbook put out by McCarthy.

4 Rodgers' massive performance…

Rodgers' massive performance uptick, combined with the collapse of the Cowboys, have dealt a severe blow to McCarthy's legacy. He might have singlehandedly cost A-Rod a few SB appearances over the course of his career. Sad!

14 I probably speak for most…

I probably speak for most local GB fans in saying that we never really thought highly of McCarthy and were very happy with a change. He probably got 5 more years than he should have. 

His offense was basically asking every WR to win 1 on 1, which only worked when he had a very deep WR position in his early years. Combine that with a consistently terrible defense from 2011 onward and every year was basically “they’ll win a lot of games, but the playoffs will be tough.” I’m not yet sold that this year is any different, but there’s a lot more hope. 

Maybe the most apt comparison is to Jon Gruden - great when inheriting a crazy talented team, but unable to sustain success or recreate it without those advantages. 

I probably sound more negative than reality. Both coaches are average NFL coaches, which makes them better than 99% of people who try to do what they do, including a dozen other NFL coaches. There’s  only 1 Bill Belichick and only a few Andy Reid’s to elevate your team above it’s talent level. 

18 Not a local fan as I haven't…

Not a local fan as I haven't lived in WI for over 25 years now. What I got used to hearing about McCarthy in broader circles, and what my own opinion was, was that he was an above average Monday - Saturday coach, an above average offensive game plan designer, a bit below average game day coach and play caller, and a poor clock manager. He was awful at picking defensive and special teams coordinators and didn't involve himself enough in those areas. So that he ended up being a bit above average as a coach.

Basically he was good at player development, even with defensive players, and he prepared players well to execute his system most every week. He designed decent offensive systems too. The problems started showing up like you said in that he couldn't modify his system for the players he had, it was rigid. So when it worked it worked great. He wasn't the best at adjusting to game flow situations and he screwed up managing the clock so close games could be a big issue. His teams were typically great front runners, but couldn't always adapt.

His defensive talent was squandered by coordinators who were even more rigid than he was. Capers system worked great if you had a at least 2 of the following; a great safety, two above average to great corners, 2 edge rushers who could win one on one battles at least 30% of the time, a great run stopping nose tackle along with one defensive end that could play wide. You had to have at least 2 of those 4 components at a high level (so you needed 4 to 5 above average to great players), and if you did the rest could be average or worse and the defense would still work. Of course most defenses should be good with that many good players, but Capers really could shut down just about any offense with the right tools. He couldn't adjust the defense to fit the tools he had at all.

Pettine is a McCarthy holdover and if the defense doesn't play at the level it's been at the least 4 or 5 games for the whole playoffs I don't see him sticking around. 

I have really enjoyed the last to seasons with Matt as head coach. I'm not sure about the changes in the front office for player acquisition. I understand being leery about how good is really. I tend to think that he is definitely a better game day coach, both in play calling and time management. I know it's mentioned by one user on this site in particular that it's not a Packers game if they don't waste at least one time out a half, but this team can actually run 2, 4, and 6 minute offenses when needed. McCarthy was so so so so bad at running out the clock and he had a lot of opportunities to get better at it.

The talent distribution is all over the place on this team and it seems that schemes are modified to work with what they have. This bears out in how well they deal with injuries and have to shift what they do and not seem to miss a beat.

That also speaks well to player development. Even Kevin King has turned into an average NFL cornerback in the second half of this season. The whole offensive line has developed well. Tonyan has progressed. Lazard keeps making strides. Jones and Williams are both better runners than what they started at. Alexander has developed into a top notch corner. Savage is coming along. But it's still early, those are all players that may have blossomed with adequate coaching and playing with a HoF QB in the case of the offensive players. You do have the counter arguments that MVS has gotten worse with his drop rate; 9.5% this year vs 5.4 and 6.8  the previous two years and his targets this year, 63, was in line with the 56 and 73 from the previous seasons. Lazards drops went up too. 

Special teams is a bit of a reflection on player development and general coaching too, which was a counter to some of McCarthy being good at it since he tended to have bad special teams as well. That hasn't changed.


As long as the LeFleur/Gutekunst talent acquisition is no worse than what we saw with McCarthy/Thompson I think LeFleur will offer a better chance at Super Bowl appearances than under McCarthy. Winning 13 games in back to back seasons still says something about a coach below average schedules or not. Even Lombardi and Holmgrem only had back to back season winning percentages over 80% once in their tenures. But more than that he seems to be more adaptable at least on offense. Its WAY too early to say but there is a bit of a Belichick feel for how he seems to be able to build an offense that works out of whatever parts he has. Obviously two seasons is not enough, but the details of the 34 games of data points we have does support it. Even the Pats had some TB and SF like games early in the Brady/Belichick seasons. Not saying this GB team is on a trajectory like that. I'm just saying that I see things from game to game that hint at it, and that weren't there for the 13 years with McCarthy. I did see them with the 7 seasons of Holmgren.

Maybe that's why I've loved this season so much. I haven't really seen the Packers have this kind of feel since the 95-97 years. Even then it's different, those teams had scary defenses to go with the versatile offenses. This year doesn't quite have that. Sure the 2010 D and the 2011 O were awesome. But the 2019-2020 edition of the Packers is my second favorite 2 year stretch regardless of how these play offs go. It will be hard to top the 1996-1997 teams. Even if the 2020 and 2021 squads win back to back, that's a hard couple years to top. Peak Favre, end of peak White, peak Butler.... 

If the defense plays like the end of this season or better next year and the offense stays at least around the 2019 levels I'll have a lot of leeway to give. I expect the offense to slide back a bit from this year, but they do have a HoF QB I expect 20% passing DVOA to kinda be the floor, and even with both Jones and Williams being FA that are likely to be salary cap casualties, the running game should still be in that 2 - 5% DVOA range it's been the last few years given the o-line, with Dillon and whoever else they end up with. 


OK I just realized how much I've been typing. I'm stopping now. I'm still posting because I've had a few people in the past say they do enjoy my ramblings like this. But I'll try to be more concise in the future. Cripes....

40 I'm also a displaced Packer fan

and I share many of these sentiments. People have a tendency to think of coaches in either/or terms--good or bad, often indexed to whether they are winning at the time. Instead it's almost always a mixed bag. McCarthy definitely cost the Packers one, and perhaps two, SB appearances with his game-day coaching, which was absolutely bad. On the other hand, he needs to be given credit for the development work that got the Pack there in the first place. Your comment does a good job of weighing his overall mix of traits, so I won't rehash.

To me, what's more interesting is the big picture. On both the personnel side with Thompson and the coaching side, the Packers simply failed to evolve. They were a "draft and develop" program when it made sense, because the cap was tight and a big FA signing could cripple you if it went wrong. They were also a d&d when it didn't make sense: once revenues exploded, lots of teams realized you could be much more aggressive in FA and survive the misses just fine. Packers didn't adjust, and the talent level on the roster suffered. Same thing with play calling--McCarthy was seen as a good play caller for many years, and indeed he was, under an old set of parameters. But when the parameters changed dramatically, and lots of teams were scheming guys wide open with college-style tactics that had long been dismissed by the NFL, McCarthy continued to run out the same old West Coast offense. Defenses had figured it out, and coupled with the talent level drop off, the offense wasn't good enough to beat people straight up anymore.

It's a shame how wasted those years were, and I will always find it especially painful that one of Thompson's last major decisions was to pass on T.J. Watt. How good would the Wisconsin boy look on the Packers right about now?

Thanks for the great comment, DPF.

47 Different era

That was Ron Wolf, almost 30 years ago. Has very little bearing on the recent history of the Packers that we were discussing. Also, no, D&D isn't always the best approach. For one, no team has proven capable of consistently beating the draft. Maybe for stretches of time, or at certain positions, but on a long enough time horizon they all revert to the mean. Second, by objective attempts to quantify draft value, the Packers have been one of the very best in recent history, and even so they have had rosters sorely lacking in talent. For example, Pro Football Reference has their Approximate Value metric, and depending on what cutoff you use to determine exactly what counts as a "good player" the Seahawks, Packers, and Patriots are clumped at the very top over the past decade. Yet the Seahawks haven't had a losing season since 2011 and have won 9 or more games every year since, while Packers have two bad seasons very recently. The Patriots, of course, have been on another level.

53 The Packers have had 4…

In reply to by Dave from DC

The Packers have had 4 losing seasons in 28 years, and two of them were seasons where they had to play a QB who had never started because a HOF QB had either departed or was injured. The other two seasons were a coach losing the team; said coach would not return.

The Seahawks have 10 losing seasons since 1992.

The Patriots also have 4. Incidentally, they occur basically for the same reasons.

The Steelers have 3, although they have gone 8-8 four times.

But yes, those poor woebegone Packers, who only have two titles, two HOF QBs, and are either the 2nd or 3rd best franchise over the last three decades. Argentina weeps for you.


57 I'm not really sure what point you are trying to make

I never said Packer fans had it rough over the long term. Back-to-back HOF QBs is a spectacular luxury. I'm merely pointing out that the recent era of Packer football (that wrapped up when Thompson and McCarthy were replaced by LaFleur and Gutekunst) left a lot of meat on the bone. After 2010 people were talking about the Packers being a dynasty. Then they went 15-1 in 2011 and the dynasty talk seemed warranted. Clearly, it did not pan out. You can insist on going back to the Ron Wolf era if you want, but that's just not what I am talking about. Overall, I've had it good. It could have been better.

60 Most dynasties don't pan out…

Most dynasties don't pan out.

Roethlisberger never quite attained one, nor Favre. The Brees/Payton Saints kept knocking on the door, but kept suffering traumatic playoff losses when they weren't grossly breaking the rules. The Legion of Boom came within a yard of two titles, but never achieved their dynasty. Neither Manning achieved one in one given place, but the totality of the Manning Bros comes close.

Yeah, you weren't the Pats. Most teams aren't. The legacies of the other teams indicates that it really is a huge benefit to play in a shitty division, where getting that 1 or 2 seed was a huge deal. And the NFC North wasn't a shitty division.

63 That we can agree on

Pats benefited from the AFC East. Came across this interesting analysis quantifying just how much:

Wonder if there are other approaches out there.

5 I started thinking this way…

I started thinking this way after the Cardinals nearly won the SB in 2008 and the formally did this after the Ravens won the SB in 2012.

Take a mental note of what you think of the quality of these teams as of right now and then think about where they shake out in your memory of the best teams of all time.  Because in about 6 weeks, you are more likely to be misled about a team's quality than informed. 

10 The Ravens are basically a…

The Ravens are basically a slightly better, AFC version of the Bears.

They always have a dangerously good defense, and are a legit title contender in the rare years they have an offense, too.

19 Where I put a 2020 team in the ranks of the best of all time

I am going to try what you said to do.

Lets do Super Bowl era, none of the 2020 are top 50 all time.

Where I am now:

The only way I can put anyone in 2020 in the top 50 of all time is by winning each playoff game by 20 points, or in each playoff game show some other form of domination, leading to a championship.

We do look at a championship as an absolute, that they are the best team, but in reality in any given season in this era of parity, any of a number of teams can win the championship.  

The Chiefs were the best because in 3 different games, they came back from multiple scores,  including 24-0

 NE was better than Seattle, because Seattle got intercepted on 1st and goal from the 1.

The Patriots team that started it, they were the best because of the tuck rule.

The Patriots were better than Atlanta because when Atlanta was folding but was still up 8, when 3 runs and a field goal would have won for Atlanta, they took a sack. Then the Patriots had to get the 2 point conversion after their TD, then win the toss in OT and score a TD.

The Rams were better because Tennessee fell a yard short.

The Ravens were better because they beat Denver on a 70 yard Fluke O pass in Denver just to get into OT and had a goal line stand by committing defensive holding on 4th down against SF.

Pittsburgh was the best because James Harrison went 100 yards when 99 would have not been enough, and then Santonio Holmes makes a catch in the back corner of the end zone.

The Giants were the best due to wide right.

And those who post on this site can each add 7 more and we will have close to 50 of these.

Once upon a time Super Bowl scores included 38-9, 38-16, 46-10, 39-20, 42-10, and 55-10.  That was 6 years out of 7.  Those days are over.  Other than Seattle 43-8 over Denver.

At least nobody thought the Giants were better than NE when David Tyree caught a ball off of his helmet.

Or did they?

Of the 14 playoff teams I will eliminate WFT, Bears, Rams, (only if Goff misses a game or more), Browns, Steelers, Titans and Colts.    

So as of now I have a 7 team championship field, giving a slight edge to GB for being the number 1 seed (playing 1 fewer game) and having a great passing game, which I always believe is the trump card.  Two weeks ago I said that if I had to pick a team I would pick KC.

I'll talk with you again about this topic on the first Monday of February, maybe one of the 7 teams that I have eliminated in my mind will be the champion.  I've only eliminated 6 teams if Goff comes back next week.

23 LoL.In all honesty, the…


In all honesty, the best team I ever saw by a mile(going back to 2000) was the 07 Pats. I would take that team against any random team and I wouldn't have to think about it. They could be beat, of course, but they had enough quality to paper over bad days from individual units. 

After them, there is a large group of tightly bundled teams. I thought a fully healthy 07 Colts team was terrific. I thought the 2014 Broncos with a still elite Manning was similarly awesome. Interestingly, I thought the 2010 Packers who somehow were a wildcard squad was an awesomely terrifying team on both sides of the ball. Brimming with talent. 2010 Patriots were similarly awesome, though I still don't quite understand how that offense was as good as it was.

Going back further, I have fond memories of the 2003 Titans and the 2006 Ravens. The 2004 Steelers might be the most talented team overall that I have ever seen. They just had good players everywhere. And of course, I will have a special place in my heart for the 2002 Chiefs offensive line. In 04 against the Ravens, I will never forget John Madden having to walk back his fawning over Ray Lewis after Will Shields pancake blocked him into the ether. John Madden, in a moment of pure ecstasy clamored, "Hey Ray Lewis, hall of me...also a Hall of Famer". Will Shields was a bad ass and I hope people know that. 

A contrarian view, I think the 2011 Saints offense might have had the most varied deadly attack I ever saw. It was good at pretty much everything on offense. Sure, some offenses were better at certain aspects, but none were as good at everything as they were. And Justin Smith sacking Brees in that playoff game is another wow moment I'll never forget.

And finally...06 Championship game. It was as a biased fan pure bliss. Nothing will top that moment for me probably ever. 

Let's hope for a beautiful playoff round this season. 


26 I go back a bit further so I will take

1985 Chicago Bears

1989 SF 

1972 Miami Dolphins

Pick your favorite Steel Curtain team (not the immaculate reception year, another example of a pure luck championship)

Pick your favorite Doomsday Defense Dallas Cowboys season

I am looking forward to DVOA going back to get to the Dolphins, Steelers and Cowboys seasons

And for my loveable losers list I have the Minnesota Vikings, losers of 4 Super Bowls in 8 years, topped by the Joe DiMaggio streak of Buffalo Bills, losers of 4 straight Super Bowls (they got crushed in the next 3 after losing wide right).

My bias, 2000 Ravens, although their offense was awful, 4 postseason games by allowing a total of 23 points is absurd.  7 of the points were on a kickoff return TD allowed in the Super Bowl.  But yes, there was one play that changed history.  With the score tied at 10-10 in Tennessee Al DelGreco lined up for a FG that would put Tennessee ahead by 3 in the second half, the kick was blocked and returned for a TD.  Tennessee was better by DVOA, had better playoff seeding, and would likely have won the championship were it not for that play.  The Ravens went ahead 17-10 and scored again when Ray Lewis stripped Eddie George of a pass reception and returned it for a TD.  So 2000 Ravens, break a 10-10 tie with a special teams and a defensive TD.

The 2006 Ravens were not the best Ravens team by DVOA, but certainly a great team.  I know that you in part fondly remember them because of their inept offensive performance against the Colts in the playoffs.  

The best Ravens DVOA team ever before 2019?  2009   I said at the time it was the best 9-7 team ever.  Years later, I find FO, and it shows that they had to be among the best ever 9-7 teams.

Lets go Colts!!  Let your team knock out Buffalo and KC so that we have Baltimore present vs Baltimore past in the AFC Championship game. 

I know that you have talked of matchups in the past, I HATE the Titans matchup, their pass defense DVOA is awful, and the best Ravens pass play is a QB scramble.  Somehow  I do not think that the Titans had this awful pass defense by letting Roethlisberger, and Rivers scrambling around for big yardage 3 of their 16 game schedule.


27 "The 2006 Ravens were not…

"The 2006 Ravens were not the best Ravens team by DVOA, but certainly a great team.  I know that you in part fondly remember them because of their inept offensive performance against the Colts in the playoffs. "


You are partially correct. The Colts had owned the Ravens matchup coming in. But the Ravens D stoned them for most of that game. They might have had the greatest lb core of any team I can remember. Ray Lewis, Bart Scott, Adalius Thomas, and Suggs. Plus the underrated mvp of that squad Terrell Pryce plus a line consisting of Ngata and Kelly Greg and DPoy Ed Reed. It was just an amazing defensive squad. Dr. Z called them the bloodthirsty Ravens.



28 Somehow people almost always…

Somehow people almost always ignore 1996 GB. Here are some of their Highlights:

-Best Offense/Best Defense/Best Special Teams in the league (although you can assign their Offense as only 3rd Best if you want to go strictly by DVOA)

-1st team since 1972 Dolphins (the Dolphins had the Easiest Schedule in NFL History) to score most points and allow the fewest

-MVP QB at his Peak with a Dominant receiving corps that never even got to play 1 game together at full health

-Set record for Fewest TDs allowed in 16 Game Season (19, Fewer TDs than even the 85 Bears)

-Record Setting Special Teams

-Even the Book Dominance, a book about analyzing the greatest teams ever, has 1996 GB show up as the most dominant team of all time (although the author manually moves them down to #3)

30 I think they get ignored (or…

I think they get ignored (or, rather, overlooked) because of the next two years.  Getting beat by Elway's Broncos, and then those broncos repeating, means that those Broncos teams stick in people's memories more.


That shouldn't be a reflection on the 1996 GB team, of course, but people are funny that way...

32 96GB

The Packers also didn't play memorably well in the superbowl, especially on offense. They scored on two big bombs early in the game, and then sort of turtled. They did play an extremely dominant fourth quarter on defense, but it never felt like a romp to compare with the 1980s superbowls or the 2013 Seahawks.

Indeed, none of the 96 Packers' playoff games was all that memorable. They won all three by 14-21 points, territory that is neither blowout nor close game. The 49ers were playing a backup QB in a mud game, the Panthers were a bit of an unknown (and a one-season wonder), and the best AFC team by far got upset in the divisional round. If the Packers had won it all by going through Dallas and Denver it might have given them a higher profile.

Finally, how many players from that Packer championship team would a neutral be able to name? Favre, White, Desmond Howard. Maybe Butler and Robinson. But it was a solid rather than spectacular roster. The Broncos and Cowboys dynasties which bookended them were stacked with talent: I think you can make a legitimate case for eight of the Broncos' offensive starters from SB32 to be in the hall of fame, and that doesn't include Ed McCaffrey.

51 For most people who remember…

In reply to by ammek

For most people who remember Robinson, it's probably for something he did after he left GB!

That 96 team, the defense in particular, was a collection of a lot of really solid veteran players, quite a few who made their name elsewhere, but were still solidly in their prime. Seems like a lot more teams were built that way in the earlier days of free agency. Those 97-98 Broncos also brought in guys like Neil Smith, Gary Zimmerman and Romanowski.

I think Butler is on the cusp of making the HoF, which I'll be really happy to see. But yeah, otherwise I think Sterling Sharpe was the only other player in that era in GB that was on a hall of fame trajectory before he got hurt.

52 1973 Dolphins

The 73 Dolphins were better than the 72 team.    They did allow 33 points (vs 85), but those scores (34-16, 27-10, 24-7) were not indicative of how dominant they were.   They jumped out to 3 score leads right out of the gate and just steamrollied the opposition.   The first game vs Cincinnati was the only one that was close for a moment, as the Bengals closed to 21-16 thanks to an INT return.

Miami rushing totals were the steady success stuff DVOA dreams about, 52 for 254 yds, then 53 for 266, capped by 53 for 196, thought hey were coasting late.   The rushing was so dominant that Bob Greise threw 31 passes for the entire 3 games, and 16 of those came in the first one.    They threw 6 times against Oakland, and 7 against Minnesota (completing 3 and 5 respectively).  They simply did not need to throw.   In the Superbowl Miami ran 23 consecutive times to finish the game.


56 A nit

Pick your favorite Steel Curtain team (not the immaculate reception year, another example of a pure luck championship)

The Immaculate Reception year was not a championship season; it occurred in the 1972 division round, advancing the Steelers to the AFCCG, which of course they lost to the undefeated Dolphins.  The first Steel Curtain championship team was two years later.


73 The '84 Niners

The '84 Niners are very high on my personal list of the Best Teams I Ever Saw.  I'm always surprised more people don't mention them.  Similarly dominant as the 85 Bears, but much more balanced team.

Since there's a big Ravens-centric discussion, I think the 2011 edition was the best Ravens team Before Lamar.  Certainly the defense was better than the squad that won the Lombardi the following season.


74 Can't hate the matchup

@jheidelberg #26 – Re:

"I know that you have talked of matchups in the past, I HATE the Titans matchup, their pass defense DVOA is awful, and the best Ravens pass play is a QB scramble.  Somehow  I do not think that the Titans had this awful pass defense by letting Roethlisberger, and Rivers scrambling around for big yardage 3 of their 16 game schedule."

I can't hate the matchup.  These Ravens wanted a do-over after last January's Titans playoff game.  Welp, they got it.  It's as precisely-crafted a redemption scenario as anyone could imagine.  Everything they could ask for on a silver platter. Now they've got to handle it.

As a Ravens fan, I'm not saying I'm confident.  But it sure is the right "platform".  An opponent they know very well.  Should be no issues with focus or preparation.

78 Tough to top that game for…

Tough to top that game for me either. I had seats in the endzone (high up because I'm not rich) and remember just how much trash talking there was from all the Pats fans at halftime. Was so very sweet to win the way they did.

6 This year's Drew Brees…

This year's Drew Brees reminds me a lot of 2015 Manning except he isn't being shoehorned into a terrible offensive design combined with an ugly offensive line. But either way, the physical skills have eroded to the point where you need ideal circumstances to get positive stuff out of him. 

The upside for the Broncos was that the Pats lost a ridiculous game to the Dolphins that year(seemingly an annual tradition), which meant the Broncos secured not only a bye, but home field throughout.  They were able to squeak by Pittsburgh missing AB, survived a two point conversion attempt by the Pats, and provide just enough offensive scoring and defensive scoring to win it all against the Panthers. In other words, a lot of shit broke their way.

NO will need similar help imo if it wants to get there 

8 Pretty good points

Don't forget the awesome first down pass Manning managed after falling down/giving himself up and when no defender touched him, getting up and firing off a 20 yard completion. Pretty sure it was a playoff game.  He learned that trick from Marvin Harrison in another playoff game vs the Broncos, of course, but even as a huge Manning fan, I thought that was not right.  He looked like he was giving himself up to me (ala a slide) and whether the defenders touched him or not (yes, their mistake) he should have been whistled down. If only to save him from being crushed.

The Den DL did some serious damage to Brady/the Pats in that playoff game.

7 Incredibly perverse Idea

I'd love to see how the Colts 1st/2nd halves compare in a DVOA sense.  It seemed to me this year that they rarely played a consistent four quarters, but tended to start with two awful quarters only to finish by shutting out the opponent and winning the game early in the season, with the reverse happening at the end of the season.

It's like the "Gatorade with PEDs" they had been guzzling at halftime in the early part of the season was shipped to their opponents' locker rooms instead later in the year.  Damn vendors.

Well, of the top dozen teams or playoff teams, there is only one team with all three units ranked top-10 (NO) and that count increases to four teams when you loosen it to top-12 rankings (BUF, BAL, IND).  That's a little surprising to me, to see so many well-performing teams that are not quite balanced.  And it's not just bad ST, which I can understand, but PIT has that wonky O performance (can they run in bad weather if they have to? Maybe not necessary if their D holds opponents under 10 pts) and GB, SEA, KC all have pretty big defensive flaws. TEN, which is outside the top dozen but in the playoffs has HUGE defensive and ST issues, but a really effective O.

Will those flaws flare up and bite those teams in the butts, or will they somehow pull a 2012 Flacco or 2006 Colts D turnaround that is hard to really explain?  What an interesting post-season it will be.  Plenty of ammo for prognosticators to point at anything they want to justify what happens.  "I knew KC would win because they were near the top all season and have playoff/SB experience," or "I knew KC would fail because of that weak D."

IMO the biggest discrepancies between DVOA and post season performance will likely be late-season injuries that are not reflected in the historical data, like Bakhtiari's injury dropping the GB offense from #1 to maybe #5 (still good, but is it enough?) and Castonzo's dropping the Colts' almost good enough at 12th to a "see ya next year" unit at 18th. Will Denzel Ward make the playoffs for CLE? Mike Evans in Tampa?

29 Yeah... no.

Pretty sure Aaron looked into that in 2007 and found that with Bob Sanders and without, there was not a significant difference statistically for the D, despite what all the players (and DPOY voters the next year) said.

Dungy called him the eraser, and he was.  Cleaned up mistakes. And maybe psychologically it was like having your big brother there when you decide to call out the class bully--he's got your back.  But in the post season, it seemed like the D performance was at least equally due to the opponents' decisions as much as Sanders.  Larry Johnson only had 13 carries against Indy.  WTF?  He was in his prime with almost 1,800 yards that year!  And he gets just 13 carries against a suspect run D?  In total, 5 INTs that day, 2 by Green and 3 by Manning.  Ugly.

The next week Jamal Lewis, he of the 2,066 yard 2003 season, only had 13 carries for 53 yards (1,100 yds that year).  Why, oh why?  beats me.  Two INTs for each QB in that one.  Pretty ugly as well.  Sanders led the team in tackles, but not like it was 20.  Colts recovered both BAL fumbles, which helped. Kickers were each perfect in the all-field-goal game.

In the AFCCG, the Colts D wilted pretty badly in the first half, but again, the Pats RBs only had 7 rushes (Dillon who had 800 yds that year), 4 (Faulk), and 8 (Maroney--745 yards on the season).  A far cry from the Jax loss (without Sanders) when Fred Taylor and MJD ran for 300 or so and said afterwards that "the only thing that stopped us was the endzone."  Brady and Manning each had a TD and an INT. Bob Sanders notably blew an INT that could have ended the game, only to have Marlin Jackson pick the next pass IIRC.

In the SB Thomas Jones actually had 112 yards and 7.5 YPC, but his QB was Rex Grossman. Sanders had another pick.

I loved me some Bob Sanders (and my boys wore his jersey), but he wasn't the main reason their D turned around that post season.  A key piece of the puzzle, for sure.  

48 I think you answered your…

In reply to by Bobman

I think you answered your own question. Without a healthy Sanders, the Colts were comically unable to stop opponents from running on them. They gave up 2758 yards rushing on 5.3 ypc (173 ypg); opponents ran 60% of the time. They turned the average opponent back into a combination of OJ Simpson and Terrell Davis. 

They were one of the worst rush defenses in NFL history; the worst by average since the 1950s and the worst by total yards since the dead-ball era 70s.

(DVOA hated the Manginius Jets rush D more, but they were less prolifically bad)

They were better with a dinged up Sanders than none at all, but they turned into a good run defense when he returned for the playoffs. They gave up fewer rushing yards in the playoffs than they gave up to Jacksonville in one game.

The Colts D had a huge turnaround in the playoffs, but a casual review of their defensive DVOA indicates which games Sanders played and which he did not. This was a +20 DVOA run defense without him, and something like a -30% one with him.

\Johnson only had 13 carries because the Chiefs only ran 41 plays. He also caught five passes.

79 Sanders was one of those…

In reply to by Bobman

Sanders was one of those rare people who really did make the people around them better. The way he played ultimately resulted in a very short career, but was highly motivational to the players around him at every level (from their own accounts).

13 KC Falling in Week 17

KC dropped by ~6% in DVOA due to inclusion of a game in which they played almost 0 starters. I know part of the drop in weighted DVO is putting less weight on early season, but it seems like a no brainer to throw out a game in which they sat their entire team.

17 Cry me a river

In a season where Broncos played a game without QBs, lions without coaches, 49ers and Browns without wideouts, is this really the unfair one?

34 It makes sense

In reply to by greybeard

Aaron consistently provides the with and without impact of the Broncos/Saints game. Sure, there were a lot of games that were impacted by COVID and injuries this year, but this was a conscious decision to sit every single starter sans some lineman. I think its reasonable to not include that game because it isn't reflective of the team at all and intentionally so.

54 Chiefs game

In reply to by nsheahon

"Take that game out -- which we did for the ratings we use in our playoff simulation."

We never remove any games from DVOA, even games where a team sits its starters to prepare for the playoffs. I did detail the impact of this game above, explaining that the Chiefs would be fifth instead of sixth if we removed the game. Our playoff simulation odds do not include this game.

67 He's explained before …

In reply to by nsheahon

He's explained before (multiple times) why he can't and won't remove games from the regular season. 

What would be the exact criteria? Because you'd need to have a clear quantitative justification that gives you either a keep game/toss game.

What if the Chiefs sat all their starters except Mahomes? Do you remove that game? What if they sat Mahomes but started everyone else? What if they sat only their Pro Bowlers? What if they sat the defense but not the offense?

Do you see where this is going? 

15 Ravens

Interesting note on the Ravens being the lowest team in DVOA to lead the league in pythagorean wins. I think I know what the reason for that is. I was doing some analysis and found that the Ravens offense ranked just 27th in first down conversion rate on 1st and 2nd down, but ranked 3rd on on 3rd and 4th down. Same story on defense, they allow the 5th highest first down conversion down on 1st and 2nd down, but the 2nd lowest on 3rd and 4th down. I know that teams that outperform on 3rd and 4th down compared to 1st and 2nd down typically aren't able to sustain that. Do you remember another team with as big of a efficiency gap between 1st/2nd and 3rd/4th? How do teams like this perform in the post-season? For comparison, last year the Ravens ranked 1st offensively on 1st/2nd and 3rd/down and on defense ranked 4th on 1st/2nd and 9th on 3rd/4th, so it doesn't seem that being significantly better on 3rd/4th down than 1st/2nd is in inherent feature of how the Ravens play.

16 Asterisks

“Of course, like so much in this weird season, the Broncos’ rating comes with a bit of an asterisk. In Week 12, their defense got to face a Saints team without a quarterback.”

20 Taysom

In reply to by armchair journ…

unlike Hinton did start at qb through college, and got to take reps all week with the first team.
He takes way too long in his reads and doesn’t seem to get too deep into them.  And he doesn’t have great touch (eg on screens). Still, I doubt he was the worst qb in the league this year (though likely the worst to win the majority of his starts). I think he’s a below average nfl quarterback, and I think next year is going to be ugly, but it’s a little harsh on him to say he’s not a qb. 

22 Still, I doubt he was the…

In reply to by DisplacedSaintsFan

Still, I doubt he was the worst qb in the league this year (though likely the worst to win the majority of his starts)

Hill's DVOA was higher than Wolford's.

\it was also higher than Winston's

77 It was intended as a joke…

It was intended as a joke. Winston actually is a joke. 

( fwiw, I actually like watching Taysom play.. be interesting to see if Payton’s pet project works out in the long run )

24 Bears w/ Trubisky

What would the Bears DVOA be with Trubisky games/snaps only? I doubt it changes much, but Foles was so bad for the most part that it'd be interesting to see. 

25 I do think the Bears match…

I do think the Bears match up well with the Saints.  I can see them pulling out a victory.  Last game went to OT, and that was with Foles starting.

65 It's not anything really…

It's not anything really analytical or even through observation.  I just feel like the playoffs are a place where old QBs hit a wall, and the Bears defense can contain the big play against NO's offense.  And the Bears' offensive efficiency is probably better then the numbers indicate with Trubisky in his 2nd stint as a starter this season.  Does all of this mean a win for the Bears?  Probably not, but I can hope!

86 Contain NO's big plays

The problem with that statement is that the Saints do not rely on big plays. They kill you with 1,000 paper cuts, and a gouge here and there; they are not the Chiefs. The Bears ability to win is going to hinge upon how healthy the Saints offensive players are: Thomas, Tre'quan Smith, and Deonte Harris should be coming off IR, and Kamara has a chance to be off the COVID list. 

36 The Packers have twice shown…

The Packers have twice shown conclusively that if you stack 3 receivers on one side, the Bears for whatever reason will not adjust and will have Danny Trevathan cover the inside receiver. I'm sure Sean Payton has noticed.

64 The Saints blowing a playoff…

The Saints blowing a playoff game seems like an inevitability now, but I can't see the 8-8 Bears being the opponent to do it. I could see Seattle doing it in Seattle or the Bucs coming to town and avenging the season sweep. But the Bears... maybe it's the fandom blinding me but I'd put them about as unlikely as WFT to pull the upset.

70 The Saints have never beaten…

The Saints have never beaten Chicago in the Playoffs, going 0-2 against them (losing in 1990 and 2006, both at Chicago).

The only other team they have multiple losses vs without a win are the Seattle Seahawks, vs whom they are 0-2 (both at Seattle).

As far as other potential NFC opponents they have never faced the WFT, Bucs or Packers in the playoffs.   They are 1-1 vs the Rams, once St. Louis (a home win) and once Los Angeles (a home loss).

Obviously the only AFC team they have ever faced in the playoffs are the Colts, whom they are 1-0 vs on a neutral field.

So good chance to reverse some history.


In interconference games I think the AFC went 35-28-1 against the NFC this year. That's .555. Yet DVOA thinks the NFC was quite a bit stronger overall, especially on defense, where seven of the weakest eight teams are from the AFC.

The AFC's record was driven by its top teams. Eight AFC teams had a winning record in interconference games, versus three NFC teams. Four AFC teams went 4-0 in interconference play (and not all of them played against the NFC East), versus zero NFC teams. All seven of the AFC's playoff teams, plus Miami, had a winning record vs the NFC.

But the average NFC team has +3.6 DVOA.

How do we explain this? How much of the NFC's advantage in DVOA is attributable to interconference games? Did the AFC win a bunch of nail-biters, and lose a few blowouts? The Saints-Broncos matchup is an obvious reference point here but it can't explain such a large gap.

Also, has one division ever provided three of the league's worst four defenses (and indeed passing defenses) by DVOA before? The AFC South: where defense is optional.

38 Thinking about this from a…

In reply to by ammek

Thinking about this from a points perspective, the NFC outscored the AFC by 127 points this season. As points are a larger sample size, this might be a more reliable measure when looking at a single season, and it seems to align a bit better with DVOA expectations. 

43 Points, good points

Good idea to look at points! If my calculations are correct, in interconference games decided by 8 or fewer points, the AFC led 18-12-1. In games decided by 20 or more points, the NFC dominated by 11-3.

The Chicago Bears alone won as many interconference games by more than 20 points as the entire AFC.

58 Looking at Aarons article you are right on the spot

1.  With Atlanta being a historic pythagorean under-performer and KC and Cleveland being historic pythagorean over performers, this explains a lot.   

2. Using baseball analytics, if the season is half over, a 40-40 team with a plus 40 run differential is expected to be better in the second half of the season than a 44-36 team with a zero run differential.   Run differential is more predictive than record.

With the two points above, your point differential by conference stat, combined with DVOA,  it is reasonable to conclude that the NFC is the better conference despite going 7 games under .500.


99 Sometimes,

In reply to by JimZipCode

Sometimes it's hard to remember the NFC East is, still, in the NFL.

55 This is a really interesting…

In reply to by ammek

This is a really interesting way of looking at things. I wonder if the weird distribution of the teams between the two conferences, with the four worst teams all being AFC teams but an entire division worth of bad teams in the NFC, had some odd effect on overall DVOA.

Certainly, at the top of the DVOA standings, there were many instances of AFC teams beating comparable NFC teams (Chiefs beating Saints and Bucs, Colts beating Packers, Bills beating Seahawks), but not a lot of examples of it being the other way around.


33 1 in 0

It's lucky for 'burgh when the year ends in 0.

How about those Steelers defenses? This is their fourth #1 ranking by DVOA since 1985: once in every decade since the 1990s. Curiously, this is the third time Pittsburgh has topped the pile in a year ending with a zero, following 1990 and 2010!

It's their 10th top-three finish, and their 20th top-ten finish – best by a distance.

I think we can assume that at least one of the Steel Curtain defenses would shake out at #1. So if DVOA finds a few extra things to like about the 1983-84 units, which finished 3rd and 5th respectively by yards allowed, perhaps the streak could extend to six decades... (Andreas Shepard's historical DVOA estimate for 1983 had the Steelers at #2, behind only New Orleans.)

42 AFC North

In reply to by ammek

Good defenses in AFC North. 

the Ravens obviously don’t have history of Steelers, but their Defensive DVOA has been Top Ten for 20 of last 22 years. They have had a Top 4 defense 12 of those years. 

From ‘99 to 2011 the Ravens never ranked worse than 6th in defense and were top 2 in 7 of 13 years (4 times number 1). 

the Ravens have a defensive reputation, but the consistency of the 2000s-era defense feels historically under appreciated b/c of shaky QB play. Their defense of the last decade isn’t quite as dominant but better balanced with O and ST. 

Anyway, fun with numbers. Some great Steelers-Ravens defensive battles. 

I guess I’d be interested to compare other decades-long periods of either offensive or defensive dominance. Would probably either need to establish some “Dynasty” rules and/or look at y-o-y correlation in offensive/defensive stats. Maybe this has been done? 

39 As a longtime Chiefs fan, I…

As a longtime Chiefs fan, I am certainly concerned by the close games and inability to pull away from teams like the Falcons.  Other media outlets seem to promote the "Chiefs are unbeatable" narrative and forget how close they came to losing repeatedly in last year's playoffs (and how close they came to the Super Bowl the year prior).  The defense certainly isn't as strong as early in the year and the offensive line injuries are taking a huge toll.  They did however beat the #1, 2, 4 and 7 teams in final DVOA, a stronger top-end resume than anyone else. 

Obviously there is no statistical (or subjective) way to prove this but I've wondered if they are, slightly, playing possum similar to how some of the Brady/Belichick teams seemed to do for years: knowing exactly what they need to do to beat teams and doing it.  This is likely wishful thinking on my part and I'm sure the statistical analysis would refute (or be inconclusive) but watching all the games, they always feel very in control.

Maybe the occam's razor explanation is that they are a solid team helmed by the best player on the planet who has reached a level of athletic confidence/arrogance that he never seems fazed by anything and the team takes on that persona.

50 Good post. The Chiefs are…

Good post. The Chiefs are definitely scary from the point of view that they seem assured to be at the very top of the league for the next decade (or at least until Andy Reid calls it a day). It's bad news for the rest of the AFC, and particularly grim for the AFC West in that regard. 

But this particular Chiefs squad is not particularly scary, from an historical perspective. They don't match up alongside the best teams in NFL history by any measure. The "unbeatable" narrative has been off for a few weeks now. 

They may win 3 Super Bowls in a row and go down as one of the great all time dynasties. But it's probably more likely they end up like the 00s Colts, or the '10s Packers with a lone title (or two) to go alongside some sustained regular season dominance. 

62 "they are a solid team…

"they are a solid team helmed by the best player on the planet"

Prior to this year I would have agreed with you. Now I think there is a legitimate debate. Rodgers has also had a longer career of greatness so I have more certainty about his intrinsic value than Mahomes to this point.

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I don't think there's an obvious answer right now.

68 It seems like only yesterday…

It seems like only yesterday we were bemoaning the fact that we were down to A-Aron Rodgers and Russ Wilson as legit awesome QBs in their prime. Looks like the Football Gods may have delivered again, with Mahomes, Jackson, and maybe Allen. Plus Murray Herbert and hopefully Burrow looking like the real deal, and Brady refusing to fade away.

46 This may make Bills fans…

This may make Bills fans nervous, but they might not get another opportunity like this. This is a scary team right now, healthy across the roster, playing well in all 3 phases, and a QB who is lights out. Beat the Colts and a matchup against Pittsburgh is likely, who they handled comfortably a few weeks ago, whilst KC and Baltimore are slugging it out. 

But Josh Allen's ascent this year has been so incredible, can we be sure of his true level and that this some lightning in a bottle scenario? Best to win it this year and not worry about finding out. 

66 Don't take this the wrong way...

...but you think the fans of the team that lost four straight SBs don't know this?

Grab it while the window is open. This team, playing the way they are now, can beat KC, GB, NO, BAL, whoever. That's no guarantee that they *do*, but they're capable of it.

87 I don't think anyone should…

I don't think anyone should be looking past who their opponent is this weekend.  Colts strength run offense is the Bills biggest weakness run defense.  Can Buckner and Autry get pressure up the middle?  They almost certainly bracket Diggs with Blackmon over the top of whoever the corner is on him.  Colts will be in this game the question is can the offense produce?  Will they be able to pass if the Bills stuff the box with 7??  Browns certainly dealing with Covid issues could be a problem but the Steelers offense is not reliable.  Ravens over the Titans?  I think the Titans match up well against them and they have beaten them last two times played.  Sure Titans defense is terrible against the run, but are the Ravens going to be able to stop the Titans offense?  I think all three AFC  games are going to be close.  

69 Quite impressed by the…

Quite impressed by the Broncos defense finishing 13th. Very midtable result, but with no starting CBs for the last few week, and a plethora of other injuries plus little support from offense to manage to finish a little above average seems to give some hope for next year at least.

Seems like a really hard season to predict much from, so many teams have had several outlier games, most often because of either themselves or their opponents operating under extremely abnormal conditions.

Still we got a regular season and are going to have playoffs. I hope the teams that make the Super Bowl can convince their players and coaches of the importance of making a bubble for the whole 2 weeks between the conference games and the finale and we can have a decent game between two good teams, and not something that is hollowed out because some idiots went partying a week before the game on their 'weekend off'.

71 A sarcastic farewell to some of our non-playoff teams

Patriots- Its been a bad two years for Robert Kraft, in 2019 the door to his favorite massage parlor closed and in 2020 the door to the playoffs closed.

Jets-  Piloted by Adam Gase and after 13 aborted attempts to take off, these Jets finally flew for two weeks before landing in New England with a pink slip for the pilot.  The pilots union is not filing a grievance

Houston we have a problem-  And it sure is not the QB (except for the sack rate).  Possibly a historic year for a QB of a 4-12 team with the splits of 2-0 vs Jacksonville, 2-12 vs any team that was a marginal NFL team or better

Jacksonville- Past years, play 15 games in the U.S. this year lose 15 games in the U. S.  One small win for Jacksonville, one giant leap of faith in Trevor Lawrence

Cincinnati- Will anyone sign my petition to get the Jethro Tull song, "Bungle in the Jungle" played at all Bengals home games?

Raiders of the lost cause-  Possibly the only team in history to get two defensive coordinators fired in the same year, first the Jets then their own.  Also winner of the face mask of the year award on Ryan Fitzpatrick which ended their slim playoff hopes, but no contest to 2019 face mask of the year winner Myles Garrett on Mason Rudolph

Broncos-  After playing with no QB, Drew Lock never looked so good

Lions-  Not though of as defenseless animals, these Lions were led to holiday slaughter on national TV on Thanksgiving and the day after Christmas

Giants-  Oh, the pain and suffering of a 6-10 team not making the playoffs.  These division battles are often considered going to war.  The playoff hopes blown up by a Philadelphia war tank.  The 80 yard Jones run and the Gallman fumble are sure to make the 2020 NFC East highlight reel.  

Eagles-  Nobody ever wanted the 6th draft pick so much

Cowboys-  None of the cheerleaders were willing to play QB, so they let Ben Dinucci play for a game.

Panthers-  After finishing last in the NFL in ALEX in 2019, Bridgewater was 3rd to last this year.  Yet he was mediocre (20th DYAR, 9th DVOA in 2019, 18th DYAR, 19th DVOA in 2020).  Maybe FO makes new stat: 

TEDDY (Tolerably Efficient Dink Dunk Yards)



81 Combined rank vs combined dvoa %

I was wondering what the best end of season combined ranking look like... as compared to previous years...

For example this year the saints were 5th, 2nd, and 7th...a combined ranking of 14

I understand dvoa % produces a more relevant picture, but how does no worse than 7th or a combined ranking of 14 compare to other seasons?

I presume it’s harder to successfully game-plan against teams with the least weaknesses....

it would also be intriguing to see combined rankings broken down further.... (rank of) run offense, pass offense, combined offense, run defense, pass defense, combined defense, special teams.

This is, in no way, a means to suggest dvoa as a % isn’t the most accurate way to break down football statistically; just a curious thought about how these stats are applied.  These types of comparative views are my favorite application of your analysis. Numbers without analysis are just numbers, so please keep doing what you’ve been doing, and thank you!

83 1991 WAS and 1996 GB were…

1991 WAS and 1996 GB were both top-3 in all offense, defense, and special teams. 2012 SEA and 2015 SEA were both top-4. 1985 CHI and 1992 PHI were top-5. 

If you total the ranks, here's the top 5: 1991 WAS (5), 1996 GB (6), 2015 SEA (8), 2012 SEA (9), 1985 CHI (10).

85 Currently yes, but they are…

Currently yes, but they are close enough to the 2016 Texans that DVOA re-jiggering might swap places.

I'm really curious where the 1984 Bears will finish. 1983 Broncos. There were also a bunch of terrible offenses in the playoffs in 1982. The 1971 Vikings have potential. The 1979 Bucs. This is based on OSRS, which doesn't correlate to offensive DVOA nearly as well as SRS correlates to overall DVOA.

There are a bunch of teams who would have been worse in a 7-team playoff. There are also a bunch of playoff teams that were in hailing distance of as bad an offense.


89 Oh my no. The 1991 Eagles…

Oh my no.

The 1991 Eagles were 66.4% between offense (terrible) and defense (historically great).

The 1986 Bears were 40.7%, under the same basis.

2018 KC was 43%, with a great O and a terrible D.

90 Whew

Yikes.  I remember that Eagles defense, but I had no idea their offense was that bad.  

92 There’s a reason when you…

In reply to by jefeweiss

There’s a reason when you miss the playoffs despite having one of the all time great defenses.

The ‘91 Eagles were written about quite a bit in the 1991 DVOA ratings and commentary article.  Randall Cunningham had his knee destroyed in week 1.  The Eagles offense was still reasonable (but not good, mind you) when his backup, Jim McMahon played, and they went 8-3 in his starts.  

Of course, being Jim McMahon, he inevitably also go hurt and missed 4 games.  The Eagles then had to turn to the two headed monster of Brad Goebel (undrafted rookie who had 4.8 YPA, 0TD/6INT), and Jeff Kemp (acquired mid-season from Seattle, 4.8 YPA 5TD/5INT).  Elderly Pat Ryan also attempted 26 passes and contributed 4 INT. 

They went 1-3 in the non-Cunningham/McMahon games and ending up losing out (along with SF) in a 3 way 10-6 tie-breaker to Atlanta.

94 1991 was also a freakish…

1991 was also a freakish year where the 2nd and 4th best teams in the NFC (Philadelphia and SF) missed the playoffs due to tiebreakers, despite being 10-6. SF was #2 overall (26%); Philly was 5th (18%).

SF was basically the 2020 Packers. Philly was the Steelers.

SF was killed by being swept by Atlanta and splitting with NO. Philly was killed by unconscionable losses to Phoenix and Tampa Bay. (They split with the Cowboys and Redskins, but the week 17 skins had nothing to play for)

I think 1991 SF is the best team to miss the playoffs, and 1991 Eagles are the best defense to miss the playoffs.

97 My suspicion is that the…

My suspicion is that the 1991 Bears agree with you about SF. The beating they took in the final Monday night game of that season - when SF was already out of the playoffs - was epic.

98 Best Team to Miss Playoffs

Best team to miss playoffs by DVOA is the 2004 Buffalo Bills, followed by the 1991 49ers then the 2002 Dolphins and both the 2005 Chiefs and Chargers. I wrote about the 49ers in an ESPN piece about "best would-have-been seventh seeds" because the 2004 Bills actually wouldn't have even been the seventh seed! They ended up as the eighth seed.

93 Buccs 2nd in DVOA

How come the Buccs are second in DVOA and yet they’re only a 6.8% chance of a super bowl win? 

96 Tampa Bay has the fifth…

Tampa Bay has the fifth highest odds to win the Super Bowl, despite being the fifth seed in their own conference.  That's certainly a function of their high DVOA.

Two of the teams ahead of them - Green Bay (24.3%) and Kansas City (21.1%) - would only have to win three games to win the Super Bowl, whereas Tampa Bay would need to win four.

The other two teams with higher odds - New Orleans (18.2%) and Buffalo (17.6%) - are also the two teams with a higher weighted DVOA (Tampa Bay is third), which is what's used for the playoff odds calculations.

The relative low odds for Tampa Bay (6.8%) compared to the team above them (Buffalo), is likely due to the permutation of opponents.  If all the favorites win this weekend, we'd have the following matchups next weekend:

Tampa Bay at Green Bay

Seattle at New Orleans

Baltimore at Kansas City

Pittsburgh at Buffalo

By DVOA, Tampa Bay has the most difficult opponent in that scenario, which hurts their playoff odds.  I'd guess the reason Green Bay and Kansas City aren't farther ahead of the pack, despite being the only two teams that need one fewer win, is because they're likely to get more difficult opponents than New Orleans and Buffalo in the divisional round.

100 Z-Score

Did anyone calculate the 2020 DVOA Z-scores? If not, how do I calculate them myself? I have been avidly keeping up with several advanced metrics and your site helps me out immensely with this. I would love to know who had the best one and how to calculate them for future seasons along with other metrics that are used. 

101 We never did, I don't think…

In reply to by Jtd26

We never did, I don't think but if you want to calculate them yourself it's simple. Just find the average DVOA for each team and the standard deviation in DVOA for each team. Each team's Z-score is then just their DVOA minus the average DVOA, then divided by the standard deviation. More here: