Super Bowl LV DVOA Ratings

Super Bowl LV
Super Bowl LV
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

In the end, the "flip the switch" theory turned out to be wrong. If anything, the switch was flipped the other direction in Super Bowl LV. The Kansas City Chiefs came out and got their asses kicked, playing their worst game of the year according to DVOA. They had a lower rating than they had for the Week 17 game where they sat their starters, even after significant adjustments for the quality of the Tampa Bay team they were facing.

Kansas City had its lowest offensive rating of the season at -26.1%. (Their only other negative offensive game was -3.3% against Miami when Patrick Mahomes threw three picks). Their defensive rating was better, 12.5% after adjustments, which was in line with a number of their lesser defensive performances from the 2020 regular season. But it was a lot lower than their strong defensive performance in the first two playoff games. The offense, at least, could blame injuries along the offensive line for its dismal performance. The defense just got outplayed and outcoached.

DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
KC -38% -26% 12% 1%
TB 63% 6% -54% 3%
VOA (no opponent adjustments)
KC -70% -44% 27% 1%
TB 47% 15% -28% 3%

Tampa Bay finished the regular season second in overall DVOA, trailing only their rivals in New Orleans. That rating, of course, is complicated by injuries and the weirdness that was the COVID season of 2020. Take out the game where New Orleans got to play a Denver team with no quarterback, and Tampa Bay would have been No. 1 for the year. But also take out the games where New Orleans had to start a backup quarterback, and they would regain the No. 1 spot. If we include the playoffs, though, it's no contest. Tampa Bay ends up No. 1 for the regular season plus the postseason at 34.8%. New Orleans, even crediting their defense for the Kendall Hinton game, is No. 2 at 28.8%. Green Bay is third, and Kansas City is fourth.

Tampa Bay's final DVOA including the playoffs ranks 12th among Super Bowl champions since 1985, with an asterisk. The asterisk comes because I moved to a new version of DVOA in 2020 and have not yet had an opportunity to go back and re-run all the playoffs back 35 years, so this is comparing Tampa Bay in DVOA v7.3 to other teams in DVOA v7.0. They are 22nd among all teams since 1985 if we combine the regular season and the postseason. One of the teams that is higher than the 2020 Buccaneers is the 2002 Buccaneers at 41.0%.

Tampa Bay finished the regular season third in weighted DVOA, which lowers the strength of older games. They were behind Buffalo and Green Bay in that metric. They finish the postseason No. 1 in weighted DVOA as well, narrowly over Green Bay 39.44% to 39.40%.

I wrote this on Twitter, but I will write it again here, as a bit of a mea culpa. Football Outsiders took a lot of criticism this year about where Tampa Bay and Kansas City ranked in DVOA. We took criticism for having Tampa Bay too high -- they were in the top three every week since Week 5 -- and for having Kansas City too low. This was not the normal criticism from fans who yell at us to just watch the film because we're wrong about their favorite team. There was a lot of particular criticism from the rest of the analytics community about anybody who didn't have Kansas City No. 1 in their particular metric or power ranking. It was criticism from people whose work I appreciate and value. And I will admit, I really started to doubt my own work and my own metrics. I worried that I had to be missing something if so many smart people were in agreement that DVOA was completely wrong. After Kansas City's big playoff wins, I was convinced that everyone else was right and I had to be wrong. I tried to come up with some sort of adjustment to account for the fact that Kansas City was the first NFL team to "flip the switch" after coasting through the regular season. In hindsight, it was clearly a mistake.

In the end, it turned out that DVOA was seeing something. It saw that Tampa Bay was better than its 11-5 record, in particular that it was a very good team even when it was "struggling" at 7-5 with a number of close losses to good opponents. It saw that Kansas City's string of close wins were emblematic of a team that was very good but not by any means historically dominant. And it turned out that Kansas City's two strong playoff games weren't any kind of "flipping the switch." They were just a very good team having two excellent games, which happens all the time.

Not that DVOA was perfect, of course. The same people who were critical of Football Outsiders for having Kansas City too low were also critical of Football Outsiders and anyone else who had New Orleans rated highly, and that complaint turned out to be accurate. And we shouldn't pretend that DVOA in any way was predicting some kind of Tampa Bay blowout in this game. With the adjustments we tried to make to account for Kansas City "turning it on" in the playoffs, the FO+ picks still called for Tampa Bay to cover the spread. But without those adjustments, the projected line would have been Tampa Bay by only 0.3 points.

Obviously, there were some extenuating circumstances to Kansas City's loss. We will never know how Kansas City might have played if they had their offensive line healthy, or if they had not shuffled their linemen due to injuries. Of course, Kansas City played the second half of the season, including Week 12's win over Tampa Bay, with a lot of those same linemen (albeit in different positions) and they did not look anywhere near as bad as they did last night. Should we have expected the Kansas City offensive line injuries to have some impact? Yes. Enough to make the game a 31-9 blowout? I don't think so. There was also Patrick Mahomes' turf toe, although given how much he scrambled around behind the line of scrimmage and the accuracy of his passes that bounced off his receivers' face masks, I don't think the turf toe was really hampering Mahomes too much.

Nonetheless, despite these circumstances, I think this game is a data point in favor of DVOA and, more old school, a data point in favor of point differential as a predictive tool. Someone suggested to me on Twitter that it doesn't make sense to learn a lesson from one game, which is just small sample size. But of course, the opposite is true. The small sample size isn't Tampa Bay beating Kansas City; the small sample size was Kansas City allegedly being the first team to make point differential not matter because they could "flip the switch." We have 35 years of ratings showing that teams with higher DVOA are more likely to beat teams with lower DVOA. We have even more years of point differentials showing us that the Pythagorean projection is telling us something about team quality.

As far as ratings and stats, I think the biggest story was not that Tampa Bay was better than Kansas City during the regular season, but that this was a year with a lot of good teams and no dominant team. Despite all the people, including analytics people, who insisted that Kansas City was "inevitable," no team was inevitable. In that way, it was the perfect year for a wild-card team to win the Super Bowl. It was the perfect year for coaching to matter -- not in-game decision making, which we talk about around here a lot, but game planning and the decisions Tampa Bay's coaches made to play against type in ways that flustered the Chiefs and helped win a championship.

Thanks again to everyone for a great 18th season at Football Outsiders. We'll start our offseason coverage soon along with announcing the winners of the Football Outsiders reader awards next week. Publication of 1983 and 1984 DVOA is coming sometime in February or early March.

Normally, we publish DVOA and Quick Reads for the Super Bowl together in one post. Today we did them separately. You'll find Quick Reads with individual Super Bowl stats here.


79 comments, Last at 14 Feb 2021, 9:54pm

1 As someone who leads

a team of many analysts I identify with your scenario


More times than I can count some head of another dept has said my groups research or forecast is BS.  And yet after decades I am the head of Supply Chain and the “haters” are gone.  

So keep the faith in your work.  You have a process which you keep working on and has been stress tested.  You will be in the range of “directionally correct” more often than not 


I work to avoid using words like “right” or “wrong”. FWIW

3 The individual result or…

The individual result or prediction may be wrong or may be right. That's not what matters and isn't within one's control. What is possible to control is the process by which you develop hypotheses, evaluate them with available data, and come to conclusions. Do well on those fronts, self-reflect on both errors and successes, adapt accordingly, and you'll be alright in the end.

5 Agree on the latter point but eventually being

considered 'fairly accurate' matters.  You can have all the explanations in the world as to why something was off relative to the real world and at some point those who make the business decisions will find someone where 'explanations' are not a recurring engagement

7 Yes, but that's not…

Yes, but that's not an individual result that's a lot of individual results. If you consistently fail at doing your job that is a different thing than being wrong once. A pattern of failure is more likely to mean your process is off and hasn't been corrected well enough over time to get better; the adaptation step is a necessary inclusion. An individual result can mean many things; could mean process is bad but could also be random chance, the important thing is to identify that and correct where possible.

2 2002 vs 2020 Bucs?

I think I would still lean to the 2020 Bucs with their higher SRS due to their offense. Their defense was also good. The 02 Bucs were at defense better but their offense wasn't just worse but a legit negative. 

10 The 2002 team was a bit of…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

The 2002 team was a bit of an outlier for the Bucs, because it actually was a decent offense, and most years in that era it wasn't.  They weren't flashy, but they were efficient and avoided mistakes, and Brad Johnson had a genuinely good year.  Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell were good at WR and Pittman and Alstott were just good enough to burn clock and keep the ball.  People traditionally seem to underestimate that offense; they weren't great, but they didn't need to be, because that's one of the all-time great defenses.

18 The Bucs defense was just…

Its hard to overstate the 2002 Bucs defense. Even calling it historically awesome is selling it short. Its in the convo of the best pass defense of all time and one of the few defenses I would trust to go out there and shut down any kind of passing offense. Gobs of talent everywhere. I think I'd favor them over this Bucs iteration. 

25 Maybe individually

-3.5% offensive DVOA (-4.2% weighted, -3.9% unadjusted total VOA) and -1 OSRS aren't pretty. 

They did have a good ST but I think the rules nowadays would make things a little harder for them in that phase. 

4 Believe in your work Aaron it is great!!

As a strong believer in DVOA I was disappointed in the "flip the switch" theory.  I am very thankful of this article which explains why you did it.  

I have written many posts during the past two years, none was critical of your work, until this week.  I felt blasted by one of my fellow fan posters on this site, as if I was being a fool for pointing out that TB had a better DVOA, better weighted DVOA, and was the home team (slight advantage for 2020), yet was the underdog by Football Outsiders Odds.

I have said on a number of occasions that one of the great things about DVOA and Football Outsiders is the striving for constant improvement.  Last year I mentioned that scrambles should be pass plays and you had said that you already realized this and would make the change in the offseason and you did.  This year you mentioned that you would look at offensive DVOA in the offseason and possibly weigh it more as you believe that it is more predictive than defensive or special teams DVOA.  But clearly you will study it, at this point it is just a theory.  I believe in the theory, but then I see the playoffs played with totally different rules.  I do not recall a single illegal contact penalty, and until yesterday there were few defensive PI, and defensive holding calls.  How can this be put in the analysis?  Or of course is my theory "the refereeing changes in the playoffs" incorrect?

As someone that strongly believes in your analytics, I guess the key is that to make any changes, they must be studied when you have time, as in the offseason.  The "flip the switch" theory was changing on the fly, it was subjective, against your DVOA formula, and against the more simple, yet predictive Pythagorean numbers.  

Finally, why do you think that DVOA overstated the power of the Saints?  I do not believe this at all. My explanation is that Drew Brees simply had an awful game and that in addition to his 3 INT's the Saints had a lost fumble after a reception.  The only reason that I can think of that the Saints may have been overrated a bit by DVOA was the Denver game, but again, how can an adjustment be made on the fly for a unique game in a unique season created by COVID?  Any adjustment would have been arbitrary and as you mentioned, if you took the game out completely, it would not have amounted to a tremendous downgrade of the Saints DVOA.

Your humbleness is wonderful, I am glad that you did not use the argument that DVOA was the best as it had the Chiefs with the worst odds of winning the Super Bowl of any analytic site.  One of your colleagues that I respect and I assume that you do too (and I will not name here) used an argument such as this when his analytic prediction was the best, yet way off (making it the least worst), with regards to an issue that had nothing to do with football.  I assume that you know what I mean.

Thanks for a great site, and for an occasional comment on my posts, it is greatly appreciated.

Thanks also to all of the fellow fans who post in the comments section, I feel that I have a group of friends here from all around the country that give different perspectives, and whether I agree with you or disagree, the back and forth is respectfully and informative.  


24 " I felt blasted by one of…

" I felt blasted by one of my fellow fan posters on this site"

I remember the post you are referring to. I recognize the person who made that comment and in general I respect that fan's opinion. I was still dismayed that it happened and I think the forums have really taken a turn for the worst in terms of veering way off from polite discourse. 

The day FO begins to mirror a reddit post will be a sad day indeed. 

29 One apology received and the Josh Allen comparison

I actually received two somewhat harsh responses, and one reader apologized and based upon the time stamp it was before you posted your comment here.

So here is a shout out to you Joseph, I am always willing to agree to disagree when my argument is rejected by anyone, or correct my statement when I am shown to be incorrect.  I post on this site for fun. 

You can go back to Super Bowl LV preview, to see the apology.  I do credit Joseph with being the first that I have seen to apologize on this site.

Please scroll down to my post number 22, I am interested in your viewpoint now that the season is over.  

Also, great minds think alike, I am not sure that you noticed my post during the in game thread, but almost simultaneously we posted a comparison of Mahomes play yesterday to Josh Allen, you taking the last week Josh Allen, while I took the 2018-2019 Josh Allen



34 FO is well known...

One of my betting sites actually referenced FO, but still picked the Bucs to beat the Chiefs despite your poor prediction.

If there's any winner in all of this, it's DVOA!

The numbers said Tampa was playing better than KC and that was certainly the case.

I won big thanks to some common sense, injury reports and intuition.  I didn't even use DVOA.

This was my first time betting on live sports and I won $1800.


38 jheidelberg is correct

I must concur, in the strongest way , with jheidelberg about the Saints that (a still recovering from a surprisingly extensive set of injuries for a thrower) Brees picked a very bad time to have his worst game in 3 seasons, and the Cooks fumble was a black hole for them...after the fumble they were almost non-existent. Until that point my NFL observing crew had the Saints finishing out that game in a methodical, deliberate fashion to a win. 

6 It's kind of funny to square…

It's kind of funny to square this in my mind.

Brady with no good receivers last year looked quite bad toward the end of the year. Maybe even horrible. So he goes to Tampa, has a great year and we can conclude that receivers do matter.

But then we see Jameis with roughly the same supporting cast, if not better since he got a full year of health out of them and the Bucs were a sloppy 7-9 team. So receivers don't matter?

If anything, the results from this experiment suggests Jameis Winston is closer to Blaine Gabbert as a QB than he is to some kind of all time Hall of famer. 

8 Brady’s DYAR and DVOA last…

Brady’s DYAR and DVOA last year were not bad. Just average.

I guess we should forgive you for not knowing just how bad that receiving corps was, and thus thinking that Brady was finally getting too old to be anything but average or worse. But those of us who watched that team could see how bad those receivers were. Brady was pretty much the only functional piece on that squad.

Meanwhile, Winston may be getting a bum rap. Sure, he’s an interception machine. But he was playing in a high interception system, too. Move him to somewhere without the “no risk it, no biscuit” mentality, and his yards and interceptions both go down. Depending on how far down for each, he could be an ok starter somewhere.

11 I did not watch the Patriots…

I did not watch the Patriots much last year. The few times I saw them I was more focused on their defense. I will say, bad receivers can even make the QB look terrible. I saw him missing throws and showing poor pocket awareness, especially in that playoff game. 

Its a reminder that poor receivers show up in more ways than drops. We still have no real way of quantifying or separating receivers and QB. That means we also don't know just how much Brady is benefitting from the receivers he has, though I am happy to conceded hes light years ahead of Jameis even at 43. 

14 I think the underlying…

I think the underlying relationship isn't hard... it's something along the lines of (Pass offense) = f(min(QB play, WR play)), not along the lines of (Pass Offense) = f(QB play + WR play) or f(QB play * WR play).

So you can't separate them into saying a pass offense is X% the QB and Y% the WR's... 

Jamies is sloppy... so even with good WR's you get a sloppy offense.  Brady is not sloppy, so with good WRs you get a good offense.

NE's receivers were (and are) terrible... so with those WR's and Brady, you got a bad offense. With those WR's and Cam, you got a bad offense.  

What it means is that if an offense is amazing, it means that BOTH the receivers and the QB have to be, at a minimum, very good.  Buy if an offense is terrible, you don't have information as to whether it was the QB was bad, the receivers are bad, or both.

Well, except for last night.  Mahomes was amazing and his receivers... not so much.

16 Yah the interesting question…

The relationship isn't hard to understand, but quantifying it is. When making assessments about the so called hierarchy of players, we are intrinsically trying to piece together percentages. Is that a completely impossible task? I don't think it is but it definitely eludes us today. 

The next interesting question becomes - what is Cam Newton? His stats are pretty terrible but the receiving core such as it is makes it hard to get your mind around.

Much like your theory that Great Offense suggests the qb and receivers are both probably pretty good, I think a truly abysmal offense to me implies the QB and the receivers are both bad. That means Cam is probably a bad qb at this point irrespective of the receiving core. 

26  I do wonder if Mahomes was…

 I do wonder if Mahomes was actually amazing as people say. No doubt, he made some amazing throws (mostly incomplete, but at least as catchable as a well thrown Hail Mary) from amazing angles after amazing panicky scrambles.

But how much of those panicky scrambles are on him, I wonder? Was holding the ball that long really the best way to deal with pressure? Would he have done better to read the pressure, keep someone in to help deal with it, and get the ball out quickly? Could he have helped his line by moving within the pocket to put them in better positions rather than bailing early as he did so often? Maybe no. But I’ve seen Brady find the one safe spot in a chaotic shifting “pocket” so many times, that I know a QB can help his line that way.

In the end, his amazing play mostly netted a handful or two of Hail Mary level throws, or throws that needed circus catches to stay in bounds, or both. The same number of quick, well targeted, shorter passes might have produced more results, albeit fewer highlights.

27 For once, you and I are…

For once, you and I are in agreement on a topic and we appear to be in the minority. Brady dealt with some version of this in the 2015 AFC Championship game. And while objectively he didn't play well that day so maybe the topic is moot, he didnt turn an ugly situation into a nightmarish one; ie - they led to either incompletions or tackles for short yardage versus giant sacks or desperation heaves that could easily also get intercepted like the tip drill one at the end of the game. 

28 Very much disagree that they…

Very much disagree that they only netted Hail Mary throws or required circus catches. Some of them merely required slightly above average performance by an NFL receiver, and if they had been caught, we would have had a competitive game in the 4th quarter. Chiefs receivers weren't as bad as the Chiefs o-linemen, but they were bad.

30 I just rewatched the 11…

I just rewatched the 11 minute NFCCG highlights that the NFL puts out for all games on YouTube and I think you get an example from Rodgers of what might have been doable. Rodgers was playing without either preferred starting tackle as well and he was sacked several times and there was a lot of pressure. But there are plenty of times where he stepped up into the pressure coming from the middle to avoid the faster pressure from the outside and made the short throw.

You also see the TB defense still effective at many things and making catches harder. The Packers made it a 28 - 23 game after being down 28 - 10 in the third. Very similar situations. The Packers also didn't panic they stuck with the game plan that helped Rodgers deal with the pressure, they ran, they made short quick passes. They attacked the middle when they could. They only took shots when they were cleaner.

Their o-line was better than KC, yes, but it was still overmatched. But when Rodgers wasn't sacked and did scramble he almost always ran forward then outside, even with pressure coming down the middle. Maholmes didn't. 

That's what I think you and slot hook are really getting at. Turning your back to all or even part of the defense means you have to reacquire the positions of everyone when you look there again, which makes it all even harder. Better scrambling is a skill a QB can learn, you have to learn to run with torso twisted to keep vision and force yourself to run towards danger at times. Rodgers has gotten better at it though he still holds the ball too long at times. 

TB clearly played better than GB, but if you really watch the game it's clear GB could have won. That is not a feeling I had with KC and I do wonder if Mahomes, who I love to watch, had tried more short plays instead of deep shots what would have happened. In theory KC should have been able to make the game feel as close as the GB game was.

Though as I posted elsewhere, perhaps the line really was completely broken and what we got was the best you can expect when mismatches are that big.

75 This is the best analysis I…

This is the best analysis I've seen so far that describes the very fundamental problem with the Chiefs approach, but mostly Mahomes approach to the game. Mahomes chose to turn and run, not because that was his only option, but because he expected to be able to complete big passes off his scrambles. And the more the Chiefs fell behind in the game, the more incentivized he felt to do that. Mahomes didn't play a good game; he played a terrible game, and deserves the brunt of the blame for the loss. Making a few acrobatic throws when the game was effectively over already is no great credit to Mahomes, and it baffles me that people see it that way. Most QBs in the league in his position would have played better; he took a high risk/high reward approach vs. a 2-deep zone and lost his gamble every time. 

32 The QB's affect on line play…

The QB's affect on line play through protection calls and moving the right place given the protection called is something that is really hard to understand as fans. Coaches can suss it out I'm sure, but as fans we just don't have the tools to do so since we don't really know what's called and what adjustments are made. But there's a reason all time greats like Brady and Peyton have still been able to have some level of success even in games where their OLines are clearly badly overmatched. They are just always getting their line in protections where they at least have a chance. I think this game showed Mahomes to be the super freak best possible version of Josh Allen and not an all time great in those ways. But he's still really young and Peyton didn't shine at that kind of stuff until he was older so there's still plenty of time, who knows? Or maybe that's totally the wrong narrative and Mahomes is actually good at that stuff, the Bucs just had a great plan that fooled him along with everyone else. Like I said, it's nearly impossible to know as fans.

44 I agree. I believe Mahomes…

I agree. I believe Mahomes played really good. Done some amazing things. One of the best throws I have ever seen. But I wonder if a more experienced QB (Brady for example) would have dumped off to RB in the middle for 5 years every passing play and had more success.

It is surprising to me there were very few screen passes and RB dump offs. 


45 Cam / Brady

I'm a Pats fan that watched a lot of their 2019 film and agree with the comments on Brady's receivers getting zero separation last year.  So 2020 was the same group back minus a functioning Edelman most of the time and adding Byrd in place of him.  In one word: worse.  The worst in the NFL, perhaps?

It's true that Cam looked almost indescribably bad at times this year BUT 1) He was never a pretty thrower of the ball and 2) He had very little time to learn the Pats' offense (as a very late FA signing) and little time with his new teammates before the year.

These facts, combined with the way Bill treated him (EXTREMELY respectfully by his standards / not benching him after they were eliminated to see what they had in Stidham) AND the super tight veteran QB market .AND finally the fact that Cam looked athletic and healthy this year despite of his lack of success suggests to me that .....

Against the predictions of the media, and the wishes of my Pats fan friends, they will probably run Cam back out there in 2021.  I think it's a good idea if they can get him cheap (with an option for at least one more year) as that would leave them with a lot of FA spending $ in a year when this should offer great value.   






17 Brady thrives on success

If his team isn't winning, he can start to go on "tilt", as poker players say.  He can start to make bad decisions, and that was part of what happened in 2019.  In 2020, not only did he have a much better receiving corps, he also played better, especially down the stretch.  It seemed to me that, early in the season, Brady and Arians were in a battle of wills about who was going to be really in charge of the offense.  By the end of the season, Arians was conceding more control to Brady and the Bucs' offense looked a lot better. 

The one thing Brady does that almost nobody else can do is exude an absurd level of confidence and get his team to perform.  "Knows how to win" sounds like a cliche, but when it comes to Tom Brady and a few other athletes in other sports (Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and (ugh) Derek Jeter), I think they have it. 

Mind you, I think Mahomes has this spirit, too.  He just didn't have blockers yesterday.  He'll be back.

49 Young Ricky...

Please don't ever put LeBron in the same sentence as Brady.


Brady, Jordan, Gretzky, Baby Ruth.  Those are the four GOATS of each respective sport.  I think Jordan and Brady are extremely similar.  They're killers in their sports.

LeBron is more like Wilt Chamberlain.  Great physical tools, but horrible in clutch situation and more of a stats padder/longevity type player.

Also, yes Jeter was a winner but he was never the best SS in MLB.  Alex Rodriguez was always better.


54 "LeBron is more like Wilt…

In reply to by DIVISION

"LeBron is more like Wilt Chamberlain.  Great physical tools, but horrible in clutch situation and more of a stats padder/longevity type player."

How can people continue to believe this and I am as far from a Lebron fan as you can imagine. I hate his hypocrisy and view him as a total mercenary. That doesn't change the fact that the man is the GOAT at Basketball. No one, absolutely none, have sustained a peak as long as he has. None

The dude has 4 rings and has been to an endless string of finals. If he's a horrible clutch player, how the hell did he win against the 73 win warriors? 

59 Seriously, I don’t…

Seriously, I don’t understand the Lebron hate either. Is it just because he did “The Decision” when he was barely old enough to drink? Does that erase his entire career? Thank god that no one has ever viewed me for my entire life through the lens of the worst young, dumb decision that I ever made. 

I do view Jordan as the GOAT, but it’s laughable to compare Lebron to Wilt. Jordan had a superior roster for most of his career. We like to forget the first half of Jordan’s career where he was great individually but couldn’t get his team over the hump - but when debating GOAT status, we shouldn’t focus on half of a career. Outside of Jordan and Lebron, there is no one worthy of a single second of comparison. 

60 Here's why, Slot Hooker.

Having grown up with Jordan, then Kobe I don't think LeBron has done anything individually that can top what they have done.  Neither jumped teams to win Championships, that is to say they both were willing to ride out the rough years in order to win with their team.

LeBron is not the guy I want taking last shots because he strikes me as a beta-male type of guy who is not up to the moment.

Jordan and Kobe are the guys who take that last shot without hesitation.  They aren't passing the ball out of deference to anyone.

I don't know your age, but as someone from Gen-X who has watched sports since the early 90's, only Kobe Bryant can match Jordan in terms of the dominance and respect they get from everyone. 

The media has been pushing this LeBron narrative, but fans who actually watch the games don't really see it the same way. 

Younger people may champion LeBron, but I've seen the Jordan years and I've seen what LeBron has done.  LeBron is no Jordan, not even close.


63 I think Lebron rode out the…

I think Lebron rode out the cavaliers for 7 years to allow them time to build around him. They put together 19 games of wins without him after those years. I remember year after year seeing the decisions that Cleveland was making and thinking “they don’t care about winning - they just want to cash in on Lebron jerseys.” They only started making decisions that made it look like they wanted to win after Lebron forced them into it by leaving. 
As far as taking shots at the end of the game, Jordan had 9 buzzer beaters in his career, Kobe 8, and Lebron 7. It’s harder to analyze game winning shots (or at least I’m not as confident in my research), happy to hear anything on that. Everything I have found as well as my viewing experience is that Lebron is very very good in this area, on par with Jordan. 
Relative to Kobe, I hear everything you’re saying from a subjective standpoint. However, this is a stats website. Kobe put up crazy raw numbers while making 5% fewer of his shots than Lebron or Jordan. His late game percentages were equally off from the other two. His highlight reel comes from volume, not effectiveness (I’m nitpicking in the GOAT discussion here). In my opinion, the only way to include Kobe in this discussion is to say “look only at championship rings” - but I just don’t see that argument holding water on a stats website. 
I must say though, this is a little fun to debate on a football stats website. Thanks for the change up! 

66 I don't dive into advanced…

I don't dive into advanced basketball statistical arcana, but journalists I respect have basically concluded - Jordan and Lebron is a discussion, Kobe is not.

Kobe has some singular moments that everyone remembers plus a cult following with respect to his personality, which has only grown since his tragic passing. But Lebron blows him away in just about every measure imaginable. Even the rings argument is down to a difference of 1 so I'm not sure even that edge matters anymore.

And this argument that Jordan didn't pass is ridiculous. Was the Steve Kerr shot not a famous three pointer???



77 Beta-male

This entire argument is silly.  For one, it was completely shoehorned in on an entirely irrelevant topic.  Just seeing the name Lebron was enough to trigger you into an unrelated, unproveable NBA GOAT debate.  For another, Lebron James has an obvious case for GOAT in his league and anybody who dismisses his case outright is showcasing either trolling or delusion (Same would be true of MJ if they did the same).  

For another, the argument is relying on statements about him being "beta-male" which firstly doesn't exist and which if it did exist, is kind of ludicrous for him as a person as he's done enough to take leadership roles on numerous teams many of which had great success with him being unambiguously the best player on the team and has shown a willingness to self-advocate and not just accept whatever role is given to him.  

Another thing that's very silly is the notion that the only measure of a great basketball player is whether you'd want them to "take the last shot".  That's obviously not the only measure of skill that can lead to a greater chance at winning in the regular season or the post season.  

12 Don't be too hard on yourself.

I saw a different analytics site and I think 13 out of 15 picked the Chiefs to win (or a very similar percentage) and all 15 had the Chiefs scoring at least 27 points.

19 Congrats FO. A true triumph for DVOA

Congrats to Football Outsiders.  This Bucs playoff run really proved the worth of DVOA as a metric.  I'll admit it, when you had Tampa Bay rated #1 in DVOA earlier in the season and they were losing games, I was beginning to question the validity of the DVOA numbers you were cranking out.  Well, you were right all along.  I'll never question you again.

20 Impressive Humility

As someone with a lot more cash in his pocket today than yesterday, I thank you, Aaron, for your impressive humility.  Obviously you are not a politician.  I said last week in my only post that I was puzzled by your apparent deference to the "flip the switch" theory.  Granted, the Super Bowl was going to be a test of various inferences about the Chiefs and about DVOA rankings.  Not definitive because all "tests" would need repeated replications and that could take years given the rarity of how the Chiefs performed this year.  One thing we seem to know, as you say, is that point differential matters.  If I'm remembering correctly, 22 of the last 29 Super Bowls now have been won by the team with the most wins by 14 or more points.  Kudos to the Buccaneers coaching staff to "read" the data and know they likely couldn't win unless they reversed the course of their offensive and defensive strategy.  During the week in advance of the Super Bowl I was thinking how much better the Buccaneers roster of 53 was than KC.  Better offensive and defensive line; better linebackers; better secondary.  Mahomes was going to have to make up for a great number of deficiencies, especially with the obvious superiority of Tampa's defensive front 7.  He couldn't not only because Tampa's players executed the game plan so well, but because Mahomes is so naturally aggressive, constantly tempted to make the big play downfield.  Even in a quarterback driven league, team trumps individual player. Especially true when the team exhibits superiors coaching.

50 Curious.

Did you make prop bets?

What were your bets and how much money did you put down and win?




Props on DVOA accurately noticing just how good the Bucs are.  I don't think it's really fair to describe the Chiefs' failures as a validation of their uninspiring 14-2 season, though.  They were hurt by injuries that made it much harder on their offense.  If we'd see them at full strength, the Super Bowl would likely have been very different.  Certainly we would not have seen as much penetration into the Chiefs' backfield as we did yesterday.  

I was surprised more pre-game coverage didn't discuss the possible impact of the Eric Fisher injury.  There is an article at 538 that fairly notes just how many injuries the Chiefs' line had (miissing Osmele and Schwartz as well as Fisher) but skims over just how bad that might be for KC.  


33 Yeah that's the thing. There…

In reply to by RickD

Yeah that's the thing. There's relatively few people in the world that can play offensive tackle at even a replacement level NFL level. It's not like running back where there's a hundred guys just barely out of the league that you could call. Most teams have second stringers that are still pretty solid. If just the starter goes down, you still have a chance. But once you start talking about 3rd string tackles you are really mostly talking about people that really can't play at an NFL level. Guys on practice squads with size and potential, but not nearly enough technique yet to really compete. The same thing derailed the Colts from having any real shot in the postseason this year as well. 

37 The way the pandemic…

The way the pandemic affected the offseason, training camp, and roster flexibility makes the Bucs o-line performance all the more impressive. My guess is that really good injury luck played a large role as well.

40 Injury luck

To be honest, injury luck is probably the most overlooked performance factor in the NFL. It's not completely ignored by any stretch, but it's pretty much impossible to quantify beyond games missed. It's really hard to tell how much of an impact any given injury will have (outside of QBs and CBs) because of much effort coaches make in adjusting tactics to mask deficiencies.

58 For the same reason, I think…

For the same reason, I think you could make an argument that the NFCCG might have played out differently if David Bakhtiari hadn't gotten hurt. Billy Turner and Rick Wagner got run over by TB's edge rushers, and those are both guys who one might describe as "pretty solid" generally speaking (Turner still would have played if Bakhtiari was healthy, but it would've been at RT, where he has more experience and has been better).

Tampa Bay was fortunate to get to play two offenses in a row missing their best pass protectors, and they were absolutely built to exploit that particular kind of weakness. That's not to imply anything was undeserved about their win - this is just simply how things usually go in the NFL.

22 Response to theslothook week 17 post

Your post:

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. 

My response:

I am going to try what you said to do.

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

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.


TB was the best team this year and I am not going to write a list of the top 50 teams in the Super Bowl Era, but I think that they would miss, but would be in the top 75.

If you replayed the playoffs 10 different times, the champions would be TB, GB, NO, BUF, and likely 1 other team most likely the Ravens or Seattle (already it sounds like Tampa should not make the top 75 of all time).

The Tampa Bay run was special in that it is hard to say, "They would not have won that game were it not for that one play."  The only one play that I can point to that may have turned a game was the last play of the half in GB.

But now, am I overrating Tampa Bay?  And isn't that the point of your post?

42 Responded in audibles. Tldr …

Responded in audibles.

Tldr - playoffs are random events. Inject injuries and inconsistency in terms of how the game is called and you are injecting even more noise. 

That's why I recoil against people who try to draw too much meaning from one postseason. Tom Brady having 7 rings at least informs us that he's not half a bad player. But if he had been awful in this SB or been tremendous, it shouldn't hugely color our opinion of him one way or the other. Or the team.


65 Thanks, I read your response in audibles

I totally agree, the playoffs are a random event, the Colts almost beat Buffalo and that would have changed the entire Buffalo narrative, we would have seen a Colts-Chiefs matchup and a Ravens-Browns matchup for the right to compete for the AFC title.

On the other side, the closest competitor to Tampa Bay was GB by a narrow margin as compared with the WFT lead by who, Heinicke?   If somehow the WFT wins, and that was hardly an impossible event, the talk would be very different.

The randomness of the playoffs is why I think that Brady with 7 Super Bowl wins and 10 Super Bowl appearances is a once in 300 years event.

I am also very against the new 7 team playoff format.  The Colts were a very formidable 7th team, but I think that we will be seeing a Bears-like team in the playoffs almost every year. We have always had the shot of a bad/mediocre division winner, so this year we had both WFT and the Bears.  Many times that mediocre last entrant will knock off a team that had an excellent season to earn the number 2 seed.  The number 2 seed goes from having a bye, to having a fight on their hands.

My concern is also for the regular season.  I believe that there will be too many meaningless games at the end of the season for the top teams.  Pittsburgh did not care in week 17, whereas if the bye were available they would have given it a shot.  That combined with a 17th game, will lead to the opportunity for a lot of teams to rest players one of the last two weeks.  What in theory could be late, great, end of season matchups will become duds. The league is trading the best teams playing crucial games in the last few weeks, for more teams, most of whom are mediocre, playing important games.


23 Results outside the normal range

I'm still posting this because maybe someone will actually grok what in know I'm failing to say. It's frustrating not being able to verbalize the concept I'm tickling at.

My stats is rusty in the specifics but I'm still OK in the conceptual. That is in part because my job is mostly preparing data so that it can be read and analyzed by the really good statisticians, something that people don't always realize the value of. It's why I was floored when I learned earlier this year that the move to an actual database hadn't happened yet for this site. When that does happen you guys might be surprised at some of the analysis you can do. I realize all the work that has been done recently to make tools that can deal with scattered and un prepared data has helped with those issues a lot too. Part of the reason for those tools and their value is because it's replacing or augmenting what people like me do (my career is not in jeopardy I just get to be more efficient at it), which is not always easy and I'm all for more accessible and analyzable data.

Anyway part of what I missed about the Bucs was the effect of speed. That defensive front 7 is so fast that if you are not sufficiently good enough then the results change drastically. Most NFL games and match-ups happen in a place where the results land in an expected range. It may be a wide range of results but you have enough data that you can be accurate about what will happen. It's very rare when a team or one specific unit can "break the game." Tampa could do that on defense when everything lined up and it's hard to put the proper value on that, because they weren't always in the range where they "broke things." What's the tipping point? What's the inflection point? 

It's not guts vs stomps thing either when using game results as the output. It's also not the input of a team without a QB generating a huge win. That is unexpected input but the output was likely expected for that input. 

This isn't right but what I keep seeing is a graph with a long nearly flat inflection point and then sharp up on one side and sharp down on the other. DVOA explains everything in the flat well, but not outside of it. Even the Jets and Jags tended to play within that long flat area where the inputs get the outputs you expect. I'd say GB was an example of a very good team that played within that range just on the other side from the Jets and Jags. Most of what those teams did fit expectations and where your inputs gave expected outputs. They were the edges of what you might expected but they were explicable. 

The TB defense has the ability though to move the results into the portion of the graph where that isn't the case. When you fail to meet a sufficient level of play against that team the results aren't just bad they are 5 times worse. The first GB game where they didn't have their WR#2, and they were starting CB#5, and they lost an All-Pro tackle during the game and had to shuffle the line, etc. GB was no longer able to meet the sufficient level of play where the inputs gave outputs that made sense. They simply couldn't respond. We saw the same thing in the Super Bowl. The KC line was so bad that plays no longer unfolded in a manner that we normally see.

The same was true to a lesser extent for the KC offense. If you weren't sufficiently good enough on every play against them the results aren't in that expected range and they destroyed you. The design of the Tampa offense feels a bit like it's trying to exploit that too. 3rd and 1, lets throw for 50 yards. If you have a QB and receivers that are just enough above the expected, or have the ability to occasionally play in those ranges, you break things. A 35 year old Brady probably breaks the game in that offense because he could more consistently make the plays. Though I do think the TB offense is one that can be quantified correctly as we do have enough data on that. 

It just seems hard to put a value on an aspect of a team that can reach those levels, especially when they can't always get into that range of play. We can valuate a bad offensive line. We can't valuate a broken offensive line against defense that is designed to take advantage of that. 

Part of the issue is in reality even the worst NFL player these days is an athlete at levels that normal people can not comprehend. They constantly do things at the edge of human possibilities and that is what football is a game of inches.

If a defender is 4 inches farther away from Mahomes because they were a fraction of a second slower in turning their foot to pursue him he ends up throwing the ball to hill just before he is parallel to the ground and instead of coming towards Hill's facemask at an angle he almost never sees it's much closer to expected and the defenders hand obscuring his vision for just an instant no longer results in the ball bouncing off his facemask but is a catch because his normal reactions and practiced movements work.

I loved that play in part because of what it demonstrated about how good the TB defense was and also how good Mahomes and Hill were. The defense was the reason for the drop. The skill of Mahomes and Hill is the reason that a drop was even a possibility. I contend that without the defender getting his hand briefly in his eye line OR the ball coming in at a more usual trajectory that's a catch. Hill could adjust to the oddities of a ball coming from that low and just stopping it's upward arc at the top of Hills jump so is only just starting to come down if the defender hadn't gotten his hand in the way (or hadn't made him move 3 inches in a different direction to avoid his body, etc). Receivers jumping to make a catch are almost always doing so to catch a ball that has been falling for awhile. The angle of descent is different sure. Hill lept to catch a ball that was still rising when he lept though was coming back down when it hit the face mask. Without the defender there he clearly has the skill to adjust to that and catch it. He also has the skill to deal with a defender interfering with a clean catch if the ball is traveling in a more typical way.

So yes the defense did things to make that drop go from say a 15% chance to a 65% chance. Hill still had a good chance to catch that ball, but it was much less likely. If we could actually get the data to be able to capture stuff like and give it proper valuations....

This is the same thing with the "Redzone struggles" Rodgers had in the NFCCG. Sure Adams dropped a TD, but again, pressure meant Rodgers put that ball 6 - 18 inches away from where he really wanted and Adams had to twist to try and catch it. The out of the back of the endzone was the defenders forcing Adams to run deeper and Rodgers to throw higher than he wanted and Adams couldn't get his feet down. These weren't completely unforced errors. Just another reason I keep giving the Bucs defense a lot of credit. They aren't good enough all the time to break an offense, but they get there more frequently and they do the little things that take catches from 85 to 80 and then another little thing that takes that from 80 to 75 all the time. 

All defenses do this all the time, because in a vacuum NFL players are so good at what they do that they make it easy. This is part of the scouting problem too. That first round bust can do things 99.9% of other humans can't. But for some reason a defenders hand impairing their vision for .1 second takes the catch probability from 95% to 45%, whereas with the first round success that same thing takes it from 95% to 75%. But with every play in football being similar to, but likely completely unique from any other that is hard to judge. Seriously you try and catch a ball that is moving at 50 - 60 MPH even just playing catch that isn't easy. Some of that got ingrained in my head when I was working for the Bears during their training camp in the early 90's when I was in HS. Harbaugh threw me ball, not at full speed, but it was still hard enough that, while I caught it it still ended up bruising my chest. It was nothing at all like a ball from our all conference high school QB.

31 I feel like DVOA is great at…

I feel like DVOA is great at judging teams on the whole, but it doesn’t take into account specific matchups which can wildly change results. That’s not a dig on DVOA, but simply one very difficult to analyze niche. This is why data is amazing, but isn’t the only thing to consider.
It feels like the SB basically came down to that niche. Because of a lack of depth on the offensive line, particularly at tackle, and due to injury and opt outs, KC was susceptible to a team with a great front 7. Under that specific strength, they broke.

Honestly the game reminded me of the NFC championship game 4th quarter. The Packers were really good at running and the short game, which cancelled that strength of the Bucs for 3+ quarters. The second that the Packers stopped running because they were behind (and prematurely thought that they needed to press), the exact same domination by the Bucs defense started. We just saw it for 4 quarters instead of 1 with KC. KC tried to run and do short passes for a little while, but they just weren’t successful enough to slow that rush down. 

35 Dropped Dead

I've watched the SB once and then another condensed version and I'm curious as to the number of outright drops that can be laid on the KC receivers. Certainly there were some - Kelce had one that was truly horrendous - but on many other plays, the KC receivers were really being challenged by Tampa's d-backs. It seemed like they were almost always in good position and often had a hand swatting at the ball right when it arrived. Those db's were fast and very disruptive.

I'd suggest that the amount of scrambling Mahomes did might have made it harder for the receivers to make catches - different pace on the ball, receivers forced to break off routes in unfamiliar positions - but that's already something they must be pretty used to by now.

36 Thanks for the accurate ratings

Just to say thanks for your ratings showing the Bucs as a good team. I managed to back them at 11/1 a couple of weeks before the end of the regular season. Very happy & keep up the good work :)



74 payout

In reply to by DIVISION

only a small £10 @ 11/1 so £120 back. Should have bet on Gronk for first TD scorer @ 18/1 but tried to be clever and went for Brate instead. DOH!!!

39 I'm impressed at Aaron's …

I'm impressed at Aaron's (and FO writers' in general) readiness to question their methodology, even when they're ultimately proven to have had a good case. I like nothing less than sports writers / posters who sound boisterously sure of themselves, even – especially? – when it's just for show.

At the end of the regular season I noted that the AFC had won the majority of interconference games, but the NFC had gone 11-3 in blowouts (17+ points). Well, make that 12-3! FO is the only source I've found which has marked this strange imbalance between the conferences. Fifteen games seems like a small sample size, but it represents nearly one-quarter of interconference matchups. I think the overall W-L record was obscuring the gap between the conferences, and it's one reason why the Bucs were underestimated going into the Superbowl.

It's still nowhere near the AFC's 20-3 record in interconference blowouts in 2004. (And two of the NFC's three wins were by exactly 17 points!) But it will be interesting to see if the NFC's dominance continues into next year. The AFC looks to be loaded with good young QBs, whereas the NFC's star passers will turn 44 and 38.

52 Hmm.

In reply to by Raiderfan

Seattle hasn't fielded a SB contender for years.

Poor O-line play and some up and down play by RW has contributed to that.

I never considered Seattle as the best team in the NFC West last year.

I thought it would come down to Arizona or L.A. and it was proven right.

Arizona has a brighter future than Seattle.  I also don't think Stafford is a huge game-changer in L.A., but a good stop-gap.

56 I hope we don't see it, but…

In reply to by DIVISION

I hope we don't see it, but the Chiefs are at real risk of becoming the offensive version of the 2010s Seahawks: seemingly unstoppable at first, but never making the Superbowl again due to bad line play and serially unbalanced teams. 

61 I agree.

I have no dog in the fight, but I do think Mahomes may fall victim to the same fate that RW has.

The Chiefs are over the cap and will have to resign their FA's.  They will need to rebuild their O-line and improve their D-line.  

Don't forget the stacked AFC is not going to give-up and concede the conference to the Chiefs.

I don't think the Chiefs make it to the SB next year.  

62 Just the same way it was…

Just the same way it was premature to assume the Chiefs were some overwhelming juggernaut destined for 5+ titles in the next decade, it's also too early to conclude they are fatally flawed based on this one game. Their offensive struggles were primarily due to injury, so I see no reason that, with average health, they don't project to be the best offence in the league again next season. Anything around average defense then makes them Super Bowl favorites in my eyes. 

I do note that both Offensive Tackles who were missing from the Super Bowl (Fisher and Schwartz) are UFAs after next season, so there is an impending issue there. The Chiefs will need to address that in this years' draft one suspects (an extra O-Lineman might also have helped this year rather than the RB they selected at the end of round 1). 

Still, whilst Andy Reid is around, it's hard to see how the Chiefs don't continue to contend year in year out. They were doing so even before Mahomes arrived. 

46 Patrick Mahomes ran 497 yards before throws or sacks in SB

I know that Mahomes was not using this game to practice for the Olympic 400 meter (440 yard) dash.

He ran for 495 yards before throws or sacks in week 5 vs the Raiders.

There have been lots of opinions stated on a variety of forums on FO regarding Mahomes performance in the Super Bowl.

I am simply stating the facts.  I would love responses from any side, from Mahomes was great, through Mahomes was awful, from anywhere in between incorporating this information.  I would love for any people who want to post here to read an article about this topic after your post, just write your reaction to the game before an article biases your opinion.

47 The debate about Mahomes…

The debate about Mahomes game hinges on two philosophical questions.

First deals with the pass rush. Could Mahomes through faster decision making and better recognition mitigated some of the damage. And, was his deep scrambling a sign of him doing all he could or a sign of him doing too much?

The other question is how much value do you place on him launching these insane passes that almost got connected for touchdowns?

For me the second question is easy to answer. I don't really give him much credit for that because I don't think that kind of stuff is consistent every week. Maybe in a few years mahomes will change my mind when he makes a routine out of doing this every season, but I think most of the time those passes fall incomplete or get batted and picked.


The first question is much harder to answer, but I'm inclined to think all that yardage he ran for is a sign of him trying to do too much.

Roll it together and my initial reaction is that he didn't play well, but upon reflection I think it's really hard to fairly judge a quarterback when he's under siege like this. 


At the end of the day I'd rather just say Tampa Bay's defense played out of its mind and deserves all of the credit.

53 Simple.

Mahomes played poorly BECAUSE his O-line was playing back-ups plus the Bucs front seven is Top 3 NFL quality.

It was a perfect storm.  Even I didn't think it would be a blowout, but I did think the Bucs would win by 7-12.



55 You also have to factor play…

You also have to factor play-calling into that. I'm quite surprised the Chiefs' coaches didn't appear to mitigate further for their protection issues, given they were fully known coming into the game. But perhaps they believed their best chance was to have Mahomes scramble and improvise, rather than calling futile rushing/screen type plays - I certainly wouldn't have argued against that prior to the game. 

In spite of the issues, there were enough plays the Chiefs receivers could have made early in the game to have kept the scoreline relatively close, so that the ugly 4th quarter, with Mahomes running for his life on every play didn't necessarily materialize. But sometimes things spiral out of control and everybody looks bad, even for the very best offences. 

57 I think they made a risk…

I think they made a risk reward decision that the fastest way too come back was to hit a couple big plays and get it all back at once.

I don't fault this strategy considering how effective they are at it and 's they won last year's SB despite struggling early on offense.

Just this time those plays never materialized.

64 My thoughts on Mahomes and Brady

I thought Mahomes played a poor game, but really do not know if it were possible to play a good game with the support that he had.  The results, 9 points, thanks in part to excellent kicking by Butker, is a lost cause.  It is a rare day that you will hold Tampa Bay under 10 points, but this was a rare day for the KC offense.  The offensive line was brutal.  

On the other side we must credit the entire Tampa Bay defense, the pass rush and the coverage were fantastic. The rules make defense a lost art in this league and the Tampa Bay defense was A+ in this game.

I do not understand all the hate on Tom Brady this year, only Mahomes and Rodgers were definitively better during the regular season.  DVOA and DYAR put him in a virtual tie with Josh Allen for 3rd.  The guy is 43 years old; I understand that it is a team game and that Tampa Bay has a very good team, but I would have taken Brady over any QB this season not mentioned in this paragraph.  He was excellent, especially considering that he is age 43.  To ask Brady to throw downfield more than any QB in the league seemed an absurd strategy by Arians, but in that case Arians deserves the mad scientist of the year award.  The MVP of the Super Bowl was clearly the defense. 

The only thing that could have stopped this championship run was the second half of the GB game, but you have to give Tampa Bay credit for being up 28-10.  That is a difficult lead to lose in the second half and they won despite throwing 3 interceptions.

67  "but I would have taken…

 "but I would have taken Brady over any QB this season not mentioned in this paragraph"

Well, I think Deshawn Watson at this point is clearly better than Tom Brady at 43. Its also hard to overstate how awesome Brady's supporting cast is. Everything from offensive line to receivers were top notch. Of course Brady is the trigger man and we saw with this same supporting cast last year with dramatically worse results.


68 It can't be said enough. In…

It can't be said enough. In this rules environment, with  good receivers, if your offensive line provides good protection, if you don't score 30, your qb has played poorly. Now, what you get with Brady is a much better chance of getting good protection, since he's seen everything 9 times over, and bringing more than 4 is fraught with danger. But that's with a minimum level of blocking talent.

69 I thought there might be a DeShawn Watson taker here

My argument against Watson is that he is still a sack machine, and since analytics have shown us that sacks are more on the QB, than the line (for example, Mahomes in the Super Bowl), I am not a full buyer of Watson.  Just as you criticized Josh Allen for his performance against the Chiefs (as did I), Watson will kill many a drive with sacks.  He is a good QB, but if he leaves Houston, let the buyer beware, their are holes in his game, in addition to the hole that he will put in a team's wallet at a cap hit that averages nearly $40 million per year over the next 4 years.  The sacks and the dollars are two difficult holes to overcome.

QBR an advanced metric that FO shows in QB charts is not a big fan of Watson.

Clearly as Brady ages I would lean towards Watson.  Does Brady age?  I was speaking just of this past season.  

I do recall a prior post of yours that praised Watson. If I remember you do not feel that Houston's situation is as dire as I do, so that is one topic that we disagreed on this year, and possibly the only one.

So as a Colt's fan do you want them to trade for him?

70 Tom Brady to me is no longer…

Tom Brady to me is no longer an elite QB. The talent around him is immense and last year showed what you get putting Brady in an offense bereft of receivers. If you threw him on the Texans this year I think he performs worse than Watson did.

Watson taking a lot of sacks is why I don't think he's an elite QB, but his other skills are so superlative that he's right there. Maybe he gets there one day. But that player is very rare. I think, depending on your preferences, he's no worse than the 5th best Qb( I personally have him 4th behind Wilson, Mahomes, and Rodgers). 

Would I want him on the Colts? Of course though it depends on the price. Is the Texans situation bad? It's horrible right now. But in 3 years it can change - though nothing the Texans have done since offers much hope. In 3 years they may end up with two good first round picks and fresh cap space. But since this the Texans we are taking about - it may not matter.

71 Is the elite QB a dying breed?

We can agree to disagree on Watson.  There were absurd rumors here that Watson could be traded for Lamar Jackson and draft picks.  I say NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!  I believe that giving up the final two years of Lamar's rookie deal will close the ever shrinking window that the Ravens have for now of winning a championship.

I agree that Brady is no longer elite.  But I still give him the number 3 slot this year, at excellent or very good.  Looking at the degree of difficulty of the passes that he threw, with these results, and yes, I understand, Tampa Bay is loaded with talent.

We are coming off an era of Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers, and Roethlistberger.  I will call them the elite 5 of the 21st century.  What makes these guys especially elite is that they played so long at an elite, excellent, very good level, as they declined.

I have been wondering if the elite 5 of the 21st century have set an impossible standard for the younger generation of NFL QB's.  I would argue that Mahomes is the only of the younger generation of QB that is elite.  I have Wilson way up on the list, so that puts him second, and he is not exactly young at this point at age 32.  I will call him middle aged elite. 

Then we have the just retired Phillip Rivers, with great longevity for a very good QB.  With a new start, Matthew Stafford can take a shot at becoming the Phillip Rivers of the current crew.

As the game has changed and running is so much a part of the QB game now, can any of these guys (see below) compete for as long at a high level as the elite 5 of the 21st century?  How many of them will even be elite for a 10 year period, or ever elite at all?  I will state that Wilson is about to reach the 10 year threshold.  But look at the number of years that the elite 5 of the 21st century have played.  By their standard, the list below all has a long way to go.










Wentz (done or comeback?)

Tua (who has accomplished little as of yet)

Burrow (also, few accomplishments as of yet)

Lawrence (to be drafted)

Fields (to be drafted)

Other than the elite 5 of the 21st century, who are the best quarterbacks over the age of 30 in the NFL?  Other than Wilson?  If Wilson starts declining, no way can he touch the elite 5 of the 21st century.  No one else is elite over age 30 or am I missing someone?  I seem to have mentioned about 1/2 of the QB's in the NFL in this post. 





72 I personally never had…

I personally never had roethlisberger as an elite quarterback.

To me an elite player is a perennial All-Pro candidate. Big Ben had maybe a couple seasons where he was a candidate like that but not for the majority of his career. the same could be said of Philip Rivers who I think was a better quarterback in his prime though it's debatable and I might be in the minority

73 Roethlistberger

Yes, I can see having Ben off of the elite list and drawing the line at 4 and putting Ben in the Rivers category is fine with me.  I just see a changing of the guard in that I can not see 4 QB’s of the next men up being elite, nor 6 of them having careers as long of being elite/very good. 

We know how this works, Ben makes the Hall of Fame due to two championships, although clearly not as good as Rodgers and Brees. Lets put Brady and Manning in the category of super elite.  Brady can have his own category of ultimate elite, even you the Colts fan have admitted that Manning is second on this great list.

Despite advancement of football analytics, where we know not to dare talk about Eli Manning as elite, nor excellent, nor really really good (keep going down if you want), I believe that he will still get tremendous consideration if not make the Hall of Fame due to 2 championships and a lot of passing yards.  If I were a betting man I say he makes the Hall of Fame.  For me he is the number 1 candidate for the mediocre Hall of Fame.

I believe that Rivers with no Super Bowl appearances, will not make the Hall of Fame.

If you want a good laugh, try this article with link below, titled, "Revisiting the argument that Ravens QB Joe Flacco is "elite."  Revisiting implies that someone has visited there before, why was this visit ever made once, let alone again?




48 Aaron Schatz.

Never doubt the data.

Empirical analysis is what you do.

Stick to what you do.

Great website.

76 Guarantee you that Brady is…

Guarantee you that Brady is checking into a run against the looks the Bucs were giving the Chiefs if he was in Mahomes shoes. Mahomes failed to do that, why? If the answer is he lacks that ability within the offense that's a huge reason why Brady is a better QB right now, today, than Mahomes. If the answer is he chose not to because he preferred to take his chances scrambling to make big plays late in the down, same thing, proof that Mahomes is not nearly as elite as people somehow believe. 

We went through this years ago with Rodgers. People get enamored of a QBs strengths and make endless excuses for his failings. The Chiefs offense has not been elite this year by any metric; in fact it's worrying how much they have underperformed their scheme and talent advantages all year long, squeezing out very narrow victories with inconsistent and undisciplined play. Yet the narrative all year was the Chiefs were an unstoppable juggernaut on offense that could score at will and were just 'bored' but would 'flip the switch'. Seeming to do so in the Bills game just reinforced this false narrative. 

We cannot overlook the way sports media gets swept up in these imaginary narratives about players and teams and gets blinded to real analysis. Look at the garbage takes on the Ravens and especially Jackson--an extremely limited QB in a system ideally designed to emphasize his every strength--and how that fell apart this year. 

78 What's the point of checking into runs?

They were down. Running the clock further down probably isn't the best. 

Also the Chiefs offense wasn't elite? They were 2nd in offensive DVOA, 4.1% higher than TB. IDK how you can blame Rodgers/Mahomes/Lamar for their teams losing. Didn't play their best, maybe, but they're far down the list of why they didn't win. 

Bradys great but he took an L like this in the playoffs to an AFC team in certain a similar situation as Aaron pointed out at the time. 

79 I can see what you’re saying…

I can see what you’re saying especially related to the constant hyperbole. It’s like comparing a draft pick to a HOF guy - it’s just nonsense to talk about. Comparing Mahomes to 2011 Rodgers is pretty on point since the analysis was basically the same. Mahomes’ contract kicks in next year, so this may be the best roster he will ever play with. He’s also still very early in his career and will probably get better. He has shown plenty at this stage in his career and we can start talking HOF of GOAT in several years if he’s earned the right for that conversation. 
That said, if Mahomes had the TB roster he would have just won the super bowl. It’s a team game and TB proved it was way too good for KC (minus an offensive line). TB is better than KC at nearly every position except QB, TE, and WR. None of those advantages mattered when the KC O line got throttled. Putting all of the credit/blame on one guy out of 22 starters - just no.