Buffalo Bills Clear Favorites in 2022 DVOA Projections

Bills QB Josh Allen and RB Zack Moss
Bills QB Josh Allen and RB Zack Moss
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 1 - The Buffalo Bills are clear favorites in 2022 according to our DVOA projections and season simulation. The Bills are projected in the top five for offense, defense, and special teams in these new projections, updated from the season forecasts in Football Outsiders Almanac 2022.

For those new to our website, you can find an explanation of DVOA here. Note that there's a big difference between DVOA and projected DVOA. The DVOA ratings that appear on the website during the season are based on the actual play-by-play that happens during the season, with no future projection whatsoever. The numbers here are a forecast, with offense, defense, and special teams DVOA all projected separately using a system based on looking at trends for teams going back to 2009. Our system starts by considering the team's DVOA over the past three seasons and, on offense, a separate projection for the starting quarterback. Then we look at a number of other variables which suggest when a team will be better or worse than would otherwise be expected due to standard regression towards the mean. Factors include major offseason personnel changes, coaching experience, recent draft history, age and combined tenure on the offensive line, and certain players returning from injury (or, in the case of these updates, certain players getting injured in the preseason).

The numbers we are presenting here are exactly what the projection system spit out. As we say every year: "A few of them will look strange to you. A few of them look strange to us." As always, the offensive projections come out in a wider range than defensive projections because offense performance tends to be easier to predict (and more consistent from year to year) than defensive performance. If you are looking for subjective projections, Thursday we will be running our usual staff predictions article where we all talk about where we think the numbers are wrong.

We've also done a new full playoff odds report simulation based on these updated DVOA projections, and I've added the playoff odds and Super Bowl championship odds to the table below. At the start of a new season, our simulation is very conservative about the average number of wins and losses expected for each team. This year's simulation was even more conservative than usual, both in terms of DVOA and wins. I know, it looks very strange for us to have no team projected with 11 wins. Last year, we had five teams projected at 10.5 wins or higher. This year, we have two. Obviously, the NFL is going to have teams that are 11-6 or better, and it is going to have teams that are 6-11 or worse. It may seem like our simulation predicts half the league to be near .500, but we know that won't happen. We also use a "dynamic" playoff odds simulation. Each time it plays through the season, it adds 1.5% to the DVOA of every winner and subtracts 1.5% from the DVOA of every loser before moving on to the next week's games. This reflects the fact that DVOA projections are just estimates, and actual performance during the season gives us better knowledge of how good or bad teams really are.

Personnel changes aren't the only difference between this updated simulation and the one we did for Football Outsiders Almanac 2022. This is a smaller simulation which only uses one set of mean projected DVOA ratings, rather than using 1,000 different sets of ratings to represent that some teams have a wider range of probable performance quality than others. The smaller simulation comes out with a wider range of outcomes than the more complicated simulation we do for the book. In the book, the Bills led the NFL with 10.2 average wins. Now they are at 10.6.

Buffalo remains our clear No. 1 team overall going into the 2022 season but we have new No. 1 teams on both offense and defense. I've been saying on various promotional podcast appearances that the offensive line injuries in Tampa Bay didn't drop the Buccaneers below the Kansas City Chiefs in our offensive projections but once I did a final update on the offensive line variables, guess what? The offensive line injuries did, in fact, drop the Buccaneers into second place behind the Chiefs. On defense, a couple of small changes in projected starting lineups move the New Orleans Saints slightly lower than the Pittsburgh Steelers. Baltimore is the No. 1 projected special teams unit. (One other change I made from the book simulation: Kansas City has a higher special teams projection here based on the fact that the Chiefs, like Baltimore and New England, have been somewhat consistent on special teams ranking in the top five for seven of the last nine years since Dave Toub took over as special teams coordinator.)

There's this general conventional wisdom that the AFC is super difficult this year because of how good the best teams are, but our projections suggest that the opposite is true. The AFC is more difficult not because it has the best teams but because the NFC has the worst teams. The bottom dozen teams in the league by DVOA projection consist of the entire AFC South and eight NFC teams. Yes, we have the entire AFC West projected with more mean wins than the entire AFC South, but it is even worse in DVOA. Thanks to some personnel movement in the preseason, the entire rest of the AFC comes out ahead of the best team of the AFC South (Indianapolis). In the book, Arizona had the hardest projected schedule in the league. Now, Arizona is fourth but the other seven out of the top eight schedules in the league belong to AFC teams.

The odds of getting the No. 1 pick listed below (and listed on the playoff odds report page) do not incorporate traded picks. Projected division champions are colored in light yellow and projected wild-card teams are colored in light purple.

BUF 15.8% 1 10.6 9.7% 3 -4.8% 4 1.2% 4 1.1% 10 0.2% 74.7% 12.7%
BAL 10.7% 2 10.1 3.3% 12 -2.6% 8 4.8% 1 -0.1% 18 0.5% 66.8% 7.6%
LAR 10.4% 3 9.9 6.7% 6 -4.0% 5 -0.3% 16 1.1% 9 0.4% 68.3% 7.8%
LAC 9.7% 4 10.1 5.8% 8 -5.0% 3 -1.2% 27 -1.2% 25 0.5% 66.0% 7.0%
TB 9.1% 5 9.9 11.4% 2 1.3% 19 -1.0% 23 0.2% 15 0.5% 66.7% 7.0%
PHI 8.7% 6 10.6 7.1% 5 -2.9% 6 -1.3% 30 -4.5% 32 0.4% 74.3% 8.1%
KC 8.7% 7 9.5 11.6% 1 4.0% 30 1.1% 7 1.4% 8 0.7% 56.9% 5.1%
GB 7.4% 8 9.7 9.6% 4 0.6% 16 -1.5% 32 -0.4% 20 0.6% 62.6% 5.6%
NO 7.3% 9 9.5 1.2% 14 -5.5% 2 0.6% 9 1.0% 11 0.8% 60.7% 5.4%
MIN 5.3% 10 9.5 5.9% 7 1.3% 20 0.7% 8 -0.9% 23 0.7% 58.8% 4.3%
CIN 4.6% 11 8.8 5.2% 11 0.0% 15 -0.6% 18 2.4% 3 1.4% 46.9% 2.9%
DAL 4.2% 12 9.6 0.9% 16 -2.2% 9 1.1% 5 -2.7% 31 0.7% 60.3% 4.3%
LV 3.8% 13 8.9 5.2% 10 0.7% 17 -0.7% 21 0.8% 12 1.4% 46.9% 2.7%
NE 1.9% 14 8.5 1.1% 15 2.5% 26 3.3% 2 1.7% 7 2.0% 40.9% 2.1%
DEN 1.3% 15 8.6 5.3% 9 2.8% 29 -1.3% 25 0.4% 14 2.0% 41.1% 2.0%
CLE 0.1% 16 7.7 0.3% 17 -1.2% 12 -1.3% 31 2.0% 5 3.7% 30.1% 2.2%
PIT 0.1% 17 8.1 -4.6% 23 -5.8% 1 -1.1% 24 3.1% 1 2.7% 35.6% 1.5%
MIA -1.0% 18 7.9 2.3% 13 2.7% 27 -0.5% 17 2.5% 2 2.9% 33.0% 1.3%
SF -1.6% 19 8.3 -1.4% 19 -1.1% 13 -1.3% 29 -0.1% 19 2.7% 42.1% 1.7%
NYJ -2.9% 20 7.8 -6.7% 26 -2.6% 7 1.1% 6 1.7% 6 3.6% 29.9% 1.0%
ARI -4.6% 21 7.5 -0.7% 18 2.7% 28 -1.2% 26 2.2% 4 4.0% 30.1% 1.1%
IND -5.6% 22 7.9 -3.0% 21 2.4% 25 -0.2% 14 -2.0% 28 4.3% 37.9% 1.1%
DET -6.3% 23 7.8 -4.1% 22 2.3% 24 0.1% 12 -1.0% 24 4.1% 31.9% 0.8%
CHI -6.6% 24 7.6 -8.7% 28 -1.9% 10 0.3% 10 -0.4% 21 4.3% 29.9% 0.8%
HOU -7.4% 25 7.7 -8.3% 27 -0.6% 14 0.2% 11 -2.2% 29 5.5% 34.3% 0.8%
SEA -8.4% 26 7.3 -9.9% 30 1.0% 18 2.5% 3 0.1% 16 5.8% 26.0% 0.6%
ATL -8.5% 27 7.2 -2.6% 20 4.7% 31 -1.3% 28 0.7% 13 5.8% 25.6% 0.6%
JAX -8.7% 28 7.4 -6.1% 25 1.8% 22 -0.7% 20 -2.0% 27 5.6% 30.8% 0.7%
TEN -8.7% 29 7.2 -6.1% 24 1.8% 21 -0.8% 22 -0.4% 22 5.7% 28.2% 0.6%
WAS -10.2% 30 7.5 -11.3% 32 -1.4% 11 -0.2% 15 -2.6% 30 6.2% 27.1% 0.5%
CAR -10.6% 31 7.1 -8.7% 29 2.0% 23 0.1% 13 0.0% 17 7.2% 26.0% 0.4%
NYG -18.2% 32 6.2 -10.4% 31 7.1% 32 -0.7% 19 -2.0% 26 13.1% 13.2% 0.1%

In general, our forecast each year will "project" the playoffs to look very similar to the playoffs from the year before. (Obviously, we're projecting probabilities here rather than a clear dichotomy where certain teams are playoff teams and other teams are not.) This year, we are projecting five new playoff teams: Baltimore, Indianapolis, and the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFC, Minnesota and New Orleans in the NFC. (Denver was going to be a projected playoff team, but the Raiders have passed them slightly in this new simulation.) Remember that some of the teams at the bottom of our projections are going to surprise and make the playoffs. Last year, the teams at the bottom of our projections all came out at the bottom of the league, but we had Cincinnati 23rd and while they weren't that much higher in DVOA, of course they made it all the way to the Super Bowl.

Three teams have improved their projected mean DVOA by at least 2.5% since the simulation we ran for the book, and five teams have declined by at least 2.5%. Let's take a look at those teams, beginning with the four teams that have improved:

  • Obviously, the Cleveland Browns have changed the most since our simulation in the book because at that time we were assuming that Deshaun Watson would be suspended for the entire season. Watson will play six games this year and Cleveland's offensive DVOA projection is 11% higher with Watson at quarterback than Jacoby Brissett. With Watson, we project the Browns as a top-five offense. Note that the offensive projection in the table above represents 11 games of Brissett and six of Watson, but the simulation is based on Watson playing the last six games and any playoff games which is why the Browns have higher Super Bowl odds than other teams with similar average wins. The schedule strength ratings also account for the six games where playing Cleveland is a much harder game from Week 13 to Week 18 (Houston, New Orleans, Washington, and the three AFC North rivals).
  • The New York Jets improve because of changes on the offensive line, which may seem counterintuitive because Mechi Becton got hurt and was lost for the year. There's an offensive line variable based on age and experience on the offensive line, so going from Becton to Duane Brown is a big change. I admit, this may be a bit too much of a change, moving the Jets almost up to the Dolphins and out of the AFC East basement, but like I said above, sometimes our numbers have weird results and we just accept that. The Jets already have very good defensive and special teams projections; the former is based on all the new talent and talent returning from injury (Carl Lawson, Lamarcus Joyner) and is discussed further in Football Outsiders Almanac 2022.
  • Seattle improves because of Geno Smith replacing Drew Lock as the starting quarterback. Some of that is the fact that Smith has a higher "team-free quarterback projection" and part of it is that teams with poor projected quarterbacks do even worse if those quarterbacks are new to the team. Lock is and Smith is not.

And the five teams that declined significantly since the book:

  • Tennessee declined significantly on defense because of the ACL tear for Harold Landry. That was enough to drop them into a projected last place in a very close AFC South where we have every team with an average projection below .500.
  • Dallas declined on offense because of the injury to Tyron Smith.
  • Denver declined on offense because of the injury to Tim Patrick. Tim Patrick has been really good the last couple years! The personnel change variables for skill position players are based on DYAR and Tim Patrick had 190 receiving DYAR last year (20th) and 183 receiving DYAR the year before (22nd).
  • Tampa Bay declined on offense, as noted above, because of the injuries to Ryan Jensen and Aaron Stinnie.
  • San Francisco is the opposite of the New York Jets, where the decline in the offensive projection is due to offensive line changes and you can quibble with that if you would like. The 49ers will be starting a rookie fourth-round pick at right guard (Spencer Burford), a second-year player with very little game experience at left guard (Aaron Banks), and a journeyman center with only three NFL starts (Jake Brendel) instead of Alex Mack.


87 comments, Last at 11 Sep 2022, 1:27am

#1 by Pat // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:05pm

I know the reason Washington's huge projected drop is because they were all defense, no offense last year (and defense regresses hard) but holy cow that's the one team I can glance at and say "yeah, they'll probably be significantly better than that." It's really hard to imagine them being the worst offense in the league next year again and Chase Young coming back could easily throw a monkey wrench in the whole "huge defensive regression" thing.

"Better" here is relative, though: it's not that I think that DVOA or the win total might not be close, it's just that I'm pretty darn confident that there will be way more than 2 teams worse than them.

Points: 0

#2 by KnotMe // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:11pm

Well, there are 7 worse by projected wins, which seems reasonable. 

Impressive that even the Bills get only a 12.7% SB  win chance despite a good offseason and being pretty stacked. 

Raiders? Is there any variable for coaches?

This is the thing that feeds into DAVE for the first couple games, right?

Points: 0

#6 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:25pm

Yes, these are the projections that feed into DAVE for the first few months of the season... projections now feed into DAVE for longer than you think, something like 12 weeks.

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#12 by dmb // Sep 07, 2022 - 1:16pm

 "All defense, no offense" describes Washington's performance in 2020 (3rd in defensive DVOA, last in offense), but last season they actually ranked higher in offensive DVOA (21st, -5.3%) than defensive (27th, 5.8%). The difference in actual DVOA is marginal -- I certainly wouldn't say the offense carried them to victories -- but I do think it's fair to say that last year's defense was every bit as bad as the offense..

The defense should probably rebound somewhat; as you point out, defense is more likely to regress, which would actually be a good thing for them this season! Washington's third-down defense last year was particularly atrocious... and although I'm somewhat worried by the fact that this continued throughout the preseason, it's at least typically an area that would particularly be expected to drive reversion toward the mean.

Overall I do tend to agree with you that it seems reasonably likely for them to end up very close to their projected DVOA / wins. And of course that would land them in "solidly below-average" territory, but not among the dregs of the league since some teams will underperform the worst projections.

Points: 0

#22 by Pat // Sep 07, 2022 - 3:39pm

Yeah, that was just horribly written, I think I forgot what the heck I was thinking about mid-way through. Sigh. What I meant was that they were built as all defense, no offense, and while you can't expect things to revert back to '20 even with Young returning because of the whole defensive regression thing (super defenses aren't real, and it's not like Young was having a great year anyway), ending up as the worst offense in the league in '20 took them thinking one-legged Alex Smith was a good option. I can't see that happening again. Rivera's never had an offense that bad before.

Said another way I can buy them being outside of the top 10 on defense, but it'd take an utter disaster for them to be last in the league on offense. There's just way less uncertainty with them than with other teams. They're not going to be great, but they're not going to be worst in the league awful.

Points: 0

#25 by dmb // Sep 07, 2022 - 4:50pm

Yeah, that makes sense!

Tiny nitpick: I'm not sure it's fair to suggest Rivera really thought a one-legged Smith was a good option, since he was their third option after an ineffective Dwayne Haskins and an IR-ed Brandon Allen. But that's beside the point, since options 1 and 2 were also bad, and Wentz is highly likely to be better than Haskins-level -- and if not, their backup is the best option the 2020 team ended up having (Taylor Heinicke).

Points: 0

#66 by Pat // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:43am

Yeah, no, that's what I meant - as in "oh my god everything's so horrible let's actually give Alex a try." Like, the decision to go to Smith actually made sense, which is why it was such a ridiculously bad offense.

Points: 0

#14 by Franchise_Punter // Sep 07, 2022 - 1:31pm

Somehow swapping out Heinicke and Scherff for Wentz and Norwell equates to an 11 spot drop? Not a particularly high ceiling for this offense, but I'm not really seeing a world where NYG, CAR, CHI, or NYJ ever pass them up on offense, and they'll probably be better than teams like DET, HOU, and PIT.

Points: 0

#15 by mehllageman56 // Sep 07, 2022 - 1:39pm

I can see a world where the Bears and the Jets have a better offensive DVOA than Washington because Fields or Wilson reach their potential... but you are correct that it is much more likely that Wentz leads Washington to a better offense than either of those teams.

Points: 0

#16 by theslothook // Sep 07, 2022 - 1:41pm

I would be stunned if this team finished 32nd on offense.

I know that Wentz's reputation is in the toilet, But his season-long metrics were far better than heineke's and much better than his current reputation suggests. Plus they have Terry McLaren. Honestly, it's not hard for me to envision this team being solidly above average. A defense that rebounds, especially under the coaching of Ron Rivera, Plus an upgrade at quarterback should keep them in the feisty category.

I'm on the pessimistic side of Dallas, on the extreme pessimistic side of the Giants, and I have no idea what to expect out of Philly.

Points: 0

#19 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 07, 2022 - 2:42pm

I could easily see a 9-8 division win happening again for either Philly or Washington. Unlikely (I think it would take some Philly injuries), but not stunning.

Dallas is a total wild card. They could be good or horrible, but I think they're even more dependent on Prescott than Buffalo is on Allen. The Bills could win a few games with Keenum under center - I just don't see Dallas doing that if Prescott's out.

Points: 0

#23 by Pat // Sep 07, 2022 - 3:51pm

Unlikely (I think it would take some Philly injuries), but not stunning.

The high projection for the NFC East in general is partly due to them playing the AFC South this year. I could easily see Philly regressing and Washington having a great year or Dallas just being great due to Prescott still, but whoever ends up being the best team's almost certainly going to have more than 9 wins.

Points: 0

#3 by HitchikersPie // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:18pm

Is this a first where projections have an entire division as the worst 4 in their conference, it seems incredibly implausible 

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#5 by mehllageman56 // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:24pm

The 2008 NFC West would have pulled that stunt off, if it wasn't for those meddling kids, the 0-16 Detroit Lions.

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#7 by theslothook // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:26pm

I was initially stunned that the Titans were projected as the 29th ranked team. It seemed mind boggling. But I guess you take away Landry from a defense that was bad a year ago + now you've lost AJ Brown and I suppose maybe its true.

I think this year will be a nice test for the coaching staff. All signs are pointing to a down year for Tennessee - well, except for the garbage division(I am so close to picking Jacksonville as the division winner) that if they manage to be OK, I think it  will speak volumes for Vrable and his staff. Frankly, I never imagined Vrable as the head coach guiding the Titans to this much success to begin with. Their run really has been odd to say the least. 

Points: 0

#17 by BigRichie // Sep 07, 2022 - 2:35pm

AFC South's 2nd best DVOA team, and that only by tenths of a win point, is getting the best odds on the whole NFL division-winning board! Having locked in my odds, y'all are now invited to join in.

Points: 0

#28 by KnotMe // Sep 07, 2022 - 5:35pm

I'm surprised it's so down on Indy. 9.8% DVOA last year,  -5.6% this year, most of the difference seems to be on offence. Hard to think going from Wentz to Matt Ryan is THAT big a downgrade. They lose a bunch of guys or something?

Points: 0

#30 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 07, 2022 - 5:46pm

I agree the Colts offense seems particularly low. There's no particular reason for it. Some of it is having a new quarterback. Ryan's personal projection isn't great, but it isn't terrible. Some of it is a little regression to past performance (2019-2020). Some of it is losing T.Y. Hilton and Jack Doyle (who did have positive DYAR last year). The Colts get their due when we put up the subjective projections tomorrow.

Regarding the entire division: even though the mean projection has the division taking up spots 13-16 in the AFC, the reality is that it is very unlikely that the season will end that way. At least one of the AFC South teams will climb up and be better than this. But the mean of the range of possibilities has those four teams lower than the rest of the conference.

Points: 0

#31 by theslothook // Sep 07, 2022 - 5:56pm

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

I just must be crazy or an eternal pessimist, but I am down on this team's prospects for next year. Losing Eberflus could be a huge; especially since they went with Gus Bradley at defensive coordinator.

The talent on the offense is ok; but a run heavy team is never an offense you want to bet on. And maybe Ryan is better than he was in Atlanta, but he's not the guy he was several years before the decline. And even if he was, Julio Jones is not on this team. As Aaron mentioned, losing Hilton and Doyle hurts even if both were basically on the downslope of their careers.

I like the offense in general. Its not devoid of talent. But its just so meh at everything but guard. And similarly, the defense lacks the premium pass rusher or ace corner. 

You add it all up and the Colts have a roster destined to conquer the might middle of the NFL. But it also has 0 room to survive injuries and the roster state is such that its hard to envision a huge upside the way you kind of can with Jacksonville. 

I feel like after several years of punching above their weight, the ground may finally fall out from underneath; which is sad because in spite of my bemoaning, I think the coaching staff has done quite well all things considered. Its just really hard to keep winning when you have a perpetually revolving door at QB, you wasted draft assets in the process of finding that qb, and then you don't have the talent geared towards passing the ball and stopping the pass. 

This feels like the kind of team Jeff Fisher dreams about every night. 

Points: 0

#4 by theslothook // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:23pm

I remember in 2005, the Colts finally splurged in free agency to bring in Corey Simon. After two years being batted away by the Patriots, the Colts finally looked like the team of destiny. New England lost both coordinators and fatigue had to be real after 2 long sb runs. 

And of course, the season played out like that. Indy looked like by far the best team(although it had some rather worrying regular season hiccups). The Defense finally looked good. And all seemed right with the world(well, for me anyways).

Then came one of the worst gut punch losses I've ever experienced as a fan. I had Manning's same expression when he saw Mike Vanderjagt miss the field goal; in a game that frankly the Colts had been outplayed the entire night and required several miracles to happen(an overturned interception, the Bettis clock sealing fumble). I even remember Doctor Z writing a playful article about how he planned to ask Manning after his HOF speech and 2 sb rings(prescient) about why he was so needlessly aggressive on that final drive. It was all cold comfort. At that point, I wanted to abandon being a colts fan. Mercifully, I didn't have to wait long to savor the opposite feeling. 

The point of this for Bills fans is to remember the following: It may feel like you have to win NOW. The stars are all aligned and its now or never. But the difference is, you have Josh Allen. You will have chances beyond this one.   

Points: 0

#8 by mehllageman56 // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:27pm

Maybe, maybe not.  I could give examples from my Jets fandom, but I don't want to belabor the point too much.  You are correct that the Bills' championship window should be open for more than just this year, but you never know.  Perhaps the projections are off, and Qbase has its revenge on Allen.  

Points: 0

#18 by serutan // Sep 07, 2022 - 2:41pm

They should, but the exact same thing was said about Miami/Marino after they lost that SB to the Niners.

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#20 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 07, 2022 - 2:52pm

Yes and no.

Marino never got back. Rodgers and Brees only went to one. Rivers, Romo, and Dak never got there.

Hell, in 32 years of Fouts, Brees, and Rivers, SD never made a SB with them. They only got to three conference games.

Points: 0

#9 by JS // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:45pm

The Niners forecast is the one that surprises me. I don't have much faith in Lance, but that's a good roster, and they did just fine with Jimmy G the last few years. And their schedule comes out easier than the other NFC West teams. I expect to read something about them in tomorrow's article.

Points: 0

#11 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:54pm

In reply to by JS

On the other hand, the 49ers have had seesawing health the last six years or so, and this year is scheduled to be a downside year.

Points: 0

#26 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 07, 2022 - 5:00pm

That's almost low by 49ers standards.

This has become something of a trend, and may represent draft strategy backfiring. They haven't been below (above?) 23rd since 2017. Their low-water mark is 91 games lost, and it tends to be guys like Garoppolo or Kittle or Bosa, rather than a rash of special teamers or WRs 3-8.

Points: 0

#62 by Kaepernicus // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:31am

In reply to by JS

I can totally see that offensive projection being right due to the new QB and IOL. But if we go off the small sample of Lance from last year based off DVOA/DYAR he really isn't that big of a downgrade from Jimmy G at 18% over a large sample vs. 20% for Lance over about 3 games of play time. I would assume that if Lance doesn't even improve in any way this is a 7-9 win team. The one that does not make sense is the drop on the defense rating. There is no way this year's CB room is worse. Moseley/C.Ward/Womack will be a big upgrade over last year's starters. Kinlaw is probably a downgrade vs. DJ Jones against the run and an upgrade against the pass. Bosa is now 2 years removed from the ACL tear and Fred Warner is going into year 2 of a new defensive system. The only part of that defense that is obviously worse is at safety with Ward out 4 games and Hufanga replacing Tartt. Ebukam year 2/rookie Jackson seem like an upgrade over Arden Key/corpse of Dee Ford. So in general I just don't get the drop in defense. Armstead is also starting the year at DT which is significant. When they made that switch last year the 49ers went from below average on run defense to the clear best unit in the NFL. All I can think of for the drop is they think Tartt, Jones, Verret, and K'wuan at slot have given way to large downgrades. What are the odds that this unit is still bottom 3 against deep balls? The 49ers defense seems like a lock for a top 5 season given the easier schedule. They have been top 10 for 3 straight years with terrible injury luck and a change in DC. Also we seem to sleeping on the Dre Greenlaw return. I don't see many good reasons for them to finish outside of the top 10. There is also serious top 3 upside if the pass rush is as good as it looks on paper.

Points: 0

#10 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 07, 2022 - 12:47pm

What do the projections look like if you take each team's modal record, rather than their mean record?

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#13 by DGL // Sep 07, 2022 - 1:20pm

Will there be a Loser League this season? Did I miss it somewhere?  

Points: 0

#29 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 07, 2022 - 5:42pm

In reply to by DGL

I'm sorry, but yeah, we're not going to be able to do the Loser League this year. Not enough response on it last year for us to do the work on it this season.

Points: 0

#33 by dmb // Sep 07, 2022 - 6:39pm

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

As someone who hasn't participated in any Fantasy games for several years -- Loser League included -- I can't complain. However, I do want to express appreciation for the tradition it's been; over the years, I've thoroughly enjoyed some of the inspired team names, as well as the content it's generated in Scramble. Sorry to hear it's no longer feasible, but thanks for the great run!

Points: 0

#34 by DGL // Sep 07, 2022 - 6:45pm

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

I actually played LL before taking up any other FF, and I quit FF a few years back, but still enjoyed LL tremendously.  Thanks for the work you put into it.

Points: 0

#80 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 08, 2022 - 5:25pm

Indeed. Even when I didn't play, I enjoyed the recaps.

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#21 by serutan // Sep 07, 2022 - 3:00pm

 The obvious one to question for me is Cleveland.   Yes, Watson is better than Brissett, but - keeping to a strictly football perspective -  it will have been almost 2 full seasons since Watson has seen non preseason action.  And IMO that means that there is a lot of rust to clean off and I don't think 6 games is enough to do it.

On a lighter note, if you combined the projected 10th and 11th teams, you have a team that would put a mincin on anyone.

Points: 0

#27 by KnotMe // Sep 07, 2022 - 5:27pm

Rust is hard to project. I can't think of anyone who missed 2 years but made a ful recovery. Brady missed an entire year and was fine. Between going to a new coach and system I would expect some difficulties but I can't think of a good comp. 

Points: 0

#32 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 07, 2022 - 5:59pm

Montana missed essentially all of 1991 and 1992.

Cunningham missed all of 1996 and most of 1997.

Gannon missed all of 1994 and almost all of 1995. Hell, he was hurt for a chunk of 1993, too.

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#37 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 07, 2022 - 7:28pm

Gannon started 12, 11, and 12 games prior to 1993. He was basically a drunken Garoppolo.

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#56 by KnotMe // Sep 08, 2022 - 9:03am

Kinda curious how you would even make a projection for Watson.  Not many comps for guy missing that much time without a major injury, and he was elite in 2020, but it's hard to know if that was his new level (defensible given his age) or a matt ryan year. So anything from from 700 to 1300 DYAR (then scale that to six games) is defensible.

Kinda funny that CLE offence projection went down although it makes sense. Watson isn't good enough to get 11 Brisset games up to Mayfields level I guess. 

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#39 by Chuckc // Sep 07, 2022 - 8:19pm

I think Michael Vick is a good close comparison.

It took him a while to get going again and it's likely he got much better coaching than Watson will

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#43 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 07, 2022 - 9:03pm

But his first three *starts* back were with a passer rating of 101.9+...and remember this was 2010. 

Could say 2009 was a big help just by sitting but he still finished the season with an 8.15 ANY/A and a 93.7 passer rating. Obviously on a small sample size but...feels like rust is just an excuse fans use when they don't have off 5/6 days (we know everyone hates Thursday games because it's not enough rust...I mean rest). 


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#41 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 07, 2022 - 8:51pm

Either way it's not like Watson started from day one on his first NFL team either (and that was a big change coming from college). Yet still ended up AP OROTY-3.

Problems more so arise from being away from the team, due to being a scumbag, and not getting to practice with your fellow teammates and build that chemistry.

I mentioned it before, different position but still a multi time PB offensive player traded to a different team in conference this century but not exactly due to injury, is Trent Williams. And he was a PBer right away, along with some All Pro votes. Third highest graded game of the season was his first with the team. Rust or rest?

One of those things people will forget about but will blame every incompletion on it, even if it's a drop. Everyone forgot Sewell and Jamarr skipped a year too not they look like studs.

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#36 by AFCNFCBowl // Sep 07, 2022 - 7:16pm

Why is the Giants defense projected to be worst in the league? And why are the Titans so bad?

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#53 by KnotMe // Sep 08, 2022 - 8:45am

That doesn't explain the Giants...well, I guess Giants and Titans are basicly the same thing. 

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#40 by superglucose // Sep 07, 2022 - 8:41pm

Whatever, your projection is losing its mind on offense because of a bunch of unknowns on the OLine and the QB.

What is that defensive projection?  13th?  The #7 DVOA defense is gonna drop back 6 slots this year?

Are you *sure* you put the numbers in right?  Cuz lmao that's gonna look silly in a couple months.

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#42 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 07, 2022 - 8:54pm

Buffalo still #1 despite losing Punt Rapist.


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#81 by Mike B. In Va // Sep 08, 2022 - 5:26pm

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Their likelihood of losing someone significant due to felony went down.

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#44 by Calipanther // Sep 07, 2022 - 10:27pm

Off topic, I know, but where is Loser League? Obviously nobody's picking up any Bills or Rams, but I thought it'd be out by now.

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#47 by Bryan Knowles // Sep 07, 2022 - 11:10pm

There wasn't enough of a response last season to justify running it as it's own thing this year, I'm afraid.

If there's enough interest, perhaps I can do something during my Thursday column this year -- or at least have a running comment thread each week, celebrating the Losers of the world.

Points: 0

#48 by colonialbob // Sep 08, 2022 - 12:49am

As somebody who never participated (partly due to never actually signing up for an account until the playoffs last year), I totally understand why it's more work than justified by the response, but I always loved the loser/KCW portions of the weekly columns and would hate to see it disappear entirely.

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#49 by Bryan Knowles // Sep 08, 2022 - 1:34am

Duly noted!

Scramble isn't returning this year, but I'm writing a column for Thursdays which will carry over much of the general Scramblyness (including things like the KCW team and the Joe Thomas draft and the various yearly staples).  Always interested to hear which bits and pieces people want to continue, so I can act accordingly!

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#52 by James-London // Sep 08, 2022 - 8:43am

Looking forward to the new column, but it has big boots to fill...

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#54 by KnotMe // Sep 08, 2022 - 8:55am

I do think some sort of loser content at the end of the year would be cool. (Guys who racked up the most anti-value!). 

I suppose it may get less interesting now that we are past covid (Mike Glennon getting starts!), then again, we still have Seattle. 

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#78 by Bryan Knowles // Sep 08, 2022 - 2:19pm

Have little fear!  It's still going to be Scrambly in tone and concept; it is me running the dang thing, after all.  And we'll hit all of the usual yearly Scramble topics, just a day later and with one guy yelling at himself rather than two guys yelling at each other.

It's the end of a name, not of a concept. Otherwise, they wouldn't have me doing it; good lord.

Points: 0

#55 by Aaron Brooks G… // Sep 08, 2022 - 9:00am

Losing Scramble and adding DFS stuff is like when Netflix cut a bunch of content and added ads and called it streamlining.

\the sun sets on all empires.

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#72 by fynsta // Sep 08, 2022 - 11:38am


Really sad to hear that this is what people prefer reading...

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#76 by Noahrk // Sep 08, 2022 - 12:40pm

Agreed. Maybe one day I'll try fantasy, just to see what the hoopla is all about... no, I won't.

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#73 by BigRichie // Sep 08, 2022 - 11:41am

They're hoping there's alotta $$$ to be mined from the DFS players. May be, and for the good of the site I'm hoping there is, too.

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#57 by HitchikersPie // Sep 08, 2022 - 9:53am

Would personally really enjoy a more limited loser league if it was still possible, the overall tone of scramble makes very enjoyable reading

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#79 by Bryan Knowles // Sep 08, 2022 - 2:19pm

Don't worry -- the tone ain't going nowhere!

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#45 by zenbitz // Sep 07, 2022 - 10:29pm

are clearly very hard to predict.... that projection looks very negative but actually they are 8th best team in NFC!  

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#46 by nat // Sep 07, 2022 - 11:00pm

Each time it plays through the season, it adds 1.5% to the DVOA of every winner and subtracts 1.5% from the DVOA of every loser before moving on to the next week's games.

That’s just a penalty for having your tough games early in the season.

Points: 0

#50 by dmstorm22 // Sep 08, 2022 - 5:12am

Am I wrong to think the gap between best and worst is closer than usual? A projection of ~16% for the best team seems low to me. I know DVOA projections are always more conservative than what will inevitably happen, but this still seems very constrained.


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#58 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:14am

It says that in the article, right? Yes, definitely closer than usual.

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#51 by jerbear50 // Sep 08, 2022 - 7:46am

I'm really surprised that the Ravens are ranked at 2.  They seem to have a wider-than-average range of possible outcomes for this season, which I would have though equated to a more middling projected DVOA. 

Or maybe I don't understand how the projections work DVOA. 

Points: 0

#60 by Aaron Schatz // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:16am

In reply to by jerbear50

A lot of that with the Ravens is having the No. 1 special teams projection. They're basically the only team that's almost guaranteed to have very good special teams, which raises their mean projection overall.

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#64 by ImNewAroundThe… // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:34am

Unless they already do for that. 

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#61 by RickD // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:18am

In reply to by jerbear50

The Bengals manhandled the Ravens late in the season.  

Yes, they are getting injured players back, but still...I'd say the Ravens are maybe the #2 team in their own division.  

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#71 by dmb // Sep 08, 2022 - 11:29am

Last year's Ravens were the most-injured team by Adjusted Games Lost that FO has tracked, going back to 2001. At one point, they were missing nine players (including all expected starters) from their secondary. Their top three RBs all missed the entire season. Basically, they had whole position groups consisting of third-stringers or street FAs, plus the typical assortment of various injuries throughout the roster.

By AGL, the Ravens' injury impacts were 3x worse than the Bengals'. The Ravens' season-long DVOA was -2.7% (19th), while the Bengals' was -0.1% (17th). And although it only counts for expected wins and not DVOA, playing a last-place schedule should also benefit the Ravens.

I do think there are legitimate concerns about the level of Jackson's play, the lack of receivers, and lack of pass rush. However, I don't think it's too surprising that they have a strong projection, and the highest in their division.

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#74 by theslothook // Sep 08, 2022 - 12:23pm

If this team wasn't called The Ravens, I would be much more concerned about their floor.

Now that's not meant to sound facetious. People who know me know how much I believe in the magic coming out of Baltimore.

Points: 0

#59 by RickD // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:15am

What's up with them going from -12.6 DVOA last season to 2.5% in the preseason projections?  I know JC Jackson is gone, but such a jump says more than that.  

Losing Hightower and Collins should only help the defense.  (With all due respect to their distinguished careers.)

(Yes, they got steamrolled by the Bills, but they still had a reasonable WDVOA after that.)

Points: 0

#63 by KnotMe // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:31am

NE had such a wacky offseason (mostly bad it looks like), they are really hard to project. And nobody knows what to make of Mac Jones. (A standard 2 year jump would make him almost elite...which seems waaaay wrong). Then all the wierd coaching staff fluctuations with the only real counter being "Darth Hoodie knows what he's doing" and....you get a team that's hard to figure out. The projection here seems reasonable but it's a weird one. They arn't really a threat to win the division, so that makes it less interesting.  

The value of projections is the interesting ones, we don't need DVOA to tell us KC, BUF, GB and TB will be pretty good/

PHI is probably the most interesting, LAC over KC. BAL being back and some teams making the playoffs that didn't last year(MIN,NO) (The Raiders taking the last playoff spot from NE is narratively convenient). 

It's interesting when they compare the preseason predictions to the results partway the year.(halfway IIRC)

Points: 0

#65 by RickD // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:37am

They seems to be overrated by DVOA toward the end of last season.  They started the season slow, had a very strong middle, and then faltered at the end.  Without trying to figure out what's up with the offense, I'm curious about the defense.

Points: 0

#67 by KnotMe // Sep 08, 2022 - 10:52am

They had a weird defensive decline at the end of the season without any real explanation like an injury. I guess the prediction is that continues. 

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#68 by Pat // Sep 08, 2022 - 11:03am

I mean, New England's defense is pretty much like... all turnovers, and losing the guy who had the most on the team for the past two years you might expect it to have an outsized effect. I tend to think that this probably overrates New England's decline though, because pretty much moreso than any other team they're basically always near the top of the league in interceptions. Even when they're bad they're not that bad. So in some sense I tend to think it's schematic, whereas for most other teams it's just luck. I think everyone at this point knows when a rookie QB plays New England it's gonna be pick central.

I'm really interested to see how the Patriots defense does this year, though: letting Jackson go still seems like one of the biggest mistakes New England's made in years.

Points: 0

#69 by Noahrk // Sep 08, 2022 - 11:08am

The defensive projection I'd like to hear more about is Miami's. They didn't lose any starter or even backup (until preseason cuts) from last year, they added two vets in Ingram and Flowers and they have two young guys on the upswing in Holland and Phillips. Yet they are projected to fall from 10th to 27th. Is this all Flores? I would have expected subjective projections to account for that, but not DVOA.

Points: 0

#70 by KnotMe // Sep 08, 2022 - 11:13am

I would assume DVOA includes coaches somehow. Although that bring up the Raiders...we're projecting McDaniels to be...good?

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#75 by Noahrk // Sep 08, 2022 - 12:39pm

I suppose it might include a subjective appreciation of coaching, but it seems incredibly difficult to project such a thing correctly.

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#77 by Jetspete // Sep 08, 2022 - 1:48pm

I've been reading you guys about as long as youve been around.  Something just feels really wonky about these ratings, probably as much as ever (though the years blend together after a while).  The offense for the most part seems ok, but could something be off with your defensive components? Is that possibly why the win totals are all bunched up? Reading the book and seeing who is in the secondary, I cant fathom Pitt ending the season with a top five defense let alone number one.  Conversely, Denver has a ton of talent as Tanier even mentions in his chapter.  I would be shocked if theyre not a top twenty defense.  And GB is right in the middle, but theyre probably the most talented in the league.  When you reviewed everything did that pass your sanity test? 

Points: 0

#82 by Pen // Sep 09, 2022 - 5:51pm

Meanwhile, the Denver offense drops 0.2% having gained Wilson?

What exactly is driving the Seahawks offensive collapse and what exactly is offsetting the Broncos gaining Wilson? For if gaining Wilson is not seen as an upgrade, then why is losing him such a catastrophic loss?

Points: 0

#83 by Biebs // Sep 09, 2022 - 6:44pm

...and Now Duane Brown might go on IR. Jets are gunning for the Ravens AGL record this year

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#84 by 3cardmonty // Sep 09, 2022 - 11:58pm

The Eagles projection literally prompted me to google "eagles qb" to see if I'd missed something, but nope, still appears to be Jalen Hurts! So what am I missing? Admittedly don't know much about the rest of the roster.

Points: 0

#85 by Vincent Verhei // Sep 10, 2022 - 4:19am

In reply to by 3cardmonty

1) It's not too late to get a copy of Football Outsiders Almanac 2022, nearly 6,000 words (plus a bunch of tables!) explaining what we like about Philadelphia in great detail.


2) Bryan Knowles and Cale Clinton broke down the Eagles in their over/under picks a few weeks ago.


3) The short answer is: the Eagles added the NFL's best YAC receiver over the last few years in A.J. Brown; the defense added a pair of exciting rookies in Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean, plus quality veterans in Haason Reddick and James Bradberry; and they have the easiest projected schedule in the league. 

Points: 0

#86 by 3cardmonty // Sep 10, 2022 - 5:00pm

Thanks! I assumed the schedule was part of the reason for the wins projection but even the DVOA projection surprised me and I assume that's schedule-adjusted. I'm probably underrating Hurts too, 538 thinks he's league average.

Points: 0

#87 by Vincent Verhei // Sep 11, 2022 - 1:27am

In reply to by 3cardmonty

We had him as a perfectly average passer and also the best running QB in the league.


Points: 0

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