DVOA Preview: Bills & Eagles in a Class By Themselves
NFL Week 4 - According to the pre-Monday Night Football DVOA rankings, there’s the Buffalo Bills, then there’s the Philadelphia Eagles, and then there’s everyone else.
Josh Allen and the Bills are once again poised to lead the NFL in DVOA at the end of Week 4. They’re five percentage points ahead of the Eagles, who in turn are eight percentage points ahead of the third-place Baltimore Ravens.
The Bills separated themselves slightly from the Ravens a bit in their 23-20 Week 4 victory, outperforming the Ravens in yards per play (5.3 to 4.6) in an otherwise narrow win. The Eagles traded places with the fourth-place Jacksonville Jaguars with their 29-21 win on Sunday, with Jalen Hurts and company outgained the Jaguars 401-219 and winning a 5-to-1 turnover battle thanks to several Trevor Lawrence miscues.
Welcome to the opening installment of DVOA Preview, a new weekly Football Outsiders feature! The official DVOA results will still be released on Tuesdays, complete with Aaron Schatz’s commentary and analysis. The purpose of this feature is to provide a sneak peak at what’s in the oven, along with some stat breakdowns to help you get an early-week edge, whether in fantasy, at the sportsbooks or just around the water cooler.
The DVOA results in this article do not contain Monday Night Football, of course, and are therefore subject to change. Remember that opponent adjustments, which are at 40% strength now but become much more important in the weeks to come, can skew the results of any teams that faced the two Monday night participants in the past, so a lot can change between Monday and Tuesday. Still, this is the real DVOA based on all the games that have happened so far.
DVOA Preview will soon become exclusive content for FO+ subscribers, so be sure to sign up if you enjoy this early look at the numbers!
After the table, we’ll take a deeper look inside the numbers for several teams, using both DVOA-relevant data and some raw stats and splits from NFL GSIS, Pro Football Reference and elsewhere.
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This is the Football Outsiders Top 16 through four weeks of 2022—except Monday Night Football—measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average (explained further here). Click here for the full table (requires an FO+ subscription on Mondays).
OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for performance indoors and consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. Opponent adjustments are 40% strength. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.
DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason forecast with current DVOA to get a more accurate projection of how a team will play the rest of the season. DAVE is currently 70% preseason forecast and 30% actual performance.
Inside the Numbers
1. Buffalo Bills
The Bills offense leads the NFL in first downs per game (24.8) and third down percentage (55.7%). It ranks third in the league in yards per game with 412.5. With two more interceptions on Sunday, the Bills defense leads the NFL in interception rate (6.14%) and sacks per pass attempt (11.4%) and ranks second in yards per game (235.2) and per play (4.23).
2. Philadelphia Eagles
The Eagles lead the NFL in takeaway differential at +8 after forcing/benefitting from four Jaguars fumbles and one interception on Sunday. The Eagles offense leads the NFL with 8.79 passing yards per play, while their defense leads the NFL in (fewest) passing yards per play with 4.75.
The Eagles defense also leads the league in sack yards with 113. Thanks, Carson Wentz!
Special teams remain a drag on the Eagles’ overall DVOA, and Sunday’s soggy effort featured a missed extra point and one punt return for two yards.
3. Baltimore Ravens
Here’s a breakdown of the Ravens pass defense by quarter through four games. Emphasis on “breakdown:”
- First Quarter: 13-of-27, 180 yards, 48.1% completion rate, 0 TD, 3 interceptions.
- Second Quarter: 32-of-48, 322 yards, 66.7% completion rate, 2 TD, 1 interception.
- Third Quarter: 27-of-40, 339 yards, 67.5% completion rate, 1 TD, 1 interception.
- Fourth Quarter: 42-of-62, 471 yards, 67.7% completion rate, 5 TD, 2 interceptions.
Meanwhile, Lamar Jackson completes 71.7% of his passes for 8.3 yards per attempt with just one interception in the first half but just 57.9% of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt and three picks in the second half.
Maybe the Ravens just need more Gatorade or something.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers defense may not be able to buoy the team among the top five much longer. The Bucs allowed just 3.8 yards per play in the season opener, but that number has increased to 4.7, 5.2 and 5.4 in Weeks 2 through 4. The Chiefs also went 12-of-17 on third-down conversions against a Bucs defense which allowed just 13 of 43 third-down conversions (30.2%) entering Sunday. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, a relatively easy slate of opponents (Falcons, at Steelers, at Panthers) should help them sort things out on offense, defense and the injury report.
6. Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys defense ranks second in the NFL in sack yards with 93. Per Pro Football Reference, they rank fourth in the NFL in pressure rate at 26.2%; only the 49ers (pending Monday night), Bears and Chiefs have pressured opposing quarterbacks at a higher rate.
Michael Gallup’s return resulted in both a touchdown and two pass interference penalties for 65 yards. The Cowboys offense managed to remain just a tick below average during the Cooper Rush era, and Dak Prescott is expected to return soon.
8. Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs held steady at eighth overall in DVOA despite a 41-31 victory over the Buccaneers that did not feel as close as the score. The Chiefs defense allowed just three rushing yards, but the Buccaneers averaged 6.4 yards per play to the Chiefs’ 5.4, and the Bucs were 3-for-3 converting red zone touchdowns against a defense that entered Week 4 ranked 20th in the red zone, 30th against red zone passing. The Chiefs’ special teams DVOA are at least on an uptick after a terrible effort in Week 3.
9. Green Bay Packers
Here are the Packers’ rushing yards allowed per game through for weeks:
- Week 1 vs. Vikings: 28 carries, 126 yards, 4.5 yards per rush.
- Week 2 vs. Bears: 27 carries, 180 yards, 5.6 yards per rush.
- Week 3 vs. Buccaneers: 14 carries, 34 yards, 2.4 yards per rush.
- Week 4 vs. Patriots: 33 carries, 167 yards, 4.7 yards per rush.
That performance against the Buccaneers is keeping the Packers run defense from falling off the back of the truck. But it looks like the Bucs running game was the culprit in that game, while the Packers run defense remains a significant problem.
On the plus side, the Patriots were just 3-of-11 on third-down conversions against the Packers, whose defense now leads the NFL with a 23.8% conversion rate on third downs. So when the Packers stuff the run, they generally stuff their opponent.
10. Atlanta Falcons
The Falcons – yes, the Falcons! – slipped into the DVOA top 10 this week after their 23-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns. The Falcons average 5.1 yards per rush and 7.4 yards per pass attempt, both figures sixth in the NFL. Their special teams metrics are bolstered by Younghoe Koo’s 6-of-8 kicking beyond 40 yards and a coverage unit allowing just 4.5 yards per punt return.
One other stat worth noting: the Falcons are currently enjoying a 144-yard penalty differential after incurring just three penalties in the last three weeks.
Remember: the Falcons would be 3-1 if not for their utterly on-brand fourth-quarter collapse against the Saints in the season opener. They are unlikely to stay in the top 10 for long, but it’s encouraging that they are running the ball well and playing relatively mistake-free football.
13. Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins defense is 3-of-8 at stopping fourth down conversions, with another fourth-and-short stop (the Joe Mixon sweep) against the Bengals.
Tyreek Hill and Jaylin Waddle are averaging 16.5 yards per catch on 52 receptions. The rest of the Dolphins are averaging 8.8 yards per catch on 41 receptions.
The Dolphins’ record and DVOA are better aligned after Thursday night’s loss, but they remain a high-volatility team, and that’s without factoring in any Tua Tagovailoa uncertainty/controversy. A manageable-but-tricky upcoming schedule (at Jets, Vikings, Steelers, at Lions) could either cement the Dolphins’ status as AFC frontrunners or expose them as middleweights who started hot.
14. Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks leapt from 12th to second in offensive DVOA by dropping 555 total yards on the Lions in Week 4. The Seahawks offense ranks fourth in the NFL in yards per attempt at 7.8 and has allowed just six sacks (tied for fifth-lowest in the league). Remember that opponent adjustments are only at 40% strength, and the Lions have allowed a league-high 444.75 yards per game through four games.
Also, Geno Smith's completion rate may be a league-high and historic 77.3%, but it's trending downward: Smith completed "just" 76.7% of his passes in Week 4 and 72.7% in Week 3. No, this dink-and-dunk madness is not sustainable, but give Shane Waldron credit for concocting a scheme that caters to the (few) strengths of his players.
15. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow’s under-pressure passing numbers by week:
- Week 1: 18 dropbacks, 5-of-8 for 40 yards, 1 TD, 7 sacks.
- Week 2: 15 dropbacks, 3-of-7 for 21 yards, 0 TD, 6 sacks.
- Week 3: 13 dropbacks, 4-of-10 for 79 yards, 3 TD, 2 sacks.
- Week 4: 4 dropbacks, 1-of-2 for 18 yards, 0 TDs, 1 sack.
The non-sack, non-attempt dropbacks are scrambles, of course. The Bengals are cutting down on Burrow’s pressure by relying more on dumpoffs and unproductive Joe Mixon runs, but that’s progress of a sort.
17. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings defense allows a 69.8% completion rate (third highest in the NFL) and 8.0 yards per attempt (fourth highest). Their offense has converted just 7-of-32 third down attempts of six yards or more (the Kirk Cousins factor!) So yes, DVOA is as meh about the Vikings as everyone else, including the Vikings themselves.
21. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Steelers face the teams currently ranked first (Bills), fifth (Buccaneers), 13th (Dolphins) and second (Eagles) in DVOA over the next four weeks. Good luck, Kenny Pickett!
22. New Orleans Saints
Through four games, the Saints have been outscored 45-17 in the first half. They're also dead last in special teams in large part because Will Lutz is just 2-of-5 on field goal attempts of 30-to-50 yards and averaging just 58.2 yards per kickoff, 30th in the NFL.
The Saints also lead the NFL with 319 penalty yards. They lead the league with six defensive holding penalties. With an offense like theirs, the Saints defense cannot keep doling out free first downs.
23. New York Giants
Opponents are completing just 57.4% of their passes against the Giants defense, the fourth-lowest figure in the NFL. Granted, those opponents include Justin Fields, Baker Mayfield, Cooper Rush and Ryan Tannehill, but progress is progress.
Meanwhile, Saquon Barkley has produced 15 plays of 10-plus yards: 12 rushes and three receptions. He’s averaging 6.0 yards per rush on 53 first-down carries.
30. Washington Commanders
The Commanders offense has given up 110 yards on sacks, the second-highest total in the league (Colts). Their 9.6 yards per completion ranks third from last in the NFL, ahead of only the Cardinals and Giants. If you give up a lot of sacks and can’t complete passes downfield, your offense is not very good.
32. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts offense averages just 3.2 yards per play in the first quarter.