Eagles Fly to Top of DVOA Mountain
NFL Week 9 - The undefeated Philadelphia Eagles finally fly to the top of the DVOA mountain this week, passing the Buffalo Bills to reign as our new No. 1 team. Both Philadelphia and Buffalo dropped in DVOA -- the Eagles after a moderate win against a bad Texans team, and the Bills after a close loss to a good Jets team -- but the Bills dropped more than the Eagles so they relinquish the top spot which they had held since Week 1.
The Eagles are at 32.4%, which isn't particularly high for the No. 1 team at midseason, but they are not "frauds" boosted by an easy schedule. They are No. 1 despite the adjustments for that No. 29 schedule. Without the opponent adjustments, the Eagles would be over 40%. The Eagles come in about middle of the pack in the history of 8-0 teams, ranking 14th out of 24 teams that started 8-0 since 1981. Scroll down or click here for a list of all of those teams and where the Eagles come in.
Philadelphia is not the only team moving up in the top 10 this week. The Seahawks move up a spot to No. 5, passing the Chiefs. The Bengals are up three spots to No. 7 and the surprising New York Jets make the top 10 for the first time this year at No. 8. The Jets now have the No. 6 defense in the league and their offense is almost up to league average! The entire AFC East has winning records right now and the entire division also ranks in the top half of the DVOA ratings, with the Patriots last among the four teams at No. 13.
The Jets have dramatically improved since the first month of the season, which gives me an opportunity to bring out first month vs. second month splits. In general, it's better to look at the entire season when judging how good a team is playing. Or, like weighted DVOA, you want to gradually drop the strength of games more than a month old. Still, with reduced practice time in the preseason and fewer preseason games, a number of NFL observers now argue that September is more like an extension of the preseason. So it's interesting to see which teams have improved or declined dramatically since those first few games. I split the season between Week 4 and Week 5 because that gave me two equal four-game sets for teams that have had their bye weeks.
|Jets DVOA by Week, 2022|
You can see from the splits that the Jets have improved significantly on both sides of the ball, although their special teams have not been as good over the last five weeks. The Jets' run defense has actually gotten worse over the last five weeks but the pass defense has been phenomenal, going from 19.3% DVOA in Weeks 1-4 to -29.9% DVOA in Weeks 5-9.
Here's another team that has improved significantly on defense over the past few weeks, the Seattle Seahawks:
|Seahawks DVOA by Week, 2022|
The Seahawks would look even better if we had split the season at Week 6 instead of Week 5, because that's when their defense really turned things around. If you use our DVOA Filter by Week tool, available to FO+ subscribers, you can see that only the Patriots have had a better average defensive DVOA over the past four weeks. Their improvement on pass defense is as big as New York's, going from 35.1% pass defense DVOA in Weeks 1-4 to -20.6% in Weeks 5-9. On offense, while Geno Smith has still been playing well, the Seahawks have dropped from 7.3 net yards per pass to 6.5 net yards per pass over the last five weeks. (We'll have more on Smith in Derrik Klassen's Film Room later this week.)
What about teams that are improving on offense? The biggest offensive improvement of the second month of the season belongs to the Cincinnati Bengals, but their defense and special teams have declined at the same time.
|Bengals DVOA by Week, 2022|
The Bengals' passing game was really only struggling in the first two weeks of the season, but the running game has dramatically turned things around since Week 5. (This is not news if you watched them this week!) The Bengals had 2.8 yards per carry with -25.7% DVOA through Week 4 and then have 5.2 yards per carry with 35.5% DVOA since Week 5. The defensive decline comes against both the pass and the run, and the Bengals' three best defensive games by DVOA were all in that initial four-week period.
Here's another team going in two different directions, in part because of injury issues on the defense (and in part because of a monsoon game in Week 1).
|49ers DVOA by Week, 2022|
Believe it or not, the 49ers have the No. 2 pass offense in the league by DVOA if you take out that Week 1 monsoon game. The power of Jimmy G! Well, the power of the Shanahan scheme. At the same time, the 49ers have had some bad defensive performances and you can't just attribute their decline to the fact that the monsoon game made their Week 1 defense look great. The 49ers had better pass defense DVOA in Weeks 2-4 than they had in Week 1! But the pass defense has really dropped off since then. The 49ers' pass defense DVOA was -29.1% in Weeks 2-4 (4.4 net yards per pass) but 30.4% in Weeks 5-8 (7.0 net yards per pass). The run defense has also gotten worse, although not to the same extent.
Are you excited for the NFC South division title race? Great, because both the Atlanta Falcons and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have gotten worse over the last few weeks.
|Buccaneers DVOA by Week, 2022|
The passing game has been a little worse over the last month but the real issue for the Buccaneers has been defense, especially pass defense. Injuries have played a role here and it's really just three bad games in Weeks 6-8. The Bucs' defense bounced back with a strong game against the Rams this week.
|Falcons DVOA by Week, 2022|
The Falcons have dropped off in all three phases over the last month, but not in the same ways. On offense, the passing game has been a little bit better but the running game was worse without Cordarrelle Patterson in the lineup. On defense, the run defense was better over the last five weeks but the pass defense got worse.
A couple of teams where I'm not even going to bother posting the numbers, but you know they've been worse over the last month:
- Jacksonville had that huge win over Indianapolis in Week 2, so of course splitting their season in two shows them getting worse.
- Pittsburgh is pretty simple: T.J. Watt got hurt and the defense got worse, and Kenny Pickett has not been as good as Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback.
The Worst Offensive Games Ever
The Colts and Patriots put on a terrible display of offensive football on Sunday, bad enough that it got Frank Reich fired. The Colts are now far, far behind the rest of the league in offensive DVOA. Nearly 12 percentage points separate the Colts from the No. 31 Carolina Panthers. The Patriots have dropped to 25th in offensive DVOA, although their defense and special teams have kept them in the top half of the league overall.
The Colts managed to gain just 2.0 net yards per play on Sunday. The Patriots did slightly better, at 3.3 net yards per play. The two teams combined for just 2.66 net yards per play, which is the fifth-lowest combined average in any game since 1981 and the lowest combined average of this century. The worst games in combined net yards per play:
- Week 14 1983: STLC 10, NYG 6 (2.30)
- Week 13 1988: NE 13, SEA 7 (2.59)
- Week 6 1998: OAK 7, SD 6 (2.63)
- Week 11 1984: IND 9, NYJ 5 (2.64)
- Week 9 2022: NE 26, IND 3 (2.66)
So you may be asking, was this the worst combined offensive performance ever according to DVOA? The answer is no, in fact it wasn't even close. The main reason for that: there were only two turnovers, one by each team. Offensive DVOA is going to be even worse when a quarterback goes on an interception spree or a team fumbles five times. A secondary reason why Sunday's game wasn't among the worst ever is opponent adjustments, as both the Patriots and the Colts now qualify as top-10 defenses.
What is the worst combined offensive performance in DVOA history? It depends on how you measure it. If you measure by simply adding together the offensive DVOA of the two teams, the worst game ever was Green Bay's 27-0 win over Tampa Bay in Week 9 of 1991. Tampa Bay had the worst single-game offensive rating ever in that game, -146.0%. The Bucs averaged 2.9 yards per play with eight turnovers. EIGHT! Five interceptions and three lost fumbles. Chris Chandler threw two picks and got benched for Jeff Carlson, who came in and threw three more picks with five sacks. Green Bay had -32.8% DVOA with just 4.0 yards per play and two turnovers against the below-average Tampa defense, but for the most part this was just a horrific game from the Buccaneers and the Packers were sort of along for the ride.
I think a better way to measure the worst combined offensive performance is to use harmonic mean. It's a funky average that only comes out high when both (or all) of the numbers involved are high. I first learned about harmonic mean from Bill James' power-speed number.
Based on harmonic mean, the worst combined offensive performance in one game came in a 23-6 Chicago win over Carolina in Week 5 of 2010. You might remember that Todd Collins had to start for the injured Jay Cutler. He was benched for Caleb Hanie near the end of the third quarter after throwing four picks, and the Bears won anyway. Chicago finished the game with -64.4% offensive DVOA, with 3.9 yards per play and four turnovers. The Panthers started rookie quarterback Jimmy Clausen and got 2.4 yards per play with three turnovers. (Two of those interceptions were from backup Matt Moore, who replaced Clausen when the game was out of reach late.) Carolina finished the game with -104.7% offensive DVOA. The combination of -169.1% is the second-lowest ever, and the harmonic mean of -79.8% is the worst ever.
Here's a look at the worst games since 1981 by harmonic mean of offensive DVOA, plus Sunday's Colts-Patriots contest for comparison purposes. The turnover totals here only include lost fumbles on offense, not special teams fumbles or fumbles recovered by the offense.
|Offensive Travesties Since 1981|
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This is the Football Outsiders Top 16 through nine weeks of 2022, 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.
OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for opponent and performance indoors and consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. Opponent adjustments are currently at 90% strength. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.
DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason forecast with weighted DVOA to get a more accurate projection of how a team will play the rest of the season. DAVE is currently 36% preseason forecast and 64% actual performance for teams with nine games, and 45% preseason forecast and 55% actual performance for teams with eight games. Cleveland DAVE rating is adjusted to reflect Deshaun Watson returning from his suspension in Week 13. Indianapolis DAVE rating is now based on a projection with Sam Ehrlinger at quarterback.
To save people some time, please use the following format for all complaints:
<team> is clearly ranked <too high/too low> because <reason unrelated to DVOA>. <subjective ranking system> is way better than this. <unrelated team-supporting or -denigrating comment, preferably with poor spelling and/or chat-acceptable spelling>
Here's the list of 8-0 teams going back to 1981, and where the Eagles fall among those teams: