Week 15 DVOA Preview: Lions Restore the Roar

Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff
Detroit Lions QB Jared Goff
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

The Detroit Lions are not just on a three-game winning streak and a 6-1 tear in their last seven games. They are not merely positioning themselves for a playoff berth that appeared unattainable when they started the year 1-6. Dan Campbell’s Lions are now also on pace to do something the franchise has not done since the days of Barry Sanders.

Sunday’s 20-17 victory over the New York Jets propelled the Lions into ninth place in the pre-Monday Night Football Week 15 DVOA rankings. If the Lions can stay in ninth place after their final three games, it will be their first top-10 finish and highest DVOA ranking since 1997, when Sanders rushed for 2,053 yards and the Bobby Ross-coached team went 9-7.

The Lions’ DVOA rating climbed from 6.2% to 7.8% in Week 15, putting the team on pace to record its highest figure since 2011 and sixth-highest figure of the last 40 years.

The Lions offense now ranks sixth in the NFL in DVOA. Per the raw data, they rank fourth in yards per game (375.1), sixth in net yards per play (5.8), second-lowest in sack rate (3.9%), and third in red zone touchdown conversion rate (70.6%).

The Lions defense has climbed to a semi-respectable 22nd in DVOA. Among other signs of defensive progress, opponents have rushed for just 72 yards on 39 carries (1.8 yards per carry) in the last two Lions games. 

The Lions special teams now ranks eighth in the NFL, having fueled victories over the Jets (Kalif Raymond’s punt return touchdown) and Vikings (C.J. Moore’s fake punt, a 66-yard Jack Fox punt). The Lions rank second in the NFL in both punt return average (14.6) and kickoff return average (26.2). Michael Badgley is 15-of-18 on field goals since taking over at kicker.

Speaking of special teams, the Jets fell out of the ovrall top 10 and into 11th place with their loss to the Lions. While all eyes have been on their Zach Wilson-Mike White quarterback carousel, special teams have been a quiet drag on the Jets’ performance: they fell from 18th to 26th in DVOA in that category, thanks to Raymond’s return (the second punt return touchdown allowed by the Jets this season) and Greg Zuerlein’s missed game-winner (though DVOA doesn’t penalize much for missing a 58-yarder). 

There was little drama elsewhere in the DVOA rankings. The Buffalo Bills jockeyed back into first place thanks to their 32-29 victory over the Miami Dolphins and, more importantly, the Philadelphia Eagles’ narrow 25-20 escape against the Chicago Bears. Three turnovers, including two Jalen Hurts interceptions, spurred a three percentage-point dip in the Eagles DVOA.