Would Patriots Win an All-Time Super Bowl?

Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
Tom Brady and Bill Belichick
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Offseason - I found this fun little question on Twitter today:

Thanks to Andy from Rate My League for bringing this one to my attention. His guess was the Philadelphia Eagles based on DVOA, since they have the No. 1 defensive season by a mile (1991) and then a number of years of good offense.

I thought the answer would be the Patriots, at least if we're going by DVOA. You would combine the 2007 offense with the 2019 defense. Of course, some people believe that the 2019 defensive DVOA for the Patriots is artificially high (well, low) because of the terrible quarterbacks they took advantage of in the beginning of the season. Then again you could argue that the 2013 Eagles offense is artificially high because who would really trust Nick Foles to win an all-time Super Bowl. (Well, I guess the Eagles trusted him in 2017, didn't they?) Subjectively, this makes for a very interesting and fun debate. But objectively, by DVOA, it's the Patriots.

That led me to go find every team's best year, going all the way back and including the 1981 and 1982 DVOA ratings we'll be debuting on the site sometime in the next two months. Being me, I had to add in each team's best special teams unit as well. Then I decided, well, the question does say "franchise history" and so we should really be going back before 1981 so I looked up ratings from the estimated DVOA that Andreas Shepard did a few years ago.

And voila, here's the result for your debating pleasure. This is a table with every team's best season in offense, defense, and special teams. It's ranked by the total of all three units but you can also sort it by just offense and defense without special teams. The Patriots and Eagles are the top two teams that way, followed by the two Los Angeles teams and then Kansas City. Add in special teams, and Ron Brown and the 1985 Rams boost L.A. past the Eagles into second place, but they still don't reach the Patriots.

Each team is listed here with its current abbreviation, but all seasons are counted back to 1950. Usually, we consider the original Cleveland Browns to be part of the Ravens franchise but for this analysis, I put all the Cleveland teams together the way the NFL does in official history.

A fun fact: when I first did this table without the estimated DVOA for 1950-1980, the best offense, defense, and special teams in Washington history all came from the same season, 1991, when Washington had the highest total DVOA ever. The NFC East teams (except for the Eagles) come out surprisingly low here, especially given how many Super Bowls they've won.

Best DVOA for Each Unit in Franchise History, 1950-2021
(*1950-1980 are estimated DVOA)
Team Best
Off
Year Best
Def
Year Best
ST
Year Total Total
(no ST)
NE 44.1% 2007 -25.2% 2019 8.1% 2020 77.4% 69.3%
LAR 35.0% 1951* -28.5% 1968* 11.5% 1985 75.0% 63.5%
PHI 22.6% 2013 -42.0% 1991 8.9% 2001 73.6% 64.7%
NO 33.5% 2011 -27.4% 1991 12.2% 2002 73.1% 60.9%
KC 35.4% 2002 -26.8% 1969* 10.0% 1968* 72.2% 62.2%
LAC 40.3% 1982 -23.2% 1961* 6.9% 1962* 70.4% 63.5%
DEN 35.0% 1998 -25.2% 2015 9.4% 1966* 69.6% 60.2%
CLE 40.2% 1953* -17.0% 1989 10.1% 1994 67.3% 57.2%
CHI 21.9% 1965* -33.6% 1986 11.2% 2007 66.7% 55.5%
MIA 34.4% 1984 -22.0% 1998 8.8% 2000 65.2% 56.4%
SF 34.5% 1992 -22.7% 1995 7.8% 2011 65.1% 57.3%
BAL 28.2% 2019 -27.6% 2008 9.2% 2017 65.0% 55.8%
TEN 32.4% 1961* -25.0% 2000 7.4% 2000 64.8% 57.4%
GB 34.2% 2011 -22.0% 1962* 8.3% 1967* 64.5% 56.2%
SEA 28.9% 2005 -25.1% 2013 9.1% 1983 63.1% 54.0%
TB 26.7% 2021 -31.2% 2002 4.5% 1996 62.3% 57.9%
BUF 25.1% 1975* -28.2% 2004 8.8% 2005 62.1% 53.3%
MIN 23.9% 1998 -32.9% 1969* 4.8% 1999 61.7% 56.8%
IND 32.2% 2004 -22.4% 1968* 6.9% 1968* 61.6% 54.6%
LV 26.0% 1976* -26.0% 1968* 9.2% 1975* 61.2% 52.0%
PIT 22.9% 2014 -30.1% 1976* 8.1% 1952* 61.1% 53.0%
NYJ 23.0% 1967* -25.6% 2009 9.9% 1986 58.6% 48.6%
DAL 30.1% 1995 -19.0% 1973* 9.2% 1998 58.2% 49.1%
WAS 27.5% 1991 -22.1% 1974* 8.6% 1991 58.2% 49.6%
NYG 20.3% 1967* -25.1% 1950* 12.2% 1951* 57.6% 45.4%
CIN 31.3% 1988 -18.2% 1976* 5.7% 1970* 55.2% 49.5%
ATL 25.1% 2016 -20.5% 1977* 6.6% 1993 52.3% 45.6%
DET 18.3% 1971* -26.1% 1962* 7.8% 2002 52.2% 44.4%
ARI 21.2% 1977* -19.3% 1960* 11.0% 1959* 51.5% 40.5%
JAX 23.4% 1997 -15.9% 2017 6.4% 1999 45.7% 39.4%
CAR 18.5% 2011 -17.3% 2015 9.8% 1996 45.6% 35.9%
HOU 21.6% 2010 -17.1% 2012 6.9% 2007 45.6% 38.7%

Comments

39 comments, Last at 25 May 2022, 10:46pm

#1 by KnotMe // May 19, 2022 - 3:33pm

Just for kicks:
Best Offence: NE(2007): 44.1%
Best Defense: Phi(1991): -42

Best ST: NYG(1951),NO(2002): 12.2

Best DVOA Team Total: 98.3 (No ST): 86.1

Interesting that even the best all time team doesn't (quite) reach 100%.  Pit also comes out fairly low for the number of SBs, although it's obvious total DVOA is more important than components. 

Points: 0

#10 by ImNewAroundThe… // May 19, 2022 - 7:05pm

1. NFCE: '95 Cowboys offense 30.1% + '91 Eagles Defense -42% + '51 Giants ST 12.2% = 84.3%

2. AFCE: '07 Pats offense 44.1% + '04 Bills defense -28.2% + '86 Jets ST 9.9% = 82.2%

3. AFCN: '53 Browns offense 40.2% + '76 Steelers defense -30.1% + '94 Browns ST 10.1% = 80.4%

4. NFCN: '11 Packers offense 34.2% + '86 Bears defense -33.6% + '07 Bears ST 11.2% = 79%

5. AFCW: '82 Chargers offense 40.3% + '69 Chefs defense -26.8% + '68 Chefs ST 10% = 77.1%

6. NFCS: '11 Saints offense 33.5% + '02 Bucs defense -31.2% + '02 Saints ST 12.2% = 76.9%

7. AFCS: '61 Oilers offense 32.4% + '00 Titans defense -25% + '00 Titans ST 7.4% = 64.8%

8. NFCW: '51 Rams offense 35% + '68 Rams defense -28.5% + '85 Rams ST 11.5% = 63.5%

 

Lol notes

  • the NFCW is all Rams.
  • the AFCS is all TN.
  • East divisions are all diverse. 
  • AFCS loses in all facets to the 2-6 ranked teams but not 1 or 8

Makes me wanna run some WIS sims. Hmmmm

Points: 0

#12 by KnotMe // May 19, 2022 - 7:35pm

Might as well do am alltime DVOA SB
AFC: 
'07 Pats offense 44.1% 
 '76 Steelers defense -30.1% 
'94 Browns ST 10.1%
Total: 84.3 (74.2 wo ST)

NFC:
'51 Rams offense 35%
 '91 Eagles Defense -42% 
 '02 Saints ST 12.2%
Total: 89.2 (77 wo ST)

Well, the NFC was stronger historically, but the gap was larger than I expected. 

Notes: 3 highest offences (all over 40%) are in the AFC. 3 highest defenses are in the NFC. NFC has both the best special teams entries. 

Those probably feed themselves to a degree. (i.e. the AFC has better offences bc their defenses are worse and vice/versa, with the NFC being the other way around)

NFCE is tied with the all the AFC team. lol

Points: 0

#16 by ImNewAroundThe… // May 19, 2022 - 9:09pm

NFC da bess.

NFC has the top 5 (!) best ST teams. And top 4(!) defenses. 

Football Outsiders should assemble each franchises best 53 man roster of individual seasons next! Packers depth chart at QB of '11 Rodgers and '96 Favre (or whatever) would go crazy with '20 Adams. 

Points: 0

#17 by DisplacedPackerFan // May 20, 2022 - 3:44am

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

We don't have DYAR for it (and likely never will) but that '42 season from Hutson of 74-1211-17  in 11 games would probably be the Packers DYAR and DVOA record for a WR. But outside that, DYAR/DVOA depending on how you want to weight things would give the title to Jordy Nelson. I don't have all the data, but I do have all the data for any Packer WR/RB/TE who had 50 or more catches in a season. This is because I had the data for all Packers 50 and up reception seasons and was able to add DYAR/DVOA to it. 

DVOA uses 50 targets minimum to make the table so I do know I'm missing some good 200-300 DYAR seasons and even more sub 200 seasons but I don't think I'm missing anything over 300 for a WR. RB and TE could be different stories.

Wide Receiver (with 50 or more receptions)
Data is year, player, DYAR (rank), DVOA (rank)

  1. 2011 - Jordy Nelson: 520 (2), 52.9% (1)
  2. 2014 - Jordy Nelson: 482 (2), 26.8% (8)
  3. 2014 - Randall Cobb: 479 (4), 35.7% (1)
  4. 1989 - Sterling Sharpe: 425 (2), 25.5% (5)
  5. 2021 - Davante Adams: 423 (2), 17.6% (14)
  6. 2013 - Jordy Nelson: 402 (2), 26.8% (6)
  7. 2020 - Davante Adams: 395 (1), 19.7% (11)
  8. 1992 - Sterling Sharpe: 395 (2), 19.1% (6)
  9. 1997 - Antonio Freeman: 386 (2), 22.4% (5)
  10. 2016 - Jordy Nelson: 382 (3), 192.% (7)

There are 8 more seasons over 300 which will get you in order Cobb, Driver, Freeman, Jennings, Brooks, Walker, Driver, James Lofton (1983, 310 - 24%)

The 2011 season was the only one under 127 targets (98) and under 81 receptions (68). But 214 at 151 and 98 was right up there with the other high usage top 10 results, in case you want even higher rec/target numbers for the lists.

1981 Lofton might have a shot at breaking 300, don't think 1980 will so new data coming this summer likely won't change the top 10.

But I guess that would get your 5 deep roster as 2011 Nelson, 2014 Cobb, 1989 Sharpe, 2021 Adams, 1997 Freeman if you require it to be different players, not a bad group of 5. Though again I'd probably take 1942 Hutson over 1997 Freeman.

Other tidbits. 1987 is the only time in the DVOA era where a Packer WR didn't have 50 receptions, though 1982 will join that last (could 2022 join them too?).
Adams in 2020 is the only Packer to ever lead the league in DYAR
James Lofton in 1986 is the only Packer to ever finish dead last in DYAR (-111) though 2015 Adams was 2nd to last with -109.
The Packers have 101 player seasons with at least 50 receptions, Hutson in 1941 being the first to do it.

Tight End (with 50 or more receptions)
There are 3 tight end seasons over 200

  1. 1995 - Mark Chmura: 267 (1), 44.1% (2)
  2. 2020 - Robert Tonyan: 242 (2), 51.7% (1)
  3. 1983 - Paul Coffman: 222 (2), 34.7% (1)

Finley had a couple of 165 DYAR seasons (2009, 2011) if you want a top 5. Nothing else broke 100 for 50 receptions. Coffmans 81 season 56-711-4 is likely better than any of the Finley seasons but not his own 83 season.

TE could very well have a DYAR season better than Chmura's 267. DYAR leader board is 25 targets to qualify and I was doing 50 receptions. 

RB/FB (with 50 or more receptions)
Running backs you've got 3 receiving seasons over 150 DYAR, like TE it's only 25 targets to qualify for the RB tables so I'm pretty sure this will be missing better seasons.  I mean Dillon had 110 DYAR last year but since that was on 37 targets and my data was 50 receptions it won't even sniff my lists.

  1. 1995 - Edgar Bennett: 214 (5), 33.1% (5)
  2. 1983 - Gerry Ellis: 196 (2), 46.2% (2)
  3. 1999 - Dorsey Levens: 158 (5), 17.1% (15)

 

 

Since I had the data somewhat handy figured I'd share even if it's not quite what you were asking for, though the WR is probably correct. TE might not be, and for RB/FB you'd probably want combined rushing/receiving DYAR to pick your players and definitely wouldn't want a 50 reception threshold for deciding it!

Points: 0

#18 by DisplacedPackerFan // May 20, 2022 - 5:41am

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Got a little curious about QB so I compiled that too. 14 seasons of 1000 or better DYAR, 6 for Favre, 8 for Rodgers. Rodgers has the top 4. Lynn Dickeys then franchise record 4458 yard season in 1983 comes in at 16 with a 927 which does beat a couple of fully healthy Rodgers and Favre seasons.

  1. 2011 - Rodgers: 2059 (2), 46.6% (1)
  2. 2020 - Rodgers: 1649 (2), 33.7% (1)
  3. 2014 - Rodgers: 1564 (2), 32.2% (1)
  4. 2021 - Rodgers: 1510 (2), 27.8% (1)
  5. 1995 - Favre: 1507 (3), 27.5% (3)
  6. 2012 - Rodgers: 1395 (4), 23.4% (4)
  7. 2007 - Favre: 1311 (3), 24.5% (4)
  8. 2010 - Rodgers: 1286 (4), 26.8% (4)
  9. 2004 - Favre: 1280 (5), 24.5% (8)
  10. 2016 - Rodgers: 1279 (6), 18.7% (8)

I went 10 deep because of the Favre seasons are a bit surprising with the year orders and Rodgers/Farve alternating was fun. It continues on for a bit too. 1997, 2009, 1996. Then Favre repeats with 1994 and 2001 then Dickey breaks in with 1983.

The best season for each player with at least 100 attempts during DVOA era goes as follows (Tolzien and Wallace did not hit the 100 attempts cutoff I had in 2013, ditto Love in 2021 and Blair Kiel in 90 and 91). I may get the data for anyone who started a game at some point as that makes sense but again not what I had handy when I merged in the DYAR/DVOA data.

  1. 2011 - Aaron Rodgers: 2059 (2), 46.6% (1)
  2. 1995 - Brett Favre: 1507 (3), 27.5% (3)
  3. 1983 - Lynn Dickey: 927 (6), 17.1% (7)
  4. 1989 - Don Majkowski: 618 (8), 4.0% (12)
  5. 1986 - Randy Wright: 319 (17), -1.3% (16)
  6. 1991 - Mike Tomczak: 69 (24), -6.7% (24)
  7. 1985 - Jim Zorn: -36, -15.3%
  8. 2013 - Matt Flynn: -196 (34), -24.5% (37)
  9. 1990 - Anthony Dilweg: -200 (26), -27.0% (28)
  10. 2017 - Brett Hundley: -396 (34), -28.3% (34)

No Packers QB has lead the league in DYAR, though Rodgers has 4 DVOA titles.  Randy Wright was 30th of 30 qualified QBs at -454 in 1988.

Points: 0

#32 by ImNewAroundThe… // May 22, 2022 - 4:28pm

95 Favre backing up 11 Rodgers is great. 66 Starr if there's room.

Points: 0

#2 by LyleNM // May 19, 2022 - 3:46pm

Curious what 1961 offense you were using for the Houston Texans....

Points: 0

#3 by Aaron Schatz // May 19, 2022 - 4:08pm

That's the Oilers! I'll fix it.

Points: 0

#4 by Charzander // May 19, 2022 - 4:24pm

Six teams had their best offense in the 90s. Eight teams had their best defense. Follow that up with 4 best offenses/8 best defenses in the 00s and you have easily the best era. Great offenses. Great defenses. Great times.

10s have the most top offenses of any decade (8 teams had their best offense in the decade) but only two had their best defense. 

Points: 0

#5 by IlluminatusUIUC // May 19, 2022 - 4:49pm

Pretty wild that Buffalo has put a QB in the Hall of Fame plus the last two years of the Josh Allen show, but our best offense by DVOA was in the "Give it to OJ until he pukes" era.

Points: 0

#7 by PirateFreedom // May 19, 2022 - 5:43pm

I suspect that the era is incorporated in the results.

So Josh is compared to his current high flying competition and the 70s' Bills are compared to other '70s teams, who played offense the same way as the 70's Bills only without OJ.

Points: 0

#6 by HitchikersPie // May 19, 2022 - 5:40pm

At least for QB it checks out that Brady shows up for the Patriots and Buccaneers but I was surprised Terrell Davis and Elway trump all of Peyton's years in Denver.

 

Randy Moss obviously shows up for the '98 Vikings and '07 Pats, and technically you can have AB out for the '14 Steelers and most of the season for the '21 Bucs.

Wonder how many other players people can spot moonlighting on multiple teams...

Points: 0

#8 by Ryan // May 19, 2022 - 5:49pm

Yeah this is intriguing to me. I know this is just a fun list, but I'd be hard pressed to find someone who actually thinks that, in a vacuum, the '98 DEN offense was better than the '13 DEN offense. Can we calculate DVOA just among this list? So that one of these offenses/defenses ends up being 0% and we go relative from that? 

Points: 0

#9 by Vincent Verhei // May 19, 2022 - 5:56pm

1998 Broncos:

2nd that year in points scored

3rd in total yardage

3rd in fewest turnovers

 

2013 Broncos:

1st that year in points scored

1st in total yardage

17th in fewest turnovers (including dead last in lost fumbles)

Points: 0

#11 by TimK // May 19, 2022 - 7:32pm

The Elway/Davis/Smith/McCaffery/Sharpe Broncos teams weren’t always that flashy. But they really ploughed up and down the field all day. Terrifyingly efficient offence that could go run first or pass first depending on what cracked first on the defensive side. I don’t do sports betting, but the huge spread vs Packers in their first SB win did tempt me, I was certain they’d win, but didn’t think anyone would blow them out.

But for a bizarre collection of stupidities vs Jacksonville they might have easily gone to three consecutive Superbowls, and Elway probably could have played another year or two, unlike Manning (though both we missing games more often with age, Elway at least still had some arm power left).

Points: 0

#21 by Ryan // May 20, 2022 - 3:17pm

Yeah see I feel like this kinda proves my point. Both Elway and Manning threw 10 picks that year....but Manning threw 33 more touchdowns. Fumble luck seems to be weighing DVOA down to an extreme. I'm not sure many people would pick '98 over '13 simply because they're worried that Knowshon Moreno might lose a fumble. 

Points: 0

#23 by DisplacedPackerFan // May 20, 2022 - 4:23pm

I mean Terrell Davis did have a small effect on that offense. 21 rushing TD's and 2008 yards at 5.1 ypc is going to affect how the offense does things vs 1038 rushing yards, 10 rushing TDs and 4.3 ypc (0.8 ypc is a pretty big deal thats like needing 1 or 2 plays fewer per drive to score). I know passing is way more efficient, but the 98 Denver offense did operate in a very different fashion and was very effective at it.

 

Now that being said I've speculated a few times in the last few years that turnovers in general, because they are less and less frequent, are potentially having an outsized effect on the predictive aspects of DVOA. They still have a massive effect on describing what happened, but when you regularly have QBs that throw 7 or less INT a season but have one game where they throw 2 and that one game lowers a teams DVOA by 5 - 10% is that really helping the predictive value of the model? Does it describe what happened that day well and show how bad that game was? Absolutely. Back when you could expect 0.75 to 1.25 INT a game from most players that feels pretty descriptive and predictive, most games had an INT. Now when you can expect that most games won't have an INT from at least one team it feels like it's much more of a random thing. It feels like DVOA has actually been getting worse at predicting outcomes over the last 10 years and I do think turnovers behaving more like random non predictive events is part of that.

I mean that's part of why some penalties aren't in DVOA they are too random to get a clear signal from. But some of those penalties can be a huge swing in the outcome of games. It's not easy to model.

Points: 0

#25 by theslothook // May 20, 2022 - 5:15pm

Because possessions are relatively small in number, turnovers have such an outsized effect on the outcome of a game. And of course, game scripts totally warp the flow of a team and thus, the turnovers themselves become a kind of additive or multiplicative factor. Its why I think its one of the most unpredictable parts of the game - it can just totally skew a game script in such a way that really isn't likely to happen the following week.

That said, perhaps the fact that the 98 Broncos was such a rush heavy team meant they were insulated from turnovers. At least in theory, a forward pass has the chance of an interception, a fumble by the QB, and a fumble by the receiver; whereas the run just has the fumble from the running back or the infrequent botched handoff.

But then again, this style is predicted on your defense not letting you fall behind in the first place. 

Points: 0

#14 by theslothook // May 19, 2022 - 8:03pm

Maybe its a product of the times, but 2013 Broncos offense would scare me more than the 1998 version, at least on a typical afternoon of football. That team had so many 50 point games and even when they were sputtering, they could throw 30 points on a team(at least until they played in the SB). 

Points: 0

#27 by Aaron Schatz // May 20, 2022 - 5:50pm

The difference in DVOA is very small, 35.0% vs. 34.2%, so I certainly wouldn't fault anyone who chose the 2013 Broncos over the 1998 Broncos. The main reason the 1998 Broncos come out better is the adjustment for era. If you don't adjust for the fact that offense around the league was higher in 2013 than 1998, the 2013 Broncos come out FAR ahead. In "raw" VOA, so without opponent adjustments OR era adjustments, 2013 Broncos come out at 44.6% and 1998 Broncos come out at 28.5%. No comparison, the 2013 Broncos had the more powerful offense. It just wasn't quite as good when compared to league average because league average was so much different.

Points: 0

#30 by Rich A // May 22, 2022 - 4:07pm

Welker played for both the 07 Pats and the 13 Broncos.

To me it blows me away that the 07 Pats had 2 players (Moss, Welker), together, from the two other scariest offenses. If only they had someone better at RB than Maroney they could have actually finished the perfect season, someone to keep the giants O-line honest with some strength, rather than dancing behind the line. Even Sammy Morris, who was injured mid-season would've been better at churning out 3-4 yds at a time than Maroney who would 15% sort of boom (8 yds), but 80% of the time get taken down at the line.

Points: 0

#13 by theslothook // May 19, 2022 - 8:02pm

Before looking at the list, I would have expected SF and Pittsburgh to be higher; especially SF.

As for NE, I am curious to poll NE fans to see if they think 2019 was their best defense. By DVOA which does adjust for opponents, it is so maybe that ends the discussion. But Ne's vintage defenses of the 2000s have never overwhelmed in the regular season and never have they seemingly overflowed with talent the way some of the Ravens Defenses have, but they certainly caused plenty of headaches for opponents.

Maybe I am just trapped in reverence to their dynasty, but I felt like the 2003 Pats D was better than 2019. 

Points: 0

#31 by Rich A // May 22, 2022 - 4:15pm

I think the 2003 team was a bit more physical with their LB's but that was the way the game was played at the time. The secondaries compare about the same too, with veteran safety play (Harrison more physical than Chung)(D McCourty faster than Wilson).

I think it's interesting that both teams had really strong CB's deeper down the ladder, with Asante Samuel the nickel in 2003, which to me is the perfect spot for a gambler - not on the outside. In 2019 they had JC Jackson who was in his second year.

I feel like when they lost Jonathan Jones at the nickel in 2019, the team really fell apart, because they had a weak point that was just too easy for modern OC's to exploit. In 2003, other than the Colts, most teams were still stuck in the pro-set I rather than spreading things around with an 11 formation, so the above average, but not elite, secondary wasn't challenged as much.

As a Pats fan that runs the city fan club, I'd still take some of the top ravens teams for their defenses. The strong pass rush combined with superlative safety and LB play was suffocating - if only they could stay healthy at corner.

Points: 0

#15 by ImNewAroundThe… // May 19, 2022 - 9:00pm

Really like this fascinating stuff. 

Going by SRS, (bold is different from above)

  1. Bears: '41 offense 19.6 + '48 defense 10.9 = 30.5
  2. Vikings: '98 offense 13.2 + '69 defense 10.6 = 23.8
  3. Patriots: '07 offense 15.9 + '19 defense 7.6 = 23.5
  4. Broncos: '13 offense 14.1 + '77 defense 9.4 =23.5
  5. Giants: '29 offense 12.2 + '50 defense 11.2 = 23.4
  6. Packers: '11 offense 11.5 + '62 defense 11.3 = 22.8
  7. Chefs: '18 offense 12.6 + '68 defense 10.1 = 22.7
  8. Eagles: '44 offense 9.5 + '50 defense 12.8 = 22.3
  9. Rams: '50 offense 13.3 + '75 defense 8.7 = 22
  10. Colts: '04 offense 11.7 + '68 defense 9.9 = 21.6
  11. 49ers: '49 offense 13.3 + '12 defense 6.7 = 20
  12. TN: '61 offense 11.4 + '67 defense 8.3 = 19.7
  13. Browns: '55 offense 9.4 + '50 defense 9.7 = 19.1
  14. Chargers: '82 offense 10.6 + '61 defense 8.4 = 19
  15. Ravens: '19 offense 11 + '00 defense 8 = 19
  16. Lions: '36 offense 7.8 + '62 defense 10.9 = 18.7
  17. Saints: '09 offense 11.2 + '92 defense 7.1 = 18.3
  18. Washington: '83 offense 11.7 + '73 defense 6.3 = 18
  19. Buffalo: '75 offense 10.4 + '99 defense 7.4 = 17.8
  20. Dolphins: '84 offense 9.1 + '73 defense 8.3 = 17.4
  21. Falcons: '16 offense 10.5 + '77 defense 6.6 = 17.1
  22. Bucs: '21 offense 7.3 + '02 defense 9.8 = 17.1
  23. Raiders: '68 offense 10 + '73 defense 6.7 = 16.7
  24. Steelers: '79 offense 6.8 + '76 defense 9.6 = 16.4
  25. Jets: '82 offense 8.8 + '09 defense 7.5 = 16.3
  26. Cardinals: '48 offense 9.9 + '34 defense 5.9 = 15.8
  27. Cowboys: '83 offense 8.6 + '09 defense 6.7 = 15.3
  28. Seahawks: '05 offense 5.8 + '13 defense 8.9 = 14.7
  29. Panthers: '15 offense 6 + '13 defense 8.6 =14.6
  30. Bengals: '88 offense 7.1 + '15 defense 5.8 = 12.9
  31. Jags: '07 offense 4.8 + '04 defense 6.4 = 11.2
  32. Texans: '08 offense 2.8 + '11 defense 3.2 = 6

By current division layout

  1. NFCN: '48 Bears OSRS 19.6 + '41 Bears DSRS 10.9 = 30.5
  2. NFCE: '29 Giants OSRS 12.2 + '50 Eagles 12.8 DSRS = 25
  3. AFCE: '07 Patriots OSRS 15.9 + '73 Dolphins DSRS 8.3 = 24.2
  4. AFCW: '13 Broncos OSRS 14.1 + '68 Chefs DSRS 10.1 = 24.2
  5. NFCW: '50 Rams OSRS 13.3 + '13 Seahawks DSRS 8.9 = 22.2
  6. AFCS: '04 Colts OSRS 11.7 + '68 Colts DSRS 9.9 = 21.6
  7. NFCS: '09 Saints OSRS 11.2 + '02 Bucs 9.8 DSRS = 21
  8. AFCN: '19 Ravens OSRS 11 + '50 Browns DSRS 9.7 = 20.7

Notes:

  • 26/64 agree on the best year 
  • But yall only went to 1950 so dropping those, it's 26/56.
  • For the ties I went with lowest (better) number when combining their ranking in yards and points in each respective year.
  • It was still tied for the Falcons and Bucs so I went with lower offensive ranking (1st in yards and points for the '16 ATL and 2nd for both for the '21 TB) because, they're in control
  • Wow Bears. No one can mess with them even if history got together ('07 Pats offense + '50 Eagles defense still falls 1.8 short)
  • Ouch Texans

I'll still vouch for the Packers/NFCN doe. '96 defense was also great (HOFrs Butler and White) but that '62 defense was crazy stacked (HOFrs "defensive linemen Willie Davis and Henry Jordan, linebacker Ray Nitschke, cornerback Herb Adderley, and safety Willie Wood. (They also had 1962 All-Pro linebackers Dan Currie and Bill Forester.)")

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#22 by mehllageman56 // May 20, 2022 - 3:34pm

Find it hard to believe the 1982 Jets offense (led by Richard Todd) was better than the 1985 version led by Ken O'Brien, who had the best passer rating that year, or the 1998 version led by Vinny, Cherbet, Keyshawn and Curtis Martin, much less the 1967 version with Namath throwing for 4,000 yards in 14 games, almost a decade before Fouts did it.  I mean, 1982 might have been Freeman McNeil's best year, but he was still there in 1985 along with Johnny Hector, and I'm not sure McNeil was better than Snell or Boozer, much less Curtis Martin.

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#26 by ImNewAroundThe… // May 20, 2022 - 5:47pm

All three were 4th in yards but 82 was 3rd in points, 98 was 5th and 85 was 7th.

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#19 by KaosTheory // May 20, 2022 - 8:38am

Fun project overall. I love this type of stuff.

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#24 by Apphelps // May 20, 2022 - 5:13pm

Found it interesting that the ravens played the 2  Pats teams that are at the top of the list.  I’d say they came out looking like the better team. 37 points against the top D and only gave up 27 to the top offense. 

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#20 by JoelBarlow // May 20, 2022 - 1:10pm

is such a DVOA outlier I wonder if there's a grain of salt we need to add here. just find it hard to believe they're 30-40% than other historically great defenses. I could grant best ever, I could grant best ever 10% better, but these numbers would mean the '86 bears are closer to like a generic good defense than they are to the '91 eagles, which just seems off

I know its all supposed to be adjusted but wasn't the early 90s a mini ice age for scoring?

I'm sure there are 500 words written on this somewhere, but I do wonder if teams like this (all D no O) also get an inherent boost because offenses are a little more conservative because they think they only need 17 points to win (which is stupid but also probably likely in 1990s NFL coach thinking)

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#28 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 20, 2022 - 6:37pm

They held the juggernaut Redskins in check twice, which suggests there was something real there.

That team did force a crap-ton of turnovers.

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#33 by KnotMe // May 23, 2022 - 12:10pm

 I do wonder what else was going on.  The 'O7 Pats are a pretty similar outlier, but it's fairly easy to explain. That was far and way the best support Brady had while still nearish his prime. 

Not familiar with the '91 Eagles but I wonder if it was something similar. Great players but they never had the band all healthy at the same time again. 

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#34 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 23, 2022 - 12:40pm

Reggie left after 1992. It turned out that Clyde Simmons was really good when Reggie White was trashing double-teams, but only mundane when he was the primary pass-rusher. The absence of rush then filtered down to the LBs and DBs (Eric Allen aside). Sudden the defense was mortal.

Why can the Rams get by with two good players on their defense? Because one of them is Aaron Donald. It's a cheat code.

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#35 by DisplacedPackerFan // May 23, 2022 - 4:40pm

Yeah some of what Reggie did would be a penalty now, but that man threw 300 pound linemen around like they were little children. I saw him basically run over a tackle, guard, and fullback on the same play and still get to the QB before any of his team mates who only had single blocking could. Donald playing under 80's and 90's rules would be even scarier than he is now. Fully agree that a 3 down defensive lineman with no weaknesses against the run or pass and is a 50/50 bet or better to beat a double team is basically a cheat code.

 

Reggie was just so fun to watch.

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#37 by lawofmurphy // May 25, 2022 - 8:03am

Also Jerome Brown died before the 1992 season. The line went from three 1st team AP selections in 1991 to just Simmons by 1993. I think you can make a case the 1991 Eagles defensive line was the best of all time.

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#38 by theslothook // May 25, 2022 - 12:19pm

I think play calling is absolutely skewed based on what the expected offensive output of your opponent is going to be. If you are confident that the opposing offense is going to do jack shit, then why chance trying to be aggressive and it leading to turnovers that skew the game. Better to be methodical and conservative.

That probably inflates every great defense bad offense pairing the way it deflates every great offense bad defense pairing, although I am not sure how you account for that given how DVOA is tracked. Its looking at the results of a play, less so than the offensive approach. By nature, conservative gameplans are likely, on net, to be less effective than more aggressive one's turnovers included. 

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#29 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 20, 2022 - 6:38pm

Cutting the DVOA conversion off at 1950 really hurts the Bears, whose best teams were in the 30s and 40s.

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#36 by Aaron Brooks G… // May 24, 2022 - 9:42am

If you discount 2019 -- and you absolutely should, it was rightly perceived as a mirage even as it happened -- it's more interesting. The next-best Pats defense is 2003, I think, at -18.8%. Which makes for a big muddle at #1.

\The 2019 team not only played only bad teams before the bye, they tended to play the backup QBs for bad teams. Some of those guys aren't starter quality in the USFL. The only starting-quality QBs they handled were 2nd-year Josh Allen (game 1 only) and Dak. Lamar, Wentz, Hopkins, and Mahomes either handled them fine or lit them up. In their last three games, they got handled by 2nd-year Josh Allen, Fitzmagic (the @Miami game with which the Pats have always struggled), and Tannehill. Sometimes a great defense has a guy they don't do well with (Marino for the '85 Bears), but the 2019 Pats kryptonite was "average starting QB."

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#39 by mrh // May 25, 2022 - 10:46pm

The 2002 Chiefs offense was something with 3 HoFers (Roaf, Shields, Gonzalez), peak Priest Holmes, and Trent Green at QB, who I maintain would be in the HoF if he hadn't gotten hurt before the Greatest Show on Turf broke out (of course, then he wouldn't have been on the 2002 Chiefs).

The 1968 Chiefs' ST included HoFer Stenerud, punter Jerrel Wilson who led the league with a 45.1 yards per punt (all '70s team punter and a higher career yards per punt than Ray Guy), and a league-leading 14.5 yards per punt return w/2 TDs. Kick returns was their weak spot; they were last with only 19.4 yards per return.  They only had 38 returns, 8 fewer than #9 Jets, but they don't seem to have taken many touchbacks:  the defense only allowed 18 TDs (and there were no return TDs vs. ST or the offense) and 14 FGs and inferring 14 kickoffs to start the game or half, that's only around 42 kickoffs against.

The '68 team surrendered just 12.1 points per game, fewer than the '69 team with 12.6.  But 18 of the points in '69 were scored on pick-sixes, so the '69 defense allowed even fewer points than the previous D.

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