49ers, Bills Easily Pace Weighted DVOA Ratings
NFL Wild Card - After wild-card weekend, the San Francisco 49ers maintain their No. 1 spot in our weighted DVOA ratings (the hottest team right now) while the Buffalo Bills maintain their No. 1 spot in our total DVOA ratings (for the full season). Both teams went up after the wild-card games, and both San Francisco and Buffalo now have weighted DVOA over 40%. That's probably not a surprise when it comes to San Francisco, but it's more of a surprise when it comes to Buffalo.
The 49ers have won 11 games in a row and have positive DVOA in each one of those wins. In eight of those 11 wins, San Francisco had DVOA over 45%, including this week in the wild-card win over Seattle. Despite starting a seventh-round rookie quarterback, the 49ers are now No. 2 in weighted offense behind Kansas City. Surprisingly, they have dropped to fifth in weighted defense—it was not a great defensive performance against Seattle, as the Seahawks had a 48% success rate—but the 49ers are less than three percentage points behind No. 1 New England. The 49ers are even in the top 10 for weighted special teams. Because they are No. 1 in weighted DVOA with a sizeable gap between them and the rest of the NFC, the 49ers are now our Super Bowl favorites.
The Bills spent a lot of Sunday afternoon tripping over their own feet but that game with Miami featured a lot of non-predictive randomness. Despite a close victory, the Bills had a single-game DVOA of 59.4% and a Post-Game Win Expectancy of 98%. The Bills outgained the Dolphins 5.9 yards per play to 3.3 yards per play and ran more plays. Each quarterback threw two interceptions, but note that the two Miami interception returns gained 78 yards while the two Buffalo interception returns gained 10 yards. There is a lot of randomness to interception returns, and they aren't really a great indicator of how good an offense is going to play in the future. The Bills also fumbled four times and did recover three of those fumbles themselves, which is a little bit of luck, but the one fumble they lost was a touchdown for the Dolphins, which is definitely not good luck. A lot of the NFL commentariat came away from Sunday's game with the belief that the Bills are in real trouble, when DVOA thinks that the underlying play-by-play details show a team that outplayed the Dolphins in the way we expected when we found out Miami would be starting a third-string quarterback. The Cincinnati Bengals are a very good team, now fourth in weighted DVOA. They have a real chance to win next week but our numbers say that Buffalo is still the best team in the AFC.
If weighted DVOA is to believed, our Big Six from most of this season is now more of a Big Five. There's a good gap between Philadelphia at No. 5 and Dallas, the next playoff team, at No. 7. The other three playoff teams are much lower in weighted DVOA. The Jaguars drop to No. 14 while the Giants move up a spot to No. 17. Tampa Bay is all the way down at No. 26—much lower than their No. 18 rank for the entire season—but of course they can change that a bit with a nice healthy win over the Cowboys tonight.
As always, the following rules apply for postseason DVOA ratings:
- All 32 teams are ranked, whether they made the playoffs or not.
- Teams are ranked in order of weighted DVOA, not total season DVOA. Since weighted DVOA is meant to lower the strength of older games, these ratings do not include Weeks 1-4, and Weeks 5-12 are somewhat discounted.
- The ratings listed do not include the adjustments used in the ratings for our playoff odds report. Right now, Philadelphia is adjusted to account for the two Gardner Minshew games and Tampa Bay is slightly adjusted because it sat starters for part of Week 18.
- Only weighted DVOA is listed for offense, defense, and special teams. Total DVOA is also listed, but one game doesn't change much in an 18-game sample so these ratings will be similar to those from the end of the season.
- Teams which did not play in the wild-card round are treated as if they had a bye week. (That includes both the 18 non-playoff teams and the two teams with byes.)
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To save people some time, we remind everyone to put their angry troll hatred into the official zlionsfan angry troll hatred Mad Libs form:
<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>
If you are new to our website, you can read the explanation of how DVOA is figured here. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.
We will also adjust these ratings with an article after Monday Night Football between Dallas and Tampa Bay.
Teams in yellow are still alive in the playoffs. Teams in gray lost this past weekend.
Click here for a look at full-season DVOA with offensive and defensive splits.
Next, let's look at all the single-game ratings from wild-card weekend. Other than Buffalo-Miami, the results are probably close to what you are expecting. The Giants had a small but healthy advantage over the Vikings. The Jaguars-Chargers and Bengals-Ravens games were close. What's interesting with these games is how Post-Game Win Expectancy disagrees with DVOA. Post-Game Win Expectancy, for those aren't familiar, is a formula that asks: based on the play-by-play results of this game, how often would we expect each team to win? It accounts for VOA (without opponent adjustments), the total number of plays for each team, and penalties (including declined and offsetting).
As you might imagine, the 98-yard fumble return touchdown for Cincinnati makes the DVOA between the Bengals and Ravens very close. DVOA does not count the fumble return, because fumble recovery is random. It doesn't know the specifics of the fumble, the way that Tyler Huntley tried to go over the pile and had the ball slapped out of his hand, but remember there's a chance that the ball goes the other way into the end zone and either Baltimore recovers for a touchdown or Cincinnati recovers for a touchback and has to start its offense on the 20. That Sam Hubbard touchdown isn't necessarily predictive of how the Baltimore offense is going to play in the future (if it had a future). Despite this touchdown not getting credit in DVOA, Cincinnati came out of Sunday's game with a slightly higher DVOA than Baltimore. However, they only had PGWE of 33% because the Ravens ran more plays (66 to 53) while the Bengals had more penalties (7 to 5).
On the other hand, the Jaguars had a higher PGWE but lower DVOA in Saturday night's big comeback. Jacksonville ends up with 66% PGWE but a negative DVOA (and VOA before opponent adjustments). The main reason for this is again penalties, as the Chargers had nine penalties and the Jaguars only four. This overcame the fact that the Chargers had the better passing DVOA and the Jaguars the better rushing DVOA. Stronger passing usually indicates a win more than stronger rushing.