Week 6 DVOA Ratings

Week 6 DVOA Ratings
Week 6 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

New Orleans is now the clear number one atop this week's Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. That's no surprise after the Saints dismantled the previously unbeaten New York Giants on Sunday, 48-27. The Saints look ready to cruise to a first-round bye -- they are also the most consistent team in the league by VARIANCE, and their future schedule ranks 30th in the NFL.

The team that ranks second behind New Orleans is a bit more of a surprise -- or not, if you're a long-time Football Outsiders reader. Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles are still number two despite their embarrassing loss to Oakland this past weekend. The explanation for this is pretty simple, to be honest: Their three wins have been huge. They came against very bad teams, but DVOA won't fully penalize them until opponent adjustments are at full strength in Week 10. (We don't do full opponent adjustments now to make up for the small sample size that comes with fewer games. Who knows -- to give an example, maybe Carolina is better than everyone thinks.) Meanwhile, the Eagles two losses have been close by DVOA standards. They only lost to Oakland by four points, so their DVOA for that game is currently -12.0%. They lost to New Orleans by a big score, 48-22, but of course that's a loss to the best team in the league, so DVOA moves the rating up a bit. There were also three fumbles in that game that were all recovered by the Saints, so overall Philly's DVOA for that game is currently listed as a positive 2.3%.

Anyway, enough of that longtime Football Outsiders hobby, apologizing for our Eagles stats. Let's move on to another of our longtime hobbies, trying to figure out where our preseason projections went wrong. We could look at early performance and wonder about flukes, but at this point it is pretty clear that Denver is far better than we projected and San Diego is far worse. Obviously, San Diego has had some injury troubles, but they don't have enough injuries to represent the difference between a historically strong projection and ranking 24th in DVOA through five games. That leads to the question: What could the projection system have missed? We're talking about objective numbers here; our projections weren't based on a desire to criticize Josh McDaniels or an irrational love of Antonio Cromartie. The trends all still make sense looking back -- the Broncos brought in a quarterback with lower career numbers, the Broncos had a historically bad defense a year ago, old secondaries often struggle, San Diego had a lot of defensive injuries last year, and so forth. So what did we miss? At this point, I'd actually like to hear suggestions from the audience. We're looking for objective facts that we knew before the season that should have been indicators that Denver's defense would make a colossal turnaround, or that San Diego wouldn't be the best team in the league. They need to be suggestions that would be useful when looking at teams in general, trends that we can see with other teams from the past that significantly improved or declined from one year to the next. For example, "the Broncos hired Mike Nolan" wouldn't work, because as I discussed last week, there's no consistent history of well-regarded veteran coordinators significantly improving bad defenses. I also don't think "Norv Turner sucks" works, because Norv Turner's poor coaching is already reflected in San Diego's ratings from the last two seasons.

Most readers know that I often don't have the time to read through all the comments in the discussion threads, but I will look through this week and see if people have offered some serious suggestions that could help make the projection system more accurate in future years.

Finally, you may have been wondering where the Patriots' 59-0 shellacking of the Titans fits in on the list of the best DVOA games of all-time. The surprising answer: It doesn't. New England's DVOA rating for this week's win was "only" 117.5%. That's definitely the best single-game rating so far this year, but it doesn't make the list of the top ten DVOA games. That could change by the end of the year, but the Titans would have to get their act together enough to significantly change the opponent adjustments. (The list of the ten best DVOA games is found here.) The main reason why the Patriots don't make the list is that they didn't just take their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter -- they pulled the emergency brake and let the second-string offense skid all over in the snow. In their final two drives, the Patriots fell short on two third downs and a fourth down, and added a false start just for fun. Obviously, it doesn't matter when you are winning by 59, but DVOA does count every play, although at reduced strength because of the score. Here is New England's offensive DVOA by quarter on Sunday:

  • Q1: 47.4%
  • Q2: 116.5%
  • Q3: 44.2%
  • Q4: -67.5%

Fumbles were also a reason why the Patriots did not set a DVOA record -- not fumble recovery, but the fumbles themselves. The Titans fumbled six times, but three of those were aborted snaps; in the new DVOA introduced last July, the defense no longer gets any credit for "causing" a bad snap.

Of course, the Titans still get penalized for blowing those snaps, and so while the Patriots don't land on the list of the ten best single-game DVOA ratings, the Titans do land on the list of the ten worst single-game DVOA ratings:

Worst Single-Game DVOA Ratings, 1994-2009
Year Team DVOA Week vs. Score Opp DVOA
Rank for Year
2002 ARI -169.2% 13 KC 49-0 4
2005 SF -166.0% 7 WAS 52-17 7
2005 SF -146.8% 2 PHI 42-3 18
2000 CLE -165.2% 14 JAC 48-0 16
2007 KC -157.1% 14 DEN 41-7 17
1999 CLE -153.6% 1 PIT 43-0 19
2009 TEN -153.0% 6 NE 59-0 4
2003 ARI -144.5% 11 CLE 44-6 22
2000 ARI -142.7% 8 DAL 48-7 24
2008 STL -137.5% 10 NYJ 47-3 17

* * * * *

Housekeeping notes: We've finally had a chance to update the "DVOA as of Week X" numbers in the Premium database to reflect the new version of DVOA we introduced in July. All of the week-to-week numbers have been redone, so you can see what DVOA would have looked like in Week 8 of 1994 or Week 12 of 2002 or whenever you would like. In addition, the game-by-game DVOA page now features not only single-game offensive and defensive DVOA but also both offense and defense split into rushing and passing. If you want to know the rushing DVOA of the Bengals when Corey Dillon broke the all-time record with 278 rushing yards, you can (Week 8 of 2000, if you want to look it up). All Premium DVOA stats are now updated through Week 6 of 2009, as are all individual stats and team stats pages, plus the playoff odds page (with a few new "special Super Bowl" listings).

The other housekeeping note: I got myself on the Twitter. There's an "official" FO address, fb_outsiders, but that's actually Bill Barnwell talking. I'm now on at FO_ASchatz. I'm planning to mostly use it to follow NFL reporters rather than telling you what I'm eating for lunch or whatever, but feel free to follow my feed as well as Bill's, and use it to ask questions which I may or may not have time to answer. At some point we'll get up a list of all the FO writers with public twitter pages so you can follow whoever you would like.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through six weeks of 2009, 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.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to 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. Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are currently at 60 percent strength.

As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with current DVOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 19 percent of DAVE for teams with six games and 27 percent of DAVE for teams with five games.

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>

1 NO 54.4% 1 37.6% 2 5-0 41.0% 1 -19.4% 2 -6.0% 29
2 PHI 44.2% 2 33.6% 4 3-2 13.2% 13 -26.7% 1 4.3% 5
3 IND 41.2% 4 39.6% 1 5-0 35.3% 2 -7.0% 9 -1.1% 19
4 NE 34.8% 9 33.7% 3 4-2 34.1% 3 -1.5% 15 -0.8% 18
5 NYG 33.5% 3 30.1% 5 5-1 21.4% 7 -11.0% 6 1.2% 11
6 DEN 33.1% 7 22.5% 8 6-0 17.1% 10 -18.8% 3 -2.8% 24
7 MIN 29.7% 5 27.6% 6 6-0 19.5% 8 -1.7% 14 8.5% 2
8 GB 28.9% 8 19.6% 9 3-2 13.4% 12 -15.8% 4 -0.3% 15
9 BAL 27.6% 6 25.3% 7 3-3 24.6% 6 -6.3% 11 -3.3% 25
10 ATL 19.9% 10 10.3% 11 4-1 18.3% 9 2.2% 17 3.8% 6
11 PIT 14.1% 12 15.8% 10 4-2 27.1% 5 7.1% 21 -6.0% 28
12 DAL 12.5% 11 9.0% 12 3-2 27.2% 4 13.9% 25 -0.7% 17
13 ARI 8.3% 22 0.7% 16 3-2 2.5% 18 -7.3% 8 -1.6% 21
14 MIA 3.3% 17 -2.7% 18 2-3 13.5% 11 8.9% 22 -1.3% 20
15 JAC 2.7% 15 5.8% 13 3-3 13.1% 14 11.8% 23 1.4% 10
16 NYJ 0.3% 13 -3.6% 19 3-3 -13.6% 20 -11.2% 5 2.7% 8
17 SEA -3.1% 14 -0.4% 17 2-4 -3.1% 19 0.8% 16 0.7% 12
18 HOU -4.4% 20 -5.0% 20 3-3 8.7% 15 16.1% 26 3.0% 7
19 CHI -5.2% 16 2.3% 15 3-2 -16.4% 25 -3.1% 13 8.1% 3
20 CIN -6.3% 18 -6.3% 21 4-2 5.8% 17 5.8% 19 -6.3% 31
21 SF -7.3% 21 -11.4% 23 3-2 -15.0% 24 -10.3% 7 -2.5% 23
22 WAS -8.8% 19 -8.6% 22 2-4 -14.8% 23 -6.1% 12 -0.1% 14
23 BUF -10.4% 24 -14.0% 24 2-4 -17.5% 26 -6.9% 10 0.2% 13
24 SD -10.5% 23 2.8% 14 2-3 7.0% 16 19.2% 28 1.7% 9
25 KC -22.3% 26 -18.4% 25 1-5 -14.5% 22 13.6% 24 5.8% 4
26 CLE -30.7% 25 -26.7% 27 1-5 -26.1% 31 18.3% 27 13.8% 1
27 CAR -34.9% 29 -25.1% 26 2-3 -22.6% 29 6.1% 20 -6.2% 30
28 STL -41.3% 30 -34.3% 28 0-6 -18.4% 27 21.1% 29 -1.7% 22
29 TB -41.3% 28 -35.8% 30 0-6 -13.9% 21 27.1% 32 -0.4% 16
30 TEN -46.4% 27 -34.5% 29 0-6 -18.5% 28 21.3% 30 -6.6% 32
31 OAK -47.3% 32 -40.9% 31 2-4 -38.9% 32 5.1% 18 -3.3% 26
32 DET -54.3% 31 -45.6% 32 1-5 -25.9% 30 22.7% 31 -5.7% 27

  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
  • PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).

1 NO 54.4% 5-0 57.9% 6.0 1 2.2% 17 -11.2% 30 2.2% 1
2 PHI 44.2% 3-2 55.2% 4.3 5 -15.2% 30 10.5% 6 23.1% 29
3 IND 41.2% 5-0 47.7% 4.7 2 -5.9% 23 -1.5% 19 16.2% 20
4 NE 34.8% 4-2 32.4% 4.2 7 4.0% 14 1.4% 12 21.0% 26
5 NYG 33.5% 5-1 33.9% 4.3 6 -8.8% 26 13.8% 5 11.9% 16
6 DEN 33.1% 6-0 39.1% 4.6 4 -7.9% 25 5.0% 8 5.0% 9
7 MIN 29.7% 6-0 37.7% 4.6 3 -12.8% 27 -2.4% 21 3.1% 3
8 GB 28.9% 3-2 35.7% 4.1 9 -12.9% 28 -5.0% 26 18.4% 21
9 BAL 27.6% 3-3 31.8% 4.2 8 -0.9% 20 -1.2% 18 12.4% 18
10 ATL 19.9% 4-1 28.8% 4.0 10 -1.5% 21 6.3% 7 4.6% 6
11 PIT 14.1% 4-2 30.5% 3.8 12 -25.6% 31 4.4% 9 4.2% 5
12 DAL 12.5% 3-2 15.3% 3.9 11 -5.3% 22 14.7% 4 3.9% 4
13 ARI 8.3% 3-2 9.3% 3.2 14 4.9% 12 -14.2% 32 35.9% 32
14 MIA 3.3% 2-3 2.8% 2.8 18 6.8% 8 0.4% 14 18.9% 22
15 JAC 2.7% 3-3 1.8% 3.4 13 -7.6% 24 -4.2% 25 22.3% 28
16 NYJ 0.3% 3-3 0.8% 3.0 15 5.2% 10 -3.8% 24 14.1% 19
17 SEA -3.1% 2-4 -6.0% 2.4 24 -0.2% 19 -11.6% 31 24.7% 30
18 HOU -4.4% 3-3 8.1% 3.0 16 -14.8% 29 1.5% 11 8.0% 12
19 CHI -5.2% 3-2 1.0% 2.8 19 0.9% 18 2.9% 10 8.1% 13
20 CIN -6.3% 4-2 -4.6% 3.0 17 11.4% 5 -9.8% 29 9.3% 14
21 SF -7.3% 3-2 -15.3% 2.7 21 2.3% 16 -2.9% 22 12.4% 17
22 WAS -8.8% 2-4 6.3% 2.6 23 -26.8% 32 19.7% 1 4.9% 8
23 BUF -10.4% 2-4 -15.2% 2.7 22 3.5% 15 -0.6% 16 19.3% 23
24 SD -10.5% 2-3 -14.8% 2.7 20 5.1% 11 -6.1% 27 2.6% 2
25 KC -22.3% 1-5 -24.4% 1.8 25 10.3% 6 -3.3% 23 4.6% 7
26 CLE -30.7% 1-5 -39.7% 1.6 26 14.6% 3 -7.2% 28 20.6% 25
27 CAR -34.9% 2-3 -43.1% 1.3 28 4.4% 13 18.7% 2 19.7% 24
28 STL -41.3% 0-6 -46.2% 1.4 27 7.0% 7 -0.8% 17 5.6% 10
29 TB -41.3% 0-6 -37.6% 0.9 32 6.0% 9 17.8% 3 7.9% 11
30 TEN -46.4% 0-6 -56.8% 1.1 29 14.8% 2 -2.1% 20 35.0% 31
31 OAK -47.3% 2-4 -48.9% 0.9 30 12.3% 4 0.9% 13 21.9% 27
32 DET -54.3% 1-5 -64.9% 0.9 31 18.9% 1 0.1% 15 9.9% 15


306 comments, Last at 15 Nov 2009, 5:22pm

#1 by Will Allen (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:12pm

The Vikings have made a huge error if they were not working the phones, trying to swap real draft value, for a servicable cornerback, before today's trade deadline.

It really is weird how the Eagles, year after year, have a win/loss record that is worse than what one would expect from their DVOA.

I think the Denver defensive turnaround is nearly a completely unforseeable event, and if there is some pundit somewhere who did predict it, I would say that picking the winning Powerball number also doesn't mean much.

Points: 0

#11 by Fan in Exile // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:24pm

take a look through the Mile High Report archives they've got some really in depth analysis about why the team was going to be better.

Points: 0

#43 by bravehoptoad // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:21pm

I feel like they more have reasons about why the Broncos won't be the worst team in the league, and might even qualify for decent. Nothing I've seen from preseason was predicting anything like their actual performance.

Man, that was a pretty second half last night.

Points: 0

#98 by Piglet (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 10:34pm

My guess would be that tweaking DVOA to try to capture what is, based on the extreme off-season turbulence and changes, pretty much just an unpredictable outlier, is unlikely to be productive -- it would probably just make things worse on average. Unless you were a Broncos fan for the last couple of years, it would be hard to have understood just how turbulent the offseason was and how wholesale the changes have been, nor would it be easy to project that the catastrophic train wreck that was the Denver D last year could be fixed so quickly. Not the kind of thing that comes up very often -- this was about the most messed up offseason imaginable from this fan's perspective.

There was a good article on Mile High Report right before the season that predicted the Broncos at 11-5 with some apparently-sound reasoning as to why. I was persuaded by this analysis, except I thought the brutal schedule would do them in and they'd finish closer to 9-7 or 8-8. It's worth a read to those interested to see the kind of thinking that went into one (blessedly accurate ;) prediction.


Ultimately, I'd chalk this whole issue up to the limitations of objective statistical analysis for the NFL, and an illustration that subjective, well-informed scouting is another important tool for predicting football performance. What DVOA does do is, to me, pretty amazing though.

Points: 0

#105 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 11:05pm

It's also important to realize that attempts to fix a massive train wreck by wholesale replacing huge amounts of the team often completely fail. How many times have the Lions cleaned house now? Or the 49ers?

Points: 0

#203 by Paulo Sanchote… (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 2:53pm

That was completely my point. It's possible to do everything by the book and sink, or do everything wrong and still manage to succeed.

How can one predict that a defense with EIGHT new players will work?! That the players will understand each other, complete each other, and play together as a team? Normally, they won't.

On the other hand, club presidents, GMs and HCs, doing their job correctly, can only manage to make the odds being on their favor, but it's impossible to eliminate the chance of failing.

Maybe the problem wasn't on FO predictions, but it's a matter of luck, chance or providence.

Points: 0

#106 by Bobman // Oct 20, 2009 - 11:07pm

While I agree with the sentiment of "don't tweak DVOA to capture extreme outliers" because it's counter productive, I DO think they should keep trying to make it better. It seems like every year or so they add a refinement or two.

The Eagles, though, I just can't explain it aside from those polaroids Tanier has of Aaron at a barnyard social with some very alluring lambies of the evening....

Points: 0

#49 by Anonymous Jones // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:38pm

I too find the Eagles situation really weird. It may just be coincidence. DVOA is still mildly opaque to me, but I do see one possible explanation -- Reid's passing offense is consistently good at generating successful plays but is also consistently poor when generating the plays that really matter (i.e., the conversions when the game is *really* on the line). I don't totally believe this explanation, but if there is a non-coincidence reason, this one seems as good as any.

As for San Diego and Denver, here are a list of cliches that might or might not be helpful (probably not...).

Cliche #1 "Football is a team game." What I mean in this context is that it is difficult to break down all the components of an offense and a defense, especially considering all the necessary information loss inherent in statistics, and then build the pieces back up. Over half of Denver's defensive starters are new. I consider it highly unlikely that anyone could accurately predict how well they would play together as a unit, especially with a new coordinator and new scheme. Comparing them to other teams that faced similar circumstances (new starters, new coordinator) just seems not very valuable to me. The circumstances are just too unique to be tackled in this manner. Yes, maybe they were more likely to fail, but large outliers can never be precluded. Also, the multivariable system of any offensive or defensive unit is probably highly chaotic and just like with the weather, small changes in certain interacting variables might cause huge deviations in ultimate result.

Cliche #2 "You are only as good as your weakest link." Regarding SD, you take away Jamal (one of the best run stoppers in the league) and you replace him with Nobody X (one of the worst), and you are not just a little worse, you are a lot worse. The fact that there are "injuries" (or even the quantity of the injuries) is not necessarily as important as the magnitude of the impact for any given injury. In watching the games, it seems as if SD had no feasible backup plan if Jamal went down. Just because other teams have lost Pro Bowl D-lineman and not collapsed does not mean that SD could lose Jamal and not collapse.

Cliche #3 "Norv Turner sucks." I don't totally believe this one either, but I'm also not convinced that it is totally inaccurate.

Points: 0

#57 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:13pm

2008 PHI Estimated Wins: 11.7 actual wins: 9.5 sched 1.8%
2007 PHI Estimated Wins: 10.2 actual wins: 8 sched 3.8%
2006 PHI Estimated Wins: 11.9 actual wins: 10 sched 0.8%
2005 PHI Estimated Wins: 7.7 actual wins: 6 sched 5.2%
2004 PHI Estimated Wins: 11.4 actual wins: 13 (*) sched -5.2%
2003 PHI Estimated Wins: 10.8 actual wins: 12 sched -0.7%
2002 PHI Estimated Wins: 10.5 actual wins: 12 sched -5.8%
2001 PHI Estimated Wins: 11.4 actual wins: 11 sched 0.1%
2000 PHI Estimated Wins: 10.9 actual wins: 11 sched -7.0%

I don't think that the Eagles are consistently ranked worse or better than they're supposed to be. When they win fewer games than we would expect, they've had a worse schedule than average. When they win more games than we would expect, they've had an easier schedule than average. Note that estimated wins is *not* adjusted for strength of schedule - it's average wins vs. an average schedule.

They might seem high right now, but 1) they're not that high in estimated wins, where they would have been expected to win 3.6 games and they actually won 3 ((4.3/6)*5) and 2) it's early in the season (cue obligatory "how could the 14-2 2004 Patriots lose to the 4-12 2004 Dolphins" for those who want to say 'but they lost to the Raiders').

If they keep playing this bipolar throughout the year, they'll end up somewhere around 8-8, and have around the same number of estimated wins. If they play more like they did vs. the Raiders, their DVOA will drop. If they play more like they did vs. the Panthers/Chiefs/Bucs, their variance will drop, DVOA will stay the same, and the fact that they lost to the Raiders will be a curiosity of the season.

(n.b.: the fact that I'm an Eagles fan is unimportant to this analysis - trust me, right now, if there was a way I could show that the Eagles are crap, I'd love to do it.)

Points: 0

#188 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 21, 2009 - 12:29pm

Clearly losing TO has affected Philly's ability to win in ways DVOA doesn't measure :)

Points: 0

#207 by Might as well … (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 3:47pm

The problem with the "weakest link" theory is that we've seen it fail time and time again. Look at the Pats last year. 11-5? Without Brady? Or the year they won the Super Bowl with Troy Brown playing nickel?

I think football is MUCH harder to quantify than a game like baseball (I know, you know this; just sayin'). The Pats are not 59 points better than the Titans, especially since the Titans probably would have beaten the Pats 59-0 if they had played them in week 2 of 2008.

And maybe that's the variable. Football teams change throughout the season. There are 16 mini-seasons, and each team is quite different from week to week. What does a preseason projection have to say about who is injured, who is playing hurt, who has something to prove? The Pats will let down next week against the Bucs and the Giants are going to absolutely murder the Cards this week, right? Don't we all know that, despite the stats?

Simmons had his third-year-of-a-bad-coach theory, and that might be sound. Look at how the Chargers and Cowboys are underachieving.

Points: 0

#2 by Joseph // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:12pm

If the Saints play close to this level, aren't they favorites for the SB? Sure, special teams could blow them a playoff game, but they are SOOOO dominant that they have averaged 1.2 est. wins for each game. :) No, it's because they whooped up on "bye week." :p
My hope (as a Saints' fan) is that they don't pull a 2007 Pats--dominant 1st half of the season, keep winning in the second half (I really don't care about 16-0) and then choke in the SB after looking so dominant in their first 18 games. I'd much rather 18-1/17-2 as long as it ends in the longest party NO has ever seen.

Points: 0

#65 by JasonK // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:27pm

You know, the Ravens did sign David Tyree recently...

Points: 0

#3 by young curmudgeon (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:12pm

Why don't you just throw in the towel and include an "Eagles adjustment" to avoid the seemingly ever-present embarrassment? Were you able to keep a straight face while typing "they only lost to Oakland by four points"? That's kind of like Mark Twain's account of his fight with a stronger man, "Thrusting my nose firmly between his teeth, I threw him to the ground on top of me." (paraphrased from memory) In fact, that would be a good thread: "saying 'they only lost to Oakland by four points' is like saying..." Any takers?

DVOA is a great tool, but any metric that identifies Philadelphia as the second most successful team so far this year still needs a little tinkering.

Points: 0

#32 by billsfan // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:46pm

It was easy enough to keep a straight face last season when the DVOA-Overrated Eagles made the playoffs on a confluence of improbabilities and still managed to make it back to the NFC championship game. Those howling about the loss to the Ravens and the tie with the Bengals quickly and conveneintly forgot the stomping of the eventual champion Steelers. The problem is that the Eagles just tend to do well all the things necessary to have a high DVOA.

There's a reason for that old saying about "any given Sunday." Football games are not won and lost by average performances, and with a 16-game season, three freak occurrences can be enough to turn a 10-6 playoff team into a 7-9 also-ran. Unless I'm way off-base here, DVOA, or any other "efficiency" metric, doesn't take into account "big-play" tendency, which can often win or lose a football game. A key play in that game was a huge catch-and-run by Zach Miller with *two* huge down-field blocks by Louis Murphy. No statistical model can predict that. Akers also missed two field goals, which would have made the difference in a four-point loss. Fortunately, Jim Mora isn't in charge in Philly. IIRC, previous FO research has shown that FG% fluctuates somewhat wildly from season to season, even for one kicker, largely due to small sample size. If the Eagles played the Raiders 10,000 times this season, I'm fairly certain that they'd win more than half of them. Furthermore, despite having a DVOA that frequently exceeds their record, the Eagles miraculously end up in the playoff hunt almost every year. Funny how that works out. I'm sure when the NFL inevitably moves to a 10,000-game season, DVOA will be a hell of a lot more accurate.

There was an interesting, and I think related, series of posts at PFR and Smart Football this summer about evaluating rushing performance. IIRC, it turns out that good and bad running backs all have about the same median YPC. What separates the good RBs is the frequency of longer runs. I don't know if, and to what extent, "big plays" are considered in DVOA, but it would be interesting to see how their inclusion would affect ratings (or just break the whole damn model).

As for the Eagles adjustment, KUBIAK used to feature a "Peyton Manning" adjustment, since their fantasy projections consistently put McNabb ahead of Manning. Enough rambling from me.

(I also like the Eagles)

Points: 0

#52 by Scott C // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:46pm

What part of

"the opponent adjustments aren't factored in yet" did you not understand?

Also, for several years in a row the Eagles were rated what appeared to be too low, consistently. The trend the last few years has been the opposite.

Small sample size?

Points: 0

#63 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:26pm

"Small sample size?"

Nah. Crappy division -> great division. Your eyes don't opponent adjust very well.

Points: 0

#60 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:25pm

"Were you able to keep a straight face while typing "they only lost to Oakland by four points"?"

The 14-2 2004 Super Bowl champions only lost to a 4-12 team by 1 point.
The 13-3 2003 Super Bowl champions lost to a 6-10 team by 31 points and a 5-11 team by 3 points.
The 12-4 2006 Super Bowl champions only lost to a 6-10 team by 3 points.

It happens.

Points: 0

#87 by chemical burn // Oct 20, 2009 - 9:26pm

Do you really think this Raiders team will get to 6-10 or even 5-11? Or does the difference between 3-13 and 6-10 not really matter?

I just don't know what to think anymore. I feel like I understand DVOA well enough to understand exactly why the Eagles didn't get burned in the ranking by this loss (and really didn't get burned by the Saints loss), but at the same time I watch the Eagles and feel like they display the same problems year after year (McNabb having cold streaks that cost them games, abandoning the running game, defense giving up a lot of first downs out of 3rd and long, moving the ball great between the 20s and not in the redzone, an inability to come from behind late in the game, bad clock management and complete incompetence in the hurry-up offense) and I just don't know if I'm overstating these problems or if those issues (specific to these Reid/McNabb teams) are overlooked somewhat by DVOA.

Pat, this is one case where I welcome you stridently telling me why I'm wrong and what I'm missing...

Points: 0

#89 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 9:53pm

They're 2-4, and one of the games I mentioned was a 4-12 team beating the 14-2 and eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots. I think it's fairly likely that the Raiders get to 4-12, and if the Eagles end up, say, 9-7 or 10-6, a 10-6 team losing to a 4-12 team is less surprising than a 14-2 team losing to a 4-12 team.

In terms of DVOA this is probably one of the biggest upsets ever right now. But I really, really doubt that the Eagles will end up a 30% DVOA team. 10-15% or so, I can believe. And I doubt the Raiders will finish a -40% DVOA team, so in the end I don't think this will look any more bizarre than, say, the Colts losing to Houston or the Patriots losing to the Dolphins.

but at the same time I watch the Eagles and feel like they display the same problems year after year

Yeah, so? That's because they're the same team. McNabb's accuracy isn't that great. We know that. Aggressive playcalling hurts on 3rd and long. We know that. The redzone thing I think is way overblown by fans - it was a problem last year. It certainly wasn't a problem on Sunday, when they weren't able to move the ball period. It hasn't really been a problem this year except in the New Orleans game, but that had a lot more to do with being down a lot rather than being the reason *why* they were down a lot.

Points: 0

#95 by chemical burn // Oct 20, 2009 - 10:18pm

I think you missed my point a little (although I agree with everything you have to say): the Eagles have the same problems over and over, most fans are able to see these problems, but the problems are somewhat invisible to (or at least downplayed by) DVOA. Does that mean DVOA is missing something (something that would help more accurately describe the Eagles performance in terms of a quantifiable number) or that these problems on the whole aren't as big as they seem to an average fan like me?

Also, I take issue with the idea that the Eagles weren't able to move the ball "period" - Westbrook was in top 5 DYAR (a counting stat, no less!) and I guarantee Celek had on ok DVOA. Their problem was they tried to keep moving the ball in a way that wasn't working. Those are two entirely different things. Throwing 20 deep passes when McNabb had no time in the pocket is a different failure than simply sputtering in all phases (which DVOA clearly thinks was not the case).

My question is: how does generalized success weight against specific succes in DVOA? Does the fact that the Eagles have an excellent running game that they underutilize matter so much to DVOA? I know they are rewarded in that they are more successful in general at low-percentage plays (deep passes) than most teams, but how does DVOA deal with the fact that they are attempting these low percentage plays more than the average team? (assuming, of course, that they really are - I didn't check, so... so it's a nice question? right?) And at the expense of higher percentage plays (like the running game). DYAR is a counting stat, but DVOA is not - how does that matter in these overall DVOA rankings?

Points: 0

#104 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 11:03pm

Does the fact that the Eagles have an excellent running game that they underutilize matter so much to DVOA?

The NFL is littered with examples of plays, ideas, players, and schemes that have success with limited use, and decrease dramatically in effectiveness as their use increases. We don't know they're underutilizing it. The coaches are really the only ones who know whether or not other teams are adapting to the success they're having such that they can't use it too much or else it won't be effective at all.

But anyway, it's important to realize that DVOA is a per-play stat. A highly effective underutilized component won't raise a team's DVOA. If they're unsuccessful more than they're successful, they're going to have a lower DVOA.

Also, I take issue with the idea that the Eagles weren't able to move the ball "period"

They weren't. They had successful plays, but they were few and far between. It's funny that you blame that on scheme - I tend to blame that on *players*. I think a good scheme and players that aren't playing well tends to produce a boom/bust output. I think a bad scheme and good players tends to produce drives that move, but stall.

and I guarantee Celek had on ok DVOA.

That's because DVOA doesn't measure blocking. If it did, oh, God, that'd be painful. This was easily Celek's worst game this year. Easily.

know they are rewarded in that they are more successful in general at low-percentage plays (deep passes) than most teams,

Having seen this argument for years, it's honestly hilarious. This is exactly the opposite argument that people made regarding Philly previously. The previous argument was that a WCO gets a boost because short, effective passes move the chains a lot, and that helps. Now you're saying they might be getting a boost because they're better at deep passes than average.

how does that matter in these overall DVOA rankings?

I think it would hurt them, actually. An 85 yard TD from the 15 gets you 7 points, but it's not really any different than a 40 yard play that ends up in a drive that stalls and punts. That cap means that it's entirely likely that a single 3-and-out (of which the Eagles had *a lot*) will offset a long TD.

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#150 by C (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 8:59am

"Pat, this is one case where I welcome you stridently telling me why I'm wrong and what I'm missing..."

Hahahah, but seriously, I don't buy any of it. Nobody has offered a legit reason as to why the Eagles are ranked #2... Yes, a 14 point underdog winning is about as big of an upset as you will see. Seeing dogs more than 14 points are rare, and seeing them win is even more rare...

We can all agree that DVOA is not a 100% perfect system right? Well the Eagles at #2 right now is your imperfection staring you right in the face. Defending that ranking is showing a blind allegiance to DVOA, when in fact the authors will tell you it isn't "perfect"... at least not yet. There is no reason to be angry.

Points: 0

#172 by chemical burn // Oct 21, 2009 - 11:36am

one quick thing, Pat: I'm not trying to make an argument one way or the other. I'm trying to figure why the Eagles consistently underperform (in relationship their DVOA) against teams like the Raiders this year and the Bengals last year.

Also, thanks for putting words in my mouth on the "WCO boost" when I was arguing on your side last year and put up the exact same argument I did just now. I know you can't remember what some anonymous internet poster said a year ago, but honestly, it frequently feels like you're not trying to understand me or help further any ideas here, you're just trying to take down whatever I write, even if I DIDN'T EVEN WRITE IT.

Let me quote you: "I think a good scheme and players that aren't playing well tends to produce a boom/bust output. I think a bad scheme and good players tends to produce drives that move, but stall." But DVOA is saying Westbrook played well and taking into account the boom/bust. We all agree McNabb played badly and Westbrook played well - how is calling 43 plays (including sacks, minus the passes to Westbrook) to McNabb and only 15 to Westbrook not a failure of what's loosely being called "scheme?" Are those coaching decisions, the meat of the play-calling, not part of what you're calling "scheme?"

"I think it would hurt them, actually. An 85 yard TD from the 15 gets you 7 points, but it's not really any different than a 40 yard play that ends up in a drive that stalls and punts. That cap means that it's entirely likely that a single 3-and-out (of which the Eagles had *a lot*) will offset a long TD." Obviously, I understand that. What I meant more was this: if a play works 15% of the time for the Eagles, but only 1% for other teams, DVOA will reward the Eagles for their success - one of its big strengths is that it compares apples to apples in that way. If a play works for the Eagles 80% of the time and 70% for other teams, DVOA will reward the Eagles less than it does for the 15%-to-1% play, correct?

My question has to do with, does DVOA overpraise the Eagles because they are calling the 15%-to-1% plays more frequently than the 80%-to-70% plays? For instance, the Eagles were calling a high amount of deep passes on Sunday vs. the Raiders and having just ok success with it, but they weren't calling running plays They were having more consistent, but also more likely success with their running play.

So, the Eagles drives were going basically like this: 40-yard gain on a deep pass, sack, incomplete, incomplete. But they were hitting big pass plays with some regularity - McNabb did, after all, have 269 yards on only 22 completions. And then, on the other side of things, Westbrook had (proportionally) big successes on 3 of his 6 runs. So, on a per-play basis, the Eagles don't look that bad to DVOA (they succeeding on deep passes - a low percentage play - with some regularity and were above average on running plays), but lost spectacularly: their offense was a complete and total failure in reality.

The Eagles failure seems to be something DVOA can't see accurately: coaching mistakes, idiotic scheme, QB making bad decisions (not looking for quick passes to Celek and Westbrook), bad clock management. Is there any way for DVOA to account for these things or are they not really descriptive of past failures or helpful for predicting the future?

Points: 0

#196 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 2:07pm

I'm not criticizing you at all. I'm saying it's hilarious that three years ago people were saying DVOA overrates the Eagles because the WCO relies on short passes that extend drives. Now people are saying that DVOA overrates the Eagles because they rely on deep passes too much.

I know they're not the same people, but it is the same *team*, and so to hear literally opposite arguments about the team is hilarious.

how is calling 43 plays (including sacks, minus the passes to Westbrook) to McNabb and only 15 to Westbrook not a failure of what's loosely being called "scheme?"

Because we don't know that calling more plays to Westbrook would've made a difference. It might've just reduced Westbrook's effectiveness for the day.

It should also be noted that you have no idea if the sacks and lots of the passes weren't intended for Westbrook. DYAR measures Westbrook's success when the play moderately succeeds - that is, when he carries the ball or when McNabb actually is able to target him. You don't know how often the play was a run, but McNabb audibled out, or how often the play was a short pass to Westbrook that was taken away or McNabb got sacked.

The Eagles failure seems to be something DVOA can't see accurately:

This is the part I just don't understand. Why do you say this? The Eagles at this point have been a team that can score a ton of points on offense and can prevent an offense from moving at all. That's an awesome team, and DVOA says "yeah, they've been pretty good." They've *also* been a team that can let another team run up and down the field on them, and a team that stalls on 2/3 of its drives. That's a terrible team.

But they've had 3 great games, an okay game (vs. New Orleans) and a bad game (vs. Oakland), which averages out to "a pretty great team" but with a ton of variance. Which is exactly what DVOA says.

Heck, if you want one *other* explanation, note that the Eagles have had early-season struggles for a long time now. Heck, even in 2004, they nearly lost to the Browns early in the season. We know that football performance changes as the weather gets worse and injuries pile up as the season goes on. It's perfectly possible that the Eagles are built more for the latter portion of the season than the early portion of the season, so early on they look overrated but as the weather progresses public perception lines up with what the rating is.

Personally I'm more inclined to point out that the Eagles have had a lot of early-season injuries for the past 5 years, plus the fact that the division turned around entirely means that, like the NFC West where people think the teams might be underrated, all the teams in the NFC East tend to appear overrated.

Points: 0

#205 by Dales // Oct 21, 2009 - 3:33pm

"I'm saying it's hilarious that three years ago people were saying DVOA overrates the Eagles because the WCO relies on short passes that extend drives. Now people are saying that DVOA overrates the Eagles because they rely on deep passes too much."

There is a commonality to these arguments or postulations beyond them being merely anti-Eagles.

How about this as a hypothesis? DVOA overrates the Eagles because they rely on passes too much.

Below I made a post where I try to quantify this. One way of interpreting the numbers I posted is that the Eagles' heavy reliance on the pass causes them to underperform their expected wins by about 1 game a year. Looking at the preseason DVOA ratings, it looks to me as if the difference in ~1 win corresponds with a difference in DVOA of about 10-20% (for example, see the difference between Indy and either Pittsburgh and Jacksonville, or between Tennessee and Carolina). Knock 10% off of the Eagles DVOA and their ranking this year would 'look' about right to me.

Points: 0

#209 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 3:56pm

How about this as a hypothesis? DVOA overrates the Eagles because they rely on passes too much.

Yeah, it's possible, but even there I wouldn't call it "overrating." DVOA measures a team's ability to score, because that's what's most consistent, week to week, year to year.

It doesn't measure the ability of a coach to completely botch a game plan against another coach, and this is not a unique feature of the Eagles (see the examples posted elsewhere). It only measures success at what they have done, not success in what they will do.

And for people who think I'm 'defending DVOA', I'm not. I'm saying that measuring the ability of a coach to gameplan effectively shouldn't be in DVOA, because I don't think it's a first order parameter. I think it's a second order parameter - that is, I think a coach's ability to gameplan is dependent on the team he's facing. You couldn't put that in DVOA because you can't quantify that in an ordinal ranking.

As I mentioned elsewhere, you can show that that sort of effect is negligible in the NFL on a single-season timescale. Might be able to pull something out on a longer timescale.

(It's also worth noting that I'm not sure your hypothesis is even right - did the Eagles start passing significantly more after 2003? Not sure, but I don't think so. But I do think the possibility that a higher-order parameter is at fault here.)

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#217 by Dales // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:26pm

Oh, I am not sure it is right, either. I don't think I have enough information to prove or disprove it. It's just a hypothesis.

"did the Eagles start passing significantly more after 2003?"

From 2000-2003, the Eagles averaged 1.24 passes attempted to every rush attempted.
Since then, they have averaged 1.45 passes attempted to every rush attempted. I'd say that's a fairly substantial increase in the passing rate.

ETA-- just had a passing thought. In 2004, the Eagles spiked up to 1.45 PA/RA. That was also the last year they outperformed their expected wins (I understand your point regarding the strength of schedule, but in nearly all of the years their SoS was close enough to average that I don't think it matters much). Every year since they have lagged it. So here is another hypothesis to build on my other one-- it took a full year for other teams to fully appreciate how pass-happy Andy Reid had become and adjust their planning accordingly. I am sure an in-prime TO leaving also made a difference. The first year (2004) he had success with the approach, but teams adjusted and he did not, and since then the Eagles have consistently underperformed their estimated wins.

Again, not picking a fight. I consider the Eagles to be a very good team, and a serious contender for the NFC crown.

Points: 0

#219 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:29pm

Huh, that is a noticeable increase. My mistake, though, as it should be 2004 - the Eagles weren't "overrated" in 2004 - if anything they were underrated due to the tanking of the last few games.

To be fair, my main explanation (it's not DVOA, it's the division) also has a much more substantial change. 2001-2004 NFC East, non Eagles, avg. wins (excl. Cardinals in 2001): 6.58 wins. 2005-2008 NFC East, non Eagles, avg. wins: 9.41.

Points: 0

#221 by Dales // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:51pm

The division has gotten harder, without doubt. But even with that, the Eagles' strength of schedule by DVOA has been over 4% just once, and I would argue that it has been close enough to league average each year to not account for them underperforming the estimated wins each year by 1-2 wins. Heck, this year they are already 1.3 wins below the estimated wins despite a past schedule below -15%.

While I have not compiled the numbers, I will bet that the other NFC East teams have not had the same negative gap between their expected wins and their actual wins over years 2005-2009 that the Eagles have had. If this suspicion is correct, then it would be an indication that the strength of the NFCE is not the primary culprit, and instead it is either random chance or some other factor.

Points: 0

#231 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 5:35pm

The reason they outperformed their estimated wins in 2004 was because they tanked the last few games. Look at the late-season DVOA rankings articles for that year and you'll see they're pretty dead on, taking into account the strength of schedule.

(I understand your point regarding the strength of schedule, but in nearly all of the years their SoS was close enough to average that I don't think it matters much).

Really, I use the average strength of schedule there as a proxy, because you can't boil down the schedule to one number (playing a 50% team, then 5 -10% teams will give you an average SoS but if you're a good team, you'll have a 5-1 record). The Eagles' record vs. NYG/WAS/DAL from 2001-2004 was 21-3. The Eagles' record vs. NYG/WAS/DAL from 2005-2008 was 9-15.

The change in the division from 2001-2004 is just massive, and considering that's the exact point when people started calling the Eagles overrated (early in 2005 they were highly rated early on), I can't just call that coincidence.

Although it's worth noting their subpar NFC East record since that time, which might imply that both of us are right, and the biggest problem is that the teams in the NFC East figured out the Eagles quickly, too.

Points: 0

#199 by Thomas_beardown // Oct 21, 2009 - 2:28pm

I'm pretty sure DVOA just see incomplete passes, it doesn't care how far you are throwing them.

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#204 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 3:28pm

"For instance, the Eagles were calling a high amount of deep passes on Sunday vs. the Raiders"

Keep in mind that DVOA doesn't think the Eagles had a good game on Sunday. It thinks they played like a team in the bottom third of the league.

If you want to ask "is DVOA getting the Eagles right" look at the two lowest ratings they have - versus New Orleans, and versus the Raiders. Aaron listed their DVOA for those games - ~1% (NO) and ~-15% (OAK).

Let's look at those objectively. New Orleans has a 40% DVOA on offense - that means against an average defense in a ~11-ish drive game, they'll score 30 points. They have a -20% DVOA on defense - that means they'll allow about 17 points in a similar game. The Eagles game was about 30% longer than an average game, so you'd expect 40-22 if the Eagles were an average team. Less the interception return, that's basically exactly right. So the 1% DVOA looks maybe a bit high (obviously the interception return accounts for something, although how much is debatable), but not much.

For the Oakland game, Oakland has a -40% DVOA on offense. That's 13 points on offense. They have a 5% DVOA on defense. That's ~22 points allowed on defense. This was again a bit longer, so you'd kindof expect a 16-28 loss by the Raiders to an average team. The Eagles allowed 20% fewer points, but scored 70% fewer, so you'd kindof expect a -50% DVOA there.

So I might say that they should have a worse DVOA for the Oakland game, based purely on points. Two things are worth noting, though:

1) Even if the Eagles had a -50% DVOA rating for that game, they'd only drop by about 7% overall. That would drop them... one spot.

2) Low scoring games tend to deviate more from DVOA's expectation a lot more than high scoring games. That's just fluctuation - the Raiders game turned entirely on one single play. The Saints game most definitely did not. If you treat the long TD as a ~FG-ish play, something like a -30% DVOA would make more sense for the Eagles (for the pedantic, the same for the Saints game - neglecting the Jackson TD - is offset by the fact that the Eagles were forced to go for TDs late in the game due to the score).

If you really want to ask "right now, what is DVOA missing about the Eagles" the answer is just "opponent adjustments aren't strong enough." Every single game the Eagles have had will be strongly affected by opponent adjustments, and in only *one* case will it make their rating for that week better.

Double the strength of the opponent adjustments and the Eagles are a mid-teen to low-20s team with probably 20% fluctuation. Statistically, that looks right. And I can't stress enough how big a 20% fluctuation would be if it were full season.

Points: 0

#212 by Dales // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:12pm

(comment removed- realized I was repeating myself to someone I already replied to)

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#86 by Anonymouse (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 9:22pm

The 2003 SB Champs were 14-2, same as the year after that.

It only strengthens your point, I'm just saying.

Points: 0

#4 by tunesmith (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:15pm

I wish I had a better suggestion than I do on what FO can miss, but it's the same one I always have had: scheme. It's what led me to (tongue-in-cheekingly) create beatpaths.com five years ago, I was annoyed that Denver was ranked too low, and believed that Shanahan's scheme strength would regularly give the team a boost above what the individual performance stats would suggest. I didn't have a way to measure that either, so my approach was just to measure everything that FO doesn't (uh... only wins and losses), and not measure anything FO does (uh... everything but wins and losses). And make some pretty graphs that amuse me. But anyway, players that perform badly in some games will perform much better in other games as the scheme changes. Last year, Denver's defensive scheme just *sucked*. The year before, it sucked too - that's when they had Bates, who last I heard, is stinking up the joint in Tampa Bay. Before that, he was at Green Bay, who did okay, but whose defense improved after they dumped Bates' religion. And Slowik has just sucked everywhere. So, as far as Denver switching everything over, that wasn't reason to believe they would be better, but it was reason to believe it was less likely they'd be as lousy as before.

And as for San Diego and Philadelphia, I rail on them pretty regularly over in our power rankings. They seem like sister teams to me, and the theme is more talent than team. They're going to have gaudy stats and high expectations, but they're going to underperform. That's something that is reflected in their wins and losses.

Points: 0

#83 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 9:03pm

I wish I had a better suggestion than I do on what FO can miss, but it's the same one I always have had: scheme.

There are lots of ways you could interpret that statement.

1) Scheme, meaning when a team switches schemes, their performance can dramatically change. I think this is a "yes, but it can change dramatically good or dramatically bad, and there's no way to know."

2) Scheme, meaning that some teams match up better with other teams: i.e. the (untrue) "Manning struggles via a 3-4". This can actually be shown to be unimportant in the NFL. I wish I had the link - it's in the "does the preseason matter" article. Basically, the NFL is best modeled by a single ordered hierarchy (i.e. A greater than B greater than C greater than D... etc.) with the average win expectancy gap between teams being about 10-15% (i.e. the best teams will win ~80% of the time versus the worst teams).

I was annoyed that Denver was ranked too low, and believed that Shanahan's scheme strength would regularly give the team a boost above

You could've been looking at DVOA rather than estimated wins. DVOA isn't tuned to the ability of a team to win. That's what estimated wins does.

Looking at Denver, for instance:
DEN 2008: Est. 7.0, act. 8, sched -1.4%
DEN 2007: Est. 7.5, act. 7, sched 0.0%
DEN 2006: Est. 7.5, act. 9, sched 1.1%
DEN 2005: Est. 11.9, act. 13, sched 7.0%
DEN 2004: Est. 10.9, act. 10, sched 1.5%
DEN 2003: Est. 9.8, act. 10, sched 1.9%

The only big deviation was in 2005, when Denver played a pretty easy schedule. The others are all within a win.

(The response might be "wtf do we care about scoring rather than winning?" and the answer is "because a team's ability to score is more consistent year-to-year - and during the year - than their ability to win")

Points: 0

#5 by MileHigh (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:15pm

I don't think there is a good objective rating for what you see with Denver and SD. Denver switched defensive schemes, but also turned over 7 out of 11 positions. Last years ratings are worthless given that amount change.

In SD, it really does come down to coaching. There should be some sort of "Coach DVOA" that could show that Norv Turner is just not a good head coach. Besides that, injuries have taken thier toll on a defense that finsihed last year ranked #20 in DVOA. And an offensive line that ranked #18 in adjusted line yards and #17 in sack rank, seems to be headed back toward the bottom half of the league.

Come to think of it, what onjective standard did you use to come up with your preseason rankings. A team that would get a number one ranking in the beginning of the year should have displayed a storng upward trend the prvious year and be bringing back a large majority of returning starters in the same scheme. Outside of that it's a subjective guessing game.

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#16 by tunesmith (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:31pm

I'm curious about that too... I am not really sure what went into the preseason rankings. I hope it's not preseason performance - some teams are infamous for playing badly in preseason and then turning it on for the season.

In San Diego, I've really wondered if they have some sort of cancerous locker room presence. The only coach in recent years that has succeeded in getting them close to their talent level was Schottenheimer.

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#59 by Scott C // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:20pm

What went into the ranking (read FO Almanac maybe?) --

Scheme stability.
Very good offense last year with key young players entering their prime (Rivers, Jackson, etc).
Defense was expected to improve as Merriman returned (there is a "returning pro bowl sackmaster" variable from my understanding). Overall improvement of health on D.

Basically the system said that if the offense was as good as before, and the defense became above average, the team would be very good. (See Saints, New Orleans).

That didn't happen, what did?

1. Norv's style has shown now for 3 years to have the team play poor to start the season. The projection system may not have caught on to that and might even see the 'rise' as the season goes on as positive.
2. On offense, two linemen were out in the first game (one returned, he's a rookie).
3. on defense, they ended up LESS healthy than last year, not more. two starting D-lineman out, others injured. New coaches on D (D-line coach esp, linebackers perhaps) struggling, new defensive scheme not as effective as expected. The projection system thought it would be the same, but it isn't.

Projection system improvements:

Can the "teams that play better in the second half" part of the projection adjust for teams (coaches, in particular) that always have a upward or downward profile?

When a big player comes back from injury, maybe we should not expect a big impact unless the scheme (D-coordinator) is the same from the year before the injury?

Before the season began, most Charger fans knew where depth was lacking:
At the O and D line.
Injuries there would be bad. Most fans knew that losing Jamal Williams would be the worst thing for the D -- all the backups are projects at best for NT. On the O-line there are also serious depth concerns that were validated when two interior linemen went down. The skill positions are stacked depth wise. Some depth concerns in the secondary exist, but its not bad.

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#138 by Mr Shush // Oct 21, 2009 - 6:45am

I don't think the issue for Merriman is change of scheme - it's that he's plainly not fully healthy. The projection system thought the team had effectively added one of the five best pass-rushers in the league. It hadn't. That's a huge difference. Whether there's any statistical work to be done on injury recovery that would allow this to be usefully predictive in future, I don't know.

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#66 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:29pm

"I hope it's not preseason performance - some teams are infamous for playing badly in preseason and then turning it on for the season."

It's not, but I still think it should be. There's no serious evidence for your claim. The only teams that it's even marginal for are the Colts and the Patriots, and it's not even that serious there.

Most of the time "poor preseason performance" is due to a difficult preseason schedule. When you look at how teams do in the regular season versus how they do in the preseason versus the same team, there's a very strong correlation.

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#6 by Tundrapaddy (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:16pm

Okay, FO has determined that bringing in a new defensive coordinator doesn't historically show a difference in DVOA. Having said that - what about the offensive coordinator?

More specifically - could Orton's 'career numbers' have been bad because Chicago's offensive playcaller (Ron Turner?) had a horrible, horrible system? And now that Neckbeard is playing elsewhere, his numbers are improving?

Let's face it - other than Manning, QBs are out there to run the plays they're given from the sideline.

As further evidence, look at how Cutler is doing. He was 5th in DYAR last year. This year, he's currently 21st.

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#17 by tunesmith (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:33pm

This ties into the scheme theory. And also, while adding a new defensive coordinator might not correlate to much, getting rid of an old defensive coordinator might.

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#37 by Matt Groves (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:07pm

The main thing that is measurable is turnovers; but not that predictable. In 2008 Cutler had 18 interceptions and the team had 18 fumbles loosing 12, which wasn't too bad.
But they had a -17 on the turn over ratio.
This year, four fumbles and one interception after 6 games. They are +7 on turn over ratio.
However, Orton was full of interceptions during the preseason, so I guess it goes back to the Offensive Coordinator. Maybe he said, "In the preseason throw whatever you want, test your limits, because during the season you have three options: throw it away, run or take the sack." I don't know what their preseason turnover ratio was but maybe it all comes down to, you can't use the preseason to predict or turnovers, which are a huge part of the game are unpredictable.

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#223 by Rich Conley (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 5:06pm

Don't forget luck.

I've seen Orton throw about 8 passes that have been deflected up into the air, and come down into his receiver's hands. One won the Bengals game. There were two in the Pats game, one of which bounced off 3 patriots and was then caught by Marshall.

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#208 by TomC // Oct 21, 2009 - 3:52pm

I would guess that going from one of the worst O-lines in the game to one of the best has more to do with Orton's success than scheme. He had as much time to throw in that Chargers' game as any QB I've seen since '07 Brady.

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#7 by Scott P. (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:17pm

I'd much rather 18-1/17-2 as long as it ends in the longest party NO has ever seen.

I don't know -- even if NO wins the Super Bowl, the 2001 Pats' celebration will give it a run for its money.

P.S. My captcha is 'Klingon rioting'

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#9 by Tundrapaddy (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:20pm

I want your captcha!

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#58 by coboney // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:19pm

Having seen the Saints return to the superdome I don't doubt it.

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#8 by Fan in Exile // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:20pm

If you want to take a serious look at why the Denver ranking was so off I would suggest that you start to look at the statistical differences between the various offensive and defensive systems.

It's something that Carrol talks about in his book about how a turn over in one system is not as harmful as a turn over in a different system. I think that would allow you to adjust for Orton being in a system he fits and not Ron Turner's. It might also allow you to adjust for someone like Dumerville being put in a 3-4 and not a 4-3.

On a side note I think this might also help alleviate the problem that you have with the Eagles. What they do may work for a generic DVOA but clearly it isn't working for the type of system that they are running.

On a less comprehensive overhaul note one of the things that you guys pointed out was that an all over 30 secondary struggles with injuries. I can't help but look at that and think that's a performance from small sample size theater. I mean how many teams have really started secondaries that are all over 30?

I also think that someone who follows the BB school of 53 person team building should get a smaller penalty for injuries since there is so much depth there. I mean even if someone goes down we'll be starting Smith, JMFW, Bell, Barret, McBath, Bruton. I love Shanahan but we never had this kind of depth.

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#12 by Tundrapaddy (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:24pm

'we'll be starting Smith, JMFW, Bell, Barret, McBath, Bruton.'

For a fleeting moment I replaced 'Bell, Barret, McBath' with 'Bel, Biv, DeVoe'. And then tittered upon picturing Denver's backup secondary.

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#50 by James-London // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:39pm

That would be Poison.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

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#79 by Rocco // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:48pm

Never trust Kyle Orton and a smile?

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#191 by Trevor (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 1:29pm

i really laughed hard at this! +1

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#139 by Mr Shush // Oct 21, 2009 - 6:58am

I'm afraid to say that my (pre-Wiki-ing) reaction to these two comments was, "DeVoe? Do you mean De Ville? And who the hell are Bel and Biv?". Although on balance, absent Jamal Williams it's more the Chargers defense that's inclined to Open Up and Say . . . Ahh!

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#10 by goforit (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:21pm

Isn't San Diego just getting screwed by allowing the most 3rd and 4th down conversions of any team. FO has taught me that these stats make a huge difference in teams winning and losing, especially with a team like SD, where a 3rd down stop would get their high powered offense back on the field. Usually these revert to the mean right?

Also do you have stats on 4th downs this year. I think coaches are going for it a lot more than normal... is there any data to support this feeling?

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#14 by Joseph // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:25pm

Can't comment about Denver--except winning, even with luck, breeds confidence, better attitude,chip-on-the-shoulder-nobody-respects-us-even-though-we're-W-L, etc. Obviously, the projection system doesn't get that.
Re: SD, I will posit that A) teams overly respected SD run game, which allowed Rivers to post great passing numbers--which this year they don't; B) Their defense hasn't played good at all--specifically, nobody would have expected Merriman to play poorly, nor what would happen if Williams got injured; C) Not playing with the lead has had a domino effect on both sides of the ball; but the biggest factor is:

Wait for it...

That lots of NFLers read the Almanac, saw the SD win projection, and have circled that game on the calendar as if they were the defending SB champs. Thus, NOBODY is turning in an Eagles-type stinker against SD. ;)

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#13 by chappy (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:24pm

Well here's my question about the projection system. How do you know you aren't asking a question that won't leave to overfitting? Do you go back an test prior year to make sure it works? Anyway, it seems to me that every year your projection system is wrong to some degree, but you need to just have confidence in the model structure. Of course you're going to be wrong--you're dealing with a sport that is all about small sample sizes! Sometimes an anomoly is just that.

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#38 by David W. (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:07pm

+1. If your model said Matt Forte rarely fumbles, would you throw it out because of the Falcons game?

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#62 by Scott C // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:26pm

My understanding is that they only incorporate changes that yield better predictions when run on years past.

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#15 by t.d. // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:26pm

I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that seven of the 10 worst dvoa performances came from the nfc west.

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#31 by Tundrapaddy (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:45pm

That's exactly what I thought when I saw that chart.

And you wonder why the Seahawks have often been 'flat' when they hit the playoffs. Stuffing themselves on all that divisional fat can't be good for the system.

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#18 by BaconAndWaffles // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:34pm

Denver's Defensive System for Success:

Step 1 New Coordinator
Step 2 New Personnel
Step 3 . . .
Step 4 Profit!

I think that Denver is very legitimate this year, but I still can't help thinking that they are a Stokley tip drill away from being a different team. I usually think of luck as something that alters the outcome of a given game, but in Denver's case I think it gave them some very much needed momentum that has changed them from a potentially average/good team to a great one.

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#19 by BigDerf // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:37pm

I'm admittedly taking a Bill Simmons idea here but "Norv Turner Sucks" isn't factored in enough because "Norv Turner Sucks" is a bigger growing problem every year.

The first year after Marty left a 14-2 team Norv Turner turned it into an 11-5 team. Then last year they went 8-8.. another 3 game loss off the year before.

Bad Coaching shows up immediately in poor decision making but it's effects aren't fully realized on the record until a few years later.

On Denver's end - I feel like they just improved at a lot of positions. They replaced shoddy veterans with guys who are playing better (Dawkins and Goodman in the secondary) and their young guys like Dumervil and DJ Williams are simply progressing into stars.

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#41 by Mac (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:19pm

I think BigDerf is right -- it's not just that Norv sucks, but his suckiness is progressive. The longer he stays on a job, the worse he gets.

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#163 by wr (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 10:42am

I don't think that's quite right. I would say that the (lack of) quality in Norv's coaching doesn't vary much, what is progressive is its effect on the team. See Switzer, Barry and the Cowboys. The problem is trying to capture this objectively - How easy is it in general to distinguish a bad coach from an average/good coach in a bad situation?

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#176 by zlionsfan // Oct 21, 2009 - 11:41am

Maybe this is part of it. It seems clear that the Chargers are being steadily Norved into the ground, and yet we have no way to demonstrate this. We need to borrow a time machine and let Norv demonstrate that he can take his'n and lose to your'n and then take your'n and lose to his'n.

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#238 by Jerry // Oct 21, 2009 - 6:35pm

LOL. Too bad Wade's not nearly as quotable as his father.

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#20 by t.d. // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:38pm

The Patriots in 2008 didn't decline as much as you might have expected losing the 'premiere' quarterback in the league. The Broncos still had a great deal of continuity on one of the better offenses in the league from last season (the line in particular). The Broncos didn't just change coordinators, they also changed schemes. What's the track record of teams in the first year after switching schemes, particullarly if they're changing to one their opponents will be less familiar with? The Packers also have improved a good amount on defense after switching to a 3-4, though it's early.

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#234 by dave b (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 5:51pm

The GB defensive rank jumped from 10 to 4 this week after shutting out Detroit. This was a Stafford and Megatron-less Detroit team, so adjust you scorecards accordingly.

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#21 by JuridianSantaa… // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:39pm

My guess for the Denver question would be just the ridiculous turnover on defense - a huge number of changed players, new DC, new head coach. The other thing that might also be under represented is safety play (though I don't know how one would quantify that). Better safeties = less big plays = longer drives = more chances for an offense to screw up. New Orleans turned around D is also benefiting from stronger safety play as well, meanwhile, Safety play has been a major concern for SD last year and remains this year.

Maybe its just an opinion, but I think defense is all about minimizing big plays and having as many pass rush threats that force an offense to scheme very creatively to neutralize. It's easy for teams to shut down one good pass rusher (Ware and Peppers this year) and if the team has no other pass rush options, their D struggles. I count strong CBs as a pass rush threat because it allows teams to blitz more often. I think Denver's D is playing better because of Dumervil's development and stronger secondary play that's letting them get away with blitzing more often. Against SD, they blitzed A gap nearly the entire game with huge success.

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#30 by ammek // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:45pm

Yeah, speaking of player turnover. I don't know if you do this, but let's go back ten years and produce a pretend projection for the 1999 Rams. It is based on previous years' data, but uses all the trends that you have picked up from the imminent twenty-first century. What does it look like?

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#141 by Mr Shush // Oct 21, 2009 - 7:04am

"My guess for the Denver question would be just the ridiculous turnover on defense - a huge number of changed players, new DC, new head coach."

Right, but plenty of teams with terrible defenses have brought in a bunch of new players, a new DC, a new scheme and a new head coach. Most of them still sucked - see the Texans in 2005 vs. 2006 for one example. The question is, was there any reason to expect the Broncos to be different to those teams? "Champ Bailey healthy rather than playing hurt" and "Elvis Dumervil a much better fit for the 3-4" seem like pretty tricky things to quantify.

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#213 by Might as well … (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:12pm

Well, that's a key point, that "playing hurt" is impossible to quantify. Several posters have pointed out that Orton's career numbers wouldn't predict his great start this season. But his only career numbers were his rookie season and last year, and anyone who followed Orton closely last year (I traded Warner for 2 RBs becuause I thought he'd be a good enough starting QB for my fantasy team) knows that he simply was not the same guy after he got hurt. Same with Favre. If the post-bicep tear Favre is thye QB of the Vikings, we'd probably be talking about Rosenfels right now.

And everyone gets hurt in the NFL. How can you possibly quantify it all when the injury reports only tell a small part of the story?

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#225 by Rich Conley (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 5:12pm

"Same with Favre. If the post-bicep tear Favre is thye QB of the Vikings, we'd probably be talking about Rosenfels right now."

Favre has that same decline in the second half every year though.

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#259 by Faux Lombardi (not verified) // Oct 22, 2009 - 3:21am

Evidence? I just spent 10 minutes poring over Favre stats. I don't see it. Last year he fell off a cliff after week 11, he went from averaging triple digit QB rating to not breaking 61 the rest of the season.

It seems in other seasons that he mostly stays the same, and he even usually finishes strong in the last game or two.

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#22 by MJK // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:40pm

I bet when Aaron ran the numbers and saw Philly at #2, he said:


One thing I am still curious about is how many "iterations" the D in DVOA represents. I recall a number of years ago, the Colts broke DVOA because their schedule was so pathetically easy, and they were good enough to destroy all their pathetic opponents, that opponent adjustments got hopelessly skewed. Aaron fixed it by "iterating" the D a second time...calculate VOA, determine how good opponents were based on their VOA, adjust all VOA's by opponent to get DVOA iteration 1, and then instead of stopping, do it again...re-determine how good opponents were using their DVOA (iter1) and re-adjust DVOA(iter1) by opponent DVOA(iter1) to get DVOA(iter2). My question is--does Aaron now stop at one cycle, or does he iterate to "convergence", or at least several more times. That could "fix" some of the problem with the Eagles...if they creamed three easy teams, maybe DVOA doesn't yet realize how easy those creamings were.

Regarding Denver and San Diego:

I don't know if there's any objective system that could have predicted Denver. From what I've seen and read, the actual things that have caused the turnaround are (1) better offensive playcalling, (2) greater focus by the players on their job and better situational preparedness, especially on defense, and (3) a complete and utter housecleaning of defensive players.

(1) and (2) are a result of good coaching, by McDaniels and Nolan (and possibly by Orton as opposed to Cutler...I'm not sure how involved in play selection Orton is and Cutler was). The projections have a "coaching change" component, if I recall correctly, but they're all negative...right? I.e. if you change coaches, you're expected to decline. I actually think this is wrong in some cases...replacing Lane Kiffin or Pete Carrol for example is bound to make you improve or at least stay the same...but Shannahan was a pretty good coach, so there's no way a "getting rid of bad coach" modified would have helped you peg the Broncos.

The third factor could possibly be a predictive measure...if you had a way of objectively evaluating the quality of a defensive player in a vacuum and then estimating how likely a bunch of disparate players brought together were likely to play. I think that is simply not possible with the data available today, even with game charters.

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#67 by Scott C // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:31pm

I don't think the D in dvoa goes past '2-deep' in the iterations. It could go to full recursion in one pass if it used the right matrix math.

Plus, so far there is no D in it -- these are VOA numbers.

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#143 by crack (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 7:27am

There is some D in them, the unadjusted VOA is in the bottom chart.

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#112 by Boston Dan // Oct 20, 2009 - 11:52pm

Reading that post just ripped a hole wide open in my brain.

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#142 by Mr Shush // Oct 21, 2009 - 7:09am

"replacing Lane Kiffin or Pete Carrol for example is bound to make you improve or at least stay the same"

I hate to break it to you, but replacing Pete Carroll with Bill Belichick "resulted" in a drop from 8-8 to 5-11.

Also, while the Broncos offense has been good this year, it was better last, so I'm not sure about the "better offensive playcalling" thing either.

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#154 by Todd S. // Oct 21, 2009 - 9:50am

W/R/T Shannahan, could it be that long-tenured coached have players start to tune them out? Thus even players who were sub-par the year before react positively to a change in messenger? I have no idea how you could work this in mathematically, however. Sample size would be a big issue. (And, could we be seeing the same thing with Fisher and the Titans this year?)

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#240 by Jerry // Oct 21, 2009 - 6:45pm

The Steelers were 6-10 in 2003, 15-1 in 2004, 11-5 plus a championship in 2005, and 8-8 in 2006. Maybe that's a result of when they were and weren't listening to Cowher, but it doesn't look at all predictable.

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#23 by wardh2o (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:40pm

Orton has more swagger than Cutler ever did and you just can't account for swagger in DVOA ratings.

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#123 by Achaean (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 12:35am

What about "He just like a kid out there." They have an adjustment for that, right?

I think i remember an article on FO a few years back which argued there was a correlation between justKIDness and GunSlingerosity, but said that there was no way to show causation. Also there were problems with a small sample size.

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#214 by Might as well … (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:17pm

For Cutler it's "he's just a sullen teen out there." I swear if he thows another interception he's going to start wearing a black trenchcoat in the huddle.

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#24 by ammek // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:40pm

I re-read the FOA Chargers chapter not long ago. The obvious misprognostication is the defense: DVOA expected it to return to 2007 levels after a sub-par 2008, but that hasn't happened, and you need to look more deeply into why. It appears that the 2007 interception totals were flukily high: did DVOA expect that kind of performance again? And I suppose there is a Merriman factor.

The run defense is another matter; as I assume you examined on ESPN, the loss of Williams and Oshansky is a severe blow. NTs in the 3-4 are really so valuable — isn't it like losing your Pro Bowl quarterback?

Finally, someone has to explain the run offense. ALY isn't great, but the onus falls on the backs more than the linemen, and if the #1 ranking off left tackle is meaningful at this stage of the season, we might even imagine that Marcus McNeil is back. Tomlinson is obviously cooked, but DVOA already knew that and didn't care.

Sorry, I've nothing to offer but musings.

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#76 by Still Alive (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:42pm

My completely subjective memory is that players who get caught with steroids etc. (particularly in other sports) rarely ever return to that form again (presumably because they can no longer risk using). I for one was not surprised that Merriman hasn't been quite the same player recently. I know a few guys even now who use and it definitely makes a difference in their bodies. Also these things are often done in groups, and perhaps the Chargers are comparatively cleaner than they were two or three years ago.

Substance abuse suspension in year X >> lower quality of play in years X+1, X+2 etc. This type of adjustment is more for an individual sport like baseball, but, just some random speculation.

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#122 by THE Sean C (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 12:30am

I don't necessarily disagree with this, but to be fair to Merriman, he did have a major knee injury, and that has been known to leave players permanently affected for the worse...less so than in decades past, but it still happens.

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#215 by Might as well … (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:20pm

Steroids only count in baseball.

Can you imagine the outcry if the Minnesota defensive line's success were translated to baseball? Tom Verducci would have stabbed them both to death by mow for the integrity of the game.

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#25 by ebinary (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:40pm

Me feeling is that wins or losses that are more than 2.5 TDs should be normalized to some maximum impact, because most teams are not going to play the same if they are up 2.5 TDs at the end of the game. And most teams down by 2.5 TDs or more are not playing normally either.

Obviously, a 59 point blowout by NE didn't help them a lick the week before in Denver, nor is NE in any better position to beat Denver today than they were a week ago (they were, in fact, shut out in the 2nd half, so if anything, they'd be worse off).

Regarding predicting Broncos success, how about a "team change" factor that lowers the influence of the previous season based on the degree of change in personnel and coaching. I.E. if you'd started with a clean slate in Denver's case, you would have more quickly got to the proper ranking.

There is also a problem with assuming every team is always attempting to score on every down. Teams with tough defenses and a marginal lead will often run a much more conservative offense, because the chance of winning (the ultimate goal) is improved even though the chance of scoring is reduced. Similarly, every team that kneels down for 3 downs at the end of a game should get credit for the wasted series.

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#185 by Teddy (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 12:07pm

Actually, I think the current DEN-NE rankings look about right. They have almost identical ratings, with NE just slightly better. That lines up well with the results of their actual game, where DEN won in OT with HFA (and won the OT coin toss).

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#194 by ebinary (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 1:54pm

Well... except for the little problem of Denver beating NE (NE was shut out in the 2nd half, so likely the coin flip loss would have simply given the Broncos better field position after another stop).

And Denver has won 33% more games.


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#226 by Rich Conley (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 5:15pm

The game was in Denver. Denver is supposed to win that game if they're pretty even teams.

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#218 by Might as well … (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:27pm

"Teams with tough defenses and a marginal lead will often run a much more conservative offense, because the chance of winning (the ultimate goal) is improved even though the chance of scoring is reduced"

Are you Gregg Easterbrook? Seriously, the Pats prove this theory wrong over and over, and made it an art form in 2007. For everyone who complained about the Pats running up the score in the snow, I'll remind you that the Chargers almost came all the way back against the Steelers when they went conservative a couple weeks ago.

If your team just scored 35 points in 10 minutes, why can't the other team do the same?? Especially in a snowstorm when the attacker has the advantage fo knowing where they are going!

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#26 by Kal // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:41pm

I think one thing you could do is try to isolate the relative value of a position and (at a simple level) see how the improvement at that position could improve a team's offense/defense. Just do a plus, minus type thing, and say that on average, teams who get an improvement at position x improve their DVOA by y in the following year.

You can then try and figure out whether individual players are more or less likely to be an improvement. Sometimes that works great, some times it doesn't, but it should at least give you a statistical range to work with; you can assume (for example) that with replacing 7 defensive starters, assume that each is a 'better' replacement, and going from there that their upside is X.

I think also that figuring out why Philly is consistently rated so highly should be a top priority. I vaguely understand why; they consistently get first downs, do a good job of extra yardage, tend to be okay on special teams and defense...yet those intangibles always affect Philly. If it's this consistent week in and out, year in and out, there should be something measurable. Either something that hasn't shown a correlation with other teams but does in Philly or something that isn't being measured currently, such as clock management.

Hmm. That's another thought; can you quantitatively assign value to good or bad clock management? Might be interesting.

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#48 by bravehoptoad // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:34pm

I believe this over-rating of Philly has only been the past 3 or 4 years; for the 3 or 4 years before that, Philly was under-rated by DVOA (if I'm recalling correctly) even though it was still the McNabb-Reid show.

Curses! If I had the premium database I could look it up in an instant!

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#92 by BigDerf // Oct 20, 2009 - 10:02pm

Did any adjustments in DVOA come into play at the same time DVOA started overrating Philly? Cause those could be key.

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#107 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 11:08pm

The before/after point for Philly is 2004/2005. Before 2005, the NFC East was a mess. After, they've been dominant. That's really the major change.

You may note that the other team that people constantly say DVOA overrates is Washington, the least-successful team in that division over the same period.

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#119 by Still Alive (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 12:15am

Personally I think people underrate Washington, not DVOA.

People see a team that many predict to be average or slightly above, then they finish slightly below average, and the conclusion always seems to be: "OMG Washington is so terrible! They are just awful."

Actually no. A slightly below average team isn't terrible, DET is terrible, STL is terrible, WAS is just bad, and plays below expectations consistently. But people love their hyperbole.

I know this sounds like splitting hairs but there have been several different occasions when I saw people lumping them in with the bottom tier of teams the last couple years. The difference between being 31 and say 23 may not seem like a whole lot when you are trying to make a flashy argument, but its 1/4 of the league.

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#159 by jebmak // Oct 21, 2009 - 10:12am

But people love their hyperbole.

Our paper today refered to the H1N1 "Pandemic" sweeping the city.

Of course that could just be fear mongering to sell papers. Or that they have trouble with definitions.

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#201 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 2:48pm

The virus's official name from the WHO is the pandemic H1N1/09 virus. They declared it a pandemic back in July.

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#267 by jebmak // Oct 22, 2009 - 11:17am

Well then maybe *I* am the one who has trouble with definitions.

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#220 by Might as well … (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:34pm

Nice trolling there, OP, but of course you realize that Detroit beat Washington and St. Louis only lost by 2 points. STL's losing margin to its other opponents is a whopping 16.8 points.

Washington is a pandemic of awfulness.

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#280 by Still Alive (not verified) // Oct 22, 2009 - 3:40pm

We are mainly talking about PAST seasons. Also picking out 2 of their poorest results is an easy way to prove 3/4s of the teams int he league are "awful" You are the one trolling. Read the posts you are responding to.

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#27 by jimm (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:43pm

I suspect the most likely reason is coaching. Norv Turner has a career .446 winning percentage. He's two double digit wins in 11 seasons as a head coach. What do you think the odds were he would produce a 13-14 win team that it would take to be the best in the league.

As for Denver - six games in it still a very small sample but I suspect it's coaching and personnel decision making. But we'll find out if McDaniel is one of those rah rah guys that inspire the troops before falling back to reality - or is one of the next really good coaches. I think QBs are the most overrated assets in sports - anyone who dumps one and picks up additional assets to some other team - strikes me as understanding value. I wasn't too impressed with how he handled it in the media but he kept Marshall and he's the real superstar talent wise - Cutler is just another QB that could be replaced by 20 other guys.

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#28 by joenamath // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:44pm

denver was hard to predict but as for san diego norv turner has proven he can't win as a head coach in the nfl
they were 14-2 the year before he came then 11-5 then 8-8 and this year?

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#29 by Jason Duby (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:45pm

With regards to Denver, specifically Kyle Orton, could it be that Josh McDaniels really is that good at coaching quarterbacks?

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#125 by RickD // Oct 21, 2009 - 1:26am

Orton was always a decent QB, but not great. I think the big difference in Denver is how much better his receivers are. Chicago never had WRs like Marshall and Royal.

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#145 by xLittleP // Oct 21, 2009 - 8:25am

I'm just throwing this out there, because I'm a just simple fan with a love for math, and I don't "see" football games the way most of the people here do.

But, as an Atlanta fan, last year we had an extremely surprising season. Sure, we had a new coach and a new GM, and they nailed the draft, and got us a new QB. Didn't some of those things happen in Denver? However, what most people don't realize is that our season last year was so successful to Atlanta fans because of the utter disaster that was the season before (Vick arrested, Coach quitting midseason). Perhaps some level of prior-season\off-season controversy can be factored in, possibly with the combination of a new coaching staff and QB?

Like I said, I'm just throwing it out there, but Miami got a new coach, too. Since I'm just an Atlanta fan, I don't know how much controversy there was in Denver and Miami previous to their surprising seasons. Miami might not look that hot this year, but then again, they don't have the "added the best Tight End of all time" factored in to their play ;-)

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#179 by Anonimoose (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 11:52am

I don't know how you can predict these sorts of turnarounds (considering how many times the Lions have failed to blow up and rebuild, for instance) but they seem to happen with decent regularity.

People have been mentioning the sudden appearance of competency from the Saints D, but if you go back just a bit farther there's an even bigger and surprising resurgence in during the 2006 season where they went from the 3-13 Katrina season to the NFC Championship the next year. Even if you throw out the 2005 season as a special exception and say no team could perform well in those circumstances, it is still pretty clear that they were at best an average team leading up to then.

The uniting factor in all of these turnarounds, I think is wholesale change. All new coaching staff, nearly complete turnover in personnel. Now, there are plenty of instances where this doesn't really work (I'm looking at KC this year), but maybe the thing to do is to lessen the strength of the previous season on predicting the upcoming season, perhaps even on a percentage basis depending on how much turnover there is.

It might just have to amount to throwing your hands in the air and saying it's impossible to predict if a complete rebuild will work, but here are our best guesses.

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#162 by Eddo // Oct 21, 2009 - 10:35am

Having watched them both quite a bit this year, I'd say the bigger issue is the offensive lines. Orton's in Denver is excellent, Cutler's in Chicago is awful.

Orton does have better receivers, but that's all on Marshall. Royal is a quality receiver, but at this point, he hasn't impressed me more than Hester, Bennett, and Knox. Either Cutler's really making his receivers look better than they are, or the WR difference is being overblown.

But to repeat my first point: the Bears' offensive line is bottom-ten (maybe bottom-five), while the Broncos' is top-five. Never underestimate the crappiness of Frank Omiyale.

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#174 by bravehoptoad // Oct 21, 2009 - 11:40am

You can look at Cutler as an ideal opportunity to test how important an excellent quarterback is. His switch to a new team is unprecedented -- who trades pro-bowl quarterbacks in their prime? How many times have we wanted to see what Payton Manning would play like if he were on the Raiders? With Cutler we have a (less extreme) example of that.

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#33 by deflated (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 6:59pm

As a possible partial fix for the problems with the Denver forecast, how about a bigger adjustment for regression with that defence. I suspect that with outlier units like last years Bronco D greater turnover in the players/coaches will cause a bigger regression to the mean; the more you change a very good/very bad unit the more likely it will swing the other way. It wouldn't predict the extreme swing they've had from historically bad to top-5 but it would help get a better W-L prediction for the team, given that last year's offence with even an average defence would be a pretty damn good team.

On the offence side you could give weight to an very good O-line. As Denver has shown over the last 10 years with RBs a very good O-line can make average talent look very good (and good look all-world). They returned intact one of the top 3 lines (plus coaching) from last season, dropping the offence all the way down to 25th seemed too far at the time.

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#241 by cjfarls // Oct 21, 2009 - 6:47pm

These actually sound like very good adjustments to me.

Many of the "positive" things folks on MHR saw about the DEF were scouting things that I think would be almost impossible to quantify into a projection. I don't know how you factor in a remove "Bob Slowik Suck Factor" or a "Nate Webster & the safetys of suckitude factor" into last years defensive performance. Same with the "Norv Turner Suck Factor" for SD.... I just don't know that those will ever be quantifiable.

What I think many could say is it would have been almost completely impossible for the Defense to actually get worse... regardless if variables like "new D coordinator" and "changed personnel" typically are negative adjustments. Basically, for the really good/bad teams, perhaps a "complete change" variable should give a bigger regression to the mean. Except for the total orange & blue kool-aid crowd, no one expected the DEF to be more than mediocre this year however... no way anyone could have predicted that.

However, on offense, the projection really seemed screwy. Predicting a team to regress from ~5th to 25th, when they only changed 1 player seems absurd to me. Cutler is a good player, but he was no Peyton Manning... If anything, it should have been further mitigated by the fact that they wouldn't be running their 7th string RB, which while maybe not enough to replace Cutler, should have at least mitigated the drop.

This projection was especially goofy after we watched how QBs can come into a good team and succeed when we saw Cassel come in after Brady's injury.

Basically, I think many folks thought Denver would likely be mediocre on both offense and defense... which equates to a mediocre team. Projections that they'd be the "worst in the NFL" therefore seemed off, but I can't necessarily point to too many things besides the offense projection that should've been seen as likely wrong.

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#34 by joenamath // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:00pm

should philly lose points for andy reid's game management

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#35 by Tundrapaddy (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:00pm

Dayumn! The '% change' in 'Playoff Odds' for both Seattle and Arizona is massive! One game can apparently change quite a bit.

Granted, much of that is probable the fact that 'DAVE' is slowly losing preseason projection strength, which might have been valid if DAVE could accurately project a 2nd consecutive season of O-line injury woes.

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#36 by Tim (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:03pm

I am still amazed that the Vikes variance is still so low. The defense was so dominant in the first half until the 2 minute warning and then were debacled late in the 4th quarter. Interesting.

In regards to SD, I believe the problem may be that a lot of their players, particularly on defense, are not as good as they seem. With a lot of solid players,, the weaker players are not exposed; now with the loss of Williams, I think we're seeing that the linebackers aren't as good as they seem. Although the chargers games I have seen this year have had terrible tackling, which certainly doesn't help.

I think a lot of Denver's success on D is obviously due to better coaching, particularly designing the defense for the players present. They had so many D coordinators in the last few years trying to force players into the scheme, drafting for that scheme and then the next year that player doesn't fit. The 3-4 is inherently more flexible and allows Nolan to put his players into a position to succeed.

I don't think Denver's success could have been predicted, although i think it was clear that Orton could succeed with a good X and O's coach, an actual NFL O line and some viable receivers, things he did not have in Chicago.

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#39 by MarkV // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:10pm

RE Denver - I don't have the data to see how common it is to start 8 new defenders, or hiring 2/3rds of a new defense. FO has looked at new schemes, but I think changing scheme might additionally help to increase this fact. I would suggest that THAT large of a turnover would have the effect of mostly randomizing a teams performance, or that if it provides any consistency that it is towards average (a mostly new defense in a new scheme might not correlate to the previous regime very effectively). The numbers could prove this one wrong, but it seems possible to me.

Or maybe Jamal Williams is REALLY REALLY good, and Marlon McCree is really really bad to ways that statistics just can't quite compensate. Ok, that ones not quantifiable.

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#40 by mrh // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:16pm

If a unit (offense or defense) loses a number of starters, you COULD assume that the new starters will play at replacement level. If one 16-game starter leaves, that would mean 1/11 of the unit is now assumed to be replacement level. So the predicted DVOA would be adjusted by a factor of 1/11 * (last year's DVOA - replacement level DVOA). I don't know what "replacement level" is for a defense or offense since DVOA is expressed in terms of average vs. replacement level but presumably Aaron could calculate that. Maybe 1/11 is not the right coefficient but that's a start point. Essentially, this is an estimator of the regression to the mean that would be expected in the absence of other factors already included. If the unit well below replacement level (DEN D), this would give an idea of the magnitude of the expected regression (improvement).

Using the known player losses on the DEN D at the time of the Almanac (players with * by their name), I count 87 known starts "lost" out of 176 total starts on defense (using pfr start data). The DEN defence could be predicted to improve by an estimated 87/176 * (DEN 2009 DVOA - Replacement level DVOA). Obviously it won't work out that all lost players are below replacement level or that all the new players will be at replacement level, , but it might yield a useful adjustment factor.

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#42 by Paul A (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:20pm

After forcing myself to watch the entire Redskins game, I must say that I miss the good old days when Norv was calling the plays.

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#44 by Adam (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:27pm

Re: Denver Defense.

Bob Slowik is the worst defensive coordinator in the history of football. It didn't help that most of the defense players were also garbage, but take the core group of good players, add some role players, throw in a real defensive coordinator and guess what, you have a MUCH better defense and anyone who did not see an IMPROVED defense coming has no idea about football but has their head buried in stats.

Now, to predict their turnaround THIS drastic no one could have predicted but FBO predicted Denver to be the worst team in the league based on...nothing. They looked at stats, but failed to look at the most important part of the equation, the removal of a completely inept moron and the removal of completely inept players.

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#45 by Raiderjoe // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:28pm

something still wrong with compter. now ay can Raiders beat egales and only go from 32 to 31. Raiders have 2 wins and getting to 3 next week when beat crpapy jets team,. Raiders kmore wins than rams, Titans, Chuefs, Bucs, lions, Rams, and Browns and have same wins as panthers, redskinbs, Bills, Seagawks, and dolphins. Cimputer clauclations really off if it deceide Raiders are next to worse team in league.

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#46 by ChiTown11111 (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:32pm

The way to get philly in line is to double/triple/quadruple the value of offensive goal line plays. Thus when they fail to get it in the endzone because no one is falling for the Westbrook screen they drop like a rock.

People wonder why Philly didn't run more against Oakland, its because they SUCK at running.

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#47 by Brendan Scolari // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:34pm

"We're looking for objective facts that we knew before the season that should have been indicators that Denver's defense would make a colossal turnaround, or that San Diego wouldn't be the best team in the league"

Perhaps there's a hint at the problem in that statement. I commented about this a couple weeks ago, but maybe DVOA isn't weighing last season's performance enough. While Denver's defense was truly terrible, Denver was 8-8 as a team. Why were they expected by DVOA to be the worst team in football? They switched Cutler for Orton but Cutler isn't Peyton Manning or anything close to it and Orton actually played fine last year before he got hurt.

I bought into the Denver will be terrible this year theory but looking back now it seems foolish. The downgrade from Cutler to Orton isn't that big and the rest of the offense is still elite. And the defense should be expected to make some improvement just by replacing players, at the very least they couldn't do any worse.

As for San Diego, what evidence was there that they'd be the best team in the league? They were 8-8 last year too! I know they had a higher DVOA than Denver but still it's not like they looked like a great team at any point last year. Merriman and other guys coming back on defense should have helped, but I don't think that was all the difference.

There's obviously some bad luck involved, who knew before the season Merriman would be terrible or Dumervil would be the defensive MVP? But still, just based on last year there was no reason to think there was such a big difference between Denver and San Diego.

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#175 by bravehoptoad // Oct 21, 2009 - 11:41am

...but Cutler isn't Peyton Manning or anything close to it....

There's a small wave of fashion to say that Cutler isn't anything special in light of his performance on the Chicago Bears. No one was saying he was crappy this summer. He may not be in Peyton Manning's class, but he was firmly considered to be in the class right below him, with Rivers & Palmer &c.

Strangely, no one's saying, wow, look what Cutler's doing with an offense that could make the great Kyle Orton look terrible.

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#222 by Might as well … (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 4:53pm

I was saying he was crappy! And Orton looked really good running that offense before he got hurt last year, despite his horrible receivers.

Sorry, what has Cutler done that has been more impressive than Orton's first half of 2008? Beating the Lions? Beating the Seahawks? Throwing horrendous picks to cost games against the packers and Falcons??

I will cut Cutler some slack in that Orton didn't have the taxedermied corpse of Orlando Pace playing left tackle for him. Yikes.

Protip: Nobody releases good left tackles. The Rams cut him becasue he was D-O-N-E.

Seriously, I'll wager Cutler has pouted his way out of the league by 2011 unless he has some kind of Brees-esque transformation. But the more he's rewarded for sucking, the more he will suck.

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#230 by Rich Conley (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 5:26pm

"will cut Cutler some slack in that Orton didn't have the taxedermied corpse of Orlando Pace playing left tackle for him. Yikes."

He doesn't just have the Corpse of Pace in front of him, he also has the Corpse of Kreutz in front of him. Kreutz snaps every 5th snap or so directly into the ground. At one point he was a terrific blocker and made up for it, but at this point, the only player who I'd have any interest in is Williams at RT, who looks good. The rest of the line is below replacement level.

Cutler is doing a terrific job at this point.

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#51 by Avenger00782 (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:41pm

Is there a way to account for team unity? How many times have events occured where something has unified a team and they go on a run, or divided a team and that team has fallen appart. Denver looked divided last year, but have somehow managed to unite under the new coach. Jay Cutler had divided the Broncos lockerroom, and we have a situation where there was addition by subtraction of the divisiveness of Cutler, the rotating D cordinaters and the head coach who was enableing both of those problems. This might also explain San D and Philly. San D has a bunch of players that are not sufficiently motivated to play well together until they have no other choice. On Monday, LT threw a fit because he wasn't being used on the goal line. Meanwhile, Marshall was giving up his body blocking linebackers on the run plays. Every game, a different Bronco is Orton's primary reciever. It seems like everyone understands that Orton is going to exploit the biggest mis-match. Now it may be possible that McNabb is one of the divisive influences in the Eagles lockerroom. It does seem like the Eagles do better when Donovin is injured.

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#165 by bravehoptoad // Oct 21, 2009 - 10:46am

Jay Cutler had divided the Broncos lockerroom....

What makes you think so?

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#53 by gravning // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:53pm

If you're really looking for suggestions...

...is it possible that you just need to weigh the coaching staff's impact a lot more heavily? Can the answer be that simple?

Because I think it would be wrong to dismiss "Norv Turner sucks" as a theory. I'd look at the math and juice the numbers.

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#54 by sfckoski // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:53pm

Is health the answer?

The Chargers haven't held a team under 100 yards rushing this season. Denver had 101 and likely would've had a lot more if not for the two kick return TDs. In 2008, the Chargers held teams to under 100 yards rushing in eight of eighteen games (including playoffs)and won six of them. If you extend the RYA up to 111, the Chargers were 9-3 in those games.

I know Jamal Williams was injured in game one of 2009 and I'm not positive how much of the game he played, but the Raiders accumulated 148 rushing yards that game. Shawne Merriman has been very, uh, Lights On(?)this year and who knows how much should be attributed to his knee, but he has been invisible. Cromartie was supposedly nicked up most of last season and may not be fully healthy this year.
I haven't looked up the specifics, but is Igor Olshansky a lot > Jacques Cesaire? It sure seems like it.

The Jets minus Kris Jenkins should provide a good case study on the impact the loss of an immovable and irreplaceable NT is to a defense/team.

My two cents, is that injuries to key positions is what is keeping the Chargers away from projections.

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#74 by Scott C // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:41pm

Ryon Bingham was supposed to be Olshansky's replacement. He went on IR in the pre-season. Cesaire was the rotating backup who played downs at end and nose but wasn't a starter. The new young guys are projects at best.

So, compared to last year, THREE d-lineman were lost that played significant time:

Olshansky, Williams, Bingham.

Castillo is quite good, but he is only one man.

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#202 by bravehoptoad // Oct 21, 2009 - 2:51pm

Interesting idea. We know the FO projections are testing for injuries. Are they weighting injuries to key positions? Such as NT for a 3-4, or quarterback, or maybe middle linebacker in a Tampa-2? Maybe rush linebacker in the 3-4, rush end in a 4-3, etc?

EDIT: Whoops, they use something called HGL for that. It looks very cool...I'd love to see more about it on the site.

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#55 by LetsGoJets (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 7:57pm

I don't see much of a problem with the Eagles as the second best team. I'm a NY Jets fan, but the Eagles were outstanding last year. If that pass interference no-call is called Rogers-Cromartie on 4th and long in the NFC Championship game, the Eagles would have gotten to the Superbowl and won it all. I think the Eagles might just be off to a shaky start with their injuries, but they always seem like the Patriots to me. No matter how many players are hurt, their system makes them one of the best.

The team that shocks me the most are the Jaguars at 15. They got trambled on by the Cardinals and Seahawks, beat the Texans because of a Chris Brown fumble at the one, and almost lost to the Rams. I would have expected JAX in the bottom three, at least on the Oakland/Cleveland level of bad teams.

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#56 by Karl Cuba // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:08pm

I still think that Denver are being flattered by record. They should have lost to the Bengals, that game was a fluke. Even though the Pats just destroyed the Titans, I still think that they're a team with some issues and the Broncos only managed to beat them in overtime at home. McDaniels has a rather extensive level of insight into the Pats inner workings while BB would not have any idea what he has kept or changed from the Pats scheme. The familiarity would have been to Denver's advantage. The win at home over Dallas . . . meh, even if Dallas are all that good, (a big maybe) Romo is capable of throwing the game away against anyone. Wins over Cleveland and Oakland, who could care (Philly?). The Chargers are not the same team, losing two of their starting DLs, plus two return touchdowns is a little unsustainable. One thing that could have been predicted is the slow return of Merriman, which coupled with injury leaves the bolts with 40% of the front five from two years ago.

However, Denver are a better team that last year. For years they'd have been great with a defense and now they have a competent unit with the elderly secondary benefiting from a healthy Champ Bailey. Orton is interesting, he is probably benefitting from better coaching, my opinion of Ron Turner is not great, and he also has better personnel. I reckon Denver will finish 10 - 6.

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#71 by tunesmith (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:33pm

I think you could talk down any team if you went about it that aggressively. They've got two KC games, home games against OAK and KC, and WAS left on the schedule. There is no way you would have picked Denver beating San Diego before yesterday.

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#127 by RickD // Oct 21, 2009 - 1:32am

I picked Denver to beat San Diego. The coaching matchup was a rout!

Seriously, San Diego has historically beaten Denver by running on them. Denver's no longer super-vulnerable to the run, and Tomlinson is basically dead as a big-time RB. That leaves us with Rivers vs. the excellent Denver secondary.

I figured it'd be close, but I've seen Norv lose too many close games to have any confidence in him. In any case, this result is part of this casual observer's theory of the three-year plan by Norv to turn a Super-Bowl caliber team into an also-ran.

When a loose coach like Norv takes over from a disciplinarian like Schottenheimer, you typically have one year of excellent results, and then the lack of discipline begins to kick in. I don't see the Chargers making the playoffs this year, and I expect this will be Norv's last season.

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#61 by C (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:25pm

Eagles: Not only is their team rated too high, their defense at #1????? The Giants defense gets torched by the Eagles and drops down, the Eagles lose to the Raiders and move up? You are kidding right?

What does DVOA like about a team playing down to their competition, losing to a good team and a terrible team, and throwing what, 27 or so incompletions? How does that move the chains on a per play basis?

Denver: Brendan Scolari makes a fantastic point... Denver was 8-8 last year and they really should have been 9-7 if not for a bad Ed Hochule call! They had a great offense ( that was predicted to get worse), and they had a terrible defense that was to regress better...

So why were they supposed to go from mediocre to terrible? Mike Shannihan & Cutler

Offense: They have a fantastic offensive line, and Shannihan did a good job of moving the QB in waggles, roll outs, running TE screens, RB screens etc. to slow down a D-Line and change that point of target for rushers. Shanny has always have a very QB friendly system in that ( I see the same with Kubiak in Houston) and I consider this a strength.

Denver has good Receivers in Marshall ( a game breaker) and Royal ( solid), and Stokely solid at his role.... Scheff is a good tight end. The Broncos have good offensive talent if you look at the team minus the QB...

The big question mark was Orton, who has done alright... he's surrounded by good players, a good coach, and the offense probably isn't as explosive as they were last year but they aren't committing turnovers ( yet).

The defense: So far nobody mentioned Champ Bailey has been healthy... Getting back one of the top defenders in the NFL helps... I couldn't break down all of the X's and O's yet, but Nolan has new players, a new scheme and it's working so far...

Denver was predicted to fail because
1) People know Shanny is a top notch head coach and they lost him.
2) They lost Cutler (Orton hasn't been as explosive, but he hasn't had the turnovers either).

I'm still not a big believer in Denver. I know you are admitting you were wrong on the team, but I did see in one of the football preview mags one editor that was high on Denver... so high he might have predicted them to win the west, and upset their way to the AFC championship...

So my analysis says that right now Denver is overrated... before the season they were underrated due to the (admittedly ) important Coaching & QB change to an average team... The jokes were mean too!

SD: To run a successful 3-4 you need good D-Lineman and in particular a good Nose Tackle in the middle. Jamal Williams was one of the best, and you took away a key cog in that defense and replace him with a terrible player that gets pushed around and probably should still be working at the rent-a-car service. They also lost Igor Olshansky. Igor, Fire Heidrant and Castillo were a big part of that defense in allowing Merriman and company to do their THANG. Now they can't... It puts stress on the whole unit.

Also, why all the Norv hate? It seems like such a pop opinion and not like something you'd see from FO. Some Denver fans were critical of the work done on Denver saying it was "lazy" and "nothing you wouldn't see from any other football website", and I think you could say a lot of the same stuff about the Chargers analysis. "Norv sucks".

Why do people hate Norv so much? Because he's a "nice guy"? Because he doesn't yell at his players, because he doesn't LOOK like a football coach? At the very least he's a good offensive play caller. I don't think he's a great coach myself, but people hate him like he's the worst thing ever... I've met Norv and he's a nice guy...

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#75 by Bowl Game Anomaly // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:42pm

Nobody thinks Norv is the worst coach ever. The thing about Norv is that he's proven over a long period of time that he's clearly not a good head coach and yet he's still got the job somehow. The longer he remains a HC, the more bewildering it is to people who know he's below average at best.

If he were REALLY bad, he'd never have made it this far.

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#128 by RickD // Oct 21, 2009 - 1:35am

"Nobody thinks Norv is the worst coach ever".

I live in the DC area, and I know people who would have disagreed with you - at least until the Zorn era started.

Norv is, admittedly, well above the Richie Kotite level.

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#77 by Scott C // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:45pm

In the 2007 PFP, they did a piece on Norv's history as a coach.

Statistically, he has one of the worst W-L to pythagorean wins ratios, one of the worst "hold the 4th quarter lead" ratios, and a few other things that statistically jump out as among the worst coaches in history.

So, its not just hate, its some facts too.

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#160 by goodhit (not verified) // Oct 21, 2009 - 10:22am

Actually, Denver benefited from that blown Hochuli call, if you please.

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#255 by cjfarls // Oct 21, 2009 - 11:01pm

I'll agree that Denver could be a bit overrated at this point. They will not be undefeated the rest of the year. But given the commanding lead in the division, loser teams ahead (4 games vs. KC, OAK, WAS), etc. they're pretty much a playoff shoe-in at this point.

Denver may not be dominant like some other teams, but they look like a very solid team that can play anyone tough. Just like AZ last year, that could easily translate into a hot play-off run and potential SB.

Norv may be a nice guy, but his results speak for themselves... a decent OC, that as a HC is decidely less than mediocre.

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#64 by Ven (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:27pm

Wow, talk about worthless "rankings".

Philly loses to a pathetic Oakland team, doesn't even score a TD.
DVOA remains virtually the same? Huh?

And I'm not saying NE isn't good, but beating up a winless team 59-0 that had 3/4 of their secondary as practice squad guys moves them up so much?

You guys should find something more productive to do with your time than come up with worthless stats like these. The Philly thing is laughable.

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#81 by Raiderjoe // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:53pm


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#80 by Raiderjoe // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:52pm

Eagles dsidnt move much? Raiders didnt change either. Last week Eagles like 3 or 4 in dova and Dave and then Raiders beat them but Raiders only go up from 32 to 31. Raiders clearly better than 7 or 8 teams so for to have them at 31 is worng.

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#91 by Anonymouse (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 9:57pm

Yes, sir, you know you've got a winning comment when Raiderjoe agrees with you.

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#68 by Still Alive (not verified) // Oct 20, 2009 - 8:31pm

1) I wouldn't sweat this year's results at all. Denver was unforeseeable preseason, and the Eagles as completely schizo if I understand anything about the NFL. While I completely disagree with the Norv bashing (I think he is probably pretty average, and think that is what the evidence points to as well), I did find the SD prediction odd. So I guess the SD prediction is where I personally would start looking for errors. What was being overvalued there? I don't have your data so I have no idea, but I would isolate the things most positive about SD and re-evaluate them.

2) Along the lines of what many people have hinted at or mentioned above, but perhaps not outright said, I think team psychology is playing some part.

I think for a team like Denver that has had a lot of changes (but really for any team) winning a game early is very important to future success above and beyond what the win itself means. People buy in more try harder etc. Perhaps long strings of wins might lead to complacency, but long strings of losses definitely decrease a team's performance.

In a rather mundane example in our adult hockey leagues teams that lose their first few games tend to have a lot of trouble even turning out all their players for future games. Obviously NFL teams don't have that problem except with fans, but in one way or another the same effect occurred at every level of competitive sport I have played. Early wins lead to effort and seriousness, losses lead to discouragement, and indifference.

I have a hard time imagining that some acknowledgment of recent game results (not play-by-play) would make DVOA more predictive, but it seems so simple I am sure you have probably tried it.

To just throw some made up number out there as an example:
DVOA/DAVE *1.05 if last game was a win
DVOA/DAVE *.80 if last three games were a loss

I would think there would be some way to work that data in and get a more predictive system, but I also know enough about statistics and the lack rigor I put into this post to realize that I could just be 100% off base.

my $.02

Points: 0

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