Week 13 DVOA Ratings

Week 13 DVOA Ratings
Week 13 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

After 13 weeks, the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings still have the Houston Texans number one, although their overall rating drops this week. Green Bay is still number two, and Pittsburgh is the big mover of the week, climbing up to number three. In fact, in Weighted DVOA, which lowers the importance of early games, the Steelers are now second behind Houston and ahead of Green Bay. Remember, their worst game of the year by far was in Week 1.

So, let's talk about Green Bay some more. Their narrow win over the Giants actually drops their overall season DVOA slightly. I'll admit, the whole Packers situation is a bit frustrating. The majority of the football commentariat describes Green Bay as unbeatable, as head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the league. Those of us who look at things a little closer know that the Packers have flaws. We know there is a difference between "unbeatable" and "unbeaten." And yet... let's face it, it just looks weird to not have an undefeated 12-0 team on top of the DVOA ratings. It's even worse now that they've dropped to third in Weighted DVOA. Doesn't Green Bay look like the best team in the league to all of us, even if we don't think they should be ranked among the best teams of all time? 

In order to talk about Green Bay properly, I think we need to separate the concepts of "greatness" and "dominance." The Packers are by no means a dominant team. They are fairly one-dimensional; that dimension just happens to be performing off the charts. (Although as of this week, the Packers have fallen behind the 2007 Patriots for the best passing DVOA ever.) The defense has lived off turnovers, but that element isn't as sustainable as preventing yardage. The DVOA ratings suggest that the Packers aren't much different from two other teams, New England and New Orleans. The difference is primarily one of degree -- the Packers are just a little better on offense and a little better on defense.

2 GB 26.5% 37.3% 1 12.4% 24 1.5% 12
5 NE 24.0% 34.5% 2 13.4% 26 2.9% 7
8 NO 19.1% 34.3% 3 14.8% 29 -0.4% 19

Some readers have suggested that perhaps total DVOA is not the proper measure to use when a team is so superlative in one area of the game. That's the "defense doesn't matter, because Aaron Rodgers can outscore anybody" theory. The problem with this theory is that it doesn't explain any team in the past. It's not an issue with the 2007 Patriots or 2010 Patriots, each of which ranked first in total DVOA as well as pass offense DVOA. It's not really an issue with the 2004 Colts either, who are fourth all-time in passing DVOA and were fourth in total DVOA in 2004. It's easy to argue that the Colts were better than the No. 3 Buffalo Bills that year, but hard to argue that they were truly better than either New England (14-2) or Pittsburgh (15-1). As far as total offensive DVOA goes (as opposed to just passing DVOA), the team that ranks fourth historically in offensive DVOA is the 2002 Kansas City Chiefs, who were the opposite of the Packers -- they finished fourth in the league in total DVOA but went just 8-8.

Is there something in the way DVOA is built that is missing an indicator of Green Bay's dominance? I don't think so. Instead of looking at Green Bay with DVOA, let's look at Green Bay with a fairly simple measure: points scored and allowed. Most readers know that we can estimate a team's wins and losses based on points scored and allowed, known as the Pythagorean projection. And here's the thing: By Pythagorean wins, Green Bay is not the best team in the league this year. Both San Francisco (9.6) and Houston (9.2) are ahead of Green Bay. Green Bay's totals of 420 points scored and 262 points allowed work out to a Pythagorean win percentage of .754, or 9.0 wins. The difference between Green Bay's actual win percentage and Pythagorean win percentage is the second-highest since the merger, behind only the 1992 Indianapolis Colts. And here's something perhaps more surprising: By Pythagorean projection, the 2011 Packers are no better than the 2010 Packers. The 2010 Packers had a Pythagorean win percentage of .757. It just so happens that last year's Packers fell far short of their Pythagorean projection, and this year's Packers are far ahead.

And now, a digression. We've been writing about the Pythagorean projection since we launched in 2003. We've always used 2.37 as the exponent in the equation; this is the exponent that now-Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey found was most accurate for the NFL when he worked for Stats Inc. two decades ago. However, that exponent is based on the offensive environment of the league. We all know the offensive environment is a bit different now. Teams are scoring more points and allowing more points. So the exponent has changed, and 2.37 is not the most accurate way to estimate Pythagorean wins anymore. Actually, if we want to be as accurate as possible, each team plays in a different offensive environment. Saints games feature lots of points. Jaguars games feature fewer points. The exponent should be different for each team.

Baseball Prospectus discovered this a few years ago and started replacing Pythagorean wins with something it called "Pythagenport" (after writer Clay Davenport). I've figured out a similar method to get better results for the NFL. Pythagenport finds a different exponent for each team based on their offensive environment. The equation that works best in the NFL is 1.5 * log ((PF+PA)/G). The improvement is slight. The correlation between Pythagorean wins and actual wins for 1990-2010 is .9120. The correlation between Pythagenport and actual wins for 1990-2010 is .9134. However, the improvement from Pythagenport is bigger in recent seasons because scoring has been higher in recent seasons. (In particular, it helps with the Colts, who have continuously outperformed the standard Pythagorean projection all decade.) We'll probably use the new method to update all the listings of Pythagorean wins on the site this offseason.

OK, digression ended. Let's get back to the Packers. No team this year has played in a stronger offensive environment than the Packers. Their Pythagenport exponent ends up as 2.63, and this gives us a more accurate projection of wins: 9.3 instead of 9.0. That moves the Packers ahead of Houston, but still they don't have the highest projection in the league. Here's a list of the top teams in the league this year by Pythagenport wins:

SF 10-2 288 161 .799 9.6 2.36 .798 9.6
GB 12-0 420 262 .754 9.0 2.63 .776 9.3
HOU 9-3 310 189 .764 9.2 2.43 .769 9.2
BAL 9-3 296 192 .736 8.8 2.41 .740 8.9
NO 9-3 393 269 .711 8.5 2.61 .729 8.8
NE 9-3 362 247 .712 8.5 2.56 .727 8.7
PIT 9-3 268 195 .680 8.2 2.38 .681 8.2
DET 7-5 333 277 .607 7.3 2.56 .616 7.4
CHI 7-5 291 242 .608 7.3 2.47 .612 7.3
DAL 7-5 283 244 .587 7.0 2.46 .590 7.1

Two notes. First, the Packers are better than last year if we use Pythagenport instead of Pythagorean (.776 to .759). Second, the lowest Pythagenport exponent, for those curious, belongs to Jacksonville at 2.27.

If the Packers are not a dominant team, how have they managed to go 12-0 this season? The main answer is consistency. The Packers have been absurdly consistent. After this week, the Packers lead the league with 3.3% variance. If that number holds until the end of the season, it would be the lowest variance of any team in the DVOA era, surpassing last year's Atlanta Falcons who were at 4.9%.

(For those of you who wonder how variance is computed, it's just the "VAR" function from Excel used on all individual single-game DVOA ratings for each team.)

Of course, there's a reasonable chance that the Packers' variance will change with four more games to play, any of which could be particularly good or bad. So I went back to compare the Packers' variance through 12 games with every team's variance through 12 games, rather than through the end of the season. Using this measure, the Packers finish second. Surprisingly, this year's Atlanta Falcons finish third. But the team that ranks first is even more interesting:

Lowest Variance after 12 Games, 1992-2011
Year Team Var. DVOA W-L
2005 IND 3.1% 39.2% 12-0
2011 GB 3.3% 26.5% 12-0
2011 ATL 3.4% 17.6% 7-5
2007 JAC 3.4% 15.1% 8-4
2006 SD 3.6% 28.1% 10-2
1994 PIT 4.0% 23.0% 9-3
2002 NYG 4.0% -9.0% 6-6
1999 OAK 4.3% 23.3% 6-6
2003 CAR 4.5% 2.0% 8-4
1999 MIN 4.5% 0.4% 7-5


Yes, that's the also-undefeated 2005 Colts who were both more consistent and more dominant than the 2011 Packers. As we all know, that team didn't end up going undefeated, and it didn't win the Super Bowl. The Colts lost to San Diego in Week 15, lost to Seattle (while resting starters) in Week 16, and then lost to Pittsburgh in their first playoff game. Like Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning was a pretty darn good quarterback. But he eventually did run into a couple of defenses that could slow him down a little bit.

The 1999 Raiders provide an interesting look at how even a team with both quality and consistency doesn't necessarily get all the breaks. The Raiders played very well but faced the second-hardest schedule in the league (through Week 13 of 1999) and played almost nothing but close games. Their six losses were all by a touchdown or less. Four of their six wins were by a touchdown or less, and another one was by just nine points. The team ended up third in overall DVOA for the season and didn't even manage a winning record, finishing at 8-8.

So, let's circle back to the issue I brought up a few paragraphs ago, that we need to separate the concepts of "greatness" and "dominance." I think it's fair to say that the Packers are a great team, even if they aren't a dominant one. If the Packers manage to consistently play well like this over the next four games, that's a great accomplishment. And if the Packers actually manage to go 19-0 and win the Super Bowl with a bunch of seven-point wins, there is going to be an interesting argument over whether they truly qualify as "the greatest team in NFL history." Does the greatest team need to be the most dominant? However, the toughest tests the Packers will face will not be in their remaining four games. The toughest test will be the playoffs. That's why our current playoff odds report suggests the chances of the Packers going 16-0 are about 10 percentage points higher than the chances of the Packers winning the Super Bowl.

One other thing to consider when pondering the Packers' chances of going 16-0 or 19-0:

Weeks 1-7 40.5% 1 7.9% 19 -0.1% 16 32.5% 1
Weeks 8-13 32.9% 2 18.6% 29 3.8% 10 18.1% 9

Speaking of the playoff odds report, once again this week we've produced two versions: one which gives each team's Weighted DVOA as it currently stands, and one that attempts to adjust for the injured quarterbacks in Chicago, Houston, and Kansas City. In past weeks, I've reduced weighted DVOA by our rough estimate of the general difference between an average quarterback and a replacement-level quarterback, -13.3% DVOA. However, that's not how things have worked out in the two weeks since these teams changed quarterbacks. The Houston and Chicago offenses have declined significantly, while the Kansas City offense has barely declined at all. So it makes sense to adjust our ratings a bit more for Houston and Chicago, a bit less for Kansas City. What I ended up doing this week was figuring out the difference between each team's offensive DVOA before the quarterback change and after; then I reduced each team's Weighted DVOA by half that amount. It's a bit of a conservative estimate, but there's also no guarantee that just because Caleb Hanie had a horrible game this week, that means he's going to have a horrible game every week.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 13 weeks of 2011, 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. WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games.

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

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 HOU 31.0% 1 33.6% 1 9-3 19.8% 5 -9.6% 5 1.7% 11
2 GB 26.5% 2 23.5% 3 12-0 37.3% 1 12.4% 24 1.5% 12
3 PIT 25.8% 6 32.3% 2 9-3 20.0% 4 -3.4% 9 2.4% 9
4 BAL 24.2% 5 20.5% 6 9-3 8.7% 12 -19.4% 1 -3.9% 28
5 NE 24.0% 3 23.2% 4 9-3 34.5% 2 13.4% 26 2.9% 7
6 NYJ 21.3% 4 21.1% 5 7-5 4.0% 18 -13.0% 2 4.3% 4
7 SF 20.3% 8 19.1% 9 10-2 0.8% 20 -11.3% 3 8.2% 2
8 NO 19.1% 7 19.8% 7 9-3 34.3% 3 14.8% 29 -0.4% 19
9 ATL 17.6% 10 19.8% 8 7-5 8.7% 13 -8.5% 6 0.4% 17
10 CHI 12.6% 9 13.1% 10 7-5 -8.3% 25 -10.6% 4 10.3% 1
11 TEN 11.5% 12 10.5% 12 7-5 7.9% 15 1.9% 12 5.5% 3
12 NYG 9.3% 14 11.7% 11 6-6 13.9% 7 5.8% 18 1.3% 13
13 DET 8.3% 11 8.5% 13 7-5 8.6% 14 -6.1% 8 -6.4% 32
14 DAL 4.5% 13 4.0% 15 7-5 8.8% 11 2.9% 14 -1.4% 23
15 PHI 1.2% 16 2.1% 16 4-8 10.1% 9 10.6% 22 1.8% 10
16 CIN 0.9% 15 1.1% 17 7-5 5.6% 17 5.5% 16 0.9% 14
17 MIA 0.6% 18 4.3% 14 4-8 2.9% 19 3.2% 15 0.8% 15
18 OAK -2.9% 17 -6.0% 21 7-5 5.9% 16 8.2% 20 -0.6% 21
19 DEN -4.3% 20 -1.8% 18 7-5 -2.9% 23 5.6% 17 4.2% 5
20 CAR -5.6% 24 -3.3% 19 4-8 18.6% 6 18.6% 31 -5.6% 30
21 SD -5.7% 22 -5.5% 20 5-7 13.1% 8 16.2% 30 -2.6% 27
22 BUF -5.8% 19 -14.2% 23 5-7 9.4% 10 13.7% 28 -1.6% 25
23 SEA -9.1% 27 -7.0% 22 5-7 -8.3% 26 1.2% 11 0.4% 18
24 TB -11.5% 21 -14.9% 24 4-8 -0.3% 21 13.6% 27 2.4% 8
25 WAS -11.8% 25 -15.5% 27 4-8 -10.3% 27 1.1% 10 -0.5% 20
26 CLE -16.0% 26 -15.1% 26 4-8 -6.2% 24 9.0% 21 -0.8% 22
27 MIN -16.4% 28 -20.7% 29 2-10 -1.8% 22 12.2% 23 -2.4% 26
28 JAC -17.7% 23 -17.8% 28 3-9 -21.4% 31 -7.6% 7 -3.9% 29
29 KC -20.3% 29 -15.0% 25 5-7 -18.1% 30 2.6% 13 0.5% 16
30 ARI -22.9% 30 -22.3% 30 5-7 -13.8% 29 12.6% 25 3.6% 6
31 STL -36.1% 31 -34.3% 31 2-10 -26.8% 32 7.9% 19 -1.5% 24
32 IND -38.9% 32 -40.0% 32 0-12 -12.7% 28 20.3% 32 -5.9% 31
  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA does not include the adjustments for opponent strength or the adjustments for weather and altitude in special teams, and only penalizes offenses for lost fumbles rather than all fumbles.
  • 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 HOU 31.0% 9-3 33.9% 8.5 5 -1.4% 25 -8.0% 29 16.2% 23
2 GB 26.5% 12-0 28.3% 9.7 1 -1.1% 24 -0.6% 19 3.3% 1
3 PIT 25.8% 9-3 25.9% 8.5 4 -0.3% 22 -12.0% 31 15.8% 22
4 BAL 24.2% 9-3 22.0% 8.8 2 4.8% 3 -14.9% 32 22.8% 29
5 NE 24.0% 9-3 23.5% 8.8 3 -0.9% 23 -5.4% 27 10.1% 10
6 NYJ 21.3% 7-5 20.0% 7.3 9 1.9% 11 -2.3% 24 13.4% 18
7 SF 20.3% 10-2 25.9% 7.8 8 -3.9% 32 -10.6% 30 4.9% 3
8 NO 19.1% 9-3 18.6% 8.1 6 -2.8% 28 1.8% 16 13.1% 15
9 ATL 17.6% 7-5 14.0% 7.9 7 2.4% 10 -3.9% 25 3.4% 2
10 CHI 12.6% 7-5 11.9% 7.0 11 1.5% 14 -0.9% 20 13.3% 16
11 TEN 11.5% 7-5 15.9% 7.0 10 -0.1% 21 -1.6% 23 17.5% 25
12 NYG 9.3% 6-6 6.9% 6.9 12 0.5% 19 4.6% 9 18.1% 26
13 DET 8.3% 7-5 8.8% 6.9 13 3.1% 9 0.4% 17 8.2% 8
14 DAL 4.5% 7-5 9.3% 6.4 15 -2.5% 27 2.1% 15 18.3% 27
15 PHI 1.2% 4-8 1.4% 5.9 19 0.6% 18 3.6% 12 13.5% 19
16 CIN 0.9% 7-5 6.9% 6.6 14 3.2% 7 -1.0% 21 6.5% 5
17 MIA 0.6% 4-8 1.4% 6.4 16 1.9% 12 10.2% 4 13.3% 17
18 OAK -2.9% 7-5 1.7% 6.1 17 1.9% 13 2.2% 14 23.9% 31
19 DEN -4.3% 7-5 -2.5% 6.0 18 1.5% 15 2.6% 13 7.2% 6
20 CAR -5.6% 4-8 -2.5% 5.4 21 -3.4% 31 14.0% 1 16.8% 24
21 SD -5.7% 5-7 -0.2% 5.1 23 0.1% 20 5.9% 8 10.7% 11
22 BUF -5.8% 5-7 -6.1% 5.7 20 4.2% 4 3.6% 11 27.3% 32
23 SEA -9.1% 5-7 -6.9% 5.4 22 0.6% 17 -6.5% 28 12.1% 13
24 TB -11.5% 4-8 -18.7% 5.1 24 12.0% 1 -0.3% 18 20.9% 28
25 WAS -11.8% 4-8 -15.3% 5.0 25 -3.2% 30 4.5% 10 12.6% 14
26 CLE -16.0% 4-8 -10.3% 4.8 26 -3.0% 29 13.2% 2 5.1% 4
27 MIN -16.4% 2-10 -14.5% 4.4 28 3.2% 8 7.0% 7 13.8% 20
28 JAC -17.7% 3-9 -19.4% 4.3 29 8.2% 2 -5.3% 26 15.1% 21
29 KC -20.3% 5-7 -19.5% 4.4 27 0.7% 16 10.1% 5 23.3% 30
30 ARI -22.9% 5-7 -16.7% 4.1 30 -2.5% 26 -1.0% 22 8.5% 9
31 STL -36.1% 2-10 -39.9% 2.8 31 3.8% 5 9.5% 6 7.6% 7
32 IND -38.9% 0-12 -43.9% 2.1 32 3.3% 6 12.2% 3 10.8% 12


359 comments, Last at 10 Dec 2011, 11:50pm

#1 by EasyLikeSunday… (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:35pm

I don't think this was meant to be funny, but I got a chuckle out of it... "Green Bay is still number two, and Pittsburgh is the big mover of the week, climbing up to number three... So, let's talk about Green Bay some more."

Points: 0

#2 by Scott P. (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:41pm

Wait, Green Bay has given up more points than the Patriots? Really? That amazes me. Green Bay really does have a poor defense, doesn't it?

Points: 0

#8 by CraigoMc (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:53pm

Green Bay allows 6.3 yards per play, highest in the league, but New England is 6.2 themselves.

(Baltimore and Pittsburgh tie for first at 4.6)

Points: 0

#105 by leviramsey (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:00pm

I for one have more trust in the Patriots' defense's ability to stop/slow down Aaron Rodgers than I have in the Packers' defense's ability to stop/slow down Tom Brady.

Points: 0

#112 by PatsFan // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:25pm

Being a Pats fan and having to watch this..."secondary" every week, might I politely say that you ARE ON CRACK!

Points: 0

#115 by Guest789 (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:35pm

The difference is that Green Bay has guys like Matthews, Woodson and Williams, who can make 1 or two plays that can swing the game. I don't think the Patriot's defense has that dimension. So all else being equal, you've got to favour GB's D slightly.

Points: 0

#119 by Nathan // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:52pm

Arrington has really good ball skills. Thought he was getting fluke interceptions at first but the last few have been kind of impressive. GB does scare me though.

Points: 0

#125 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:09pm

Ah yes, the yardage/points debate. Haven't seen that since...last week!

Points: 0

#248 by RichC (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 11:59am

So have the Jets, Saints, (the bears have given up 5 less points), (Dallas has given up 3 less points), the 7-5 Raiders, Broncos, Benglas, Lions have all given up more. The 7-5 falcons have given up 3 less.

The patriots defense gives up a ton of yards, but its pretty good at keeping people out of the endzone, and creates a significant amount of turnovers.

Points: 0

#3 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:48pm

2 weeks ago, the Bears offensive DVOA was close to 0%. If you replace their current value with that they grade out at about 20% overall DVOA right in the thick of things with the other good teams in the league. Arguably, that offensive rating might have undervalued them because of the huge issues the Bears had in weeks 2 and 3.

Lovie Smith might have been right when he said this was the best group of players he's had in Chicago, but we'll probably never learn how far they could have gone now.

Points: 0

#320 by TomC // Dec 07, 2011 - 11:32pm

Agreed, and I can't tell you how sad that makes me. Nobody's fault; it just sucks.

(Well, maybe it's Jerry's fault for not getting a better backup, but honestly the Bears weren't getting out of the first round without a healthy Cutler.)

Points: 0

#4 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:49pm

"The defense has lived off turnovers, but that element isn't as sustainable as preventing yardage."

This might be true from a league wide perspective but am not sure if it is right as far as individual teams are concerned. This is the 3rd consecutive year that GB has been near the top of the league in Turnovers/INTs. Recovering fumbles might be luck but forcing them and interceptions are an ability

Points: 0

#6 by Jimmy // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:53pm

Recovering fumbles might be luck but forcing them and interceptions are an ability....that statistical analysis reveals is unsustainable.

There you go finished it for you.

Points: 0

#14 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:57pm

It's more like, "forcing fumbles and picks is good, but if you also give up 400 yards per game it's likely a sign something is wrong."

Points: 0

#17 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:01pm

There is also a difference between "unsustainable" and "less likely to be sustained."

Points: 0

#16 by ammek // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:01pm

More precisely: less sustainable than the ability to hold an opposing offense below 400 yards every once in a while.

The Packers gave up three pass plays of more than 40 yards to New York. When was the last time that happened? The Randy Moss coming-out party? As Aaron's table shows, the Packer D is bad and getting worse. Dom Capers admitted in his conference call that there are some fairly basic routes the defensive backs just can't cover. Opponents will continue to call these plays until such time as the Packers work out how to defend them.

Points: 0

#139 by NYMike // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:46pm

I'm not terribly surprised that the GB defense is getting worse, especially since the last game was the worst of all. They're missing Nick Collins, and against the Giants their two middle linebackers, and for some time another safety (Woodson). Injuries matter. Jarrett Bush is a fine special teams player, an excellent gunner. As a safety, not so much.

Points: 0

#22 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:08pm

So how many years in a row must a team sustain something before you are willing to admit it is sustainable?

Points: 0

#26 by Will Allen // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:14pm

How many times in a row would a team need to win the coin toss for you to conclude that they were demonstrating a sustainable skill?

Points: 0

#29 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:18pm

Here are GB's INT statistics since Capers took over:

2009-30 INTs
2010-24 INTs
2011-23 INTs-On Pace for 30.6666

I guess Capers is just a lucky Defensive Coordinator. Hopefully his lucky rabbits foot continues

Points: 0

#32 by Will Allen // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:23pm

My guess is Capers is good, but that if the phenomena was particularly sustainable, we would see multiple teams demonstrating it over the years.

Points: 0

#37 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:32pm

Not necessarily, you are assuming a few things:

1. That the ability to intercept is equally distributed throughout teams. Only 1 Charles Woodson, Nick Collins, Ed Reed, Charles Tillman, etc exist

2. That coordinators have similar philosophies. Just because 1 Coordinator believes that an aggressive approach is the best one does not mean others do

*People readily acknowledge that more skilled Players are more adept at forcing Turnovers than other players. You would be in the Minority to say that Woodson or Polamolu force more turnovers than Peprah simply because of luck or playing time.

Points: 0

#61 by Will Allen // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:15pm

No, I am not making those assumptions. Football has been played for a while, with many different combinations of players and coaches. Yes, it is possible that this set of players and this coach are a unique combination, and are thus showing a much greater degree of sustainability that other combinations have shown. Absent a much larger sample size, however, that isn't a wager I'd make, at least not one of much size.

Points: 0

#91 by Kanguru (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 6:05pm

Dom Capers was a defensive consultant for the New England Patriots in 2008.

The Patriots play a similar style of defense ... in terms of emphasizing more on generating turnovers and stopping in the red zone and on 3rd down than giving up yards. The Pats led the league in turnover ratio last season.

I don't think it is chance that the Packers or Patriots D are generally "creating" more turnovers than other teams.

I also think that current statistical methods fail to interpret this completely. I am sure Belichick cares less that his D is 30+ place in yards or in the bottom quarter in DVOA. He would care more about whether he thinks the execution is better or worse than he thinks it should be.

NOTE: This is not meant to be a comparison between the Pats and Packers D, nor a hint on which coach might have applied such a style first, nor any sort of opinion whether the Patriots or Packers defense are any good or not. (I am sure I missed something in the disclaimer)

Points: 0

#110 by alaano (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:21pm

And here we see the necessity of looking at INT per pass attempt. Since NE and GB score a lot and have vulnerable pass defenses, they see a lot of pass attempts--close to 20 percent more than the median. They still produce a lot of interceptions per attempt, but it no longer looks quite so exceptional.

Points: 0

#126 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:15pm

Wait - why do we care about INT per pass attempt?

We're not interested in which team gets the most INTs per pass attempt. We're interested in which team gets the most INTs.

Maybe if we're picking players for the Pro Bowl, we could get into debates about which players are better based on INT/attempt. But if we want to know which defense is doing better at intercepting passes, a simple total will suffice.

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#128 by Scott P. (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:25pm

No, we're interested in rate to determine which team is better at INTs.

If Green Bay played Denver and Tebow didn't throw a pass, would zero INTs mean that Green Bat suddenly got bad at intercepting the ball?

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#149 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 9:23pm

No, we wouldn't care about whether GB was good or bad at intercepting the ball in that situation.

What do you want DVOA to do? Do you want it to measure what has happened or do you want it to measure what might happen? I'm content to let it measure what has happened.

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#162 by Scott C // Dec 06, 2011 - 10:07pm

What if a team plays in such a way that causes teams to throw more often, baiting them into more interceptions? This might raise the interception total but not the rate (or even lower the rate). The opportunities to get an INT are caused how both sides call their plays and interact.

The Interception Rate and Total are both useless all by themselves.
The rate tells you something, but the picture is incomplete because the situation that those passes are in matters. Is the rate high because there are more passes in desperate situations? Or high because of the pressure? Or low because the opponents threw mostly 'safe' passes?

The total tells you something, but the picture is incomplete because it tells you nothing about the number or context of the opportunities.

30 interceptions on Hail Mary's at the end of half/game is not the same as 30 tipped INTs or 30 caused by disguised coverage or pressure.

Hmm, isn't there a stat that tells you, based on situational context, the value of plays? Hmmmm somewhere maybe.

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#253 by RichC (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 12:10pm

No, we don't need INT per pass attempt, thats useless.

We need INT per DRIVE. Thats whats really important.

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#255 by Perfundle (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 12:16pm


Well, GB and NE are 1st and 2nd in this, just as people suspected.

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#259 by Eddo // Dec 07, 2011 - 12:26pm

I can see where interceptions per drive could be more useful, but I don't see why interceptions per pass attempt is useless. A team with more pass attempts against it should make more interceptions.

EDIT: That is, the Packers and Patriots could have the same true ability to intercept passes, but if the Packers have faced 10% more pass attempts, over the name number of drives, they should have 10% more interceptions. Any variance would be indicative of differences in ability.

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#272 by ammek // Dec 07, 2011 - 1:53pm

It's more complicated than that. You have to add down and distance, and score, and time remaining. Takeaways are quite heavily correlated to game situation: teams that are in the lead intercept more passes than teams that are behind. Not all pass attempts (or drives) are equally likely to produce an interception.

If only someone had invented a play-by-play statistic that uses a baseline to calculate something like a value over average.

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#44 by steveNC (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:45pm

Depends if you mean a particular team, or any team this year, or any team in history. Within a given year, out of 32 teams, let's go with a Bonferroni-corrected 10 in a row.

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#118 by MJK // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:41pm

How many times in a row would a team need to win the coin toss for you to conclude that they were demonstrating a sustainable skill?

There actually is a mathematical answer to your question, that depends on what your threshold is for determining it was a sustainable skill. For example, winning three coin tosses in a row is probably meaningless (there's a 12.5% chance of that happening). Winning 20 coin tosses in a row has less than a 1 in a million chance of happening by random chance, so I think in that case it's pretty reasonable to say the team is somehow cheating on the coin toss.

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#352 by Schmoker (not verified) // Dec 09, 2011 - 7:31pm

The browns lost 12 coin tosses in a row this year. Think they were cheating to lose? No matter how many times you lose a coin toss in a row, the odds are still 50/50 on the next one. If it comes up heads 1000 times in a row, its still
50/50 on the next one.

Just ask Rosencrantz. Or is it Guildenstern?

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#353 by BaronFoobarstein // Dec 09, 2011 - 8:48pm

Yeah, if the prior 11 tosses have already come up heads, then the probability of getting 12 in a row is 50%. If you're starting from scratch, the probability is .024%. Those are two entirely different things.

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#121 by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:59pm

Look, I'm not a GB fan, but what the man says is true. Certain teams do create more fumbles and certain teams do create more interceptions. The former is an approach, the latter a scheme. Do you really believe that all DC's prioritize tackling above ball hawking? cause some actually don't. And don't you believe that some schemes are set specifically to fool a QB into throwing grab passes? Some are.

If GB fits into all that is debatable. That it exists is not.

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#199 by Mr Shush // Dec 07, 2011 - 5:27am

Sure. Interception rate is a predictor for itself. It's just not a very good one. Yes, the Packers almost certainly are better than average at creating interceptions, whether because of their ball-hawking defense, their high-scoring offense, or both. However, they are also almost certainly lucky, and the luck related element can be expected to regress. They don't have to be only one of lucky and good.

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#202 by Karl Cuba // Dec 07, 2011 - 6:46am

I think that this season has provided a very good comparison for explaining the Packers' ball hawking D. Last year the Colts defense ranked 24th, exactly the same spot as the pack this year and have slipped to dead last without the pressure exerted by Manning's offensive prowess. While anyone who knows anything about football would happily concede that Woodson is an excellent player and Williams is becoming one, it should also be clear that a very good offense can also have an impact on the level of risk that an opponent takes with the ball. Whether taking that risk makes any sense is debatable, that some teams do so when faced with trying to keep up with a Rogers or a Manning is less so.

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#271 by jedmarshall // Dec 07, 2011 - 1:51pm

I don't think that's a fair comparison. Some of it is on Manning being out, but their secondary (and pass coverage in general) is worse than last year and they've been awful since injuries hit the DL. The defense was actually doing pretty well through the first 3-4 games and have been horrible since Nevis and Foster got hurt.

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#27 by bravehoptoad // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:16pm



QQ, I'm trying to be funny, so don't get mad.

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#30 by Will Allen // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:20pm

Don't worry; I laughed. I may suspect something was amiss at 19. Call me a cynic.

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#28 by CraigoMc (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:16pm

I think you're misunderstanding "sustainable." You can be very good at takeaways for part of a season, have a bad stretch where you record few, and still finish near the top of the league.

Being good at something doesn't mean you can do it constantly.

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#33 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:25pm

I guess I disagree about how you use "sustainable" then. Sustainable is more about the season long ability/trends for a team that any small amount of games. A team that regularly records 20+ INTs/Season can be said to have "Sustained" a particular level of skill in Intercepting Passes

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#45 by CraigoMc (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:46pm

Sure, if that definition comforts you, use it. But they don't play football by season, they play it game by game. And game by game, turnovers are highly variable. There's are times when sportscaster cliches are useful: "Live by the big play, die by the big play." Yardage and per play statistics are much, much more consistent than turnover statistics. It's not very likely that a defense, which gives up a large amount of yards and points per play and per game will improve substantially, while there's a fairly good chance that a team that records a high number of takeaways will see a regression, or at the very least high variance.

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#73 by Arkaein // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:25pm

I just checked, and here is GB's INT breakdowns per game:

0 3 2 3 2 1 2 3 1 2 3 1

Only one game (New Orleans) without an INT. Never less than 3 INTs across any two consecutive games, and never less than 5 over any three consecutive games. That's pretty darn consistent.

The biggest problem is that, like almost any team, GB will force more INTs against worse QBs (0 against Brees, 1 against Manning, though they did get 3 each against Rivers and Stafford).

Considering that GB is one of the most consistent teams in DVOA history as Aaron has just pointed out, I think it's worth considering that GB is simply better than average at making consistent INTs on defense, just like they are better than average at completing passes and scoring TDs on offense.

It's mostly been the same core players getting the bulk of the INTs for the past few years (Woodson, Williams, and Collins), spread around enough so that one player having an off year can't drag the whole team down. Woodson was off last year, and Collins is out this year, but the other guys are good enough to pick up the slack. The teams that aren't as consistent generally don't have as many proven interceptors in their secondaries.

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#140 by NYMike // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:47pm

Dropped two against Manning.

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#52 by DGL // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:02pm

I think most people inclined towards statistical analysis would operationalize "sustainable" as "showing strong self-correlation over time". This is the methodology used for the analyses that show, for example, that "clutch hitting" isn't a "sustainable skill".

One team recording 24+ interceptions in three consecutive seasons could be evidence of a sustainable skill, or it could be merely small sample size. If getting interceptions is truly a sustainable skill, then you would expect to see it being sustained by more than one team in the history of the NFL. So you could analyze the self-correlation across seasons of all NFL teams' interception rates, say since the 1978 rule change. That would give you a large enough sample to indicate whether the ability to get a large number of interceptions is a "sustainable skill", or whether the number of interceptions that GB's been able to get in the past three seasons is more likely to be statistical noise.

If there is no evidence of interceptions being a sustainable skill in the last 40+ NFL seasons, that doesn't mean it's impossible that GB has now developed a new and unique skill that no one in football has ever developed before. Perhaps there's some confluence of Dom Capers' coaching methodology (even though he's been coaching in the NFL for the past 25 years) and the talent in the GB defense (even though I don't think anyone is claiming that GB's defense has some heretofore-unseen talent and ability).

But I wouldn't bet money on it.

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#65 by Will Allen // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:18pm

I swear, I'm not a plagiarist!

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#87 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:54pm

Lots of good points, although 1 point is incorrect in my mind:

"If there is no evidence of interceptions being a sustainable skill in the last 40+ NFL seasons"

There is lots of evidence at the individual level of interceptions being a skill that some players possess. Ed Reed for example either has a great skill at Intercepting or is exceptionally lucky. Charles Woodson either had great skill at Intercepting or is exceptionally lucky. It also goes the other way where certain players rarely get many INTs.

If players seem to have a sustainable ability to intercept passes then a Defense with enough of such type players should be sustainable. For example, if Woodson, Reed, Polamolu, etc all were traded to Carolina, it would be silly to not expect the Panthers to become better at forcing Turnovers/INTs

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#98 by ammek // Dec 06, 2011 - 6:25pm

Reed has played his whole career on a good Ravens defense. Baltimore has won a lot of games over that time. A lot of Reed's interceptions are 'situational': he knows he can gamble because the opponent's options are limited by the game situation (third down, trailing, etc).

Your Woodson example illustrates this:
Woodson as a Raider: 8 seasons, 17 ints.
Woodson as a Packer: less than 6 seasons, 36 ints.

Last season, Woodson only had two picks in the regular season. Yes, over his career, he's proved he has a better-than-average knack for the ball. Even so, he's endured long streaks without an interception.

The Packers' run defense is terrible at the moment, for all kinds of reasons. If an opponent ever finds itself with a fourth-quarter lead, I doubt there'll be an opportunity for the GB DBs to make the game-changing pick. The opponent is going to run. The Packers' takeaways are first and foremost an effect of the offense being unstoppable. If it were merely above average, the number of picks would be lower — and the defense would be talked about as one of the worst of all time.

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#100 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 6:36pm

You must mean-- worst among the historically great teams.

If that's not your meaning, then somehow I didn't realize that the 2008 Lions were one of the best teams of all time, or that the 9-73 Sixers were one of the best NBA offenses, etc, etc...

I mean it's laughable. They have, going back to last year, been on the field 10 consecutive times with the opponents having the opportunity to win the game or take the lead late in the 4th Quarter-- and have allowed precisely ZERO pts-- this has never been done by any of the great streak teams-- not even close. Charles Woodson, or nearly every other great interceptor in the secondary, is not "exceptionally lucky"-- do you ever watch the games? most of Woodson's INTs, as was Tramon Williams Pick Six which broke open the Falcons game last January, are the result of knowledge, anticipation, and great skill-- he uses his experience and smarts along with his football talent to make a big play. Surely you and others do not believe that three consecutive years-- we're now talking about 49 games worth of evidence-- where the Packers are either best or close to the best at intercepting passes is luck? Or random events?

That's crazy talk. I will accept that they are not a particularly good defense of late-- but "worst of all time""--- seriously.

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#107 by ammek // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:09pm

I meant the worst Packer defenses of all time. That wasn't clear. Take away the offense bailing it out, the field position, and the game situation — this might be a defense to rival those of 1983, 2004, 1980….

I never used the expression "exceptionally lucky". Of course intercepting is a skill. But there's also a correlation with situational elements — number of pass attempts, score — which shouldn't be overlooked. GB's extraordinary takeaway streak is due to both.

They have, going back to last year, been on the field 10 consecutive times with the opponents having the opportunity to win the game or take the lead late in the 4th Quarter-- and have allowed precisely ZERO pts

The Giants had the opportunity to tie the game at the end, and the Packers' defense gave up an easy score and a two-point conversion. I think there's something in what you're claiming for the defense, but I'm not ready to say that it's all part of a great strategic plan to suck at coverage and concede cheap TDs until the last few minutes, when the defense suddenly remembers to be awesome. Some of it's skill; some of it has been luck; a lot of it is down to the offense being unstoppable.

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#109 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:18pm

OK-- thanks for the clarification. I grant you the Giants tying drive, though it wasn't the same as if the game had been 33-27 and not 35-27. But I do think there is an aspect of this defense being as good as it needs to be, which in some ways I think you are agreeing with. The offense is so good it doen't have to be very good most of the time. What none of us yet knows is what happens when the offense plays a mediocre game (well, they did vs. the Bears last year and the Eagles for much of the 2nd half) and the defense has to play much better to keep Rodgers and Co. in it. DVOA suggests they will likely lose. Of course there's another outlier theory here-- Rodgers will never play mediocre-- at least not for the remainder of this year.

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#240 by thebuch // Dec 07, 2011 - 11:29am

Okay so they gave up the tying score once. Big deal. Let's look deeper into the whole body of work:

*looking backwards, games I skip over were won by at least 8 points
Week 9, San Diego: Defense came up with two pick sixes (one of which was a jumped route, which is certainly more repeatable than the tipped ball) and stopped the Chargers on their final drive.
Week 7 in Minnesota: Vikings have a chance to score a go ahead touchdown late, force a Vikings punt with about 2:36 left, Vikings never touch the ball again
Week 1 at Saint: Saints have chance to get touchdown and 2 point conversion at the end, but fail

Then going back to the playoffs last season, pretty much every game other than the Atlanta blowout ended with the home team having a chance to come away with a late score and throwing a game ending interception. So yes, the Packers defense folded the lead ONCE late in the game in THEIR LAST EIGHTEEN GAMES, of which, they have not trailed in the fourth quarter. Is their defense playing well? Not really, but when its all said and done, other than in one case, they've successfully ended the game on their own terms and when it has been time for the defense to made a play, they've made a play (sometimes even two).

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#254 by ammek // Dec 07, 2011 - 12:16pm

I find the use of the eighteen-game sample really annoying. As we know from FO, season-to-season defense varies quite a lot. In 2010, the Packers were giving up 100 fewer pass yards per game and 1.6 fewer yards per pass play, as well as leading the league in interceptions. They were #1 in DVOA. This year is not the same. A template has emerged for how to pass against the Packers, and the defense has shown no sign of being able to disrupt it. As your list shows, the sample size for late stops in 2011 is really tiny. It's only valid if you make the connection to 2010, but in that case you have to explain why there's been such a difference during the first 58 minutes of play. The main arguments are outlined elsewhere on this thread — personnel changes, niggling injuries, individual declines in performance, lack of urgency, deliberate risk-reward strategy, and a failure to adjust the scheme.

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#274 by Jimmy // Dec 07, 2011 - 2:16pm

Okay so they gave up the tying score once. Big deal.

That would be twice (NFC Championship game).

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#277 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 2:35pm

Bears never tied that game in the 4th Quarter. They scored twice with Hanie-- but only got within one touchdown

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#127 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:21pm

I like how this changed from last week:

"They have, going back to last year, been on the field 10 consecutive times with the opponents having the opportunity to win the game or take the lead late in the 4th Quarter-- and have allowed precisely ZERO pts-- this has never been done by any of the great streak teams-- not even close."

Last week it was simpler. It was that the Packers had the lead all the time. But since the Giants tied them on Sunday, the stat has been watered down ever so slightly to "have been on the field 10 consecutive times with the opponents..."

Not quite as sexy as "had the lead."

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#141 by NYMike // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:51pm

Okay, I'll make it simple. For 18 straight games, the Packers have never been behind in the 4th quarter.

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#151 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 9:31pm

GB not only has not trailed in 18 Consecutive 4th Quarters but only 2 times now have they even been tied. Not bad for such a "non dominant" team

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#168 by DuhBears (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 11:04pm

Meh. The Chicago Bears have won over 700 consecutive games in which they led at the end of the 4th quarter.

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#189 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 12:53am

Not trailing at all during the 4th Quarter is still the more impressive stat.

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#205 by Will Allen // Dec 07, 2011 - 7:21am

I dunno. I think Abe Gibron screwed up one time, when Bobby Douglass was there, and they managed to lose one of those games.

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#268 by Scott C // Dec 07, 2011 - 1:12pm

Rodgers must suck! ZERO come from behind victories!


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#111 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:21pm

Woodson's INT increase is a testament to the effect that differing schemes have on a player. Either Woodson suddenly developed a new skill (possible), the scheme in GB allowed to him gamble, read routes, etc, or he has just been lucky.

If you use the skill example, Tramon Williams credits many of his INTs to learing film study and learn how to recognize route combinations. It seems that it is more developing a skill set than simply good luck.

GB's run Defense is also not terrible, we have seen far worse Run Defenses. GB's Defense is built and schemed to compliment the Offense. Since they have a prolific offense it makes sense to have a high risk Defense.

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#129 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:25pm

"Since they have a prolific offense it makes sense to have a high risk Defense."

I'm sorry, but that doesn't make sense at all.

See what happens if I take the opposite of your premise:

"Since they have a low-scoring offense, it makes sense to have a high risk defense."

That seems to make a little more sense. If your offense cannot sustain long drives, you might want to have a defense that specialized in forcing turnovers the led either directly or indirectly to scoring opportunities.

If your offense is high-scoring, there's little need for your defense to take risks.

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#153 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 9:35pm

I disagree. GB is likely the Best team on the field every game. The Better the team the more they should want to maximizize Possessions. High Risk Defenses that cause turnovers/give up big plays should yield more possessions.

Contrastingly, bad teams should play Bend but Do not Break. Such Defenses should lead to long, clock consuming drives, thereby reducing the number of total possessions and leading to higher variance

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#237 by commissionerleaf // Dec 07, 2011 - 11:09am

Green Bay can do whatever the 'ell they want on defense because they score so many points it doesn't matter. That is the lesson we should take away from this. They give up lots of yards, and get lots of sacks and turnovers, because the Defense doesn't have to care about the score, they just rack up individual stats.

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#339 by 'nonymous (not verified) // Dec 08, 2011 - 3:24pm

I don't think that's the idea behind "bend but don't break" at all-- teams should pick the defensive strategy that plays to their strengths relative to any given match-up. The idea of "bend but don't break" is that you can shut down big plays and make the offense run shorter plays patiently and successfully to get down the field-- all teams are prone to mistakes and drops, which kill drives.

No bad team should ever give up hope of outplaying their opponent. Bad teams outplay good teams over 60 minutes all the time-- not every upset is a result of trickery and strange bounces.

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#138 by tgt2 (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:43pm

Or it's some combination of the 3, though putting the "just" in front of lucky is uncool.

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#275 by Tom W (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 2:18pm

Why should it be controversial that teams that have players that are good at intercepting passes should have a lot of interceptions. I believe this is consistent with research that has been done in the past. I haven't checked, but I'd be very surprised if GB wasn't among the league leaders in INTs over the last three or four years. If you ask Mike McCarthy or Dom Capers, they would tell you that this is something the Packers make a concerted effort to do. Fumbles are more of a random occurrence.

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#34 by TheOtherDude (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:25pm

I think the issue is that there's greater variance from game to game in forcing turnovers than there is in yards or points allowed. In 2009, the Packers were by far the best in the league in turnover ratio (+24, Eagles were second at +15), but that didn't hold up against the Cardinals in the playoffs, and they lost.

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#50 by Ryan (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:53pm

True, though that might be a bad example. It took perhaps the greatest passing performance in NFL history to beat them. And even then, Rodgers missed a throw by 2 feet that would have won the game in OT.

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#58 by 'nonymous (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:11pm

The 2010 Steelers were +17 in turnovers, with 21 interceptions, while the 2010 Packers were +10 in turnovers, with 24 interceptions. (regular season stats)

Of course, in the Super Bowl, the Packers got 3 turnovers, and the Steelers got none. That kind of bad day can happen to any team in any game, and it's pretty hard to overcome.

And, if the Packers are an example of turnover consistency the last three years, the Steelers are a counter-example. They currently sit at -6 in turnovers, and that includes a +2 or +3 day on Sunday.

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#132 by zenbitz // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:30pm

I don't see how GBs INT rate is relevant. INTs are counted in DVOA, right?
Unless we are trying to say that DVOA is modeling defense incorrectly.

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#47 by BaronFoobarstein // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:50pm

If it's only one team sustaining it while nobody else does, then the answer should probably be "never." Consider, with 32 teams running around the league, what are the chances that at least one of them will consecutively perform well on a given statistic? "Unsustainable" doesn't necessarily imply that past performance has zero predictive value on future performance, it means relatively little, and even if there was zero correlation between past and future you should still expect a couple of teams to be consistently good over a few year span.

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#251 by RichC (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 12:04pm

DVOA thinks that defense as a whole is pretty much unsustainable year to year, so I have a hard time when its trying to say certain facets of defense are unsustainable.

The fact that the league as a whole does not have a specific ability does not mean that there aren't teams that do.

Its like BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in Baseball. A big part of the sabermetrics movement was realizing that pitchers in general don't have much control over how hard balls are hit. Until we realized that there are guys that actually do have a lot of control over it. They're rare, but they're out there. (like Tim Wakefield and his career .260 BABIP. League is .300)

The fact that the league as a whole (which is what Aaron studied) doesn't correlate, doesn't mean that specific teams or styles of defense don't.

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#318 by Alternator // Dec 07, 2011 - 11:28pm

Wakefield actually makes a good comparison. If you can demonstrate a sustainable skill that is not, ordinarily, sustainable, you must be (by definition) doing something at either a vastly higher level than anyone else, or you are doing something very different than anyone else.

Wakefield throws the knuckleball as his primary pitch. There are two active pitchers who do this, Wakefield and Charlie Zink (who used to be in the Red Sox minor league system and learned due to Wakefield).

For interceptions to be sustained, you'd also be looking for something oddball to be in play--and Green Bay may actually have that. Combine an excellent passing offense, a defensive coordinator who actively stresses ball-hawking even when it comes at the expense of the rest of the defense, players with a good knack at being in place for interceptions, and a dash of luck and VOILA! A defense that can put together multiple above-average interception seasons.

That doesn't mean it is, ultimately, something that should be expected to be sustained. If the offense deteriorates, a few injuries on defense, the run defense falling apart, even just luck going against the Packers, all of these would put an end to the streak. With that many variables, you can't really predict it to keep happening, because usually it won't.

There's always going to be a few teams that will manage it--beating the bell curve is funny that way--but it doesn't mean we should be expecting it.

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#330 by Travis // Dec 08, 2011 - 10:49am

Zink is inactive, at least with regards to organized baseball. There are at least 2 other knuckleballers active, R.A. Dickey (Mets) and Charlie Haeger (AA Red Sox, his 4th organization in 11 years).

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#5 by bigtencrazy (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:53pm

Given the repeated breakdowns in the secondary the loss of Nick Collins cannot be overstated. Peprah and collins were able to work just fine. Peprah and Burnett has been an abject disaster with Tramon Williams regularly gesturing after a play to demonstrate where someone was supposed to be but wasn't. And Williams is not a finger pointer. He's just a player trying to help his peers.

It's deeper than just Collins of course. Raji has been going through the motions all season. No real replacement for Cullen Jenkins. AJ Hawk has gone from average to awful.

but if you want the core problem is that Collins is not back there cleaning up everyone's mess.

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#10 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:55pm

I never thought AJ Hawk was anything special. I think he was always being hidden by other, better, players on defense.

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#13 by bigtencrazy (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:57pm

I did write 'average'

Last year he made some plays. This year he has been a complete disaster.

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#21 by Will Allen // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:08pm

Yeah, but he is married to Brady Quinn's sister!!!

.....oh...sorry.....had a flashback to 2006.......

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#12 by Jimmy // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:57pm

Collins is a fantastic player. He picks off loads of passes and drops as many but I don't really mean that as a criticism (although it obviously isn't ideal). It is amazing that he gets himself into so many positions to make plays on the ball even if he does drop more than you would like. If he had great hands people would be talking about him in the same way as they do about Ed Reed. The guy has awesome instincts, if he had great hands he wold be a HOFer.

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#15 by bigtencrazy (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:58pm

If Collins returns and regains his previous form he's young enough to keep going to enough Pro Bowls he might have a HOF case some day. Also helps if GB remains competitive

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#7 by ammek // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:53pm

And here's something perhaps more surprising: By Pythagorean projection, the 2011 Packers are no better than the 2010 Packers.

I think I'm right in saying they're worse than the 2009 Packers, too. By DVOA they certainly are.

This season's schedule has been much easier of course. (And will continue to be: three of the four remaining opponents are starting backup QBs, and three of the games are at Lambeau.) Yet strangely the Packers have played better against the teams in the top half of DVOA — especially Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago — than against cellar dwellers like the Rams and Buccaneers.

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#86 by 0tarin // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:43pm

I like to call that the "Baltimore Tendency".

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#144 by dmstorm22 // Dec 06, 2011 - 9:07pm

That's Baltimore this year. Baltimore was basically the opposite in 2009, when the finished the season #1 in DVOA. They destroyed the weaker teams they played, but lost games to almost every good team. Almost all were close (21-27 to NE, 15-17 to IND, 20-23 to Pittsburgh, twice to Cincy). This is really the first year Baltimore is displaying this maddening tendency.

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#276 by 0tarin // Dec 07, 2011 - 2:21pm

Yeah, I recall that season as well, and it was just as maddening. As a fan, I'm really not sure which of the two I'd prefer, but yes, in the past they've been pretty good at putting away the teams that they should, particularly under Harbaugh.

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#9 by Keith(1) (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:55pm

Very interesting analysis, Aaron. Though, as a Packers fan, I think it is necessary to temper any talk of 16-0 and 19-0 with trepidation attributed to "Any Given Sunday" and other such cliches. I honestly felt like we would lose against the Giants, and this fear of losing has been mounting for the last few weeks. There have been some stomps, but I understand the Packers have weaknesses.

If Charles Woodson misses any major time, that could be a blow akin to Matt Leinart; while not the most important player on the team, losing him requires all sorts of adjustments and really skews what the defense is otherwise trying to do. Then again, maybe now they can play real defense and not have to compensate for Capers' inability to just play vanilla and not give up large plays while being overly exotic...

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#11 by Dejspin (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 3:56pm

In regards to the Packers and total DVOA, the hyper-conservative nature of Mike McCarthy while leading has to have a sizable effect. As evidenced by Aaron Rodgers commenting after this weeks game that he expected McCarthy to call a draw to start the eventual game winning drive with :58 left. McCarthy is very, very gun shy with a lead. Is there any way to calculate DVOA while the Packers are winning by 1 score or less?

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#278 by Tom W (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 2:44pm

I've mentioned this before, but prior to last week, GB had really not played any games that were close throughout. In fact, the Giants were the first team to have a lead against the Packers in the fourth quarter. The Packers have played some games where they've had big leads, gotten conservative on both sides of the ball, trying to trade yards for time, and allowed teams to close the gap. But how many games have they been in serious danger of losing? One could argue that the Packers' coaching staff has been too quick to go into "protect the lead" mode, but what needs to be understood is that they're trying to win the game, not impress DVOA, and over the past eighteen games, I believe it is (including playoffs) they've succeeded.

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#280 by dryheat // Dec 07, 2011 - 2:50pm

In fact, the Giants were the first team to have a lead against the Packers in the fourth quarter

Now you've done it...get ready for the storm.

Fun Fact: Did you know that the Packers have won 18 straight games, with a chance for 25?

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#285 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 3:18pm

No storm, just a mild breeze. Ummm.... the Giants never took the lead in the 4th Quarter Sunday. They trailed 28-27, and then they tied the game at 35. There is a difference.

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#18 by drobviousso // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:01pm

In his house at Pythagenport, Fitzhulhu waits dreaming.

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#19 by Waldo (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:02pm

You guys should look up your explainations as to why GB was head scratching high in DVOA ranks in 2008. You at least could explain what the problem with DVOA was there. In 2008 GB played ridiculously bad football in the waning moments every week, after playing good for 55+ minutes, which hid the badness somewhat to DVOA.

The 2011 Packers have a habit of taking their foot off the gas on both sides of the ball when they go up multiple scores. A look at their DVOA when the score is within a TD (GB has been down more than a TD only a few minutes all season) will paint a different picture than their overall DVOA. DVOA is seeing a ton of late game crap play from GB when they aren't overly concerned with losing, the hot sauce on the play cards kept in the garage.

The 2007 Pats were accused constantly of running up the score. DVOA likes that. The 2011 Packers take their foot off the gas, almost seemingly to a fault at times (though it hasn't cost them a game). DVOA does not like that.

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#25 by ammek // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:11pm

DVOA is seeing a ton of late game crap play from GB when they aren't overly concerned with losing

Well they should be. We've seen lots of late comebacks this season, against defenses much better than Green Bay's. The suggestion is not even particularly true. If the Packers were giving up a ton of 8-yard plays and 10-play scoring drives that would be understandable. As it is, they're giving up TDs on four-play drives that last less than 2 minutes. DVOA can't ignore that.

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#35 by Danny Tuccitto // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:29pm

For the sake of argument, here's GB's O DVOA rankings by score gap:

Down 8 or more: 12
Down 7 or less/tied: 1
Up 7 or less: 2
Up 8 or more: 8
Second Half w/ score gap +7 to -7: 1

Here's GB's D DVOA rankings by score gap:

Up 8 or more: 18
Up 7 or less/tied: 13
Down 7 or less: 7
Down 8 or more: 24
Second Half w/ score gap +7 to -7: 1

Are they "taking their foot of the gas?" Maybe, but going from 1st/2nd to 8th on O or 7th/13th to 18th on D is not exactly crapping the bed. I think, more importantly, those twin No. 1 rankings in Late & Close DVOA tell most of the unbeaten-but-not-unbeatable tale.

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#46 by Waldo (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:47pm

How is it possible that GB's overall D rank is 24th given those #'s by score gap?

The down 8 or more #'s definitely suffer from a lack of data.

To go from 1/2 and 13/7 to 12 and 18 is a pretty severe drop, expecially given how much time GB has spent up 8+ points all season. Yes every team deals with this issue to a degree, but it does go a long way to explaining why GB has been able to bring home the wins, they are simply a different team when the game is on the line.

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#93 by Danny Tuccitto // Dec 06, 2011 - 6:07pm

Probably an Aaron question, but I'd imagine it's because the "Winning Big" sample size is larger relative to the others, and so you have their worst situation being spread out over more of the overall sample when you aggregate up to the unit-wide DVOA.

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#136 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:40pm

Your falling into a fallacy related to averages and ordinal ranks. A team that is above average for each of several categories is not necessarily above average when the entire data set is considered. This is a relatively famous observation whose name I cannot remember.

Easy example: let's consider four players being compared across three categories:
Let's say higher numbers are better.
X1 X2 X3 X=avg Xi
P1: 3 3 3 3
P2: 1 2 9 4
P3: 2 9 1 4
P4: 9 1 2 4

P1 is 2nd best for all three variables, but is worst when all three are combined.

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#181 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 07, 2011 - 12:12am

Simpson's Paradox I believe.

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#51 by TheOtherDude (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:54pm

Thanks, I had been wondering what those numbers would look like. I think the most interesting stat is that their defense ranks 7-13th with the game within one score but 24th overall. However, it might be more revealing to see how they ranked with a score gap of +8 to -8, since they've given up at least a couple late drives with an 8 point lead, which is still only a one possession game.

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#57 by TheOtherDude (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:07pm

Really, just total DVOA for the Packers when trailing or leading by fewer than 9 points would be very interesting to compare to their overall DVOA.

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#96 by Danny Tuccitto // Dec 06, 2011 - 6:17pm

Excluding ST, GB's total DVOA when winning by 8 or more = 20.8% (ranked 12th). Not surprisingly, HOU is #1 at 115.0%.

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#59 by Waldo (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:12pm

As a matter of technicality, a 7-8 point lead is not a one possesion game though it is commonly described as one. It takes two possessions to actually win the game. (Obviously ignoring the case that a team can play for the win instead of the tie when down 7, something I can't recall ever seeing occur in pro football thus irrelevant).

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#66 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:18pm

"(Obviously ignoring the case that a team can play for the win instead of the tie when down 7, something I can't recall ever seeing occur in pro football thus irrelevant)"

I've seen Gruden do this with Tampa and at least one other time in the past 5 years.

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#74 by TheOtherDude (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:26pm

Yeah, but with a 9+ point lead they can go ultra-conservative and basically concede points as long as they don't give up big plays. Against the Giants last week, they definitely weren't conceding that last touchdown.

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#124 by Andrew Potter // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:09pm

Denver Broncos vs. San Diego Chargers, September 14, 2008. The infamous "Cutler fumble" game where Hochuli blew the call. Shanahan's Broncos went for two after the touchdown, and converted to win the game.

Herm Edwards also tried it during his time with the Chiefs, but they failed to convert and lost.

Edit: The Herm instance was November 9, 2008. Chargers 20, Chiefs 19.

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#137 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:43pm

That's not the usual definition of "one possession game."

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#54 by Keith(1) (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:06pm

So, with all these numbers, and their defense playing its best late and close, does that help shape the perception that they are unbeatable? They are obviously doing things on defense that DVOA does not like, but they are top-half in many categories. Could DVOA conceivably be under- or over-valuing some facet of their defense that is not easy to pinpoint?

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#273 by archibaldcrane (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 2:09pm

Just remember, when we gave up a long TD drive+2 pt. conversion vs. the Giants, that was an 8 point game, just outside the +7-7 range.

Still fascinating that the D is the best in the league in those "late and close" situations.

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#351 by Schmoker (not verified) // Dec 09, 2011 - 7:24pm

Single season football stats are already a ridiculously small sample size compiled against a wildly unbalance.d set of opponents. Breaking them down into even smaller components has to rend er them nearly meaningless.

And therein lies the problem with trying to be predictive with any football stat. Sixteen games against an unbalanced schedule is far too small to be truly meaningful. Add in that teams are very different from week to week due to the high injury rate in football, and then even teams with identical schedules are really not playing on a level field either.

Finally, with the average nfl career lasting only 3-4 years, cross season comparisons are valueless.

Football is not baseball. The sample size is too small and the variances too great for a football stat to be taken with any sort of the same face value as baseball stats.

DVOA does a better job of this than any single star I've yet seen, but it is still akin to throwing bricks in the Grand Canyon on any given sunday.

To top it off, every argument in favor of the packers "skill" at getting turnovers that I have seen relies heavily on anecdotal statements that carry no weight. Quoting a player saying, "We practice that," has the least value of all. A statement by a person is not proof of anything.

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#48 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:50pm

I don't buy this at all. Going through GB's schedule, there are very few games where they allowed a bunch of backdoor covers after taking an insurmountable lead. It is true that they did play worse after taking a 14+ lead in many of their games, but a good deal of them ended up as one score contests where the opponent had the ball at the end with a chance to tie or take the lead.

No matter how much you want to discount it, it still matters. And games like the NO and NY ones demonstrate that it wasn't just letting up off the gas. GB's defense simply isn't very good.

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#56 by Waldo (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:07pm

I think you are missing the point here. Why is Green Bay undefeated when by DVOA they aren't nearly as good as some teams in the past, and heck aren't even the best team this year? It is very obvious, they play much better when the game is on the line, but a lot of the season the game hasn't been on the line.

GB's bad DVOA when the team has a big lead while it may contribute to making games overly close, it is not losing GB games. The strategy to beat GB is not "OK guys, GB isn't very good when they have a big lead, so what we are going to do is let them score a bunch, then we will come back and beat them". No matter what a not close game has to become close before a team can take the lead over GB. GB has literally been losing 0.0 seconds in the 4th quarter in 2011.

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#101 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 6:41pm

It's 0.0 seconds for all 18 games of this winning streak. All-time NFL record-- by far.

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#104 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 6:58pm

I have seen virtually every down the Packers have played on defense this year, just as I did last year. So since I'm not comparing them to any other team, but instead against themselves, I think the observation has a lot of merit.

If we assume that the value of the defense-- given the propensity of pass plays-- is roughly 25% D Line (it is a 3-4 they play, after all. Any many times a 2-4 or 2-3); 30% LBs; and 45% Secondary, then I would say the following:

The D-Line is not as effective this season, because (until yesterday) Raji hasn't played as well, and Mike Neal (injured until just a few weeks ago) has not adequately replaced Cullen Jenkins. I'd say the overall performance is down 20%.

The LBs are a wash-- there were key injuries last year (Barnett, Poppinga and Chiller-- all didn;t return) and there have been again this year. (Zombo has missed most of the season; Bishop and Hawk missed the last game plus) matthews, despite his sack numbers, is actually having a better all-around year, with improved pass coverage. Walden and the inside guys have been decent when healthy. Overall I'd call it a wash.

but the secondary is where the biggest difference is evident. Last year Morgan Burnett was hurt and out for the season relatively early; Peprah replaced him and, by and large, played well. This year they lost the other safety-- Collins-- a Pro Bowler-- also early, and Peprah replaced him and, by and large, has not played all that well-- nor has Morgan Burnett when he's been asked to play more of a Free Safety role. And Tramon Williams-- who emerged as one of the top corner covers last season-- has clearly regressed-- at first, it was thought due to a shoulder injury, but his play has been inconsistent. he shut down Megatron but then got beat twice on deep balls vs. the Giants. Woodson and Shields seem relatively equal to last year. I'd say the overall performance is down at least 30%. And the weighted impact is in the neighborhood of 15-20%-- the difference betwen a very good defense (last year) and a so-so defense, at best (this year)

Truth is the injury to Nick Collins has been a major hit. But there are still are several pretty key playmakers on this defense, and I would think they should get the benefit of the doubt until they blow a game late.

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#234 by JohnnyG (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 10:48am

Good analysis, but Shields hasn't played well either. He was more consistent in coverage last year. I think Woodson play has dropped off also. He's missed more tackles than I can count. Woodson will always get beat once in while because he gambles, but he's having issues covering shorter routes this year. The defense will not improve, this is the 2011 Packer defense. I don't expect any miracles nor do I hope for radical changes.

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#76 by QQ (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:30pm

GB very clearly took their foot off the Gas on Offense against NO.nteitre address:

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#172 by k (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 11:16pm

It is false to say GB's defense isn't very good with the game on the line. Watching every defensive snap they have came up with huge stops when the game matters. Actually the first time they didn't all year was last week against the giants. Using NO as an example is very poor. They stopped NO at the Goal line when it was needed. Poor use of words there.

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#293 by Joseph // Dec 07, 2011 - 4:32pm

A couple of points about the NO game:
1. Yes, they stopped the Saints at the goal line--but they also committed DPI on the last play of the game to give the Saints an untimed down to score the potentially game tying TD + 2 pt. conversion. They also were unsuccessful at stopping them BEFORE they got that close.
2. They also needed to stop the Saints inside the 10 on another drive (iirc, in the 4th Q also).
So yes, they stopped the Saints 2 out of 3 times on high-leverage plays. At the same time, on that last drive they had other opportunities to stop the Saints and did not. I think what some people are saying is that in several close games, the Packers' D has had multiple chances to make a stop, and has been lucky that the opponent couldn't pull off ONE more successful play.
Analogy--if Team A is constantly giving up 9 yds between 1st and 2nd down, "relying" on being able to make the stop on 3rd & 1 (and maybe 4th & 1), they aren't going to do it all the time. In fact, doing it for more than about 3x in a row is severely lucky, as iirc the NFL avg is about 70% conversion on 3rd/4th & 1, giving an avg. D just a 2.7% chance to stop an avg. O 3x in a row. A great D against a horrible O probably couldn't do it more than 5x in a row (let's say 50% conv. rate=3.125% for 5x, ~1.06 chance for 6x).
I remember in the late 80's/early 90's, the Saints had a MNF game against the 49ers. A 3rd & 1 play came up--before the snap, one of the announcers mentioned that the Saints D had stopped the opponent 11x in a row on 3rd/4th & 1, and they stopped the Niners on that one. IIRC, later in the game the Niners converted to end the streak. Impressive streak? yes. Extremely lucky? yes. So, GB fans better hope that their streak doesn't end soon. Because it will end.

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#309 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 7:35pm

Don't disagree with your basic point and the Saints scare me the most in terms of the NFC title game. But that PI was on AJ Hawk and it was what I call an "appearance play"-- it looked like he hit from the back, when in fact he came over the top and made contact with the receiver and the ball at the exact same time.

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#20 by Yaguar // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:04pm

Please give us an answer on what the Playoff Odds Report is up to in its game projections.

You give the Packers a Pythagenport win percentage of 77%, meaning that such a PF/PA ratio would be expected to win 77% of games on average. And yet the playoff odds simulator gave them these chances, as of last week, for their remaining games:

Week 14 vs. OAK: 73%
Week 15 at KC: 69%
Week 16 vs. CHI: 67%
Week 17 vs. DET: 68%

Even at home against Oakland, the playoff odds simulator uses a conservative win percentage well below their pythagenport average. But not just the Packers: it's all the winning teams.

The Niners, at .798 Pythagenport and .833 actual, are expected to go 2.3-1.7 (.575) in their remaining four games. Do they have a tough schedule? Not remotely. They have the Cardinals, Seahawks, and Rams still to play.

The Ravens are another dominant team. They get to host the Colts and Browns. Not even they can get 3 mean wins in their final four games.

How about the Saints (.729 Pythagenport)? 2.4-1.6. You don't think they can make 3-1 against the Falcons, Titans, Panthers, and Vikings?

The Playoff Odds Estimator is too conservative in projecting games, so it is systematically biased against division leaders and towards improbable long-shot playoff runs.

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#67 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:19pm

something is screwy with these ratings. Even the 51% probabiity for the Packers vs the Giants was flawed. 51% chance that it might be a close game? I'll give you that. But I would argue that for about 90% of that 2nd half, the Packers were never below about 65-70% chance of winning, and often as much as 80%+. And this is after they played a pretty crappy 1st half, one of their worst all season, which is not simply a product of their opposition.

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#72 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:24pm

I think you are underestimating how often "weird" things happen. A blown call here, a fumble there, a pass going off a receiver's finger tips and into a defender's waiting arms, a hold on the final 2nd down of the game, one of the Giant's d-lineman pulling a Tommie Harris and just knifing through before Rodgers even knows what's happening. It seems like all these won't happen until they do.

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#108 by SFC B (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:11pm

Do you think that there is something in the water in Wisconsin that is preventing Packers fans from realizing that they were a goal line running play and a coin toss from losing to the Giants? If there is, I need to know. I live in WI and don't want to be drinking the crazy people water.

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#113 by Paul M (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 7:25pm

Huh?? That statement is patently untrue. A) that goalline running play could have produced the same immediate TD the pass to Nicks did; B) that goalline running play could have set up a sequence where the Giants did not score at all; C) that goalline running play might have stiffened the Packer defense to the point that the 2 pt conversion didn't work

What did happen is our Qb got the ball back with plenty of time to win the game. I would ask you this question: Do you, or Aaron Schatz, or anyone else on this site, believe that there is anything to the theory that the defending Super Bowl champions, on a potentially historic winning streak, are facing a heightened level of performance from their opposition than they would under more normal circumstances?? If we think computer play the game, then the answer is no. But they don't-- it's human beings.

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#133 by Mr. Guest to you (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 8:31pm

Yeah, you're missing the point. GB was in a tie with the NYG with under a minute to go. If not for those ridiculous, luckurious catches by GB, an unlucky coin flip would have surely meant a loss. GB's defense was not stopping Eli.

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#143 by NYMike // Dec 06, 2011 - 9:06pm

Maybe you don't watch the Packers every week. They make those "luckurious" catches all the time.

Nothing lucky about the first one to Finley, just a three inch window that a less extraordinary QB would not hit. Nothing unusual about the play to Nelson; he seems to make one of those a game. And Jennings was wide open. So I'm not seeing the luck, just opportunities taken by very skillful players in total tune with each other. And despite the length of this thread, no one is arguing the Packers have less than a historically great offense. Best ever> Maybe not, but certainly in the discussion.

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#243 by Mikey Benny // Dec 07, 2011 - 11:48am

It's not even in the discussion. I see what the parent's saying about "crazy water".

Green Bay's a great team. Not sure about the inferiority complex.

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#142 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 9:00pm

The game was tied until the last second kick, but still the 51% win percentage for the Packers was "flawed."

This is also a bit rich:
"And this is after they played a pretty crappy 1st half, one of their worst all season, which is not simply a product of their opposition."

Have you noticed that a team's fans tend to think that any ups and downs of their own team's play is entirely a function of their own skill and effort, and "not simply a product of their opposition."

Give the Giants some credit here. They're a pretty good team.

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#145 by NYMike // Dec 06, 2011 - 9:09pm

You're exactly right about fans' inability to even notice the other team suited up, and oh by the way, might be playing very well. I watched the game, as a Packer fan, with my Giant fan friends, who all expected to watch a blow out (I didn't, especially missing two starting LBs). I could have walked away from that game knowing the Giants won, rather than the Packers lost. But I would have felt lonely ...

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#171 by zenbitz // Dec 06, 2011 - 11:11pm

Actually WPA floated around 50% (0.5) for the first half, went up to .75 GB but down to about .60 (with spikes to .57) until 5:10 left in the 4th when the Packers got in FG range against. And in fact, with the game tied an 1 minute to go, the Giants had a 45% chance of winning. Now I think those numbers are accounting for Aaaron Rodgers and the Packers, but it won't shift them that much.

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#23 by Jetspete // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:09pm

How many poor special teams plays do the jets have to make to knock them down the ST rankings? Every week they make a boneheaded special teams play that comes at a juncture that could cost them the game. This past week it was an inexplicable punt fumble at around 40 seconds left in the first half. They also had a botched KO return that left them at the 8 yard line. Either something is wrong with the formula, or Special Teams around the league are so horrendous that a team that has multiple special teams turnovers or miscues actually is 4th best in the league.

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#24 by Eddo // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:09pm

I would like to say that I love when you write articles like this to go along with the DVOA ratings. I find them very interesting.

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#39 by Anonymous454545 (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:34pm

Agreed! the longer commentary is well worth the wait. Thankfully, Packer fans are so darn polite here. Geographically, they are pretty much Canadian, so maybe that helps.

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#31 by Mr. X (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:21pm

As a long-time Packers fan, I have no problem stating that the 1985 Bears were more dominant than this year's Packers. Having said that, wins are what ultimately counts. It's interesting that the Saints have given up as many points as the Packers.

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#36 by nat // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:31pm

Wow, the Patriots defense took a huge hit for that fourth quarter. The question is, does that quarter say anything about who they are, or is it just about resting too many players and/or playing too soft? After all, they did indeed have enough of a lead to get away with playing atrociously.

My guess is that it doesn't say much useful. The Patriots are unlikely to take a 28 point lead into the fourth quarter of a playoff game, and will not rest starters if they do.

DVOA is right to be what it is. Football fans would be right to consider the Patriots a bit stronger than their DVOA indicates.

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#38 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:33pm

I think what it says is that the Patriots have little to no depth on defense, so if they do suffer a couple injuries, they're in trouble.

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#41 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:43pm

And you would be incorrect in that assumption. NE didn't just play a backup or two, they started three seperate players who had a total of ~10 defensive snaps on the year, one of which was signed off the street three days prior. They also played another safety in a linebacker position that he hadn't played ever in his NFL career.

They basically gave a bunch of guys a bunch of snaps to see if they might be able to play a few snaps in a pinch. More than likely two of them will never see the field no matter how many injuries NE sees.

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#49 by Eddo // Dec 06, 2011 - 4:53pm

Hold on; you're telling me that the Patriots had to start three guys who had played a total of ten snaps on the year, including one who was signed three days prior, and had to play a safety in a linebackers role.

And this disproves the assumption that they have poor defensive depth?

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#60 by Anonymous1 (not verified) // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:13pm

Yes, because they didn't "have" to.

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#71 by Eddo // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:22pm

I'm still not following.

Are you saying they didn't have to because the normal starters had stayed healthy all this time? In that case, it's still poor depth; they were just lucky with injuries.

Or are you saying that the Patriots did have sufficient depth, but too many players got hurt? That might be true (I'm not familiar enough with the Patriots), but I would argue that ever reaching a point where you have to sign a guy to start three days before the game is not having adequate depth.

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#82 by Athelas // Dec 06, 2011 - 5:36pm

I believe he is saying the Patriots has healthy or near-healthy players that could have played and done a better job, but they wanted to play the practice squad to increase the experience of those players since they did not fear Indy would allow themselves to win.

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#89 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 06, 2011 - 6:00pm

Why would they care about experience of players so bad they are likely to never play?

Either Bellichick was protecting the health of better players, which implies he is worried about depth, or he thinks these players might have to play which means depth is poor.

Or he is just doing some kind of weird mind game.

Those are the options I'm seeing.

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#146 by RickD // Dec 06, 2011 - 9:09pm

Vince Wilfork played 66% of the snaps. Usually he plays 95% of the snaps or more.

You may say that this "indicates [Belichick] is worried about depth." Or you could just say that he wanted to give big Vince a break because he didn't need to keep him on the field all day.

I think it's reasonable to say that the Pats' defense you saw in the 4th quarter against the Colts is not what you'll usually see from them.

I also think it's reasonable for DVOA to give them a low score for that quarter. Statistics are quantitative, after all. They're supposed to be objective, not subjective.

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#262 by RichC (not verified) // Dec 07, 2011 - 12:30pm

"Why would they care about experience of players so bad they are likely to never play?"

Because playing them is the only way to figure out if they're any good. Practice and live game situations are completely different things.

There were several starters that practices all week last week, never showed up on the injury report, barely played, and are practicing fine this week.

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