DVOA Analysis
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Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Week 5 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

This was a week with some big movers in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, but not in the number one spot. Buffalo still rules the roost after a victory over Philadelphia. Below the Bills, however, we have teams shooting way up (San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Minnesota) and dropping way down (Tennessee, Tampa Bay, Houston).

The playoff odds report this week really shows the difference between the two conferences this year. The AFC has quality spread out among many teams. Nine teams have winning records, and one of the teams with a losing record (the Jets) still ranks sixth in DVOA. That's a lot of teams in contention for playoff spots. Eight different teams are listed with a greater than 50 percent chance of making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the four teams with the strongest chance to make the playoffs are now in the NFC: San Francisco, Green Bay, Detroit, and New Orleans.

I'm guessing the most controversial ratings here will be San Francisco (2), the Jets (6), Minnesota (11), and Detroit (13). So let's get into some discussion of those four teams.

San Francisco: The DVOA system loves big, dominating wins, and the 49ers certainly had one this week. That stomping of Tampa Bay lifts them all the way up from 11th to second. That being said, San Francisco had a pretty good rating even before this win. The 49ers are not going to stumble into the playoffs as an 8-8 champion in a bad division. Based on current opponent adjustments, the 49ers are one of only two teams with positive DVOA in all five games this season (Buffalo being the other; Green Bay's DVOA in Week 3 was -0.8%). They are one overtime loss away from being undefeated. The 49ers are winning big with defense and special teams, ranking second in both, and have been shockingly efficient in the passing game this year, ranking seventh in pass offense DVOA. No, I don't think the 49ers are truly better than the Packers, Patriots, or Steelers (and those teams are all higher in DAVE) but we need to be taking them seriously as more than just first-round playoff bait. On the other hand, their DVOA will probably go down as the opponent adjustments get stronger, as they rank 26th in schedule so far and dead last in schedule remaining.

New York Jets: The Jets had one big dominating win (Week 2 against Jacksonville) and actually don't score that badly the last three weeks. This week, for example, they were excellent in the red zone. They stopped the Patriots from scoring touchdowns on three of six opportunities, including an interception. Since red zone plays have a bonus in DVOA, that helps make up for giving up yardage on the rest of the field. The Jets also rank first in special teams so far. However, the specifics of when they've struggled mean they rank much lower in "estimated wins" than in straight DVOA, just 17th. The Jets are dead last in the league in offense in the second half of close games, and even their defense, otherwise excellent, is ranked 19th in the second half of close games.

Minnesota: The Vikings have one huge win and four close losses, all by a touchdown or less. They would actually be higher if not for schedule strength, where they rank 29th. One "hidden" element that's killing the Vikings is "hidden special teams," which have been worth -15.2 points according to our estimates. Vikings opponents have yet to miss a field goal, and have hit four of 50 yards or more. Punts against them have also gone extra long.

Detroit: Obviously the Lions blew the doors off the Chiefs back in Week 2, but otherwise they are leading a bit of a charmed life. Like the Vikings, they've had an easy schedule so far. Unlike the Vikings, they've had great fumble recovery luck, picking up all of their own fumbles as well as half the fumbles of their opponents. This week, their game with Chicago was the rare game where both teams ended up with negative DVOA. Chicago gets penalized for all those false starts, for example, but Detroit doesn't get a bonus because our research has never shown that false starts have anything to do with the specific defense on the other side of the field.

One thing to watch for in the future: Detroit right now is dead last in first-quarter offense, one of the elements in "estimated wins." Scoring in the first quarter helps you dictate the pace of the whole game, and if the Lions could fix that problem, they wouldn't be stuck in so many close games right now.

Now, I don't personally think Minnesota should be favored to beat Detroit if the two were to meet tomorrow on a neutral field. But DVOA is telling us that Detroit is not playing like an undefeated team right now, and the Vikings are better than their 1-4 record, and those broad differences between conventional wisdom and DVOA are much more important than the small difference between 11th place and 13th place.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through five 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.

Opponent adjustments are currently at 50 percent strength and will steadily grow stronger until Week 10. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with weighted DVOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 27 percent of DAVE for teams with five games and 40 percent of DAVE for teams with four games. Because DAVE uses weighted DVOA rather than total DVOA, Week 1 results are slightly discounted. (Weighted DVOA begins to discount results four weeks later.)

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 BUF 33.4% 1 23.3% 2 4-1 34.7% 2 2.4% 13 1.1% 13
2 SF 30.3% 11 20.3% 5 4-1 7.8% 14 -10.0% 2 12.5% 2
3 GB 27.1% 4 22.8% 3 5-0 34.6% 3 7.8% 18 0.3% 18
4 NE 27.0% 3 27.6% 1 4-1 44.1% 1 19.2% 29 2.1% 10
5 BAL 23.3% 5 19.1% 6 3-1 -2.5% 23 -30.6% 1 -4.8% 30
6 NYJ 19.4% 10 19.0% 7 2-3 -3.7% 25 -9.3% 3 13.8% 1
7 NO 18.3% 8 16.2% 8 4-1 26.8% 4 10.7% 22 2.2% 9
8 TEN 16.5% 2 6.7% 14 3-2 18.0% 7 -0.8% 11 -2.3% 24
9 OAK 15.9% 12 7.8% 13 3-2 24.9% 5 9.6% 20 0.5% 15
10 PIT 15.6% 19 20.7% 4 3-2 12.6% 10 -1.0% 10 2.1% 11
11 MIN 15.2% 18 10.6% 10 1-4 7.4% 15 -1.4% 9 6.4% 4
12 NYG 14.2% 6 12.5% 9 3-2 13.2% 9 -1.9% 8 -0.8% 21
13 DET 13.1% 9 8.9% 12 5-0 6.9% 16 -6.9% 6 -0.7% 20
14 HOU 11.6% 7 10.1% 11 3-2 13.2% 8 4.7% 16 3.1% 8
15 CIN 8.2% 14 2.9% 17 3-2 -0.7% 20 -8.6% 4 0.3% 17
16 WAS 7.1% 15 -0.1% 19 3-1 -0.8% 21 -8.2% 5 -0.3% 19
17 DAL 3.8% 17 -0.4% 20 2-2 2.1% 19 -5.5% 7 -3.8% 29
18 ATL 2.9% 16 4.5% 15 2-3 6.4% 17 3.9% 14 0.4% 16
19 SD -3.5% 20 3.3% 16 4-1 8.2% 12 9.1% 19 -2.6% 25
20 TB -7.5% 13 -7.5% 23 3-2 6.4% 18 19.7% 30 5.9% 5
21 PHI -7.6% 24 0.8% 18 1-4 11.0% 11 16.9% 26 -1.7% 22
22 DEN -8.5% 25 -10.1% 25 1-4 -2.3% 22 10.2% 21 4.0% 7
23 CLE -9.0% 21 -6.1% 21 2-2 -7.6% 27 7.2% 17 5.8% 6
24 CAR -11.3% 26 -11.9% 26 1-4 18.3% 6 19.8% 31 -9.8% 32
25 CHI -13.6% 23 -8.2% 24 2-3 -9.1% 28 14.2% 23 9.8% 3
26 MIA -16.9% 27 -6.5% 22 0-4 8.1% 13 22.3% 32 -2.6% 26
27 SEA -17.0% 28 -18.3% 28 2-3 -10.2% 29 4.1% 15 -2.8% 27
28 KC -20.0% 30 -17.5% 27 2-3 -4.5% 26 16.1% 25 0.6% 14
29 IND -24.2% 29 -20.7% 29 0-5 -2.8% 24 14.5% 24 -6.9% 31
30 ARI -26.3% 22 -23.7% 31 1-4 -10.5% 30 17.3% 27 1.5% 12
31 JAC -32.1% 31 -23.3% 30 1-4 -28.9% 32 0.1% 12 -3.1% 28
32 STL -40.8% 32 -29.9% 32 0-4 -20.1% 31 18.7% 28 -2.1% 23
  • 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 BUF 33.4% 4-1 35.7% 3.7 3 4.7% 12 4.3% 9 6.9% 15
2 SF 30.3% 4-1 34.7% 3.6 4 -4.0% 26 -8.6% 32 11.1% 20
3 GB 27.1% 5-0 31.4% 4.2 1 -2.4% 23 -1.2% 23 3.4% 7
4 NE 27.0% 4-1 28.7% 3.7 2 5.8% 11 1.5% 16 16.1% 26
5 BAL 23.3% 3-1 33.2% 2.8 15 2.7% 16 -1.7% 24 39.5% 32
6 NYJ 19.4% 2-3 16.3% 2.7 17 7.6% 9 3.8% 11 15.9% 25
7 NO 18.3% 4-1 17.5% 3.4 5 -3.6% 24 -2.7% 27 5.1% 12
8 TEN 16.5% 3-2 15.7% 3.2 7 -2.1% 22 -1.9% 25 19.2% 28
9 OAK 15.9% 3-2 15.1% 3.3 6 16.6% 1 -3.3% 28 4.5% 10
10 PIT 15.6% 3-2 8.8% 3.1 8 -1.3% 20 -3.7% 29 33.5% 31
11 MIN 15.2% 1-4 22.5% 3.1 9 -4.8% 29 5.9% 5 16.6% 27
12 NYG 14.2% 3-2 18.0% 3.0 12 -16.9% 32 14.8% 1 12.8% 21
13 DET 13.1% 5-0 25.6% 3.0 10 -4.4% 28 8.8% 3 7.9% 17
14 HOU 11.6% 3-2 15.4% 3.0 13 1.7% 17 -5.9% 30 6.7% 14
15 CIN 8.2% 3-2 17.9% 3.0 11 2.8% 15 1.2% 18 1.3% 4
16 WAS 7.1% 3-1 10.0% 2.9 14 -12.3% 31 4.4% 8 4.1% 9
17 DAL 3.8% 2-2 2.7% 2.8 16 14.2% 2 -2.3% 26 1.2% 3
18 ATL 2.9% 2-3 0.1% 2.5 18 -3.7% 25 0.6% 19 0.1% 1
19 SD -3.5% 4-1 4.1% 2.2 22 -0.6% 19 5.3% 7 9.2% 18
20 TB -7.5% 3-2 -6.2% 2.3 20 12.3% 4 2.8% 14 21.4% 29
21 PHI -7.6% 1-4 -10.1% 2.0 26 8.0% 8 0.5% 20 6.0% 13
22 DEN -8.5% 1-4 -9.5% 2.4 19 12.9% 3 3.1% 12 3.7% 8
23 CLE -9.0% 2-2 0.2% 2.1 23 -4.1% 27 -0.2% 21 0.2% 2
24 CAR -11.3% 1-4 -9.6% 2.1 24 -5.3% 30 4.2% 10 4.9% 11
25 CHI -13.6% 2-3 -10.7% 1.8 28 10.1% 6 2.1% 15 7.7% 16
26 MIA -16.9% 0-4 -19.3% 2.1 25 6.5% 10 11.5% 2 1.9% 6
27 SEA -17.0% 2-3 -19.8% 2.2 21 4.5% 13 -6.0% 31 14.1% 22
28 KC -20.0% 2-3 -26.7% 1.8 27 3.8% 14 6.4% 4 25.6% 30
29 IND -24.2% 0-5 -25.9% 1.6 29 -1.8% 21 2.8% 13 14.4% 23
30 ARI -26.3% 1-4 -21.5% 1.5 30 1.7% 18 -0.3% 22 10.8% 19
31 JAC -32.1% 1-4 -31.4% 1.3 31 10.2% 5 1.2% 17 14.8% 24
32 STL -40.8% 0-4 -47.4% 1.1 32 9.3% 7 5.4% 6 1.3% 5


229 comments, Last at 13 Oct 2011, 10:50am

1 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

These rankings are terrible. If you took the Carolina offense, the Dallas Defense, and the Chicago special teams, you would have the best team in football. Therefore, the Bills do not deserve to be first place. They could not beat the Football Conglomerate.

122 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by Keith(1) (not verified)

Why would the team with the 6th best offense, 20th best defense, and 3rd best special teams be the best team in the NFL?

If you want the best team then a combination of the Patriots offense, Ravens defense, and Jets special teams is the way to go

143 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

First off, Dallas is actually 7th in defense.

And the poster's point, from what I can tell, is identifying 3 average-or-worse teams that, if you combined the best parts together, would form a better team than the highest-ranked team, which he feels is ludicrous (LUDA!). I haven't done the math to confirm that such a combination would actually have a better Total DVOA than the highest ranked team, but I'll take the poster's word for it.

2 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Dallas is clearly ranked too low because America's Team. The AIKMAN ratings is way better than this. HOW BOUT THEM COWBOYS?

3 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Denver is clearly ranked too low because obviously DVOA knows nothing about winning and winning is something you can't teach and Tebow has now decided to grace us with his winning because he is a winner that just wins. Knowing a winner is way better than this. LOLZ Tebow will circumcise the league with his winning ability to win because he is a winner.

Or so I have been told

216 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

There are no words to describe the interminable hysterical laughter that filled our apartment after I read these words. I must capture and immortalize them.

4 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I just have one small complaint/request with the playoff odds report under the "Special Super Bowl Matchups". Why no odds for a Harbaugh Bowl (SF-BAL)?

67 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

How about the odds on the Rust Belt Bowl (DET-BUF)? Would be an interesting thing to keep track of; a lot of people seem to be amused with the idea.

181 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Wouldn't that be the Ralph Wilson Bowl?

Ford bought out Wilson to take ownership of the Lions.

26 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Odds for SF-BAL Superbowl is 24.5% * 16.1%: 3.95% (odds of each team winning the conf.)

Odds for SF-BUF Superbowl is 24.5% * 16.4%: 4.01%

Go Niners!!!

77 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by sj_niner (not verified)

Not necessarily, sj_niner: Ravens winning AFC and 49ers winning the NFC are not totally independent of each other, especially since they play each other. 49ers beating Ravens would, ceteris paribus, tend to improve the 49ers seed (giving them a theoretically better chance of winning the NFC) and tend to hurt the Ravens seed (giving them a theoretically worse chance of winning the AFC), and vice versa if the Ravens beat the 49ers; there's almost surely a slight negative correlation between Ravens winning AFC and 49ers winning NFC as a consequence (so given scenarios where the Ravens win the AFC, the 49ers win the NFC less than 24.5% of the time and given scenarios where the 49ers win the NFC, the Ravens win the AFC less than 16.1% of the time). Does this negative correlation dramatically effects the probability (say, by at least a 0.1% difference from when they're independent), though? Probably not.

5 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Gotta love those opponent adjustments. The Patrots defense gets a big +5%(bad) after basically curb stomping the Jets offense.

What was their defensive DVOA for that one game? +60%?

94 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by RichC (not verified)

The Jets's offense is 25th in DVOA, and not exactly setting the world on fire by conventional stats. Just sayin'

125 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by Stats are for losers (not verified)

Still. Do you honestly believe that the game where they forced 7 3-and-outs on 10 drives is the worst game the patriots defense has played this season? Because thats what DVOA is saying.

The Patriots defense has been terrible, but they were actually good this Sunday. Thats a problem.

134 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Opponent adjustments have increased in weight this week, so there's that. Off the top of my head, the Pats D has had the following performances:

- OK against the Jets (25th)
- Bad against the Bills (1st), Raiders (5th!), and Chargers (12th)
- Really bad against Miami (13th)

Alas, 29th seems right to me.

156 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by RichC (not verified)

So, we can at least agree that their Defensive DVOA shouldn't *improve* for beating the Jets, right? The non-three-and-out scoring drives were of 11 and 13 plays, with only 3 3rd downs between them. One of them was "late and close."

I think that increased opponent adjustments, as others have said, can make up the difference. Opponent adjustments still aren't at full strength, so I'd imagine it'll take another two weeks for DVOA to fully appreciate how bad the Pat's D is--unless they get another signature 4th-quarter meltdown out of Romo, you can bet they'll be dropping again.

Subjectively, I think we can agree that defense ain't the strength of this year's Patriots--if DVOA somehow ranked them last in "passes to the TE," then you'd probably have a good argument.

164 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Well, DVOA says the Patriots defense was equal to the Titans defense this past Sunday. I'd love to hear an explanation of that.

8 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

The last time I saw SF ranked that high was when FO ran the 1994 DVOA numbers. Yee cats.

Surprising that the Vegas line opened by making the Lions 6-point favorites. Not that I blame them...my head thinks things like, "Hmm, SF has similar advantages with their TEs over Detroit's LBs as they had against Tampa Bay's." The rest of my body is thinking, "About time we get blown out and crushed and come away at the end of the season thinking 8-8 was a triumph and maybe we'll get 9-7 next year."

14 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

One question: just how terrible of a head coach was Mike Singletary? Harbaugh has basically taken the same team as last year, and with some slight upgrades (Carlos Rogers, Braylon Edwards) has totally turned them around.

I knew it was bad, but this level of turnaround is just shocking.

16 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

that's been on my mind as well. That and, can you imagine what he must be thinking now? if he has any sort of self-awareness at all, that is.....

18 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Singletary was a position coach who got promoted because of his name. He was never ready to be a head coach. He was a "motivator," not an X&O's guy.

28 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Several times last season, Mike Singletary decided that Troy Smith was a better quarterback than Alex Smith. Troy Smith is currently a member of the UFL's Omaha Nighthawks.

35 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I have always wondered something, and this seems an apt place to post the question: why do teams without "franchise quarterbacks" not run multiple quarterbacks in different personnel packages more often than they do? Even the teams that employ multiple quarterback strategies do so very infrequently. Every time some backup quarterback enters the game, there is some rhetoric about the defense not being prepared; however, if the defense has a week to prepare, the backup's performance will decline.

Therefore, I wonder, why not prepare both as starting quarterbacks, and adjust to whatever the defense is doing by throwing out different packages? Alex Smith can run the normal rhythm offense against teams with weak linebackers and defensive backs, taking advantage of the inability to cover. Troy Smith can run the option offense, with all the misdirection and power formations. There could be some overlap between the two strategies that allow each of the quarterbacks to bleed, so the defense is guessing at all times.

So, if you constantly practiced this, would it be viable? Football teams run so many formations anyway. Would adding another layer, essentially making two "half-layers", be so difficult or even possible?

49 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Teams think this sort of thing will prevent their guy from becoming the "franchise," when in reality, their guy usually has no chance of ever becoming that.

Other than that, I'm not sure.

54 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I also think the finite amount of time for reps in practice, with the rest of the first team offense, makes coaches hesitant to use multiple qbs. However, I remember Landy alternating series, between Staubach and Morton, for most of a season, I think.

135 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

How about the year when the Dolphins quarterback was referred to as "Woodstrockula"? Can't remember when that was.

53 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Players hate this idea. QBs in particular hate this idea. The players want there to be an QB who clearly has the keys to the car, who is the #1 QB and is allowed to make mistakes along the way without a fear of getting benched. Also, the QB needs a good number of reps to build up a rhythm and rapport with his receivers.
And the QB's skill level increases the more he works with the receivers. If you had two QBs each getting half the snaps, you'd be more likely to have mediocre QBing all the time.
Unless you're the 1987-1991 49ers, it's unlikely that your backup QB is anything other than a huge dropoff from your starting QB (except in those cases where both options are mediocre).

70 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

What people said above, but also this: if you have two players who do dramatically different things, as troy and alex smiths would, rotating them signals to the other team your intention on offense. This is the same reason why teams don't like to have one RB who's good at pass blocking and receiving, and one who's good at running: the personnel on the field dictates the play, and therefore the defense keys off personnel (which is easy) rather than something harder like the level of the linemen's helmet, the first step of the FB, etc.

A better thought would be rotating based on field location, for instance if you had a QB great between the 20s, but terrible in the red zone. ARI did this a few years ago with Warner and Leinart (albeit, a little misguidedly, as Warner is Kurt Fraking Warner), and I'd actually advocate strongly for Denver doing this with Orton/Tebow.

edit: IIRC, Warner came in for 2 min drills, not RZ, but similar concept (Warner was great, but turnover prone, which is less of a big deal in 2 minute situations since turnovers are nearly equivalent to failed drives). Situational rotation rather than schematic rotation.

92 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

But lots of teams do have situational RBs. The term "Thunder and Lightning" is almost a cliche.

Sure, every team would like to have multiple do-it-all RBs, but realizing that this usually impractical most teams have some diversity in their depth charts, at least a positions where players rotate.

D-linemen are often run stopping or pass rushing specialists. WRs are often deep threats or possesion receivers. And if you don't have a RB who is good at both catching screen passes and driving the pile, then you usually want at least one guy who can do each job.

There's a balance that needs to be struck between hiding your intentions and lining up the best players for the situation. In some cases teams can make known tendencies work to their own advantage by running changeup plays that counter tendencies and catch the other team by surprise (such as dropping a run stuffer back into a zone blitz). The idea hasn't been explored much with QBs, but if your team is 1-4 I think it's an idea worth trying.

I agree that rather than name Tebow the starter in Denver, it would make sense to have Orton be the main QB and Tebow be the short yardage and goal line specialist. Although each player would exhibit tendencies in the plays they execute, it would still give more options in designing an offensive gameplan. It also gives the opportunity to go with a "hot hand", if one QB is struggling and the other is having success.

169 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

With QBs, you may have a situation where one QB is doomed. Last season is was perfectly clear that Jason Campbell would get killed in the Steelers game. A pocket passer was not a realistic plan. They put Gradkowski in at half time and he failed too. But what if Gradkowski had gotten the first team reps? Would it have been better? After all, Gradkowski had beaten the Steelers the previous season.

73 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by Keith(1) (not verified)

I am posing this in a short capsule, but the rest of it would go as such: 1) You have a full offseason with which to practice; 2) Neither quarterback is of franchise-quality, and will most assuredly never be; 3) Neither quarterback is UFL-quality, and are reasonable players as your second-string on any "normal" team.

With that, I want to avoid the idea of a "Wildcat package." The question is multi-faceted, to be sure; however, the answer really cannot just be "finite practice snaps" and "unwillingness." If it is, that is a poor answer.

To take an actual NFL team, assume the team is Tampa Bay. They have two young quarterbacks, each with relatively different skill sets. Neither is particularly amazing "right now." Instead of marking a play as a run play or pass play, they could mark it as a Josh Johnson play and a Josh Freeman play. Since their skill sets are different, the defense will have to prepare for those differences, but each quarterback would have enough in common that the playbook is not "normal" and "Wildcat."

It seems difficult, but if you are the Bucs, or even the Broncos, this seems more reasonable than trotting out an unproven option guy 100% of the time and hoping for the best. Rather, develop a scheme to maximize his strengths -- both in and out of an option package -- and develop a scheme for your non-option guy.

If both are NFL-quality players, and they can make most of the throws necessary, and the "gadget" plays are limited, there seems to be no true downside.

80 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by Keith(1) (not verified)

The Frankfurt Galaxy were very successful for a number of years when they were deploying a "two-headed quarterback monster" (would not surprise me if that's a translation of what the German press called it), perhaps most notably in 1999 when they had Jake Delhomme and Pat Barnes. The other NFL Europe teams copied the strategy for the next few years (I suspect under some pressure from the NFL so that 12 QBs could get a reasonable number of snaps instead of 6), but none were as effective as the Galaxy that year.

182 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Were it not for a poorly timed case of the flu, Troy Smith would have been a starter for the other Harbaugh.

17 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Kind of a reverse Manning. Look at the Colts without Manning! Look at the 49ers without Singletary! The more the 49ers win, the worse Singletary et. al. look.

A lot of emphasis has to be put on that et. al. Singletary was never a details guy; that was left for his coordinators. Of course he was the one who hired them, but never underestimate the power of Jimmy Raye to wreck an offense.

29 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

There has actually been a lot more turnover among the starting 22:

Braylon Edwards for Morgan (both are injured now)
Carlos Rogers for Nate Clements
Ray McDonald for Aubrayo Fanklin
Navarro Bowman for Takeo Spikes
Donte Whitner for Taylor Mays/Reggie Smith
Ahmad Brooks for Manny Lawson
Adam Snyder for Chilo Rachal (recently)
Alex Smith took over permanently (after battling Troy Smith last year)
Jonathan Goodwin for David Baas
Tarell Brown for Shawntae Spencer

That's just off the top of my head ;-)

89 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by Passing through (not verified)

Braylon Edwards for Morgan (both are injured now)

A wash, since they're both injured, but Edwards is a major upgrade.

Carlos Rogers for Nate Clements

Minor upgrade.

Ray McDonald for Aubrayo Fanklin

I would be shocked if Ray McDonald was an upgrade, but these things happen.

Navarro Bowman for Takeo Spikes

Bowman is younger, but I recall Spikes getting good reviews last year for his play in SF, so I wouldn't think this is a big upgrade.

Donte Whitner for Taylor Mays/Reggie Smith

Ding ding ding. We have a winner. Whitner is a good player, and Mays/Smith were not (although Mays is so athletic you have to assume he'll turn up somewhere).

Ahmad Brooks for Manny Lawson

Lawson was talented but never a 3-4 player. Upgrade.

Adam Snyder for Chilo Rachal (recently)
Alex Smith took over permanently (after battling Troy Smith last year)
Jonathan Goodwin for David Baas


Tarell Brown for Shawntae Spencer

Probably a slight upgrade, but Spencer wasn't terrible.

104 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Ding ding ding. We have a winner. Whitner is a good player, and Mays/Smith were not (although Mays is so athletic you have to assume he'll turn up somewhere).

Whitner hasn't played so much recently. He missed the Philly game, and was limited in the Tampa game, only playing on running downs -- and SF was in its nickel defense most of the game. Also, Smith has been playing a lot, and has been pretty good.

Ahmad Brooks for Manny Lawson

Brooks was on the team last year, and played on most passing downs.

Tarell Brown for Shawntae Spencer

Spencer has been playing, and is a starting corner when healthy.

Offensive personnel changed hardly at all. Edwards and Goodwin are the most noteable additions. Goodwin is a downgrade from Baas, I think, and Edwards hasn't played much.

On defense, Rogers and Aldon Smith have been the biggest additions. Whitner, like I said, hasn't played much, and the other starters were all on the team last year. A lot of those are just playing better -- McDonald, Brooks, Goldson, Smith, Soapoaga. They're playing more often, some of them, or in somewhat different positions. None of those are particularly high draft choices; the team has just been good at developing linebackers, DL, and safeties lately.

140 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

McDonald, Bowman, Brooks, Snyder, Brown, and Smith were with the team last year. Singletary could have started them. Why mention them as turnover?

There are basically 3 changes from last year wrt to new players:
Goodwin for Baas: so far not a favorable change
Whitner for Mays/Lewis/Smith : whithner was injured mostly so did not happen yet
Addition of Edwards: again injured, did not help much
Rogers for Clements: definitely an upgrade in pass defense. probably a downgrade in run defense but with the front 7 SF has that is probably negligible.

39 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

There's been quite a bit of turnover on the defense. Only Justin Smith, Patrick Willis and Dashon Goldson are starting at the same position as last year. They have added Whitner, Rodgers and Aldon Smith. This leaves five guys where you can really see how misguided Singletary was. Why weren't Brooks, McDonald, Bowman and Brown seeing more playing time last year and why is fangio able to get so much more out of them?

In his defense, are there even any die-hard fans who thought McDonald would be playing at the level he's at right now?

I always got the impression from Singletary that he knew what he wanted the team to do but had very little idea of how to coach the players to do it. It's easy to say, "minimise turnovers" but harder to direct your players so that turnovers are reduced.

42 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I just looked at the playoff odds page and scared myself half to death. Just don't look 49er fans, it could go to your head.

108 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Good lord. Absurd.

Isn't it a funny season, when we're five games in and two teams have a <3% chance to miss the playoffs, and another two have <15% chance to miss the playoffs?

45 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Totally agree. I also feel that the 49ers have been underestimated based on their atrocious 2010 win-loss record alone. Recall that they had five close games last year (within 3 pts) and lost four of them, some to teams that eventually made the playoffs (Saints, Eagles, Falcons). That seemed to indicate that the player material was actually pretty good, especially considering last year's jurassic playcalling and cavalier attitude toward gameplanning, as you point out.

65 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

You can look at just the Tampa and Seattle games and make a decision.

49ers played their opening game against Seattle both last year and this year. They were out coached by Seattle last year. Despite the lockout they were not out coached this year.

When 49ers played with Tampa last year everybody was talking about how much difference in competence there was between the coaching staff of Tampa and 49ers. This year people sure don't talk about it.

That Singletary preferred Troy Smith to Alex Smith was another give away.

To me, the level of turnaround is not shocking at all. What was shocking to me was how bad Singletary was. I wanted the team to sign Singletary after his work as an interim head coach. I was wrong and figured out I was wrong as soon as he fired Mike Martz and lost Linehan to 0-16 Lions.

115 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Similar talent, but not the same.

Carlos Roger has been a significant upgrade over Clements (very significant).

Chris Culliver in his limited time has played very well and was a big reason the Tampa passing offense was so frustrated.

Ray McDonald being allowed to start now has turned up the notch on our defensive pressure in a huge way. He's playing like a pro bowler IMO.

Bowman has been a big upgrade over Spikes. He's arguably had a better year than Willis up to this point. Both have been great.

Aldon Smith has been a nice addition to the LB/DL rotation as well. Significant upgrade in talent there.

Edwards really has been a non factor as he's missed a few games.

Bruce Miller has been better at FB than Norris as well. The special teams have also been exceptional, and a big part of that is upgrades on the roster (Grant, Jones etc.).

Adam Snyder lost a bunch of weight after being inspired by the transformation he saw out of Boone and has looked so much better than he ever has.

But - those upgrades alone don't really explain the turn around and I think Harbaugh and his entire staff deserve huge credit. I don't know how many watched the Tampa game, but there were some brilliant play design and brilliant play calls all day long. It was like night and day compared to last season. Has he managed to win keeping it vanilla as he's installed more of the offense as the season progresses? I suspect this might be the case.

I have to give a lot of credit to the Niners assistants as well. I think they might have one of the most talented group of assistants around and it shows on game day.

157 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

One interesting aspect of the Carlos Rogers improvement:

INTs in Washington (78g): 8
INTs in San Fran (5g): 3

If the SF coaching staff under Harbaugh has taught Rogers how to hold onto the ball and make INTs, that in and of itself is a huge upgrade.

9 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Hmm Dolphins are 26th with the 2nd hardest schedule remaining. Here comes Andrew Luck.

103 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Yeah, but are the Rams really going to draft Andrew Luck? They kind of have their future QB.

I guess they could sell the #1 overall pick to the highest bidder, though...

117 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Having seen a decent amount of Bradford, I'm not really convinced about his ability to be an elite guy in the NFL. Luck? I'm more than convinced.

Bradford throws so many short passes it's ridiculous. And the team surrounding him is questionable as well, which isn't going to help his development. If he takes a big step back this year and Spags gets fired (I think that would be a mistake unless he completely loses the team) it is very conceivable they would draft Luck. If Spags is still around, I suspect they go for the boat load of draft picks Luck would net them. I wouldn't underestimate the value of Bradford in a trade though either. Some team probably would roll the dice on him and trade at least a first for him even if he struggles some this year.

11 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

While the niners are probably not the 2nd best -- or even 8th best -- in the league, they sure looked like it for the last 6 quarters.

12 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I'm guessing the three most controversial ratings here will be San Francisco (2), the Jets (6), Minnesota (11), and Detroit (13). So let's get into some discussion of those four teams.

Oops...that would be FOUR most controversial ratings.

15 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

OAK just got through the hard part of the sched, while SD's is about to get harder. Can OAK win the AFCW?

BTW, looking at future sched, the numbers say that DET will be hard-pressed to stay even with GB. They smell like a 12-4/11-5 wildcard (which is nothing to be ashamed of).

69 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I doubt it. SD has only lost once in September, despite playing poorly. If the Chargers follow their normal trend under Norv Turner, they will improve a lot over the course of the season. And if they don't put themselves in a big hole to start the season, I don't think anyone in the AFC West can catch them.

20 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

If DVOA is right, the Vikings will beat the Bears next Sunday in Soldiers Field by about 24-17. If my eyes are right, the Vikings lose by about 17-14.

I still think the numbers are missing something about the inadequacy of an offense with McNabb's lack of accuracy, and a bunch of guys who don't get open and who don't have much in the way of ball skills. I do think the Vikings may have been hurt more by the lockout than some other teams, and that will fade somewhat as the season wears on, especially on the offensive line. If it gets to Thanksgiving, and the reason the Vikings don't have any meaningful games to play in December is because a Vikings db made the typical drop of an int in the closing minute of the Tampa Bay game, and because they lost to the Chiefs, in the season's first month, I'm gonna be irritated. I'd rather see thm go 3-13.

22 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I just got done watching the Vikings - Cardinals game on NFL Rewind using the condensed mode (love that) and yeah the Vikings still looked bad in that game. Peterson had a few beast mode runs and they capitalized on turnovers from an even worse looking Cardinals offense. Maybe that was because I watched it after doing the condensed NO-CAR game (which was an awesome game) and then following it up with GB-ATL (I'm a homer I like to watch the GB games a few times). Carolina and Atlanta both looked better than Minn to me on offense in their losing efforts.

Though I say don't worry about them not having meaningful games, the two losses they are going to suffer to the Packers in weeks 7 and 10 would have mostly made the rest of their games meaningless anyway. :) Of course GB not seeing MN any more after week 10 and not seeing DET for the first time until week 12 just feels like odd scheduling to me.

32 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I don't think 10 wins guarantees a Wild Card spot this year, which is why an 0-4 start makes the rest of the season uninteresting; you just need to be better on offense than the Vikings are to finish 10-2, even against an easy schedule, and even then you probably don't make the tournament. If they had beaten the Bucs and Chiefs, or just one of those two, October and November would have been more interesting to watch McNabb skip one four feet in front of the receiver.

213 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Holy shit, I never noticed the condensed mode until now, this is revolutionary. I'm watching the Lions / Bears game and it actually manages to completely skip over all the Jaws commentary. That's worth the price of the game rewind alone.

141 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

If the Bears LBs and safeties play like they did last night, AP will run for 500 yards, and the Vikes will win easily. Not saying it's gonna happen, but those holes Jahvid Best ran through were just ridiculous.

153 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

There ain't a Calvin Johnson on the Vikings roster, or anything in the same universe. The Bears may as well play with 5 linebackers.

154 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

There ain't a Calvin Johnson on the Vikings roster, or anything in the same universe. The Bears may as well play with 5 linebackers.

21 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Looking forward to watching the GB remaining schedule go up after next when when St. Louis is in the rear view mirror. DVOA of opponents after that game is removed goes up to an average of 4.2 with 6 games against teams with DVOAs in the teens and the negative DVOA's belonging to San Diego, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Kansas City. Heck looking at current DVOA, Chicago is now the worst team they have played. Though in my little spreadsheet I swapped from DAVE to DVOA this week so my trending lines on opponents can get a little off though. It's not a huge a shift, it just makes the shifts a little more dramatic in either direction (teams that were trending down are still trending down and teams that were trending up are still trending up) the big exception in Minnesota who had pretty much been a flat line, they spiked a lot.

23 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

We're all the penalties the main reason Detroit had a negative DVOA against Chicago? Besides the penalties I thought they played a pretty good game.

30 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

They actually really didn't. They had one okay drive, then two huge plays (DVOA doesn't like huge plays) and then basically did nothing else the entire game. Their defense didn't do that well against one of the worst offenses in the league either, so that hurts them too. I think this was rather fair, actually; while Detroit ended up winning by 11 it never felt dominant at any point in the game and it always seemed like Chicago was right in the mix.

130 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

"(DVOA doesn't like huge plays)"

While your overall explanation is right, this statement is wrong. DVOA likes huge plays, just not as much as conventional statistics do. If you have a lot of big plays with few bad plays you get a really great DVOA. There are games like this sometimes (as a Saints fan, I remember Brees destroying the Patriots on Monday Night 2 years ago).

DVOA prefers teams that consistently have good plays over "boom and bust" teams. It isn't the "boom" that hurts, it's the "bust". Lots of unsuccessful plays will pull your rating down.

A better statement would be "A few huge plays doesn't offset many bad or average plays in the eyes of DVOA"

184 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

The argument is also that DVOA prefers three 20-yard completions to one 60-yard completion, despite the scoreboard being disinterested.

187 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Fun Detroit Stat of the Day:

The Detroit offense has scored six touchdowns outside of the Red Zone. Two of those plays were from their own half of the field.

The Detroit defense has allowed only one touchdown outside of the Red Zone, a 25 yard TD pass to Dez Bryant.

There's something to be said for a defense that forces you to get into the Red Zone to score TDs, and an offense that can score TDs from anywhere. When you consider this alongside Detroit's turnover margin, you can see that they're winning the big play battle as a team.

212 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

"DVOA prefers three 20-yard completions to one 60-yard completion"

DVOA is an average; a 60-yard completion by itself will have a higher DVOA than the three 20-yard completions (which just average out to a 20-yard completion).

The correct statement is "DVOA prefers three 20-yard completions to 2 incomplete passes with one 60-yard completion".

DVOA rewards the success of a big play, but not enough to ignore failing plays.


Let's look at 2 offenses:

Offense 1: 2/3 of its plays gain no yards. However, 1/3 of its plays score a touchdown, no matter where it is on the field.

This offense will score a lot of points. It will have lots of highlight-reel plays, with multiple 80 and 90 yard TDs in games. They'll win all the ESPYs. It will generally have several scoring drives in a row. However, there will be about 20% of drives that go 4 and out (I assume they'll go for it every 4th down). These drives produce 0 points.

Still, a fantastic offense. Scoring TDs on 80% of drives is great.

Offense 2: Never turns the ball over, Never gets a penalty. Get's precisely 5 yards on every play it runs, scoring a TD if it's less than 5 yards from the End Zone.

This is a dull offense. It will have no highlights. However, it will score every single drive except for those at the very end of each half, where time may be a factor.

This is a better offense that Offense #1. Not because 5 yard gains are better than 80 yard TDS, but because 0 yard gains are bad plays, and bad plays will lead to bad drives. This offense has no bad drives.


A team that has 1 60 yard TD with 2 plays for no yards is offense #1. If your team fails on 67% of it's plays it will have some drives that produce no points; the scoreboard is most certainly interested in that.

A team that gets 20 yard completions every play is actually slightly better than offense #2 (because it will run out of time at the end of the half less often).

DVOA likes big plays; it just doesn't put up with failing plays as much as you do.

215 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

You've summarized one of the misconceptions that many of us have about DVOA. An offense that always scores a touchdown on the first play of its drive, or a defense that always causes 3-and-outs, is going to have a fantastic DVOA. For real teams, what happens on the series (or even plays) that aren't so successful is going to have a large effect on DVOA.

217 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Doesn't this neglect the affect of total possessions?

Team 1 scores 80% of the time on very short drives. Lets call this team the Colts.
Team 2 scores 100% of the time on extremely long drives. Lets call this team the Vikings.

As a defense-independent measure, Team 1 is more successful if it manages 25% more possessions. But this is possible if it's scoring twice as rapidly.

224 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Teams alternate possessions. If your fast scoring gives you 25% more drives, it gives your opponents 25% more drives, too.

24 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Interesting minor point: the Jets are top of the rankings in kickoff coverage with one of the lowest touchback rates in the league. Folk does not have a huge leg, but I think the Jets are intentionally not going for touchbacks and instead kicking for hangtime to pin teams inside the 20. Whatever they are doing, it's working so far. They are first in KO returns as well, with a TD by yet another different returner. Mike Westhoff is such an asset. I think rule changes on average favor the better coaches because they adapt quicker to figure out more advantageous strategies. Unfortunately for the Jets, Westy reportedly is retiring after next year.

25 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I also think the numbers are about right on the Lions, so far. A great defensive front, backed by a secondary with issues, and some playmakers on offense paired with a qb with occasional accuracy issues and a o-line with problems. I think Stafford and the dbs could improve, though, and, in particular, if the latter happens, they are going to get some short fields as the defensive linemen bludgeon people. The upside for the Lions is pretty impressive, I think.

61 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I agree completely. The lack of running game, last night not withstanding, is also a concern. A positive I do see is Stafford's pocket awareness, he gets rid of the ball effectively to avoid sacks, which is agood skill with the OLine in Detroit.

27 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I must admit to finding it interesting how "well" you rate the Buffalo defense. That group is like a carbon copy of NE's last year, only not quite as good at actually stopping anyone without a turnover. Yet NE last year at this time was something like 30th in the league.

I understand where you are coming from, I just don't think tip drill pick 6s are all that predictive. It takes a pretty bad unit to get their hands on 4 interceptions and still allow 500 yards, as Buffalo has done twice this year.

31 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Not really. Yards are a pretty meh way of measuring defenses, especially without counting situational value. I agree that the INT rate is not indicative of actually amazing defense and that in general it would be better if INTS could somehow be credited to tip or pure catch or whatever, but at the same time they've been able to do a fair amount of control of decent to good offenses.

41 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

They have? Oakland gashed them, NE abused them up and down the field except for about 4 plays and Philly also moved the ball very well despite a putrid OL.

I'm not saying they are the worst defense ever, I just don't see the ~20% discrepancy between Buffalo and what NE was trotting out there last year.

78 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Well, there's the turnover aspect and there's the yardage aspect. The Bills lead the NFL in INTs with 12 - the Pats only have 7. (They are even at 3 fumble recoveries each - NFL.com doesn't track fumbles forced as far as I can tell.) The Pats are giving up the most yardage per game at 326.6, the Bills are giving up 283.4 (which is still bad).

The points/game is remarkably uniform across the AFC East. The Pats are giving up 23.8 while the Bills are giving up 24.0. The Jets (!!!) are giving up 25.0 and the Dolphins are giving up 26.0.

So by this measure, the Pats have the best defense in the AFC East. They just have a bad habit of giving up long drives, especially when they have a large lead.

Some of these things will even out over the long run. If the Bills' rating is inflated due to luck, they probably won't continue to maintain such a high rating. If the Jets' offense starts producing, perhaps the Patriots won't be penalized for having a middling effort against them.

FWIW, I think the Pats' defense should improve if Haynesworth keeps playing, and should improve more when Mayo comes back.

64 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Depends on who tipped them, tipped by the defense is usually a good play, by the offense is usually luck.

68 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by Verifiable (not verified)

I've seen two tipped by the offense and another two that went off of OL's helmets.

98 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by Anonymous1 (not verified)

As far as I know DVOA counts all picks equally, so that is probably most of the perceived discrepancy between this years Bills and last years Patriots.

That said, if you throw the ball and hits one of your linemen in the head, you have made a poor throw. While I agree that good passes that are batted up by the receiver are not the QBs fault, I think it all comes out in the wash when you consider that dropped interceptions aren't factored into DVOA either.

100 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by John Doe (not verified)

Agreed. I'm not saying I want them to adjust the system, I'm just making a statement that the Bills' defense isn't as "good" as these numbers suggest. Frankly, other than the interceptions they are quite terrible, and it just seems to me that many of them aren't predictive of future turnover success.

102 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by John Doe (not verified)

I got into a bit of a tiff about this issue here a few weeks ago, and you summed it up perfectly - there's no real way to objectively decide which INTs are a quarterback's "fault." FO does the exact right thing by penalizing all of them. In most cases, good and bad luck will roughly balance out, and that's better than turning an objective rating into subjective film study.

34 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

The top 8 teams here are:


Over at advancednflstats Brian Burke has (purely objective rankings, no adjustments):


And Sports Illustrated has (purely subjective rankings, no math):


I'm not sure which of these I like best. I think you'd have to eliminate TEN and HOU based on injuries to cornerstones, but we'll see.

71 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Seeing Dallas as the top team in any ranking gives me pause to spend the time to even consider anything from that source.

105 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

It looks a bit weird, but BB's stats and analysis have consistently been the best on the 'net (including an excellent debunking of FO's curse of 370 and associated "overuse" theory), so I'm inclined to give him some credit. I think the Cowboys' variance is also very high right now, which may mask their average level of play being excellent.

107 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Well, Dallas could easily be 4-0 (or, 0-4), so it isn't that crazy. They also should soon have both Bryant and Austin on the field, healthy, and if that happens, they immediately become the heavy favorite to win the East, considering that they've held their own without one of those guys every game so far

199 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

That's kind of what does make it crazy. Being easily 0-4 says to me you're not the best team in the league, or even top 5.

226 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

well, their opponents are 13-2 against everybody else, with only the Jets having lost. At least this week their opponent is only 4-1.

36 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

OK, explain. Last week, New England's defense had looked terrible through four games and had a +15% DVOA. This week, they faced a fairly average offense (~-3% by DVOA). Said offense had ten offensive possessions (discounting the garbage time drive at the end when the Jets were down by 9, with no timeouts and just one minute on the clock).

On 7 of those 10 possessions, the Pats defense held them to a 3-and-out. Not held them to a couple of first downs, or a FG, but a 3-and-out. On the 8th, a bad special teams play let the Jets start at the Patriots 20. The Pats gave up a TD. The Pats also gave up two long TD drives where they looked terrible. Yet all in all, a pretty good defensive showing. Not allowing your opponents to move the ball at all on 70% of their possessions is pretty darned good.

And yet the Pats defensive DVOA DROPPED to +19%. I don't think it's a function of opponent adjustments changing...Miami, Buffalo, and San Diego all stayed roughly the same, and Oakland actually improved in Week 5 relative to Week 4. So why does this good defensive performance warrant a weakening of their defense?

Is it just a matter of the fact that a good defensive performance makes your get less chances to show it off, so for the 7 drives when they played well they only had 21 plays to show off good defense, whereas the two drives (plus the short one) where they played poorly they had 25 plays to show it off (because they kept giving up yardage in small chunks), so overall, DVOA seems to think that on slightly more than half the defensive snaps the Pats offense was bad?

This could point to an area where DVOA could be improved for defense, and may relate to why defensive DVOA doesn't correlate to wins as well as offensive DVOA. By raw counting, the Jets offense succeeded on 25 plays and failed on 21. But all those successes gave them only 21 points...essentially three successful drives. From a drive standpoint, the Jets succeeded completely on three of their drives, and failed completely on seven of their drives. And so only scored three times despite touching the ball ten times.

I have to think a little more about this...

66 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Its not just that they dropped, they dropped 4.5%, which is pretty substantial. Essentially, DVOA thinks their game was roughly +40%, which makes absolutely no sence.

DVOA doesn't think the defense had a bad game, it thinks the defense had their worst game of the season. It think they had a catastrophically bad day.

76 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

It's simple: DVOA is per play, not per drive. Since the three-and-out drives were over and done, the missing plays from those drives didn't help the Patriots' DVOA.

87 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

SO, essentially, You can stop opponents 7 times, and then give up two long drives, and you're the worst defense in the league.

Makes a lot of sense.

We should be questioning these sorts of things, not trying to explain them.

137 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Jets offensive drives, successful plays v. unsuccessful: 2/1, 2/1, 1/2, 0/3, 10/3, 3/0, 0/3, 0/3, 0/3, 6/5, 2/2 (+spike). Totals: 26/26, for 50%. The Patriots defense played a good third quarter, when they had the three consecutive three-and-outs with no successful plays, but on par, that's not a particularly successful day on defense but those successful plays occurred relatively often on third down.

Let me put it this way: the Titans had three quarters in the first four games where they ran more successful than unsuccessful plays on offense. [EDIT, misread my notes]: The Jets had two on Sunday.

152 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Success rate isn't what I asked about Tom. You guys don't give Team-by-team listings of success rate, so there's no way to see if thats average, above average, or below average.

DVOA seems to think its catastrophically bad, in the +35% range, but there's absolutely no method transparity, so we have no idea of whats going on.

Also, success rate uses completely arbitrary endpoints. The numbers change if you use 66% on 2nd down instead of 60%. Which is a big problem when the NFL gives you numbers in 10% chunks, that are basically +/- 10%.

161 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

FEI uses the concept of drives instead of plays and does a pretty good job of predictive value. It's something that DVOA should look into; for a defense a counting stat is putrid.

Another way to put it: You can say that Brady has a great playoff record or that the Pats have a better playoff record than a lot of teams but one reason they do have that is because they haven't been to the playoffs every year and thus didn't get a chance to play (and lose) in those playoffs. Is that 'better' than going? Clearly not, but counting stats like that downgrade that sort of value. Same thing is happening here; a 3 and out is only considered (at best) 3 unsuccessful plays, but for a defense that's as good as it can get short of forcing a turnover. Why would that be punished?

179 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Put it this way: success rate rewards the ability to put teams in 3rd-and-long more than it does stopping them in 3rd-and-short.

I mentioned the Titans as point of comparison, since they're the only team whose success rate I have calculated. Through the first 4 weeks, they ran 94 successful plays and 139 unsuccessful ones for an overall success rate of 40.3%. They ranked 6th in Offensive DVOA, though of course DVOA is more inclusive than mere success rate.

I frankly don't care where particular teams are ranked, but there is a non-bad reason to think the Patriots did not have a great defensive game against the Jets. You may disagree with that reason, but it's there. Personally, I haven't watched the game yet and have no opinion.

201 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Put it this way: success rate rewards the ability to put teams in 3rd-and-long more than it does stopping them in 3rd-and-short.

I'm not certain that this is a good quality in a metric, because it favors one defensive philosophy over another. There are two ways to play defense...you can either be super aggressive, with blitzing, chucking the receivers close to the line, playing a lot of man coverage, crowding the box, etc., which tends to create negative offensive plays with greater frequency, change short gains into zero gains, but increases the chance of giving up big chunks of yardage.

Or you can lay back, play more zone defense, limit your blitzing, play a cover-2, and focus on tackling well and keeping short gains as short gains, and force the opposing offense to execute correctly over and over again as they move down the field. This will tend to give up a lot of short plays, but limit the chances of big plays.

In your example, the former approach will tend to put teams in 3rd and long, but increase the chance of converting it, while the latter approach will tend to yield a lot of 3rd and shorts, but counts on the fact that eventaully the other team will screw up converting one of the many 3rd and shorts and you'll end the drive.

Success rate (and defensive DVOA) will obviously favor the former approach when evaluating a defense. I'm just not sure, objectively, that an evaluation system SHOULD favor the former approach, since you're just as screwed when Calvin Johnson or Wes Welker catches an 80-yard TD pass as you would have been if you had given up ten 8-yard plays.

I'm suggesting that this could be part of the reason why defensive DVOA doesn't correlate as well to wins as offensive DVOA.

202 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Another thought...success rate might be a BETTER way of evaluating a defense than looking at total success points, because what matters to a defense is not how much yardage they give up on a given play so much as can they be successful three times in a row. Which is directly tied to success probability on a given play.

For example, I think in a lot of situations it's better to give up 10 or 11 yards on 1st down than it is to give up 9, especially in the red zone. Because 9 yards gives the other team an extra two chances to hurt you. Success points obviously reward the offense more for the 11 yard gain, but the defense would just as soon get a fresh set of downs to try to stop the offense.

183 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Not all three-and-outs are created equal. A defense can give up a 5 yard run, a 4 yard run and then an incomplete pass. That is clearly not as successful as a defense forcing two 1 yard runs and an incomplete pass. The second defense did a better job.

190 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Sure. But we're not comparing all 3 and outs; we're comparing (for example) a 3 and out with two successful plays (5,4 yards then a stop) to a 10-play drive with a lot of negative plays (incomplete, incomplete, 10 yards, repeat). The latter I believe would look 'better' to DVOA as far as a defense is concerned even though the former is far more important to a game's actual outcome.

And this somewhat makes sense, too. The former shows the 3rd down luck; a 3rd and 1 is very often converted, so not doing it is highly unlikely and not repeatable. Stopping people over and over again on 1st and 2nd only to fail on long 3rd downs over and over again is also lucky, and should regress to the mean. So from a purely predictive standpoint one is much better than another at predicting future outcomes.

But at the same time, I suspect we could find ways in which a defense had more non-successes (such as a 3 and out) where that drive was actually less valuable than a long drive with repeated success on long 3rd down plays. And that's clearly wrong; when a drive fails on all three tries that should be worth significantly more than a drive where it fails only on first and second down, both on predictive and actual value.

40 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Knocking Singletary only makes sense if you think the talent they had last year really underachieved. I'd say they're getting unsustainable play from Alex Smith, in addition to improved offensive line play (should be expected with more experience from the 1st rounders). Heck, the biggest difference in their improved special teams play is kickoff coverage. That might have something to do with the new rules (Akers is getting touchbacks at 5 times the rate Nedney did in 2010). Their defense was actually solid last year, so the additions (Rogers, Smith) might be making them even better. Harbaugh is definitely a better coach than Singletary, but I don't think one guy was horrific or the other guy is re-inventing the wheel.

47 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Knocking Singletary also makes sense if you think he made bad coaching decisions regardless of whether the team was underachieving or not. And there's more to coaching than simply the question of whether a team is underachieving or not. Harbaugh has the same players Singletary had, but they are playing better as a team not because they underachieved last year, but because they've learned how to play better this year. Alex Smith, in particular, is somebody very likely to profit from Harbaugh's influence. That doesn't mean he underachieved last year, but that he's improved.

84 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I don't think you're analyzing things that well. Alex Smith has not been asked to do much this year. Sunday was his best game, and he had 19 attempts. For most of this year, the o-line has stunk.

44 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

My eyes don't deceive me: Philly played much, much better on defense this week (especially in the second half) - with opponent adjustments they jump from solidly 32nd, dead last in the league last week, to 26th this week.

The lessons: Rolle should have been the LB starter from week 1. Chaney deserves his job as starting MLB and gets better every game. Parker (game-losing penalty aside) should be the starter, not Babin. (Sorry, his sacks don't come anywhere close to making up for his abysmal run defense. Put him in on 3rd and long and forget about it.)

Philly's defense is headed in the right direction - I think more than any team in the league, they were hurt by the lockout. They really needed the off-season to put the pieces in place and get their shitty, shitty d coordinator time to figure things out.

Too bad everything has gone wrong for them in ridiculous ways every game and they couldn't even be treading water at 2-3. 1-4 is just too big of a hole. I think they'll end 9-7 or 8-8 and be the team no one wants to play in the second half of the year...

(Also, if Buffalo and SF are the best the league has to offer, there are no good teams this year. Both of them barely slipped by the worst Philly team in over a decade...)

185 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

It also appeared to me that in the second half, the Eagles tightened their defense line, and as a result they stopped the run better. I wonder if this indeed happened, will it continue for the rest of the year?

214 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Yeah, you can't see from the t.v. angles, but they appear to have abandoned the 9 gap and just let PAtterson and Parker do what they do. If they go COle, Patterson, Jenkins, Parker for the rest of the year and forget the 9 gap, their defense will be fine. Seriously, the rest of NFC East should be praying that Babin (the NFl sack leader) continues to be the Eagles' starter...

43 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

But DVOA is telling us that Detroit is not playing like an undefeated team right now,

I'm not sure about that. They do seem to be undefeated after all. You'd have been better off using a different adjective, like "dominant."

and the Vikings are better than their 1-4 record,

Bill Parcells would disagree. "You are what you are." But you might get me to believe that they are better than a typical 1-4 team.

and those broad differences between conventional wisdom and DVOA are much more important than the small difference between 11th place and 13th place.

This reads like Step 2 of the Underpants Gnomes Business Plan. You start with some reasonable statements, and you have a logical goal you want to reach, but the middle part is a bit shaky.

Face it, guys, your system still has glitches in it.

48 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Your last statement would seem to imply that there exists some people at FO who think it possible that a glitch-free system could be created. I doubt this is the case.

58 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

And semantically speaking, his correction to Aaron's second sentence essentially says the exact same thing as the original (because, derp, "than" denotes simile in either sentence). Likewise, the first change is irrelevant because it implies similarity between the ability of an undefeated and a dominant team, not necessarily restricting a relationship between the two, which both sentences are doing.

He just picks because he is "better at math than 99% of the people that read Football Outsiders," and is doing his best 13-year-old attempt at trolling. Just sort of ignore him. He is mostly nonsense.

81 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

No, "better than their 1-4 record" does not mean "better than a typical 1-4 team."

The former implies that they really should be in a different category (i.e. with more wins) while the latter implies that they are in the correct category, but are better than most teams in that category.

At least, that's how I think of the difference.

"Better than *** record" is a typical cliche that implies a team should have more wins than it does.

This may seem like semantics to you, but the difference makes sense to me.

82 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I find it humorous you are arguing the semantics of better/worse than a record, while actually using the word "glitch" incorrectly.

88 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I'm fairly sure I'm using the word "glitch" correctly.

I was trying to explain my usage of language. So far nobody has addressed the main thrust of my argument. Instead of actually addressing my criticism of Aaron, I see people instinctively rallying to his defense by misconstruing what I say, inventing straw men, and your little snide comment about language.

So laugh it up. You are performing the intellectual equivalent of dotting an 'i'. I hope that made your day.

120 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

A glitch would mean there is something done incorrectly causing the system to produce erroneous results. Not a systemic flaw causing a system which is working correctly to produce results that aren't what you want them to be.

146 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

So you think the people at FO have inputted something incorrectly or the computer is calculating incorrectly?

It certainly sounded like you thought the system of how DVOA works is wrong to me.

160 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

When you work in mathematical modeling, the model itself is where the glitches are.

That is not "incorrect usage" of the word "glitch". It's fairly common.

I'm sorry if that usage doesn't agree with your understanding of the word, but, quite frankly, you're still not adding much to the conversation.

163 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

In post 81 (your post), you said: "The former implies that they really should be in a different category (i.e. with more wins) while the latter implies that they are in the correct category, but are better than most teams in that category.

At least, that's how I think of the difference."

That second part is what matters. You are supposing that everybody is using your language, and that everybody must use your language, but you cannot accept when other people who know language as well as or better than you are not using your language. What "[you] think" and how people use the word colloquially to you does not make it wrong.

So, back to the original point: what Aaron said initially is correct, as stated, as his usage was "not incorrect usage;" the fact that you had to continue to beat a language point seriously diminishes your other points.

The conversation is not really about the data at this point, either way. It is about defining meaning in words that people are using, and determining intent. You feel you know their intent, but nobody knows your intent, so you must be right. That is well and good when you are speaking to, and only to, your children (if you have any). Otherwise, as somebody else said, you just look like a jerk without a point.

Pro tip: calm down.

148 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

You have previously claimed to be "a scientist" and also to be "better at math than 99% of the people on this site." So surely you must be familiar with the concept of sampling variation and hence of the difficulty of interpretation on a small sample. It may be stretching it to ask you to be familiar with clustering, as I was not aware of this when I was in physics, but it may be useful to understand this also as it is relevant here.

162 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

This isn't a question of sampling variation. The issue at hand is not whether, in reality, Detroit is a much, much better team than Minnesota or not. The issue is what the most reasonable interpretation should be of the data we actually have.

Nor is this a question of clustering. DVOA isn't a clustering algorithm.

227 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

But where is the interpretation? DVOA spat back two values. You are upset because the result of the calculation of the means shows that Minnesota has a slightly higher mean assessment where the observations occur at the per-play level, based on the data we have and the algorithm we have. Your claim is that this result implies that the algorithm is faulty, but the variances are very large. In other words, the result returned by DVOA is NOT inconsistent with the idea that Detroit is a much better team than Minnesota. You couldn't conclude that with confidence from the result. The point I'm trying to make is that the most reasonable interpretation of the data we actually have is: too soon to call.

And what does being a clustering algorithm or not have to do with anything? The point is that the outcomes of the plays are not independent of each other. That means that you have less data than you'd think, and that therefore sampling variation is a bigger problem.

The thing is, if you don't agree with me that sampling variation is a relevant concern, we're just not going to see eye to eye. To my mind the most damning flaw of DVOA is that (even with a whole season of data) it often cannot separate 1st from 2nd from 3rd in any kind of very meaningful way--the samples are STILL too small. For individual players, the scores are furthermore context dependent, so that statements regarding the specific quality of players and teams just get watered down to broad categories--and mostly, those are things you could've figured out without doing statistical analysis.

222 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

DVOA is an attempt to understand the true talent level of teams in a predictive sense. It is impossible to argue that Detroit has had better final results than Minnesota for the first 5 games of the season. But DVOA isn't ranking teams based on what they have done - its a predictive measure. Minnesota doesn't fit the profile of a typical 1-4 team, nor does Detroit fit the profile of a typical 5-0 team.

Taking a deeper look at the data, Detroit's offense and special teams are what drag its overall ranking down. Personally, I feel that Detroit has a better offense than what DVOA credits, but DVOA sees what I can only assume to be an average number of successful plays. Looking at the data further, Detroit's rushing offense is 30th in the league, whereas Minnesota has the best rushing offense. However, Jahvid Best has actually been relatively successful as a runner. It is Jerome Harrison and Keiland Williams, who have combined for -38 DYAR on 33 carries. What DVOA doesn't know is that Detroit's offense at its best is far better then what it is given credit for, and that in high leverage situations Detroit's offense ought to perform far better (at least in the running game) then expected, simply by virtue of having the best personnel on the field.

225 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Where's the ad hominem? The statements in quotations were his own words. If there is any respect in which I am being snide here, it's because he cites his scientific training, but I don't recall getting a response to my previous question about what type of scientist he is (relevant because it turns out that "math" is not one big thing, and different fields of science, perhaps surprisingly, use different mathematical tools).

You're free to feel that I didn't address his argument, but as can be seen above, he was able to identify my argument and respond to that, so evidently we've agreed that there is something there to discuss.

85 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

I was chiding Aaron for defending the anomalies of this week's DVOA ratings. His defense consisted far more of "no, really, the ratings are correct!" than of "well, let's see what our statistics are telling us now." To be blunt: I don't think Minnesota is appreciably better than their 1-4 record and it's a bit silly to trust their statistics on this issue.
Whether Aaron "thinks that a glitch-free system could be created" is only the issue to the extent that he tries to gloss over flaws as being unimportant. He's imposing his own bias on the analysis when he says "no, trust me, the Lions have not played significantly better than the Vikings."
He can either admit the result is fishy or fall back on the impossibility of creating a perfect system. When he stands by the rankings, it hardly seems fair for you to bail him out by saying "everybody knows that no perfect system is possible" when that's exactly the opposite of what Aaron is doing!

97 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Of course he is defending HIS system. Why else would it exist? He created it, therefore he has a reasonable interest in it being correct. That is not that say he says the system is infallible; in fact, all of the writers here know the system is a non-perfect system, but they still, within reason, support that it is correct.

You are splitting hairs of language that need not be split, yet you say that Aaron is doing just that as well. You cannot infer his intent through simple text. But here is my intent: you are quite ridiculous with your demands that he create a system based on what you think. You should create that system and go post on RickDOutsiders.com and let us know how great that works out.

In the interest of civil discussion, they are constantly reshaping the system to match the public perception of what is correct and incorrect; however, that is done in the offseason. For now, you get analysis such as "Detroit is not playing like an undefeated team" and "Minnesota is playing better than a 1-4 team." Those sentences essentially say -- to everybody who knows any English except for you, and anybody who knows the purpose and context of this site -- "Detroit is overplaying their ability based on this non-perfect system" and "Minnesota is underplaying their ability based on this non-perfect system."

131 Re: Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Aaron was presented with a situation where a 1-4 team was rated 11th in his system while a 5-0 team was rated 13th. Rather than simply say something to the effect that this was an unexpected result that would cause him to question his system, he made the argument that there really wasn't much of a difference in what the two teams had accomplished so far.

I disagreed with the latter implication. I think it's quite clear to casual observers that the Lions have played much better so far than the Vikings have. If the Vikings are doing something that is increasing their DVOA score without helping the team win games, then that is something Aaron should investigate, rather than simply continuing to defend DVOA.

I watched Detroit dismantle the Bears last night. They're playing like an undefeated team.

If you think "I am being ridiculous" to ask Aaron to provide a better justification for ranking Detroit behind Minnesota, there's not much I can say. I am not asking Aaron to "create a system based on what (I) think." I'm asking for his system to live up to the billing of doing what he says it does.

But rather than getting so meta- about things, I would prefer it if somebody, somewhere, would put a better effort into explaining why Minnesota should be ranked ahead of Detroit. That would be far more interesting to me than another comment that consists largely of personal attacks.