Final 2013 DVOA Ratings

Final 2013 DVOA Ratings
Final 2013 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

The Seattle Seahawks finished up the regular season with one more strong win over division rival St. Louis, cementing their spot on top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. You may remember that the Seahawks, despite failing to win their division, ended up 2012 as the No. 1 team in DVOA as well. That makes Seattle the first team since the 1996-1997 Green Bay Packers to finish first in DVOA two years in a row. Even more remarkably, Seattle and Denver finished 1-2 in DVOA for the second straight season. This is the first time since 1999 (St. Louis and Jacksonville) that the top two teams in DVOA are also the No. 1 seeds in each conference, and it is the first time in the history of DVOA (going back to 1989) that the same two teams have finished the season 1-2 in two straight years.

Continuing the theme of year-to-year consistency, last year's teams that finished third and fourth, New England and San Francisco, ended 2013 finishing fifth and sixth. In between them were the climbing teams of the NFC South, Carolina and New Orleans, who benefit in the DVOA ratings from tough schedules. The four NFC South teams end the year ranked first, second, fourth, and sixth in schedule strength.

The team nobody wants to play in the postseason is probably Philadelphia, which ranks eighth in total DVOA but ends the year third in weighted DVOA trailing only the Seahawks and Broncos. The Colts, on the other hand, end up 13th in total DVOA but 21st in weighted DVOA.

This week's win over St. Louis put the Seahawks back over the 40% mark, making them only the sixth team to finish the season with total DVOA over 40%. (Let's assume for the moment that retroactive stat corrections won't drop Seattle below that mark.) The Seahawks also go into the playoffs with 43.7% weighted DVOA, the fourth highest figure since 1989. The 2010 Patriots and 1991 Redskins are the only teams to ever enter the postseason with a weighted DVOA over 50%. The third team that entered the playoffs with a higher weighted DVOA than this year's Seahawks was... last year's Seahawks, at 47.1%. So such a high weighted DVOA is certainly not a guarantee that the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl, especially given the way that lower-rated teams have gotten hot and gone on surprising Super Bowl runs in recent years.

(Of course, it could be that there is nothing special about this recent history, just a case of being fooled by randomness; I wrote about this last year after Baltimore won the Super Bowl.)

Seattle is the first team since 2000 to lead the league in defensive DVOA and win a No. 1 playoff seed. (Thanks for reader Kenneth Arthur for pointing this out on Twitter.) The other teams that did so: 1994 Pittsburgh, 1996 Green Bay, 1997 San Francisco, and 2000 Tennessee. On Twitter, I also listed the 2002 Buccanneers, but that team actually lost the tiebreaker to Philadelphia and was a No. 2 seed. It is much more common for the team that leads the league in offensive DVOA to win a No. 1 playoff seed. Teams that have done this in just the last few years include the 2011 Packers, the 2010 Patriots, the 2007 Patriots, and the 2005 Seahawks.

The Seahawks defense surged a bit in the final three games of the season, and the Broncos offense did the same in its final two games, so both units end up among the DVOA all-time top ten.

Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA
1991 WAS 56.9% x 2007 NE 43.5% x 1991 PHI -42.4%
2007 NE 52.9% x 2010 NE 42.2% x 2002 TB -31.8%
2010 NE 44.6% x 2002 KC 35.4% x 2008 PIT -29.0%
1996 GB 42.0% x 1998 DEN 34.5% x 2004 BUF -28.5%
2013 SEA 40.1% x 2011 GB 33.8% x 2008 BAL -27.8%
1995 SF 40.0% x 2013 DEN 33.7% x 2012 CHI -26.7%
2012 SEA 38.7% x 2003 KC 33.4% x 2013 SEA -25.8%
2004 PIT 37.6% x 1992 SF 33.1% x 2009 NYJ -25.5%
2012 DEN 36.5% x 2011 NO 33.0% x 2000 TEN -25.0%
1989 SF 36.0% x 2011 NE 31.9% x 2003 BAL -25.0%
2010 PIT 35.4% x 2004 IND 31.8% x 1991 NO -24.5%
1992 DAL 35.1% x 2004 KC 31.6% x 2000 BAL -23.8%

Most top offenses and defenses are based on passing and stopping the pass, so Denver and Seattle's rankings among the all-time best pass offenses and pass defenses, respectively, are about the same as their rankings in best total offense and total defense.

One last remarkable Seattle fact: The Seahawks are the first team since the 2004-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers to rank in the top ten for all three units in consecutive seasons. Only two other teams have accomplished this feat: the 1990-1991 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1996-1997 Green Bay Packers.

Now let's turn things around and look at the worst DVOA ratings ever. As I've noted in recent weeks, Jacksonville's late-season improvement kept the Jaguars from ranking among the all-time worst teams by total DVOA or offensive DVOA. San Diego, this year's worst defense, doesn't end up in the all-time worst ten either, although there's a little bit of an asterisk because the DVOA opponent adjustments don't know the Chargers were playing the Kansas City backups yesterday.

As for the Washington special teams, they ended the season with a couple of mediocre special teams games, and thus ended up nowhere close to breaking the 2000 Buffalo Bills' record for the worst special teams DVOA ever. Given the gap between the Bills and every other special teams since 1989, their record seems nigh-insurmountable. Still, Washington did end up as the second worst special teams unit we've ever tracked. This is going to be a really easy way for the new head coach, whoever it is, to quickly improve Washington's overall performance next season.

Year Team DVOA
2000 BUF -15.4%
2013 WAS -12.0%
1997 SEA -11.1%
2010 SD -10.2%
2002 CIN -9.4%
1998 OAK -9.3%
1997 CHI -9.2%
1992 TB -9.2%
2004 STL -9.0%
1993 MIN -8.4%
1989 CIN -7.9%
1995 PHI -7.9%

The other place where we saw historic impotence in 2013 was in the ground game. Although they can't quite reach the depths of the 1991 Indianapolis Colts, the Jaguars and Ravens both rank among the five worst running games since 1989 according to DVOA. The Ravens gained just 3.1 yards per carry, while the Jaguars matched the 1991 Colts at 3.3 yards per carry, but the Jaguars and Ravens come out a little bit higher because they were better situationally and played slightly harder schedules. By the way, the Jaguars and Ravens are really, really tied here, separated in run offense by 0.065% DVOA.

Year Team DVOA
1991 IND -30.2%
2005 ARI -29.1%
2002 HOU -27.4%
2013 JAC -27.2%
2013 BAL -27.2%
1995 ARI -25.1%
1991 PHI -23.0%
1998 NO -22.9%
2006 DET -22.9%
2000 ATL -22.8%
2000 SD -22.5%
2000 CAR -22.2%

The Ravens also finish with 3.01 Adjusted Line Yards per carry, the second-lowest figure since our line stats begin in 1995. Only the 2012 Cardinals were lower (2.93 ALY). The Jaguars, at 3.13 ALY, are fourth worst all-time.

There's one team that's suspiciously missing from an accounting of the worst DVOA ratings in history, and that's the Chicago Bears. The Bears allowed 5.35 yards per carry this season, the worst figure since the AFL-NFL merger. In reality, things were actually worse; if you take out kneeldowns and aborted snaps, the Bears allowed 5.51 yards per carry. So assuredly they must be one of the worst run defenses in history according to DVOA, right? Actually, the Bears are nowhere close. Although Chicago scores as the worst run defense of 2013, they wouldn't even rank in the bottom 40 of all-time in run defense DVOA. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Long Runs: Although the Chicago defensive line was a problem against the run, the linebackers and secondary were an even bigger problem. Chicago finished dead last in both Second-Level Yards allowed per carry and Open-Field Yards allowed per carry, but ranked a reasonable 14th when it came to stuffing opposing running backs at the line for a loss or no gain.
  • Goal Line: Chicago improved to 17th in run defense DVOA within five yards of the end zone.
  • Fumbles: Chicago forced ten fumbles on running plays. Only Philadelphia (11) forced more.
  • Context: The league averaged 4.16 yards per carry in 2013. Although that's down from the past five seasons, it's still higher than most of NFL history, when the leaguewide rushing average generally hovered around 4.00 yards per carry.
  • Schedule: The Bears played an average schedule of opposing runners, not a hard one, but many of the teams with the worst run offense DVOA ratings in history played easy schedules and have strong opponent adjustments.

* * * * *

[ad placeholder 3]

The Football Outsiders playoff odds report is updated with Super Bowl odds for all 12 playoff teams. Two notes about the odds for the 2013 postseason:

  • When we ran the simulation, we accounted for the return of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay's DVOA rating. Instead of using weighted offensive DVOA, we used offensive DVOA only for the games where Aaron Rodgers played the majority of snaps. (We're not sure if it fully accounts for the aftereffects of Rodgers' injury, but that includes Week 17, when the Packers only had -6.6% offensive DVOA.) Adding 24.2% offensive DVOA to Green Bay's weighted defense and special teams moves the overall rating we used in the simulation from -13.6% to 10.0%. Rodgers is really important, although that still makes Green Bay the lowest-rated team of the six NFC contenders. The odds don't account for other injuries, such as Von Miller or Rob Gronkowski; quarterback is the easiest position to quantify, and Rodgers is clearly one of the two or three most valuable players in the game.
  • Up until last week, the playoff odds gave home teams an additional 15 percent chance of winning in the Divisional Round because of the historical importance of the bye week. As you may know, home teams have not been as successful since we first created the equations for the playoff odds simulation. For now, we've lowered this "bye week bonus" to 10 percent, and in the offseason we'll research whether it should be lower or perhaps disappear entirely.

I'll save the discussion of which players had the best and worst seasons -- including where Peyton Manning's record-setting season sits among all quarterback seasons in both DVOA and DYAR -- for Vince Verhei in tomorrow's Quick Reads Year in Review.

* * * * *

During the 2013 season, we'll be partnering with EA Sports to bring special Football Outsiders-branded items to Madden 25 Ultimate Team. Each week, we'll be picking out a handful of players who starred in that week's games. Some of them will be well-known players who stood out in standard stats. Others will be under-the-radar players who only stood out with advanced stats, including DYAR, Defeats, and our game charting coverage stats for cornerbacks. We'll announce the players each Tuesday in the DVOA commentary article, and the players will be available in Madden Ultimate Team packs the following weekend, beginning Friday night.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 17 are:

  • Sheldon Richardson, FB, NYJ (Limited Edition): That's right, a special fullback edition of Sheldon Richardson! He's the new Fridge!
  • Montee Ball, RB, DEN: Third among Week 17 RB with 47 DYAR (10 carries, 72 yards; three receptions, 22 receiving yards)
  • Adrian Clayborn, DE, TB: Sack, QB hit, and 4 run TFL
  • Jerrel Jernigan, WR, NYG: Top Week 17 WR with 82 DYAR (6-of-7 receptions, 90 yards and a touchdown; two carries for 57 yards and a touchdown)
  • Sealver Siliga, DT, NE: 9 tackles or assists, all Stops

* * * * *

All 2013 individual and team stat pages are now updated or will be updated in the next few minutes, including the FO Premium database. The exception are drive stats and snap counts, which should be updated by tomorrow.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through the entire 2013 regular season, 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.)

[ad placeholder 4]

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. LAST WEEK represents rank after Week 16, while LAST YEAR represents rank in 2012.

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 SEA 40.1% 1 1 13-3 43.7% 1 9.4% 7 -25.8% 1 4.8% 5
2 DEN 32.8% 2 2 13-3 27.3% 2 33.7% 1 -0.2% 15 -1.1% 21
3 CAR 24.9% 3 13 12-4 24.9% 4 8.1% 10 -15.7% 3 1.0% 13
4 NO 19.3% 7 19 11-5 19.8% 7 15.9% 5 -5.9% 10 -2.5% 24
5 NE 19.0% 4 3 12-4 24.6% 5 16.4% 4 4.1% 21 6.7% 2
6 SF 17.4% 5 4 12-4 21.4% 6 9.1% 8 -4.6% 13 3.7% 7
7 KC 17.4% 6 32 11-5 17.4% 9 2.8% 15 -6.7% 9 7.8% 1
8 PHI 15.1% 8 28 10-6 25.5% 3 22.9% 2 5.0% 23 -2.8% 25
9 CIN 14.5% 9 12 11-5 18.0% 8 0.5% 17 -12.7% 5 1.3% 12
10 ARI 9.8% 10 26 10-6 14.7% 11 -2.6% 20 -16.4% 2 -4.0% 27
11 CHI 7.2% 12 6 8-8 0.5% 14 13.8% 6 8.6% 25 2.1% 11
12 SD 5.8% 13 22 9-7 13.8% 12 22.5% 3 17.5% 32 0.8% 15
13 IND 3.4% 11 25 11-5 -6.0% 21 4.2% 13 0.8% 16 -0.1% 17
14 STL 1.9% 14 15 7-9 14.8% 10 -9.6% 22 -5.2% 12 6.3% 4
15 PIT 0.9% 15 18 8-8 6.7% 13 4.4% 12 4.0% 20 0.6% 16
16 DET -1.8% 16 16 7-9 -2.0% 15 -1.9% 19 -0.5% 14 -0.5% 20
17 DAL -2.8% 18 17 8-8 -12.4% 25 7.5% 11 13.8% 30 3.5% 8
18 BUF -3.2% 20 23 6-10 -4.2% 17 -11.4% 25 -13.9% 4 -5.6% 30
19 TB -4.9% 17 20 4-12 -5.7% 20 -10.5% 24 -7.0% 8 -1.5% 22
20 TEN -5.9% 22 30 7-9 -3.8% 16 1.3% 16 4.0% 19 -3.2% 26
21 GB -6.2% 21 5 8-7-1 -13.6% 26 8.6% 9 14.4% 31 -0.4% 19
22 BAL -6.3% 23 8 8-8 -4.2% 18 -21.3% 30 -8.7% 7 6.4% 3
23 MIA -6.4% 19 21 8-8 -4.7% 19 -1.8% 18 2.3% 17 -2.3% 23
24 NYJ -7.4% 24 27 8-8 -8.8% 23 -15.2% 27 -5.7% 11 2.1% 10
25 ATL -10.4% 25 10 4-12 -15.1% 27 3.2% 14 13.5% 29 -0.1% 18
26 MIN -11.2% 26 14 5-10-1 -9.5% 24 -4.7% 21 10.4% 27 3.9% 6
27 NYG -15.8% 27 7 7-9 -7.4% 22 -22.2% 31 -11.5% 6 -5.0% 28
28 CLE -21.6% 28 24 4-12 -25.1% 29 -14.4% 26 8.2% 24 1.0% 14
29 WAS -26.3% 29 9 3-13 -26.3% 30 -10.0% 23 4.3% 22 -12.0% 32
30 HOU -26.9% 30 11 2-14 -32.2% 31 -18.9% 29 2.9% 18 -5.1% 29
31 OAK -34.2% 31 29 4-12 -36.9% 32 -16.8% 28 10.3% 26 -7.1% 31
32 JAC -38.2% 32 31 4-12 -22.5% 28 -29.8% 32 11.0% 28 2.6% 9
  • 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.
  • 2013 SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative).
  • PYTHAGOREAN WINS represent a projection of the team's expected wins based solely on points scored and allowed.
  • 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).
RANK 2013
1 SEA 40.1% 13-3 40.3% 13.0 2 -0.5% 17 12.8 1 12.4% 19
2 DEN 32.8% 13-3 41.1% 14.1 1 -6.7% 31 11.7 2 7.3% 8
3 CAR 24.9% 12-4 21.8% 11.0 4 3.3% 6 11.7 3 9.4% 11
4 NO 19.3% 11-5 16.0% 10.0 9 5.9% 4 10.8 7 14.7% 25
5 NE 19.0% 12-4 18.0% 11.0 3 -0.7% 18 10.5 8 4.6% 1
6 SF 17.4% 12-4 13.0% 10.6 5 2.0% 9 11.5 4 11.5% 18
7 KC 17.4% 11-5 21.3% 10.0 10 -7.1% 32 11.1 6 14.1% 23
8 PHI 15.1% 10-6 16.3% 10.2 8 -4.7% 29 9.4 11 30.1% 32
9 CIN 14.5% 11-5 20.8% 10.2 7 -3.4% 25 11.1 5 13.4% 21
10 ARI 9.8% 10-6 4.3% 10.3 6 5.8% 5 9.5 9 6.6% 5
11 CHI 7.2% 8-8 6.3% 9.3 12 -3.7% 28 7.3 20 16.5% 27
12 SD 5.8% 9-7 5.4% 8.7 13 -3.6% 26 9.2 12 6.8% 7
13 IND 3.4% 11-5 7.6% 9.5 11 -2.7% 23 9.4 10 19.0% 29
14 STL 1.9% 7-9 -1.3% 7.7 16 6.3% 3 7.6 17 23.5% 31
15 PIT 0.9% 8-8 4.3% 8.3 14 -4.8% 30 8.2 14 6.6% 6
16 DET -1.8% 7-9 2.0% 7.7 17 -3.6% 27 8.5 13 10.9% 16
RANK 2013
17 DAL -2.8% 8-8 -0.9% 8.2 15 -1.4% 21 8.2 15 10.5% 15
18 BUF -3.2% 6-10 -0.5% 7.1 20 0.4% 15 6.7 22 14.6% 24
19 TB -4.9% 4-12 -13.9% 6.3 26 9.5% 1 5.3 28 9.4% 12
20 TEN -5.9% 7-9 -2.8% 6.6 23 -2.4% 22 7.5 18 6.1% 4
21 GB -6.2% 8-7-1 -0.7% 7.3 19 -2.9% 24 7.8 16 18.8% 28
22 BAL -6.3% 8-8 -6.6% 6.9 21 -1.0% 20 7.1 21 5.9% 2
23 MIA -6.4% 8-8 -6.4% 6.9 22 2.7% 8 7.5 19 11.4% 17
24 NYJ -7.4% 8-8 -8.0% 7.5 18 -0.3% 16 5.4 27 21.2% 30
25 ATL -10.4% 4-12 -15.5% 6.5 25 7.3% 2 5.9 24 6.1% 3
26 MIN -11.2% 5-10-1 -11.2% 6.5 24 1.3% 11 6.1 23 9.7% 13
27 NYG -15.8% 7-9 -20.5% 5.5 27 2.9% 7 5.6 25 13.9% 22
28 CLE -21.6% 4-12 -17.4% 4.4 28 -0.8% 19 5.5 26 9.9% 14
29 WAS -26.3% 3-13 -29.6% 4.2 29 0.6% 12 4.8 30 9.2% 10
30 HOU -26.9% 2-14 -26.7% 3.8 30 1.4% 10 4.2 31 15.2% 26
31 OAK -34.2% 4-12 -35.9% 2.1 32 0.5% 13 4.9 29 8.3% 9
32 JAC -38.2% 4-12 -37.5% 3.2 31 0.5% 14 3.1 32 13.3% 20


227 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2014, 11:21am

#1 by JIPanick // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:26pm

"Rodgers is clearly one of the two or three most valuable players in the game."

Hyperbolic badly-grounded praise of whoever you are talking about at the moment is something I come here to avoid; it's an incredibly annoying habit that is a stable of network commentary guys.

Please don't do it.

Points: 0

#9 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:39pm

Is it hyperbolic? I think most people would say most valuable position is easily qb and rodgers is more or less thought of as either the outright best or fighting with one or two others.

Points: 0

#14 by JIPanick // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:46pm

"Clearly" implies that there are no more than two other players who can even reasonably be argued to be better than Rodgers.

In a league with Manning, Brady, Brees, and Rivers (at absolute minimum) in it, that's nonsense.

If he'd said "possibly" or even "probably" I wouldn't really care.

Points: 0

#16 by Jerry F. (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:53pm

Hyperbole can admittedly be annoying, but so can pedantry.

Points: 0

#20 by JIPanick // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:01pm

Precision in communication is important. If you don't mean what you are saying, why say it?

Points: 0

#24 by Jerry F. (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:20pm

1) I really think he means it. It is clear to him that Rodgers is one of the two or three most valuable players.

2) No matter how hard you try, communication is always given to imperfection. It's up to the listener to back off a bit when the result of that imprecision is of such incredibly low stakes or we'll always be arguing about everything.

Points: 0

#52 by JIPanick // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:52pm

I'd also have had no problem with it if he'd said "in my opinion, Rodgers is clearly a top two or three quarterback".

However, he stated it as a fact, not an opinion.

Points: 0

#57 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 30, 2013 - 7:04pm

A top 3 quarterback is a top 3 most valuable player in the NFL.

Points: 0

#211 by CM (not verified) // Jan 01, 2014 - 11:11pm

Writing "in my opinion" is frowned upon by English teachers and critics in every context. It's a redundancy: a declarative statement of that nature is obviously the opinion of the writer. That said, I do generally agree with your initial statement.

Points: 0

#227 by benbu75 // Jan 17, 2014 - 11:21am

I think you have to assume a modicum of subjectivity in any analysis, so anything not solely based on math (and perhaps even some of that) could - and should - be considered opinion.

Points: 0

#109 by rfh1001 // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:53am

'It's up to the listener to back off a bit when the result of that imprecision is of such incredibly low stakes or we'll always be arguing about everything.'

I came for the analysis; I stayed because you guys say things like this. Literally nice, sensible people, on the internet. It's like a magic trick.

Points: 0

#27 by Anonymous Jones // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:26pm

If you're so interested in precision, how in the world did you include Rivers in your "absolute minimum" list. He's certainly not on most "absolute minimum" lists, and I'm a Charger fan.

I happen to think Rodgers is the best QB I've ever seen, though Brees is my personal favorite and we don't need to go through the whole Irrational Brady-Manning Thread to know how effective those other two have been.

In the end, I have no problem using "clearly" in that context with Rodgers. None at all.

Points: 0

#51 by JIPanick // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:51pm

Let me get this straight. Rodgers is "clearly" better than Rodgers, even though Rivers:
- Finished 10% higher in DVOA.
- Played for a team with a worse run game (by team DVOA).
- Threw to a weaker* receiving corps.
- Played behind a weaker line (by PFF).

*Allen/Royal/Gates/Woodhead/Brown vs Nelson/Jones/Cobb/Boykin/Quarless; I think the Green Bay lineup is stronger but use your own judgement.

I'm not saying that Rivers is better than Rodgers. What I am saying is that as a very reasonable case can be made for the reverse, Rodgers is not "clearly" better than Rivers.

Points: 0

#61 by JMcNally (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 7:45pm

"Let me get this straight. Rodgers is "clearly" better than Rodgers"

Well, there goes your 'precision in communication' argument.

Points: 0

#63 by Duff Soviet Union // Dec 30, 2013 - 7:53pm

And 2011 - 2012, when people were starting to write obituaries for Rivers, means nothing in this discussion?

I've got no idea why you're picking a fight about this. If someone said "Kevin Durant is clearly one of the two or three most valuable players in basketball", I and everybody else wouldn't bat an eyelid because, duh.

There's been a clear QB pecking order for about 4 years now. Rodgers, Peyton, Brees and Brady in no particular order. However, people are obsessed with the idea of "Top 5!!!!111!" so you always end up with someone else (Romo! Rivers! Eli! Flacco! Ryan! Stafford!) being shoehorned in there to varying degrees of absurdity (Rivers for instance did belong in this group in 2007-10) and that's when people become annoyed and start rolling their eyes.

But yeah, as Will Allen pointed out, if any GM had to start a team from scratch tomorrow, Rodgers would likely be the first choice and would definitely be one of the top 3.

Points: 0

#65 by Burbman (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 8:03pm

Pretty sure Rodgers is equal to Rodgers. Not greater than or less than.

Points: 0

#74 by RickD // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:11pm

Rodgers is clearly less than Rodgers. Except on a good day, when he is clearly greater than Rodgers.

Points: 0

#76 by Hurt Bones // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:20pm

It takes a greater me than me to accept that statement that a lesser me wouldn't deign to consider.

Points: 0

#177 by Touche (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:17pm

I couldn't agree more - so what does "...habit that is a stable of network commentary guys" mean exactly? Stables are for keeping livestock, usually horses.

Points: 0

#46 by steveNC (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:32pm

On the other hand, the first adverb in their bombastic complaint form letter (boldfaced above) is "clearly"; that should be a clue about the tone a reader might infer from such a word. For an "intelligent analysis" site that spends a lot of time quantifying things including uncertainty, it might be best to stay away from words/phrases like "clearly", "obviously", "without a doubt", etc.

Points: 0

#98 by Jerry F. (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 11:46pm

Sure, but one can also just lighten up. There's the manipulative use of "clearly," as in "Clearly, the second amendment means..." and then there's a much more colloquial, lower stakes version that Aaron employed. The site is stats based; its central arguments are stats based; that doesn't mean every individual sentence a writer tosses off has to be rigorously supported. It's not an academic journal. I can see coming down here to dispute that Rodgers is in the top two or three, but there's no need to get on a high-horse about an adverb.

Points: 0

#115 by steveNC (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 7:22am

Looks like we see this differently; what one may call "colloquial" another may call "sloppy". Clearly we should agree to disagree.

Points: 0

#26 by justanothersteve // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:26pm

Brady and Manning, yes. Brees, it's arguable. Rivers, no. In a couple years, you may be able to add Wilson, RGIII, Luck, etc. But not yet.

Points: 0

#35 by Bobman // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:55pm

I wonder how much of this brouhaha comes from the initial wording. A few lines above the "most valuable" comment is one that I think is more accurate and I bet we can all agree on: "Rodgers is really important." If Aaron had repeated the word "important" rather than substituting "valuable" in the "easily among the most..." line would we all be in accord?

I think that is supportable and would expand it to include probably every team's best player (usually QB but not always). By that I mean (and what I inferred from the article is) if that guy goes down, a 10-13 win team suddenly becomes a 4-7 win team or worse, and correspondingly a team that limped into the playoffs without that guy is suddenly a big threat to everybody when he returns (not just a much better team, but a team that could reasonably beat anybody else). If you add or subtract that one guy to the playoffs (assuming his faltering team makes it as the last team in) he significantly changes the complexion of the post-season, not just for his team, but for the whole conference.

By conference, I'll start with my QB and say Luck? His team yes, the conference no. If Indy wins it all it will be because of a huge team effort, not just #12 killing the opposition. Rivers... yes to both--SD is dangerous and a threat to beat anyone only because of him. Manning... Brady... Yes. Dalton and Smith, not the whole conference. In the NFC, I'd say that the guys returning last minute from a 4-week injury who would shake the whole conference playoff situation include Brees, Rodgers, and Foles. Guys who might not have as large an impact on the big picture (because of their monstrous defenses and I think a good backup could come in and manage the games okay) include Wilson, Kaepernick, and Newton.

Just my opinion, but by that metric, the most significant guys in the whole NFL postseason are likely to be Rivers, Manning, Brady, Foles, Rodgers, and Brees. Without them, their teams are toast. With them, they are a threat to anybody. Does that make them the six most valuable? Maybe. Six most important? Could be. And if I had to reduce it to three rather than six, Rodgers is as deserving as anybody to keep on the list.

Points: 0

#42 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:12pm

I agree that brady is valuable and equal to the other elites, but this years team is not a passing dependent football team of years past. This years team, in fact, has basically been winning close games with good red zone defense. What we really need to ask is, which team if you replaced the qb with alex smith, would be toast?

I'd say, saints, packers, broncos, chargers would all qualify. Maybe the eagles too. The rest I think would take a step back(or forward), but still be ok.

Points: 0

#54 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:58pm

I was talking strictly playoff teams. But yes, they and the bears would both qualify.

Points: 0

#212 by Pat (filler) (not verified) // Jan 02, 2014 - 12:29am

Precision in communication? Valuable, not better. I don't think you can reasonably argue that Manning/Brady are more valuable than Rodgers. Manning has somewhere between 1-3 years left. Brady's about the same. Rodgers just turned 30. He has about 5-6 years on Brady.

Points: 0

#214 by dryheat // Jan 02, 2014 - 10:12am

That's assuming they cost the same. You can easily make the argument for Brady, if you consider cap number and actual dollars to be part of the value matrix, which you should.

Points: 0

#13 by Jerry F. (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:43pm

Or, Rodgers is great and has earned that high praise. Yes, fawning praise is a staple of network commentators, but it's not annoying when they do it about Rodgers but about any other random non-superstar on camera at the moment.

Points: 0

#34 by rageon // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:53pm


It's not really "hyperbolic badly-grounded praise" when it's actually true, is it? When I hear the Sunday announcers claim that Flacco and Eli (or similar) are elite, top-5 guys, that's hyperbole. Saying that about Rodgers, who by virtually any measurement has been a top-3 QB for a few years now is simply stating the obvious. There has been a very clear "top tier of QBs" for years -- Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Manning. Period.

Would calling Calvin Johnson the best WR in the world be hyperbole? How about saying LeBron James is one of the most valuable players in basketball?

Points: 0

#37 by Eddo // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:57pm

I'd say your LeBron comment is anti-hyperbole. One of the most valuable players in basketball?

But yeah, overall, you're right. I don't get the initial complaint at all.

Points: 0

#75 by RickD // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:15pm

Spot on.

LeBron is one of the top one players in the NBA. A few years ago there was an argument that Kobe should be included in the top tier, but these days it's clear that LeBron is at his peak while Kobe is fading.

Points: 0

#89 by Duff Soviet Union // Dec 30, 2013 - 10:30pm

And even that was an absurd argument. LeBron's been the best player in basketball every year since about 2007. Kobe's never been the best player in basketball.

LeBron is one of three players in my life who have just been head and shoulders above everybody for a multi-year period. The other two are MJ and peak Shaq.

Points: 0

#40 by Bobman // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:02pm

You, sir, are one of the most valuable posters on this site.

Either that, or I just agree with you.

Points: 0

#95 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 11:37pm

By "virtually any measurement?"

I went back 4 years, and the only year Aaron Rodgers has been in the top 3 was 2011. Not 2013, 2012, 2010.

I'd argue over the last 3 years, Manning and Brady have clearly been better, and Brees, Rivers, Ryan and even Romo have all put up similar numbers.

So, no, he hasn't "clearly" been one of the top 3. There's a good argument that he has, but its by no means clear.

Which is exactly the OP's point. This is the exact sort of hyperbolic language that FO should be better than.

Points: 0

#142 by joebarnin // Dec 31, 2013 - 11:52am

> There has been a very clear "top tier of QBs" for years -- Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Manning. Period.

Agreed. That's four quarterbacks. Which one is Rodgers 'clearly' better than?

Points: 0

#45 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:31pm

I'll venture that if the 32 GMs were told that the league's players were going to redrafted for one year, and any GM whose team didn't win 10 games was going to waterboarded for the following 365 days straight, Rodgers would be drafted no later than 3rd.

What hyperbole?

Points: 0

#96 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 11:40pm

And I'd disagree.

There's a significant chance he gets drafted 3rd. There's also a significant chance that any of Rivers or Ryan, or Wilson, or Brees, or Brady, or Manning-1 or a couple of others go before him. He's got as good a chance as any of them, and probably better than most, but its not a lock by any means.

Points: 0

#137 by Anonymousse (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 10:46am

" any GM whose team didn't win 10 games was going to waterboarded for the following 365 days straight, Rodgers would be drafted no later than 3rd."

That's a pretty damn authorative statement Will.

Points: 0

#141 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 11:52am

What does "I'll venture..." mean to you? Taking part of a sentence away from the rest of it is a good way to eliminate context.

Points: 0

#147 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 1:00pm

Sometimes I really wish you could rec/like comments on FO. This whole discussion has "clearly" been ridiculous.

There have been some crazy statements like "Rodgers better than Rodgers" for the "perfection in communication" guy, but this isolation of a statement that begins with "I'll venture..." takes the cake.

Points: 0

#160 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 2:58pm

I don't get the (entirely too frequently exhibited) desire to pick an argument with stuff that wasn't written, as opposed to simply taking what a post is saying at face value.

Points: 0

#120 by dryheat // Dec 31, 2013 - 9:08am

Poor, poor Rex Ryan after gets the first overall pick and goes with someone like Earl Thomas.

Note: I love Earl Thomas. I can just imagine Rex using his first 7 picks on defense and ending up with Geno Smith at quarterback.

Points: 0

#163 by Rick & Roll (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:13pm

What separate Rodgers from the other three uninimous elites (Manning, Brady, Brees) is that that Rodgers just turned 30 and is in the "prime of his prime", while the other guys are in their mid to late 30s...

If GMs could draft any player to start a team Rodgers would easily be pick #1. Luck would be probably be picked ahead of some of the other guys based upon his age, talent and upside.

Points: 0

#2 by Kal // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:27pm

Shocked that Blount didn't get a Madden nom. Most rushing yards for a Pat in, like, ever and he returned kicks?

Points: 0

#31 by Shattenjager // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:39pm

Just because I wondered and so looked it up, it was the most rushing yards for a Patriots player since 1998, when Robert Edwards had 196 yards against St. Louis:

Points: 0

#48 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:39pm

I think Blount had a Madden "Team of the Week" card recently. EA didn't want to repeat him.

Points: 0

#3 by Nick Bradley (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:29pm

It's laughable to think that Seattle is one of the greatest teams of all time.

also, how's pro bowl quarterback russell wilson looking? QBR of 26.4 this week. lookin' sharp!

Points: 0

#5 by Kal // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:34pm

They've played three difficult defenses (SF, Arizona, Stl) in the last 4 weeks. Their defense has not allowed more than 17 points in any of those games and recorded a shutout on the road - something that almost never happens in the NFL. I do think that their offense is suspect and a weak link, especially with Rice out, but their defense is as good as they get.

The rams had -2 yards rushing in the first half.

Points: 0

#129 by Nick Bradley (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 10:15am

defensive adjustments to VOA don't seem to change things very much, especially for quarterbacks.

Points: 0

#8 by JIPanick // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:38pm

To be fair, he's only saying Seattle is one of the greatest *regular season* teams of *the last 25 years*. That's hardly unreasonable at all.

If the Seahawks were to win the Super Bowl following blowouts over SF, CAR, and DEN, combined with this regular season, which teams of the last 25 years would you consider better?

Points: 0

#12 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:42pm

I think to me, the best teams are less in extremes and more in balance. I thought last year's hawks team was actually overall better than this one. The o line was healthier, the run game was better, etc.

Recent teams that were balanced that also won the superbowl that come to mind are 2010 packers, 04 Patriots, 2005 Steelers, even maybe the 2005 Seahawks.

Points: 0

#21 by RoninX (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:05pm

The DVOA numbers (as mentioned in the article) back up that last years Seahawks were playing better at the end of the regular season than this edition. I'm not sure what is 'laughable' about DVOA saying that these Seahawks are one of the best recent regular season teams.

To be fair this year Seahawks team *looks* imblanaced because the defense is so good. But the offense hasn't been bad at all over the course of the season (though it has had some bad performances).

As another poster mentioned the long term narrative of the season will be (for better or worse, though almost certainly the latter) written in the playoffs rather than by final DVOA standings.

Points: 0

#55 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2013 - 7:02pm

There's nothing laughable about the seahawks being great. They are. I guess I have to trust DVOA saying their offense is very good. I admit, I've seen 5 seahawks games this year and in all 5, the offense struggled. Admittedly, all 5 were against reasonably good defenses, but I'm just not that big on Russell Wilson. But again, they are a great team, no doubt.

Points: 0

#180 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:28pm

Wilson went up against 12 top-16 pass defenses, which I believe is the most in the league. He has his weaknesses that he needs to improve on, but the schedule didn't do him any favors.

Points: 0

#43 by steveNC (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:25pm

I'm pretty sure the Steelers and the Seahawks never won the Super Bowl in the same year, although maybe you are factoring in alternate realities with different officiating.

Points: 0

#58 by BaronFoobarstein // Dec 30, 2013 - 7:12pm

In their times the Steelers have been multiple birds, but a hawk ain't one.

Also they never even made the playoffs on their bird years.

Points: 0

#136 by Nick Bradley (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 10:42am

If they did that, I'd Change my tune.

But they had a regular season DVOA like this last year, then looked poor against the Redskins while RGIII was healthy, then lost to Atlanta.

Personally, I think you can scheme to stop Seattle, and teams that do it are successful. Its counteriktuitive, because you want to keep RW in the pocket. He doesnt complete passes over the middle.

Points: 0

#145 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 12:31pm

A large whack of their regular season DVOA last year was from their blistering offense by the end of the season. When Griffin was healthy, Seattle only had offensive one drive, a three-and-out, so that's hardly enough of a sample size. I believe Clemons got hurt early in the game, so their defense wasn't as good as it was in the regular season either; the same happened to San Francisco, so 49er fans should be able to relate to that.

"Personally, I think you can scheme to stop Seattle, and teams that do it are successful."

An amazing revelation.

Points: 0

#157 by justanothersteve // Dec 31, 2013 - 2:39pm

"Personally, I think you can scheme to stop Seattle, and teams that do it are successful."

An amazing revelation.

I agree. With analysis that brilliant, he can take Dierdorf's place as a color commentator.

Points: 0

#11 by Glen (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:41pm

FO is not the place to troll.

Points: 0

#172 by intel_chris (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:48pm

Apparently it is this week...

Points: 0

#15 by G (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:51pm

With an average offense and historic defense I think it's a fair argument.
With 2 straight seasons without having a loss by more than one possession seems pretty unique to me. A claim that Denver, SF, Baltimore or New England can not make.

What sort of value does the football community place on consistency and the ability to be in every game?

On another note...

Offense seems to be what most folks tie to dominance or elite play.

"who can stop suchandsuch" is the common pundit phrasing when lauding a team.
You don't often hear... "who will be able to score on suchandsuch"...

Points: 0

#25 by justanothersteve // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:22pm

Clearly not as good as #1 QBR Josh McCown who was easily the best QB in the NFL this year.

Points: 0

#132 by Nick Bradley (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 10:21am

Sarcastic is no way to go through life.

Then adjust QBR for usage; tell me what you see.

Mccown is 13th in that regard, just behind Wilson. That's excellent for only playing 40% of a season.

Points: 0

#140 by justanothersteve // Dec 31, 2013 - 11:06am

Trolls should be fed a steady diet of sarcasm. If you don't like it, don't troll.

QBR is, like any other derived stat including stats here, flawed. You still have to watch the game. It's too early to tell, but Wilson may be the best of the young QBs (less than 4 years in the league). He doesn't really have a contemporary comparison in playing style. The best I've seen is Tarkenton who was amazing back in the day. (I'm old enough to remember most of his career and just how much of a nightmare he was even for Lombardi's Packers to defend.) I could go into more detail, but why should I waste my time with this sort of answer for an internet troll who should go back to ESPN, SI, CBS Sports, or wherever you came from.

Points: 0

#149 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 1:08pm

A few weeks ago, Wilson definitely looked to be the best of the young QBs and was being talked about for 2nd in the MVP race. The offense has struggled a bit the last couple of weeks, and here come the Wilson haters again. QBR is definitely flawed in that it's way too reliant on "clutch".

Go have a look at Wilson's ANY/A numbers and tell me what you think of him.

Points: 0

#152 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 1:20pm

"Sarcastic is no way to go through life."

"also, how's pro bowl quarterback russell wilson looking? QBR of 26.4 this week. lookin' sharp!"

Points: 0

#29 by RolandDeschain // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:35pm

What's laughable is you using QBR to back a point of any kind, Nick Bradley. *snicker*

Points: 0

#128 by Nick Bradley (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 10:10am

What's wrong with QBR?

Even if you're making a gripe about usage Total clutch adjusted EPA does that. And that still puts Wilson at 12th or 13. And Kap at 7th.

Sweet garbage TD while up 20-3 on Sunday by Wilson, by the way

Points: 0

#150 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 1:10pm

Clutch stats are garbage. QBR is incredibly clutch-weighted.

Points: 0

#161 by dbostedo // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:08pm

QBR in 2013 is not incredibly clutch-weighted. From an ESPN description of changes for 2013 :

"The biggest change is how clutch weighting is done. Based on our experience in the NFL and our recent work on QBR for college football, we have found that emphasizing performance in clutch situations serves relatively little benefit compared to de-emphasizing performance when a game is out of reach. Good or bad performance when a game is out of reach isn't as relevant because the game isn't played the same way as when it's close or early.

Plays are "bigger" in tight games because they do change the chance of winning a lot more, but the impact of rewarding that is to de-emphasize what a quarterback did before they got to the clutch situations, even though those situations were still competitive. As a result, clutch weighting now primarily serves to de-emphasize performance when a game is less competitive; that weight is, as it was before, related to potential changes in win probability."

According to that, they really are only factoring anti-clutch situations in - not allowing "garbage time" to greatly affect things. This IS somewhat counter to DVOA/DYAR, which I believe FO has said still includes garbage time, though is balanced out in that it's based on comparing against others playing in the same situation.

Points: 0

#66 by Duff Soviet Union // Dec 30, 2013 - 8:07pm

Other than you being a 49ers fan troll, what's so laughable about it? Dominant defense, average - above average offense, strong special teams, yeah they suck.

I just had a quick look at Football Reference's SRS rankings as a quick and dirty check and the only teams I can see above them post 1988 are 1991 Redskins, 96 Packers, 98 Vikings and 01 Rams (both of whom DVOA is relatively down on for some reason) and the 2007 and 2010 Patriots.

It does seem a bit like 90's teams are a bit underrated in general and that it's far easier to be "great" today than it was then. There seem to be a lot of teams that I (and no one else either) thinks of as all time greats that rank higher than the mid 90's Cowboys and 49ers teams, who most people would call all-time greats.

The standard deviation looks way higher today, than it did in the parity driven 90's. I wouldn't mind FO doing a column where they rank the top teams by standard deviations above average. I think that would bring some modern teams back to the pack and give some 90's teams a fairer shake.

But the 2013 Seahawks aren't the team to make an example of. They're great by any standards except arbitrary ones imposed by 49ers fans.

Points: 0

#68 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2013 - 8:18pm

It gets into a semantic battle, but in my opinion, you aren't a historically great team unless you go out and crush three straight playoff opponents, rendering all three contest non-competitive by halftime. It's boring, to be sure (if you aren't a fan of that team), but it is quite an accomplishment.

Will the Seahawks do that? It isn't impossible, especially in the two games that will have to be played In Seattle, if they aren't upset in round one, but I wouldn't bet on it, in the manner I counted on some of the great teams from the '80s, or the '91 'Skins. If they pull it off, they'll deserve every accolade.

Points: 0

#70 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2013 - 8:21pm

WHat was the last team to actually accomplish such a feat? I guess I could go scour prf's page for historical scores, but honestly, I bet the last one will have occurred sometime in the pre-cap era. These days, the talent across good teams seems pretty even. I doubt, for instance, that the seahawks would blowout the 49ers or the saints this time around.

Points: 0

#72 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2013 - 8:39pm

The team after the '91 'Skins that best fits the bill is the '96 Packers, and even that team had more competition in the Super Bowl than some of the previous 800 pound gorillas.

Points: 0

#73 by Duff Soviet Union // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:02pm

The Packers - Patriots superbowl ended up a 2 touchdown game and was a 1 score game late in the third. Not exactly dominant by the traditional sense.

I agree that it's just way too hard to do that these days. The 89 49ers and 91 Redskins are the only teams I can remember where there was never a doubt that they were going to lose in the postseason.

Points: 0

#78 by RickD // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:24pm

..and the Patriots weren't even the class of the AFC that season.

But then again, I don't require blowouts to assign the label "greatness". I think back-to-back titles are harder to achieve than a single Super Bowl run, no matter how dominant it looks.

The '96 Packers had some historically great players (two leap to mind) but their failure to repeat and their failure to really dominate the Pats (as the '85 Bears had done) are things I hold against them. OTOH, I think the Broncos of the following two seasons would qualify as a truly dominant team. Certainly the Cowboys of a few years earlier were.

Are the Seahawks a truly "great" team? I'll reserve judgment for the playoffs. I've seen too many highly-rated teams face-plant in the playoffs. I feel that the Seahawks are the best all-around team, but I also think they are beatable. They don't feel quite like they're at the level of the 97-98 Broncos, for example.

Points: 0

#82 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:32pm

I just don't consider a team from one year to be the same squad the next year. Also, if you had a close playoff game, random chance played a role in the victory. To me, the greatest performances are those where randomness is removed from the equation. The '85 Bears had some fumble recovery randomness go against them against the Patriots, early on. It was irrelevant.

Points: 0

#92 by Lyford // Dec 30, 2013 - 10:51pm

"..and the Patriots weren't even the class of the AFC that season.

Are we talking about 1996 here? They finished with the 2nd best record in the AFC, and hosted the AFC Championship game when Denver was beaten by Jacksonville. Denver clearly had the best regular season record (13-3) and point differential (116) in the AFC, but the Patriots were second in both. (And led the AFC in points scored.) The point differential gap between third best Pittsburgh and 2nd best NE (105 vs 87) is bigger than the gap between Denver and NE.

If you're saying that only one team is the "class" of the conference, then yeah, Denver was a better team in the regular season. But it wasn't a huge gap between the Broncos and Patriots, and the '96 Patriots certainly weren't a "sneak in at the head of a bad division or as a wild card and surprise everyone on the way to the Super Bowl" team.

Points: 0

#100 by dbostedo // Dec 31, 2013 - 12:03am

I actually read that "class" in context as referring to whoever was the best team in the AFC. "Class" in this usage can be either plural or singular. It would be fine to say that "the class of the AFC consisted of New England and Denver, and maybe Pittsburgh". It would also be OK to say "Denver was the class of the AFC". Or, in this case, that the Patriots weren't.

Points: 0

#79 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:26pm

'85 Bears and '84 Niners never had competitive playoff games. The Bears game against the Giants had a sheen of a contest from the first half boxscore, mostly due to the hideous wind and cold, but if you saw the game, you knew the Giants were just getting their a**es whipped. '86 Giants were pretty crazy good as well, despite actually trailing at half time in the last game.

Points: 0

#80 by Scott Kacsmar // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:29pm

The 2002 Buccaneers are the last SB winner to have a relatively stress-free postseason. What you're asking for (playoff domination) is practically impossible in today's game.

Points: 0

#83 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2013 - 9:37pm

Yeah, that Tampa team gets overlooked, I think mostly due to having Brad Johnson as their qb. They were up 7 at the half in the conference championship, but I think they were actually dominating more than the score showed.

Points: 0

#93 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2013 - 10:52pm

The Cowboys actually were behind at the half in the Super Bowl, although they thumped the Bills good in the 2nd half. In their playoff game against the Packers, Green Bay drove two times into the red zone in the 4th quarter, with a chance to make it a 7 point game, with enough time to make it meaningful, but they turned it over. That was a great team, but they didn't quite crush all playoff opponents in the manner of some other teams.

Points: 0

#113 by eggwasp (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 6:56am

Did anyone really think the Bills would beat the Cowboys though? I mean, lots of us hoped they would, but we never really believed it.

Points: 0

#117 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 8:43am

Now you get into a debate as to whether some wins by more than two tds are more impressive than other wins by more than two tds. I'd say yes, which is why I'm not quite willing to put the '86 Giants in the same category as the '85 Bears, as good as the '86 Giants were.

Points: 0

#162 by Lance // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:11pm

The year before (the 1992 Cowboys), they crushed Philadelphia, but then really didn't pull away from the 49ers until the 4th quarter. However, those 49ers were also very highly regarded. I'd have to do some searching, but my recollection is that their FO stats (DVOA, etc.) are quite good-- thus, beating the snot out of them wasn't going to be likely. And then in the SB, Dallas clobbered the Bills. I'm not sure if it measures up with the '85 Bears (I was like 12 at that point and don't recall much), but those Cowboy and 49er teams of that stretch of 3 years were quite good.

Points: 0

#133 by Nick Bradley (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 10:26am

Who said they suck? Don't put words in my mouth.

They're still probably the best team this season, but I think they're way too far out in front of everyone else.

After-the-whistle intimidation does not bring championships.

Points: 0

#151 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 1:13pm

Um, that was the Rams yesterday. You're getting your NFC West teams mixed up.

Points: 0

#90 by Karl Cuba // Dec 30, 2013 - 10:41pm

There's a template for this kind of thing.

Points: 0

#121 by dryheat // Dec 31, 2013 - 9:15am

I kind of agree. I think their defense is one of the five or so best units of my lifetime(and likely improving), and they're nearly unbeatable at home, but they look like merely a good team on the road, and their offense is extremely inconsistent -- some of that no doubt due to OL injuries.

Their defense at home is scary, especially when the visitors have a near-impossible time hearing the QB. The only playoff team I can see going in there and winning is the Panthers -- another excellent defense combined with an X-factor at QB that is good at improvising and won't be intimidated.

Points: 0

#123 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 9:27am

They are a terrific team, but unlike some of the great defenses of the past, you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them, especially when the home crowd isn't making the offense very predictable. It is interesting to think about which AFC team might provide the best test of that theory in the Meadowlands, assuming the Seahawks don't suffer a massive upset on their home field. I kind of lean towards the Patriots.

Points: 0

#125 by dryheat // Dec 31, 2013 - 9:33am

I tend to agree. The one reason I think the Patriots have a chance this year is because they are built to perform in the Northeast's winter months. But God help them if they have to go to Denver on an unseasonably warm and calm day. I'm rooting for a blizzard.

Points: 0

#127 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 9:56am

I love watching Peyton Manning. I don't love the manner in which the Broncos roster is built, but I suppose it is to some degree an artifact of a salary cap and having Peyton Manning on the roster. I really would have liked to see this Broncos team with Clady healthy, and more importantly, Vonn Miller and Elvis Dumerville playing all season.

Points: 0

#154 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 1:34pm

"They are a terrific team, but unlike some of the great defenses of the past, you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them"

I'm not sure how you know this; how many teams have actually done this this year? Or are you talking about their relatively weak run defense? If you are, that's not comparable to run defenses from, say, the 1985 Bears, because the NFL is far more passing oriented nowadays.

Points: 0

#164 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:15pm

The '00 Ravens and '02 Bucs were much more stout against the run as well. Yes, run defense is less important than it once was. Less important is not synonymous with irrelevant, however, and on the road, or on a neutral field, against a good offensive line, the relative vulnerability against the run would have a very good chance of being telling, even in the current rules environment, especially since the Seahawks are not explosive on offense themselves.

Now, if I can only get a modified DeLorean bus, so as too bring in the '91 'Skins or '93 Cowboys to provide a demonstration......

Points: 0

#166 by theslothook // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:26pm

I guess I'll agree with Perfundle, I think this defense is pretty amazing, especially in this era. Now the 02 bucs was probably the best I've ever seen, but I wouldn't have any problem calling this one of the 5 best of the last 10 years. Personally, the only one in recent memory that rivals this one is the 08 steelers.

Points: 0

#167 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:32pm

"One of the Best 5 of the past 10 years" is not exactly a gigantic endorsement, and for what it is worth, I wouldn't bother to dispute it.

Points: 0

#169 by theslothook // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:43pm

I think you might, but this thread hasn't been your friend :P. I think I would just say, do you give brownie points for being a good defense in this era?

Points: 0

#185 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:54pm

No, really, they are a terrific defense. I mean it. I don't know why fans demand that you rank them among the all time best, before the playoffs have even started, or they perceive some some sort of denigration being attempted.

Points: 0

#170 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:46pm

If you think the Seahawks' run defense is mediocre, go back and watch yesterday's game against the Rams.

Points: 0

#173 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 3:57pm

Saying a defense is relatively less stout against the run, compared to the historically great defenses, when playing away from home, against a good offensive line, is not synonymous with saying a run defense is mediocre.

Points: 0

#176 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:10pm

Your original comment was "They are a terrific team, but unlike some of the great defenses of the past, you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them," especially when they aren't at home.

To me, that describes a mediocre run defense. Over the past several games, the run defense has been quite stout. Unfortunately, it seems many are hanging on to the struggles from midseason as if they are still happening now. Zac Stacy was 15th in DVOA coming into yesterday's game. He gained 15 yards on 15 carries.

If you want to say the Seahawks are "relatively less stout against the run, compared to the historically great defenses", I would probably concede that point. I think that's a very different statement from "you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them".

Points: 0

#181 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:34pm

To me, a mediocre run defense is one that is susceptible to getting whipped anywhere, even by offensive lines which are less than good. That's what makes them mediocre. A bad run defense is one that regularly gets whipped.

When a direct comparison is being made to historically great defenses, I think it's reasonable to conclude that the person making the comparison is judging by a very high standard, not by what one would expect against a bad Rams rushing attack.

Points: 0

#190 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 6:20pm

Well, mediocre is average. I think that'd be a below average defense that is susceptible to getting whipped anywhere.

I have no problem with the suggestion that the Seahawks aren't one of the all-time great defenses. I don't agree, but I think it's a valid position to hold.

If they have a weakness, it's probably an inconsistent run defense. I think they are an all-time great because of their tremendous pass defense. It is tough to compare them to other defenses of years past because, by necessity, they do it differently. With the proliferation of the pass offense, it has become much more important (and much more difficult) to be able to shut down the opposing passing attack. Personally, I don't feel that you need a ridiculously dominant rush defense like we may have expected 20 or 30 years ago.

Edit: posted as two posts because I'm having trouble with the spam filter. See post 189 for the rest of this response.

Points: 0

#202 by Will Allen // Jan 01, 2014 - 1:39am

Average teams get whipped anywhere. Getting whipped sometimes is the epitome of average.

Points: 0

#207 by EricL // Jan 01, 2014 - 12:55pm

That "inconsistent" run defense had two, consecutive, very bad games in the middle of the season. The game against Tampa seemed to have marked a turning point in defensive approach (something that's been confirmed in an interview with Pete Carroll).

Since then, over the last seven games, the run defense has a DVOA of -31.2, and the overall defense has a DVOA of -40.6%.

Before those two very bad games, the run defense had a DVOA of -20.9%, and the defense had an overall DVOA of -25.8%.

It seems whatever they did wrong in weeks 8 and 9 got corrected. I don't think I'd call their run defense "inconsistent" as much as they probably got sloppy for those two weeks. The problem seems to have been fixed.

Points: 0

#189 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 6:18pm

It's likely that (at least a little unfairly) the judgment of the Seahawks' defense will come down to winning a Super Bowl. Personally, I don't think 3 games should make or erase a season's worth of accomplishments. The 2007 Pats were pretty awesome.

Again, my real problem with your comments was your statement that on the road, "you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them". I don't believe there is any evidence to support that. They had two very poor games: at St. Louis and home to Tampa Bay. Bobby Wagner had just come back (and was likely not 100%), and there was poor tackling and bad angles throughout those two games. Outside of that they've been solid, but not spectacular.

Points: 0

#201 by Will Allen // Jan 01, 2014 - 1:36am

There have been historically great defenses which did not have two very poor games. That was my point.

Points: 0

#203 by Perfundle // Jan 01, 2014 - 3:18am

Let me see if I've got this straight. What you are saying, then, is that in an era when passing is the key to success, Seattle has failed your increasingly stringent and arbitrary criteria for rushing defense, deciding instead to concentrate on stopping the pass, whereas historically great defenses were all about stopping the run because that was enough to win in those times if coupled with a decent pass defense? We've seen what happens when you have that kind of team in this era, because that describes the 2010 Steelers. They're capable of dominating the lesser teams, but when going up against a great passing team like the Patriots, Saints or Packers, they get torched through the air. I would guess that no future historically great defense is going to be built around impenetrable run defense without the pass defense also being the best (e.g. Chicago last year), barring major rule changes.

Points: 0

#179 by Debauched Andriod (not verified) // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:20pm

True, the Seahawks did not have the both top ranked rush and pass defense in the league. They also had the best defense in the league, because stopping the pass is more important than stopping the run. Also, they only have up 4 rushing TDs this season. It is important to note that SEA defense is about preventing points, not yards, so if a team gets a lot of rushing yards but few rushing TDs, it would be considered a successful day for run defense.

Points: 0

#182 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:40pm

"[S]o if a team gets a lot of rushing yards but few rushing TDs, it would be considered a successful day for run defense."

That's not how it really works. If a team gets a lot of rushing yards and reaches the red-zone, it would not be considered a success for the run defense even if the team gets a short passing TD. It would be more accurate to say that if a team gets a lot of rushing yards but few rushing first downs, it would be considered a successful day for the run defense, and Seattle is 8th in first downs allowed per rush.

Points: 0

#184 by Will Allen // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:49pm

They had the best defense in the league because they are terrific, and they have the best home field advantage for defense. The notion that it is better to yield yards than points is of course true, but if a day comes where the Seahawks offense performs poorly away from home, perhaps giving a short field a couple of times to the opponent, then there will be an education given as to the value of not yielding yards, as well as not yielding points.

Look, it isn't a slam on a team to state that they have yet to establish that their defense is as good as the '85 Bears' or '00 Ravens'. Who knows? They may prove that it is the case before the season ends. If they do, I certainly will afford them all due praise.

Points: 0

#187 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 5:34pm

"They have the best home field advantage for defense."

I don't think Seattle's home field helps their defense that much this year. They're allowing 15.1 points on the road and 13.8 points at home, which isn't that big of a difference. It seems to affect their offense much more, since they scored 29.1 points at home and 23 points on the road.

Points: 0

#188 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 31, 2013 - 5:47pm

Points per game is a terrible measure. If the defense is playing better it would be shorter fields for the offense, picks and fumbles returns for TDs. There could be special teams plays involved, etc.

Points: 0

#191 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 6:42pm

Seattle only gave up two non-offensive scores this season; one was at home and one was on the road, so they cancel out.

I don't know what DVOA says about Seattle's home-road split, but in watching all of their games I think the defense has been very consistent wherever they play.

Points: 0

#193 by Vincent Verhei // Dec 31, 2013 - 6:54pm

Seattle Offense
Home DVOA: 15.5% (7th)
Road DVOA: 3.4% (10th)

Seattle Defense
Home DVOA: -32.9% (1st; 2nd-place CIN is at -26.4%)
Road DVOA: -19.5% (1st; 2nd-place KC is at -15.9%)

So it looks like a boost of 12% or 13% on both sides of the ball.

Points: 0

#195 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 7:31pm

That's a bigger difference on the road than I expected for their defense. Still, the fact that their road DVOA by itself would be good for the best defense in the league suggests that the defense isn't where the problems lie; it's the drop-off from a Saints-level offense to a Falcons-level offense when they go on the road. Of course, a decline on offense can be said for most teams (except possibly Kansas City and San Francisco), but we are looking for Seattle's biggest weakness after all.

Oh, and penalties. Seattle had the most penalties for the most penalty yards. Penalties are bad.

Points: 0

#196 by Cuenca Guy // Dec 31, 2013 - 8:21pm

It's a fairly large drop by percentage, but is only slightly worse than the league-average drop as they only go from 7th to 10th.

I imagine we should expect some substantial drop across the board to account for the 17% homefield advantage.

Penalties aren't good, but they really aren't as bad as we think they are. Last year's playoff teams were slightly below league average (lower is worse) in penalties.

As an aside, I can't imagine the Seahawks playing a game where the first (and only?) penalty is a delay of game due to a mistake by the clock operator. For all of the deserved Cowboy bashing, they were pretty disciplined Sunday night. I'll never be a Cowboys' fan, but I'm starting to feel bad for their fans. Then again, there's always the Browns.

Points: 0

#208 by LionInAZ // Jan 01, 2014 - 7:17pm

My take from this is that the SEA defense is outstanding at home and on the road -- if you want to beat them better to attack their offense weaknesses, if you can.

Points: 0

#209 by Will Allen // Jan 01, 2014 - 8:01pm

What (he lazily asks) is the average starting field position for the Seahawks offense, road vs. home?

Points: 0

#210 by EricL // Jan 01, 2014 - 9:56pm

This might be off a very small amount, but my transcriptions of the data on Pro Football Reference match the overall averages, so they're probably accurate. All data from PFR.

Average drive starting positions:

Sea Off, Road: 28.8 (this would be tied for 10th in the league)
Sea Off, Home: 33.3 (this would be 2nd in the league)

Sea Def, Road: 25.2 (this would be tied for 4th in the league)
Sea Def, Home: 26.3 (this would be 7th in the league)

Overall, Sea Off: 31.0 (3rd in the league behind SF at 31.9 and KC at 33.9)
Overall, Sea Def: 25.8 (6th in the league. #1 was KC at 23.2)

So, the Seahawks starting positions from both sides of the ball are top-ten, but their home starting field position on offense is nearly the best in the league. And no, I don't have the home/road breakdowns for everyone to know if this kind of split is normal.

Points: 0

#178 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 4:19pm

The '02 Bucs were not much more stout against the run. In particular, they were dead last at stopping the opponent in short yardage situations (not just in 2002, but in Football Outsiders Defensive Lines history), allowing an absurd 90% conversion rate. They were 8th in defensive rushing DVOA, just like Seattle is now.

As as aside, Seattle is amazingly dead last in converting these short yardage situations this year, given their reputation as a strong run team. Seattle's rushing offense is a bigger problem area than their rushing defense, especially considering how much Seattle relies on it.

Points: 0

#4 by JasonG (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:33pm

2013 Bears D vs 2012 Bears D. ~35-40% drop off, right? Worst in DVOA-era history?

Points: 0

#6 by JasonG (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:34pm

35.3% drop if the numbers above are final.

Points: 0

#69 by TomC // Dec 30, 2013 - 8:20pm

Put another way: from 6th best in the last 25 years (see above Table 1, right panel) to 8th worst in the league. You can argue how much was injuries, how much was age, and how much was Mel Tucker, but you can't fire injuries or age, so I wouldn't be signing any long-term leases if I were Mel.

Points: 0

#71 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2013 - 8:24pm

And how much was Lovie Smith?

Then again, the 2010 packers went through a similar swansong dive. Its interesting, in both cases, there were a few major injuries and massive ripple effects tearing across every unit, often with notable players a year ago playing very poorly the next.

Points: 0

#7 by jonnyblazin // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:37pm

It's particularly amazing that the Ravens rushing attack was so bad considering that they only had one injury on the o-line the entire year (K. Osemele).

And the common thread between the Ravens and Jaguars pitiful running games: Eugene Monroe! Sadly he was probably the Ravens best o-lineman.

Points: 0

#10 by pm // Dec 30, 2013 - 4:40pm

Aaron, will FO run an update on your playoffs secret sauce article? The first one only looked at 1997-2005 playoffs. Now you can go from 9 playoff seasons of data to 24 seasons of data (89-12).

Points: 0

#28 by Aaron Schatz // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:34pm

An article like that isn't planned for this postseason. Perhaps in the offseason. I have a feeling the answer is "there is no secret sauce," or at least, no "secret sauce" we could measure consistently over a 24-year period.

Points: 0

#19 by Ginastera // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:01pm

Is the NFC West an historically tough division? An average weighted DVOA of 23.7% seems pretty high.

Points: 0

#22 by RoninX (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:07pm

Last time they looked at this (2-3 weeks ago I think) the NFC west was the second toughest division of the DVOA era, but that is always subject to revision as DVOA gets pushed back.

Points: 0

#49 by mehllageman56 (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 6:41pm

Considering that one of the prevalent memes is that the Pats have been fortunate to play in the AFC Least, I'm hoping the 2004 AFC East keeps its crown.

Points: 0

#62 by Jeff88 (not verified) // Dec 30, 2013 - 7:49pm

Same can be said for the AFC South when Manning was with the Colts.

Points: 0

#67 by theslothook // Dec 30, 2013 - 8:12pm

The afc south wasn't always laughable. There was a year in fact where none of the 4 teams finished with a losing record and sent three to the playoffs - 2007. There were also other years when the division sent other teams besides the colts to the playoffs, years alternating with the titans and jaguars.

Points: 0

#143 by dmstorm22 // Dec 31, 2013 - 11:53am

The AFC SOuth being bad is not true at all for the majority of its existence in the Manning era.

There was never a season in Peyton's career in Indy apart from 2010 where all the other three AFC South teams were 8-8 or worse. The AFC South had, from 2002-2010, three different teams go 12-4 and get just wild cards (TEN in 03, JAX in 05, IND in 08), while the rest of the NFL combined had just one (BAL in 2010).

Points: 0

#155 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2013 - 2:03pm

You would be right. Since 2002, when the NFL switched to 8 divisions, 23.7% is the highest average weighted DVOA. In addition, Arizona's 14.7% wDVOA is the highest lowest DVOA for any division, by far. As in, the next highest was 4.3%. Coincidentally, Arizona also holds the record for lowest highest DVOA for any division, at -11.5% in 2008. Of course, they backed up their horrific end-of-regular-season play by making it to the Super Bowl.

Points: 0

#23 by Hurt Bones // Dec 30, 2013 - 5:13pm

With regard to the worst rushing offenses is it possible to see the worst RB only rushing DVOA. Flacco and Taylor certainly helped the Ravens running. Jeff George and Mark Hermann were statues for the 91 Colts. David Carr did quite a bit of running for those 2002 Texans (mostly for his life). Henne and Gabbert are somewhere in the midde. Josh McCown's running numbers for the 2005 Cardinals are similar to Flacco's though Warner and Tyrod Taylor's are certainly not. Just curious.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Aaron
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and . Use promo code SCHATZ to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Aaron.