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Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Week 15 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

The gap between the top two teams in our DVOA ratings gets even wider this week, a combination of Seattle's 23-0 stomping of the Giants and Denver's upset loss to San Diego. But at this point, Seattle doesn't just rank as the best team of 2013. It ranks as one of the best teams in DVOA history.

Yes, Seattle's 40.4% DVOA rating ties the Seahawks with the 1995 San Francisco 49ers for the third highest DVOA ever after 14 games. Don't think the Seahawks belong in that rarified company? Well, there's a colossal gap between the Seahawks and the top two teams in DVOA history. Both the 1991 Redskins and the 2007 Patriots were more than 15 percentage points higher than Seattle at this point. The Seahawks certainly don't belong in that rarified company. There's also a little bit of a weird timing fluke that puts the Seahawks all the way up to third all-time. A number of the best teams in DVOA history had surprising losses in Week 15, which means that their DVOA ratings dropped specifically this week. To give a few examples:

  • The 1998 Broncos, who had 43.4% DVOA through Week 14, lost their first game of the year in Week 15, to the 6-8 Giants.
  • The 2004 Patriots, who had 40.9% DVOA through Week 14, lost only their second game of the year in Week 15, to the 3-11 Dolphins.
  • The 2004 Steelers, who had 45.1% DVOA through Week 14, barely beat the 5-9 Giants in Week 15, 33-30.
  • The 2012 Patriots, who had 41.8% DVOA through Week 14, lost to San Francisco in Week 15.

Because of this string of Week 15 losses and close games, we go from 11 teams that had DVOA over 40% through 12 games (including Seattle this year) to just five teams that had DVOA over 40% through 14 games.

BEST TOTAL DVOA THROUGH 14 GAMES
Year Team DVOA
1991 WAS 57.3%
2007 NE 56.3%
2013 SEA 40.4%
1995 SF 40.4%
2010 NE 40.1%
2012 NE 39.8%
2004 PIT 39.7%
1999 STL 38.9%
2005 IND 38.5%
2012 SEA 38.5%
1996 GB 38.1%
2004 PHI 37.4%

Will Seattle finish as only the sixth team in DVOA history with a rating over 40%? There's a good chance the Seahawks can keep this up. Remember, last year's Seahawks finished with 38.7% DVOA, which currently stands as the sixth highest season total ever. They also have their final two games at home, against Arizona and St. Louis. Seattle's home-field advantage makes them strong favorites to take both contests, unless they sit starters in the final game. Those two games are also going to take care of complaints about Seattle's schedule strength, thanks to the overall strength of the NFC West this year. Even right now, Seattle's schedule doesn't rank particularly low; they are 22nd with an average opponent DVOA of -1.7%. Once you add in Arizona and St. Louis, the Seahawks' schedule goes to -0.7% DVOA, which ranks 18th. So they're basically playing an average schedule in 2013. If you want to complain about teams that aren't as good as they look, you have to complain about Denver and Kansas City. Add in the final two games, and those teams have by far the easiest schedules in the NFL this year, at -8.6% DVOA for Kansas City and -7.4% for Denver. No other team has an average opponent DVOA below -4.0%.

That's not to say that Kansas City and Denver aren't still strong Super Bowl contenders. After all, it's a sign of a strong team to clobber the easy teams on the schedule. And Kansas City has done just that the past two weeks, beating Washington and Oakland by a combined score of 101-41. Even when we account for opponent strength, these are by far the Chiefs' most impressive games of the year. Both games have a single-game DVOA over 80% even though no previous Kansas City game had a single-game DVOA over 40%. With these wins, the Chiefs have climbed from eighth in DVOA two weeks ago to fifth this week. I don't buy the idea that these huge wins mean the Chiefs are "peaking at the right time," but they do show that perhaps this offense had more tricks up its sleeve than we realized and the Chiefs shouldn't be written off as Super Bowl contenders. (They certainly shouldn't be written off as division champions; our playoff odds report now gives them a 26.4 percent chance of winning the AFC West.)

The Chiefs are also making waves with their special teams, which have now climbed up to 9.6% DVOA. That's tied with the 1996 Carolina Panthers as the seventh highest special teams DVOA ever through 14 games. However, that comes with a wee bit of an asterisk. Kansas City's high special teams rating is built almost entirely on kickoff and punt returns. I have never been able to work opponent adjustments properly into special teams, but we know that the Chiefs had their best return game against Washington's worst-ever special teams. They also had strong return games against the Broncos (who are terrible at covering kicks) and the Giants (who are terrible at covering punts). Maybe I need to work on those opponent adjustments for special teams returns against this offseason.

As just noted, yes, Washington is still the worst special teams in DVOA history despite having almost average value in Week 15's loss to Atlanta. We'll have to see if they can have one more disaster game in the final two weeks, which they'll need to fend off the 2000 Bills for the full-season title of worst special teams ever.

WORST ST DVOA THROUGH 14 GAMES
Year Team DVOA
2013 WAS -13.7%
1997 SEA -13.1%
2000 BUF -11.8%
2010 SD -11.7%
1995 PHI -9.7%
2009 GB -9.5%
1998 OAK -9.3%
1997 STL -9.2%
1993 MIN -9.1%
2008 MIN -9.0%
2002 CIN -9.0%
1996 NYJ -8.9%

At this point, we can probably drop the whole "WORST DVOA EVER WATCH" with multiple tables each week. San Diego's surprising clampdown on Peyton Manning and the Broncos moves its defense out of the ten worst ever. Jacksonville's offense has also climbed out of the depths of the ten worst ever. The Jaguars are still ninth in worst overall DVOA ever, but that's mainly because of poor play early in the season. Jacksonville had five games with single-game DVOA below -50% before their Week 9 bye. They haven't had a single one since. This is the first week that the weighted DVOA formula fully drops the first week of the season, when the Jaguars got crushed 28-2 by Kansas City, and that helps the Jaguars climb out of the bottom spot in weighted DVOA for the first time all season. Oakland is now the weakest team in the league by weighted DVOA.

* * * * *

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 15 are:

  • Brian Orakpo, OLB, WAS (Limited Edition): 1.5 sacks, 4 TFL (including the sacks), 6 Stops.
  • Kelvin Beachum, LT, PIT: Allowed just one hurry and no sacks vs. Cincinnati.
  • Vontae Davis, CB, IND: Allowed just two catches for nine yards, mostly covering Andre Johnson.
  • Geoff Schwartz, RG, KC: Allowed no hurries or sacks vs. Oakland, started at guard then moved to tackle when Eric Fisher was injured.
  • Justin Tucker, K, BAL: 6-for-6 on field goals including game-winning 61-yarder, plus four touchbacks.

I feel bad that Justin Tucker knocked poor Dan Bailey off the list, as Bailey was a fabulous 5-for-5 on field goals and 9-for-9 on touchbacks against Green Bay, but Tucker's 61-yard field goal was worth more than Bailey's touchbacks because in our current system, the expected score of a field goal over 60 yards is zero. Some other players we considered (not including players we did in previous weeks or those included in Madden's Team of the Week) were D.J. Fluker, Stephon Gilmore, DeSean Jackson, Matt Kalil, Ryan Kalil, Rodger Saffold, Michael Thomas, and DeAngelo Williams. We couldn't do Byron Maxwell of the Seahawks because he was just done for Team of the Week recently.

* * * * *

All 2013 stat pages are now updated or will be updated in the next few minutes, including snap counts, playoff odds, and the FO Premium database. For more on what these DVOA changes have meant to the playoff odds, including an estimate of what getting Aaron Rodgers back would mean for Green Bay's chances of making the postseason, check out Danny Tuccitto's playoff odds commentary on ESPN Insider.

* * * * *

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 15 weeks of 2013, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games.

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

To save people some time, please use the following format for all complaints:

<team> is clearly ranked <too high/too low> because <reason unrelated to DVOA>. <subjective ranking system> is way better than this. <unrelated team-supporting or -denigrating comment, preferably with poor spelling and/or chat-acceptable spelling>

TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 SEA 40.4% 1 38.4% 1 12-2 11.5% 7 -23.3% 1 5.6% 5
2 DEN 30.5% 2 26.1% 2 11-3 30.6% 1 -0.3% 15 -0.4% 20
3 CAR 25.2% 3 25.0% 4 10-4 10.8% 8 -13.4% 3 1.0% 14
4 KC 20.7% 5 21.8% 5 11-3 4.2% 13 -6.9% 10 9.6% 1
5 SF 17.9% 8 25.1% 3 10-4 5.2% 11 -8.5% 8 4.1% 7
6 NE 17.0% 6 21.0% 6 10-4 14.8% 5 3.8% 21 6.0% 3
7 NO 16.9% 4 15.6% 8 10-4 14.4% 6 -5.2% 11 -2.7% 23
8 CIN 13.9% 7 14.8% 9 9-5 -0.6% 19 -11.6% 5 2.9% 10
9 CHI 12.4% 9 9.1% 12 8-6 16.1% 4 5.5% 22 1.8% 12
10 ARI 10.9% 10 16.8% 7 9-5 -1.8% 20 -15.5% 2 -2.8% 24
11 PHI 7.7% 11 11.1% 10 8-6 19.5% 3 8.0% 25 -3.8% 26
12 SD 3.1% 14 6.5% 13 7-7 22.5% 2 20.0% 32 0.7% 15
13 PIT 3.0% 16 6.1% 14 6-8 5.2% 12 3.6% 20 1.3% 13
14 IND 2.5% 17 -4.8% 20 9-5 4.0% 14 1.5% 17 0.0% 17
15 STL 2.3% 18 9.6% 11 6-8 -7.4% 23 -3.7% 13 5.9% 4
16 DET 1.9% 12 3.2% 15 7-7 0.3% 18 -1.8% 14 -0.1% 18
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEIGHTED
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 TB -0.9% 13 1.9% 16 4-10 -9.7% 24 -10.7% 6 -1.9% 22
18 MIA -1.4% 19 -0.8% 18 8-6 1.8% 15 0.3% 16 -2.9% 25
19 DAL -1.8% 15 -7.1% 21 7-7 8.4% 10 14.1% 31 3.9% 8
20 BAL -3.1% 21 0.9% 17 8-6 -20.9% 30 -10.2% 7 7.6% 2
21 GB -3.5% 20 -9.6% 24 7-6-1 9.3% 9 12.6% 30 -0.2% 19
22 TEN -5.8% 23 -3.9% 19 5-9 1.1% 17 2.5% 19 -4.4% 27
23 BUF -6.2% 22 -8.5% 23 5-9 -12.6% 25 -11.6% 4 -5.3% 28
24 MIN -10.6% 25 -7.7% 22 4-9-1 -4.2% 21 9.6% 26 3.2% 9
25 ATL -11.6% 24 -17.6% 27 4-10 1.6% 16 12.5% 29 -0.7% 21
26 NYJ -13.8% 26 -19.3% 28 6-8 -22.7% 31 -4.6% 12 4.2% 6
27 CLE -18.8% 28 -17.0% 26 4-10 -13.3% 26 5.9% 23 0.4% 16
28 NYG -18.9% 27 -12.4% 25 5-9 -20.8% 29 -8.2% 9 -6.4% 29
29 HOU -27.0% 29 -31.1% 30 2-12 -18.6% 28 1.8% 18 -6.6% 30
30 WAS -27.1% 30 -25.6% 29 3-11 -7.1% 22 6.3% 24 -13.7% 32
31 OAK -33.3% 31 -34.2% 32 4-10 -16.7% 27 9.8% 27 -6.9% 31
32 JAC -42.3% 32 -31.4% 31 4-10 -32.1% 32 12.4% 28 2.2% 11
  • 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).



TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
1 SEA 40.4% 12-2 41.9% 11.6 2 -1.7% 22 6.6% 12 12.7% 19
2 DEN 30.5% 11-3 38.1% 11.9 1 -4.1% 30 -30.2% 31 7.7% 8
3 CAR 25.2% 10-4 23.8% 9.6 3 2.9% 7 2.6% 15 10.7% 16
4 KC 20.7% 11-3 27.4% 9.3 4 -10.2% 32 2.8% 14 13.2% 22
5 SF 17.9% 10-4 12.9% 8.9 8 2.5% 8 -0.4% 17 13.4% 23
6 NE 17.0% 10-4 15.5% 9.2 6 -0.4% 16 -4.7% 19 5.0% 1
7 NO 16.9% 10-4 14.4% 8.4 11 5.6% 2 12.1% 7 15.4% 27
8 CIN 13.9% 9-5 19.0% 8.9 7 -1.6% 21 -6.9% 22 12.7% 20
9 CHI 12.4% 8-6 11.2% 8.8 9 -3.9% 29 2.1% 16 8.8% 10
10 ARI 10.9% 9-5 8.8% 9.2 5 2.1% 9 29.2% 1 6.5% 4
11 PHI 7.7% 8-6 10.3% 8.7 10 -5.4% 31 5.3% 13 25.4% 31
12 SD 3.1% 7-7 4.3% 7.1 15 -3.7% 28 -6.3% 21 7.0% 5
13 PIT 3.0% 6-8 3.3% 7.3 14 -2.7% 25 -11.1% 28 7.7% 7
14 IND 2.5% 9-5 3.1% 8.1 12 -1.7% 23 -10.8% 27 19.9% 28
15 STL 2.3% 6-8 0.4% 6.7 18 4.7% 5 19.7% 3 25.8% 32
16 DET 1.9% 7-7 2.7% 7.1 16 -0.7% 18 -14.8% 30 12.0% 18
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
17 TB -0.9% 4-10 -8.6% 5.7 24 8.5% 1 9.6% 8 9.3% 13
18 MIA -1.4% 8-6 -0.3% 6.5 20 3.1% 6 -10.0% 24 9.2% 11
19 DAL -1.8% 7-7 1.1% 7.4 13 -1.2% 20 -9.7% 23 11.3% 17
20 BAL -3.1% 8-6 -1.3% 6.6 19 -2.5% 24 15.4% 5 6.4% 3
21 GB -3.5% 7-6-1 1.0% 7.0 17 -3.3% 26 7.7% 11 20.4% 29
22 TEN -5.8% 5-9 -5.7% 5.6 26 1.2% 13 -34.6% 32 6.1% 2
23 BUF -6.2% 5-9 -3.3% 6.1 21 -0.7% 17 7.8% 10 14.3% 24
24 MIN -10.6% 4-9-1 -9.6% 5.6 25 1.9% 10 7.9% 9 7.9% 9
25 ATL -11.6% 4-10 -16.0% 5.9 22 5.4% 3 21.5% 2 7.1% 6
26 NYJ -13.8% 6-8 -16.9% 5.8 23 1.7% 11 -10.1% 25 20.9% 30
27 CLE -18.8% 4-10 -14.6% 4.3 28 0.9% 14 -5.4% 20 10.5% 15
28 NYG -18.9% 5-9 -25.3% 4.7 27 5.0% 4 -12.6% 29 14.9% 25
29 HOU -27.0% 2-12 -23.1% 3.2 30 -0.7% 19 12.3% 6 15.1% 26
30 WAS -27.1% 3-11 -30.7% 3.5 29 1.6% 12 -10.4% 26 9.3% 12
31 OAK -33.3% 4-10 -31.5% 2.2 32 -3.5% 27 16.8% 4 10.1% 14
32 JAC -42.3% 4-10 -40.5% 2.5 31 0.7% 15 -1.6% 18 12.9% 21

Comments

202 comments, Last at 22 Dec 2013, 12:18pm

1 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Not surprising the GB is steadily trending towards the largest variance in DVOA

7 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It would be really nice to see DVOA graphs for GB with and GB without Rodgers (the CHI game would also go in to No Rodgers since he was hurt on the 1st Series)

135 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I's also like to see Indy with/without Wayne and Philly with/without Foles. That would account for 3 of the 5 highest varianced teams. The Jets and Rams just seem to be Jekyll and Hyde teams.

199 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

What is it with the Rams' variance on defense? Some weeks they seem like a top 5 defense (e.g. against the Saints). Other weeks, they look like a bottom 5 defense. And it isn't any obvious injury, as they have gone back and forth during the season, though probably trending toward the better games.

I guess it could be just typical statistical clustering, but it seems somehow atypical just eyeballing the games and box scores.

111 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Well, they have the highest offensive variance, as expected. Unfortunately, they have the 8th-lowest defensive variance, which means their defense has been very consistent at sucking.

2 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

What's the best division in DVOA history? NFC West this year must be high on the list.

5 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Any theories as to the surreal switch around for this division? They were one of the worst divisions in football following on a string of terrible combined seasons, including those miserable play-off teams in 2004, and especially 2011, and now they're among the best, and look to continue to be so. Is that just a lot of high draft picks all concentrated in one place? Is it something to do with inter-divisional culture? What gives?

21 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

This is definitely something that should be investigated. They had a 7-9 division winner in 2010 (the year you meant - the 2011 division winner was legitimately very good).

Part of it is just finally hitting on draft picks. The high picks in recent years by these teams have almost always worked. Peterson for ARZ. Quinn, Brockers, Austin (to some degree) for STL. Everything Jon Schneider has done is Seattle.

The bigger part to me is stability and good fortune in the coaching/GM.

Apart from three years, Jeff Fisher always fielded competitive teams in Tennessee. He's a big upgrade from Spagnuolo/Linehan. Pete Carroll has proven himself to being a very good coach in turn #3, far better than Jim Mora. Jim Harbuagh has been so much better than Mike Singletary/Mike Nolan it is ridiculous.

Inter-division culture definitely plays a part. The AL East wasn't the best division just because of the Yankees and Red Sox, but because of the impact those teams had on the rest. In baseball, it is a matter of innovation and making sure you catch up to the financial power. In the NFL, it is probably more dubious. It hasn't worked in other divisions (namely, the AFC East in the Brady era), but it definitely has in the NFC West.

The final thing I have is maybe they are taking advantage of a relative underrated skill right now: running and defense. All four teams have been built in similar ways: defense first, not dependent on the QB as much as the other premier teams. Them all hitting on defensive personnel is odd, but there may be something to trying to build opposite of what the norm is in today's NFL.

144 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

The final thing I have is maybe they are taking advantage of a relative underrated skill right now: running and defense. All four teams have been built in similar ways: defense first, not dependent on the QB as much as the other premier teams. Them all hitting on defensive personnel is odd, but there may be something to trying to build opposite of what the norm is in today's NFL.

This point has the most potential, I think. Plenty of divisions have stunk it up and had lots of high draft picks. True the NFC West has good coaching right now, but nobody's ever shown there's much difference between good coaching and competent coaching.

Maybe there's nothing to the similar style of all NFC West teams, but what if there is? That would be interesting. Four teams that emphasize defense, special teams, and the running game -- despite all advanced statistics saying these things are less important than passing and QB play -- have turned the division around from worst to first. What gives?

163 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It's probably has to do with the lower variance nature of good defense added to the ability to shorten a football game if you get up a whether or not it was by chance or skill.

168 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I'd say that Arizona shows the importance of quarterback play. Basically, whenever they've had competent or better quarterbacking they've been a pretty good team in the last decade or so and when they haven't, they haven't.

Seattle shows the importance of drafting. They've absolutely nailed most of their picks in the Schneider / Carroll era and as a result of the new salary structure for rookies, they've got a very good, very cheap team. Which allows them to do things like sign Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril and turn a weakness into a strength.

The 49ers show the importance of coaching. I'd actually say Harbaugh is a bit overrated. My theory is that a truly awful coach (Singletary) does more harm than a good coach does good. This team was underachieving with very good talent for years.

The Rams are interesting in that they've had a lot of high picks but haven't really benefitted from them outside of the Griffin trade which is about to come home to roost. With the exception of Long, their high picks have been negative value (including Bradford when you factor in salary). They're more average-ish than good, which isn't any sort of achievement considering how long they've been bad and how many chances that has given them to rebuild.

22 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I think the draft picks helped a lot but it doesn't really tell the whole story. San Fran had all of the talent they needed on the team but couldn't put it together until Harbaugh came in. Seattle has some high draft picks (Earl Thomas and Russell Okung) but they haven't spent much time drafting high. I think that it's really the quality of coaching that makes the most difference. All four of the head coaches in the division now are very good.

26 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I think the high volume of draft picks garnered when NFC West teams were historically shitty really helps the 'next-man-up' dynamic that is driving the NFL more these days than maybe people realize (players are bigger/stronger/faster which leads to more injury risk, concussion awareness knocks guys out of games that previously they'd have played etc.).

It's not just about hitting the lottery with draft picks, it's about building a true 50-man roster with them, maybe more than it was in the past. So to sum up, the NFC West is really good after being really bad is because the NFL draft actually works.

31 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

San Francisco I would ascribe to high draft picks which came together with the right coaching.

2005 1-1: Alex Smith (well, he did play his part in 2011 and the first half of 2012)
2006 1-6: Vernon Davis
2007 1-11: Patrick Willis
2007 1-28: Joe Staley
2009 1-10; Michael Crabtree
2010 1-11: Michael Davis
2010 1-17: Mike Iupati
2011 1-7: Aldon Smith
2011 2-36: Colin Kaepernick

None of the other three teams had a particularly high number of early-round successes; looking through the selections there were actually more busts.

I think it's partly from the extreme focus on defense that all these teams share in a time when offenses are getting more and more explosive, which happens to be the same strategy of Baltimore and Pittsburgh. We've seen how elite defenses can pull even woeful offenses into the playoffs, and if the offenses are good as well, you get Seattle and SF today.

37 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Good breakdown! We might add that the Rams turned some high draft picks into multiple medium-high draft picks. They have five 2nd-rounders on their roster that were drafted in the last 3 years.

103 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Incidentally, this was one of the foundations upon which I built the "here's why they didn't regress" SF chapter in FOA2013. They had a historically outlying number of first-round picks on that roster when Harbaugh arrived -- and not just guys they drafted. Breakout teams of the "high talent stops underachieving" variety tend to have an easier time avoiding a fall back to earth than breakout teams of the "mediocre talent played out of their minds" variety.

104 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

But it can be hard to disentangle which was which no?

I actually think the biggest thing was that offensive line study of how its the third year when the high picks on the o line really blossom(I remember a niner friend telling me, but I never read the article). Seemed to me, the big difference between the 13-3 niners and the 11-4-1 niners was the dominance of their offensive line. Of course, replacing snyder with boone would be hard for anyone to predict.

107 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Well, considering everything in football stat analysis is hard to disentangle, yeah. But, I'm comfortable with what the research showed (mainly because it also happens to make theoretical sense). As much as front offices get wrong about the draft, I think they do a better-than-chance job at separating the wheat from the chaff. The 2010 team could only muster a 6-10 record despite 161 starts from first rounders when the only team with more starts from first rounders that season went 11-5. Then, the 2011 team went 13-3 after having 162 starts from first rounders, and the only plexiglass team with more (177 by '08 BAL) also didn't fall back to earth the following year.

As to your OL point, yeah, two of those first rounders were Davis and Iupati in 2010. The research says those guys blossom in year 2, not year 3, so that jibes with being a factor in the 2011 breakout season.

34 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

None of the teams are really riding on the strength of high draft picks (although the Rams have had some help in that area). Mostly, it's a coincidence of cycles in coaching changes (Rams, 49ers, Seahawks) or QB's (Cardinals).

The Cardinals were pretty good with Kurt Warner, then fell apart after he retired (18-30 over three season) despite decent talent elsewhere. Carson Palmer is making a huge difference.

The 49ers were never terrible, winning between 6 and 8 games in four out of five seasons between 2006 and 2010. But Singletary was a disaster as head coach. Harbaugh took over in 2011 and made them an instant contender.

The Rams did stack up talent in the draft, but it was Jeff Fisher's arrival in 2012 that made them decent (still not really good, but easily a .500 team in any other division).

The Seahawks bad stretch covered the last year of Mike Holmgren with a terribly old and slow roster (4-12), a year of horrible coaching from Jim Mora (5-11), followed by two years of Pete Carroll's complete rebuild (7-9 and 7-9). The 2010 7-9 team won the historically bad division, and was really not as good as the 2011 7-9 team. Carroll and general manager John Schneider built the roster mainly with low draft picks and UFDA's (Russell Wilson in the 3rd round, K.J. Wright in the 4th, Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman in the 5th, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse UDFA's, etc.).

156 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Couldn't they? Losers won't get penalized since they lose to good teams and winners will get bonuses. Its maybe a long shot but possible. Also DVOA doesn't takenpodt season into account right?

180 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Well on average it may be, but it is frequently not the case in specific instances. For example that wasn't the case when SF beat SEA two weeks ago. On that occasion both teams total DVOA actually dropped slightly (though SF's weighted DVOA rose) perhaps this dip was a result of other permutations though so total DVOA may not be a good indicator. Regardless, this truth doesn't help my assumption that two good teams playing a close game might help raise both teams' (and thus the division) DVOA because that is clearly not the case as I would have discovered by doing some legwork prior to opening my yap. Mea culpa.

186 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It seems like it ought to be a zero-sum game in terms of *changes* to team ratings.

If a 20% DVOA team plays a 0% DVOA team, and they play to a 0-0 VOA draw, the team ratings for the game seem like they ought to be 0% and 20%, respectively.

But who knows if I am correct. That's just the way it would seem to work intuitively. (ignoring stuff that you point out, like FG's and penalties)

3 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Wow, one game was enough to push Seattle's DVOA against #2 receivers from 5th-worst to 6th-best. If Browner does get retained next year, he needs to get himself suspended for the end of the season yet again, because it's clearly helping the team.

6 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I know. Absolutely crazy, but four of the five passes to Hakeem Nicks were intercepted (although one was a Hail Mary) and the other was just a five-yard gain on second-and-17.

11 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Seems more likely a reminder that splits like "best DVOA against #2 receivers" are a product of a small sample size of plays and are not reliable indicators of teams' actual talent.

20 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Speaking of small sample size, The Seahawks this year have an average per-game DVOA performance of 29.2% on the road, and just below 60.0% (59.95%) at home.

4 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Apart from the typical, Romo chokes rhetoric, any over-arching reason why the Cowboys are collapsing so much down the stretch in DVOA? I haven't been actively watching them, but they seemed pretty solid through the first half of the season and now they're almost in free fall...

13 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Defensive injuries, especially Sean Lee. Took the defense from "bad, but can at least get a turnover occasionally" to "can't even slow down anyone" right around the Saints game.

28 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Right, which you can imagine how that makes me feel as a Giants fan. Giants struggled to score for 3 quarters against their defense, right after New Orleans put up 49 on them and backup QB's in Chicago and Green Bay scored 42 and 37.

8 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I just want to remind everyone that Dave Toub is the special teams teams coach in KC, after spending the last 8 years making the Bears the only consistently good team in special teams DVOA.

What does that guy do on punts and kickoffs that everyone else doesn't do?

102 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by whckandrw (not verified)

The Patriots special teams have also been consistently good. I went back to 2004, and every year was greater than 0%. Most years they were top 5.

I'm guessing its having real special teams players, instead of just whoever happens to be on the roster and not starting.

106 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Are you saying the pats routinely put starters on their special teams units? Or maybe you mean they have designated special teams roster spots for players who might be useless otherwise, but excel at special teams so they are kept on?

113 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Pats keep special teams players such as Matt Slater and Ebner. Bill often carries more TEs and LBs and safetys so that the pats are stronger in the kicking game.
S
This in turn leads to having 4 WRs on the roster or other such oddities like no DT depth.

The Pats roster is such a mess this year due to their ridiculous number of injuries at every level.

If Reid doesn't win COTY then Belichick should, simply for how he's managed the roster, though I do think he should have less emphasis on special teams and he should've kept woodhead.

141 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by whckandrw (not verified)

Not everyone else. Seahawk special teams are on the brink of setting a record for fewest yards allowed on punt returns, for example...

202 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Seahawks also had two blocked FG attempts run back for touchdowns, and a couple of blocked punts, one run back for a touchdown. It takes a lot of zero return punts to make up for those disasters.

142 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by whckandrw (not verified)

Not everyone else. Seahawk special teams are on the brink of setting a record for fewest yards allowed on punt returns, for example...

10 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

What happened to "the Chiefs are who we thought they were" narrative of a few weeks ago. KC wins the backward-looking narrative destroyer award. Preseason FO, worst defense in the league, mid-season narrative, awesome D but anemic O. After 3 straight narrow losses to high powered offenses, they are average. After scoring 35 in the first half twice in a row, Super Bowl contenders! KC sure does change a lot... Not.

54 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by BuckB (not verified)

You do realize that all of these narratives apart from the preseason projections were based on their actual performance? So in essence, you just described the team's seesaw of styles, fortunes and performance over the course of the season and ended your comment stating that they did not change. Unfortunately for you, FO only uses factual evidence when measuring a team's quality, strengths and weaknesses. I suggest you look into ESPN's website as your main source of information as their content is less likely to clash with your particular brand of logic.

67 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by CaptainObvious (not verified)

Ok. Try an example. Flip 32 pennies 16 times. Look at the result. Obviously there is no reason why this penny started out 6-0 then lost 4 straight. The backward-looking narrative generators could tell you why that penny started so hot then tailed off. Those narratives would be based on, as you say, "the actual performance" of that penny. Hardly a defense of inferring too much meaning from a sample, if that was your goal. The best stats guys I work with are careful to ensure lay people don't infer more meaning than could possibly be in the data.

Carry on...

83 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Yes, pennies are not football teams. I get that. I'm simply saying that people have over-active pattern recognition behaviors and good statistical work helps them moderate that... not aggravate it. FO is not bad on that score, but not particularly good either. I get it. It's entertainment and business. Who KC is, hasn't changed much IMO. They and their opponents, like all humans, have had good days and bad days. Who KC is is the roster, the play book, the coaches, and the culture. I don't think that has changed much...at least in comparison to the change in the narrative of the week.

91 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

The problem is that the "narrative of the week", as you call it, reflects the current knowledge of the team at that time. Of course it's possible for a team to play lousy offense for half a season and then great offense for the second half. I don't see how you can say that they have a good offense when they haven't demonstrated that ability through eight games. Based on the evidence after 8 games, an accurate description of the team would have to include the words "lousy offense" (or something similar).

In the penny analogy, if we don't know the composition or the weight distribution of the penny, we would be forced to conclude that a penny that comes up heads 8 times out of 8 is likely to be unevenly weighted in favor of heads coming up. The odds of it being a fair penny are relatively low. Likewise, the odds of a good team playing poorly for eight games in a row is fairly low.

121 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

To use the Bill Parcells Narrative "You are what your record says you are", except, for the sake of this exercise, you are what your DVOA says you are. Kansas City is 11-3 and has a nice DVOA. I would say that Kansas City played worse vs Cleveland, Oakland, and Houston, than in both games against Denver. Their DVOA is actually stronger than when they were 9-0, yet they're 2-3 in their last five games. That's the narrative of DVOA.

132 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

DVOA is a statistic, not a narrative. People use and abuse statistics to create and support narrative. Or, in the case of Cris Collinsworth it's a PIDOOMA (pulled it directly out of...etc)

131 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I didn't say KC has a good offense. I said they scored 35 in the first half 2 weeks in a row. See the difference? I said what they did, not who they are. The other stuff I said was me mocking FO and others assignment of meaning to data.

No. You would not be forced to conclude that penny is unevenly weighted. You would expect an average NFL team to win 8 in a row about once every 8 seasons.

140 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I said I would be forced to conclude that the penny is LIKELY unevenly weighted. Absent any other information, that is the most likely explanation.

Your math is also wrong. You would expect the median NFL team to win its first 8 games once every 256 seasons. If you allow for 8 game winning streaks later in the season, then yes, the frequency is higher. Fortunately, we have more information about a team that loses its first 2 games and then wins 8 in a row -- and therefore we would probably describe them as being a closer to average team.

You are trying to distinguish between good teams playing as expected vs average (or bad) teams playing well. In terms of describing past results, it is really a distinction without a difference. You cannot say that a team that lost 8 games in a row is really a good team without any other information -- and when it comes to football, while it is true that we do have other information about teams independent of their performance, we don't know if that information that we though we had is correct or if it has changed since we first acquired it.

148 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

If there were 32 average teams any 1 team winning the first 8 games would occur once each 8 seasons. If among friends we agreed that about half of the teams qualify as average then it's once every 16 seasons. If it's 8 games in a row instead of the first 8, as I said, the frequency is less than once per 2 years since those 16 teams get 9 tries at winning 8 in a row. I probably do have an error somewhere but the point is the same. It is usual for random events to generate seemingly meaningful patterns especially if you are predisposed, or paid to, find meaning.

150 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

"If there were 32 average teams" -- I think that is the assumption where we disagree. Care to make a wager that I can pick the outcomes of games at better than a 50% rate? If all teams were average, I would not be able to do so consistently.

157 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I would think that if there were 32 average teams, any idiot could call games at a 60% or better clip just by taking the home team every time.

Not that you aren't completely right about the KC narratives, mind you, just saying.

162 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

His point is still valid. I'd still claim that I could pick winners at a rate higher than would be expected than if the games were purely determined by chance (with a boost to the home team).

Or, to put another way, if all teams were average, I could make a killing in Vegas by betting on games where the line deviates from Home Team -3.

178 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It's not chance or meaning. There's a lot of randomness and some meaning. Every other season an average team will win 8 straight. Every year a handful of average teams will go 12-4, 4-12 or something close to that. That's what 32 pennies do when you flip em 16 times. It will be irresistible for pundits to tell you about the qualities (uneven weighting, whatever) of those pennies. It's a simple and widely disrespected null hypothesis. Read your horoscopes people!

188 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Again, while you are completely correct about the random behavior of 32 pennies, you continue to make the faulty assumption that the results of football games are 50/50 propositions. It is simply not the case that there are 32 average teams in a 32 team league. If that were the case, nobody would be able to pick the winners of games with any consistency. Even so-called "narrative is everything" experts can pick winners at a greater than 60% rate. That would not be possible if they were all coin flips.

Your math breaks down when you start to give some teams a greater chance to win than others. It is easier to go undefeated in 8 games if they are all coin flips than it is to go undefeated in 8 games if half are against teams that are better than you.

Of course, it is possible for an average team to get a ridiculously favorable schedule for the first half of the season. If we stipulate that, every season, there is one "average" team whose first 8 games will be against teams that they have a 70% chance of beating (doubtful that this would happen every year) -- then we could expect an average team to win their first 8 games about once every 17 seasons. It really takes a ton of assumptions to get average teams doing what the Chiefs did this year with any kind of regularity.

198 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Nope. Never made the assumption that the outcome of football games is 50/50. That is the null hypothesis. To find the likelihood of meaning in a series of events, one approach is to find the likelihood that those events could be random. The null hypothesis is useful, not necessarily true, thus the term hypothesis.

The null hypothesis tells you that a team winning 8 games in a row may indicate nothing about the team other than they are probably not terrible. But, there will be lots and lots of narrative, like "Event A shows they are who we thought they were".

201 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

But your hypothesis has no basis in reality. The outcomes of games are weighted based on team quality. Therefore, in order to make useful predictions, we need to estimate the relative strength of teams. This is exactly what DVOA attempts to do.

The claim "Event A shows who we thought they were" is essentially saying "Our data indicated that Event A was the most likely of all possible outcomes, and it occurred, so our underlying data shouldn't change much based on Event A."

12 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

One overpowering question remains. Did last night's performance coupled with adjustment's for Detroit's defense move Baltimore out of the all time worst rushing DVOA?

16 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

If it did, blame Stafford for throwing an interception that allowed Rice to get that 19-yard run that salted the game away, because he and Pierce did nothing before that.

18 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

You obviously haven't watched a lot of Ravens this year. Even without that run, the bad performance you saw last night was better than more than half of the Ravens games this year against the No. 4 rushing DVOA.

45 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Actually yesterday was easily the best rushing game the Ravens have had this year. It graded out at 0.3% DVOA, and their next best game is at -15.5%. They seem to have moved on from the days when they put up -64.5% vs. Buffalo and -76.1% against GB.

15 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Since we were talking last week about games being flexed for NBC the last week of the year, take a look at the possibilities if the obvious favorites (by DVOA) win and WAS, PIT, and MIA pull off (mild) upsets. There are pretty much no games the following week that are guaranteed to be meaningful.

19 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

The SF-Arizona could be plenty meaningful. First, Arizona might make the playoffs with a win, depending on what Carolina does. Second, SF will be battling the loser of the NFC South matchup for the 5th seed. If Green Bay does win out, I would think the wild card teams would like to avoid them if possible, although the 49ers do seem to have the Packers' number recently.

25 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

If Arizona loses to Seattle and Carolina beats NO, then ARI is out. It would render the ARI-SF meaningful only if you care whether SF gets the 5th or 6th seed -- which I'd bet most viewers would not.

Also, I stipulated that Pittsburgh beats GB in this scenario.

The only game I could find that was assured of (in or out) meaning in my scenario was DET-MIN -- with DET needing to win to get in.

32 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Didn't follow the previous discussion, but there are 3 potential in-or-out flex game possibilities for week 17: in order, 1) PHI-DAL; 2) GB-CHI; 3) BAL-CIN. Each of those would be set up by both teams winning, or both teams losing (except GB-CHI, maybe), in week 16. Possible that none of these will pan out, but very likely at least one will. SF-AZ is a very longshot 4th, only if AZ wins at Seattle and SF loses at home to Atlanta. (Not sure how DET-MIN has anywhere near those implications, since DET needs help, and gets eliminated this week if Chicago and GB lose; I'm guessing you suggested that game last week.)

33 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

San Francisco doesn't need to lose to Atlanta. The most realistic way for Arizona to make the playoffs is by winning one more game and having Carolina lose out. That way they don't need any Seattle or SF home losses.

39 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Right, good point. SF-AZ could end up being an in-or-out game if AZ wins at Seattle, SF loses at Atlanta, and Carolina beats NO this Sunday (SF and AZ would each be 10-5; Carolina would have 11 wins, and NO would have 10 and tiebreakers over SF or AZ). In other words, it won't.

36 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

(Forgot to note that BAL-CIN would decide the AFC North title unless CIN wins and BAL loses in week 16, but might not be an in-or-out game since either team would still be a wild card if Miami loses at least once. PHI-DAL is the odds-on favorite to be the flex game, scuttled only if PHI wins and DAL loses in week 16. (Neither GB nor CHI can be a wild card, but their week 17 game wouldn't be an in-or-out if one of them loses and DET wins in week 16.) Can't imagine how thrilled Cowboys would be heading into their 3rd straight do-or-die week 17 Sunday night showdown, although at least one would be at home.)

40 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

The Cowboys have actually played meaningful Week 17 games each season since 2008, other than 2010 when Romo got hurt.

Two weren't on SNF. One was the 2008 do-or-die game in Philadelphia where the winner would get the #6 seed (Eagles won 44-6, making FO asign it with the title 'Eagles Porn'). 2009 had both teams in the playoffs, but had serious seeding implications. The game was PHI @ DAL. A win by either gave that team the NFC East. A PHI win gave the Eagles the #2 seed (and a DAL @ MIN wild card game), while a Dallas win gave the Ealges the #6 seed and the Cowboys the #3 (setting up a rematch in the same stadium).

That was the only important Week 16 game they've won in recent years and it was in Dallas. Good sign for 2013?

38 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It should be interesting.

If all six teams you mentioned win, all three will be for the division. My guess is NBC takes one of the FOX games (probably PHI @ DAL), and CBS and NBC get one game each.

The only game that is potentially not do-or-die is BAL @ CIN, as if Maimi loses either of their next two games, CIN would be in the playoffs no matter what. My guess is NBC takes the NFC East game if possible, but even if that's off the table (if DAL loses and PHI wins), they take GB @ CHI and leave BAL @ CIN to CBS.

47 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

My original post stipulated a very specific scenario for the results of week 16's games: PHI, WAS, PIT, CAR, CIN, NE, MIA, DET, SEA, NE and SF all win next week.

Under that scenario, DAL-PHI is meaningless, GB-CHI is only meaningful if DET loses in week 17 (which NBC can't ensure), BAL-CIN is only meaningful if MIA loses (again, no guarantee), and SF-AZ is essentially meaningless.

I'm basically trying to paint a worst-case scenario for NBC, and figuring out which game they would flex.

49 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Yes, but in the process showing what good shape NBC is in (perhaps that was your point). I doubt they've ever gone into week 16 with this many potential do-or-die flex game possibilities for week 17.

53 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Actually, I'd wager that this year is pretty average -- especially considering the NFL tries to schedule as many divisional games as possible for the last week. PHI-DAL is very likely to pan out, but if it doesn't, none of the other possibilities are likely (especially since if PHI-DAL doesn't pan out, it hurts the chances of CHI-GB being meaningful).

There are other scenarios where games could be meaningful if upsets occur, but I'd bet that's pretty much the case every year.

153 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Right, the last few years the week 17 matchups are all intra-divisional, but I think it's still probably rare for 3 of those matchups not to have a wild-card fallback for the loser (which again might not be the case for BAL-CIN either). But you make a good point, that Philly beating Chicago could wreck not 1 but 2 of the do-or-die week 17 games. Even if that happens though, Dallas beating Washington would save the PHI-DAL matchup, and Detroit losing to the Giants would save GB-CHI. Not to mention that wins by Bal, Cin, and Miami would at least preserve the likelihood that BAL-CIN would be a knockout game (as long as Miami also wins over the Jets at home in week 17).

76 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Wait...isn't there a rule (or TV contract clause) that limits a team's prime time tv games and SF is already at the limit? As are a few others.

Or is that a rule that is ignored if inconvenient to TV rateings?

137 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

My understanding is that the 'number of prime time games' restriction is ignored on Week 17. They attempt to schedule a game with playoff implications that cannot be rendered meaningless by other results.

That it's always Dallas is just proof that Tony Romo must've been a real jerk in his previous life.

99 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I actually have the games playing out the way Sporran has it, with the exception being GB beating PIT. That doesn't really change things though, the NFL (who determines Week 17 flexes, not NBC) couldn't really flex GB-CHI since the Bears could be eliminated with a Lions loss earlier in the day and that would give the Packers a huge advantage.

Would be interesting to see what the NFL would do -- maybe they'd flex NYJ-MIA and hope the Ravens beat the Bengals so the 'Fins would be playing for the final playoff spot.

17 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Seattle may not have earned a spot near Washington and New England with its play this season, but that comes with a qualifier: They lost almost half (19/42) of the man-games from their 3 best and most important pass blockers (All-Pro C Unger, Pro Bowl LT Okung, and RT Breno Giacomini). All those guys are back now and DVOA has been steadily climbing right upon their return. Moreover, in the partial game Harvin played, the field tilting was undeniable. If he gets on the field this season, which is perhaps only 40/60 at this point, Seattle has all-time team peak potential.

Seattle's pass defense standard deviation above average is 3rd all time to this point for ANY/A:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/18/sports/football/seahawks-pass-defense-thrives-in-a-tough-environment.html

122 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Yeah, seeing how it was explained how the Broncos lost to the Giants and dropped from their position doesn't really do the Seahawks justice. Only three teams have been better at DVOA through 14 games, and like you said, that's despite missing three starters on the o-line and Harvin. And it's likely to improve after this week.

55 Re: FG's > 60 yards in length don't have expected value?

I'm going to guess it's because 60+ yard FGs are rare enough there simply isn't value in including them in the statistical model. It's not that they couldn't be important, but statistical analysis is about looking at trying to describe past performance/predict future performance based on sets of logical criteria. Very few 60+ yard FGs are made each year, so it's likely just not a consistent enough subset of data to provide real value to DVOA.

That's how this former liberal arts guy sees it, at least.

60 Re: FG's > 60 yards in length don't have expected value?

Not sure. You can still do regression analysis to predict 60 yard field goal success, using whatever factors you think are relevant, ie - distance, weather, time/circumstances, etc etc. I don't remember seeing much research on this, likely because 60 yard plus is so rare and often results when you're completely out of options, but I can't imagine its anywhere above 40 percent at most. I say this ex ante, I didn't think it was the right decision for harbaugh to make. It wasn't a tie, if he missed, he would have lost. I really think his kicker bailed him out a bad decision.

159 Re: FG's > 60 yards in length don't have expected value?

It seems like we have seen a lot more 60+ yard attempts in the past 5 years than we have historically. I'm too lazy to look it up, but it feels to me like there are a bunch of big-legged kickers in the league (moreso than normal) that can conceivably hit from 60 yards out. Prater, Janikowski, Tucker. It wouldn't even surprise me that much to see Gostkowski hit one from 60 in Denver if there were a situation where he absolutely had to attempt one.

171 Re: FG's > 60 yards in length don't have expected value?

Zuerlein and Crosby certainly have the legs, and Zuerlein has hit one and benefits from playing in a dome, but both of their accuracies from long range would seem to me to lower their chances.

Career PCT fom 50+
Justin Tucker 10/11 90.91%
Matt Prater 20/26 76.92%
Stephen Gostkowski 12/16 75.00%
Sebastian Janikowski 45/82 54.88%
Greg Zuerlein 7/14 54.88%
Mason Crosby 19/40 47.50%

Legatron could miss his next 10 attempts from 50+ and still be more accurate than Crosby

138 Re: FG's > 60 yards in length don't have expected value?

I'm an idiot, but I interpreted that statement as the expected value of attempting the kick is 0 points.

Assume you make the kick around 20% of the time. That's an expected value of 0.6 points (3*0.2) for attempting the kick.

But, the other 80% of the time, you leave the opponent at midfield. What's their expected point value for starting a drive at the 50 yard line? If that is 0.6 points or more, you have a net 0 value proposition in attempting the kick.

24 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

The Niners' DVOA unit ratings are interesting to me because special teams is the highest ranked against the league, even though the eyeball test tells me that unit is the most lopsided on the team.

Offense (+5.2 percent, No. 11): Yeah, I buy that. Good rushing plus okay-and-getting-better passing that makes up for volume deficiencies with above-average ball security (wait, did Alex Smith leave this team or not?)

Defense (-8.5 percent, No. 8): Would expect this unit to rank a little higher (there are *seven* better Ds than SF ... really?) but it's designed to control opposing offenses rather than make big plays and is climbing as it rounds out into form.

Special teams (+4.1 percent, No. 7): Highest-ranked unit on the team. Good-to-great punting, I daresay ... good kicking (can we call automatic FGs 'great' when the league-wide accuracy rate is, like, 94 percent?) ... good kick/punt coverage ... utterly non-existent return game.

That's my point about the lopsidedness of the SF special teams unit, that there's no return game to speak of (though of late LMJ has been an improvement on Kyle 'The Human Fair Catch Highlight Reel' Williams in this regard).

35 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

This is actually not quite right. The passing offense has been much better by DVOA than the rushing offense. SF had two or three really awful high profile passing games, but have actually been extremely efficient throwing the ball in the rest of their games (if there were a measurement of passing DVOA variance, I bet SF's would be extremely high). Of course, SF's pass/rush DVOA split doesn't account for volume/usage (SF likes to run the ball a lot more than it throws, and it's harder to sustain efficiency over greater usage), or opponent scheme (for much of the season teams were playing 8- and 9-man boxes and daring SF to throw).

As for the D, they got off to something of a slow start (28, 29, 27 pts allowed the first three weeks) and have been better ever since. They're 8th in DVOA overall but 6th weighted. Getting Aldon Smith back has clearly helped too.

46 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

coremill and Carl Cuba - thanks for your responses and insight ... have to go chaperone kids to the Nutcracker (fuck!!!) but I'll revisit this stuff when I get back

41 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

The niners special teams has been a tale off two seasons. Up until the bye they had 'Fair Catch' Williams on point returns and Hunter, Cox and Williams on kick returns. At this stage the return units were amongst the worst in the league. The punt and kick coverage units were amongst the best in the league and Dawson has had a strong year.

Since the bye, when LaMichael James was handed the primary return job, the niners' average special teams rating per game is 9.4%, though that I'd buoyed by a score of over 20% against the Bucs and their comedy fumbled kick off.

43 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

If you look at the offense since Crabtree returned and the defense since Aldon Smith returned you see a similar uptick, though less pronounced.

In the six games since Smith returned the niners average DVOA is -17.0% and with Crabtree the offense has averaged 11.2% (I know; small sample size/cherry picking etc. It's just a theoretical exercise).

Add the three numbers (no idea if this is valid in DVOA calculations) and you get 37.5%, which is the sort of number you might have hoped to see as a fan of a team that was up near the top of everyone's power rankings to start the season. Annoyingly, it's still lower than the dratted Seahawks.

27 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Just because people overuse "peaking at the right team" doesn't mean performance doesn't have peaks and that they can't happen at the right time. Didn't the Ravens peak just at the right time last year?

Not saying the Chiefs are, but perhaps.

------
The man with no sig

29 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I think the problem with the sentiment is that its always revisionist. You're 'peaking at the right time' until you aren't, because you lost. Seattle was 'peaking at the right time' even more than Baltimore last year but they didn't make the SB.

50 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Clearly recent history shows that the key to a SB win is not peaking at the right time but tanking at the right time. '06 Colts, '07 Giants, '08 Cardinals (who made but lost the SB), '11 Giants, and '12 Ravens all looked very strong (more or less) at season midpoint or even 2/3 point, then took a nosedive that threatened its playoff position (or spot in the playoffs altogether) toward the end of the season, then miraculously righted the ship (or played better than they had all season) right as they entered the playoffs. You might even include the '09 Saints, who started 13-0 but lost their last 3, in that group, but I can't remember if they even cared about those 3 games. KC might be righting the ship a little early for this model. New England -- there's your pick.

30 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

The problem is that it has very little predictive value. Last week I heard that Philadelphia was "peaking at the right time". It didn't help them this week.

42 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I wouldn't get too excited about the Chiefs' wins of the past two weeks. They've beaten up bad teams. DVOA overrates that kind of result basically because they're are not enough games in the season for opponent adjustments to really reach the most accurate levels. And it doesn't really make quick adjustments to changes in team quality. By which I mean, it doesn't recognize that the Redskins changed from being a below-average team to a godawful team roughly halfway during the Vikings game.

The Chiefs are still a team with only one victory against a team that's currently above .500, and that was an early season victory against the 8-6 Eagles. They are 9-0 out of the division, but "out of the division" means the NFC East, the AFC South (minus Indy, whom they haven't played yet), Buffalo, and Cleveland.

57 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Hmm, not sure I put too much stock into "beating a somebody." I remember 2011 NE that went to the superbowl hadn't beaten a single team with a winning record until they faced the ravens. of course, part of that was a product of facing a weak nfc east(where they lost to the only team in that division with a winning record(who happened to win the sb). They similarly faced the afc west division, where the winner had 8 wins.

of course, that team also pounded these bad teams into the dirt so while you can only play what's in front of you, I think we should understand that if you are a good team, you will crush your inferior opponents.

69 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Well, the Chiefs' drop in DVOA wasn't because of their three losses; it was those 5 unsatisfactory wins before them that did it, because they didn't crush their inferior opponents.

56 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Not sure what evidence there was that the ravens were peaking at the right time. Since the 55-24 beatdown of the raiders in week 10 of last year, they followed their next stretch with 16-13 overtime win against the chargers(where they needed a miracle 4th and 26 conversion with a dumpoff pass), which followed 3 consecutive losses, including a massive blowout at home to the broncos in week 15. They then won handily over the giants before playing a meaningless game in cincinnati.

114 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It's shit like that that made me give up any pretense to having any insight into this business. Based on their recent history (like the past 4 games) Balt had no business on earth winning the SB last year. I'll go one step farther (and become a pariah in Indianapolis) and say the same thing about the 06 Colts. The 05 and 07 teams SHOULD have won, and the more flawed 06 team DID. How? Clearly, it was magic beans.

So all the hours every week I spend reading about, pretending to analyze and understand, (and discussing here and elsewhere) and I am just hopeless. I'm much better with the smaller aspects of the game--"you see, he starts with his right foot to the outside, which makes the OT square his shoulders to face that anticipated outside rush..." (at this point my 13 year-old is snoring) "...so that the pass rusher lunges inside with his left. BUT!" (I smack him to get his attention) "He has to clear his right arm and shoulder or he's still vulnerable to the blocker...." Son stabs dad out of boredom. But at least that stuff is clearly understandable to me. The Ravens last year, the Colts in 06, even the Cards' run in 2010 (IIRC) are just mysteries to me.

139 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I think this can be explained with the phrase "small sample size".

It makes the NFL fun, and I was on cloud nine when the Ravens won the SB last year, but they certainly weren't the BEST team in the league. They just beat all of their opponents in the tournament (and to be fair, that offense was a hell of a lot better than it had been all year).

If you want true justice to great teams, that's what baseball's for. Football is for short, insane seasons that anyone can win.

164 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Actually, baseball's postseason is just as much of a crapshoot as the NFL's. Ditto for hockey.

The NBA is where true greatness gets rewarded. It's extremely rare that the best or second-best team doesn't win the championship.

172 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It's actually rare for a low-seeded team in hockey to win the Stanley Cup. Make the Final, sure, but most of the Cinderella Cup Finalists lose in the SCF.

The seeds of the Stanley Cup Champion since 2000 are: 4, 1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 2, 1, 4, 2, 3, 8, 1.

The one huge outlier was the 2011-12 LA Kings, who ran through the Western Conference playoffs beating the #1/2/3 seeds in 5, 4, and 5 games. Also, one of the 4th seeded teams (the 99-00 Devils) was the 2nd best team in the conference by record, but in the same division as the 1st.

Hockey has a ton of upsets and low-seeded teams making deep runs, but rarely does a marginally good team ever win the Cup, and when it happens (Kings), they blow away their opponents.

175 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

And fwiw, all the advanced stats in hockey saw that Kings playoff run coming. They had the best possession metrics in the league but had been the victims of horrible shooting luck. Once that regressed to the mean, they turned out to be just as good as the advanced stats predicted.

A good football analogue would be 2010 Green Bay, who had a strong DVOA but bad luck in close games and injuries hurt their playoff seeding.

185 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Very good point, I probably should have left off the hockey comment. There, it's really more about top seeds losing early in the playoffs, as opposed to lower seeds winning the whole thing.

184 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It's pitching, but in the opposite direction.

In the playoffs, you don't need your fifth-best started, and sometimes not even your fourth-best starter. This is due to the more frequent off days, compared to the regular season. So a team that has two great starting pitchers, one good one, and two horrible ones might have a relatively weak regular season record, but could easily blow right through the playoffs.

174 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

See comment 50. Throw in the '07 and '11 Giants (Cards were '08), not just because they were low seeded but because they looked awful down the stretch and certainly looked DOA entering the playoffs -- and then somehow played better than they had all season and won 4 straight games against the best teams in the league.

177 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I suppose the cliche is meant to be predictive, as in a week 15-17 big win means they're "peaking at the right time". I didn't mean anything that lazy, I simply meant the Ravens peaked in the playoffs, which was obviously the right time. The Giants were pretty good at it, too.

------
The man with no sig

44 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Is there too much parity in the league?

I'm doing a little bit of cherry picking here, but:

The difference between the #12 team and the #23 team is 9.30%.

The #12 rated team this year has the 2nd lowest DVOA in the past 10 years and isn't even half the average during that time span (7.46%)

The #23 rated team this year has the highest rating during the past 10 years.

The next lowest spread between these 2 spots was 14.23% and the average was 19.13%.

I wonder if it is the rule changes on defense causing more variability, practice "style" changes limiting the impact on good coaching, or front office talent is being spread more equally across league. In any case it really is Any Given Sunday.

59 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I think the 'overparity' you're looking at is QB play and passing rule changes.

First QB play, for the last 10 years the NFL has been able to draft Pro ready QBs which is a huge anomaly in the history of the NFL. However since the Flacco/Ryan draft there has been Cam Newton, Bradford, Wilson, Luck, RGIII, etc. So, it would appear that college is doing a better job of prepping QBs for the NFL, and High School is doing a better job of prepping for college as well.

Second, the rule changes that advantage passing have only emphasized this trend.

A Tony Romo productive passer would have been when of the best in the league 15 years ago and on his way to the hall of fame 25 years ago, today he's just ho hum standard production from starter.

62 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Interesting point. I like to think of a successful qb as one who has hung around with the team for a prolonged period of time. I wonder, how many teams have a proven starter who they've trusted for a 5-6 year period.

1) Mannings(sort of cheating, since technically PM is a 2nd year starter for the broncos)
2) Brady
3) Brees
4) Rodgers
5) Rivers
6) Romo
7) Ryan
8) Flacco
9) Ben

Right on the cusp

10) stafford.
11) Cutler

That's it. The rest are either still too young to be definitive or in various states of uncertainty

That's 11 out of 32 teams with a starter that's had a long term starter at quarterback. I think that more than anything explains the repeated churns of parity in the league. In fact, ironically enough, there are several franchises that are on their 4th and 5th qb within this period of time.

94 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Well I mean those are special cases. I mean, think about what the popular opinion of bradford was after his rookie year, or sanchez after his second. I imagine most fans would have found it inconceivable that the sanchize wouldn't be the starter two years later.

I think my larger point was, finding a 5 or 6 year starter itself is incredibly rare. I have a feeling most teams will move on from an average starter looking for an above average one within 5 years. Andy Dalton will be given a short leash, despite his winning percentage. I suspect, if the bengals slip to mediocre and hes largely to blame, he doesn't last more than 2 seasons. That basically suggests that after year 6, you'd better be accomplishing something noteworthy to survive.

115 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Gomer, funny you should mention that. I was looking at P Manning's stats a few weeks ago and comparing them to his MVP years. Hell, ten years ago, 30 TDs, 4,300 yards, passer rating over 96, and 11-12 wins short-listed (a list of 2-3 guys?) you for the MVP. Nowadays, those stats would put you around #10-12 in the discussion. Manning had that TD number by week 9 and the yardage by week 13, with a passer rating that would have shamed the league in 2003. Amazing how fast things have advanced and how expectations have risen.

Hell, just looking at Peyton's stat lines now, with two full games left he has essentially matched Marino's 1984 in TDs and yardage and far outstripped it in rating, a statistical year that stood as "untouchable" for two decades. He has 1/8 of his season left, or 12.5%. Can you imagine blowing past a modern two-decade record by 12.5%? That means running 263 yards farther than Dickerson ran in 1984? Or catching 161 passes (Harrison 2002)? Or 231 yards past Rice's 1,848 from 1995? I repeat: Amazing how fast things have advanced and how expectations have risen, especially for QBs. I think Peyton changed the game in 2004 and Brady and Brees and Rodgers helped reshape the world's expectations of QBs. To be elite, it's not enough to be tops in the league any given year; you have to take a hammer and chisel to a record just about every year. Yikes.

As far as Romo is concerned, I think his production IS HOF-worthy. It's his brain farts, and losses (in his control or not) as well as his bumbling GM that relegate him to also-ran status.

124 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Good thoughts but I have to take issue w/ Romo HOF worthy comment, he's the guy with the 450 career HRs in the steroid era of baseball. His production means more in the context of his era than it does historically.

Also my gripe w/ all time great WR's not making the hall because they had the misfortune of playing in the transition from run first to pass first era. 1983 to 1999.

85 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

I would argue that yes, there is too much parity, but not because of the reasons you offer. Those may be right, but for my taste, there is too much parity because of the impact of that parity--a bunch of games so closely contested that we have to rely on the very iffy refs to decide outcomes. How many times this year have games been so close that we get frustrated by bad officiating, the calls or non calls that dominate. I know that makes for lively discussion, but I'd prefer clearer wins myself.

96 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

It depends on how you look at parity. There is of course in season parity, and long term parity, by that I mean, how long do contenders stay contenders? I think the answer to that largely depends on what kind of qb you have simply because of the nature of the position. Over a decade long stretch, how many teams are consistently good being defensive led squads? The ravens, bears, steelers(though this one is a bit debatable) all come to mind. The rest tend to have good years then subsequent falls when the defense, special teams, injuries, and turnovers all regress back to the mean.

52 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Hard to believe, but KC looks like the most 'complete' team in the AFC. Stil don't see them catching Denver, but they'll be dangerous as a 5-seed. Not many Super Bowl winners at the top of that all-time DVOA list, and with Seattle's strong home/road split, it wouldn't be shocking to see them slip either

116 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Records do not equal quality. They have two OT wins over decent teams on the road. Do you think they'd have won by 14-21 at home over the same teams? I do. That's a big split.

Put another way, they are great at home and "merely" very good on the road. It's no insult, but there is a pretty sizeable split.

126 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

One of Seattle's OT wins is at home against Tampa, not on the road. If you want to point to that win over Tampa as a sign of weakness, I will raise you Houston, Oakland, and Cleveland.

If Seattle's O-line was healthy for the Houston game, it would not have gone to OT. Wilson was running for his life most of that afternoon. Same for the Rams game, as they have a fierce pass-rush and were facing a very undermanned o-line. It's not uncommon for teams with high DVOA ratings to lose when they under-perform at the line of scrimmage.

In the loss at Indy, the Colts returned a FG for a TD and had a Seahawks TD called a safety. The Seahawks other loss is at San Francisco, with all of the 49ers key guys on the field, needing the game much more than Seattle did. If Seattle had Harvin, they might have won that game as well.

History shows that Seattle is by no means a lock to win the Super Bowl. However, if I were to look at teams with the most serious chances of beating them, I wouldn't start with Kansas City.

146 Re: Week 15 DVOA Ratings

...with all of the 49ers key guys on the field....

Uh, no. Tarrell Brown was out (one of our starting CBs). Iupati (our starting LG) was out -- huge drop-off from him to Snyder.