DVOA Analysis
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Week 2 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

So far, 2013 has not been a very good season for the Football Outsiders preseason forecast. Actually, 2013 so far hasn't been a very good season for most anybody's preseason forecast... except at the very top. Many members of the NFL commentariat predicted a Super Bowl appearance for Denver, Seattle, or even both. Denver and Seattle started the season with the two highest mean win projections from Football Outsiders. Denver and Seattle have been the two best teams in the NFL through the first two weeks.

After that, things look a little bit goofy. Right now, Kansas City is third in VOA. The Chiefs were last year's 30th-ranked defense. This year, they rank No. 1. Obviously, we're not including opponent adjustments after just two weeks, and eventually there's going to be a big adjustment for every team that plays Jacksonville. Still, it certainly looks like the Chiefs have done a lot to plug the holes between all of those Pro Bowlers from a year ago. (It helps that one of those holes, Dontari Poe, certainly seems to have taken his own leap to a Pro Bowl level.)

Miami at 2-0 is also an early surprise, and the Dolphins have been very balanced. They rank in the top ten in all three phases of the game.

On the other hand, the six lowest teams in the league include three teams we had projected to go to the postseason -- Washington, San Francisco, and the defending champion Ravens -- plus the New York Giants, who everyone expected to be in playoff contention. Again, opponent adjustments will really change things here. The 49ers have played two of the best teams in the league. The Giants got clobbered by Denver, clearly the top team in the league right now. But did they have to get clobbered by quite so much? Yikes.

What's interesting here is that the strange results of 2013 so far have generally seemed like strange results because of how we projected teams coming into 2013 and what we know about teams historically. One thing we haven't seen is teams that are particularly deceiving at 2-0 or 0-2. Last year, for example, the Cardinals were the third-worst 2-0 team in DVOA history. This year, every 2-0 team has a positive VOA and every 0-2 team has a negative VOA.

That fact probably surprises you if you've been watching the New England Patriots. Given how bad the Patriots have looked in their first two games, it wouldn't be ridiculous to expect them to rank among the "worst 2-0 teams ever." You may be shocked to see them ranked 11th in VOA through Week 2. The reason they are so high? The units you don't see. We've all seen the Patriots receivers play like a bad high school team. However, you may not have noticed that the rest of the time, the Patriots were playing shockingly good defense and their usual great special teams. So the Patriots' ratings look completely wacko: 27th in offense, fourth in defense. This will change going forward, of course. Opponent adjustments will ding the defense because shutting down Geno Smith isn't that difficult. But at the same time, opponent adjustments may boost the early performance of the New England offense because they played the Jets. Yes, we saw the Jets secondary didn't play very well last Thursday night, so perhaps the Jets defense won't return to the greatness I was predicting before the season began. But that team has a great front line, and whatever else may be wrong with him, Rex Ryan still designs an excellent defensive scheme.

(The other change going forward: We'll have to see what the injury to Matthew Slater does to New England's special teams. Over the past few years, Chicago and New England have been the two positive exceptions to the rule that special teams performance is rarely consistent from year to year.)

One other team that's interesting to look at is Washington. There's a good debate to be had about how much to write-off Washington's ability to score points in the second half of games where they are getting blown out in the first half. The policy at Football Outsiders has always been to compare like with like. We want to adjust the offensive rating of a team playing from way behind by comparing them to the average team playing from way behind. And what we've found is that the difference between how well an offense plays when way behind and how well an offense plays in a close game is MUCH smaller than most fans would expect. Therefore, we end up giving credit to an offense like Washington's that comes back from a big deficit, even if they don't come back enough to win the game (in the case of Week 1) or make it close (in the case of Week 2). The DVOA system is based on the idea that this strong play is still evidence that the Washington offense is a good offense; they just happen to have a crazy first half/second half split through two weeks. And so, Washington below is listed as sixth in offense and dead last in defense.

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Obviously, a lot of fans and even analysts will feel differently about this. And so, look at our quarterback stats page and the difference between DVOA and ESPN's Total QBR for Robert Griffin III. (Yes, I've got it listed as DVOA in some places, VOA in others... it's the same thing this early in the season, don't get caught up in how many letters are in the name.) Right now, Griffin ranks 11th in the league in YAR (total value) and 14th in VOA (value per play). Yet ESPN's Total QBR ranks him a dismal 31st out of 33 quarterbacks. That's a huge difference, based almost entirely on the question of what we learn or don't learn from Griffin's strong offensive play in the second half of the last two games. In the first half of games, Griffin right now has 1.9 QBR. In the second half, he has 75.9 QBR. Washington was never above 10 percent win expectancy after halftime in either game, so basically, RG3 starts out as Blaine Gabbert and then turns into Aaron Rodgers once his defense has enjoyed 30 minutes of total nuclear meltdown.

In many ways, the difference between VOA and QBR is caught up in how much you want your rating to be predictive vs. descriptive of the past. Both VOA and QBR are neither purely predictive nor purely descriptive. They both are sort of somewhere in between, but VOA is closer to predictive and QBR is closer to descriptive. This is not a controversial statement, and the folks at ESPN Stats and Information would certainly agree. They added the clutch weighting to QBR in order to have it better line up with a list of which quarterbacks were helping their teams win close games, even if those quarterbacks weren't necessarily actually playing better than other quarterbacks -- who may play better in the first half, or may share a locker room with a terrible defense. It's two ways to analyze the same data. Neither is more right. It's the difference between them that tells the story, or at least part of the story. In this case, it's the story of what is and is not going well for RG3 this season. (This is why I've always been an advocate of more stats, rather than trying to create one rating that synthesizes a player's entire performance into a single number.) 

As to the readers who will of course slag Total QBR because they are suspicious of anything created by the Worldwide Leader: Have you considered reading Basketball on Paper?

* * * * *

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 DVOA and DYAR. Others will be under-the-radar players who only stood out with advanced stats. 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.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 2 are:

  • WR Steve Johnson, BUF: 8 catches on 10 passes, 111 yards, game-winning touchdown, led all WR in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards above Replacement).
  • LG James Carpenter, SEA: Came off the bench to abuse the San Francisco defensive line as the Seahawks ran for 172 yards.
  • DT Dontari Poe, KC: Two sacks and overall domination of Cowboys rookie Travis Frederick.
  • DT Kawann Short, CAR: Three quarterback hits, two assists, and a tackle.
  • CB Richard Sherman, SEA: Only allowed one completion in man coverage according to game charting, which was a "failed completion" that didn't convert third-and-long; also had an interception. (He did allow a second completion, but that was in a zone.)

If you came to our article because you love Madden Ultimate Team and wanted to see who would be the special Football Outsiders players this weekend, and you want to know more about Football Outsiders advanced stats and analysis, please feel free to send us your questions (Contact Us) or ask the regular readers by contributing to the discussion thread below.

One thing I neglected to mention when we first announced this deal: special Football Outsiders players are available not only on XBox 360 and Playstation 3 but also in the mobile (iOS/Android) version of Madden 25 Ultimate Team. It's Football Outsiders on your phone, and Football Outsiders in your pants!

* * * * *

All stats pages are now updated with 2013, including playoff odds, snap counts, and for the first time this season, offensive line and defensive line. The FO Premium splits database will also be updated with 2013 sometime this evening... and, as a special bonus, it will be updated with 1989 and 1990 as well. Also, you may have noticed we have a new green drop-down stats menu at the top of the site. It condenses the stat listing to make it easier to find the right page. Mouse over the listings for either Drive Stats or College Stats to get a more expanded list of those two categories.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through two 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 VOA 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.

There are no opponent adjustments in VOA until the fourth week of the season, which is why offense and defense are listed as VOA right now rather than DVOA. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with current VOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 75 percent of DAVE.

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 DEN 72.1% 2 33.0% 1 2-0 47.1% 2 -13.6% 7 11.4% 1
2 SEA 47.9% 9 27.9% 2 2-0 5.8% 13 -32.6% 2 9.5% 2
3 KC 44.3% 1 -1.4% 17 2-0 7.9% 12 -37.5% 1 -1.1% 18
4 GB 30.8% 16 25.5% 3 1-1 63.7% 1 31.8% 31 -1.1% 17
5 MIA 30.0% 3 0.9% 15 2-0 11.7% 9 -12.1% 9 6.2% 6
6 PHI 23.1% 8 4.4% 11 1-1 37.8% 3 21.9% 29 7.1% 5
7 CHI 22.4% 5 5.0% 9 2-0 13.6% 7 -7.1% 12 1.8% 13
8 BUF 21.9% 7 -5.6% 21 1-1 9.4% 10 -11.1% 10 1.5% 14
9 IND 14.8% 6 -1.5% 18 1-1 26.3% 4 9.7% 24 -1.7% 21
10 CIN 11.8% 18 7.1% 7 1-1 8.9% 11 -0.9% 15 2.0% 12
11 NE 10.9% 21 21.2% 4 2-0 -17.8% 27 -24.6% 4 4.2% 8
12 NO 7.9% 15 7.9% 6 2-0 -3.3% 19 -12.3% 8 -1.2% 19
13 ATL 6.9% 20 5.0% 10 1-1 12.4% 8 11.3% 26 5.8% 7
14 STL 3.7% 10 -11.9% 26 1-1 5.0% 14 9.4% 23 8.2% 4
15 TEN 3.2% 4 -12.1% 27 1-1 -17.2% 26 -20.0% 6 0.4% 16
16 HOU 1.5% 11 5.0% 8 2-0 4.8% 15 -9.4% 11 -12.7% 31
17 DET -2.8% 13 -2.5% 19 1-1 4.7% 16 -5.1% 14 -12.6% 30
18 SD -4.5% 23 -6.5% 22 1-1 24.8% 5 29.8% 30 0.4% 15
19 TB -7.4% 17 1.5% 14 0-2 -34.0% 29 -23.4% 5 3.2% 11
20 CAR -8.6% 19 9.6% 5 0-2 1.5% 17 6.7% 21 -3.5% 22
21 DAL -8.7% 22 -7.1% 23 1-1 -14.9% 25 2.2% 17 8.4% 3
22 NYJ -9.3% 14 -7.5% 24 1-1 -39.4% 31 -26.2% 3 3.9% 9
23 OAK -13.4% 26 -15.7% 29 1-1 -0.8% 18 2.4% 19 -10.1% 29
24 ARI -16.6% 25 -12.4% 28 1-1 -9.7% 21 2.3% 18 -4.6% 24
25 PIT -19.1% 28 -4.7% 20 0-2 -21.3% 28 1.5% 16 3.7% 10
26 MIN -24.0% 27 -16.9% 31 0-2 -13.5% 23 9.1% 22 -1.4% 20
27 BAL -29.3% 31 2.1% 13 1-1 -8.5% 20 12.7% 27 -8.2% 27
28 SF -32.2% 12 3.3% 12 1-1 -10.4% 22 13.8% 28 -8.0% 26
29 CLE -37.8% 30 -16.9% 30 0-2 -37.0% 30 -6.8% 13 -7.5% 25
30 NYG -39.5% 24 -7.9% 25 0-2 -14.4% 24 9.9% 25 -15.2% 32
31 WAS -45.5% 29 0.4% 16 0-2 15.7% 6 51.3% 32 -9.8% 28
32 JAC -74.5% 32 -35.0% 32 0-2 -67.6% 32 2.8% 20 -4.0% 23


161 comments, Last at 22 Sep 2013, 11:52am

1 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

I still have trouble believing that the Patriots are as good as DVOA sees them.

Also surprised to see Cincy at #7 ... I can't wait to find out more in the next couple of weeks as they take on Green Bay and New England.

5 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by Bay Area Bengal (not verified)

They aren't the 4th best defense in the league, but the probably aren't going to end the season as the 5th worst offense, either. The total seems reasonable for now.

39 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

But doesn't that speak to the level of the AFC more than the Patriots? Then again, I can't remember a year where so few teams have really distinguished themselves through two weeks.

I believe the Broncos are the only one of the 2-0 teams to win both games by more than 7 points. You can make an argument that three of the 2-0 teams were a handful of plays away from 0-2 (especially New Orleans and Houston). I guess some of the 1-1 teams may go on a run, and I'm sure a few will (I like the winner of GB @ CIN to go on a nice run going forward), but as Scott Kacsmar wrote today, the league has been historically close so far this season.

94 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

I don't think it's so much that so few teams have distinguished themselves as much as we're not ready to accept that the teams that have, KC and Miami in particular, are really that good.

The man with no sig

56 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Really, after the Broncos, who is the other power in the AFC? Pittsburgh looked awful on Monday. The Ravens have lost half of their best players from last season and looked unimpressive in their one victory, over hapless Cleveland. Do we really think the rest of the AFC West is back? Certainly not the Raiders.

The Chiefs and Dolphins have great bandwagons right now, but I'm still suspicious of both. In the South, the Texans are 2-0 but not in an impressive fashion. And the Colts are definitely regressing to what their defense is.

As for the Patriots, their offense last Thursday was missing its best WR and best RB from Week 1 as well as their all-Pro tight end. All of those guys will eventually be back.

Two months from now the standings won't care that their first two wins were unimpressive.

So while the Broncos certainly look like the class of the AFC right now, the field is thin below them.

66 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

I think that Houston will pull it together and be very good. The Patriots probably will as well, but I could also see them failing to click on offense and continue to look really uninspired on defense. Baltimore and Pittsburgh will get better, but I doubt either ends up looking good at the end of the season.

106 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

If there's one thing for sure, its that the Pats will get back their injured players (one with a back injury) at full strength and suffer no more injuries, and the other teams in the AFC will not get back their players from injury and suffer more injuries. The Pats will have young players improve throughout the season, while other AFC teams' young players will hit the rookie wall or prove to be ineffective. Teams that have played well in the early part of the season will prove to be not good, and teams that have played well in the previous years but have struggled in the parts of the first two games of the season have been exposed as being in decline and nothing more than average.

80 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

That's right. VOA isn't considering opponents, so it sees no difference between New England's defense playing the Jets and Buffalo and SF's defense playing Seattle and Green Bay. When that changes and/or when the Pats play Atlanta and New Orleans, that ranking is going to move.

Also, when Arizona was one of the worst 2-0 teams ever in 2012 (despite the fact that the two wins were against Seattle and New England), it was because VOA does discount some in game events that are not predictive/repeatable/skill-based. The games featured 2 opponent missed field goals, a blocked punt, only 6 drives by Arizona that lasted more than 5 plays or 30 yards (compared to 14 for the Patriots and Seahawks). Thus, VOA indicated Arizona had not outplayed their competition.

VOA is just showing, based on its measurements, the Pats slightly outplayed their opposition to date.

27 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

You and the FO guys need to read this about the changes made to QBR during the offseason. The "clutch factor" now de-emphasizes performance during blowouts rather than emphasizing performance during clutch situations.


152 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

QBR takes into account many charting variables that are not recorded in the standard game logs. For instance, it takes into account pressure on throws as well as qb scrambles, etc. I think for the most part, its a pretty effective stat. Opponent adjustment is obviously needed, but the biggest difference I think between anya and QBR is it attempts to add quality to the type of yards you're getting, while anya is agnostic about the type of yards

155 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Yeah well, we do that with PFF. We do as well somewhat with FO gamecharting. We also have to trust FO somewhat when take DVOA at face value. We know their general methods, but not their weighting. In fact, their weights were designed to best correlate for the future, but those sort of things are highly dynamic and likely change within years, if not week to week.

3 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

My god, it's gonna take a while to get BAL's defensive VOA down to respectable levels after that Denver game, I guess.

31 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Yes but once weighted DVOA is in effect that first game (80% or something) will become less relevant. And once the Broncos offense is recognized as top shelf, that game will not be as bad (though still bad). Regardless of how bad the Browns offense turns out to be, I'd guess the Ravens D would look good in that game (they gained 4.2 YPP).

4 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

QBR has a lot to like and a lot to dislike. The lunatic clutch factor has to go. For a stat designed by statisticians, I have to believe they pandered to the talking heads on that one. Btw, Chiefs were not the worst defense last year, but were ranked 30th, so they were close.

28 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

I'll post this one more time so hopefully more people see it and stop incorrectly referring to the QBR clutch factor.


42 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

While the "Clutch Factor" has certainly gotten a bad rap, it isn't all that different than WPA from Brian Burke's Advanced NFL Stats. They both weigh performance during high-leverage situations more heavily than others but, although people might not agree with Burke's measure, they don't call it talking-head nonsense either.

52 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

The thing is if we were sane, or at least very serious about evaluating football players rather than very serious about spending some of our free time thinking about football, which we find cool as entertainment, we would call all single number ratings of player performance talking head nonsense because they don't improve our understanding of football. Abstracting something as complex as player performance over an entire season into one number is really only useful in debates like whether Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers is the best QB in the NFL. Which only matter to talking heads, fans and allpro teams. One place it does not matter: in determining how to win football games as an NFL team.

55 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Not at all true. In baseball, in particular, metrics like this were used explicitly to make teams better by studying numbers to find players that were successful statistically but not as much in conventional wisdom, and to avoid players who were successful in conventional wisdom but not actually statistically. And it changed how the game is managed.

59 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

I think the comment to which you replied may be a bit overstated, but surely the differences between football and baseball -- and, particularly, the degree to which player performance in football is vastly more dependent on the performance of the other players on the field than in baseball -- render individual stats IN ISOLATION relatively useless. It's true that you don't make the perfect the enemy of the good, but it's also true that a little knowledge is dangerous. As long as you understand the limitations of the stats (which FO fully discloses and explains) and use them intelligently together with other information, they're a good thing. (No to mention fun!) But if you ignore those limitations, you end up with analysis that's not meaningfully more intelligent than pure punditry.

71 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

In reply to by whckandrw (not verified)

" we would call all single number ratings of player performance talking head nonsense because they don't improve our understanding of football. "

Not only is this untrue, but its basically an appeal to ignorance. Shame on you.

6 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

That negative offense DVOA by JAX is pretty incredible. Can't wait to see if they can hit the historical lows this season. A full 25 percentage points below the next worst team!

Also bad news for the rest of the league right now: the only team that has a top offense without having a bad defense is Denver.

19 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Yep, Bears ratings are still in Wacko-ville (OFF > DEF > ST). I don't care how genius-y Trestman is and how clutch-y Cutler has suddenly decided to be, I will boldly predict that ordering will be different by the end of the year.

43 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Well, that's not quite fair to them. Sure, AJ Green torched the secondary, but a lot of the damage in the first game came from poor tackling, which wasn't nearly as big a problem in the second game.

Speaking of which: they limited AD to slightly under 4 yards per carry, and forced Ponder to throw. Of course they looked bad: it was man coverage nearly the entire time, and Ponder played above his normal skill level.

I'm extremely curious to see how the Bears fare against the Lions.

77 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

I honestly think the only aspect of the Bears defense that is missing is the pass rush. If you believe that this is the year that Peppers' age has caught up with him, that might be a season-long issue, in which case I agree with tuluse that they will have to outscore people. But I'm not ready to say that yet.

126 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

I'm definitely concerned about the lack of a pass rush. I have a suspicion that Peppers might not be useful anymore (although to be fair, he was apparently really sick on Sunday).

I think that as long as the defense stays above-average and the offense continues to improve, they'll be fine. After all of the offseason comments from Cutler and Trestman and company about how the new offense was going to take time to gel, I'm pretty optimistic after the first two games. Yes, there were plenty of mistakes and lots to improve upon, but after years of watching offensive linemen get tossed aside by pass rushes, blown timeouts in the first quarter of just about every game, tight ends that can neither catch nor block, JaMarcus Webb, etc, I like what I'm seeing. Throw in the fact that they are (luckily) 2-0 to start the season and I think they could win the NFC North.

Also, through two games, Long and Mills have looked insanely good for two rookies. It's really weird to watch a Bears game and see that the offensive line might be a strength now rather than a weakness.

40 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

And they face Seattle next. On the road.

Since Seattle can't hold Jacksonville to negative points, there's been some joking talk at the Seahawks' SB Nation blog that they might be able to hold them to negative yards. It's been done twice before since 1940, most recently in 1979 to the Seahawks themselves. The worst anyone's managed this century is Cleveland in 2004 against Buffalo, when they got 26 yards.

41 Re: Week 2 DVOA Ratings

On that note, if they shutout the Jags (or allow only a safety - which I wouldn't normally bring up, but since the Jags have already accomplished that feat so far...), they can set a new record for fewest points allowed through three games. The 2001 Packers and 2004 Seahawks allowed 13, the current record. The Seahawks of today are at 10.