Final 2014 DVOA Ratings

Final 2014 DVOA Ratings
Final 2014 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

With a big win over division rival St. Louis, the Seattle Seahawks once again ascend to the top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, just in time to finish No. 1 for the entire season for the third straight year. The Seahawks also take over the top spot in weighted DVOA and are our current favorite to win the Super Bowl, taking the Lombardi Trophy in 26.2 percent of our simulations. Seattle now looks like the best team in the league whether you are asking about the short term (recent weeks), medium term (the full 2014 season), or long term (since 2012). It's been a remarkable run of quality football.

Seattle is only the second team to ever finish No. 1 in DVOA for three straight seasons, going back to the first year we currently have ratings (1989). Dallas did it as well from 1992-1994. The only other team to repeat at No. 1 overall was Green Bay in 1996-1997.

Seattle also climb past Detroit and Buffalo this week to finish the year as the No. 1 team in defensive DVOA for the second straight season. The 1993-1994 Pittsburgh Steelers were the only other team to finish No. 1 in defensive DVOA for two straight years. On offense, the Seahawks finish with one of the top five team rushing DVOA ratings we've ever measured, just below 30.0%. The only teams above that were the 2000 Rams, 2011 Panthers, 1998 Broncos, and 1993 49ers.

This year's Denver Broncos held the top spot in overall DVOA since Week 5, but they've gradually been fading over the second half of the season and they finally fall into second place this week. Yes, that also means that Seattle and Denver have now finished 1-2 for three straight years. From 1989 through 2012, the same two teams never finished 1-2 for two straight years.

Green Bay finishes third for the season, followed by New England and then Baltimore to round out the top five. There's a clear gap at that point between the top five teams and everybody else, led by Dallas at No. 6. However, that gap disappears in our weighted DVOA ratings because the Cowboys have been playing so well over the second half of the season. Actually, a more accurate statement is that the gap moves up. It's still there, but in weighted DVOA the gap is between the top two (Seattle and New England) and the next few teams (Green Bay, Denver, Baltimore, and Dallas -- still sixth, but much closer to the Ravens).

You may be wondering if it is accurate for our ratings to penalize the Patriots for a game where they sat many of their starters -- some for the entire game, some for just the first half -- and didn't necessarily try to win. This is a frustrating problem that we run into every couple of seasons. We've done research on it and never figured out a way to account for teams sitting starters that actually improved our ability to predict playoff results with the overall DVOA ratings. There are all kinds of issues here. Does it make sense to come up with an arbitary bonus to give a team to make up for the fact that they are playing backups? If we do this for Week 17, why not for other weeks when there are injuries? If we want to do that, how do we separate every player from his teammates to determine the value a team loses when he's out? Even if we wanted to only consider adjusting for situations where a team plays a backup quarterback, and only when it is on purpose (i.e., not a midseason injury), how do we deal with the fact that Tom Brady actually did play in the Week 17 loss, at least in the first half?

Plus, how do you handle the situation if a team plays better with the backups than with the starters? Of course, the overall ratings for the Patriots were affected by the players who were inactive for the entire game -- Rob Gronkowski being the most important, but also Julian Edelman, Donta Hightower, Brandon Browner, and two starting offensive linemen. However, the Patriots had a number of regular starters who came out around halftime. The offense had virtually the same offensive DVOA with Tom Brady at quarterback (-3.4% DVOA before halftime) as it had with Jimmy Garappolo at quarterback (-2.8% DVOA before halftime). And the defense was much worse with most of the starters on the field (36.1% DVOA before halftime) than it was in the second half with players such as Darrelle Revis, Jamie Collins, and Vince Wilfork on the sidelines (-19.6% DVOA after halftime).

And just in case the whole "sitting starters" issue isn't annoying enough, there's also the problem that some teams (like the Patriots yesterday) will specifically play vanilla schemes in a meaningless Week 17 game, as if it were the preseason, even if they actually are using their starters on the field. Good luck adjusting DVOA for that.

The moral of the story is that in DVOA, pretty much every play counts, except for time-wasting nonsense at the end of a win or multiple-lateral silliness. When it comes to teams that sit starters in Week 17, we do the same thing we do when dealing with games where a team struggled because of specific player injuries -- we use common sense to talk about it when we talk about the numbers, and write words instead of just running tables.

Maybe we just have to deal with this every five years. You might remember the Colts deciding they didn't care about a perfect season back in 2009, and the Eagles playing a bunch of nobodies for two weeks because they were so far superior to the rest of the NFC in 2004.

OK, enough digression on this issue. Let's get back to talking about 2014. One of the general running themes of the DVOA commentaries this year has been that this was a year with very few extremes, very few examples of teams that were historically efficient or inefficient on either side of the ball. The final numbers for the year continue with this theme. This was only the third season since 1990 where no team was better than 12-4. (The others: 1993 and 2002.) The Seahawks were No. 1 in DVOA, but this year's rating (31.3%) is nowhere near their ratings for 2012 (38.7%, seventh all-time) and 2013 (40.0%, fifth all-time).

The lack of extremes is particularly strong when it comes to overall defense. The Seahawks' final defensive DVOA of -16.3% may lead the league for this season but is only 46th in DVOA history. Only twice has the No. 1 defense been closer to average than this year's Seahawks: the 2001 Eagles (-15.5%) and the 2007 Titans (-14.4%). In a fun bit of symmetry, the last-place Atlanta Falcons rank 46th among the worst defenses in DVOA history (+15.2%).

Split defense into passing and rushing, and things are a little different. The Buffalo Bills led the league with -18.1% pass defense DVOA, the first time in history that no team had pass defense DVOA below -20.0%. The Bills don't even rank among the 60 best pass defenses of the DVOA era. However, the Detroit Lions end up with one of the best run defenses in DVOA history. On both sides of the ball, the only place to find extreme quality this year was on the ground.

Year Team DVOA   Year Team DVOA
2000 BAL -36.6% x 2000 STL 36.5%
1991 PHI -34.9% x 2011 CAR 32.1%
1998 SD -32.9% x 1998 DEN 31.4%
2014 DET -31.3% x 1993 SF 30.5%
2006 MIN -30.5% x 2014 SEA 29.9%
1995 KC -30.5% x 2002 KC 29.3%
2010 PIT -29.0% x 1990 DET 29.2%
2008 BAL -28.6% x 2003 KC 28.9%
2000 TEN -27.4% x 1998 SF 27.8%
2007 BAL -27.3% x 2006 SD 27.2%
2000 SD -26.6% x 2005 DEN 26.8%
2011 CHI -26.5% x 2000 PIT 26.4%

By the way, when we looked at these tables a couple of weeks ago, the Denver Broncos also ranked among the best run defenses in DVOA history, while the Oakland Raiders were threatening to rank among the worst run offenses we had ever measured. In the three weeks since, the Raiders running game improved a little bit, saving them from that ignominy, while the Denver Broncos run defense hasn't been quite as strong as it was early in the season. Run defense DVOA turns out to be yet another of the many stats where Seattle passed Denver over the last couple weeks of the season.

This year brings us a couple of teams with a huge disparity between win-loss record and DVOA, particularly Arizona (which ends up 22nd despite going 11-5). However, for the most part, the teams with the most wins this year are at the top of DVOA, and the teams with the most losses are at the bottom. The five 12-4 teams all rank in the top six in DVOA, and the top ten teams in DVOA all had winning records The seven teams that went 5-11 or worse are the bottom seven teams in DVOA. The Jacksonville Jaguars end up at the bottom of the league for the third straight year, but just as this year's Seattle team isn't as good as the 2013 edition, so too the Jaguars were not as bad as last year. In fact, this is only the third season of the DVOA era where no team had an overall DVOA worse than -30.0%. (The others: 1995 and 2001.) The Jaguars also improved over the course of the year, moving up to 27th in weighted DVOA. Washington, on the other hand, was 28th in overall DVOA but dead last in weighted DVOA.

Philadelphia stayed in first place in special teams pretty much all year, with Baltimore right behind in second place. Miami ends up in last place for special teams, passing the Lions once Detroit figured out at midseason how to find someone who could actually hit a field goal.

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Other interesting notes on 2014:

  • Check out how close the Saints and Falcons ended up in all three phases of the game. The Saints are slightly better on offense, the Falcons slightly better on special teams, and the two rivals ended up with the two worst defenses in the NFL.
  • One preseason prediction that certainly did come true for us: Oakland had the hardest schedule in the league by leaps and bounds. The easiest schedules were in Texas, with Houston at No. 32 and Dallas at No. 31. The top four teams, who also won the four first-round byes, all had schedules close to the league average.
  • The Minnesota Vikings lost a player generally believed to be the best running back in football for almost the entire season and ended up fourth in run offense DVOA but 29th in pass offense.
  • Cleveland had a better pass defense than any team except Buffalo, but a more porous run defense than any team except New Orleans.
  • The Rams finished strong but were the least consistent team in the league. They had the highest variance overall, the highest variance on defense, and one of the five highest variance ratings on offense.

* * * * *

All team and individual stats pages are now updated with final 2014 stats. (Final pending later play-by-play changes by the league, of course.) FO Premium is also updated with all 2014 stats, and we've added special matchup pages for the four wild card games. We'll get individual 2014 stats onto all of our player pages sometime in the next few weeks.

Vince Verhei will discuss which players had the best and worst seasons by FO stats in tomorrow's Quick Reads Year in Review. Loser League results will be announced in Scramble for the Ball Wednesday, and our Playoff Challenge game will go up on the site sometime tomorrow.

* * * * *

Once again in 2014, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 15 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. We will also tweet out images of these players from the @fboutsiders Twitter account on most Fridays. One player each week will only be available for 24 hours from the point these players enter packs on Friday.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 17 are:

  • LOLB Justin Houston, KC (24-HOUR HERO): 4 sacks, FF, PD
  • WR Michael Floyd, ARI: No. 2 WR of the week by FO Stats, with 76 DYAR (8-for-12 for 153 yards and 2 TD).
  • DT Bennie Logan, PHI: 6 run tackles for a combined 1 yard, including 2 TFL.
  • LOLB Pernell McPhee, BAL: 5 Defeats (2 sacks, PD, run TFL, and tackle to prevent third-down conversion on reception).
  • LG Josh Sitton, GB: Helped limit Detroit defense to just one sack and QB hits.

* * * * *

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through the entire 2014 regular season, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE. LAST WEEK represents rank after Week 16, while LAST YEAR represents rank in 2013.

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

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

1 SEA 31.3% 2 1 12-4 32.8% 1 16.7% 5 -16.3% 1 -1.7% 19
2 DEN 29.5% 1 2 12-4 23.9% 4 19.9% 3 -13.3% 4 -3.7% 27
3 GB 23.3% 4 20 12-4 24.0% 3 24.6% 1 -1.0% 16 -2.3% 22
4 NE 22.4% 3 5 12-4 31.4% 2 13.6% 6 -3.4% 11 5.5% 5
5 BAL 22.2% 5 23 10-6 23.0% 5 9.7% 9 -4.6% 8 8.0% 2
6 DAL 13.8% 6 17 12-4 21.0% 6 17.0% 4 4.1% 22 0.9% 13
7 PHI 12.8% 7 8 10-6 16.8% 7 1.0% 13 -3.5% 10 8.3% 1
8 PIT 12.1% 8 15 11-5 14.8% 8 22.5% 2 11.3% 30 0.9% 12
9 BUF 10.6% 10 18 9-7 14.5% 9 -11.1% 26 -15.6% 2 6.2% 4
10 KC 9.9% 9 6 9-7 11.9% 10 4.6% 12 1.4% 19 6.7% 3
11 SF 6.6% 14 7 8-8 8.4% 11 -0.4% 16 -10.0% 5 -3.0% 24
12 IND 4.7% 15 13 11-5 1.8% 13 -0.9% 17 -2.3% 13 3.3% 8
13 CIN 4.6% 12 9 10-5-1 0.5% 17 -1.8% 18 -2.2% 14 4.2% 6
14 DET 4.4% 13 16 11-5 0.9% 15 -3.7% 19 -13.8% 3 -5.7% 31
15 MIA 3.4% 11 22 8-8 0.7% 16 10.2% 7 0.6% 17 -6.2% 32
16 SD 0.0% 16 12 9-7 -3.0% 20 7.6% 10 4.9% 24 -2.7% 23
17 NO -1.4% 17 4 7-9 -2.4% 19 10.0% 8 13.1% 31 1.6% 11
18 STL -4.4% 19 14 6-10 2.6% 12 -11.6% 27 -3.7% 9 3.5% 7
19 HOU -4.5% 20 30 9-7 1.7% 14 -6.7% 21 -6.1% 6 -3.9% 28
20 ATL -5.0% 18 25 6-10 -9.3% 24 7.2% 11 15.2% 32 3.0% 9
21 NYG -5.9% 21 27 6-10 -6.8% 22 -0.3% 15 5.0% 25 -0.6% 15
22 ARI -6.0% 22 10 11-5 -8.1% 23 -9.3% 23 -5.5% 7 -2.2% 21
23 CLE -6.9% 23 28 7-9 -10.0% 25 -10.0% 24 -2.6% 12 0.6% 14
24 MIN -8.8% 24 26 7-9 -2.0% 18 -7.4% 22 4.4% 23 3.0% 10
25 CAR -8.9% 26 3 7-8-1 -6.7% 21 -5.0% 20 -1.6% 15 -5.5% 30
26 CHI -14.0% 25 11 5-11 -23.6% 29 0.0% 14 10.9% 28 -3.1% 25
27 NYJ -14.9% 27 24 4-12 -10.9% 26 -10.7% 25 3.6% 21 -0.7% 16
28 WAS -26.7% 29 29 4-12 -39.0% 32 -11.7% 28 9.6% 27 -5.4% 29
29 OAK -27.0% 28 31 3-13 -28.2% 30 -19.5% 30 5.8% 26 -1.7% 18
30 TB -28.4% 32 19 2-14 -23.1% 28 -26.4% 32 1.2% 18 -0.8% 17
31 TEN -29.3% 30 21 2-14 -35.2% 31 -16.3% 29 11.2% 29 -1.8% 20
32 JAC -29.5% 31 32 3-13 -22.1% 27 -24.4% 31 1.5% 20 -3.6% 26
  • 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.
  • 2014 SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative).
  • PYTHAGOREAN WINS represent a projection of the team's expected wins based solely on points scored and allowed.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).
RANK 2014
1 SEA 31.3% 12-4 27.2% 12.6 2 0.8% 13 11.9 1 13.6% 10
2 DEN 29.5% 12-4 29.3% 13.2 1 1.5% 12 11.0 4 8.5% 3
3 GB 23.3% 12-4 22.8% 10.7 5 -0.9% 16 11.2 3 13.2% 9
4 NE 22.4% 12-4 19.9% 10.9 4 1.6% 11 11.8 2 15.9% 18
5 BAL 22.2% 10-6 25.6% 11.6 3 -5.0% 30 10.9 5 8.9% 4
6 DAL 13.8% 12-4 16.3% 10.3 6 -5.4% 31 10.8 6 20.7% 27
7 PHI 12.8% 10-6 10.4% 9.7 7 -3.4% 28 9.7 10 14.7% 12
8 PIT 12.1% 11-5 13.4% 9.4 8 -4.2% 29 9.7 11 14.2% 11
9 BUF 10.6% 9-7 10.1% 9.0 10 1.7% 10 9.6 12 9.4% 6
10 KC 9.9% 9-7 9.4% 9.4 9 2.3% 6 10.1 8 19.5% 26
11 SF 6.6% 8-8 1.3% 9.0 11 2.0% 9 7.0 24 15.7% 15
12 IND 4.7% 11-5 7.2% 8.8 13 -3.1% 26 10.2 7 17.6% 22
13 CIN 4.6% 10-5-1 3.5% 8.9 12 0.3% 15 8.6 14 22.8% 31
14 DET 4.4% 11-5 9.1% 8.7 15 -2.1% 23 9.2 13 7.0% 2
15 MIA 3.4% 8-8 6.7% 8.7 14 2.9% 5 8.4 15 17.5% 21
16 SD 0.0% 9-7 -0.2% 8.1 16 4.2% 4 8.0 17 15.7% 16
RANK 2014
17 NO -1.4% 7-9 -2.5% 7.6 17 -1.7% 20 7.4 20 21.1% 28
18 STL -4.4% 6-10 -5.7% 6.0 26 2.1% 8 7.1 21 26.9% 32
19 HOU -4.5% 9-7 3.6% 6.7 24 -6.2% 32 9.8 9 6.7% 1
20 ATL -5.0% 6-10 -2.3% 7.3 20 -3.3% 27 7.1 22 14.7% 13
21 NYG -5.9% 6-10 -9.9% 7.0 23 -2.0% 22 7.5 18 17.0% 20
22 ARI -6.0% 11-5 -7.0% 7.5 18 4.5% 3 8.3 16 9.0% 5
23 CLE -6.9% 7-9 -5.2% 7.1 22 -2.6% 25 6.9 25 18.0% 23
24 MIN -8.8% 7-9 -6.7% 7.2 21 -1.6% 18 7.5 19 11.6% 8
25 CAR -8.9% 7-8-1 -9.4% 7.4 19 0.7% 14 7.0 23 15.3% 14
26 CHI -14.0% 5-11 -18.5% 6.3 25 2.3% 7 4.9 26 9.9% 7
27 NYJ -14.9% 4-12 -18.6% 6.0 27 4.6% 2 4.8 27 17.0% 19
28 WAS -26.7% 4-12 -25.9% 4.4 29 -1.7% 19 4.5 28 22.4% 30
29 OAK -27.0% 3-13 -35.0% 4.8 28 7.3% 1 3.1 32 19.3% 25
30 TB -28.4% 2-14 -24.2% 4.0 30 -1.5% 17 4.4 29 21.3% 29
31 TEN -29.3% 2-14 -25.8% 4.0 31 -2.4% 24 3.3 31 18.7% 24
32 JAC -29.5% 3-13 -26.1% 3.3 32 -1.8% 21 3.6 30 15.9% 17

Please note that while this article is called "Final 2014 DVOA Ratings," we will continue with our unofficial postseason weighted DVOA ratings each Monday through the playoffs.


112 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2015, 1:16pm

#1 by jacobk // Dec 29, 2014 - 7:59pm

What was so great about the Seahawks' effort on Sunday? It felt like they were in control all game but I wouldn't have guessed it was worth a 5+ percentage point bump in DVOA at this point in the season.

Points: 0

#2 by chemical burn // Dec 29, 2014 - 8:12pm

Really - it felt like they were in control down 6-0 at halftime? Not saying they weren't, but it was a weird game to cause a bump...

Points: 0

#3 by formido // Dec 29, 2014 - 8:23pm

It was the usual super fast Seattle game where they only get 20 points because that's how much time they had. Dominated yards first half, completely dominated game second half, win by 2 TDs, this isn't a big mystery. Folks don't know how to watch Seattle games because they play differently from other teams, relentlessly suffocating the opponent while simultaneously speeding up the game and playing ball control when they get a 2 score lead.

Points: 0

#5 by chemical burn // Dec 29, 2014 - 8:58pm

Well, I didn't watch it at all because it was clearly going to be a terrible game. I was just curious how a team could dominate its way to zero points at halftime...

Points: 0

#15 by deus01 // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:53pm

So keeping a game close until the 4th quarter against bad teams is a good strategy? Looking at win probability the Rams had a slight edge all the way until the 4th so I wouldn't say that Seattle dominated the first half.

Points: 0

#17 by deus01 // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:56pm

I guess they are getting big boosts from the defensive rankings of the Niners, Cards and Rams.

Points: 0

#30 by GoDog // Dec 29, 2014 - 11:03pm

Really, this gnashing of teeth on the intricacies of DVOA is pretty pointless. The model works better than anything I'm aware of, but that doesn't make it totally infallible. Look at the top six teams and it would be hard to make a case that they don't belong in consideration as true Super Bowl champion possibilities. There are simply too many variables that act dependently on other variables, so that a single indicator such as DVOA can't be the ultimate indicator of how good or bad a team is. I, for one, am amazed it does as well as it does throughout the year. As far as predicting results, the AGS (Any Given Sunday) rule applies.

Points: 0

#18 by Perfundle // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:59pm

13 offensive points in 11 drives is nowhere near the usual Seattle game. And I think people know that when they watch Seattle lose an interception, fumble three times and throw a useless 38-yard reception to Baldwin that they aren't playing that well on offense.

Points: 0

#65 by maltz88 // Dec 30, 2014 - 2:02pm

True, if you don't give any consideration to the defense that they were playing against. St. Louis is #9 DVOA and was improving to end the season, and Seattle put up almost 600 Yards and 35 points on the road against the #7 defense the week before.

They didn't turn it into a boat race, but I don't think anyone can say their offense isn't playing good.

Points: 0

#66 by Perfundle // Dec 30, 2014 - 2:11pm

They're only #9 because they played well against Seattle; they were #12 before that. And what they did against Arizona is irrelevant to their less-than-impressive offensive performance against St. Louis. It's the height of presumption for him to declare that any kind of apparently suboptimal performance by Seattle is merely the fault of the viewer.

Points: 0

#4 by jacobk // Dec 29, 2014 - 8:57pm

Trying to divorce my homerism from my analytical thinking... at halftime the yards gained disparity was something like 189 to 65. The Seahawks had committed two relatively uncharacteristic turnovers (Wilson with the overthrow on a scramble--I did not agree with the audible analysis that it got picked because he threw into the middle of the field; it got picked because it went a foot over his target's outstretched hands and floated into a defender's waiting hands--and Lynch with a fumble). The St. Louis scoring drives covered 35 and 4 yards, respectively, and the Seahawks were getting the ball back.

I never really thought the Seahawks were going to lose, but I didn't expect to see the big jump in DVOA. I also thought the big swingy plays in the Seahawks' favor in the second half would affect the score line more than the DVOA number.

Points: 0

#6 by chemical burn // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:02pm

Well, DVOA has loved the Rams defense of late, so moving the ball well against them probably caused some of the bump. It seems like a lot of numbers settled weird at the very end - the Eagles offense went up sharply and their defense dropped a few spots, but I couldn't tell you a major difference between this week and their general performance all season.

Points: 0

#28 by Perfundle // Dec 29, 2014 - 11:00pm

They dipped slightly in offensive DVOA, so almost all of their rise was from the defense. One key stat is zero penalties by the defense and only one by the offense (the other was a personal foul on special teams), and making St. Louis commit some of their post-snap penalties probably helps as well. In fact, on an Expected Points basis, yesterday's game was the second-best Seattle's defense has had in the last three years (obviously behind the 58-0 game).

Points: 0

#102 by CamraMaan // Jan 04, 2015 - 4:30am

I had predicted a 17-6 win for the Seahawks, maybe 20-6... you can check my texts to my dad. My Seahawks did get lucky by the goal line fumble/touchback, and any Seahawks fan will agree. Yes, we "forced" it, but we got lucky that ball wasn't five inches forward when it was knocked loose. Nevertheless, my point about my prediction was that I'm used to watching Fisher game plan against us, and get his players to rise up and give 110% against us, and let's not forget they have an amazing front seven... so I did not expect a runaway blowout. At the same time I didn't expect the Rams to score more than two FGs, and I was very lucky to get that one right (i.e. the fumble/touchback above). Still, this game was about what I expected, and even down 6 at halftime I was doing my best to calm my fellow Seahawks fans I was watching the game with; I wasn't worried at all. This is a team that always plays best in the second half. Its what they do. We're a very physical team that wears our opponents down on both sides of the ball, yet we continue to exert our physicality through all four quarters. The Rams are likewise a physical team, and a low scoring first half makes sense. But they are far from as complete a team as the Seahawks, and lack the mental and physical toughness the Seahawks are built around. Yeah, its easy to say, and sure, these are professional athletes, so they are all physical specimens who are used to the rigors of the game. I've heard that a million times to describe all NFL players collectively... but ask Pete Carroll why he succeeds with so many late round draft picks? Its because not all NFL players are actually built the same. Most all teams draft with the physical metrics as the forefront of their measurements and comparisons. While those certainly don't get pushed under the rug with Carroll, he weighs the thing above a kid's shoulders a lot more than most other teams. Chip on the shoulder. Drive. Heart. Commitment. Resiliency. And there are more factors of the same general arena. These are the things that separate the men from the boys. A guy who has all these traits but lacks the ideal physical/statistical traits falls to the fifth round, gets plucked by Carroll and Schneider, and turns into a Pro Bowl player. These guys are the reason that second half means so much to this team... its when the men get separated from the boys.

Also, I love to hate Belichick and Brady, but I do it with the utmost respect for what they can get done. I mention this because Belichick and Carroll think alike when it comes to finding value in drafts... they know what kinds of players will be "surprise" value picks, and they know how to rally their troops and get them thinking the right way to win hard games. The Patriots know how to finish off the hard games. They know the second half, and the 4th quarter, is when games are won. And Belichick knows it takes a certain "breed" of player to get that done on his team.

Points: 0

#9 by deus01 // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:28pm

Without the Rams fumbling out of the end zone giving Seattle a touchback the score would have been much closer.

It never really felt like Seattle was going to lose but it seems strange that they got such a significant bump.

Points: 0

#7 by chemical burn // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:10pm

Well goodbye 2014 Eagles and your bottomless frustration. Enjoy your place as a footnote in history as the 10 win team that got locked out of the playoffs by a 7 win one. DVOA and your record say you were almost identical in quality to last year's team, which I just can't bring myself to believe.

Let's hope next year goes better and I don't have to watch some Redskins reject at QB throwing the ball to some more Oregon bros & Riley Cooper after Foles is relegated to back-up status and Maclin leaves town. Hopefully Lane Johnson will finally prove himself worth a Top 5 pick, McCoy will return to form and there will be at least 3 new players in the secondary...

Points: 0

#10 by emalgha // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:32pm

Just hope they don't end up like the last 10 win team to miss the playoffs behind a 7 win team. The Bucs haven't had a winning season since 2010. Just like this year's Eagles, the 2010 Bucs beat the Seahawks head to head but still went home after Week 17.

Actually I forgot the Giants went 10-6 that year too and both teams lost a 3-way tie with Green Bay that went all the way down to strength of victory. So not only did a sub-.500 division winner take a playoff spot from two winning teams, the 2010 Seahawks basically eliminated the two teams that beat them by sucking so bad they gave the tiebreak to the team they didn't play.

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#14 by jacobk // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:48pm

It was the early version of the Seahawks curse.

Pete Carroll has now moved on to the Seahawks meta-curse. The two teams they played in the NFC playoffs last year both missed the postseason this year, while their Super Bowl opponent has dropped from a dominant 1 seed to a shaky looking 2 seed.

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#46 by t.d. // Dec 30, 2014 - 8:48am

... and the wild card Packers proceeded to win the Super Bowl. At least you won't have to watch a team you lost a tiebreaker to do that

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#48 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 30, 2014 - 9:22am

NFL tiebreakers rules can be wierd and arbitrary, but that year was one of the cases where the clearly better team won the tiebreaker (which is why I think strength of victory should supplant conference records as the primary tiebreaker). That Packers team was solid, but crappy injury luck pushed them down to 10 wins instead of 12 or 13.

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#87 by ZDNeal // Dec 31, 2014 - 2:41pm

Better (true talent or whatever) shouldn't matter, more accomplished should matter. It's one of my pet peeves. The playoffs are something you earn by actual endeavor not by being rated highly by stat heads.

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#90 by Perfundle // Dec 31, 2014 - 3:07pm

And what's being discussed is how to break ties between teams who are equally accomplished in terms of wins and losses.

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#103 by CamraMaan // Jan 04, 2015 - 4:49am

The funny thing is the Seahawks in 2010, and the Panthers in 2014, were both 7-9 entering the playoffs, and both won their first playoff games. Wouldn't that mean they were maybe better than their 7-9 records may have shown? Granted the Panthers beat an Arizona team that has been floundering on offense for a while, but many thought their defense would hold them up in their first playoff game. The Seahawks on the other hand beat a thriving Saints team. Its easy to see "7-9" and forget that this team struggled through tough divisional rivalries, against coaches and players who know them better than anyone else. Its why coaches preach winning their divisional games above all else. Take this away, and whats the point of winning your division? Would people prefer and NBA conference division where you basically lose your rivalries, and just play for position based on wins and losses?? Forgive me, but I love it when my Seahawks play their division games, especially when we (get to) kick the 49ers ass! I love playing a 6-9 Rams team that could potentially beat us, even though their record doesn't say so, simply because its a rivalry game against a coach who loves to game plan to win his division, and kick our ass if he can. Tell Ravens, Steelers, Browns and Bengals fans that their rivalries basically will have no value anymore... sure a win against them will be great, but there's no bragging rights to winning your division anymore.

There's a reason this system is in place, and it keeps 6 games a year for your team more exciting, more important, than it might normally be. Change it, and you lose the rivalries that have been a thing of lore for so many franchises. Its so rare that a team wins their division with a record of 8-8 or worse that these rare years should just be accepted as, well... it is what it is. Next year will be different.

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#111 by Perfundle // Jan 05, 2015 - 1:15pm

Wouldn't that mean they were maybe better than their 7-9 records may have shown?

No, it doesn't. It just means Any Given Sunday (or Saturday). Seattle was arguably the worst team to ever make the playoffs.

Its easy to see "7-9" and forget that this team struggled through tough divisional rivalries, against coaches and players who know them better than anyone else.

I'm pretty sure New Orleans did exactly the same thing.

Take this away, and whats the point of winning your division?

Give division winners a playoff berth, fine, but there's no need to give them an automatic home game.

Would people prefer and NBA conference division where you basically lose your rivalries, and just play for position based on wins and losses??

I prefer the aspect of the NBA system where the division winners don't always have home court advantage.

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#8 by Cythammer // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:15pm

Despite dropping from third to 25th in DVOA, the most likely final outcome for the Panthers this is that they are eliminated in exactly the same round as they were last year.

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#11 by D // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:35pm

Random trivia that may only interest me; Big Ben is the first person not named Manning, Brady or Brees to lead the league in passing DPAR since Rich Gannon in 2002.

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#12 by Will Allen // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:36pm

There is a substantial difference, for the Vikings passing attack, between throwing the ball against a defense that has 8-10 defenders within 5-7 yards of the line of scrimmage, keyed to stop Adrian Peterson from going off tackle for a touchdown, and throwing the ball against a defense that has 6 or 7 defenders within 5-7 yards of the line of scrimmage, who are sort of paying attention to whether Matt Asiata achieves a four yard burst.

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#104 by CamraMaan // Jan 04, 2015 - 4:53am

I know, because rookie Teddy Bridgewater and his corp of elite receivers were so threatening....

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#13 by lauers // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:47pm

The Pats conundrum may be an opportunity to improve DVOA predictive power. When looking at NBA games and point spreads a few years ago, I tried to quantify "Game Importance" for each team based on their record, games out of playoffs/home-court/#1 seed, and what happened in similar situations historically. It was an absolute bear to wrangle, but I did find that top teams had negative Game Importances at the end of the season when they had already locked up playoff seeds (i.e. wins after clinching the top seed often reduced chances of winning a championship). When I tried to adjust players' individual plus/minus ratings for Game Importance, I hit a wall and put it on a back-burner that has yet to be re-ignited.

I'm not sure we would see the same impacts in the NFL. While it is a tolling game, people seem more concerned about the rust of taking two/three weeks off than the benefits of extra rest. In looking at the Pats chances going forward, I would be tempted just to throw out last game as one that has a game importance ≤ 0.

(Full Disclaimer: I'm from Boston and may be trying to justify New England's lackluster offense of the past few weeks)

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#19 by Perfundle // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:05pm

Full Disclaimer: I'm from Boston and may be trying to justify New England's lackluster offense of the past few weeks

I'm pretty sure their game against the Jets ranked quite high in game importance, since a loss there coupled with Denver not losing to Cincinnati (which hadn't been played yet) would've dropped them to a 2-seed.

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#24 by RickD // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:36pm

Well, there's no real justification for treating the last game as if New England were playing a serious game. Gronk didn't play at all, most of their best players didn't play the second half at all...

I think sometimes people want to try to create a system of rules that would allow them to drop this game according to some objective rules. But really, you can feel free to just drop the game and give your justification. It's a bit of a myth that one can create a comprehensive system of rules to deal with all possible eventualities. It's OK to make judgment calls from time to time.

The Jets game, though, could not be downweighted.

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#27 by deus01 // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:59pm

I don't think anyone would really complain if the last NE game was dropped from the ratings; we could also use a similar rule for games that get really out of hand, e.g. the Packers romp over the bears where basically everything after the first half was meaningless.

It would be interesting to see how that would change things in a handful of specific scenarios.

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#41 by lauers // Dec 30, 2014 - 6:13am

I believe that happens a bit already. I *think* that plays occurring in low leverage situations are given less weight, since gaining 8 yards on 3rd-and-10 up 42 in the second half would not meaningfully hurt a team's chance of winning. With Game Importance, perhaps one could start using weights before the game even starts.

It is also interesting that we tend to see a "Dead Cat Bounce" from teams that are out of playoff contention. You would imagine that management would prefer to improve their draft pick, but perhaps players and coaches competing for their next guaranteed contract counteracts that. Or it's just random noise and regression to the mean. Perhaps the "Game Importance" is different for different levels of the organization, which only complicates matters.

Side note: As a non-Jets fan, I'm a bit incredulous that the Jets would be so quick to ditch Geno Smith. His last four games were pretty solid, and he's only in his second year. Plus the Jets had the 2nd toughest schedule this year

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#71 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 30, 2014 - 4:21pm

Geno looked somewhat competent in the last 4 games of last year, two, but that didn't exactly carry over.

The track record of QB's who have looked as bad as he has for so many games is not good as far as showing improvement. Drew Brees is the only example I can think of, but I don't think he was ever Geno Smith bad, more just "meh". Hoping for an outlier is not a good business model.

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#77 by Led // Dec 30, 2014 - 6:20pm

Stafford was really, really bad as a rookie and wasn't on the field much in his second year (although he was serviceable before he got hurt that year).

The problem with your analysis, which does make sense as far as it goes, is that there's no way to compare apples to apples. Critically, there's no way to evaluate improvement by players that may be similar to Geno but that did not start right away. Under better circumstances, a player like Geno would have the opportunity to learn a pro offense and related fundamentals and mechanics for a year or two. For example, Aaron Rodgers was utterly terrible in his VERY limited opportunities his first two years. He may not have been as bad as Geno if he were the full time starter those years, but he obviously had major limitations and even when he got the starting job in his 4th year his DVOA was only 8.5% (14th in the league). I'd take that for Geno next year! What would we think of Rodgers if he'd been drafted by a team with a crap offense and had to start from day 1? Maybe he never gets the chance to develop into a HOFer.

For some other examples, we don't have DVOA data for Steve Young's first two years but his conventional stats were terrible (and those were his 3rd and 4th years as a pro!). Rich Gannon sat the bench a awhile and had a -17% DVOA in 1990 (the first year he has any DVOA data), and he was already in his 4th year. In his 5th year he was 13th in the league in DVOA before disappearing for an injury plagued series of years.

I'm not saying Geno is going to be as good as those players or even that he'll be any good at all. I'm just saying your historical analysis is necessarily incomplete and does not justify giving up on Geno yet. It does strongly counsel bringing in another potential starter, whether that's a polished rookie or a veteran, and let them fight it out.

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#79 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 30, 2014 - 6:31pm

DVOA adjusts value based on time and score, but it doesn't adjust value based on time taken or getting out of bounds. Probably it's biggest flaw in my opinion. It would take a crazy amount of work to figure how much value time should be worth though.

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#105 by CamraMaan // Jan 04, 2015 - 5:11am

I agree that its hard to justify weighting a game like that too much. One element not being discussed/considered is that when the backups play in those games, they are playing their hardest because its almost like another pre-season game... its a chance to prove their value. They tend to play hard, and play to win. So there is still some value in the game, its just hard to quantify it when its primarily coming from backup players. But like was said, you just have to have a written and mental footnote that the DVOA isn't quite what it should be, so make your own (fingers crossed) adjustments as best you see fit. You know the Pats should have a higher DVOA, or at least we all think they should, so you just kinda adjust it on your own... for whatever reason that benefits you.

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#16 by Bobman // Dec 29, 2014 - 9:54pm

Colts-Bengals playoff game looks like it couldn't possibly closer based on their DVOA rankings. O: 17/18. D: 13/14, ST: 8/6. Injuries will play a huge factor (AJ Green, Ahmad Bradshaw, Wayne, whole Colts OL), and probably HFA, but I can't quite imagine a replay of their 27-0 regular season game.

Pit/Bal started to look like that until I saw the D disparity: Bal is #8 and Pitt is #30? Yet all the pundits are saying Pit is the non-bye team that can make a run to the AFCCG or beyond...?

Dal/Det is another interesting DVOA matchup, with Dallas's #4 O facing Detroit's #3 D, and the Lions' #19 O vs Cowboys' #22 D. Looks like a competitive game, unless Suh's absence leads to 57 Murray carries and 300 rushing yards, which it might.

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#20 by jacobk // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:06pm

I think the perception with Pittsburgh is that they are a high variance team and their best game is better than the best that IND/CIN/BAL can manage, so if you're going to pick somebody with a puncher's chance of getting to the big game the Steelers are the logical choice.

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#25 by jonnyblazin // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:38pm

"I think the perception with Pittsburgh is that they are a high variance team and their best game is better than the best that IND/CIN/BAL can manage, so if you're going to pick somebody with a puncher's chance of getting to the big game the Steelers are the logical choice."

The other way to look at it is that the Steelers have a bad defense that a good offense can exploit, whereas the Ravens have much fewer weaknesses so can keep a game close. It may be more advantages to keep the game close and hope the ball bounces your way rather than rely on an awful defense.

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#95 by countertorque // Jan 01, 2015 - 2:21pm

If I'm reading right, the Ravens are 1-6 against teams over .500 this year, while the Steelers are 6-1. I assume your interpretation will be that the Ravens are due for a win and the Steelers are due for a loss.

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#99 by jonnyblazin // Jan 01, 2015 - 7:53pm

You assume wrong. Brady has been able to shred Lebeau's defenses when they were good, I don't think the Steeler's D will stand a chance now that they suck.

I don't place any predictive value in how teams have performed in close games against good teams in a given season.

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#22 by Will Allen // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:25pm

I theorized in another thread that Suh's actions on Sunday were part of grand strategy to have Suh jump Romo in the parking lot next Sunday morning. I was probably selling The Kongster short. A man of his deep strategic vision will likely hide in Romo's refrigerator, at palatial Romo Estate, waiting to spring out when Tony reaches in for a ice pack for his aching back Saturday night. It'll have to be a walk-in fridge, of course.....

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#21 by Paul R // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:20pm

Pittsburgh: Total DVOA rank 8th, Offense rank 2, Defense rank 30
Buffalo: Total DVOA rank 9th, Offense rank 26, Defense rank 2

It seems like one could draw a conclusion from these identical-yet-opposite rankings, but I wouldn't know where to start.

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#23 by Will Allen // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:27pm

Swap the qbs. Now, THAT would be an interesting experiment!

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#26 by Pottsville Mar… // Dec 29, 2014 - 10:42pm

And Antonio Brown, and LeVeon Bell... both top-5 talents at their positions.

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#29 by Will Allen // Dec 29, 2014 - 11:03pm

The interesting part to me would be to measure the impact of the most prominent position. I think Orton would diminish the perception of Antonio Brown more than Bills offense would diminish the perception of Roethlisberger.

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#37 by duh // Dec 30, 2014 - 1:06am

Yeah, the idea of Ben throwing to Sammy Watkins is entertaining to think about

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#56 by Mike B. In Va // Dec 30, 2014 - 10:12am

I'd argue that the overall receiver talent for Buffalo is about equal to Pitt (Brown is better than Watkins at this point, but the Bills have a lot of young talent that gets open only to not be seen by Orton), so the QB swap would most likely make the Bills an instant 12 win team.

How many draft picks would that take? ;)

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#43 by Otis Taylor89 // Dec 30, 2014 - 7:18am

Just swap their schedules - BUF had the 10th hardest, PIT had the 29th.

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#39 by Cythammer // Dec 30, 2014 - 3:14am

Pittsburgh had a much easier schedule, which is probably a large part of why they made the playoffs and Bills didn't.

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#93 by countertorque // Jan 01, 2015 - 2:08pm

True. Yet 2 of the Steelers 5 losses came against their weakest opponents.

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#31 by MJK // Dec 29, 2014 - 11:09pm

I think there's a very easy, objective, and justifiable solution to the "resting the starters" conundrum. Once a playoff-bound team can no longer improve it's playoff seeding by winning (i.e. it is locked into a given seed), treat that week as a bye both for it and for its opponent, and throw that game completely out.

Don't mess around with bonuses or trying to objectively quantify when a team is resting enough starters to qualify as "not trying". As you allude, even if a team doesn't rest starters, it will generally run vanilla schemes and not game-plan to its full potential once it has nothing to play for, and its performance (and the performance of its opponent) will not be representative.

Yes, you will occasionally throw out relevant data that might be predictive. But it's perfectly legitimate in a scientific measurement to throw out data that *may* have been compromised and you don't know if it was or not. You will never pollute your dataset with that way, and with fifteen other games worth of data to go on, the change you get from maybe missing "real" data in the cases where the team actually tried, will likely be small. In any case, it will be a rarer situation, I would think, than including the garbage games every year.

Keep the game if neither team has anything to play for (e.g. both teams eliminated from playoff contention) and if one team still has seeding/playoff to play for and the other is eliminated, since the eliminated team still has incentive to try to win in that case. Only throw out games where one or both teams is playoff bound with nothing to be gained by winning.

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#32 by MJK // Dec 29, 2014 - 11:12pm

Of course, you'd still have the problem of teams playing for WORSE playoff seeding in Week 17, as the Pats did a few years ago (the Flutie drop-kick game), because they like a particular post-season matchup better. But I suspect this is an ultra-rare scenario that wouldn't pop up more than once a decade or so.

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#34 by Vandal // Dec 30, 2014 - 12:03am

Agreed. Any game for a playoff team cannot change it's seeding, should be thrown out. That team treats it identically to a preseason game, why should the rankings of it be any different.

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#63 by Joshua Northey // Dec 30, 2014 - 1:17pm

But why do it if it doesn't actually improve anything? I mean I realize it would make Pats fans happier most years, but that is not a reason.

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#69 by RickD // Dec 30, 2014 - 3:43pm

The reason would be to improve the accuracy of the ratings. Including bad data is going to distort the results.

The purpose is not to make anybody feel better.

Put it this way. Let's say you were trying to determine a car's gas mileage. So you drive it 200 miles with new tires. And then you get a flat, and the only spare you have is an old, balding tire. And you drive another 50 miles on that. Would it make sense to include the last fifty miles in your calculation?

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#73 by Vincent Verhei // Dec 30, 2014 - 5:11pm

The reason would be to improve the accuracy of the ratings. Including bad data is going to distort the results.

But when we have tried removing rest-the-starters games, the ratings have always been less accurate at predicting who'll win in the playoffs.

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#106 by CamraMaan // Jan 04, 2015 - 5:59am

But are there other factors in play to that end? Theories abound on the effects of resting starters in week 17, just like they exist for teams with a bye week. As a Seahawks fan fully inducted into the belief system of Carroll's "always compete" mantra, "taking a game off" when you play, but playing half-assed, in theory only hurts a player, since they are straying from their built-up regimen of giving 100% ALL the time. The same can be said for bye weeks during the season, as well as at the end of the season, or stacked up with "taking off" week 17, then having a bye, where all of these scenarios cut into the rhythm of practicing every week, playing every week, versus mentally taking a vacation for a week. Its hard to take that vacation, then simply pick up where you left off. The consistency of playing every week has a lasting effect.

On the flipside, you have the ability to rest injured players who could be KEY players if they're 100%, versus 85%. Right now the Seahawks are undoubtedly benefiting from an extra week of rest for guys like Okung, Unger, Lynch, Jeremy Hill, Kearse, Willson, or older guys like Kevin Williams, and I'm sure more who are nursing minor injuries. It means that each team stands in a unique position with a bye, or the option to take week 17 off, because it might hurt or help them... and who knows if they have the proper coaching to get their team mentally ready to give 110% once the game starts, all the way until the fat lady sings.

So many factors can honestly go into whether or not a DVOA rating should be adjusted or not if a team "takes off" week 17 (or finds themselves with a bye). But the logic does stand that if they do take week 17 off, its arguably tainted data. It has no statistical value that can be justified by.... any argument. Other than the DVOA stats still work. Somehow. Because by all logical arguments, they shouldn't.

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#75 by Joshua Northey // Dec 30, 2014 - 5:28pm

I understand it totally should improve things in theory. The problem is it doesn't really improve things in practice. You also have the problem of the variables being fairly hard to quantify. Does seeding matter? What about games against teams who could get the 1st draft pick? What about teams who have quit on their coaches.

There is already very little data in an NFL season, you start throwing some out and you are left with nothing.

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#72 by MJK // Dec 30, 2014 - 5:05pm

Obviously you'd want to do an analysis to see if excluding these games improved DVOA correlations with wins, or its predictive power going forward, or something like that. (That's getting back to the "is DVOA descriptive or predictive" debate).

But I'm suggesting an approach to try.

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#94 by countertorque // Jan 01, 2015 - 2:11pm

Aaron pretty much stated in the article that he has tried it and it didn't make a measurable improvement.

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#33 by Vincent Verhei // Dec 29, 2014 - 11:28pm

What was so great about the Seahawks' effort on Sunday? It felt like they were in control all game but I wouldn't have guessed it was worth a 5+ percentage point bump in DVOA at this point in the season.

Seattle's DVOA for that game was 72.1%, almost entirely due to defense. The offensive DVOA was only 2.2% (I'm sure if I checked it would have been better in the second half), but the defensive DVOA was -60.8% overall, -59.5% passing, -63.5% rushing. (And, for completists, the special teams DVOA was 9.1%).

For the game, Seattle gave up one field-goal drive of 35 yards; seven drives that gained less than 10 yards each; and three drives that ended in turnovers. The Rams averaged 6.6 yards per pass play, which isn't terrible, but they gave up two interceptions, four sacks, two fumbles (one on a sack, one on a completion), and their longest completion gained only 20 yards. On the ground, the Rams averaged 2.2 yards on 19 carries, with only two positive runs and seven that were stuffed for no gain or a loss.

While all that was going on, Seattle was moving the ball, even when they weren't scoring. Eight of their 11 drives gained at least 20 yards, even if they ended in punts, turnovers, or the end of the first half. DVOA will reward an offense (a little) that picks up several first downs before punting, because it analyzes every play, not every drive.

Finally, the Rams are no slouch. They finished 18th in total DVOA, ninth in defense.

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#35 by RickD // Dec 30, 2014 - 12:18am

Seattle got -60.8% DVOA against an offense that itself finished with an -11.6% DVOA? Wow.

The Rams' defense is very good. The offense? Not so much.

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#47 by deus01 // Dec 30, 2014 - 8:58am

St Louis is the highest variance team in the league so teams that play them could have bigger moves depending on what Rams team shows up.

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#36 by Sixknots // Dec 30, 2014 - 12:28am

Aaron said in the opener "One of the general running themes of the DVOA commentaries this year has been that this was a year with very few extremes".

Two years ago I did a fan article on another blog about surprise teams and disappointment teams. I defined a bad season as 6 wins or less and a good season as 10 wins or more. A surprise team went from 6-10 or worse one year to a 10-6 season or better the next. Opposite for a disappointment team.

Since the 1988 post-strike year as a baseline there has been an average of about 2.4 of each per year and there has been only one year with no surprise team and only one year with no disappointment team.

This is the first year in 26 years that there are no surprise or disappointment teams*.

Closest surprise:
Houston; 2-14 to 9-7
Buffalo: 6-10 to 9-7

Closest disappointment:
New Orleans: 11-5 to 7-9

*your definition of disappointment may vary.

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#42 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 30, 2014 - 7:17am

I would throw in Detroit as "closest to surprise team" 7-9 to 11-5. Unfortunately, their good luck in close games (thanks Saints defense and Mike Smith!) and outperforming their estimated wins by 2.3 games suggest they have a good chance of appearing in "dissappointing teams column next year.

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#59 by Sixknots // Dec 30, 2014 - 11:49am

Yeah, they could be what I called a yo-yo team like the early 2000's Jets that went surprise-disappointment-surprise-disappointment for 4 or 5 years in a row. But that's better than continual suck and unlike continual 8-8 you get a high draft pick every other year.

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#60 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 30, 2014 - 12:20pm

Yes, I've had quite enough of continual suck, so I'll take "yo-yo" over that any day.

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#101 by mehllageman56 // Jan 02, 2015 - 8:13pm

It was pretty hard for Chad to hold that yo-yo when it was inside his right shoulder.

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#54 by Steve in WI // Dec 30, 2014 - 10:00am

While dropping from 8-8 to 5-11 doesn't fit your definition, I think when you factor in the expectations for the Bears this year they could be the most disappointing team of the 2014 season.

I would also argue that while 6-10 and 10-6 are good baselines, a team like Houston who goes from first-overall-pick bad to 8 or 9 wins in the span of a season has to be judged as pretty successful and is probably surprising.

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#57 by Mike B. In Va // Dec 30, 2014 - 10:18am

If just looking at the numbers, sure - but that 1st overall pick Houston team was the result of injuries and a total QB/coaching meltdown, and was really more similar to the team from two years earlier that went to the playoffs.

The biggest surprise to me was how bad the Saints' D was. I expected middling, and they were putrid instead.

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#85 by TomC // Dec 31, 2014 - 12:13pm

While dropping from 8-8 to 5-11 doesn't fit your definition, I think when you factor in the expectations for the Bears this year they could be the most disappointing team of the 2014 season.

They were unequivocally the most disappointing team of the year to me personally. I want to sit the whole team down (staff & front office included) and tell them how very, very disappointed I am in them.

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#107 by CamraMaan // Jan 04, 2015 - 6:10am

Point taken in the following comment about how last year may have simply been an aberration due to their QB we schaub soon forget, but lest we also forget their #1 overall pick was a non-factor all year as well. Of course many would argue that even if healthy he may still have taken 70% of the plays off anyway. 0:)

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#58 by MJK // Dec 30, 2014 - 11:20am

I like this general bar of your definition, but I would amend "good season" to be "10 wins OR a playoff birth". I think a team that makes the playoffs at 9-7 wouldn't complain.

That said, maybe amend it again to exclude Carolina this year. :-) Being the NFC south champion isn't exactly something to be proud of...

(Using that definition, than Houston would have *ALMOST* been a "surprise team". They came within a couple of Joe Flacco bombs in Cleveland of the playoffs).

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#61 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 30, 2014 - 12:34pm

The 9-7 playoff team wouldn't complain, but not all 9-7 playoff teams are created equal. Some good teams are 9-7 because of a difficult schedule and some bad luck, but some bad teams end up 9-7 because of the opposite happening. The latter teams' management can then be fooled into thinking that they're close to contending and splurge in free agency/trade away draft picks to "take the next step", thus doing more damage to themselves than if they had missed the playoffs on a tiebreaker, or had 1 unlucky bounce to finish 8-8.

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#89 by ZDNeal // Dec 31, 2014 - 2:50pm

Also too 7-8-1 playoff teams are big surprises but not in a good way.

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#108 by CamraMaan // Jan 04, 2015 - 6:19am

While I see the reason for your guidelines of who is a surprise team or not, it unfortunately excludes many teams who improved by 4, 5, or even 6 wins, but fall outside your parameters. A team who goes 1-15 one year, then 7-9 the next year is a surprise team in most anyone's book! Ask their fans if they are happy with the change! Likewise, a team that goes 7-9 one year, then 12-4 the next also falls outside your parameters, even though that is a massive improvement! I would modify your parameters so that going from a very easy schedule to a very hard one, or vice versa, can be accommodated, so maybe a +/-5 win team qualifies... or go with +/-4 if you like it better. Maybe test out each parameter and see if one stands out statistically. But limiting it to a change of 6-10 or worse, to 10-6 or better, really just limits the data set in an unnecessary way.

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#38 by PaddyPat // Dec 30, 2014 - 2:04am

It's curious how significant a role seeding will play in the playoffs this year. The relative likelihood that Seattle gets to host Arizona or Carolina in the divisional round must meaningfully improve their Super Bowl chances, and I would have to think that Seattle would then be rooting hard for Green Bay to dispatch Dallas. In the AFC picture, it's sort of hard to imagine any of the wild card round teams knocking off the top seeds. That feels rather unusual. It has been quite a while since the last season without a divisional round upset. Does Baltimore beat the Pats in New England? Will Dallas actually win in Green Bay? Some sort of upset seems inevitable...

Points: 0

#109 by CamraMaan // Jan 04, 2015 - 7:17am

lol, orrrrrr, Seattle doesn't care who they play, because they plan to beat everyone they play. You're obviously not a Seahawks fan, aren't used to watching them, and still doubt they can win it all without a QB named Peyton, Brady, Rodgers or Brees. As a Seahawks fan, I actually hope Detroit beats Dallas, because if any teams scare me its Dallas and Green Bay. Detroit has a stout and nasty defense, so yeah, I understand the inhibitions towards wanting to face them. But they also have a run game that is easy to stop (for us), and a QB who now understands he is overrated, even though he has two of the best jungle-catch receivers to make him look good... aaaand he still can't look good. Detroit's defense will undoubtedly limit us on offense, but we should shut them down with our defense. Their defense is used to practicing against an erratic Stafford (with no complimentary running game to sneeze at; J.Bell is #42 in DYAR), versus a creative and frustrating Russell Wilson (with #2 DYAR "Beast Mode" Lynch). Just watch how often the Lions defense gets sucked into either stopping Lynch, or covering a Wilson pass, only to get duped by a Wilson run. Then their defense will go into shambles trying to pretend they can reflexively cover all three. Been there, seen it, laughed at the opposing defense's failure. Ask the vaunting Arizona defense how that goes. Alas, this requires Detroit to beat Dallas, which, while I hope they will do it, my money still stands on Dallas. Sigh. I hope I'm wrong though.

Dallas is scary. They remind me of the Seahawks the last two years. Chip on their shoulder, LOTS to prove, and enough of the right players to prove it. But I can't help but wonder about two factors in their upcoming game... what happens when the unstoppable force meets the immovable wall (hopefully no explanation needed), and will Romo, well, do it again... and Romo-it. You know, lose an important game, because, well, he's Tony Romo. I mean we all know its in the back of his mind. If he doesn't Romo-it, and eventually wins the Super Bowl, then he can be argued to join the ranks of Brady, Peyton, Rodgers and Brees... or he simply stays.... Tony Romo: The guy who could have been, but never was. That game with Detroit will be a blast to watch!

If Dallas prevails, then Seattle looks to face one of the two scariest NFC teams (once they dispatch the Panthers; hey Carolina, it was an admirable run!) not named the Seahawks. Either Dallas comes into town knowing they won there before, i.e. very confident, or the Packers come into town to prove their loss to begin the season was a fluke (if the Packers face Carolina, does anyone REALLY expect the Panthers, with their mediocre offense [at best] to have any chance to beat the Pack, at Lambeau??). Unfortunately for the 'Boys, they will be facing a very different team than they beat the first time, and only time will tell if they will be ready for that (maybe they can ask Peyton and/or Aaron for some advice on what to be prepared for?). This Seahawks team is playing faster, more cohesively, and most importantly, with more confidence and gusto than they were in week 6. Its not hard to imagine the 'Boys getting caught off guard like Sean Lee by the Golden Tate "block" (which he was appropriately fined for; but you get the idea). Google it, if needed.

On the flipside, Aaron Rodgers knows all too well how we can shut him down... assuming he wants to avoid Sherman's side of the field again. Or he can test Sherm like everyone else decided to do, and realize that All-Pro status for 2014 was (again) no fluke. But don't get me wrong, I fully appreciate Eddie Lacy, and IMHO he's Beast Mode #2. The Seahawks have to stop him, because he never gives up, keeps churning his legs, and will wear you out if you let him. I mean DeMarco Murray is great, but he benefits a TON from one of the best OLines in the game. But Lacy is great because he's a beast. They're both hard to stop, but for very different reasons. The Pack will be much harder to stop if we can't bring Lacy down. And he's on a roll right now. Which Murray seemingly is not.

I need to stop rambling...

Seahawks don't care who we face... yeah, there are scary teams to potentially be played... but I ask you this: will the Seahawks be more scared to play them at the CLink, or will they be more scared to play us? The scared and mentally unprepared team loses.

Points: 0

#40 by Paul R // Dec 30, 2014 - 3:38am

Re: The Week-17-Resting-The-Starters-DVOA-Effect-Conundrum

Since the foundation of the DVOA model is value, (i.e. a 4-yard run on 3rd and 3 has more "value" than a 10-yard run on 3rd and 20), is it possible to establish a similar "value" for an entire game?
Just as DVOA is weighted so that a team's week-1 performance has less effect as the season goes on, it seems that a similar function could subtract some weight from a team's week-17 performance if that team has already accomplished all of the goals possible in regular season play.

Points: 0

#44 by big10freak // Dec 30, 2014 - 8:09am

Minor item, it was TJ Lang who went up against Suh all game last Sunday and basically pitched a shutout. And Sitton had some bad runs in the second half as his toe starts to flare up again causing him to lose some of his ability to plant and move quickly.

Points: 0

#50 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 30, 2014 - 9:25am

That might be a window into Suh's mind...he tends to go all Joe Pesci in Casino when an opponent handles him. I think something similar happened during Thanksgiving 2011.

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#51 by big10freak // Dec 30, 2014 - 9:31am


This has been surmised previously including by a guy in the Audibles so your perspective is shared by others. It sounds plausible. Frustration leads to all kinds of odd behavior.

It would be interesting to know what the GB guards DO to manage this human wrecking ball.

Points: 0

#45 by big10freak // Dec 30, 2014 - 8:24am

Have not all of Philly's games but not just the overall DVOA but the unit DVOAs just do not jibe with what I saw on the field beyond just the Packer game.

Points: 0

#49 by big10freak // Dec 30, 2014 - 9:24am

I asked in the Quick Reads and will ask again if the Lions have a fantastic rush defense what was Eddie Lacy's number after getting 100 yards against Detroit on Sunday? And he caught some passes.

Not insisting there is an error, just curious

Points: 0

#52 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 30, 2014 - 9:35am

Well the fumble obviously didn't help, and recall that in addition to his great runs, he had a few plays where got stopped for no/minimal gain.

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#53 by Flounder // Dec 30, 2014 - 9:47am

My guess is he was a top 5 runner without the fumble.

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#55 by big10freak // Dec 30, 2014 - 10:12am

That was actually the impetus of my question. Was the quality of Detroit's run defense so high that even with a fumble Lacy would grade out well.

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#62 by justanothersteve // Dec 30, 2014 - 12:38pm

It probably wouldn't affect the overall rankings, but I'd feel a whole lot better about GB's special teams if they didn't have seven blocked kicks this year (2 punts, 3 FGs, and 2 XP).

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#64 by Hurt Bones // Dec 30, 2014 - 1:51pm

Wow. I guess being mostly an AFC guy I hadn't noticed. Personally I find blocked kicks by my team terribly deflating. But seven.

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#67 by DisplacedPackerFan // Dec 30, 2014 - 2:47pm

What is even worse is that the first few were blamed on losing Sitton and Lang from the special teams units to help them recovery from injuries as the blocks were coming from the middle. Lang is back for the last couple of games but even before that the issues were on the outside. I know Quarless is getting the blame for the last one, and I think the 3 previous blocks were also due to "outside" failures. So the scapegoat injuries aren't even the issue.

The punting side of things I feel is adequate to good. They block well enough on returns and Hyde and Cobb are good returners. Masthay has slumped a bit during the 2nd half of the season, even if you factor out the 79 yard return and the block that happened, but I still trust him, and in general the punt coverage units are adequate. I'm not worried about big punt returns.

They seem to block decently on kick off returns but Harris has done nothing to help the cause, he never makes anyone miss. But to rank as poorly as they do, I'm not sure it's all on the returner. Of course they never tried anyone else back there until last week and that was really because Harris was inactive so that Tolzien could be active since they were worried about Rodgers not completing the game before it even kicked off.

If they would block for him Crosby does an adequate job as well. Take away the blocks, which weren't on him at all, some blocks are because of bad trajectories, but that isn't the issue and I think he is hitting over 90% of his kicks this year. Of course two of the blocks were on 50+ yard kicks so even if you only say he was 1 - 3 if the blocks didn't happen it's still 85% and 9 of 14 from 40+ yards.

It still all adds up to Slocum needs to go. He has decent to good specialists, he didn't try to fix the kick-off returns using Hyde or Cobb which likely would have made a difference. Of course I understand not putting either of those players on that unit to help reduce injury opportunities.

Given the perpetual state of crappy special teams since he started and at least one unit every season being unforgivably bad. I would love a parallel universe where the Packers have Dave Toub as ST coordinator this season and see how they do. My belief is that with the lower injury rate the team has had this year, and the level of talent he would have had to work with, that they could have been in the top 10. But it's time to give someone else the job, even if they aren't Toub level.

Points: 0

#68 by Will Allen // Dec 30, 2014 - 3:10pm

Is my perception correct that blocked kicks are way up league-wide?

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#76 by dbostedo // Dec 30, 2014 - 6:16pm

No... just Packers/Vikings wide.

Actually, I have no idea overall, but I seem to remember the most from games involving those two teams.

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#70 by stillhadallthese // Dec 30, 2014 - 4:18pm

Has there been a playoff game between two teams with such low DVOA since you started the metric?

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#81 by crw78 // Dec 30, 2014 - 11:31pm

Not sure if there's something wrong with the numbers above or if there's an error in the point differentials I'm looking at, but the Pats are +155 in points on the year, and Seattle is +140, so not sure how Seattle has a higher Pythag Wins value. Unless Pythag incorporates something other than point differential that I'm not aware of.

Points: 0

#82 by Duff Soviet Union // Dec 31, 2014 - 12:31am

Pythag is based on the ratio of points scored to points allowed, so a team that has a relatively low number in both statistics like Seattle will do better than a team like New England.

Or to put it another way, a 21-0 win is more dominant than a 42-21 win.

Points: 0

#83 by crw78 // Dec 31, 2014 - 12:44am

Figured there was something I was missing there, thank you.

Points: 0

#84 by crw78 // Dec 31, 2014 - 1:58am

For those who remember the guts vs. stomps, skate vs. dominate research FO did years ago, here are the numbers for this year:

Numbers in parentheses are Guts, Stomps, Skates, and Dominates
For the uninitiated, Guts are 1 possession (8 points or less) wins against teams over .500, Stomps are 2+ possession wins (more than 14 points) over teams over .500, Skates are 1 possession wins (8 points or less) over teams under .500, and Dominates are 2+ possession wins (more than 14 points) over team over .500. This means games against Miami and San Fran are not counted. These numbers are based on my understanding of the original article, I could be wrong.

Seattle (1 gut, 1 stomp, 2 skates, 3 dominates, 5-3 vs. .500+, 5-1 vs. sub .500)
Denver (3, 2, 3, 1, 7-3, 5-1)
Green Bay (1, 5, 3, 1, 3-3, 8-1)
New England (0, 2, 3, 5, 6-3, 4-0)
Baltimore (0, 3, 3, 1, 1-6, 8-0)
Dallas (2, 3, 2, 1, 4-2, 8-1)
Pittsburgh (2, 1, 4, 3, 6-1, 5-4)
Indianapolis (3, 6, 1, 1, 4-5, 7-0)
Cincinnati (2, 3, 2, 0, 4-4, 6-1-1)
Detroit (0, 3, 5, 0, 1-4, 9-1)
Arizona (4, 1, 1, 0, 5-3, 5-1)
Carolina (1, 2, 4, 1, 1-5-1, 6-3)

Takeaways from this: 1) Amazing NE has 5 dominates over winning teams; 2)Steelers are great against good teams, not so great against bad teams; 3) Baltimore, Detroit, and Carolina only have 1 win over winning teams all year; 4) Number of stomps is supposed to be best indicator for going to SB, so Indy is in good shape there, but given how they performed against good teams, seems unlikely as they got blown out 3 times; 4) Green Bay has 5 stomps to Seattle's 1, so will be interesting to see if that theory holds up if they meet in NFCG - but Seattle has 3 dominates to GB's 1, but 2 of those were against Arizona backup QBs, so not sure how much stock to put into that. Hard to forecast anything but a NE-Sea SB with these numbers, but given recent history I would bet against that matchup (and I'm a New England fan!)

Points: 0

#96 by intel_chris // Jan 01, 2015 - 2:41pm

Don't you mean by Dominates 2+ possession wins over teams under .500--or perhaps that is a Stomp? Otherwise Stomps and Dominates are the same thing. There are a couple of other things I can't decipher from your post, but irrespective of that, thanks.

Points: 0

#97 by Hurt Bones // Jan 01, 2015 - 2:48pm

STOMP: A win by at least 14 points over a team that will finish the year BELOW .500. (NOT OVER).

I'm assuming just a typos and that the numbers are corect.

Points: 0

#98 by crw78 // Jan 01, 2015 - 5:09pm

These #s may be slightly off as I wasn't including wins of exactly 14 points, for some reason I remembered a stomp or dominate needing to be more than 14 points. Can't take the time now to back and add those games back in.

Points: 0

#91 by mitch // Jan 01, 2015 - 10:23am

Guts and stomps only applies to teams once they reach the conference finals and super bowl.

I've never seen research showing it indicative of a team reaching the conf final and sb.

Indy with 6 stomps is meaningless untill they get there.

Stomps has the most wins but dominations have the best w/l percentage at 76%.

Guts the least accurate at 62.5%.

Points: 0

#92 by mitch // Jan 01, 2015 - 10:25am

Fading the team with the most guts is 62.5%.

Points: 0

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