Week 14 DVOA Ratings

Week 14 DVOA Ratings
Week 14 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

There's no change at the top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings this week. New England is still at No. 1 and Dallas is still at No. 2. Just like a week ago, the teams are higher in weighted DVOA than in full-season DVOA, and the gap between them is larger in weighted DVOA. The difference this week is that while the Patriots and Cowboys are still the lowest-rated teams to ever be ranked 1-2 in DVOA this late in the season, they did climb back above 20%. Dallas moves up despite its second loss because it still had a positive DVOA for that game (covered here in Any Given Sunday) and changes in opponent adjustments for past games boosted their overall rating a bit.

It's worth noting that even if we remove the two games started by third-string quarterback Jacoby Brissett from New England's DVOA, the Patriots would still be the lowest-rated No. 1 team in DVOA history. Without the offense in those games, the Patriots would be at 25.7% DVOA; the next-lowest No. 1 team after Week 14 was the undefeated 2011 Green Bay Packers at 28.2%.

As for this year's Packers, they moved way up in DVOA with their blowout win over Seattle, going from 12th to seventh. Seattle's drop was even larger, as they fell from third to 10th. (In weighted DVOA, Green Bay is one place higher and Seattle one place lower.) Seattle put up a horrible -77.6% DVOA in the loss to Green Bay, which basically assures that the four-year Seahawks DVOA dynasty will not continue with a fifth-straight No. 1 finish.

As you can imagine, Seattle hasn't had a loss like this in quite some time. The Seahawks have certainly had some bad losses this year. In fact, this was Seattle's third game this year with DVOA under -40%. Seattle's Week 2 loss to Los Angeles is currently at exactly -40.0%, subject to change as opponent adjustments change in the final three weeks. The loss to Tampa Bay two weeks ago is at -48.6%.

Suffice to say, the Seahawks did not have a lot of games with DVOA below -40% during their four-year DVOA dynasty. In fact, they had zero. Before this season, the last Seahawks game with a -40% DVOA came all the way back in Week 2 of the 2011 season, when they had -70% DVOA in a 24-0 loss at Pittsburgh. Sunday's blowout loss to Green Bay is the worst Seattle game by DVOA since a 38-15 loss in Tampa Bay late in Pete Carroll's first season as the head coach, which had -98% DVOA. The Seahawks haven't lost this badly since Matt Hasselbeck was still their starting quarterback.

Most teams, even good teams, will put up at least one -40% DVOA game each season, or at least a game close to that. However, there are two teams this year that haven't even put up a single game below -20%. You can probably guess that Dallas is one of those teams. The other one is a bit of a surprise. The New York Giants have been shockingly consistent all season. This week's win over Dallas is their best game of the year at 30.7% DVOA, and the Week 4 loss to the Vikings is currently their worst game at -15.5% DVOA. Ten of the Giants' 13 games have fallen in a narrow band between -5% and +15%.

I've been calling this the Year of No Great Teams for a few weeks now, but we are seeing a couple of historic performances on the defensive side of the ball. The problem is that these historic performances are only against the run or the pass, not both. By sheer coincidence, the New England Patriots have to play both of these defenses in consecutive weeks.

The Patriots did manage to run on Baltimore last night, moving Baltimore's run defense DVOA from -39.7% to -34.8%. That's still the best in the NFL for this season by a significant margin, but it is no longer on pace to pass the 2000 Ravens as the best run defense in DVOA history. Right now, Baltimore would rank third, behind the 2000 Ravens and the 1991 Eagles. The Ravens also saw their overall defensive DVOA rise from -18.4% to -15.5%, putting more distance between them and the No. 1 Denver Broncos.

We wrote in Football Outsiders Almanac 2016 and numerous times before the season that while Denver was probably still going to be one of the best defenses in the NFL, it was very unlikely that this year's Denver defense would be able to play at the same historic level as last year's defense. It turns out that was only half right. The Denver pass defense is actually better than it was last season. Last year, the Broncos had -28.0% DVOA against the pass. Through 13 games, this year's Broncos are at -32.3%. That's not going to challenge the 2002 Buccaneers as the best pass defense in DVOA history, but it is on pace to finish in the top ten. The "defense vs. types of receivers" numbers make a spectacular statement about Denver's cornerbacks, as the Broncos rank first against No. 1 wideouts, first against No. 2 wideouts, and third against other wideouts.

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What's keeping the Broncos defense from a second year of historic greatness overall is an inability to stop the run. The Broncos are 25th in the league against the run right now. As you may know, team DVOA numbers include all plays. Since passing is generally more efficient than rushing, most teams will have a lower (better) DVOA against the run than against the pass. Not Denver. Every other team in the NFL right now has a lower (better) DVOA against the run than against the pass. But Denver's defensive DVOA is over 31 points lower against the pass than against the run. All the usual guidelines about run/pass ratios should be completely switched when playing the Broncos this season. Then again, the Patriots went against the grain by running LeGarrette Blount down Baltimore's throat. Perhaps Bill Belichick will decide the best way to beat Denver next Sunday is to spread it out and throw all over the place. (Actually, probably not.)

One other note for those curious: our playoff odds simulation now gives Cleveland 51.1 percent odds of finishing the season 0-16. I know, that seems a bit too low, but strange things do happen in the NFL. It's possible even Cleveland will somehow stumble backwards into a win in the next three weeks.

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Once again this season, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 17 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, beginning at 11am Eastern on Friday. We will also tweet out images of these players from the @fboutsiders Twitter account on most Fridays. The best player of each week, the Football Outsiders Hero, will require you to collect a set of the other four Football Outsiders players that week, plus a certain number of Football Outsiders collectibles available in Madden Ultimate Team packs.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 14 are:

  • CB Janoris Jenkins, NYG (FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS HERO): Shut down Dez Bryant with just 1 catch for 10 yards; also had interception and forced fumble.
  • RB Carlos Hyde, SF: Second among Week 14 RB with 84 DYAR (17 carries, 193 yards, 7-yard receiving TD).
  • WR Marqise Lee, JAC: Third among Week 14 WR with 50 DYAR (5-for-8, 113 yards vs. No. 2 pass defense by DVOA).
  • SS Keith Tandy, TB: Led Tampa Bay with 9 combined tackles; game-sealing INT and two other PDs in fourth quarter.
  • LG Lane Taylor, GB: Helped shut down Seattle pass rush in dominant 38-10 victory.

* * * * *

All player/team DVOA stats pages are now updated through Week 14 of 2016. Playoff odds, snap counts, and the premium DVOA database are also fully updated. Drive stats and pace stats will be updated later this evening.

If you're looking for more of my thoughts on the Football Outsiders playoff odds and DVOA ratings, my playoff odds commentary at ESPN Insider will be running on Tuesday afternoons instead of Wednesday mornings for the remainder of the regular season.

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 14 weeks of 2016, 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. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

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.

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 NE 21.2% 1 26.6% 1 11-2 21.9% 3 2.9% 20 2.3% 9
2 DAL 20.8% 2 22.3% 2 11-2 22.6% 2 4.1% 21 2.3% 8
3 ATL 18.1% 4 19.2% 3 8-5 25.8% 1 10.6% 27 2.9% 7
4 PIT 14.4% 7 15.2% 5 8-5 9.3% 9 -4.7% 9 0.4% 15
5 KC 13.9% 8 17.1% 4 10-3 2.2% 12 -4.3% 11 7.5% 2
6 PHI 13.0% 5 10.8% 10 5-8 -6.4% 22 -12.0% 5 7.5% 3
7 GB 12.5% 12 14.1% 6 7-6 12.2% 8 -2.4% 14 -2.1% 21
8 OAK 11.7% 6 13.4% 7 10-3 16.5% 5 5.9% 23 1.1% 12
9 WAS 10.6% 10 11.8% 8 7-5-1 17.3% 4 7.4% 24 0.8% 13
10 SEA 9.9% 3 9.0% 11 8-4-1 -3.1% 18 -11.4% 6 1.6% 11
11 BAL 8.7% 9 10.9% 9 7-6 -11.8% 26 -15.5% 2 4.9% 6
12 NYG 6.3% 13 6.8% 12 9-4 -6.1% 20 -13.5% 4 -1.2% 19
13 DEN 5.7% 11 3.9% 15 8-5 -9.9% 25 -17.5% 1 -2.0% 20
14 MIN 4.1% 14 -0.6% 21 7-6 -8.6% 24 -11.0% 7 1.7% 10
15 BUF 3.1% 16 3.7% 16 6-7 9.1% 10 5.1% 22 -0.8% 18
16 TEN 3.0% 18 5.5% 14 7-6 12.9% 7 7.6% 25 -2.4% 23
17 SD 1.8% 17 -1.1% 22 5-8 -1.6% 16 -5.8% 8 -2.4% 24
18 NO 1.6% 15 2.8% 17 5-8 13.6% 6 9.0% 26 -3.0% 26
19 TB 1.6% 20 6.5% 13 8-5 -0.7% 15 -4.5% 10 -2.2% 22
20 CIN 0.6% 21 1.4% 18 5-7-1 5.8% 11 2.4% 19 -2.8% 25
21 MIA -0.3% 19 1.3% 19 8-5 -2.0% 17 -1.2% 17 0.5% 14
22 CHI -3.2% 23 -0.1% 20 3-10 -4.0% 19 -0.8% 18 0.1% 16
23 CAR -6.1% 24 -7.6% 24 5-8 -6.3% 21 -3.4% 12 -3.2% 27
24 ARI -6.1% 22 -12.5% 26 5-7-1 -13.6% 28 -14.2% 3 -6.7% 32
25 IND -7.5% 25 -3.3% 23 6-7 0.1% 14 13.0% 29 5.4% 5
26 DET -8.8% 26 -8.0% 25 9-4 1.3% 13 15.9% 31 5.8% 4
27 JAC -14.4% 27 -14.2% 27 2-11 -12.0% 27 -2.2% 15 -4.5% 29
28 SF -20.4% 29 -21.6% 28 1-12 -6.9% 23 13.1% 30 -0.4% 17
29 LARM -21.1% 28 -22.5% 29 4-9 -31.0% 32 -1.8% 16 8.2% 1
30 HOU -22.6% 30 -23.1% 30 7-6 -19.4% 31 -2.7% 13 -5.9% 30
31 NYJ -34.8% 31 -37.5% 31 4-9 -16.6% 30 11.5% 28 -6.7% 31
32 CLE -37.6% 32 -39.7% 32 0-13 -15.7% 29 17.9% 32 -4.1% 28
  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA does not include the adjustments for opponent strength or the adjustments for weather and altitude in special teams, and only penalizes offenses for lost fumbles rather than all fumbles.
  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
  • PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).

1 NE 21.2% 11-2 25.5% 9.2 2 -7.9% 32 -9.8% 30 13.8% 21
2 DAL 20.8% 11-2 18.6% 9.9 1 2.0% 9 1.9% 14 3.7% 2
3 ATL 18.1% 8-5 14.7% 9.1 3 3.1% 5 -8.3% 27 9.4% 14
4 PIT 14.4% 8-5 16.5% 7.8 7 1.4% 13 -9.4% 29 27.4% 32
5 KC 13.9% 10-3 12.9% 7.9 6 -1.4% 22 3.5% 12 16.5% 28
6 PHI 13.0% 5-8 10.5% 8.0 5 4.5% 3 11.9% 3 15.7% 24
7 GB 12.5% 7-6 9.7% 7.4 13 2.3% 7 -2.6% 20 16.3% 27
8 OAK 11.7% 10-3 10.2% 7.6 9 2.2% 8 0.0% 18 9.0% 13
9 WAS 10.6% 7-5-1 6.8% 8.1 4 4.7% 2 -1.0% 19 10.5% 16
10 SEA 9.9% 8-4-1 11.7% 7.8 8 -1.4% 21 -15.9% 31 19.2% 30
11 BAL 8.7% 7-6 12.3% 7.4 12 -2.8% 28 9.4% 5 15.8% 25
12 NYG 6.3% 9-4 0.5% 7.5 10 3.5% 4 4.9% 10 1.4% 1
13 DEN 5.7% 8-5 11.0% 6.9 17 0.3% 16 15.6% 1 11.0% 17
14 MIN 4.1% 7-6 6.0% 7.4 11 -0.3% 17 0.6% 15 8.4% 11
15 BUF 3.1% 6-7 5.4% 6.4 20 -0.7% 19 -24.2% 32 12.1% 19
16 TEN 3.0% 7-6 10.1% 7.2 16 -5.1% 31 -7.7% 26 11.3% 18
17 SD 1.8% 5-8 0.0% 5.6 21 0.8% 14 -4.0% 24 4.6% 5
18 NO 1.6% 5-8 6.1% 7.2 15 0.5% 15 4.5% 11 4.5% 4
19 TB 1.6% 8-5 -1.1% 6.5 19 1.8% 10 5.4% 9 18.9% 29
20 CIN 0.6% 5-7-1 1.6% 6.6 18 -0.5% 18 0.2% 17 6.7% 7
21 MIA -0.3% 8-5 3.6% 7.3 14 -4.4% 30 -3.5% 22 21.5% 31
22 CHI -3.2% 3-10 -1.9% 5.6 22 -1.6% 25 9.1% 6 14.4% 22
23 CAR -6.1% 5-8 -9.3% 5.3 25 1.7% 12 10.1% 4 7.1% 8
24 ARI -6.1% 5-7-1 -0.7% 5.3 24 -2.6% 27 -3.2% 21 8.9% 12
25 IND -7.5% 6-7 -6.0% 5.4 23 -4.0% 29 0.5% 16 15.4% 23
26 DET -8.8% 9-4 -6.0% 5.2 26 -1.8% 26 13.2% 2 7.2% 9
27 JAC -14.4% 2-11 -13.4% 4.0 28 1.7% 11 -9.0% 28 4.1% 3
28 SF -20.4% 1-12 -20.5% 3.8 29 -1.5% 23 2.3% 13 10.4% 15
29 LARM -21.1% 4-9 -18.8% 4.8 27 -1.1% 20 -5.6% 25 13.0% 20
30 HOU -22.6% 7-6 -20.5% 3.7 30 2.5% 6 -3.6% 23 7.4% 10
31 NYJ -34.8% 4-9 -32.0% 3.4 31 -1.6% 24 8.0% 7 16.0% 26
32 CLE -37.6% 0-13 -42.1% 0.0 32 5.6% 1 6.5% 8 4.7% 6


74 comments, Last at 20 Dec 2016, 6:02pm

#1 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 13, 2016 - 6:47pm

Questions for the historical minded. Has a team ever won it's division while being ranked 4th or worse in the division? Has a team ever won a division while being 20% DVOA or more behind the division DVOA leader?

Detroit could be looking to set some records.

Points: 0

#8 by Tom Gower // Dec 13, 2016 - 7:16pm

Offhand, the 2010 NFC North champion Bears were at 2.4%, while the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers were at 23.0%, so 20% has definitely happened before. Probably other ones cases, but with 2011 GB mentioned in the article that came to mind immediately.

The same year, the NFC West champion Seahawks were 30th in DVOA, but that was still ahead of Arizona. I'd have to think about other 4th place possibilities. Too bad the Browns (24.4%) finished a half game ahead of the Steelers (-8.7%) and Oilers (-11.8%) in the 1989 AFC Central.

Points: 0

#16 by ammek // Dec 14, 2016 - 5:04am

Last time the Lions won their division, in 1993, they had its third best DVOA (-5.4%), just barely ahead of fourth-best Chicago (-7.3%).

The only other time the Lions won their division in the DVOA era, in 1991, they finished with negative DVOA (-1.2%) despite a 12-4 record which earned them a bye. That DVOA also ranked third in their division, behind even 8-8 Minnesota (+0.5%). However, the Packers and Buccaneers were both awful that season (as they had been for about a decade).

If Yancey Thigpen had not dropped an easy pass in the final game of 1995, Detroit would have edged Green Bay for the NFC Central title in the Scott Mitchell Miracle Year. The Lions had the fourth best DVOA in what was a very competitive division (four teams in the top ten by DVOA). Then, being the Lions, in the wildcard round they conceded 58 points to #17 Philadelphia.

In other words, the 2016 Lions are doing it the traditional Lions way!


The 1999 Colts and 2000 Vikings both finished in top place with the fourth-best DVOA in their division. Both had first-round byes, too.

Green Bay won the 1996 NFC Central and finished #1 in DVOA, but the Vikings qualified for the postseason with a 9-7 record, good for second place in the five-team division despite having worse DVOA than the Bears, Lions and Buccaneers.

Points: 0

#17 by Mr Shush // Dec 14, 2016 - 6:48am

Detroit doesn't even have the biggest DVOA deficit among division leaders this year...

Points: 0

#3 by DezBailey // Dec 13, 2016 - 7:02pm

Week 14 BES Rankings were released earlier today - http://besreport.com/week-14-bes-rankings-2016/

Like DVOA, The Patriots and Cowboys also top the BES at No. 1 and No. 2 respectively. However, the BES has the Steelers at No. 3 with the Raiders (No. 4) and Lions (No. 5) rounding out the top-5.

Clearly, the Lions BES ranking is at odds with their 26th placement in DVOA but the BES acknowledges how the Lions have been winning games. Not sure how much longer they can keep that up though.

Also, how about those Buccaneers? The BES has them at No. 8...11 spots higher than DVOA. Weighted DVOA's 13th-place ranking seems to agree more with the BES though. Their defense is on fire!

I like DVOA's placement of the Packers at No. 7 ...that seems more befitting of them than their No. 18 ranking in the BES. They're arguably the hottest team in the NFC outside of Tampa Bay. Still don't get DVOA's infatuation with the Eagles though. Even their Weighted DVOA keeps them within the top-10.

Points: 0

#74 by DezBailey // Dec 20, 2016 - 6:02pm

Week 15 BES Rankings just released - http://besreport.com/week-15-bes-rankings-2016/

Points: 0

#2 by Cythammer // Dec 13, 2016 - 7:01pm

Houston in position for a playoff berth while being one of the three worst teams in the league is pretty incredible, but Detroit holding a bye while sitting at 26th in DVOA may be even crazier. It might be interesting at some point to hear how and why these two teams have managed to get good or better records while still having such low DVOA ranks. I'm not surprised DVOA puts them low, but I am surprised at just how far down they are.

Points: 0

#7 by Raiderjoe // Dec 13, 2016 - 7:14pm

Loins had timely big plays like intefeptions at key moments in gamem s. rest of game just kind of slopped around like pig in mud. next thing you know, Lions have more piontts than other team at end of game.

Points: 0

#9 by In_Belichick_W… // Dec 13, 2016 - 7:55pm

Raiders are ranked way too low because pigs slopping around in mud are a better indicator of good temas.

Points: 0

#11 by poplar cove // Dec 13, 2016 - 8:33pm

The Lions had many injuries earlier in the season especially on defense from Ansah, Bynes, Ngata, Levy and Slay missing each missing multiple games and had 3 games below -50% DVOA overall. Since week 7 they've actually been an average team sitting around 4% team DVOA overall in their last 7 games.

Points: 0

#23 by Otis Taylor89 // Dec 14, 2016 - 8:59am

I would say opponent adjustments have been killing the Lions ratings more than anything.

Points: 0

#58 by TomC // Dec 14, 2016 - 4:57pm

Nope. Detroit is #26 in non-adjusted total VOA as well.

Edit: whoops, was looking in the wrong column. Apparently FO does not provide a ranking for NATVOA, and I have to actually count myself. OK, I have them tied for #25 in NATVOA. Doesn't change the basic gist of my response.

Points: 0

#71 by ChrisS // Dec 15, 2016 - 11:14am

Part of it is that the defense is really bad, especially the linebackers in coverage (see ex Lion Van Noy). The other part is there is a lot of compression in body of the ordinal listing. They are only 5.6% points out of 22nd (10.6% out of 17th) but 13.8% ahead of 30th place. So pretty close to being in the middle third of the distribution. I remember reading that 5% points of DVOA is worth about 1 point over average so the Lions are only 2 pts/game worse than the median team.

Points: 0

#4 by MJK // Dec 13, 2016 - 7:03pm

Out of curiosity, how does the DVOA for last night's game break down. I have to imagine that NE's defensive DVOA would be decent but not great (maybe like -5%), offensive pretty darned good given the opponent adjustment (~+20%?), and special teams has got to be like -100%. OK, maybe just like -30%...

Points: 0

#6 by blan // Dec 13, 2016 - 7:11pm

According to the tables from this week and last week, Patriots special teams actually improved going from 2.1 to 2.3.

They did have some very good special teams plays in addition to their two terrible ones. They had the block and two great punt plays.

Still don't know how that balances the two terrible plays. I guess maybe there's a cap on how negative the plays can be.

Points: 0

#5 by JesusSinfulHands // Dec 13, 2016 - 7:09pm

Looking at the rankings, it's striking to many how many teams are one-sided. There are a bunch of teams that are great on offense and bad on defense, or vice versa. The only teams that are above average in both phases of the ball are Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and Green Bay, but none of those teams are great at either offense or defense.

Points: 0

#59 by TomC // Dec 14, 2016 - 4:59pm

The Jets and Cleveland are quite balanced.

Points: 0

#10 by Karl Cuba // Dec 13, 2016 - 8:02pm

Hyde finally makes the FO star thingy! Denied in the opening week last year and buried by playing for the niners but he's got back! Wooooo!

(Got to cheer for something)

Points: 0

#12 by big10freak // Dec 13, 2016 - 8:41pm

Ted Thompson took all kinds of grief for releasing Sitton right before the season. GB's pass protection by FO is much better this season. I don't know about Taylor's contribution because he seems better in run blocking which is mostly wasted in Green Bay. Taylor did have some poor games early but the last half of the season you rarely hear him mentioned which is mostly positive.

Good for him

Maybe Thompson should have cut Sam Shields.

Points: 0

#13 by Karl Cuba // Dec 13, 2016 - 10:19pm

From what I've seen (3 or 4 games) Sutton remains a beast when healthy. One of the top LGS in the game.

Points: 0

#19 by big10freak // Dec 14, 2016 - 8:04am

I don't doubt it. I was merely acknowledging that Taylor has been ok and obviously much cheaper. That and with Sitton's back each game much less each season is at risk

Points: 0

#24 by dank067 // Dec 14, 2016 - 9:07am

Cutting Sitton does appear to have been well-calculated so far. Making the cut on the eve of the season is probably never ideal from a locker room standpoint, but they likely waited to take the risk until they had a chance to watch Taylor (and probably Spriggs too) through camp.

Since you brought up Shields... assuming he's done playing football, it really hurts. Even if the concussion thing could have been predicted, the dead money involved in cutting Shields wouldn't have given them the same kind of room that Sitton gave them—that alone wouldn't have given them enough room to re-sign Casey Hayward, for example. But with the concussion complications, they went from having a strong and young secondary as the strength of the defense (#6 in pass DEF DVOA last year) to a major liability, especially with the lack of depth and experience at CB. Plenty of disappointments for GB this year, but that one's the biggest for me.

Points: 0

#27 by big10freak // Dec 14, 2016 - 9:56am

I meant the Shields comment as dark humor as if cutting Shields would have resulted in better play from the secondary. I should have made that more clear

I do think Thompson was clearly hedging against more Shields downtime in keeping so many secondary players. And while not all have played well at least there were folks semi-ready to man the fort versus having to drag in people off the street. The leadership was also expecting Randall to step forward versus tread water. That and his injuries have been unwelcome.

The Rollins poor play is also something the team clearly did not expect. He flashed a lot of good stuff last season but this year has been a constant liability. He cannot seem to decide if he is going to be an in your face guy like Gunter who has sign off from the team to get beat if he blows the jam at the line or a Tramon Williams shadow type keeping the physical contact to a minimum. This half measures stuff isn't working.

Dix coming back and playing well is a help. The young safeties may have the tools but they do not have the savvy.

Points: 0

#14 by Bright Blue Shorts // Dec 14, 2016 - 3:59am

DVOA question ... wrt Denver/Baltimore pass/run defenses.

In normal NFL rankings, you can have the best run defense in the league because the pass defense is so atrocious everybody just throws at you. Or vice versa best pass defense concedes few yards through the air because everybody runs.

Does DVOA have the same problem? Or are the run/pass DVOAs fairly independent? I'm guessing there is some degree of interdependence because if say run defense is weak, you stack more players in the box leaving the defense open to be attacked through the air.

Points: 0

#61 by Jerry // Dec 14, 2016 - 5:08pm

Run and pass DVOAs, both offensive and defensive, are just based on plays of that sort. So while there may be some second-level effects (by having to devote more resources to defending the pass, they hurt their run defense), the top-ranked run defenses are based on their performances against the running game.

Points: 0

#15 by ammek // Dec 14, 2016 - 4:55am

I hadn't appreciated that New England has played the easiest schedule this season. In particular, it will not have faced a single offense that ranks in the top quartile by DVOA, while having faced seven of the bottom eight (one of them, the Jets, twice). It has played all seven of the teams with below-zero pass offense. The best offense it has played, #9 Pittsburgh, was starting a backup quarterback. Is it fair to say we still don't really know what level the Patriots defense is playing at? To me it hasn't looked like a bottom-six pass defense or the #2 run defense. But the opponent adjustments are so extreme it's hard to tell. The pass defense is remarkably consistent in its below-averageness against all types of receiver, which is unusual in itself.

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#18 by RobotBoy // Dec 14, 2016 - 7:59am

Interesting to note that according to PFF, 'New England’s defense has also carried its weight this season. Through Week 14, the Patriots own the third-highest-graded run defense as a team, and the fourth-highest-graded pass-coverage unit, anchored by cornerback Malcolm Butler. Butler has recorded a league-high 12 pass breakups this season to go along with a pair of interceptions.' PFF certainly has its flaws, along with an orientation to individual player performance, but the disparity in this case is extreme.

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#21 by PirateFreedom // Dec 14, 2016 - 8:51am

I suspect it is better marks because of easier tests.
just as a general impression as a fan watching games this season has seemed amazingly easy for the Patriots defense rather than the defense being great.
The opposing QBs in particular have often been awful.

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#22 by poplar cove // Dec 14, 2016 - 8:52am

This is just another example of what ruins PFF for me. You just have to factor in SOS when it comes to short seasons/small samples like the NFL as it can greatly effects things. It was very noticeable last year at their site when they kept harping on Detroit Lions QB Matthew Stafford being ranked as one of the worst QB's in the league when the reality was the Lions were playing an extremely difficult defense nearly every week.

The Lions started the year off in 2015 going up against a top 10 pass defense in 7 of their first 9 starts. In the two games they didn't Stafford had excellent games. It was obvious his overall rating was being greatly effected by the schedule he had faced. On the other end of things Carolina's Cam Newton was on his way to his MVP year going up against the easiest set of defenses in the league last year. Needless to say here we are almost 1.5 years later and there's a quite a difference in performance from these two QB's since that point.

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#36 by RickD // Dec 14, 2016 - 12:25pm

The flip side is that the DVOA system can find itself in feedback loops that don't necessarily represent the whole picture. Team strength is itself a fluctuating quantity. And if you have one set of teams assigned low ratings and another set of teams assigned high ratings, and each group mostly plays each other, it's hard for their collective ratings to reflect any changes. The Eagles had one very impressive early season win against Pittsburgh and DVOA has been forgiving them for losses every since, thanks in great part to their strength of schedule.

As for the Panthers, they did make the Super Bowl.

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#62 by blan // Dec 14, 2016 - 6:25pm

You touch on something here that I've been wondering about for a while: Does DVOA suffer from hysteresis because of the feedbacks involved with adjusting for defense?

In other words, does the order in which the games are incorporated into DVOA or the order in which the adjustments are made, affect the resulting DVOA?

In my experience, systems that have feedback and rely on convergence (which I think DVOA does), might end up suffering from hysteresis.

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#65 by RobotBoy // Dec 15, 2016 - 12:15am

Interesting observation. Can you think of a way of testing it?

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#26 by pats-fan-in-nyc // Dec 14, 2016 - 9:49am

I think DVOA basically has the Pats defense correct. The Pats have played the #1 (BUF, twice), #3 (SF), #5 (PIT), #9 (NYJ), #11 (CIN), #13 (MIA) run offenses by DVOA. The only team I remember having any success running the ball was BUF. The Pats run defense is legit, but their pass defense is... porous. They give up at least one > 40 yard play a game and have been giving up 62% completion percentage to, as you mentioned, some less than stellar pass offenses.

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#28 by PirateFreedom // Dec 14, 2016 - 10:15am

Butler is the only good corner, none of the linebackers are great coverage guys and
The pass rush seems ineffectual. ( I like the safeties though )
Bad opposing QBs have been only thing saving them.

It may be they've been scheming based on playing tyrod taylor type guys where keeping containment is the goal rather than pure pass rushing and deliberately getting QBs to make passes that those QBs are likely to miss often enough to stall drives.
but that sure seems like wishful thinking that will be exposed by a healthy Ben or the new 'Down Town Alex Smith' :)

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#29 by Bright Blue Shorts // Dec 14, 2016 - 10:58am

The Pats defense has felt pretty awful but somehow managed to be #1 in scoring despite not having an offense that is regularly putting them into big leads. Outscoring rather than stopping has always seemed to be Belchick's philosophy since 2004 and perhaps even before.

Against the Rams it was a shut down day until Kenny Britt had a 66-yd'er on 4th&1 at the two-minute warning. This of course was the Jeff Fisher Rams and they'd had about 85yds passing up to that point.

Against the Ravens, there was one huge play by the tight-end(?) ... shortish pass to the right flat and then the guy rumbled like Bavaro for about 45-yds and then they got a 15-yd penalty tacked on for Malcolm Butler taking exception to Steve Smith. Personally I think he should be congratulated as Smith seems like a very angry human being. Even then I think they held the Ravens to a FG.

There seemed to be more of a passrush against the Ravens which I guess is down to little fear of Joe Flacco's running ability.

So fundamentally the Patriots defense seems to continue to gameplan for who their opponents are and taking away their best options to eat up time. The TE rumble was one of the few times I've seen opponents get easy yards on the Pats.

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#30 by MJK // Dec 14, 2016 - 11:16am

The Pats pass defense this season seems to be predicated on being willing to give up the underneath stuff and prevent the big play, in the hopes that by making the other team execute 10+ times in a row, sooner or later they'll make a mistake and therefore are likely to come away with out points.

So far, it's worked...hence the large disparity between DVOA (which hates consistently giving up short plays) and scoring defense (which only cares if the drive ends in a score).

What's not clear to me is whether this is because the defense is bad and can't play any other way, or because Belichick *knows* he's played a ton of crappy offenses and figures that that is the best way to play a crappy offense--force them to execute over an over again, while preventing them from beating you with a lucky fluke deep pass.

To date, you can't argue with success. But we'll see in the playoffs if they can face a good offense and either get away with "bend but don't break" or if they can turn up the heat.

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#34 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 14, 2016 - 11:25am

The Patriots have the best starting field position of any defense in the league. .8 yards better than 2nd place. Which is about equivalent of the difference between 2nd and 7th.

It's just a massive advantage to giving up points.

They're also not bad at giving up yards (10th in y/d), but they are awful at getting turnovers.

Finally, by DVOA they've faced the the weakest slate of offenses in the league. So that probably explains most of the difference between "they look ok" vs DVOA.

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#50 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 14, 2016 - 2:38pm

It's hard to overstate how bad the opposing offenses have been.

NE's opponents are -6.7%. Tennessee, who has faced the 2nd easiest schedule, is -3.3%. They are closer to 15th (0.0%) than to 32nd.

So, roughly, NE's opponents have been twice as bad at offense as the opponents faced by the second-easiest schedule. I think they might have scheduled an FCS team.

Oh wait, that was the Jets.

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#46 by Bright Blue Shorts // Dec 14, 2016 - 1:47pm

MJK said "The Pats pass defense this season seems to be predicated on being willing to give up the underneath stuff and prevent the big play, in the hopes that by making the other team execute 10+ times in a row, sooner or later they'll make a mistake and therefore are likely to come away with out points."

I'd agree, that's exactly what they seem to be doing.

And few teams are capable of throwing pass after pass completion. Not even the Patriots themselves at the moment. Obviously Peyton could do it in the past but I'm not sure many other QBs are capable and playing in the offensive system that allows it.

I forgot the Pats did also give up a 47-yd deep pass to Perriman that led to the last Ravens FG.

Plus Steve Smith had a couple of 20-yarders and Mike Wallace had one go through his hands in the middle of the field that Gruden blamed on Flacco underthrowing. Which is exactly part of the Pats defensive strategy.

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#49 by Lyford // Dec 14, 2016 - 2:37pm

The Pats pass defense this season seems to be predicated on being willing to give up the underneath stuff and prevent the big play

^this season^every season

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#66 by RobotBoy // Dec 15, 2016 - 12:57am

"To date, you can't argue with success..." Indeed. Fifteen years and counting. Belichick's defensive strategy has mystified me for that entire time (and often annoyed me. Who else dumps the best athlete on his defense in the middle of season, and then sees the defense improve?). Belichick's defensive drafts are equally strange - including drafting two unknown, nonathletic safeties in the second round, mostly for their intelligence (didn't really work out), or the entire Rutgers secondary (worked out better).
Part of the strategy seems to be to get players who will execute their assignments exactly as instructed, never freelance, and also not get fooled out of position often. This seems to allow Belichick to better predict results from different formations and tendencies: 'If we show X they'll run Y with Z outcomes.' Something I'm sure all teams do this but Belichick is more accurate.
I remember reading in their disappointing 2002 season, the last time they missed the playoffs with Brady, a player on another team said after a victory, 'Everything they do is schemes but you can still go out and beat them with talent.' The 2002 team was low on talent, or at least Belichick hadn't yet acquired the kinds of players he needed to run the defense he wanted. Brady was still undeveloped as well.
When was the last time the Pats got blown out with Brady under center: the KC game a few years back? Even when facing a historically good and talented team, like the Broncos on defense last year, they came very close to winning.
I would guess that the Patriots consistently win more games and allow fewer points than DVOA would predict.
The flip side of his approach seems to be allowing mediocre offenses to generate yards, and for teams with remarkable athletes to occasionally overwhelm their less talented players. The latter, however, only happens rarely.

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#72 by CaffeineMan // Dec 15, 2016 - 4:04pm

Really interesting thoughts here. So strange that Belichick's game planning and personnel decisions on defense seem to be much less predictable than on offense. I also look at some of the decisions (Collins, Jones) and ask "WTF is he thinking..." I never really ask that about the offense, since about 2004. The offensive decisions may not work, but they seem to make sense. You can see why they think that a decision will benefit the team. Not always true for the defensive decisions. Your theory is pretty interesting.

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#31 by MJK // Dec 14, 2016 - 11:18am

Regarding the Butler penalty...I still can't figure out why that was a flag on Butler, unless something happened after the play off camera. By my observation, Smith should have been called for one if not two infractions--first holding (he was clearly holding Butler as Butler tried to come free and tackle the TE), and then illegal hands to the face (or in this case, elbow)--is pushing another player's facemask up and then elbowing them in the jaw a penalty?

My best guess is that Butler took exception to being held and then elbowed in the jaw and gave Smith a shove that the refs saw. Anyone know for certain? Or did the refs just completely misinterpret what we saw on camera?

Agree on Smith seeming like an angry human being.

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#37 by RickD // Dec 14, 2016 - 12:26pm

Yes, that looked like a retaliation penalty. Butler has to know better.

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#45 by Bright Blue Shorts // Dec 14, 2016 - 1:44pm

Just took another look and there is no clear footage of what Butler did to incur the penalty

However it looks like after Smith had been elbowing Butler's facemask for about 3-5 seconds, Butler effectively grabbed him and executed a judo throw to the ground.

It's about 1min20 on here but very hard to see as they cut to the next play ... http://www.patriots.com/news/2016/12/13/gamebook-full-patriots-ravens-stats

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#32 by PirateFreedom // Dec 14, 2016 - 11:21am

I'm hoping that the stunts, blitzes and effective disguises of the Ravens game are a sign that the Pats are capable of getting pressure that they either didn't think they needed because the opponent was terrible or didn't want to risk because the opposing QB was too mobile.
Nink can loop around the entire o-line to take down Flacco but he isn't catching Tyrod that way ;)

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#39 by RickD // Dec 14, 2016 - 12:36pm

The Pats don't have great pass rushers, but they look better against relatively immobile QBs, and they haven't faced truly mobile QBs since they faced Wilson and Kaepernick in back-to-back weeks.
They've had some good luck in terms of facing other team's backup QBs and/or QBs that are either battling injuries or just aren't very good. Both Palmer and Tannehill looked good against them early in the season. They didn't have to face Roethlisberger. Their last three QBs are going to be Siemian, Bryce Petty, and either Matt Moore or a Tannehill who really shouldn't be playing.
With all of that said, the pass defense has improved over the course of the season. Early in the season Collins was inconsistent and Roberts was just dreadful. They've essentially been replaced by the NFC North castoffs, McClellin and Van Noy, who have been an improvement. The pass rush has improved with the increase in Trey Flowers' number of snaps.
Is it great? No. But the rush defense is very good and the offense is great.

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#51 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 14, 2016 - 2:39pm

van Noy was cut by the worst defense in the league, and both teams improved.

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#73 by JimZipCode // Dec 16, 2016 - 11:26am

Against the Ravens, there was one huge play by the tight-end(?) – shortish pass to the right flat and then the guy rumbled like Bavaro for about 45-yds

That was Ravens fullback (H-back?) Kyle Juszczyk (from Harvard).

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#33 by MJK // Dec 14, 2016 - 11:25am

Easiest defensive schedule, perhaps. Their offense seems to be for real. Granted, they've played some terrible defenses (Jets 2X, Cleveland, the Niners), but balancing that, they've played a bunch of middle-of-the-pack defenses, and done pretty well, and play five elite defenses (the #1, #2, #3, #6, and #9, by DVOA).

Against those defenses (ARI, PIT, SEA, BAL, DEN), their offense has put up 23, 27, 24, 30, and TBD points.

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#20 by BearDown103 // Dec 14, 2016 - 8:44am

What about offense? How many teams have a higher run offense DVOA than pass offense DVOA?

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#52 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 14, 2016 - 2:40pm


Buffalo, SF, Ari, Cle, Hou, LA, and NYJ

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#54 by bravehoptoad // Dec 14, 2016 - 3:07pm

Now there's a fine collection of teams.

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#68 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 15, 2016 - 9:41am

Buffalo and SF legitimately run well.

Arizona runs decently, but their passing has been bad.

The rest just run less badly than they pass.

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#25 by Cheesehead_Canuck // Dec 14, 2016 - 9:14am

Is there some kind of DVOA record for team with the best "scoring defense" ranking so low? I'm looking at New England. Their schedule against subpar to average QBs has been remarkable. I really hope they meat up with the Steelers in the playoffs. I think they're the best two teams in the AFC. Pittsburgh is certainly the most balanced one.

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#47 by drobviousso // Dec 14, 2016 - 2:00pm

The Pats have had the Steelers number for a long, long time. I don't think it would be nearly as competitive as the numbers would suggest. I'm a Steelers home, and I have seen this game play out the same way too many time.

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#35 by Will Allen // Dec 14, 2016 - 12:07pm

I have no confidence, at all, this year with regard to who I think is going to get to the Super Bowl and win it. Put a gun to my head, and force me to bet, I guess I'll be gutless and say the Patriots and Dallas, with the Patriots winning, especially if the Cowboys don't switch to Romo, but I wouldn't be shocked to see any of the teams ranked 1-13 make it to the last game and win it, except for the Eagles, and, of course, any other team with a low statistical chance of making the playoffs. Anybody 1-13 who does make the playoffs, with the exception of the Eagles (they are still a mathematical possibility for the playoffs, I suppose) is a team that might get/stay healthy in January, get hot, and enjoy the confetti dumped on their heads in February, without it being a shocking development. I don't remember a year similar to this one, in this way. Not even close.

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#38 by big10freak // Dec 14, 2016 - 12:29pm

As a Packer fan, I am a bit exasperated on how the division, much less anything more, just sat there for the taking and Green Bay has sputtered the bulk of the season. Injuries or no GB should have held up better mid-season.

The Packers are pulling a Stan Musial in wasting Rodgers greatness on a bunch of almost and not happenings. Disappointing.

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#41 by Will Allen // Dec 14, 2016 - 12:49pm

I've been saying that for a few years now, with regard to wasting Rodgers. The inexcusable performance, as defending champs, against the Giants in January 2012, of course, is the big stinker. Aside from that, however, they really are not maximizing the opportunity afforded by having Rodgers, as 2nd qb off the board in his draft, falling as low as he did. I've always been slow to criticize McCarthy, in good measure because he deserves enormous credit for snapping Favre out of his late career doldrums, and then developing Rodgers, but he has to shoulder a good chunk of this, along with Thompson.

On the other hand, if their current health trend continues from what is was, I wouldn't be shocked to see them make the playoffs, and win it all, in which case the narrative completely changes.

The Lions are living the high life in the NFC North this year, aren't they? in the bottom 20% by DVOA, with a a 2 game lead, with 3 to play.

(edit) Heck, if the Vikings and Lions just swap field goal kickers, the Vikings are probably 10-3, even with the injury disaster, and the Lions might only have, what, 5 wins? Somebody could make a fortune if they found a better way of training kickers.

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#42 by big10freak // Dec 14, 2016 - 12:51pm

McCarthy is somewhat like a football version of Bobby Cox. Bobby was great at recognizing talent, organizing the talent and getting the talent ready to perform. But good lord his tactical issues would undermine the team most notably in the postseason. That sounds very similar to McCarthy who has done an admirable job of developing the talent provided. Very few ex Packers go elsewhere after failing in GB and succeed. If anything GB holds onto project players a year too long.

But MM has never met a dumb challenge he didn't like, a score he could not sit on or a timeout he couldn't waste. It's not often a coach can truly get in the way of the talent generating results but MM has an argument that he is that coach.

The Packers might have benefited from having a Don Zimmer type on the sideline to grab Mike's arm at key moments and tell him, "No."

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#69 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 15, 2016 - 9:42am

So he's Andy Reid, if Andy had been handed a better QB?

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#43 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 14, 2016 - 1:26pm

As much as I'm enjoying the the 2016 Lions season, years of watching this franchise has me conditioned to expect the inevitable disappointment. The luck can't hold out forever, so a 3 game losing streak to end the season at 9-7 (which is still much higher than preseason expectations) and out of the playoffs, is a definite possibility.

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#44 by ammek // Dec 14, 2016 - 1:42pm

The Giants have taken bigger scalps in the postseason. By Weighted DVOA, especially, the 2011 Packers were nothing special: they ranked 5th in another year of no great teams. That's lower than New England, which lost to the same Giants, and Pittsburgh, which got Tebowed. It felt as though they were stumbling into the playoffs, so I wasn't stunned when they laid an egg against New York. I was more deflated after the overtime loss to Seattle post-2014, of course, and perhaps less obviously after that ridiculous blown comeback against Arizona. That 2009 team had the #2 defense by DVOA, but was let down by last-minute wilts and heinous special teams.

The Packers had overall DVOA above 20% but below 30% every year from 2009 to 2014, excepting the half-season when Rodgers was out. I can't find another team which has maintained that consistency of verygoodness in the DVOA era. Looking at the other teams with great QBs, it's hard to argue that Rodgers' prime has been "wasted" as much as Manning's, Marino's, Elway's, Brees's, Warner's or even much of Favre's. What has happened is that New England has set the standard for consistency at an extraordinary level, and every other team is simply bound to pale in comparison.

The issue for Thompson and McCarthy now is that the play since 2014 has dropped from very good to just plain good. Sure, that's a problem a lot of teams would like to face, but the current regime has staked its colors to the mast of stability, which makes it awkward when the status quo shows a slight decline. A (not completely implausible) loss to Chicago this week would seal someone's fate, I think. I would like to see what Rodgers can do in a different offense, out of curiosity as much as anything.

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#55 by Will Allen // Dec 14, 2016 - 3:34pm

My perception of the Giants playoff loss in Lambeau is colored by the way they lost control of the game, in good measure, by half-a$$ing on a hail mary pass at the end of the 1st half. I still can't believe that happened.

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#48 by MilkmanDanimal // Dec 14, 2016 - 2:15pm

Just trade up in the second round to draft kickers, it works every time.

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#53 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 14, 2016 - 2:41pm

If you had a free trade, you should have swapped QBs.

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#56 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Dec 14, 2016 - 3:51pm

Eh, if Stafford had to play behind Minnesota's offensive line, he'd have way more problems than a busted middle finger right now.

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#57 by barf // Dec 14, 2016 - 4:35pm

Conspiracy Theory - Teddy B took himself out to avoid potentially getting killed behind the Vikings O Line.

Okay, maybe not.

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#63 by Will Allen // Dec 14, 2016 - 7:26pm

QB play has not really been the issue. It is amazing that they are 10th in special teams DVOA, given how bad Blair Walsh was this year.

Their biggest problem, of course, is that they haven't blocked anybody all year.

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#70 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 15, 2016 - 9:43am

While true, if you switch Bradford and Stafford, Minnesota might still be 7-6, but Detroit would be 2-11.

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#40 by RickD // Dec 14, 2016 - 12:39pm

This is likely going to be one of those seasons when a team hits its stride in late December and makes a run from a low seed.

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#60 by TomC // Dec 14, 2016 - 5:06pm

Agreed, and to me the Packers look like the most likely candidates. I would say the Giants too, the way their secondary is playing, but McAdoo seems oddly unable to scheme around that awful OL.

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#64 by BJR // Dec 14, 2016 - 8:06pm

It could be, but I still don't understand how you can look at this season and think the Patriots are anything other than clear Super Bowl favorites. They've been steadily ascending to number 1 in DVOA since Brady returned; indeed remove the injured-Jacoby Brisset disaster against Buffalo and they would have clear daylight at the head of the DVOA rankings right now.

Of course they are far from a flawless team, and are unlikely to prove great in any historical comparison. But they will be number 1 seed in the AFC, and no team is going into Foxboro in January as anything other than a firm underdog.

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#67 by ncuba // Dec 15, 2016 - 9:02am

Looks like this storyline could be helped out by a #2 seed Lions, and a #4 seed Texans.

Also by the stacked AFC West and NFC East, which could yield High-DVOA WC teams in the #5 or #6 spot that played better than 1, 2, or 3 div winners.

Not sure if either of these conditions will last the next three weeks though.

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