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Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Week 20 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

As usual after the Conference Championship games, we're not going to bother with the full 32-team table of weighted DVOA ratings, since there are only two teams left and most teams haven't played for three weeks. Instead, let's just look at the two remaining teams, Carolina and Denver.

Have you been waiting for the day when Football Outsiders stats finally laid hosannas upon the Carolina Panthers? Well, that day has finally arrived. Carolina's colossal ass-kicking and Palmer-licking 49-15 victory registered as one of the ten best single games in the history of DVOA ratings, going all the way back to 1989.

Here are the ratings for the Conference Championship games:

DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
DEN 41% -20% -53% 7%
NE -4% -15% -7% 4%
CAR 137% 55% -69% 13%
ARI -42% -17% 22% -3%
VOA (no opponent adjustments)
DEN 20% -27% -39% 7%
NE -20% -44% -20% 4%
CAR 92% 34% -46% 13%
ARI -80% -46% 31% -3%

Here's a look at the 13 games in DVOA history that have registered over 130% in single-game DVOA. Four of them are playoff games, listed below in italics. The top three games were all Week 1, which may say something about the amount of random variation involved in that first week of the season. (Consider Tennessee beating Tampa Bay and San Francisco beating Minnesota in Week 1 of this year.)

Best Single Games by DVOA, 1989-2015
Rank Year Team DVOA Week vs. Score Opp.
1 1991 WAS 149.6% 1 DET 45-0 17
2 1989 CLE1 149.2% 1 PIT 51-0 18
3 1999 PIT 145.4% 1 CLE 43-0 30
4 1993 SF 145.0% 20 NYG 44-3 7
5 2012 SEA 141.1% 14 ARI 58-0 27
6 2008 NE 139.0% 16 ARI 47-7 21
7 1994 PHI 138.2% 5 SF 40-8 3
8 2015 CAR 136.6% 20 ARI 49-15 3
9 1989 SF 135.2% 19 LARM 30-3 3
10 2002 ATL 135.1% 12 CAR 41-0 25
11 2005 CAR 131.6% 18 NYG 23-0 9
12 2009 NE 130.9% 6 TEN 59-0 21
13 2004 NE 130.2% 10 BUF 29-6 3

As you might imagine, a win this huge really boosts Carolina's ratings. Carolina's weighted DVOA jumped over 10 percentage points, from 29.4% last week to 40.9% this week. Here's a look at both Super Bowl teams using both total DVOA and weighted DVOA. Both sets of ratings incorporate the playoffs in both the ratings and the rankings.

CAR (DVOA through Week 20) 32.0% 2 13.3% 5 -20.4% 2 -1.6% 23
CAR (WEI DVOA through Week 20) 40.9% 2 19.7% 2 -19.6% 5 1.5% 18
DEN (DVOA through Week 20) 20.1% 8 -8.6% 24 -26.6% 1 2.1% 11
DEN (WEI DVOA through Week 20) 21.6% 5 -4.5% 18 -23.6% 2 2.5% 14

For those wondering, yes, the one team ahead of Carolina for both total and weighted DVOA is Seattle.

Advanced stats folks, including myself, have made a lot of Carolina fans angry this year with a constant insistence that the Panthers were not as good as their record indicated. (The most famous instance of this might be Five Thirty Eight's "Carolina is the Worst 11-0 Team Ever" article.) There's a good reason why advanced stats have been saying this. It may surprise a lot of Carolina fans to learn that it has nothing to do with how much writers for stats sites dislike the people of the Carolinas. (For the record, mustard-based Carolina BBQ sauce is awesome*.) Nor were advanced stats lukewarm on the Panthers because of the ethnic background of their quarterback, or his post-touchdown celebrations. (For the record, Cam Newton's post-touchdown celebrations are swell, though not as enjoyable as Carolina BBQ sauce.) It simply comes down to the fact that for a large part of the season, Carolina was winning with good, not great performances. When the Panthers started 8-0, they had only one win by 14 points or more -- and it was exactly 14 points. The Panthers had that sweet win over Seattle, but for the most part they were winning close games over mediocre opponents.

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However, things have changed in the second half of the season, particularly once we consider the playoffs as well as the last eight games of the regular season. The Panthers have improved signficantly on offense as well as special teams. They have been putting up the dominating performances that are indicative of greatness, with the NFC Championship Game now standing as the most significant of those dominating performances. The same Panthers team that had just one win by 14 or more points in its first eight games has six wins by 14 or more points in its last ten games, including four different wins by 28 or more points. Including the playoffs, there were only eight games this season with single-game DVOA over 100%. Carolina has three of those games, all of them in the second half of the season: Week 11 against Washington, Week 14 against Atlanta, and the NFC Championship Game. That last game really was better than Carolina BBQ sauce.

* (Note: Yes, I know mustard-based sauce is a South Carolina thing and the Panthers play in North Carolina. They still represent both states and I'm on a plane and I'm hungry. North Carolina is more of a Virginia vinegar thing but that would also be delicious right now.)

The 8-0 Carolina Panthers were not playing at a level typical of a team that starts the season 8-0. But the 9-1 Carolina Panthers of the last three months are playing at a level typical of a team that would go 9-1. And while the Panthers had an easier schedule in the second half of the regular season, playing Arizona and Seattle the last two weeks has made it so their schedule in Weeks 10-20 does not rate much easier than their schedule of Weeks 1-9.

Carolina DVOA 2015, Weeks 1-9 vs. Weeks 10-20
Weeks W-L Wins by
14+ Pts
Total Rk Off Rk Def Rk ST Rk Avg DVOA
of Opponents
Weeks 1-9 8-0 1 19.0% 7 6.6% 11 -18.3% 4 -5.8% 28 -3.1%
Weeks 10-20 9-1 6 42.7% 2 18.5% 2 -22.5% 3 1.7% 16 -4.6%

If you average out their performance over the last five months, the Carolina Panthers have not been one of the greatest teams in NFL history, but they have played at a level that would make them worthy of the title "Super Bowl Champions." Furthermore, if we start around midseason, the Carolina Panthers of the last three months have been a historically dominant team. Somewhere between those two levels of play, the Panthers go into Super Bowl 50 as rightful favorites.

* * * * *

Please note that due to my transit home from the AFC Championship Game, FO Playoff Fantasy Challenge scores and snap count data will not be updated until Tuesday.

* * * * *

Once again this season, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 16 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 week 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 the conference championships are:

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  • TE Rob Gronkowski, NE (24-HOUR HERO): Led all TE with 32 DYAR in conference championships (8-for-15, 144 yards, TD)
  • WR Ted Ginn, CAR: Led all WR with 60 DYAR in conference championships (52 receiving yards, 22 rushing yards, TD)
  • RT Mike Remmers, CAR: Helped block for 154 rushing yards on 35 carries.
  • RE Derek Wolfe, DEN: Led Broncos with 6 tackles, plus 2 QB hits, sack, pass defensed.


112 comments, Last at 31 Jan 2016, 1:53am

1 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Numbers are about what I expected, at least for Den-NE. I won't go as far as to claim that I thought the NFCCG was in the top 10 of all time, but I knew it would have a huge number, probably the biggest of the year. That's what you get when you beat the snot out of a Top 5 team.

2 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I assume the Giants decimation of the Vikings in the January 2001 NFCCG doesn't appear on the list because the Vikings defense was so historically bad that you needed to cook an 80-burger on them to register, insead of the mere 40-cocktail wiener that was served up.

23 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

It's not the only factor though, there are three teams on that list which had a lower DVOA then the 2000 Vikings. So clearly those three games had VOAs significantly higher then the Giants did, and I suspect most of the games on that list do as well.

I'm sure that game had a great DVOA, but it didn't have a DVOA of 130+.

There are only 13 games on that list, in a dataset that includes over 7000 games. There are tons of one sided blowouts that wont make that list.

25 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

That Vikings team had a pretty good offense (they did win 12 games, after all), so pitching a shutout against them presumably picked up a few % points. That defense, however. Scoring 40 on them was really pedestrian!

48 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I wouldn't say 40 was pedestrian, just not one of the best performances of all time.

There are some other factors at play, like how all 3 fumbles in that game were recovered by the Giants, and the effects the score far more then it effects VOA.

50 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Fair enough, every sports fan has painful memories of their team. As a Lions fan, I have more then most.

It was easier before 2011, when I could just accept that we sucked. But Stafford and Megatron have deluded me into thinking we can actually compete for a playoff spot.

I hate that I love Stafford so much. Makes watching the Lions that much more depressing.

54 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

The timing with the new GM wasn't right, but I firmly belive that hiring Gase away from the Bears, to be head coach, would have been the surest path to accomplish the most important task for the Lions; getting 5-plus consecutive years of well above average play from Stafford.

58 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I really like what Jim Bob Cooter did towards the end of the season. The only problem I have with it is us going 6-2 to close out the season probably got Caldwell a contract extension.

75 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Stafford is 27, he should be just entering his prime. I think Will's point is that should be the Lions goal and hiring Gase seems the most obvious way to accomplish it, not that it would happen for sure if they did it.

77 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Stafford can do it, he's good enough to win a Super Bowl. Lions just need to be better at everything else (except wide receiver, we're good there too), especially at coaching.

112 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Yea, I have been a quiet Detroit fan for two great running backs. Its the Fords, they don't have a clue on running a NFL franchise.

3 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

More than a little amusing that best game #2 was a Cleveland shutout decimation of Pittsburgh, while game #3 was a Pittsburgh shutout shellacking of Cleveland ten years later.

The latter game sent the browns into a panic attack that has thus far lasted sixteen years.

15 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Both of the dominant Cleveland-Pittsburgh victories were on the road. Of course, they involved two different Browns franchises.

41 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

The Browns in the 1999 game: 40 total yards, 2 first downs (both of which were in the first quarter), and 12:11 time of possession...

4 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Washington went on to crush Detroit 41-10 in the '91 playoffs, so the Week One destruction wasn't too much of an anomaly in that instance.

78 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Perhaps the most amazing stat relating to that'91 'skins team is that thanks to their dominance, it took 14 years of Dan Snyder ownership for me to stop rooting for the franchise. As a kid growing up in DC, my earliest football memories were of that team, and as far as I was concerned, my Mark the Rypper t-shirt was the coolest one on the elementary school playground.

In Snyder's 15 years, they have fielded three excellent squads (in 1999 [his first year owning the team], 2005, and 2012), and two more good than bad teams (2007, 2015). With Snyber around, I am confident he will find a way to backtrack from the successes they had this season.

5 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Went back to see how those three playoff teams fared the following week after coming off a top ten all-time DVOA performance............two of the three teams won their next game with the 1989 SF 49ers crushing the Denver Broncos 55-10 in their next game to win the Super Bowl.

As for those three teams with awesome week 1 starts...............As most know the 1991 Washington Redskins went 14-2 and won the Super Bowl and are one of the tops teams of the last 25 years. The 1989 Browns went 9-6-1 and lost in AFC Championship game and the 1999 Steelers went 6-10 overall.

6 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Wow, Arizona is on the receiving end of three of those beatdowns, with two in the last four years. That has got to leave a mark.

8 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

As a Broncos fan, I am happy for the unexpected Super Bowl berth. At no point this season (save maybe for a flicker of hope after the Green Bay game) did I think this was a Super Bowl team. In fact, after any particularly dumb or maddeningly ineffective play or drive (and there were many), my brother and I would sarcastically text "Super Bowl" to each other.

Says the reanimated corpse of Peyton Manning: "You like that? YOU LIKE THAT?!?"

All that said, I am sad that the Broncos seem to have stumbled in to a buzzsaw of a Super Bowl opponent. Again. How does this keep happening? Is it so hard for the universe to serve up some marginal opponent instead of these juggernauting juggernauts from Juggernautsville? Ugh.

9 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Other than the 87 Redskins and 98 Falcons, it really does seem like Denver runs into a buzzsaw every time. At least they beat a damn good 97 Green Bay squad.

91 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Thank goodness for the pedestrian 1998 Falcons. When they beat the Vikings in the NFCCG (the Gary Anderson Game), it genuinely felt like the Broncos had just been handed the Super Bowl trophy.

Here's a fun Broncos-related fact:

I was born in 1980. With one lone exception (1991 Bills), every Broncos postseason in my living memory has ended in one of three ways:
1. Total blowout loss (86 Giants, 87 Washington, 89 49ers, 93 Raiders, 00 Ravens, 03 Colts, 04 Colts, 11 Pats, 13 Seahawks)
2. Crushing home loss to an inferior opponent (96 Jags, 05 Steelers, 12 Ravens, 14 Colts)
3. Super Bowl victory (97 vs Packers, 98 vs Falcons)

This has given me a weird sense of equanimity this year, as #2 was off the table after Houston lost, which just left #1 and #3. Both are still in play! I also think both are roughly equally likely (with a close or close-ish Panthers win making up the remainder of the probability).

92 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

That '98 Vikings team was among the most flawed 15-1 teams you'll ever see, and not tremedously better than the Falcons. The league didn't quite grasp yet what Randy Moss was, and the Vikings had other excellent offensive personnel, even if their qb play was overrated. On defense, they were decidedly mediocre, and hadn't been well coached since Dungy left three years earlier. I was not shocked that they lost, although the manner of losing was pretty annoying.

99 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

THE NIGHT BEFORE the Super Bowl.

As for the Minnesota game, I always felt that Gary Anderson got too much blame for the loss, and Atlanta not enough credit for the win. Let's not forget that after the miss, Atlanta had to drive for the tying touchdown, and then they still had to win the game in overtime. And after the Vikings scored 20 points on their first four drives, credit Atlanta's defense for holding the record-setting Vikings offense to seven points in its next nine drives.

101 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I thought Cunningham had a poor game, getting stripped sacked in an inexcusable spot, missing open guys, most notably a wide open Randy Moss 50 yards downfield in overtime. Combine that with a defense that had very mediocre talent and coaching, well, the outcome was not a shocker.

100 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

That 1998 Broncos-Vikings matchup was the most scintillating Super Bowl never played. Both offenses were tremendous (Broncos balanced with a superb rushing attack, the Vikings with an unstoppable deep passing attack), and neither defense was very good. As happy as I was that the Broncos didn't have to face the Vikings, the football fan in me was sad to miss the fireworks. I still think about this hypothetical Super Bowl from time to time.

31 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

There isn't a more overused phrase in sports then defense wins championships (great teams win championships, it can be from great offense or great defense or good both.).

Defense gets tons of respect. Everyone always goes on about the importance of defense in winning.

They just prefer to talk about offense.

11 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Come now, you're not scared before the game even starts, are you?

Here's a history lesson:

Following the 2012 season, the SF 49ers were the #4 DVOA team in the league, and the Baltimore Ravens were the #8 team. The gap between #4 & #8 was ~16%. The Ravens were a 4 point underdog, after being an underdog vs. the Pats in the AFCCG, but the Ravens still won.

Following the 2015 season, the Car Panthers were the #4 DVOA team in the league, and the Denver Broncos were the #8 team. The gap between #4 & #8 was ~8%. The Broncos will be a 5-6 point underdog, after being an underdog vs. the Pats in the AFCCG. The Broncos are not running into a juggernaut. They are running into a very good team, which is kind of what you expect in the SB. If the Broncos play better, they will win- it is as simple as that.

109 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Hah. My wife and I had a discussion akin to this last weekend. She (born and bred SEA fan) said Carolina looks unstoppable and will crush DEN. She can't imagine a scenario in which DEN wins. I was pretty impressed by DEN's D and (being a lifelong Colts fan) am pretty confident in Manning's brain at the very least. So we have a minor bet (a buck maybe? don't recall).

I'd be thrilled to see ole fivehead ride off into the sunset with another ring and really think the odds are maybe 45/55 for that to happen. Not crazy long odds. Not that she put numbers to it, but I suspect the missus thinks the odds are closer to 80/20 for CAR. I suspect a lot of casual football-watching America agrees with her.

(That being said, I really did expect more from ARI last week. Sheesh!)

12 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

As a Panthers fan who has been annoyed by some of these "the Panthers aren't that good" articles, I just want to say that what really upsets me is the condescension underlying statements like this:

There's a good reason why advanced stats have been saying this. It may surprise a lot of Carolina fans to learn that it has nothing to do with how much writers for stats sites dislike the people of the Carolinas. (For the record, mustard-based Carolina BBQ sauce is awesome*.) Nor were advanced stats lukewarm on the Panthers because of the ethnic background of their quarterback, or his post-touchdown celebrations.

I understand why Carolina rates as it does by various metrics, and I have never thought that any of these articles were the product of some anti-Carolina bias. When I disagree with the conclusions drawn from these metrics, I have good reasons as well. Most often it's because the article fails to give even a cursory examination of the assumptions necessary for its metric of choice to be a good measure of the quantity of interest (usually team or player quality). The Five Thirty Eight article referenced is a great example of this. Their rating system contains an assumption of year-to-year continuity (with a little regression to the mean) that is obviously problematic with the amount of roster turnover and injuries between Week 1 of 2014 and Week 12 of 2015 for the Carolina Panthers, but this problem is never considered even though that rating forms the foundation of the author's argument. As more and more sportswriting becomes predicated on the use of derived and sometimes proprietary statistics, I think it's important that writers spend a little bit of time examining whether the statistic they intend to use is really applicable to the situation they want to write about.

That's all. I don't actually disagree with the view of the Panthers taken in this particular article. I just felt the need to vent about the dismissive attitude taken in pieces like this towards complaints from people like me.

13 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Did you consider that the statement which irritated you may not have been directed towards people with your views? Maybe it was directed at the no-doubt (given the very frequent irrationality of all fanbases) substantial volume of communication that Aaron receives which is, to be frank, unhinged? Heck, we saw a Seahawk fan last week get wide media exposure, for her social media communication, which made out Newton's treatment of a flag, with a number on it, to be something akin to a war crime. If you don't think Aaron gets spewings like that, from meatheads who wear their jerseys to bed each night, from all fan bases of teams that Aaron writes about with something less than pure adulation, well, you haven't been paying a lot of attention to your fellow fans. Anything that Aaron writes which ridicules that part of football fandom is something that likely has a large element of truth, even if it doesn't pertain to you.

14 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Did you consider that the statement which irritated you may not have been directed towards people with your views? Maybe it was directed at the no-doubt (given the very frequent irrationality of all fanbases) substantial volume of communication that Aaron receives which is, to be frank, unhinged? Heck, we saw a Seahawk fan last week get wide media exposure, for her social media communication, which made out Newton's treatment of a flag, with a number on it, to be something akin to a war crime. If you don't think Aaron gets spewings like that, from meatheads who wear their jerseys to bed each night, from all fan bases of teams that Aaron writes about with something less than pure adulation, well, you haven't been paying a lot of attention to your fellow fans. Anything that Aaron writes which ridicules that part of football fandom is something that likely has a large element of truth, even if it doesn't pertain to you.

79 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I don't doubt that Aaron receives many meathead comments and that they are the impetus of the statements I complained about. But I have to read the same words in the end, words addressed to "Carolina fans" rather than "irrational fans on Twitter," and it irks me. Is my response to this an overreaction? Yeah, it probably is. As I said, I was venting. I know there's a lot of productive discussion in the comments on FO that the writers occasionally chime in on. But I do think there's a general problem with the way statistics like DVOA are used in sportswriting, in which frequently the only response to any criticism of the methodology is the ridicule of meathead fans, and I saw some of that mentality in those comments.

20 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

"I understand why Carolina rates as it does by various metrics"
And that's what separates you from most of the pro-carolina critics.

28 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

No, it's what separates him (and me) from a vocal subset of all sports fans. I fully expect Aaron gets similar emails from all sports team's fans, but, despite similar behavior, Carolina fans seem to be singled out as having particular difficulty.

I've had the same thoughts on the advanced stats as regards Carolina...538 uses ESPNs FPI, which at least for college is a colossal joke that hurts advanced stats.

I trust DVOA much better, but am not sure Carolina seeming to have a tendency to let off the gas with a big lead, and other factors, cause plays to be counted because the metric doesn't count plays as garbage time even though the coaches and players are treating it as garbage time. And that's OK...the metrics have to have a hard definition to keep it objective, and coaches would be foolish to make decisions on maximizing a metric that doesn't affect their winning a championship. College coaches it might be different.

33 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

You either haven't been reading this site for very long, or you have a short memory. Any team with a good w-l record which does not have a corresponding high DVOA ranking reliably produces meatheadism, with mild ridicule from Aaron forthcoming. Arizona and Atlanta fans spring to mind immediately, and I'm sure there are other examples.

61 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I've been reading for about 8 years or so, and my memory is fine. Mild ridicule is as well.

The tone is a bit different, and frequently more patronizing when discussing Carolina. There is usually more differentiation between the meatheads and everyone else. It's something many Carolinians are sensitive to. Aaron actually seems to have a stronger "I really like the Carolinas", more so than when giving other meatheads a hard time, I think it's intended well, and it's fine.

What's also lost is context. We deal with the "Southerners are Idiots" stereotype all the time. We can be sensitive, but it's a sensitivity born of years of abrasion. Sometimes things not intended that way get caught up in the trash.

65 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Where do ya' get one of those finely calibrated patronizometers, with which to make these discernments?

Sorry, if that's a little too snarky, but I'm really, really, really, skeptical about claims that one can empirically measure these things, by causal observation. Even with very earnest and detailed investigation I think it is a dubious proposition to say one can accurately measure this stuff in one individual, and I say that as someone who finds the bigotry associated with southern accents to be way too frequent, and really annoying.

71 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I'll offer anecdotal support to that assertion. After growing up in Oklahoma, I went to college in Philadelphia. I had no real accent but did get more ribbing than I'd have ever expected from simply being from Oklahoma. My PhD advisor in Baltimore was no better. A decade later I'm still somewhat sensitive about it.

Worse, since I have been a loyal FO reader for over a decade, is that I'm a Cowboys fan and we all know that Aaron and his fancy "metrics" are biased against the Cowboys!!!

(That's a joke)

73 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Sometimes a really wish there was a like button on comments for football outsiders.

I get most of my self worth from people liking what I say on facebook, there's also a ton of likeable material in FO comments sections.

62 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Kneeling to win up 7 is not anything remotely close to losing. Carolina has been an unstoppable clown crushing juggernaut for 6 out of 8 football quarters in these playoffs so far. The other 2 quarters they were trading yards/points for time.

it's quite enjoying.

Sometimes I even trip myself out.

39 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

538 is owned by ESPN, given how much they use their stats, I think they're contractually obligated to use QBR and FPI.

And as others have brought up. We're ridiculing all fans who think DVOA is wrong for subjective reasons. Carolina has been the most talked about team the last few weeks in terms of its gap between the advanced stats and the WL record. So right now it's your fans getting it.

29 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Five Thirty Eight's ELO system has a good deal of inertia. It starts the season with ratings seeded from the end of the previous season, and it takes a good while for that prior information to be overwhelmed by the information from the new season. It's not quick to react to large changes in quality.

63 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I created an account this week, though I likely will not say much. I like the content of the site and the typically responsible discussions that follow. Also as a franchise long Panthers fan I thought I may add a few thoughts to this discussion of Carolina-fan-frustration. (The two things that jump out to me were the somewhat excessive excuses for Seattle (the shoes, the time zone, the shock that Wilson would make mistakes) and the comment yesterday that "a great team was not waiting for the Patriots (had they won)"

The early part of the season the team was definitely winning closer games against inferior teams (This is a long-time curiosity of mine and I don't mean it to start something, but does NE take a hit for their schedule too? It looks somewhat similar to Carolina's). Let's not forget that Luke Kuechly played maybe one-half during the first four games. But even as the run began there were big leads against the Colts, Packers, and Giants--had the team not "taken the foot off the gas" perhaps the DVOA would suggest something akin to the other 1 loss teams?

In regards to the Super Bowl line I don't want to be too much of a homer, but -4 seemed right. I don't believe Denver beats New England on a neutral field, certainly not in NE. Plus, the Broncos defense also had the advantage of playing a much more predictable offense which completely lacks a running game. They won't have that against Carolina. Another factor could be the real weakness for the Panthers, one that Wilson was nearly able to save Seattle's season against, is Mcclain/Harper. Not sure Manning will be able to exploit that. If Denver can run the ball and play efficiently, along with forcing Newton to make mistakes, then we will have the pick-em game. Otherwise I'm not so sure... (there, that's my hot take for the week)

66 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings


Carolina ended the year with higher DVOA than New England (though close enough it's essentially a tie). The Patriots ended with the 23rd easiest schedule while the Panthers had 32nd easiest. I think that's primarily because of the Jets who were much better than any non-Panthers NFCS division team.

67 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Patriots had the 10th easiest schedule.
Panthers had the easiest.

So they took a slight hit, but not as much as the Panthers did.

89 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

What people really like to tip toe around is that NE played the NFCE and AFCS, same as Carolina.

Sometimes I even trip myself out.

98 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Yes, they had 8 identical opponents on their schedules (pats went 7-1, Panthers 8-0 in 8 those games), but the other 8 opponents aren't even comparable:
Steelers: 21.3% DVOA
Broncos: 17.7%
Jets*2: 12.4
Bills*2: 2.7
Phins*2: -19

Seahawks: 38.0
Packers: 10.2
Bucs*2: -9.3
Falcons*2: -16.1
Saints*2: -18.7

When your in what is statistically the second worst division in football and you play 4 games against the worst division and 4 games against the third worst division, it shouldn't be a surprise when you have the leagues easiest schedule.

Only two teams that the Panthers faced had a DVOA above 0 (Seahawks, Packers), every other team had a negative DVOA. Conversely, the Patriots had 6 games with DVOA above 0.

Lets put it this way, if the Panthers played completely average in each of their games, and each of their opponents put in an average (for them) performance, then factoring in home field, the Panthers go 14-2, loosing in Seattle and in Tampa Bay, but winning every other game.

Don't get me wrong, the Panthers are a good (maybe even great) team, but to me the idea that they played to a 15-1 record, when you consider how bad their division and how easy their schedule was, is absurd.

102 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I was originally just drawing a comparison to the two schedules. Even with those numbers I think the top of Carolina's schedule is tougher. Seattle twice, Green Bay, and Arizona over Pittsburgh and Denver twice. During the first half of three of those games the Panthers had something like an 81-14 lead, so I guess they can beat bad teams and show up against the good ones too. I don't recall a team doing that in pivotal, certainly playoff games during the Brady/Manning era. And if we're saying one is easier, well the Panthers responded with home blowouts against Tampa and Atlanta. The Patriots obviously suffered a few more letdowns at the end that they ended up needing.

Not really trying to suggest Panthers/Patriots type matchup (would have been great) but maybe the Panthers game against Denver will be an indicator...and yet not really, that was my Sims' style analysis. Denver as I said yesterday and as posted this morning will have to approach Carolina in a completely different way. The Broncos should be able to stick the receivers in man coverage, so the route running and accuracy of Newton will play a role.

Also I can't quite agree with "the idea that they played 15-1" since they did indeed play that way, and are now 17-1 after dismantling the other top NFC teams.

104 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Given that we're talking about the disconnect between Carolina's WL record and it's opponent adjusted statistics, I don't see what it's playoff performances have to do with this conversation.

Sure enough the advanced stats now rate Carolina among the best teams in recent year, and their schedule has now been tougher given that they've played two playoff games and obviously playoff games are going to be against good teams.

However, that said, estimated strength of schedule including playoffs (estimated based on including +22 and +10 DVOAs [after home field adjustments] into Carolina's schedule), Carolina still has had the 28th easiest schedule in the league.

I'm not saying Carolina is a bad team. I'm saying the only reason they're are 17-1 right now is because they've played 14 bad opponents and wracked up wins against easy teams.

you replace Carolina with an average team, and odds are they win the division, they probably don't go 15-1, but they do win the division. With homefield advantage maybe they win a playoff game, winning two is a taller order, but still far, far into the realm of possibility.

Carolina is not deserving of a 15-1, or even 17-1 record. Had they been given a tougher schedule, even just an average schedule, they would have been on the road for the NFC Championship. Given how Arizona played it they probably still would have won, but don't pretend this is a 17-1 calibre team.

107 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Your logic fails because you don't define what a '17-1 calibre' team is.

I suggest you first start looking at other 15-1 teams. Perhaps look at the Culpepper lead Vikings, for example. This Carolina team is clearly better than that one.

I am not a carolina fan in the slightest, I just see your logic as complete crap because you are making some wild subjective assumption about what it means to be 'worthy' of such a record. It is completely baseless.

If you look at history, you'll find that most 15-1 teams got lucky, and their actual quality doesn't differ from the 13-3 or 14-2 ones. Due to that your whole argument falls over.

What does it mean to be 15-1? Well, historically it means you're pretty good or even great, and had an easy schedule. This is the NFL, its easy to have luck swing you + or - 2 games or more a year. The only teams that make it to 15-1 are lucky.

106 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I disagree.

Because that is what 15-1 records are made of.

They almost always come against a soft schedule. I don't think there has ever been a 15-1 or better record against a top-10 schedule.

110 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

While you are probably right about the soft schedule thing, and I can name a 15-1 team that really wasn't deserving in my mind at least (98 Vikes, maybe there are more), there were 1-loss teams that are all-time greats (85 Bears and one of SF's SB winners). So I THINK (subjective) of one-loss teams as "all-time greats" with some exceptions and I really don't quite see this Panthers team as an all-time great team. If they really man-handle the Broncos, I guess I have to face the fact that I was mistaken.

They seem to have gotten particularly hot at the right time the past few weeks, that's for sure.

But I cannot shake the feeling I got from a Colts game that went into OT and Indy scored first in OT (!), but couldn't stop a counter FG by the Panthers to tie it once more. On the next possession, Luck threw his THIRD pick like at his own 40 and the Panthers got almost no yardage and needed a 52 yarder to win. Over a very flawed Colts team, at home, with Luck throwing three picks. All-time great team? You get three picks at home you expect to win outright, not squeeze it out in OT, especially if you end up 15-1. The near collapse against a possibly worse NYG team is also a concern.

So I can understand why some may say "this is not really a 17-1 team." The clunky phrasing falls short of what is really meant, and what is means is quite subjective. Last week they really seemed like one to me, and in the first half vs the Hawks. But aside from that.... which team shows up against the Broncos?

16 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

You should try "Lexington-style" BBQ which is a blend of the vinegar and tomato-based BBQ sauces - tangy and sweet - course-chopped, with both white and red slaw and hush-puppies and half-cut tea.

Oh, you left out Ted Ginn's chase-down of Patrick Peterson on the INT, that may have saved a score which likely would have changed the game complexion. It looked like he was running a cone drill zooming through the other players.

This season has been fun... Now to try and see how the media can manage to disrespect both teams at the same time.

17 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

It wasn't just 'advanced stat sites' misreading the Panthers. As late as about week 9 Carolina was a 3 point underdog AT HOME to Green Bay in Vegas. Then on Thanksgiving they were made small underdogs at Dallas (a Dallas with a returning Tony Romo, but still - Dallas!).

There's no need to apologise for under-rating Carolina in hindsight. Your job is to provide objective analysis, not pander to fanboys. Even the most dominant team that begins the season 8-0 (e.g. the '07 Patriots); the odds are against them continuing to dominate, and then decimating all their opponents come playoff time. This Panthers performance was very unpredictable, in spite of all the early wins.

19 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

"The top three games were all Week 1, which may say something about the amount of random variation involved in that first week of the season. (Consider Tennessee beating Tampa Bay and San Francisco beating Minnesota in Week 1 of this year.)"

This is why I disagree with how you split DVOA and Weighted DVOA. I think if you took out every teams best and worst performance from their first five games, due to the theory that variance is higher in early weeks, but then left all other games, you'd get a more accurate picture of every teams strength.

This way you would include 14 games in the dataset, a larger sample size then the 10(?) currently included in weighted DVOA, and you also wouldn't have to worry about high variance early games ruining the sample.

37 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I'm just putting it out there. He acknowledges that early weeks games can be high variance but also that weighted DVOA is less predictive then total DVOA. I was just thinking of a way to bridge the gaps since the topic came up again.

40 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Early season games may tend to be higher variance but teams can have outlier games at any time. The variance in the DVOA ratings also seems fairly high to me and I'm not sure how statistically significant the ranking order is.

38 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I doubt he's tried *everything* - not enough time in the day.

The issue might be that *something* will be better, just randomly, and then we need to test that something for another year or two to make sure it's not just Earping.

45 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I know he's tried tossing out early bad performances. I'd be surprised if he hasn't done so in combination with early good ones as well.

21 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

For the record, Carolina-style barbecue:

South Carolina - mustard-based
Eastern North Carolina - vinegar-based
Western North Carolina - ketchup-based

The Panthers are in North Carolina but the South Carolina state line is only 10 miles from their stadium.

24 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I was at a place in Hawaii once. They had eight different bottles of sauce on each table, and a few more you could order if those weren't enough. THAT was a good way to eat barbecue!

76 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Listen to this guy- knows what he's talking about.

For the record, mustard-based BBQ is disgusting and should be avoided, Western NC BBQ is fine but not at all noteworthy, but Eastern NC is where the real action is, and is what people are talking about when referring to "Carolina Barbecue." Go for pulled pork, skip chopped or sliced pork, and leave barbecue chicken and beef brisket/ribs to Texas/Missouri and other places that do it better. When getting pork ribs, if the meat isn't falling off the bone it wasn't cooked correctly and you might as well get American-Chinese spare ribs.

Some people swear by coleslaw (on burgers, barbecue sandwiches, hot dogs) and drinking Cheerwine, but I'm not a fan of either. Get a sweet tea instead.

Source: North Carolinian living in the center of the state who also lived in South Carolina for 5 years

26 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

How does New England have a positive special teams DVOA after missing an extra point? Also, how does DVOA determine whether the Patriot offense had a really bad day as opposed to the Broncos defense playing really well? Based on the listed stats and the eyeball test, I would say some of both, but how does the computer figure that out?

30 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Missing an extra point is relatively minor. Julian Edelman had a very good punt return at the end of the game. Also, Gostkowski made a few FGs. And they didn't allow the Broncos any big returns. So one negative play is outweighed by other positive plays.

32 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

It knows to assign more responsibility to the Broncos then the Patriots based on past performance.

Broncos are the #1 defense in the league, so a poor offensive performance is probably going to be more about how incredible the defense is then how bad the offense is.

If the Broncos defense was average going into the game, Pats would have had a -44 offensive rating, which is downright terrible.

43 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

That's kind of true, in that New England's offensive DVOA (opponent-adjusted) is higher than it's offensive VOA.

That said, New England's offensive DVOA is still -15%, which is saying that they were still 15% worse than a league average offense would have been against Denver.

Looking at VOA can be interesting, too, as that's a better indicator of who played better in this game, regardless of who was better coming into it. New England's offensive VOA was -44%, while Denver's defensive VOA was -39%. So New England's offense was 5% "worse" than Denver's was good, which could mean that New England committed what VOA considers to be "unforced errors" that aren't indicative of good defensive play.

27 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

In the list of the 13 best all-time DVOA games, three times (23%) the opponent is Arizona. All three of those games occur in the last eight years of a 26-year list.

44 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

DVOA seems to think the line should be somewhere between Car -1.5 and Car -3.5. Yet the line opened at Car -4.5 and has gone as high as Car -6 at some places.

52 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I'm also interested in 61% of betters taking the over. Unless this becomes a turnover filled game, I think it's more likely to be low scoring then high scoring.

Could gamblers right now be just too high on the Panthers after underrating them all year?

111 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I think the under makes sense AND agree that the Panthers recent 6/8 quarters of incendiary play have won them a lot of fans who may be betting with their emotions and not their heads.

51 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

It's percentage above/below league average scoring (DVOA correlates to point differential). So it's 0.228 points/percent this year (so yeah, about 5% = 1, although it's like, 5%=1.14).

53 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

The line is ultimately set by perception dictated by a national narrative rather than metrics. Just like last weeks DEN-NE game, the line seems overly influenced by the Peyton is washed up narrative. Peyton is now Brad Johnson/Trent Dilfer and regardless of the rest of the team or how they match-up they are downgraded with the betting public because 2015 Cam/Brady are much better than 2015 Peyton Manning. BTW, almost 75% of bets in the DEN-NE game were on the Patriots.

IMO, Carolina deserves to be a slight favorite, but seems pretty close to a pick em game, and 6 points is crazy. Unless there's an uneven turnover situation, I can't see either team blowing the other out because both defenses are too good. I could see the game being 7-3.

56 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I didn't like a play on Denver nearly as much as I liked the over in the NFC game, which I thought was the biggest gimme I'd seen in a long time, but, good grief, getting a home underdog in an environment like Mile High, with a near historically great defense, against a duct-taped offensive line, is a pretty damned good value.

In contrast, there isn't anything in the next game I like nearly as much, unless the action on the Panthers really starts to get crazy.

59 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

It's early, but it looks like 2/3 of the bets are on Carolina at -4.5 which as a Bronco fan makes me feel good because they don't build casinos and hotels by paying out 2/3 of the money wagered to gamblers...

I think it climbs to -5.5, but it will take a lot of action to get the line at a threshold number like 6... There's always a lot of late big $$$ action, so that will be interesting to see.

60 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

"The line is ultimately set by perception dictated by a national narrative rather than metrics."

The Super Bowl is the one game where this is even close to being true.

Vegas is really, really good at setting lines and judging team strength. And the public barely factors in (the Super Bowl being the one exception), because in general, the public doesn't wager nearly as much as the sharps do, and the sharps all have their own metrics, just like the casinos.

64 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

There's also the tendency for wisdom of the crowd making betting markets rather efficient.

Not always the case, but if public perception mattered that much on game spreads, it would be much easier to make money betting on sports.

68 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Excellent point, and yes the lines are almost always right on and I should've clarified that, but on lines with heavy non-sharp action there can be value going against the narrative. I also would include many (not all) conference championship games in the category where the narrative can be played against.

There are games where Vegas takes a side and doesn't move the line in accordance with the action. Last weeks AFCCG where the public was heavy on NE and SB 48 where the public was heavy on Denver come to mind.

81 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

The line has nothing (directly) to do with which team is better. That's incidental--the line exists to encourage betting in one direction or the other, so that regardless of the outcome, the casino comes ahead.

This is true in September as well as February. The only metrics any casino cares about is "where are bettors likely to place their bets." The casinos could care less about meaauring which team is better or worse. The very idea is laughable!

82 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Except that in general, the sharps - who are wagering the majority of the money on the game, as they place very large bets, unlike the public - also have good systems that *do* measure which team is better. So if Vegas sets a line in which a worse team is favored, the sharps will be all over the other side, moving the line so that the better team is favored.

So Vegas is incentivized to set a line that reflects team quality from the get-go, or else the sharps will destroy them (on balance, of course).

83 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

"There are games where Vegas takes a side and doesn't move the line in accordance with the action. Last weeks AFCCG where the public was heavy on NE and SB 48 where the public was heavy on Denver come to mind."

SB 48 the line opened at Seahawks -1 and swung heavily towards Denver.

69 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

What is the DVOA for DEN and CAR over the last 5 games?
Premium stops at week 17..???

70 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Was there actually a significant meathead-Carolina-fan contingent complaining about DVOA earlier in the year? I read every week, and if it was there, I don't remember it. Certainly nothing at the level of classic FOMBC Falcons/Skins/Packers-fans stuff. (As evidenced by the fact that the FOMBC did not activate.)

72 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I don't remember any Carolina fan complaining, and I also don't remember Aaron dumping on the Panthers. Almost every post about their supposed low ranking was, "they're rated lower than you might expect, but DVOA still rates them as a very good team".

96 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I have been around long enough to know that the Panthers style of play is highly variant, and so does not fit the "slow and steady" model well. I was here during the great "Why is Philly ranked #1 when they are barely .500?" riots... No use complaining.

So tired of hearing about SOS... Part of me secretly hopes the Panthers win SB50, and then go 19-0 next year including sweeps against the AFCW and NFCW that have been denigrating this year's schedule, just so that we can survey the burned out ruins of that argument and ask "Who's weak now?"*

*Yes I know that is unrealistic, but it sure would be fun.

97 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Carolina finished the season ranked 4th by DVOA. Hard to say it's not fitting any model. DVOA says the Panthers are a very good football team.

Also, it's not like Seattle (the only team ranked significantly higher than Carolina), is some kind of paragon of steady offensive play.

103 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

I posted earlier about the Panthers and Patriots having similar schedules this year. Originally I just wanted to note the similarities, not engage in the schedule debate yet again. Most of the guys in the NFL, or at least many of them, deserve to be there. They are pro players. I know this sounds like what ex-players love to say when they try to analyze games but there is truth to it. Even though the Patriots get the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins (along with some other AFC dregs) every year they still have to execute.

I totally agree that I'd love to see the team run the table next year. Why can't we dream big? No one saw 17-1 coming; heck I'm sure someone here will STILL pick the Bucs to win the division next year (as much as I love Barnwell, and he is very responsible for the Riverboat turnaround, when will he realize that the variance and parity of the league is spiting the Bucs). Carolina has executed and played with focus since Cam's car crash. He has yet to go back to his slumping ways of old, streaks of bad passes, etc. He clearly has a better read for defenses; he can audible and develop more at the line of scrimmage. And even with the easier schedule the team did not take any games off this year (maybe at Atlanta). I expect the same intensity next year with perhaps an even better roster--one year from now we'll be commenting on the Panthers/Seahawks title game, assuming the key parts stay healthy.

105 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

For what its worth I completely agree with you that the Panthers are deserving of the SB and their regular season record. I can't comprehend why some people will downplay the Panthers with their schedule seeing they blew out several teams in the regular season and playoffs. We are not talking about the 1970 Colts here or even the 07 Giants. With that said I can't forget the way the season ended for the 07 Patriots, very instructive to say the least. I think that the bookies are right in setting the line for the SB and there is a significant probability that the Panthers win by more than a TD.

85 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

After all of last week's hoohah, I am a little surprised that there haven't been any comments indicating that this was a better way for the Panthers to play with a big halftime lead. Winning the 2nd half 25-8 rather than losing the 2nd half 24-0 will do a heck of a lot for your DVOA.

95 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

1. It helps to not have your starting RB have an ankle injury.
2. Palmer does not have Wilson's surgically implanted horseshoe, so he got strip-sacked or when he tossed a lob up trying to beat the pressure, it got intercepted...

87 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Somehow I want to know the DVOA of the Bears 73-0 win over Washington in that NFL championship game way back when....

I remember an article that calculated estimated dvoa, is there any way we could use that method to at least estimate the dvoa for such a game?

88 Re: Week 20 DVOA Ratings

That study included teams from the 1950 season onwards. According to the author he can't go much further due to the lack of critical data and there was a lot of teams that folded, moved etc. It's very unlikely we can extend stats analysis that far unless we miraculously get hold of complete data sets from that far back. I would hazard a guess though that the game you are referring would be one of the most lopsided if not the most lopsided game in history as measured by advanced stats. That score is just so ridiculous.