2017 DVOA Projections

2017 DVOA Projections
2017 DVOA Projections
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

Here are our DVOA projections for 2017, updated from the season forecasts in Football Outsiders Almanac 2017.

For those new to our website, you can find an explanation of DVOA here. For this season forecast, offense, defense, and special teams DVOA are all projected separately using a system based on looking at trends for teams over the past decade. Our system starts by considering the team's DVOA over the past three seasons and, on offense, a separate projection for the starting quarterback. Then we look at a number of other variables which suggest when a team will be better or worse than would otherwise be expected due to standard regression towards the mean. Factors include major offseason personnel changes, coaching experience, recent draft history, combined tenure on the offensive line, and certain players returning from injury (or, in the case of these preseason updates, certain players getting injured in the preseason).

The numbers we are presenting here are exactly what the projection system spit out. As we say every year: "A few of them will look strange to you. A few of them look strange to us." As always, the offensive projections come out in a wider range than defensive projections because offense performance tends to be easier to predict (and more consistent from year to year) than defensive performance. If you are looking for subjective projections, Thursday we will be running our usual staff predictions article where we all talk about where we think the numbers are wrong.

We've also done our first playoff odds report simulation based on these updated DVOA projections, and I've added the playoff odds and Super Bowl championship odds to the table below. At the start of a new season, our simulation is very conservative about the average number of wins and losses expected for each team. Obviously, the NFL is going to have teams that are 11-5 or better, and it is going to have teams that are 5-11 or worse. It may seem like our simulation predicts half the league to go 8-8, but we know that won't happen. We also use a "dynamic" playoff odds simulation. Each time it plays through the season, it adds 1.5% to the DVOA of every winner and subtracts 1.5% from the DVOA of every loser before moving on to the next week's games. This reflects the fact that DVOA projections are just estimates, and actual performance during the season gives us better knowledge of how good or bad teams really are.

Personnel changes aren't the only difference between this updated simulation and the one we did for Football Outsiders Almanac 2017. This is a smaller simulation which only uses one set of mean projected DVOA ratings, rather than using 1,000 different sets of ratings to represent that some teams have a wider range of probable performance quality than others.

It was a little complicated figuring out how to account for certain suspensions, injuries, and holdouts in the updated season simulation. The simulation ends up getting treated a little differently from the DVOA and schedule strength ratings listed below.

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In the playoff odds simulation, we did the following:

  • In 80 percent of simulations, Dallas DVOA is -7.8% lower in Weeks 2-8 due to Ezekiel Elliott suspension. In 20 percent of simulations, Elliott gets a temporary restraining order and does not serve the suspension in 2017.
  • In all simulations, Indianapolis DVOA is -20.0% lower in Weeks 1-2 due to Andrew Luck injury. Luck returns in Week 3 in 20 percent of simulations, and his odds of returning increase 20 percent each week until we assume Luck is starting for Indianapolis in Week 7 in all simulations.
  • In all simulations, Los Angeles Rams DVOA is -5.0% lower in Week 1 due to Aaron Donald holdout. Donald then returns in Week 2 (50 percent), Week 3 (30 percent), Week 4 (12 percent), or not until Week 7 because he needs 10 games to accrue a year of service time (8 percent).

The DVOA ratings are more simple in how they incorporate these issues, because we're only using one set of ratings instead of producing a number of possibilities.

  • The Ezekiel Elliott suspension lowers the Cowboys' DVOA in Weeks 2-8.
  • We assume Scott Tolzien as the Indianapolis quarterback in Weeks 1 and 2, with Andrew Luck returning in Week 3. This lowers schedule strength for the Rams and Cardinals, but no other Indianapolis opponents.
  • The Aaron Donald holdout is not incorporated.

The impacts of less important early-season injuries and suspensions have been incorporated into the full-season projected DVOA for the teams in question. The odds of getting the No. 1 pick listed below (and listed on the playoff odds report page) do not incorporate traded picks. Projected division champions are colored in light yellow and projected wild card teams are colored in light purple.

NE 26.5% 1 11.1 17.5% 2 -5.1% 6 3.9% 1 -4.2% 32 0.1% 87.6% 21.4%
PIT 23.3% 2 10.5 20.7% 1 -1.7% 14 0.8% 8 -1.1% 23 0.1% 78.0% 14.8%
SEA 16.6% 3 9.8 7.4% 6 -10.0% 1 -0.8% 21 -0.2% 18 0.3% 64.3% 9.0%
GB 13.7% 4 9.3 16.1% 3 1.5% 20 -0.9% 22 0.6% 13 0.5% 58.5% 6.9%
DAL 10.0% 5 8.7 8.1% 4 -2.1% 13 -0.3% 14 3.1% 1 0.8% 46.3% 4.9%
OAK 7.5% 6 8.7 5.1% 8 0.4% 18 2.9% 6 0.3% 14 1.1% 49.8% 3.6%
NYG 6.5% 7 8.4 -0.9% 18 -5.4% 4 2.0% 7 2.6% 3 1.5% 41.2% 3.2%
KC 3.8% 8 8.2 -0.1% 16 -0.8% 15 3.1% 5 1.4% 7 1.6% 42.3% 2.5%
PHI 3.7% 9 8.1 -3.3% 21 -3.4% 9 3.5% 4 3.0% 2 1.7% 35.3% 2.4%
BAL 3.6% 10 8.5 -2.3% 20 -2.3% 12 3.7% 3 -0.6% 21 1.4% 43.7% 2.6%
ATL 3.5% 11 8.3 7.9% 5 2.6% 24 -1.9% 28 0.2% 15 1.5% 42.2% 2.7%
ARI 3.4% 12 8.6 0.3% 15 -5.2% 5 -2.2% 31 -1.5% 26 1.2% 42.6% 3.1%
CAR 3.1% 13 8.5 -0.8% 17 -4.7% 7 -0.7% 18 -2.2% 29 1.5% 45.5% 2.9%
LARM 2.3% 14 8.3 -8.3% 27 -6.8% 2 3.8% 2 -2.0% 27 1.6% 37.6% 2.3%
DET 1.6% 15 8.0 2.4% 13 0.6% 19 -0.2% 13 1.3% 8 1.9% 35.9% 2.1%
CIN 0.7% 16 8.2 2.8% 11 -0.1% 16 -2.1% 30 -1.4% 25 1.8% 39.2% 1.8%
WAS 0.6% 17 7.8 3.0% 10 1.8% 23 -0.6% 17 2.3% 4 2.2% 32.1% 1.8%
TEN -1.5% 18 8.1 5.3% 7 5.1% 27 -1.6% 24 -2.1% 28 2.4% 45.2% 1.9%
LACH -2.1% 19 7.8 2.5% 12 3.2% 25 -1.4% 23 -0.4% 19 2.7% 35.0% 1.4%
MIN -2.9% 20 7.6 -3.8% 22 -2.6% 10 -1.7% 27 1.5% 6 2.7% 28.9% 1.3%
TB -4.7% 21 7.5 -1.2% 19 3.3% 26 -0.1% 12 0.0% 17 3.2% 28.9% 1.2%
CHI -6.2% 22 7.3 -4.1% 23 1.6% 21 -0.5% 15 1.0% 10 4.0% 24.0% 0.9%
DEN -6.6% 23 7.2 -12.4% 30 -5.4% 3 0.3% 10 1.2% 9 4.3% 26.3% 0.8%
IND -6.8% 24 7.2 2.3% 14 7.2% 30 -2.0% 29 -2.8% 31 5.4% 29.5% 0.9%
MIA -7.4% 25 7.3 -5.2% 26 1.7% 22 -0.5% 16 -0.6% 22 4.3% 25.1% 0.7%
NO -8.9% 26 7.2 3.3% 9 11.4% 32 -0.8% 20 0.1% 16 4.7% 23.2% 0.7%
HOU -9.9% 27 6.9 -12.3% 29 -4.6% 8 -2.3% 32 0.9% 11 5.2% 25.4% 0.6%
JAC -10.3% 28 7.2 -12.8% 31 -2.5% 11 0.0% 11 -2.2% 30 5.6% 28.7% 0.6%
BUF -11.9% 29 6.9 -4.7% 24 6.4% 29 -0.7% 19 -0.5% 20 6.3% 19.2% 0.4%
SF -14.2% 30 6.5 -5.1% 25 9.8% 31 0.7% 9 1.9% 5 7.5% 13.5% 0.3%
CLE -18.2% 31 6.1 -10.5% 28 6.0% 28 -1.7% 26 0.9% 12 10.4% 11.9% 0.1%
NYJ -18.6% 32 6.3 -16.9% 32 0.0% 17 -1.7% 25 -1.2% 24 10.5% 13.1% 0.2%

Which teams saw the biggest drop in mean wins since the book, and why?

  • Dallas, due to the Ezekiel Elliott suspension.
  • Indianapolis, due to the Andrew Luck injury.
  • Buffalo, related to the trade of Sammy Watkins and some other variables based on changes in the projected starting lineup.
  • Chicago, because of the Cam Meredith injury.
  • New England, but this is less because of the injury to Julian Edelman and more because of defensive changes like the retirement of Rob Ninkovich and injuries to Derek Rivers and Shea McClellin. In addition, by having a range of possible DVOA ratings instead of just using mean DVOA ratings, the simulation in FOA 2017 comes out with a slightly larger range of results. The Patriots and Steelers have fewer mean wins here, while the Jets and Browns move up slightly.

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Which teams saw the biggest gain in mean wins since the book?

  • Miami, mostly because of the change in the schedule as the Jets and Bills got weaker. In addition, our system doesn't seem a difference between Jay Cutler and Ryan Tannehill because Cutler was a top-10 quarterback in passing DVOA two years ago.
  • Cincinnati, because of a slightly higher offensive projection that's based on some complicated starting lineup age variables.
  • Arizona and Los Angeles Rams, due to the Andrew Luck injury. Teams in line to benefit if Luck's injury lasts into the season are, in order, the Browns, Seahawks, 49ers, and Titans.
  • Tampa Bay, because of the change at kicker. No, seriously. The Bucs ranked 32nd in mean special teams projection in the book but are 12th now.


46 comments, Last at 11 Sep 2017, 9:25pm

1 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

For what it is worth, I think you have the Vkings pegged about right. I think you may have them a little low on defense, a little high on offense, and I have no idea what tbeir special teams will be like.

6 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Its funny how the ravens are expected to have yet another year of defensive competence. In fact, I expect a top 10 performance. And yet, looking over their roster, I'm not convinced they are top 10 in terms of pure talent. The ravens just have this ability to field good defenses anyways.

This got me thinking - how many other teams have a player independent advantage that persists over a long period of time? Outside of the ravens and that group out in Foxborough, I can't think of another one.

JoeyHarrington in the comments got me thinking about this. Since 1996(the year ozzie joined the team), the Ravens have had 2 finishes outside of the top 15. That's 21 years of football. And many of the years they've been first or second and definitely top 5 a ton. Can a Ravens fan offer his or her thoughts about why this is? I sort of find the Ozzie is a whizz slightly too simplistic. Maybe they teach good defense in Baltimore?

5 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

To get some sense of how much randomness and schedule strength affect how these seasons play out, note how the 28th ranked team has about a 29% chance of making the playoffs, and the 9th ranked team only a 35% chance.

We watch because we dont know what is going to happen.

7 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Really surprised at the Chargers defensive DVOA. They finished last year at #7, and have Verrett back and Bosa for the full year. Is going from Pagano to Bradley as DC considered a downgrade? There must be a story to go from 7 -> 25.

9 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Note that the Titans have about a 10% higher chance of making the playoffs than the Eagles, but the Eagles still have a slightly higher chance of actually winning the Super Bowl. I'll bet the Eagles (or the Falcons) would kill to be in the AFC South!

10 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

No way shiusk Raiders be 8fh. Good chance team will finish 1st 2nd or 3rd in DvOA. We all will see this happen soon

42 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Hello -

Yes, I am, and yes, I know I seem the exception.

I'm not rooting against us, I just feel we are weak at some highly-exploitable spots, pass coverage in particular.


17 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

My surprises were seeing the offense as low as it was and seeing the defense rated as average. I expected them to rate the defense as below-average. I can't say that the total DVOA strikes me as wrong, but the parts make my head spin.

12 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

It seems weird to me that the Cowboys are penalised more for missing Elliot than the Rams are for missing Donald. I know who I'd rather have on my team and it's not the running back.

26 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

It's because offense is easier to project than defense. Before a season, the effect of losing a player on offense is also easier to project than the effect of losing a player on defense. There is more variation possible on defense.

13 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

As a Raiders fan, I've become used to starting at the bottom of the rankings and slowly scrolling up, so seeing this projection is bizarre to me.

14 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

How does Detroit, ranked #32 in defensive DVOA in 2016 get ranked 19th here? I read the Almanac and it doesn't have sound like there is much change to the coaching or the players.

21 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Well, let's see, we have the Miami Cutler Experience. It'll be entertaining, to say the least.

Buffalo and the "we're not tanking despite trading two of our better players for draft picks".

...and the Jets, who might actually be worse than SF was last year.

Ay yi yi...

23 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

The AFC East has been a joke for 15 years or so. Honestly in Brady's career I can only think of one or two seasons in which any of those other teams were even "above average". When the toughest divisional opponents of the decade were helmed by Mark Sanchez, you are saying something.

25 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

maybe one decebnt Buff team (2004), one or two decent Dolphsin temas (2008, and maybe 2002). suppose 2016 dokphins were alright. Jets had some better teams. 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009,. 2010 all playoffs.

31 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections


Since 2001, NWE wins 78% in their division and 76% outside their division, and 75% of their playoff games, and 71% of their SB. They just win, period, baby.
It won't do them any good in Mexico City, though.

32 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

The patriots can be great and the afc east can be perennially terrible - those aren't mutually exclusive.

Without going into the evidence and off memory - the afc east hasn't been the worst division perpetually. It hasn't been the AFC North or recent AFC West, but its not like its always been this awful.

I think the real problem with the afc east is - teams keep trying to get ahead of the patriots in too many unproductive ways. The jets, dolphins, and the bills have all run poorly thought out short term building plans in attempt to outmuscle the pats. Its lead to a couple seasons worth of quality and then disasters down the road.

I'm not really sure what to do except hope Belichick leaves. I suspect most everyone, including fans of the other AFC east teams, grudgingly acknowledge that not even Brady's departure will signal the end of the Pats lording over the division. It will mean a ray of hope to the other contenders, but not for the AFC East.

33 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Criticism of the AFC East has consistently seemed ill-founded to me. The presence of the NE Patriots has undermined team building for the other teams, and frequently robbed the other teams of wins that might have enabled them to sneak into the postseason. It's not a terribly good division, but it rarely produces atrocious teams, just solidly mediocre ones. Some basic numbers back this up:

Since 2002 when the NFL entered the 4-team division format, the 3 non-NE teams in the AFC East have averaged 1.6 DVOA per year.

During the same time frame, the 3 non-GB teams in the NFC North have averaged -8.57 DVOA per year.

True, they have had more playoff appearances, 11 vs. 7, but they've also produced far more truly horrific teams.

The AFC North is generally perceived as one of the NFL's best divisions. Since 2002, it has averaged 5.04 DVOA overall (compared to 5.33 for the AFC East, if you include NE). However, what happens if you remove the most efficient team from the division each year? All of a sudden, the division's DVOA drops to .829, weaker than the combined average DVOAs of BUF, NYJ, and MIA. Why does that happen? Well, Cleveland's extreme suckitude and the very weak years in Cincinnati outweigh the general competitive quality of the rest of the division.

So, basically, you can deride the AFC East for failing to provide competition for NE all you like, but it is entirely inaccurate to say that it is a terrible division. It is a very solidly and respectably mediocre division, one that provides competitive teams that hover around 7 or 8 wins year after year, with very few true stinkers.

35 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Not sure if you were replying to me - but I never said the AFC East was consistently terrible.

As for how to measure a divisions competitiveness - its a tricky subject. Do we remove the best team or the worst? I think people think of competitive when they think the division boasts at least two teams that are competitive every year. The AFC East has had teams that are good, but usually not the same teams and usually not maintaining quality year to year. Some examples show teams that crash and burn the very next year, suggesting those teams weren't "real"

Thats how the perception got started.

39 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

My post was in reply to Aaron Brooks Go (I miss Brooks... nobody can pull off the jazzy, untouched fumble quite like he did!). But the larger issue has come up before.

What makes a division good or bad? One could argue that if Pittsburgh were more consistently strong, Baltimore and Cincinnati would have had fewer chances, hence the division would be less good? Part of the reason the NFC North has had more non-GB playoff entrants since 2002 than the AFC East is because GB has missed the playoffs multiple times, making way for someone else. Your thought is curious to me. Let me look at how the three divisions I tallied would look if I removed the worst team instead of the best. Oh, and how many times the division had two or more teams with neutral or positive DVOA.

Removing the lowest ranking DVOA for the divisions each year since 2002, AFC East average is 11.89. NFC North average is 3.46. AFC North is 11.9.

Evaluating the divisions in terms of how many teams finished with DVOA at or above 0 each year, in the 15 year sample:

AFC East
9 years with 3 teams
2 years with 2 teams
4 years with 1 team

NFC North
1 year with 4 teams
3 years with 3 teams
5 years with 2 teams
5 years with 1 team
1 year with 0 teams

AFC North
1 year with 4 teams
5 years with 3 teams
8 years with 2 teams
1 year with 1 team

In this measure, the AFC East looks like the best division of the 3...

Same exercise, but with simple W-L:

Since 2002 the AFC North has won 484 games. Removing the top winner, the division has won 314 games.
Since 2002 the NFC North has won 467 games. Removing the top winner, the division has won 298 games.
Since 2002 the AFC East has won 507 games. Removing the top winner, the division has won 322 games.

In other words, in terms of win-loss competitiveness, the Dolphins, Bills, and Jets have won more games overall and performed better than any combination of also rans from the other two divisions over the past 15 years...

44 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Nah, the Pats have a pretty tough schedule, with a few games against awful teams. The rest of the afc East is hot garbage, but the afc west doesn't have a pushover in the bunch, the NFC south is probably the best division in the league at qb, Pittsburgh probably has the top offense in the league, and Houston added Watt and Watson to a division winner. Buffalo and the Jets may be bottom-feeders (though it isn't a lock for the bills), but it doesn't look like there are any layups outside the division for the Pats. I'm sure that'll change as the season progresses (somebody always drops off as the season plays out), but I have a hard time seeing that schedule getting "easy"

19 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

The Ravens projection still surprises me. I had essentially written them off as a playoff contender given the amount of injuries/retirements/etc. they've had this offseason.

I would have pictured them closer to where Denver is.

Also, looks like Carolina really does well given the #29 schedule. I can see them really having a bounceback year, getting the 4th place schedule and hopefully more health from Keuchly.

29 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

If anything the projection is too low on the defense. Ravens D is going to be a top-3 unit this season. Not clear if that is going to be enough to drag their offense to the playoffs; but it's happened before.

40 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

After 2014 I would have told you Ray Lewis. (And Ed Reed and Jarrett Johnson.)

It was dismaying watching the Ravens D be totally flummoxed by that eligible/ineligible receiver business in that playoff game at Foxboro. When Ray (and those other guys) were on the team, you always had the sense that there was a guiding intelligence that was matching Peyton Manning or Tom Brady, move for move. Those defenses often got BEAT: but they were able to compete against those QBs, not just with strength & speed but with intelligence & anticipation. In that 2014 game, that intelligence seemed to be gone. It was hard to infer anything other than, when Ray & Ed were around those D's seemed to play above their talent level, and with them gone the D seemed to play below their talent level.

I'll have to watch this D play for a while before trying to answer you directly. It certainly seems like someone in that organization (Ozzie or other) seems to know a defense front-7 prospect when they see one. (Just as the Steelers and others seem to know a WR prospect when they see one.) Certainly the Ravens have spent a shit-ton of resources on the defense side of the ball, last couplefew years.

41 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

I had a long long debate with my friend about the ravens yesterday. I told him there were two teams that organizationally seem to have some level of quality that seems independent of the players. Meaning, if you gave them another team's players, they would mold them to some extent into the franchise's way.

He knew one was New England, but the other he was baffled how I could say the Ravens. After going through all the arguments, he seemed to conceded that maybe it was Ozzie, though I think its a group of either in house scouts or position coaches knowing how to teach proper defense. Both answers feel a bit unsatisfying though.

Also, Ray and Ed were on that 2012 team that finished 19th in DVOA. The next year without either, they did a lot better.

43 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

The eligible receiver aspect of that game is overemphasized due to how much outside parties complained about it after the fact. The real difference was having Jimmy Smith injured, which forced Rashaan Melvin to play and promptly be lit up for 200+ yards. If a corner can't cover his assignments, no amount of intelligence will save that defense.

22 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

I'd honestly be surprised if Oakland were to get over the hump. They have had the talent for years now but still fail to beat any good teams. Carr is something like 2-20 against playoff teams.

Paper tigers statistically fooling DVOA with great performances against subpar opponents?

27 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

Hey, drafting Roberto Aguayo finally had a positive impact on Tampa's playoff chances. Good draft pick after all.

28 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

General DVOA question: What are the home/road impacts on DVOA components? The DVOA explainer makes no mention of home/road adjustment.

37 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

DVOA has Dallas WAYYY too high. Prescott is going to revert to his natural talent level (you know, the one that saw he was available in the later rounds) and even with the rest of that offense, he'll be league average. 10+ wins again is not terribly likely IMO.

38 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

DVOA is generally more down on NE's defense than public perception or points allowed might suggest, so why does it view them more favorably this year?

EDIT: I don't mean to imply that DVOA is wrong about NE in the past, I'm just curious what is driving the optimism.

46 Re: 2017 DVOA Projections

In retrospect, probably based at least some on the good job they did in the 2nd half vs. the high-flying Falcons.

The Pats didn't really lose anybody great in the off-season on defense. They returned all of their top guys (McCourty, Hightower, Butler) and only lost a couple aging edge rushers that, in theory, should have been replaceable. They lost Logan Ryan but picked up Stephen Gilmore, who should be an adequate replacement.

Depth at linebacker is a problem. We saw last season and Week 1 vs. KC that the defense tends to fall apart when Hightower is out. With Derek Rivers gone for the season and Kony Ealy never getting BB's approval, the team is thin both at edge rusher and LB. Some are saying "the front seven is atrocious" but I think that's an overreaction. We'll see.

If the pass defense is suspect, the Pats' allegedly easy schedule becomes much tougher. The Saints, Bucs, Falcons, Raiders and Steelers all have strong passing attacks.

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