DVOA Analysis
Football Outsiders' revolutionary metrics that break down every single play of the NFL season

Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

The regular season is now over for The Year of No Great Teams, and it ends with one team climbing up close to deserving the adjective of "great." The New England Patriots finished off the season by stomping the Miami Dolphins 35-14. They end the season with a comfortable lead over the rest of the league with 25.3% DVOA and 34.0% weighted DVOA. Defensive improvement over the second half of the season means the Patriots finished the year above-average in all three phases of the game, one of three teams to do so.

Believe it or not, this is only the third time the Patriots have finished No. 1 in DVOA during their 16-year streak of winning seasons. They were also No. 1 in 2007 and 2010. The Patriots have ranked 12th or higher in overall DVOA for every one of those 16 years, and this is their eighth straight year ranking sixth or higher. The Patriots have ranked in the offensive top 10 every season since 2004. But it may be even more impressive that the Patriots have had top-ten special teams every season since 2010 and above-average special teams every season since 1996. That's a mind-blowing 21 straight seasons of above-average special teams, going back not just before Bill Belichick but even before Pete Carroll.

New England's surge in the final game also means they will not be the lowest-rated team to ever finish No. 1 in DVOA. That title still belongs to the 1993 Dallas Cowboys, who finished the season at 24.9% DVOA. Of course, there's a good reason why both of these teams didn't finish higher. The Patriots were missing their Hall of Fame quarterback for the first four games, and the Cowboys had their Hall of Fame running back holding out for the first two games. The 1993 Cowboys had 32.8% DVOA if we started their season with Emmitt Smith's return in Week 3. And the 2016 Patriots would have 35.4% DVOA if we started their season with Tom Brady's return in Week 5.

This year, the Cowboys had their best team since those Triplets Super Bowl teams of the mid-'90s. Their DVOA rating dips a bit after they sat starters in a meaningless Week 17 game, but they still finish the year at No. 2. The Cowboys are right behind the Patriots in all three phrases of the game. Their defense has also improved over the course of the season, although not as much as New England's.

For those asking the question we get every year after Week 17: no, we don't adjust either full-season DVOA or weighted DVOA for teams sitting starters in Week 17. However, I did take this into consideration when putting together this week's playoff odds simulation, using the Week 16 weighted DVOA for both Dallas and Pittsburgh. Week 17 was easily the Cowboys' worst DVOA game of the year, and it was the worst DVOA game for Pittsburgh since the Week 3 Philadelphia debacle. The narrow win over a bad Cleveland team dropped Pittsburgh down two spots in DVOA, with Atlanta and Philadelphia moving up.

Yes, that means that the Eagles finished the season fourth overall, although that ranking looks a lot less strange at 7-9 than it did at 5-9. Although the Eagles don't come close to having the best DVOA rating ever for a team that missed the playoffs, they do finish with the best DVOA rating ever for a team with a losing record. That record was previously held by the 2004 Kansas City Chiefs at 15.1%. The Chiefs improved to 10-6 the following season.

Although the Houston Texans ended the season with a lower total DVOA than the 2-14 San Francisco 49ers, they did not win the ignominious title of "worst playoff team DVOA ever." Houston finishes at -21.4%, which keeps them ahead of the 2004 St. Louis Rams (-27.2%) and the 2010 Seattle Seahawks (-22.9%). The Texans also miss out on the lowest DVOA ever put up by a team with a winning record, which still belongs to the 1992 Indianapolis Colts at -27.2%. The Detroit Lions drop to -17.4% with their final loss to Green Bay, meaning they also rank among the five worst DVOA ratings ever in both categories. Below the Texans and Lions, the 1-15 Cleveland Browns did not finish last in DVOA. That honor belongs to the New York Jets, who finished No. 1 in the entire league in run defense but made up for that by ranking 31st in offense, pass defense, and special teams.

As we've noted in past weeks, what stands out most about 2016 is not just the lack of great teams but the lack of good, balanced teams. Pittsburgh's loss to Cleveland dropped them from ninth to 11th in defensive DVOA, which means that no team in 2016 finished in the top ten on both offense and defense. Pittsburgh is the only team to finish in the top dozen on both sides of the ball. As noted earlier, only three teams were above-average on both offense and defense: Pittsburgh, Kansas City, and New England (barely).

The Falcons finished the year No. 1 on offense, but the more notable number belongs to the team that finished with the worst offense, the Los Angeles Rams. The Rams ended their season with the worst single game of the year by DVOA, putting up -109.7% in a 44-6 loss to Arizona. That was enough to drop the Rams' offensive DVOA to -38.1%. Think about how bad some other offenses were this year, such as the Browns, the Jets, and the Texans. The DVOA difference between the Rams and any of those defenses was bigger than the difference between the No. 1 offense in Atlanta and the No. 10 offense in Buffalo. With their offensive ineptitude in the final couple weeks, the Rams dropped down onto the list of the worst offenses in DVOA history.

WORST OFFENSIVE DVOA, 1989-2016
Year Team W-L DVOA Pass Rk Run Rk
2002 HOU 4-12 -43.3% -37.9% 32 -27.4% 32
1992 SEA 2-14 -41.3% -65.3% 28 -6.6% 23
2005 SF 4-12 -40.4% -56.0% 32 -12.2% 29
2016 LARM 4-12 -38.1% -38.4% 32 -27.0% 32
2006 OAK 2-14 -37.0% -45.4% 32 -12.8% 29
2004 CHI 5-11 -36.5% -50.6% 32 -8.5% 27
2010 CAR 2-14 -35.8% -40.1% 31 -20.7% 32
2010 ARI 5-11 -35.6% -46.1% 32 -8.6% 25
1997 NO 6-10 -35.6% -41.4% 30 -19.1% 30
1991 IND 1-15 -32.8% -29.0% 27 -30.2% 28
2007 SF 5-11 -32.2% -42.1% 32 -3.1% 17
2012 ARI 5-11 -30.9% -30.2% 31 -22.1% 32

On the other side of the ball, the Denver Broncos held on to finish as our No. 1 defense for the second straight season. The Broncos are only the third defense to ever rank No. 1 in DVOA for two straight years, following the 1993-1994 Pittsburgh Steelers and the 2013-2014 Seattle Seahawks. However, we had never had a No. 1 defense that ranked lower than 16th against the run. The Broncos finish the year ranked 21st against the run, but with the seventh-best DVOA ever against the pass. The difference between Denver and the No. 2 pass defense, Philadelphia, was 19.3% DVOA. That's the same as the difference between Philadelphia and the No. 15 pass defense, Cincinnati.

Meanwhile, Baltimore's stalwart run defense from the first half of the season crumbled. The Ravens not only did not challenge for the best run defense in DVOA history, they didn't even end up with the best run defense this year. In fact, the Ravens dropped to fifth in run defense by the end of the year. However, the Jets and Seahawks both rank among the top run defenses in DVOA history. Given the state of the Jets pass defense, I'm not sure why anyone ever ran the ball on the Jets with more than 1 yard to go.

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BEST PASS AND RUN DEFENSE DVOA, 1989-2016
Year Team Pass Defense
DVOA
x Year Team Run Defense
DVOA
2002 TB -51.9% x 2000 BAL -36.6%
1991 PHI -48.6% x 1991 PHI -34.9%
2009 NYJ -36.5% x 1998 SD -32.9%
2004 BUF -34.7% x 2014 DET -31.4%
2013 SEA -34.2% x 2006 MIN -30.5%
1991 NO -33.1% x 1995 KC -30.5%
2016 DEN -32.9% x 2010 PIT -29.0%
2008 PIT -32.8% x 2008 BAL -28.6%
1999 TB -32.2% x 2016 NYJ -27.4%
1990 PIT -31.2% x 2000 TEN -27.4%
1992 NO -29.9% x 2007 BAL -27.3%
2000 MIA -29.7% x 2016 SEA -26.8%

Philadelphia finished the year No. 1 in special teams DVOA, with Tyreek Hill and the Kansas City Chiefs right behind. Justin Tucker of Baltimore shattered the previous record for FG/XP value, ending up worth 25.4 points more than the average kicker in similar situations. Johnny Hekker obliterated the net punting record in even more impressive fashion, with the Rams' punting unit worth an estimated 29.5 points of field position over average. We wrote about this more a couple weeks ago, but in the end Tucker broke Neil Rackers' record by more than 5 points and Hekker broke his own record from 2013 by more than 7 points. Houston had the worst special teams in the league for the second straight season.

Other interesting notes on 2016:

  • Of course the New York Giants would narrowly win a Week 17 game that didn't actually matter to them. Why should the consistency end just because the playoff spot was clinched? The Giants finish with a variance of just 2.5%, making them the most consistent game-to-game team in DVOA history. The previous record was 3.3% for the 1990 Los Angeles Raiders.
  • As noted above, the Rams had the worst single game of the year in Week 17. The best games of the year are still Pittsburgh's crazy Week 3-4 swing, with the Eagles rated 99.2% for their 34-3 win over the Steelers in Week 3 and the Steelers rated 99.4% for their 43-14 win over the Chiefs in Week 4.
  • Every single team that made the playoffs overperformed its Pythagorean projection based on points scored and allowed. Oakland (12-4) outperformed its projection (8.8) by the most. The most underperforming team according to Pythagorean projection was not Philadelphia but Jacksonville, which went 3-13 but was projected to win 5.8 games based on points scored and allowed. San Diego, Cleveland, and the Eagles also underperformed by two or more wins.
  • The Dallas offensive line, considered the best in the NFL, finished just fifth in adjusted line yards. Maybe the narrative of "any running back could succeed behind that line" isn't quite as true as people tend to believe. New Orleans was a clear No. 1 in this metric.
  • Our defensive stats for adjusted sack rate are significantly scrambled this year. The teams with the most sacks finished third and fifth in ASR. Seattle, tied for third in sacks, was just 10th in ASR. Cleveland was next-to-last in sacks but 21st in ASR because the Browns faced so few pass plays. Also, the ASR ratings don't necessarily resemble the pressure rate numbers in Premium Charting from our friends at Sports Info Solutions. Cincinnati, the leader in pressure rate through Week 16, was just 15th in ASR. The Giants and Dolphins had two of the best pass rushes in the league by pressure rate and were near the bottom of the league in ASR. Denver and Minnesota are better fits, ranking 3-4 in pressure rate through Week 16 and ranking 1-2 in adjusted sack rate.

* * * * *

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 17 are:

  • HB Jordan Howard, CHI (FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS HERO): Fourth among Week 17 RB with 44 DYAR (23 carries, 135 yards).
  • RE Sheldon Richardson, NYJ: 3 run TFL, forced fumble, PD.
  • TE Kyle Rudolph, MIN: 11 catches, 117 yards, TD.
  • C Matt Slauson, SD: No sacks allowed; Chargers RB had 20 carries, 117 yards up the middle with 70 percent success rate.
  • SS D.J. Swearinger, ARI: 6 tackles including 2 that prevented third-down conversions, sack, 2 QB knockdowns.

* * * * *

All player/team DVOA stats pages are now updated through the end of the regular season. Playoff odds, snap counts, and the premium DVOA database are also fully updated, and you'll find links to matchup pages with various DVOA splits on the front page of Standard Premium. Drive stats and pace stats will be updated by the end of Tuesday.

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

Please note that while this article is called "Final 2016 DVOA Ratings," we will continue with our unofficial postseason weighted DVOA ratings each Monday through the playoffs.

* * * * *

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through the entire 2016 regular season, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. WEIGHTED DVOA represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE. LAST WEEK represents rank after Week 16, while LAST YEAR represents rank in 2015.

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>

TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
LAST
YEAR
W-L WEI.
DVOA
RANK OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NE 25.3% 2 6 14-2 34.0% 1 21.1% 2 -1.5% 16 2.7% 7
2 DAL 21.0% 1 27 13-3 24.2% 2 20.4% 3 0.8% 17 1.4% 10
3 ATL 19.6% 4 26 11-5 19.8% 4 25.3% 1 8.1% 27 2.4% 8
4 PHI 17.1% 5 22 7-9 11.7% 10 -4.2% 20 -13.5% 4 7.8% 1
5 PIT 15.8% 3 7 11-5 20.0% 3 11.1% 8 -4.7% 11 0.0% 16
6 KC 13.9% 7 5 12-4 18.7% 5 3.8% 13 -2.5% 14 7.6% 2
7 GB 12.1% 6 10 10-6 12.9% 7 16.4% 4 2.4% 20 -1.8% 20
8 WAS 9.2% 9 15 8-7-1 12.3% 8 16.1% 5 7.3% 25 0.4% 14
9 SEA 8.7% 10 1 10-5-1 4.7% 14 -2.7% 17 -10.9% 5 0.5% 13
10 NYG 8.7% 12 20 11-5 13.1% 6 -6.4% 22 -15.0% 2 0.2% 15
11 OAK 8.3% 8 14 12-4 5.3% 13 12.2% 7 4.9% 23 1.1% 11
12 BAL 5.9% 11 17 8-8 11.8% 9 -7.8% 24 -9.3% 6 4.4% 4
13 TEN 3.9% 14 31 9-7 10.9% 11 10.5% 9 5.5% 24 -1.0% 19
14 DEN 3.8% 17 8 9-7 -3.2% 21 -12.9% 28 -19.0% 1 -2.3% 22
15 CIN 3.0% 20 2 6-9-1 4.2% 15 7.2% 11 1.5% 18 -2.7% 28
16 ARI 1.7% 21 3 7-8-1 3.1% 17 -6.2% 21 -13.9% 3 -6.0% 30
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
LAST
YEAR
W-L WEI.
DVOA
RANK OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 MIA 0.3% 15 29 10-6 4.2% 16 0.9% 14 1.5% 19 1.0% 12
18 NO -0.4% 16 28 7-9 1.2% 19 15.9% 6 13.8% 30 -2.6% 27
19 BUF -0.7% 13 12 7-9 -4.1% 22 9.6% 10 8.0% 26 -2.4% 23
20 SD -1.0% 18 24 5-11 -6.6% 23 -3.0% 19 -6.8% 8 -4.7% 29
21 MIN -1.1% 23 11 8-8 -11.7% 26 -9.3% 26 -6.7% 9 1.4% 9
22 TB -1.6% 19 21 9-7 7.4% 12 -2.9% 18 -3.2% 12 -2.0% 21
23 CAR -4.8% 25 4 6-10 -3.1% 20 -8.1% 25 -5.8% 10 -2.5% 26
24 IND -5.1% 24 23 8-8 2.6% 18 4.0% 12 13.2% 29 4.1% 5
25 CHI -7.9% 22 19 3-13 -9.4% 24 -2.6% 16 4.7% 22 -0.6% 18
26 JAC -10.7% 26 25 3-13 -10.2% 25 -11.4% 27 -3.1% 13 -2.5% 25
27 DET -17.6% 27 13 9-7 -19.3% 29 -1.0% 15 20.4% 32 3.7% 6
28 SF -19.7% 28 32 2-14 -18.4% 28 -7.4% 23 12.1% 28 -0.2% 17
29 HOU -21.4% 29 18 9-7 -17.7% 27 -21.4% 30 -6.9% 7 -7.0% 32
30 LARM -29.0% 30 16 4-12 -37.1% 32 -38.1% 32 -1.8% 15 7.2% 3
31 CLE -30.9% 31 30 1-15 -29.9% 30 -13.8% 29 14.6% 31 -2.5% 24
32 NYJ -32.4% 32 9 5-11 -33.6% 31 -21.6% 31 4.0% 21 -6.8% 31
  • 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.
  • 2016 SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative).
  • PYTHAGOREAN WINS represent a projection of the team's expected wins based solely on points scored and allowed.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).



TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK 2016
SCHED
RANK PYTH
WINS
RANK VAR. RANK
1 NE 25.3% 14-2 31.5% 11.9 1 -8.0% 32 12.8 1 12.3% 17
2 DAL 21.0% 13-3 19.7% 11.9 2 1.8% 8 11.0 2 6.1% 4
3 ATL 19.6% 11-5 19.6% 11.7 3 0.1% 16 10.9 3 8.3% 8
4 PHI 17.1% 7-9 13.6% 10.3 4 5.4% 2 9.0 10 16.5% 28
5 PIT 15.8% 11-5 17.0% 10.0 5 0.8% 13 9.9 5 24.9% 32
6 KC 13.9% 12-4 13.0% 9.6 8 -0.9% 22 10.1 4 15.2% 23
7 GB 12.1% 10-6 10.8% 9.7 6 -0.1% 19 9.1 8 13.2% 18
8 WAS 9.2% 8-7-1 5.1% 9.7 7 4.4% 3 8.3 18 11.2% 14
9 SEA 8.7% 10-5-1 10.9% 9.2 10 -3.7% 27 9.8 6 16.9% 29
10 NYG 8.7% 11-5 4.3% 9.6 9 2.8% 5 8.8 11 2.5% 1
11 OAK 8.3% 12-4 6.8% 8.8 15 1.1% 10 8.8 12 8.5% 10
12 BAL 5.9% 8-8 5.1% 8.9 12 1.4% 9 8.6 13 15.2% 24
13 TEN 3.9% 9-7 9.8% 9.0 11 -5.9% 31 8.1 20 11.4% 15
14 DEN 3.8% 9-7 5.1% 8.5 17 3.1% 4 9.1 9 11.6% 16
15 CIN 3.0% 6-9-1 1.9% 7.9 18 0.8% 14 8.3 19 8.8% 11
16 ARI 1.7% 7-8-1 5.2% 7.7 19 -4.2% 30 9.4 7 14.4% 20
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK 2016
SCHED
RANK PYTH
WINS
RANK VAR. RANK
17 MIA 0.3% 10-6 2.8% 8.9 13 -3.6% 26 7.5 24 20.3% 31
18 NO -0.4% 7-9 3.1% 8.8 14 0.3% 15 8.3 17 4.9% 3
19 BUF -0.7% 7-9 2.2% 7.2 21 -3.8% 28 8.5 15 15.5% 26
20 SD -1.0% 5-11 -1.7% 6.7 24 0.1% 17 7.7 21 4.5% 2
21 MIN -1.1% 8-8 0.7% 8.6 16 -0.4% 20 8.6 14 14.2% 19
22 TB -1.6% 9-7 -5.2% 7.5 20 1.8% 7 7.6 23 15.6% 27
23 CAR -4.8% 6-10 -8.2% 6.8 23 1.9% 6 7.1 25 8.4% 9
24 IND -5.1% 8-8 -3.0% 7.0 22 -3.9% 29 8.5 16 15.4% 25
25 CHI -7.9% 3-13 -9.0% 6.2 25 -0.7% 21 4.7 28 14.5% 21
26 JAC -10.7% 3-13 -8.9% 5.5 26 -1.8% 25 5.8 27 6.8% 6
27 DET -17.6% 9-7 -16.5% 4.9 27 0.0% 18 7.7 22 9.3% 12
28 SF -19.7% 2-14 -21.8% 4.6 31 -1.2% 23 3.9 30 9.8% 13
29 HOU -21.4% 9-7 -18.7% 4.7 29 0.9% 11 6.5 26 6.7% 5
30 LARM -29.0% 4-12 -25.8% 4.7 30 -1.4% 24 3.3 32 15.0% 22
31 CLE -30.9% 1-15 -37.7% 1.4 32 6.3% 1 3.3 31 7.1% 7
32 NYJ -32.4% 5-11 -33.4% 4.7 28 0.9% 12 4.4 29 17.7% 30

Comments

110 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2017, 9:06pm

2 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Houston is the division winner, while having the lowest DVOA (and weighted DVOA) in the division. Has that happened before?

35 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

NE's VOA as of week 3 was 8.5%, which likely came down after opponent adjustments since the only game VOA really liked was against Houston and the other two ended up being close to average.

39 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

This reminds me about how arbitrary and dumb NFL tiebreakers are. Strength of victory and even record amongst common opponents makes some sense. But division and conference records don't make sense as far as tiebreakers go (for instance, should an NFC team get more credit for beating the Rams or Bears, than for beating the Patriots or Steelers?)

I know this will never happen, but I would love for some sort of advanced stats determining NFL tiebreakers, if only to make the playoff games more compelling. I guess it doesn't matter with Mariota out now, but prior to that the Titans would have made for a much more entertaining playoff game than an Osweiler-quarterbacked Texans team. And I would given the Buccaneers a much better chance for a road upset over the Seahawks than I do the Lions.

42 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

They make sense when you realize that the purpose isn't to choose the best team but to keep games interesting late in the season. By making divisional games worth more and putting them late in the season, the NFL increases the chances that a team trying to come from behind will own the tiebreaker, and therefore the chances of games mattering.

Obviously, that didn't work for Tennessee this year.

96 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

The league also wants to make sure that the tiebreakers are reasonably understandable (remember the rather tortured discussion here last week of exactly how the Bucs were still alive?) and to avoid perverse incentives, like both teams advancing with a tie or a team merely needing to lose by less than a certain number of points to get in.

3 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

John Fox spent his entire career improving defenses but so far has been stymied in Chicago. Though the talent seems to be coming together. Maybe 2017 there will be a breakthrough

8 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

It's kind of shocking since the Bear defense was good to excellent all the way through 2012, but looking back at their draft classes, they nearly completely failed to draft and develop any good defensive starters from 2006 to 2014. And the best few players on those lists by AV were mostly gone by 2012 anyway. Fox and Fangio inherited next to nothing.

69 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

I think most observers of the Bears could see this coming already in about 2007. The heart and soul of that defense (Urlacher, Briggs, Mike Brown, Tillman) was already aging, and Jerry Angelo and Lovie had started to believe their own press clippings and think every undersized, small-school player they found would turn gold. The 2007 draft was particularly maddening, as they spent 2nd- and 3rd-round picks on defensive players who never started a down in the NFL (including Central Michigan's Dan Bazuin, otherwise known as 2007's Shea McClellin). Then they traded all 1st- and 2nd-round picks in 2009-10 (mostly for Cutler, but also a 2nd-rounder for the unfortunate Gaines Adams). When Angelo was finally fired, Phil Emery managed to find exactly zero defensive starters in three years, including the aforementioned McClellin at #21 (the next five defensive picks were Chandler Jones, Dont'a Hightower, Whitney Mercilus, Nick Perry, and Harrison Smith) and a 3rd rounder on an injured safety who never played a down.

This year, if they'd have been healthy, the Bears D might have been in the top half of the league, despite still having zero talent in the secondary. Most fans are pretty happy with Fangio.

93 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Probably the worst NFL prediction I ever made was telling my Bears fan friends before 2012 that I thought that would be the year their defense fell apart. Though I was just off by one season, they only went on to have their best season under Lovie Smith and one of the single best seasons of the DVOA era.

94 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Cutler was awful that year. Yeah, his blocking was terrible, but if he had just made an effort to play complimentary football to that defense, the Bears almost surely win another game, and Lovie keeps his job.

7 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

The Jets being the worst team in the league while still having one half of their defense ranking as one of the best ever is mind boggling. Surely no team so bad has managed to ever rank on any sort of DVOA best ever list before now.

18 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

For what it's worth, the Jets were 30th in variance while Cleveland (7th in variance) was consistently cover your eyes awful. The Jets DVOA is the result of several epic bed pooping games, bringing the overall DVOA down. I'd imagine if you compared the Jets' median DVOA game with other bad teams, the Jets would look a good bit better. I'd still take the Jets 7 games out of 10 head to head with Cleveland. But either way, they still stunk. It probably reflects worse on the 2016 Jets if they were not "really" the worst team in the league but they still managed to play so poorly in four games they lost by 28, 31, 31, and 38 points.

41 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Are teams that low in variance usually poorly coached? I'm wondering if the problem is mostly Bowles, although having the entire secondary be terrible possibly explains the variance (they'll be competitive playing inaccurate or weak quarterbacks).

9 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

"The DVOA difference between the Rams and any of those defenses was bigger than the difference between the No. 1 offense in Atlanta and the No. 10 offense in Buffalo."

Should that read "offenses" instead of "defenses"?

Also does the chart below show the worst offensive DVOA in history and not Defensive?

11 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Seven of the top ten (and four of the top six) defensive DVOA teams missed the playoffs. In a year lacking balanced teams this goes to show that if you are going to be good at only one thing, make sure it's offense. I love watching great defenses, though, so I'll be rooting for a NYG/SEA NFC championship.

16 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

I agree but that just means great defensive play is less predictive. These ratings sum up the past season and many of the teams that performed the best defensively did not translate that performance into enough wins to make the playoffs. So it would seem that defense is not only less predictive for future results but also less impactful in terms of determining wins when a great defensive performance is indeed recorded.

15 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Aaron - I know you don't adjust DVOA for resting starters. But how about publishing an unofficial version with those games omitted? The DAL / PHI ratings in particular are hard to take seriously after what transpired in week 17.

21 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

16th in DVOA defense, 1st in points allowed defense.
That seems remarkable, have there been other cases where the points ranking vs. the dvoa ranking was that extreme on offense or defense?

22 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

The Patriots defense is significantly better in points rankings than DVOA most years - some of it is just good special teams and field position. Some of it is playing across from a consistently great offense and being able to force teams into one-dimensional strategies. Some of it is a focus on Red Zone defense, etc.

38 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

This year seemed like quite an outlier even for the Pats, just not playing against prime Peyton is a change from most of the Brady era.
Usually first place schedule teams have good QBs, this year even the Pittsburgh game was without Roethlisberger.
Flacco and Palmer had off years (or perhaps with Palmer, regression to the mean years)
Dalton was missing key players. Week after week it seemed like teams that I expected to be good on offense were not for some reason and teams I expected to bad stayed bad.

It really seemed like more than just the usual good special teams and low turnover field position advantages.

I'm curious if that weakness can be quantified and how unusual this specific example is.

43 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

It's a throwback to 2011, when the Patriots faced Mark Sanchez. Tyler Palko, Vince Young (Eagles edition), Dan Orlovsky (Colts edition), Rex Grossman, Tim Tebow, Matt Moore, and Ryan Fitzpatrick over the last two months. The difference is those opponents were still scoring 20 points per game.

45 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

you can only beat who is on your schedule :)
'72 Dolphins 4ever!

I'm most curious about how previous teams with great scoring defenses and mediocre DVOA fared when they hit the playoffs and ran into good offenses, although I suspect playing the winner of Oakland/Houston will make that question moot for the Patriot's next game.

23 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Helps playing offenses ranked 23, 24 28, 29, 30, 31 (twice) and 32. The best offense they played this year was Pittsburgh, ranked 8, and the Steelers big starting QB did not play that day. Half the schedule against the bottom quarter of league offenses and no games with any team in the top quarter of NFL offenses probably has a lot to do with an average defense leading the league in points allowed.

57 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

The flip side is that it's very hard to get a good DVOA score when you're playing so many mediocre offenses, even if the defense is playing well. The Pats gave up a total of 6 points to the Broncos and Jets and their defense's DVOA hardly moved at all.

27 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

See also: '72 Dolphins, who played two winning teams (both 8-6) during the regular season, and largely owe their legacy to that soft schedule.

Sometimes when the raw stats look really out of whack, you don't have to look any further than the schedule.

30 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Nice idea. But wrong, or at least badly incomplete.

The Patriots are 8th in defensive VOA. Their number one points defense is about much more than playing a weak schedule, although schedule is part of it.

Looking at their drive stats, the only thing that isn't pretty well aligned with their VOA is field position.

36 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

TEAM TOTAL
DVOA LAST
WEEK LAST
YEAR W-L WEI.
DVOA RANK OFFENSE
DVOA OFF.
RANK DEFENSE
DVOA DEF.
RANK S.T.
DVOA S.T.
RANK
1 NE 25.3% 2 6 14-2 34.0% 1 21.1% 2 -1.5% 16 2.7% 7

16th according to the table on the top of the article

48 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

The Pats are 8th in defensive VOA (called "unadjusted" in the defensive stats page). It's not shown in the above tables. You have to look in the stats links.

My point is that the difference between their 16th ranking by defensive DVOA and their 1st ranking by points allowed is not entirely or even mostly due to their weak schedule of opposing offenses. There still needs to be an explanation of the discrepancy between their VOA and their points allowed rankings.

My personal opinion is that it is due to field position. Their red zone drive stats (see defensive drive stats page) is in line with their VOA. Their other non-points drive stats line up, too. It's only the LOS (field position) that seems to explain their success in keeping the scoring down.

There is no Belichick secret sauce for preventing points hidden in this defense. They're an average squad getting average results (after adjusting for their opponents), but blessed with excellent field position. Making your opponent travel an extra 3 or 4 yards a drive on average may not sound like much. But it's worth 0.2-0.25 points per drive, which explains the difference between their VOA and their points per drive rankings.

52 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Having watched/listened to most of the Pats games this year, I subjectively don't feel the offense has fired as well as it has in the past - so I think the defense has had to perform better.

In general the offense has started quick enough to force other teams to have to play catch up. Both Miami games are classic examples but I think there were one or two others. The Pats have probably worked on chewing up the clock on offense more this year than previously.

Playing crappy offenses has maybe helped the defense out a bit ... I'm thinking of the close game against Denver and the 16-0 loss to the Bills. Certainly the offense didn't help out in that latter game. Also the Texans game which was mostly won by the defense and special teams - the latter being the deficit of their opponent.

I've also seen the defense give up a few big plays that I don't think they usually do. The big plays of the past were fairly spectacular plays like the SB plays by David Tyree, Mario Manningham and Jermaine Kearse. Whereas this year I've seen some relatively bad defense like the Jucsyzk run by the Ravens FB(?) and Miami's last score on Sunday which was just over the top of the safety to a wide-open receiver in the endzone.

They're still a good defense - heck you don't lead the league in points not allowed if you're not good - but I wonder how they'd do against a Matt Ryan, Derek Carr (not this season), Peyton in his prime, or other efficient offense.

In the end, BB is very situational in his coaching strategy. You don't know how many more risks the offense or defense would take against a decent opponent because there's been very few of those on the schedule.

56 Re: Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

And when your opponent is nicked up on offense, having them have to start on long fields is really, really, helpful. Now, they are assured that their 1st playoff game, in Foxboro, will be against a mediocre to bad quarterback. Hell, if KC gets to Foxboro, Smith is certainly the non-bad qb on a good team that the Patriots are best suited to defend. Really favorable path for the Patriots, until February, at least. Lots of potential intriguing Super Bowl match-ups with the Patriots, however.