Final 2016 DVOA Ratings

Final 2016 DVOA Ratings
Final 2016 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

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.

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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Year Team Pass Defense
x Year Team Run Defense
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.

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Once again this season, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 17 Ultimate Team. Each week, we'll be picking out a handful of players who starred in that week's games. Some of them will be well-known players who stood out in DVOA and DYAR. Others will be under-the-radar players who only stood out with advanced stats. We'll announce the players each Tuesday in the DVOA commentary article, and the players will be available in Madden Ultimate Team packs the following weekend, beginning at 11am Eastern on Friday. We will also tweet out images of these players from the @fboutsiders Twitter account on most Fridays. The best player of each week, the Football Outsiders Hero, will require you to collect a set of the other four Football Outsiders players that week, plus a certain number of Football Outsiders collectibles available in Madden Ultimate Team packs.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 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.

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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>

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
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).

RANK 2016
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
RANK 2016
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


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

#1 by Dave Bernreuther // Jan 02, 2017 - 6:51pm

You mention the Brady-only DVOA, but I'd also be interested in learning what New England's season DVOA was with just the injured Brissett game excepted.

Points: 0

#92 by Jcatunited // Jan 03, 2017 - 6:07pm

Does the NBA have something similar to this? A website perhaps that charts similar stats?

Points: 0

#2 by Ben // Jan 02, 2017 - 6:58pm

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

Points: 0

#19 by Mr Shush // Jan 02, 2017 - 9:47pm

I think there is at any rate a good chance they have the biggest ever DVOA deficit of any division winner against another team in their division, at 25.3%.

Points: 0

#35 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 8:35am

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.

Points: 0

#39 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Jan 03, 2017 - 9:05am

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.

Points: 0

#42 by JIPanick // Jan 03, 2017 - 9:28am

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.

Points: 0

#55 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Jan 03, 2017 - 12:11pm

That does make sense when you explain it that way, but it doesn't mean I have to like it!

Points: 0

#58 by JIPanick // Jan 03, 2017 - 12:39pm

I agree completely. I'd rather see some combination of strength of schedule and point difference.

Points: 0

#96 by Jerry // Jan 03, 2017 - 7:32pm

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.

Points: 0

#3 by big10freak // Jan 02, 2017 - 7:14pm

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

Points: 0

#8 by dank067 // Jan 02, 2017 - 7:57pm

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.

Points: 0

#69 by TomC // Jan 03, 2017 - 3:58pm

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.

Points: 0

#93 by dank067 // Jan 03, 2017 - 6:32pm

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.

Points: 0

#94 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 6:45pm

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.

Points: 0

#4 by Joe1 // Jan 02, 2017 - 7:33pm

"Pittsburgh's loss to Cleveland"...Steelers won

Points: 0

#10 by techvet // Jan 02, 2017 - 8:11pm

The editor was apparently also being rested for the playoffs.

Points: 0

#5 by JIPanick // Jan 02, 2017 - 7:34pm

"Pittsburgh's loss to Cleveland"

Wait, I thought the Steelers won that game?

Points: 0

#6 by joealtus // Jan 02, 2017 - 7:39pm

Unsure what to think of your rankings if you don't know the Steelers won their game.

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#14 by Aaron Schatz // Jan 02, 2017 - 8:45pm

You'll notice the Steelers are listed at 11-5. I just had a brain freeze while typing. Fixed now!

Points: 0

#17 by CG43 // Jan 02, 2017 - 9:02pm

Nobody "won" that game so I feel like this was a perfectly reasonable error.

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#26 by Alternator // Jan 03, 2017 - 2:17am

Letting the Browns take you to overtime, as a division winner, is an honorary loss regardless of who you're resting.

Points: 0

#7 by Cythammer // Jan 02, 2017 - 7:57pm

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.

Points: 0

#18 by Led // Jan 02, 2017 - 9:10pm

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.

Points: 0

#41 by mehllageman56 // Jan 03, 2017 - 9:15am

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).

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#9 by caminante0 // Jan 02, 2017 - 7:59pm

"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?

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#11 by CG43 // Jan 02, 2017 - 8:19pm

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.

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#12 by theslothook // Jan 02, 2017 - 8:32pm

Offense is more consistent game to game and season to season - that may be the only reason why its better to be a good offense vs a good defense.

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#16 by CG43 // Jan 02, 2017 - 8:49pm

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.

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#15 by Red // Jan 02, 2017 - 8:45pm

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.

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#20 by MC2 // Jan 03, 2017 - 12:02am

The first table should say, "worst offensive DVOA."

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#21 by PirateFreedom // Jan 03, 2017 - 12:02am

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?

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#22 by Hoodie_Sleeves // Jan 03, 2017 - 12:19am

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.

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#38 by PirateFreedom // Jan 03, 2017 - 9:05am

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.

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#43 by Travis // Jan 03, 2017 - 9:32am

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.

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#45 by PirateFreedom // Jan 03, 2017 - 10:02am

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.

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#23 by mbmxyz // Jan 03, 2017 - 12:35am

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.

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#57 by RickD // Jan 03, 2017 - 12:37pm

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.

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#27 by Alternator // Jan 03, 2017 - 2:22am

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.

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#30 by nat // Jan 03, 2017 - 6:26am

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.

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#36 by PirateFreedom // Jan 03, 2017 - 8:51am

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

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#48 by nat // Jan 03, 2017 - 10:22am

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.

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#52 by Bright Blue Shorts // Jan 03, 2017 - 10:59am

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.

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#53 by Aaron Schatz // Jan 03, 2017 - 11:49am

Yes. A lot of what people think is Patriots defense is actually field position: strong kickoffs, strong punts, and a lack of Brady turnovers means the defense almost never faced a short field this year.

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#56 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 12:22pm

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.

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#99 by Bobikus // Jan 04, 2017 - 12:22am

I think the only thing that could reasonably stop the Pats in the AFC this year is if Pittsburgh comes in and really gives their A-game.

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#28 by ammek // Jan 03, 2017 - 4:54am

Four NFC East teams in the top ten for the first time, I presume, since 1991 (when they had the Tom Tupa-quarterbacked Phoenix Cardinals to beat up on twice a year). Has any other four-team division ever managed this?

Average DVOA by division:

NFC East +14.0%
AFC West +6.3%
NFC South +3.2%
AFC North -1.6%
AFC East -1.9%
NFC North -3.6%
AFC South -8.3%
NFC West -9.6%

I don't think many observers expected this year's NFC West to return to its traditional place as the worst division in football. Last year it averaged +9.0% DVOA, despite the 49ers ranking dead last. Seattle and Arizona ranked #1 and #2 in FO's 2016 projections.

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#29 by ammek // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:46am

So how did FO's preseason playoff projections do? Eight teams were given a greater than 50/50 chance of making the postseason, and six of them did. Indeed, all six won their divisions. One of these teams, the Dallas Cowboys, finished 4-12 last season, and you can scour the internet in vain looking for a human pundit who forecast that rebound. Kudos, too, to DVOA for excluding both of last year's Superbowl participants from its top quartile for 2016.

The two highest projected teams who failed to make the playoffs were Baltimore and Arizona. The Ravens were a fairly leftfield projection. DVOA gave them a 9% chance of reaching the Superbowl, which I thought hard to understand. However, the three teams given a better chance of winning the AFC – Patriots, Steelers and Chiefs – are the top three seeds entering the postseason, and frankly I don't see anyone else advancing. Perhaps Baltimore was a case of "somebody has to be the fourth best team in the AFC, so it might as well be a competent team that plays Cleveland twice and the hitherto not very good East divisions."

As for the Cardinals, I was down on them in the offseason, and I was surprised that DVOA didn't foresee a regression for Carson Palmer, given his age and decline at the end of 2015. Arizona ranked #2 seemed very optimistic to me, especially as #1 Seattle played in the same division.

DVOA was also pretty successful at identifying bad teams. Eight of the 10 teams with the lowest DVOA projections missed the playoffs, and one of the exceptions – #24 Houston – is a fluke. DVOA did not buy into the hype about Jacksonville; it correctly forecast a steep decline for the Jets; and its two worst teams by some way, the Browns and 49ers, will be picking first and second in the 2017 draft.

Who did it miss on? Well, above all, Miami, which was given a lowly 13% chance of making the playoffs, some eight percentage points lower than any team other than San Francisco and Cleveland. I think the Dolphins' turnaround is a prime instance of going from a really bad coaching setup to a good one. DVOA often fails to identify those.

Equally it did not foresee the rise of the NFC East. Washington and Philadelphia were projected at #27 and #25 in DVOA respectively. Although DVOA more or less predicted the order in which the division would shake out, it underestimated all four teams by a large margin, particularly on defense where all were projected to be below average.

Finally, there are the Falcons. DVOA gave them just a 28% chance of making the playoffs, with a slightly below average DVOA and a very tough schedule. Two-thirds of the DVOA projection was astonishingly accurate, with Atlanta expected to rank 28th in defense (it finished 27th) and 7th in special teams (it finished 8th). Could the explosion of the offense have been predicted, with a healthy Julio Jones, a deep cast of running backs, and a coordinator with a good track record? I didn't think so. I had Atlanta finishing bottom of the NFC South.

This prediction business is hard.

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#31 by ammek // Jan 03, 2017 - 6:57am

It's always interesting to revisit the preseason projections. DVOA is uncannily accurate in some cases – its prediction for Green Bay's offense was out by one-tenth of a percentage point! – and overall it is still the best model I know. But the fun is to be had in looking at what it didn't foresee. I prefer to use rankings rather than actual DVOA, because mean projections squash all the DVOA numbers into the middle, so here are the biggest differences in offensive and defensive rankings between preseason projection and (in parenthesis) final 2016 DVOA:


Worse than expected:

ARI 3 (21): -18
CAR 9 (25): -16
MIN 12 (26): -14
SEA 4 (17): -13
SD 8 (19): -11
NYJ 20 (31): -11

Better than expected:

WAS 21 (5): +16
TEN 24 (9): +15
MIA 28 (14): +14
ATL 13 (1): +12
OAK 18 (7): +11
SF 31 (23): +8


Worse than expected:

DET 15 (32): -17
LA 4 (15): -11
NE 6 (16): -10
CIN 9 (18): -9
OAK 14 (23): -9
NYJ 13 (21): -8
IND 21 (29): -8

Better than expected:

PHI 27 (4): +23
SD 30 (8): +22
NYG 20 (2): +18
MIN 18 (9): +9

To balance this out a bit, I should note that a substantial majority of projections (41 out of 64) were within seven spots. DVOA predicted the exact rankings of the offenses of Detroit, Chicago and Houston, and the defenses of Denver, Arizona and Washington. It was out by just one or two rankings for the offenses of Baltimore, Green Bay, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Buffalo and Denver; and the defenses of Baltimore, Green Bay, Jacksonville, New Orleans, Atlanta, Carolina, Tampa Bay, Cleveland and Dallas.

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#37 by JoeyHarringtonsPiano // Jan 03, 2017 - 8:56am

I remember the Detroit chapter in the Almanac could essentially boiled down to, "average team, but a soft schedule will keep them in playoff contention throughout the year". The only think they missed on, as you pointed out, was the defense being terrible instead of average. However, the slow pace they played at, and average special teams kept their points allowed to remain around average, at least.

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#46 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 10:16am

Yeah, the almanac was right about the Vikings missing the playoffs, but for completely the wrong reason.

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#32 by DezBailey // Jan 03, 2017 - 7:33am

Week 17 BES Rankings are out -

All playoff teams are accounted for in the BES top-15. Patriots top the list. Steelers, Packers, Chiefs and Cowboys round out the top-5. Only non-playoff team in the BES top-10 are the Titans at No. 10, just one spot better than their 11th place finish in Weighted DVOA.

The BES surprisingly went 12-4 in Week 17 predicting winners based on its rankings. Might have gone 13-3 if the Cowboys had something to play for.

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#110 by DezBailey // Jan 05, 2017 - 9:06pm

Final Divisional BES rankings have been released -

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#33 by bubqr // Jan 03, 2017 - 7:40am

I'm having "heated internet debates" about it on Eagles blogs, but I'm not sold on Wentz. Every fan seems to think we locked up the QB of the future, but I'm far less confident than they are. I'm not saying he looks bad, but right now I don't see how we can be confident that he's going to be better than say Andy Dalton or Ryan Tannehill based on what we've seen.

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#44 by big10freak // Jan 03, 2017 - 9:48am

Dalton is a pretty solid qb. Any team with Dalton at qb and the right mix could win a SB. The 2015 Bengals being the prime example.

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#49 by BJR // Jan 03, 2017 - 10:24am

Yes, it's time to acknowledge that Dalton has developed into a pretty good QB. Even this year in an offence beset by injury he put up solidly above-average numbers (11th in DYAR). He's certainly not a guy you are looking to upgrade on anymore.

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#59 by bubqr // Jan 03, 2017 - 1:02pm

I kinda disagree - I think unless you think he can get hot like Flacco during an entire postseason, he's good enough to get you in the playoffs but not good enough to win one: worst scenario possible. I think the Bengals missed their window of opportunity the last 2 seasons, they had a very good roster overall (I would have liked to see say Rivers or Brees traded there - would have made them a clear contender).

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#60 by big10freak // Jan 03, 2017 - 1:18pm

If the standard is that a team needs one of the 20 best qbs ever to contend for a Super Bowl then the list of contenders each season will be very limited.

That and history has shown this is not the case. Many teams have got to the Super Bowl with qbs who are solid but not extraordinary.

Dalton has been in the upper half of the league since 2013 and over the last two seasons in the top ten. That is a Super Bowl quality qb.

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#61 by Richie // Jan 03, 2017 - 2:14pm

I count 7 "solid but not extraordinary" Super Bowl-winning QB's since 2000:
Dilfer, Brady, Johnson, Eli Manning, Eli Manning, Flacco, Peyton Manning So 44%. Not bad.

The interesting thing, is before 2000, it was almost always a great QB, or a mediocre QB having a great season (Rypien) winning Super Bowls.

(Though Flacco is tough to categorize. I think most people would agree that overall he is a mediocre QB. Even his 2012 season was fairly mediocre. But his 2012 post-season was Montana-level.)

We have gone to a passing era, but somehow less than great QB's have snuck through with Super Bowl wins.

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#62 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 2:25pm

Eli in January and February 2012 was performing at an elite HOF level. He was simply phenomenal. Dilfer was an objectively bad qb.

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#63 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 2:55pm

While his OL did him no favors, Eli was horrendous against SF. His only saving grace was that the worst throws were so terrible that multiple defenders knocked easy interceptions out of each others' hands. That he never let the pounding by Justin Smith affect him was truly remarkable, but nothing else he did that day was.

Eli was OK against Atlanta, only graduating into "good" after the Falcons had basically given up. He was good against NE, but well below what NE's defense had allowed most other passers to produce and he benefited from some ridiculous luck on a few throws. One, in particular, was an awful decision that only avoided being a pick-6 because the throw was equally terrible - about 4 yards behind the receiver on a quick out. But in true Eli fashion, the two mistakes in concert combined to generate an 18 yard gain.

All told, only the GB performance was arguably HOF caliber.

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#65 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 3:15pm

Against the Niners, he went 32 for 58, 316 yards, on the road, against a great defense that was selling out to stop the pass, because the Giants o-line was terrible, Giants getting 85 yards rushing on 26 attempts, while Eli was getting the living feces stomped out of him for 4 quarters. It was a phenomenal performance.

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#66 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 3:27pm

Not really. At least two picks were dropped because multiple defenders collided before either could get a handle on it. That is two extra possessions along with two others "earned" by special teams gaffes.

Manning's resilience was admirable - remarkable, even. But that's about it.

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#67 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 3:48pm

We aren't going to agree, and this is where I part with a lot of people when they evaluate qb performance. Saying his resiliance was remarkable, but that's about it, is really missing the point, I think. Having a statistically great game while mostly throwing comfortably from the pocket, to receivers who are at worst an even match with the opposing defensive players, is what constitutes what most people consider great playoff performances by a qb. That's not how I see it. The great performances are when the defense has the offensive talent very overmatched, the quarterback is getting extreme physical abuse throughout the game, and he still manages to have enough successful plays to keep his team in the game. Brady, in my view, had one his finest performances in the 2nd half against the Broncos in the Conference Championship last January, and, yes, most Pats fans tell me I'm wrong.

The game at it's core is a contest of extreme violence, and the best qb performances, in my view, are on those occasions when the qb experiences the full force of that quality.

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#68 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 3:52pm

"Having a statistically great game while mostly throwing comfortably from the pocket, to receivers who are at worst an even match with the opposing defensive players, is what constitutes what most people consider great playoff performances by a qb."

Fair enough, but this argues against a different point than what I am proffering.

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#70 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 4:06pm

Yeah, what you proffered was saying physical resiliency was the only thing remarkable about Manning's performance. I disagree with that view of evaluating qb play. Until the qb endures that level of violence, I'm reluctant to state it was among the great qb performances, because performing while subjected that kind abuse is where truly great qb play begins, in my view.

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#72 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 4:19pm

I've seen QBs take that kind of abuse and not chuck up throws so dreaful that the only reason they weren't intercepted was because too many defenders were in the area. I've seen QBs take that kind of punishment and not need two special teams gaffes and an untold number of failed 3rd down conversions by the opponent for all of their second half scoring, 10 points in all.

Even normalizing for pressure, Manning was not particularly good in that game, certainly far from HOF caliber. That the stat sheet doesn't display the terrible dropped picks, instead adding yardage accumulated during unearned possessions doesn't really aid any argument otherwise.

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#73 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 4:36pm

Give me an example 5 games where the qb was subjected to that kind of punishment, from a defense that had the offensive talent outmatched across the board, the passing offense getting no support from the rushing offense, and the passing offense generated 300 plus yards (or about 285 in regulation), none of it against a prevent defense, the game close to the very end.

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#74 by theslothook // Jan 03, 2017 - 4:50pm

That doesn't change the fact that he made poor decisions and inaccurate throws. It discounts them to some degree, I grant you, but i dont think it completely nullifies them.

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#75 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 4:58pm

Making a throw instead of taking the sack is not always a poor decision, even if it results in an interceptable ball. Look, you have to try to win the game, against superior personnel, while getting the snot stomped out of you, on the road. That means taking large risks.

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#77 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:05pm

Agreed, yet uncatchable throws that would be easy picks if it weren't for the fact that too many receivers had a play on the ball aren't those kinds of throws.

You really have no legitimate argument here, Will, particularly since I've already conceded the primary focus of your rebuttal.

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#78 by theslothook // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:07pm

I am just wondering. Eli had like three interceptable passes. I get that context is there - but what do we take from it? They never happened. They are completely excused? Surely, they should be part of the judgement in some way.

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#80 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:09pm

Are you asking me or Will?

And please mentally change the second "receivers" to "defenders." :)

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#82 by theslothook // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:14pm

Will mostly. I suspect you and I see eye to eye on this.

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#81 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:12pm

Since such a very poor historical job of charting interceptable passes has been documented through the years, it is very hard to put it in context, when we are trying to rank single game performances. I don't know what to do with it.

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#84 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:16pm

Since you haven't given me any examples of what you claim to be a unremarkable performance, I don't know how you have concluded that my argument has no legitimacy.

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#85 by theslothook // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:20pm

Tom Brady in the 2007 sb was getting beat up a bunch. I don't think he played well but I thought he was better than Eli. Then again, he was on a neutral field with way better receivers so I guess you can argue it.

I also thought Manning's performance against the patriots in 06 was pretty impressive performance given how poor the o line played that day.

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#88 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:32pm

I largely agree that Brady was better than Eli in the 1st Super Bowl, especially after Neal got hurt, and the pocket was regularly collapsed. That Giants o-line was pretty good. The reason I tend to argue the Peyton side over the Brady side is because of what Peyton did with bad offensive lines. I think his 2010 year was his best performance. Charlie Effing Johnson at left tackle, fer' the 'luv of subdural hematomas!

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#87 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:29pm

I'll respond via this quote:

Give me an example 5 games where the qb was subjected to that kind of punishment, from a defense that had the offensive talent outmatched across the board, the passing offense getting no support from the rushing offense, and the passing offense generated 300 plus yards (or about 285 in regulation), none of it against a prevent defense, the game close to the very end.

First off, "offensive talent outmatched across the board" is a seismic misrepresentation of the receiving corps on that 2011 team, which was very good.

More importantly, though, how many times have we seen a QB get clobbered on his way to a 210 yard, 1 TD, 2 INT performance in a 24-7 loss? How many of those would you call HOF caliber?

I ask because that is the actual level that Manning played at. The only difference is - again - the fact that Eli's terrible throws ended up on the turf because multiple defenders collided while going for easy interceptions. Twice! That Manning was able to rack up additional stats after being granted four unearned possessions only speaks marginally to his benefit.

Given your proclivity to try to see nuance through the vagaries of an NFL game, it is truly befuddling that you would be so steadfast in taking this particular performance at face value.

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#89 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:43pm

Given we don't have good data for dropped interceptions, it is an illegitimate argument to use the drops in one game, to downgrade that qb performance, relative to qb performance in other games. You don't know the "actual levels" of the games you are comparing Eli's to, so it is simply inaccurate to state that you are using information in an illuminative way. It is befuddling that you would be so steadfast in doing so.

The 2012 Giants receivers were good. The Niners dbs were better, especially in a situation where the opposing qb had no time to throw.

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#90 by Anon Ymous // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:49pm

"Given we don't have good data for dropped interceptions, it is an illegitimate argument to use the drops in one game, to downgrade that qb performance"

If these were normal drops, sure. But you don't get to play that card when - again - multiple defenders twice collided while going for easy interceptions. I'm not sure why you are refusing to see this rather obvious point.

Please enjoy the last word.

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#91 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 6:00pm

Because we don't have any decent data for easy missed ints, it is a mistake to take one game for which we have data for easy missed ints, and use it to claim the qb performance in that game was comparably inferior, to games in which we do not have the data. It wouldn't make any more sense to have very, very, spotty completion % and yardage data, and to single out one game where the data was available, and claim that the one game's data told us something useful, compared to other games.

Now, to be sure, our data for measuring qb punishment is even less well quantified. Not all contact and knock downs are the same, which means my argument is hopelessly subjective as well. Understanding football is really, really, hard.

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#95 by coremill // Jan 03, 2017 - 6:50pm

I'm with Will on this one: as a 49ers fan, I think that's the most impressive game of Eli's career. I remember watching that game and Eli was getting creamed on nearly every throw in the second half, the Giants' O-line was overwhelmed. The 6 sacks don't even begin to tell the story. Forget throwing for 316 yards, I have no idea how he didn't end up in the hospital. Yet he kept fighting stayed upright and kept his team in it long enough to be in position if they got a lucky break (which they did -- they got several).

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#97 by Raiderjoe // Jan 03, 2017 - 7:55pm

if my aunt had balls she would probably have a wiener too

the e. manning pases were not intercepted.

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#86 by Will Allen // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:25pm

I'll provide one exampe myself, which I hinted at already. Brady's peformance against the Broncos in Denver last January was simply phenomenal, one of his best really, no matter how much even advanced stats say otherwise. For him to go 27-56, 292 yards, while taking the bludgeoning he did, was simply phenomenal. Granted, hed had perhaps the greatest pass catching tight end ever, but the defense he was facing was great, great, great, and the Patriots only rushed for 44 yards. Pats fans have told me that I'm nuts to say this was among his greatest games, but again, I think that argument misses the essence of the game.

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#64 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 03, 2017 - 3:09pm

The metric is "get there", right?

The list since 2000 includes Peyton's corpse, Kaepernick, Sexy Rex Grossman, Hasselbeck, Snake Man, Collins, Dilfer, and Baby Brady. This doesn't include Gannon, 2002 Tampa's two-headed Johnson, Eli, or Flacco -- who were various combinations of elite hot-streak and/or career year.

Wading into the 1990s yields Chandler, O'Donnell, Humphries, Rypien, and Hostetler.

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#76 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 03, 2017 - 5:03pm

Jake Delhomme.

de l'homme = man.

He's related to Jack of the River.

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#34 by Mike B. In Va // Jan 03, 2017 - 8:30am

I am amazed that the EJ Manuel Experience didn't knock Buffalo out of #10 in the rankings. That was a Rams-level passing performance.

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#47 by Aaron Brooks G… // Jan 03, 2017 - 10:19am

"And the 2016 Patriots would have 35.4% DVOA if we started their season with Tom Brady's return in Week 5."

This is true only if Brady also returned to their defense. They were a +12 DVOA defense after week 4, and finished -8.

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#50 by Jake80 // Jan 03, 2017 - 10:25am

Is the Giants' jump from 30 to 2 in the defensive rankings the highest jump ever?

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#51 by big10freak // Jan 03, 2017 - 10:34am

On a somewhat related note is this the first time where a team's free agent buying spree actually generated results that not only met but exceeded expectations? Historically free agency is mostly fools gold. Not with the Giants this time around.

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#54 by Aaron Schatz // Jan 03, 2017 - 11:52am

The Broncos defense was built heavily through free agency, with the obvious exception of Von Miller. But it was built over multiple offseasons.

Thanks for noticing the Giants' climb. I often miss some things trying to get this full article together by 6pm or so. Yes, this is the biggest season-to-season improvement in defensive DVOA ever. It surpasses:

1998 Dolphins (28 to 1)
1998 Raiders (29 to 3)
2011 Jaguars (32 to 5)

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#98 by Bobikus // Jan 03, 2017 - 11:22pm

With a few teams going into the postseason on hot streaks, I'm curious how the playoff teams each look over the past 6-7 games they've played, excluding games where starters were rested.

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#100 by mitch // Jan 04, 2017 - 7:08am

Or better yet, what does history tells us about the hottest teams coming into the playoffs ?

One Might be in for a surprise.

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#107 by dbostedo // Jan 04, 2017 - 8:13pm

Depends on whether or not you'd be surprised that there's little correlation between being "hot", "on a roll", or having "momentum", and success in the playoffs.

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#103 by jkotula // Jan 04, 2017 - 12:48pm


You probably have already answered this, but most of the poor offensive teams have the top rated defenses. Den, NYG, PHI, Bal, Hou, Min, Jac.

It seems to me that the defensive stats may be skewed. Opponents play conservative and don't take risks because they know 20 points will win the game.

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#104 by ChrisS // Jan 04, 2017 - 1:55pm

Or teams with good defenses play conservatively/sub-optimally on offense since they only need to score 21 points.

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#109 by jkotula // Jan 05, 2017 - 9:25am


I see your point, but I am referring to inept offenses.

Conservative play should not make them bad offenses. Inability to run the ball - Ravens. No passing game Phil, Den, Hou.

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#105 by Steve in WI // Jan 04, 2017 - 2:33pm

So the Bears finish 16th in offensive DVOA and 22nd in defensive DVOA. I had Bears fatigue and watched fewer games this season than in any of the previous 7 or 8, but I'm kind of surprised by that. I know injuries were an epidemic on both sides of the ball, but my perception (perhaps colored by commentary I've read and heard) is that Fangio is making lemonade out of lemons with the personnel he has both due to bad drafting and injuries, while the offense was downright pathetic.

I wonder what DVOA liked about the Bears' offensive performance in comparison with their defensive performance.

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#108 by nat // Jan 05, 2017 - 9:22am

Don't focus just on the rankings. The difference between 16th and 22nd in offensive or defensive DVOA is about 5%. That's small enough that your eye is likely to miss it as you focus on narrative events such as big plays, turnovers, comebacks, and the like.

But since there is a difference, drive stats (see statistics links) are a good place to look for an explanation. The biggest difference is in yards/drive. There the Bears' offense ranks a respectable 11th, while the defense is a lowly 25th. The "drive Success Rate" (aka moving the chains) ranks the offense as average while the defense is 25th again. The defense's strength (if you can call it that) is that it is average at limiting points once an opponent gets to the red zone, while the offense is weak (27th) in that area.

To answer your question more directly, DVOA likes yards and first downs, and thinks plays outside the red zone are as indicative of future success as plays in the red zone. So it's no surprise that DVOA prefers the Bears' offense, if only by a little.

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