DVOA Analysis

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

Final 2017 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

We don't have to face questions about DVOA and teams sitting starters in every single season, but we face them often. As I often have to explain: no, we don't adjust either full-season DVOA or weighted DVOA for teams sitting starters in Week 17. It's hard to determine what counts as "sitting starters" when teams will sometimes pull players out halfway through a game, or sit their quarterback but not other players.

But there was nothing questionable about the way the Rams completely punted on their Week 17 game with San Francisco. The Rams sat all their star players on both sides of the ball. The result was a 34-13 shallacking by the Jimmy Garoppolo Experience, enough to knock the Rams out of the No. 1 spot in DVOA despite a lead of more than five percentage points entering Week 17.

Instead, your final No. 1 overall team for 2017 is the New Orleans Saints. This is the first time in DVOA history that the Saints finish No. 1 overall for an entire season. They were previously No. 2 in both 1987 and 2011. (In 2009, the year they won the Super Bowl, they got to be the team sitting starters, which dipped their DVOA rank to No. 6 by the end of the year.) The Saints' turnaround was almost as large as the Rams' turnaround, as the Saints go from No. 21 a year ago to No. 1 this year. The Saints ranked second in offense (behind New England), eighth in defense, and 15th in special teams.

However, sitting starters in Week 17 prevents the Rams from registering as the greatest one-year turnaround in DVOA history. We listed the greatest turnarounds in the commentary two weeks ago, but the Rams have now fallen slightly below the 2012-2013 Kansas City Chiefs. The Week 17 fall also prevents the Rams from achieving the very rare goal of ending the season ranked in the top five for all three phases of the game. However, they still managed to meet the only slightly less rare goal of finishing ranked in the top six for all three phases of the game, something that had previously been achieved by only eight teams since 1986 and only two Seattle teams since the year 2000:

Teams Ranking in DVOA Top 6 for All 3 Phases of the Game, 1986-2017
Year Team TOT DVOA Rk W-L OFF DVOA Rk DEF DVOA Rk ST DVOA Rk
1987 NO 26.9% 2 10-2 7.8% 6 -10.5% 6 8.6% 1
1991 WAS 56.9% 1 14-2 27.2% 1 -21.1% 3 8.6% 1
1992 PHI 31.7% 2 11-5 10.5% 5 -18.1% 2 3.1% 4
1996 GB 42.0% 1 13-3 15.2% 3 -19.3% 1 7.4% 2
1997 GB 29.7% 1 13-3 15.5% 4 -10.6% 3 3.5% 6
1997 KC 29.0% 3 13-3 13.3% 5 -8.4% 6 7.3% 2
2012 SEA 38.7% 1 11-5 18.5% 4 -14.5% 2 5.7% 3
2015 SEA 38.1% 1 10-6 18.7% 1 -15.2% 4 4.2% 3
2017 LARM 27.7% 2 11-5 11.1% 6 -9.7% 6 6.8% 2

The Rams sitting starters also did wonders for the rating of the San Francisco 49ers. Yes, the Niners ended the season on a hot streak, but that wasn't five straight 34-13 victories over the best teams in football like they had this week. Thanks to the opponent adjustments based on what the Rams did the rest of the year, San Francisco gets the best single-game DVOA of the season at 120.5%. San Francisco finishes 12th in weighted DVOA almost entirely based on this win. Remove Week 17, and the Rams would go from third to first in weighted DVOA, while the 49ers would fall from 12th all the way to 21st.

Note that while we don't incorporate any adjustments for sitting starters into the raw DVOA ratings for the season, we did take this into consideration when putting together the playoff odds simulation, removing Week 17 from the weighted DVOA for the Rams and Steelers.

The most impressive part of the Rams turnaround is that they went from dead last, one of the worst offenses ever measured by DVOA, to sixth in offense this year. The Rams also had excellent special teams, but they had that in the past as well: the Rams were third in special teams DVOA in 2016, then ranked second this past year. What's interesting is that this dichotomy -- inconsistent offense, consistent special teams -- matches the entire NFL in 2017.

If you've been reading Football Outsiders for a long time, you know one of our main axioms is that offense is more consistent than defense, while both are more consistent than special teams. In 2017, the exact opposite was true.

  • Only five of the top dozen offenses in 2017 were also ranked among the top dozen offenses in 2016. There was a bit more consistency at the bottom, where four of the bottom 10 offenses also ranked in the bottom dozen in 2016. But the year-to-year correlation coefficient for offensive DVOA in 2016-2017 was .33. It's usually around .50.
  • On the other hand, nine of the top dozen defenses in 2017 were also ranked among the top dozen defenses in 2016. The exceptions were the Rams (15), the huge turnaround for the Saints (31), and a very quiet defensive turnaround for Washington (25). Things were less consistent at the bottom, where only two of the bottom ten defenses in 2016 were also bottom ten defenses in 2017. However, the year-to-year correlation coefficient for defensive DVOA in 2016-2017 was .41. This is only slightly higher than the usual correlation for defense, which is about .38.
  • Special teams is kind of nuts. Three of the top four teams were also top four teams a year ago. The exception, New England, was eighth a year ago. Seven of the bottom ten special teams units in 2017 were also bottom ten special teams units in 2016. Some of this might be related to a change in the value of kickoffs because of moving the touchback to the 25, but remember, that's only one of the five special teams plays we measure to create special teams DVOA. The year-to-year correlation coefficient for special teams DVOA in 2016-2017 was an absurdly high .63. It's usually around .30.

Like 2016, 2017 ends up as a year of parity, with very few teams or units ranking among either the best or worst in DVOA history. The biggest exception is our No. 1 special teams unit, the Baltimore Ravens, who end up as one of the 10 best special teams units of the last 30 years:

Best Special Teams DVOA, 1986-2017
Year Team DVOA
2002 NO 12.2%
2007 CHI 11.2%
1994 CLE1 10.1%
1986 NYJ 9.9%
1996 CAR 9.8%
2009 CLE 9.7%
1986 NO 9.3%
2017 BAL 9.2%
1998 DAL 9.2%
2012 BAL 9.0%
2001 PHI 8.9%
1997 DAL 8.9%

Only 42 different teams since 1986 have managed a special teams DVOA above 7.0%, and four of those teams are recent Baltimore squads with Justin Tucker at kicker, Sam Koch at punter, and Jerry Rosburg as coordinator: 2012, 2014, 2015, and 2017. It doesn't even include 2016, when Justin Tucker had the best placekicking year in NFL history but the Baltimore return game had an off year. This rating is subject to change once I finally build a new special teams kickoff method that fully accounts for all the pooch kicks teams have been using since the touchback move, but it likely won't change the Ravens much. Most of their special teams value came from placekicking and kickoff returns.

More than anywhere else, the parity of the 2017 season is seen in the defenses, with the smallest-ever gap between the best defense (Jacksonville at -16.1%) and the worst defense (Tampa Bay at -11.7%). Only two defenses have ever led the league with a worse defensive DVOA than the Jaguars: the 2007 Titans and the 2001 Eagles. And no team has ever been in last place with a rating anywhere close to being as good as what Tampa Bay ends up with. I can also note here that the New England Patriots escaped the possibility of being the first team to ever rank No. 1 on offense but dead last on defense, moving up to No. 31 after a great performance against the Jets in Week 17.

For a long time, we were talking about the Jaguars ranking among the greatest pass defenses we had ever measured. They end up falling far short of the all-time greats, but their -27.5% DVOA against the pass led the league by a gigantic margin. The gap between Jacksonville and No. 2 Baltimore at -15.3% is larger than the gap between No. 2 Baltimore and No. 11 Arizona.

It was only a few weeks ago we were talking about the Dolphins and Raiders ranking among the worst pass defenses we had ever measured. By the end of the season, neither one came close. Indianapolis actually finishes as the worst pass defense in the league, allowing 27.9% DVOA.

In fact, there's only one unit in 2017 which ends up ranking among the dozen worst units of DVOA history, and it's the Arizona running game:

Worst Run Offense DVOA, 1986-2017
Year Team DVOA
1991 IND -30.2%
2005 ARI -29.1%
2002 HOU -27.4%
2013 BAL -27.2%
2013 JAC -27.1%
2016 LARM -26.6%
1986 NE -26.5%
1995 ARI -25.1%
2017 ARI -24.8%
2015 WAS -23.5%
2016 MIN -23.3%
1991 PHI -23.0%

So, you may wonder, where are the 0-16 Cleveland Browns in the lists of all-time worst teams? According to DVOA, they don't even come close. The Cleveland Browns instead make the list of unluckiest teams in DVOA history, not the list of worst teams. With a DVOA of -27.2%, the Browns are the best-rated team to finish in last place since the 1988 Detroit Lions finished 28th in a 28-team league at -26.6%. By comparison, the winless Detroit Lions of 2008 had a last-place DVOA of -48.4%. The Browns lost four games by three points or less, compared to just one for the 2008 Lions. Check the points scored and allowed, and our Pythagaport equation suggests the Browns should have won 3.3 games, not zero. That ties them with the 2001 San Diego Chargers (5-11, projection of 8.3 wins) as the most unlucky team ever to play a 16-game schedule.

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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 should be updated by the end of tonight. Drive stats and pace stats will be updated by the end of Tuesday, as will the Matchup View in FO Standard Premium for the four wild-card games.

Vincent 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 2017 DVOA Ratings," we will continue with our unofficial postseason weighted DVOA ratings each Monday through the playoffs. Our December players for Madden 18 on consoles will be announced next Monday in the DVOA ratings that go up after the wild-card round. Our weekly Powerline players for Madden mobile will be announced on Tuesday from our Twitter account, @fboutsiders.

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through the entire 2017 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 17, while LAST YEAR represents rank in 2016.

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
YEAR
LAST
WEEK
WEI.
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NO 30.7% 21 2 32.9% 2 11-5 21.6% 2 -7.9% 8 1.2% 15
2 LARM 27.7% 30 1 30.3% 3 11-5 11.1% 6 -9.7% 6 6.8% 2
3 PIT 27.1% 4 3 27.5% 5 13-3 17.6% 3 -6.4% 9 3.1% 9
4 MIN 25.1% 20 5 28.8% 4 13-3 12.0% 5 -13.9% 2 -0.9% 18
5 PHI 23.5% 5 4 23.6% 7 13-3 10.0% 8 -12.6% 5 0.9% 16
6 NE 22.6% 1 6 33.6% 1 13-3 27.3% 1 10.9% 31 6.3% 3
7 BAL 18.5% 12 7 24.7% 6 9-7 -4.5% 21 -13.8% 3 9.2% 1
8 JAC 13.1% 26 9 9.2% 10 10-6 -0.2% 16 -16.1% 1 -2.8% 24
9 CAR 13.0% 24 8 15.0% 9 11-5 -0.5% 17 -8.8% 7 4.7% 6
10 KC 10.5% 6 10 0.0% 16 10-6 15.7% 4 10.6% 30 5.3% 4
11 LACH 7.9% 19 11 18.6% 8 9-7 10.7% 7 -4.7% 12 -7.5% 31
12 DET 5.6% 27 16 1.1% 15 9-7 4.5% 12 4.0% 19 5.1% 5
13 DAL 5.4% 2 12 8.7% 11 9-7 6.7% 10 5.9% 25 4.6% 7
14 SEA 3.2% 11 14 2.8% 13 9-7 1.3% 14 -3.8% 13 -2.0% 20
15 ATL 1.5% 3 17 2.3% 14 10-6 8.2% 9 5.6% 22 -1.2% 19
16 WAS -0.5% 9 13 -7.9% 20 7-9 -3.0% 20 -4.9% 11 -2.4% 22
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
YEAR
LAST
WEEK
WEI.
DVOA
RANK W-L OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
17 GB -3.3% 7 15 -9.5% 21 7-9 0.4% 15 4.9% 20 1.3% 14
18 TEN -5.6% 15 19 -7.0% 19 9-7 -2.1% 18 5.1% 21 1.6% 13
19 OAK -6.6% 10 18 -5.7% 18 6-10 3.9% 13 10.3% 29 -0.2% 17
20 SF -8.3% 28 23 2.9% 12 6-10 -2.8% 19 8.3% 26 2.9% 11
21 BUF -9.8% 17 20 -18.1% 28 9-7 -11.1% 26 1.7% 15 2.9% 10
22 ARI -11.2% 16 21 -3.8% 17 8-8 -18.4% 30 -12.6% 4 -5.5% 28
23 TB -11.9% 22 22 -14.3% 25 5-11 5.3% 11 11.7% 32 -5.5% 29
24 CIN -12.5% 13 24 -12.4% 24 7-9 -6.4% 22 3.7% 17 -2.4% 21
25 CHI -15.9% 25 25 -11.2% 22 5-11 -14.9% 28 -1.5% 14 -2.4% 23
26 NYJ -17.3% 32 26 -15.2% 26 5-11 -10.2% 24 4.0% 18 -3.2% 25
27 MIA -19.8% 18 28 -17.4% 27 6-10 -13.0% 27 9.4% 28 2.6% 12
28 HOU -20.3% 29 27 -37.1% 32 4-12 -10.2% 25 5.6% 23 -4.5% 26
29 DEN -20.9% 14 29 -29.3% 31 5-11 -18.9% 31 -5.5% 10 -7.4% 30
30 NYG -22.2% 8 30 -21.2% 30 3-13 -9.0% 23 5.7% 24 -7.5% 32
31 IND -22.4% 23 31 -12.1% 23 4-12 -17.7% 29 8.4% 27 3.7% 8
32 CLE -27.2% 31 32 -19.0% 29 0-16 -20.1% 32 2.0% 16 -5.1% 27
  • 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.
  • WEIGHTED DVOA is adjusted so that earlier games in the season become gradually less important. It better reflects how the team was playing at the end of the season.
  • 2017 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 2017
SCHED
RANK PYTH
WINS
RANK VAR. RANK
1 NO 30.7% 11-5 26.5% 13.4 1 -0.3% 17 11.1 6 6.9% 4
2 LARM 27.7% 11-5 25.7% 11.3 4 -0.4% 18 11.6 5 26.8% 32
3 PIT 27.1% 13-3 29.1% 11.3 3 -2.1% 23 10.6 7 14.3% 19
4 MIN 25.1% 13-3 24.0% 12.0 2 2.4% 8 11.7 4 5.8% 2
5 PHI 23.5% 13-3 24.9% 11.2 5 -2.2% 24 12.0 1 13.3% 18
6 NE 22.6% 13-3 24.8% 11.0 6 -3.9% 28 12.0 2 9.8% 12
7 BAL 18.5% 9-7 24.9% 10.4 7 -4.7% 31 10.5 8 17.1% 25
8 JAC 13.1% 10-6 20.6% 9.0 10 -5.6% 32 11.9 3 23.7% 31
9 CAR 13.0% 11-5 11.7% 10.3 8 2.7% 7 9.0 12 9.2% 7
10 KC 10.5% 10-6 13.2% 10.0 9 -3.2% 27 10.0 10 15.2% 21
11 LACH 7.9% 9-7 16.7% 8.4 14 -4.1% 29 10.5 9 8.8% 6
12 DET 5.6% 9-7 5.3% 8.5 13 1.1% 12 8.9 14 6.6% 3
13 DAL 5.4% 9-7 4.9% 8.9 11 0.1% 15 8.6 15 19.8% 27
14 SEA 3.2% 9-7 5.0% 8.4 15 -0.9% 20 9.0 13 10.7% 13
15 ATL 1.5% 10-6 1.8% 8.5 12 3.7% 4 9.1 11 5.3% 1
16 WAS -0.5% 7-9 -7.1% 7.2 19 4.5% 3 6.8 17 17.1% 24
TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK 2017
SCHED
RANK PYTH
WINS
RANK VAR. RANK
17 GB -3.3% 7-9 -9.0% 7.7 16 4.8% 2 6.2 22 10.8% 15
18 TEN -5.6% 9-7 -3.6% 7.6 18 -4.3% 30 7.4 16 16.5% 23
19 OAK -6.6% 6-10 -6.3% 7.6 17 -0.6% 19 6.0 25 9.8% 11
20 SF -8.3% 6-10 -10.4% 6.7 22 0.5% 14 6.6 19 18.8% 26
21 BUF -9.8% 9-7 -8.6% 6.8 20 -2.5% 26 6.3 20 15.7% 22
22 ARI -11.2% 8-8 -12.2% 5.5 27 0.6% 13 6.1 24 9.3% 8
23 TB -11.9% 5-11 -15.9% 6.2 23 2.8% 6 6.7 18 7.6% 5
24 CIN -12.5% 7-9 -11.9% 6.7 21 -1.1% 21 6.2 21 19.9% 28
25 CHI -15.9% 5-11 -18.3% 5.9 24 6.8% 1 6.2 23 14.4% 20
26 NYJ -17.3% 5-11 -16.9% 5.2 28 -0.2% 16 5.6 26 9.5% 10
27 MIA -19.8% 6-10 -17.8% 5.6 26 1.7% 10 4.9 29 13.1% 17
28 HOU -20.3% 4-12 -21.8% 5.1 29 1.3% 11 5.5 27 22.1% 30
29 DEN -20.9% 5-11 -15.2% 5.6 25 -1.9% 22 5.4 28 20.3% 29
30 NYG -22.2% 3-13 -24.4% 4.4 31 3.3% 5 4.0 31 10.7% 14
31 IND -22.4% 4-12 -20.9% 4.4 30 -2.4% 25 4.2 30 9.4% 9
32 CLE -27.2% 0-16 -32.5% 3.3 32 2.1% 9 3.3 32 10.9% 16

Comments

101 comments, Last at 07 Jan 2018, 10:44am

99 Re: Final 2017 DVOA Ratings

I'll make my complaint in a different format.
I wonder how much Special Teams DVOA is weighted in terms of total team DVOA. Isn't it one part in 6? It definitely bolstered the LA Rams over the Vikings in team DVOA. I'm not convinced this actually makes the Rams better than the Vikings. In the Vikings - Rams game, the Rams were in the game and did threaten because of good field position, but the Vikings drives didn't stall because of self inflicted wounds in the second half and the defense pressured Goff constantly because they knew Gurley wasn't a threat. The Vikings-Rams offensive and defensive efficiency gap became clear.

It seems Special teams did keep the game close, but offensive and defensive efficiency won out.