by Aaron Schatz
Kansas City drops slightly in DVOA after a close win over Oakland, but the Chiefs stay No. 1 in our DVOA ratings. However, there's movement all over the rest of the top ten, especially in the weighted DVOA ratings that lower the strength of early-season games.
The Los Angeles Chargers have now climbed to No. 3 in full-season DVOA, passing the New Orleans Saints. In weighted DVOA, the Chargers have climbed to No. 2, passing both the Saints and their cross-city rivals, the Rams. A couple spots down, the Denver Broncos have shockingly moved into fifth place in both regular and weighted DVOA. The Chargers and Broncos are the only two teams right now who rank in the top ten for both offense and defense, and Denver's rise means we now have three AFC West teams in the top five.
We now have the Chargers' playoff odds at over 97 percent. Denver's playoff odds are up to almost 30 percent, not bad considering they were at 5.0 percent just four weeks ago. The other major wild-card contender in the AFC is Baltimore, which like Denver has won three straight games. The Ravens have a one-game lead on Denver for the second wild-card spot, and we give them a 54 percent chance of making the playoffs: 21.4 percent to win the division over Pittsburgh, and 32.2 percent to snag a wild card.
You may be surprised that we don't give the Ravens better playoff odds at this point. They're essentially tied with Pittsburgh in DVOA, and only a half-game behind on the standings. You may have heard a lot about Pittsburgh's difficult end-season schedule. However, by FO numbers, Baltimore's last four games are tougher than Pittsburgh's last four games because they have to play those super high-rated AFC West teams. Pittsburgh already passed the first hurdle on their difficult end-season schedule, although they passed it by tripping over it and falling on their faces against the Chargers. Now, Pittsburgh's final four opponents average 0.6% DVOA, with the toughest games being at the Saints and home against the Patriots. Baltimore's final four opponents average 10.6% DVOA, and the hardest games are both on the road, against the Chiefs and the Chargers.
Of course, there are two things that the DVOA playoff odds formula doesn't know about when it is simulating who wins the remaining games. First, it doesn't know about the historical matchup advantage that New England appears to have over Pittsburgh, making them probably a harder opponent than their current rating indicates. Second, it doesn't know how to treat games at the StubHub Center, which seem to be more like neutral-site games than they are like Chargers home games. Two years isn't enough evidence for us to say whether the Chargers truly have a smaller home-field advantage (or none whatsoever) but it seems absurd not to at least acknowledge that their home games aren't like those of other teams.
I do want to mention something I also brought attention to on Twitter earlier today. There's a lot of talk about the Ravens getting a jolt from their quarterback change, going from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson during their Week 10 bye and then winning three straight. DVOA suggests there's no Lamar Jackson effect going on here. He's been fine for a rookie quarterback, but what's going on is that the Ravens have been better on defense and special teams against an easier schedule. Compare this to the similar three-game winning streak by Baltimore's wild-card competition in Denver, who had the same Week 10 bye. The Broncos have been better in all three phases of the game against a harder schedule than the one they played when they started 3-6.
"Schedule" on these tables is just the average current DVOA of each team's first nine opponents vs. their last three opponents.
Jackson also hasn't been a particularly effective runner. He's actually in last place for rushing DYAR right now. Part of that is because of six fumbles on running plays: two regular fumbles and four botched handoffs that aren't necessarily all his fault. But even removing all the fumbles, Jackson's rushing DVOA would only improve to 0.8%. Only 11 of his 28 first-down runs have gained at least five yards.
Let's move over and talk about the NFC a bit. This was a good week for the NFC East and a bad week for the NFC North. We'll take the East first. Three of the four East teams improved in DVOA this week. The New York Giants may be out of the playoff picture, but they're the best NFC East team this season by DVOA, slightly ahead of the Dallas Cowboys. (The Cowboys are slightly ahead in weighted DVOA.) Both the No. 16 Giants and No. 18 Cowboys improved their DVOA by over seven percentage points with their big Week 13 upset wins. The Eagles are right behind them at No. 19, and they improved their DVOA by 5.5% this week.
It's hard to undersell just how important this week's Philadelphia at Dallas game is for the playoff picture. If Dallas wins, the division race is essentially over. In simulations where the Cowboys win this game, they win the division over 97 percent of the time. Meanwhile, the Eagles will still have to play the Rams in Los Angeles and the Texans at home. Their playoff odds will drop to 6.9 percent.
On the other hand, an Eagles upset turns Philadelphia into the new favorite to win the division. Despite their difficult remaining schedule, the Eagles will be 4-1 in the division if they win Sunday, with a game remaining against injury-wrecked Washington. Dallas will be 3-2 in the division with a trip to New York still on the docket. With an Eagles win, the odds to win the division become 54.3 percent for the Eagles, 36.4 percent for the Cowboys, and somehow still 9.1 for the Redskins even though we've given them a huge DVOA penalty for being down to their third quarterback. Right now, only Arizona has a worse weighted DVOA than the ratings we're using for Washington in the simulation. Still, as Arizona showed this weekend, teams that bad can still pull off upset victories, and each of their remaining opponents has a negative total DVOA right now. In 44 percent of our simulations, Washington finishes the season at least 8-8.
On to the NFC North, the opposite of the NFC East: the top three teams all fell in DVOA from last week. The actual drops were almost as large, although the drop in the rankings was not too big. Minnesota drops from 14th to 15th, but that drop means going from 6.7% to 0.9%. Chicago only goes from No. 5 to No. 6, but that drops means going from 21.1% to 14.6%. The Bears' defense is still No. 1, but their offense dropped from 14th to 20th this week. Finally, we have Green Bay, still surprisingly high in DVOA compared to their 4-7-1 record. The Packers drop from tenth at 11.5% to 12th at 6.9%. Chicago is still the clear favorite to win this division, taking it in 85 percent of our simulations. But the Vikings are now in the sixth seed and are the current favorite to finish in that spot, making the playoffs in 58.5 percent of simulations and winning a wild card in 43.7 percent of simulations.
Finally, let's check in on the race to rank among the best and worst offenses ever tracked by DVOA. Current teams now rank sixth on each table. We've also got Buffalo seventh among the worst offenses. But with a gap between the five worst offenses and the two terrible offenses of 2018, Arizona or Buffalo will need to have a couple of really bad games in the final month to set the record.
|BEST OFFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 12 GAMES, 1986-2018
|WORST OFFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 12 GAMES, 1986-2018
We're not running the "best total DVOA" table, as the Chiefs have fallen below the top dozen teams in that measure. We'll have to see if they can climb back into the all-time total DVOA list over the last four weeks of the season.
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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 13 weeks of 2018, 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. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.
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.
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>
- 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. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
- PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
- FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
- 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).