Week 15 DVOA Ratings

Week 15 DVOA Ratings
Week 15 DVOA Ratings
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

The Los Angeles Chargers may have won DVOA Bowl XIX last Thursday night, but it was surprisingly the Kansas City Chiefs who ended up with a higher rating from the game, so the No. 1 Chiefs open up a slightly wider margin over the No. 2 Chargers this week. After those two AFC West squads come the New Orleans Saints at No. 3, passing the Los Angeles Rams at No. 4, and then the Chicago Bears at No. 5.

The Saints moved up nearly two percentage points in total DVOA this week even though their offense struggled once again on Monday night. The Saints and Rams have both been going through some problems on the offensive side of the ball in the month of December. The Rams are averaging 19.9 points in their last three games, the Saints just 16.7 points. Check out this table of the top offenses in the league through Week 12 and what's happened to them in the three weeks since:

Offense DVOA
Wk 1-12
Wk 13-15
KC 39.1% 1 27.0% 1
LAR 31.8% 2 -18.8% 26
LAC 27.8% 3 15.4% 3
NO 26.5% 4 -19.7% 28

Both the Saints and Rams have somewhat made this up on the defensive side of the ball, but the Saints have done so much more than the Rams have. The Rams' defensive DVOA has improved to -11.5% over these three games, but the Saints' defensive DVOA is -23.4% over the last three games. Over the last six games, the Saints have defensive DVOA of -26.9%, second only behind Chicago.

The Rams and Saints have been just the two most obvious examples of a strong trend that started at the beginning of the month, back in Week 13. Remember that historic level of offense we were seeing for the first three months of the season? It's gone away in the month of December. This has affected most of the offenses in the league, even the teams that have continued to have top offenses in December. From the table above, you can see that the Chiefs and Chargers remained No. 1 and No. 3 in offense. But notice that their offensive DVOA still dropped, even if their ranks stayed the same. (If you're curious which team has been second in offensive DVOA since Week 13, it's the New England Patriots, despite going 1-2 in those games.)

December's Offensive Decline, 2018
  DVOA Suc Rate Yd/Play
Weeks 1-12 1.7% 44.6% 5.82
Weeks 13-15 -6.1% 42.8% 5.34
Full Season 0.0% 44.2% 5.71

So you're probably asking, what's the reason why defenses have been playing better in December? Does this have anything to do with the weather? Could it be because players are dealing with more injuries and fatigue by this point in the season?

Going back over past years, the answer appears to be yes. I looked at the past eight years and in six of them, the league as a whole had a lower DVOA in Weeks 13-17 compared to Weeks 1-12. So far this year's difference is a lot larger than it usually is. I'm guessing that's just random variation, and offense will improve in the next two weeks so that the gap between Weeks 1-12 and Weeks 13-17 is closer to what we usually see.

December's Offensive Decline, 2011-2018
  2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
League DVOA Wk 1-12 1.7% 0.4% 1.1% 0.1% 1.6% 0.0% 0.3% -0.7%
League DVOA Wk 13-17 -6.1% -0.8% -2.5% -0.3% -3.7% 0.0% -0.8% 1.6%
Yd/Play Wk 1-12 5.82 5.40 5.61 5.60 5.57 5.47 5.55 5.55
Yd/Play Wk 13-17 5.34 5.30 5.48 5.53 5.47 5.44 5.42 5.60

Back to the topic of the New Orleans Saints: Week 15 is the first week of the season where one of this year's games falls completely out of the weighted DVOA formula. Weighted DVOA no longer counts Week 1, and the Saints' 48-40 loss to Tampa Bay was their second-worst game of the year by DVOA. (The worst was the loss to Dallas in Week 13.) The Saints also had a nice 40.9% DVOA for their win over Carolina. Add that in, take out Week 1 entirely, and the Saints have passed the Los Angeles Chargers for No. 2 in weighted DVOA.

Combine New Orleans' rise in weighted DVOA with the recent fall of the Rams -- along with the small chance that the Chargers will knock the Chiefs out of a division title -- and the Saints have now taken over from Kansas City as our Super Bowl favorites. They win the Lombardi Trophy in 28.1 percent of our simulations.

The Saints are one of three teams that now have weighted DVOA that is 7.0% higher than their total DVOA. The others are Buffalo and Detroit; both teams have been generally better in recent weeks but they also now have their horrific Week 1 offensive performances wiped out of the weighted ratings. Cleveland, Tennessee, and Indianapolis are also significantly better by weighted DVOA (6.0% difference, or close to it).

On the other side, the team that stands out for decline in the second half of the season is the Miami Dolphins. Miami is at -10.5% in total DVOA (24th) but -19.4% in weighted DVOA (28th). Other teams that have faded in the second half include the Jets, Bengals, and Redskins. No surprise that all four teams have dealt with starting quarterback injuries, and yes, that includes the Jets. Josh McCown has lower passing DVOA than Sam Darnold this season.

One other team that deserves mention for improvement, even though it's only been on one side of the ball: Cleveland. The Browns are 25th in offensive DVOA at -7.0% but they move up to 14th in weighted offensive DVOA at 1.8%. Since they fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley before Week 9, the Browns rank fourth in the league with 18.2% offensive DVOA, behind the Chiefs, Chargers, and Steelers. Over that same period, only Patrick Mahomes (38.9%) has a higher passing DVOA than Baker Mayfield (36.0%).

The second biggest offensive improvement since the early part of the season belongs to the Buffalo Bills. Remember when we were tracking whether the Bills would end up with the worst offensive DVOA of all-time? Since their bye week in Week 10, the Bills rank 19th in the league with -3.6% offensive DVOA. And they're now off the "12 worst offensive DVOA through X games" list.

The same can't be said for the Arizona Cardinals. The Cardinals were so bad against Atlanta that they actually benched Josh Rosen and brought in Mike Glennon. Arizona's -103.0% offensive DVOA against Atlanta was its worst single game of the year, and the worst offensive game any team has had since Buffalo and Detroit got smacked down back in Week 1. Arizona's offensive rating falls from -38.8% to -42.5% this week, but that's still not enough to drop them to the bottom of the list of worst offenses in DVOA history:

THROUGH 14 GAMES, 1986-2018
THROUGH 14 GAMES, 1986-2018
Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA
2007 NE 44.3% x 2005 SF -46.0%
2010 NE 43.9% x 1992 SEA -45.7%
2002 KC 38.7% x 2002 HOU -44.7%
2004 IND 36.9% x 2018 ARI -42.5%
1988 CIN 36.4% x 1997 NO -40.3%
2003 KC 36.2% x 2004 CHI -38.5%
1998 DEN 36.2% x 2010 CAR -37.1%
2018 KC 36.2% x 2006 OAK -37.1%
2012 NE 34.9% x 2010 ARI -34.9%
1993 SF 34.5% x 2000 CLE -33.4%
1992 SF 34.4% x 2008 STL -33.2%
2004 KC 33.6% x 1992 IND -33.2%

Finally, I have to give an important caveat that always comes up when I talk about weighted DVOA late in the year. Weighted DVOA helps us tell the story of how a team's season has gone, and helps us as a guide to how well teams have played in recent weeks. However, except when it's clearly related to major injuries, weighted DVOA doesn't actually predict playoff results any better than full-season DVOA. Trying to create a weighted DVOA that does a better job of predicting the postseason is one of those things we're always working on (or trying to find time to work on) but it's still best to take the long view of how a team has played. Even weighted DVOA takes a long view, including 14 weeks of data with the last eight weeks at nearly full strength.

* * * * *

Playoff odds are currently updated through Week 15, as well as the FO Premium DVOA database and snap counts.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 15 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>

1 KC 34.2% 1 31.5% 1 11-3 36.2% 1 7.5% 27 5.6% 2
2 LAC 24.8% 2 28.0% 3 11-3 24.9% 2 -4.0% 12 -4.2% 29
3 NO 23.6% 4 30.6% 2 12-2 16.6% 4 -5.0% 8 2.0% 9
4 LAR 22.5% 3 17.4% 5 11-3 21.4% 3 -1.0% 14 0.0% 15
5 CHI 17.7% 5 20.6% 4 10-4 -5.6% 23 -25.6% 1 -2.3% 26
6 BAL 16.8% 6 14.9% 8 8-6 0.6% 14 -12.9% 2 3.3% 6
7 DEN 13.0% 7 15.5% 7 6-8 4.2% 13 -10.5% 4 -1.6% 23
8 PIT 11.1% 9 13.4% 10 8-5-1 16.1% 5 0.5% 17 -4.5% 32
9 NE 10.8% 10 14.5% 9 9-5 14.3% 6 3.2% 21 -0.3% 18
10 IND 9.8% 11 15.7% 6 8-6 4.9% 12 -4.5% 11 0.4% 13
11 SEA 7.7% 8 7.1% 12 8-6 8.2% 8 1.6% 19 1.0% 11
12 MIN 5.7% 16 10.3% 11 7-6-1 -0.8% 16 -8.6% 6 -2.0% 25
13 GB 5.4% 12 7.0% 13 5-8-1 13.4% 7 6.3% 24 -1.7% 24
14 HOU 4.6% 13 4.6% 14 10-4 -4.5% 21 -5.3% 7 3.9% 5
15 CAR 1.0% 15 -1.2% 19 6-8 8.2% 9 6.4% 25 -0.8% 19
16 NYG -1.0% 14 4.4% 15 5-9 -1.7% 17 3.3% 22 4.0% 4
17 PHI -2.6% 20 -1.0% 18 7-7 -0.8% 15 2.4% 20 0.5% 12
18 JAX -4.2% 18 -6.9% 22 4-10 -17.9% 29 -8.6% 5 5.1% 3
19 TEN -5.0% 21 1.0% 16 8-6 -6.8% 24 -1.8% 13 -0.1% 17
20 DAL -5.2% 17 -3.4% 21 8-6 -8.8% 26 -4.9% 9 -1.3% 21
21 ATL -5.7% 22 -3.4% 20 5-9 8.1% 10 15.1% 32 1.3% 10
22 CLE -6.1% 23 0.0% 17 6-7-1 -7.0% 25 -4.7% 10 -3.9% 28
23 CIN -7.4% 24 -13.1% 23 6-8 -1.9% 18 7.8% 28 2.4% 7
24 MIA -10.5% 19 -19.4% 28 7-7 -4.0% 19 6.4% 26 0.0% 16
25 TB -13.4% 25 -15.4% 25 5-9 4.9% 11 13.8% 29 -4.4% 31
26 NYJ -14.2% 27 -20.3% 29 4-10 -20.8% 30 0.3% 16 6.9% 1
27 WAS -15.7% 26 -21.4% 30 7-7 -17.2% 28 0.8% 18 2.3% 8
28 SF -19.1% 30 -18.5% 27 4-10 -14.5% 27 3.7% 23 -0.9% 20
29 DET -20.8% 28 -13.9% 24 5-9 -5.2% 22 14.2% 31 -1.4% 22
30 OAK -22.3% 29 -21.9% 31 3-11 -4.2% 20 13.9% 30 -4.3% 30
31 BUF -23.2% 31 -16.1% 26 5-9 -30.2% 31 -10.8% 3 -3.8% 27
32 ARI -42.3% 32 -43.4% 32 3-11 -42.5% 32 0.1% 15 0.4% 14
  • 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).
1 KC 34.2% 11-3 32.5% 11.7 1 2.5% 7 -7.3% 28 10.9% 10
2 LAC 24.8% 11-3 27.4% 9.9 4 -1.8% 19 14.9% 4 7.3% 2
3 NO 23.6% 12-2 25.1% 10.1 3 -2.2% 22 6.1% 9 10.5% 8
4 LAR 22.5% 11-3 24.2% 10.8 2 2.3% 8 -30.7% 32 8.1% 5
5 CHI 17.7% 10-4 22.0% 9.0 6 -6.3% 31 -6.7% 26 13.2% 15
6 BAL 16.8% 8-6 14.8% 9.5 5 0.3% 14 9.3% 5 15.0% 20
7 DEN 13.0% 6-8 14.8% 8.7 7 3.2% 5 1.2% 14 14.5% 17
8 PIT 11.1% 8-5-1 8.9% 7.8 12 3.7% 4 8.1% 7 14.1% 16
9 NE 10.8% 9-5 10.6% 8.4 9 0.0% 15 -18.7% 31 14.6% 19
10 IND 9.8% 8-6 17.2% 8.4 8 -6.7% 32 -3.0% 19 14.5% 18
11 SEA 7.7% 8-6 10.2% 7.9 11 -1.2% 17 -4.0% 22 9.8% 6
12 MIN 5.7% 7-6-1 4.1% 7.5 14 -2.8% 25 -1.6% 16 10.4% 7
13 GB 5.4% 5-8-1 2.6% 8.1 10 -3.5% 30 -17.5% 30 11.2% 11
14 HOU 4.6% 10-4 9.8% 7.8 13 -3.3% 29 -3.4% 20 6.0% 1
15 CAR 1.0% 6-8 6.1% 6.9 15 -2.3% 23 8.9% 6 16.7% 24
16 NYG -1.0% 5-9 -0.6% 6.8 18 -3.0% 27 2.3% 13 17.2% 26
17 PHI -2.6% 7-7 -3.5% 6.7 19 0.4% 13 -5.5% 24 12.3% 13
18 JAX -4.2% 4-10 -6.8% 5.5 24 0.6% 11 -2.9% 17 8.0% 4
19 TEN -5.0% 8-6 -3.1% 6.8 17 0.4% 12 -3.0% 18 20.9% 31
20 DAL -5.2% 8-6 -2.1% 6.1 21 -1.9% 21 -7.2% 27 10.9% 9
21 ATL -5.7% 5-9 -4.5% 6.0 22 -0.9% 16 -6.2% 25 8.0% 3
22 CLE -6.1% 6-7-1 -4.0% 6.3 20 5.5% 3 4.7% 11 11.8% 12
23 CIN -7.4% 6-8 -11.5% 6.8 16 6.6% 1 2.5% 12 17.6% 27
24 MIA -10.5% 7-7 -12.3% 5.3 25 -3.0% 28 -13.7% 29 19.6% 29
25 TB -13.4% 5-9 -16.6% 4.9 28 2.7% 6 -5.5% 23 13.1% 14
26 NYJ -14.2% 4-10 -15.2% 4.9 27 -3.0% 26 8.1% 8 20.1% 30
27 WAS -15.7% 7-7 -10.9% 5.7 23 -2.6% 24 -3.8% 21 16.9% 25
28 SF -19.1% 4-10 -19.7% 4.6 30 -1.5% 18 20.1% 2 17.6% 28
29 DET -20.8% 5-9 -19.1% 4.8 29 -1.9% 20 5.6% 10 16.5% 23
30 OAK -22.3% 3-11 -28.2% 3.8 31 5.7% 2 23.6% 1 16.1% 22
31 BUF -23.2% 5-9 -26.9% 5.2 26 1.9% 10 0.2% 15 23.8% 32
32 ARI -42.3% 3-11 -40.3% 2.1 32 2.0% 9 15.1% 3 15.7% 21


83 comments, Last at 21 Dec 2018, 1:21pm

#1 by dbt // Dec 18, 2018 - 7:35pm

I've been on the Bears hype train since early on, and I definitely see the other NFC teams as vulnerable, but of the consensus top 5 teams in the NFL (NFC top 3, AFC West top 2) they're the only one with two below average units in this table. If Mitch can stay healthy and just try to be at least consistently mediocre ("manage the game," if you will), this team can beat anybody. If not, they can lose to anybody.

The entire NFC might be one giant pile of any given sunday. No idea who wins anything anywhere.

Points: 0

#2 by Thomas_beardown // Dec 18, 2018 - 8:40pm

Home field advantage is going to be huge this year.

Points: 0

#3 by Sixknots // Dec 18, 2018 - 10:46pm

Well...except maybe for Dallas.

edit: and WTF @ LAC!

Points: 0

#4 by Vincent Verhei // Dec 19, 2018 - 2:46am

The entire NFC might be one giant pile of any given sunday. No idea who wins anything anywhere.

I actually feel that way about both conferences. I was thinking today about how absurdly wide-open this Super Bowl race is going to be. Usually by now there are three or four teams that have separated themselves as favorites. This year? There are nine or ten teams that if you told me they were going to win the Super Bowl, I wouldn't blink an eye.

Points: 0

#5 by Mr Shush // Dec 19, 2018 - 6:28am

I count 7 - Saints, Rams, Bears, Chiefs, Chargers, Steelers, Pats. Who are your other two?

Points: 0

#6 by Yu Narukami // Dec 19, 2018 - 7:53am

Seattle and Houston, maybe.

Mixing DVOA and eye-test, I would currently have these tiers:




Houston (don't trust BOB)-Seattle-Ravens.


But first, let me look at the HFA through the definitive playoff picture.

Points: 0

#7 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 7:59am

What you want to look for are teams which had a change in the last 5-6 weeks that yields large improvements. I always think of the 2007 Giants, who had terrific defensive front personnel get healthy, and the 2012 Ravens, who had a left ot get in shape, finally, leading to improvement at 3 spots on the o-line, when two other players changed spots to make way for Mnkinnie getting of the couch.

Is there a team like that? I dunno, the narure of this is that it is unpredictable.

Points: 0

#9 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 19, 2018 - 8:11am

2006 Colts, who got Bullet Bob back.

Points: 0

#10 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 8:18am

Yeah, that is another one. Dallas, with Amari Cooper becoming a good player again at least vaguely fits, but that's a poorly coached offense, so I don't think so. If an improvement in offensive coordinators can make a big difference immediately, the Vikings certainly have a championship worthy defense, but I don't know if the play calling and better game plan installation is going to result in better blocks. I will say that if their holder and kicker could manage to have a good month, what looks like a 8 or 9 win team could look like a 10 or 12 win team, and if you made a nontrivial improvement to offensive efficiency to that, you are looking at a team that could win playoff games. All in all, I ain't buyin' it.

Points: 0

#34 by Joseph // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:33am

I don't know if this would fit your context either, but the Saints should get their left tackle Terron Armstead back either this week or next after missing the last several weeks (injured during the Bengals game). He was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time this year. His replacement, Jermon Bushrod, went out during the MNF game too. While Bushrod has been adequate, he is on the downside of his career.
IMO, the Saints struggles against DAL, TAM, and CAR all have to do w/OL issues--more sacks and hurries/pressures, which has led to more incompletes/INTS; in the run game, it is manifested in more stuffs, shorter gains, and holding penalties. All these negatives have resulted in unfavorable down/distance scenarios which affect all teams (last 2 LAR games a major example of this, too).
Now, we will see whether C Max Unger's injury is serious enough to complicate the OL situation going forward for the Saints. But as in your Ravens' example, an "upgrade" at LT may have other intangible benefits to other spots on the OL and blocking schemes in general.

I know I am a Saints homer (and have been since '81), but if they secure HFA, the only thing that their opponents will like is the predictable weather inside the Dome.

Points: 0

#43 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:26pm

Well, the Saints are a likely number 1 seed, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them play in February.

Points: 0

#50 by Joseph // Dec 19, 2018 - 2:30pm

I am quite hopeful, obviously.
I just don't know if I want either of the CHI or LAR D-lines coming to the Dome w/ a Super Bowl berth on the line, considering the O-line injuries I referenced in the above post. If the Saints O-line is back to health, I would feel better about it. Let's see how they do these next two weeks against PIT & CAR--both will give them a good test.

Points: 0

#45 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:29pm

I thought that would spark a significant improvement in their defense, and thus team strength, but it has occurred while the offrnsive line and Goff have declined. I don't quite know what to think of them ay this point.

Points: 0

#47 by Richie // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:43pm

His interception to start the fourth quarter on Sunday night almost ended up being the play that saved the game for the Rams. If the punt returner doesn't fumble (without being touched!), the Rams probably win that game.

Of course, the Rams should never have even been in that situation with Philadelphia.

Points: 0

#11 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 8:36am

Oh, a young guy like Lamar Jackson can certainly make big strides out of nowhere. He certainly has the physical tools.

Points: 0

#14 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 19, 2018 - 9:16am

Even Jackson's strides aside, Baltimore plays an entirely different style under Jackson than it did under Flacco.

As much as we disparage TOP, holding the ball for 38 minutes a game limits how many possessions the opposing team has to pull away, and if I need to rely on dueling kickers, that's a fight that favors Baltimore.

Points: 0

#16 by BJR // Dec 19, 2018 - 9:23am

Jackson has yet to face anything resembling a good defense. Seriously, take a look at the defenses he's faced so far. I would think there's a far higher probability he declines than improves from hereon out.

Points: 0

#17 by RickD // Dec 19, 2018 - 9:26am

I cannot see Lamar Jackson winning two playoff games, much less three.

Besides, they'll almost certainly miss the tourney. They have to beat the Chargers on the road and get lucky breaks elsewhere. Their recent run of success includes wins over the Bengals, Raiders, Falcons, and Bucs. Both of their last two opponents (Chargers, Browns) are tougher than that.

Points: 0

#24 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 10:45am

Sure, that's easily the way to bet, but young players suddenly making large improvements, at a critical position, is common enough to not be shocking. Any team with excellent pass rushers like Houston, and a young qb who has always been a winner (in the real sense, not the RINGZ blather) at every level, has a decent chance. From the day Watson utterly destroyed the closest thing college football has to an NFL defense for the 2nd consecutive time, I've thought he should have been a top 3 pick, and while Mahomes looks like the brightest qb star now from that draft, as a Vikings fan I'm really happy the Bears passed on Watson to take Trubisky. Yeah, Houston can beat anybody.

Points: 0

#59 by Mr Shush // Dec 19, 2018 - 7:33pm

I actually think the Texans are the opposite of a team who can beat anybody. They're a team who absolutely will, with as near to certainty as exists in the NFL, beat any opponent whose offense relies on the run game. If they somehow end up playing the Ravens, bet the farm on the Texans to win outright, regardless of the odds. But as good as the pass rush is, the secondary is so bad that good quarterbacks with the tools and targets to throw downfield will take them apart every single time, and the offense isn't able to keep up with that. How much of that second problem is about O'Brien's excessive conservatism and how much is about the questionable (though improved) offensive line is debatable.

Points: 0

#61 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 8:55pm

I won't argue, because I haven't watched them enough.

Points: 0

#66 by Eddo // Dec 20, 2018 - 10:05am

The Texans strike me as a slightly lesser version of the Bears.

The Bears defense is better, probably across the board (even though the Texans have a good defense themselves). The biggest thing, as you note, is the Texans have a big weakness on defense, while the Bears don't.

Offensively, the Texans are a little better than the Bears, but still negative overall. Both have young, fairly inconsistent QBs. Watson's floor is higher than Trubisky's floor, for sure.

The Bears are a longshot for a bye, so the Texans are probably a better bet to get to the Super Bowl, though.

Points: 0

#25 by dmstorm22 // Dec 19, 2018 - 10:46am

I don't know why you think they'll 'certainly miss the tourney'. All they have to do is beat the Chargers and Browns. If they finish 10-6, they get in, either as the #6 seed or the Division winner.

Yes, beating the Chargers is not easy, but not impossible.

I do agree that this 1920s run offense is not too sustainable, especially if its against Houston and their #2 rush defense DVOA. New England at #3 becomes a bit easier (21st in run defense DVOA, including some notable stinkers recently).

Points: 0

#79 by turbohappy // Dec 20, 2018 - 7:38pm

Yeah they need to win out OR get breaks, not both. I honestly thought the Colts were going to be a team that made that list of teams that started bad but got it together down the stretch and could make the Super Bowl, but that egg against Jacksonville was a head scratcher and now they very well might not even make the playoffs.

Points: 0

#26 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:02am

I couldn't see Brady or Kaepernick or Foles doing it, either, and yet.

Points: 0

#13 by BJR // Dec 19, 2018 - 9:16am

The way the Saints defense has come on in recent weeks, I still have them reasonably strong favorites against any of the other teams at the Superdome. I would fear for Trubisky, Prescott, or the current incarnation of Goff, in that environment.

The slip in Brees' level is a concern for sure, but he's going to get 2, possibly 3 weeks rest. He (and Payton) just need to understand that he doesn't have to play at MVP level in order for them to win.

The Vikings are potentially dangerous, but it's still hard to see enough offensive improvement for them to win on the road against good defenses. Dallas' offense just isn't good enough.

Seattle could spring a surprise or two, if Wilson is allowed to turn it loose.

Points: 0

#15 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 19, 2018 - 9:18am

If New Orleans is going to keep putting up 12 points a game, it doesn't take much sustained offense to beat them.

Hell, failing to cover a single deep out might be sufficient.

Points: 0

#19 by BJR // Dec 19, 2018 - 9:36am

Yes, it's a concern for sure. But unless Brees has suddenly morphed into final-season Peyton Manning I think it is reasonable to expect them, at home, after 2/3 weeks rest, to at least perform like an average offense again. They shouldn't need to score 30 to beat the Bears or the Cowboys.

Points: 0

#30 by Boots Day // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:20am

The Saints offense has had a rough couple of weeks, but it's the same basic team that's scored 40 or more six times this season. It's more likely that this is just a blip rather than a new level of ability, especially when you realize their last three games have been on the road, and they'll likely be in the Dome all the way through the playoffs.

Points: 0

#35 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:35am

The Saints are a better road team than home team. Just barely, so is Pittsburgh.

Then there's the Chargers, who are 11-3 on the road.

Points: 0

#57 by Joseph // Dec 19, 2018 - 6:19pm

Re: the Saints road vs. home: By what measure? This year's record? If so, it's only b/c they have already played all their road games.
Point differential has them at +84 in six home games (+14/game), + 83 in 8 away games (+10.4/game). There is one big blowout and one loss in both of those groups--and I foresee that point differential increasing after these last 2 home games, unless they sit a lot of people in week 17.

Points: 0

#40 by Richie // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:19pm

Not impossible that Brees suddenly morphed into final-season Manning.

It looks like Manning's decline actually began in late November/early December of his next-to-last season.

The end often comes fast for these guys, and Brees is a year older than Manning was. After throwing 1 interception in the first 10 games, Brees has now thrown one in each of his last 4 games.

He had been averaging 10.2 AY/A while completing 77% of his passes. In the past 4 games that has fallen to 5.5 AY/A and 69%.

Points: 0

#33 by RPDC // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:33am

Brees needs protection given how much he relies on timing. When you're down to backup OL, you can get away with it at home (where the OL has a huge advantage), but not on the road.

Even without Armstead, the Saints have averaged 40 PPG at home. But then they went on the road w/o Armstead (and Peat, btw, is a low-end starter even at LG), and that's when the left side of that line got exposed.

Three straight road games without 1/2 of the OL was a disaster waiting to happen. Saints survived the storm, and now they won't have to leave the Superdome again unless the make the Super Bowl.

Points: 0

#32 by RPDC // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:28am

I think CHI's being immensely overrated by people. They're playing the 49ers this week, and the 49ers (a team in the hunt for the #1 pick) have a better record at home than the Bears do on the road (4-3 vs. 3-3). Moreover, the Bears have compiled that .500 road record despite not playing a single team with a winning record (the only .500 team they've played on the road was the 7-7 Dolphins, a game they lost).

The Bears have played the easiest schedule in the NFL, including two extra home games at this point. They're also a .500 road team (against all losing teams) that's probably going to have to play the two best NFC teams on the road in the playoffs.

Points: 0

#56 by dbt // Dec 19, 2018 - 4:55pm

Counterpoint: Their three road losses are Aaron Rodgers at home before the wheels fell off for the Packers, a game where Khalil Mack was injured early and wasn't able to perform, and in New York with a backup QB who completely shit the bed.

I do worry about Trubisky and his ability to play well in prime time, but I don't think any one of those games has as much predictive power as you say.

Points: 0

#69 by Steve in WI // Dec 20, 2018 - 1:50pm

And as bad as they played in those losses, it's completely plausible that they all could have been wins. If Kyle Fuller holds on to an easy interception at the end of the Packers game, the Bears win. If Cody Parkey hits a FG in overtime (or if Nagy plays more aggressively to get him closer than 51 yards for the try), the Bears beat the Dolphins. Even the disastrous Chase Daniel game in NY could have played out quite a bit differently. The Bears could've opted to go for 2 rather than send the game for overtime - even with Daniel, that's gotta be a 40%+ shot to convert and win. I also think that had they won the coin toss there's a good chance they score a TD on the first drive.

All of that said, it doesn't change the legitimate criticisms of the way the Bears played in those games. I just think it's a much more plausible argument that they can't win on the road if those three losses had been no-doubt-about-the-outcome blowouts with fewer mitigating factors. I basically throw out the Giants game in terms of making any predictions about the team (except, of course, that had they won it they'd be holding onto the 2 seed...sigh).

Points: 0

#12 by SFC B // Dec 19, 2018 - 8:40am

I just can't compute this "Houston having good special teams" thing. I spent so long with their ST being a dumpster fire.

Points: 0

#18 by RickD // Dec 19, 2018 - 9:28am

The Texans should be getting more attention as a sexy dark horse. Exciting QB, defensive stars...and they have a good shot at getting a bye.

Points: 0

#51 by GwillyGecko // Dec 19, 2018 - 2:48pm

This year's texans team reminds me of the marty schottenheimer teams that win 12 or 13 games, get a bye, and lose at home in the divisional round

Points: 0

#76 by Mountain Time … // Dec 20, 2018 - 6:04pm

So you're predicting a one-in-a-thousand fluke to happen?

Points: 0

#78 by Eddo // Dec 20, 2018 - 7:02pm

Not really. Since 1990, there have been seven 12-4 teams that lost a home game in the divisional round (link). There have been sixteen 13-3 teams, though the Texans can't get to that record (link).

Points: 0

#80 by Mountain Time … // Dec 20, 2018 - 9:56pm

I was replying more to the Marty-coached teams' specific circumstances, but that's interesting nonetheless!

Points: 0

#81 by Eddo // Dec 20, 2018 - 10:13pm


There are actually two Marty-coached teams on the 13-3 list (1995 and 1997 Chiefs) and another on the 14-2 (2006 Chargers).

Points: 0

#60 by Mr Shush // Dec 19, 2018 - 7:37pm

The strengths are real, but the weaknesses (offensive line and secondary) are just too severe to overcome against playoff opposition. The Texans are an above-average team who played a soft schedule and got a few breaks.

Points: 0

#20 by big10freak // Dec 19, 2018 - 10:09am

I am rooting for the old (and virile!) warhorse Phillip Rivers to help take the Chargers to the promised land.

Points: 0

#21 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 10:18am

It may sound weird, but I really think Rivers has been in good measure unappreciated throughout his now very long career. The guy has been great, and like all the really great ones, he's just a hard-nosed sumbitch, even if he doesn't employ such language. Entertaining as hell.

Points: 0

#28 by Cheesehead_Canuck // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:08am

Agreed. I made a "hot take" statement on my personal FB page the other week before the Chargers-Steelers game that I would take Rivers over both Ben and Eli and their 4 combined rings. I got pretty slammed by the few football fans I'm friends with, but it was fun to start the discussion. You gotta be a true "ringzzz" counter to think Eli is better than Rivers.

Points: 0

#31 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:23am

Archie really gave his 3rd eldest son terrific career management counsel. If he had landed with the Spanos family, it may have been a disaster, even with Schotty around for a while to mitigate things. Rivers really overcame crappy ownership, which is hard to do.

Points: 0

#42 by Richie // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:26pm

I guess "overcame" is arguable. Statistically, he has been almost as good as Brady, Brees, Manning and Rodgers over the past decade. But, the Chargers are just 2-3 in the playoffs since 2008 and Philip Rivers is rarely discussed as an all-time great, like the other guys. If he went to a more competent organization maybe he would have won a Super Bowl and be thought of as a HOF lock.

Points: 0

#52 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 3:53pm

He's had a Hall of Fame career with an owner so farging stupid that he allowed Marty Schottenheimer to be fired after a 13-3 season, in a dispute over coaching staff, so as to allow A.J. Effing Smith to install, prior to hiring a head coach, Ted Freakin' Cottrell as defensive coordinator.

I'd say "overcome" is understating things.

Points: 0

#53 by dmstorm22 // Dec 19, 2018 - 3:59pm

He didn't just allow him to get fired after a 13-3 season.

He allowed him to get fired after a 14-2 season.

Points: 0

#55 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 4:21pm


I swear, it is the dumbest, most supernaturally stupid, incomprehensibly imbecilic, monumentally moronic, NFL management move I've ever witnessed. I remember when the firing was announced, and shortly afterwords the initial succession plan was announced, with the defensive coordinator installed before the head coach was hired, and that coordinator was.....TED COTTRELL!!!
The guy who, in his previous gig with the Vikings, could barely get his guys to line up correctly, who couldn't get his calls in to the defense in a timely manner! That was the reason why they chose to fire Marty Schottenheimer! I can still scarcely believe it!

Points: 0

#58 by Richie // Dec 19, 2018 - 7:14pm

The Chargers have racked up three 10+ win seasons in the dozen years since they fired Schottenheimer, so I think history shows that firing him was the correct decision.


Points: 0

#62 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 8:59pm

I'm getting old. For a milisecond I didn't recognize this as sarcasm. Stop picking on the codgers!

Points: 0

#63 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 20, 2018 - 8:37am

That's one more than the Lions have over that time span (and even they think firing Marty was dumb).

Granted, Marty has more 10 win seasons in his 21 years (11) than the Lions have in their 88 (10).

Points: 0

#70 by Richie // Dec 20, 2018 - 2:58pm

Hey, I think we can do better than that. Marty has five 12-win seasons. A 12-win season in 16 games is a .750 winning percentage.

In order to keep it fair for the seasons the Lions played fewer than 16 games. The Lions have had 8 seasons where they won at least 75% of their games.

Marty = 5/21 or 24%.
Lions = 8/89 or 9%

Of course, the Lions win 4 championships to zero for Marty.

Points: 0

#82 by Randall Turner // Dec 21, 2018 - 7:27am

First time post, Charger fan.

I really enjoy the intelligent football discussion with a STEM slant on y'all's site, but if y'all keep making me re-live that train wreck I'm going to post a ransom ware link, just sayin'. :p

Points: 0

#83 by Richie // Dec 21, 2018 - 1:21pm

I was taking a shot at the Lions, not the Chargers.

Points: 0

#37 by dmstorm22 // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:00pm

At this point, anyone who thinks Eli > Rivers I immediately just stop having the conversation with.

Ben vs. Rivers is an interesting one. Rivers peak has probably been higher, especially on advanced stats where Roethlisberger will get dinged by the sacks. But I do think playoff success should matter somewhat, and plainly Rivers has not been that good in his limited playoff appearances, while Roethlisberger has been decent to good in a larger (admittedly still small) sample.

I could go both ways.

Either way, they are both significantly better than Eli.

Points: 0

#46 by Richie // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:35pm

Rivers and Roethlisberger have fairly similar career PFR rate stats in the playoffs:

Rivers: 9 games, 4.0 TD%, 3.3 INT%, 8.0 Y/A, 240 Yd/G, 85.2 Rate, 6.29 ANY/A, 6.8 Sack%
Roethlisberger: 21 games, 4.4 TD%, 3.6 INT%, 7.8 Y/A, 250 Yd/G, 86.5 Rate, 6.09 ANY/A, 7.0 Sack%

Points: 0

#48 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:48pm

At this point, anyone who thinks Eli > Rivers I immediately just stop having the conversation with.

I mostly agree. But...

Eli has been much better than Rivers in the playoffs, and has been much better than Rivers against New England -- the two betes noires of Rivers' career.
Eli is 6-1 past the wildcard round, and is 3-2 vs New England with much better stats than the 1-5 past the wildcard and 1-7 vs Darth Hoodie Rivers.

It's hard to argue Eli has had better teams in those comps, too. The 2006, 2007, and 2010 Chargers were really good teams.

Eli is definitely a lesser QB on average, but he's capable of higher-variance performances, and that has been useful in a Flaccoan way in the playoffs and against vastly superior New England teams in specific. Eli is hard to stop because it's hard to predict what he does well.

Points: 0

#77 by Mountain Time … // Dec 20, 2018 - 6:08pm

I made the argument a couple weeks ago that Matt Schaub (also class of 2004) is better than Eli. It's not a slam dunk, but IMO Schaub is better by a significant margin.

Points: 0

#38 by apk3000 // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:01pm

If only Marlon McCree falls down instead of trying to return an interception...

Points: 0

#22 by Pat // Dec 19, 2018 - 10:23am

"So far this year's difference is a lot larger than it usually is."

It's mostly concentrated in the Rams/Saints, though. It's true this year is bigger than all previous years, but the Rams/Saints are contributing a little more than 1/3rd of the total decline. Remove that and it's still a decent decline, but it's not the biggest one. It'd probably be more than that if you just flat out remove the Rams/Saints and all of the games and recalculate everything with opponent adjustments that way.

It'd really be interesting to see teams sorted by offensive decline there. The Rams/Saints are so far ahead of everyone that it'd be interesting to know who else is contributing.

Points: 0

#23 by Eddo // Dec 19, 2018 - 10:43am

Sure, but don't you need to remove the two biggest decliners for previous years, too? Or is this year an anomaly in that two teams have huge declines, whereas most years, the decline is more uniform among teams?

Points: 0

#54 by Pat // Dec 19, 2018 - 4:11pm

Actually, you don't have to do that so much, because the Rams, Saints, and Chiefs were all massive outliers in offense. All 3 of those teams were on pace to finish in the top 4 of points scored in NFL history. Obviously there's never been 3 teams that good before in a season, so there's never been an opportunity for teams that good to have that much of a decline.

As of Week 12, the Rams were on pace to score 565 points in a season (would've ranked 3rd all time). Saints were on pace to score 594 points in a season (would've ranked 2nd all time) and the Chiefs were on pace to score 587 points in a season (would've ranked 3rd all time). Rams/Saints have cooled off to something like 510-520 point paces. Chiefs are still on pace to be 3rd all time.

Granted, you could get a similar *decline* by having a "good" team go to "godawful bad" or something, but here, you're talking about the NFL having a record-high scoring pace before week 12 and a pedestrian pace after week 12, and a "good" team to "godawful bad" wouldn't do that.

So yeah, there may have been previous years where one or two teams contributed entirely to the decline, but I don't think there's ever been a year where two teams were scoring at an all-time pace and then cooled off *dramatically* in the last quarter of the season.

Points: 0

#67 by Eddo // Dec 20, 2018 - 10:15am

But they aren't really massive outliers. At least not all of them.

Aaron's chart was looking at offensive DVOA decline, not points per game, so their points per game figures don't really matter here (and would need to be adjusted to full-league levels, anyway).

Through week 12, the Chiefs had 39.1% DVOA. That is an outlier, but they really haven't declined that much. The Rams were at 31.8%, the Saints at 26.5% (and the Chargers, who also haven't declined as sharply, at 27.8%).

Looking at past years' week 12 ratings for teams in the same ballpark:

NO: 27.5%
NE: 26.0%

DAL: 27.8%
ATL: 26.5%

CIN 22.9% (a bit of a reach)

DEN: 26.1%
GB: 24.6%

DEN: 30.9%
SD: 23.8% (a bit of a reach)

NE: 35.2%
SF: 23.0% (a bit of a reach)

GB: 37.6%
NE: 33.5%
NO: 31.2%
HOU: 23.8% (a bit of a reach)

NE: 45.2%
HOU: 29.0%
PHI: 28.0%

In most years, there are multiple teams within 2% of the 2018 Saints' offensive DVOA through 12 weeks, and thus, previous years have had plenty of opportunity to decline in aggregate as much as this year, but haven't.

Points: 0

#68 by Pat // Dec 20, 2018 - 11:52am

"Aaron's chart was looking at offensive DVOA decline, not points per game, so their points per game figures don't really matter here (and would need to be adjusted to full-league levels, anyway)."

That's because the league-wide DVOA is normalized to 0% every year, so when you have multiple, it actually depresses the absolute values of each because it looks like the era is just higher. That's the tricky part here: the Saints, Rams, Chiefs, and Chargers are all part of forming the baseline. I mean, this also presents a problem in the opponent corrections as well (which caused problems in a previous year when you had strong outliers, which lead to second-order opponent corrections).

Unfortunately, the pre-2012 years (when they were published, which is where you got the numbers from - at least I'm assuming, since they're identical to that page) are *not* normalized every year, so I don't really know of a fair comparison there. In week 13 (one week later), 2011 Green Bay had an (era-adjusted) DVOA rating of 32.5% (as Aaron published then), whereas at the published time it was 37.3%. So you can see there's a decent drop there - you could probably guess that 2011 would look more like 32.5%, 28.5%, 26.2% for the top 3 (with Houston likely at like 19% or so). Which is *close* to this year, but not really - you definitely don't have 4 above 25%.


In any case, this kinda misses the point of what I was saying. Even if it isn't *unprecedented* in DVOA like I said, it's very rare - only maybe 2011 and 2010 are fair comparisons there over that time period. 2 teams in the high-20s won't do it: this year you have *4*. And in those 2 cases, in fact, no, none of the top offenses declined like that at *all*.

So in most years, there aren't this many far outliers to be able to drop down, and in the few cases where there were, they didn't decline. So again, same conclusion: the "odd" nature of this year's decline is really just the Rams and Saints offense declining dramatically.

Points: 0

#27 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:04am

I'm curious, as historical week-by-week DVOA aren't available -- what teams have never been DVOA #1 at any point in the DVOA era?

Points: 0

#29 by deus01 // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:10am

Denver is clearly ranked too high because any team that kicks a field goal down 4 from the 6 on 4th and 1 deserves to be rated much lower. Ratings that factor in whether or not the coach is an idiot are way better than this. Stupid Broncso could ahve had a mcuh better record with bettr coaching.

Points: 0

#36 by RPDC // Dec 19, 2018 - 11:38am

I don't think the decline is the weather. I think the decline is from teams that have gone "all-in" salary-wise for their top starters, resulting in those teams lacking the depth needed to succeed in December.

The Saints and Rams being the prime examples. For the Saints, they knew Armstead would miss games given that he's never played a complete season. Yet they failed to resign Kelemete or even come close to replacing him, and then went with the most egregious ego-pick in the draft with Rick Leonard in the 4th round.

The result is that they've had to play 3 straight road games in Decembers with 1/2 of an OL, all because they lacked the depth necessary to compete after attrition.

Points: 0

#41 by Will Allen // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:23pm

We very likely will never again see teams like we saw prior to the salary cap taking full effect which I vaguely peg to about the mid 90s: teams that rack up 13 plus wins with huge point differentials, then stomp 3 straight playoff opponents, with the games noncompetitive by the end of the first half. Back then, with an owner willing to spend money in a league without free agency or salary cap, who was lucky with his coaching hire, like Jack Kent Cooke or Eddie Debartolo, talent could be stockpiled, building tremendous depth.
Even the cheapskate owners like in Chicago could get lucky and build rosters that suffered significant injury and could still dominate. Frankly, I like it better now.

Points: 0

#44 by Richie // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:28pm

The noted declines are limited to offense. Wouldn't the depth problems show up equally on defense?

Points: 0

#49 by Aaron Brooks G… // Dec 19, 2018 - 1:50pm

You saw it early in the season.

Now that offenses have come down due to injuries and lost their depth advantage, they're only on par with defenses.

Points: 0

#64 by Cheesehead_Canuck // Dec 20, 2018 - 9:50am

Well Josh Gordon is done.

The Patriots have never looked so vulnerable heading into January, even if they back into the 2 seed and a bye.

Points: 0

#65 by PatsFan // Dec 20, 2018 - 9:57am

Well, the Gordon news pretty much seals NE’s fate (not that they were gonna be anything than 1-and-done in the WC round this year anyways)

Points: 0

#71 by Richie // Dec 20, 2018 - 3:02pm

I don't know if they'll be one and done in WC round. They will likely host the #6 seed in the first round. That seems likely to be either the Colts or Titans. Or possibly the Ravens.

I think they would beat any of those 3 at home in round 1. If they drop to the #4 seed and host the Chargers, that would be a tougher task. Though I wouldn't want to bet on a Chargers team having to play in a cold Foxboro.

Points: 0

#72 by Will Allen // Dec 20, 2018 - 3:31pm

I think the Colts offense might score a lot of points in Foxboro, or if not score a ton, really control the game. In another 3 weeks, Andrew Luck with excellent protection might be extremely formidable. Funny how that works with good qbs.

Points: 0

#73 by LionInAZ // Dec 20, 2018 - 3:44pm

I wouldn't be so confident. They've already lost to the Titans this year, 34-10. The Ravens have a tough D that has caused problems for NE in the past. Colts would be a tough out against a bad NE defense, and their defense has gotten better over the season. And the Chargers are just plain better than the Patriots right now.

Points: 0

#75 by Richie // Dec 20, 2018 - 4:24pm

I always assume the Patriots will win a playoff game until they actually lose one.

Points: 0

#74 by Cheesehead_Canuck // Dec 20, 2018 - 4:07pm

While it would be fitting for the Luck era Colts to finally slay their dragons in Foxboro the same year that the Steelers seemed to, it's so hard to even imagine that happening. Of course, these Colts are different than the Pagano-coached ones. Ravens and Chargers would both be formidable opponents for different reasons.

Then again, Houston may slip in Philly and then the Patriots are 1 home win and a Chiefs upset away from hosting an AFCCG.

Points: 0

Save 10%
& Support Aaron
Support Football Outsiders' independent media and Aaron Schatz. Use promo code SCHATZ to save 10% on any FO+ membership and give half the cost of your membership to tip Aaron.