by Aaron Schatz
The Los Angeles Rams continue to set the pace in the NFL after four weeks, opening up a large lead in both the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings and the DAVE ratings which combine 2018 performance with preseason forecasts. The Rams got lots of headlines for adding players to their defense this offseason, and that defense is playing pretty well, ninth in DVOA through four weeks. But the Rams are powered by their insanely good offense. Even after adjusting for opponents and for the current extreme pass-friendly nature of the NFL in 2018, the Rams now qualify as one of the ten best offenses we've ever tracked through four games. Their Week 4 win over Minnesota had the best single-game offensive DVOA of the year so far, 88.9%.
On the other side of the ledger are the Buffalo Bills. They've been dismal on offense this year, and things are even worse once you adjust for the current NFL offensive environment. Buffalo has single-game offensive DVOA ratings of -90.2% in Week 1 and -88.7% in Week 2. Those are the only single-game ratings under -60% put up this year by any team in any game. In the other two games, Buffalo has single-game offensive DVOA of around -30%, which means that even if you take out the two worst games, Buffalo would still have one of the two worst offenses in the league. Buffalo is slightly above average on both defense and special teams this year, but the offense has been so horrendous that the Bills are in last place in overall DVOA by over 20 percentage points.
Last week, we ran a table with the best and worst offensive DVOA ever measured through three games. That table featured Kansas City on the positive side, and Arizona on the negative side. This week, the Kansas City offense slowed down and the Arizona offense played better. Add in the opponent adjustments and now it's the Rams and Bills on these tables instead of the Chiefs and Cardinals. (The Chiefs would still be in the top 20 for best offenses, though.)
|BEST OFFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2018
|WORST OFFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2018
Another surprise in this week's ratings is that the Chiefs did not climb into second place after Miami's huge loss to New England. Instead, they stay in third place, passed along the way by the Chicago Bears. This may be a case of small sample size, of course, always a danger early in the season when a team has one huge game out of just three or four. Chicago had the biggest single game of the year with 106.9% DVOA against Tampa Bay this week, moving them up from 10th to second overall. The offense climbed from 27th to 20th, but this team is really doing it with the league's No. 1 defense. Right now, the gap between Chicago and the rest of the league's defenses is over 10 percentage points.
This is the week we start to introduce opponent adjustments, which begin at 40 percent of their usual strength and will gradually increase by 10 percent each week until we are at full strength after Week 10. It's also the season debut for the second weekly table that includes past and future schedule ratings. Adding in opponent adjustments gives us our first chance to look at which teams and players might look better or worse than they really are because of the schedule. As usual early in the season, because our opponent adjustments are only at 40 percent strength, good teams generally get listed with easy schedules and bad teams get listed with hard schedules. However, there are a few teams that stand out, both because of their schedule so far and because of how things will change going forward.
- Based on current DVOA, New Orleans rates with the easiest schedule in the league so far, but they are only 11th in DVOA. (The top two teams, the Rams and Bears, are ranked 30th and 31st in schedule so far.) New Orleans also is going to face a schedule that gets much harder from here on out. Based on average DVOA of opponent, their schedule the rest of the way ranks fourth in the league. Based on average DAVE of opponent instead, it ranks as the toughest schedule the rest of the way.
- Cincinnati is seventh in DVOA and 3-1 right now despite having the No. 9 toughest schedule in the league so far. Only two teams with top-ten schedules so far have winning records, Cincinnati and No. 22 Tennessee, which has a DVOA far below any other team with a winning record.
- Things may get better for Atlanta after a tough 1-3 start. The Falcons rank sixth in schedule so far but 31st in schedule the rest of the way based on DVOA and 27th in future schedule based on DAVE.
- Other teams whose schedules should get easier the rest of the way: New England, Indianapolis, and the New York Jets.
- Other teams whose schedules should get harder the rest of the way: Detroit, Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Cleveland.
How do opponent adjustments affect the player stats so far? Here are players with particularly strong differences between DYAR and YAR.
- Aaron Rodgers and Derek Carr have played tough schedules so far. For Rodgers that includes playing two of the top three pass defenses by DVOA, Chicago and Washington.
- Eli Manning has played an easy schedule so far, which begs the question, is it possible the Giants could actually throw downfield less often when they play stronger pass defenses? (Jacksonville has a strong pass defense, of course, but the other three Giants opponents rank 26th or lower.)
- As great as Alvin Kamara has been in the early going, he ranks second in rushing YAR but drops to fifth in DYAR. The Giants and Falcons are two of the league's four weakest run defenses so far. Jay Ajayi and Ezekiel Elliott have also had easier schedules so far.
- On the other hand we have Saquon Barkley, who ranks 16th in rushing YAR but climbs all the way to second once we incorporate opponent adjustments. Why has Barkley's schedule been hard and Manning's easy? The Giants have had a schedule notable for teams that have been stellar against the run and horrible against the pass, including Houston (second vs. run, 29th vs. pass); New Orleans (first vs. run, 32nd vs. pass); and Dallas (11th vs. run, 26th vs. pass). Peyton Barber, Derrick Henry, and Tevin Coleman also get bumped up by opponent adjustments.
- Antonio Brown has the biggest gap between receiving YAR and receiving DYAR, which goes maybe one or two percent of the way towards explaining why his connection with Ben Roethlisberger has been so bad this year. Brown, who has some of the greatest receiving DYAR seasons we've ever measured, ranks 75th in receiving YAR this year but moves up to... 72nd in DYAR. Like I said, it explains only a tiny bit of the problem.
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Once again this season, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 19 on a monthly basis. Today, we get to announce the Football Outsiders September players for Madden Ultimate Team on consoles, which will go live at 10:30am Eastern on Sunday.
- HB Austin Ekeler, LAC: Second among RB in receiving DYAR (13-for-14, 163 yards, 2 TD). Also 28 carries for 188 yards (6.7 yards per carry).
- WR DeSean Jackson, TB: Leads all WR in receiving DYAR (17-for-22, 424 yards, 3 TD).
- TE Jesse James, PIT: Second among TE in receiving DYAR (10-for-12, 228 yards, TD).
- LG Quinton Spain, TEN: No blown blocks or holding penalties through Week 4.
- C John Sullivan, LAR: Rams rank first in adjusted sack rate through Week 4, and second in adjusted line yards, including first on runs up the middle.
- DT Lawrence Guy, NE: Leads defensive linemen with 19 combined run tackles, with an average gain of just 1.6 yards.
- MLB Alec Ogletree, NYG: Tied for second in NFL with 10 defeats (4 TFL, INT, 5 tackles to prevent third-down conversion).
- ROLB Darius Leonard, IND: Leads NFL with 54 combined tackles and 13 defeats (8 TFL, FF, 3 tackles to prevent third-down conversions, PD to prevent fourth-down conversion).
- CB Xavien Howard, MIA: Fourth in NFL with 85 percent success rate in coverage through Week 3.
- SS Bradley McDougald, SEA: Leads all safeties with 9 defeats (FF, 2 INT, PD leading to INT, 2 TFL, and 3 plays to prevent third-down conversions).
- K Josh Lambo, JAX: 8-for-8 field goals, no kickoffs returned past the 25.
- P Lachlan Edwards, NYJ: Second in NFL with estimated 3.6 points of field position in gross punting value; fifth in NFL with 43.8-yard net average.
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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through four 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.
Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are only at 40 percent strength; they will increase 10 percent every week through Week 10. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.
DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with current DVOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 50 percent of DAVE for most teams (60 percent for Carolina and Washington).
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).