by Aaron Schatz
The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams remain 1-2 on top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings this week. Both teams dropped slightly in DVOA after close wins, but there's still a sizeable gap between these top two teams and the rest of the league. The Los Angeles Chargers remain at No. 3 this week, with the Carolina Panthers moving up to No. 4 after their big win over the Baltimore Ravens. (The Ravens went from fourth to ninth, so the teams essentially switched places.) Chicago is back to No. 5 as Denver's loss to Kansas City drops the Broncos out of the top five. (Still, at No. 7, they remain much higher than conventional wisdom. Only Oakland has played a harder schedule this year by average DVOA of opponent.)
The big change this week is not at the top of the DVOA ratings but at the top of the playoff odds report. Each week, we've lowered the importance of preseason projections in the DAVE ratings we use to compile the playoff odds simulation. It's those preseason projections that were keeping the Rams ahead of the Chiefs even after Kansas City took over the No. 1 spot in DVOA. Well, no longer. With the preseason forecast now only 10 percent of DAVE ratings, this week the Chiefs move ahead of the Rams. And that means the Chiefs also move ahead of the Rams as our Super Bowl favorites for the first time. Our latest simulation has Kansas City winning the Super Bowl 28.0 percent of the time, and the Rams winning 27.5 percent of the time.
What's the difference between Kansas City and Los Angeles? It's almost entirely about strength of schedule. The unadjusted VOA numbers have the Rams significantly ahead of the Chiefs. But the Rams have played the No. 21 toughest schedule based on average DVOA of opponent, and the Chiefs have played the No. 5 toughest schedule. The difference isn't in playing the good teams but rather playing the bad teams. Kansas City has played four games against teams in our top ten (including Denver twice) and only one game against a team ranked lower than 20th in DVOA (San Francisco, 30th). The Rams have played three games against teams in our top ten but also three games against teams in the bottom five (San Francisco, Oakland, and Arizona).
There's one other issue going on with that big gap between the Rams' VOA and DVOA: fumbles. The Rams have recovered a league-high 80 percent of fumbles this year (6 of 7 on offense, 5 of 7 on defense, 1 of 1 on special teams). Kansas City has recovered 55 percent of fumbles. (The teams on the other extreme from the Rams? Miami and Oakland, which have recovered 29 and 30 percent of fumbles, respectively.)
Now that we've gotten to midseason, we're starting to get a lot of discussion of who the early leaders are for MVP. To me, there's only one candidate this year and nobody else comes close. Quarterback is by far the most important position in the modern NFL, and one quarterback is far ahead of the rest of the league in value this year. Patrick Mahomes is obviously the NFL MVP at the season's halfway point.
Right now, Kansas City has 70.7% passing DVOA on offense. Now, I don't have an easily accessible list of what every team's passing DVOA was after every week going back to 1986, the same way I do for total offense and total defense. But I can tell you that only one team has ever finished the season with passing DVOA over 70%: the 2007 New England Patriots at 72.7%. So right now, the Chiefs have the No. 2 passing offense we've ever measured, and that's despite normalizing DVOA for the high average offensive output around the league this year.
Check out this year's passing numbers. Mahomes leads all quarterbacks in both passing DYAR and DVOA. In passing DYAR, or total value, he's nearly 300 DYAR ahead of everyone else. Mahomes is on pace for over 2000 passing DYAR, a number that's only been achieved eight times by four different quarterbacks. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning each did it three times, and Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers each did it once. Let's say Mahomes slows down and finishes with "only" 1800 passing DYAR. He would be only the seventh quarterback to do that, after the four quarterbacks above plus Matt Ryan in 2016 and Daunte Culpepper in 2004.
Do you want to look at passing DVOA instead, so we're not giving Mahomes credit for how much the Chiefs like to throw the ball? OK, Mahomes is on pace to be one of only six quarterbacks to ever finish the season with passing DVOA over 45% on at least 200 passes. Brady and Manning each did it twice, and Rodgers, Randall Cunningham, and Steve Young each did it once.
Again, the strength of schedule comes into play here. Look at the unadjusted VOA on the quarterbacks page, and you'll see that Mahomes and Drew Brees are practically tied. But Mahomes has actually played this well despite playing a harder than average schedule of opposing pass defenses! So he goes from 41.0% VOA to 46.0% DVOA, while Brees, who has played a very easy schedule, goes from 41.1% VOA to 36.3% DVOA.
As a reader pointed out over Twitter, Mahomes' numbers are even more impressive when you realize that this is his first year as a starter. It's not as easy to split out as "first year in the league," but as long as I didn't forget anyone, this is the list of the best passing DYAR seasons by quarterbacks in their first starting seasons in the NFL:
|Top Quarterbacks by Passing DYAR
in First Starting Season, 1986-2018
|P.Mahomes (through 8 games)||2018||KC||1101|
That's incredible. We can't go back to Greg Cook in 1968, and we don't have Dan Marino's rookie season in our database yet (he had only nine starts), but I feel safe in saying that Mahomes is on pace to have the greatest year ever from a first-year starting quarterback.
In case you are curious -- I was, so I checked -- Warner had 817 passing DYAR through eight games in 1999
Meanwhile, on the other side of the offensive table...
|WORST OFFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 8 GAMES, 1986-2018
They moved up a couple of percentage points, but for the second week, Buffalo is on pace to finish the season as the worst offense ever tracked by DVOA. The Bills offense is so bad that the Patriots held Buffalo to six points last night and their defensive DVOA got worse. The Patriots got better on offense, but worse on defense and special teams and dropped from eighth to tenth in DVOA despite a 25-6 win.
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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 October players for Madden Ultimate Team on consoles, which will go live at 10:30am Eastern on Sunday. These players will also go live in Madden Overdrive for mobile devices sometime soon.
- QB Philip Rivers, LAC: Led all QBs with 56.8% passing DVOA for October (71% completion rate, 10.7 net yards per pass, 6 TD, 1 INT).
- HB Marlon Mack, IND: Led all HB with 117 rushing DYAR in October (6.2 yards per carry, 68% success rate).
- WR David Moore, SEA: Fifth among WR with 108 receiving DYAR in October despite only 11 targets (20.2 yards per reception, 4 TD).
- TE O.J. Howard, TB: Led all TE with 86 receiving DYAR in October (13-of-17, 15.1 yards per reception, 2 TD).
- RT Rob Havenstein, LAR: Rams third in October with 5.7 adjusted line yards per carry on runs to the right side.
- RE Chandler Jones, ARI: Tied for third among defenders with 10 defeats in October, including 3.5 sacks and 4 run TFL.
- MLB Raekwon McMillan, MIA: Third in the NFL with 18 run stops in October.
- CB Ronald Darby, PHI: Led NFL with 7 PD in October; 7 of his 13 tackles after receptions stopped receiver short of a successful play.
- CB Orlando Scandrick, KC: Fourth among CB with 4.6 yards per pass allowed through Week 7; eighth with 66% success rate in coverage.
- SS Budda Baker, ARI: Led all defenders with 14 defeats in October, including tackle or assist on 10 TFL.
- K Jason Myers, NYJ: 11-of-12 on field goals in October, including five of 45+ yards. 78% touchback rate.
- P Britton Colquitt, CLE: Led NFL punters with 48.1-yard gross average in October.
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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through eight 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 80 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 10 percent of DAVE for most teams (20 percent for teams with just seven games played).
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>
(Ed. Note: The original posting of this table had incorrect DAVE numbers, showing weighted DVOA instead. These numbers have now been fixed as of Wednesday afternoon.)
- 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).