DVOA Analysis
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2019 DVOA Projections

by Aaron Schatz

Here are our DVOA projections for 2019, updated from the season forecasts in Football Outsiders Almanac 2019.

For those new to our website, you can find an explanation of DVOA here. Note that there's a big difference between DVOA and projected DVOA. The DVOA ratings that appear on the website during the season are based on the actual play-by-play that happens during the season, with no future projection whatsoever. The numbers here are a forecast, with offense, defense, and special teams DVOA all projected separately using a system based on looking at trends for teams over the past decade. Our system starts by considering the team's DVOA over the past three seasons and, on offense, a separate projection for the starting quarterback. Then we look at a number of other variables which suggest when a team will be better or worse than would otherwise be expected due to standard regression towards the mean. Factors include major offseason personnel changes, coaching experience, recent draft history, combined tenure on the offensive line, and certain players returning from injury (or, in the case of these preseason updates, certain players getting injured in the preseason).

The numbers we are presenting here are exactly what the projection system spit out. As we say every year: "A few of them will look strange to you. A few of them look strange to us." As always, the offensive projections come out in a wider range than defensive projections because offense performance tends to be easier to predict (and more consistent from year to year) than defensive performance. If you are looking for subjective projections, Thursday we will be running our usual staff predictions article where we all talk about where we think the numbers are wrong.

We've also done our first playoff odds report simulation based on these updated DVOA projections, and I've added the playoff odds and Super Bowl championship odds to the table below. At the start of a new season, our simulation is very conservative about the average number of wins and losses expected for each team. Obviously, the NFL is going to have teams that are 11-5 or better, and it is going to have teams that are 5-11 or worse. It may seem like our simulation predicts half the league to go 8-8, but we know that won't happen. We also use a "dynamic" playoff odds simulation. Each time it plays through the season, it adds 1.5% to the DVOA of every winner and subtracts 1.5% from the DVOA of every loser before moving on to the next week's games. This reflects the fact that DVOA projections are just estimates, and actual performance during the season gives us better knowledge of how good or bad teams really are.

Personnel changes aren't the only difference between this updated simulation and the one we did for Football Outsiders Almanac 2019. This is a smaller simulation which only uses one set of mean projected DVOA ratings, rather than using 1,000 different sets of ratings to represent that some teams have a wider range of probable performance quality than others. The smaller simulation is even more conservative than the one from the book, so average win projections will come out a little closer to 8-8.

The odds of getting the No. 1 pick listed below (and listed on the playoff odds report page) do not incorporate traded picks. Projected division champions are colored in light yellow and projected wild-card teams are colored in light purple.

TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
RK MEAN
WINS
OFF.
DVOA
RK DEF.
DVOA
RK S.T.
DVOA
RK SCHED RK NO. 1
PICK

ODDS
PLAY
OFF
ODDS
S.B.
WIN
ODDS
NO 21.2% 1 10.2 17.7% 1 -3.9% 9 -0.4% 18 -0.6% 21 0.2% 73.2% 13.5%
NE 17.0% 2 10.2 14.0% 3 0.3% 18 3.3% 2 -5.0% 32 0.2% 75.6% 11.4%
LAC 16.1% 3 9.7 13.8% 4 -3.1% 10 -0.7% 22 -0.8% 22 0.3% 64.2% 8.4%
KC 15.1% 4 9.3 15.5% 2 2.7% 22 2.2% 3 1.8% 8 0.3% 58.7% 7.2%
LAR 14.6% 5 9.4 10.2% 5 -2.6% 12 1.8% 4 0.5% 15 0.4% 61.0% 7.8%
PIT 13.6% 6 9.5 9.0% 7 -5.2% 5 -0.7% 21 -1.7% 27 0.3% 62.1% 7.1%
SEA 8.1% 7 8.6 9.2% 6 0.0% 17 -1.1% 26 1.4% 9 0.9% 45.6% 3.9%
PHI 7.8% 8 9.2 4.0% 13 -4.5% 7 -0.8% 23 -3.8% 30 0.7% 56.7% 5.0%
HOU 6.6% 9 8.5 0.9% 15 -6.0% 3 -0.3% 16 2.0% 6 1.0% 45.2% 3.4%
DAL 5.1% 10 8.7 0.6% 16 -4.2% 8 0.4% 11 -1.7% 26 0.9% 48.2% 3.6%
BAL 4.9% 11 8.5 -4.8% 21 -5.0% 6 4.6% 1 0.1% 19 1.1% 42.9% 3.0%
TEN 4.4% 12 8.4 4.6% 11 0.7% 19 0.5% 8 0.2% 18 1.3% 44.4% 2.9%
GB 2.8% 13 8.2 9.0% 8 4.7% 26 -1.6% 32 0.5% 14 1.4% 39.4% 2.5%
CHI 2.4% 14 8.0 -1.7% 18 -5.3% 4 -1.2% 29 2.9% 3 1.6% 35.6% 2.2%
DET 2.0% 15 8.3 3.2% 14 1.7% 21 0.4% 9 -1.0% 24 1.5% 41.1% 2.4%
CAR 1.2% 16 8.1 4.5% 12 3.7% 24 0.5% 7 0.5% 16 1.8% 36.0% 2.0%
MIN 1.0% 17 8.0 -3.9% 19 -6.1% 2 -1.2% 30 1.3% 10 1.7% 35.4% 2.1%
ATL -0.5% 18 7.7 7.2% 9 6.5% 29 -1.2% 28 2.2% 5 2.2% 30.9% 1.6%
CLE -0.7% 19 8.0 4.8% 10 4.8% 27 -0.7% 20 -0.9% 23 1.8% 34.9% 1.7%
SF -2.0% 20 7.7 -4.4% 20 -2.7% 11 -0.3% 17 1.2% 12 2.5% 30.7% 1.4%
JAX -3.4% 21 7.6 -10.0% 27 -6.6% 1 0.0% 12 0.8% 13 2.9% 30.4% 1.2%
NYJ -5.1% 22 7.9 -5.2% 23 0.8% 20 0.8% 5 -4.2% 31 2.6% 34.2% 1.2%
OAK -5.9% 23 7.2 0.5% 17 5.7% 28 -0.6% 19 2.0% 7 3.9% 22.4% 0.8%
IND -7.1% 24 7.2 -8.9% 26 -1.0% 14 0.8% 6 1.3% 11 3.9% 23.3% 0.7%
BUF -10.6% 25 7.3 -10.0% 28 -0.6% 16 -1.2% 27 -3.4% 28 4.2% 24.7% 0.6%
NYG -10.7% 26 7.2 -8.1% 25 3.0% 23 0.4% 10 -3.6% 29 4.8% 23.5% 0.6%
DEN -11.2% 27 6.6 -10.9% 29 -1.0% 15 -1.4% 31 3.0% 1 6.2% 15.3% 0.3%
CIN -11.9% 28 6.8 -4.8% 22 6.9% 31 -0.3% 14 0.3% 17 5.6% 17.5% 0.5%
ARI -12.7% 29 6.5 -14.9% 31 -2.2% 13 0.0% 13 2.9% 2 6.5% 15.3% 0.4%
TB -13.7% 30 6.3 -6.0% 24 6.7% 30 -1.0% 25 2.7% 4 7.2% 13.0% 0.3%
WAS -17.6% 31 6.4 -12.8% 30 3.9% 25 -0.8% 24 -1.1% 25 8.3% 14.5% 0.3%
MIA -30.6% 32 4.9 -22.1% 32 8.3% 32 -0.3% 15 0.1% 20 22.1% 4.3% 0.0%

You'll notice the biggest change between the book and this projection, which is that last yellow line. The Green Bay Packers fell a little bit in our projections based on a number of personnel adjustments that all changed small variables slightly, and that means that we end up with the Detroit Lions as our NFC North favorites. I've been trying to explain all preseason that Detroit is better than conventional wisdom but I did not expect to have to wave the flag of the Lions as division favorites and I'm not exactly happy about it. It seems like going a little bit too far, but that's what the numbers spat out in what is by far the closest division in the NFL according to our projections. All four NFC North teams have projected DVOA between 1.0% and 2.8%, and all four teams have mean projected wins between 8.0 and 8.3. Detroit is not as good as Chicago or Green Bay, but it's close, and they have the easiest schedule in the division. The Lions aren't prohibitive favorites, but nuance doesn't exactly work well on the Internet.

We've also had a change in our projected winner of the AFC South. The Indianapolis Colts have dropped into last place in the projections after the retirement of Andrew Luck. We thought we were going to have the Tennessee Titans as our projected division champions but Houston jumped ahead of the Titans at the last minute. Those trades this weekend may have hamstrung the future process of building the team, but we do think that the addition of Tunsil and Stills outweighs the loss of Clowney and that puts the Texans very narrowly ahead of the Titans as the favorites in the AFC South.

Besides the Colts and Packers, other teams that fell a bit since the DVOA projections in FOA 2019 are the Los Angeles Chargers, who were our AFC favorites in the book but have fallen behind New England due to injuries, and the Miami Dolphins, who come out even worse now than they did a couple months ago. I'll have to go through all the old books to see when's the last time we had a preseason mean projection below 5.0 wins but it was probably a long time ago.

You may notice that our mean projections have 10 of 12 teams returning to the playoffs. The only non-repeat playoff teams we have in our top 12 are Pittsburgh and Detroit. (Green Bay, if it was NFC North favorite, would also be a non-repeat playoff team.) Obviously, there will be more change in the playoff structure than that. Historically, about half the playoff teams have turned over each year, although that total has been lower in recent years. Still, forecasting most teams to stay consistent ends up being more accurate than blindly casting about to try to figure out which will be the new playoff teams.

Comments

66 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2019, 3:36am

1 With mean wins ranging from…

With mean wins ranging from 8 to 8.3 in the NFC North, it's not crazy to predict that whichever team's placekicker chokes the least will win the division. It'll probably be the team with the best injury luck, of course.

4 The NFC East in 2007 had…

The NFC East in 2007 had three teams make the playoffs and their last place finisher was the pesky eagles who had major injuries. That year also had the Cowboys finishing as the top seed in the NFC along with the eventual superbowl champs. 

3 Idk if they are under radar,…

Idk if they are under radar, but the Broncos are my sleeper bad team makes the playoffs pick this year. I think Vic Fangio superchargers a talented(but imo mismanaged by last year's staff) defense into top five status while the offense grounds and pounds its way to a bunch 20-17 win games - something Flacco will certainly be no stranger to. Every year, there's an engine that could team that manages to squeeze just enough offense plus some good defense and special teams to a 10 win season. There is some long term pain from this however. Jon Elway will likely see a successful season as validation for his team building efforts. He would be wrong. This team is still largely built on the same chassis from the sb team, just older. The offense is still bad and projects to be worse without significant changes and the defense will eventually lose its last stalwarts.

8 Interesting

I do certainly think that's in the realm of possibility. In their 2019 FO Almanac, they point out that extremely rangy LBs are usually a staple of the best Vic Fangio defenses. Think Patrick Willis and the army of extremely talented 49ers LBs as well as Roquan Smith and former Bronco Danny Trevathan last year. That will be put to the test this year as the defense appears stacked at EDGE and secondary, but with fairly poor LBs. If LB really is the engine that makes these defenses go, then it'll once again be a good, not great unit. Also working against them was that the Broncos were the #5 DVOA defense a year ago with a slightly positive offensive DVOA. This narrative would be easier to believe if the Broncos had finished with -5% offensive DVOA and Flacco could get them back to average. Flacco and Keenum are probably similar in overall ability, but different qualitatively. Flacco doesn't deal with pass rush nearly as well as Keenum, so the upgrade at OL and Mike Munchak coming in better do better than previous Broncos O-lines which I do think will happen, just whether or not it's enough.

21 Well, if we're relying on…

Well, if we're relying on good defense and special teams for this prediction, it's a long shot. Broncos' special teams unit was atrocious in the preseason. And I'm used to Broncos generally fielding sub-par special teams units, and this one is bad even by comparison.

And a bad special teams unit turns close wins into not very close losses, unfortunately.

33 This team is still largely…

This team is still largely built on the same chassis from the sb team, just older.

There are 6 players on the Broncos roster who were part of that Super Bowl team, only 4 of whom contributed meaningful snaps in the Super Bowl. They have 39 players on the roster with less than 4 accrued seasons, including the following players expected to start or contribute a substantial number of snaps this year: Garret Bolles, Bradley Chubb, Noah Fant, Royce Freeman, Adam Gotsis, Phillip Lindsay, Connor McGovern, Dalton Risner, Courtland Sutton, Justin Simmons, Josey Jewell.

35 "Chassis" is a pretty open…

"Chassis" is a pretty open-ended word, that you don't see much in this context, so I guess I can see how it could still work.

Certainly Von/CHJr are pretty significant components of a chassis, and Derek Wolfe's/Corey Nelson's/Todd Davis' contributions on the defense aren't trivial, to say nothing of McManus kicking.  In fact, Wolfe has nearly the same tenure as Von/CH, starting years before that Super Bowl.

42 I agree that the Broncos…

I agree that the Broncos look better than these projections are saying. However, there are two important counterpoints:

  1. Tough schedule/tough division
  2. Joe Flacco is their starting QB, and Lock is on IR until week 8 at the earliest.

#2 is the big one for me. As a Broncos fan, I am mentally preparing for a frustrating year. Is there any reason to watch the offense before Lock gets in the lineup? 

59 There is some hope that…

There is some hope that Munchak is the amazing OL coach that we've been sold and he can turn a potentially weak line into something solid. And the combination of Lindsay + Freeman are exciting.

Flacco behind a solid OL that gives him time to pick his targets actually IS kind of dangerous, with the following caveat: Sutton and Hamilton have to take pretty big steps in their sophomore years.

So there is some hope, but there's so many ifs in there that it's hard to have any real faith it'll happen, because if any one of those things doesn't happen, it's going to be a rough season.

22 sorta think somebody steps…

sorta think somebody steps up this year (maybe even both jets and bills).  they don't always spot franchise qbs coming (recent examples mahomes (who they projected to go 7-9) and goff;  pretty sure they were early on pegging wentz, though)

6 Chargers over Chiefs?

I can't understand why the model still likes the Chargers more than the Chiefs. The Chargers have finished behind the Chiefs in DVOA for the last years. The table above has the Chiefs with 15.5% offensive DVOA which is lower than the Chiefs finished with in 2017 (15.9%) with Alex Smith at QB and no Sammy Watkins with everything else more or less intact. The Chargers are already out Derwin James and possibly Russell Okung with Rivers showing diminishing arm strength. Can someone shed some light on this?

7 I agree, im down on the…

I agree, im down on the Chargers too, even though I thought they were the most balanced(possibly most talented) team in the AFC. Something feels rickety about them. 

9 Part of for me is Anthony Lynn

I think Lynn is a bottom 10 coach in the league and that no one has done less with more than he has. His in-game "aggressiveness index" is bottom 5 of league where almost all the coaches are way too conservative. The Chargers also are very inconsistent on a game to game basis. They won 4/5 games decided by 4 points or less last year which history says is probably not sustainable.

66 Agree Chiefs, not Lynn

Lynn's a push imo. Our problem is lack of talent up the middle on both sides of the ball. (OL, DT/LB) Chiefs will walk away with the division, and I think you're correct that they're underrated too. But the Chargers definitely getting too much respect from the model here.

i know late but we're fans of respective teams and nobody else will read this. :)

11 Alex Smith may have been the…

Alex Smith may have been the QB, but the Chiefs were fantastic on offense that year. Smith was being talked about as a strong MVP candidate for at least the first half of the season. I imagine simple regression might explain why this year's Chiefs offense is supposed to perform worse than that unit.

17 Thats exactly it. They…

Thats exactly it. They explain that in the almanac. Its that they expect the offense to regress big time. The defense should get better but it wasn't as bad as many act like. Their offense was one of the best ever, their defense wasn't even that close to be the worse this season. Simple laws of regression say we should expect them to get worse. 

52 Never said otherwise, but I…

Never said otherwise, but I'm not really quite sure what you're getting at. These are the projections that they got for the Chiefs. They'd readily admit they're not perfect projections. Are you saying that they should alter their 2019 projections because they've been wrong in the past?

36 I can see a good chance of…

In reply to by LionInAZ

I can see a good chance of regression to the mean for other reasons, but didn't their run and overall offense barely miss a beat when he got the axe this past year?

16 They addressed this in their…

They addressed this in their almanac. The Chiefs offense has way more room to regress than the defense has to progress. The Chargers were a more well rounded team. They also showed the Chiefs were lucky with injuries and extremely lucky with dropped interceptions.

48 See the projected strength…

See the projected strength of schedule for each team. Chargers and Chiefs are projected to be very similar teams, but Chargers have a much easier projected schedule. 

10 Hmm, the top three teams are…

Hmm, the top three teams are all squads with old QBs at the helm. Especially old for the top two teams. I don't think it would be terribly surprising for any of those teams to be much worse than projections. Time is undefeated and the drop off in performance, when it comes, can be severe.

EDIT: Even more so since the strength of each of those teams is the offense, not the defense.

49 "As always, the offensive…

"As always, the offensive projections come out in a wider range than defensive projections because offense performance tends to be easier to predict (and more consistent from year to year) than defensive performance."

13 Miami

Have there been many -30% preseason projections in the past? Seems pretty low.

18 Rams 2012, for example

In reply to by Ambientdonkey

-47% Projection

Finished 7-8-1 with a top-half (barely) DVOA. 

Don't read too much into these outlier projections. 

 

20 I'm doubting the Jets DVOA projection

a little bit; Darnold has looked like the real deal in preseason, even without Bell and a number of the starting offensive linemen, so I'm thinking their offensive DVOA will be a lot better than -5.3. But the defensive numbers are skewed the other way; the Jets really have no cornerbacks, unless you believe Trumaine Johnson will have a comeback year, when he's already hurt his hamstring. That DVOA is going to be a lot worse than less than 1. I fully expect a re-enactment of the 51-45 O'Brien-Marino classic most weeks, which translates to a record and a DVOA close to what they predict, but how the Jets get there will be very different. I might add that Mahommes threw off the KC DVOA prediction last year as well.

53 What you think of the Jets…

What you think of the Jets this year has much to do with what you think about Gase.

On talent alone, I like the Jets for a wildcard team (I differ from DVOA here).  Two games against the 'Fins and a pair against a Bills team I'm much lower on than most people set them up well for double digit wins.

But, I didn't think much of the work Gase did in Miami or his general approach since getting to NY, and I'm inclined to see them end up more like an 8- or 9- win team falling just short of the playoffs (add in Gase, and I'm now onside with the DVOA rating!)

62 Not that high on Gase either,

but I don't think his offense is going to be bad for Darnold the way FO thought so in the Almanac.  At least he'll be better than what they had last year, when Bowles hired somebody who hadn't coached in years, because he wanted to run the ball more.  I would have preferred John Morton had stayed the last couple of years, since he was able to keep the team competitive (trust me, it wasn't the defense) in 2017 when the Jets were projected to be the worst in the league.  The Raiders have him now, maybe that will work out for them, maybe not.

My issue with Gase is more long term, and how he handles personalities, more than Xs and Os.  Also don't trust the guy; his last press conference made him look like a paranoid drug dealer.  Belichick is always uncomfortable with the press, but he looks head-on at them, not ducking his head the way Gase keeps doing.  My main hope is that Douglas will fix the team and win any front office battle with Gase if he needs to.

28 Bears first to last

Clearly the DVOA gods are trying to see if they can finally goad Bears fans into the FOMBC. Resist!

45 Football Outsiders Message…

In reply to by Raiderjoe

Football Outsiders Message Board Curse.

Remember the year the Falcons were a bad team but were 6-2 on the back of insane fumble luck, and we were brigaded by angry Falcons fans here? FO was just about the only place that didn't think the Falcons were good that year. Their luck then reversed and they went 2-6 to finish the season.

30 ouch

I see I made a mistake picking SF over Tennessee in my wins pool