Ryan Fitzpatrick

Week 2 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

The New England Patriots take the top spot in our DVOA ratings following Sunday's 43-0 dismantling of the hapless Miami Dolphins. Baltimore drops one spot to number two, a surprising San Francisco ranks third, and Kansas City and Dallas round out the top five.

But right now the bottom is more interesting than the top, because the Miami Dolphins are bad. Boy oh boy, are they bad. You've probably seen a number of statistics of how historically bad Miami is: they have the worst point differential after two games since the 1961 Raiders, they're on pace to break every known record for offensive futility, and so on. Our numbers certainly agree. Miami is the worst team we've ever tracked through two games, going back to 1986, and that's even more remarkable since they are one of only two teams in the bottom dozen to play both games at home.

No team has ever been this bad at the start of the season, but what's remarkable is how many of the worst 0-2 teams in DVOA history ended up rebounding and having reasonable seasons. The 1989 Steelers went 9-5 over the rest of their games and even won a playoff game. Nine of the previous 11 worst teams after two games ended up finishing 6-10 or better. Not one of these teams finished in last place in DVOA for the season. Miami is a different animal because the Dolphins are clearly tanking -- their trade of Minkah Fitzpatrick being just the latest piece of evidence that this year absolutely doesn't matter to them -- but historically, playing this badly over the first two weeks does not guarantee a team will be the league's worst for the whole season.

Here's a look at the worst dozen teams in DVOA since 1986. Remember, there are no opponent adjustments after two weeks for any of these ratings:

Worst DVOA as of Week 2, 1986-2019
2019 MIA 0-2 -114.7% 102-10 -- -- -- 2
2001 WAS 0-2 -107.8% 67-3 8-8 -0.5% 17 0
1999 CLE 0-2 -103.5% 69-9 2-14 -39.7% 30 1
2008 STL 0-2 -103.3% 79-16 2-14 -47.1% 31 1
1989 PIT 0-2 -100.5% 92-10 9-7 -8.7% 18 1
1997 SEA 0-2 -95.5% 76-17 8-8 -10.7% 21 2
2018 BUF 0-2 -94.0% 78-23 6-10 -18.2% 28 1
1996 TB 0-2 -91.7% 55-9 6-10 -9.4% 20 1
2005 MIN 0-2 -89.3% 61-21 9-7 -18.5% 25 1
2003 CHI 0-2 -88.3% 73-20 7-9 -14.7% 26 0
2007 NO 0-2 -86.7% 72-24 7-9 -9.7% 22 0
2011 KC 0-2 -85.2% 89-10 7-9 -16.9% 26 1

That 2001 Redskins team, the previous record-holder by DVOA for an 0-2 team, was a little nuts. They continued to get crushed in their next two games, eventually losing five straight although the fifth one was a close 9-7 loss to Dallas. Four of those five games were on the road. Then they turned around and won five straight, with the first games at home but the last two on the road. That put them at 5-5. But they lost three of their last four home games, and ended up 8-8. It was a very strange season.

The Dolphins aren't just bad on one side of the ball. They're all-around awful! The Dolphins rank among the dozen worst teams ever through two games on both sides of the ball. Here's a look at those teams along with where they ended up ranked at the end of the year.

Worst Offensive DVOA as of Week 2, 1986-2019
2002 HOU 1-1 -87.8% 32 32
2001 WAS 0-2 -78.2% 31 26
1989 PIT 0-2 -77.7% 28 24
2006 OAK 0-2 -76.9% 32 32
2019 MIA 0-2 -73.3% 32 --
2005 MIN 0-2 -70.5% 32 26
1990 NO 0-2 -68.4% 28 23
2013 JAX 0-2 -67.6% 32 32
1999 CLE 0-2 -63.0% 31 26
1996 TB 0-2 -61.5% 30 27
1997 SF 1-1 -61.1% 30 10
2017 CIN 0-2 -60.0% 32 22

How about the fact that the team with the worst-ever offensive rating through two games actually won one of those games? Houston won its first game as a franchise, 19-10 over Dallas. David Carr had just 145 passing yards but over half of them came on two touchdown passes including one of 65 yards. Houston also ran 35 times for 87 yards. The next week against San Diego, Carr went 6-for-25 with 87 yards and took nine sacks with three turnovers.

Miami doesn't rank quite as badly on the defensive side of the ball...

Worst Defensive DVOA as of Week 2, 1986-2019
1997 SEA 0-2 59.4% 30 19
2006 HOU 0-2 54.3% 32 31
2008 DET 0-2 52.6% 32 32
2008 STL 0-2 52.6% 31 30
2013 WAS 0-2 51.3% 32 21
2007 NYG 0-2 50.9% 32 13
2017 NE 1-1 49.6% 32 31
2017 NO 0-2 48.6% 31 8
2015 CHI 0-2 48.1% 32 31
2012 CIN 1-1 47.3% 32 10
2007 NO 0-2 44.1% 31 30
2019 MIA 0-2 42.6% 32 --

Interesting that most of the worst defensive DVOA ratings of early season have come since 2000. Remember, like all DVOA ratings, these are normalized for the offensive environment of each season.

What's remarkable is that it could be worse for the Miami Dolphins depending on how we treat certain plays. We did not penalize Josh Rosen's interception on the final play of the game, because it was the final play of a 43-0 game and Rosen had nothing to lose by throwing the pass. We generally don't penalize turnovers on the final play unless they affect the score. But this was a red zone interception. DVOA does lower the strength of plays when two teams are separated by 21-0 to try to account for prevent defenses, but it doesn't have a "prevent defense" adjustment once a team gets inside the red zone. And red zone interceptions have a higher penalty than interceptions on the rest of the field. So if we treated this as we do most red zone interceptions, Miami's offensive DVOA rating would drop from -73.3% to -85.4%, the second-lowest offensive rating ever through two games. And Miami's total DVOA through two games would be a horrific -126.8%.

Let's flip it around and look at the Patriots. New England is not quite as historically great as the Dolphins are bad, but the Patriots are certainly up there. (It would help if Stephen Gostkowski had not missed a field goal and two extra points so far.)

Best DVOA as of Week 2, 1986-2019
2005 PIT 2-0 111.5% 61-14 11-5 27.2% 4 1 Won SB
1990 CHI 2-0 101.3% 48-13 11-5 15.0% 9 1 Lost Div
1996 GB 2-0 94.4% 73-16 13-3 42.0% 1 1 Won SB
2007 NE 2-0 93.5% 76-28 16-0 52.9% 1 1 Lost SB
1996 SF 2-0 87.8% 61-11 12-4 29.3% 2 2 Lost Div
2002 SD 2-0 85.9% 58-9 8-8 -2.4% 21 1 None
2015 ARI 2-0 85.2% 79-42 13-3 27.4% 3 1 Lost NFC-CG
2019 NE 2-0 83.3% 76-3 -- -- -- 1 --
1989 CLE1 2-0 83.3% 89-24 9-6-1 24.4% 2 1 Lost AFC-CG
1999 PIT 2-0 77.7% 66-20 6-10 1.4% 20 0 None
2007 PIT 2-0 75.6% 60-10 10-6 19.4% 6 1 Lost WC
1996 SD 2-0 74.8% 56-21 8-8 -0.5% 18 2 None

It looks like more of these extreme fast-starters had good seasons than the extreme slow-starters had bad seasons. It's interesting that only two of these teams had both games at home, the same number as the 12 worst 0-2 starts in DVOA history. And what was in the water in 1996, when three teams had historically strong starts in their first two games? (None of them played mutual opponents.)

The Patriots would move up to 91.3% if we counted the final Josh Rosen interception.

Unlike the Dolphins, New England is not in the all-time top 12 through Week 2 in both offense and defense. No team from 2019 is in the all-time top 12 on offense, though the Dallas Cowboys would be 14th at 53.1%. The Patriots are on the list for the best defensive starts. Other than the 2002 Chargers, these teams all ended the year with very good defenses:

Best Defensive DVOA as of Week 2, 1986-2019
2017 BAL 2-0 -70.8% 1 3
1989 CLE1 2-0 -69.5% 1 3
2006 BAL 2-0 -68.7% 1 1
2002 SD 2-0 -64.5% 1 22
2008 BAL 1-0 -60.8% 1 2
2012 HOU 2-0 -60.1% 1 4
2019 NE 2-0 -55.3% 1 --
2005 TB 2-0 -54.5% 1 8
1999 TB 1-1 -54.1% 1 2
1988 LARM 2-0 -54.0% 1 5
1991 PHI 1-1 -52.8% 1 1
1996 DEN 2-0 -52.6% 1 3

The extremes of the Patriots and the Dolphins lead to all kinds of fun in our playoff odds simulation. In 30,000 simulations, the Patriots go 16-0 595 times (2.0%) and the Dolphins go 0-16 1,152 times (3.8%). In 29 of 30,000 simulations, both of those things happen (0.1%).

In none of our simulations do the 0-15 Dolphins beat the 15-0 Patriots in Week 17, although it would certainly come up if we did more simulations.

Remarkably, the Patriots only win the Super Bowl in 37% of simulations where they go 16-0 in the regular season. Fans generally underestimate the chances that a great regular-season team will lose in the playoffs, usually to another great regular-season team. It's not just the Patriots; there are 105 simulations where the Kansas City Chiefs go 16-0 (0.35%) and the Chiefs only win the Super Bowl in 22% of those simulations.

The other big story this week is change at the quarterback position, mostly (although not entirely) due to injuries. I've had to totally re-do the offensive projections used in our DAVE ratings. So many teams now have lower offensive projections because of quarterback changes that I had to re-normalize the rest of the league so that the league averages 0%. So every other team now has a slightly higher projection as part of their DAVE ratings.

I'll note here that every team changing quarterbacks takes a hit in the DAVE ratings. That includes the New York Giants, even though they are changing quarterbacks of their own volition instead of due to injury. Yes, Eli Manning is currently 19th in passing DVOA, right around replacement level at -11.9%. But Manning was only slightly below average last season, and that's more evidence than just two games of this year. Daniel Jones is a rookie, and a rookie without a very high QBASE, and those rookies tend to struggle. And we know that preseason performance has no value as far as forecasting Jones' performance during the regular season, even if he clearly did look better than Manning. So until we get more evidence that shows that Jones is an upgrade, our DAVE ratings will have to move the New York Giants down.

For the Giants and the Pittsburgh Steelers, we can now assume that Jones and Mason Rudolph will be the new quarterbacks for the rest of the season. That's not the case with three other teams: Jacksonville, New Orleans, and the New York Jets. Sam Darnold is supposed to be back in a month, and Nick Foles and Drew Brees should be able to return around midseason. This brings up a problem with the DAVE ratings. How should I be displaying them? Based on the current quarterbacks, or based on what the projections estimate that the end-of-season ratings should be for these teams based on how much we expect each quarterback to play?

I asked this question on Twitter, and the latter choice won narrowly in the voting, so this is how I have displayed the DAVE ratings this week. The DAVE ratings are an estimate of what we can expect the team's offensive DVOA to be for the rest of the season. For New Orleans, for example, the rest of the season includes half a season of Drew Brees rather than Teddy Bridgewater. I'm going to have to do a little bit more work to make sure I'm estimating things right in future weeks, once we've got multiple quarterbacks mixed into the current-season DVOA of each team. But here's a look at how I've figured these ratings as of this week:

  • For Jacksonville, I assumed Gardner Minshew would play half the remainder of the season and Nick Foles the other half. If you want the team's DAVE specifically for this week with Minshew, subtract 3.2%.
  • For New Orleans, I assumed Teddy Bridgewater would play half the remainder of the season and Drew Brees the other half. If you want the team's DAVE specifically for this week with Bridgewater, subtract 6.0%.
  • For the New York Giants, DAVE drops by 7.6% with Daniel Jones at quarterback.
  • For the New York Jets, I assumed Luke Falk would play one-third of the season and Sam Darnold two-thirds. If you want the team's DAVE specifically for this week with Falk, subtract 13.3%.
  • For Pittsburgh, DAVE drops by 10.3% with Mason Rudolph at quarterback. 

These changes have also been accounted for in the playoff odds simulation, although for that simulation I can make things a little more random. (For example, there's a 20 percent chance of Darnold returning each week between Week 5 and Week 9.)

* * * * *

The playoff odds are fully updated through Week 2. Snap counts and DVOA premium database are also updated.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through two weeks of 2019, 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.

Please note that there are no opponent adjustments in DVOA until after Week 4. (It's still listed as DVOA instead of VOA because I don't feel like going through and changing all the tables manually.) In addition, our second weekly table which includes schedule strength, variation, and Estimated Wins will appear beginning after Week 4.

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 80 percent of DAVE.

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 NE 83.2% 2 32.6% 1 2-0 32.6% 4 -55.3% 1 -4.7% 22
2 BAL 63.0% 1 17.6% 4 2-0 38.6% 3 -13.7% 9 10.7% 1
3 SF 62.5% 6 12.0% 7 2-0 25.4% 6 -41.5% 2 -4.5% 21
4 KC 56.6% 7 24.5% 2 2-0 48.8% 2 -7.6% 16 0.3% 17
5 DAL 50.5% 4 15.3% 5 2-0 53.1% 1 4.4% 20 1.8% 13
6 LAR 27.0% 16 18.2% 3 2-0 12.6% 9 -23.0% 5 -8.6% 29
7 SEA 26.7% 11 12.9% 6 2-0 14.9% 8 -9.9% 13 1.9% 12
8 TEN 23.3% 3 9.3% 10 1-1 9.1% 10 -14.2% 8 0.0% 18
9 GB 22.1% 10 7.7% 12 2-0 -13.7% 23 -30.1% 3 5.6% 3
10 PHI 7.7% 15 8.9% 11 1-1 8.7% 11 4.8% 21 3.9% 7
11 BUF 4.7% 12 -6.4% 22 2-0 -2.6% 16 -10.8% 12 -3.5% 20
12 IND 1.3% 21 -4.3% 19 1-1 20.5% 7 4.0% 19 -15.2% 32
13 CHI 0.2% 20 3.1% 14 1-1 -20.4% 26 -16.0% 7 4.5% 5
14 DET -0.3% 13 2.6% 15 1-0-1 3.0% 13 -10.9% 11 -14.2% 31
15 HOU -1.8% 18 6.0% 13 1-1 -3.8% 17 -1.3% 17 0.7% 16
16 WAS -1.8% 8 -13.3% 29 0-2 25.7% 5 30.5% 28 3.0% 9
17 CLE -3.3% 26 -0.1% 16 1-1 -22.4% 27 -11.2% 10 7.9% 2
18 MIN -10.8% 9 -0.3% 17 1-1 -11.2% 22 -9.1% 15 -8.8% 30
19 OAK -13.9% 5 -8.7% 23 1-1 -5.1% 19 12.9% 23 4.0% 6
20 TB -15.2% 28 -12.9% 26 1-1 -35.6% 31 -27.2% 4 -6.7% 26
21 CAR -15.6% 23 -1.0% 18 0-2 -16.5% 24 2.5% 18 3.4% 8
22 NYJ -16.6% 22 -13.0% 27 0-2 -27.7% 28 -17.0% 6 -5.9% 24
23 JAX -17.5% 19 -5.0% 20 0-2 -6.1% 20 14.1% 25 2.8% 11
24 LAC -17.6% 14 10.5% 9 1-1 7.6% 12 18.1% 26 -7.1% 27
25 NO -20.5% 17 10.5% 8 1-1 -2.6% 15 23.1% 27 5.1% 4
26 ARI -20.8% 25 -13.2% 28 0-1-1 -9.3% 21 12.4% 22 0.9% 15
27 DEN -21.1% 27 -12.1% 25 0-2 -2.0% 14 12.9% 24 -6.2% 25
28 ATL -31.3% 29 -5.5% 21 1-1 -33.0% 30 -9.6% 14 -7.9% 28
29 NYG -40.0% 30 -23.1% 31 0-2 -4.4% 18 38.4% 31 2.8% 10
30 PIT -50.7% 31 -9.5% 24 0-2 -17.2% 25 33.0% 29 -0.4% 19
31 CIN -68.7% 24 -22.1% 30 0-2 -29.1% 29 34.1% 30 -5.5% 23
32 MIA -114.7% 32 -46.3% 32 0-2 -73.3% 32 42.6% 32 1.3% 14


71 comments, Last at 25 Sep 2019, 8:38am

1 Typo

Looks like there was a little goof - Miami is listed with a 2-0 record on the "worst defensive DVOA" chart.

2 The difference

I think the difference between the other teams and Miami is as you stated, Miami is obviously trying to lose. Regression to the mean cannot simply be assumed, which is totally insane. Imagine that Miami is legitimately full value for being -100% DVOA. As in, some games they're going to be worse than that, some games slightly better. The mind almost cannot wrap itself around such a reality.

I've always shot down people who say, "well Alabama/Clemson/CollegeTeamHere could totally beat *InsertStrugglingNFLTeam". I'm honestly not so sure with Miami. I still think that Miami should be the heavy favourites in some alternate reality where they are playing in the NCAA National Championship. However, if things continue this way we may legitimately see the first NFL team that's actually, genuinely worse than one or more college teams.

4 No one on that roster is…

In reply to by theTDC

No one on that roster is trying to lose. There's no incentive for individual players to tank. Playing poorly will simply end your career. Any benefits to the team will be years down the road when you are probably sitting on the couch in retirement, so you don't care about that.

The coaches and the management might sort of want to lose, but even their it's more complicated. There's a 0% Brian Flores wants a 0-16 record on his resume. Maybe he doesn't want to get caught in a trap of 7-9 or 8-8 mediocrity, but I would be shocked if he was intentionally designing bad game plans or anything like that.

So if you say Miami wants to lose, you are only a little bit right. Some parts of the organization probably want to, but the guys you see on the field every Sunday and who still play the largest role in determining how the team performs do not. They would annihilate any college team.

18 Organic Fish Tank

That's a good point.  Certainly the players & coaches are trying to win each game they suit up for.  However, as a team, they're playing with one proverbial arm tied behind their back.  The Dolphins management has clearly set the team up to lose, trading away most of their talent for future draft picks... but as you said, the team isn't trying to lose any one of their games.

35 What typically happens is…

What typically happens is that veterans with any record of productivity seek any possible way to get off the field, usually by getting on IR. You end up with a lot of street free agents with significant numbers of snaps.

21 "No one on that roster is…

"No one on that roster is trying to lose. There's no incentive for individual players to tank. Playing poorly will simply end your career."

I completely agree that none of the players are in on this. However, football is a painful game. I heard Edelman talking about how much he misses Gronk in the locker room, in those week 14 situations where everyone is struggling with pain and motivation. That's on the perennial contenders known as the Patriots. The idea that the Dolphins players are going to be sacrificing their future health for this team is absurd. In some hypothetical bowl game, sure, there's pride on the line, but not in regular season week 14, with a 1-12 record already.

Ultimately if the higher ups want to lose, they're going to lose. It's not like the roster is fixed, so while players may be more important on Sunday, the GM is ultimately the deciding factor in roster strength anyway. For the record, I still think they would handily beat any college team, I'm just not sure of that like I would be for every other bad team in the NFL.

3 Baltimore

Note of interest, Baltimore is the only team that is in the single digits of every category ranking. With or without DAVE. Is there any correlation between this and future success in a season? I would say that Baltimore is the most well rounded team at the very least. Thank you for your time!

5 I wonder if Miami's so awful…

I wonder if Miami's so awful because they've played the top two teams...

...or if New England and Baltimore are at the top because they've each played Miami.

Can't wait to see opponent adjustments in 2 weeks.

19 Amplified

I think the "awful" and "greatness" of the teams involved have been amplified due to the pairings.  I'm sure Miami will not look AS awful if they were playing the Jets... but they'd likely still look bad.

As for New England & Baltimore - blowing out bad teams is what great teams do.  Plus the Patriots embarrassed the Steelers the week before, and Baltimore will certainly show us what they really have this week against KC.

44 Unfortunately, we probably…

In reply to by MikeNH

Unfortunately, we probably won't learn much about the Patriots due to their cupcake schedule the first 8 weeks.  Week 9 they play Baltimore, and maybe that will be their first challenge.

6 Of the nine 2-0 teams, 7…

Of the nine 2-0 teams, 7 occupy the top 7 spots in DAVE. Another, Green Bay, is ranked at 12th. Then there's Buffalo, still all the way down in 22nd. I imagine that's about right, but I think they have a chance at making the playoffs without actually being particularly good, as they did a few years ago. They still have another game against the Jets and two against Miami. If they take care of business in those game they would have 5 wins banked and could be mediocre against the rest of their schedule and still get to 9 wins.

9 I agree, and I think you can…

I agree, and I think you can probably add the home games vs the Bengals and Spreadskins to the banked wins, so I'd have 7 wins as the floor, with plenty of potential to hit 10-11 wins. The games vs the Steelers and Broncos are looking fairly cupcakey as well. If they can win those and beat one of the Browns/Ravens/Pats 2x (lol jk)/Eagles/Cowboys/Titans, that's 10 wins right there minimum. Seems hard not to accomplish that.

Additionally, who is their real competition in the AFC for the last wildcard spot, assuming the Chargers nab the 5 seed? Houston/Indianapolis/Tennessee? They're average teams at best and probably will beat up on each other and only one will emerge. Cleveland? They still look undisciplined and out of sorts, plus their schedule's much harder with the AFC West on deck. Those H2H matchups between Cleveland/Tennessee might be pretty important.

I don't really care if the Bills make the playoffs on the back of an easy schedule just to be dumped by the Ravens/Pats/Chiefs in round 1 or 2. We already did that in McDermott's first year. But it seems weird to have expectations for them to win 10 games, and if they don't win them somewhat convincingly and are a decent team, I'll be disappointed and frustrated this team/coach/GM/Josh Allen will have bought time again to dick around for another year or two on the wings of unsustainability. 

11 I don't really care if the…

I don't really care if the Bills make the playoffs on the back of an easy schedule just to be dumped by the Ravens/Pats/Chiefs in round 1 or 2. We already did that in McDermott's first year. But it seems weird to have expectations for them to win 10 games, and if they don't win them somewhat convincingly and are a decent team, I'll be disappointed and frustrated this team/coach/GM/Josh Allen will have bought time again to dick around for another year or two on the wings of unsustainability

On the wings of unsustainability? The correct term for that is Buffalo Wings. The Buffalo Bills ... unsustainable since 1999 ... thats really funny.

One a more serious note:

I am not so sure about the unsustainability part. I am a Bills fan and I hated the Allen pick with a passion. However, first returns look good. He actually improved on acccuracy which I was sure was impossible. Like for all the other QBs that failed with improving their accuracy. But it seems that he never had good coaching and he is really improving. Also on reading Ds and everything. I am still not convinced that he is the correct pick and a franchise QB. However, if he further improves this team will be dangerous. No contest for the Chiefs and Patriots. But playoffs and this time deserved with maybe a win. And with a clear path to be better next year. That could really be awesome. Lets see if Allen is who all the analytics and me thought he is ... or not. At least it is fun again watching Bills games. Lets see what we do against decent teams.

Are you a Bills fan since you are talking about "we"?

29 Yes, been a lifelong Bills…

Yes, been a lifelong Bills fan (sadly). What I meant is I hope the Bills don't make the playoffs on just an easy schedule and some fumble luck, with Allen not progressing and the rest of the team not looking like they deserve to be there, like in 2017. Luckily Beane did recognize that team was not there yet and didn't try to keep a playoff push going in 2018. 

I also hated the Allen pick and wanted Rosen or Jackson badly, especially after we gave up so much draft capital to get him. But yeah, I've been impressed after two games so far. It really does seem like he had horrible coaching at Wyoming, which I suppose isn't a surprise. It's kind of crazy someone with his athletic profile slipped through the cracks in college. His mental makeup is superb, as well. I'm happy to root for him and hope he beats the odds.

It might be too early to judge this, but after this offseason and evident improvement from Allen, I've come around to McDermott and Beane's rebuilding plan. I still do think a lot of the moves they made in 2017 (not drafting Mahomes/Watson, if you're committing to a rebuild, for example---yet they didn't do this and traded everyone else with talent away) and 2018 (Star contract, Peterman fiasco) were nonsensical and shortsighted. However, this offseason was completely different. With the exception of the Kroft overpay, I thought their free agent haul was excellent. It addressed needs and depth and didn't come at an exorbitant cost. We stole Oliver and Ford in the draft, and Singletary looks explosive. It also looks like they've finally overcome their Panthers nepotism and are actually acquiring talent from around the league instead of the leftovers from an average squad.

I'll give credit where it's due. I love that they are building around depth instead of star power (like the Jets, for example. I could see their disaster coming a mile away) and understand how players fit their scheme and are able to plug defenders in particular into their team. The offense is Patriots-style: built around exploiting other defenses weaknesses and the gameplan appears it will change week-to-week, which I've never seen a Bills team have the ability to do.

Something I've come around to this year is understanding how much building a culture matters and Beane/McDermott deserve plaudits there as well. I always thought you get talent and win and the culture will grow from that. But with the people the Bills have brought in, it is clear their plan is all about player development and maximizing growth, and you do that with unselfish leaders, veterans who know their role, and high-work ethic players. And it seems that environment they've developed is really beneficial for super talented yet raw players like Allen, Edmunds, and Oliver, all of which came from non-major schools and needed the right context and place to hone their abilities.

They're not without their warts, and this plan backfires at times when you prioritize culture fit over talent. They love their old, over-the-hill veterans at RB (Tolbert, Gore, Ivory) and giving them carries at the expense of more talented options in the backfield. I think McDermott has a tendency to be too conservative at times with gameplan, fourth downs, attempting to score points, and playing not to lose in general. Maybe he's turned a corner now that the offense has appeared to improve, however. Both him and Beane seem to have learned from their mistakes. In sum, they're not an elite GM/coach combo like Ballard/Reich or Roseman/Pederson, but they seem to be well above the league average from what I can tell. After years of pure suffering, I'll take above-average for once.

32 I have very little to add to…

I have very little to add to this. After two decades of flailing - though I still think the 1999 team goes to the super bowl if they beat the Titans, the defense was *that* good - the team has a plan, and Allen seems to get it.

There hasn't actually been a test yet, so we'll see what happens. The D is legit, though.

33 That 2004 team that missed…

I was 12 when the Music City Miracle happened, a rough way to begin my Bills fanhood (I don't remember the Super Bowl teams well enough to say that's when I started following NFL). I remember being so shocked at the unfairness of it all and that the call was really bad. Some things never change in the NFL. Was that team really good back then? I know we had an awesome defense with Phillips, but my perception now of the offense is that it was just scraping by with Flutie/Johnson. I still can't believe they benched Flutie because of Johnson's meaningless week 17 performance, can you imagine that happening 20 years later??

That 2004 team that missed the playoffs by losing to Pittsburgh's backups was a really really good team too, although if you lose to a team not trying to win in week 17, I don't know how you can win a super bowl. I think if we kept most of the 2016 team intact and hired Lynn as head coach with Bradley as d-coordinator we could have seen a very competitive team. That offense was good with Tyrod, Woods, and Watkins, and so was the defense with Gilmore and Darby. There was a ton of talent on that team and the success of these players (minus Tyrod, although Lynn knew how to use him) elsewhere proves it. The Ryans just had no idea what they were doing or how to develop it. I wonder if that would've changed with Lynn in charge and what the opinions are of him in LA. Maybe he lacked a through plan to develop a culture and maximize talent and that's why the Pegulas went with the long-term upside of Beane/McDermott's inexperience.

There hasn't been a test for sure. I've seen far too many good early starts by the Bills to truly get my hopes up that much, but at least I can discern a plan this time and it seems like there's a 50-50 chance we have a franchise QB (can't even believe I'm typing that). McDermott definitely knows what he's doing defensively, I have no concerns on that side of the ball. Assuming we pummel the Bengals, this upcoming game against the Patriots will be the most excited I've been to see a Bills game in a very, very long time.

66 That offense was good when…

That offense was good when they ran the ball, and, slow as he was, Greg Roman turning chicken salad at QB into Chicken Kiev. Firing him and retaining Ryans made them have to blow the team up, which from a salary cap position was actually a great thing, since that team was going to be old and expensive without having won anything.

I do wish they'd found a way to keep Schwartz as the DC, but I can't fault any of the coordinators at the moment.

If Cincy is a tough game, I'll be worried.

53 "I love that they are…

"I love that they are building around depth instead of star power"

This statement really got me thinking.  Compared to a team like the Jets, the Bills' approach does seem far better.  But at the same time, building around depth has its issues, too.  When you're looking at the second contracts of 5-10 key contributors, none of whom are stars, but all of whom are important, you run into a situation where you'll have to let some of them go.

As with most things, the Patriots really skew things.  You can argue they are built around depth, because in most ways, they are... except for the one, most important aspect: Tom Brady.

The early 2010's Seahawks and 49ers come to mind.  Both built up the team around depth and value... but the Seahawks hit on their QB, and the 49ers didn't (relative to Wilson; I definitely don't want to derail this with yet another Kaepernick discussion).

Maybe the key is to build around depth, but get lucky / good at identifying the players you need to treat like stars.  Which, of course, is primarily the QB.

So I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that the Bills' approach, while promising, probably doesn't have lasting effects if Allen doesn't develop into a top fifteen QB.

62 There was more of the post I…

There was more of the post I wanted to write, but was too busy, that involved how to build around defensive stars, and I think Baltimore clearly qualifies there.  Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, and Terrell Suggs were part of all of their championship-caliber teams.  This year, they seem pretty damn good, but that also involves their highly-drafted QB playing incredibly well so far.

59 If you don't have a QB,…

If you don't have a QB, building around stars/depth probably doesn't matter much, I agree. But this year alone you see some teams that are built around stars like Houston, NY Jets, and Cleveland who all have QBs in theory but are floundering. The exception to this so far is Dallas, which got its star center back this year but when he was gone they were a middling offense. Moore seems to be a smarter playcaller than Garrett, but we'll see when one of their star players go down.

At the very least, building around depth is the right way to build around free agency. Ideally you want to do both, nabbing cheaper free agents to plug specific roles and then trading down in the draft to stockpile value. The Bills traded up twice for Edmunds and Allen, so they see some players are worth spending a lot of capital on. I think the issue you bring up can be problem if you're not confident in identifying players who can be worthy replacements over the contributors who are likely to be massively overpaid in free agency (Solder, T Brown) or if you're bad at developing draft picks to stream down the pipeline. I don't think this a problem for the Bills, but we'll see.

60 I wish I could get a precise…

I wish I could get a precise definition of what it means to "have a qb". In the last 20 years we have seen championships won by  teams that had (1) a bad qb in his latter 20s who never became above average (2) a very old average qb who was once above average (3) a bad young qb who got hot for a few weeks, and never became good (4) an all-time great who was still very sharp at managing the game, but who, by that time, due to chronic injury, couldn't throw as well as a mediocre college qb. (5) A guy who was an intermittant starter who had one terrific year previously. That's 25% of the championshiips won over two decades, following the full effect of free agency and a hard salary cap being felt.

In addition to those championships, we've had at least 3 championships won by HOF qbs, or qbs with great credentials, who were still very young, and not yet at the level where they were asked to carry a team into the playoffs, and then into February. One of them even had a very poor Super Bowl. That puts us at 40% of the championships won over the last 20 years.

In addition to those championships, we have had at least 3 teams that lost very close, eminently winnable Super Bowls with qbs who went to a very small number of Pro Bowls when playing for good teams, but either had some truly awful years in what should have been their prime, or were never really excellent. That puts us at over 50% of the Super Bowls of the last 20 years who were either won, or nearly won, by teams with qbs which were not yet, or never were, really good, or who were no longer physically capable of being really good. That's  before we start debating how to categorize 2007 and 2011 Eli Manning. I won't bother to look at all the teams over the past 20 years who nearly won Conference Championships with qb play that was less than really good.

Yes, the qb is quite obviously the most important position on the field. I think it is undeniable, however, that the qb market has very, very, significant inefficiencies.

61 I'm think I can identify all…

I'm think I can identify all of your examples...


In the last 20 years we have seen championships won by  teams that had (1) a bad qb in his latter 20s who never became above average

Is this Trent Dilfer?  Was he still in his 20's in 2000!?!?!?

(2) a very old average qb who was once above average

Brad Johnson, I assume.

(3) a bad young qb who got hot for a few weeks, and never became good

Eli Manning?  If so, "never became good" is a bit harsh on him.  Or is this Joe Flacco?  If so, "bad young qb" is definitely harsh on him.

(4) an all-time great who was still very sharp at managing the game, but who, by that time, due to chronic injury, couldn't throw as well as a mediocre college qb.

Peyton Manning.  Easy.

(5) A guy who was an intermittant starter who had one terrific year previously.

Nick Foles, I assume?

64 Dilfer DOB: 03/13/1972!…

Dilfer DOB: 03/13/1972!

Flacco in Baltimore never was in a situation which demanded a lot from him, had one good year statistically, more than one terrible years, and some mid range years. "Bad qb" seems not too harsh. Hell, The Ponderous One looked o.k. as long as you never asked him to do much.

I didn't calculate Eli. If I did, I'd say he was bad in 2007, good in 2011, great in 2011 playoffs.

The larger point is that "You need a really good qb to win a championship" isn't remotely true.

67 I agree that you don't NEED…

I would define "having a QB" as a team that has a player who has decent odds of being a top 15 player at the position. So mid-range guys like Stafford, Eli in his prime, Cam Newton, can all make the cut there while hopeless projects who haven't shown that level of upside like Mariota, Trubisky, Bortles, etc fall off.

I agree that you don't NEED a good QB to win a championship, as any one team can luck into one any given year, but if you're going to have sustained success for several years with multiple playoff appearances, having a QB with top 15 upside is fairly mandatory, no? The only recent exception I can think of is the Ravens with Flacco, but I believe he was right on the edge of that top-15 range for several seasons, at least. 

68 Which was luckier, the…

Which was luckier, the Patriots finding Tom Brady with about the 200th pick, and him then having a financial situation which meant he was not compelled to max out his contract potential in the manner of orher great qbs, or the Ravens building very good rosters which could compete at a very high level for about 20 years,  despite only occasionally getting good qb play?

This not to denigrate the Patriots' achievements in the least. Darth and His Minions have been truly awesome. I only mean to illuminate the fact that getting a 1st ballot HOF qb is really the luckiest break there is, and chasing that luck at the expense of simply building your roster as best you can, with roster and cap decisions made without undue consideration to position, is a better course of action. 

The Ravens may have drafted Flacco too high (I'd argue that he's had a undistinguished to bad career as a starter on good rosters, for a 1st round pick), but at least they traded down to get him. They made the mistake of chasing him on his second contract, as the Vikings likely did with Cousins, but these are really difficult mistakes to avoid. The unforgivable ones are The Ponderous Types; deciding you "need a qb" which means drafting the highest one on your board in the top half of the 1st round, with inadequate weight given to whether the untested qbs in that year measure up to the typical crop.

Anybody who put Ponder in the same universe as Deshaun Watson, drafted in nearly identical spots, is insane. It should have been knowable to the Vikings to draft elsewhere, or trade down. I actually think it was known to Spielman, but ownership called the shot, and thankfully for Vikings fans, ownership has withdrawn from any personnel decisionmaking since that debacle. I kind of wish Spielman had been more like Denny Green in the 90s, happy to take whatever best veteran qb was available at a decent price for the past 8 years, and drafted elsewhere. Green had a poor playoff record, but that was due to poor defensive talent evaluation and defensive coaching staff problems after Dungy left.

69 Minor Caveat

'...him then having a financial situation which meant he was not compelled to max out his contract potential in the manner of other great qbs...'

I assume this refers to Brady's supermodel, super-rich wife but the claim has always baffled me - as if in some way QBs not married to superrich, supermodels are 'compelled' to 'max out' their contract potential because...why exactly? Peyton Manning may not have married a mega-millionaire but he certainly wasn't hurting for income at any point after  he signed his rookie contract; I wouldn't be surprised if his endorsement deals alone have earned him upwards of fifty million and his net worth is over $200 million. Surely he wasn't 'compelled' to get every cent he could because of...homelessness, living under a bridge, his kids starving? Brett Favre is worth $100 million, Brees and Eli the same. Even middling Alex Smith is sitting on something in the vicinity of $55 million. (Roger Staubach, btw, tips the scales at $600 million). Surely some one of those QBs could have negotiated their contracts in such a way as to help his team with the salary cap, without going to the poorhouse. (And maybe they have, I don't know).

So why wouldn't more QBs do it then? Maybe because part of Belichick's genius is that he was able to convince Brady to leave some millions on the table in exchange for W's. Or that Brady actually does see winning as everything. Or that Kraft has promised him some kickbacks down the line. I can't say. But it does seem rather mean to declare that Brady only did it because his wife is filthy rich. He was filthy rich before he met her.

In general, I think NFL players should get every penny they can. What the QBs make, however, is so out of proportion to the rest of the player salaries that it doesn't bother me if Brady doesn't play hard ball. What I'd really like is for the star QBs get together and use their influence to make sure the other players get a better deal and more security. I will not hold my breath, however.

70 First, I'm not bothered by…

In reply to by RobotBoy

First, I'm not bothered by what any person decides to do, or not do, about maximizing their income. It ain't my life.

Look, from 2006-2015 Peyton Manning earned 165 million, while Brady earned 135 million. From 2006-2019 Brees earned 231 million and Brady 202 million. If you don't think having a spouse who has earning power, which has allowed her to develop an independent net worth north of 400 million, very likely increases a team's ability to convince their qb to leave 30 million on the table over an extended period, you have had a very different experience with high net worth individuals than I have had. 

7 Yee cats, it's been a long…

Yee cats, it's been a long time since I saw San Francisco up there in the sunshine. Even longer since I can recall the NFC West with 3 teams in the top 10. Now if only SF had a LT any better than a 3rd-string 6th-round rookie.

22 Come on now! The Harbaugh…

Come on now! The Harbaugh era wasn't that long ago. And the Seahawks and, to a lesser extent, Cards both had great runs in the mid part of this decade. Toss in the Rams current success, and it's been a pretty glorious decade for the NFC West, as a whole. 

13 Re 01 Redskins

my favorite memory of the 01 Redskins was a bit of NFL redemption for Kijana Carter during the winning streak. A tremendous college player (should've won the Heisman) whose career was completely derailed by injuries.

Another former #1 pick also had his swan song for this team: Jeff George who was probably the main reason for Washington's inclusion on this list. He was rancid, playing his final NFL game this season (while also kicking off another half decade of Jason Whitlock's famous give George a chance pieces)

15 Ah, yes, Marty's year in DC…

In reply to by Jetspete

Ah, yes, Marty's year in DC when he said "screw it" to Dan's hand picked fantasy team, benched Jeff George, coached-up the rest and turned around a pending disaster.

37 And got fired for his…

And got fired for his efforts, so that the "Old Ball Coach" could come in and test what would happen if a college coach moves to the NFL and brings all his old players with him.  It doesn't work.


16 I was in airplanes all day…

I was in airplanes all day Sunday and Monday, so didn't see much of anything, but from looking at the numbers, and some lowlights, the Vikings obviously need better qb play (a decades long story), but if Cook continues to pile up yards efficiently, they'll likely make the playoffs, if not win the division.

28 Playoffs

Hard to see how the NFC North manages to grab a WC spot if you figure that 2 out of LA, Seattle and SF go to the playoffs and then you have Dallas and Philly. Vikings probably need to win the division.

30 We're in week three.  I don…

In reply to by LyleNM

We're in week three.  I don't know why we'd necessarily expect 2 of the 3 NFCW teams to make the playoffs.

It's maybe a hair more likely than having 2 of the Vikings, Packers, Bears go to the playoffs.

36 If Cook keeps that level of…

In reply to by LyleNM

If Cook keeps that level of productive efficiency, especially on the road, they are going to win at least 10 games. Cousins may not be great or even good, but he won't be as bad as he was against the Packers.

42 Cook has been outstanding in…

Cook has been outstanding in their first two games, but their offensive line looks shaky. It's only two weeks of data, but right now there's quite a bit of divergence between Cook's rushing DVOA (high) and his success rate (low) - if you look back at previous season leaderboards, it's rare to finish top 10 in DVOA without being in the top half in the league in success rate - and their stuff rate on running plays is also currently quite high. Cook is likely going to need better blocking to keep up that productivity, and they definitely better pass blocking, period.

45 The tell will come when…

The tell will come when opponents start scheming to stop Cook, which they will do if he keeps breaking off long td runs. The Packers mainly focused on Thielen and Diggs, from what I kind of rushed through at lunch today, and definitively ignored play action many times, even near the goal line when Cousins threw the idiot ball that was picked off. They may have won if they had simply handed it to Cook once more.

Will Cook be good enough to break long runs against defenses scheming to stop him? I dunno, but you're right that they need to block better, something that could have been said about the Vikings any time over the last decade, even if it was occasionally masked by the unique talents of Adrian Peterson.

51 Definitely on the same page…

Definitely on the same page that GB defended play action very well in this game. Two additional factors there: 1) the Packers either did a good job recognizing the Vikings' boot action, or Minnesota was giving it away, because a Packers defender (usually Lowry) was in Cousins' face before he even turned back around from his play fake several times, and 2) The Packers front 5 was getting great push regardless. As effective as play action can be, it does usually require additional time and the offensive line just can't get pushed back like that.

The Vikings are working in new personnel on the OL and learning a very particular system, which can be a challenge (one that the Packers are also dealing with), but for sure - they are going to need better blocking.

46 To follow on, the Vikings…

To follow on, the Vikings need to win some games like the one last Sunday, with opposing defenses focusing on the receivers, thus allowing Cook to have a big day, and then they'll have defenses out of sync, when they focus on Cook.  To do that, however, they can't give up early double digit leads and turnovers.

54 I thought SF were an…

I thought SF were an interesting team coming into the season with Garropolo returning, and the whole Kyle Shanahan second year thing. So I watched them last Sunday, and they simply blew the Bengals away on offence. The Bengals may well turn out to be terrible, but the manner of the domination caused me to re-rate the 49ers in my head. I'd definitely give them a higher ceiling than Seattle, albeit also a lower floor given they don't have the luxury of a great QB.

58 After all the hope and hype…

After all the hope and hype about the 49ers last year, they got a relatively quiet preseason this year while the media obsessed about the Browns.

I'm looking forward to catching a 49ers game, just not sure when one of their games will be available to me.

63 They play the Browns on…

They play the Browns on Monday Night Football in Week 5, so that'll probably be your earliest crack (unless you happen to live in Pennsylvania/Ohio and get the Steelers game this week)

17 that black and blue..

I'm still fascinated with how close together all 4 NFCN teams are in the DAVE rankings. 12-14-15-17
I'm thrilled that GB has two division wins under its belt even though the offense has really only had two quarters of great play. I am NOT accustomed to seeing their defense *and* special teams in the top half, never mind being top 3 right now. Will be interesting to see what the opponent adjustments do after they play Denver and Philly.

31 Based on the first two weeks…

Based on the first two weeks, GB looks like a strong candidate to be the team that far exceeds their expectations for the year.  I expect the O will get better.  If the D delivers close to the what they've done so far, GB will put a quick end to "the NFC North will be close" talk.

We're not likely to learn much more about the D this week (unless they make the Denver offense look NFL-quality, in which case we learn not to trust impressions from the first two weeks).  The following game against Philly is looking is really interesting, though.  Playing against the Eagles offense will be a little different than playing against their opponents so far this season.

Conversely, we're likely to learn something about the O this week.  Denver's D should provide a good test of whether there's any progress in adopting LaFleur's scheme.

38 They won by 5 in a home game…

They won by 5 in a home game where the opponent had a 1st and goal inside the 10 with a few minutes left, and rushed for nearly 200 yards, while the qb made some horrid decisions. That's not a lot with which to become a strong candidate for far exceeding an expectation of 8 wins. Might they win 12 or more? Sure. Is it less likely that still lose 8 of their remaining 14? Yes, but not hugely so.

48 My observation was based on…

My observation was based on their defence looking strong in their first two games, carrying them to wins despite poor offensive outings.  The D was the big question mark entering the season, and two early wins on the back of your weaker perceived unit seems like a recipe for a better overall season than expected.

Of course, maybe the O ends up being much worse than expected, but I consider the odds of that low.  It seems more likely to me that the D regresses / doesn't look as good against other opponents.  So yeah, there a lot of paths to .500 (or even worse), but the way GB won their first two games make me think they may end up being the team most underestimated by pundits at the start of the season.

49 Flip side

Is that GB dropped multiple interceptions. I have no idea how the season will play out, but I don't think the outcome of Sunday was a fluke. But then I have been a long-time critic of Cousins and nobody will ever convince me that guy is anything but a qb who can ring up some stats but is too unreliable for a team to be consistently successful

55 Crappy quarterbacking will…

In reply to by big10freak

Crappy quarterbacking will make a defense look good, but I really do agree that the Packers' defensive personnel is an obvious upgrade. We'll see what happens on offense; they schemed their way to a couple successful drives early at home, but it really wasn't a good performance from the offensive line, even if it came against an excellent defensive line.

But two division wins through twonweeks is a terrific start, no doubt.

20 "How about the fact that the…

"How about the fact that the team with the worst-ever offensive rating through two games actually won one of those games? Houston won its first game as a franchise, 19-10 over Dallas." I heard David Carr on a podcast recently talking about this game, and he basically conceded that Houston was outplayed overall, but he hit two big plays to Corey Bradford (a PI on the first play of the game and a 4th-quarter TD) and that was enough.

Carr might not have ever lived up to his promise as a QB, but he's now one of the best talking heads in the business, in my opinion. He "tells it like it is" without being obnoxious or hot-take-y.

23 I agree

Carr really seems like a prime example of a promising young QB ruined by a horrible situation. I'm not sure that anyone other than maybe Russell Wilson could have survived behind a line that awful. 

For what it's worth, which is not much, he's still got a pretty good arm.


I saw him once talking about how unprepared he was for the NFL. How he had prepared all offseason to be drafted, and then when he got to the NFL he was struggling to read defenses and making throws late. So when his brother came in he kept working with him all offseason on trying to make throws and reads as fast as possible. If he himself had gotten great coaching and good surrounding talent I can only imagine how he would have turned out.

24 > Interesting that most of…

> Interesting that most of the worst defensive DVOA ratings of early season have come since 2000.

I'd guess it's because of the increasingly pass-friendly rules these days. Even with normalization players may back off from physicality, as it gets whistled more and more frequently.

Just for a sanity check, this is the sentence I always say to myself when I read a team has a DVOA of X%: "On any given play, this team tends to gain X% more yardage than an average team would in the same situation." Is that accurate?

25 IIRC, that average team…

IIRC, that average team benchmark is set using something like 10 years or data, so the calculated average play result is significantly more conservative than the 'actual' average result. 


(IE, dvoa something year to year fluctuation that is actually a long term trend) 

27 >> "On any given play, this…

>> "On any given play, this team tends to gain X% more yardage than an average team would in the same situation." 

It's better stated as "any given play, this team tends to be X% more efficient than an average team in the same situation." Efficiency is a concept that combines both yardage towards a first down and yardage towards a touchdown, so it's not directly translatable into raw yards.

40 Los Angeles Teams

Are the Raiders and Chargers listed correctly? (raiders rank 6 chargers rank 24).

50 Cam Newton

What adjustment would have to be made to the Panthers if Cam Newton were to miss significant playing time?

71 QB Adjustments

Last week QB adjustments were given for that specific week obviously we get a week of those guys baked into DAVE but are there adjustments for week 4 games?