DVOA Analysis
Football Outsiders' revolutionary metrics that break down every single play of the NFL season

Week 4 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

It's no surprise that the New England Patriots remain No. 1 in our DVOA ratings after Week 4. What may be a surprise is just how good their defense is historically, even after we've introduced opponent adjustments into our numbers for the first time.

The 2019 New England Patriots are the best defense we've ever measured through the first four games of the season, going all the way back to 1986. They narrowly passed the 1997 San Francisco 49ers after Monday night's games changed the opponent adjustments. A good game for Pittsburgh lowered the Patriots' penalty for playing the Steelers in Week 1. That was also good enough to put the Patriots back onto the list of the dozen best overall teams through four games. They almost fell off this list because they had a horrible offensive game in Week 4 against the Bills. The Patriots had a -43.4% offensive DVOA this week; only Cincinnati and Washington were worse on offense in Week 4. Their offense dropped from fourth to ninth in DVOA this week.

New England's chances of going 16-0 in our playoff odds simulation remained at 2.8%, the same as a week ago.

As regular FO readers know, Week 4 is when we start to introduce opponent adjustments, which begin at 40% of their usual strength and will gradually increase by 10% each week until we are at full strength after Week 10. With the extremes that we're seeing this year, both high and low, it's legitimate to ask if we should be making the opponent adjustments stronger, even this early in the season. If we had stronger adjustments now, the Patriots would probably not be the best defense ever measured through four games. They've played the easiest schedule and the easiest schedule of opposing offenses. Then again, plenty of the other teams on the "best ever through four games" list probably played easy schedules that we were measuring at only 40% strength after four games.

BEST TOTAL DVOA
THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2019
  BEST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2019
Year Team DVOA   Year Team DVOA
2007 NE 73.4% x 2019 NE -47.7%
1991 WAS 71.8% x 1997 SF -47.5%
2013 DEN 62.2% x 2008 BAL -46.3%
1999 STL 62.1% x 1991 PHI -42.7%
1996 GB 60.8% x 1996 GB -40.0%
2009 PHI 57.1% x 1989 CLE1 -36.8%
2015 NE 55.9% x 2006 BAL -35.6%
1989 CLE1 54.8% x 2000 MIA -34.7%
1998 DEN 54.3% x 2011 BAL -34.4%
1992 PHI 54.2% x 2002 TB -34.2%
2009 NO 53.6% x 1988 MIN -34.1%
2019 NE 52.8% x 2009 PHI -33.6%

(For the couple people who have asked, "CLE1" on these tables refers to the original Cleveland Browns, to differentiate them from the new Cleveland Browns.)

Just behind the Patriots are the San Francisco 49ers as a close No. 2. But of course, the 49ers have only played three games, while most of the other teams have played four. The 49ers have also been stellar on defense early. If the table above was "best defensive DVOA through four weeks" instead of four games, the 49ers would be in our top dozen. As the only unbeaten team in the NFC, the 49ers have seen their playoff odds move up to make them the No. 4 Super Bowl contender, even though their mediocre preseason projection is still dragging down their DAVE rating.

Dallas drops one spot to No. 3 after a loss to New Orleans. The Cowboys are our No. 2 offense so far, but average on defense and special teams. Fourth and fifth are the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens, holding on to their spots from last week. However, both fell a good amount in DVOA this week. The Chiefs are the one team in the top five that hasn't played a very easy early schedule, but they had only a -10.3% DVOA for this week's narrow victory over the Lions. (DVOA has the Lions outplaying the Chiefs with 16.1% DVOA this week.)

And the Ravens take a big hit from both the introduction of opponent adjustments and their loss to Cleveland this week, with their DVOA dropping by more than half, from 40.1% to 16.4%. Baltimore's rating is being somewhat propped up by that Week 1 game against Miami, which still has the best single-game DVOA of any game this season by any team. That's going to fall as the opponent adjustments get stronger, so the Ravens will have to get back to winning ways to keep their overall DVOA high. The split of Baltimore's DVOA is a bit of a shock. We know the Ravens are one of the rare teams to be consistently good on special teams, so ranking second there is no surprise. The surprise is that the Baltimore offense is currently third and the defense is currently 29th! We knew that the Ravens lost a ton of talent on the defensive side of the ball this offseason but they had plenty of strong talent left and they added Earl Thomas. Yet the Ravens rank 23rd in points allowed, and they've allowed over 500 yards in each of the last two games.

After Baltimore comes a whole bunch of NFC teams. Teams 6 through 13 in DVOA after Week 4 are all NFC teams, which means that overall, 10 of the top 13 teams are from the NFC. This is just one sign of how close the race for NFC playoff spots is going to be this year. Right now, we have nine different NFC teams with at least 9.0 mean wins in our simulations. (This includes eight of the teams in our top 13, plus New Orleans, which is 3-1 and will get a performance boost when Drew Brees returns.)

The most surprising of the NFC teams is probably Tampa Bay. Are the Buccaneers actually ... good? They zoomed up from 20th to seventh in DVOA this week. We expected Tampa Bay to regress on offense and once again be terrible on defense, where they've ranked No. 32 in DVOA the last two years. Instead, Tampa Bay has stayed above average on offense (10th) and has been excellent on defense (sixth). That defensive rating is mostly run defense, however. The Bucs are average in pass defense, but they are the No. 1 run defense in DVOA at -38.5%. It's worth noting that the Bucs are the only team currently in the DVOA top ten that has played a top ten schedule. Based on current DVOA ratings, their past schedule ranks fourth and their future schedule ranks 23rd.

Meanwhile, on the other side of Florida and the other side of the DVOA ratings, you'll find the Miami Dolphins. Oh, the Dolphins are so bad. So, so bad. The Miami Dolphins are the worst team we've ever tracked through four games. And notice the gap between the 2013 Jaguars and everyone else. Essentially, if not for the 2013 Jaguars, the Dolphins would 20 percentage points worse than every other team in 34 years of NFL football.

WORST TOTAL DVOA
THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2019
Year Team DVOA
2019 MIA -90.9%
2013 JAX -83.8%
2001 WAS -71.6%
2008 DET -69.8%
1989 DAL -63.5%
2008 STL -63.3%
1986 IND -61.7%
2002 CIN -60.3%
2000 CIN -59.6%
1999 CLE -57.4%
1999 CIN -57.0%
2018 BUF -55.7%

The Dolphins are horrid on both sides of the ball. On offense, the Dolphins are easily in last place and rank as the No. 8 worst offense ever tracked by DVOA through four games. On defense, the Dolphins are more than twice as bad as the team in next to last place (currently Indianapolis) and are the No. 3 worst defense ever tracked by DVOA through four games.

WORST OFFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2019
  WORST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2019
Year Team DVOA   Year Team DVOA
2013 JAX -67.1% x 2008 DET 41.0%
2002 HOU -61.5% x 2006 HOU 40.5%
2004 MIA -60.4% x 2019 MIA 38.6%
2018 BUF -57.8% x 2008 STL 34.4%
2001 WAS -56.5% x 1993 ATL 33.2%
1990 PIT -50.4% x 1998 PHI 32.8%
1986 IND -49.1% x 1992 ATL 32.4%
2019 MIA -47.7% x 2001 ARI 32.2%
2009 OAK -45.1% x 1990 PHX 32.0%
2007 CHI -44.8% x 2017 NE 30.9%
1989 DAL -44.6% x 2000 SF 30.8%
1999 PHI -41.8% x 2001 BUF 30.1%

How bad are the Dolphins? Well, the Bengals rank 31st in offense and 30th in defense, yet the Dolphins are almost twice as bad as the Bengals overall. This week, Miami went 0-16 in 10.7% of our simulations and 1-15 in another 24.7% of our simulations. In 5.1% of seasons, Miami's only win is over Cincinnati in Week 16.

Cincinnati, by comparison, only goes 0-16 in 1.0% of simulations and only goes 1-15 in 5.0% of simulations.

Besides opponent adjustments, this week is also the season debut for the second weekly table that includes past and future schedule ratings. 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.

  • As noted earlier, Tampa Bay is the only team in the top ten that has played a top ten schedule. The flip side of that is Indianapolis, the only team in the bottom ten of DVOA that has played a bottom ten schedule. That's part of why the Colts are ranked just 26th in DVOA despite a 2-2 record. However, the Colts schedule doesn't really get harder. Their future schedule ranks just 25th. By the way, all four Colts games have been decided by one score.
  • New England and Buffalo also have easy schedules both in their past and in their future. Washington and Arizona have difficult schedules both in their past and in their future.
  • Teams whose schedules should get easier the rest of the way: Miami (but will it even matter?), New York Jets, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati.
  • Teams whose schedules should get harder the rest of the way: Seattle, Chicago, Dallas, and Minnesota.

How do opponent adjustments affect the player stats so far? Here are players with particularly strong differences between DYAR and YAR.

  • Jameis Winston goes from 13th in YAR to 10th in DYAR. Andy Dalton gets the biggest bump from opponent adjustments, but he's been pretty terrible either way.
  • Dak Prescott, Philip Rivers, and Jacoby Brissett take the biggest penalty in DYAR for opponent adjustment.
  • Opponent adjustments switch this year's top running back in rushing DYAR from Mark Ingram to Dalvin Cook.
  • Christian McCaffrey goes from 12th in rushing YAR to fourth in rushing DYAR. Frank Gore and Aaron Jones also take huge positive jumps when we account for schedule.
  • Josh Jacobs has played the easiest schedule of opposing run defenses, dropping from ninth in rushing YAR to 23rd in rushing DYAR. Leonard Fournette, Kerryon Johnson, and Sony Michel have also played easier schedules.
  • Jamison Crowder has by far the biggest bonus from opponent adjustments out of all wide receivers, followed by the Arizona receivers Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald.
  • Amari Cooper and Randall Cobb have two of the three biggest penalties from opponent adjustments, although Cooper has been good enough that it only drops him from fourth to fifth among wide receivers.
  • Matk Andrews, Travis Kelce, and Will Dissly have played particularly easy schedules for tight ends. Tyler Eifert and Evan Engram have played particularly hard schedules.

 

* * * * *

Once again this season, we have teamed up with EA Sports to bring Football Outsiders-branded player content to Madden 20 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.

  • WR Amari Cooper, DAL: Fifth among wide receivers with 94 DYAR in September (21 catches, 286 yards, 4 TD).
  • WR Terry McLaurin, WAS: Sixth among wide receivers with 93 DYAR in September (16 catches, 257 yards, 3 TD).
  • TE Darren Waller, OAK: Third among tight ends with 59 DYAR in September (33 catches, 320 yards, 0 TD).
  • LT Ronnie Stanley, BAL: Baltimore ranks second in adjusted line yards through September; no blown blocks in Sports Info Solutions charting.
  • C Weston Richburg, SF: San Francisco leads the NFL in both adjusted line yards and adjusted sack rate; only 1 blown block in Sports Info Solutions charting.
  • LE Danielle Hunter, MIN: Leads all defensive ends with 9 defeats, and fourth in the NFL with 17 hurries.
  • LOLB Jamie Collins, NE: Led NFL with 14 defeats in September including 3 interceptions and 3.5 sacks.
  • MLB Jordan Hicks, ARI: Led NFL with 48 plays made in September; tied for third with 11 defeats.
  • CB Jaire Alexander, GB: Second among qualified cornerbacks with 3.6 yards allowed per pass in September; fifth with 73% success rate.
  • CB Carlton Davis, TB: Tenth among qualified cornerbacks with 4.8 yards allowed per pass in September; 12th with 65% success rate.
  • K Joey Slye, CAR: 10-for-11 on field goals including 4-for-5 from 50+ yards. 19 of 20 kickoffs were touchbacks.
  • P Thomas Morstead, NO: No. 1 in Football Outsiders gross punt value metric, with punts worth 5.0 points of field position above expectation. Tied for second with 11 punts inside the 20.

* * * * *

All stats pages should now be updated through Week 4, including playoff odds, the FO Premium DVOA database and snap counts.

* * * * *

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% strength; they will increase 10% 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 55% of DAVE for most teams (70% for teams with only three games). The DAVE for New Orleans assumes Drew Brees will play half the remaining games.

To save people some time, please use the following format for all complaints:

<team> is clearly ranked <too high/too low> because <reason unrelated to DVOA>. <subjective ranking system> is way better than this. <unrelated team-supporting or -denigrating comment, preferably with poor spelling and/or chat-acceptable spelling>

 

RK TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
TOTAL
DAVE
RANK W-L OFF.
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEF.
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 NE 52.8% 1 33.6% 1 4-0 8.5% 9 -48.1% 1 -3.8% 27
2 SF 48.0% 3 14.0% 4 3-0 13.1% 6 -35.9% 2 -1.0% 17
3 DAL 34.5% 2 19.1% 3 3-1 32.7% 2 -2.0% 15 -0.2% 14
4 KC 27.3% 4 21.4% 2 4-0 34.6% 1 4.1% 18 -3.2% 24
5 BAL 16.4% 5 10.8% 7 2-2 25.3% 3 16.9% 29 8.0% 2
6 PHI 11.2% 18 10.1% 8 2-2 16.9% 4 5.5% 22 -0.2% 13
7 TB 10.7% 20 -2.0% 19 2-2 5.1% 10 -10.4% 6 -4.8% 29
8 CHI 10.6% 14 6.9% 11 3-1 -10.6% 26 -20.1% 3 1.0% 9
9 GB 8.5% 6 6.1% 12 3-1 0.5% 16 -9.4% 7 -1.4% 19
10 DET 8.3% 11 5.6% 13 2-1-1 0.7% 14 -6.1% 11 1.5% 7
11 SEA 7.3% 7 8.5% 10 3-1 12.7% 7 3.1% 17 -2.4% 21
12 LAR 5.9% 8 11.5% 5 3-1 3.2% 11 -6.2% 10 -3.4% 25
13 CAR 5.8% 15 4.1% 15 2-2 -9.5% 25 -12.3% 5 3.0% 5
14 CLE 5.6% 17 2.9% 18 2-2 -8.5% 24 -9.1% 8 5.0% 3
15 MIN 4.2% 10 3.2% 17 2-2 0.6% 15 -6.5% 9 -3.0% 23
16 TEN 1.5% 13 3.9% 16 2-2 -3.0% 19 -3.2% 14 1.3% 8
17 HOU -0.7% 12 4.1% 14 2-2 -6.5% 22 -5.0% 13 0.8% 10
18 JAX -1.2% 16 -6.0% 22 2-2 1.6% 13 5.4% 21 2.6% 6
19 LAC -1.7% 24 8.9% 9 2-2 15.6% 5 15.2% 28 -2.1% 20
20 BUF -3.0% 9 -6.4% 23 3-1 -13.5% 28 -19.3% 4 -8.8% 32
21 NO -3.6% 21 11.0% 6 3-1 -2.8% 18 9.7% 24 8.9% 1
22 NYG -6.0% 26 -13.1% 28 2-2 -1.6% 17 5.3% 20 0.8% 11
23 ATL -8.3% 22 -3.3% 20 1-3 -4.4% 21 -1.5% 16 -5.5% 30
24 PIT -8.6% 30 -3.4% 21 1-3 -3.9% 20 4.4% 19 -0.3% 15
25 OAK -13.8% 29 -10.3% 26 2-2 -7.1% 23 6.9% 23 0.2% 12
26 IND -15.5% 19 -10.1% 25 2-2 9.1% 8 17.8% 31 -6.8% 31
27 DEN -16.2% 25 -12.7% 27 0-4 2.3% 12 14.9% 27 -3.6% 26
28 NYJ -23.1% 28 -9.6% 24 0-3 -28.0% 30 -5.8% 12 -1.0% 18
29 WAS -23.4% 23 -19.4% 30 0-4 -16.5% 29 11.4% 26 4.5% 4
30 ARI -24.0% 27 -17.0% 29 0-3-1 -12.7% 27 10.4% 25 -1.0% 16
31 CIN -51.4% 31 -28.9% 31 0-4 -31.8% 31 17.0% 30 -2.6% 22
32 MIA -90.9% 32 -57.0% 32 0-4 -47.7% 32 38.6% 32 -4.6% 28
  • 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).
RK TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
1 NE 52.8% 4-0 60.3% 3.7 2 -31.4% 32 -8.6% 27 15.3% 25
2 SF 48.0% 3-0 45.6% 4.0 1 -16.5% 27 -1.6% 19 2.3% 4
3 DAL 34.5% 3-1 48.9% 3.4 3 -31.0% 31 4.8% 6 8.3% 14
4 KC 27.3% 4-0 28.0% 2.7 6 2.4% 14 1.0% 15 12.7% 20
5 BAL 16.4% 2-2 22.5% 1.8 19 -20.5% 28 -2.3% 21 23.8% 29
6 PHI 11.2% 2-2 12.9% 2.7 5 -3.7% 22 -0.7% 17 14.1% 24
7 TB 10.7% 2-2 14.7% 2.2 15 13.4% 4 -3.5% 23 5.1% 10
8 CHI 10.6% 3-1 17.2% 2.3 14 -6.7% 25 6.9% 3 4.3% 8
9 GB 8.5% 3-1 6.8% 2.3 13 2.4% 13 8.5% 2 13.0% 21
10 DET 8.3% 2-1-1 12.3% 2.4 9 3.2% 11 2.7% 13 2.6% 5
11 SEA 7.3% 3-1 16.9% 2.6 7 -21.9% 29 10.8% 1 3.5% 7
12 LAR 5.9% 3-1 3.3% 2.4 12 4.6% 10 4.6% 7 9.9% 18
13 CAR 5.8% 2-2 2.8% 2.1 16 -2.0% 21 1.0% 14 5.4% 11
14 CLE 5.6% 2-2 14.2% 2.4 11 0.2% 17 -10.8% 29 13.2% 23
15 MIN 4.2% 2-2 9.3% 2.4 10 -0.8% 20 5.7% 4 12.1% 19
16 TEN 1.5% 2-2 20.3% 2.5 8 -4.9% 23 -1.0% 18 20.5% 27
17 HOU -0.7% 2-2 3.3% 2.0 18 -0.2% 19 3.3% 10 2.8% 6
18 JAX -1.2% 2-2 -0.9% 2.1 17 3.0% 12 -9.6% 28 8.8% 15
19 LAC -1.7% 2-2 1.8% 1.8 20 -24.7% 30 0.8% 16 13.2% 22
20 BUF -3.0% 3-1 -1.0% 1.6 21 -7.0% 26 -10.9% 30 1.3% 2
21 NO -3.6% 3-1 -0.6% 1.5 23 11.8% 6 3.0% 12 5.8% 12
22 NYG -6.0% 2-2 -12.1% 1.5 22 4.7% 9 -1.7% 20 28.1% 31
23 ATL -8.3% 1-3 -15.9% 1.3 25 0.3% 16 5.1% 5 9.1% 16
24 PIT -8.6% 1-3 -11.7% 1.5 24 14.2% 3 -13.3% 31 25.8% 30
25 OAK -13.8% 2-2 -12.1% 2.9 4 0.0% 18 -3.3% 22 34.1% 32
26 IND -15.5% 2-2 -18.8% 1.3 26 -5.6% 24 -6.5% 25 5.9% 13
27 DEN -16.2% 0-4 -15.4% 1.3 27 1.0% 15 3.2% 11 9.4% 17
28 NYJ -23.1% 0-3 -29.4% 0.9 28 18.4% 2 -13.4% 32 4.9% 9
29 WAS -23.4% 0-4 -26.6% 0.1 31 12.6% 5 4.2% 9 21.1% 28
30 ARI -24.0% 0-3-1 -30.1% 0.9 29 9.5% 8 4.5% 8 2.1% 3
31 CIN -51.4% 0-4 -57.6% 0.3 30 10.9% 7 -4.9% 24 17.0% 26
32 MIA -90.9% 0-4 -94.3% 0.0 32 25.5% 1 -7.3% 26 0.9% 1

Comments

110 comments, Last at 04 Oct 2019, 6:23pm

1 97 Niners team got beat 44-9 in KC later that year

I hope it isn't an omen. which may be a terrible comment for a serious stats site :)

It does show that even good defenses can have bad days when there are great players on the other side, and the KC team had some great players.

27 The 2-2 record is my manual…

The 2-2 record is my manual error. I'll get that fixed everywhere.

The estimated wins thing is... weird, and a product of the early season. Oakland is fifth in first-quarter offense, and the Raiders also have a -100% defensive DVOA in second-half close situations. This is because they have only six plays in second-half close situations.

3 I'm surprised to see Buffalo…

I'm surprised to see Buffalo fall so far in the DVOA rankings. They had a large advantage over the Patriots in yardage and yards per play. Obviously they got crushed in the turnover battle, but game still swung on a blocked punt return, which I wouldn't imagine to have much predictive value. Is it just because opponent's adjustments kicked in this week? Because I don't see why they would have had a terrible DVOA rating in Week 4.

7 Randomness

Buf got much better results then the predictive norms out of a series of very important plays. They had 4 INT's returned for a total of 49 yards - way less then typical, they had two strip-sacks go against them and somehow recovered both, and their one positive turnover comes on a play from their own 2 yard line (taking points off the board and giving them field position from the touchback). This is the kind of game that is going to have a wider spread in DVOA then it does on the scoreboard - and I think that legitimately reflects the predictive value of the per-play results. Consider it this way - how many games where the offense throws 4 INT's and gives up two sack fumbles (on 5 total sacks) result in no defensive points and no situation where field position dramatically flips. I can think of two Nathan Peterman games out of this mold from last year alone where the defense scored enough to beat the offense on it's own.

4 It doesn't seem like the…

It doesn't seem like the regular season is 25% finished, and I have no feel at all as to which units, on which teams, good or bad, are likely to make big moves, up or down.

6 "It doesn't seem like the…

"It doesn't seem like the regular season is 25% finished"

It's always a weird time for me. The baseball season finally ended, and seems like it has been going forever, while the NFL season is already 25% done.

11 The issue is related to the…

The issue is related to the best DVOA teams having played almost solely the shittiest.

We think NE's defense is good, but it played a shittier than average version of the Bills, a shittier than average version of the Jets, a weirdly hungover Steelers team, and a Miami offense so historically inept it couldn't score in a bordello.

Basically, it's hard to judge anyone who has played the Jets, Dolphins, Redskins, or Bengals. And god help you if you've played more than one of them.

12 Jets and Bengals - to…

Jets and Bengals - to another question above, that probably helps explain how the Bills dropped in DVOA now that there is some degree of opponent adjustments.

Josh Allen is back in the basement for QBs as well.

50 Well, he was fuckin'…

Well, he was fuckin' terrible in the first half, so he deserves it. I think his numbers would have come up some without the injury, but we'll never know.

18 ".... and a Miami offense so…

".... and a Miami offense so historically inept it couldn't score in a bordello."

 

If they had a time machine and could play against the Lawrence Taylor Giants, he might be able to set them up with some dates the night before the game.  Conversely, signing Pacman Jones might also help in that regard.

31 We think NE's defense is…

We think NE's defense is good because it almost certainly is good. Maybe not *this* good, but it seems pretty unlikely that an average (or worse) defense would be *this* dominating for four full games, even against bad teams.

I mean, in 3 games against non-NE teams, the Dolphins have scored 26 points, with 0 coming from their defense.

In 3 games against non-Miami teams, the Patriots have given up 27 points, with 14 coming from an interception return and a muffed punt. The NE defense has only given up 13 points against non-Miami teams, or just over 1 point per quarter.

Are the Jets, Bills, and Steelers bad? Maybe. Are they worse than Miami, though? Because against the NE defense, those three teams couldn't even match Miami's "historically inept" offensive output so far.

Will the 2019 Patriots go down as the best defense ever? Probably not, if for no other reason than it's unlikely for any particular defense, even a very good one, to end up being the best ever. But I think it's also safe to say that this year's NE defense really is very good.

I also think it's worth considering that while a merely-good defense could probably put up a performance like NE's so far, it's also true that this is exactly what you would expect an all-time-great defense to do against bad teams.

32 "but it seems pretty…

"but it seems pretty unlikely that an average (or worse) defense would be *this* dominating for four full games, even against bad teams."

They haven't been *that* dominating, simply because it's not possible for them to be that dominating. The thing is that against bad teams and in low scoring games, score and play quantization starts to become an issue. You can only score 3 or 7 points, so when you're the Jets and you average 5.5 points per game on offense, and you score 0... that's basically the same thing.

The low-scoring game problem results in teams *willingly giving up* offense for a higher percentage chance of *winning the game*. If you look at the Bills, for instance, and we try to control for field position, their offense gained 1.81 expected points/game in games other than New England, and against NE, they gained -7.51 expected points.

This looks *much* worse, but it was *by choice* - they lost around 2.7 expected points by going for it and failing. On *average*, that was a good decision, but it's a game - you only get one shot at it. Similarly the deep shot that resulted in the interception at the end of the Bills game gave up 3.9 expected points, and that again was a calculated risk. On average, results in a higher chance of winning a game, but again, only one shot at it. Add those back in, and you're talking about a *good* defensive performance from the Patriots, but not a "dominating" one. Which is consistent with what the game looked like, to me. To put it in "DVOA terms", to me it'd be about a -20% DVOA - that is, they held a team to about 80% of their performance (the fact that this is dead on in line with their DAVE is comforting).

The Steelers are really the game that you could look at and say "total domination" but I have *no* idea how to interpret that game knowing Roethlisberger's injury. I also worry that because the Steelers game was their *first* game, it kindof set people's expectations even though it's probably going to be a far outlier for the Steelers.

Also note that even if they're about a -20% DVOA team, that's a great defense. I just wouldn't call it "all time great," but that's possibly me picking nits: it'd be a top-10 defense from the past decade.

43 Also note that even if they…

Also note that even if they're about a -20% DVOA team, that's a great defense. I just wouldn't call it "all time great," but that's possibly me picking nits: it'd be a top-10 defense from the past decade.

Right, but I mean, this is my point. I agree that there are any number of reasons, including the weak schedule, to suspect that this NE defense is not The Best Defense Ever. I do not think, however, that the weak schedule alone is enough reason to question whether the NE defense is at least A Very Good Defense.

71 "They haven't been *that*…

"They haven't been *that* dominating, simply because it's not possible for them to be that dominating. The thing is that against bad teams and in low scoring games, score and play quantization starts to become an issue. You can only score 3 or 7 points, so when you're the Jets and you average 5.5 points per game on offense, and you score 0... that's basically the same thing."

This is a valid rebuttal for Buffalo, where mere game flow could have dictated the Bills having a few more points.  On the other hand, IIRC neither the Jets or Miami even crossed NE's 40 and a large portion of the drives were 5 plays or less that included sacks or turnovers.  

Long story short, they have been *that* dominating, but it's still an open question how much that will translate against better offenses.

88 "On the other hand, IIRC…

"On the other hand, IIRC neither the Jets or Miami even crossed NE's 40 and a large portion of the drives were 5 plays or less that included sacks or turnovers."

Yes, but my point is that the Jets and Miami are *so bad* on offense that it's literally impossible to shut them down significantly more than they already shut themselves down. At that point it's not dominance, it's just noise. Again, I'm not saying that those performances weren't great: they were "top 5 defense" great, but not "best defense in a decade" great.

The Browns, for instance, aren't a great defense. But the only real deep drives the Jets had against them of any merit were due to an ill-timed penalty and two deep shots . So really you're saying the only difference between New England and the Browns defense were those three plays. That's my point - at that point it's just noise, because the numbers are too small. And that's true even for more advanced stats, because it's just the way football works - individual high-variance plays can drive the total results, and it's tough to guess how often those are repeatable.

89 Let's assume for the sake of…

Let's assume for the sake of argument the Patriots Defense is the best of all time. What would the Jets and Dolphins and Bills offenses do against such a defense? I mean, isn't the results we just saw pretty much consistent with what we'd expect against an all time great defense? Expecting them to not pick up any first downs at all is being extreme.

 

Note - I think its way too early to crown the Pats as the greatest defense of all time, but that's because of inherent variation, not because they didn't dominate these terrible offenses even more than would be expected. 

98 "Let's assume for the sake…

"Let's assume for the sake of argument the Patriots Defense is the best of all time. What would the Jets and Dolphins and Bills offenses do against such a defense? I mean, isn't the results we just saw pretty much consistent with what we'd expect against an all time great defense?"

1) I disagree regarding the Bills offense. They weren't shut down nearly as much as I would expect from a "top defense of the decade."

2) The argument as a whole is logically wrong - you're affirming the consequent. That is, you're saying "if P (the Patriots are the best of all time), then Q (they would have performed like they did against the Jets and Dolphins). Therefore, Q (performing like they did against the Jets and Dolphins) implies P (the Patriots are the best of all time)." 

The problem is that the Jets and Dolphins are so bad that you're in a small-numbers case. It's like flipping a coin once, seeing it come up heads, and saying "this coin came up heads, therefore it must never come up tails." Or to be less extreme, flipping it twice having it come up heads both times, and saying the same thing.

In this case we know that "best defenses of all time" are exceptionally rare (by definition!), so again, like flipping the coin, you wouldn't assume it would never come up tails. Now, your *base expectation* for how good the Patriots defense is gets better. Sure. Just like you would be fair to start to be suspicious about a coin if it came up heads twice.

99 "The argument as a whole is…

"The argument as a whole is logically wrong - you're affirming the consequent. That is, you're saying "if P (the Patriots are the best of all time), then Q (they would have performed like they did against the Jets and Dolphins). Therefore, Q (performing like they did against the Jets and Dolphins) implies P (the Patriots are the best of all time)." 

 

This isn't logically wrong as far as I understand it, since cause and effect is very direct here. (Opponent O - NeD) = Q.

Opponent O  - GOAT D) = Q.

Set the two equations together and you get NeD = GOAT D.

Now, I agree with you and said as much in my post above - what we are seeing is likely small sample size theater. 

102 That's really not how logic…

That's really not how logic works. It's not an equation. "If P, then Q, and Q happened, therefore P" is absolutely a logical fallacy, like I said - it's called affirming the consequent, and it's one of the most common logical mistakes made.

103 I have taken a logic course…

I have taken a logic course. Yes I know if P then Q does not imply If Q then P because cause and effect is not pinned down. 

However, in this particular case, we are dealing in identities. 

Its akin to saying. I have 10 dollars. I buy X, now I have 5 dollars. X=5. I instead take my 10 dollars and buy Y, now I have 5 dollars left. Y = 5. Thus, X and Y have the same price tag. 

That is different than saying,

A) if I win the lottery, I am rich

B) If I am rich, I won the lottery

 

Now we know why this equation is wrong - because all of these are random variables, not immutable values. But that doesn't mean that the above equation, given the assumptions, is wrong. 

108 When you're saying "it's an…

When you're saying "it's an identity" you're saying there's a causative correlation between P and Q. I'm saying that the correlation between offensive output and defensive ability of the opponent gets much weaker when the offenses are this bad, because much of the result is just how much the team implodes on *their own*, and that's just random.

That is, the Broncos absolutely demolished the Cardinals last year, but the best defense the Cardinals faced was the Bears, and the Bears had what looked like a much more pedestrian performance: because of like, 3 shot plays. And their worst 'conventional' performance came against the Rams, who were a completely average defense.

109 Not to beat this to death,…

Not to beat this to death, but to clarify: Your argument is correct, but it doesn't invalidate the point above. The relationship is entirely causal, its just...these are random variables so the observed result is just one of many possible outcomes. Something can be causal but still not constant. 

94 The Browns allowed the Jets…

The Browns allowed the Jets to complete 70% of their passes for 202 yards (6.5 ypa), with four sacks and no interceptions.  Running, NY tallied 94 yards on 23 carries and one fumble.  By comparison, against the Patriots the Jets completed on 55% of their passes for 99 yards (4.5 ypa), had five sacks, an interception and 36 total yards on 20 carries.  

So, yes, NE's defense displayed substantially more dominance against the Jets than Cleveland did.  Reducing it down to 3 vs. 0 misses all the context that supports NE's rating  

Again, it's indisputable that NE is benefiting from lousy opposition, perhaps historically so.  It remains an open question how they will fare when the ride gets rougher.  But they have been incredible so far, much more than a generic "very good" defense getting a boost.

101 "So, yes, NE's defense…

"So, yes, NE's defense displayed substantially more dominance against the Jets than Cleveland did."

Did NE's defense play substantially better? Yes! But Cleveland's not a good defense! And 30% of the Jets offense came on 2 plays, and all of their points came due to an ill-timed penalty. That's the point - the Jets are so bad that you're in the case where 2 or 3 data points are the difference between "you look godawful" and "you look bad."

"Reducing it down to 3 vs. 0 misses all the context that supports NE's rating  "

I'm not saying that 3 vs 0 is the difference between the Browns and New England. I'm saying 3 plays vs 0 plays is the difference between us thinking that New England is all-decade and thinking that New England is good.

I'm really not saying anything revolutionary here: I'm saying that the correlation between how good a defense actually is and their defensive performance against bad teams is very noisy. This isn't a "GUTS vs STOMPS" thing, because obviously, good defenses *do* shutdown bad offenses consistently. It's just that the *degree* to which they do is much noisier than for good teams.

Examples: The 2002 Texans were one of the worst offenses in history, but the correlation between their offensive expected points/game and the defensive DVOA of their opponent is extremely weak. Ditto for the 2005 49ers. But if you go ahead and do the same thing for the *best* offenses of all time, the correlation with defensive DVOA is pretty strong. Because a team that gains 400 yards normally is pretty darn consistent, so when you see a 300 yard game from them, you know what it's from. But if a team normally gains 200 yards, they're completely inconsistent, so they'll flop around all over the place.

104 "I'm really not saying…

"I'm really not saying anything revolutionary here:"

I'm not sure anyone accused you of doing so.  The problem isn't that nuance of sample size and opposition is lost on anyone; theslothook and I have both made clear our wait-and-see stances.  The problem is that you are seemingly too comfortable leading the data toward a preferred conclusion.  For clarity purposes, which of these best describes your position?

1)  NE's production has been at historic levels, but patience is needed because the sample is mired by context and size issues.

2)  NE's defensive production hasn't actually been at historic levels.

FWIW, #1 is my position and has been all along.

107 " The problem is that you…

" The problem is that you are seemingly too comfortable leading the data toward a preferred conclusion. "

No, I'm not. I'm saying that the Jets and Dolphins games aren't data, the Buffalo game wasn't "historic-level defense" (just great defense) and I literally have no idea what to think about the Steelers game.

But I think the only difference really is that I wouldn't even consider looking at the "raw" data without context, whereas I think you're basically saying that the *raw data* for the Patriots says they're playing defense at historic levels. *Especially* because the Jets and Dolphins are divisional opponents for the Patriots. Bad offenses tend to get *really* blown up by a good divisional opponent. See the 2018 Cardinals vs the Rams, the 2005 49ers vs the Cardinals, the 2016 Rams/Cardinals vs the 49ers, and I sooo could keep going on and on.

110 This seems pretty anecdotal…

This seems pretty anecdotal if you ask me. I can remember plenty of games out of division that ended up in ugly blowouts, too many in fact. The dolphins, for example, have been blown out in all of their games and only one has been within the division. 

41 I would say that it's…

I would say that it's possible the Patriots' defense is historically good.  But we just don't have enough useful information yet to be highly confident.  And unfortunately, the Patriots' next three opponents (Redskins, Giants, Jets) won't do anything to give us more information.  After that is Browns, Ravens, Eagles, Cowboys, Texans; which should be more useful.

53 The Giants with Jones under…

The Giants with Jones under centre seem to be rounding into an okay-ish offense.  Too bad Barkley's out.

The Jets should have Darnoldson back, and that combined with Bell in the backfield should offer the most flexible offense NE will have faced to that point.  I really feel like the Jets should also be middling-ish to better with Darnoldson back, and Gase's teams have had good games against NE.

Washington with Keenum trying to gunsling his way into making up for their defence seems like a disaster waiting to happen against NE's ball hawks, and Hoskins coming in sounds potentially worse.

So, yeah, this Sunday's not likely to tell us anything, but the following two games should give us a better sense of how good the NE defence is, even before they enter the real part of their schedule.

57 FWIW, Gase had 2 wins…

FWIW, Gase had 2 wins against New England.  One by 7 points and one by 1 point (last year's hail mary game).  And he lost 4 times (by 7, 18, 21 and 31 points).

 

On the other hand, that is a .333 winning percentage against New England during a 3-year stretch where all other teams combined to win just .143.

51 NE's defense is good. I'm…

NE's defense is good. I'm not sure it's as good as the early schedule makes it look (it may only be in historic DVOA territory because it gets to play the Jets and Dolphins twice) but it passes the eye test.

The rest of the league now has a template on how to shut down the offense, though. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, and how many teams have the personnel to do it. I can tell you one thing with certainty, though, the Washington Indigenous Persons ain't it. That team is *bad*.

54 I didn't see the game, but…

I didn't see the game, but reports I've read suggest Brady just had a bad day.  That's certainly a good template for slowing NE down, but not an easily replicable one.  At 42 maybe those days come more frequently, but I'd be hesitant to call a pattern out of a sample size of 1.

If history repeats, the OL will get healthier and more familiar working with each other as the season progresses, most other teams will struggle to get as much pressure as the Bills' did, no matter how much of th Bills' game plan they try to duplicate.

62 No Blueprint

The blueprint laid out by the Bills involves having two of the 5 starting OL injured in the past two weeks; the two top WR (Edelman & Gordon) struggling with nagging injuries, and a recent cut of AB and IR of Devlin limiting the playbook, then going on the road in a really great hostile football environment against a talented. It's true that if the elements of that game are duplicated the Pats O will have a lot of tough days this year (not that they also didn't maximize their potential) - equally true if the injuries keep piling up. On the other hand it seems pretty likely to me that BB & McDaniels will find a way to squeeze better than league average out of that set of offensive personal if they can keep Gordon on the field; the replacement parts are already there, they just haven't come together yet.

65 I'm wondering, are seasoned…

In reply to by sbond101

I'm wondering, are seasoned Pats fans of the belief that BB and co can squeeze above average offense out nearly (and I emphasize nearly) average qb play and below average personnel?

74 Offensive Personal

I disagree with this a little bit; I think given the injuries on OL and the fact that AB didn't work out I think the patriots non-QB offensive personal ranks somewhere between 6-18, in otherwords ceiling of good, floor of below average (point of disagreement potentially). I think calling Brady an average QB at this point is non-sensical, and belies decision-making as the most important skill a QB can possess. I can think of only about a half dozen QB's that are clearly better passers than Brady, and none that I would rather have to play the position as a whole on a team in the position that the Pats are in this year. To draw this point more clearly, if you think that if at the AFC championship game Brady played for the Chiefs and Mahomes played for the Pats that the Pats would have won I don't think you understand what your watching very well.

All that said to answer the question directly I expect that BB/McDaniels are worth 5-10 points of offensive DVOA each year over replacement coaching on the same set of personal; however I believe a substantial chunk of that is related to the inherent advantages of the consolidation of coach/GM into a single position in conjunction with stability at that position.

N.B. obviously there are also inherent disadvantages to the consolidation of coach/GM into a single position as well as stability at that grouping, but those disadvantages (where they exist) come out in personal quality rather than in the translation between personal quality and DVOA.

79 Response

"All that said to answer the question directly I expect that BB/McDaniels are worth 5-10 points of offensive DVOA each year over replacement coaching on the same set of personal; however I believe a substantial chunk of that is related to the inherent advantages of the consolidation of coach/GM into a single position in conjunction with stability at that position." - I tried to answer it from my point of view. Curious what your thoughts are?

85 That's a pretty hard…

In reply to by sbond101

That's a pretty hard question I admit and one I've spent a lot of time thinking about. Let me dispense with one conclusion someone might draw from my response above: Tom Brady is not a system quarterback. Ive watched him enough to know that. In fact even at his advanced age, I'm certain there's one quarterback I would take over him, and maybe could be talked into three or four, but that's it and it's kind of insane.  I also think he was fortunate to land in ne. A less pragmatic coach would have forced him into some ill-fitting roll and cut bait well before he'd have a chance to develop.

But okay to answer the question. In some ways we've seen this before... The Patriots can achieve pretty good offensive results with players who have literally never played a snap of NFL football before and in one case thrive without having played a down of college football before. 

To me, that is a function of mostly offensive line play and a scheme that enables the quarterback to throw a bunch of short passes with a lot of yards after the catch. I don't know if that's a testament to scarnecchia or belichick himself, but the consistent coaching of the offensive line enables them to be effective as run blockers pass blockers and screen setters. they are also seemingly the only team that has realized the value of a receiving running back. I was also going to add that they correctly realize that running backs are fungible, which makes the selection of Michelle a bit of a head-scratcher. 

Brady of course takes that and magnifies it.

Givem one Transcendence star and you get the kind of rarefied consistent excellence lasting well over a decade that frankly only one other quarterback has managed to match.

I want to add one other thing. I started as a staunch Manning supporter. I may very well die on the hill of Manning is the greatest quarterback of all time. However as time has gone on, I realized the debate between Brady and Manning ultimately comes down to one unanswerable question and one question that depends on how you phrase it. 

The unanswerable question is what would Brady be without belichick and how might Brady look if he actually had to face belichick. Depending on your answer to that, Brady is somewhere between the greatest quarterback of all time and a top 10 quarterback. 

 

The more interesting question comes down this: is it more valuable if a quarterback makes a bad team good or a good team great. I'm not sure there's a clear answer, but if it's the former imo it's Manning. If it's the latter I actually lean toward Brady. 

 

That's my two cents. 

80 I'll grant you that the…

I'll grant you that the players who took the field on Sunday, in that condition, comprised a below average unit.  But I expect Edelman and Gordon to heal and for one of the rookies to elevate into a viable 4th WR role.  I also expect to see the guards start playing up to their talent level once the line finds some continuity and Wynn returns.  

In a sense, this past week is evidence that Belichick and McDaniels need aren't going to elevate a squad without some elite players.  But this type of game happens a couple times of year even in the best of times.  Maybe not that ineffective, but there were a lot of factors at play and I need more than 6 quarters of bad football to change my assessment.

92 Agreed that decision-making…

Agreed that decision-making is perhaps the most important skill for a QB.  But I think the problem comes when the QB's body is no longer able to do the things that his mind thinks it can.  I'm thinking back to Peyton Manning and Dan Marino, who in their final seasons started throwing a lot of interceptions.  Suddenly Marino's passes just couldn't fit into the same windows he was used to.  I doubt their decision-making got worse.  It was their bodies.  Though our brains age and lose the ability to think as fast, so even decision-making is something that can deteriorate.

So I guess the thing that Brady will have to do is understand his physical limitations and adjust his decision-making appropriately.  Things that Marino and Manning apparently couldn't do.

87 Hmmm....even average has…

Hmmm....even average has zanny definitions. Is it...one obj and a bunch of dolphins receivers and offensive linemen?

 

To me, the colts pre-Nelson 2017 Colts were an average offense.

106 Hey, I wanted to respond to…

Hey, I wanted to respond to your comment to me last week but I don't remember what article it was on anymore. First, thanks for the compliment, there are a lot of good names around these parts. I've been lurking for awhile, and actually I used to read FO regularly and posted a few times under a name I don't even remember back in like 2005, ended up wandering away from the NFL for awhile but much like the mafia, just when you think you're out it drags you back in...

8 I love how DAVE is propping…

I love how DAVE is propping up Miami's numbers … -90.9% improves to -57.0% thanks to preseason projections that I think still had them ranked last in the league.

9 Will Chubb's absence be…

Will Chubb's absence be reflected in your ratings? I know you make adjustments for changes at QB. Curious about whether edge rushers have enough of a perceived individual impact to affect overall team ratings?

30 As we get later into the…

As we get later into the season, I'm less likely to be tweaking the projection part of DAVE because the projection sort of assumes that there will be some injuries. But yeah, Chubb is a major enough player that I probably should tweak the Denver defensive projection a little bit next week.

10 gratz to the 49ers

for being the first team to achieve "Estimated wins > #games played", an anomaly we see every season once the bye weeks start. 49ers have pulled this off with style, achieving the maximum possible difference between the two, while leading the NFL in the former stat.

13 Wow, the Dolphins are so…

Wow, the Dolphins are so much worse than the Bengals, who are in turn more than twice as bad as the rest of the league. An outlier to the outlier.

14 I have no idea if the…

I have no idea if the Buccaneers are actually good, but they sure are entertaining. Winston has so much variance from drive to drive. It might be a beautiful deep TD to Evans, or a horrendous pick-six to the other team.

15 Their offense was like that…

Their offense was like that last year too, especially when Fitzpatrick was at the helm. They were one of the most prolific passing offensives ever. Jameis + Fitzpatrick combined for a passing yardage total of 5288, which if produced by a single QB would've been bested only by Peyton and Brees.

45 I by and large have given up…

I by and large have given up on the NFL as much as I can so I've sort of take the start of this year plus last year mostly off, but I'll chime in to say this is, in fact, Jameis Winston in a nutshell; for all his faults, he's consistently been one of the most interesting players to watch because you never know whether he's going to do something brilliant or be a dumpster fire.  He's always been like that, and probably always will be.  I'd say if he ever matured he could be great, but, based on the life decisions he has consistently made (which have contributed to my not watching football much anymore), it seems pretty unlikely that's going to happen.

The rise of Chris Godwin has been interesting, though, as I've long-suspected one of the reasons Winston has been good is just the fact that Mike Evans has such a ridiculous catch radius with his strength and size.  Evans is very good at catching off-target passes, and Winston throws a lot of them.

59 The Bucs have a QB who can…

The Bucs have a QB who can throw, receivers that can catch, and a coach who can coach. Only management can screw them.

My only regret is that this comment is going to be buried under an avalanche of nitwit comments for and against the Patriots.

63 Also a DC who can coach…

Also a DC who can coach.

They're also only one weird brain cramp (do we want to be closer or further from the uprights before a game winning FG attempt?) away from being 3-1.

Sunday at the Saints could be the most interesting game on the menu.

16 Scheme and Fit

I'm not at all surprised that Jamie Collins is performing at such a high level. After the Cleveland debacle, the media didn't expect much from him and even many Pats fans saw him as just a guy. Yet there was nothing physically wrong with him and he's still relatively young so to me it seemed likely that he'd do well. Just goes to show that even with very talented players, scheme and fit play a big role in performance. Since Collins was an unusual player, it took a smart coach to get the most out of him. This is similar situation to Patrick Chung who bombed in Philly but has been one of better safeties in the league since returning to NE.

28 I'm going to take the…

In reply to by RobotBoy

I'm going to take the opposite view and ay if they can succeed outside of New England, how good are they in a vacuum? 

35 The vacuum doesn't exist. …

The vacuum doesn't exist. 

The amplitude of 'scheme and fit' is larger than the amplitude of 'talent' for the vast majority of players. 

 

 

And half the coaches in the NFL still don't seem to realize that this isn't Madden and you can't just pick players by 'overall'

44 The problem is, if most…

The problem is, if most everything came down to scheme and coaching, we wouldn't expect to see a strong correlation between where a player was selected in the draft and how he performs on the field. And yet we do, Tom Brady's of the world notwithstanding.

I think New England is a massive outlier when it comes to the NFL and one of my suspicions about why The pats are so successful is NE does indeed mold certain types of clay into a player that fits his system. Occasionally he lands on a player that would good anywhere(Chandler Jones, Randy Moss, etc etc), but people like Chung and Collins are more of the latter and why I would be leery of paying top dollar for NE free agents. 

46 "strong correlation"   The…

"strong correlation"

 

The correlation we see is only strong within the context of football - and it's largely buoyed by opportunity cost. Its a lot easier to cut a UDFA than it is to cut a failed first round pick - so shitty high picks play for a couple years and similar quality udfas never get to play. 

 

As to your examples - remember, Randy Moss want good anywhere - he was awful in Oakland because he was a shitty fit. 

 

Also, I'm still convinced that if 25 or so teams draft Tom Brady, he never even makes the active Roster. 

48 "Its a lot easier to cut a…

"Its a lot easier to cut a UDFA than it is to cut a failed first round pick - so shitty high picks play for a couple years and similar quality udfas never get to play."

I've tried to account for this by running survivor models, but that sends us down a fun statistical wormhole.

But even then, consider how much value difference exists between parts of the first round. High first round picks vastly outperform low first round picks. You would have to make the argument that teams are willing to cut bait on picks in their 20s but in the top 5s to make the snaps argument stick.

In any case, its kind of a philosophical debate. I tend to believe coaching is vastly overrated as a cause of good players for all but three teams(Ravens on Defense, Kansas City, and New England). The variation in wins year to year for the 29 other teams comes down to a player's intrinsic talent imo, not intrinsic coaching up. And the proof is just how few reclamation projects actually work out. 

 

 

 

52 ...and the question still…

...and the question still comes up as "are those teams really good at coaching those things or are they just really good at finding players that have strengths that work with their philosophies?"

I mean, Baltimore has had how many DCs since Harbaugh's been there? 

84 I tend to believe coaching…

I tend to believe coaching is vastly overrated as a cause of good players for all but three teams(Ravens on Defense, Kansas City, and New England).

That doesn't quite make sense, since teams and coaches are different things.  Which coaches are you talking about? 

In any case, it doesn't seem that hard to expand.  Shanahan running backs, Wade Phillips defenses, Kris Kocurek d-lines, Alex Gibbs o-lines, a few special teams coaches, etc. etc.  Then there are recent examples of how coaching alone has improved things a bunch:  what's Sean McVay vs Jeff Fisher worth?  Jim Harbaugh vs. Mike Singletary? 

90 I should have rephrased as I…

I should have rephrased as I wasn't clear enough, here are two corrections:

I believe bad coaching has a serious impact on wins and losses. I just don't believe good coaching achieves the opposite result. I think great coaching does, but not good. 

 

My objective measurement was long term sustainable success. To me that comes down to talent on hand. The two nfl teams that have achieved a rather long period of success despite a ton of roster turnover has been the Patriots on both offense and defense and the Ravens on defense. I can't name another franchise that's has been so consistent at something for so so long, although Andy Reid may now join that group. 

47 To clarify, I'm not saying…

To clarify, I'm not saying teams shouldn't be wary of NE free agents - I'm saying that teams should stop looking at players in specific positions as interchangeable, and be wary when they're changing a players role. 

 

Like turning Darelle Revis into a zone corner, or asking Malcolm Butler to play on an island. 

49 I agree with this, but…

I agree with this, but coaches know what they know and are rigid to a fault. How many coaches actually tailor a scheme to the talent they have rather than ramrod a square peg in a round hole? 

60 Right, but that's the point …

Right, but that's the point - the coaching difference between NE, KC, (etc) and the rest of the league is significantly greater than the "talent" difference - because teams continue to hire shitty conservative disciplinarian coaches who think the answer to any issue is to yell louder and call everyone a bunch of pussies. 

Bill Belichick is basically the NFL equivalent of Billy Bean (and Andy Reid isn't far off - he's just shitty at in game stuff) - he looks at players, assesses what they're good at and bad at, and then does everything he can to make sure they get put in situations that highlight the good and minimize the bad. 

Malcolm Butler is a perfect example of this - he's slow - but PFF and all the individual stats sites had him as one of the best corners in the league - because BB made a point of playing him mostly in bump and run, and giving him a ton of Devin McCourty's focus - doing what he was good at and protecting him from what he was bad at. 

It was pretty clear watching him that he was very good at some things, and very limited at others - and that his straight line speed was limited - but Tenessee just saw he was NE's "#1 Corner" and gave him $60M and said "You're a number 1, you don't need help" - and he sucked at it - until Tenessee started giving him lots of safety help. 

Pat Chung was similar - Philly signed him and then asked him to do lots of things he was terrible at in NE - and of course, he was terrible at them. He went back to NE, stopped having to cover deep, and went back to Man against TEs and lots of run coverage - the things we knew he was good at - and surprise - hes good again. 

Its fine to ask players to do things they haven't done - as long as they're young players who don't cost much - but signing expensive FAs and then putting them into schemes that don't fit their skillset at all is just crazy - and teams do it all the time. 

Fit, scheme, and coaching matter more than talent. 

19 the bottom feeders

outside of the Jets who should improve with GEQBUS and mosely back from injury, where are these garbage teams getting their wins from outside of each other. If Denver cant beat the titans at home they could be 0-14. same with Washington outside of the Miami game. The race for the #1 draft pick could be lit

22 Is it wrong of me to be…

Is it wrong of me to be rooting for Miami and Washington to tie, as much for the idea of someone else getting the #1 pick as because it might be a game that no-one deserves to win?

29 I think Denver is bad, but…

I think Denver is bad, but run of the mill bad having lost a bunch of close games. The Bengals, Redskins, and Dolphins are so, so awful that all could legitimately go 0-16 if they didn't have the opportunity to play one another.

 

I haven't watched Darnold play a lot, but im not convinced in the current Jets offense he could improve them from apocalyptic to competent. I still think they top out as a bad offense.

64 Hmmm.  Now I'm interested in…

Hmmm.  Now I'm interested in the actual stats, but I'm going to take a stab at it blindly:  maybe about 7 extra points per game and about 14 fewer points against on average since the start of the Dalton era?

EDIT: speaking prime time games generally, not just Monday nights. Wild guesses, of course, based mostly on me being unable to recall the last time the Bengals won an evening game.

67 I mean, even if the numbers…

I mean, even if the numbers supported you I wouldn't believe them without a plausible theory.

 

The Bengals also got blown out by the 49ers in a non prime time game. They strike me as a bad team regardless of the time of play.

78 There's no plausible theory,…

There's no plausible theory, it's just a combination of small sample size variance because there are so few evening games combined with the opponents in those games being generally better.  And even at that, on reflection, my guesses were too severe anyway.

I just have a different view on how bad the Bengals are, and was trying to express it in a funny way.

I think the Bengals are bad in a 4-12 season record sort of way, not at a shot of an 0-for season way.  

33 Can't believe the Giants' D

Can't believe the Giants' D is 20th. They shut down a terrible Redskins offense, but before that were torched in 3 consecutive games, giving up 11 TD drives of 70 yards or longer in the first 9 quarters of the season. That's gotta be some sort of record.

34 Saints VOA vs DVOA

I am curious how the Saints have played HOU, LAR, SEA, and DAL--teams #17, 12, 11, & 3 respectively--and their DVOA goes down 3% compared to their VOA. Is it b/c of offensive penalties?

(When I saw their schedule come out, I had hoped we could get to 3-1; when Brees went down, 2-2 would have been wonderful. Banking those 2 wins w/o Brees is huge for their playoff chances, esp. considering they could serve as H2H tiebreakers for seeding.)

37 NE gets a bump from Pitt's win?

I'd argue that Pitt should have an adjusted DVOA for that game, as Ben was clearly at <50% health.  Rudolph is definitely an upgrade.

Is a QB adjustment ever applied in reverse?  A penalty for keeping in an injured starter when the backup would be more effective?

61 Rams

Man it sure is an interesting time to be a Rams fan. I don't mind the record of 3-1 one bit, which is near the top of the NFC, and about as good as any fan can reasonably expect. What I find so astonishing is how the offense has regressed so much. The offensive line was expected to be a little bit worse, maybe even league average, but I did not expect them to be, per PFF, the absolute worst line in the league. Worse even than the Dolphins who are trying to lose.

I'm sitting around grasping at straws here, because even Havenstein, Blythe, and Whitworth, the three returning players, have all been either bad or awful. Whitworth is the best of the bunch, grading out at slightly worse than average, and if you'd told me before the year that he would decline, I would have chalked that up to age. Blythe has been absolutely horrific, and while he gets a pass due to the ankle injury, he was horrible before that as well. Havenstein is getting simply walked around in pass protection, which directly lead to the first Int and the sack-fumble in the TB game, just off the top of my head.

I'm trying to figure out what could possibly make sense of all this. How every single member could be playing much worse than expected. Even the redshirted rookies, Allen and Noteboom, have been playing even worse than I could have feared. Maybe the DLines are being tipped off to the plays. Maybe there's some flu going around, that only affects the OLine. Maybe the practices have suddenly stopped preparing the guys for the field. Maybe something something scheme figured out.

I have no idea. Luckily, the only direction to go from here is up.

68 This goes back to our…

In reply to by theTDC

This goes back to our discussion preseason. I've seen a ton of seasons were ostensibly great offenses w great talent significantly regress the following year. The few exceptions involved hall of fame QBs: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers. 

It's not that the Rams talent last year was a fraud. It's just... sometimes everything comes together in a season and then next year things get disjointed.

73 I'm still a little surprised…

I'm still a little surprised about the Rams because it wasn't just one season of great offense - it was two. In particular their 2017 and 2018 passing offense DVOAs were basically the same at about 32%, although I bet if you isolate the first 10 or so games in 2018, that probably represents their peak performance before it started to come down. I think I'm still expecting to see them bounce back a bit, but going on the road into Seattle on a Thursday night might not be the easiest place to start on that.

77 The line has to block longer…

In reply to by theTDC

The line has to block longer now that teams have adjusted to what the Rams want to do, so those first and second looks aren't as available as often.

91 That narrative makes a lot…

That narrative makes a lot of sense, and I don't think there's a single root cause. However, the line is just getting flat out whipped, both run blocking and pass protection. There are so many miscues with blitz pickups, and some guys, especially Havenstein, are getting beat early and often.

95 Table issue?

In the bottom table, I cannot sort by the last two columns (VAR, RANK).

100 Oakland at 2.9 estimated wins?

Haven't read through all the comments yet so if someone pointed this out already I apologize. Is Oakland's 2.9 estimated wins a typo? That would be the fourth most estimated wins in the league. Their two losses were sound beat-downs, so struggling to see how they would have 2.9 estimated wins.

105 New Orleans ranking

I won't use the format because I'm not saying it is wrong... just curious as to "why?" it is so wildly different from the power rankings. I know that Brees being out is a penalty, but it appears that the Defense and Running game are keeping them afloat.