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

Week 7 DVOA Ratings

John Brown
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

by Aaron Schatz

The New England Patriots continue to march through the weakest parts of the NFL, putting up another huge DVOA rating in their 33-0 win over the Jets on Monday night. The Patriots spanked the Jets so hard that their near-record DVOA went up this week despite opponent adjustments getting stronger. The Patriots now rank as the third-best team we've ever tracked through seven games.

BEST TOTAL DVOA
THROUGH 7 GAMES, 1986-2019
Year Team W-L DVOA
2007 NE 7-0 69.1%
1991 WAS 7-0 61.8%
2019 NE 7-0 54.6%
1996 GB 6-1 54.0%
2007 IND 7-0 48.7%
1994 DAL 6-1 48.2%
2014 DEN 6-1 47.6%
2006 CHI 7-0 44.3%
1999 STL 6-1 43.2%
1998 DEN 7-0 41.9%
1990 CHI 6-1 41.1%
1995 SF 5-2 40.9%

The Patriots climb in total DVOA despite the fact that their offensive rating dropped from eighth to 13th this week. Considering the field position they had all game, this was a fairly mediocre performance from the offense. But the defense is totally playing out of its gourd. You've probably seen all the insane stats elsewhere. My favorite is that the Patriots have allowed just one passing touchdown with 18 interceptions through the first seven games of the season. The waterlogged San Francisco 49ers also had a strong game against Washington this week, so both the Patriots and 49ers are on the list of the best defenses through six games. But the Patriots' fantastic performance against Sam Darnold moves them back to No. 1 among all DVOA defenses through seven weeks.

BEST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 6 GAMES, 1986-2019
  BEST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 7 GAMES, 1986-2019
Year Team DVOA   Year Team DVOA
1991 NO -49.0% x 2019 NE -49.7%
2019 NE -47.1% x 1991 NO -44.9%
1991 PHI -41.6% x 1991 PHI -42.8%
2019 SF -39.2% x 2002 TB -38.8%
2002 TB -38.2% x 2015 DEN -36.0%
1997 SF -37.1% x 2012 CHI -33.4%
2012 CHI -34.6% x 2011 BAL -33.3%
2011 BAL -34.4% x 1996 GB -32.8%
1996 GB -34.1% x 1993 BUF -31.3%
1993 PIT -33.5% x 1997 SF -31.0%
1989 MIN -31.6% x 1992 WAS -30.6%
1986 CHI -31.5% x 1998 OAK -30.3%

When you combine the Patriots' near-record DVOA with their easy remaining schedule (they're 23rd in remaining schedule strength) and the overall weakness of the AFC, you get absurdly high Super Bowl odds. Our simulation has the Patriots winning the Super Bowl 44.7% of the time. That's much higher than the betting market, which currently has the Patriots around 2:1 odds (or 33%). I admit that I wonder if we're doing something wrong to have the Patriots so high. The problem is that I don't really have anything to compare them with. If you look at the table of the best teams in DVOA through seven games, you'll notice that most of them came before we founded Football Outsiders. There's only one time we've ever dealt with trying to figure out the odds related to a team that had a DVOA or DAVE rating this high. We did playoff odds in 2007, but a) I can't find an archive of our playoff odds from that year, and b) the 2007 team would definitely have lower Super Bowl odds because they had to compete with another historically good team, the Indianapolis Colts, that played in the same conference.

The only year that possibly allows for a comparison with the 2019 Patriots is 2014. That year, we listed Denver with a 30.3% chance of winning the Super Bowl after Week 8. The next team was Baltimore at 9.5%. The eventual champion, New England, was listed at only 3.2%.

Is the problem that DVOA simply overrates the 2019 Patriots? Maybe we just aren't adjusting enough for the fact they've had the easiest schedule in the league so far. Out of curiosity, I ran another simulation that gave the Patriots the same DAVE rating as the San Francisco 49ers, roughly 20 percentage points lower than what New England's rating actually is. The Patriots were still the Super Bowl favorite in those simulations, but only won the Super Bowl 23.3% of the time. (San Francisco was second, going up from 13.4% to 16.8%.) Those odds suggest that the market believes that the difference between the Patriots and the rest of the league is about half of what DVOA thinks it is.

Meanwhile, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. The Jets' spectral suckfest comes out with a single-game offensive DVOA of -84.0%. It could be even worse, as before opponent adjustment that rating is -118.0%. This game drops the Jets into last place in offense for the year, but that obscures the real headline, which is that the Miami Dolphins have climbed out of the bottom spot in offense.

In fact, Ryan Fitzpatrick not only used his Fitzmagic to take the Miami Dolphins off the list of all-time worst offenses, he also used that Fitzmagic to take the Miami Dolphins out of their spot as the all-time worst team ever tracked by DVOA. That title through six games now belongs to the 2005 San Francisco 49ers, who also are the worst team ever tracked through an entire season. However, the Fitzmagic can only go so far, as the Dolphins defense is still a disaster. Giving the poor Bills offense 6.0 yards per play combined with some changes in the opponent adjustments on their other games makes Miami the worst defense we've ever tracked through six games.

WORST TOTAL DVOA
THROUGH 6 GAMES, 1986-2019
  WORST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 6 GAMES, 1986-2019
Year Team DVOA   Year Team DVOA
2005 SF -75.5% x 2019 MIA 35.5%
2019 MIA -72.9% x 1998 CIN 33.1%
2013 JAX -66.0% x 2005 SF 30.0%
1993 TB -60.9% x 2006 HOU 28.9%
1989 DAL -60.8% x 1992 ATL 28.5%
2008 KC -60.4% x 2005 HOU 28.3%
2000 CIN -58.4% x 1998 WAS 27.8%
2009 DET -55.9% x 2001 ARI 27.7%
2002 CIN -55.8% x 2000 SF 27.4%
2005 HOU -52.5% x 2010 BUF 26.5%
1996 STL -52.5% x 2008 DET 26.3%
2009 OAK -51.0% x 2016 DET 26.1%

As for the Buffalo Bills, their offensive DVOA moved up to 23rd this week but their defensive DVOA dropped from third all the way down to 12th after they allowed Miami to gain yards and score points against them. Combine all three phases of the game, and the Bills hold steady at No. 21 in the DVOA ratings. That's not where we normally find a 5-1 team. How bad is it? The Bills are officially the worst 5-1 team in DVOA history. I addressed Buffalo's playoff odds a couple weeks ago in the DVOA commentary, but let's talk about how they've managed to go 5-1 despite such a poor DVOA rating. First, the schedule. Only New England has played an easier schedule so far, and only New England plays an easier schedule over the course of the entire season. (Based on current ratings, the Patriots and Bills are projected to play two of the five easiest schedules we've ever tracked.) Second, for some reason opposing kickers seem totally unable to kick against the Bills this year. Bills opponents are 2-of-8 on field goals, with only one of those blocked by the Bills. They've also missed two extra points. Two of their wins, over the Jets and Titans, can be directly tied to missed kicks by the other team.

I thought I would go back and look at the previous worst 5-1 teams by DVOA. They're interesting because two of them eventually made it to the Super Bowl.

WORST 5-1 TEAMS BY DVOA, 1986-2019
Year Team DVOA Rk Final
W-L
Final
DVOA
Final
Rk
Playoffs
2019 BUF -5.4% 21 -- -- -- --
1991 DET -2.2% 16 12-4 -1.2% 17 Won division, lost AFC CG
1998 ATL -1.9% 18 14-2 18.8% 7 Won division, lost SB
2015 ATL -1.6% 14 8-8 -16.3% 26 No
2003 CAR 0.1% 18 11-5 0.6% 16 Won division, lost SB
1987 SD 0.2% 16 5-7 (8-7) -19.7% 25 No
1996 IND 0.5% 18 9-7 -12.2% 22 Wild card, lost WC
2014 ARI 0.6% 15 11-5 -6.4% 22 Wild card, lost WC
1987 MIN 4.4% 13 8-4 (8-7) 1.3% 12 Wild card, lost NFC CG
2004 MIN 4.9% 11 8-8 -8.1% 20 Wild card, lost DIV
2011 DET 4.9% 15 10-6 10.1% 11 Wild card, lost WC
1988 NO 5.2% 12 10-6 4.1% 12 No

The most interesting team here is the 1998 Atlanta Falcons. That Falcons start was in some ways similar to this Bills start. The first six 1998 Falcons opponents had an average DVOA of -17.4% after Week 7, the easiest schedule in the league that year. There was nobody as bad as this year's Dolphins, but that included the No. 26 Saints, the No. 29 Eagles, and two games against the No. 27 Panthers. The only good team the Falcons played early was San Francisco, which ranked No. 5 after seven weeks. That was also Atlanta's only loss.

Those 1998 Falcons aso had a kooky game with the Panthers in Week 5 in which they were outgained on average, 6.1 yards to 4.8 yards, and yet they won 51-23. Both teams threw two interceptions but Carolina also fumbled five times, and lost four of them. Atlanta only fumbled once, and recovered their own fumble.

Through six games, the Falcons were gaining 5.4 yards per play and giving up 5.6 yards per play. Then they got slaughtered by the Jets, 28-3 in Week 8. After that, they turned things on. From Week 9 until the end of the season, the Falcons gained 6.2 yards per play and gave up only 4.6 yards per play. Atlanta's total DVOA from Week 9 onwards was 37.9%. So while the Falcons' 5-1 start was similar to the 2019 Bills' 5-1 start, it's unlikely the Bills will suddenly become one of the league's best teams and go 9-1 over their final ten games.

Taking advantage of an easy schedule is a general trend here. For example, the 1991 Lions ranked 24th out of 28 teams in schedule strength after six games which is kind of crazy since they started the season with a 45-0 loss to the best team in DVOA history, the 1991 Washington Redskins. But their other early opponents ranked 17, 22, 23, 25, and 28 as of Week 6. The 2015 Falcons were 24th in schedule after Week 6. They also were similar to Buffalo in that opponents had terrible luck on field goals. 2015 Falcons opponents were 6-of-11 on field goals through Week 6, with all those misses coming indoors.

The 2003 Panthers were a little different. Unlike these other teams, Carolina didn't take advantage of an easy schedule. At least, they didn't in the early part of the year. Carolina ranked tenth in schedule strength after six games, but dead last in future schedule strength, which helps explain why they kept winning all year despite having a DVOA that hovered near 0.0%. Carolina's 5-1 start included four wins by less than a touchdown including two in overtime. By the end of the season, they ended up finishing 9-3 in one-score games.

The 1998 Falcons are obviously a huge outlier, but most of these teams didn't get much better over the course of the season. Yet many of them made the playoffs thanks to their 5-1 starts. And the Bills might too.

A few other bullet points from Week 7:

  • Aaron Rodgers' perfect passer rating translated to DVOA as well, as Green Bay's 78.1% against Oakland was the best single-game offensive performance of the year so far.
  • With by far their worst performance of the year, the Eagles plummeted from eighth to 15th in total DVOA and from sixth to 18th in offensive DVOA. The Eagles have had a very strange schedule this season. They have two games with single-game ratings above 70%, their Week 4 and 5 wins over the Packers and Jets. All five of their other games, including their Week 1 win over Washington, have negative ratings.
  • The DVOA system loved Jacksonville's win over Cincinnati. The score was only 27-17, but the Jaguars outgained the Bengals 460 yards to 291 yards and had four takeaways. The Jaguars had only two takeaways in their first six games combined before four against the Bengals. This performance moved the Jaguars up to a surprising No. 12. Even more surprising, the Jaguars rank higher on offense (11) than defense (17). And even more surprising than that is the fact that DVOA ranks the Jaguars higher than either Houston or Indianapolis, the two favorites in the AFC South. The Colts in particular are being held down by poor ratings for their close 27-24 win over Atlanta in Week 3 and their 31-24 loss to Oakland in Week 4. All six Indianapolis games have finished within a touchdown.
  • The hardest schedules in the league so far have belonged to the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers. The easiest remaining schedules in the league belong to the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers.

* * * * *

Stats pages should now be updated through Week 7, including playoff odds, the FO Premium DVOA database and snap counts.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through seven 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.

Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are only at 70 percent strength; they will increase 10 percent every week through Week 10. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with current DVOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 25 percent of DAVE for teams with seven games and 35 percent of DAVE for teams with six games. DAVE for Kansas City and New Orleans assumes that Patrick Mahomes/Drew Brees will play 2/3 of 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 54.6% 1 45.0% 1 7-0 4.6% 13 -49.7% 1 0.3% 14
2 SF 39.2% 2 25.2% 2 6-0 2.1% 15 -39.1% 2 -1.9% 24
3 KC 26.3% 3 14.2% 8 5-2 24.1% 2 -2.4% 13 -0.3% 19
4 DAL 24.5% 5 19.8% 4 4-3 27.1% 1 2.5% 20 -0.1% 16
5 GB 21.7% 6 17.2% 5 6-1 17.4% 3 -4.7% 7 -0.4% 20
6 MIN 20.5% 4 15.9% 6 5-2 16.3% 5 -4.4% 11 -0.2% 17
7 BAL 18.1% 9 14.9% 7 5-2 13.6% 6 0.8% 18 5.3% 3
8 NO 17.2% 10 20.7% 3 6-1 10.6% 7 -4.6% 8 2.0% 9
9 CAR 13.1% 11 9.5% 11 4-2 -2.8% 21 -12.8% 3 3.1% 6
10 SEA 10.3% 7 10.0% 10 5-2 17.0% 4 3.2% 22 -3.5% 29
11 LAR 9.3% 15 10.8% 9 4-3 0.2% 17 -9.5% 4 -0.4% 21
12 JAX 7.5% 17 3.2% 15 3-4 5.4% 11 0.4% 17 2.5% 7
13 DET 7.3% 14 6.0% 13 2-3-1 4.6% 12 2.9% 21 5.5% 2
14 HOU 5.5% 13 6.1% 12 4-3 5.6% 10 1.1% 19 1.1% 13
15 PHI 2.9% 8 4.8% 14 3-4 -0.3% 18 -1.9% 15 1.3% 12
16 TB -0.1% 20 -4.4% 20 2-4 -0.4% 19 -1.4% 16 -1.1% 22
17 PIT -0.9% 19 0.1% 16 2-4 -5.2% 22 -4.6% 9 -0.3% 18
18 CHI -1.8% 12 0.0% 17 3-3 -12.5% 25 -5.0% 6 5.7% 1
19 IND -2.7% 23 -3.6% 19 4-2 7.6% 9 8.0% 26 -2.2% 25
20 OAK -3.7% 16 -4.7% 21 3-3 9.5% 8 15.6% 30 2.4% 8
21 BUF -5.4% 21 -6.6% 22 5-1 -6.6% 23 -4.3% 12 -3.0% 28
22 LAC -8.2% 22 -1.7% 18 2-5 2.4% 14 12.1% 27 1.5% 11
23 DEN -8.9% 18 -9.4% 24 2-5 -11.6% 24 -8.9% 5 -6.2% 32
24 ARI -14.3% 28 -13.4% 26 3-3-1 1.9% 16 12.5% 28 -3.7% 30
25 CLE -14.5% 24 -9.3% 23 2-4 -14.1% 27 5.4% 23 4.9% 4
26 TEN -15.3% 27 -10.3% 25 3-4 -14.8% 28 -2.2% 14 -2.7% 26
27 NYG -21.8% 26 -21.0% 28 2-5 -12.8% 26 6.1% 25 -2.8% 27
28 ATL -23.0% 25 -17.2% 27 1-6 -2.7% 20 15.2% 29 -5.1% 31
29 WAS -27.7% 30 -25.2% 30 1-6 -21.9% 29 6.0% 24 0.2% 15
30 NYJ -33.4% 29 -23.1% 29 1-5 -39.3% 32 -4.4% 10 1.5% 10
31 CIN -38.3% 31 -31.4% 31 0-7 -25.3% 30 17.3% 31 4.3% 5
32 MIA -72.9% 32 -57.4% 32 0-6 -36.1% 31 35.5% 32 -1.4% 23
  • 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 54.6% 7-0 69.2% 7.0 1 -27.9% 32 -6.0% 23 9.8% 15
2 SF 39.2% 6-0 43.1% 6.7 2 -12.0% 27 4.8% 9 10.9% 18
3 KC 26.3% 5-2 25.3% 4.9 5 3.3% 16 5.6% 7 10.1% 16
4 DAL 24.5% 4-3 38.0% 5.6 3 -16.3% 30 4.2% 11 6.2% 9
5 GB 21.7% 6-1 15.4% 4.8 6 5.8% 11 5.2% 8 12.9% 24
6 MIN 20.5% 5-2 24.9% 5.6 4 -2.6% 22 4.8% 10 10.5% 17
7 BAL 18.1% 5-2 27.1% 4.4 9 -14.9% 29 1.8% 16 12.2% 21
8 NO 17.2% 6-1 17.8% 4.4 10 7.9% 7 -1.5% 19 8.0% 12
9 CAR 13.1% 4-2 13.1% 4.3 11 1.3% 18 1.4% 17 7.6% 11
10 SEA 10.3% 5-2 12.1% 4.4 8 -3.3% 24 9.6% 3 6.1% 8
11 LAR 9.3% 4-3 6.4% 4.1 13 6.0% 10 2.5% 15 12.5% 23
12 JAX 7.5% 3-4 3.7% 4.0 15 -0.1% 20 -9.3% 28 5.5% 6
13 DET 7.3% 2-3-1 5.2% 4.1 14 8.1% 6 0.1% 18 2.6% 3
14 HOU 5.5% 4-3 8.0% 3.9 16 4.3% 13 3.8% 12 1.9% 2
15 PHI 2.9% 3-4 1.1% 4.2 12 -1.5% 21 -6.9% 26 25.6% 32
16 TB -0.1% 2-4 -0.4% 3.0 22 11.7% 3 -3.0% 20 6.5% 10
17 PIT -0.9% 2-4 -4.4% 3.3 18 12.6% 2 -16.9% 31 9.7% 13
18 CHI -1.8% 3-3 -3.1% 3.1 19 3.2% 17 9.0% 5 13.0% 25
19 IND -2.7% 4-2 -5.6% 3.5 17 -3.1% 23 -4.7% 21 11.5% 20
20 OAK -3.7% 3-3 -9.2% 4.8 7 9.2% 5 -6.6% 25 22.3% 30
21 BUF -5.4% 5-1 7.6% 3.1 20 -21.2% 31 -5.8% 22 1.3% 1
22 LAC -8.2% 2-5 -5.7% 2.6 25 -12.6% 28 9.3% 4 5.8% 7
23 DEN -8.9% 2-5 -4.9% 2.9 23 3.8% 14 2.8% 14 11.2% 19
24 ARI -14.3% 3-3-1 -12.6% 2.6 26 -4.9% 25 12.1% 2 5.1% 5
25 CLE -14.5% 2-4 -13.5% 3.0 21 4.7% 12 -10.7% 30 24.9% 31
26 TEN -15.3% 3-4 4.7% 2.8 24 -7.9% 26 7.6% 6 13.5% 26
27 NYG -21.8% 2-5 -31.4% 1.2 29 7.4% 9 -8.5% 27 17.1% 29
28 ATL -23.0% 1-6 -23.6% 1.9 27 0.8% 19 13.1% 1 12.2% 22
29 WAS -27.7% 1-6 -27.8% 1.0 30 3.5% 15 3.3% 13 15.0% 27
30 NYJ -33.4% 1-5 -47.5% 1.3 28 19.5% 1 -21.8% 32 16.9% 28
31 CIN -38.3% 0-7 -44.6% 0.9 31 7.8% 8 -6.4% 24 9.7% 14
32 MIA -72.9% 0-6 -70.6% 0.0 32 9.3% 4 -9.3% 29 5.1% 4

Comments

130 comments, Last at 12 Nov 2019, 6:41am

1 I realize there is clearly…

I realize there is clearly Pats fatigue and people are tired for discussing them...but if we are being honest here, the AFC looks like a total cakewalk. They should have the 1 seed wrapped up by end of November and even playing a bunch of backups will likely not lead to many losses. 16-0 isn't the mode outcome, but looking over their schedule, hard to see them finishing any worse than 13-3. I personally see them going 15-1 or so.

Every other team in the AFC is severely flawed in some way. I don't trust the Ravens passing game. I sure as hell don't trust the Chiefs defense. The Texans still cannot pass block and are too reliant on a few stars and Indy is a feel good team.  And don't get me started on Buffalo.

I jokingly said that Belichick must have been doing cartwheels once Manning's arm fell off/retired, but I'm probably not far off. Since his retirement, the Patriots have had the number 1 seed every single year except last year and have been to the superbowl every single year. Its hyperbole to say the only thing that has kept them from permanently representing the AFC every year has been Manning being in the same conference, but it's not crazy talk. Outside of a Brady injury and some weird upsets to the Ravens and Jets, the Pats hegemony is only checked by Manning led teams either defeating them or forcing them into lower seeds. Foxborough remains death to any and all visiting teams. 

 

As an aside, I find it remarkable that the Luke Falk led Jets playing in Foxborough managed a better outing than the Sam Darnold at home Jets did. It's all the more hilarious that the performance was so awful, even with adjustments, that they somehow remarkably finish with a lower offensive dvoa than the tanking dolphins. Was the last time the Jets fielded an above average pass offense when Pennington was healthy the whole year? Was that also the last time any of these afc east teams fielded an above average pass offense?

2 It might be a cakewalk to…

It might be a cakewalk to the 1. seed, but in a single-elimination format you can never assume who will make it to the Super Bowl. This isn't the NBA, where the gap in quality between the top teams and the mediocrities is enormous and seven game series makes upsets even less likely.

7 On the issue of the last…

On the issue of the last time the Jets had an above average passing offense, it's not actually that long ago. I went back and checked and they were ranked 10th with a DVOA of 21.3% in 2015. That was the season Geno Smith had his jaw broken before the season started and was replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick, who proved to be a big upgrade.

8 The AFC is pretty tired, hard to watch for a while now

It could really use an upset or two in the playoffs, but "shrug". It never seems to happen. When watching the NFL these days, I watch the NFC. I have no idea if, or when the AFC will translate into better football. But given the Monday night game this week, it's hard to say that's not a disgrace to the NFL to have that game on prime time. I don't know what the NFL does. They got one must watch AFC team at the moment (Partly due to a rash of QB injuries). And there's like 2 or 3 Patriot games worth watching this season with that team. The rest of the Pats schedule appears to be bland match ups with no fan interest. It doesn't feel good for the game, but the rating seem to be holding up so who knows...

2008 when Miami upset the Pats for the division Pennington had a very nice year for them too. He's the only top ten QB in the division in the Brady era (Sans one year of Manning). Those three years are the only years the Pats didn't win the division over the past 2 decades or so. Which is remarkable, but also getting sort of silly in terms of quality issues within the NFL and within the AFC east. 

 

23 An Upset?

I imagine it was going into the season but after Brady went down, Cassel didn't exactly fill the heart with gladness. Yet they managed to finish 11-5 (with a weak schedule) and get squeezed out of the wildcard in unusual fashion. If they'd gotten into the playoffs, who knows? The defense was aging but still okay and Cassel could manage to throw it up and hope a still semi-interested Moss would come down with it. 

I always had great appreciation for Pennington, noodle arm and all (especially after those shoulder injuries). Obviously he was no Manning, especially when it came to arm strength but there were similarities in how quickly they both went through their reads and made good decisions.

14 If we want to be entertained…

If we want to be entertained by the AFC in January, we better hope for health on the Chiefs' offense. Mahomes standing on his head is about the only chance for worthwhile viewing on that side of the bracket. I mean, it's kind of fun to see the Ravens play overload, and the Colts' sluggers muscle fools around, but those single dimensions won't be enough for The Dark Lord and his minions, I fear. To make it interesting Sir Patrick the Gallant will need to prevail in single combat.

 

If it happens, hopefully some dope won't line up offsides this time.

 

 

 

 

 

15 I'm not being hyperbolic,…

I'm not being hyperbolic, but I think if(when??) the Pats get homefield, I would take them even if they were starting Stidham. The field is just so flawed. As much as I like Watson, I don't think the Texans have the ideal personnel to defeat NE, there are way too many weak links on their o line and Belichick can effectively shut down Hopkins. The only team that has an offense capable of puncturing NE's Defense is saddled with a defense I have no faith in. 

 

Upsets happen, sure, but the AFC is super weak this year - a far comedown from its previous glory days. 

 

The NFC, on the other hand, has a number of worthy challengers. A crowded group of title contenders in GB, SF, and NO with potential interlopers in CAR, SEA, and MIN. 

52 The Texans also have a giant…

The Texans also have a giant handbrake of a coach/GM that has made their team underperform its talent level every year since he arrived.

I agree re: Stidham. It's not hyperbole. The 1-53 quality of that team, owing largely to its coaching and everyone's versatility, is incredible, and you are right to point to the flaws of every other team. I even said this summer that I could see them going 14-2 with a backup, and that hasn't changed at all.

The Colts *could* beat them (I think Reich's offense could score points on NE's D, but I still wouldn't pick them to win more than one in four games). The Ravens could. The Chiefs could. But none of those outcomes are super likely. No other AFC team is beating the Pats unless they implode on themselves, which doesn't happen often.

At least we'll get an interesting stretch where they're challenged during that Bal-Phi-KC stretch coming up. Of course, no team gains more strength from their (very) occasional loss than the Patriots, so really all that'll do is toughen them up and better prepare them for January.

55 Mahomes

Presuming Mahomes is back, it would be nuts to take the Pats w/Stidham over the Chiefs with Mahomes.

The AFC is having issues in large part because both the Chargers and the Steelers are much weaker this season.  We usually count on them to be strong contenders.  

 

84 I was at the AFC Championship Game in January...

Let me tell you something, if KC had scored *any* points in the first half, that game would have been over, even with a lousy defense. Ford was a moron and I'm glad he's gone. The offsides was pretty awful, but I'd like to go back and look at if he'd been doing it the whole game. If so, then why was it called at that moment? Not a conspiracy theory, but just want to see. The really bad call was the roughing call on Chris Jones. That was just not legit. Not crying about it - the D had a couple of opportunities towards the end of regulation and in OT and couldn't stop those guys. It was a bummer, but you have to beat the champ to be the champ. They didn't do it. 

86 You're correct that Mahomes…

You're correct that Mahomes hitting on the TD pass in the first half would have changed things, but NE missed an easy opportunity as well, so those wash.  

As for Jones, it was a terrible call, but Edelman was mauled on that same play, so 15 yards and a first down was the appropriate result.  The refs just botched how they got there.

Moving forward, I think people are overrating NE's chances.  This defense had already emerged at the end of last year, and KC proved they can move the ball against it.  The big difference is that NE no longer has such an enormous advantage on the other side of the ball.  

Given their OL issues and struggles running the ball, it's easy to imagine a team moving the ball just well enough to keep the game close, and the O failing to make key plays down the stretch.  It's easy for me, anyway.

91 I agree with you.  This team…

I agree with you.  This team (as can most) be beaten by a team with a good defense and the ability to consistently sustain drives.  Problem is that I don't see that team in the AFC this year.  I don't think Belichick is going to let the legs of Lamar Jackson beat him, and I don't know if the rest of the Ravens will be able to pick up the slack.  Indy was able to play keep away from Mahomes, but the Patriots defense is magnitudes better than KC.   The Texans have proven time and again they can't win vs. New England.  Barring some more major injuries, the best chance for a non-NE AFC Super Bowl rep is if Mahomes can win a shootout...which will likely require some turnover and/or special teams luck.

We'll see if the Saints or Packers can top them in the Super Bowl.

95 And......not an hour later,…

And......not an hour later, Josh Gordon goes to the IR.  The degree of difficulty just got raised a bit.  Dorsett is the only field stretcher there now, and he doesn't command the respect Gordon does.  Edelman's life is about to get a lot more challenging.

88 If he was lining up offsides…

If he was lining up offsides the whole game, we would have seen The Dark Lord working the refs the whole game to get it called. There's no way around this. A dope didn't line up right in the closing minutes of a conference championship, and as a result, his team didn't get a trip to the Super Bow, while The Empire ended up going yet again.

106 Ford's job is to line up…

Ford's job is to line up behind the line of scrimmage.  The position of Trent Brown is irrelevant to him, since there's no requirement for Brown specifically to be on the line of scrimmage.

27 Re: i realize this

Brady doesn't need to get hurt for it to happen. The 2014 broncos, which are referenced above, also looked like they would have a relative cakewalk to at least an AFCG game with NE. But halfway through the season Manning fell off a cliff. Brady at 42 is not even Brady at 38. Still good enough to win (although with this defense, o line and Michel, Stidham is probably good enough to win). January is more about the hot team and the healthy team instead of the best team. 

3 The Dallas Cowboys as the…

The Dallas Cowboys as the 4th best team is something I have a hard time seeing when I look at what they've done so far. They beat three putrid teams in their first few weeks, then lost to two good teams before a horrible loss to the Jets. That loss looks so much worse now after how poorly Darnold performed last night. The Cowboys were great against the Eagles, but that's their only really impressive result so far. I'm not suggesting at all that DVOA is wrong, just that it seems surprising this Dallas team is ranked so high.

26 I admit I haven't seen every…

I admit I haven't seen every Cowboys game, but they just don't look like that great of a team. I know that the "eye-test" can have lots of systemic biases, but the team overall just looks not that great. For example, the Patriots defense looks absolutely unreal. Even against the Giants where there was that long TD catch the coverage was great, and the ball even bounced off Jonathan Joseph's hand right to the receiver. There was another 10+ yard catch later in the game that also bounced off a CB's hand. Totally smothering coverage. 

I watched the Cowboys versus the Redskins, Saints, Packers, Jets, and Eagles. I thought they looked better than the Jets, who were lucky to win that game. Frankly, they looked bad against the Saints, and it felt like the Eagles game they got a lot of bounces. It's not necessarily about the score, they don't look like a dominant team at all. Not a Cowboy hater or anything, but I would have guessed a DVOA a whole lot closer to 0.0% than 24.5%. I think when opponent adjustments are factored in, they're going to go down by quite a bit.

51 I agree

The Dal D is straight-up poor. Their offense has benefited from garbage-time scores vs GB. Not sure why the media likes to play them up as contenders. There are plenty of good teams in the NFC. Not buying Dallas. Or Seattle, for that matter.

56 I would buy Seattle, but not…

In reply to by Mike W

I would buy Seattle, but not Dallas.  I'm still skeptical about the 49ers.  They struggled with the Redskins - they were held scoreless in the first half and finished without any TDs.  That's not what we expect from a conference champion.

Mostly I think we're headed between an NFC championship game between the Packers and Saints.  And the NFL would love that.  

Dallas doesn't seem to me to be anywhere near that level.  

109 Watching the game

I'm also sceptical of the 49ers, but not because of the Washington game.  You have to watch the game to realise that it was completely non-predictive.  The weather (and field) conditions were such that it just held no predictive power at all - for either team.  Just a complete crapshoot...

114 49ers-Redskins, the ball was…

49ers-Redskins, the ball was so wet and muddy it was black.  Every cut sent water fanning knee-high.  At the end of the game, in celebration, players were slip-n-slidding ten, fifteen yards. 

That was not a normal game. 

6 The difference in…

The difference in performance between Josh Rosen and Ryan Fitzpatrick is not a good sign for Rosen's future viability in the league. Rosen's DVOA is -63.4%. Fitzpatrick's rating with the same team is -11.7%. There's a bigger gap between Rosen and Fitzpatrick then there is between Fitzpatrick and the top-ranked Patrick Mahomes. Rosen has been put in bad situations in his two season in the NFL, but he also seems to be doing incredibly terrible even when you account for that. Fitzpatrick is a career journeyman, so massively underperforming what he does is terrible sign for Rosen.

37 Nothing to add on Rosen, but…

Nothing to add on Rosen, but I have to add that, watching nuggets of the last two Dolphins games, Ryan Fitzpatrick is a complete lunatic, putting his body on the line in crazy ways given the context of his team. Frankly his career has been a blast, adding entertainment value good and bad to otherwise moribund teams, whilst never giving an inch. It will be a sad day when he hangs up his cleats.

49 I'm just thinking about…

I'm just thinking about Fitzpatrick playing on the Broncos this year.  His penchant for forcing plays and giving up INTs might drive Elway and Fangio nuts, but the Broncos D is likely strong enough to absorb some of those INTs while limiting the damage.  There'd be a bit more energy when the Broncos O is on the field, anyway.

72 Yeah, he is fun to watch…

Yeah, he is fun to watch play.  Actually reminds me of a poor man's Brett Favre.  It's too bad he never stayed with a team longer than 4 years.  If he could have just stayed in Buffalo for a decade, I think he might have become a little more beloved player by the fans there, and his identity as an NFL QB might have been better.  And Buffalo probably would have been better off than with EJ Manuel, Kyle Orton and Tyrod Taylor.

73 Tyrod is an interesting comp…

Tyrod is an interesting comp for Fitz. On net, Tyrod is probably ahead because while Fitz has some high highs, his lows are more frequent, whereas Tyrod will give you a consistent output seemingly every week.

 

One reason Fitz falls out of favor with franchises is his reckless style drives coaches crazy. Put up with that if your quarterback is Rogers or Wilson or mahomes, but I bet most coaches expect a backup to follow their orders. 

 

Fitzpatrick will be a very memorable player for me and one who on reflection, should look back on his career with pride. 

113 He was the starter in…

He was the starter in Buffalo, and went completely in the tank for the worst stretch of his career right after he signed the big contract.

I'll never understand why Nix gave him that long of an extension, given his history.

9 Saints have balance

Just a note--the Saints are the only team to rank in the top 10 in all three phases of the game. That isn't a cherry-picked endpoint, either--the Patriots are the only other team to have all three phases in the top 14. And this is after their top-ranked special teams took a major nosedive (to 9th) after giving up a KR TD, an onside kick recovery, and missing 2 FG's, plus a couple of sub-par punts and a penalty that took a PR TD off the board (legit call--no complaints). At the same time, their one block and other tipped punt don't help as they are non-predictive.

10 And that offense is doing it…

And that offense is doing it with their backup QB.

I do expect the Pats special teams rating to improve now that they're no longer forcing a hobbled Goskowski onto the field. 

12 Pats Special Teams DVOA

The Pats special teams DVOA for the last two games is an interesting issue; BB is clearly coaching as though they can't make 40+ yard field goals reliably - presumably that's true, he would know. Since the kicks never happen, they don't touch the ST DVOA as the play never occurred - assuming that they are successful on the shorter kicks they do attempt they should be able to make positive progress on ST DVOA (albeit slightly more slowly then they otherwise might), thus positively representing their special teams because DVOA only addresses results rather than capacity/potential. Not sure there is a parallel elsewhere in football, or that anything should be done to address it, but football really is fascinatingly difficult to algorithmically analyze. 

24 While this is sound analysis…

While this is sound analysis, the primary driver of NE's mediocre special teams was lousy coverage for the first month.  Things improved when they signed Jordan Richards (who thought that sentence could be said with sincerity?) and they'll likely improve more with the acquisition of Justin Bethel.

38 Unless Bethel has seriously…

Unless Bethel has seriously declined, I think the Ravens have officially gone overboard in the neverending quest for compensatory draft picks.  The guy is ( least was) a special teams stud, on par with Matthew Slater, and that has to be much more valuable to a championship-contending team than a pick at the end of the 4th round.

41 Don't Agree

I have to say that I disagree with the comment on kick/punt coverage being the driver of poor ST DVOA in the first 4 games. I went through the PFR game logs and found that over that span the Pats gave up 2 decent KO returns 39 & 40 respectively, the other 3 returns were touchback-equivalent or worse results. On punt coverage; out of 22 punts in the first 4 games they had 8 returns for a total of 52 yards with a long of 13, for net punting yards over that span they are middle of the pack at 46/punt. All in all over that span there coverage DVOA should have been pretty close to 0%. Over that same span they were 11/15 on XP and 7/8 on FG's with a long make of 41 yards (miss at 48) - I'm pretty sure the crappy ST DVOA over that span is mostly about the underperformance on XP's.

57 I thought

In reply to by sbond101

Aaron specifically said that the Pats' weak special teams' DVOA was a result of their poor coverage.  You cite a situation where they gave up two bad kickoff returns out of only five.  That makes for a bad average.  And of course Gostkowski's kicking didn't help any.

Nugent hasn't been a gem, but he has settled down a bit, at least for XP.  And no, there is no chance he'll be used for any FG of over 45 yards as far as I can tell. 

89 According to the numbers,…

In reply to by RickD

According to the numbers, the Pats special teams breaks down as follows:

FG/XP: -5.4

Kick: 1.1

Kick Ret: -0.7

Punt: 3.9

Punt Ret: 1.8

So it's clearly the FG/XP numbers that's killing them, followed by kickoff returns; everything else is positive. I haven't gone back to look at how it's progressed over the season, but I made a point of special teams in the week 6 DVOA comments and Aaron noted the problems with kicking. 

 

93 NE's KO coverage was either…

NE's KO coverage was either last or second to last in average yards allowed just a few weeks ago.  I'm confident the numbers were negative after four games.  In fact - and I may just be imagining this - but I remember Aaron actually detailing in one of the DVOA articles that, despite FGs being an obvious trouble area, KO coverage was just as much of a problem.  That's why I made the comment I did.  

13 Individual units often have…

Individual units often have a large degree of volatility in the first half of the season. It'll be interesting to see where all these o's, d's, and st's are in two weeks.

11 Buffalo at 21 looks about…

Buffalo at 21 looks about right to me,a s a Bills fan. S/T have been very meh, though not outright horrible, defense is quite good, offense is, ahem, a work in progress, though at least Allen looks better than some others from his draft and some other highly-touted draft choices.

They weren't really supposed to be a playoff team this year, in the second year of a rebuild. 9-7 was the best-case outlier in my mind, and that was only because of how bad the Jets and Fins were looking to be..In the season, looking at their schedule, they could go 10-6 and it wouldn't surprise me - but they're not that good.

18 If you were to write out…

If you were to write out your schedule, playing by the nfl scheduling rules, you would situate yourself in the afc east and then play the afc north and the nfc east. Basically, they happened to get the worst divisions besides themselves. The afc North has 1 team thats any good, 2 middling to below average teams, and one tire fire. The nfc east has 1 inconsistent good team, 1 inconsistent middling team, and 2 tire fires. 

42 I think they’re a little…

I think they’re a little better than they’re rated, just because the offensive DVOA is being dragged down by absolutely several moronic Josh Allen hero ball interceptions, which I think (hope) will be out of his system by the end of the year as the Bills coach him up. They actually move the ball pretty well, though. I do think McDermott is a really good coach as well. But still, their peak potential is Jacksonville from 2 years ago or Chicago last year, which is not gonna get it done long-term, despite how nice things are this year with their cream puff gorgery. I hope they don’t get too fat and happy 

47 I'm not sure how much the…

I'm not sure how much the interceptions are dragging down the Bills offensive numbers - they still rank solidly in the 17-25 range in most stats like yards/play, net yards/pass attempt and yards and points per drive. But all of that is quite a bit of an improvement over last year.

50 Yeah they’re definitely…

Yeah they’re definitely still not GOOD but there’s some competence there, which is refreshing. Daboll really seems to have a clue. I’m being subjective here, and am somewhat clouded by Bills fan bias, but I think they’re closer to the 15th best team than the 21st.

I wouldn’t rank them in the top ten like some of these major outlets do with their power rankings, which is absurd. But to count them out entirely I think is wrong; they’re the only team that gave NE a game and would’ve won outright if they protected their punter correctly. McDermott has the NE O somewhat locked down so they have a chance if they get to play them in a divisional game. They have just as good as shot as the Ravens, Texans, and Colts do of knocking off Brady.

 

19 I love DVOA, but its not…

I love DVOA, but its not going to capture just how spectacularly awful the bad teams are this year, mainly because the sheer number of them is going to drag down the average baseline, making them look better than they are. In other words, the Dolphins are spared some awfulness because Cincinatti, both Ny teams, and the redskins happen to all play in the same year.

Last year's Cardinals are somewhere in this universe, but that was just one team.

I've been watching football for a while but I'm struggling to come up with a year where I can name about 5 teams that if they were forced to play an average schedule, would top out at 3 wins. For instance, the 2-14 Colts sans Manning are certainly better than the Dolphins, Redskins, and Bengals and probably better than the Giants and Jets.

An interesting season for sure.

25 I think DVOA has it pretty…

I think DVOA has it pretty much right.  I see Miami as being substantially worse than everyone else and the 2011 Colts being in the mix with the others and arguably the worst of all of them.  Other than the Jets with Falk, of course, but not every Jet game was with him at QB.

20 Denver with the #24 offense?

Dear god, how could there *possibly* be 8 worse offenses out there?

Probably related to how DVOA likes long drives of steady gains which Denver sometimes manages, but it is in no way repeatable or predictive in that dumpster fire.

29 Plus those other 8 teams…

Plus those other 8 teams actually try to move the ball during garbage time, which DVOA gives credit for, but which based on last Thursday's game is something the Broncos just aren't into.

28 I think the NFL has to do…

I think the NFL has to do something about teams deliberately tanking their rosters for the sake of draft positioning; it's a rational thing for a front office to do, but that's part of the problem. I wonder if the draft order should be reversed (or randomized) for the bottom 4-8 teams.

The salary floor is a CBA issue, but I think it needs to be re-worked with some additional teeth. Set a hard single-year minimum in addition to the 4-year average, and put some real penalties to teams that go below.

0-16 should not be viable as a deliberate goal.

30 Make the first round a…

Make the first round a special round that only teams that missed the playoffs participate in.  Make these draft picks un-tradable, and give every non-playoff team an equal chance to select 1st, 2nd, etc.  For added drama, don't pick the lottery ball for who picks next until the day of the draft.  Every non-playoff team's fanbase can then spend the entire offseason wondering when they'll get to pick and who they'll take if they pick first.

All the remaining rounds can happen just as they do now, with worst going first, best going last, etc.

This tilts the benefit of the draft towards non-playoff teams while simultaneously taking away the biggest benefit of a full on tank.

 

31 I don't think tanking in the…

I don't think tanking in the NFL is all that rational, but as long as some of these dummies think it is, they may need to be protected from themselves, for the benefit of we, the viewing public.

58 this

NFL rosters require so many players that tanking just is not a useful strategy.  

Looking at the bottom teams, I think only the Dolphins are actively tanking.  The Bengals are in transition and dealing with many injuries.  The Redskins suffer from chronic  incompetence and have no QB that deserves to start in the NFL.  The Jets had a bad outing on Monday but do have several good players and are trying to build around Darnold.  They just haven't gotten there.  

NFL roster management relies a lot more on talent assessment than the NBA does, where every season there are only a very small number of future stars who can turn franchises around.  Tanking makes sense in the NBA, but pretty much doesn't in any of the other professional leagues. 

60 Of course, it depends on how…

In reply to by RickD

Of course, it depends on how you define "tanking". If it means getting rid of all your old, expensive, guys, even if they can still play a little better, than your young, cheap, players, then tanking makes sense. If it means not trying to win the games with the young, cheap, players, when trying to win the games means you can evaluate them better, and they learn to play better, then tanking is really stupid.

62 The 76ers went all in on…

The 76ers went all in on tanking, essentially shipping out any and all useful players and sitting out every free agency.

The nfl version isn't quite the same, but the browns got accused of tanking when they traded out of the 2nd pick when wentz was there and then drafting Garrett when Watson was there, basically intentionally ignoring the number 1 need of the team. 

 

Btw, I agree with others, the dolphins didn't set out to be this bad. Sure, when the traded Ryan Tannehill, they knew this was going to be a bad year. But the Tunsil and Fitzpatrick trades felt like homerun no brainer deals, even if they made the team much worse in the present. 

59 I'm someone very much in…

I'm someone very much in favor of tanking if the goal is to get your shot at a Superstar quarterback. And while the certainty of that is less in the NFL than in the NBA, the certainty of the draft order mitigates that. Look at the Knicks, they tanked and ended up with the number 3 pick. Orlando tanked for years and never got the number one pick. The Browns tanked and got the number one pick two straight years.

 

And while it's always fun to remember the flameouts, the first overall pick has produced plenty of Hall of famers.  And the photo negative is also true in the NBA, with lots of terrible first overall picks. Again I agree it's more certain in the NBA that a player will become good, but it's uncertain you'll even get a chance to draft that player no matter how awful you are. 

 

Furthermore it's interesting to examine the value of a Star quarterback versus an NBA superstar. When doing this exercise I think people have in mind Peyton Manning and LeBron James but in a lot of ways those are very much the outliers. Think about Dwyane Wade and Anthony Davis when they were the solo Stars. Those teams went nowhere interesting. Kobe Bryant past the shaq  years  and before the pau gasol years put up numbers but his teams weren't contenders either. 

Andrew luck and Aaron Rodgers even on teams that were low on talent at least gave you a shot to win due to the high variance nature of the NFL.  both quarterbacks were able to make the title games, something their counterparts in the NBA never did.

 

 

67 I Wonder...

How many teams that have "tanked" (either whole or half heartedly) to draft a QB actually had it pay off?

You mentioned Luck - and I think that's a perfect example of why tanking does NOT work.  Sure, Luck was a great player - but what did tanking get the franchise after all was said and done?  4 playoff appearances over 7 seasons.  A wildcard loss, 2 division losses, and 1 conference championship loss.

Rodgers was the 24th selection in his draft, with the 1st pick being Alex Smith (with a similar but worse playoff record than Luck).

You have to go back to Cam Newton as the 2011 #1 pick to find a QB who made it to a SuperBowl.  The last #1 pick to WIN a SuperBowl is 2004's Eli Manning.

There are certainly some great QBs that went in the 1st round over the years... but most of them weren't the #1 pick.

http://www.nfl.com/draft/history/fulldraft?type=position

Granted, having said all that - Miami has a TON of draft picks at this point (I think 12 for 2020?) so their tanking strategy clearly involves more than just getting that 1st pick.  It'll be fun to watch how all those picks pan out over the new few seasons (saying that as a Pats fan).

71 The colts failed with Luck…

In reply to by MikeNH

The colts failed with Luck because they hired a horrible gm who then hired a bad head coach. Its hard to find a gm in today's nfl who would look at Trent Richardson after his rookie year and say..."WOW, we need to get him in here asap!!"

I remember Nate Dunlevy facepalming the moment Pagano started his introductory press conference with, "We need run the ball and stop the run...thats the key to winning."  At the time, we all hoped it was lip service.

 

AND YET, despite flailing about, the team had a lot of success. Sure, they never won the sb, but that's beside the point. Lots and lots of teams have had success and not won the sb. If winning the sb becomes the criteria, we might as well suggest you draft your qbs in the 6th round because they tend to win 6 sbs.

 

Tanking alone doesn't guarantee you a sb, you need to make good decisions along with it.  But it does change your trajectory as a team. It instantly catapults you out of the cellar.

80 If winning the sb becomes…

If winning the sb becomes the criteria, we might as well suggest you draft your qbs in the 6th round because they tend to win 6 sbs.

Ha - fair point!

Although - I don't think the Colts were bottom feeders prior to Luck, they had plenty of success.  Besides, as someone else pointed out below, they weren't really "tanking"... so kinda makes the Luck talk moot. :)

82 If winning the sb becomes…

If winning the sb becomes the criteria, we might as well suggest you draft your qbs in the 6th round because they tend to win 6 sbs.

Ha - fair point!

Although - I don't think the Colts were bottom feeders prior to Luck, they had plenty of success.  Besides, as someone else pointed out below, they weren't really "tanking"... so kinda makes the Luck talk moot. :)

83 No the colts definitely…

No the colts definitely weren't tanking. The fact that this team was in the super bowl 2 years ago and a playoff team the year before, and suddenly found themselves winless was a direct indictment of the coaches and the GM. They had to know the axe was headed in their directions. 

However if a prospect like luck happened to be in the draft again, like what I'm hearing is going to happen in the next two drafts... I think teams should absolutely tank for that player. 

77 I don't think the Colts…

In reply to by MikeNH

I don't think the Colts actually tanked for Luck.  They just lost Manning and the season collapsed.

But I consider Luck a success as a draft pick.  As a rookie, he helped turn a 2-14 team into an 11-5 playoff team.  They went 11-5 each of his first 3 seasons, and made the playoffs all 3 times.  (Miami hasn't made the playoffs 3 straight seasons since 1999-2000-2001).  They didn't make it to a Super Bowl, but when Luck was healthy they were a relevant team.  It wasn't his fault that other player acquisitions didn't work out and the coaching was probably sub-par.  But he was good enough that it felt like the Colts usually had a chance to win each of their games.  Unlike in Miami where Tannehill showed flashes of talent, but never enough that I really felt like he could win any game. 

Right now I think there are 11 QB's in the league who have the potential to win any game they play.  (Brady, Lamar, Roethlisberger, Watson, Mahomes, Rivers, Wentz, Rodgers, Brees, Ryan and Wilson).  If you have one of those guys on your team, your chances of going far in the playoffs are significantly better.

99 A much better question would…

In reply to by MikeNH

A much better question would be, what would they have gotten over those seven seasons without Luck? It's not unreasonable to view the Colts Franchise, from owner to front office to roster, as a 5-11 mediocrity, who then got Luck and got to go to the playoffs for four years out of seven. There is a reason that Pagano has been fired, and it's not because he was putting Luck on his back. Luck was held out of 2017, so they went 4-12. They went 8-8 with him in there the previous year and then 10-6 with him back and a good head coach in Reich. Quite frankly, it's not unreasonable to view Luck as a +4 win per year over replacement player. I almost can't take seriously the notion that "suck for Luck" didn't massively pay off for the Colts, considering that I view them as being awful + Luck for the first 6 years of his career.

75 As a Dolphins fan, I hope…

As a Dolphins fan, I hope their tanking strategy works out.  As an NFL fan, I hope it fails. 

 

Also as a Dolphins fan, I wonder how this will really work out.  I imagine the roster is going to have massive turnover in the next 2 years.  There are maybe 2 or 3 guys on the team right now that will be on the opening day roster in 2021.  We've already had a few guys complaining about being on the team.  How difficult is it going to be for them to sign draft picks?  Is there a chance that Tua (or whoever) decides he doesn't want to play there?

120 I still think it's hilarious…

I still think it's hilarious that people seem to just out of hand dismiss the idea that Flores - a guy the Patriots refused to promote - and whose unit got significantly better when he left - is just way over his head in a jobcode several levels above anywhere else he's ever worked. 

125 Every 10 years or so there's…

Every 10 years or so there's a Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck can't miss QB and it probably makes sense to tank for those guys, but otherwise it's too hard to integrate the rookies you get into a dysfunctional team

35 A possible solution would be…

A possible solution would be a draft lottery among the eight last-placed teams in the divisions (this way you also spread out talents in different divisions). 

But I like the simplicity of the NFL draft ranking and drafting at #1 overall is probably overrated (unless an Elway-P.Manning-Luck player). 

 

36 Overrated

Picking first is definitely overrated - with the benefit of hindsight, two of the three picks mentioned have perfectly reasonable alternatives - Marino instead of Elway, or Russell instead of Luck.  If you were picking second in 1998, you were kinda screwed, though...

46 Yeah, the level of certainty…

In reply to by David

Yeah, the level of certainty and impact of star players in the NBA makes the need for a lottery there far greater than in the NFL.

Miami seems like a unique problem. They definitely weren't planning to compete this season, but I'm not sure they ttuly intended to be this much worse than your average rebuilding team. When they signed Fitz in the offseason I'm pretty sure they caught some criticism for signing a starting QB who was too competent for a team that could instead be tanking. If Houston hadn't offered an absolutely insane package for Tunsil that no rebuilding team could possibly refuse, do they go on to also trade the CB Fitz? He otherwise is a cheap young talented player that most rebuilding teams are happy to keep around (coaching/scheme conflcits notwithstanding). It seems like a few things came together to produce a far worse than usual case here.

78 Yeah, I can't imagine the…

Yeah, I can't imagine the Dolphins would have traded a draft pick for Rosen if their intent was to be as bad as possible and accumulate picks for 2020 and beyond.

 

I'm still not sure if trading Minkah Fitzpatrick was a good idea.  The return was good, but a second-year player still on his rookie contract, who looks like he might be good - seems like the kind of player a rebuilding team needs.  At some point draft picks need to turn into actual players, and even the best talent evaluators frequently fail at their draft picks.  So there is a decent chance that whoever Miami takes with the first round pick they got from Pittsburgh will be worse than Fitzpatrick.

94 I can. Rosen was the 10th…

I can. Rosen was the 10th pick, and he could be picked up for a third. That's just value too good to give up. Especially because QB is a very long term position, if you hit. Giving yourself a chance at ten years of the next Matthew Stafford for a third round pick is almost a no-brainer, even in the middle of a tank.

96 My issue with that logic is,…

My issue with that logic is, if the dolphins stink, then there is no way they keep Rosen as the starter moving forward. Its a lot like a team that drafts a 2nd round qb, bottoms out, and then cuts bait because that player wasn't enough of an investment to justify the long game.

 

To echo above, the Dolphins telegraphed their rebuild by trading Tannehil, who was basically an average qb, but they weren't trying to actively torpedo their roster. If Rosen succeeded, it was a win. If he didn't, that was ok too. The real inflection point came with the Tunsil trade. Once you do that, you know you are not in it for the next year or two. Fitzpatrick became the next logical domino. 

100 "My issue with that logic is…

"My issue with that logic is, if the dolphins stink, then there is no way they keep Rosen as the starter moving forward."

... why? If Rosen actually showed something good, then I have no idea why they wouldn't keep him around. And they have him for the next two years anyway. Rosens' real problem appears to be that he just isn't any good on his own. So bad that, per another commentator here, the team threatened to mutiny if Fitzpatrick wasn't named starter.

101 I was responding to the view…

I was responding to the view that if the dolphins were truly all about tanking to get the first overall pick, then trading for Rosen serves no purpose. If he's good, they don't get the first overall pick. If he's bad, it costs them a third round pick. 

If your goal as a gm was to truly submarine your roster for this one year, you would sign and start a player like Luke Falk, not trade for Rosen. 

102 Also, I don't think signing…

Also, I don't think signing Fitzpatrick is a move that you do to maximize your losses.  Two weeks in a row now, he has come very close to stealing a win.  He commits a lot of turnovers, but he also is usually able to move the ball.  He's good enough to steal a win or two.

105 Don't agree with this. If…

Don't agree with this. If Rosen is great, well awesome, no need to pick a QB. Or you can trade him for a higher pick. Or just keep him and have a great QB, they are valuable after all. Almost anyone without a QB would trade for Rosen at any time because the upside is so damn high.

Richie above has a much better argument. No reason to sign Fitzpatrick unless you're actually trying to win a game or two. Fitzpatrick is a hell of a QB for a tanking team, and has such a variable playstyle that he could accidentally win the worst team ever a game here and there. 

68 Oh Boy...

I can already hear the crying and shouts of conspiracy(!) if they switched to a lottery and the Patriots happen to get the #1 pick. :D

87 I have a solution: abolish…

I have a solution: abolish the draft (making every rookie a free agent), and then seal a bunch of rookies in a hotel with a dozen or so agents and coaches/GMs for three days. Make it into a reality show feeding frenzy.

90 Agreed - I'd watch that over the draft any day

Agreed - I'd watch that over the draft any day. 

On a more serious note - the salary cap is supposed to take care of the distribution of talent problem; in the current system the draft is a deeply unfair restraint of trade imposed on rookies, especially in association with the rookie wage scale. It would be illegal if it were not part of a collectively bargained system, and in my view is the one of the most unfair practices imposed on players (especially those at short-career positions) in all pro sports. At least in baseball, hockey, and basketball the average journeyman has a career longer than their rookie deal and gets to make his own choice at some point, in the NFL most players are stuck whatever team chooses them and never get a shot at big money.

Moreover I don't see the argument that the draft/wage scale accomplishes anything from a competitiveness point of view besides saving terrible GM's from flaming out spectacularly on rookie free agents - which I view as a bug and not a feature. 

110 Player Unions

The unions deserve a healthy share of the blame on the rookie-wage schedule, selling out future members for the - imaginary - benefits to current members. Very late in the day, the MLB union has caught on and that league is headed at warp speed to a lockout or strike.

The unions are also missing the boat by not organizing the minor leagues, or at least helping them form an affiliate union. The lack of an NFL minor league makes such organizing difficult but not impossible. As it stands now, the stars make piles while everyone else suffers, including the ever-shrinking middle class.

Hmmm, now that I think of it, the entire country is pretty much in the same bind. No politics at FO though, so I'll take my insight elsewhere.

118 I feel like civil…

In reply to by RobotBoy

I feel like civil discussions about economics and politics shouldn't be barred from discussion, but I'm probably in the minority. In the end civil discourse leads to people becoming informed

92 Personally, I find the draft…

Personally, I find the draft boring, and don't really watch.  But I do check websites during the draft for updates.

 

One alternative could be to not allow teams to sign rookies until April 1.  When players get signed, that information would be kept private.  Then on about April 15, they could have the "College Football Signing Extravaganza Show", and it could be a 2-hour long produced show where the reveal of the signings of the top players is announced.  The sequence of announcements could either be based on whoever has the largest contract is the last name revealed.  Next largest just before him, etc.  Or, there could be a pre-defined order of names based on the top-50 rated players.

108 There are strong incentives…

There are strong incentives for bad teams to gut their rosters even more, because it helps them 3 ways - they acquire future draft picks, they free up cap space which they can save for future years, and they get earlier draft picks by sucking worse.

For instance, trading away Emmanuel Sanders improves the 2022 Broncos in 3 ways. They got a 2020 3rd round pick in return, which gives them a shot at having another cheap solid player under contract in 2022. They saved $6M in cap money which they would've paid Sanders and now they can use it to buy more talent in 2020-2023. And their offense got worse, which helps them get earlier draft picks and increases their chances of having a franchise QB by 2022.

Miami has gone after this strategy more heavily, and they have tons of extra draft capital, tons of extra cap space, and they're on track for the #1 pick and their choice of the incoming QBs. Win-win-win for a rebuilding team.

116 What if the league had…

What if the league had adjustable salary floors for teams, based on how many games they lose each year?  So if a team loses 15 games, it has a very high salary floor the following season.  Could this be a way to discourage teams from trying to lose? 

And the teams that don't lose many games will have a low floor, but it doesn't matter because most of them will be trying to field a good roster the following season anyway.

117 Why is the NFL draft a bad…

Why is the NFL draft a bad thing? Up till now the number of teams intentionally trying to lose has been negligible. 

 

The draft ensures parity. And that's what keeps it interesting for all 32 franchises. 

 

If your real worry is about the drafted players not having bargaining power, id argue we need to get rid of the rookie wage scale

122 Agreed, so far tanking has…

Agreed, so far tanking has been negligible.  I'd prefer it to be nonexistent, but I could live with negligible.  But if it becomes an annual thing (and especially if it includes multiple teams), I think it needs to be addressed.

124 I'd be curious to know how…

I'd be curious to know how much potential revenue the Dolphins are losing by being thoroughly awful. Most of the money is coming from the TV deals and even the attendance is going to be bouyed by visiting fans, especially when you play popular teams. 

I also think a lot of this will come down to how the Dolphins do in the next couple years. If they are successful, then more teams will try it. I think its the right strategy, but I sure how it fails. 

32 The Saints are one of only…

The Saints are one of only two teams with winning records to have a schedule that ranks among the ten most difficult so far (the other the Rams at 10th). They are also the only team to rank in the top 10 in all three facets of the game, they shut down the no.1 team in offensive DVOA, and themselves should shoot to top 3 in offensive DVOA upon Brees' return. Our worst performance came with the score tied after Brees left the field and we obviously had no time to adjust our gameplans. Based on this it seems to me like they are the most well-rounded team in the game today. Sure they don't have a standout unit like the Patriots/SF defence but I like our chances of going deep into the postseason right now. With a healthy Brees I think we have the best chance of taking down the Patriots of any team.

33 Saints Impress

The wins they've put up without Brees puts them in the top tier for sure. 'A Saints team winning with defense' had me rubbing my eyes.

Still, given the number of quality teams in the NFC, the road won't be easy. If throwback Rodgers was about more than facing the Raiders D then the Packers are dangerous. Then there's the 49ers who need Garoppolo to provide something more than mediocrity but if he does, they're another tough out. Home field and the byes could very well be the difference.

81 Unfortunately, it would mean…

Unfortunately, it would mean another Super Bowl featuring the Patriots in order for the Saints to have a shot at it.

 

Mitigating factors to another Patriots Super Bowl:  1) every Patriots Super Bowl has been exciting (which is kind of bizarre considering how dominant the Patriots have been) and 2) a Brees-Brady Super Bowl would be a treat.

104 That's what we all lost with…

That's what we all lost with the blown call in last year's NFC game.  Boy wonder vs the evil genius ended up pretty much as we might have expected that story to end.  Geezer Bowl, though, with Brees v Brady, might have been an all time classic game.

There's still hope we can get that game this year.  

34 Belichick's March to Miami

DVOA rightly ranks the Jets low but I imagine they would have been higher if there starting QB hadn't missed three games. Darnold looked above average last week against the Cowboys and plenty of people thought that the Jets would provide something of a test for the Patriots. So if that was a test, it was the kind that doesn't have a wrong answer). Darnold looked like...not a deer in the headlights because a deer can do some damage to your car. Bug and windshield is more accurate. The Jets were as healthy as they'd been all season and it made absolutely no difference. Watching the game, it felt like Belichick blitzed everyone on every down. Apparently, he has supreme confidence in the ability of his CBs to cover in man, at least against the Darnolds of the league. Not at all what I expected from that game.

44 I think the correct analysis…

I think the correct analysis of the Jets is that turnovers are bad, and BB is aware that young QBs are turnover machines waiting to happen. The Pats' game plan wasn't terribly different from what they did to Buffalo, Buffalo just handled it better and have a better defense.

61 I would absolutely love a…

I would absolutely love a breakdown of how to beat the Cover 0 six or even seven man blitz. It seems to me you just need WR's who can win quickly against man, which seems like a tall order against this particular NE secondary.

119 Dominique Foxworth did a Twitter thread on this

I'm replying too late for anyone to see this, probably, but I wanted to share with you and others that former Denver DB Dominique Foxworth explains what Cover-0 does and how to beat it, in a brief Twitter thread after the Jets-Patriots game. 

Here's the link:

https://twitter.com/Foxworth24/status/1186452565959102466

I'm sure he's not the final word on the subject but this was interesting.

 

128 I'm probably replying too…

I'm probably replying too late even for you to see this, but Kollmann had a great video on the Cover 0 blitz. Foxworth's little wrinkle of get a WR to motion then block, effectively blocking two guys is a really cute touch, although Kollmann points out that just getting a TE to block does the same thing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTOurueNupw

Notes:

1) WR screens are finally a good playcall. Getting the ball out to the flat immediately ensures no sack, and gives much better than average returns on the screen. EDIT: Because all their guys are in the middle of the field rushing, and can't help to tackle the receiver.

2) Hot routes are necessary.

3) Put 7 guys in to max protect. They can't actually send 8, since the guy who's covering that TE can't rush, or the TE could just squeak out for the easiest catch and run ever. You are effectively blocking two guys with one, and should have time to hit...

4) ... The deep post, which should be open because there's no safety mid. A deep post is the hardest route to cover one on one, so if your receiver can't win this matchup, then your receiver just sucks. Hard to win if there's that big of a talent mismatch.

5) BTW, don't have a line that is terrible like the Jets.

40 49ers defense

Shouldn't the 49ers defense still be listed in the top defenses after seven weeks? They're at -39.1%, which should put them fourth all-time.

45 This isn’t something that…

This isn’t something that can be done quickly, but you might get better playoff odds by treating DVOA as being a range rather than a single number. So you first draw a putative DVOA for each team and then do a playoff estimate based on those draws. It will help on the extremes because you’ll sometimes be predicting either a decay in the Patriots DVOA or a surge in DVOA by a random other team (see the 2007 Giants) or both; notice that you only need the random DVOA surge to come from one of about 20 teams.

54 That's an excellent…

That's an excellent observation.  I understand (generally) how the playoff projection odds are calculated and they tell you what they tell you.  It's interesting information, but like all information needs to be balanced with other data.

So take the Patriots current 45% odds to win the SB.  That's the equivalent of a 90% chance to make the AFC Championship, a 75% chance of winning the AFC Championship, and a 66% chance of winning the SB.  Which based on current DVOA may be about right.

It's still early, though, and the end of the year NE team may be as good as it currently is, or better, or worse.  But the bigger factor, to my mind, is that the teams they face in the AFC Championship and Super Bowl are likely to be teams that are better than their current DVOA rating would suggest.  Because, of course, it is more likely than not that the stronger teams at the end of the year end up winning in the playoffs.  And to me, that makes it more likely that the conference championship and SB are closer to a coin toss than current DVOA ratings would suggest.

48 Ravens D

The Ravens made some significant defensive changes following their 40-point debacle vs Cleveland in Week 4. After that game, they were #29 in defensive DVOA at 16.9%.

The changes have been working, and with the addition of Marcus Peters, they turned in their best effort of the season at Seattle. Over the last 4 weeks have climbed to #18 in defensive DVOA at 0.8. Nice to see that the stats match the eyeball test.

112 Totally. Lots of subtle…

In reply to by jimbojonessmith

Totally. Lots of subtle changes have made a huge difference. Replacing Peanut and Kenny Young in the middle with LJ Fort and Bynes has been huge. That plus giving Chuck Clark the green dot has been a calming influence on the defense (and Clark has played well himself replacing Tony Jefferson).

None of these replacements are necessarily big names, which just shows you the importance of playing players to their strengths.  

53 Spectral Suckfest

I just want to express my appreciation for the fact that a professional football site based around serious statistics can use the phrase "spectral suckfest" and it isn't even the slightest bit inappropriate or out of line.

76 Bears ST DVOA and overall rating

Surprised to see the Bears at #1 in ST DVOA. Eddy Piñeiro's excellence and Patterson's return TD probably play a significant part, but they also gave up two blocked punts and were very close to giving up a punt return TD, if not for a borderline holding call. I hope this rating is correct, because they could use all the help they can get.

Subjectively, as a Bears fan who thinks the team would be wise to move on from Trubisky as quickly as possible, this team feels close to completely cratering. The defense isn't the same without Akiem Hicks, and the secondary, apart from Eddie Jackson, is beatable. I don't see more than two or three winnable games left on the schedule (LAC, NYG, DET). It's going to take a complete 180 in offensive approach--a low-yield, run-centric, field-position-focused offense that utilizes Mitch's one strength, running, to insulate their defensive and special teams advantages, per DVOA--to get this team to even 8-8. I'm not optimistic, if you couldn't tell...

126 Less stats available

Disappointing that DEF vs. receivers is now premium-only

it had been free every season since it was introduced

127 NO and CAR similarities

I have been watching those two the last 3 weeks, and they have been neck and neck. I also see that their future schedules are much softer that the other NFC top teams.

129 RE 98 falcons

i'm way late to the party on this, but it is worth noting that the falcons were forced to start 44 yr old steve de berg in the loss to the jets...vs a belichick defense

130 Business Cards

Fine information, many thanks to the author. It is puzzling to me now, but in general, the usefulness and importance is overwhelming. Very much thanks again and best of luck!
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