Saints defense

Week 13 DVOA Ratings

With 12 games in the books, there's going to be a lot of intertia in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. One game won't change things as much at this point, so while ratings move down and up, the rankings of the top eight teams remain the same as a week ago.

That means that New Orleans is still on top and Pittsburgh is still No. 2, although both teams saw their ratings drop a few points this week. New Orleans is down from 38.4% to 34.2%. Pittsburgh is down from 29.5% to 26.6%. Kansas City's rating goes up from 25.2% to 25.8%, so we end up with a very close grouping of teams between second and fourth place. Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Kansas City are all separated by less than a percentage point.

There's more change from week to week in the weighted DVOA ratings, which lower the strength of early-season games and are (slightly) more predictive moving forward. In the weighted ratings, Kansas City takes over second place, dropping Pittsburgh to third. Buffalo moves up three spots from 10th to seventh in weighted DVOA, while Seattle drops three spots from eighth to 11th. Other big movers this week include New England, Cleveland, and Washington.

The Patriots go from 23rd in total DVOA and 24th in weighted DVOA to 21st in both. The movement in the actual ratings is more impressive than the rankings: the Patriots had -13.2% weighted DVOA last week but are up to -4.8% weighted DVOA this week. It helps that they had the best special teams game of the year; we'll talk more about special teams in a bit.

Cleveland is an interesting team to talk about this week. The Browns' total DVOA goes from -9.7% to -6.7%, still remarkably low for a team with a 9-3 record. The Browns didn't jump higher with their dominating first half against the Tennessee Titans because their offense shut down in the second half of the game. Cleveland had 35.6% DVOA before halftime this week, and -48.2% DVOA after halftime. (There were a lot more plays before halftime, so Cleveland does end up with a positive offensive rating for the game.) Defense also was worse after halftime: -45.2% before halftime, -8.1% after halftime. Cleveland's rank actually drops a spot in total DVOA because they get passed by the Patriots. However, Cleveland's weighted DVOA zooms up from -9.2% (22nd) to -3.0% (18th), helped by this week's game and by their huge losses to Pittsburgh and Baltimore moving further into the rearview mirror.

Washington goes from 21st in both total and weighted DVOA to 17th in total DVOA and 15th in weighted DVOA. Their total rating moved up about four percentage points to -3.2% and their weighted rating moved up about five percentage points to 0.3%. Yes, we now have an NFC East team that's above average, at least when it comes to weighted DVOA. Will wonders never cease!

The upset wins by Washington and the Giants mean a dramatic reduction for those odds we've been keeping for the entire NFC East having a losing record. It's now more likely than not that at least one NFC East team is going to finish at least 8-8! Here's what happened to those odds:

  • Entire NFC East has a losing record: 44.9% (down from 84.2%)
  • Entire NFC East is 6-9-1 or worse: 7.6% (down from 41.5%)
  • Entire NFC East is 5-10-1 or worse: 0.09% (down from 4.4%)

The other team that (almost) pulled off a big upset this week was the New York Jets. New York is still in last place, of course, but their DVOA goes up from -38.8% to -33.9%. Right now, we've got New York going 0-16 in 43.7% of our simulations, up from 32.8% last week. Given the way that Cincinnati's backup quarterbacks are playing -- the Bengals have -57.6% offensive DVOA over the last two weeks -- there's a reasonable chance that the Jets climb out of last place in DVOA by the end of the season even if they finish winless.

The team directly above the Jets and Bengals, ranked 30th in DVOA, is now the Los Angeles Chargers. They drop four spots to 30th in total DVOA this week. You've probably read all about their horrible special teams day. The Chargers allowed a 70-yard touchdown on a punt return, then another punt return for 61 yards. They had a long field goal blocked and returned for a touchdown. They missed another field goal from 46 yards. Two of their kickoff returns were not even returned to the 15.

The Chargers had a dismal -45.3% special teams DVOA on the afternoon and that's without even counting the touchdown on the blocked field goal, which DVOA treats just as a missed field goal without considering what happens after the block.

The Chargers were already the worst special teams in the league going into Week 13, but now they are really, really bad. How horrible are they? The Chargers are worse this year than they were in 2010, the year their special teams were so bad that they missed the playoffs despite finishing first in both yards and yards allowed. In fact, the Chargers will challenge the worst special teams we have ever tracked in DVOA history, the 2000 Buffalo Bills. Here's a look at the five worst special teams units along with our estimate of how many points they lost (or gained) on each aspect of special teams, and the rank in the league that season: 

2000 BUF -15.4% -7.4 26 -31.0 31 -12.7 31 -13.3 30 -12.4 31
2020 LAC (12 G) -15.3% -11.0 30 -3.0 24 -4.2 28 -35.6 32 -3.6 27
2013 WAS -12.0% -2.5 23 -8.3 28 -6.4 29 -33.3 32 -9.4 30
1997 SEA -11.1% -1.3 16 -12.8 29 -11.6 30 -19.5 29 -10.2 29
2010 SD -10.2% 1.5 14 -17.7 32 -3.5 18 -34.3 32 3.2 12

These are the only five special teams units in DVOA history to be below -10%. The 2020 Chargers are below average in all five phases of special teams that we measure but what really stands out is the net punting value. Right now, the Chargers would finish the season as the worst punting unit we've ever tracked. The Chargers are averaging 32.0 net yards on punts this year; the next-lowest team is Minnesota at 34.8 and the league average is 40.5. The Chargers have had three punts blocked and allowed those two long returns to Gunner Olszewski this week, but they also just allow a bunch of long returns all the time. The Chargers have allowed 20 returns of 10 or more yards. The average NFL team has allowed seven such punt returns.

The Chargers are in last place in special teams despite the fact that our special teams ratings do not incorporate penalties, but the Chargers lead the league with 16 special teams penalties.

How is it even possible to be worse on special teams than this year's Chargers? The 2000 Bills were kind of amazing. Their kickoff coverage was so bad that Wade Phillips told Steve Christie to just kick short all the time. So the average Bills kickoff went 56.6 yards; the next worst team was at 61.4 yards. The Bills allowed two 50-yard kick returns in Week 1 and even after they started kicking short all the time they still allowed two kick return touchdowns. Christie also had four field goals blocked. The Bills' average kick return was less than 20 yards, and they didn't have a single punt return more than 20 yards. Oh, and they ranked 30th out of 31 teams in net punting too, although at least they only had one punt blocked and one touchdown return allowed.

So that's what the Chargers are challenging for the title of all-time worst special teams.

But while noticing that the Chargers have one of the all-time worst special teams units, I also noticed that we have a team this year that could end up with the best special teams unit we've ever measured. Only four teams have ever finished a season with special teams DVOA over 10%. Miami and Baltimore are both challenging to be there this year. Miami was over 10% a week ago, but they fell to 9.1% this week. Baltimore is almost at 10% pending tonight's game against Dallas. Here are the top five special teams in DVOA history, including this year's Ravens: 

2002 NO 12.2% 8.8 4 18.4 2 14.7 1 9.8 5 9.2 3
1985 LARM 11.5% 6.7 8 4.6 7 20.6 1 20.5 1 5.3 6
2007 CHI 11.2% 6.5 3 7.1 7 13.8 4 10.6 3 18.0 1
1994 CLE1 10.1% 10.8 2 12.2 4 11.9 3 11.7 2 3.9 7
2020 BAL (11 G) 9.9% 9.8 5 4.8 5 9.2 1 10.2 4 0.2 15

Remember that the Ravens' values in the five aspects of special teams are going to be lower than the other listed teams because they've only played 11 games. We'll have to see where the Ravens end up after the season is over but it would be fun to have one of the best special teams units and one of the worst special teams units in the same season. It's too bad they don't play each other. 

* * * * *

Football Outsiders playoff odds, snap counts, and the FO+ database are now all updated through Week 13. We'll be updating everything again on Wednesday morning once the Baltimore-Dallas game is in the books.

A reminder that all our free stats pages, including DVOA and player position stats, now require registration to view. This is not a paywall! You only need to register (for free) and then log in to the site to view these pages. While you're at it, you can get a seven-day trial of FO+ and check out the FO+ features like a deeper DVOA database, weekly fantasy projections, and picks against the spread.

* * * * *

Here is the Football Outsiders Top 16 through 13 weeks of 2020, 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 for performance indoors and 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.

WEIGHTED DVOA gives recent games more strength than older games to get a better idea of how well teams are playing now.

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

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

1 NO 34.2% 1 38.1% 1 10-2 10.3% 8 -20.7% 2 3.1% 7
2 PIT 26.6% 2 27.3% 3 11-1 0.6% 17 -24.5% 1 1.5% 13
3 TB 26.0% 3 23.0% 4 7-5 11.5% 6 -16.0% 3 -1.4% 24
4 KC 25.8% 4 28.3% 2 11-1 31.1% 1 4.4% 18 -0.9% 20
5 GB 19.5% 5 20.2% 6 9-3 28.3% 2 5.9% 20 -2.9% 26
6 LAR 18.6% 6 20.4% 5 8-4 13.0% 4 -13.0% 5 -7.4% 30
7 IND 15.9% 7 15.7% 8 8-4 0.7% 16 -12.2% 6 2.9% 8
8 BAL 15.4% 8 9.2% 10 6-5 -5.5% 23 -11.0% 7 9.9% 1
9 BUF 12.6% 11 16.6% 7 9-3 10.9% 7 1.8% 16 3.5% 5
10 MIA 12.4% 10 15.0% 9 8-4 -0.5% 19 -3.8% 11 9.1% 2
11 SEA 11.5% 9 8.9% 11 8-4 12.1% 5 7.4% 22 6.8% 4
12 TEN 5.2% 12 4.6% 12 8-4 21.6% 3 10.4% 29 -6.0% 29
13 ARI 2.9% 13 2.0% 13 6-6 2.4% 12 -3.1% 13 -2.7% 25
14 SF 2.0% 14 0.8% 14 5-7 -1.1% 20 -3.1% 12 0.0% 18
15 MIN -1.3% 15 -2.5% 17 6-6 2.3% 13 -4.9% 9 -8.5% 31
16 CAR -1.9% 16 -1.4% 16 4-8 5.3% 10 8.0% 23 0.8% 15

For the full table, including DAVE, schedule strength, and non-adjusted VOA, visit the Football Outsiders DVOA database.


80 comments, Last at 11 Dec 2020, 3:31pm

1 The Chargers had Younghoe…

The Chargers had Younghoe Koo in 2017, but cut him after four games. He's 32 for 33 in field goals and leads the NFL in FG made this year. He probably could have helped.

17 Josh Lambo

Kicked for SD in 2015-16...81% on FGs and 4/8 from 50+

Since joining the Jags in 2017, 95% on FGs and 12/13 from 50+

56 I would love to know to what…

In reply to by qckendall

I would love to know to what extent teams make kicker moves based on what their coaches can observe about the process/approach, versus overreacting to in-game outcomes in what is really an infinitesimally small sample size.

Absent an identified deficiency in the player that he can't or won't fix, it seems like most teams with a recently shaky kicker would be better served focusing on offense and defense. Especially since teams should be attempting fewer FGs and XPs than they currently are anyway. (Full disclosure, I still have fan PTSD from the disproportionate amount of attention paid to the Bears kicker after the double-doink in 2018. Funny how now they have a perfectly cromulent kicker, yet are much worse than they were 2 years ago).

66 Nothing matters

In reply to by qckendall

So just pay the best ST coach whatever they want is my only conclusion. 

61 Money Badger has been bad…

Money Badger has been bad this year, but he was quite good before. Regardless, he's been A problem but not THE problem. He cost the Chargers a win against the Saints, but it was still a 50 yarder and not some chip shot. 

The Chargers are having ST issues because:

1) George Stewart is an incredibly bad ST coach.

2) The team decided not to re-sign their ST-focused players (like Dzubnar). Their gunners are just not good enough at getting down field.

3) The blocking on the punt team (and the team in general) is just atrocious. 


3 Ravens special teams are very special

Many comments on this website state that special teams are inconsistent from year to year. This is not true for the Ravens. I went back through the database:

1.  The Ravens have had negative special teams DVOA only 3 times in their history, once was their first year in 1996. Therefore, when this year is over they will have positive special teams DVOA in 22 of the past 24 years.  

2.  The Ravens have finished in the top 9 in special teams DVOA for eight straight years, including number 1 at 9.2% in 2017, number 1 at 7.3% in 2015 and number 1 at 9.0% in 2012.  2020 will surely make it 9 straight years and can add a 4th number 1 finish in the nine year period.


4 See also Dave Toub. This is…

See also Dave Toub. This is his 20th season as special teams coordinator, across 3 teams, and it's only his 2nd time with negative DVOA. He was with PHI 2001-03, CHI 2004-12, and KC 2013-20, and his only years outside the top half in ST DVOA are CHI 2005 and KC 2020. 7 times his team has ranked #1 in ST DVOA, and 2 times they've been in the bottom half.

23 What are the odds?

The odds of randomly being in the top half for 25 consecutive years is 1 in 33,554,432.

So I will conclude that the Patriots know what they are doing when it comes to special teams as opposed to contributing it to luck.  


45 Through 2007 with the Eagles…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Through 2007 with the Eagles, not 2006. In 2007 they tacked on "defensive backs" coach to help him get a HC job.(Also yet again an example of why it makes sense Reid's coaching tree is so much more successful than Belichick's - Reid constantly touts and helps his guys regarding HC jobs). There was a bunch of talk when Harbaugh was being touted as a HC candidate about how being an ST coordinator has advantages because you're involved with everyone, not just offense or defense.

Harbaugh was a very good ST coach with the Eagles, too. The last few years had weird extenuating circumstances (injured kicker mid-season, no punt returner, and in the last year his attention was split). But basically over Harbaugh's entire career his special teams have been extremely good.

49 Are we sure Belichick wouldn…

Are we sure Belichick wouldn't tout his guys, if he had one he really thought would make a good HC?  

Maybe Reid's just better at higher people who have the potential to grow beyond their current role, and Belichick mostly hires guys he thinks can do the current job without regard for their future potential?

52 I mean... I guess maybe?…

I mean... I guess maybe?

Given Belichick's animosity towards former colleagues when they're opposing head coaches (even when they do things he's done to other teams) I kinda think it's more likely on Bill not caring if his coaches advance. I mean, in the "cold, calculating, heartless logic" sense you don't want to help your best coaches become able to be head coaches on their own.

7 With these teams/coaches…

With these teams/coaches that are consistently near the top in ST (BAL, NE, Toub, etc.), is this trading off against investing in their offense & defense?

Ways teams could improve their ST at the expense of Off/Def: using more/earlier draft picks on special teamers, devoting more salary cap space to ST, using more roster spots on ST, using high-end Off & Def players on ST, devoting more practice time or prep work to ST. At least some of these seem measurable.

10 Hmm

This makes me want to make a chart of ST spending and ranking. Maybe I will. Then again it's just ST.

13 I think for the Ravens it's…

I think for the Ravens it's led to them picking up a zillion speedy skinny guys who aren't great at catching. It's been awesome for DB depth over the years but not so much at WR. Most of the STers are late round or UDFA guys though, so I think good ST is just a matter of being good at developing talent rather than blowing high picks.

15 For some reason no one…

For some reason no one shares my interest in the Ravens from this perspective. They've managed defensive competency for years and years despite massive turnover in free agency, typically picking late in the draft, lots of defections from defensive coordinators. Somehow year after year they always make it work.


Big mystery to me how they've done it. have even asked Raven's fans and I've never gotten a consistent answer.

16 Identity and ethos? The…

Identity and ethos?

The Ravens and Bears have paired consistently excellent defense and special teams over extended periods of time, combined with occasional effectiveness at RB and almost universal incompetence at WR and QB. They’ve won titles essentially every time they’ve had above-average passing.

19 I'll be another Ravens fan with a different answer

Maybe playing against the Ravens offense in practice builds tremendous confidence (just a joke, not my real answer).  

I have often joked that if you throw 11 guys in a Ravens uniform on defense they will play well.  The theory even worked in Pittsburgh last week when the Ravens imposters held the Steelers offense in check.

The one thing that I can say seriously about this topic is that the Ravens know when to dump a player.   NEVER pick up a guy that the Ravens have let go.  The Ravens will gladly take the third or fourth round compensatory pick, while the new team will have the shell of the player that they think they are getting.

Here are some samples:

Haloti Ngata- 5 Pro Bowls with Ravens, then plays 4 years with Lions and Eagles

Paul Kruger--big money wasted by Cleveland

C. J. Mosley-big money wasted by Jets, the Jets may actually win a game before he takes the field.

Ed Reed (played in all 16 games for Champion 2012 Ravens, the ball hawk had 4 INT's and 3 fumble recoveries that year.  They cut him and in 2013 Houston had him, cut him mid season, the Jets picked him up, cut him and he retired)

Terrell Suggs-Ravens let him go, picked up by Arizona who cut him then went to KC

Chris McAllister-  Saints tried him for 2 games in 2009

I challenge anyone to name a player that left the Ravens defense and became a Pro Bowler elsewhere.  

And then there is the other side of the ball, I have waited for two decades to watch an offense like I saw last year, and now that has disappeared.

40 The Adalius Thomas who the…

The Adalius Thomas who the Patriots cut with two years left on his big contract, after he spent most of the season being a huge locker room problem?


I believe the quote is something along the lines of "I'm not a kindergartener, I don't need to be motivated" after he repeatedly missed meetings and practices?



51 Yes, Thomas was very good in…

Yes, Thomas was very good in NE in 2007 and 2008, when he had Bruschi and Vrabel to keep him in line.  When they both left in 2009, Thomas suddenly became a locker room cancer.  I've never understood what really happened there.

35 Mosely was good! The Ravens…

Mosley was good! The Ravens were all set to re-sign him when the former Jets genius GM swooped in with a record setting deal. Unexpectedly losing him led to Martindale coming up with last year's zerg rush scheme.

I think the trend is more that they won't overpay for talent even if it hurts in the short term. That and they make players look great in situational roles, which leads to other teams giving them big contract offers as starters.

38 not a waste on cj

Mosely got hurt with a weird injury after a great three quarters and couldnt return the whole year.  That's bad luck.  this year he opted out because of Covid.  So unless we're going to start judging players for their covid decisions, we cant call the money a waste.  just bad luck/unfortunate circumstances

47 My theory is  that the…

My theory is  that the Ravens have a very good set of position coaches that are able to teach good defensive habits. That's the only explanation I can come up since none of their head coaches have been defensive specialists and we've seen a perpetual revolving door at defensive coordinator. 

The other theory is that its all Ozzie Newsome and we should now begin to see a worsening defense(though I suspect he's still involved in some capacity so maybe not then either).

Its truly a very strange thing that seems to go way under the radar. 

In thinking it over, the Ravens and possibly the Steelers are the only franchises that seem to have this "organizational" advantage. 


Again to be clear, here I am defining "organizational advantage" as something that transcends any one coach. If BB or Andy Reid left their franchises, we'd expect to see a drop. But the Ravens have changed coaches and coordinators and it hasn't changed anything at all. 


75 Continuity is part of it

@theslothook re: #15

Since 2001, the Ravens have always had a capable in-house succession plan at defensive coordinator.

After the Ravens won the 2000 SB, Brian Billick stashed Mike Nolan on staff in 2001, as WR coach(!), after the Skins let him go.  Billick had Marvin Lewis, but Lewis was inevitably getting a head coaching job.  Took longer than expected, but that's a different story.  After Lewis left, the Ravens promoted Nolan to DC in 2002.  Nolan switched the Ravens from Lewis's 4-3 to a base 3-4.

Mike Nolan left for the Niners HC job in 2005, and DL coach Rex Ryan was promoted to DC.

Sexy Rexy left for the Jets after the 2008 season, and LB coach Greg Mattison was promoted to DC.  Mattison was a coaching lifer, had been at it going back to 1971 coaching at the HS level.  Three decades as a college coach, including stints as the Michigan DC, also Notre Dame and Florida.  That 2009 Ravens squad still had Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata, Jarret Johnson, Kelly Gregg, Trevor Pryce, Dawan Landry.  It's probably not fair to say that you or I could have "coordinated" that personnel group to a good rating.  But it's tempting.

Mattison left the NFL after the 2010 season to spend time in Michigan with his daughter & grandkids, and secondary coach Chuck Pagano took over as DC. Chucky P was *crazy*.  Blitzed all the time, just did not care.  SEND 'EM!  I have a Chuck Pagano anecdote, one of my favorite "plays" of Ravens defense from the past 20 years – not even a play, the ball wasn't even snapped! – but it would add a couple paragraphs to describe.  Ask me later.

Anyway.  Chucky P gets his opportunity to go mess up Indy after the 2011 season.  Ravens promote LB coach Dean Pees to DC.  Pees was another lifer.  Six years coaching defense under Bill Belichick in New England, the last four as DC.  Prior to that, 25 years coaching defense in college, including a few years as the DC and secondary coach at Miami of OH, where he coached a young John Harbaugh.  

Pees coordinates the Ravens D for six seasons, the longest tenured Ravens DC.  He oversaw the rebuild after Ray & Ed graduated. Pees retired for a minute after the 2017 season, and the Ravens promoted LB coach Wink Martindale to DC.  Martindale started out as a secondary coach Division 3 Defiance College.  Interesting side note, all three of these guys were on staff at the U of Cincinatti in 1996:

  • John Harbaugh – spec teams coordinator
  • Rex Ryan – defensive coordinator
  • Wink Martindale – defensive ends coach

Hotbed!  I wonder who else was on that staff.  And if the team was any good.
(Also the longtime Ravens spec teams coach Jerry Rosburg was there 1992-95.)

Anyway: after U Cincy, Martindale went on to a stint at Western Kentucky under Papa Jack Harbaugh.  Then a stint as LB coach with the Raiders under DC Rob Ryan (Pagano was on that staff too).  Wink has said that he & the Ryans share defensive personalities, to the point that people call him the third Ryan brother.  (He kind of looks like Rob a little.)

So: continuity.  I don't want to undersell the importance – the criticality – of having Ray Lewis & Ed Reed set your culture for a decade.  The Ravens defensive personnel, esp from say 2004 to like 2009 or 10, was awesome.  But just on the coaching / organizational side of it, continuity.

● The one time the Ravens changed head coaches, they kept DC Rex Ryan and the whole defensive coaching staff.  More than just "don't fix what ain't broke," the incoming HC had a relationship with Rex.  He named Rex Asst HC.

● From then on, whenever the Ravens changed DCs they were able to promote from within, and the rest of the staff stayed intact.  There was no mandate to change for the sake of change – exactly the opposite, any "mandate" was to uphold the standard. 

You get a ton of organizational benefits to that.  Consistent play-calling terminology & playbook year to year.  The scouts know what the coaches like in prospects; there's no whipsaw from one regime to another.  Young players who were developing under the last DC, continue to develop under the new one, and get their chance to break out.  A virtuous circle.

There are some interesting details to the big picture continuity.  From the outside, it APPEARS like whenever Harbaugh has changed DCs, he's opted for a personality change as well. 

— Rexy was full-on aggression, "organized chaos", deceptive blitzes etc. 

— Pops Mattison was much "sounder", play good coverage, win your one-on-one matchups. 

— Then Chucky P was back to the aggressiveness; if anything he was more aggressive than Rexy.  Insane.  

— Dean Pees was back to playing sound coverage, not blitzing too much.  Well-regarded nationally, he drove many longtime Ravens fans crazy: "soft" defenses.  But, it's probably also fair to point out that Pees had the youngest Ravens defenses since the salary cap purge after 2001.  He was rebuilding from scratch.  Maybe "sound" was the best way to teach.  I don't know.

— Now Wink feels like a return to the "classic" Ravens aggressiveness. A lot of Rexy flair to his play-calling.  Probably blitzes a little too often against the great QBs; but finding more of a balance since they acquired Ngakoue.  

It would be interesting to know whether Harbs has done that on purpose, alternated aggressive blitzers with sound coverage DCs.  We'll have to wait until a few years after retirement to ask him: he'll never admit while he's active that any new DC choice adjusted for any weakness at all in the previous DC.

Two final notes:

1.  I extolled the virtues of continuity above, including terminology & playbook.  But after Wink's first season (2017), he overhauled the Ravens defensive terminology & playbook, adopting a system that's supposed to be simpler (to learn) and more player-friendly (to teach and call).  I don't know any details at all, but Wink & Harbs seemed pleased with it.  The offensive staff undertook a similar overhaul in the 2018/19 offseason.  That one was more widely reported nationally.

2.  Considering the history, one thing that's weird right now is, for the first time in forever the Ravens DON'T have an obvious successor at DC on staff, in the event Wink gets a HC offer.  None of the Ravens defensive assistants have the kind of extensive "coaching lifer" resume that Harbs has tapped in the past.    

Maybe Joe Cullen?  He's in his 50s.  Started in 1990, spent about 15 years coaching college, including as a coordinator, before making the NFL; then 13 yrs coaching DL in the league.  This excellent SI piece from 2018 suggests maybe so:


“Joe Cullen is the only person who can have an individual drill and the whole field will stop working to watch it,” Gerald McCoy says. “I’ve never seen a coach that can demand attention from an entire football field because of his individual drill. You can hear him yelling from all the way on the other side. His intensity is nonstop.”
“He’s proven himself many times over,” says head coach John Harbaugh. “We had to recruit Joe. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh I don’t know who to hire, Hmmm, Joe Cullen!’ It was like, ‘We gotta get this guy. I want him to be here.’”

That recruiting process has started to spill into bigger gigs. This past offseason [2017-18] Cullen, citing his desire to remain in the NFL, turned down a defensive coordinator job at a major college program. He also fielded calls from potential NFL head coaching candidates who were piecing together coaching staffs, looking for a coordinator.

“If you ever need somebody that can change a team’s mentality, or have the killer dog mentality, you have to hire Joe Cullen,” says McCoy.

“He coordinated some in college and he’s coached linebackers, so he really has a nice feel of the whole defense, secondary play, all of that,” says Marinelli. “One of his strengths is he’s really good on his feet in front of a group of men. And he’s a guy I think players will look up to. He’s very strong, very passionate.”

Most everyone else on the Ravens defensive staff is a young pup.  There's Cullen and Chris Hewitt, the 46yo "Pass Defense Coordinator".  If Wink gets a HC offer (he got an interview last year), then I think it's either one of those two guys, *OR* Harbs will have to go outside the organization for a coordinator.  Something the Ravens haven't had to do since – well, ever.  Marvin Lewis was DC in the inaugural season of 1996, and it's been promote-from-within for 25 years.

I know this was long as hell. Hope it was at least a little interesting.

21 Little money and little draft capital in these guys

These are mostly minimum wage players by NFL standards.  Even Justin Tucker was an undrafted free agent.  The other reader is correct, if a player is drafted on the Ravens and plays special teams it is because he is an underperforming WR, CB, or RB.  The intent of the draft pick was not to have the player play special teams.

Imagine how bad a WR you must be to end up on Ravens special teams.  Chris Moore fits the bill, he has been on the Ravens since 2016 and has 47 career receptions.


43 Comments on all

I agree on Moore. He is a valuable player for sure.   He was put on the team to be a WR but makes himself a value due to special teams.  But if he could catch passes they would move him off special teams in a heartbeat.

Smith on GB is a defender that got away and has very good value,

Mosley although bad luck with injury is not a good signing.   An ILB has little chance of providing value at his cap number.  He is not Ray Lewis.  I don’t think the Ravens would pay anywhere near what he is making.

John Brown was not a defender, I was specifically talking defense,  but wouldn’t you know it, a non productive WR in Baltimore has success elsewhere. Perriman, awful as a Raven, somehow produces on the Jets.   And I like Hurst on ATL, trading him for a second round pick that they use on a RB (Dobbins) YUK!!


68 Brown wasn't bad here…

In reply to by jheidelberg

Brown wasn't bad here especially given Flacco's QB play. However when they switched to Lamar there was just no chemistry between them for some reason (lack of practice time together? LJ's fear of sideline passes?) compared to Snead and others.

I really liked Hurst and he is sorely missed now. But I understood the logic at the time - almost a pick refund for what seemed like a luxury piece that was going to become more expensive in a couple years (first round contract) and then probably would need to be let go in FA. I kinda wonder if they drafted Hurst to be Flacco's new Dennis Pitta, but that obviously didn't pan out. 

24 Uncanny

That sounds eerily like Belichick's approach. I've always thought that he sees special teams as relatively undervalued and giving good return on investment. Be interested in learning about Harbaugh's approach.

26 Next Man Up

There's quite a lot of time on this trade-off in Next Man Up, which covers the Baltimore Ravens, but does cover the 2004 (I think) season, plus a few notes on the seasons either side.

There's a specific conversation in the book where the defensive coordinator (Mike Nolan) complains about the special teams coordinator dressing too many players who only play special teams, leaving the defense short-handed (there are also some injury woes)

So, at least in one example, there are tradeoffs to be had - you can get better at special teams by investing in it, but there is a cost, as well

34 Dave Toub and Mike Westoff …

Dave Toub and Mike Westoff (and any other true ST coordinator difference makers) might be special cases, but I generally think ST success is a good proxy for a coaching staff that is committed to, and effective at, teaching.  Teaching is an aspect of coaching that in my view is incredibly important but also incredibly difficult for outsiders to evaluate.  Making sure players know exactly what they are doing on every play (and enough of the why they are doing it so they can react in real time) and with the right technique, is a huge part of success.  Combine that with knowing your personnel and giving them roles that maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses and you have a GREAT coach.  Being strategically innovative, etc., is nice but those other two, seemingly very basic elements are what divide the good coaches from the mediocre and crappy ones.  I also think all of this is more important than evaluating draft talent in building your team.  It's not that good teams necessarily draft better players (at least not consistently over any reasonable period of time), it's that they are better at developing their draft picks into productive and useful players within the context of that specific team.          

9 I can't help but take this…

I can't help but take this opportunity to bitch and moan once again at the full DVOA table being on another page. For example, it's harder to write this comment having to remember what the FOOTBALL TEAM's DVOA is. 

Anyway, I think the WFT and the Giants becoming not horrible diminishes an interesting aspect of this years playoffs in the NFC. Specifically, is it better for the Rams/Seahawks to throw the last game against each other, in order to secure the #5 seed, and play the seemingly cupcake NFCE winner? 

The various aspects of this decision are interesting. You get to rest your starters one game. You get to play an easier team in that first playoff game. However, you don't get home field advantage for any playoff games, while you are guaranteed two as the #2 seed. You also have to theoretically play a harder schedule after that one game. Finally, there might be a slimmer of hope for either team getting the #1 seed at 12-4, so you're throwing that away as well.

Personally, I think the not-horribleness of the eventual NFCE winner, combined with the softer than expected #7 seed in the NFC makes this a pretty easy decision to go for the #2,#3 seed if in reach. Currently the #7 seed is the -1.3% DVOA Vikings, and contenders for that spot range from 2.9% (Cardinals) to -4.3% (Bears), actually overlapping the -3.2% WAS.

On the other hand, the #6 seed is going to be a far superior team, either the 26.0% DVOA Bucs, or the 11.5% Hawks. While I think the Bucs are ranked too highly for the eye test, they are not comparable to the average-nish of the #7 seed teams or the NFCE winner. So it's still an interesting decision for Rams/Hawks if the #2 seed is out of reach, since the #3 seed has a far more difficult schedule, albeit still being guaranteed two home games.

11 Even though the Giants are…

Even though the Giants are playing hard, their QB situation is a disaster and I think you can probably trust the full-season sample with them rather than looking too closely at their recent wins. (Their weighted DVOA isn't even that much better than their current DVOA, or DAVE.)

And while the Football Team appears to have a legitimately good defense, and Alex Smith probably isn't going to suffer a turnover-related implosion or anything like that in any hypothetical matchup, his DVOA this season is actually worse than Daniel Jones. I don't think there's much reason to treat that NFC East matchup as less favorable than whichever team sneaks in at #7. (Even if it's the Bears, Smith has been worse than Foles AND Trubisky!)

That said... I don't think the Hawks or Rams would actually try to lose the division if they had a choice between 3 and 5. It's just hard to imagine either team approaching the postseason with that kind of attitude.

14 Losing for a better playoff matchup

The way that the NFL playoffs are (versus the NBA, MLB, and NHL) is that they are one-game playoffs, not a series. Even a great team can lose an individual game, and horrible teams can win an individual game. While it is much more common in MLB, then the NHL, then the NBA, it happens in all sports. 

So, unless all other seeds are set, I don't see any NFL teams doing that. Specifically, the matchup you reference (SEA/LAR) is in week 16, not week 17. There is no way to be sure that your week 16 spot will be your playoff seed--even though right now it sure looks like that the NFCW winner will be the 3rd seed and the NFCE winner the 4th seed. Whoever the loser of the SEA/LAR matchup will have 5 losses, same as TB. I know the Rams win a tiebreaker over TB--no idea about SEA. Also, since they could be tied at 9-7, 10-6, or 11-5, possibly with other teams, you never want to assume anything. I mean, in the AFC, 10-6 might mean staying home! 

39 Agreed. Full DVOA table…

Agreed. Full DVOA table should return to this page. If FO really wants to nag people to sign in, just load the table dynamically depending on whether the user is logged in. Full table for registered users, half table plus nag-link for unregistered users.

78 So they need a link to the…

So they need a link to the DVOA table, a link to log in, and then when you log in it takes you back to the home page where you have to go to the DVOA table again. Boom, I just doubled the website traffic.

48 I can't help but take this…

I can't help but take this opportunity to bitch and moan once again at the full DVOA table being on another page. For example, it's harder to write this comment having to remember what the FOOTBALL TEAM's DVOA is. 

Right-click, "Open Link in New Tab"?  It is an entire two extra clicks. 

Anyway...I'm so pulling for Washington to win the Super Bowl.  I love the idea of the Super Bowl LV winner being named "Football Team." 

54 Yeah, for commenters who are…

Yeah, for commenters who are going to have to be logged in anyway, it's not that big of a deal. I get that it's a slightly bigger deal for those using the site on a phone, but then again, posts referring to stats are going to require a bunch of scrolling to refer back to them no matter what in that scenario.

79 Maybe it's because I don't…

Maybe it's because I don't comment on things every day, but it seems like half the time I come here I'm logged out. It's not like I'm clearing my cookies or anything super frequently, it just decides that I have to log back in sometimes.

12 Thanks for putting this…

Thanks for putting this together, I've been curious about how ST DVOA is calculated.

How much does a return TD boost ST DVOA? It seems like the Ravens and Dolphins have been hovering around the 10% mark since they had kick return TDs earlier in the season. 

18 Not Commenting

Paywall for your basic team stats? Not paying for that!

22 No paywall, just another page

In reply to by vikedawg

At least for the DVOA basics for all 32 teams.

I paid last year (for an edge in FFL which did not help), but not this year.  I probably will in the future.  And I spread the gospel to fam and friends likely to be interested.  I look at it this way (for me at least):  I had everything available for free for about 11-12 years, then enough free since then. I paid for one year and enjoyed that, but I'm neutral and not very motivated to pay again if I can get a bunch of FO content free.  I don't begrudge them making money from what they do and if the whole site goes behind a paywall... I'd give it a shot.

25 Not clicking, either

In reply to by vikedawg

There isn't a paywall for the basic team stats - you just have to have a (free) account, and click the link


42 But Not For An IPad

Your right, it opens fine on my phone, however, on my (obviously larger screen) IPad it will not scroll, so I join the call to go back to putting the complete table in this article.

55 Hi there

If you're having technical issues on an iPad can you e-mail us at and let us know exactly what's going wrong? We want to get that fixed.

76 Fixed?

In reply to by Raiderfan

I believe we've fixed this now. Give it a try!

27 Chargers ST

It seems to me that the recent rule changes in KOs have made it harder for a ST unit to be particularly good or bad vis a vis seasons prior to the changes. There are so many touchbacks now that a horrible KO coverage unit isn't penalized nearly as much as it would be in past seasons. So cheer up, Chargers fans--it could be worse!

31 Long time reader, first time commenter (Rams fan)

The Rams are really interesting to me this year. DVOA has liked them all season; I could be wrong but I don't think they've fallen out of the top 12 at any point. Even with those two ugly losses to SF DVOA thinks the Rams are the best team in the NFCW, and by a significant margin. But the "narrative" around the team is far more tentative. They're behind Seattle in ESPN's latest power rankings. Just interesting to me the divide between national perception and analytic judgment. 

37 I think the hesitation to…

I think the hesitation to embrace the Rams is mostly about Goff and their passing offense. It's their only unit among passing and rushing offense/defense to grade outside the top 10 in DVOA. Granted, it's only just outside the top 10, but their passing game seems to run hot and cold and Goff continues to have turnover issues. (Their special teams DVOA is also really poor, but I don't think that's really dragging on the perception of the team.)

A lot of it probably does come down to Goff and the turnovers, but there is just something slightly off with the consistency of their offense. Despite being 4th in offensive DVOA, they're 17th in points scored, 18th in yards per drive, 23rd(!) in points per drive, and 21st in drive success rate. It's like they just have a few too many failed connections over the course of the game - I specifically remember watching the Chicago and Seattle games and thinking they should have been well on their way to a blowout which didn't quite materialize.

Of course this is a lot of scrutiny for a good team - I think they'll be dangerous in the playoffs wherever they end up in the standings, and their defense has been fantastic.

58 Pretty sure you nailed it…

Pretty sure you nailed it. The distance between their DVOA and points scored is I think about halfway indicative of how good the offense really is, which is about 10th best in the league. Goff has the 14th best DVOA, and he's honestly about the 16th best QB in the league. Since it's quite rare for a team to outperform or underperform its QB, some Brees teams aside, it makes sense for people to want to shift the Rams down towards average more than they deserve.

However, that defense is, in my opinion, as underrated as the offense is overrated. It's probably in the top 3 defenses in the league, and the offense overall is better than Goff. 

59 I am not sure I can remember…

I am not sure I can remember a QB who's so inconsistent in quite the same as Goff is. Romo was famous for this, but the things that made him inconsistent were consistent if that makes sense. Romo played in a totally unstructured way. When it went well, he scrambled and heaved and threw lasers. When it didn't, he took terrible sacks, fumbled the ball, and threw awful ints.

Goff's good games highlight a lot of great play. Polished throws and to receivers all over the field. Even his pocket presence seems to be ok when things are good.

When things are bad, he looks like he's a 2nd year rookie/deer in the headlights. Like he's never seen a pass rush before and his accuracy just falls off a cliff. 

I just don't know what to make of it honestly.

65 Welcome to the comments club, you got me interested in the Rams

I had no idea that the Rams were so good and balanced this year on both offense and defense.  Since this article focused greatly on special teams, I will point out that if the Rams had barely positive special teams play, they would move to the number two spot in DVOA.

I think that the national spotlight focuses greatly on Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray in the Rams division, and thus the Rams are the forgotten quality team this year.  

67 Is there a reason why the…

Is there a reason why the Estimated Wins table has been removed completely? Looks like everything else that used to be included in the DVOA weekly update is still available somewhere on the site, but not that?

70 NO with a WR as QB is not same as with REAL QB

I know system prob isnt set up for this, and Brees will prob be back at some point, but you can look me in the face and say Taysom Hill could even sniff Rodgers, Wilson or Mahomes smelly socks in near a million years. so FOR NOW, there is no way on gods green Earth they're even top 3 til he comes back. guy just threw his FIRST passing touchdown OF HIS CAREER last week. thats like saying Seattle, Pit, GB or Chiefs are same teams w/o their superstar QBs. nope.

74 Saints and Taysom Hill

I think you have confused the Saints and the Broncos. Hill has never been a WR--he started as a QB. Payton signed him from GB as a QB. He frequently ran snaps from under center and shotgun AS A QB before starting the last few games. One of the reasons he plays TE, WR, punt protector and wildcat QB is to disguise the play's intention until the huddle breaks. Good grief, you must not watch the Saints much. If you actually paid attention, they have the #2 defense and the #7 ST--their offense is actually lower ranked (#8).

Not to mention, if your starter has very recently held the record for the most TD passes EVER, there might not be too many to spread around to backups. Hill was the 3rd stringer until this year. As they get down to the goal line, he tends to run. Look at Newton, Kyler Murray, Josh Allen, etc.--they pick up rushing TD's that some QB's get on short passes. Some QB's lose passing TD's to their RB (TEN, MIN). 

Also, if you knew anything about FO, they did adjust the playoff odds chart--it says so on that page.