Big wins in Week 16 have moved some teams around at the top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, both in the full-season numbers and in the weighted DVOA ratings that lower the strength of early-season games to get a better idea of how well teams are playing now.
We had six games in Week 16 with a single-game DVOA over 50%. Five of the teams currently in our top six had one of these games. The exception? Kansas City, of course, was the team in our top six that didn't have a big win this week, and the Chiefs end up with just 2.0% DVOA for a win over Atlanta. As a result, the Chiefs have fallen in both of our ratings. Kansas City is now fourth in total DVOA, falling behind Green Bay, and fifth in weighted DVOA, falling behind Tampa Bay, Green Bay, and even Buffalo.
(San Francisco, for those curious, was the team outside our top six that also had a 50% game this week. A surprise since the final score was just 20-12, but the 49ers outgained Arizona on average 7.2 yards per play to 4.4 yards per play.)
Green Bay had the best win of the week with 98.0% DVOA for a dominating victory over a playoff-quality Tennessee team. The Packers moved up to third in total DVOA and fourth in weighted DVOA, passing Kansas City in both metrics.
New Orleans and Tampa Bay maintain our top two spots, each moving up in total DVOA by about 3.5%. Tampa Bay also passes Kansas City in weighted DVOA.
Seattle gets a nice opponent boost for beating the Los Angeles Rams and the Seahawks move up from ninth to sixth in both total and weighted DVOA.
But the hottest team in the NFL may be the Buffalo Bills. Five weeks ago at their bye week, the Bills ranked 12th in the league in both total and weighted DVOA. Since then, the Bills have had five straight games with DVOA over 40%, and they have improved to fifth in full-season DVOA and third in weighted DVOA. While Kansas City maintains a small lead in full-season DVOA, the Bills are now the top team in the AFC by weighted DVOA.
Here's the impressive week-to-week chart for the Bills this year:
The big difference between Buffalo and Kansas City is consistency. You know how I just wrote that the Bills have gone over 40% in five straight games? That streak is more games over 40% than Kansas City has had all season. They have only three. Now, 40% is a bit of an arbitary endpoint, and we could just as easily define a good game as being a game over 30%. If we lower the bar, now Kansas City has six such games this season. But Buffalo has eight. The big difference between the teams is that Buffalo has one big stinker on its resume, the weird Tuesday game where they got keelhauled by Tennessee back in Week 5. That game was even worse than it looks since the Titans had barely practiced due to COVID protocols. The next week, the Bills lost to Kansas City. That's their second-worst game of the year by DVOA. But in recent weeks, Buffalo has certainly been the more impressive of the two teams.
We've talked a lot this year about Kansas City's consistency and that brings up an interesting question: does regular-season consistency make Kansas City more likely to win the Super Bowl despite the mismatch between their win-loss record and their DVOA rating? Curious about this question, I pulled up all the teams who had earned the first or second seed (i.e a bye week) since the league went to six playoff teams in 1990.
|Lowest DVOA Variance by 1/2 Seeds, 1990-2019|
Well, that table certainly doesn't suggest that an extremely consistent regular season is a key to winning in the playoffs. Five of the seven teams with the lowest variances got upset in their first playoff game! To find the first team that won the Super Bowl, you have to get past the first 20 teams until you hit... the 2019 Kansas City Chiefs. They have the lowest regular-season variance of any 1 or 2 seed to win the Super Bowl since 1990 at 8.8%.
Does it work the other way around? Are high variance teams more likely to win the Super Bowl? The teams with the highest variances have a some good examples of Super Bowl champions. Four of the 1 or 2 seeds with regular-season variance over 20% went on to win Super Bowls: the 1996 Packers, 1994 49ers, 1993 Cowboys, and 2004 Patriots. However, plenty of Super Bowl champions had just average variance, or sort of low or sort of high. And the lower seeds that went on to win Super Bowls didn't have particularly high variance either. The 2006 Colts are the highest of those teams with 18.8% variance.
It doesn't look like low variance makes Kansas City more likely to win it all, but I doubt that low variance makes Kansas City less likely win it all -- or that high variance makes New Orleans or Tampa Bay more likely to win it all. There really doesn't seem to be a connection either way.
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Here is the Football Outsiders Top 16 through 16 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>
For the full table, including variance, schedule strength, and non-adjusted VOA, visit the Football Outsiders DVOA database.