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

Week 2 DVOA Ratings

Patrick Queen
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

Baltimore has been the clearly most dominant team in the NFL through two weeks according to the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. The Ravens are No. 1 with a rating nearly double that of any other team, and they rank in the top five in all three phases of the game.

Most of the teams you expect are at the top of the ratings, the 2-0 teams that have played two strong games this year. Seattle and Pittsburgh round out the top three. Remember last week, when Green Bay shockingly came out with a negative rating for its win over Minnesota? That wasn't a problem this week; Green Bay's win over Detroit had the second-highest single-game rating of Week 2 and powers the Packers up to fourth in overall DVOA. Right behind them is the team that had the best DVOA of the week, the Los Angeles Rams, followed by Buffalo. All good so far.

So what are the New Orleans Saints doing at No. 7? How did they move up two spots after they lost to Las Vegas? And even stranger, how did Las Vegas drop 12 spots after a win to rank 20th, the lowest of the 2-0 teams? Looks like I have another weird result to explain.

In some ways, this result is similar to the weird results of Week 1 that I explained in last week's commentary. Once again, the team with the higher DVOA for the game ran fewer plays. Las Vegas had 76 total plays while New Orleans had just 57. But the Saints gained more net yardage than the Raiders, 424-375. Even if you eliminate the meaningless 48-yard final Saints drive, the teams were nearly tied, 376-375.

How did the Saints match the Raiders in total yardage and beat them in DVOA? Well, we're talking efficiency stats here, and when you look at official plays, the Saints were better by pretty much any efficiency metric. The Saints gained 7.4 yards per play compared to just 4.9 yards per play for the Raiders. The Saints had a 60% success rate wihle the Raiders were at 47%. Each team had two turnovers, with the Saints' one interception balancing out two Raiders fumbles (one recovered by each team).

There's a big difference in this game, however, that we didn't see in the games we discussed in Week 1: penalties. Oh man, there were a lot of penalties on the Saints in this game. The Saints took 10 penalties for 129 yards. The Raiders took only 3 penalties for 13 yards.

DVOA only includes a few penalties, based on research on what helped the system be more predictive. Mainly, the two pass interference penalties for 49 yards count in DVOA. The other penalties do not, and they had a huge impact on this game.

The best example of this is the Saints' only third-quarter drive. Officially, the Saints gained 67 yards on six plays. However, they also lost 35 yards on three plays. DVOA looks at this drive and says, "Hey, here's an offense that's pretty efficient considering how many yards they are gaining compared to the down-and-distance.

  • 20 yards on first-and-10
  • 16 yards on first-and-10
  • 4 yards on first-and-20
  • 10 yards on second-and-26
  • 9 yards on second-and-31
  • 8 yards on third-and-22

Only the first two plays are successful by our success rate metric. However, remember, DVOA isn't just about success. It's about success compared to a baseline. Four of those plays are better than the baseline. Those second down plays are failures, but they gain more yardage than the expectation in those situations. So overall, DVOA likes this drive. It suggests success for this offense in the future.

Should DVOA be doing more to incorporate penalties, and thus give the Saints offense less credit for a drive like this? Maybe. I've played around with penalties in the past to try to figure out a way to incorporate them in DVOA and make it more predictive. I'll probably play around with them some more in the future. For now, this is how we do things and how it comes out best for us.

The other issue is probably whether DVOA is still not doing enough to cut off garbage time. The Saints had a much better DVOA in the second half of this game than in the first. Should it matter that they were losing all that time? Well, the Saints had four drives in the second half. For three of them, the Saints were still within one score and were very much in the game. The fourth drive was meaningless, down 10 with 1:05 left. Let's take that out. Let's also take out the three rushing plays the Raiders ran after the DPI on Janoris Jenkins mostly iced the game with 2:14 remaining. (Ignore the fact that it didn't ice the game entirely; Daniel Carlson could have easily honked a 54-yard field goal, giving the Saints the ball back with 1:05 and 56 yards to go to score a touchdown.)

Take those plays out and the DVOA for this game absolutely changes. It just doesn't change that much.

New Orleans goes from 39.1% to 28.7%.

Las Vegas goes from -28.9% to -15.8%.

Either way, we're ending up with New Orleans higher for the game. Add on Week 2 to what we had for Week 1 and the Saints' rating for the season goes up, and the Raiders' rating for the season goes down. Now combine that with the preseason projection for the Saints, which was the highest in the league and still counts 85% of the Saints' DAVE rating. That means that despite being 1-1, the Saints are still second in DAVE and third in our Super Bowl odds.

To answer the inevitable question: Yes, I have eyes. I saw how the Saints played this week. I saw how desperate they looked at the end, when Sean Payton threw a ridiculous challenge flag on an obvious non-fumble. I know the advanced stats on Brees, that he's gone from the king of CPOE (completion percentage over expected) to the bottom of the league this year. He looks like his arm is shot, and he can't get the ball downfield. He's not even trying to get the ball downfield. And yet despite this, the Saints gained 7.4 yards per play this week, which ranked fourth in the league for Week 2. Take out that last meaningless drive, and the Saints still averaged 7.2 yards per play when the game was in doubt.

As for incorporating the preseason projection, I don't have a lot of confidence in that given how Brees has played in the first two weeks. But this is what all our research has shown that we should do: for most of the season, your preseason projection is still giving you good information about how good a team is. You get the most accurate picture of how good a team will be for the rest of the season by considering both early results and what you knew going into the season. Maybe Drew Brees has suddenly turned into 2015 Peyton Manning, but it's going to be a while longer before we know if he's cooked for good. And we can't change how much we consider the preseason for this team specifically just because we don't like how Brees has looked in the first two games.

(Quick aside: Raiders-Saints was one of two games where the losing team had the higher DVOA. Giants-Bears was the other, which explains how the Bears dropped down to No. 18 despite being 2-0.)

The Saints aren't the only team where we might be questioning the usefulness of our preseason projection at this point. Let's talk about the Philadelphia Eagles. They look horrendous through two games, dead last in DVOA. This is a team that we projected to be above-average and a playoff contender. How sure can we be after two games that this projection is garbage?

The answer is: not as sure as you probably think.

I went back and looked at the last eight years of Football Outsiders projections to find other teams that had an above-average projection and then got off to a hideous start. Here's where the Eagles stand among those teams:

Worst Starts by Teams with Positive Preseason Projection, 2012-2020
Team Year Proj
DVOA
Weeks 1-2
DVOA
Final
DVOA
Remaining
DVOA
NO 2015 0.2% -53.0% -18.7% -13.8%
NYG 2017 6.5% -53.0% -22.2% -17.8%
PIT 2019 13.6% -50.7% -5.4% 1.0%
KC 2014 4.8% -49.4% 10.4% 18.9%
WAS 2013 0.5% -45.5% -26.2% -23.4%
PHI 2020 5.1% -42.9% -- --
CIN 2012 0.4% -41.1% 6.1% 12.8%
CIN 2017 0.7% -39.7% -12.5% -8.7%
IND 2015 5.3% -35.2% -12.9% -9.7%
SF 2013 11.2% -32.2% 17.4% 24.4%
BAL 2013 3.6% -29.3% -6.7% -3.5%

A real mixed bag here. The 2015 Saints had a surprisingly bad DVOA to start the season, even though they lost those two games 31-19 to Arizona and 26-19 to Tampa Bay. They finished the season 7-9 with one of the worst defenses of all time. The 2017 Giants' poor start was a definite sign that the team would fall off from an 11-5 season to a 3-13 garbage fire that cost Ben McAdoo his job. The 2019 Steelers, of course, lost their quarterback in Week 2 and dramatically underperformed their projection. But some of these teams also rebounded. The 2014 Chiefs were good for the rest of the year. So were the 2012 Bengals and the 2013 49ers.

So what's the prognosis for the Eagles? It could be anything, from a rebound to a collapse, but it's interesting to note that the average remaining DVOA for these other 10 teams was -2.0% -- almost exactly what the current DAVE rating is for the Eagles combining their Week 1-2 performance with their preseason projection. That's the most likely result, that the Eagles will be an average team the rest of the way, not as good as expected but not as bad as they've been these first two weeks.

* * * * *

Once again this year, the DAVE ratings have been adjusted based on a slew of injuries in the second week of the season. The projections incorporated in the DAVE ratings have been adjusted for season-ending injuries such as Saquon Barkley, Courtland Sutton, and Anthony Barr. I've also made temporary changes in the playoff odds simulation for four major offensive injuries: Jimmy Garoppolo, Drew Lock, Christian McCaffrey, and Michael Thomas. Once again, I'm treating DAVE the same way I did last year. Since DAVE is an attempt to project DVOA for the remainder of the season, the DAVE listed on our stat tables incorporates each of these injuries with a rating in between what DAVE would be with and without each injury. Each player is projected to miss one-third of the rest of the season.

For example, the Panthers take a 9% DVOA hit to their offensive projection without Christian McCaffrey. Their total DAVE would be -15.2% with McCaffrey and -22.9% without McCaffrey. One-third of that difference is -2.6%. Add that to the DAVE with McCaffrey, to represent one-third of the season without him, and you get the listed DAVE of -17.8%.

* * * * *

Football Outsiders playoff odds, snap counts, and the FO+ database are now all updated through Week 2.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through two 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 to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

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

DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason forecast with current DVOA to get a more accurate projection of how a team will play the rest of the season. DAVE is currently 85% preseason forecast and 15% actual performance.

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 OFFENSE
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEFENSE
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 BAL 60.6% 1 20.8% 1 2-0 23.3% 5 -31.1% 3 6.2% 3
2 SEA 34.1% 4 11.6% 5 2-0 34.9% 2 9.9% 24 9.1% 1
3 PIT 32.4% 5 12.3% 4 2-0 -1.1% 14 -35.3% 2 -1.9% 19
4 GB 25.5% 17 3.5% 10 2-0 36.7% 1 12.0% 26 0.8% 12
5 LAR 23.7% 21 7.9% 7 2-0 30.8% 3 -1.4% 14 -8.5% 29
6 BUF 23.5% 7 1.8% 13 2-0 20.7% 7 -5.0% 12 -2.2% 20
7 NO 18.6% 9 20.2% 2 1-1 6.5% 12 -6.8% 10 5.3% 4
8 IND 13.1% 26 7.7% 8 1-1 -6.6% 21 -18.2% 5 1.5% 10
9 NE 11.6% 2 1.1% 14 1-1 27.5% 4 6.9% 19 -9.0% 30
10 KC 10.4% 16 18.8% 3 2-0 15.7% 8 9.7% 23 4.4% 5
11 TB 7.8% 23 8.7% 6 1-1 -4.7% 19 -19.0% 4 -6.6% 27
12 JAX 5.3% 3 -8.2% 24 1-1 21.9% 6 12.7% 27 -3.9% 24
13 TEN 4.8% 22 2.4% 12 2-0 13.5% 9 -0.8% 16 -9.5% 31
14 DAL 4.1% 14 6.1% 9 1-1 6.9% 11 -0.8% 15 -3.7% 22
15 SF 2.5% 19 0.5% 16 1-1 -5.5% 20 -9.4% 9 -1.4% 18
16 WAS 1.0% 6 -16.1% 30 1-1 -32.6% 30 -36.2% 1 -2.6% 21
17 ARI 0.2% 18 0.8% 15 2-0 -8.9% 23 -9.5% 8 -0.5% 15
18 CHI -1.6% 13 -2.9% 20 2-0 -12.6% 24 -14.9% 6 -3.9% 23
19 LAC -4.5% 11 -2.6% 19 1-1 -2.1% 17 -3.6% 13 -6.0% 26
20 LV -8.6% 8 -5.1% 23 2-0 10.4% 10 18.8% 30 -0.1% 14
21 ATL -9.6% 25 2.9% 11 0-2 3.8% 13 15.5% 28 2.1% 9
22 HOU -15.4% 20 -3.8% 21 0-2 -4.5% 18 11.4% 25 0.5% 13
23 CAR -20.6% 12 -17.8% 31 0-2 -1.1% 15 18.2% 29 -1.3% 16
24 DET -21.3% 15 -2.2% 18 0-2 -1.3% 16 22.6% 31 2.6% 7
25 MIN -21.5% 10 -4.9% 22 0-2 -13.1% 25 7.0% 20 -1.4% 17
26 NYG -21.8% 31 -9.1% 25 0-2 -36.3% 31 -12.1% 7 2.3% 8
27 CIN -25.1% 27 -16.1% 29 0-2 -20.9% 27 7.6% 22 3.5% 6
28 NYJ -27.2% 28 -14.6% 27 0-2 -27.3% 29 -5.9% 11 -5.7% 25
29 CLE -35.0% 32 -9.3% 26 1-1 -15.7% 26 7.5% 21 -11.8% 32
30 DEN -35.1% 24 -15.3% 28 0-2 -26.1% 28 0.6% 17 -8.5% 28
31 MIA -35.3% 30 -18.0% 32 0-2 -7.4% 22 34.6% 32 6.6% 2
32 PHI -42.9% 29 -2.1% 17 0-2 -37.6% 32 6.4% 18 1.1% 11

Comments

111 comments, Last at 24 Sep 2020, 1:05pm

1 How did the Saints match the…

How did the Saints match the Raiders in total yardage and beat them in DVOA?

DVOA doesn't reflect penalties? New Orleans flat out murdered a few drives with penalties.

 

In other news, Matt Patricia was brought to Detroit to change the defense. Perhaps they should have specified in which direction to change it.

18 After this next week...

...Matthew Patricia will be updating his resume and crawling back to Hoodie for a coordinator job.

If the Cards are going to compete for the NFC West title, they'll blow out the Motor City Kitties by 30.

Patricia will be out by the bye week.

Never thought Detroit fans would be longing for the Jim Caldwell era.

104 Just be thankful that the…

Just be thankful that the Ford Family wasn’t in charge of the European Theater.  They would have let Lloyd Fredendall keep his job for the whole war, and George Patton May have defected to the Axis out of frustration.

96 I dare say anyone who's…

I dare say anyone who's regularly partaken of Detroit Lions football over the last few decades fully expected them to miss Jim Caldwell. Much like Marvin Lewis with the Bengals, he achieved such a then-to-fore unseen level of consistent competence over such a span that national sportswriters started to mistakenly treat their team like a normal franchise.

105 Like I’ve always said, the…

Like I’ve always said, the Lions franchise needs to be graded on a curve. Frequent playoff appearances, even if you never make it to the divisional round, is a veritable dynasty in that context.

109 Agreed on Marvin Lewis for…

Agreed on Marvin Lewis for sure.  Theoretically his departure was "mutual".  I don't know if he REALLY wanted to retire or not.

 

But everybody who was saying "he needs to go" were ridiculous.  The Bengals had one 8+ win season in the 12 years before Lewis got there.  They had ten 8+ win seasons in his 16 seasons.  Including six double-digit win seasons and seven playoff trips.

 

They are 2-16 since he left.

110 If Lewis was there for 16…

If Lewis was there for 16 seasons, and the high-water mark is 10-win seasons and trips to the playoffs in slightly less than half of them (with no wins, right?), then yes, he needed to go.  His ceiling with that team was reached.

I would say the same with regard to Caldwell.  Just because the new hire was objectively worse, didn't mean he was the guy to hitch the wagon to.

111 Lewis' high-water mark was…

Lewis' high-water mark was 12 wins, which is tied for the most in a season in Bengal's history.

Wyche and Gregg each had one 12-win season; Paul Brown had an 11-3 season. All were run after one bad season because Mike Brown is as dumb as he is cheap.

The Bengals are the flipside to the Lions -- whereas the Fords are too rich and comfortable for their own good (they hang onto bad coaches for too long, and no one in the front office worries about their job security, and it shows) -- Mike Brown is too cheap and too egotistical. He won't give a coach sufficient resources to really succeed and he fires anyone who does succeed anyway at the first possible excuse, because he's paranoid about someone else getting credit for the franchise's success. Somehow, they are even worse run than Detroit is.

(The Bears just can't manage to acquire a minimal level of QB performance)

2 seahawk fans are very surprised

& happy at the special teams.  

Michael Dickson had an excellent game punting vs New England: four punts, all of them inside the 20-yard line, one of them more than sixty yards (this is from memory, and I don't exactly have a good one, so I might be wrong....).

6 He did, for 63 yards, and…

He did, for 63 yards, and then New England committed holding on the return, so they flipped 70 yards of field position on the punt. On that note, I don't get why the return team holds so much, as the risk seems significantly higher than the reward on average. Especially on long punts like that one that outkick the coverage, where the returner will gain 10 yards even if the return team does nothing at all.

19 Surprised...

...by how badly their defense is rated by DVOA.  They're a bottom 5 team in the NFL according to these metrics.

We knew they didn't have a pass rush, but are they THAT bad?

Hoping to win shootouts in the West is not a recipe for success.

23 We'll see...

In reply to by DIVISION

The Atlanta game was not as close as the score suggested and the defense played some soft coverage in the 2nd half, which was terrible.

Against NE their FS was ejected on the 1st or 2nd defensive drive, then their backup FS tore his ACL after playing 4 snaps.  Not a good sequence for a team who's defense has historically yo-yo ed between elite and terrible based upon the presence of a quality FS (granted that FS was usually among the best to ever play the position).

Finally, this year Seattle is a blitzing rock/paper/scissors defense.  Which means that against an option-y offense like NE or Arizona can run, they cannot use a lot of their defensive playbook.

So, the answer will be... time will tell.

(Also, Dunbar dropped a pick 6 in the 2nd quarter)

 

34 Like I said..

In reply to by gomer_rs

...in another thread, I'm waiting for division play.

I see Seattle struggling against a faster version of RW.  Sure they play against RW in practice, but Murray is a blur out there.  It's like he's playing a different game and has that sliding stop perfected already.  Seattle's secondary is going to have to CYA, and hope to tackle Murray if he runs.  I just don't see it working out too well given what I've seen of Seattle's D in two games.  No pass rush will really hurt them against Arizona.  Cam Newton is slow for a mobile QB and past his prime.  It's not a good comparison.

OTOH, Zona plays against Kyler in practice, so I don't think RW will be too much for them to handle.  Even last year they split.  

For some reason, I think the Rams are a greater challenge to Zona in the West than Seattle.  Styles make fights.

 

49 I really want to give you some rope..

In reply to by DIVISION

not necessarily to hang yourself with.  I understand that as an ARZ fan you haven't had a whole lot to puff your chest about and crow.  You should feel great about their prospects, built around a great young talent.  Try to have a little perspective though.

I could make a strong argument that D-Hop is more responsible for elevating Kyler's play, than the other way around.  He has put up outstanding numbers just about every year, regardless of what scrub QB was throwing him the ball. 

I actually believe that Kyler will be awesome and I'm looking forward to many years of division games.  However, you really need to let the man play some games and accomplish something before you compare him to a future HOF in his prime.  Russell Wilson is a lot more than scrambling, so Kyler will need a lot more than speed to outperform him.

Good luck this year it should be fun.

79 Nice try.

Arizona has had some good teams within the past several years, but they never had a young mobile QB to build with like they do now.

Hopkins is the best receiver in the NFL, so it's common sense that he'd elevate any offense he's on.  The point makes itself, so why do you feel the need to make it?

Kyler plays the game at a faster speed than most around him, witness the Washington team last week.  Those two TD runs were basically something you'd see in Madden or what Vick did when he first came on the scene.  Even Vick said himself that only Kyler is basically what he was, only with a much better arm.  

No disrespect to RW, but in year two he wasn't doing what Murray is doing now.  Hence, why I said Murray will have the better career.  Also, his coach isn't handcuffing him like Caroll did to Russ.

You don't wait for respect in the NFL.  You take it.

 

88 you think that?

In reply to by DIVISION

but in year two he wasn't doing what Murray is doing now

 

Murray ranked 21st in DYAR last year.  This year he's 25th.

Wilson ranked 8th in DYAR in 2012.  In 2013 he dropped to 9th, a horrible sophomore slump.

If you think Murray is better than Wilson was in his first two years, we don't share common ground at all.  That's fine, Seahawk fans are used to Wilson being underrated, though now it's more of a.... minority opinion.

I'll await your condescending "nice try" response cheerfully.

95 Olive branch gone then

In reply to by DIVISION

You're not interested in having a discussion about your squad, you're the drunk guy at the end of the bar writing a lot of checks you pray ARZ will cash for you.

"No disrespect to RW, but....."  You're about to do just that....

"You don't wait for respect in the NFL.  You take it."   I'm fairly certain Larry Fitzgerald would disagree with you.

You may now return to your bull in a china shop routine, I'll let you be.

 

58 soo

In reply to by DIVISION

Your argument is that Kyler is a better version of RW?    That's........  interesting.

72 Though, I'd argue you are currently over rating Arizona..

In reply to by DIVISION

I think you are fundamentally correct about how Arizona will matchup to Seattle's D.  Seattle, a bit out of necessity and a bit out of choice, built a defense that will probably give LA Rams and SF complete fits but is ill fitted to stopping a mobile QB with a strongly college offense.

That being said, I will happily take Russel Wilson v. any other defense in the NFL over any NFL QB v. the Seahawks D.

78 Of course...

...I'm fundamentally right!   I didn't complete an undergrad and Master's in Psychology to be WRONG!

Kyler Murray is basically a faster version of RW with a deep ball to match.  He is better in year two than RW was.  

He'll end up having a better career.  It's up to Arizona to keep a competent roster around him.

If the Cards end up winning the Division, expect Kyler to garner the majority of MVP votes, thus keeping RW as a bridesmaid again!

83 Better?

In reply to by DIVISION

I'm pretty sure that Wilson did something significant in his second year, if only I could remember what it was....

26 i’m surprised too, but

In reply to by DIVISION

They're a bottom 5 team in the NFL according to these metrics.

Seattle’s defensive VOA is 24th.  Not good at all, but not bottom five either.  ?

 

3 Patriots really need a kicker

Lost in the excitement of the end game was the fact that Nick Folk badly missed a long FG attempt early in the game.  Had they had 3 points more, they could have won the game with a FG.  

I suspect he's a big contributor to the -9.0 ST DVOA.  That and the kick returners who insist on taking the ball out of the end zone in order to not reach the 25 yard line.  

11 check out my careful wording

I didn't say "If he'd made the kick, they'd have been three points closer."  I simply said "If they'd had three more points...."

I think it's reasonable to note that a shortage of points at the end of the game is related to missed scoring chances early in the game.  

I didn't think I needed to go through all the nonsense about how a three point change on the scoreboard would have changed the entire course of the game thereafter.  Hell, I've made that exact argument myself.  

15 well, okay

You also said, in that ellipses, “they could have won the game with a FG.”

I tried to make my point humorously! Now you are all mad. Snif. 

20 Kicking

It's really painful after 2 decades of excellent FG kicking in NE to watch what has gone on the last two years. Surely one of those late round picks BB has sent away to take fliers on WR's could have gone to acquiring someone who can make kicks at an above-replacement level.

46 Going into last year…

In reply to by sbond101

Going into last year Gostkowski  but then he got injured so you really wouldn't have used a 2019 draft pick on a new kicker.

And this year they drafted a kicker in the 5th who they cut after training camp. Maybe they should have used that 5th on a WR?

4 other thoughts:

1) Indy is too high

2) The Teamsters don't really have the best defense in the NFL

3) Miami is too low

4) There are a lot of bad teams right now

5) KC is rated fairly after their weak performance vs. the Chargers, but they are better than that rating

21 Agree.

However, I see the Steelers defense as elite.  Big Ben is rusty and he should improve over the season.

They're a dark horse in a weak AFC.

 

30 Weak?? They are in the same…

In reply to by DIVISION

Weak?? They are in the same division as the clear powerhouse in the league right now. And then you have the current Super Bowl champions - pretty damned hard to obtain a top 2 seeding in the AFC this year. Pittsburgh are competing alongside Buffalo/New England/Tennessee/Indy to fill out the rest of the playoff seedings; I'd expect them to get in, but that's then a hellish tough road to the Super Bowl.

The NFC meanwhile has one obviously very strong division (which we've already heard about ad nauseum), but then a lot of question marks/dreck. There's two pensioners competing for the NFC South, and Green Bay/Dallas who should skate into the playoffs by virtue of the rest of their divisions being garbage.  

41 Top to bottom you are…

In reply to by DIVISION

Top to bottom you are probably correct, yes. But you specifically said the AFC was weak. There are no teams in the NFC that are a match for the Ravens or Chiefs based on current ratings. They are the two best teams in the league right now. You just have to look at the Super Bowl odds to tell you that. 

43 Correct.

Actually, the NFC is looking pretty weak overall outside of the West.  And even in the West is anybody truly sold on the Rams or the Cardinals as legit contenders? 

Even the Seahawks, while we expect them to be good, have only beat a winless falcons teams and a team that barely beat Miami at home. 

48 “winless”

In reply to by cstoos

”Winless” is a weak denigrator when every team has only played two games. And when you say “even the Seahawks” have only beaten winless Atlanta and New England, well, outside of Seattle, Atlanta and New England have only played one team each.  I mean...

59 The NFC West is clearly the…

In reply to by DIVISION

The NFC West is clearly the best division in football. However, I would put the Chiefs and Ravens over every single NFC team. Once again the AFC is elite heavy while the NFC is good heavy. If having two unbeatable teams is your definition of weak, then sure the AFC is weak, but that's an odd definition.

80 As I said...

...I'll take the NFC West against any division in the NFL head to head.

Do you really think the Ravens and Chiefs would run the gauntlet of the NFC West without losing most of those games?   

I think the NFC West compares favorably with the AFC North or West.

87 "Do you really think the…

In reply to by DIVISION

"Do you really think the Ravens and Chiefs would run the gauntlet of the NFC West without losing most of those games?"

Absolutely. I view the NFC West teams as being a bunch of +10-20 DVOA teams, and the aforementioned AFC teams being +30 DVOA teams.

89 Baltimore maybe, but I…

Baltimore maybe, but I wouldn't call a team that needed to make a 58-yard FG in OT to beat a rookie QB unbeatable. The Chiefs' offense looks to have taken a step back from last year's pace.

98 What do you mean by weird?

Good pass rush and decent secondary on a divisional opponent that sees them twice a year seems like the exact type of team you would want against KC.

I agree with you on Miami/NE though, that is straight up Twilight Zone.

52 Yeah, hard to call the AFC…

Yeah, hard to call the AFC weak. KC and Bal both have the potential to go 14-2 (I don't think either will), plus 4 more teams with strong enough defenses and QB play to at least potentially go 12-4 (PIT, BUF, NE, and TN) although of course not all will. And LV is playing very frisky, but with games ahead against BUF, NE, KCx2, TB, plus not terrible teams in Den and SD in their division 11-5 is probably the very best they can hope for. The only truly terrible looking team in the conference seems to be the Jets. Before the season you could have predicted the Jags to be one of those terrible teams, but it doesn't appear to be the case. Given that NYG, DET, CAR, and MIN have the potential to be truly terrible teams (although probably not as bad as the Jets), I would put both the AFC upper echelon (KC/BAL/PIT/BUF/NE/TN) and the AFC lower  echelon (NYJ, JAX, CIN, DEN? SD? MIA?) above their respective compatriots in the NFC (SEA/AZ/LAR/GB/DAL?/NO?) and (MIN/DET/NYG/CAR/PHI?). The middle echelon, the clevelands, houstons, las vegases versus the chicagos/tampa bays/san franciscos might be a wash.

54 Right now the 7th-best team…

Right now the 7th-best team in the AFC would be someone like the Colts or Chargers. How many NFC teams are better than those two? Three or four in the AFC West, Green Bay, Chicago, possibly Detroit, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cowboys, and Squirrels. that's 10 or 11. There will be multiple teams missing the NFC playoffs who could make it in the AFC.

55 "7th-best team ... Colts or Chargers"?

or Las Vegas (2-0, just beat the Saints), or Cleveland (horrible loss to the Ravens in week 1 drags their rankings down). I would bet either of those teams, plus Indy (not SD), against da bears, da squirrels, or da patricias (hell, and maybe the cowboys). I mean, I know, I could lose any of those bets, so my "i would bet" would mean if I was a pathological every game gambler instead of a very selective and occasional gambler. 

We'll see how it shakes out. And also, I'll still take top 6 AFC against top 6 NFC. I'm still adjusting to the money making compromise that will make 8-8 a reasonable target and would have had Duck Hodges (and I'm a Steelers fan!) starting a playoff game last year on the road against KC.

64 the few chargers fans

seem to be from San Diego, anyway; I mean, are there any (exaggeration alert!) Chargers fans in Los Angeles?  I think of them as the San Diego Chargers. (Of course, I think of the St Louis Cardinals, Houston Oilers, Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns, and San Francisco 49ers too.)

70 The "NY" Jets and Giants…

The "NY" Jets and Giants play in New Jersey. There's no reason the "San Diego" Chargers can't play in Los Angeles.

\it's not like Los Angeles wants them

67 I think it's way, way, too…

I think it's way, way, too early to know who good and bad teams are, other than at the very top (Chiefs, Ravens) and very bottom (Jets, Giants).  Especially with no preseason.  Right now, we're all just guessing, and will be for at least two more weeks.

For the Cardinals newcomer coming in scorching hot, would it honestly surprise you if the Cardinals finish 7-9 and last in the NFC West?  It wouldn't me, in the slightest.  The Lions, Panthers, Dolphins, and Football Team could go 1-15 to 8-8 and not surprise me.  I think the Raiders, Vikings, Saints, Buccaneers, Rams have an enormous range of possibilities, from drafting in the top 10 to making the playoffs.  And this is before we consider injuries.  If Cam gets hurt, Patriots are a bottom feeder.  If Zeke gets hurt, it's a four-way race to win the NFC East at 6-10.  And so forth.

It seems silly to boast which division is superior with 1) people all using different metrics, and 2) 120 minutes and change of the season gone.

81 Based on what I've seen of all the games..

I expect the Cards to win the division or one of the WC births.  I expect the Niners to be last in the division.  Hawks will battle for the division or WC.  Rams are truly a wild card to me.  They don't have any depth at all, but they have the talent to win the division but I could also see them missing the playoffs completely.

With the schedule the Cards have and starting 2-0, how would they lose 9 games out of what they have left?  

Look at their schedule.  They will be favored in the next several games, perhaps even the Cowboys game.  

Not seeing what you're seeing at all.

 

93 I don't think dryheat is…

I don't think dryheat is saying they expect the Cardinals to go 7-9, but that it's within the realm of reasonable possibility. And it clearly is: the Cards are facing a nice slate of cupcakes right now, but after the Jets, the only gimmes on the schedule look to be Miami at home and the Giants away. So that's 2 wins in the bank, the next 3, plus 2 more = 7 wins. That's probably their floor (usual caveats about injury luck apply), but it's a realistic, if pessimistic, outcome.

(I feel compelled to spell out: no, they probably won't lose all the games against contenders - but they'll also probably lose to a cupcake or two, because even good teams lay an egg from time to time. I count about 10 wins given the 2 they've banked, but 10 can easily turn into 7 by normal bad luck.)

33 4 There are a lot of bad teams right now

There are a lot of bad teams right now

Yes, clearly. The 10th worst team in DVOA is at -20%; the 10th best is at +10%. After two weeks there are more 0-2 teams than 1-1 teams – I think that's the first time it's ever happened – and on Week 2 all of the games that pitched an 0-1 team against a 1-0 team ended with the winless team still winless.

What's curious is the proximity of divisional pairs in the bottom half of the table. The bottom seven features two from the NFC East, two from the AFC East, two from the AFC North, and Denver. Then 24 & 25 are both from the NFC North; numbers 21 & 23 are from the NFC South; numbers 19 & 20 are from the AFC West; and 15 & 17 are the 'worst' of the NFC West.

 

17 Cognitive Dissonance.

Having watching Arizona in two games against two great defenses, I'm surprised how poorly their offense is ranked compared to their defense.

8th best defense but 23rd best offense?

Perhaps Kyler Murray is covering up some holes in the offense, but there's no way the Cards are 23rd in the NFL wedged in between Miami and Chicago.

 

28 These rankings

(as I understand them) have some commentary about how good an offense is, but it's mainly about HOW the teams score points.

Team A: scuffles along with mediocre success, then hits a bomb for a TD.

Team B: executes efficiently, picking up multiple !st downs averaging 7-8yds a play leading to a TD>

DVOA will love Team B and hate Team A, regardless that they have the same result.

60 and yet

Seattle’s offense, and Wilson’s, has always been chunk-play driven.

And Carroll preference has explicitly been big-play offense and limiting big-play defense; yet DVOA has historically loved Carroll-led Seahawks teams. 

 

63 Disagree

In reply to by scraps

Chunk play jump then grind-grind-grind.

66 okay

In reply to by Sixknots

Yes, you can maybe (maybe) say that for the offense; but the defense (especially in the years when the defense was #1)?  They started by limiting big plays, forcing the offenses to dink and dunk if they wanted to win.

73 DVOA might love dink and…

In reply to by scraps

DVOA might love dink and dunk versus boom and bust when comparing two offenses with similar yards per play averages (which in turn means loving boom and bust defenses) but when you are consistently top three in yards per play allowed with at least a decent turnover rate, it doesn't matter anymore.

31 Arizona

It's interesting to compare VOA with points differential at this stage of the season, even though the margins are slim. Arizona ranks fourth in points differential, but is 17th in DVOA. There's an almost identical gap between its net drive success rate (fifth) and its net yards per drive (17th). The Cardinals appear to be getting their yards and turnovers at optimal moments, and DVOA is right to be skeptical that it can be sustained. The obvious outlying number is the defense allowing a 26% conversion rate on third down. That won't hold up for much longer.

The NFC West as a whole is doing less well in DVOA than I expected. By points differential the division ranks 3rd, 4th, 5th and 8th. By DVOA it's 2nd, 5th, 15th and 17th.

37 Yes.

In reply to by ammek

Is the skepticism warranted?   Not enough of a sample size to say.

Cards won't play a quality opponent for many weeks.  Even playing Dallas in Dallas isn't exactly the same as playing the Niners, Rams or Hawks.  Dallas has a horrible defense and a lousy coach.  Regardless of the line, I would have the Cards as a favorite there.  They will likely be undefeated by that point.

As Murray navigates the offense and develops, I'd expect the drives to be more fluid and consistent rather than choppy like they are at this point.  He's much better than RW was in year two.  I don't even recall being impressed by RW until year three or four.

One thing I can say definitively is that the Cards DO have a pass rush and legit disruptors on their line.  Chandler Jones seems to come up huge in the division games.

 

24 I'm hoping this offensive efficiency keeps up...

...for the Seahawks.

On top of terrible offensive lines, I have learned to live with bad ST in Carroll's era.  (Outside of SB runs)

I think it's safe to assume that Myers and our coverage teams (already gave up an OSK) will return to average if we get more 3 n O's.  Until proven otherwise anyway.

Either way, the offense is hiding a lot of holes in the team and I hope they can build some cushion while they figure out what to do about them.

38 It will need to...

...if you're going to compete for the playoffs this year.  Seriously.

Division play is going to be rough.  These games are won on the edges, in the margins.  Not having a quality defense can sink you against teams that want to put points up quickly.  

This is the type of year where I'm not at all concerned about out of conference games because the Cards are battle tested within the division much harder.  Games against the Pats and Bills are entertaining, but not as much of a barometer compared to division play.

NE fans thinking they're going to win the AFC east due to Cam Newton gives me a chuckle.  Belichick is squeezing everything he can out of a limited offense and decimated defense.  It won't work against the top teams.  

I see Buffalo running away with the AFC East.

85 Seattle's offense

Seattle's offense has been performing at such a high level these first two weeks... along with Russ's TD:Incompletion ratio (9:11), it would be funny to compare Seattle's total 3rd downs in week 1 & 2 of 2020 versus 3 and outs in week 1 & 2 2019... or better yet 2017.

86 Actually those stats are for…

Actually those stats are for the last three years including this season:

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/overall-drive-statsoff/2018

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/overall-drive-statsoff/2019

https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/nfl/overall-drive-statsoff/2020

Right now half of their drives end in TDs (technically more than half if defensive TDs are included...), and a quarter end in three and outs, which is a pretty crazy split. But one thing they've improved upon from earlier in Wilson's career is red zone performance; they were only average even in 2014 and 2015, but recently they've been great, and perfect so far this season.

32 I don't think there is any…

I don't think there is any need to apologize, or go searching for answers every time DVOA throws up an unusual result. Everything we knew previously told us that the Saints are a better team than the Raiders, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it took something slightly wonky to produce that scoreline. Penalties is a good explanation. 

As for the penalties, I trust the work you've done to determine which penalties are/aren't predictive of future performance. It jives with my subjective view that many wouldn't be predictive; stuff like offensive and special teams holding seems to me to be called very inconsistently, almost to the point where I suspect refs have a certain allocation to be met, so as to seen to be doing their jobs properly. (Perhaps that is a little too cynical....)

42 Wonky?

I don't know about that.

This was a game where Drew Brees' limitations as a QB truly influenced the performance of the offense in a game where the Saints just didn't look ready for prime time.  I liken to the way I feel in my forties compared with how "fresh" I felt in my mid-thirties.  Sometimes, you just don't have it that day.  That is Brees now.  He may not be falling off a cliff like end of career Peyton Manning, but he's close.

He has no consistency on his long ball in the few instances that he decides to throw it.  His game is now quick passes and hope for YAC.  It won't work against the better defenses.  

I have no dog in the fight and I like watching Brees, so I hope this isn't the year we look back and say he should have retired already.

 

45 The article wasn't about…

In reply to by DIVISION

The article wasn't about Brees. It was about why, according to DVOA, the Saints outplayed the Raiders, but managed to lose, in large part because they gave up a huge number of penalties, many of which (perhaps controversially) are excluded from the DVOA calculation. 

44 I don't think there is any…

I don't think there is any need to apologize, or go searching for answers every time DVOA throws up an unusual result. Everything we knew previously told us that the Saints are a better team than the Raiders, so it shouldn't be a surprise that it took something slightly wonky to produce that scoreline. Penalties is a good explanation. 

Don't conflate different things. In-game VOA doesn't recognize pre-game team quality. If anything, DVOA should punish the Saints for losing to an inferior team because they get negative difficulty bonuses. The question wasn't why the Raiders weren't ranked above the Saints in the season-rankings, it was why DVOA loved the Saints so much in a loss to an inferior team in a game in which they didn't look that great doing it.

47 Ok I meant VOA rather than…

Ok I meant VOA rather than DVOA. I'll rephrase: the team we expected to be better coming in, produced the better VOA for the match. Not a surprising outcome. But they lost, because fluky stuff happens sometimes. It doesn't necessarily mean we should be scratching our heads searching for flaws in the model. 

53 I'll rephrase: the team we…

I'll rephrase: the team we expected to be better coming in, produced the better VOA for the match. Not a surprising outcome.

But that is at least marginally surprising.

On the whole, you would expect the losing team's VOA to be lower than the winning team's, so the extent VOA is predictive of record. Good teams have high VOAs and DVOAs because on the balance, they win more often than they lose, and so they accrue positive cumulative value.

Good teams with a penchant for losing late and close, and their opposites, are obvious counter-examples, but in games where a team wins by a healthy margin and the game is held in rather low doubt, when VOA argues the losing team was vastly better, it's worthwhile to peek under the lid and see what the machine was learning, because sometimes the machine is looking at dogs vs wolves, and sometimes it's looking at snow versus grass.

75 Saints VOA being better

Remember that after over 1/3 of the game, the Saints were ahead by 10 points, and seemed to be ripping off 5-7 yds every time they ran the ball. They had countered the Raiders first successful drive (resulting in their TD) with a TD drive of their own. At that point, the VOA would have looked like the Saints were dominating, and they were. 

Also, what I did not understand as a Saints fan is why we seemed to get away from the running game in the 2nd half. Their last drive at the end of the first half was understandable, as they were trying to move into FG range before halftime. But it seemed like they just stopped running the ball after halftime.

82 This.

The question wasn't why the Raiders weren't ranked above the Saints in the season-rankings, it was why DVOA loved the Saints so much in a loss to an inferior team in a game in which they didn't look that great doing it.

94 The Answer is Simple

In reply to by DIVISION

DVOA has the Raiders rated way too low because it cannot incorporate the fact that they have a fully operational Death Roomba.

51 Yards/Play Over-weighted?

I'm wondering if the yards/play which has been cited in the first two weeks' columns is a bit over-weighted? As mentioned, success vs baseline is a key ingredient to VOA, so maybe it's accounted for, but one way that penalties should affect a team's efficiency would be that with longer down & distance scenarios, you'll rack up bigger yards per play without actually seeing an increase in success rate or conversions that keep drives going. 

A team that runs a lot of plays is clearly doing something very efficiently to maintain those possessions, while a team that runs very few plays is OFTEN (not always) doing something inefficiently that limits their ability to keep drives going (the exception being when they run very few plays because they score quickly). 

Obviously there's no telling from a layman's perspective what is/isn't predictive, but when I see long drives and large time of possession, I think that's an efficient offense, but VOA seems to be penalizing those teams to a degree. I guess all I'm saying is that there's a lot more to efficiency that yards per play, and while I know the VOA formula accounts for some of that, it still seems to have too much emphasis on that version of efficiency. 

57 If Yards/Play was the only…

If Yards/Play was the only consideration, then an offense consisting of low percentage deep passing would be just as good as a balanced offense that could consistently move the chains. Possibly even better, since completing 1/3 30 yards passes is better than a solid 8 yards/play offense with extreme consistency. 

DVOA is sophisticated and combines a lot of things, but I agree that there might be a bit of an issue here. One thing that I can definitely see, is that consistency is bad for bad offenses, but great for good offenses. What I mean is that the difference between an offense that averages 4 yards per play and one that averages 5 yards per play might make a difference of 50% in how likely they are to get a first down. Upping that to 6 yards per play or down to 3 might not make much of a difference, since we are already past the knee of the curve.

We'll never know for sure, but I do agree that really consistently solid short yardage offenses, the Raiders being a very good example, seem to be overly penalized, and really explosive but not super consistent offenses might be a little over-rated. After all, if you can keep the chains moving that's all you need out of a play.

65 After reading all the…

After reading all the comments, I submit that, this year, National Jump To Conclusions Week is week two.

92 after that,

I think, -- is it the Dodecahedron? who takes Milo & the Humbug & Tock to the Mathemagician & the Numbers Mine. I think.

99 Garoppolo/Thomas/McCaffrey equate to equal losses in DAVE????

In the playoff odds report these 3 players resulted in identical losses in DAVE for their respective teams.  How is losing (based upon 2019 rankings) a number 11 DYAR QB, or the top receiver of DYAR, possibly equal to losing any running back?   I thought with analytics we were past caring about running backs, even the elite ones.

107 One of the projects

I agree with the skepticism about McCaffrey. One of the projects for next offseason is going to be looking at the "change in DYAR from personnel changes" variable in our projection system to see if RB need to be treated differently than WR/TE. But for now, this is how it works out.