DVOA Analysis
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Week 20 DVOA Ratings

Mahomes Trophy
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

As usual after the conference championship games, we're not going to bother with the full 32-team table of weighted DVOA ratings, since there are only two teams left and most teams haven't played for three weeks. We'll just take a quick look at both teams.

Is there a gap between these teams? It depends if you look at our total ratings for the entire year (including the postseason) or the weighted ratings that drop Weeks 1-6 and give less strength to Weeks 7-12. Here's what the offensive/defensive/special teams splits look like for both weighted and total DVOA, through the playoffs:

  TOT Rk OFF Rk DEF Rk ST Rk
KC weighted 44.1% 2 33.2% 1 -5.2% 12 5.6% 3
SF weighted 32.2% 4 13.7% 6 -13.6% 4 4.8% 7
KC total 33.9% 2 28.5% 1 -2.7% 14 2.7% 5
SF total 33.1% 3 10.1% 7 -21.0% 2 2.0% 8

Just to demonstrate how much better this year's top teams were compared to last year's top teams: the 2018 Patriots and Rams both had weighted DVOA below 20% as of the Super Bowl. This year's Super Bowl teams are significantly above that.

You'll notice that both offenses have improved over the course of the season. For Kansas City, that's a combination of an improved running game and lowering the strength of the games with Matt Moore at quarterback in Weeks 7-9. For San Francisco, it's all about improvement in the running game: the 49ers had -3.5% DVOA on runs in Weeks 1-9, but they have 15.0% DVOA on runs in Weeks 10-20.

The real gap between weighted and total DVOA is on defense. The differences change depending on which weeks you use for splits, but essentially the Kansas City defense has improved a little bit over the course of the season against both the run and the pass while the San Franciso pass defense has seen substantial regression to the mean since the first few weeks of the season. (The run defense, on the other hand, improved over the second half of the year.) The response there from San Francisco fans would be that the pass defense has improved again since the return of injured players such as Dee Ford and Kwon Alexander for the playoffs, and that's true. But it remains to be seen if that's really about the return of specific defensive players or just random variation in quality of play.

Remember, defensive DVOA is better when it is negative:

San Francisco Defensive DVOA by Week, 2019
Weeks vs. Pass  vs. Run
Weeks 1-9 -47.8% -5.5%
Weeks 10-17 -10.9% -16.9%
Weeks 19-20 -36.6% -23.4%

Which numbers should we be looking at when we judge Super Bowl LIV: total or weighted? As I've noted in the past, weighted DVOA doesn't actually seem to be any more (or less) predictive than total DVOA, even though that was the goal when I created it. However, I do think there are a couple of reasons this year to give the weighted numbers a little more, well, weight. First, the difference in the weight of the Matt Moore games matters, because if Matt Moore is playing in Super Bowl LIV it means something very bad has happened for the Kansas City Chiefs. Second, a lot of research over the last couple years has shown that offensive numbers are more predictive than defensive numbers during a given season, in the same way that offensive numbers are more predictive than defensive numbers when we look from season to season. That research suggested that San Francisco's defense (and New England's defense) would come back to earth a bit after playing at historical levels for the first couple months of the season, and that's in fact what happened. So the lower defensive rating in weighted DVOA is probably a more "true" or at least more predictive rating when it comes to the San Francisco defense. Yes, despite the return of certain players for the postseason.

Our playoff odds simulator uses weighted DVOA and gives Kansas City a 57.4% chance of winning the Super Bowl. This is based solely on top-line numbers rather than specific matchups.

Finally, here are the one-game ratings for the conference championships:

DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
TEN -12% 22% 38% 4%
KC 57% 66% 8% -1%
GB -21% 25% 40% -7%
SF 69% 53% 3% 19%
VOA (no opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
TEN -31% 16% 51% 4%
KC 49% 67% 17% -1%
GB -51% 1% 45% -7%
SF 69% 58% 7% 19%

Roster data should be updated for the conference championships later tonight. Also, voting for the 17th annual Football Outsiders reader awards should start later this week, so look for that banner on our front page and make sure to get in your votes!

Comments

31 comments, Last at 25 Jan 2020, 1:40pm

7 Oh yes indeed

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

Thank you.

2H virtually all running as well, so the Niners unadjusted VOA must be even higher.

4 They were not competitive

But not boring in my opinion. There were plenty of action in the game yesterday. I found Mostert's or Samuel's runs, Rodger's two bombs, interceptions and forced fumble quite entertaining. 57 points in a game, where none of them were by luck is not a boring game IMO. 

9 Rooting for Andy Reid to get…

Rooting for Andy Reid to get a ring, but this feels an awful lot like 2013 to me. Great balanced team against a great quarterback (Chiefs, at least, have great offensive playmakers aside from that quarterback). Hope I'm wrong, it's a great matchup on paper

10 I get a little of that…

I get a little of that feeling, but Mahommes is a lot younger than 2013 Peyton, the game isn't being played outside in New Jersey, and Jimmy G is really not Russell Wilson.  I also have a little of the feeling that this game is more like 1984, and that's even worse for the Chiefs.

13 As a Chiefs fan, I honestly…

As a Chiefs fan, I honestly wish it WERE at a bad weather location.  Both AFCCS' were played in bitter cold and Mahomes did well.  He's been great in the two snow games he's played.  I think bad weather would favor him over Jimmy G.

16 KC's defense rates out a lot…

KC's defense rates out a lot like Minnesota's defense. That's bad.

KC's offense is much better than Minnesota's offense. That's good.

SF seems to have a big advantage on the O-line and in the run game, but that was true for Tennessee, too. I suspect the game will look a bit like the KC-BAL and KC-TEN games did.

11 Honestly, as long as the…

Honestly, as long as the Chiefs don't fall behind by double digits again, they'll cruise. I'm all in on Mahomes.

If they're down by 2 or more possessions early again, I don't think they can come back that much against the 49ers.

18 How does DVOA factor in opponent?

After saying the 49ers defense was so dominant in the beginning of 2019 and then regressed by DVOA, how much does the stat consider the offense/qb they faced?

Just look at the teams/qbs the defense faced each week.

In the first 8 games the 9ers have a point differential of a combined 133 points

in the last 8 games by a combined 36 points

Helpful to consider for a super bowl prediction

19 I can’t wait. This is going…

I can’t wait. This is going to be awesome.

It does sort of feel that it all hinges on Jimmy G.

KC defense not good against the run, but they aren’t miserable at it like they were. I suspect they will fall behind again by a bit, but I don’t think they will just get crushed on the lines. And if that’s the case, then Mahomes will be tough to beat. My initial gut is KC wins a close game, but if we get New Orleans Garroppolo, maybe not. Fascinating match-up, and even as SF fan, I could take consolation in Reid/Mahomes winning.

20 KC did kind of shut down the…

KC did kind of shut down the titans and texans in the run game department though right? If Andy Reid and Co can prepare them for all the looks and misdirecttions the 9ers have then that might be a big factor. 

Wonder if Tevin Coleman will be a factor for this game. I don't see Jimmy G going toe to toe in the air with Mahomes the way he did in New Orleans but maybe I'm wrong. 

21 they shut them down

KC packed the line with the engage 8-style of d. I suspect that Kyle Shanahan might have a little more luck with that than the Titans did. The Titans were also a little bit worn down from having to play 3 weeks in a row instead of 2 in a row after a Bye, while SF is on even footing, restwise, with KC. 

I'm not saying "Bet SF! Can't lose!" just that the solutions to the Titans' running game might not be quite the same things that work against George Kittle and company. 

25 It’s a very good question…

It’s a very good question whether 2 weeks to prepare for Shanahan’s schemes might make a difference. Then again, anticipating that he may some counters ready. It’ll be a battle of wits: who is the Sicilian?

22 This game to me comes down…

This game to me comes down to can the 49ers cover. The Chiefs have the line to at least make the pass rush battle a draw.

Everywhere else the niners have decided advantages. They have the horses on defense to slow down KCs offense and I believe SFs run game is an even bigger mismatch once you factor in Kyle shanahan schemes.

I guess people are nervous about Jimmy G but he's not Rex Grossman. He's good enough to win games even when the defense is not dominating.

Of course Mahomes much like all of the other elite quarterbacks is the potential trump card. And I have to remind myself that I've seen offenses as terrifying as this one get stopped. NO and gb 2011. 2007 Ne, 2004 Indy, 2013 Denver, etc etc. You just need the talent to do it.

27 Honestly, I don't understand…

Honestly, I don't understand how many pundits and insiders think this is going to be an easy Chiefs win or even a blowout.  The 49ers haven't lost by more than a single score all year, they've barely trailed by more than a score all year, and they've played some pretty darned good offenses.  The games they lost all happened with key starters out on defense, and those guys are all back.  I mean, they could get blown out--that kind of thing can happen against a great offense--but so far they've been in every game until the last second.  So what the heck?

28 2015 AFC Championship. If…

2015 AFC Championship. If you can hit Tom Brady 20 times without blitzing, you have a good chance of winning. I think this game is similar -- if the 49ers can get to Mahones without extra guys, they will probably win. If not, Mahones throws for 400 yards and they win.

One thing I do look forward to is what a Kyle Shanahan "empty the playbook" game looks like. I expect a lot of amazingly designed plays from SF.

29 The Broncos covered very…

The Broncos covered very well that game. It took hero Gronk to generate any offense that game. And don't forget, the Broncos offense outside of two td drives did nothing most of the day and kept punting the ball to the Pats.

 

The 49ers, unlike the Broncos, have a good offense while the Chiefs have a decent defense. That's a bigger mismatch than KC's scary offense against SF's healthy stacked defense.