DVOA Analysis
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Week 5 DVOA Ratings

Dalvin Cook
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

The Baltimore Ravens return to No. 1 in DVOA in a strange week with a scrambled ratings table.

It's a strange week because it is the first time in the history of Football Outsiders where I've written one of these DVOA commentary articles before the week of games is actually over. Apparently, back in 2010 when the Vikings and Eagles had a game postponed until Tuesday I didn't post DVOA ratings and commentary until Wednesday afternoon. This year, we're doing everything as usual. All the DVOA pages are updated and here's the commentary on Tuesday. Then all the stats pages and playoff odds and everything else will be updated again on Wednesday after Buffalo plays Tennessee.

It's a scrambled ratings table because there have been a lot of major moves up and down the rankings after Week 5 games. The Rams had the biggest single game of the week (81.5%) and move up from 11th to fourth. Miami's shocking domination of the San Francisco 49ers was the second-biggest game of the week (71.0%) and the Dolphins zoom all the way up from 26th to 12th. The 49ers, in turn, drop from ninth to 17th. Baltimore had the third-biggest game of the week, which helps explain how they climb back up into the top spot. The Ravens have been only average on offense this year, but they're one of the league's top defenses and have the NFL's best special teams unit, positive in all five aspects of special teams.

It's also a scrambled ratings table because the ratings this year deviate significantly from simple win-loss record. It's not too weird to have a one-loss team like Baltimore on top, but two-loss Tampa Bay only drops one spot and ranks No. 2. Instead of being concentrated at the top of the ratings, the five remaining unbeaten teams (including, for now, both Buffalo and Tennessee) rank third (Seattle), sixth (Green Bay), ninth (Buffalo), tenth (Pittsburgh), and 15th (Tennessee).

Things are even more scrambled below the top 10. There are two 1-4 teams that have positive DVOA, Minnesota and Houston, and then two 4-1 teams with negative DVOA, Cleveland and Chicago.

Let's talk about the 1-4 teams first. Minnesota and Houston have had the two hardest schedules in the league so far this year by average DVOA of opponent. The Vikings have a positive DVOA for four of their five games so far this year, with the exception being Week 2's 28-11 loss to Indianapolis. We talked about the positive rating for their loss to Green Bay way back after Week 1. Week 3 was a one-point loss to Tennessee that was basically tied by DVOA. Week 4 they beat Houston with 27.1% DVOA for the game. This week, with current opponent adjustments, the Vikings get 15.3% DVOA for losing to Seattle, while the Seahawks are even higher (30.7%) with the win. The Vikings are a surprising eighth in offensive DVOA and perfectly average (0.0%) on defense.

Houston's DVOA rating is being kept close to zero thanks to heavy opponent adjustments for their first three games against Kansas City, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh. Add on a 34.1% DVOA for this week's 30-14 win over Jacksonville, and you get a team that's above-average overall. Houston is right around average in all three phases of the game. Note that Houston's offense is above average at 3.0% but has a below-average rank of 18th. Twenty-one of the 32 teams are above average on offense so far this year. There are a lot of "kind of good" offenses with 15 teams falling between 0.0% and 8.2%, and those offenses are then balanced by a few really horrible offenses, mostly in the NFC East.

Here's a look at where Minnesota and Houston fall on the list of the best 1-4 teams ever by DVOA. "Rank" here is rank among the teams in that season, not rank among the teams on this table.

Best 1-4 Teams by DVOA, 1985-2020
Team Year Week DVOA Rk Final
W-L
Final
DVOA
Final
Rk
NE 2000 5 17.5% 10 5-11 -5.6% 21
CIN 1987 5 15.0% 6 3-9 -3.3% 18
NYJ 2003 6 13.2% 10 6-10 3.5% 13
MIN 2011 5 11.0% 11 3-13 -22.2% 29
BUF 2004 6 10.2% 11 9-7 31.3% 3
DET 1992 5 8.1% 11 5-11 -16.1% 23
MIN 1990 5 7.3% 9 6-10 4.3% 13
SD 2016 5 7.2% 11 5-11 -1.1% 19
MIN 2020 5 6.5% 11 -- -- --
CHI 1998 5 4.6% 13 4-12 -9.1% 19
HOU 2020 5 2.1% 13 -- -- --
ARI 1997 6 1.4% 14 4-12 -21.2% 27

A little housekeeping note: because I'm still in the process of re-running all past years of DVOA with the new version of the formula, these historical "DVOA as of Week 5" numbers in today's article are the old version 7.0 numbers. Also, remember that 1987 ratings do not include strikebreaker games.

Yes, that's the original first-year Bill Belichick Patriots as the best 1-4 team in the history of DVOA. That Patriots team started the season by losing four straight one-score games, all to teams that would eventually finish with winning records, before a 28-19 win over Denver got them off the schneid in Week 5. The most famous thing about that team now is that they were carrying four quarterbacks so they could keep some rookie named Tom Brady on the roster.

The bad news for the Vikings and Texans is that almost none of these teams really turned things around in the second half of the season. A lot of them played much worse in the second half of the season, as their performance in the play-by-play began to match their record rather than the other way around. A couple of these teams, such as the 2011 Minnesota Vikings, completely collapsed. The big exception is the 2004 Buffalo Bills, also known as the best team in DVOA history to miss the playoffs.

Let's flip things around and look at the two 4-1 teams with negative DVOA. First, Cleveland. There are two things going on with Cleveland. You may notice that Cleveland dropped six spots from 12th to 18th despite winning over Indianapolis this week. This was the latest in what seems like a weekly series this year, games where DVOA disagrees not only with the win-loss result but with the eye test. Cleveland ended up with a -4.5% single-game DVOA for this game, while Indianapolis was at 29.5%. A breakdown of offensive numbers explains somewhat. The Colts ended this game with the higher average of yards per play, 5.9 to 5.3, and the higher play success rate on offense, 47% to 43%. Both quarterbacks threw two interceptions, and the Browns tossed in a fumble as well (that they recovered themselves). Cleveland ran more plays, 72 to 51, but the efficiency numbers are more predictive than the number of plays run.

But really, this week's game is not why Cleveland has a negative DVOA overall. Cleveland has a negative DVOA overall because of the way they got defenestrated by the Baltimore Ravens back in Week 1. Cleveland's single-game rating for that loss with current opponent adjustments is -99.8%, the worst game played by any team this year. Take out that game, and the average of Cleveland's other games is 23.3%, which would easily put the Browns in the top ten. The Browns also would be above average if not for their special teams, which currently rank 31st in the league.

The Chicago Bears being below average in DVOA probably makes a lot more sense to you than Cleveland. There's been plenty of talk of Chicago as one of the worst 4-1 teams ever. All four Chicago wins have come by less than a touchdown. Three of them are over below-average teams (Detroit, Atlanta, and the New York Giants). Chicago ranks just 26th in the league in yards per play, and ninth in yards per play allowed. In DVOA, those ranks are 27th and seventh, with the Bears also dragged down a little by No. 30 special teams.

Here's where Chicago and Cleveland rank among the worst 4-1 teams ever by DVOA. I've extended the list a little bit so we can get Cleveland on there. The Bears come out as the second-lowest 4-1 team we've ever measured, surpassed only by another Chicago team from 2010.

Worst 4-1 Teams by DVOA, 1985-2020
Team Year Week DVOA Rk Final
W-L
Final
DVOA
Final
Rk
Playoffs
CHI 2010 5 -11.3% 21 11-5 2.4% 14 Lost CCG
CHI 2020 5 -7.4% 23 -- -- -- --
DEN 1992 5 -6.8% 15 8-8 -14.9% 22 None
BUF 1996 6 -6.8% 19 10-6 2.4% 15 Lost WC
CIN 2009 5 -5.8% 20 10-6 -0.1% 19 Lost WC
SD 2011 5 -5.3% 19 8-8 0.7% 16 None
ATL 1998 6 -5.0% 18 14-2 18.8% 7 Lost SB
DET 1991 5 -4.4% 16 12-4 -1.2% 17 Lost CCG
MIN 2004 6 -3.5% 17 8-8 -8.1% 20 Lost DIV
ATL 1995 5 -2.9% 17 9-7 13.9% 6 Lost WC
ARI 2012 5 -2.6% 14 5-11 -16.3% 26 None
BUF 2019 5 -2.2% 19 10-6 3.0% 13 Lost WC
CLE 2020 5 -1.9% 18 -- -- -- --
SD 1987 5 -1.6% 17 5-7 -19.7% 25 None

Just looking at the scores and surface data, it's hard to understand why the 2010 Bears came out as so terrible. They actually had one pretty convincing win (23-6 over Carolina) and while they mostly were playing other losing teams, one of their close wins came over the eventual Super Bowl champion Packers. The loss was pretty bad, though, with just 110 yards and six first downs against the New York Giants.

The good news for the Bears and Browns is that a lot of the teams on this list kept winning despite starting with low DVOA ratings. Most of these teams made it to the playoffs, including the Buffalo Bills just last year. Some of these teams improved significantly over the rest of the season, including that 2010 Bears team (which eventually lost to Green Bay in the NFC Championship) and the 1998 Falcons who eventually finished seventh in DVOA and made it all the way to the Super Bowl. Only a couple of these teams crashed out after their 4-1 starts, and one of those teams (the 2012 Cardinals) collapsed in part because they had to start four different quarterbacks during that season. Hopefully the Bears won't have to go above two.

* * * * *

Football Outsiders playoff odds, snap counts, and the FO+ database are now all updated through Week 5. As noted above, everything will be updated again tomorrow to include the Buffalo-Tennessee Tuesday night game.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through five 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.

Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are only at 50% strength; they will increase 10% every week through Week 10.

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 65% preseason forecast for teams with five games played and 70% preseason forecast for teams with four games played.

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

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

 

RK TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
TOTAL
DAVE
RANK W-L OFF.
DVOA
OFF.
RANK
DEF.
DVOA
DEF.
RANK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RANK
1 BAL 33.9% 3 21.2% 2 4-1 3.6% 17 -18.9% 3 11.4% 1
2 TB 26.4% 1 14.8% 4 3-2 7.1% 10 -20.8% 2 -1.4% 19
3 SEA 25.7% 6 14.4% 5 5-0 23.6% 3 3.6% 18 5.7% 4
4 LAR 25.5% 11 12.7% 7 4-1 22.3% 4 -7.8% 8 -4.7% 29
5 KC 24.4% 2 22.2% 1 4-1 25.6% 2 -4.1% 9 -5.3% 30
6 GB 23.7% 5 7.3% 9 4-0 31.0% 1 10.3% 29 3.0% 8
7 IND 23.7% 4 13.1% 6 3-2 -9.2% 25 -24.3% 1 8.6% 2
8 NO 18.4% 8 19.9% 3 3-2 4.4% 16 -9.1% 6 4.8% 5
9 BUF 17.5% 10 7.1% 10 4-0 19.3% 5 4.0% 21 2.2% 10
10 PIT 16.5% 7 11.5% 8 4-0 6.0% 12 -8.9% 7 1.6% 12
11 MIN 6.5% 13 1.4% 13 1-4 8.2% 8 0.0% 14 -1.7% 20
12 MIA 2.5% 26 -8.4% 25 2-3 5.3% 15 7.3% 27 4.6% 6
13 HOU 2.1% 21 0.1% 14 1-4 3.0% 18 1.6% 17 0.7% 14
14 CAR 0.1% 19 -8.8% 26 3-2 8.2% 7 6.4% 25 -1.8% 21
15 TEN -1.1% 14 1.8% 12 3-0 5.7% 13 3.9% 20 -2.8% 25
16 DAL -1.3% 16 -5.1% 23 2-3 6.6% 11 6.4% 26 -1.4% 18
17 SF -1.8% 9 1.9% 11 2-3 -4.9% 24 -2.3% 10 0.9% 13
18 CLE -1.9% 12 -3.3% 20 4-1 5.6% 14 0.9% 16 -6.7% 31
19 ARI -2.0% 23 -0.7% 15 3-2 1.5% 20 3.7% 19 0.2% 15
20 NE -2.3% 17 -0.7% 16 2-2 2.4% 19 4.5% 22 -0.2% 16
21 LV -3.5% 25 -3.7% 21 3-2 12.9% 6 15.4% 31 -1.0% 17
22 LAC -6.3% 18 -3.3% 19 1-4 0.2% 21 -1.1% 12 -7.6% 32
23 CHI -7.4% 22 -4.1% 22 4-1 -14.7% 26 -9.7% 5 -2.5% 24
24 DET -11.5% 24 -2.2% 18 1-3 -4.9% 23 10.8% 30 4.2% 7
25 ATL -15.5% 27 -1.7% 17 0-5 -4.5% 22 8.9% 28 -2.1% 23
26 JAX -17.1% 15 -12.4% 27 1-4 7.1% 9 20.0% 32 -4.2% 28
27 CIN -21.1% 20 -16.4% 30 1-3-1 -24.2% 27 -0.8% 13 2.3% 9
28 WAS -23.8% 28 -20.3% 32 1-4 -32.8% 31 -10.9% 4 -1.9% 22
29 NYG -28.5% 32 -14.0% 28 0-5 -34.2% 32 0.2% 15 5.9% 3
30 PHI -30.0% 30 -6.7% 24 1-3-1 -26.5% 29 5.2% 23 1.7% 11
31 DEN -32.2% 31 -16.0% 29 1-3 -31.0% 30 -1.8% 11 -3.0% 26
32 NYJ -34.1% 29 -19.5% 31 0-5 -24.7% 28 6.0% 24 -3.4% 27
  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA does not include the adjustments for opponent strength or the adjustments for weather and altitude in special teams, and only penalizes offenses for lost fumbles rather than all fumbles.
  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
  • PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).
RK TEAM TOTAL
DVOA
W-L NON-ADJ
TOT VOA
ESTIM.
WINS
RANK PAST
SCHED
RANK FUTURE
SCHED
RANK VAR. RANK
1 BAL 33.9% 4-1 40.4% 3.2 11 -4.1% 24 -4.2% 23 28.2% 31
2 TB 26.4% 3-2 29.7% 4.3 2 -5.5% 26 2.2% 12 5.6% 14
3 SEA 25.7% 5-0 30.4% 4.4 1 -2.0% 22 -5.0% 26 1.0% 4
4 LAR 25.5% 4-1 35.3% 3.5 8 -13.2% 29 2.6% 10 16.6% 27
5 KC 24.4% 4-1 19.6% 3.9 4 4.8% 11 -5.4% 27 7.4% 17
6 GB 23.7% 4-0 27.8% 3.8 6 -0.5% 19 -1.5% 21 6.7% 16
7 IND 23.7% 3-2 30.2% 3.2 10 -10.8% 28 2.1% 13 15.0% 26
8 NO 18.4% 3-2 20.7% 3.7 7 5.7% 9 -4.1% 22 0.8% 2
9 BUF 17.5% 4-0 18.0% 3.9 5 -2.2% 23 -1.1% 20 3.6% 11
10 PIT 16.5% 4-0 33.8% 3.9 3 -22.1% 32 1.6% 15 0.7% 1
11 MIN 6.5% 1-4 -1.9% 3.0 12 14.8% 1 -0.3% 18 10.8% 23
12 MIA 2.5% 2-3 6.3% 2.3 16 4.4% 12 -6.2% 29 20.5% 29
13 HOU 2.1% 1-4 0.9% 2.2 17 12.8% 2 0.7% 17 4.4% 13
14 CAR 0.1% 3-2 -0.3% 2.0 20 -0.2% 18 2.5% 11 3.6% 10
15 TEN -1.1% 3-0 7.3% 2.5 14 -6.3% 27 5.5% 5 1.7% 6
16 DAL -1.3% 2-3 -4.3% 2.2 18 1.0% 17 -9.4% 32 2.8% 8
17 SF -1.8% 2-3 5.2% 2.6 13 -18.4% 31 12.0% 1 24.5% 30
18 CLE -1.9% 4-1 4.0% 3.2 9 2.3% 13 -6.0% 28 33.2% 32
19 ARI -2.0% 3-2 8.9% 2.4 15 -14.2% 30 5.3% 6 9.2% 20
20 NE -2.3% 2-2 -1.8% 1.7 24 12.3% 3 -1.0% 19 12.7% 24
21 LV -3.5% 3-2 -10.6% 2.1 19 11.6% 4 -4.7% 25 5.8% 15
22 LAC -6.3% 1-4 -9.9% 1.7 25 9.6% 5 -8.7% 31 2.5% 7
23 CHI -7.4% 4-1 2.3% 1.9 21 -1.1% 21 7.0% 3 1.3% 5
24 DET -11.5% 1-3 -14.0% 1.8 22 8.2% 6 2.0% 14 3.7% 12
25 ATL -15.5% 0-5 -12.4% 1.4 26 8.1% 7 6.1% 4 0.9% 3
26 JAX -17.1% 1-4 -18.8% 1.3 28 1.2% 15 7.1% 2 18.6% 28
27 CIN -21.1% 1-3-1 -21.7% 1.7 23 -4.3% 25 3.5% 9 8.6% 19
28 WAS -23.8% 1-4 -27.7% 1.3 29 5.1% 10 -7.4% 30 9.2% 21
29 NYG -28.5% 0-5 -34.7% 1.3 27 6.3% 8 -4.3% 24 14.3% 25
30 PHI -30.0% 1-3-1 -25.1% 0.7 32 -0.9% 20 1.3% 16 3.2% 9
31 DEN -32.2% 1-3 -27.8% 1.0 31 1.9% 14 4.1% 8 10.4% 22
32 NYJ -34.1% 0-5 -37.1% 1.0 30 1.0% 16 4.3% 7 7.8% 18

Comments

65 comments, Last at 18 Oct 2020, 2:28pm

1 Negative DVOA, good record

I am wondering the historical playoff success (or lack thereof) of negative DVOA teams that make the playoffs.  I have to assume that it is a somewhat common occurrence as almost half of 9-7 teams make the playoffs.  It is hard to imagine the NFC East Champion having a positive DVOA this year.  I understand that this may be a very empty division title.

41 2010 Seahawks over Saints

The 30th DVOA ranked Seahawks of 2010 must be the champion of this horror show, although winning only one playoff game, it is one more than expected.  They were 7-9 and lost all 9 by double digits.  What other Saints tragedies have you got?

61 The 2016 Texans ranked #28…

The 2016 Texans ranked #28 in DVOA (-19.5% DVOA overall), and won in the wildcard round against a Raiders team down to their 3rd string QB. The following week they were the customary divisional round lambs to the Foxboro slaughter.

2 Comparing Week 5 DVOA versus…

Comparing Week 5 DVOA versus Final DVOA for the 1-4 teams, only BUF 2004's results suggested that DVOA was on to something.  For all of the other teams, their W-L record seemed to better predict their performance over the remainder of the year (you could argue that NYJ 2003 and MIN 1990 were a push.)

The 4-1 teams are more of a mixed bag.

 

4 I think it might be part of…

I think it might be part of the inherent weakness of statistical analysis, systemic bias. If those teams were leading big going into a fourth quarter, then they might have given up some easy yards, as an example, and not tried for much on offense, leading to DVOA thinking of the games as being much closer than they were. If the teams went on to win more than DVOA would predict, there has to be something like that muddying the water.

Theoretically, you could easily test my hypothesis if you had the data in front of you.

29 I suspect it is something…

I suspect it is something else going on: Teams with bad records are more likely to make decisions that result in them playing poorly the rest of the season.

If you're 1-4 you are more likely to do any one or more of the following things: Fire your coach and front office; put good, dinged up players on IR; play younger, inexperienced players over established veterans; trade away current talent for future assets; cut expensive players for salary cap relief.

Such things might be wise in the long-run, but they usually result in a team being worse in the short run.

33 No, Buffalo 2004 was still a…

No, Buffalo 2004 was still a miss: they ended with a DVOA much higher than week 5. The "best hit" there is a team like the 1990s Vikings. Keep in mind a 1-4 record predicts to 3.2 wins over a 16-game season (or 2.4 over a 12-game season). Literally all of the teams on that table exceeded that except the Vikings. Whether or not that's significant, don't know.

And the Vikings, which were the worst collapse of any of the teams, fell prey to Joe Pancake's problem: they benched McNabb (who was putting up "only mildly bad" numbers) in favor of Christian Ponder (who finished with "only Blaine Gabbert was worse" numbers) two weeks later. The Vikings pull that performance down quite a bit - without them, the other teams finished at a 40% winning clip on average.

There are probably other mitigating circumstances for many of the teams on the list. No idea.

 

37 Yeah, it's more informative…

Yeah, it's more informative to look at the records for the remaining games, rather than the complete season.  You can't get those first 3 losses back.  Finishing 6-10 means you went 5-7 the rest of the way, which is a lot better than a 1-4 start would suggest.

46 Well, 5-6. Math. :) But yeah…

Well, 5-6. Math. :) But yeah.

5-6 certainly is still worse than you'd expect for slightly positive DVOA teams, but again these are the *best* 1-4 teams. So you'd expect these to be cases where the teams graded out "better" than they really were, maybe due to a few plays, etc., because you've selected the biggest outliers.

And I do think the records are likely suppressed a bit due to teams forcing changes due to the bad record.

49 This is a bit misleading

Surely you can’t expect the average 1-4 team to finish 3-13? There’s always some regression of extremes to the mean after a small sample size. I don’t have data for this, but I guarantee it. So better to compare the average 1-4 team with a + or neutral DVOA to future forecasted records in this scenario then extrapolating their won-loss records.

50 Just for fun, I checked this…

Just for fun, I checked this out. 50 teams started exactly 1-4 from 2010 to 2019 Of those teams:

* Median record at end of the year was 5-11. 

* Average was about the same -- 5.6-10.4.

* 10 went 3-13 or worse. Worst went 2-14 (several teams).

* 10 went 8-8 or better Best went 11-5 (2015 KC)

54 Yeah, that's why I said "I…

Yeah, that's why I said "I don't know if it's significant." Keep in mind that the belief that teams at the extremes regress to the mean "adds knowledge" - you're adding the idea that 3-13 teams are rare. So the question is, which information is more important: the high DVOA after 5 weeks, or the knowledge that "they're probably not that bad..."?

From Vince's numbers, the answer's the prior knowledge. Which isn't surprising - it's (not even really) 5 weeks in, and there's still way more noise than signal- hence the reason DAVE's around. Plus there's the Joe Pancake problem as well.

3 Not sure that the Rams…

Not sure that the Rams disembowling a Washington Football Team formerly known as the Redskins 30-10 is genuinely worth that much. Sure, it was a roflstomp, and the score somewhat flattered WTF, but they were missing their starting (backup) quarterback, and their defense is a boom or bust illusion, looking great when Chase Young gets sacks, and terrible otherwise.

More interestingly, DVOA, while I may disagree with a lot of individual game results, sort of ended up with a clear distinction between the top 10 teams in the league and the rest, something that I pretty much agree with. It's also nice to see 5 AFC and 5 NFC teams in there, and it's also nice that the AFC isn't so clearly KC + BAL + who_cares anymore, with the Bills, Steelers, and Colts all being strong teams. 

5 Tanking and follow-on performance

Seems like several teams are so bad they would benefit from tanking or continuing to tank (e.g. Jets, Giants, WFT, Jax, etc.).  Then I see teams with definite talent (e.g. SF or maybe MIN) but who have no realistic shot at the playoffs.  SF's upcoming schedule is brutal for the next six games.  On paper it might make sense to call this season a wash, tank for draft picks and hopeful easier schedule next year.  I know psyche is near impossible to quantify but I'd be curious if the players would go along thinking this will improve their chances for next year -or- would it have such a detrimental effect that the team would not recover for years? 

6 What do you mean by "go…

What do you mean by "go along"? They're certainly not going to not try as hard if they care about future earnings, and there's no guarantee that they'll even be on the team next year, not to mention the crapshoot that is the draft.

8 Would players understand the…

Would players understand the team is intentionally tanking as a potentially rational choice or would they view it negatively and it result in a perception of it being a failing franchise.  For the sake of argument, I am presuming the roster as largely being static from tank year to next and a higher draft choice being more valuable than a lower one.  I concede in reality those are not always true. 

9 I think players care more…

I think players care more about the team chemistry and playing environment. For instance, Miami last year started out as one of the worst teams on record, but it seemed like players were still upbeat, and they finished strong last year and are doing okay this year. You can also see a difference between the toxic team environments of NYJ and Houston, whose players hate/hated the coach, compared to Atlanta, where players still supported Quinn to the end. I think Colts players had Caldwell's back in 2011 as well.

10 Draft picks are only one way…

Draft picks are only one way to build a team.  Getting FAs to sign with you is the other.  If you can manage a 'tank' that still makes the team an attractive destination for guys who want to play for a winner, great, but that's tough.

16 There are a lot of hyper…

There are a lot of hyper-competitive guys in sports who want to play for a winner.  And others who care about the culture in the locker room.  So there'll always be some guys willing to take a little less pay to play in a spot they want to go to.

Even if you can pay enough to get other guys to come to your team, you're still having to outbid locations that are perceived as better.  So you're potentially overpaying for what you're getting.  

 

17 free agents and free agents

Belichick's specialty is finding low-cost free agents, especially undrafted free agents.  He's also good at finding the slightly-over-30 player who works hard and wants a shot at a title run.  

15 Tanking is for the front office

You will never convince a coaching staff or players to "go along" with tanking.  

Think about it, coaches will be fired and players will be cut in a poor performing season, regardless of whether it was "intentional" or not.  Not to mention for the players, why would they be on board with allowing the team to better replace them with a draft pick?

 

18 coaches might be on board

If there's an understanding with the FO that they're part of a long-term plan.

Players?  Never.  Players want to keep their jobs, not to make it easier for management to find better replacements.

And most NFL careers are so short that players cannot think along the lines of a multi-year plan.  

13 "...I'd be curious if the…

"...I'd be curious if the players would go along thinking this will improve their chances for next year..."

I think it's like a billion to one that any player would "go along".... it would hurt their careers, their earnings and earning potential, reputation, and possibly hurt physcially not going all-out. Player careers are too uncertain health-wise, too short in general, and it's too uncertain whether a player will even be on a particular team or have a starting spot to intentionally play badly. 

A team could choose to implement strategies or start players that may constitute tanking - but those players will be going all-out. 

22 Generally agree with what…

Generally agree with what you're saying.

I'm sure there's a point in the season, somewhere around week 12-13, where players on losing teams give up playing hard on every play. They start making their own business decisions about tackles, hits or chasing after a pick6 return.. Just making 95% effort instead of 100% on some plays.

Best strategy is the one I'm beginning to believe the Jets are taking.  Employ Adam Gase until the end of season. Ideally the Giants and other 0-5 teams win a game or two so that you can fire him and avoid the humiliation of joining the 0-16 club.

7 Interesting that Green Bay's…

Interesting that Green Bay's defense ranks considerably worse than Seattle's despite the surface stats favoring GB (points and yards per game). But Seattle's defense has the most plays per game, while Green Bay's has the third-fewest, and Green Bay has given up more points per drive. I thought Seattle might be ranked higher was because of all the interceptions by Seattle, but their pass defense still ranks worse than Green Bay, and it's entirely because of the difference in rush defense.

Now, that hasn't mattered for Green Bay so far, because they've always been ahead in the second half and teams have had to pass to catch up (13 of New Orleans' last 14 plays against Green Bay were passes, for instance). So it might only matter if Green Bay's offense has a bad game (they still haven't turned the ball over yet) and the other team is trying to run out the clock on them.

12 3rd Down

Seattle's biggest problem is not getting off the field on 3rd down (or leaving open a possible 4th down attempt). The process of getting to those 3rd downs is something that DVOA generally likes. It is also something that might even out over the course of the year (or else is a target for regression in the following year).

14 Seattle has actually been…

In reply to by LyleNM

Seattle has actually been quite good against 3rd and short. They're tied for 4th in lowest conversion percentage against at 50% with less than 5 yards to go (league average is 61%). But they've been horrible against 3rd and medium or long, allowing first downs at the same rate of 50% (league average is 32%).

32 Bad defense may be a self fullfilling prophecy in some respects

In reply to by LyleNM

for instance, at least two on Minnesota's TD drives required conversion on 4th down that were fairly aggressive by historical standard (i.e. they would have been automatic punts in the 90s). That aggressive approach worked great and punished the Seattle defense, putting points (and yards) on the board (well... at least until it didn't). But you have to wonder if they would have been as aggressive against a better defense.

35 I don't think overall…

I don't think overall defensive strength correlates with short yardage defense. For instance, the Colts have the best defense, but the worst 1-yard-to-go defense, allowing 90% so far. But Minnesota might not be as aggressive against a worse offense, because despite how the first half played out, they know that Seattle can score in a blink.

36 How good is DK Metcalf right…

How good is DK Metcalf right now. I'm trying to think of which receivers I would take right now over him? I can come up with a few names but those are only because they've been established for a while. Given his age he might be the best receiver in football

40 Just wait...

Seattle fans are looking forward to when Josh Gordon receives the OK to play.  Seattle will be able to run an offense of WR1 DK; WR2 Lockett; WR3 Josh Gordon; TE Olson; RB Carson.

 

That would be one of the most impressive units of the last 10-15 years.

42 until

In reply to by gomer_rs

Gordon inevitably gets suspended again.

I've fine with Moore as WR3, myself.

47 Not necessarily

In reply to by scraps

Players will only be suspended for not cooperating with the testing procedure or the clinical care that comes in stage two of the program, and even that will take some doing. Only for a fourth violation of this nature would bring a suspension of three games. For a player to be suspended for a season, it would take seven violations of the testing procedure or clinical care.

Season-long bans, or substance-abuse suspensions of any kind, will become quite difficult to earn. However, the players already suspended for substance abuse under the 2011 CBA may fall into a gray area. It is not yet clear if the likes of Josh GordonRandy Gregory or Martavis Bryant would have their statuses cleared up and be permitted to return to the league. Even Justin Blackmon and Daryl Washington — who saw PED bans lead to years away from the game — would fall into this category.

The above from ProFootbalRumors.

Once Gordon returns from his current suspension, he could very well remain with the team regardless of any further non-PED positive tests.

52 Well sure, if you were…

In reply to by gomer_rs

Well sure, if you were getting all of them in their prime. 

You're not.  Olsen hasn't been good in about 4 years, Gordon hasn't been good since his Browns days, Carson has never been better than above-average....

Seems like some home team inflation based on name value recognition.  Kansas City's skill-position lineup is better as is.  Probably Pittsburgh's too.  Arguably Tampa Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans, Cleveland, Dallas....

10-15 years???

 

Edit:  Unless you meant the Seahawks' best offense in 10-15 years.  I'd defer to your judgement on that.

56 This is how I see it...

Both Lockett and DK are true WR1s with DK working his way into the discussion of 5 best WRs in the league.  A diminished Gordon is a true WR2.  Olson is diminished but Wilson always gets significantly better play out of his TEs then other QBs, even with the same TEs, even when they are comparable QBs in talent...

see... Graham, Jimmy

And Carson is either a little above average, or considerably underrated depending upon your view of last years rash of fumbles.

58 Well, you're entitled to…

Well, you're entitled to your opinion, obviously, but how can you say a "diminished Gordon is a true WR2"?  The guy has played something like 33 games in the last 7 years, and hasn't look dominating in any of them.  The best thing you can say about Josh Gordon in recent years is that the Patriots offense got much worse when they cut him ... and yet they cut him.  He caught very few balls -- his value was almost entirely derived in having to be covered deep, regardless of his inability to consistently make plays.

59 If anything, that puts him…

If anything, that puts him in a better light and puts Belichick's decision to cut him in a worse one, unless Gordon was disrupting team chemistry. I wouldn't mind a player that doesn't contribute that much if opponents think that he's better than he actually is and allows other receivers to get more open. Whether opponents will still treat him as such is another matter.

60 he looked very good in Seattle,

what we fleetingly saw of him. One catch he made almost every Seahawk fan agreed was the catch of the year. Yet he was suspended again, almost immediately. I like him, but I really don’t want to count on him at all.

39 This is where having a truly great offense might hurt a defense:

This is where having a truly great offense might hurt a defense.  I'd be interested to see how many 4th down attempts Seattle has had to defend.  They had two 4th downs they had to defend in the 1st half against the Vikings, and the Falcons went for it 4 times against the Seahawks... 3 of them in situations where nobody really would have been surprised if they kicked.

Back in the day of the Chip Kelly Oregon Ducks you would see teams adopt "we don't kick" strategies.  They just assumed they had to score a TD on every drive because field position didn't matter.

I wonder if putting a legitimately average offensive performance on tape will slow down the 4th down conversion attempts. 

43 They've faced 9 (plus a fake…

They've faced 9 (plus a fake punt, but the regular defense wasn't on the field for that), so pretty high, but it's more than made up for the excellent field position that they get because of the offense (and the punt team). They get given the best starting field position, and the offense has the 2nd-best starting field position because of all the turnovers the defense causes.

63 Indeed.

...and this doesn't bode well for division play in the NFC West.  Live by the TO, die by the (lack of) TO.

 

 

20 Guess there will be a change

TEN will be significantly higher after stomping the Bills, who looked like last year’s Allen without last year’s defence.

21 Aaron mentioned the 2010…

Aaron mentioned the 2010 Bears game vs Carolina, which prompted me to look it up...

Here's the combined performance of the 4 QBs who played in that game (*TRIGGER WARNING*):

22/51, 147 yds; 8 sacks for 56 yards; 0 TDs, 7 INTs, and a fumble

Nathan Peterman, eat your heart out!

23 That 2010 Bears team…

That 2010 Bears team featured the winning combination of Mike Martz and a terrible offensive line. The week before that Carolina game, Cutler got sacked 9 times in the first half vs. the Giants and a concussion. So that's how Todd Collins ended up out there for the Bears.

I don't totally remember the arc of how the Bears stabilized things on offense (they still finished the season 28th in offensive DVOA; Cutler was 26th), but I guess Martz at least figured out he needed to do something differently to avoid murdering his QBs.

24 rules rewrite

How many DYAR for the Derrick Henry stiff arm? 

25 Green Bay has an excellent…

Green Bay has an excellent offense, terrible defense...  okay, seems like a classic 2010s Packers team here... what's this, 8th in special teams!? WTF is happening here. I'm used to ST costing us a trip to the Super Bowl, not being an asset!

28 It appears GB's worst…

It appears GB's worst individual special teams unit so far is the punt team, and with how well the offense has played they've even managed to mitigate that by only punting 7 times in 4 games. Complementary football!

26 That 1991 Detroit team had a…

That 1991 Detroit team had a lot in common with this Cleveland team. They too were being dragged down by a week 1 annihilation (is this still the worst DVOA game ever?).

Said Detroit team ran into said Washington team again in the CCG. Results were similar.

30 Worst DVOA Game Ever

I don't feel like looking up the exact number right now, it's something like -150%, but this is the worst game ever, Pittsburgh 51-0 loss to Cleveland in 1989 Week 1:

https://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/198909100pit.htm

34 Cleveland made the…

Cleveland made the Championship game for a 3rd time in 4 years in 1989, didn't they? This time under Bud Carson after Schottenheimer went to KC.

The Steelers lost badly again in week 2 - think it was 41-10.  Then somehow rebounded to make the playoffs with 9-6-1 (?) record with a final week victory over the Oilers. Then met them again the following week in the wild card.   

Jerry Glanville was at his peak pissing off Chuck Noll with unsportsmanlike antics. The division was rounded out with the Sam Wyche's "You don't live in Cleveland" speech animating the fans as they tumbled after their SB appearance. 

Ahh fond memories of the AFC Central ...

45 Pretty close. Houston met…

Pretty close. Houston met the Steelers in the WC and lost; Cleveland won the division at 9-6-1. Beat the Bills, lost to the Broncos.

The secret to getting to the CCG seems to be getting the snot beaten out of you in week 1.

31 DVOA updated for Tuesday night

DVOA on free stats pages is now updated for Tuesday night. Tennessee climbs to No. 10 and Buffalo falls to No. 15. Playoff odds are also updated. FO+ database and snap counts will be updated soon.

48 With the release of LeVeon Bell

I see the most likely teams for him to end up playing for, such as CHI / TB / PIT.  I wonder though with the injury history of Carson, Penny and now Hyde missing time if he might make sense to chase a ring with SEA?

I have no desire to replace Carson but he hasn't played 16 yet,  Penny hasn't been durable at all and I cringe every time Homer takes a snap in a crucial situation.  He picked up a blitz from MIN on Sunday night to allow the 4&10 conversion, but it remains that having someone like Bell could help keep the opposing defense honest.

Not to mention, play keep away from other NFC contenders. (Glares at LAR)

edit:  So, the Chiefs.  At least not in the NFC.