Tampa Bay stays on top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings after Week 7. In fact, Tampa's 45-20 win over Las Vegas came out as their second-best game of the year so far (59.7%) and increased the gap between the Buccaneers and the rest of the NFL.
Last week, I wrote that Tampa Bay ranked 28th in DVOA history through Week 6. Well, the Buccaneers moved up a bit this week, which means it is time to break out this table again:
|BEST DVOA THROUGH 7 GAMES, 1985-2020|
Baltimore and Pittsburgh are next behind Tampa Bay, getting ready for their big matchup coming this Sunday. The Ravens move up a little bit on their week off thanks to changes in opponent adjustments, while Pittsburgh moves down a little bit from a close game with Tennessee. Kansas City moves up to No. 4 after beating Denver, primarily because of a boost in special teams from Byron Pringle's kick return touchdown. The Chiefs defense didn't actually improve in DVOA because that kind of great defensive performance is what we expect teams to have against the Broncos this season. After Kansas City, we've got Indianapolis as surprising fifth and then New Orleans sixth.
Then comes the best division in football, the NFC West. The Los Angeles Rams are up to seventh this week, the San Francisco 49ers are up to eighth, and the Seattle Seahawks drop to ninth. Arizona is now 11th, with Green Bay in between. That's all four NFC West teams in the top 11.
There's a lot of interest in whether the entire NFC West can make the playoffs. The biggest barrier is going to be the New Orleans Saints, and either the Bucs or the Saints end up with a wild card in roughly two-thirds of our simulations. The entire NFC West makes the playoffs in only 4.8% of our simulations. Other possibilities:
- Entire NFC West has a winning record: 38.4%
- Entire NFC East has a losing record: 63.1%
- Entire NFC East is 6-9-1 or worse: 26.4%
- Entire NFC East is 5-10-1 or worse: 3.8%
- Entire NFC West has a winning record and entire NFC East has a losing record: 25.9%
A quick digression on the NFC East: Washington now has the best DVOA in the NFC East at No. 21 after a 25-3 spanking of Dallas. San Francisco and Washington got big ratings for their wins over New England and Dallas, respectively, but their positive ratings weren't as strong as the negative ratings for the losing teams. New England's loss to San Francisco is now rated as the worst single game of the year (-106.9%) and Dallas' loss to Washington is rated as the second-worst game (-102.8%), with both games surpassing Cleveland's huge losses to Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Returning to the NFC West: Not only is the entire division in the top 11 overall, but the entire division is in the top 11 for offense specifically. And three of the four teams are in the top 11 on defense as well. Seattle is the clear exception, second in offense and 28th in defense.
Just how imbalanced are the Seahawks? Normally, we get a team's total DVOA by subtracting defense from offense. Because defense is better when it is negative, that gives us the best teams overall. But instead, let's look at each team's balance between offense and defense by adding offense and defense. This will give us a "game offense" rating where the highest teams will be playing games with a lot of offense (they are good at offense, bad at defense). So Seattle has a "game offense" rating of 29.9%, Las Vegas of 27.6%, and so on. Here are the top five:
|Top 5 "Game Offense" DVOA, 2020|
Now, here's the thing: Seattle's game offense rating of 29.9% isn't very high at all. In the new version of DVOA we debuted this year, going back to 1999, there are 27 teams that ended the year with a "game offense" rating above 30%. That's more than one team per year. This was more common at the beginning of the decade, but in recent years both the 2017 Patriots and the 2018 Chiefs were more imbalanced in favor of offense than this year's Seahawks. And being this imbalanced doesn't stop you from winning games as long as your offense is strong enough. Twenty of these 27 teams made the playoffs, and five of them made it to the Super Bowl, although only the 2006 Colts won a championship. Notice that four of the five teams on this table for 2020 have winning records.
What about the flip of this, teams with a very strong defense but not a very strong offense? It turns out we have those teams this year as well, and with a stronger effect than the all-offense teams. Washington is currently 29th on offense and fifth on defense, adding up to a "game offense" rating of -40.7%. Denver is also pretty extreme. Here are the bottom five teams in game offense:
|Bottom 5 "Game Offense" DVOA, 2020|
Unlike Seattle and other offense-first teams, Washington does turn out to be historically imbalanced right now. Only seven teams since 1999 have a game offense rating lower than this year's Washington Football Team. Three of those teams are recent, including last year's Pittsburgh Steelers and both Arizona and Buffalo from 2018.
We saw most of the offense-first teams made the playoffs, so what about these defense-first teams? Turns out they are mostly awful. Last year's Steelers (8-8) are the only one of the teams with game offense rating of -40% or lower to go better than 6-10. It's an interesting mix: most of these defense-first teams were bad but the few that were really good overall tended to win the Super Bowl. There are 34 teams from 1999 to 2019 with a game offense index of -30% or lower. Only eight of those 34 teams made it to the postseason. Yet half of those teams that made the playoffs went on to win the Super Bowl: 2000 Ravens, 2002 Buccaneers, 2008 Steelers, and 2015 Broncos. All four of those teams were either No. 1 in defense or close to it. The moral of the story may be that if you put together a team built mostly around defense, that defense better be really, really good.
As for the most balanced team in the league so far, that would be the Dallas Cowboys, with the closest game offense to zero at 1.2%. The Cowboys are terrible on both offense and defense! In honor of the Cowboys, let's finish up today with two remarkable historical comparisons for the two great historical franchises that had horrible games in Week 7.
The Dallas Cowboys are now at -26.0% DVOA after seven games. The last time they had a DVOA this bad after more than six games was 1990. The last time they had a DVOA this bad after even just two games was 2001, when they were at -32.1% after Week 5.
The New England Patriots are now at -20.8% DVOA after six games. The last time they had a DVOA this bad after more than six games was 1995. The last time they had a DVOA this bad after even just two games was 2008, when they were at -21.8% after Week 6.
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A couple more housekeeping notes this week. First, we've introduced a new, often requested view in the FO+ database. The "DVOA as of a Specific Week" view now can be filtered by either offense or defense to see pass/run splits from the past! These new pass/run splits show what DVOA would have looked like at a specific point in history with the current version of DVOA (so scrambles are pass plays) and opponent adjustments as they would have looked at the time. Right now, these tables go back to 2005, but eventually they will be filled all the way back to 1985.
Here's an example: 2007 offense as of Week 8, when the undefeated Patriots were at their apex before declining in the second half of the year.
We've also made a change this week in how we figure the playoff odds report. We've always known that our results were a bit conservative, but frankly they seemed a bit too conservative. Analyzing the last ten years, it looks like we can get more accurate results by rescaling DAVE/DVOA each week so that the standard deviation matches the standard deviation of the full-season ratings. This adjustment gets smaller with each week because as the preseason projection becomes a smaller part of DAVE, the scale of the ratings gets closer to the scale of full-season ratings.
The difference isn't huge, but it does make a difference. The gap between the best teams and the worst teams is now larger. The top teams end up with about 0.5 more mean wins over the course of the simulations. The New York Jets end up with fewer wins and a higher chance of earning the No. 1 pick by about 6%. However, the Jets only end up 0-16 in 6.7% of simulations. It's still much more likely that they will somehow stumble their way into winning a game or two.
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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through seven 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 70% 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 50% preseason forecast for teams with seven games played and 55% preseason forecast for teams with six 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>
- 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).