The New Orleans Saints' Sunday night slaughter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was big. Really big. Probably even bigger than you think it was. It was so big that the Saints jump up six spots to reign as the new No. 1 in Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings.
According to DVOA, the Saints' victory on Sunday night was the best single game played by any team since I launched Football Outsiders in 2003. After opponent adjustments, it's the best game of the century. It's the fifth-best single game ever measured by DVOA going back to 1985.
|Best Single-Game DVOA, 1985-2020|
Those ratings are based on end-of-season opponent adjustments, by the way, and eventually the Saints' rating for Sunday night will be based on end-of-season adjustments as well. That might knock it down a couple pegs if Tampa Bay doesn't play as well in the second half of the 2020 season, but the point stands: this was a massive, ultra-dominant victory. The Saints' total DVOA went up over 11 percentage points from 20.4% to 31.7%.
Opponent adjustments mean that the loss wasn't as bad for Tampa Bay as it was good for New Orleans, but it was really bad. Tampa Bay's total DVOA went down from 39.3% to 27.6% in one week. As noted in this week's Any Given Sunday column, this was the biggest drop ever for a No. 1 DVOA team in Week 8 or later. I searched through all the historical data, and Tampa Bay's single-game DVOA of -109.7% looks like it was the worst ever put up by any team coming off a week at No. 1. You can probably ignore the Week 17 games on this list, which featured teams that had clinched their playoff seeds and were resting starters.
|Worst Single-Game DVOA by No. 1 Team, 1985-2020|
You might be surprised to see that Tampa Bay, despite this horrendous performance on Sunday night, is still No. 2 in the DVOA ratings. The Buccaneers had a long, long way to drop from two weeks ago when they were No. 1 with 45.0% DVOA and over 12 percentage points separating them from the rest of the league. The DVOA system is still impressed by the rest of their performance this year, especially the big win over Green Bay. No matter how badly the Buccaneers got destroyed on Sunday night, that Green Bay win still happened. And yet, even if we take away both the Green Bay win and the New Orleans loss, the Bucs average 31.4% DVOA in their other seven games. Our system really likes this team this year. I don't know why we have Tampa Bay higher than other advanced metrics on the Internet, but last time I was worried about this same thing, Tampa went out and stomped all over Green Bay and made DVOA look pretty good. So, this is just how it is. Tampa Bay remains No. 1 in defense this week because Pittsburgh's defense declined a little bit as well. On offense, Tampa Bay drops from sixth to 13th.
After New Orleans and Tampa Bay comes Kansas City at No. 3, up one spot from last week. If you asked me subjectively which team I thought was the best in the NFL right now, I would say Kansas City, and I know that other advanced metrics do have them at No. 1. DVOA has them a bit lower because their defense and special teams come out close to average. Pittsburgh drops two spots to No. 4 with a close win over Dallas.
Then we have Baltimore, dropping from third to fifth, and Indianapolis, dropping from fifth to sixth, after a game between the two teams that was closer than the final score. Indianapolis gained 5.2 yards per play to only 4.2 yards per play for Baltimore, although some of that was on a final drive to nowhere where the Colts went 63 yards in the final two minutes but couldn't score and it wouldn't have mattered anyway since they were down by two touchdowns. Getting rid of drives like this or counting them differently is definitely on the to do list for the next iteration of DVOA.
Some of the big movement on the DVOA table was a lot bigger in terms of percentage points than it was in terms of ranking. Seattle drops from 22.8% to 16.3% after losing to Buffalo, but that's only two spots in the rankings to eighth. Buffalo moves up from 2.1% to 6.9%, but that only takes the Bills from 14th to 13th.
Another thing you'll notice if you look at the table below is that it's a bit different from years past because usually we introduce Weighted DVOA after Week 9. New in 2020, however, we're continuing our DAVE metric later into the year, incorporating our preseason projections all the way until 13 games have been played. Right now, you'll still find DAVE below instead of Weighted DVOA. However, if you want to see both DAVE and Weighted DVOA, you can check out the DVOA database in FO+.
There aren't a lot of teams with a big difference between full-season DVOA and weighted DVOA at this point, although a few stand out. Here are the seven teams where there's a difference of more than 2.0% between full-season DVOA and weighted DVOA after Week 9:
|Biggest Gaps Between Total and Weighted DVOA|
Where is the improvement coming from for Miami, and the decline for New England and Jacksonville? Since we've reached the halfway point of the season, I figured this was a good time to see how teams have changed over the year so far. For each team, I've run their offensive and defensive DVOA for the first and second quarters of the season. For most teams, that comparison is Weeks 1-4 vs. Weeks 5-9. For the two teams that had byes in Week 4, Pittsburgh and Tennessee, the split is Weeks 1-5 vs. Weeks 6-9.
It would be easier if I could just call this "September" and "October," but of course the first quarter of the season ended in the first week of October and the second quarter went two weekends into November, so never mind that.
Let's start with the team that stands out on both sides of the ball: Miami. On offense, the Dolphins have improved from 25th in the first four games to 10th in their last four games. However, that's not because it is Tua Time. The Weeks 5-9 offense for the Dolphins breaks down to 20.4% with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback (Weeks 5-6) and -3.1% with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback (Weeks 8-9). And Miami's defense has improved even more than Miami's offense. The Miami defense was dead last in DVOA for the first four weeks and ranks seventh in DVOA since.
The other team that stands out on both sides of the ball, and not in a good way, is New England. On offense, New England ranked 19th in the first four games but has dropped to 29th in the four games since. On defense, New England ranked 17th in the first four games but has dropped to dead last in the four games since.
The biggest offensive improvement between the first and second quarters of the season belongs to the Arizona Cardinals, who went from 24th on offense in Weeks 1-4 to third on offense in Weeks 5-9. Since Week 5, the only two offenses that have been better by DVOA are Tennessee and Kansas City. Other offenses that have jumped in the second quarter of the year are the Chargers, from 21st to eighth; the Giants, who have gone from 31st to 21st; and the Eagles, who have gone from dead last to 22nd.
One offense has gone very strongly in the other direction. Remember Week 1 when Jacksonville upset Indianapolis and Gardner Minshew was 19-of-20 with three touchdowns and no interceptions? That was clearly Jacksonville's best game of the year but the Jaguars still had positive offensive DVOA the next four weeks. Then things took a downturn, although the Jaguars bounced back a little bit above zero with Jake Luton on Sunday. So in total, the Jaguars went from fourth in offensive DVOA for Weeks 1-4 to 27th in Weeks 5-9. That's where the big Jacksonville drop comes from in the table above, since their defense has consistently been near the bottom of the league all year.
Other offenses that have fallen a bit in the last few weeks include Tampa Bay (from seventh to 18th), Cleveland (from 12th to 23rd), and of course Dallas without Dak Prescott (from 16th to dead last).
However, just to demonstrate how fickle these four-week splits are, I would have mentioned Buffalo's offense if I had written this last week. The Bills offense went from 19.5% DVOA in Weeks 1-4 (sixth) to -5.2% DVOA in Weeks 5-8 (21st). Then the Bills bounced back to 25.9% DVOA this week against Seattle, even after adjusting for the Seahawks' poor defense.
On to defense. I already mentioned the Miami Dolphins, who have had the most impressive defensive improvement in the last few weeks. Other defenses that have improved significantly are Cleveland (from 26th to 15th) and the Los Angeles Rams (from 19th to eighth).
Defenses that have gone the other way, besides New England, start with the injury-riddled San Francisco 49ers, who ranked fourth in defense in the first four games but have dropped to 23rd since Week 5. The other defenses that have gotten worse in the second part of the season belong to the two New York teams, with the Giants going from 12th to 28th and the Jets going from 11th to 30th.
Speaking of the New York Jets and their odds of going winless this season, here's an update on all the quirky odds I started tracking last week. However, with San Francisco, Arizona and Seattle all losing non-division games, I'm going to retire listing the NFC West props after this week.
- New York Jets go 0-16: 11.7% (up from 8.8%)
- Pittsburgh goes 16-0: 5.0% (barely up from 4.9%; their win over Dallas was highly probable according to last week's simulation)
- Entire NFC West makes the playoffs: 0.6% (down from 2.4%)
- Entire NFC West has a winning record: 6.3% (down from 17.2%)
- Entire NFC East has a losing record: 68.8% (up from 62.2%)
- Entire NFC East is 6-9-1 or worse: 31.5% (up from 26.2%)
- Entire NFC East is 5-10-1 or worse: 4.6% (up from 3.7%)
* * * * *
* * * * *
These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through nine 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 90% strength; they will finally reach full strength next week.
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 36% preseason forecast for teams with nine games played and 45% preseason forecast for teams with eight 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).