Tom Brady

2021 DVOA Projections Predict Bucs-Chiefs Rematch

Here are our DVOA projections for 2021, updated from the season forecasts in Football Outsiders Almanac 2021.

For those new to our website, you can find an explanation of DVOA here. Note that there's a big difference between DVOA and projected DVOA. The DVOA ratings that appear on the website during the season are based on the actual play-by-play that happens during the season, with no future projection whatsoever. The numbers here are a forecast, with offense, defense, and special teams DVOA all projected separately using a system based on looking at trends for teams going back to 2003. Our system starts by considering the team's DVOA over the past three seasons and, on offense, a separate projection for the starting quarterback. Then we look at a number of other variables which suggest when a team will be better or worse than would otherwise be expected due to standard regression towards the mean. Factors include major offseason personnel changes, coaching experience, recent draft history, combined tenure on the offensive line, and certain players returning from injury (or, in the case of these updates, certain players getting injured in the preseason).

The numbers we are presenting here are exactly what the projection system spit out. As we say every year: "A few of them will look strange to you. A few of them look strange to us." As always, the offensive projections come out in a wider range than defensive projections because offense performance tends to be easier to predict (and more consistent from year to year) than defensive performance. If you are looking for subjective projections, Thursday we will be running our usual staff predictions article where we all talk about where we think the numbers are wrong.

We've also done our first full playoff odds report simulation based on these updated DVOA projections, and I've added the playoff odds and Super Bowl championship odds to the table below. At the start of a new season, our simulation is very conservative about the average number of wins and losses expected for each team. Obviously, the NFL is going to have teams that are 12-5 or better, and it is going to have teams that are 5-12 or worse. It may seem like our simulation predicts half the league to be near .500, but we know that won't happen. We also use a "dynamic" playoff odds simulation. Each time it plays through the season, it adds 1.5% to the DVOA of every winner and subtracts 1.5% from the DVOA of every loser before moving on to the next week's games. This reflects the fact that DVOA projections are just estimates, and actual performance during the season gives us better knowledge of how good or bad teams really are.

Personnel changes aren't the only difference between this updated simulation and the one we did for Football Outsiders Almanac 2021. This is a smaller simulation which only uses one set of mean projected DVOA ratings, rather than using 1,000 different sets of ratings to represent that some teams have a wider range of probable performance quality than others. Usually, this smaller simulation ends up more conservative than the simulation we do for the book. This year, surprisingly, it ended up less conservative, and the best teams are now listed with higher mean win projections and higher chances to win the Super Bowl. I'm not sure why that is and we'll definitely look into it before doing next year's simulations.

The odds of getting the No. 1 pick listed below (and listed on the playoff odds report page) do not incorporate traded picks. Projected division champions are colored in light yellow and projected wild-card teams are colored in light purple.

TB 20.7% 1 11.9 15.1% 3 -6.6% 4 -1.0% 27 -3.1% 30 <0.1% 88.4% 18.1%
KC 20.7% 2 11.5 22.4% 1 2.8% 21 1.1% 5 0.4% 15 <0.1% 84.9% 16.9%
GB 17.0% 3 10.5 16.8% 2 -1.2% 13 -1.0% 28 2.9% 4 0.2% 74.7% 10.0%
BAL 14.6% 4 10.5 5.7% 10 -5.3% 8 3.6% 2 1.7% 7 0.2% 72.7% 8.9%
BUF 10.7% 5 10.5 4.5% 11 -6.3% 5 -0.1% 15 -2.9% 28 0.2% 73.4% 6.6%
SEA 10.2% 6 9.9 11.8% 4 2.0% 17 0.4% 10 0.1% 17 0.4% 63.0% 4.8%
LAR 7.9% 7 9.4 7.4% 5 -2.0% 12 -1.5% 30 1.5% 12 0.5% 54.6% 3.3%
SF 7.3% 8 9.8 1.3% 13 -6.8% 2 -0.7% 23 -1.7% 24 0.6% 60.1% 3.7%
DAL 5.6% 9 9.4 6.7% 7 1.2% 16 0.1% 13 -1.0% 20 0.7% 60.4% 3.3%
MIN 5.1% 10 8.9 6.1% 9 -0.6% 15 -1.6% 31 2.1% 5 1.1% 48.3% 2.4%
NE 4.7% 11 9.8 -5.9% 23 -6.7% 3 4.0% 1 -3.6% 32 0.5% 62.6% 3.4%
NO 4.6% 12 9.1 -1.4% 17 -5.0% 9 1.0% 6 0.1% 16 0.7% 51.5% 2.4%
PIT 4.6% 13 8.7 -3.8% 20 -8.5% 1 -0.1% 16 3.6% 2 0.9% 45.2% 2.2%
DEN 3.0% 14 9.3 -0.8% 16 -4.7% 10 -0.9% 26 -1.7% 23 0.8% 52.0% 2.3%
CLE 2.5% 15 8.7 7.3% 6 4.1% 27 -0.7% 22 1.7% 8 1.1% 43.8% 1.7%
MIA 1.8% 16 9.3 1.2% 14 -1.1% 14 -0.5% 19 -3.1% 29 0.8% 53.0% 2.1%
ARI -1.0% 17 8.1 2.0% 12 2.3% 18 -0.7% 24 0.8% 13 2.1% 34.0% 1.1%
WAS -1.7% 18 7.9 -8.2% 27 -5.8% 6 0.7% 7 1.6% 10 2.2% 37.1% 1.0%
CHI -2.9% 19 7.3 -7.6% 26 -5.3% 7 -0.6% 21 4.4% 1 3.3% 25.8% 0.6%
TEN -3.0% 20 8.4 6.6% 8 8.4% 32 -1.2% 29 -2.1% 26 1.8% 48.9% 1.2%
LV -3.1% 21 7.9 0.2% 15 3.1% 22 -0.3% 17 1.5% 11 2.4% 31.5% 0.7%
IND -3.6% 22 8.3 -8.5% 29 -4.6% 11 0.4% 11 -1.9% 25 1.7% 46.0% 1.2%
CIN -7.2% 23 7.2 -5.0% 21 4.1% 26 2.0% 3 2.1% 6 4.4% 23.0% 0.4%
LAC -8.0% 24 7.2 -1.4% 18 3.8% 24 -2.8% 32 1.6% 9 4.4% 22.1% 0.3%
NYG -8.7% 25 7.1 -5.9% 22 2.5% 20 -0.3% 18 0.6% 14 5.0% 23.9% 3.0%
DET -8.8% 26 6.6 -3.2% 19 6.7% 30 1.2% 4 3.5% 3 6.4% 17.0% 0.2%
PHI -10.5% 27 7.0 -6.2% 24 3.5% 23 -0.8% 25 -1.0% 21 6.6% 23.3% 0.3%
ATL -10.8% 28 7.0 -6.8% 25 4.1% 25 0.1% 12 -0.5% 18 5.4% 18.9% 0.2%
CAR -11.0% 29 6.9 -8.5% 28 2.4% 19 0.0% 14 -0.6% 19 5.7% 18.8% 0.2%
JAX -16.2% 30 6.0 -9.4% 30 7.5% 31 0.6% 8 -3.1% 31 8.7% 21.6% 0.2%
NYJ -22.1% 31 5.6 -15.6% 31 5.9% 28 -0.5% 20 -1.3% 22 15.7% 7.7% <0.1%
HOU -22.4% 32 5.7 -16.7% 32 6.0% 29 0.4% 9 -2.5% 27 15.4% 11.6% <0.1%

One thing that's interesting: usually, every team ends up with at least 0.1% chance of winning the Super Bowl and at least 0.1% chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick. Perhaps it is an additional game providing more space between the best and worst teams, but this year we have some exceptions. The Jets and Texans won the Super Bowl each in fewer than 50 of our 50,000 simulations, while the Chiefs and Buccaneers won the No. 1 overall draft pick in fewer than 50 simulations.

In general, our forecast each year will "project" the playoffs to look very similar to the playoffs from the year before. (Obviously, we're projecting probabilities here rather than a clear dichotomy where certain teams are playoff teams and other teams are not.) This year, we are projecting five new playoff teams: Denver, Miami, and New England in the AFC as well as Dallas and San Francisco in the NFC. Remember that some of the teams at the bottom of our projections are going to surprise and make the playoffs. Last year, our last-place team in the projections was Washington, and they ended up winning the NFC East. Sure they only won one more game than our mean projection of 6.0 wins, but they did make the postseason!

Four teams have improved their projected mean DVOA by at least 2.5% since the simulation we ran for the book, and four teams have declined by at least 2.5%. Let's take a look at those teams, beginning with the four teams that have improved:

  • For Kansas City, most of the improvement here is in the offensive projection, which was already the best in the league and is now even stronger. There are a set of variables regarding offensive line play which try to balance out offensive line continuity (which is good) and youth on the offensive line (which, it turns out, is also good). Kansas City already had no continuity but our projected lineup for the Chiefs looks a lot younger now with Creed Humphrey, Trey Smith and Lucas Niang starting. The projected defense is also a little bit younger than we thought it would be, which is a tiny bump for the defensive projection. Kansas City not only improves in DVOA but also becomes our AFC favorite because of the decline of Baltimore, which I'll get to below.
  • Green Bay improves a little bit in all three phases of the game. The offensive projection likes the addition of Randall Cobb. The defensive improves... by not doing anything. Because a few teams lost significant defenders in the preseason, the whole league shifts a little bit and the other teams get a little better so that the league average stays at zero. The special teams projection improves because the Packers were very bad punting last year -- that's the part of special teams that is most stable from year to year -- and now they have a new punter, Corey Bojorquez.
  • Denver improves because they named Teddy Bridgewater the starting quarterback.
  • Arizona improves because of changes on the projected offensive line.

And the four teams that declined since the book:

  • New Orleans improves and declines. The Saints improve because Jameis Winston was named as the starting quarterback. However, that improvement is balanced by the injury to Michael Thomas. In addition, the Saints take a hit because they won't be playing a full season of home games. Teams that play neutral-site games instead of home games generally end up with lower DVOA. It's likely that Hurricane Ida will force the Saints to play at least two games at neutral sites, with the full amount still to be determined. (This variable also hurts the Falcons and Jaguars.)
  • Houston added a ton of veteran free agents in the offseason, which means the Texans actually did reasonably well in the variables that measure personnel changes (especially on defense). They jettisoned a number of those players in the last few weeks, which means that essentially we overestimated their defensive personnel in the book and have a more accurate handle on it now. Also, they take a hit from trading away Cobb.
  • Baltimore lost J.K. Dobbins. I know, he's just a running back, but there's a variable based on net DYAR lost/gained compared to the previous year at positions other than quarterback, and Dobbins was sixth in rushing DYAR last season.
  • Indianapolis lost value due to the injury to T.Y. Hilton and the fact that Eric Fisher and Quenton Nelson may not be ready to start the year.


90 comments, Last at 10 Sep 2021, 10:15pm

1 Buffalo

The Bills are getting dinged by that three-year look-back period. There's no reason to expect that the offense will be 11th in DVOA after what we saw out of them throughout 2020. I'm sure a few other teams fit into this category—heck, Tampa Bay might be one, given that only one of those three years includes Tom Brady—but I can't think of any off the top of my head. (Heck, maybe the Jets, now that they've gotten rid of Adam Gase.) Anyone got any suggestions?

4 I am not a Josh Allen hater…

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

I am not a Josh Allen hater or anything. 

I will maintain however, that its not preordained that Allen will  improve or even stay just as good as he was. There is a loooong list of QBs that flirted with MVP level play and never returned to that level again. I am not predicting this outcome for Allen, but I truly believe right now without having seen him play a snap of 2021 football, there is an equal probability(at least to me) that he declines to a Jimmy G/Kirk Cousins level player and stays more or less the same player he was in 2020. There is also a small probability that he hits the extremes in either direction. (Basically a recap of Tanier's article).

I think Bills fans can be optimistic while also being realistic about what could happen. This isnt the same thing as predicting Mahomes will turn into Jamarcus Russell. 

7 Fair

But if you think the odds of progression and regression are about equal, it still means the Bills are being dinged, since the inputs are two to one (2018 and 2019 vs. 2010) in favor of regression. 

15 Actually, not

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

The three years don't count equally. Last year counts for about twice as much as 2018-2019 combined.

50 Really?

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

That seems like a lot. Reasoning behind it? 65-35?

67 Massive turnover on NFL…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Massive turnover on NFL rosters likely resulting in less continuity from year-to-year.

I'm sure they determined that the prior year is 50% predictive, two years prior is 15% predictive and three years is 5%. Something like that. 

84 What did McCarthy say on…

What did McCarthy say on Hard Knocks - there were 27 new faces on the team compared to last year.  I assume that included the 16-man practice squad.  So 27 / (53+16) = 39% turnover in one year!

16 To be honest, that result…

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

To be honest, that result probably implies that the probabilities are slanted negatively toward Allen's next year's play.

There just aren't a lot of career examples like Josh Allen's. The closest one that comes to mind is Drew Brees which I guess bodes well, but I can understand the hesitancy drawing conclusions off of a very small sample of players.

I think even if Josh Allen declines, I like the coaching staff and overall talent. The problem is the bills have now left plucky feel good wild card team story to contender and once you're in that zone even small steps back start to feel prohibitive. Trust me I know the feeling

19 Going back to 1990, I see 17…

Going back to 1990, I see 17 QB's (prior to Allen) who had their first monstrous, MVP-type season by the time they turned 26 years old:

Troy Aikman (1992) - He was probably roughly as good the following year.

Brett Favre (1995) - Actually won the MVP again the next year.

Peyton Manning (1999) - Was probably better the next year.

Daunte Culpepper (2000) - regressed a bit for a couple years, then had one more huge year.

Drew Brees (2004) - he regressed a little bit the year after

Carson Palmer (2005) - slight regression for a few years

Philip Rivers (2006) - slight regression for one  year

Aaron Rodgers (2009) - roughly the same, but won a Super Bowl

Matt Stafford (2011) - slight regression

Robert Griffin (2012) - got hurt, was never nearly as good again

Russell Wilson (2013) - has been roughly as good his whole career (side note: has he had the most consistently good career ever?  The difference between his best and worst seasons is miniscule.)

Andrew Luck (2014) - got injured, and was not good

Cam Newton (2015) - regressed

Dak Prescott (2016) - regressed

Jared Goff (2017) - slight improvement

Patrick Mahomes (2018) - regressed, but still awesome

Lamar Jackson (2019) - regressed as a passer, but still provided a lot of total value due to running


I am going to say that 6 of them were about as good or better the following season.  Plus Lamar Jackson who was a worse passer, but his running was so good he still provided nearly as good value.





21 This list probably needs to…

This list probably needs to be culled down to QBs who put up MVP type seasons after showing so very little coming into that season. I wrote above, Drew Brees fits as a data point, but I guess so do Stafford, Aikman, and Goff. The rest I don't think fit much, if it at all. 

Really, the question isn't is Josh Allen going to return to his sophmore year level of play, but is he going to stay roughly the same, improve, or decline to some lesser tiered QB. The Bills' long term sb hopes really hinge on how this shakes out. 

34   Really, the question isn't…


Really, the question isn't is Josh Allen going to return to his sophmore year level of play, but is he going to stay roughly the same, improve, or decline to some lesser tiered QB. 

I mean, the list of the "worst QBs to land in the DYAR top 5" is still pretty darn good. Pretty much the only "total fluke" in the past 20 years was Case Keenum. Everyone else was absolutely someone you could build a Super Bowl team around (unless you're Cincinnati). 

36 The thing is, there is still…

The thing is, there is still a massive gap in the kind of team you become when your QB plays like a MVP contender and when he doesn't. I suspect both the Falcons and the Panthers have very different visions of the teams they would be after both of their QBs won MVP. Instead, those QBs(though still in varying degrees of good), never even got close to those heights again. 

51 You're confusing peak value…

You're confusing peak value for longevity. Just because one QB plays at a high level for 20 years and another for 10 doesn't mean you toss the short career guy. No one knows how long a QB's going to last anyway: you should always *plan* for the short career and adapt if needed.

Carolina isn't worth mentioning: Newton never really played at a top end level.

With Atlanta, it's not like Ryan had an MVP year and crap! They had plenty of time to build a championship team, and they nearly did, but they *totally* mismanaged the salary cap. 2016 was Ryan's best year, but of *course* almost any of his others were good enough too. Those were management failures.

53 I'm not suggesting you…

I'm not suggesting you should toss the short career guy. What I am suggesting is that the difference between a tier 3 and a tier 1 quarterback is pretty large and completely alters the amount of complimentary pieces you need to be a contender ( I won't include being a super bowl winner as the criteria because that's an unrealistic bar)

Compare Matt Ryan to Drew Brees. Many of his early to mid-2000s teams were either flawed or flat bad, including his sb winning team that relied on a lot of turnovers on defense. His presence meant the saints were making the playoffs a lot and effectively had more bites at the Apple than the falcons with Matt Ryan. You can chalk up the difference between the two teams on talent and coaching, but a non-trivial amount is because of Drew Brees himself himself.   

I truly believe a prime Peyton Manning could go to any franchise, literally any, and still find a way to make them respectable. That's something Matt Ryan could never do.

85 I'm not suggesting you…

I'm not suggesting you should toss the short career guy. What I am suggesting is that the difference between a tier 3 and a tier 1 quarterback is pretty large

Where did this come from? Are you seriously suggesting that mid-2010s Matt Ryan is a "tier 3" QB? Is this some weird number system where there's nothing between 1 and 3?

Literally the worst 3 QBs to land in the top 5 of DYAR, at least in my opinion, are Keenum (fluke), Dalton (here I could see "tier 3," but that's a bit revisionist), and Cousins (way less so than Dalton), and obviously there have been a ton more top 5 QBs than that. Even Goff landed just outside of top 5, and I still have no idea why everyone's burying Goff so quickly.

I truly believe a prime Peyton Manning could go to any franchise, literally any

Really? How exactly would prime Peyton Manning succeed on a team coached by Jeff Fisher, where he's basically not allowed to throw? Or on the late-2000s Browns, where jeez, a slight cut during practice could turn into a life-threatening staph infection? Both Brady and Manning succeeded on two teams because they chose the teams they were going to. And Brady and Manning both had very good relationships with both teams.

And obviously, Belichick without Brady still went 11-5, and even last year 7-9 isn't exactly the end of the world. Payton's record in the past two years without Brees is completely consistent with his record with Brees.

I just don't see any evidence that top QBs succeed everywhere. Recently that's hard to see because of that huge longevity we've had with coaches and QBs, and then these two examples where teams/owners were totally willing to throw money to the wind for championships. But there are plenty of historical examples. Marino, obviously. Kurt Warner. Carson Palmer. 

32   Russell Wilson (2013) -…


Russell Wilson (2013) - has been roughly as good his whole career (side note: has he had the most consistently good career ever?  The difference between his best and worst seasons is miniscule.)

His career numbers are very consistent but his in-season numbers aren't. Wilson has had a strikingly-obvious decline over the season for several years now. I mean, most QBs decline over the season, but nowhere near as much as Wilson does. Wilson you can fit a straight line to it (with really good chi-squared, too, actually) and see it by eye in PFR really easily.

Which, of course, leads to "Wilson for MVP" early in the season, and then "hey, why hasn't Wilson actually won an MVP?" when looking back.


38 I myself have never been a…

I myself have never been a Russell Wilson fan in the sense that his media cache and general narrative has him in a tier that I don't think he has ever been in. Basically, people are looking back and wondering how he never won an MVP. Well...that kind of comment is reasonable for someone like Drew Brees. But for Wilson, there have always been at least 1 or 2 Qbs doing things at a higher level. 


88 I don't really think that…

I don't really think that was it. The problem with 2019 is that again, Wilson tailed off during the year, and, well, MVP voting is at the end. First 9 games were at a 2.4 TDs and 0.1 INTs/game pace. Last 7 games were 1.3 TDs and 0.6 INTs/game pace. His first 9 games, he had an average QB rating of 120. Last 7? 92. That's not exactly bad, of course, and his full season numbers were fine, on average.

I mean, week 16, Wilson had that godawful trash game against the Cardinals (who were bad) that year. It's had to imagine voting a guy for MVP with one of your most recent images of him being that.  Especially when Lamar's like, averaging 3+ TDs/game over the same weeks.

39 I’m surprised the name …

I’m surprised the name “Scott Mitchell” doesn’t come up more with Allen. Ok ish as a backup on a talented offense, bad his first full year as a starter and then exploded the next season while playing with a great supporting cast. Then he was never close to that good again. There are some differences (Allen was a higher draft pick and is much more athletic), but I’d say the chances of him pulling a Mitchell are much higher than nil.

47 He didn't make my query,…

He didn't make my query, because he was 27 when he broke through.  And I arbitrarily limited my query to age 26 and under.  My intent was to compare Allen to other young QB's who had their first good season.


But he is an interesting comp to bring up.  I wonder if he is forgotten because his big season was 1995, before discussing NFL MVP's was a big deal (at least in my circles).

10 "There's no reason to expect…

In reply to by Tutenkharnage

"There's no reason to expect that the offense will be 11th in DVOA after what we saw out of them throughout 2020."

I mean... they were 5th last year. They weren't like, first by a bajillion or something.

The Rams went from 2nd in 2018 to 16th the next year. DVOA projections had them at 10.2% for 2019, which is a 15% drop from their 2018 value of 25% - a bigger regression than the prediction for Buffalo (which is only a 10% drop). And the Rams had a way better 2017 than the Bills 2019.

I don't see any reason to discount the fact that Allen struggled his first two years. Yeah, he improved a ton in the last year. Fantastic. Now let's see if he can adapt to defenses having an offseason to dissect his new behavior.

33 Eh, I could see them being…

Eh, I could see them being 11th. I could see them being first. People act like he didn't have any bad games last year, and he most certainly did, so I guess the real question is who improved more this year: Allen and Daboll or the DCs trying to stop them?

Plus, it's the NFL in the Pandemic era. He may be throwing to MacKenzie as his #1 with a couple of badly timed injures and COVID outbreaks.

This will be interesting when we see the end of the year follow-up article. Until then, well, yeah, the really significant number is the defensive one. If the team plays that well this year and Allen declines slightly, they're still a damn dangerous team.

37 The other thought I had…

The other thought I had. Even if he declines next year, do we still know what kind of QB he is? I guess if he stays the same or gets better, it will cement his status. But him declining opens this same conversation up, only the probabilities shift down a tier. 


48 It's interesting, even after…

It's interesting, even after Jared Goff put up back-to-back monster seasons, there was still a lot of skepticism about him.  Why has Allen mostly avoided it after just one season? 


In 2018, Goff had the terrible game against Chicago and the bad Super Bowl, so maybe those were big enough warning signs to keep people away?

73 I think it was assumed Goff…

I think it was assumed Goff was supposed to get to that level, so the surprise is his drop-off, not the good seasons.

Allen was pretty much derided as a disaster and the emergence was a huge surprise to the non-Buffalo parts of the world - and even to them, to a certain degree.

I only see mentions of a drop-off for Allen among the sports press - no real discussion that he'll continue at this level. It's a reasonable guess.

74 They did. All those same…

They did. All those same possible issues are there, but they're seen less often (mostly thankfully). Did 2007 Tom Brady mean that 2001 Tom Brady didn't exist? No, he got better. That's what coaching is supposed to do.

87 Well, 2007 Brady was…

Well, 2007 Brady was literally the pinnacle of his career, so if 2020 was the pinnacle of Allen's career, dropping by the same amount as Brady did (in 2009, when yes, he led the league again, but not by nearly as much)  would put him around Matt Ryan or Kirk Cousins. Teams whose passing offenses ended up ranked (drum roll) 13th and 11th.

I don't get this idea that "11th" is somehow "OMG they're being predicted as a crap offense when they clearly can't be." They were fifth last year. Yeah, Allen was great, but they couldn't rush worth a damn, and their ALY was totally middle of the pack. It's really really easy to see how they could struggle.

2 Questionable Predictions

DEN, DET, CIN offenses projected too high

TEN, BUF, LAC, IND offenses projected too low

CHI, DAL, HOU, DET defenses projected too high

LAR, LAC, CLE, TEN defenses projected too low

6 "DET defense projected too…

"DET defense projected too high"

They're projected as 30th, how much lower do you want them to be?  You would expect at least incremental improvement compared to last year from a dead cat bounce, and having Not-Matt Patricia as defensive coordinator.

9 Jeff Okudah getting a mean reversion alone

Would probably move the Lions into that 25-28 range. You catch a return to form for Flowers and Collins and the Lions could reasonably start flirting with cracking the top 20. Unlike the Texans who seem completely hopeless, the Lions at least have the ingredients to improve a bit if they get big coaching improvement. Getting a team like the 49ers out of the gate is a bad draw though since they are going to test the rushing defense in a big way. The rushing defense for the Lions was absolutely terrible last year.

31 I'd be happy with…

I'd be happy with improvement into the mid-20's and Okudah, at minimum, looking like a reasonable starter.

 "The rushing defense for the Lions was absolutely terrible last year."

Uh, the pass defense was even worse (32 compared to 27).  

69 Holy cow I just looked at that

How in the hell was Matt Patricia a defensive coach? That defense was an unmitigated disaster. I was on pfref and in awe of the fact that they gave up 27 rushing TDs and didn't take the time to check the DVOA breakdown of the defense. The 2020 Detroit defense was actually be worse than the 2016 Jim O'Neill 49ers defense. 

75 "How in the hell was Matt…

"How in the hell was Matt Patricia a defensive coach"

Good question.  Benefited from Belichick's reputation, I guess?  FO kept over-projecting the Lions defense in 2019 and 2020 because of turnover regression (the Patricia defenses couldn't force a turnover to save their lives), but Patricia was apparently positive regression-proof.

86 but Patricia was apparently…

but Patricia was apparently positive regression-proof.

So, to be clear, there are two ways that regression to the mean can happen. First, the variable that you're measuring is just flat out noisy and has no real intrinsic value. Like fumble recovery (at least, I think so).

Second, the variable that you're measuring can be driven back to the mean in the offseason, due to the overall "parity" forces in the NFL. Like, for instance, the salary cap, or talent through the draft. Or through offseason tendency study.

For instance, a long while ago Aaron said he studied whether 3rd down performance regression happened during the season - as in, if a team's great on third down for the first half of the season, do they regress or continue to be good for the rest of the season? And surprisingly it seemed as if they continued to be good - as in, the regression happened in the offseason. (I'm not sure if this is still true, or was just small sample-size, but just an example). Like, either the team studied what they were doing wrong (or other teams studied what they were doing right). And parity drives things back to the mean.

So it's not super-crazy to believe that a bad coach might not actually regress certain things back to the mean just because he's so bad he doesn't realize the fundamental problem.

5 Man, expectations for the…

Man, expectations for the Texans are supremely low. Like Miami starting Josh Rosen level low. I have more faith that Tyrod can lead the Texans above 2 wins than I guess most people are. I am even slightly bullish on them and expect they will win about 4 games. 

To that end, I am surprised WAS didn't consider Tyrod for their starting QB, who profiles better in the game manager, lean defense and run game qb than Fitz. 

To me, Fitz belongs on a team that's terrible and the coach is one lousy season away from being fired and needs some window dressing overachievement. Someone like the Bengals if Burrow wasn't there. Or maybe the Broncos if Teddy wasn't there. 

17 To that end, I am surprised…

To that end, I am surprised WAS didn't consider Tyrod for their starting QB,

Taylor doesn't exactly have a great recent injury record. Fitzpatrick's injury history is kinda remarkably clean for someone who's played as long as he has - he's missed a few games here and there, but generally always available.

Plus it's not an insane concern to worry about someone who hasn't really played significantly for 4 years. The game changes, after all, and Fitzpatrick's started 30 games in the span of time that Taylor's started 4.

18 Tyrod hasn't appeared to…

Tyrod hasn't appeared to even be at that "game manager" level since the 2017 Buffalo Miracle, in limited action.

Also, the whole "they were already a 4-12 team with DeCosby Watson, now replace him with Tyrod" thing, not to mention also subtracting Watt etc.

8 Obviously hard to disagree with the numbers...

But I can't see Tampa being as good this year. Between amazing injury luck last year, amazing play luck in the NFC playoffs (probably should have lost both the NO and GB games...), and Brady's age (there are guys 5 years younger than Tom who are washed/out of the league...) it's hard to see the Bucs being as good. The schedule should help and if its a top 5 D, they'll probably easily win the South, but the Bucs sure seem to have a lot of 'ifs'.

12 I think the Bucs were a…

I think the Bucs were a legitimately good team last year, with a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. Saying that they probably should have lost to  Green Bay and new orleans isn't really a slight when you realize both games were on the road and both were against very strong opponents. 

It's reasonable to expect regression from Tampa Bay, but I have enough confidence in their overall talent that they'll be fine even with a little slippage. The bigger issue is Tom Brady's age, which means a 2015 Peyton Manning season is always lurking.

13 Texans just traded Roby to NO

This team is confirmed tanking. They're gunning for the #1 pick in a weak QB class.

Also GB 30, BAL 28 in the SB. You heard it here first.

20 Well

GB 30, BAL 28 in the SB.

On the whole I'd be delighted with a Lamar appearance in the 'Bowl.  From the last Ravens appearance, I learned that the 2 weeks leading up, when your team is at the center of the sports world discussion, is wonderful all by itself.  More wonderful than the game itself, in some ways; or as wonderful, anyway.

But, it would be kinda shitty to have any "players like him can't win the Big One" whispers persist in any form.  Rodgers rep can handle a SB loss.  Lamar still gets skepticism.  I think it would be better for the world as a whole, and the NFL landscape in particular, if that score were reversed.

I say this as a completely neutral & impartial party.

28 The discussion is that great?

In reply to by JimZipCode

Well if someone is blaming/mocking Lamar for 4 TDs in the SB, they're just telling on themselves.

Although I can't deny the good it'd do. But Rodgers winning would help player empowerment a lot too.

35 I assume you are sick of the can't win the Big One argument Jim

In reply to by JimZipCode

I hate the argument so so much.  By my count, you can win it all with any of these guys listed below in the right circumstances.  I left out Watson.  Basically there are so few starting QB's in the NFL that give you virtually no chance at all of winning it all.  Lamar Jackson may never make it to the Super Bowl or win one, but if he leads the Ravens to the playoffs consistently year after year, his chances will be respectable. The guy can not carry the team on his back, he needs some help.  With Bateman out for now, the Ravens pass catchers are the ever familiar Mark Andrews, someone mediocre, presently Sammy Watkins (formerly known as Willie Snead or Jacoby Jones), Marquise Brown and Bozo the Clown times 3,4,5,6.

You have seen this winning formula many times.  theslothook knows that it is all about the Raven's secret sauce, try the secret sauce with any of the guys below and you may win the Super Bowl, at the very least you will make many playoff appearances.

Andrew Berry, Cleveland's GM has already taken the Browns from the depths of the dregs to mediocrity.  As a graduate of Bel Air, MD High School, he may already have stolen some of the secret sauce from Baltimore.

P. Mahomes

A. Rodgers

T. Brady

J. Allen

R. Tannehill

D. Carr

J. Herbert

K. Cousins

M. Ryan

R. Wilson

M. Stafford

K. Murray

B. Mayfield

B. Roethlisberger

T. Bridgewater

D. Prescott

J. Goff

R. Fitzpatrick

L. Jackson

C. Wentz

J Garoppolo

The five rookies drafted in the first round?  Maybe not this year, but in the future.

43 I'm also not sure if Rodgers…

I'm also not sure if Rodgers is the right dichotomy choice to pair with Lamar, since he has his own "well, he only has ONE Lombardi, that me-first diva" criticisms he gets heat for, deservedly or not.

In other words, as much as the Browns fan in me benefits from Lamar's 1-3 playoff record, it may be wrong to single him out, and just getting that first win (on the road vs. a TN team that bested his at BAL just weeks before, no less) cooled things off a bit.

44 I like to think the, "Can't…

I like to think the, "Can't win the big one" narrative has been slowly dying out. Especially when you see it being a thing with LeBron James and Peyton Manning and then watching it fall apart.

It appeals to a smaller and smaller segment of fans, but I get the sense that even mainstream sports journalists have moved on.

There's an episode of Columbo where he gives an explanation of what makes a good detective. Among his laundry list of traits, he emphasized luck and how important it is to be lucky. You can search hard and you probably won't find a single champion that didn't get lucky somewhere on the way, other than the 85 Bears I suppose.

54 I think it's still fairly…

I think it's still fairly alive and well with LeBron, if unfairly so, largely because almost constant, systemic superiority of the Western Conference led him to repeatedly make the finals out of the East only to get shellacked in the Finals (although it's absurd to imply that his being 4-6 in the Finals is worse than, say, 4-0 or 4-1, the fact that Kobe was 5-2, Duncan 5-1 and MJ 6-0 ends up being used against him.)

Perhaps more importantly, the "he needs help to win" knock took off, and supplemented that "can't win" knock, bcause he was basically the first to team with 2 elite UFAs who also had lots of prime left in MIA (the BOS big3 before was later-career and done by "fair" trades.) Of course, GS getting 4 prime all-stars was another level from that...


89 I think there's room to…

I think there's room to consider Kareem and/or Wilt above him, besides MJ.  Maybe Bill Russell. Although once you compare multiple-generations-apart it becomes very difficult to compare apples with apples.

But many include Kobe, Duncan, etc which seems silly.

64 Kobe

Analytics have led to a cooler take on Kobe's inefficiency, as well as the fact that he in his first titles he was playing with the most dominant player in the league, and then playing with a severely underrated cast who actually put up better team numbers without him.

76 "and then playing with a…

In reply to by RobotBoy

"and then playing with a severely underrated cast who actually put up better team numbers without him."

Do you mind sharing where you found this information? I am not a Kobe stan/defender by any means; I'm just curious. 

46 We've talked about this before

Theoretically anyone can win. But it's the percentage you're betting on. 

For example, take the top 3 teams above, as a whole, and call them "elite" and they're still not likely to win the SB (45% to be exact) vs the field. 

But betting on ONE random "non elite" team (or rather QB in this instance) is just trying to find the best straw of hay in a haystack. You're straw of hay could technically be it. But zoom out and it's probably not. 

Heck, meh Goff and Jimmy G were REALLY close buuuuuut then the elite stopped them at the final stage. You can win with a Flacco or Dilfer but that takes a LOT of work and dedication...and it still only happens once a decade despite doing so much else right. 

So each individual mediocre QB has a chance (and technically EVERY single one does) but it's so small that you have 29 of them to overcome the elite ones. 

26 I mean...

They also traded 4 others away in less than 2 months including Randall Cobb, Shaq Lawson, John Reid and Keion Crossen. 

Not world beaters but definitely don't think they're trying that hard to compete, at least. They gotta be honest with themselves after preseason especially. 

24 They also signed Amendola…

They also signed Amendola.

Houston doesn't seem to understand how tanking works - you put out the cheapest possible young team, lose a ton, then hope some of your young guys develop before the team's core rots.

29 I guess

their plan is to try and flip them. 

Weird franchise though. You're right it's not a great plan but I certainly don't think they're trying to compete for a SB.

25 Concerning the 49ers Defense

How much better could they actually get given the injury situation last season? The fact that they finished at 6 while missing their 3 top contributors (Bosa, Sherman, Buckner) from the 2nd ranked team in 2019. Did guys like Warner, Ward, Verret, and K'Waun Williams really improve that much that they could make up for losses that significant at key positions? If those guys maintain or improve that level of play while getting average injury luck it seems like they could be a dark horse candidate for not only the number 1 defense but a potentially historic defense. It would be really cool to see similar injury situations historically and how they effect the next season's performance for each unit. On the other side of the ball a similar situation seems possible for the Dallas offense considering how good it was before Dak went down.

27 I told this to my die hard…

I told this to my die hard 49er friends. My biggest issue with the 49ers is Jimmy g feels like one or two bad games away from them starting Trey Lance, at which point you have no idea what kind of play you're going to get.

I like the 49ers talent enough that they're probably a playoff wild card team to me. Anything more would really depend on how good trey lance is as a rookie

61 I sure don't like their…

I sure don't like their cornerback depth.  Moseley is already injured and who's there to back him up?  A 5th-round rookie?  A geriatric Josh Norman?

On the other hand, it feels like their 3rd-string D-Line could start for some teams.  That's going to be something else to watch.

62 When they were back drafting…

When they were back drafting at 12, I thought they'd have a serious debate between one of the top cornerbacks and Mac Jones, simply because they needed to have some warm bodies in the secondary.

Obviously, the trade up made that somewhat of a moot point, but that was their biggest weakness, not quarterback.  Mind you, hitting on a franchise quarterback is slightly more useful than hitting on a shutdown corner, an observation generally agreed upon by all but George Paton.

71 Secondary is the biggest question

But they have a decent chance to have the best front 7 in the NFL with Warner making the leap last year and Bosa/Ford coming back. One thing a lot of non-49er fans don't realize is K'Wuan is probably a top 5 slot corner in the NFL. Jimmie Ward is a top 10 coverage safety as well. The fact that they were able to keep their passing and rushing defense in the top 10 for the year is kind of incredible given the adjusted games lost. Just look at how far the Patriots fell off with similar player losses. Fred Warner may have made the leap into that Bobby Wagner stratosphere. If that is the case this could turn into a multi-year dominance streak with a little more injury luck.

70 Warner improved a lot. Ward …

Warner improved a lot. Ward "improved" by being available to play. Verret was actually healthy as well. Losing Sherman was no loss at all. His rep far outsized his play on the field.

The 2019 defense was thisclose to historically great when you look at their performance in the playoffs and Super Bowl right up until Mahomes hit a miraculous heave (Buckner was 1/4 step from a sack) and then Sherman got roasted by Watkins.

41 Bills

Bills have the eleventh best offense? Wow, that seems ridiculous to me. They will easily top that except they have exceptionally bad injury luck like allen being out for en extended period of time. Hiwever, I also don’t believe that the D will be Top 5. That would be nice. 

55 The Packers went from #1 in…

In reply to by Topas

The Packers went from #1 in actual offensive DVOA in 2014 (25.4% - Rodgers 2nd MVP) to #11 in 2015 (2.7%) to #4 in 2016 (16.6%). Rodgers didn't miss a start in any of those years and was a significantly more known quantity than Josh Allen is. Stuff happens in football, for the Packers in 2015 it was significant injuries to the WR corps but it happens. If you go back to 2013 (10th) or forward to 2017 (16th) Rodgers had significant injuries those years. 2012 they were 3rd, 2018 they were 7th if you want to bookend the Rodgers injuries.

Buffalo was 5th last year at 15.6%, falling to 4.5% and 11th is not unreasonable. It's football and 11% DVOA swings isn't crazy at all, one player getting hurt or COVID and missing a game can do that. OK one game alone probably can't do an 11% DVOA swing, but 4 or 5% on it's own seems possible. Two of those and there is your drop.

Now I personally think Buffalo be closer to that 15.6% DVOA. But this is a highly interdependent sport with a natural variability and a non trivial injury risk to every player on the field. So it's very easy for one thing to have a large effect on everything else. GB is getting a 12.3% projected drop in offense, which makes perfect sense given where they were last year. It's just that 12% is only moving them down 1 spot and BUF being in a tighter group is losing 6 spots.

Also these projections pretty much never project improvement for any team that was already above average. They also almost never project a decrease for any team that was below average. Defense especially is conservative on the projections. The best projection of -8.5% would have finished 8th in actual DVOA last year. Buffalos -6.3% projection would have been 11th last year (they actually finished 12th with a -2.2%).

59 The big question with the Bills

In reply to by Topas

Is will Josh's TO worthy plays turn into more turn overs this year. I think he had some luck avoiding TOs last year even though he had the second most TO worthy plays. If that number increases he will probably drop into that 8-12 range and the Bills go something like 10-7. This also assumes that he keeps his big play rate at the same level. It could most definitely happen. Unless you are dealing with a Peyton Manning type QB variance can and will strike.

49 So yall have Seahawks offense as 78% better than the Titans

But not only are the Seahawks offense not going to be nearly twice as good as the Titans, they will be worse than the Titans offense, perhaps significantly so. I'd be willing to be my dog for a day old donut.

/not a Titans fan, a Bears fan, just calling out the trash takes as I find them. I'll come for that donut in 4 months.

56 They are not saying Seattle is 78% better

You got 78 percent by using 11.8 - 6.6=5.2  5.2/6.6=.78

But what does 11.8 percent or 6.6 percent above average mean?  Making the math simple, if average is 100, Seattle is 111.8 and Tennessee is 106.6

That means that the Seattle offense is predicted to be 4.8 percent better than that of Tennessee or 111.8/106.6.

With those projections it would hardly be shocking if Tennessee has a better offense, and surely miraculous if Seattle has a 78% better offense than the Titans but regardless, please do not bet your dog for a day old donut.

Using last years numbers, the best offense was GB at 29.1 DVOA and the worst was WFT at -21.8 DVOA.

Using 100 as average GB is 129.1 and WFT is 78.2.

129.1/78.2=1.65 or in other words the best offense was 65% better than the worst offense.

58 I don't think this logic tracks

“Each time it plays through the season, it adds 1.5% to the DVOA of every winner and subtracts 1.5% from the DVOA of every loser before moving on to the next week's games. This reflects the fact that DVOA projections are just estimates, and actual performance during the season gives us better knowledge of how good or bad teams really are.”

This seems like a mistake.  What you’ve done here is set up a model in which winning games *causes* the team to play better in subsequent games, and losing games *causes* the team to play worse.  When you do it that way, the games at the beginning of the season have outsized importance.  If you have a brutal opening schedule, and so lose your first few games, then the model punishes you for losing those games, and has you play worse throughout the rest of the season.

But that gets the causality backwards.  Yes, your DVOA is “just an estimate”.  But then, what you should do instead is add some random scatter to the DVOA estimate for each run of the simulation.  Make it so that TB’s 20.7% DVOA is the *average* value of their underlying DVOA across all the runs of the simulation, but there would be some scatter.  So in some of the runs, they’re down at ~15%, and in others, they’re up at ~25%.  Using that approach, you would indeed see some simulated seasons in which they systematically played better than the 20.7% estimate and some in which they systematically played worse.  But it would be the uncertainty in their “real” DVOA that would cause them to win more games in some seasons and lose more in others, rather than the reverse.


63 Plus ça change

It seems like the Chargers will have the worst special teams and the Patriots the easiest schedule every year until the apocalypse.

66 Yay!

I, for one, would be thrilled (sadly) with a Raider D ranked in the low 20s.

72 The Dobbins injury for the Ravens


Last year I commented when Jimmy G., Michael Thomas and McCaffrey all got hurt at the same time that the exactly equal downgrade given to these teams did not seem correct and you commented in response that you were skeptical about McCaffrey.

Do you feel that the system is giving RB's too much credit?  You even comment that Dobbins is a RB and then mention the DYAR loss.  Of course I do not want Dobbins hurt, but is more Gus Edwards and more Williams/Cannon and whoever going to really matter that much?

Give me 100% of Lamar Jackson (of course), Ronnie Stanley, Humphries, Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Mark Andrews even Justin Tucker and I am fine.

I would think that the Ravens start at least 10 players that are more valuable than Dobbins.  Yes, they do have other injuries, but Bateman and Boyle will be back and I am more concerned of Justice Hill being out for the effect on special teams than as a 3rd string RB.

Please comment.


jheidelberg (The unofficial number 1 Running Back Hater of FO fans)


81 Yeah

I did some sorting by position this offseason and next offseason I'm going to look closer into whether we need to count different positions at different values for the personnel in/out variables on both sides of the ball. I didn't get the time to finish doing so this year.

(This also has implications for the Browns, see comments below, because Cleveland added defensive talent in the secondary and lost it on the defensive line.)

83 Thanks for your response and update to prior post Peters is out

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

Thanks for your response, I will be interested in seeing what changes if any are applied for next year.

So now what?  Marcus Peters and Gus Edwards both tore ACL in practice it is believed. If so, now "Who on earth is that?" is the full time RB, the backup RB, and the 3rd string RB for the Ravens and the Marcus Peters loss has to be a downgrade for the team.  If your readers want names for their fantasy teams then Ty'Son Williams is number 1 and Trenton Cannon (not formerly a weapon defending the state capital of NJ) is number 2.  Oh wait, we know who RB3 is, it is Le'Veon Bell, sure to be added from the Ravens' practice squad.  

This season will be a test. I believe that a bunch of scrap heap RB's will leave the Raven's with an excellent running game.  MINIMAL FUMBLING PLEASE, fumblers need not apply and is the only variable that would change my opinion with regards to the Raven's having an excellent running game.

Maybe I should end this post quickly and patent the website, "" before the day is over.

77 Any particular insight into…

Any particular insight into why the Browns are projected as almost exactly average? On paper, they have talent at basically every position on offense, and they added two great coverage guys to their defense in FA. I just don’t see them being in the same tier as the Cowboys, Vikings, etc. unless there’s some kind of situationally significant weakness I’m missing on account of my casual fandom. 

78 DVOA hates the Browns last…

DVOA hates the Browns last year because of two huge blowout losses early in the season.

Defesnively, I have no idea why they dislike the Browns' defense; the biggest problem last year was the secondary, which suffered from tons of injuries and was massively overhauled in the offseason.

80 We wrote over 4,000 words on…

We wrote over 4,000 words on that subject here:

But the short answer is, the two really bad games from 2020 are so bad they are dragging down the projection, and the team has been so bad for so long that 2020 as a whole looks like a bit of a fluke.

90 How did the Lions manage to…

How did the Lions manage to grade out as 4th in ST after they cut both PKs? Did the signing of Austin Seibert make that much of a difference? Or did you guys think that not having a kicker at all was an improvement?