Are the Titans Overrated?

Dane Cruikshank
Dane Cruikshank
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Week 7 - The top five teams in our DVOA ratings remain exactly the same this week. Buffalo is still No. 1, followed by Arizona, the Los Angeles Rams, Tampa Bay, and Dallas. This is what happens when two of those teams get the week off and the other three win comfortably. OK, the Rams' win may not have been as comfortable as they would have liked, but Detroit stayed close with a lot of high-risk, high-reward, not often predictive types of plays such as the surprise onside kick, so DVOA thinks the Rams won comfortably.

Below the top five we start to see a little bit of movement. Cincinnati's win over Baltimore moves the Bengals up four spots and into our top 10. The Ravens drop two spots, from sixth to eighth. New England is another big riser this week, going from 19th to 13th after curb-stomping the horrible New York Jets. Yes, their rating is adjusted for the strength of the opponent, but the Patriots still had the best DVOA of any team in Week 7. 54-13 is a lot, even against a team such as the Jets -- who, by the way, dropped into last place this week with the Atlanta Falcons climbing out of the bottom spot.

Other major moves this week? The Kansas City Chiefs dropped to 18th overall and more importantly dropped to fifth in offensive DVOA. The Chiefs were leading the league in offensive DVOA through four weeks (36.9% with current opponent adjustments) and rank just 24th in offensive DVOA for Weeks 5-7 at -11.3%. It's not just about the turnovers. The Chiefs are 23rd with 5.5 net yards per play over the last three games. They really are struggling. San Francisco and Chicago, like Kansas City, also dropped four spots this week. San Francisco went from 10th to 14th, while Chicago fell from 20th to 24th.

Why Titans are Low

Another big move up belongs to the Tennessee Titans, who went from 23rd to 20th this week. Your response to this is probably not, "Oh, of course the Titans went up after a big win" but rather "What on earth are the Tennessee Titans doing all the way down at No. 20? They're the hottest team in the league and just beat the Bills and Chiefs in consecutive weeks!" So let's talk a little bit about the Tennessee Titans.

The first thing to note when it comes to Tennessee's low ranking is that all plays count equally in DVOA. We don't give extra weight right now to the last two weeks just because those wins were impressive. Yes, we also have a stat called weighted DVOA that lowers the strength of older games to get a better idea of how well teams are playing now, but even that metric still weights every game at least 90% after seven weeks. Tennessee has put up its two best performances of the season in the last two weeks, but the Titans' rating is dragged down by the previous five games. In particular, the Titans are dragged down by the three games where they have negative DVOA. Let's take them in reverse order.

Week 4 was the 27-24 loss to the Jets in overtime. I've talked about this many times, but DVOA is not adjusted at all for injuries. The ratings we use to do our FO+ picks and playoff odds are adjusted sometimes for major injuries, especially to quarterbacks, but none of the backwards-looking DVOA ratings are adjusted for injuries. So there's no adjustment for the fact that the Titans played this game without A.J. Brown and Julio Jones. They lost a game, albeit a close game, to the worst team in the NFL. Right now, this game is worth -32.0% DVOA. (I say "right now" because opponent adjustments will change gradually as the season progresses, so this game will have a slightly different DVOA by the end of the year.)

Week 2 was the 33-30 comeback overtime victory over Seattle. The Titans took home the W, but the Seahawks have the higher DVOA for this game. They outgained the Titans, 7.6 to 6.4 yards per play, and they won the turnover battle. (There were no interceptions, but the Titans fumbled once.) DVOA is looking at the play-by-play, not the score, and the Seahawks were overall more efficient despite the loss. Right now, this game is worth -12.7% DVOA.

Week 1, the Titans got blown out 38-13 by the Arizona Cardinals. The Titans had just 3.9 yards per play and turned the ball over three times. Right now, this game is worth -63.3% DVOA.

OK, sure, but Titans fans may be thinking, "That was seven weeks ago! Does that even matter given what the team has done over the last couple games?" Yes, it does. But we can also figure out what DVOA would be like without Week 1 if you would like to see the effect of that game on Tennessee's rating. Just remember that they are not the only team that would be affected by removing Week 1 from the ratings. The Saints' shocking 38-3 drubbing of the Packers would be gone. The Eagles' 32-6 victory over Atlanta, a game which basically kept the Falcons in last place in DVOA until this week, would be gone. Buffalo's upset loss to Pittsburgh would be gone. Houston and Miami's only wins would be gone. And getting rid of the Titans' huge loss to Arizona also means getting rid of Arizona's huge win over the Titans -- dropping the DVOA rating of the only undefeated team left in the NFL. Get rid of Week 1, and the gap in DVOA between Buffalo and Arizona gets a lot larger.

But if you're curious, let's do it and see what the results are. Here are the teams that improve the most in DVOA if Week 1 is removed entirely:

2021 DVOA Without Week 1, Risers
Team Actual
DVOA
Rk No Week 1
DVOA
Rk Change
GB 9.7% 11 24.0% 6 14.3%
BUF 38.2% 1 49.6% 1 11.3%
TEN -2.9% 20 7.3% 13 10.2%
ATL -36.8% 31 -26.9% 29 10.0%
JAX -29.7% 29 -24.3% 28 5.5%

So there's Tennessee, moving up from 20th to 13th. Many fans would still question the Titans being that low, but it looks a lot more like our current perception of the Titans than No. 20. And to get the Titans higher than that, you would have to start eliminating other weeks until you were basically just looking at their last three wins.

Meanwhile, Green Bay would jump all the way to sixth without considering their Week 1 loss. They would now be the No. 1 offense in the league, surpassing Tampa Bay. And Buffalo would become as massively dominant in DVOA as they were before losing to the Titans two weeks ago. The gap between Buffalo and the No. 2 team would go from the current 4.5% between the Bills and Cardinals to a gap of 18.9% between the Bills and the team that would become No. 2 without considering Week 1, the defending champion Buccaneers.

They don't make the top five risers so I didn't put them on the table above, but I will also note that New England and Indianapolis become top 10 teams if we remove Week 1 from the DVOA ratings.

Here are the teams that drop the most in DVOA if Week 1 is removed entirely:

2021 DVOA Without Week 1, Fallers
Team Actual
DVOA
Rk No Week 1
DVOA
Rk Change
NO 16.6% 7 4.0% 15 -12.6%
HOU -33.1% 30 -41.7% 32 -8.6%
PHI -8.0% 21 -16.3% 25 -8.3%
PIT 1.0% 16 -6.3% 20 -7.3%
MIA -24.9% 28 -31.0% 30 -6.1%

The Saints fall more than everyone else if we no longer consider Week 1, taking out their huge victory over the Packers. Houston is now the worst team in the league and Miami is down there with them, with the New York Jets still in between at No. 31. The entire NFC West would fall without considering Week 1, with the Cardinals dropping to fourth, the Seahawks to 14th, and the 49ers to 16th. (The Rams would remain third, but with a lower rating.)

That's all interesting, but it's not the best way to judge teams moving forward. All of our research says that we need to be considering a much larger sample than just the last couple of games. Week 1 was a while ago but it did happen and it does give us more information about who these teams are. It will be another couple months before that game drops out of the weighted DVOA formula entirely. For now, it's evidence that perhaps the Tennessee Titans are not as good as their last two games would make them seem.

Why Seahawks Are High

Tennessee is not the only team this year with a significant disconnect between DVOA and win-loss record. I wrote a few paragraphs ago about the way the DVOA formula preferred Seattle to Tennessee even though the Titans won that Week 2 game in overtime. The Titans do get a nice opponent adjustment bump for that game because the Seahawks are still in the DVOA top 10, just ahead of Green Bay and Minnesota. Wait, the 2-5 Seattle Seahawks are still 10th overall? What's going on there?

Well, that Tennessee game is not the only one where DVOA thinks the Seahawks outplayed their opponent. Seattle's single-game rating is even stronger for their Week 3 game againts Minnesota, even though that was a bigger loss, 30-17. Seattle outgained the Vikings in this one by 7.5 to 6.2 yards per play, with no turnovers. This is the game where the Seahawks totally shut down in the second half, but the Seahawks were efficient enough in the first half to end up with the better DVOA rating for the game. Do you remember the Post-Game Win Expectancy formula I introduced back after Week 1? It tells you how often we can expect teams to win the game based on the VOA splits (i.e. no opponent adjustments). Teams that were as efficient as Seattle was in Week 3 can be expected to win 77% of the time.

The other thing keeping Seattle in the top 10 is how close their last three losses have been. Opponent adjustments give them a positive DVOA for their Week 5 loss to the Rams, and then Seattle's DVOA is roughly -11% for the last two losses, each by three points to Pittsburgh and New Orleans.

Finally, the DVOA formula is not adjusted for Geno Smith now being the quarterback of the Seahawks. It combines Russell Wilson's five games with Smith's two games and doesn't project going forward to represent that expectations for Smith are so much lower than expectations for Wilson. We do that in our playoff odds, but not in the standard DVOA tables. All of that goes together to explain why Seattle still ranks so high in DVOA despite a 2-5 record.

Why Raiders Are Low

One more interesting team to discuss today, the Las Vegas Raiders. Like the Titans, the Raiders rank very low despite a 5-2 record. They are right above the Titans at No. 19 right now. You might be wondering why we don't have the Raiders higher. What's interesting here is that the Raiders aren't dragged down by negative DVOA for any of their wins. All of their wins have positive ratings and both of their losses have negative ratings. Yet somehow, that adds up to a negative rating overall (-1.3% DVOA) because the losses are so much stronger than the wins. The first three Raiders wins are all in the single digits. The Week 4 loss to the Chargers is at -56.3%. Here are the seven Raiders games so far and you can see how the two bad games overwhelm the five wins and end up with the Raiders only ranked 19th. Total DVOA doesn't average these seven single-game ratings because it's based on adding together individual plays rather than individual games, but you'll get the idea.

Las Vegas Raiders DVOA, Weeks 1-7 2021
Week Opp DVOA Score
1 BAL 6.1% W 33-27 (OT)
2 PIT 0.2% W 26-17
3 MIA 3.7% W 31-28 (OT)
4 LAC -56.3% L 28-14
5 CHI -20.7% L 20-9
6 DEN 32.3% W 34-24
7 PHI 29.8% W 33-22

Raiders fans do have a reason to be annoyed with DVOA, because the Raiders' ratings seem to be less than the sum of their parts. DVOA looks at every play individually, but you can also get a good idea of a team's efficiency by looking at yards per play and success rate. And in both those stats, the Raiders rank better than they do in DVOA.

On offense, the Raiders rank ninth with 6.15 yards per play and 16th with a 45% success rate, but only 19th in DVOA.

On defense, the Raiders rank sixth with 5.27 yards allowed per play and 10th with a 44% success rate allowed, but only 17th in DVOA.

Overall, it looks like the Raiders should be ranked better than 19th overall. But the specific circumstances of the Raiders' plays are leading to a lower rank in DVOA than yards per play or success rate, on both sides of the ball. Opponent adjustments are part of this, but not completely, because the Raiders have played an easy schedule but not the league's easiest by any means: 23rd on offense, 24th on defense.

(For those sticklers for detail, yards per play numbers here are different from the NFL's numbers because I'm not including spikes and kneels.)

* * * * *

Football Outsiders playoff odds, snap counts, and the FO+ database are now all updated through Week 7. A reminder that all our free stats pages, including DVOA and player position stats, require registration to view. This is not a paywall! You only need to register (for free) and then log in to the site to view these pages. While you're at it, you can get a seven-day trial of FO+ and check out the FO+ features like a deeper DVOA database, weekly fantasy projections, fantasy football research tools, and picks against the spread.

* * * * *

Here is the Football Outsiders Top 16 through seven weeks of 2021, 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 for opponent and performance indoors and consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. Opponent adjustments are currently at 70% strength and will increase 10% each week until Week 10. 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.

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 and 50% actual performance for teams with seven games played, and 55% preseason forecast and 45% actual performance for teams with six games played. It is not currently adjusted for any backup quarterbacks.

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 BUF 38.2% 1 23.5% 2 4-2 7.2% 10 -30.1% 1 0.8% 11
2 ARI 33.7% 2 16.3% 4 7-0 9.5% 8 -21.0% 2 3.2% 6
3 LAR 33.2% 3 20.4% 3 6-1 25.5% 2 -11.1% 4 -3.4% 29
4 TB 31.8% 4 26.0% 1 6-1 25.9% 1 -7.0% 7 -1.1% 23
5 DAL 25.4% 5 14.6% 5 5-1 20.5% 3 -5.4% 10 -0.4% 17
6 CLE 18.9% 7 10.8% 8 4-3 14.7% 6 -0.8% 15 3.4% 4
7 NO 16.6% 8 10.1% 9 4-2 -1.2% 20 -16.5% 3 1.4% 9
8 BAL 13.9% 6 14.4% 6 5-2 8.1% 9 2.4% 20 8.3% 1
9 CIN 11.6% 13 2.4% 16 5-2 -0.3% 18 -10.1% 5 1.8% 8
10 SEA 10.2% 9 10.0% 11 2-5 12.8% 7 2.7% 21 0.2% 16
11 GB 9.7% 11 12.9% 7 6-1 17.8% 4 5.0% 24 -3.1% 28
12 MIN 9.4% 12 6.9% 12 3-3 5.2% 12 -8.8% 6 -4.7% 30
13 NE 5.3% 19 4.2% 14 3-4 1.7% 15 -2.8% 14 0.8% 12
14 SF 5.2% 10 6.4% 13 2-4 1.6% 16 -2.9% 13 0.7% 13
15 IND 5.2% 15 1.2% 17 3-4 1.4% 17 -4.5% 12 -0.7% 22
16 PIT 1.0% 16 2.7% 15 3-3 -4.8% 22 -5.5% 9 0.3% 15

Click here for the full table.

Comments

65 comments, Last at 29 Oct 2021, 8:30am

1 Ratings.

After the first five teams, you have a collection of mediocre teams who probably shouldn't be that high up.

Seattle higher than Green Bay?

Cleveland over Baltimore?

 

3 I've been reading FO since…

In reply to by DIVISION

I've been reading FO since the beginning; the stats they present aren't meant to be read in isolation from common sense. You should think of things like DVOA as one measure (among many) of the quality of a team's play. Pythagorean wins, Elo ratings (from 538), and Point Spread Team Ratings (from PFF) are other ways of measuring the quality of play. Of course, I doubt anyone outside the Pacific Northwest thinks Seattle has a better chance of making the playoffs than Green Bay.

16 playoff odds

 I doubt anyone outside the Pacific Northwest thinks Seattle has a better chance of making the playoffs than Green Bay.

Well, they have very close DVOA ratings, but the playoff odds chart has Green Bay way ahead.  Current record matters a lot more there. 

2 Yeah, the "eye-test"…

Yeah, the "eye-test" definitely says TEN and LV are better than SEA and SF, and I would question CLE/NO being as high as they are as well.

8 The problem with the eye test

The problem with the eye test is that it is often short term. That's the advantage of advanced metrics such as DVOA and EPA; they look at the entire season, not just the last couple of weeks.

I mean, if we only look at the last two games, of course the Tennessee Titans are pretty good! In fact, the Titans have the No. 2 DVOA in the league for Weeks 6-7, trailing only the Los Angeles Rams, followed by Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, and Arizona.

If we only look at Weeks 5-7, then Tennessee is fourth behind Tampa Bay, Buffalo, and the Rams, and Arizona is fifth.

It's getting into the first four weeks of the season where their rating drops.

25 Even accounting for early in…

Even accounting for early in the season, Titans beat IND and SEA despite losing the turnovers in those games 4 to 0! You usually say turnovers are relatively random from week to week, so those wins look pretty solid. Yes, they looked like trash against ARI, but everyone who's played ARI has looked like trash except MIN.

Same with SEA. Watching the games against TEN, MIN, LAR, PIT and NO I don't know how you could say they outplayed any of those teams. Their defense was getting ran off the field by TEN/MIN/LAR and the offense could not move the ball at all against PIT/NO. SEA has been outgained in yardage in every game this season except for the opener against IND. Even looking at yards per play, they lose that stat each of the last four weeks.

53 Aaron, as a Packers fan, I…

Aaron, as a Packers fan, I wanted to inform you that:
<Green Bay> is clearly ranked <too low> because <week 1 garbage>. <eye test> is way better than this. <ingeries are the only reason there so low in recent weeks and they’re week 1 game of settlers of catan running until 5 am. Bahktiari couldn’t take losing, so they just kept playing and we’re tired for the game.>

56 Ratings.

If you want a higher rating, they'll have to beat some better teams and more convincingly also.

Beating the Saints in Week 1 would have helped.

4 An illustration of why all the data matters.

Thursday will tell us if Week 1 was actually preseason week 4 for the Packers or if it was just one of those games under LaFleur where they run into their kryptonite and get stomped. I expect they are going to lose, I suspected they would lose even if they had Adams because I don't think they can hide the offensive line health against the Arizona defense. Yes it's technically possible for Adams to play if tests negative today and tomorrow but I doubt that will happen.

Yes they have faced good defensive fronts but they haven't faced the combo of a good front and a sufficiently good coverage unit since NO. Sufficiently good is either corners/safeties OR linebackers/slot. Everyone they have faced outside NO even if they had the pressure unit had exploitable weaknesses in their coverage and the offensive line issues could be adjusted around well enough to exploit those. Zona doesn't have the obvious weakness.

They also had better line combos than the one likely to play. It's hard to even remember but this line is supposed to be Bahktiari, Jenkins, Myers, Patrick, Turner. It's very likely it will be Jenkins, Runyan, Patrick, Newman, Turner again. So that's the 1 starter in proper position. 2 out of position, and 2 back-ups one of whom is 3rd on the depth chart at his position. The coaching does a good job and the players are good enough that playing out of position is still viable, but that interior of the line is just a mess right now. Lets also not forget the one starter where he should be, Turner, is only NFL average at RT anyway and probably the weakest of the 5 intended starters. He does his job most of the time, but he isn't anything special.

It's good that Tonyan and Lazard finally started getting into the game flow if they aren't going to have Adams. MVS has practiced a bit and could be back which would help since he would demand some attention as a deep threat. The team is 6-0 without Adams under LaFleur, they can craft an offense to work without him, but this is not the week to try.

Stokes and Douglas are doing alright at corner and Douglas getting more time with the team can only help, but it's not Alexander and Stokes. As many issues as King has, he still has value as the 3rd or 4th corner on the field and is probably better than Henry Black when they need more players in the secondary but he's been injured and likely won't be back. Mercilus jumped in pretty quickly and played a lot against Washington and should be even better prepared. They've limped along without Za'Darius all season (well he played like 13 snaps in week 1). Preston could be back, that would help a lot. But running QB's are a problem for every defense and have been especially rough on the Packers forever. Murray will extend at least 2 drives with runs.

Even fully healthy GB would need some Zona mistakes or a couple players at the top of their game to make this game close. They don't have that health.

 

So I expect this game to show why week 1 data does actually matter, because while I don't expect them to only manage to score 3, they could still get laughed off the field in a 38 - 10 style game. Or maybe it will be a 35 - 24 game that isn't as close as the score made it seem, not that 11 points is all that close but you can get beaten just as badly losing 35 - 24 as you can losing 38 - 3 with just a little bit of difference in where some of the awful plays happen.

20 Whelp Lazard is on the COVID…

Whelp Lazard is on the COVID list now too. That's 63% (84 of 133) of the targets to WR not playing. By targets this year that is WR #1 (Adams, 73 targets) and WR #2 (Lazard, 21 targets) not available, and we don't know if WR #4 (MVS, 16) is available. 

Game 8 starting WR for the Green Bay Packers is going to be some combo of (listed in order of targets):

  • Randall Cobb - 14 rec on 18 targets, 179 yards, 2 TD
  • Malik Taylor - 2 rec on 3 targets, 14 yards
  • Equanimeous St. Brown - 0 rec, 3 targets
  • Amari Rodgers - 2 rec on 2 targets, 33 yards
  • Someone who has never played in an NFL game or someone who wasn't a Packer until 2 days before the game.

I think all of Taylors targets, and 1 of Cobbs and Rodgers were thrown by Love in the NO game too.

Sure you still have Aaron Jones (26 rec on 28 targets), Tonyan (15 on 25), Dillon (10 on 12), and Marcedes Lewis (9 on 10) but that is not a set a of pass catchers to be worried about and a 2 TE, 2 RB set is probably not the path to victory if you want them all on the field together.

44 It's too much to overcome.

The Packers will be without their top 3 WR by target share and DC.

Rodgers will need to spread it out albeit to lesser talented weapons and rely more on the run.

What I see Arizona doing is keying on the run and suffocating the underneath stuff while also mixing in pressure to make Rodgers guess.  It's the kind of game Vance Joseph dreams of.  With Arizona getting back Chandler Jones, I like their chances to sack Rodgers.  

On defense, I don't see the Packers having the depth or talent to cover the Cardinals receivers.  They're still missing their best corner.  

If the Cards play to standard, they'll win this 35-20.  I could also see a blowout if the Packers can't do anything on offense.

The Packers could win, but Rodgers would need to play out of his mind combined with some Cards turnovers.

51 I appreciate the calm…

I appreciate the calm reasoned response, but I'm fully expecting a bloodbath. I'm a homer and I think that the Packers can win every game, but if they win this one, I'll be very surprised. As mentioned even if they had Adams and Lazard and MVS this would be a tough match-up because Zona had the defense that can shut this offense down. Like you said they can key on the run and smother the underneath stuff (just like TB did last year). They have better corners than TB which can slow down the deep game enough to allow pressure to get home when the Packers make the calls to try deep shots. Yes Rodgers can find windows other QB's can't and he can still make off platform throws (though not as well as he used to). The offense can transform into one that thrives off of the slot receiver, running backs in the flat, and tight ends in the seams, but that requires the offensive line to be able to handle a 4 or 5 man rush without any help. That won't happen against the Arizona defense. 

I joke that week 1 was preseason week 3, but there is history of defenses like NO, TB, and 2019 SF, being able to just derail this offense. Several of those games featured back-up offensive linemen. So in theory Cobb and or Tonyan could have a huge day, or we get the Amari Rodgers coming out party. If this was the Rams, who do have a good defense too, I could see that. I just don't.

I have never trusted the GB defense to do the right thing. Sometimes they surprise, but I agree this current secondary is going to blow coverage and pressure won't be consistent enough, or disciplined enough, to keep Murray from exploiting it. That's true with our without Hopkins on the field. And I already mentioned the defense is going to allow Murray to extend multiple drives with his legs, they will also probably extend another with a PI on 3rd down.

A GB win will take Rodgers at his best as you mentioned and likely some turnover luck. This just feels like a GB kryptonite defense with an offense that can actually do something so no just keep working the offense and getting lucky a couple times for a few scores and playing just enough defense for the other offense to screw up. I don't see the Arizona offense screwing up enough.

54 I don’t think there’s…

I don’t think there’s anything to learn from this game. The packers have half of a roster and the cardinals are too good for that. If they meet in the postseason, then we will have an opportunity to learn how they compare. This game only becomes meaningful (as much as a single game is ever considered meaningful) if Arizona loses or if the packers lose Adams, Lazard, Alexander, Bahktiari, etcetera for the season (aka if their future roster starts to reflect the Thursday night roster). 

57 Do you remember?

Was it the 2015 regular season when the Packers came to Arizona and got demolished with Rodgers getting sacked several times?

It was regular season, I know that.

That's kind of how I think this game might go, unless the Packers can get the ball out quick.

59 I believe so, and then they…

In reply to by DIVISION

I believe so, and then they met again in January where Rodgers had insane back to back Hail Marys to force an OT. All that only for Fitz to break our hearts in a matter of a couple plays. Most fans agree McCarthy should have gone for 2 but that's hindsight. McCarthy also stuck around for 3 years past his shelf life.

5 Math is hard!

Aaron, I am having trouble following your discussion of DVOA rank risers and fallers.

Cincinnati went from 13-9=4 spots up, for the “biggest move up” in DVOA rank this week.

Tennessee went from 23-20=3 spots up, for the second largest gain.

New England went from 19-13=6 spots up, for… WAT?

You might want to double check your analysis here. There might be other big gainers you missed. This is the only one evident in the article.

[edit] Nope. It was just New England. The easy edit is to say “other than New England and Cincinnati”. 

7 Actually...

In reply to by nat

I don't think I said Cincinnati was the biggest move up. I just said it was a move up.

EDIT: Nope, you're right, I said it later. I'll edit that.

6 The Top 4 teams by DVOA/DAVE…

The Top 4 teams by DVOA/DAVE really have separated into a tier of their own, which maps really well to the EPA/play tiers, Dallas being the clear but close 5th in all cases.

 

Really is reflected in those playoff/Super Bowl odds for the Bills while the NFC teams are all cannibalising one another's chances to make it.

10 We need a Houston DVOA article

Rush DVOA is so awful (-41.8%) that passing with below replacement level Davis Mills is a much better option.  

I did not go back entirely through the database, but in recent years, only 2019 Miami is in the ballpark with this horrific rush DVOA.

11 Rush DVOA

Hey, I noticed looking at the Offense DVOA numbers, the number 3 ranked rushing offense has a -0.7% rushing DVOA.   So 30 teams have a negative rushing DVOA.    How does that compare to historic numbers?    Are rushing stats that historically bad now?   Even teams you would not expect like Tennessee and Baltimore are sporting negative rushing DVOA so far.

13 I too would like historical…

In reply to by BD9012

I too would like historical rushing DVOA stats, but you have to keep in mind game situation. Lots of runs by teams with leads into stacked boxes really keeps DVOA below what should be expected. And we saw King Henry get what felt like 20 rushes in the last half of the KC game last week, so he's not immune to this as well. 

Also, if teams are getting better passing, then rushing DVOA comparatively falls, even if actual success does not. So it might depend on what is meant by "rushing stats." 

14 Was going to ask the question, already did some research

Here is the average team's pass DVOA:  2020  12.9%  2021  15.7%

                                            rush DVOA:   2020 -9.8%   2021  -11.8%

I have often stated that teams do not pass enough.  Some reader responses:  The pass DVOA will not be as high, if do not run more.  Also comments like the TDC above.  I have shown that in quick reads, that the worst rush DYAR back of the week has approximately a .500 winning percentage over the past 3 years.  This weeks worst DYAR backs were Kamara and Henry.  The bottom QB on the other hand virtually never wins.

For those who think that running at the end of the game with a lead is the main reason for poor run DYAR and DVOA, look at this week's stats:

Runs for RB's only (no QB, WR or TE included)

Denver  12 carries 38 yards 0 TD          L

GB         13 carries 40 yards 0 TD         W

TN          33 carries 97 yards 1 TD         W

NYJ        16 carries 43 yards 0 TD         L

CAR        16 carries 43 yards 0TD         L

NYG        23 carries 75 yards 1TD         W

BALT       11 carries 29 yards  1 TD        L

LAR         17 carries 49 yards  0 TD       W

HOU         15 carries 42 yards 0TD         L

SEA          23 carries 58 yards 0TD        L

NO           22 carries  50 yards 0TD       W

KC             5 carries   20 yards 0TD      L

This is 12 of the 26 teams that played this week at 5-7 there is little correlation between winning and losing so this hardly supports the argument that teams get garbage runs at the end of games to protect big leads.  CAR-NYG and NO-SEA, TN-KC played each other.

Teams are using more pass plays this year (includes scrambles and sacks) so the idea that the more you pass, the less effective that it will be is false by this year's data.

I can not understand why teams do not pass even more.

 

19 The general premise that you…

The general premise that you seem to be missing, at least with my arguments about it.
I'm one of the people that said passing efficiency will likely go down as run attempts are replaced by passing attempts. I didn't say passing efficiency would get worse than running efficiency or that it was always a bad idea. It was a per team metric, I firmly believe there is a sweet spot between running and passing, of course I also feel that a swing pass to WR at the LOS is essentially a run. Since a team needs a short area game, if they run less they will pass more in the short area which is not as efficient as passing deeper for basically the same reason running is less efficient. Though of course passing has the inherent advantage of occurring with few players around the ball, which of course makes a big play more likely. Of course if the game weren't played by humans who are affected by trends and psychology and mistakes and successes then you could apply theory crafting even better. Of course those effects are mitigated by training, and NFL players do train to mitigate that even if they don't know they are. But it's still played by people and that is why a play in the first quarter can still have an effect in the 4th quarter and players and coaches who can recognize the situations where that is true tend to be a little better than their peers.

I've also agreed that in most cases the pass to run ratio should be higher. Passing should generally happen more. Since we are not at the optimal balance efficiency changes can get swamped by running a more optimal ratio. Teams are passing more but not so much that they have to replace runs with it to keep a defense honest so what they are adding first is the most efficient passing plays. Basically they are still at the point of replacing the garbage plays with better passing options and everyone agrees that replacing garbage with something serviceable is better.

Eventually they will get closer to the optimal point and start replacing some of the useful runs with passes and that will drop the passing efficiency a bit because they will be using passes to do the set-up grunt work that runs are doing now. In addition a team that never runs or runs very little will likely have a significant advantage for an entire season, I'm guessing that advantage drops the next season as defenses figure out ways to deal with it better too. They will find things to key off of, they'll know patterns and formations better, etc. 

Stats are fun let's do silly things with them
So I grabbed teams sorted by passing DVOA, how efficient they are at passing. Then I went and looked at how many rushing attempts they had per game and did some ordinal ranking here's the bottom 1/3rd of the league in Passing DVOA followed by their ordinal rank in rush attempts per game. 

Team, Passing DVOA Rank, Passing DVOA, Rush attempts per game rank.

PIT    20  12.30%    30
SF
    21  12.10%    10
WAS  22   8.70%    14
PHI    23   8.20%     28
ATL   24    4.70%    20
NYG  25   -2.60%    21
MIA    26   -3.00%    31
DET   27  -6.50%    25
JAX    28  -7.80%    27
HOU  29  -12.50 18
CAR  30  -18.00 12
CHI    31  -27.70%   8
NYJ   32   -33.10%  32

7 of the of the 13 teams with the worst passing DVOA are also in the bottom 13 of rushing attempts per game. Only 4 are in the top half of the league. So you can say the teams with the worst passing DVOA's also tend to be the teams that don't try and run the ball. Or that if you don't run enough passing efficiency goes down. Of course that's all a bunch of crap too since the correlations are not causation. It's completely possible, even plausible for many of them, that if those bad passing teams ran more the passing game would get even worse. If I would have cut it off at the bottom 10 teams my numbers would have looked even since then you drop off 2 of the teams with top 16 attempts/game. But like I said, and like your results and rushes data, that isn't what we're trying to figure out here.

Yes I would like a rigorous study that helps pinpoint what the optimal ratio is. I mean the league is mostly getting there, running backs are getting fewer carries, most teams (my Packers not included, grrrrr) realize that financially and for on the field production you probably should never give a running back a second contract. There might be a few exceptions, and with the salary cap floor if you can't find a better use for that money then fine but it should certainly be one of the first places you look to save money. Heck a good versatile back-up offensive lineman might be more valuable than a starting running back given injury rates and how good defenses are getting at taking advantage of offensive line weaknesses. But that isn't the argument either.

Is per play efficiency the best measure of team success? Is it the most predictive of wins and losses and future success?
I also think that efficiency on a play by play basis isn't always the best metric of success. I'm still pulling data, but one of the things about the Packers under LaFleur is that they seem to score more points per drive than their DVOA would suggest, but I need to gather a lot more data and do way more analysis. I know the FO team has toyed with ways to try and work drive statistics into the model to see if it makes things more predictive. I do tend to pay a bit more attention to drive stats. The reason why I was even looking is that I know they had one of the best points per drive offenses in the history of the NFL last year (post 18 in this thread for more details on that). So efficiency on a per drive basis might correlate better with W/L than efficiency on a per play basis and GB has been pretty good at that under LaFleur and it might explain why they haven't had the DVOA of a 13-3 team because he's sacrificing per play efficiency to increase per drive efficiency. I know that they use the run game, and other plays to set things up. They admit it and you can find film analysis that shows it. Every team does this of course, but I think it might be something LaFleur is actually quite good at so I was trying to poke a bit to find out.

I've also noticed that 2020 when they had their best DVOA and points per drive under LaFleur they also had the lowest percentage of their plays being passes. It was like 58% in 2020 vs the 63% it was in 2019 and so far in 2021. So maybe he was getting the best results he could out of the team, or maybe, like many things it's not a straight line, but a curve and they need to push from 63% to 68% to be more efficient than they were at 58%. Or maybe that's all just a result of them running more later in games because they were better earlier and could do that. Having watched all those games that isn't my impression. It's all data I could pull to try and suss it out.

It could also be that they score more per drive than expected because they have been lucky and not simply doing something else better. Hard to say. I would love them to finish getting all their DVOA data into a real DB so that making a histogram of expected outcome based on per game DVOA or correlation between DVOA and points per drive was a quick thing, and not what I suspect it is now of linking up a bunch of different spreadsheets and running the analysis.

Anywho it's a fun discussion and I agree that teams probably should throw more, the interesting question is how much because I don't think per play efficiency is necessarily the best metric of how well a team will do, and since the game is played by humans who don't always do exactly the right thing, or hide their intentions that the running game will always have some place in the game. Finally I'm getting into my budding curmudgeon years and I like watching a good running play still so my bias to hold onto that might be coloring my opinions.

21 Comments on your points

1.  In theory running the ball should lead to better passing efficiency, but it is just a theory.  Here are some counterpoints:

a.  Running the ball poorly will put you in obvious pass downs which lead to lower passing efficiency.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/you-called-a-run-on-first-down-youre-already-screwed/

b.  You trail by 2 points, have 0 or 1 timeout, 1st and 10 at your 25 with under a minute to go.  I know that you are passing.  Can I stop it if you have a good QB?  

2.  With regards to your chart:

a.  Teams that are bad at passing are probably running fewer plays than most as they are not sustaining drives, thus they have low rushing attempts.

b.  One thing that I know for sure is that if you have a better run DVOA than pass DVOA it is because you have a bad offense.  This years better at running  not fab 4 are JAX (24), CHI (29), CAR (30), NYJ (31).  If you have a rookie passing the ball or Sam Darnold then maybe running should be your thing.  If you want to replace the rookie with Andy Dalton or Joe Flacco, running may still be your thing.

3.  My favorite comment of yours, "Finally I'm getting into my budding curmudgeon years and I like watching a good running play still so my bias to hold onto that might be coloring my opinions."

This is exactly what most NFL coaches are!!  Many of these men are in their fully bloomed curmudgeon years and hold on to age old theories such as running the ball or punting on 4th and short.

It is a fun discussion, I would say that their is an ideal pass run ratio (of course situation specific) for each team.  I see your LaFleur comments, I would just assume that it is a small sample size, or that something happened last year such as a number of short fields that led to more points per drive.  If I am a Packers fan I want the ball in the monumentally successful DVOA of Aaron Rodgers, not Aaron Jones.

23 1.  In theory running the…

1.  In theory running the ball should lead to better passing efficiency, but it is just a theory.  Here are some counterpoints:

a.  Running the ball poorly will put you in obvious pass downs which lead to lower passing efficiency.

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/you-called-a-run-on-first-down-youre-already-screwed/

b.  You trail by 2 points, have 0 or 1 timeout, 1st and 10 at your 25 with under a minute to go.  I know that you are passing.  Can I stop it if you have a good QB?  

That's actually part of my point for the current increase. Teams are getting better at dropping the dumbest runs plays and replacing them with passing plays. If you replace a poor running play with a poor passing play you can end up needing to try deeper passes which also leads to lower passing efficiency. But teams aren't quite at the point yet where they are replacing successful running plays with passing at a high frequency.

As to can I stop you if you have a good QB? Historically yes more often than not. Recenty, no because rule changes have made passing even easier. Which is of course another reason to pass more.

Final note about using ~40% of the season vs the whole season. Historically passing has dropped off later in the year. Most of the data indicates it's a combination of weather effects, injuries, general wear and tear, and defenses having more information and playing a bit better. So the efficiency gap should close some from where it's at now, it has pretty much every other NFL season. Just something else to keep in mind.

2.  With regards to your chart:

Yes of course my whole point was that it was a false causation and just as pointless as your chart earlier. There are real points to discuss here, lets not waste time with pointless numbers.

3.  My favorite comment of yours, "Finally I'm getting into my budding curmudgeon years and I like watching a good running play still so my bias to hold onto that might be coloring my opinions."

That was really more a comment on the entertainment and aesthetic value of the game. It's not that I think teams should run more. I've clearly stated they shouldn't, though it will take a lot of evidence to prove to me they never should and I'm very interested in just how much they should. I just find something very entertaining and violently beautiful about a well executed run. Even if a pass play is very exciting pass blocking is just not as fun to watch as run blocking, only the defense is attacking when you pass block. Run blocking both the offense and the defense are attacking and defending at the same time. The game loses something without that, even if it's the right thing to do in the ultimate goal of scoring more and keeping your opponent from scoring. There was a time I stopped watching the NBA and started watching a lot more college because NBA players were/are so much better that the best plays aren't always the most interesting to watch. I now only watch the NCAA tourney but that has more to do with just watching less sports in general, I don't watch baseball, hockey, or tennis anymore either and I used to.

 

And that circles back to is the most efficient play the best play? Depends on your definition of efficiency. DVOA is defense adjust value over average. So good DVOA means you gained more yards or got another first down or scored more frequently than the average NFL play in that situation. There is a big part of the game that isn't in that measure. Time. I don't blame them quantifying time efficiency is no simple feat. But if it was there is a good chance that certain runs become efficient. In fact a kneel down, or other negative yardage play, could be the most efficient play. Right now those aren't even part of the calculations. I love DVOA at the team level, it's a solidly tested metric that explains many things that other stats don't. Just keep in mind what it's measuring when championing the efficiency of passing over running as well. Its basically efficiency at getting yards or hitting a success rate marker. That does probably explain over 80% of what is best for winning the game. That's part of why I like to look at drive stats too. They are even more subject to sample size errors and have even more factors affecting them, but they help give a shape to what works and have some good predictive value as well.

22 "For those who think that…

"For those who think that running at the end of the game with a lead is the main reason for poor run DYAR and DVOA, look at this week's stats:"

I personally never said that running into stacked boxes at the end of the game is the primary cause of poor run DVOA/DYAR. I can believe you ran into other people who claimed that, but the reason people think that game score has an outsized effect on rush success is probably because it does. 

A single week of run DVOA correlating or not with win loss percentage really doesn't mean much to me. It is obviously true just by watching the game that teams stack the box and sell out to stop the run in obvious running situations. And the opposite is true, which is why draw plays often go for 15+ yards. Certainly at a higher rate than traditional run plays. 

Teams tend to get the lead by their success in the pass game. However, teams tend to try to keep the lead by having success with the run game, even into stacked boxes. This naturally leads to lower rush DVOA than the opposite team, which will typically get softer coverages in the form of deeper safeties, and LBs more concerned with big PA passes. You need to do a whole lot more analysis than you did to support the blanket statement of "teams should pass more," even if I also feel intuitively that to be true.

32 Look at quick reads

I have 3 years of data showing that being the worst running back in any given week leads to close to 50 percent wins.  The worst few QB’s in a given week virtually never win, unless they play a QB that also is one of the worst QB’s of the week.

 

58 I ll bet that too about…

I ll bet that too about punters but that has nothing to do with the fact that it is extremely difficult to win a game with awful QB play, but is very possible to win with an awful running game.

62 but that has nothing to do…

but that has nothing to do with the fact

It is extremely difficult to win a game with awful QB play.

It is very possible to win with an awful punting game.

Never punting is still a bad strategy.

See the analogy?

The mistake you're making is that you're assuming that teams can freely choose between running plays and those super-successful pass plays. Same as assuming that never punting is a good strategy. It'd be awesome if teams never had to punt. They don't have that choice.

There's no reason to believe that running isn't exactly the same. Until you know why teams run the ball, you can't judge the choice.

63 First of all I have never…

First of all I have never said that a team should never run.  I have said that they should pass more.

Clearly we know that running is more successful on. 3rd and 4th and 1 and two.

See the analogy?  Yes I see that as analogous to your “You don’t understand comment” that you have made to me previously.

 I am of the opinion that I am speaking with a disrespectful and condescending individual.  

When I agree with you such as with regards to Baker Mayfield, you do not bother to respond, you simply try to find "arguments" to have. 

Arguments and discussion both are the noun which involves people talking with one another and telling what they think, feel or know to be true. Argument generally means an angry disputes or disagreement whereas discussion has much more positive fell to it.  The best way to win an argument is to avoid it.

FO leaves spaces for people such as us to have discussions.  I will win all future arguments with you, as I will avoid them, as stated above.  If you would like to have a respectable discussion, I am always available.

64 First of all I have never…

First of all I have never said that a team should never run.  I have said that they should pass more.

It's the same argument, just a question of degree.

Clearly we know that running is more successful on. 3rd and 4th and 1 and two.

Exactly! That's one situation where you know the reason why they run, and you can identify that on the play-by-play. Believing teams should run more means you know all of the reasons. And from the play-by-play, you can't. Because audibles, run-pass options, screens, draws blur the lines between what a "pass" and what a "run" is, and the play-by-play doesn't identify any of that for you. 

Punting is an interesting counterexample because we do know most of the reasons why teams punt. It's not like a team comes out on 1st down and punts or something and there's some secret hidden reason for it. Teams punt because they give up on the series, and you can understand that just from the situation.

 I am of the opinion that I am speaking with a disrespectful and condescending individual.

You're welcome to that opinion, but you might want to consider that it comes from reading text and inferring tone that you put there, not me. Nothing I said here was intended to be disrespectful.

When I say "you don't understand why they run" - that wasn't condescending. don't understand why they run. You can't know why they run from the play-by-play.

The whole "running vs passing" thing comes from the basic idea of a zero-sum game being at Nash equilibrium (there are reams of papers on this from people doing stuff in statistics programs). In a zero-sum game at equilibrium, both options should have equal return. If you're out of equilibrium, one will be better, and one will be worse. Then you do the "worse" thing more, its efficiency goes down, and you're back at equilibrium.

Football doesn't work that way. Passing has increased in volume a ton, right? Except running hasn't gotten worse - it's actually gotten better, on average, in absolute terms. The gap between yards per carry and net yards/attempt is basically the same as it was 30 years ago. The only reasonable conclusion is that there's pressure to actually run that is outside the basic idea of a zero-sum game.

Yes, overall, passing has increased in volume: about 10%, or about 3 additional attempts/game, over the past 30 years, and since passing hasn't decreased, you could say that's an indicator that you just need to pass more. But almost all of that looks like it came around the 2009-2011 timeframe, when most of the major rules changes regarding roughing the passer/illegal hits came into play. There just isn't any evidence that there's some strategic shift that could be made that would result in much better performance.

27 Because you don't understand…

Because you don't understand why they're running.

You can't figure it out from the play by play. The information's not there. Some, you might be able to figure out from film: watch the QB, if he stares at a defender who doesn't move before handing off, it's likely not actually a run play.

It's really, really easy to create a zero sum game model that acts like football, with teams choosing a less effective play more often than you'd expect: let one player peek at the other player's choice. If you make it so the information's not perfect, you get exactly the situation we have now: plays you call "passes" do much better than "runs," but if you tried to pass *more*, you end up with *worse* overall performance.

It's just a consequence of pretending football is the world's dumbest rock/paper/scissors game. It's not. There are *way* more play categories than "run/pass" and splitting them up that way is pointless.

34 Last year it was the Steelers

The Steelers last year had a below average offense, but realized that passing most of the time was more effective than using their running game.  Passing most of the time with an older Big Ben or Hurts, neither surrounded with top offensive talent, is not the same as passing most of the time with Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers and their weapons.

Passing most of the time with Hurts is certainly working out better for the Eagles than using any plays at all with last year’s version of Wentz.  We will never know, but Wentz has taken a big step up, what would Hurts do if traded to the Colts?  Maybe Hurts can be an above average starting NFL QB with the Colts, maybe not.

Both last year’s Steelers and this year’s Eagles have slightly negative DVOA, they are far from horrific offenses. I believe that both teams are making the most of a bad situation.  For those that insist that running more, leads to a better pass DVOA, I agree, but conversely, passing more leads to a better run DVOA, the Eagles are 8th this year in run DVOA, last year’s Steelers were 30th, who knows maybe they would have been 32nd without all of the passes.

26 DVOA balances league average…

In reply to by BD9012

DVOA balances league average of all plays to 0%, so it's less that rushing is worse and more that the disparity between rush/pass plays is bigger (passing is better).

Bunch of notes, though:

1. Still early. Passing declines over the year, on average (unless you're Aaron Rodgers, apparently). So that rush DVOA will come up a bit.

2. Weather's just better for most teams than historically, due to bunches of reasons (more indoor stadia, more southern teams, climate shifts).

3. More and more teams use plays that aren't traditional run or pass anymore. Screens, RPOs, other options: those get classified by what happens, but not *why*. Traditional passes typically had a downside of 0 yards (incomplete), ignoring turnovers. As in, you run the play, and if nothing's there, you throw it away. An RPO can convert that 0 yard play into a 2 or 3 yard rush. It "counts" as a bad rush play, but it's not: it's a "not as terrible" pass play.

The more football strategy evolves, the less the "run/pass" categorization of plays makes any sense.

31 On the other hand

1.  Running plays are overrated by DVOA by not taking into account all penalties. I know DVOA counts PI, but there are more offensive holding calls on running plays and more defensive holding and personal fouls, mostly roughing the passer, on pass plays.  Not sure if DVOA takes those into account.

2.  You are assuming that all run plays on RPO’s would result in incomplete passes.   That assumption seems a bit flawed to me.  You are also assuming that running on these plays leads to lousy runs, good runs may occur.  

3.  If there are more indoor stadiums now, that will be a constant.  Weather games will vary year to year, Sunday and Monday night were bad weather games.  As a whole I think that wind has the biggest impact on passing.   It was very windy on the East Coast two weeks ago.  Weather only seemed to stop Brady opponents, but not Brady.  You seem to feel the same about Rodgers. We would certainly need to study bad weather effects, weather effects both running and passing, but is their more of an effect on one than the other?  I am talking rain/snow. Clearly wind would have an impact on passing only.  

4.  I do not understand your first statement, rushing is not worse, passing is better.  Please clarify.

5.  Everything is situational, it makes sense to run more on 3rd and 4th and short.  Of course it makes sense to take knees at the end of the game.  Knees do not count against run DVOA.  These are responses to a prior commenter.

6.  If the game were not pass centric, the value of the QB would be diminished.  The value of the QB is more than at any time in history.

7.  I do agree with your comment on definition of a play being a bit blurred and that we are only looking at the result.  The check down pass is usually not an intended play, but the backup plan to a more dynamic pass.  DVOA loves long passes, but can not tell what pass was intended on a sack.

35 I think the boundaries are…

In reply to by jheidelberg

I think the boundaries are more blurred than you are implying, and that you are also implying a generic nature to the 22 people on the field that does not exist. I would not be surprised if many teams would have more success if they passed further downfield more often. I also think that most discussions of playcalling ignore the first rule of playcalling, which is that the particular talents of the people that are on the field has significant impact on what playcall is optimal.

40 I would not be surprised if…

I would not be surprised if many teams would have more success if they passed further downfield more often.

There are physical limitations there that get ignored, mind you. Receivers can't run 40 yards downfield full speed, jog back, and run 40 yards downfield again full speed seconds later over and over.

But really, if you want to criticize the playcalling of a coach, you have to know what the plays are. And plays aren't "run" or "pass" - especially not anymore.

38 You are assuming that all…

You are assuming that all run plays on RPO’s would result in incomplete passes.   That assumption seems a bit flawed to me

Yeah, you're right. They wouldn't all result in incomplete passes. It'd be worse. They'd result in interceptions.

A super-basic RPO model reads a defender reacting to a handoff - if he stays home, you hand off and pick up the yardage between the RB and the defender you read. If he crashes, you hit the receiver in the space he just vacated. If he stays home, what the heck are you going to do? Throw the ball at him?

And yes, of course, the run might pick up more yardage than just that short distance. So what? The pass can too, and it's more likely to if the defender plays run.

Now, you might ask "what the heck is the defender playing run for, they're terrible, they should always play pass and stay home." Except, of course, the most consistent way to limit a passing attack is with pressure, which means they need to close to the QB. So "staying home" hurts all pass plays, not just the RPOs.

Again, this is just the limitation of thinking of the game like it's rock/paper/scissors (or really, odds and evens). It's just not that simple. Sure, the offense is trying to get yards, but they've got to react to the defense, too. Sometimes the defense just wins.

I do not understand your first statement, rushing is not worse, passing is better.  Please clarify.

DVOA is zero-normed, if passing performance declines (which it does over the year) rushing DVOA increases because the average value of a play declines.

I don't really agree with you regarding weather. Rain/snow have a much bigger effect than wind. Wind exaggerates the differences between offenses, rain/snow hurts everyone.

The check down pass is usually not an intended play, but the backup plan to a more dynamic pass.

Runs are often a backup plan to a more dynamic pass. Even before RPOs, you had run audibles all the time from certain QBs. If a QB sees at the line that the pass they called won't work, and checks to a run and they pick up 2 yards, why are you classifying that play as a run? It's not a run. It was a called pass that they realized wouldn't work.

Also, you seem to think that quarterbacks aren't involved on running plays ("if passing wasn't important, why are QBs so valued"). See above.

47  but there are more…

 but there are more offensive holding calls on running plays 

Are you sure? Brief glance looks like 50/50. 17 holding calls in week 1 of last year, split 8 run/9 pass. 

12 Not Really

“You might be wondering why we don't have the Raiders higher. ”

Not really, your bias against the Raiders in general, and the elite Derek Carr in particular, has been evident for years.

But I still love the site.

17 Are the Browns Good

I would really appreciate a breakdown of the Browns rating in one of these articles. It feels like the Browns are rated very highly despite what feels like an unimpressive resume. DVOA ranks their defense as average right now, whereas most fans and analysts think it is awful, their greatest strength is their run offense which DVOA generally thinks is less valuable than a good pass offense, and their two “good” losses were to the Chiefs and Chargers and DVOA isn’t thrilled with them. Feels like a rating that it would be nice to examine in more detail.

18 Along with generally crappy…

Along with generally crappy special teams performance (did you know I despise kickers?) the Vikings have had crappy luck on special teams, with a whopping -8.3 missing points number. It's sure to turn around, right? ...right? ........

24 Hello Doctor Jekyll

I don't remember seeing a team this late in the season leading all three categories of offensive drive stats (yards, points, success rate).

I don't remember seeing a team this late in the season being dead last in all three categories of defensive drive stats (yards, points, success rate).

I certainly don't remember the same team achieving both. If the Chiefs played against themselves, it would be carnage. Drew Brees must look at the KC defense and feel he was blessed, after all.

On a different note, has there been a season since realignment where all four division leaders in a conference were 6-1 after seven games? (I know Dallas isn't quite there yet, but it probably will be.) There's a chance that the fourth seed in the NFC will finish with 13 wins and then have to take on another 13-win team in the wildcard round. Meanwhile some mediocrity is going to creep into the postseason with eight or nine losses.

36 My favorite triviality of…

My favorite triviality of the NFC win-loss records is related to maximum likelihood (a retrodictive, schedule-adjusted measure of team records).

In Doug's post, he likens each team's rating to a dial that can be adjusted up and down.

Since Arizona is undefeated, one can adjust their dial up to infinity. But the Rams only lost to them, so their dial can be adjusted upwards forever too.

And it keeps going. TB's only loss is to LA, and Dallas's to TB. A chain of four teams that can have an infinite rating! I don't think that's ever before been the case as late as week 7.

39 The NFC conference is tiered…

The NFC conference is tiered into 5 legitimate Super Bowl contenders (ARI, DAL, GB, LAR and TB), 2 decent-ish teams that probably have no shot in the playoffs (MIN and NO) and a lot of heaping garbage (ATL, CAR, CHI, DET, NYG, PHI, SF, SEA, and WAS).

The AFC is way more open; legitimate contenders (BAL, BUF, CIN, TEN), good teams with question marks around them (CLE, LV, LAC), fringe wild card teams (IND, KC at this point, NE, PIT) and hot garbage (DEN, HOU, JAX, MIA, NYJ)

45 Pare down that list!

At this point I see ARI, DAL, LAR, TB as SB contenders.   I would place GB, MIN as darkhorses in the NFC.  

In the AFC, there's Buffalo and then everyone else.  I would have CIN, TEN, BAL, LAC as darkhorses.

The modeling in PFF, Fivethirtyeight and FO seem to point to a Tampa/Buffalo SB, failing that an Arizona/Buffalo SB.

Of their remaining schedule, Tampa only has Buffalo as an elite opponent left.  That will tell us more about their secondary.

I expect the Rams to be there barring injury.

I'm not a believer in Dallas due to their bottom-half defense.  They play the Vikings this week on the road, so we'll see.

Arizona will likely walkover a depleted Green Bay team tomorrow.  I will be ready to congratulate Rodgers if he can pull off a win.

60 I'm not convinced we should…

I'm not convinced we should rate the AFC as "Buffalo and everyone else". They laid an egg against the Steelers and lost a shootout to the Titans. I know they have the #1 Defense by DVOA, but... both those teams came back in the 4th quarter. I think the AFC is as wide open as the NFC. It's just that the elite teams in the AFC are a step down from the NFC elites. 

43 That's just a scale issue,…

That's just a scale issue, though. You're mapping team strength to a real number line. What you're fitting to is a ratio, so you have no scale anchor: if you rescale all the team strengths by some factor X, you still get the same results.

Arizona, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, and Dallas still end up strict ordered, it's just that you can shove those scales to infinity. As in, you want probability of Arizona over Rams to be close to 1, so (card/(card+ram)) ~ 1, or card+ram ~ card, or ram much less than card. But, of course, if you run "ram" to infinity, "card" just runs to infinity too.

Instead, you just bound the scale, by say, setting the sum of all team strengths to 1.

37 Q

The Bucs I suspect are going to have a really high DVOA since almost nobody on their creampuff schedule is equipped to attack their glaring weakness, the weak secondary. They are a really good team, but really good can look unbelievable when you can avoid almost anyone that can attack your weakness.

46 DVOA be damned!

In reply to by Q

The Bucs still have the Bills on their schedule.

There's a chance for them to be exposed there.

50 Of course, they could easily…

In reply to by DIVISION

Of course, they could easily be upset by a "bad" team on their schedule. This is NFL, anyone can beat anyone on any day. I would bet money that all of TB/ARI/DAL/LAR/GB suffer a loss to a non-playoff team as a favorite.

42 PGWE

"Do you remember the Post-Game Win Expectancy formula I introduced back after Week 1?"

 

Aaron, I haven't seen this on the website since you originally shared it. Will this eventually be on the website?