Over at Yahoo's Shutdown Corner blog they have a weekly feature called "Quarterback Power Ratings," which is a subjective ranking of the top ten quarterbacks in the NFL. Check out this week's edition and you'll notice that Tom Brady is not even listed in the top ten. He barely makes honorable mention.
Yet over here at Football Outsiders, our DYAR stats have Brady as the most valuable quarterback in the NFL this year, at least when it comes to total value. He's third in value per play, behind Philip Rivers and Drew Brees but ahead of Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.
Where's the disconnect? Well, there are two reasons. One is Brady's perceived struggles in the fourth quarter this season. That's not quite a myth. It's true that he hasn't been as good in the fourth quarter compared to the rest of the game, although he still has an above-average DVOA in the fourth quarter (16.1%).
The other reason is schedule. Tom Brady has played the hardest schedule of pass defenses of any quarterback with at least 300 passes in a season during the DVOA Era. He's played eight games so far against teams in the top ten in pass defense DVOA, with a ninth on the way this Sunday. He's played only two games against bottom ten pass defenses (Tennessee and Atlanta) with a third coming up (Jacksonville).
What makes this particularly strange is that last year, the AFC East quarterbacks played some of the easiest schedules of the DVOA Era. New England's out-of-division schedule got much harder, and all four pass defenses in the division have improved, particularly the Jets and Bills. We know why the Jets have improved (Rex Ryan blitz schemes plus Darrelle Revis becoming the best corner in the league) but I honestly have no clue what's going on with Buffalo. DVOA already controls for the fact that their poor run defense discourages teams from passing, and I'm guessing that rookie Jarius Byrd's league-leading interception total is a product of the overall improved pass defense, rather than the other way around. I would say, "Well, at least I'll learn more by watching them Sunday," except I'll be at the Linc with Mike Tanier on Sunday to see San Francisco play Philadelphia.
Anyway, right now Brady has 307 more DYAR than YAR. If the season ended today, that would be the highest discrepancy of any quarterback since 1994, breaking the record held by... Peyton Manning, in his rookie year of 1998. The Colts were in the AFC East back then, and Miami (1), New York (2), and New England (10) all had top ten pass defenses.
Brady actually hasn't had the hardest schedule of any quarterback this year, if you are willing to look at some guys with fewer pass attempts. Tampa Bay rookie Josh Freeman has a larger difference between his DVOA (-37.7%) and VOA (-47.7%). Four of his six starts have come against top eight pass defenses.
Here's a table of the ten biggest differences between DYAR and YAR since 1994. TO represents a total of interceptions and fumbles.