by Scott Kacsmar
A trip to Super Bowl 50 is on the line, but this is another football game that will be decided by turnovers, field position, third downs, and the red zone. That may be the most boring way to describe Brady-Manning XVII: The Final Chapter, but it is the most accurate. When Peyton Manning and Tom Brady meet, the games have never been shootouts, and that should be especially true this week given the makeup of the 2015 Broncos.
This postseason has served as a good reminder of how different rematches can be. These teams in particular have played some wild games over the years that broke conventional wisdom. Let's take a quick flashback to the last four meetings.
Week 12, 2013 (Patriots win, 34-31): Denver's record-setting passing offense took the night off after a flurry of fumbles led to a quick 24-0 lead. Denver's 280 rushing yards were the most ever for a Manning-led offense, but that hurt the rhythm of the passing game. The Patriots rallied at home in the second half and the game was eventually decided in overtime after a muffed punt.
2013 AFC Championship Game (Broncos win, 26-16): Manning was on point at home with a 400-yard passing game. The Patriots were missing Rob Gronkowski, and Aqib Talib was lost during the game, but the Broncos were also without Von Miller and Chris Harris, their two best defenders. New England's odd performance included an early deep shot for special-teamer Matthew Slater, and it was the first time in 63 games that the Patriots failed to be at least within one score in the fourth quarter.
Week 9, 2014 (Patriots win 43-21): Manning (57) and Brady (53) combined for 110 pass attempts, the most in a non-overtime game in NFL history. The game got out of control in the third quarter after Wes Welker lost a Manning pass for an interception, setting up a 10-yard touchdown drive for the Patriots to take a 37-14 lead. The final score came after Gronkowski made a ridiculous one-handed catch and followed it with an easy touchdown after the Broncos left Miller out wide in single coverage with him.
Week 12, 2015 (Broncos win 30-24): We will make several references to this game just because it is the most recent matchup, but things should look very different on Sunday. For really the first time since the 2006 season, Brady did not have one of his hyper-efficient slot receivers such as Wes Welker, Julian Edelman, or Danny Amendola available. The latter two were both out on this snowy night in Denver, the only snow game of the 2015 season. DeMarcus Ware and Jamie Collins were both out as well. Gronkowski was injured late, but only missed two drives. Dont'a Hightower played 32 snaps before leaving with an injury. Denver started Brock Osweiler instead of Manning while starters T.J. Ward, Sylvester Williams, and Louis Vasquez all left the game with injuries. All of these injured players will be active on Sunday.
New England blew a fourth-quarter lead for just the 15th time in 15 seasons, and a muffed punt by Chris Harper was the turning point. Denver had trailed 21-7 to that point, but the short field was a major boost to the comeback effort.
The 30-24 final looks like a high-scoring game and sounds even more promising for the Patriots now that they are healthy, but keep in mind each offense had 15 drives. It was not an efficient scoring day for either side. New England's scoring drives covered just 47, 15, 65, and 51 yards as the Patriots went 2-of-13 on third down. Denver's scoring drives were a little longer, but they still had the 38-yard touchdown drive after Harper's fumble and a 57-yard drive in overtime ended by C.J. Anderson's great 48-yard run. This was the only game this season where the Denver offense scored 30 points.
The thought of Denver scoring an efficient 30 points or getting 400 yards from Manning seems impossible right now despite how good he was just two years ago in this spot. Things have changed drastically and he will be looking to lean on home-field advantage, the running game, and his defense in this one. Brady is starting his 10th AFC Championship Game, but he only has 11 touchdowns to 10 interceptions in his first nine. What he does actually have this season is more touchdown passes (three) at Mile High than Manning (one), but winning big games on the road is a tough task for any team. If this game was in New England, I think I would be writing about a probable blowout like last year's Patriots stomping of the Colts.
Home teams are 60-30 (.667) all-time in the Conference Championship round, and Denver historically has a great home-field advantage, with the altitude tending to have an impact later in the game. For all their incredible records together, Brady and Bill Belichick are just 2-6 in Denver. New England clearly brings the superior offense into this game, but it is still unlikely to repeatedly drive long fields for touchdowns against Wade Phillips' defense. That is why the Denver offense must protect the ball, and the defense has to win on third down and force field goal attempts.
Fundamentals are imperative in a game like this, but the team that takes an aggressive approach is more likely to earn another trip to the Super Bowl.
For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link. Game charting data appears courtesy of either ESPN Stats & Information or Sports Info Solutions.
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WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
Expectations are for the Patriots to go pass-happy now that Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, and Danny Amendola are all back together. With Brandon LaFell as the third wide receiver on the outside, the Patriots can stay with this personnel and keep James White as the receiving back, and they should start the same five offensive linemen from the Week 12 meeting and from last week's win over Kansas City. New England really did seem to just flip the switch in that one, as Edelman's return to action for the first time in two months went very well and Gronkowski still looked as unstoppable as ever despite some health concerns. Brady was rarely breathed on, though getting just eight snaps from Justin Houston did not help the Chiefs' rush.
Suddenly the Patriots seem to be charging in with the offense that led to a dominant 9-0 start to this season. The Patriots had a league-low 14 giveaways while Denver only had seven takeaways at home, including the playoffs. New England's offense has not scored more than 28 points in any of its last 10 games, but now with a healthy group, the potential is there for a high point total. Only Pittsburgh (34) cracked 30 points on the Denver defense this season, and only Ben Roethlisberger threw for 300 yards (twice), but the Patriots may not even need that given the matchup on the other side of the ball. While some of the talk this week has been about Manning not being able to hit the deep balls anymore, the Patriots rarely even try them, throwing just two passes more than 15 yards beyond the line of scrimmage last week. Everybody expects to see the dink-and-dunk offense, or death by 1,000 paper cuts offense, but shouldn't that include Phillips and the Denver defense too?
Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.
No one ignores the running game in favor of short passing like the Patriots, but is that strategy realistic on the road when you have to deal with crowd noise and the increased potential for communication issues? The Patriots beat the Jets this season with five handoffs from Brady, and had just eight carries against the Chiefs. Last year in the AFC divisional round, the Patriots got by Baltimore 35-31 with seven carries for 14 yards -- the fewest rushing yards by any winning team in postseason history. All of those games were at home, just as the Patriots were in the 2002 season opener when Belichick and Brady first showed their willingness to go with one-dimensional ruthlessness against the outmatched Steelers. The Patriots went with a pass on 33 of their first 37 plays. That was the plan for years against the Steelers; the Patriots rushed just eight times in a 34-13 win in 2007.
But what about taking the aerial show on the road? We did not have time to look at each game over 15 years and figure out when big leads in the fourth quarter inflated the run-pass ratio as it tends to do, but there are definitely fewer road triumphs for the Patriots. Since 2001, New England is 4-19 (.174) on the road when rushing a maximum of 20 times -- still better than league average (.077), but we are talking about needing a 21-point comeback to beat a bad 2002 Bears team. Another game was a 31-7 win over the 2006 Vikings, a great run defense that was shoddy against the pass under then defensive coordinator Mike Tomlin. Some may remember that as it was a Monday night game. There was also the win in Buffalo this season, but I think we learned that the Bills were not who we thought they were on defense. New England had just 16 runs in its last two trips to Denver (both losses).
We may not see that ridiculous pass ratio this week, but Brady is a lock for 40-plus throws. Hats off to the Patriots if they get a productive game out of a 32-year-old Steven Jackson, but the running game is unlikely to get much push here against the No. 4 DVOA run defense, and you have to figure the Patriots are ready to accept that by design. Their longest run of the day could be an end around to Edelman or something creative like that. Jackson's most value may be in power situations (third- or fourth-and-short) where the Broncos ranked 31st. Of course, Brady is the most effective quarterback sneaker ever, though Denver actually stopped him on one in the 2014 meeting.
Denver's defense is more than formidable enough to slow down a one-dimensional attack. The Broncos are the first defense since the 2011 Steelers to not allow 400 yards of offense in any game. Denver actually allowed a season-high 396 yards to the Steelers last week after some struggles with using zone coverage, but Pittsburgh proved to be uniquely built to attack this defense with a vertical passing game and big-play receivers. Indianapolis also had success with a mobile quarterback in Andrew Luck, and Jay Cutler's mobility almost led to an upset in Chicago. Even the athletic Teddy Bridgewater led Minnesota to the fifth-most yards (325) in a game against the Broncos this year, so maybe there is something to having someone able to escape pressure and extend the play against this aggressive defense. As noted last week, only two teams cracked 100 rushing yards against Denver without the aid of quarterback rushing yards.
Brady got better at extending plays this season, but pressure is still the key to slowing him down. Brady's QBR when pressured was 12.7, which ranks 19th and is just a tenth behind Manning (12.8) this season. Denver likes to blitz a lot, finishing with the fourth-highest rate (41.7 percent) according to ESPN Stats & Info. No defense had a higher pressure rate than Denver (34.7 percent), while Brady ranked a very average 17th in pressure rate (26.0 percent) despite his quick release. Not blitzing much is really the right strategy against Brady as he tends to pick blitzes apart. Brady ranked second in QBR against the blitz (84.9) this season. However, Cian Fahey noted that Phillips usually rushed four in the Week 12 matchup. And in that matchup, Brady was sacked three times and completed 1-of-10 passes when pressured according to ESPN's charting data.
This offense runs through Gronkowski and Edelman, but let's quickly mention the other guys. Amendola has played well this year and can do some similar things to Edelman, but the two have rarely been productive in the same game. Amendola has 84 receiving yards on 17 targets since Week 14, but he is likely to see a lot of snaps. The Patriots used a lot of Keshawn Martin and tight end Scott Chandler in Week 12 because of all the injuries, but neither figures to be a big factor this time around.
White has not been as elusive as Dion Lewis was at breaking tackles, but he has been very effective as a receiving back. His receiving DVOA (33.2%) is more than twice as high as Lewis' DVOA (14.2%) this season. Denver ranks No. 2 against receiving backs, but did give up an 80-yard touchdown to Charcandrick West and a 63-yard touchdown to Brandon Bolden in Week 12. Denver allowed at least 40 YAC on three completions this season and those were two of the plays, though both were throws of 15-plus yards. The Patriots do as good of a job as any offense at getting their running backs down the field in favorable matchups with linebackers. Brady is 4-of-6 for 146 yards this season on deep passes to running backs.
Everyone knows the Patriots are going to throw it short, yet this strategy has consistently worked as long as Edelman and Gronkowski are catching the majority of the passes. Both are great after the catch, which is such a problem when playing New England. Brady threw 22 touchdown passes this season that were not caught in the end zone, and 13 of those plays featured at least one broken tackle. According to SIS charting, the Patriots were fifth in broken tackles per touch and the Denver defense was ninth. Denver was first in defensive DVOA against short passes, but the Patriots take things to another level.
Brady has thrown 70.9 percent of his passes within 10 yards this season. Eleven yards beyond the line of scrimmage is the last depth Brady has thrown at more than a dozen times this season. Everything beyond 11 yards is sparingly attempted in this offense, and you can see where they really clean up is in that 3- to 9-yard range.
|Tom Brady's Passing by Air Yards (PYD) Splits for 2015|
Note: DYAR ranks are compared to all 32 teams' season data instead of individual quarterback DYAR.
New England is 22-1 in the last 23 games Edelman has played. It is hard to explain how a receiver who rarely gets targeted more than 10 yards down the field can have such a big impact on the game, but he does. By playing so much in the slot he gets a lot of mismatches in coverage and has great YAC ability. He has had some issues with drops since a finger injury in Indianapolis, but a healthy Edelman pretty much walks into the stadium with seven catches for 70 yards on the stat sheet.
Edelman may prove to be the key to this game given the health status of cornerback Chris Harris, Denver's best option at covering the slot. Even a healthy Harris struggled with Edelman in 2014, but if his shoulder injury leaves him as a one-armed man, then this could be very problematic for Denver, especially because the Broncos will need to ditch the zone and get back to tight man coverage on these receivers. Last week, there was a play where Harris actually pushed Sammie Coates forward on a 37-yard gain, unable to wrap up the tackle. Harris is reportedly a game-time decision, though the Broncos could be using some gamesmanship here. This is the matchup to watch.
Then you have the seemingly indefensible Gronkowski, but that may be a bit of a misnomer. To a degree, defenses do limit Gronkowski. He caught more than seven catches in just one game this season, and his season-high in yards is 113, done three times actually. So it's not like he just obliterates every defense out there every week. The Dolphins held him to 18 yards on seven targets in that bizarre Week 17 game that lost home-field advantage for the Patriots. Where defenses tend to lose their minds on Gronkowski is in the red zone, where he is an incredible threat, especially when you decide to leave him in single coverage.
— Scott Kacsmar (@FO_ScottKacsmar) January 22, 2016
Last week against Kansas City, both of Gronkowski's touchdowns came when he was in single coverage out wide. In Week 12, Denver left him on an island again and he broke two tackles on his way to the end zone. Last year, the Patriots flexed Gronkowski out wide and Jack Del Rio was inexplicably OK with letting Miller take him in single coverage on a 1-yard touchdown. The double-team in the red zone should be automatic, and even then Gronkowski might win a few of those battles, but he is dominating the war against single coverage. Defenses have to make the ball go somewhere else in the red zone.
If I was Phillips, I would routinely rush three or four, shrink the field by bringing the safeties up, and cloud the middle with defenders. I might put Aqib Talib on Gronkowski with safety help from Ward just to have someone more athletic on him as Talib once did for New England against Jimmy Graham in 2013. Again, if the Patriots are going to beat you with LaFell, then hats off to them, but Bradley Roby can take care of that matchup. Maybe they bring Kayvon Webster in for Amendola, or stick with using a third safety like Josh Bush. Either way, Denver should dare the Patriots to run the ball and throw deep, which are things they are not likely to do. The safeties can help with the coverage on Edelman and Gronkowski, because we know that's where the ball is going most of the day.
If we know this, then Phillips and the No. 1 defense should know it too.
WHEN THE BRONCOS HAVE THE BALL
It is hard to believe the offenses in the 24th meeting between Manning and Belichick can ever take a back seat to the other side of the ball, but they do this week. However, sometimes the premiere matchup is not the decisive one. The difficult task ahead of Gary Kubiak and Manning is to balance a conservative game plan built around the running game and ball security with just enough passes to attack this defense. Manning has not thrown an interception since coming off the bench in Week 17, but he did have some major issues with that earlier in the season. Belichick also usually shows him something new after all these years to force such a mistake.
As much as Belichick still respects Manning, you have to think the game plan this week is to show Manning no respect. Load up the box to stop the run, press the receivers and force Manning to beat you deep where he seemingly overthrows every attempt this year. Simple, right?
I gambled last week that Denver would win and we would get into more of the nuts and bolts of this offense, but frankly, what is there to say? We know this has not been a good offense this season. It was terrible in Week 1. It got a little better in Week 2 when Kubiak let Manning go back to the shotgun and pistol. From that point through the Indianapolis game, Manning was doing better, averaging at least 7.6 yards per attempt in five out of six games, but still not scoring efficiently or playing safe with the ball. Then he had the injuries and played the worst game of his career against the Chiefs in Week 10. If Manning plays like that again, then you'll likely see Brock Osweiler on Sunday, but nothing suggests he will outside of maybe Ty Law's presence in the stadium. Stories this week about Osweiler playing in this game are ridiculous to say the least, especially the ones that suggest benching Manning if the game gets to a two-score margin. It's like people forgot a shaky Osweiler performance put the Broncos down 21-7 against New England before the muffed punt that changed everything. This is Manning's game, and it could be the last of his career. Or, if things go well, the second-to-last game.
Manning has looked healthier since returning, and the protection has been better. He is taking more snaps under center now, but the success of the running game is still largely determined by the offensive line. Our own offensive line analyst Ben Muth saw improvement from right tackle Michael Schofield last week, but Schofield will have to maintain that level of play. Pittsburgh had 48 sacks (third in the league), but only got Manning once. New England actually ranks second to Denver (52) with 49 sacks, a strong return on the No. 19 pressure rate (26.2 percent) according to ESPN Stats & Info. The interesting part is New England blitzed at the lowest rate in the league (19.0 percent). Defenses have been blitzing Manning often this year (35.3 percent) with decent success (60.9 QBR ranks 20th), but the Patriots may not want to change up their strategy. Manning is not one to take coverage sacks, and he will look to get rid of the ball quickly, which could lead to some turnover opportunities.
Manning was very accurate last week and showed good patience despite a solid seven drops from his receiving corps. Obviously things have to be sharper this week, though according to ESPN, the Broncos lead the league in dropped passes since Week 9. Most of those passes were thrown by Osweiler, so we can't blame the drops on Manning's delivery or last week's wind. This offense just struggles to hang onto the ball; witness the five drops Demaryius Thomas had in Week 12 when he only caught 1-of-13 targets for 36 yards. That was such a bizarre game, but you have to figure he'll fare better this time in his matchup with Logan Ryan. Emmanuel Sanders is more reliable and will go up against Malcolm Butler. New England's cornerbacks are good, though they do allow some big plays, which explains why each has allowed an average of 8.5 yards per target according to SIS charting. For reference, Denver's Chris Harris (6.8) and Talib (6.0) have a lower yards per pass average even though Butler's success rate is higher.
One of the big plays allowed by these New England corners was Sanders' 39-yard catch over Butler on the go-ahead drive in regulation after Thomas beat Ryan for 36 yards. Those two big throws from Osweiler were two of the few he made this year, though it is not certain if Manning can still do that. He has completed 33.7 percent of his deep passes this season. Manning's best bet may be to underthrow a ball and let the bigger Thomas work his way back to it, but Thomas really has to overcome his past demons with drops and press coverage to win this matchup. We know the other receivers are not very reliable for Denver, which actually saw six wideouts catch a pass last week. That may be a good plan to get more people involved, and Bennie Fowler seems deserving of more playing time as a No. 3 wide receiver. He made the pivotal 31-yard catch on third-and-12 on Denver's game-winning drive and has come up with a few big plays this year. Tight end Owen Daniels actually had five catches for 48 yards in Week 12, though the more athletic Jamie Collins will be active this time. Manning-to-Daniels has not been very good this year, though maybe another unexpected bootleg pass could come in handy.
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Manning completed seven passes thrown in the 10- to 17-yard range last week, but we have not seen him hit anything over 20 yards since Week 9. He will try so that the Patriots back up the safeties, but he has to avoid the turnovers on those plays. Manning has one touchdown pass to eight interceptions at home this season. The latter total is inflated by the four-pick game against the Chiefs, but the former is stunning for the NFL's all-time touchdown thrower. The Broncos only have five touchdown passes at home this season, and their touchdown pass rate (1.7 percent) is the second-lowest for a playoff team in the Super Bowl era (lowest: 1971 Vikings, 1.5 percent). The offense really does seem to go into a shell more at home this season, and conservative football is not known to beat the Patriots. Denver has to open up the offense a bit more to avoid getting behind in the down-and-distance. The Broncos rank 13th in DVOA in first-down passes, one of their few above-average areas, compared to 23rd on first-down runs.
The willingness to defer to the running game could be big for this version of Old Manning, who has done a good job of sticking with the run and knowing when to audible. C.J. Anderson is clearly the best runner on this team, but Kubiak has gone with a 50/50 split with Ronnie Hillman in the past. You have to live with some bad runs if you stay committed to this approach, but Denver should target at least 30 carries in this game. Fortunately, New England only ranks 21st in stuff rate. The Patriots also have some linebacker injuries to keep an eye on. Jerod Mayo is out for the season, but he was low on the totem pole in that group, and they have gotten used to playing without him. Collins, Hightower, and Chandler Jones should all be good to go this week. Many thought Hightower's injury in Week 12 opened up those big runs for Denver that included three touchdown runs of 15-plus yards, including two plays to the left from Anderson. I am not a fan of saying one linebacker can make that much of a difference, but it should help New England to have these guys back. Anderson's good at breaking tackles, obviously, but the Patriots are outstanding at wrapping up. SIS charting ranks them second in fewest broken tackles per tackle.
Denver may need another second-half surge in this one. Fortunately, the Patriots fall from seventh in first-half DVOA to 22nd in the second half (23rd in late/close situations). Manning used to have to go into New England games expecting to score 30 to have a shot. He seems to realize his current physical limitations, and that this is a team led by its defense with a coach who favors the run. If Manning can make enough of the throws and checks that Kubiak asks of him, then Denver has a good chance to win this one.
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You could make the argument that a rare special teams mistake by New England is the reason this game is in the Mile High altitude instead of in New England. Chris Harper's muffed punt with the Patriots ahead 21-7 with 14:15 left sparked Denver's Week 12 comeback on a short field. This is just another area where the return of Amendola (and Edelman) helps. Edelman had an 84-yard punt return touchdown against the Broncos in 2014, though it may just be Amendola on the returns this week. Punting is the weakness in New England's fifth-ranked special teams; they rank 25th in net value with punter Ryan Allen. However, remember when we mentioned last week that Omar Bolden was going to be a boost for Denver's return unit? He did start the game with a 42-yard punt return. Unfortunately, a knee injury later in the game ended his season, leaving the Broncos to turn to Emmanuel Sanders or Jordan Norwood. Both have a season-long punt return of just 14 yards.
Let this serve as a reminder of just how much the 2011 rule change of moving kickoffs to the 35 has decreased the importance of kick returns. In 2010, the Broncos (59) and Patriots (56) combined for 115 kick returns. This season, they have 52 kick returns between them. It was confusing to see the Patriots rank 10th in kick return value when they only average 18.8 yards per return (ranked 31st), but a 75-yard return by Keshawn Martin helps when you only have 25 returns, total. It is even bigger when you have several returns that were not advanced due to game situation, such as onside or squib recoveries. Now the numbers make more sense, though there just are not enough kick returns these days to place much importance on them unless you have an outstanding return man, which neither team really does as far as kickoffs go.
Brandon McManus (fifth) and Stephen Gostkowski (third) both rank in the top five in touchback rate, and doing their part to pin these offenses deep will be very important this week. McManus had a strong kicking game in very windy conditions last week, while Gostkowski is arguably the finest kicker in the NFL. He calmly drilled a 47-yard field goal to send Week 12's meeting into overtime. You do not expect either kicker to have a meltdown, but then again, most of the crucial misses in playoff history were unexpected.
Since 2001, the Patriots are 12-0 in the playoffs against a new opponent and 10-8 in a rematch from the regular season. The 2005 Broncos, 2006 Colts, 2011 Giants, and 2012 Ravens were able to sweep the Patriots, while the 2010 Jets won two out of three. So teams have been able to repeat their success from the first matchup or find new wrinkles to beat New England again.
The fifth playoff meeting between the two legendary quarterbacks has eerily come full circle to the first meeting, the 2003 AFC Championship Game, but with a role reversal. In that one, Manning led his high-powered Indianapolis passing offense into New England, the stingiest scoring defense in 2003. Those Patriots had a smoke-and-mirrors offense and played many close games, needing to score the winning points in the fourth quarter or overtime seven times. Jump to this year and it's the other way around. The Patriots, now healthy, boast perhaps the most dangerous passing game in the league. They come into Denver, home of the No. 1 defense in points per drive, looking to outscore a very pedestrian Broncos offense. The Broncos have also lived on the edge all year, with seven game-winning scores in the fourth quarter or overtime.
Of course, one big difference is the Patriots still bring a formidable defense masterminded by Belichick, and that is why New England has the better-rounded team and edge in this matchup. The Patriots deserve to be a slight road favorite, but as it has all year, the Denver defense should keep this one interesting and winnable for the home team.
DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative DVOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.
Team DVOA numbers incorporate all plays; since passing is generally more efficient than rushing, the average for passing is actually above 0% while the average for rushing is below 0%.
SPECIAL TEAMS numbers are different; they represent value in points of extra field position gained compared to NFL average. Field goal rating represents points scored compared to average kicker at same distances. All special teams numbers are adjusted by weather and altitude; the total is then translated into DVOA so it can be compared to offense and defense. Those numbers are explained here.
Each team is listed with DVOA for offense and defense, total along with rush and pass, and rank among the 32 teams in parentheses. (If the DVOA values are difficult to understand, it is easy to just look at the ranks.) We also list red zone DVOA and WEIGHTED DVOA (WEI DVOA), which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here).
Each team also gets a chart showing their performance this year, game-by-game, according to total DVOA. In addition to a line showing each game, another line shows the team's trend for the season, using a rolling average of the last five games. For the conference championships and Super Bowl, there are two charts, one for offense and one for defense. The defensive chart is reversed so that improving (i.e. lower DVOA) is on top and getting worse (i.e. higher DVOA) is on bottom.