Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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The Cardinals had a winning record with backup quarterbacks last year thanks in large part to their high-profile edge rusher who terrorized opposing offenses. We look at defeat leaders for every position, as well as overall leaders over the past few seasons.

09 Dec 2008

Week 14 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

A lot of Football Outsiders readers were probably expecting to reload the page today and see a big headline saying "Football Editor Kills Eight in DVOA Rampage as Philadelphia Retakes Top Spot." Surprise! The New York Giants remain on top of the DVOA ratings this week, and the Eagles don't even climb into second place -- Baltimore edges them out by a teensy-tiny margin.

The Giants have come back to the pack a bit over the last couple weeks, and based on weighted DVOA there are four teams all grouped together at the top with very little difference between them -- the three listed above, and the Tennessee Titans. As somebody pointed out in the comments last week, there's one thing these teams have in common. This may end up as the most offense-oriented year in NFL history, and the top teams are generally the teams with the top defenses. In fact, the top seven teams overall also rank in the top ten in defense, but only three of those seven teams are in the top ten in offense.

It's also interesting to note that weighted DVOA does a good job of predicting last night's MNF result... unfortunately, a week too late. Tampa Bay is only slightly behind Carolina in total DVOA, but the Bucs rank fourth in their division according to weighted DVOA -- although ranking 11th in the NFL demonstrates that the Bucs are collapsing or anything.

The AFC East is another interesting division with a tight race for the title. According to DVOA, the Dolphins are now the best team in the division, followed by the Jets and Patriots. That's true both in total DVOA and in weighted DVOA. However, the playoff odds will show the Jets with the best chance of winning the division, not the Dolphins, because they get to host that final game that will probably decide the title. They get to host the warm-weather Dolphins at cold and windy Giants Stadium, and there's a good chance the game will be moved to the nighttime as the final NBC flex game.

That's it for commentary this week. I'm hoping to use the extra time to give out some game charting numbers by the end of the week, the early data on defensive coverage as well as pass hurries. I also wanted to get up the ratings a bit early because there isn't going to be a new Black and Blue Report this week (Will Carroll is busy at baseball's winter meetings).

All of the stats pages should now be updated.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 14 weeks of 2008, measured by our proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system that breaks down every single play and compares a team's performance to the league average based on situation in order to determine value over average. (Explained further here.)

OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted to consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. These ratings also include opponent adjustments. SPECIAL TEAMS DVOA is adjusted for type of stadium (warm, cold, dome, Denver) and week of season. WEIGHTED DVOA is adjusted so that earlier games in the season become gradually less important. It better reflects how the team is playing right now.

As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

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>

1 NYG 35.7% 1 35.3% 1 11-2 24.0% 1 -8.6% 7 3.1% 6
2 BAL 32.1% 2 33.3% 2 9-4 4.3% 17 -29.6% 1 -1.8% 24
3 PHI 32.0% 3 33.3% 3 7-5-1 12.1% 10 -19.0% 5 1.0% 15
4 TEN 30.7% 4 33.1% 4 12-1 9.7% 14 -19.9% 3 1.2% 14
5 PIT 22.4% 5 21.8% 6 10-3 -2.8% 22 -25.3% 2 0.0% 19
6 CAR 18.3% 7 21.8% 5 10-3 14.6% 8 -2.2% 10 1.5% 11
7 TB 16.8% 6 12.6% 11 9-4 1.1% 20 -15.0% 6 0.6% 17
8 NO 14.6% 10 17.4% 7 7-6 22.3% 2 9.2% 20 1.5% 12
9 GB 13.1% 8 13.3% 10 5-8 12.0% 11 0.1% 11 1.2% 13
10 IND 12.8% 11 15.0% 8 9-4 16.9% 5 2.8% 14 -1.4% 23
11 ATL 11.1% 9 14.1% 9 8-5 19.0% 4 10.7% 21 2.8% 7
12 WAS 9.2% 12 5.6% 13 7-6 11.2% 12 -2.6% 9 -4.7% 28
13 ARI 9.0% 13 5.1% 14 8-5 16.2% 6 4.9% 15 -2.3% 26
14 MIA 5.3% 18 8.5% 12 8-5 14.6% 9 2.4% 12 -6.8% 31
15 CHI 4.6% 16 0.4% 17 7-6 -1.8% 21 -5.4% 8 1.0% 16
16 MIN 4.4% 15 3.6% 15 8-5 -6.4% 23 -19.7% 4 -9.0% 32
17 SD 3.5% 19 0.3% 18 5-8 15.2% 7 11.5% 23 -0.2% 21
18 NYJ 3.2% 14 3.2% 16 8-5 3.7% 18 5.1% 16 4.6% 4
19 DAL 0.4% 17 -5.0% 20 8-5 8.0% 15 2.6% 13 -5.0% 30
20 DEN -3.9% 20 -7.2% 22 8-5 21.2% 3 20.4% 30 -4.7% 29
21 NE -6.1% 21 -6.4% 21 8-5 7.9% 16 16.3% 27 2.3% 9
22 HOU -7.0% 22 -3.6% 19 6-7 9.9% 13 19.2% 29 2.3% 8
23 JAC -9.8% 23 -10.9% 23 4-9 3.6% 19 13.3% 25 -0.1% 20
24 CLE -12.6% 24 -11.8% 24 4-9 -8.6% 26 8.4% 19 4.5% 5
25 BUF -14.3% 25 -19.6% 26 6-7 -7.2% 24 12.5% 24 5.4% 3
26 SF -18.5% 26 -19.8% 27 5-8 -16.6% 28 7.5% 18 5.6% 2
27 SEA -23.2% 28 -17.8% 25 2-11 -9.9% 27 15.5% 26 2.2% 10
28 OAK -25.4% 27 -26.2% 29 3-10 -24.1% 31 7.1% 17 5.9% 1
29 KC -30.8% 30 -24.5% 28 2-11 -7.8% 25 18.7% 28 -4.3% 27
30 CIN -32.6% 29 -32.2% 30 1-11-1 -19.6% 30 11.0% 22 -1.9% 25
31 DET -48.0% 32 -47.2% 31 0-13 -19.6% 29 28.6% 32 0.2% 18
32 STL -50.2% 31 -47.3% 32 2-11 -24.8% 32 25.0% 31 -0.5% 22

  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA gives performance without adjustments for schedule strength, fumble recovery luck, and weather/altitude on special teams.
  • ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as "Forest Index" that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close.  It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
  • PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
  • VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team's weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).

1 NYG 35.7% 11-2 34.8% 10.0 1 0.7% 18 11.6% 8 18.7% 23
2 BAL 32.1% 9-4 31.6% 9.8 2 1.8% 11 6.5% 11 17.3% 20
3 PHI 32.0% 7-5-1 28.7% 9.2 4 2.6% 8 -1.5% 15 18.4% 22
4 TEN 30.7% 12-1 34.0% 9.8 3 -5.7% 27 14.1% 7 8.9% 5
5 PIT 22.4% 10-3 23.0% 8.8 5 1.8% 12 25.1% 4 5.6% 1
6 CAR 18.3% 10-3 17.5% 8.3 7 0.1% 20 23.2% 5 16.6% 15
7 TB 16.8% 9-4 17.3% 7.7 9 -0.5% 21 -5.4% 17 16.8% 16
8 NO 14.6% 7-6 12.6% 8.1 8 1.8% 10 -12.5% 22 12.1% 9
9 GB 13.1% 5-8 7.8% 7.7 10 2.9% 6 -26.6% 32 15.1% 12
10 IND 12.8% 9-4 12.3% 8.3 6 2.6% 7 -13.6% 23 19.2% 26
11 ATL 11.1% 8-5 7.4% 7.2 13 2.0% 9 -14.5% 24 22.1% 28
12 WAS 9.2% 7-6 3.7% 7.2 12 3.5% 4 -9.5% 19 6.0% 2
13 ARI 9.0% 8-5 13.3% 7.2 14 -5.1% 26 -12.5% 21 17.1% 19
14 MIA 5.3% 8-5 19.0% 6.9 16 -7.3% 30 -23.1% 31 19.2% 27
15 CHI 4.6% 7-6 3.6% 7.5 11 -0.9% 22 10.4% 10 10.0% 6
16 MIN 4.4% 8-5 3.8% 6.7 18 1.1% 15 27.9% 3 11.5% 8
17 SD 3.5% 5-8 5.6% 7.1 15 -1.3% 23 -8.9% 18 17.0% 17
18 NYJ 3.2% 8-5 12.2% 6.9 17 -10.0% 31 -16.1% 27 19.1% 25
19 DAL 0.4% 8-5 3.2% 6.3 19 0.7% 17 49.9% 1 27.1% 31
20 DEN -3.9% 8-5 -0.8% 5.9 21 -6.2% 29 3.8% 13 24.5% 30
21 NE -6.1% 8-5 -0.6% 6.0 20 -6.1% 28 -15.3% 26 18.9% 24
22 HOU -7.0% 6-7 -9.5% 5.1 24 1.5% 13 5.0% 12 11.0% 7
23 JAC -9.8% 4-9 -7.9% 5.8 22 -1.4% 24 29.0% 2 6.5% 3
24 CLE -12.6% 4-9 -20.0% 5.5 23 7.7% 2 10.9% 9 16.3% 13
25 BUF -14.3% 6-7 -4.3% 5.0 25 -10.7% 32 -3.4% 16 14.2% 11
26 SF -18.5% 5-8 -13.4% 4.8 26 -4.4% 25 -17.9% 29 6.6% 4
27 SEA -23.2% 2-11 -24.0% 4.2 27 1.0% 16 -19.1% 30 18.3% 21
28 OAK -25.4% 3-10 -26.8% 3.9 28 0.6% 19 1.9% 14 32.2% 32
29 KC -30.8% 2-11 -28.2% 3.5 29 1.4% 14 -11.9% 20 16.4% 14
30 CIN -32.6% 1-11-1 -44.7% 3.0 30 13.9% 1 -17.1% 28 12.9% 10
31 DET -48.0% 0-13 -49.5% 2.1 31 5.9% 3 20.2% 6 17.1% 18
32 STL -50.2% 2-11 -53.2% 1.7 32 3.3% 5 -15.3% 25 24.0% 29

Worst DVOA Ever Watch

I think the Lions blew their chance this week. It's possible that a desperate Detroit team will take down an unmotivated Packers squad in the final week, but it is also possible that the Packers will fight against going down in history for losing to the worst team in NFL history (well, by W-L record -- remember, no team has ever been 0-15 going into the final week). The playoff odds report now gives Detroit a better than 50-50 chance of going winless, and the 1976 Bucs may finally go the whole season without popping the corks on their usual bottles of Cold Duck. How strange that no teams would go 16-0 or 0-16 in 30 years, and now it might happen in two straight seasons. Probability is weird that way.

By keeping things close with Minnesota, Detroit actually climbs out of the bottom spot in DVOA this week. Both Detroit and St. Louis still have a shot at the "prize" of being the worst team ever. There is a big gap between the 2005 49ers and everyone else this week because the 49ers got crushed in Week 14 of 2005, losing to Seattle 41-3. That team finished up with three close games -- actually winning two of them against other bad teams -- so Detroit and/or St. Louis can "beat" the 2005 49ers if they have a couple of bad losses in these final three weeks. Considering that the Lions have to take on Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and their biggest weakness is pass defense, I wouldn't be surprised. 

2005 SF -63.8%   2008 DET 28.6%
1999 CLE -52.6%   2000 ARI 27.1%
2008 STL -50.2%   2008 STL 25.0%
2008 DET -48.0%   1996 ATL 24.7%
2000 CLE -46.4%   2005 HOU 23.7%
2003 ARI -45.1%   2002 CIN 23.4%
2000 CIN -45.0%   2003 ARI 23.3%
2007 SF -44.8%   2004 MIN 23.1%
2004 SF -44.7%   2004 NO 23.1%
2000 ARI -44.4%   2000 SF 22.5%
1998 PHI -43.4%   2004 SF 22.3%

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 09 Dec 2008

91 comments, Last at 15 Dec 2008, 11:42pm by jamesmcclure


by Dillon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:25pm

always wanted to do this - first !!!

by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:35pm

Know then that there is a special level of Hell reserved for your kind.

by Dales :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:26pm

I am very worried that the Giants might finish the year with 4 straight losses. Dallas' defense looked great this past week, Carolina looked great last night, and the Vikings should have success limiting the Giants' running game, which other teams have been able to do of late.

by BucNasty :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:34pm

Buck up, son. The Vikings don't have the offense to hurt you, and even after last night I still think you'll crush Carolina (in fact, I'm counting on it). It's a home game, and I don't see the Giants defense getting pushed around the way ours did. The number 1 seed should still be yours, though what happens in the playoffs is anyone's guess. Especially if a rematch with Philly is involved, which should happen if they come in as the 6th seed.

by Tundrapaddy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:32pm

Yeah, I'd relax about your closing schedule. The Giants are #1 in DVOA for a reason. They're damn good, on both sides of the ball. The fact that they just lost to Philly does more to 'justify' Philly's DVOA ranking than it does to undermine the Giants.

Having said that, I don't think Dallas, Carolina, or Minnesota will be walk-throughs. And much like BucNasty, I'm counting on the Vikings playing a solid game (hopefully against NYG's 2nd-stringers).

by TerryTate :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:29pm

Will someone explain why the Packers are so high. As a Packers fan, I can tell you this team sucks. I especially can't understand the defense ranking.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:37pm

I tend to be Colts-centric, so I suggest you look at what the Pack did to Manning the Elder. 2 pick-sixes, IIRC, against a top-5 Offense. And that was not an isolated game, either--your D has scored a lot. But that was a while ago and I suspect WDVOA by Week 17 will show that your instinct is correct. They are not as good in late Dec as their rating, or as they may have bene in Oct.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:46pm

To elaborate on this as another Packers fan, it's not just a few isolated games. GB has still outscored their opponents on the season, and Pythagoras would no doubt expect them to be closer to 7-6. Also, their chart indicates that they've face one of the toughest schedules in the season to date.

Their defense does seem a bit high, but it's actually with a DVOA near zero, it's just a bad year for defenses across the NFL. And despite the poorer play over the past few weeks, the GB pass defense is still near the best in the NFL in terms of opponent's completion percentage and QB rating (though they won't be if current trend continue, but things should settle down against the Jags, Bears, and Lions).

I've said it before, the Pack are basically the Eagles-lite. They have mostly won blowouts and lost nail biters. A horrible team doesn't blowout and shut down a Colts team the weak after the Colts shredded the NFL's best defense, the Pack pulled it off, so I'd say they are something other than a terrible team. More like a decent team with no luck in close games.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:33pm

Things seem to tighten up around now every season, don't they?

Based on WDVOA, we have the top 4, the next 2, and then the next five with potential. I wonder what history says about who will make it to the SB....

Probably one from the top group and maybe one from the third group? A couple more weeks and we'll know more. It's entirely possible that four of those 11 don't make it at all (Phi, NO, GB, Atl, and Balt all have wildcard challenges)--two are in the top four cluster and the other three are in the bottom cluster.

Interesting few weeks ahead....

by E :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:33pm

the playoff odds will show the Jets with the best chance of winning the division, not the Dolphins, because they get to host that final game that will probably decide the title. They get to host the warm-weather Dolphins at cold and windy Giants Stadium, and there's a good chance the game will be moved to the nighttime as the final NBC flex game

I wonder how much of that Jets advantage is negated by the fact that (1) this is Favre's first year calling Giants Stadium his home (and he hasn't looked that great in the elements) and (2) by contrast, Pennington played his whole career in Giants Stadium. Seems to me that windy conditions affect the QB the most, and you could argue that this is more of a home game for Pennington than for Favre.

by TerryTate :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:11pm

Favre is completely done playing the cold. He was bad in the championship game and hasn't played well in the elements this year. He would have been a better fit in Tampa. Warm weather and an offense better suited to his style of play.

by James-London :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:13pm

Given their horrific ST, it seems much more likely that a fumbled punt or the 'coverage optional' kicking units will keep Miami out of the playoffs than the weather.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by sfckoski :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:37pm

Gotta say I'm disappointed with 22-26. Houston beat the 9th ranked team at home and doesn't move. JAC, CLE and BUF all lose, but remain ahead of the 49ers who beat the Jets. I know it's not that simple, but c'mon, I need positive reinforcement. Did Nolan dig a DVOA hole too deep to recover any shot at DVOA mediocrity?

Speaking of Nolan, I'd like to see the worst DVOA's per head coach. He's gotta be top 3, for sure.

by DGL :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:44pm

One game does not a season make.

Otherwise the Bengals would be contending for the AFC North. And we couldn't have that.

by Joseph :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:37pm

Interesting notes:
1. NFCS HAS to be considered the best division this year. They have more wins than any other division, and the worst team (according to DVOA) is 11th in the NFL. That means according to DVOA, all four NFCS teams deserve to be in the playoffs. Two will make it, and ATL might make it 3.
2. The Saints, if their kicker could make FG's late against the Vikes & Broncos, could be at 9-4 and tied for 2nd in the division--and everyone would be talking about how ATL could finish at 10-6 or even 11-5 and IN LAST PLACE!!! As it is, the Saints will finish no worse than 8-8 and prob still in last. (FO--what's the best team by DVOA to finish in last place in their division?? And the best overall finish for a 8-8/9-7 team)
3. If the Saints D hadn't had so many injuries, how much better would it be? They're the only team in the top 10 without a top-half defense. (Both starting CB's missed more than half the year, and are on IR; DE Charles Grant also; DT's Sedrick Ellis, Brian Young, and Hollis Thomas all missed several games [they are the top 3 DT's]; and I believe a couple of LB's also. This doesn't count some other backups.) Yes every team has injuries, but the Saints' D is not the Ravens. Rookie CB Tracy Porter was doing a great job, and IMO his loss has hurt the most.

by Dales :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:37pm

Re-1: Has to be? I think it is obviously up there, but I think the NFCE still has an argument.

The NFCS has 34 wins. The NFCE has 33.5 wins. That's pretty close.

The NFCS has all teams at 11 or better in DVOA rank. Two NFCE teams are ranked worse, but two NFCE teams are ranked as better than the highest NFCS team.

If you sum up the total DVOA for the teams in the division, the NFCE is 77.3, while the NFCS is 60.8. For weighted DVOA, it is 69.2 to 65.9. That's pretty close again.

The NFCS is 0-3 against the NFCE, with Car/NYG still to come. TB lost to Dal. Atl lost to Phi. NO lost to Was. This measure suggests that the NFCE might have the edge.

ETA--- Giants/Panthers has been flexed to 8:15!
The NFCS is a very good division this year, but I would still give the nod to the NFC East.

by Alex51 :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:06pm

what's the best team by DVOA to finish in last place in their division??

That would be the 2002 Kansas City Chiefs, who finished 8-8, tied with SD for last in the AFC West (and they would've lost the tiebreaker with SD due to division record, if it had come to that), despite having a DVOA of 19.5%, which was 5th in the NFL that year.

by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:38pm

Dang ATL drops out of the top 10.

Can someone help me - next week, do I ignore my home training and cheer for Dallas in the hopes that the Giants can be caught?

by Dean (not verified) :: Fri, 12/12/2008 - 11:59am

NO. Not under any circumstances. Even when it hurts my teams playoff chances, it hurts more to root for that other team. Show some self-respect, man! I would not be able to face myself in the mirror if I'd rooted for them. Even if they needed to win for my team to make the playoffs, that would tarnish the win.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:39pm

Hmm, weird. I think the play of the Broncos has improved over the last 3-4 weeks - except, maybe, for the Raiders game. A bit counter.intuitive to me, that the weighted DVOA is lower than all-season.

Also, I'm curious to knowing how the Panthers' game ranks as the best offensive rushing DVOA this year... Maybe ever...

by ChrisH :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:41pm

This sentence didn't make much sense to me:

but the Bucs rank fourth in their division according to weighted DVOA -- although ranking 11th in the NFL demonstrates that the Bucs are collapsing or anything.

It feels like a word is missing in there.

by Shattenjager :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 2:59pm

I think it is meant to be "demonstrates that the Bucs are not collapsing or anything.

by BucKai :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:16pm

I caught that too, I'm assuming (hoping) that it's "aren't" collapsing or anything.

Then again, after last nights attempt at playing without tackling, I can't say that they are not collapsing. It was just a horrible demonstration of Buc defenders bouncing off of runners and our receivers/running backs/tight-ends dropping passes.

At least Antonio Bryant showed up. That diving one-handed TD reception was a thing of beauty.

That seemed to be the only thing working for the Buc's, the deep pass to Bryant up the left side-line. We got two 50 yard receptions out of that. If the O-line had been able to protect Garcia more (get away with some of the holds that Carolina did) I'd have liked to have seen that play a couple more times.

by BucNasty :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:29pm

I take comfort in the fact that it also happened to the Ravens, and they rebounded quite nicely. Poor tackling from a bunch of guys who are usually pretty good at it is probably an aberration, and I don't expect it to happen next week.

Hopefully we'll come away from that game looking to throw deep more, because the run game isn't at all what it looked like when we were running over the Pats in preseason. One thing that hasn't been talked about after Graham went down, though, is his pass blocking ability. The guy was like a brick wall, and neither Dunn nor Caddy can fill his shoes in that regard.

by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:06pm

love it when you guys get these out early - gives me something to look at over lunch.

Funny that in such an offensive season there really aren't any great offences like previous teams such as NE, Indy and St Louis.

As a Viking fan I take hope in the fact that horrible special teams is the achilles heal of this team. I'd far rather that be the weakness separating you from the top echelon of teams than defence or offence.

Also, I'm hoping Jackson gets a shot. I think he's less of a negative than Frerotte at this point.

by ZDNeal :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:22pm

I agree about jackson.

by Key19 :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:18pm

NYG/DAL should be a lot of fun.

by Key19 :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:20pm

TB/ATL should be awesome too. Gotta love when teams looking for Playoff spots play each other. Especially since the Bucs are in the #5 Wildcard spot right now and the Falcons are the first runner up to the #6 Wildcard spot.

Good games on our horizon once again!

by panthersnbraves :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:40pm

"It was just a horrible demonstration of Buc defenders bouncing off of runners and our receivers/running backs/tight-ends dropping passes."

I will concede that Dunn uncharacteristically dropped several swing passes, but then again, so did Hoover.

As to the bouncing off - that is something J Stewart has been doing to Defenders all year.

by Mark S. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 3:45pm

Seems weird to say this as a Giants fan, but I'm really hoping the Eagles take care of the Browns and 'Skins over the next 2 weeks (which I think they will). 'Cause if that happens, unless DAL loses both of their next 2 (which they could - they're against very good teams), the final playoff spot will come down down to their head-to-head in Philly, Week 17. That would be nice.

by Kaveman :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:14pm

There's an interesting little cluster of 8-5 teams between spots 18 and 21: the Jets, Cowboys, Broncos and Pats. Pretty close to the same total DVOA and WDVOA, although with widely differing offense, defense and ST components. Something interesting: these teams are all in the bottom quarter of the league in variance.

The table says that the Broncos have the #3 offense, #30 defense and #29 special teams. Okay. But we're 30th in variance. So which part of the team is being inconsistent? The table cannot tell me. Because it is not a 3 line graph of offensive, defensive, and ST DVOA over the weeks.

This sounds to me like it would be a nice little applet for your resident web guy to code up. :-)

by Temo :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:26pm

The Cowboys have the injury thing. The other two teams are just weird.

by Dales :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:32pm

Premium has the variance in each of the components.

The answer for Denver is "the defense has been consistent. The other parts? Not so much."

Without getting too specific. :-)

by Mystyc :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:58pm

Without getting too specific, can you at least clarify if Total Variance is just the variance of the team's total DVOA each game, or if it examines each unit separately and then combines those numbers? If a team has exactly 0.0% DVOA each week, but gets there via wildly different combinations of O/D/ST, does that result in a high Total Variance, or low?

by Dales :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 5:09pm

Total Variance does not appear to be the sum of the individual (Off, def, st) variances.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 10:13pm

It wouldn't be. You don't have the same number of plays on offense, defense, or special teams.

by B :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 5:53pm

The Off/Def/ST pages have the variance on them. For Denver, their variance is coming from Special teams and offense. Which is how it seems to me, it's felt like one week their offense will be unstoppable, next week, not so much. Their defense, unfortunately, has been pretty consistently bad.

by Kaveman :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 9:42am

That was my intuition from watching the games as well, but I still think the chart would be interesting to see. In fact, I can think of a few charts that would be interesting and it's a pity that the guys here haven't discovered Gnuplot. :-/

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:17pm

I've been all excited about how the 49ers are playing the past few games, but their weighted DVOA is actually lower than their overall DVOA. So what's creating the strange illusion that they're playing better than they were?

The Jets game would be easy to accunt for: 5 fumbles, only 1 of them lost.

by Temo :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 4:27pm

They got demolished by the Cowboys, which DVOA says is the 19th best team in the NFL.

by Jin (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 5:15pm

Wow Visante Shiancoe is now the #3 TE on DYAR (#1 on accidental nudity), what a turn around from last year. He's turned into a nice playmaker where b4 he just dropped TD's and first downs.

by Dan :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 7:30pm

Cooley is 9th & 2nd, respectively.

by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 5:29pm

I know it's only 77 passes but his DVOA is actually slightly positive (.2) vs -8.3 for Frerotte. He has essentially the same DVOA as Favre, Orton, Flacco, Edwards.

I think the Vikings panicked when they benched Jackson. I've looked back at the GB and Indy games as well as this last Det game. He has played better than Frerotte and he has a potential upside, perhaps small. I don't see any reason to play Frerotte.

by andrew :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 7:08pm

His effectiveness is helped by his running ability, especailly in the Packers game it elevated his rating.

However, I don't think it complements the rest of the Vikings offense that well, in that it isn't something that is going to force defenses to stop stacking the box.

I keep thinking he could be great in a wildcat setup...

by Brandon (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 5:30pm

I can't wait for Steelers-Ravens. #1 Defense, vs. #2 (according to DVOA). In December, in the northeast. I hope it's snowing...

by smashmouth football :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 6:11pm

The weather forecast that day for Baltimore is mix of sun and clouds, temperatures reaching the mid-40's.

by BucNasty :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 5:31pm

A lot of Football Outsiders readers were probably expecting to reload the page today and see a big headline saying "Football Editor Kills Eight in DVOA Rampage as Philadelphia Retakes Top Spot."

Why kill anyone? You should be feeling vindicated. The Eagles are a great team with hard luck and a coach that makes questionable decisions. I don't think anyone looks forward to seeing them in the playoffs.

by Key19 :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 6:08pm

Speaking as a Cowboys fan, I am very disappointed that the Kevin Kolb Era didn't make it to Week 17. Having a gimme game would've been nice. But alas, we'll have to earn our way into the Playoffs.

If there is any game that can be lost without too much of a negative influence, it is Baltimore. Unfortunately, I think that's the one the Cowboys have the best chance of winning.

Really sucks they couldn't hold off Pittsburgh in the end. Makes things a lot harder. I think the Boys get 2 of 3 and have about a 50% chance of getting into the Playoffs. I think Washington will beat Philadelphia, so the Eagles will finish 1/2 game behind the Boys even if they beat them (as long as Dallas wins 2/3).

by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 5:31pm

Jin - the irony to me about Shiancoe is that had he not had two very key drops in the GB and Indy games Jackson may never have been benched.

Shiancoe has been great this year other than those two plays.

by eyePod (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 5:33pm

Gotta love that 8-11 of those teams on the worst list are from the NFC. And 6 of them are from the NFC West!

by Anonymous Too! (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 6:51pm

Do a lot of people out there right now really think that the Redskins still have the 12th best offense in the league? In the past eight games, they've put up:

10 points against the #1 DVOA defense (Ravens) in a loss
7 points against the #7 DVOA defense (Giants) in a loss
20 points against the #26 DVOA defense (Seahawks) in a win
10 points against the #13 DVOA defense (Cowboys) in a loss
6 points against the #2 DVOA defense (Steelers) in a loss
25 points against the #32 DVOA defense (Lions) in a win
14 points against the #19 DVOA defense (Browns) in a win
17 points against the #31 DVOA defense (Rams) in a loss

Obviously they've played several excellent defenses there, but they've done absolutely nothing against them. They also played the two worst defenses in the league, along with numbers 19 and 26, and in those four games against defenses in the bottom half of the league the Skins have averaged 19 points a game.

All of this is a long-windeed way of asking what the Redskins' weighted offensive DVOA might be? Their overall weighted DVOA is taking a nose-dive. Their offense seems to be the culprit. But I find it hard to believe they have hit bottom.

by Tom Gower :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 7:36pm

The Redskins are . . . 15th in Weighted Offensive DVOA, as you can see on the super-secret, well-hidden "Team Offense" page. I'd also recommend a slightly more nuanced view than "lots of points a game" = "good offense." The two generally have a positive correlation, of course, but it's by no means a perfect one. For the Redskins, may I also recommend trying to find a non-incompetent kicker? Being worst in the league in that is probably also suppressing your offensive output, both by forcing a change in playcalling and/or strategy to avoid doing things like kicking 48 yard field goals and by missing the kicks that actually do get attempted.

by Temo :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 11:45am

non-incompetent kicker

Or alternatively, a competent kicker. :)

by Jeremy Billones :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 12:21pm

One thing to note is that Washington has only had 128 offensive drives and 125 defensive drives, which are 20th and 25th or so in the league. (Primarly due to being 3rd in not-giveaways per drive and 22nd in defensive takeaways per drive.) That means their PF/PA are a little lower on a per-game basis than most other clubs. They're 12th in unadjusted offensive Yards per Drive, so any flavor of VOA having them as 12th makes sense to me. (Defense is 11th and 9th, you guess which is which :)

The 9 points we could get for not going 10/15 from 40-49 yards is bad (yes, worst in the league), but the 19 points we've lost in punting is worse (though not as bad as Minnesota's 23.5). And the low drive totals magnify both numbers.

by galactic_dev :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 6:57pm

Am I the only person still afraid of the Patriots? Last year they had an amazing DVOA, but this year they have posted a W-L record far above their DVOA, making them the anti-Eagles. Granted, they have clear weaknesses, but winning games isn't one of them.

New England is clearly ranked too low because they transcend the DVOA system. Belicheat is way better than this. Even Raiderjoe agrees FTW.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 3:57pm

The Pats are in great position to win out, go 11-5, and be the first 11-5 team to miss the playoffs since the field expanded to 12 teams.

They have a soft schedule and lose all the tiebreakers to the Colts, Ravens, Jets, and Dolphins.

I think it's safe to pencil in the Colts, Ravens, and Steelers for 3 spots along with the Titans and whatever abomination comes from the AFC West. Probably the AFC East will only get one team, and there's a good chance it'll be the winner of the Week 17 Jets-Dolphins showdown.

by reed _em_and_weep (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 7:50pm

New England (along with the other AFCE teams) plays eight games against two historically bad divisions, and six more among their mediocre selves. Fear the Patriots not. They will not transcend anything this year.

Unfortunately, the unprecedentedly cream puff schedules for the AFCE could conspire to keep the Ravens out of the playoffs.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 4:00pm

The Ravens would have to lose 2 of 3 to be in trouble. One loss would give them 5, which would tie them with the Pats and the AFC East champion. They will hold the tiebreaker over the Pats.

I figure the home game against Jax is a gimme, so the Ravens need to either beat the Steelers at home or the Cowboys on the road. I think those are both winnable games. Competitive, certainly, but winnable.

by MJK :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 9:35pm

Wow, I guess you're right about it being an offensively focused year. The Patriots have the 16th ranked offense--almost he definition of "average" for this year (technically, it's the definition of Median, at least if you consider the league to only have 31 teams, which is fair given that I don't think the Lions really count...). Yet their offensive DVOA is a solidly positive 7.9%. Baltimore (the #17 team) is at 4.3%. This year's average offensive DVOA has got to be way above the baseline of 0%...

I really, really hope that they don't flex the NYJ-MIA game to the evening unless, based on performance in the next two weeks, it's known for a fact that the Patriots are out and that it's for the division win. If there's a chance that the earlier games could affect what's riding on this game (i.e. that the Patriots have a shot at the division title), then they have absolutely no business flexing it. What if, hypothetically, one of the two teams lost one of their next two while New England and the other team won their next two. And then imagine the game gets flexed, and New England beats Buffalo at 1:oo PM. In that case, if the winninger team of the two won the game, then they would win the division, but the losinger team would have nothing to play for, because winning would only give the division to the Patriots. On the other hand, if the game happens at the same time as the NE-BUF game (as is currently scheduled), then both teams have a shot at the division (since both own a tiebreaker over NE in this scenario if NE loses to BUF), and both would play hard.

The last time the Patriots missed the playoffs, almost this exact scenario played out. Going into Week 17, the Patriots, Dolphins, and Jets all had a shot at the division. The Pats played the 'Phins, and the Jets played a night game against a very good Packers team, who had clinched their division but had a shot at a first round bye if they won and the Bucs lost. A Miami win gave Miami the division, a Pats win and a Jets loss gave the division to the Patriots, a Pats win and a Jets win gave it to the Jets. Schedule inequities would give Cleveland the last wildcard and leave the two AFCE teams that didn't win the division out of the playoffs. The Patriots and Dolphins fought incredibly hard, and the Patriots, with their season on the line, ended up pulling out an amazing come-from-behind dramatic win. But the Bucs won, so the Packers knew they had nothing to play for and rested their starters, while the Jets knew that a divsion title and playoff birth were on the line, so they gave it their all and won, despite some sloppy play. Had the games been played simultaneously, there's a pretty good chance the Packers would have played for real and beaten the Jets, so having games with playoff implications on another played earlier could have cost the Patriots a playoff birth. This year, the same thing could happen again, but the difference is that it would happen because the NFL chose to make it happen by flexing the game.

by ammek :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 5:35am

But the Bucs won, so the Packers knew they had nothing to play for and rested their starters

Alas, this is untrue. The Packers were 12-3 going into the final week, a game ahead of Tampa Bay; if the Bucs had lost then the Packers would have had nothing to play for. As it was, a win in New York would have given Green Bay home-field advantage throughout the playoffs; so they had everything to play for, and were blown out 45-17.

That loss meant they had to play a wildcard game. But at least the wildcard was at Lambeau, where the Packers were invincible, especially as Brett Favre had won 200 straight games when the temperature was below 34.687 degrees or whatever.

Time doesn't heal, does it?

by Travis :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 11:07am


1. The Eagles would have clinched home field advantage in the NFC with a win against the Giants the day before, but lost 10-7 in overtime. The Packers knew going into Sunday that a win or tie would give them home-field advantage and that a loss would drop them to the #2 or #3 seed.

2. Jets-Packers started at 4:15; Patriots-Dolphins and Browns-Falcons started at 1:00.

3. Buccaneers-Bears (in Champaign, IL) was the Sunday Night game. A Packers loss coupled with a Buccaneers loss or tie would have given the Packers the #2 seed, but I don't think the Packers had that much confidence that Henry Burris would lead the Bears to victory later that day.

4. The Packers did not rest their starters until the Jets went up 35-10 in the 4th quarter.

by MJK :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 1:37pm


I was living in New England at the time and not really following the NFC (plus was studying for final exams around then), so I guess I misremembered the NFC implications. But I do recall that the Boston sports media outlets (and also Michale Holley's book Patriot Reign) were railing about how the scheduling situation caused the Packers to take it easy and the Jets to try hard, and how unfair it was. I remember the Packers rested their starters at one point, and from that and from a quick read of Pro-Football Reference, I had inferred the above. Apologies if I got it wrong.

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 8:04pm

Ah, yes, the legendary Bears-Bucs season finale in 2002. I vividly remember driving back down to Champaign over winter break only to have to sit through a game between Henry Burris and Shaun King. The Tampa Bay kicker (was it still Gramatica?) kicked five field goals on that miserable night, and neither team found its way into the end zone. My dad has had season tickets since before I was born, so I've attended a few dozen Bear games over the years, and I can confidently say that that game was the least exciting I've ever seen.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 4:05pm

What else will they have to flex on Week 17? Jets-Dolphins would be the one to grab.

Or do you want Denver-San Diego? Dallas-Philadelphia could be interesting.

But I think that the winner of Jets-Dolphins will win the AFC East, and that NBC will not be able to pass up the story of Favre's Jets vs. the Parcells resurrection of the Dolphins.

Hmm..with luck, the Jets will lose at Seattle (they are a godawful travelling team) and we'll get something else.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 9:58pm

Yeah, at this point I really don't care too much about Frerotte's back injury, assuming that it doesn't end with Booty at qb. Ol' Gus has essentially given the opposition at least 7 points a game. I wonder what the QB record is for percentage of INTs returned for touchdowns, or to within the qb's team's 20, in a season, with, say, a minimum of 10 INTs.

One thing that I think still might be missed in FO rankings for offense and defense is the interdependence between the units. I tend to think the Vikings' defense has been slightly better than their ranking indicates, and the offense worse.

by James (not verified) :: Tue, 12/09/2008 - 10:34pm

So what are you guys gonna do when Philly finishes #1 and misses the playoffs.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 10:36am

Other than continue to look and see if there are any tweaks to make the formula more predicitve (which they always do), why would they need to do anything?

by Wanker79 :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 11:10am

You mean besides burn Andy Reid in effigy like most Philly fans (myself included) are going to do? Probably nothing.

by The One (not verified) :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 10:55am

I think Washington will beat Philadelphia, so the Eagles will finish 1/2 game behind the Boys even if they beat them (as long as Dallas wins 2/3).

Do you really THINK Washington will beat Philly is they remain on a roll with all that is going down in D.C.? Their best playing is lashing out at the coach, the offense is not longer surprising anyone as it did in the beginning of the year, their Oline just took another blow as Samuels is done for the year and Jansen is still banged up, and Campbell is getting killed back there. There isn't much to suggest that philly will lose to Washington at this point. It seems as a Cowboys fan this is more a WISH, than a THOUGHT.

by free bet (not verified) :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 11:04am

its time for Peyton to win again, Id be amazed if they f$%&/( it up without Brady....

by Wanker79 :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 11:34am

Here's a comparison graph of the conferences.

And here's a comparison graph of the divisions.

The NFC is clearly the better conference this year, and the two best divisions are clearly the NFCE and NFCS (although their relative ranking is debatable with valid points for both divisions).

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 12:32pm


I wonder how different that would look if (P)Manning hadn't had the infection and played like crap the first half of the season, and Brady hadn't been hurt.

by The One (not verified) :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 2:10pm

Or if Romo, Jones, Barber etc hadn't been injured in Dall, Westbrook in Philly with Reid neglecting the running game all year...

by Wanker79 :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 4:20pm

And I wonder how high I would rank if monkeys could fly out my ass?

by RickD :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 4:16pm

The AFC has been weird this season with all four of last season's top four teams witnessing a severe drop-off in performance. While the Colts have managed to rally the troops, and the Pats are treading water, the Chargers and Jaguars have fallen apart.

OTOH, three strong franchises that had off years last season (Pittsburgh, Tennessee, and Baltimore) have rebounded.

The graph shows to me that you shouldn't take DVOA too seriously. Teams can only beat the teams that they play against, and even then it will depend on _when_ they play them, and where.

The Cardinals, for example, have one impressive win all season - their fluke victory over the Cowboys, and yet DVOA just loves them. From my standpoint, the Cardinals, Saints, and Packers are all overrated by DVOA.

by MJK :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 8:02pm

It's pretty obvious what happened to the Pats (star QB lost for the year, one or two too many FA and injury losses on defense forcing young unready guys into starting roles), and the Colts early struggles can be attributed to Manning's knee and their O-line injury issues.

In San Diego I think it is a combination of (1) LdT finally falling back to earth, and that offense was extremely reliant on him, combined with (2) Norv Turner is a lousy coach and the positive effects of Schottenheimer's tenure are finally wearing off.

The three franchises that rebounded make sense--all three had above-average defenses last year and below-average offenses, so marginal improvements in offensive play (for Tennessee and Baltimore, due to getting somewhat competent play at QB), combined with fluctuations known to occur on defense from year to year vaulted them up.

But what happened to Jacksonville? Any thoughts?

by Kulko :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 4:23am

A team dependent on their running game lost basically its complete O-line in the first few weeks?

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Wed, 12/10/2008 - 9:25pm

But what happened to Jacksonville? Any thoughts?

Simple - injuries on the offensive line combined with Garrard regressing to the mean after an exceptional season last year.

by Wanker79 :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 10:13am

I don't know if it's actually had any effect on his play, but I just saw a commercial with Garrard for a Crohn's Disease treatment. I don't know when he was diagnosed (the commercial made it seem like it was rather recent), but depending on the severity something like that could definitely have an impact on his play.

by Rich Conley (not verified) :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 12:33pm

MY oppinion of Garrard last year was that an absolutely stellar running game was allowing him to play almost entirely against base sets and run defenses. NOBODY gameplanned to stop Garrard last year. They gameplanned to slow down MJD and Fred Taylor.

Garrard hasn't regressed. They've lost an exceptional running game, and now have to rely on a mediocre quarterback.

by Red Hedgehog (not verified) :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 3:16am

If the DVOA-favored teams wins every matchup from hereon out, the playoffs will be:

1. Tennessee 15-1
2. Baltimore 12-4
3. Miami 11-5
4. Denver 9-7
5. Indianapolis 11-5
6. Pittsburgh 11-5

1. New York 14-2
2. Tampa Bay 12-4
3. Arizona 11-5
4. Green Bay! 8-8
5. Carolina 12-4
6. Philadelphia 10-5-1

If Tennessee rests starters in weeks 15 & 16 and New York in week 16, then Pittsburgh goes 12-4 and has tie-breakers over Baltimore so they switch places and Minnesota at 9-7 wins the NFC North.

by Wanker79 :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 12:25pm

And if the Playoff Odds are 100% accurate, the playoffs will look like:

1. Ten
2. Pit
3. NYJ
4. Den
5. Ind
6. Bal
With NE the next most likely to take the 6 spot with only a 2.1% chance. Mia only has a 10% less chance of taking the division and the 3 seed from the J-E-T-S with no further effect on the standings.

1. NYG
2. Car
3. Ari
4. Min
5. TB
6. Phi
With Atl only 7% behind Philly for the final spot. And if TB can overtake Carolina in the division (they trail by 16%), they'll flip-flop with no other effect on the standings.

by chris clark (not verified) :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 12:53pm

Or is it just statistically below the threshold of the playoff report because there are too many other teams that are more likely to get the #2 AFC seed?

by Wanker79 :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 2:10pm

If Denver wins out, Pittsburgh loses out (Bal, Ten, Cle), and Baltimore loses both games besides the one against Pittsburgh, the Steelers would finish 10-6, Ravens would finish 10-6, and Denver would finish 11-5. And theoretically, the AFCE would be won by either Miami or NY with a record as low as 9-7 (all three of them lose every game except someone has to win the NY-Miami game).

So yes, in theory Denver still has a mathematical shot at the 2 seed, but so many things would have to break their way that it's not really worth mentioning.

by chris clark (not verified) :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 5:28pm

Thanks, that was my basic thought. So, for any of the current 8-5 teams to be the number 2 seed, both PIT and BAL have to go on a complete losing streak (except BAL has to beat PIT, so both are 10-6) and the 8-5 team would have to win out (and be 11-5) and then it would be the 2 seed. And, I won't go into the complexity of how all the tie-breakers are resolved if we have a whole slew of 11-5 teams in the AFC at the end. I presume that NYJ and MIA have some tie breaker advantages since they show a slight chance of being the 2 seed in the playoff report. Still, it would be a fitting end to the year of kinda-good if there were a whole list of 11-5 teams in contention.

by CoachDave :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 1:17pm

The Pats may have lost Brady and have been killed with injuries, but the Zebras are doing more than their usual fair share of "home cooking" with the Pats.


55 flagged penalties after week 14?
44 accepted?

The next lowest team is Seattle with 58.
The league average is 74 accepted penalties.
And 5 teams have TWICE as many accepted penalties as the Pats do.

FIVE OFFENSIVE HOLDING penalties? I've seen Matt Light commit 5 questionable holds in a GAME, much less 5 for the whole team in a year.

Yes, I know...I shouldn't be shocked...but even this ridiculous amount of bias staggers me.

/Cue the usual suspects in 3, 2, 1...

by MJK :: Fri, 12/12/2008 - 1:28pm

There's three ways to interpret low penalty counts, especially penalties like offensive holding and pass interference, and your assertion that the refs have been favoring New England is, in my mind, the least probable.

The possibilities are:
(1) Your assertion, that refs are for some reason choosing to call fewer penalties on the Pats than they do on other teams
(2) The Pats have just happened to draw ref crews that tend to keep their flags in their pockets, or
(3) The Pats haven't been pushing the envelope as much, and hence really have been committing fewer penalties.

I think (1) is unlikely because, since refs rotate every game, it would essentially require a league-wide conspiracy among officials to try to help the Pats. I simply don't see any motivation for the referees to endanger their good standing in this way, unless you are claiming that the entire NFL is corrupt.

I don't have the data to evaluate the likliehood of (2), but it is out there. I know FO tracks penalty propensities for the different ref crews, so someone from FO could just look at the crews that have worked the pats gamse and see if the Pats had gotten "lucky" in the crews they drew (note that I put luck in quotes, because this works both ways. In the Seattle game, for example, both teams were committing uncalled offensive holding like crazy, but Seattle was obviously much better at it because they kept NE from getting pressure on Wallace, whereas the reverse was not true. A few holding calls on both sides would have done wonders to help the Pats win that game more comfortably). An easier way to check is to look at the penalty total for Pats opponents (but only to look at the games in which they played the Pats). Is that historically low, as well? If you, I think you have your answer.

The third possibility is that the Pats might just be not pushing the envelope. I'd certainly buy that on pass interference/defensive holding, since they've been starting a lot of rookies due to injuries and FA attrition. It wouldn't surprise me if there was evidence that rookies commit fewer DPI/defensive holding penalties per play than veterans, because they're still learning the game (I suppose the converse is also possible...I'd be curious to know). In any case, there have definitely been games when I wished the Pats O-line would hold more, because the opposing offensive line was getting away with murder and Cassel was running for his life.

So in short, your rather irrational take is probably the least likely of several possible explanations.

by Chris (not verified) :: Thu, 12/11/2008 - 4:12pm

The Redskins don't have the 12th best offense. They have never scored 30 or more in a game, and have scored over 20 four times and we are in week 15. They have racked up some yards, but their scoring is way behind their yardage.

The Redskins are 8-0-1 going UNDER their Vegas total 9 weeks in a row. The team has gone over their vegas total 2 times this entire season.

Rich C is also right about David Garrard. Him and cambell are both similar in benefiting from a strong run game, but nobody takes their arms seriously. Nobody every hyped up their throwing, but their LOW INT totals based on a conservative/run the ball/game manager game plan. You take away that run game, and they are below average quarterbacks. Jacksonville lost 60% of their O-Line, and their season was virtually over.

by Wanker79 :: Fri, 12/12/2008 - 10:07am

So Chris, how much does the almighty Lord and Savior Eli Manning benefit from the best rushing attack in the league? Oh wait, I know, the Giants' running game wouldn't be anywhere near as good as they are without Eli's omniscience allowing him to call all kinds of audibles and blitz pickups. You know, it's really not fair to allow a deity to play among mere mortals. The NFL rules committee should really look into that in the offseason.

by Xeynon (not verified) :: Sat, 12/13/2008 - 12:39am

Rich C, Chris-

When I said that Garrard has "regressed to the mean", I was thinking specifically of his turnover total. There was nothing in his statistical record prior to last season to indicate that he was likely to start an entire 16 game season and throw only four interceptions, which is exactly what he did. Even for a quarterback in a conservative, run-oriented offense, that's an exceptionally low total. This year, he's back to turning the ball over at a more typical rate. Obviously that's not mutually exclusive with the "he can no longer hide behind an excellent running game" hypothesis (in fact the two probably are interrelated - note that I did cite injuries on the offensive line as a major factor in the Jags' disappointing season as well). But I do think it's quite possible that Garrard just did have what for him was an exceptionally good season last year.

by jamesmcclure :: Mon, 12/15/2008 - 11:42pm

One thing that would be interesting to consider in the DVOA calculations is consistency. Really good / bad games seem to have a tendency to drive the DVOA in a particular direction, but consistency undeniably one of the most important considerations in football. If you had to choose between a running back who performs above replacement value on 90% of his plays (but with very few big plays) and one who was above replacement on a much smaller fraction of plays but makes up for it by breaking big plays (and thereby being far over replacement value to compensate for being below replacement more frequently), which would you choose? It seems to me that the more consistent player is more valuable.

It seems this would also have implications for the worst DVOA ever watch. Most bad teams are inconsistent enough to have a few mediocre performances over the course of the season and win at least a game or two. Shouldn't the lions be punished for the remarkable consistency they've been displaying each and every week? (not that i've actually watched a lions game this year. I haven't seen one since barry sanders retired). Likewise, the steelers defense has been impressive almost every week, in spite of the fact that the steelers offense and special teams haven't provided them with all that much help. You look at the ravens defense and can't forget that their run defense completely collapsed against the giants, which seems like a significant question mark in my mind. You never know which eagles team is going to show up. Why doesn't DVOA reward consistency? It seems like this might have the potential correct some of the DVOA peculiarities that were addressed in an earlier article.