Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

Most Recent FO Features


» 2017 Adjusted Games Lost

Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

15 Dec 2009

Week 14 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

Can you name the best teams in the NFL this year? It doesn't seem that hard, considering that Indianapolis and New Orleans have each started 13-0. The Football Outsiders DVOA ratings don't disagree here -- after all the advanced play-by-play breakdown, New Orleans ends up currently number one in overall season-long DVOA, while Indianapolis currently holds the top spot in weighted DVOA that discounts the results of early-season games. While DVOA agrees on the identity of the best teams, however, it certainly doesn't agree with the official standings when it comes to the distance between those teams and the rest of the league.

Look at win-loss records, and it is pretty clear that the 2009 season has two dominant teams destined for a historic Super Bowl clash, although two other very strong teams (Minnesota and San Diego) have a chance to upset the apple cart. Most of the other teams are scuffling around, trying to avoid problems like pouty wide receivers, seven turnovers a game, or the little voice inside the head coach's brain that says "You can win with a 100-0 pass-run ratio! Try it!"

Look at DVOA ratings, however, and the Colts and Saints aren't even close to running away with this thing. The 2009 season looks like a mish-mash of very good teams, primarily separated by their consistency (or lack thereof), scrambled up in our ratings and headed for a postseason with no clear favorite.

There's no way around it. The contrast between the standings and the DVOA ratings has gotten really wacko. Last week's DVOA analysis looked at how Indianapolis and New Orleans are not as dominant as past teams that went deep into the season undefeated, but the other side of the story is that we have a lot of other pretty good teams that our ratings say are roughly equivalent even though they're sitting around with records that range from 7-6 to 11-2. (Of course, we were one Steven Hauschka field goal away from those specific teams actually being 8-5 and 10-3.)

  • Six teams currently have DVOA over 25%. In 2004, five teams had DVOA over 25% at this point; in no other season were there more than four teams over 25% after Week 14.
  • Eight teams currently have Weighted DVOA over 20%. There are only two other seasons where at least six teams had Weighted DVOA over 20% at this point: 2004 (seven) and 2002 (six). Furthermore, if we drew the line at 19% instead of 20%, we would have ten teams instead of eight, and that list of ten teams doesn't even include San Diego (we'll get to them in a bit).
  • Despite all those teams over 20%, not a single team has Weighted DVOA over 30%. The only other year where no team had Weighted DVOA over 30% after Week 14 was 2003 (the year Kansas City dominated the first half of the season, then collapsed).

You can see how strange this is compared to the past 15 seasons. When it comes to having lots of strong teams, the most similar season was clearly 2004 -- but in 2004, you didn't have a big close pack of good teams. Pittsburgh and New England finished that season with two of the five highest DVOA totals of all-time, and the Colts were up in the same range until they rested their starters over the final couple weeks.

Just in case things didn't look strange enough, there's a pretty obvious team missing from our pack of good DVOA teams: the 10-3 San Diego Chargers. The Chargers beat Dallas this week for their eighth straight win and actually dropped a spot in the DVOA rankings, down to 14th. Much of the NFL commentariat considers San Diego to be "the team nobody wants to play" -- for starters, we've seen in recent years that they are a terrible matchup for Indianapolis -- so San Diego's low DVOA may be even more surprising than Cincinnati's low DVOA. And, like Cincinnati's low rating, it's hard to find reasons in the usual places. San Diego's fumble recovery rate is 50 percent. The schedule has been easier than average, but not extreme. They get a little value from "hidden special teams," but not that much. It's hard to figure out why so many of their wins have ratings so close to zero. Part of the problem is that the entire team is being dragged along by Philip Rivers and his running buddies, Antonio Gates and Vincent Jackson. We see how great those guys are, and maybe we forget just how ordinary the rest of the team has been this year. The Chargers are below-average on defense and special teams, and their running game is horrid.. LaDainian Tomlinson's bust in Canton is already sculpted and sitting in a closet waiting for use, but at this point the guy is so toast that actual toast is considering a lawsuit for libel. As Vince Verhei noted in today's Any Given Sunday on ESPN.com, the Chargers are on pace to break the record for biggest difference between pass offense DVOA and run offense DVOA, currently held by the 2003 Tennessee Titans.

We also know that San Diego's rating is being dragged down by their 2-3 start. This table shows San Diego's DVOA ratings for the first five games, and then for their eight-game winning streak:

Weeks 1-6 10.4% 16 21.5% 29 1.6% 11 -9.5% 20
Weeks 7-14 28.2% 2 3.5% 18 -1.6% 23 23.1% 9

Although Weighted DVOA drops the strength of games more than eight weeks old, most of those games still have some value in the formula, which is why San Diego is still just 11th in Weighted DVOA. Assuming the Chargers continue to play winning football, their Weighted DVOA rating will rise over the next couple weeks until it is a lot closer to 23.1% you see above. Still, even if we only consider the Chargers of the past eight games, we don't get a great team that should scare everyone come playoff time. We get another pretty good team in the year where there are lots of pretty good teams, about as good as Minnesota, Baltimore, or that Dallas team they just beat by a field goal.

Obviously, DVOA is not the end all and be all of how to judge teams. There's something to be said for home-field advantage, as well as the value of consistency. In many cases, the teams that are lower in DVOA than you might expect are also very consistent. San Diego is second in VARIANCE, and Indianapolis is fourth. New England, Philadelphia, and Arizona are all in the bottom ten. On the other hand, Cincinnati -- a team which is much lower in DVOA than its win-loss record would suggest -- is 26th in VARIANCE. New Orleans is actually middle-of-the-pack after a fairly inconsistent November. And get ready for a shock -- the most consistent team in the league this year by game-to-game DVOA is actually Dallas!

Compounding this weirdness is our recent history of playoff upsets, starting with Pittsburgh's wild card run to the title in 2005. Let me show you a table that will be running in an upcoming ESPN.com Insider column. This table shows you how often the team with the better regular-season record wins in the playoffs, splitting things up by four-year increments. (Games where teams had the same record are not listed.) Yes, the sample size is small, and this doesn't account for home-field advantage in the wild card round sometimes going to a team with fewer wins, but it's hard to not be stunned by the contrast between the '90s and the last few years:

Years Wild Card Divisional Conf Champ Super Bowl Total
2005-2008 7-5 6-8 4-3 1-3 18-19
2001-2004 6-6 13-3 3-3 3-1 25-13
1997-2000 11-2 13-2 4-2 0-1 28-7
1993-1996 10-3 11-4 7-1 3-0 31-8

Between the recent history of playoff upsets and the closely packed DVOA ratings, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that this year's postseason will be another surprising one. Right now, our playoff odds report still has the odds of an undefeated New Orleans vs. undefeated Indianapolis Super Bowl at less than two percent.

* * * * *

And now, an important housekeeping note... We're finally set with something we've been planning on since we introduced our new player pages a few months ago: Sponsorships! You can now show your support for both Football Outsiders and your favorite players -- as well as advertise your football-related product -- by purchasing a one-year sponsorship on any FO player page. Most players are five dollars each, even many good players. Better-known players cost more, with the top players going for $200 per year. If you want a specific player page, just search for the player with our search box on the top right of the site; player pages will always come up first on the list. We're hoping to have a lot of fun little lists and articles to draw attention to the player pages in the offseason, and we'll be adding more material to them as well. 2009 data will go up when the season ends, and we're close to having 1993 data for skill players and 1997 individual defense. We're also exploring the addition of some of Bill Connelly's advanced college player metrics, so you can get Chris Johnson's POE at East Carolina to go with his DVOA ratings in the NFL.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 14 weeks of 2009, 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. 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 well 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 NO 31.3% 1 26.8% 5 13-0 31.1% 1 -1.8% 11 -1.6% 26
2 PHI 31.3% 2 28.6% 4 9-4 14.0% 12 -10.5% 5 6.7% 3
3 IND 29.2% 4 29.2% 1 13-0 24.4% 3 -4.7% 7 0.1% 19
4 NE 28.2% 5 28.7% 3 8-5 29.6% 2 3.5% 17 2.0% 12
5 BAL 27.7% 8 26.2% 6 7-6 17.8% 7 -7.9% 6 2.1% 10
6 GB 27.5% 3 29.0% 2 9-4 19.0% 6 -16.4% 2 -8.0% 32
7 MIN 22.8% 6 23.2% 7 11-2 15.8% 9 -0.2% 14 6.8% 2
8 ARI 18.8% 7 19.7% 9 8-5 13.7% 13 -1.4% 13 3.7% 5
9 DAL 17.5% 9 20.5% 8 8-5 22.9% 4 6.0% 21 0.6% 16
10 DEN 16.5% 10 14.2% 12 8-5 3.8% 19 -13.4% 3 -0.7% 24
11 HOU 13.9% 14 19.0% 10 6-7 16.7% 8 5.8% 20 3.0% 7
12 PIT 11.8% 11 12.6% 13 6-7 14.5% 10 -1.9% 10 -4.6% 30
13 NYG 11.3% 12 7.3% 16 7-6 14.3% 11 0.6% 16 -2.5% 28
14 SD 10.2% 13 16.6% 11 10-3 21.4% 5 10.8% 25 -0.3% 21
15 NYJ 8.7% 17 5.4% 17 7-6 -11.0% 23 -17.3% 1 2.3% 9
16 MIA 6.2% 16 7.7% 15 7-6 8.1% 17 4.9% 18 2.9% 8
17 CIN 5.3% 15 4.4% 18 9-4 6.4% 18 -0.1% 15 -1.3% 25
18 SF 4.9% 18 8.4% 14 6-7 -7.0% 22 -11.8% 4 0.1% 20
19 JAC 0.2% 19 -1.1% 22 7-6 9.0% 15 8.4% 22 -0.3% 22
20 WAS -0.5% 20 3.3% 20 4-9 -1.8% 20 -1.7% 12 -0.4% 23
21 TEN -2.1% 23 3.8% 19 6-7 10.0% 14 10.5% 24 -1.7% 27
22 ATL -3.5% 21 -8.5% 23 6-7 8.3% 16 12.0% 26 0.2% 18
23 CAR -7.0% 22 1.4% 21 5-8 -6.7% 21 -3.3% 8 -3.6% 29
24 BUF -13.1% 25 -14.3% 24 5-8 -18.4% 25 -2.2% 9 3.1% 6
25 CHI -20.8% 26 -23.7% 25 5-8 -19.3% 26 5.5% 19 4.0% 4
26 SEA -23.6% 24 -28.9% 26 5-8 -13.6% 24 12.0% 27 2.1% 11
27 CLE -31.3% 31 -31.6% 27 2-11 -19.7% 27 18.9% 30 7.3% 1
28 KC -32.8% 29 -36.1% 29 3-10 -25.0% 30 9.7% 23 1.9% 13
29 TB -33.3% 27 -34.7% 28 1-12 -20.1% 28 14.0% 29 0.8% 15
30 OAK -36.9% 30 -36.7% 30 4-9 -25.4% 31 12.5% 28 1.1% 14
31 STL -40.7% 28 -39.2% 31 1-12 -21.0% 29 19.9% 31 0.2% 17
32 DET -52.0% 32 -51.6% 32 2-11 -25.8% 32 21.2% 32 -5.1% 31

  • 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 NO 31.3% 13-0 38.2% 10.1 2 -4.9% 29 -11.4% 26 13.1% 14
2 PHI 31.3% 9-4 36.5% 9.2 4 -3.8% 27 19.5% 6 16.6% 24
3 IND 29.2% 13-0 30.7% 10.2 1 4.4% 9 -2.1% 19 8.4% 4
4 NE 28.2% 8-5 23.5% 8.9 7 5.4% 5 0.5% 17 21.9% 30
5 BAL 27.7% 7-6 27.3% 9.1 5 0.7% 17 -22.9% 29 13.2% 16
6 GB 27.5% 9-4 37.2% 8.7 8 -10.7% 32 3.5% 13 14.7% 19
7 MIN 22.8% 11-2 29.8% 9.3 3 -6.9% 30 -8.3% 25 8.5% 5
8 ARI 18.8% 8-5 18.8% 8.9 6 -2.2% 25 -32.6% 31 22.5% 31
9 DAL 17.5% 8-5 19.5% 8.4 9 -2.1% 24 31.0% 2 5.8% 1
10 DEN 16.5% 8-5 15.2% 8.1 11 3.6% 12 -19.2% 28 19.0% 27
11 HOU 13.9% 6-7 14.0% 8.2 10 1.3% 14 -3.2% 20 8.8% 6
12 PIT 11.8% 6-7 21.3% 7.8 13 -8.5% 31 30.7% 3 12.4% 13
13 NYG 11.3% 7-6 3.9% 7.1 16 4.8% 8 7.6% 11 14.2% 17
14 SD 10.2% 10-3 14.3% 7.9 12 -2.3% 26 1.3% 16 6.9% 2
15 NYJ 8.7% 7-6 15.2% 6.9 17 0.6% 18 15.5% 8 15.8% 22
16 MIA 6.2% 7-6 5.0% 7.1 15 5.3% 6 11.8% 10 10.8% 10
17 CIN 5.3% 9-4 8.6% 7.2 14 -0.9% 21 -6.9% 24 18.9% 26
18 SF 4.9% 6-7 5.5% 6.7 19 1.2% 15 -30.8% 30 10.8% 9
19 JAC 0.2% 7-6 -0.8% 6.7 18 -1.3% 22 13.0% 9 20.7% 29
20 WAS -0.5% 4-9 2.8% 6.6 20 -4.8% 28 19.5% 5 12.2% 12
21 TEN -2.1% 6-7 -12.4% 6.4 21 7.5% 2 -3.6% 21 38.3% 32
22 ATL -3.5% 6-7 -6.8% 6.4 22 6.7% 3 -18.8% 27 13.2% 15
23 CAR -7.0% 5-8 -12.6% 5.9 23 3.9% 11 32.7% 1 15.2% 21
24 BUF -13.1% 5-8 -11.5% 5.5 24 -0.2% 20 26.9% 4 14.2% 18
25 CHI -20.8% 5-8 -19.7% 4.6 25 -0.1% 19 -0.8% 18 10.1% 8
26 SEA -23.6% 5-8 -20.7% 3.8 26 -1.7% 23 -3.9% 22 20.7% 28
27 CLE -31.3% 2-11 -38.8% 3.4 27 5.8% 4 -34.7% 32 16.4% 23
28 KC -32.8% 3-10 -30.8% 3.4 28 3.5% 13 -4.8% 23 7.7% 3
29 TB -33.3% 1-12 -36.6% 3.1 30 9.3% 1 2.1% 14 15.2% 20
30 OAK -36.9% 4-9 -40.0% 3.3 29 5.0% 7 6.4% 12 17.9% 25
31 STL -40.7% 1-12 -40.7% 2.7 31 0.9% 16 18.8% 7 11.3% 11
32 DET -52.0% 2-11 -53.9% 2.0 32 4.3% 10 1.5% 15 9.4% 7

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 15 Dec 2009

320 comments, Last at 20 Dec 2009, 11:31am by R O


by Still Alive (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:20pm

Well it all seems pretty normal to me. I think people just grossly underestimate how contingent the W-L outcomes are in the NFL.

W-L outcomes tell you very little about a team compared to the data that is available, but people use them to form 90% of the their opinion about the strength of the teams.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:27am

but value is attached at the margin.

If there are two equal teams that play a pretty equal game, the team with Peyton Manning who WILL drive his team down the field to score that game winning TD/FG will win more often than not. The team that HAS the 2000 Ravens defense that will STOP that game winning TD/FG drive will win more often than not. Look at all the games say the Redskins lost in the past 2 years not because they didn't have the talent or got dominated during the game, but the fact that they couldn't drive down the field and win games in 2 min drills.

The 9-4 Eagles with a higher DVOA than the Colts? The 8-5 Patriots only a hair behind the undefeated Colts?

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:40am


Quantify that, would you? Then get back to me.

Otherwise, it looks like you're just saying, "Teams with a winning record will win more often than not."

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:26pm

Well I guess since I didn't take out the time to quantify it all, it must mean it's not true.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:49pm

Not true? It's so obviously true that it goes without saying. I think just about everyone can figure out that "winning teams win more often than they lose" without benefit of your post.

Or maybe you're refining that to say, "winning teams with HOF quarterbacks win more often than they lose," or "winning teams with all-time great defences win more often than they lose." Again, pretty obvious.

I was just hoping that, in the process of quantifying what you were trying to say, you'd get to something a little more interesting.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:07pm

If there are two pretty equal teams, but one team has maybe a little bit weaker roster but a QB that CAN run the 2 min drill, or a team has a defense that can shut down the 2 min drill at the end of games... they will win more often than teams without those players.

People were argueing the odds of Peyton Manning driving his team down the field on a final drive a few weeks ago and some people were throwing out that they just "know" they he'd score. You'd expect him to drive down the field and get the game winning score.

Peyton Manning running the 2 min drill is the NFL's version of a baseball closer. You expect Manning to close out the game and are surprised if he doesn't ( just like Mo Rivera, Papelbon etc.)

Do the Colts and Saints have the most talented rosters in the NFL? I don't think so, but having the two best QB's mask other weaknesses. Having a good qb that's good at the 2 min drill... Vince Young might not be the best QB in the NFL, but he has a skill at running the 2 min drill as well is a big advantage. Watching Jason Campbell throw picks 2/3 weeks with the game on the line, and failing to score the other 1/3 week makes the game's other 58 minutes for naught 300 yards passing or not.

by Big Johnson (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:26pm

according to dvoa, Rivers is the best quarterback in the league.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:53am

"The 8-5 Patriots only a hair behind the undefeated Colts".

We know that the Colts are _much_ better because they beat the Patriots by 1 point.

At home.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:27pm

[go ahead and delete this, mods]

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:27pm

We know the Eagles are MUCH better than the Raiders because they lost to them. Maybe we should judge teams based on 1 game???

by The Other Ben Johnson (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 3:53pm

At least we can all agree that the Redskins are not likely to win games, though they are likely to at least be in a position to win games in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter in a desperation drive that never quite works. I call it the "Redskins death rattle." I was going to put a patent on it until Cerrato resigned.

by LinksterAC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:22pm

The Chargers controlled the game against Dallas. The three point win was really a ten point win, is Dallas scored a garbage time TD against a vanilla defense concerned with letting the clock run out.

by randplaty (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:32pm

The Chargers also purposely shut it down on their own last drive settling for a safe field goal when they could have in all likelihood scored a touchdown.

by elhondo :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:43pm

I can't help but think the guts/stomps meme is too strong when the team isn't the Patriots. The adjustments over the last two years may have allowed a coaching bias in favor of the blowout that may be more an anomaly of recent history.

I've read the guts/stomps article, and I get the correlation, but... I don't think that correlation should be as linear as it is. For the simple reason that some teams will be content to win by 3 or go into half time by taking a knee instead of attempting a hail mary.

by Scott C :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:53am

The Chargers have 3 stomps, and a few games that were looking like stomps until conservative play at the end of the game. If I recall, GUTS vs STOMPS really says that a big win is a sign of a good team no matter who its against, and that close wins/losses against other good teams don't say a whole lot. Not getting stomped says a lot too.

And if they do get a first round bye, they might be a whole lot healthier on defense than they are now (and they might get Hardwick back on the o-line, which should help the run game a lot).

LT surely doesn't look like the LT of 2004-2006, but toast is overdoing it. He is fast and gets good cuts and movement when he isn't running into a wall of defenders... getting stuffed at or behind the line all the time one or two steps from the handoff is the O-line's fault, not his. He looks a bit easier to trip up and take down with moderate contact than the old LT though.
Pay attention to the run blocking on film -- compare this year to 2006 -- the difference is massive. The line isn't getting a good push, there is no Lorenzo Neal knocking any LB he desires backwards 4 feet, and cutback lanes are rare. The mix of blocking schemes and play calling is different too. Isn't one of the big things here how hard it is to disentangle individual player stats from the rest of the team? RB's and the o-line, RB's and running QB's, QB's and Recievers, QB's and the passing game.

No way would MJD or Chris Johnson be having good years behind this Charger O-line. Sure, they would have more yards because they would probably not be rested so much, or be injured for 2 games, but the yards/carry would not be very good. Remember when Edggerin James went from Indy to Arizona? Yeah, O-lines matter. A back loses half a step, and an o-line loses 1.5 yards of push, and this is what you get.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:42am

LT regressed just like Clinton Portis regressed, but I agree 100% San Diego's offensive line is not nearly as dominat as they were, and I see regression on the run blocking in particular.

The hyperbole was funny though.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:24pm

Well, the top teams may be closely packed but Detroit is running away with the worst team DVOA. I feel so sorry for all Lions fans and Jim Schwartz.

by BenOak (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:38pm

Don't worry Detroit, now that Russell is back at QB, Oakland will be plummeting down to meet you.

by Joe T. :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:40pm

Cheer up emo-Raiders fans. They just signed JP Losman.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:37pm

It's to be expected. The Lions were terrible last year; talent was missing at virtually every starting spot, and whatever backups were on the roster were usually even worse.

Schwartz has added some talent this year, but there are, I believe, some or even many players on the roster who are not NFL-caliber players. Injuries at some positions put these below-replacement-level players on the field in place of, well, replacement-level players, but when the injured player has actual value, the team is definitely Millened.

I expect that next year, Schwartz will have turned over enough of the bottom part of the roster to enable the Lions to compete outside the bottom eighth of the league; depending on how the high picks and top FAs pan out, maybe enough to challenge for third in the division. By 2011, they should be more like a "normal" team in rebuilding mode.

Until then, we can continue to wonder about things like
-- how a man can demonstrate incompetence at a position and get a long-term contract extension
-- how a man can own a franchise for decades and expect it to succeed simply because he wants it to
-- why the most active member of the ownership family doesn't even have an active role with the team.

Actually, strike that last thought. Ford Jr. has done one thing for the Lions in the past two years: told his father that it's time to get rid of Millen. After that, he's stepped aside.

Considering what the Ford family has done to the Lions, maybe that's a welcome change.

by Ben :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:30pm

While the Colts and Saints of the undefeated records, I don't think many folks have the feeling that they are all time great teams and we should call off the playoffs and just play the Super Bowl.

I guess DVOA is saying exactly what my eyes are telling me. That those two are probably the best teams in the league, but are not all that much better then a lot of the other teams in the playoff hunt. While they'll be favored, I don't think anyone will be totally shocked if either of those teams lose in the playoffs. They are certainly vulnerable in a one and done system.

The only place that DVOA is surprising me is with the Chargers. I haven't seen much of them so I can't really say why, it's just the general impression that they're playing much better then the teams around them (Houston!, Arizona and Denver) in weighted DVOA.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:34am

That's what I said Monday in audibles.

Even though we have two 13-0 teams chasing history, it would be no shock at all for me to see the Chargers, Vikings, Eagles, Cardinals, Ravens etc. beat these guys in the playoffs. If the Cowboys/49ers teams of the mid 90's would have lost it would be a shocking upset, even though they were 14-2ish. When the 2001 Rams and 2007 Patriots lost it was a huge upsets but I don't get that feeling with these two 13-0 teams.

Just a reminder, some of the footballoutsiders said the 2007 Patriots were the best team ever and the New York Giants were the worst team to ever make the superbowl. I know they don't like hearing it but it just proves that these "impossible" highly improbable events happen a whole lot more than the assigned or expected probabilites.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:18pm

Zero shock whatsoever if Minny takes out N.O., or Pha/Az, either doing the same. And that is something, regarding Minny, I've been talking about in these threads since very early on in the season. Well before their second beat down of the Cheese.
On the other hand, anyone in the AFC, other than S.D., taking down Indy would be a true upset. As to the Bolts, while not directly a part of the "Commentariat" I, nonetheless, come with a completely differently based view than DVOA and it's readers. And now, for DVOA to get into areas of extracting judgements of players from it's "data" such as calling L.T. "toast" is pure hyperbole. What the "Commentariat" members are saying about no one wanting to play S.D. is reflective of what the players are feeling and reflective of reality. And that's not just about the history of Indy always having trouble with S.D., it's about the here and now. To minimize any roll that teams get on late in the year, which includes multiple road wins in tough environs, is delusionary. S.D. has exhibited the ability to win in many kinds of ways, and on the road. Who, other than Indy, also has from the AFC side ? Nonetheless, as I've also been saying from early on this year Mr Hoptoad, well before Indy's, seemingly to power rating systems, inexplicable close wins etc etc, they will emerge as the best. But look out for S.D...

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:30pm

As long as the Patriots have Brady & Bellicheck, it wouldn't shock me if they beat team Manning either.. but yeah, if Denver won it would shock the heck out of me.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:05pm

C--Bellicheat and company have yet to win a true road game...

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:34pm

Overrated stat. They lost in Denver in overtime. They lost in Indy in the closing minutes. This doesn't indicate that they can't win on the road. The only team that outclassed them on the field was the Saints. And frankly, if that Saints team shows up for the playoffs, nobody's beating them.

But we're getting off-point. The point is that seeing how a month ago New England had the lead in Indy for 58 minutes of the game, it's foolish to think that they couldn't beat the Colts.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:48pm

We shall see, won't we ? You think it is just a bad streak of luck, apparently.
Of course they could've won any one of those games. But they did not. There are only eight road games, seven this year for them, in a season. If they could not
put teams away so far this year anywhere, what makes you think they will find their old swagger come playoff time ? Just because of experience ? Or perhaps the
"genius" of Bill Bellicheat ? Over-rated stats...

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:06pm

Not bad luck, they simply lost the games. They could have easily won the games. They did not. 5 games, 2 of which were against the undefeated teams, is hardly a significant sample size to say they can't win on the road.

We will see. According to your logic, the Patriots are unbeatable at home.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:50pm

What ? How does it follow that if I point out the fact that they have yet to win a road game they are therefore unbeatable at home ? And you say "they could have easily won" those road games. So I assume you attribute it, since it's not a "significant sample size" to some sort of flukey streak. I say it is a significant sample size in pro football mentality--there are only so many games in a season. You MUST win on the road at, at least, a 500 clip...

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:12pm

I totally agree that it's usually an important statistic to look at... Some teams don't play as well on the road, some quarterbacks have problems on the road etc. If the team was say the Jets starting a young Mark Sanchez, or a team from Seattle that had obvious travel disadvantages, maybe I'd put more weight on the road woes...

But Brady has done fine on the road, and they have played some tough teams and given them games. It's not like they went to Denver/Indy and just found themselves down 21-0 real quickly due to being flat, or the QB being "shook".

Will it be easy to win in Indy? No, but the Patriots beating the Colts in the playoffs? It wouldn't "shock" me at all, but Denver winning in the playoffs would be a huge "upset" to me.

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:18pm

A. You dismiss the chances of the Patriots beating the Colts because they have not won on the road, allowing for London being transported to Foxboro somehow.

B. Therefore, lack of past success = lack of future success.

c. No team has beaten the Patriots in Foxboro this season.

D seems pretty obvious to me.

Anyway, you seem to have changed what you were saying to now say that good teams win on the road at least half the time. I would agree with that, generally speaking, although going 7-1 on the road doesn't do much good if you go 2-6 at home. If the Patriots win out, they'll have gone 3-5 on the road, allowing for London to exist outside of Foxboro. I don't think they're a great team, but I think they have a non-trivial chance to reach the Super Bowl.

The fact is, the Patriots would have beaten Tampa in Tampa, would have beaten Tennessee in Tennessee, and would have lost to New Orleans in Foxboro. Home field advantage is overrated, and really only exists in a few circumstances -- Denver's altitude, turf team playing in mud and snow, etc. Even stadium noise doesn't count for much in the new mega-stadiums that are being built these days.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:20pm

I certainly do not dimiss the chances of N.E. beating the Colts. Of course they have a "chance" as we all saw already. I just do not think the next potential meeting will go as did the first though. The Pats have serious issues.

As to the London thing, we've all "discussed" it here over the weeks. Surely you will admit it was a neutral field game, at best, versus a horrible team.

The Tennessee think I personally consider a non-game that they would've won anywhere at any time. It was evident to me, due to the facts of my particular background in pro football, that Tennessee was, shall we say, sick with the "blue flu" that day. I doubt the Pats could beat them in Nashville today with V.Y. back in his saddle.

I am not changing what I'm saying. Every player and coach in the NFL begin a season with the mentality that it is a must to, at least, split on the road. Most championship teams do better than that obviously. But the Pats have shown serious trouble, losing close ones. That is not a fluke.

I agree with you and can tell you that many players agree with you about home field advantage being over-rated in today's world. (They will never say that in their interviews, however.) The biggest reason for this being that key players feel an immense amount of pressure at home versus the road. The new levels of money is the primary catalyst of this--remember that the free agency era only recently (relatively speaking) came to pro football. Contrary to what many fans and media pundits think, most high paid players really do want to perform at the top of the pyramid, to the very best of their abilities, for their fans. On the road they don't feel so suffocated with that self-imposed pressure. All of that having been said, however, it is still one of the hardest things in all of sports for a football team to go out and win key games on the road. But it is a necessity. That's because even though home field advantage is over rated--it still exists in a myriad of factors...

by dryheat :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 10:20am

The only part I'll disagree with here is the last two sentances of the fourth paragraph.

If Kevin Faulk doesn't juggle the pass, the Patriots beat the Colts. Period. This is one of those rare cases that one can't say that we'll never know, because the game would have played out differently. Clean catch = Patriots win.

If Pats win coin flip in Denver and kick a field goal (obviously not a given), the Patriots are now 3-3 on the road.

Likewise, if Mark Clayton holds on to the pass on fourth down, the Ravens have 1st and Goal from about the 6 yard line with 30 seconds left and a time out. Of course, the Ravens needed a TD, so I'm not as sure that they would have won the game as everybody else seems to be, but it's no stretch of the imagination that they do and win the game.

I can't agree with you that the Patriots losing close ones this year is a fatal pattern, or at all predictive. You're certainly not shy about dropping hints that you're a current or former player, coach, scout, or whatever, so I'm sure you would agree that many games, if not most, come down to 1-4 plays that decide who wins or loses. I don't think that Faulk or Clayton mishandling a routine pass, or losing a coin flip in overtime, is indicative that the Patriots can't win close games, or games on the road.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 12:16pm

It's certainly true that the majority of games come down to a few plays that ultimately decide things, though where those plays happen during the game is not always what is so obvious. But, anyway, this year's results of course do not insist the Pats cannot win close ones on the road--but the fact remains that those games ended up being uncomfortably close for them, and they could not win them.
ALWAYS a bad sign. You talk about all the "ifs", you know Kevin Faulk, coin flips, all that. No one is allowed to think like that. What's buggin the Pats players and coaches these days is that they cannot control games on the road, end up in close situations. The pressure is on like never before in the Brady era. Pressure leads to more bobbles on key plays, you know ?...

by mrh :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:48pm

Arizona Cardinals, 2008 3-5 on the road are the obvious exception.

Since 1994, roughly the free agency period of the NFL, 9 teams went to the Super Bowl with records of 11-5 or worse. Obviously, all 12-4 or better teams went at least .500 on the road.

Of those 9 teams, only the Cards were under .500 on the road. None were 4-4, most (5 teams) were 5-3, only the 01 Pats from this group won. The 05 Steelers (6-2), 07 Giants (7-1) were better than 5-3 and both won; the 95 Chargers were 6-2 on the road and lost the SB.

This obviously just scratches the surface of the issue.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:32pm

As I posted yesterday, The Luck Fairy will demand her tribute this year, and likely name the champion, and I just hope it isn't in the form known as "Just what the hell is pass interference, anyways?"

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:14pm

Just so happens I have, shall we say, "compromising photos" of the Luck Fairy as well as hundreds of text messages, and plan to collect my blackmail in February.

I'll second your "what the hell" issue and I'll add I hope it's not also "Now THAT's PI." "Oh, so is THAT! "If THAT is not PI, I don't know what PI is." "Oh look, two DPIs on one play!"

(Though I wouldn't mind a little more holding called on OTs....)

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:26pm

Sorry, the cat's out of the bag, so to speak, what with The National Enquirer publishing photos next week of a certain Eldrick Woods in carnal relations with the Luck Fairy, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and Mrs. Claus, in an adulterous, bestial, and paranormal erotic free for all in a tub of caramel syrup, so I think your leverage is about to disappear.

by Bobman :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:00am

Damn. My pictures featured maple syrup, a bowling pin, and the Lindbergh baby, but aside from that, sounds like the same wild weekend at the Luck Fairy beach house.

On to Plan B: Foreclosing on Satan's ski chalet. He's behind on his payments, I bought the mortgage... you fill in the blanks. I may just let him slide if he's willing to help out. So don't be surprised if you see a Wednesday injury report listing a handful of guys as "Doubtful: pitchfork in the ass."

by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:35am

You want MORE penalties? I hereby sentence you to to repeat viewings of Ravens-Packers, Vikings-Bengals, and 49ers-Cardinals!

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:47am

I think that with Richie Incognito out of the league, at least temporarily, we'll see penalty numbers come down some.

by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:09am

I dunno -- the Raiders just put Robert Gallery on IR. Sounds like a perfect fit to the point of cliche.

by jmaron :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:45am

I watched the Vikings-Bengals game and after the 1st series I knew if would be a flag fest. You just knew that ref crew would be chucking flags on every third play or so.

On one punt play they called a phantom running into the punter...didn't happen. Then they re-punt and the call a block in the back - which was incredibly marginal if not downright wrong.

I think it's ridiculous how some crews simply call way more penalties than other crews. There shouldn't be a major difference from one crew to the next.

I think referees are the biggest "luck" factor in any game.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:07pm

Man, you got that right. To say the least...

by huston720 :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:37pm

Why should this matter as long as the crew is being fairly consistent and not favoring one team? It's one thing if the crew calls ticky tack penalties on one team and lets everything go on the other. I don't know that the referees are really the biggest luck factor in the game, sometimes they miss calls, that goes with the game. I don't think having a crew that calls a lot of close penalties is really an advantage/disadvantage over a crew that doesn't call as many close penalties as long as they don't favor one of the teams. And it is really not that much different than any other sport really. Since all involve refs making judgement calls that can affect the outcome.

by jmaron :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:08pm

I wasn't really referring to the number of calls when I made the luck factor comment, more so how huge the calls refs make can be in a game. One decision on a penalty can so drastically change the game because a holding or PI call made or not made can in many cases decide a game and often does. Look at the Super Bowl between Pitt-Sea.

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:09pm

Well, calling games closely favors certain styles of play over others, so it would be helpful for teams to have more reliable expectations for how officials interpret the rules.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this is physical secondary play -- by GB the past few years, and before that, the Patriots. The ability of those teams to play effective defense was almost certainly impacted by the "style" of the crew.

I agree with you that it's technically "fair" as long as the crew is calling it the same for both teams, but I strongly disagree that it doesn't have any effect.

by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 3:11pm

You left out "We can't decide, and refuse to go with Rock-Paper-Scissors, so we're calling Offsetting OPI and DPI."

by jim's apple pie (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:33pm

This year just seems like a weird year in general. I have done zero research on the subject, but I feel like no one has really been all that impressive running the ball this year. The best runners have been Chris Johnson and Stephen Jackson, and both of those guys have had strange years as well. Johnson has taken boom-or-bust to the extreme and Jackson has been toiling on a truly awful team.

On the other side of the offensive coin, passing offenses have been carrying teams to more wins than would otherwise be expected (i.e. Indy, N.O., Minn., and San Diego especially). This is interesting because all of these teams are likely to get home field advantage and all are either in a dome or a warm weather team. So not only do we have passing-oriented offenses, but those offenses are not going to have to worry about trying to pass in inclement weather come playoff time.

With regards to San Diego, it doesn't surprise me one bit that DVOA would not be impressed by their performance. The passing game has been impressive but also has been based somewhat on going deep, while DVOA rewards a steady march down the field. The Chargers have moved more towards shorter passes during the win streak and I think that has helped them. Also, the running game is pathetic. I'm not even sure if it is LT's fault because Sproles can't seem to get any daylight either. Their offensive line cannot generate any push at all, neither of their fullbacks block very well, and opposing teams seem to do a great job guessing when runs have been called.

On the defensive side, San Diego cannot stop the run at all until the opposing team gets in the red zone. Then, they seem to stiffen up a little. The defense gets little pass rush. Frankly, they've been quite lucky not to give up a lot more points. This defense seems to only get a turnover after letting the opponent drive 60 yards. It's no surprise that DVOA is not impressed.

If the Colts and Chargers meet in the AFCCG, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Colts prevail in a close game. The Chargers usually match up well against the Colts but I don't see it this time:

Chargers Advantages:
- Tall, freakish, wide receivers in Jackson, Gates, and Floyd.
- Rivers

Colts Advantages:
- More likely to generate a pass rush than the Chargers
- Better running game
- Manning

I hope it happens though, all of the recent Chargers-Colts games have been great!

by Dej (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:34pm

I hope everyone is as excited as I am for the historic 'Special Teams Bumble-Fest 2009' pitting the inept Pittsburgh Steelers against the historically inept Green Bay Packers special teams. I figured that this gathering of special teams incompetence needs to be commemorated, so drawing from a couple of posts last week, I have created a handy little drinking game so that you can play along at home. As a Wisconsinite, I suggest using a Miller product to drown your sorrows, but really, anything will do. Just try to not to shove your friend in the back on the way to the fridge or fumble your beer on the way back.

- Penalty for holding or block in the back on a return (1)
- Penalty for holding or block in the back on a fair catch, no catch, or touchback (2)
- Opponent starts drive in the red zone (3) or beyond the 50 (2)
- Untouched return for TD (4) or a return TD (3)
- Punt returner fails to field an easily fieldable punt (1)
- Kicker misses kick from inside 40 yards (2) or inside 50 (1)
- Line fails to block rusher on a punt and results in a block (3) or a FG block (2)
- Returner blows out a knee (2)
- Punter kicks the ball into the end zone or short of the 20 when aiming for the 10 (1)
- Punter fails to net 30 yards on a punt (1)
- Kicker kicks off out of bounds (1)
- Backup offensive lineman fumbles untouched while making an ill advised attempt to return a kickoff (2)
- Kicker makes a tackle on a kickoff or punt (2)
- Punt returner calls for fair catch inside own 10-yard line (1) or ends up inside the 5 (2)
- Avoidable roughing the punter/kicker penalty nets first down for opponent (1)
- Comically inept attempt to recover onside kick (1)
- Punt returned for negative yardage (1)
- Fumble on a kickoff or punt return (2)
- Bobbled snap on a field goal or punt (1)

I figure that the above the list can also be used for scoring and handicapping purposes, and because the Packers are "leaders" in Special Teams DVOA, I figure that they should be 1.5 point favorites, but I predict that they will cover that and "defeat" the Steelers 10-7. Feel free to post your guesses. Winner receieves the right to hire Shawn Slocum in the offseason.

by Flounder :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:16pm

I haven't been able to see every GB game this year, but GB has done every single thing on that list (and some MANY times) correct?

by Dej (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:13pm

Pretty much everything on the list has happened to the Packers repeatedly. I can't remember an untouched kick return that the Packers have allowed, but the Steelers have specialized in them so I wanted to be sure to include it.

I've gotten to the point where I cringe every time there is a kicker on the field. But now the we're going to be playing the Steelers so there is going to be a mix of joy and terror.

by andrew :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:39am

The Steelers are so bad at tackling kick returners, they even had trouble tackling them when they weren't returning a kick, as the Browns discovered.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:56pm

prediction: the Packers and Steelers will actually have somewhat neutral performances, allowing the Lions to slip past, er, fall behind them and secure the bottom spot in all three Triple Crown categories (offense, defense, special teams).

That Honolulu-blue-and-silver car in your field of vision, rapidly growing in size as it decelerates? Yeah, that's us. (This was really an awkward metaphor to reverse.)

by Arkaein :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:08pm

I don't think the lions can sink that fast or the Packers can make up that much ground in ST the rest of the season. They are miles behind the Lions (-8.0 compared to -5.1).

Of course, since GB plays Pittsburgh, it's possible that GB could get multiple return TDs to get a big boost, and then Pitt could improve in the last few games to let Detroit claim the crown, but I wouldn't bet on it.

by DGL :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:42pm

You forgot:

- Kicker misses a tackle on a kickoff (4)

by Steeler fan - ouch (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:32pm

Steeler fans should use IC or IC Light beer

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:38pm

I always have to remind myself that Aaron has examined the correlations many, many, many, times, and thus not question too strenuously the formula which results in the Ravens jumping three spots by blowing out the Lions.

by jonnyblazin :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:53pm

Well looking at the teams next to the Ravens they are probably properly ranked. They missed a field goal at the end to lose in MIN, dropped a ball at the 5 yard line with 30 secs left to lose in NE, lost to IND by 2 in BAL, and lost by 10 in GB though had the ball at the 1 yard line in the 4th quarter but couldn't score.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:56pm

I think it's pretty obvious the Ravens are essentially as good as the rest of the good teams. They have played a much tougher schedule and lost a bunch of close games.

If Balt switched schedules with NO, Minn, SD or any of the other top teams I'm sure we'd be talking about the 10+ win Ravens.

by zlionsfan :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:53pm

Well, it's really they didn't actually jump three spots simply by destroying Detroit, right? (It would be fun, though, to see the difference between the current ratings and the ratings minus the Baltimore-Detroit game.)

It's a combination of a big-ass stomp (the technical term for a game like that) and other results from last week ... which reminds me, I need to update my spreadsheet to see if the Lions have established a lead over Cleveland in terms of strength of schedule.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:49pm

I was really curious to see how the DVOA came out for the SF-Arz game last night

Arz -57.4
SF 75.3

The reason it interests me is because when I watch a game like that my sense is one team (Arz) is better than the other, but that SF is just getting very fortunate because of turnovers. Winning by 2 TDs win you get a 7-2 advantage in turnovers screams out to me the winning team is actually weaker. The average gain per play was actually 4.8 to 4.5 in favour of Arz. To me that is not a dominant performance that DVOA suggests it was.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:08pm

Putting the ball on the ground very frequently (what was it, 5 times?) is indicative of sucking, at least in that game, like a plutonium-powered Hoover, or that the opposing defense played very well. Recovery rates are a different story, of course.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:29pm

I know fumbles aren't entirely luck. Over a course of a season the worst fumbling team will fumble 2-2.5 times a game and the best teams will fumble somewhere around once. So when one team fumbles 5 times in a game I suspect that has far more to do with luck than any defensive brilliance.

With respect to interceptions - I've read some articles that suggest interceptions are far more thrown than caught. Not sure how accurate that fact is but there is certainly some element of luck there as well.

I would think the more you can eliminate luck from a predictive system the better it would be at predicting the future.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:47pm

Why would you think it is more luck, as opposed to just being extremely bad on that night?

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:09am

Luck (randomness) is an appropriate descriptor for either phenomena (5-fumbles in a game v. poor ARZ play).

In the case of 5 fumbles, this is an extremely rare phenomena that is difficult (if not impossible) to predict and therefore random (luck).

If the case is that ARZ just happened to be extremely bad this night for whatever reason, it is still luck (random), because it again was apparently not a predictable event. Furthermore, from SF's perspective it was mostly out of their control, so for SF, it was lucky.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:17am

So when Favre throws five interceptions in a playoff game, it isn't a sign that he stunk, but rather that he was unlucky?

I can see the argument that Favre's opponent was lucky to catch him on a day when he stunk, but that isn't an argument to discount Favre's performance, when measuring Favre's overall play.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:26pm

Arizona's fumbles were "mostly out of their control" ? I guess Singletary
is wasting his time, he's an insane man to attempt to teach the kind of
principles that made him and his team in his playing days one of the finest defensive units ever. Fumbles are born of nothing more than random luck...

by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 7:28am

It's not an all or none argument, hence the term "mostly." Yes, as a defense, you can do things to improve the odds of generating fumbles, and as an offense, you can do the things to reduce the odds. In the end though, there is a certain amount of randomness and unpredicatability regarding when and where a fumble will occur. Seven fumbles is a high number, and to have this high of a number occur, suggests that things lined up in a rather unusual way that was very fortuitous to SF. I doubt that Singletary's master plan for winning this game was based on generating 7 fumbles.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 12:50pm

Frisky--You can bet your bone marrow that a huge part of Singletary's game plan was to attempt to generate T.O's vs this team known by all to be T.O. prone. Just like every teams game plan against them. But the Niners are getting good at their game, and will get better and better, because Mike Singletary is now their coach...

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:48pm

this is an extremely rare phenomena

Where are you getting this? Warner, Wells, and Hightower all fumble fairly frequently - Warner about once every 2.5 sacks, Hightower and Wells every 40 carries or so. Arizona now has the highest number of RB fumbles (by two highest carry backs) of any team in the league (10).

This is not an "unpredictable event." In any game where Arizona can't protect Warner, you're going to have a high number of fumbles. And they really couldn't protect Warner on Monday.

Furthermore, from SF's perspective it was mostly out of their control,

Completely wrong. Quarterbacks don't just up and drop the ball (... most of the time). Quarterback fumbles happen primarily due to strip-sacks, San Francisco had 4 of them, and Warner is more prone than most QBs to losing the ball on a sack.

That wasn't out of their control, it was completely in their control. That inability to protect Warner then led to Arizona running more than they would, and hey, when you've got fumble-prone running backs, guess what happens.

This "Arizona was just unlucky" thing makes no sense. 33 dropbacks, 4 sacks, 2 interceptions. That's not luck. It shows that Arizona's protection schemes can be completely destroyed. And the fact that Arizona leads the league in RB fumbles isn't bad luck. It shows they've got serious issues holding onto the ball. Both of those things are predictive, and a bad sign for Arizona.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 8:13am

"this is an extremely rare phenomena

Where are you getting this?"

http://www.nfl.com/history/randf/records/team/fumbles suggests to me that if ARZ was not in the realm of extremely rare, was rapidly approaching the exit for extremely rare.

NFL Teams are averaging 1.5 fumbles/game - 7 fumbles (4.67 times league average) in one game is a little outside of the norm. Has there been any other game this year where a team fumbled 7 times? How often do games where one team fumbles 7 times occur? When last did ARZ fumble 7 times? When last did SF generate 7 fumbles in a game? I have looked, and unfortunately can't find an answer to these questions.

Prior to this game, ARZ had fumbled 20 times (20/12 = 1.67 fumbles/game). The 7 fumbles in this game is 4.2 times this rate. NFL base rate is around 1.5 per game. This game is an outlier.

" Arizona now has the highest number of RB fumbles (by two highest carry backs) of any team in the league (10)."

10/13 = .76 fumbles per game. 2 fumbles by the RB duo = 2.63 times their usual rate.

Warner had fumbled 6 times (6/12 = .5 fumbles/game) this year. Again, 4 times his rate this year.

"This "Arizona was just unlucky" thing makes no sense."

It makes complete sense. That all of these factors that you note, came together in one game, when they haven't before is unlucky (or lucky for SF). Yes Warner is prone to fumbling, yes the ARZ running backs are prone to fumbling, the fact that Warner and the RBs got together for this fumblefest on this night, and did it to such a grand degree (never mind the assistance they received from their teammates) involved a certain amount of "luck" (i.e. randomness). Based on all of these factors, it may not be surprising that ARZ was the victim of this and yes SF's play certainly improved the likelihood, but this is not a repeatable or predictable phenomena. Luck/randomness are not the sole factor in this performance, but are certainly a significant contributor.

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 9:00am

Counting fumbles per games is silly, use fumbles per play.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 3:43am

- "Game" is the metric being discussed. The phenomena of 7 fumbles in a game is argued to be out of the ordinary
- Changing to fumbles per play will certainly strengthen the argument as the average number of offensive plays/game for a tema in the NFL is 62.9/game -
Pro-FootballReference.com (Since 1994 the average is 63.0). The AZ Cardinals have run 803 plays this season or 61.7/game. In the SF game they ran 47 plays - this too points to the the game being a statistical anomaly, although clearly the 47 plays is most likely due to the high number of turnovers. Therefore, the rate of fumbles per play was even higher in this game as well. Again, a statistical outlier.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 12:00pm

...but this is not a repeatable or predictable phenomena.

It's definitely repeatable. Maybe Arizona will fumble seven times in next week's game. We don't know. Delhomme's interception-fest against Arizona last year in the playoffs didn't look likely to repeat, but we know how that turned out for Mr. Delhomme.

Is it predictable? Well, it's certainly true that there are going to be games where some team fumbles seven times. I'll predict right now with absolute certainty that that's going to happen again sometime in the future. More to the point, is Arizona's seven-fumble performance in this game predictive of anything? Figuring that out would take more than just waving your hands and saying, "this is way over their average, therefore it's not predictive." You'd have to do some research into what happens to teams after they have seven fumble games and prove that it's predictive or not. I'm guessing that teams with that many turnovers are likely to have more of them; you're guessing not. That's all these are -- guesses.

One thing you absolutely can not do with your analysis above is state with certainty that this game is a random occurrence that tells nothing about the quality of the Arizona team.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 7:28am

"Delhomme's interception-fest against Arizona last year in the playoffs didn't look likely to repeat, but we know how that turned out for Mr. Delhomme."

You're kidding right? ProFootBallReference.com lists 29 QBs that have thrown 5 INTs since 1994, the list includes 4 Super Bowl winning QBs and 2 HOFers - Cherry Picking Stats is fun.

"One thing you absolutely can not do with your analysis above is state with certainty that this game is a random occurrence that tells nothing about the quality of the Arizona team."

I may have overstated the degree to which these factors played out, certainly they are not 100% random (luck). I don't recall making any statements about the quality of ARZ or SF as a team. I simply argued that the events in this game are a statistical outlier and that random, unpredictable factors (luck) played into this outcome.

By repeatable, I mean, I don't believe that SF 49ers have developed a special technique to generate fumbles that they have unleashed on the ARZ Cardinals and will now use this power to wreak havoc on the rest of their opponents. Prior to this game, SF opponents fumbled 19 times (1.58/game), and ARZ had fumbled 20 times (1.67). The league average is 1.51 fumbles/game. So in this game, a roughly average fumble generating defensive team came up against a below average fumble preventing offensive team and the defensive team performed 4.5 times above their usual performance and the offense performed 4.2 times below their average? What systematic and predictable phenomena/ability can you attribute this to? Yes, a 7 fumble game will occur in the future; however, I doubt that the the 49ers will be the beneficiaries and the Cardinals will be victims. Moreover, I doubt that this event will occur again any time soon with the same parties involved.

"Is it predictable? Well, it's certainly true that there are going to be games where some team fumbles seven times. I'll predict right now with absolute certainty that that's going to happen again sometime in the future. More to the point, is Arizona's seven-fumble performance in this game predictive of anything? Figuring that out would take more than just waving your hands and saying, "this is way over their average, therefore it's not predictive."

I've said nothing about it being predictive, are you waving the "this is predictive wand?" I've simply ascertained that this appears to be a statistical outlier.

by DaveRichters :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:33am

I'm confused about why you call it a "predictive system". DVOA is clearly descriptive. But I agree with your point, that it looked like if these two teams play a lot that Arizona would win many of them and this isn't reflected in the DVOA.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:45am

These two teams do play a lot. Arizona has not won a lot of them. The 49ers would have swept them last year, too, if not for a bungled Mike Martz playcall designed to get one yard when it was 4th and goal from the 3 yard line.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:19pm

'A plutonium powered hoover'

so that is what Ahmenijad is up to with all that enrichment plant.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:18pm

The average gain per play was actually 4.8 to 4.5 in favour of Arz

Arizona ran 51 plays, had 6 fumbles (5 lost) and 2 interceptions. San Francisco ran 72 plays, and had 2 interceptions (plus one fumble on a special teams play which won't be counted). Counting a fumble as a half-turnover, Arizona's turnover rate is three times higher. Treating a turnover as a 40-yard loss puts Arizona's "net yardage" as 45 yards (compared to San Francisco's 240).

I don't know why this is surprising.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:40pm

I don't believe I used the word surprising anywhere. My point is I think DVOA is giving to much credit to SF for the turnovers when I think most of this comes down to luck. Of course the opposite is true - in terms of debiting Arz.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:11pm

I don't believe I used the word surprising anywhere.

I didn't say you did.

Of course the opposite is true - in terms of debiting Arz.

Why is it luck that Arizona fumbled or threw an interception on 8 out of 51 plays? I mean, I could understand if it was 2 or 3 out of 70-80, you could say "yeah, that was fluky" - but 8 out of 51? About every sixth play?

I just don't understand the point here: it's possible you could be giving too much credit to San Francisco for forcing them, but saying that you're penalizing Arizona too much?

Especially when the guys who fumbled most of those balls - Warner, Hightower, Wells - all have a history of poor ball security.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:42pm

Why is it luck that Arizona fumbled or threw an interception on 8 out of 51 plays? I mean, I could understand if it was 2 or 3 out of 70-80, you could say "yeah, that was fluky" - but 8 out of 51? About every sixth play?

Arz was averaging 1.75 fumbles a game. If they fumbled 2-3 times that would be well within the normal deviations. Do you know how many times a team has turned the ball over 7 times this year? Twice. Guess how many times there was 6 to's by one team - twice

7 - 2 times
6 - 2 times
5 - 7 times
4 - 26 times

The further you move away from the established norm for the teams the more luck is a factor. If it was not you wouldn't see such a drastic drop off in the frequency of the event.

I will grant you that this particular team has produced 3 games of of 6 plus turnovers in the last two years - so perhaps they are some Jeckle and Hyde bunch that just tanks every so often. But even if I grant you that - why would SF get any credit for Arz turning into turnover machine every 10 games or so?

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:50pm

Warner averages a fumble every 40 dropbacks or so, or 1 every 2.6 sacks. His two fumbles last night puts him at 8 for the year, on 433 dropbacks and 20 sacks - in other words, below or right at his career average.

Doesn't seem out of line, especially considering the 49ers had 4 sacks. Both the RBs have had fumble issues before. I think it's far more likely that their early-season fumble rate was probably a fair amount low, just by luck.

6 fumbles is probably a 2-3 times a year event.

Riiight... but I don't see your point. If you fumble ~2 times a game, you're going to have 6 fumble games. You're also going to have zero fumble games. Are you 'lucky' when you don't fumble at all? No. You're similarly not 'lucky' when you fumble 6 times. It's what you would expect when you fumble that often.

The further you move away from the established norm for the teams the more likely luck is the major factor.

Which... is why DVOA is an average of all of the plays of all of the games, not just one. I don't get it - a 6-fumble game isn't crazy out of the question for any team, let alone one with a QB with a tendency to fumble when sacked and two fumble-prone RBs, in a game where they get sacked on more than 10% of their pass attempts.

by Dales :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:53pm

"The further you move away from the established norm for the teams the more luck is a factor."

Is this an accurate statement?

I would think that when it is near the norm but slightly off it is more attributable to luck, and when you get far away from the norm it becomes harder to accept that it was just random chance and more easy to believe there was a reason.

Note-- this is not to say the reason had ANYTHING to do with the defense...

by Subrata Sircar :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:29am

"The further you move away from the established norm for the teams the more luck is a factor."

Rare != fluke. More to the point here, rare != should-be-ignored.

Arizona turned the ball over every sixth play they ran. No matter how you assess value, that's horrid. In fact, use your average gain per play figure - Arizona's average plays looked like 5, 5, 5, 5, 5 ... turnover. In other words, if they didn't start on the opponent's 25 - virtually in the red zone - their hypothetical average drive would result in zero points.

You might be right that Arizona looked better but "kept shooting themselves in the foot" - but that's kind of the point; no matter how good Arizona was when they didn't turn the ball over, each turnover wiped out multiple good plays, and the cumulative effect made them worse than the average Lions performance.

Now, SF might not deserve that 75% VOA (although I think they do - the SF defense was flying around and punching at the ball and succeeded in punching it out at least twice) but Arizona definitely deserves their lowly rating.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:58am

And what is this with average gain per play? Where did this stat come from? Do you have any evidence that it's a good predictor of anything? What's the correlation between it and winning games? How does that compare to DVOA? Is it worth anything at all?

If you're using this random stat to "prove" that the DVOA is inaccurate for this game, you should have something more than wishes and fishes to back it up.

Really replying to 58, agreeing with poster above.

by jmaron :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:57pm

Random stat - it's one of the principle stats anyone would use to judge quickly the quality of an offence or defence.

What is it with guys like you that suck at the tit of the DVOA mother? Anyone brings up any sensible argument and you go off like I'm questioning your religion.

DVOA barely has a better correlation predicting wins the next season than pt differential (correlation .31 vs .26). Anyone with a brain knows that avg yards per play differential is an excellent rough barometer of the quality of a team. Yds per pass play differential is another excellent predictor of success.

I guarantee you yd/play differential will have a far higher correlation to predicting future wins than does turnover differential.

DVOA is trying to create a more predictive model. You do that by eliminating things that are random in nature. I am merely suggesting that something like yds/play differential is far more likely to be less random than turnover.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 12:56pm

Anyone with a brain knows that avg yards per play differential is an excellent rough barometer of the quality of a team.

Well, this one is certainly easy to disprove. I have a brain. It's not obvious to me. Voila, this statement is false.

It's not one of the principal stats used on NFL.com, profootballreference.com, advancednlfstats.com, or here. How does this stat deal with turnovers? With defensive scoring? With anything at all on special teams? If you're ranking teams that way, Dallas comes in #2 this year, at 6.3, according to teamrankings.com...how's that for an "excellent rough barometer?"

The yards per play differential between AZ and SF in this game was .3. How big is that? How significant? Does it say anything at all? And you're getting pissed off that answers to some of these questions might help your argument?

And somehow, somehow, you think you're using this stat to prove that turnovers are non-predictive? Say what?

Look, if you think this is a sensible argument, then why are you so opposed to actually defending it? Your argument is: it's obvious.

Real convincing one, there.

by jmaron :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 2:54pm

"Well, this one is certainly easy to disprove. I have a brain. It's not obvious to me. Voila, this statement is false. "

You're correct - I should have been more specific - anyone with a brain that exceeds the logical capabilities of a newt.

Now run back to your argument with another poster on how 7 turnovers for a team that averages 1.5 is not almost certainly a random event.

by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 4:42pm


It's not obvious to me either, for what it's worth. Any chance you could answer his points instead of being needlessly insulting and telling him to go away? I'd be really interested in why it's:

it's one of the principle stats anyone would use to judge quickly the quality of an offence or defence

I don't know of anybody who uses this statistic at all consistently in the manner you suggest. You seem to believe that they should; I'm curious why.

by jmaron :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 5:20pm

I already pointed out that FO uses as one of the three comparative stats to demonstrate the validity of DVOA in the FAQ section.

Why would they use that stat if it wasn't a generally accepted stat for estimating the quality of a team.

My aggravation and resulting rudeness came about when the poster I responded to dismissed my thoughts as "wishes and fishes". I don't care to be polite to people that aren't polite to me, particularly when I find them obtuse.

by Andrew Potter :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 7:52pm

Why would they use that stat if it wasn't a generally accepted stat for estimating the quality of a team.

Yards gained or allowed is also one of the statistics they cite. It may be "generally accepted" (it's certainly mentioned commonly in television broadcasts and on many NFL websites), but that doesn't mean it's any good.

With yards gained or allowed per play (most commonly cited as yards per pass attempt for QBs or yards per catch for WRs), in my experience it's not cited very often and also doesn't seem to be to be nearly as useful as the few who do cite it would imply. I'm interested in your reasoning for believing otherwise, for the exact same reasons I'm interested in DVOA - it may help to flag something I'm missing and aid my understanding of the game. Unfortunately, "Aaron says DVOA is better than it" doesn't help me or others to understand why you would then claim it's good. I assume there's more to your opinion than that, and would like to understand what it is in hopes that it's helpful to me.

My aggravation and resulting rudeness came about when the poster I responded to dismissed my thoughts as "wishes and fishes". I don't care to be polite to people that aren't polite to me, particularly when I find them obtuse.

Alas, as has been seen on numerous occasions, responding in kind will most likely only end up in you being lumped in with the obtuse/obnoxious/rude/impolite crowd. This site has more than enough of those already. Whatever the attitude, I'm interested in the answers to bravehoptoad's questions for reasons I outlined above.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 7:25pm

Why are you name-calling instead of supporting your argument?

If by obtuse you mean, "refusing to accept as obvious complex propositions that you refuse to support," then yes, I'm obtuse.

Now run back to your argument with another poster on how 7 turnovers for a team that averages 1.5 is not almost certainly a random event.

I believe the exact opposite has been shown. Creating (and making) turnovers is a skill that has predictive value. It's recovering them that's non-predictive, or as you say, random.

Your "it's true because it's obvious" argument gets old pretty fast.

by jmaron :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 8:06pm

I apologize for being so rude.

I think I supported the yards per play differential by pointing out that FO used is as one of the 3 comparative stats to show the superiority of DVOA to other rating statistics.

I would like to see the stats on the correlation of creating turnovers. I've read studies that suggest interceptions are far more thrown than caught and that there is very little correlation to catching interceptions but some to throwing them.

I think Marver below summarizes what I'm trying to articulate far better than me below and as I pointed out to him - he even does it without insulting people.

Once again I apologize for the insults.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 9:01pm

I also apologize. The 49er homer in me was over-reacting. My poor team hasn't had a lot to celebrate in the last decade. The win Monday night was something.

by DaveRichters :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 9:07am

Wait, isn't it obvious that yards per play differential is a rough barometer for the quality of a team? It's hard for me to believe this isn't true. Do a median split and the top teams will surely be better than the bottom teams. Dallas placing 2nd is hardly ridiculous, and recall that the poster said "rough". However, most people with only half a brain will not realize this, and most organisms with a capacity for logic beyond that of a newt will not find this obvious.

It's nice to see people apologizing to each other after throwing some insults. The insulting demeanor of many posters here is really the worst thing about this site. DVOA has flaws, great big ones, and critics should be welcomed and embraced. I mean sensible ones, obviously not that donkey "Rick A.".

by jmaron :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 9:17am

email has made us all less civil. The worst fights I've ever seen among friends have always been through email.

Compared to your average fan football site - this one is a model of decorum.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 1:04pm

And just who exactly are sensible critics Mr Horses Ass ? Great empiricists and statisticians such as yourself ? I thought the name calling on this site was under scrutiny at the moment. How's your fantasy team going by the way ? Or is it Parlay Cards in the local saloon ? Do you find any edge on your side as a result of following DVOA, or is a fine logician like yourself above such things ?

by DaveRichters :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 9:09pm


I was kidding calling you a donkey, I thought it would be funny to insult someone right after I complained about it. But I will respond to your questions anyway.

How's your fantasy team going by the way ?

It's barely in the top half of the league and eliminated. But DVOA wasn't responsible. I wouldn't look at DVOA too seriously before a fantasy draft for a few reasons. One is that I don't look at anything before the draft because that would be way more work that just assuming that the generally accepted pre-rankings are fairly good.

Or is it Parlay Cards in the local saloon ?

I do like to play cards for trace amounts of cash, and I'm often at my local saloon, but there is no gambling there other than Keno, which gets fun when you drink enough.

Do you find any edge on your side as a result of following DVOA, or is a fine logician like yourself above such things ?

No edge. I'm not really a fan of DVOA, precisely because I am a great empiricist and a fine logician, as you pointed out. I'm definitely a critic, as you are. I wish it were more scientific and you seem to wish... well, I have no idea. You want to demonstrate that a person who played college football can pick games better than DVOA can? You seem to just pop on and start braying about how much better you are than an undefined and only possibly theoretically-motivated combination of variables.

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:11pm

The special teams fumble is counted in the special teams ratings for that game, but because it was a muff and not a strip, it only counts to make SF's rating worse; it doesn't make Arizona's better.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:49pm

Maybe we need a new template?

DVOA is wrong about [team] because of [some random statistic]. It's hugely overestimating the effect of [another random statistic]. [Pete Prisco|Peter King|ESPN hashmarks|W-L record|some random rating method based on some single random statistic] ranks teams way better than this! DVOA [random insult, using chat-acceptable spelling]!!1!

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:06am

I like it.

by Q (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 7:54pm

Wow GB has a chance to finish 1st in Weighted DVOA, should be a fascinating playoffs

by Dej (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:05pm

Can anyone explain why Green Bay's odds of making it to the conference championship (on the Playoff Odds page) are so bad? With their high DVOA, what drags them down so badly that they are less likely than the Giants, Dolphins, or even the 49ers to make it to a conference championship game. What causes the computer to think that the Cowboys or Eagles are 4x as likely to make it that far? Is it just that they have no chance of having a home game? Is it just historical home field advantage data? I'd appreciate any insight.

by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:27pm

Possibly having home field advantage definitely helps the Cowboys, Eagles, and (a little bit) the 49ers. Of course, this doesn't help the Giants comparison.

Other than that, I don't know. Looking at the path through the playoffs, it looks like GB should have an easier path than the other Wildcard, and their weighted DVOA is 2nd highest, so I'd chalk some of it up as just bad luck with the simulator.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:25pm

Don't know if they take this into account, but all the other playoff contenders have a shot at a division title (meaning at least one home game), but the Pack would need a monumental collapse by the Vikings for the NFC North crown. Pretty hard to make the championship without a bye, let alone without playing a game at home.

by dejour (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:26am

Pretty clearly a bug in this week's playoff odds, IMO.

Another bug: Compare DAL and PHI. PHI has a much better chance of making the playoffs and a much higher DVOA. Yet, Dallas somehow has a better chance of making the conference final, and a better chance of winning the Super Bowl?

The divisional odds pass the smell test to me, but the "playoff scenarios" table seems very buggy.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:03pm

I was going to say that Green Bay has had their asses kicked twice by the Vikings, but that wouldn't matter, since almost certainly they would not play Minnesota before the conference championship game. The Dolphins are not directly comparable, since they're in the AFC and they have a much higher chance of winning their division, I would think. (One game out, hold tiebreaker.)

But that doesn't explain the Giants or 49ers.

by Arkaein :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:21pm

GB lost to Minn by 7 and 12 points. In the first game they came within an onside kick recovery of having a chance to tie. Not exactly an ass kicking.

I'm a GB fan, but I would like their chances with another shot at the Vikings. The pass protection has been much better lately, and Minn really took advantage of the deficiencies at OT that have mostly been fixed.

In any case, I don't think that the playoff odds calculator uses previous head-to-head meetings in it's calculations, so there must be another reason for low odds.

by jmaron :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:47pm

it's got to be a mistake. There is no way NYG, Mia and SF have a better chance of reaching the conference finals.

Regarding a Minnesota - GB final - I wouldn't like that because there's too much pain at stake if the Vikings lose. Losing to NO or Philly just wouldn't sting as much.

But intellectually I think the Vikings match up well against GB. The Vikings score 30 pts at home no matter what defence they play against. They don't rely on the blitz for pressure which is crucial for defencing Rodgers.

I think GB matches up well with NO. I see GB beating NO if they end up facing each other in the playoffs.

by Arkaein :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:53pm

I think it's interesting you like those matchups. As a GB fan, I feel that the Saints are a bad matchup due to the ripple effect of losing Al Harris.

Woodson can mostly eliminate one WR, and Tramon Williams is a fairly solid #2 CB who has good ball skills, but after that the CB depth drops precipitously. The Saints could really take advantage of that with their WR depth. Of course, NO has looked a lot more vulnerable lately.

EDIT: didn't realized I had basically repeated myself in the same comment thread. updated below.

I'm not sure about the GB/Minny matchups. In the previous games Minny didn't blitz in the first half and build strong leads, then started blitzing in the second half and GB mounted furious comeback attempts. If I'm right and GB's pass protection will be much better in a 3rd meeting, Minny may need to try more first half blitzes.

Also, I wouldn't be confident that Favre can play GB that well a third time. Those two games were probably the two worst games of the season for GB's defense, which has generally improved as the season has gone on. I think Favre plays his best football with a lead because it reduces the risks that he takes, but if GB can just keep the game close through the first half Favre could start to press and make mistakes like he has historically.

by I am excellent at making love (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:19am

Yes, as long playoffs pit the Packers against a .500 team at home, or the Lions, Browns, or Rams on the road, they should do very well.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:04pm

Excellent user name with the "(not verified)"

by Myron (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:02pm

Um, what? Philadelphia is #2 in the DVOA rankings? How is this possible?

Philly is a pretty mediocre team this year. They got destroyed by every decent team they played this year (San Diego, Dallas, New Orleans) AND they lost to the Raiders!

I can see maybe top 16 DVOA but #2? That's crazy. This system is so faulty and biased. You guys have gotta be from Philly or something.

by SmokingClutch (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:23pm

To save people some time, please use the following format for all complaints: is clearly ranked because . is way better than this.

You didn't use the above format. FAIL.

by SmokingClutch (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:24pm

Of course, it would help if I didn't copy the format from above and leave in the brackets that the system thinks are HTML tags. Oh well. I fail too.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:43pm

Yes, Myron, the people who put this site together are part of the secret Illuminati Anti-Philly Cabal. They have secretly murdered, by poisoning, Ben Franklin, Betsy Ross, W.C. Fields (subbing methanol for hooch, of course), Margaret Mead, and Norm van Brocklin. They changed methods with Grace Kelly, and staged a Monaco car accident. Now, they hold secret meetings, and spend hours devising formulas which screw the Eagles in NFl rankings.


by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:27pm

And they would have gotten away with it too, if not for those meddling kids and their talking dog!

by Myron (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:35am

Um, I'm not saying they're screwing Philly, I'm claiming that they're overrating Philly. You obviously didn't read/understand my comment.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:16am

FO is not based in Philly and in fact only one of the staff is even an Eagles fan (Mike Tanier).

More importantly, DVOA is a statistical formula. It doesn't, so to speak, "care" about the teams. It cannot in fact be "biased." Yes, it's a bit unconventional and sometimes its results seem at least counter-intuitive (Otherwise why would you read them?), but to take a look at the rankings once and dismiss it as "biased" because its results are different from your own opinion is not a good argument. Seriously, if you are going to come to the site, you should go ahead and read the explanations of the statistics they use, including DVOA: http://www.footballoutsiders.com/info/methods

I hope you find it enjoyable and perhaps even useful.

by DaveRichters :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:43am

Of course DVOA can be biased! Say there is an event that helps a team win but is not reflected in DVOA, such as taking time off the clock or forcing a team to use a precious time-out. A team that does this frequently will be underestimated by DVOA and a team that does this infrequently will overestimated. That is a bias.

DVOA is not perfect, and certainly has some systematic error that leads to bias.

by Hurt Bones :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:14am

Not bias unless the word's definition has changed. Bias suggests intention.

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:20am

No, the definition hasn't changed, there's just more than one. If you ever take a statistics or econometrics class, you'll hear plenty about bias, and it's referring to systematic error, not intent.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:08pm

Gotta agree with dmb here. Bias does not imply intention, especially not in statistics.

In a more general setting when referring to psychology, it also does not refer to intent. It refers to unconscious prejudice, which is a quite different thing. But that doesn't matter if we're talking about bias in a statistical sense.

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:56pm

You know, I'm even familiar with a few cognitive biases, and somehow that use didn't even occur to me.

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:19am

I think I point this out every other time someone says that DVOA "isn't biased," but I really think it's a lack of clear terminology, not a misunderstanding. DVOA may very well be biased in the statistical sense -- systematic error -- but there's no prejudicial treatment of teams in DVOA based on the rooting preferences of the site's authors.

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:53am

Yes, I meant it cannot have bias in the prejudicial treatment sense and not the systematic error sense. I probably should have written that more carefully.

However, since the original poster was saying that the authors must be in Philadelphia for it to come up with that result, I highly doubt that s/he meant bias in the statistical sense.

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:59pm

Right, I figured that's what you meant, considering the context.

The frustrating thing is that every week there are charges of bias of the type you were refuting, when we could get much more useful and interesting discussion if it were about the types of biases DaveRichters was referring to. Of course, it's a little difficult to have a fully informed discussion of it as long as DVOA is proprietary...

by DaveRichters :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 9:27am

Yes, I meant it cannot have bias in the prejudicial treatment sense

Of course it can. I wouldn't accuse the writers here of intentionally favoring a team because they are fans but intention doesn't have to be there for the bias to be there. I think it's foolish to dismiss such a criticism until DVOA is published. That's the tradeoff, right? They've decided that the perceived financial benefit of not publishing is worth more than the likely improvement that DVOA would undergo if it were vetted. I think it is subreption to complain about allegations of bias without defending against them. The allegations should not be moral but, rather, logical. I don't think anyone actually believes that there is some benefit in DVOA based on team identity, but certainly some teams get the benefit of systematic errors.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 5:29pm

I think it's foolish to dismiss such a criticism until DVOA is published.

It doesn't need to be published. You don't kneed to know the methodology to determine bias - in fact, it's perfectly possible for the methodology to have substantial biases that, in the end, cancel out. All you need to do is:

1) determine a function f(DVOA_A, DVOA_B) which gives the fraction of times team A beats team B. You can determine this simply from what's on the site and results.

2) Simulate seasons, by using a team's final DVOA, picking a DVOA for a single game for each team based on the mean and variance, and using the function f.

3) Calculate how likely the actual results were for each team, and see if the distribution over multiple years is consistent with what you expect.

by DaveRichters :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 10:11am

It doesn't need to be published. You don't kneed [sic] to know the methodology to determine bias - in fact, it's perfectly possible for the methodology to have substantial biases that, in the end, cancel out.

You are absolutely correct.

1) determine a function f(DVOA_A, DVOA_B) which gives the fraction of times team A beats team B. You can determine this simply from what's on the site and results.
2) Simulate seasons, by using a team's final DVOA, picking a DVOA for a single game for each team based on the mean and variance, and using the function f.
3) Calculate how likely the actual results were for each team, and see if the distribution over multiple years is consistent with what you expect.

What I would do is look at rankings based on the number of actual Ws for each team and rankings based on the predicted Ws derived from "higher DVOA wins the game", over many seasons.

I think your method is either a fair bit more complicated than you've made it seem or you are begging the question re: DVOAs distribution. You don't state what distribution you would use to simulate DVOA in your step 2), I assume the normal, but it really doesn't matter. I'd bet many teams' DVOA distributions for a given season are bimodal, e.g. a team whose starting QB is injured for 6 games might perform terribly in those games and well in the others. Even if they aren't bimodal, this method can only work if you know what the distributions are.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:54pm

Yeah, I know, but it would have taken me more than than the one minute I alotted to the task to mock the notion that the FO writers were intentionally devising a complex model for the specific purpose of overrating Philly. Thus I mocked the opposite, which is no more or less ludicrous.

by Dales :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:54pm

Philly may not be the 2nd best team in the league, but I think claiming they are mediocre is clearly further from the truth than claiming them to be 2nd best is. That is a pretty good football team.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:54am

Philly is not the 16th best team, but they are CLEARLY not the 2nd best team either.

No need to jump on the guy with the boilerplate ( please format your angery comment) and the other it's all a conspiracy anti philly stuff.

DVOA is supposed to be descriptive no? We have a team that lost to the Jamarcus Raiders and 3 other teams and then we have an undefeated team... HMMMMMMM

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:12pm

You're focusing too much on the W-L record. That's not what DVOA is measuring.

I would take Philly over Indy on a neutral field right now.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:34pm

and how about losing to the Raiders. Was DVOA measuring that and properly adjusting for opponents or does getting "jamarcused" by the Raiders count as much as unimpressive wins? How would you care to explain what happened in Oakland and how it relates to the Eagles overall performance? How about the Saints game? Were the Eagles so impressive in beating the Giants that it more than makes up for their losses?

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:57pm

What do you mean, explain it? It's accounted for. Those plays in the Oakland game count as much as plays in the Giants game. What's the grand sum overall description of how they've played this year, taking into account all their plays? Read the article above to find out.

Good teams occasionally have head-scratchers. It happens all the time. The Patriots sometimes lose to Buffalo. Get over it.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:05pm

In the Raiders game, Akers also missed 2 mid-range field goals. If he's not having an off-day, this isn't even an issue. They also went for it on 4th down late in the game when in field-goal range - if Akers makes one of the earlier kicks, then they kick the game winner there. They played bad (real bad) against a bad team, but some unlikely missed field goals are still the only reason they lost.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:19pm

Shoulda woulda coulda

My team missed a FG in the 2nd Quarter and lost by 2... If he would have made it we would have won! Just forget that it would change the strategey of the game...

Look, Let's day Akers does make the FG's and the Eagles beat the Raiders who were 14 point underdogs to them... Was that an impressive win? Did they play down to their crappy competition? Why are they ahead of the Colts who haven't won all their games in impressive fashion, but came out victors each week.

The Colts had close games with Miami and other teams... but the Eagles lost how many games?

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:31pm

Yeah, believe me, I know - if a frog had wings, it wouldn't bump its ass a-hoppin' and if the Eagles could didn't trade field goals for TD's, they'd be sitting at 12-1...

by Myron (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 7:07pm

Well, to be fair to the Eagles, their offensive line was in shambles at the time (Jason Peters was out w/ an injury) and they had some rookie scrub starting at LT who couldn't protect McNabb to save his life. The Raiders' Richard Seymour vs. some 7th round 2009 draft pick, you do the math, McNabb got sacked a billion times that game and they could never get their passing game going.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:58pm

New England in 2003, a 14-2 Super Bowl winning team, lost 31-0 to Buffalo, a 6-10 team who won exactly zero games versus any other team with a winning record.

How would you care to explain what happened in Oakland and how it relates to the Eagles overall performance?

It happens. Possibly with an extra syllable in the beginning.

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:41pm

You pronounce it "shi-it"? :P

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:14pm

When you lose to Oakland, it deserves a little more emphasis.

by DGL :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 3:12pm

I'm a Steelers fan, and I approve this message.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:13pm

Yeah and the 2003 Patriots were a 14-2 team that won the super bowl. The Eagles are going to lose probably 3 times as many games as them. It's not like the Raider game is the only game they lost and the only time they team clearly underperformed their potential.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:42pm

It's not like the Raider game is the only game they lost and the only time they team clearly underperformed their potential.

Yes, because no other teams ever underperformed their potential in a game. The Eagles have a crazy loss to the Raiders, a loss to the #1 overall team, and two 1-score losses to top 10 teams.

1-6 might as well be interchangeable - if one of the teams had sneezed differently during one game, their spots might switch.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:28pm

Simple: The Eagles had their annual inexplicable loss to a horrendous team. Fortunately, it's usually an AFC team, so it doesn't kill their playoff chances. As for the New Orleans game, you might remember that Kevin Kolb played that game in place of McNabb, and that the game was fairly close until the birds fumbled away the kickoff at the start of the second half. Kolb might turn out to be an OK QB, and he was managing the game fairly well to that point, but to expect him to pull a two TD comeback against a very good Saints team is asking a lot. Also remember that the Eagles had a lot of O-line issues early on, which seem to have been resolved.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:01pm

Philly always gets blown out of the water by Peyton's Colts. They are the one team in the league I have absolutely no confidence in them beating. The Saints, Vikings, Packers, Patriots, Chargers... I think they've good at least a half-decent shot at winning. Keep in mind, too, Westbrook will almost definitely be coming back for the playoffs and he will be relegating their worst starter (McCoy) to the sidelines...

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:36pm

Yes, because the Eagles have never had a great LB corp that can handle the underneath stuff that Manning always seems to have open (and they still don't, even if Bradley were still playing). On the other hand, it sure looks like we have an offense that can keep up with Indy. Either way, we don't have to play them for a month and a half, assuming we even get that far. BTW, don't underestimate Shady McCoy. He's a rookie, but he's had a lot of good runs through the year.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:57pm

I agree with DVOA on the offense and McCoy. McCoy mainly stinks (-12.6% DVOA, ranked 34th among featured backs) and their offense is nothing special - inconsistent in the passing game and settles for FG's instead of TD's way too often. McCoy might improve, but virtually every touch he gets in the running game would be better served going to someone else.

by Bruce G. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:54pm

I'm not sure if the system is designed to be predictive or descriptive, but if predictive why haven't my Eagles won a superbowl since DVOA has loved them for the last dozen years? (Please, please, don't answer that, it was rhetorical)

However maybe Aaron can address this simply by noting his sentiment in the opening to this column. Andy Reid likes to pass on first down, then again on second down, and what the heck, let's try it on third down too cause it's so much fun. Does DVOA's 'bias' lean toward passing teams? Isn't it true that DVOA loves an 24 yard gain on first down, followed by a 13 yard gain on first down, even if the next two passes are incomplete leading to a field goal? (Lather, rinse, repeat)

Or did Aaron already address this in an article in a previous season.....

(Unbelievable!? Proving there IS a philly conspiracy is my capcha: brand 76ers) Does it just pull words out of news articles?

by DGL :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 3:11pm

"Isn't it true that DVOA loves an 24 yard gain on first down, followed by a 13 yard gain on first down, even if the next two passes are incomplete leading to a field goal?"

No wonder the Eagles have such red-zone trouble! They're kicking field goals on third down!

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 5:15pm

Isn't it true that DVOA loves an 24 yard gain on first down, followed by a 13 yard gain on first down, even if the next two passes are incomplete leading to a field goal?

I'll presume you meant "next three passes," because otherwise it's 3rd and 10 in your situation.

Compared to what? That's 37 yards of offense in 5 plays: compared to, say, 9 4 yard plays? Probably not: all 9 plays would likely be slightly positive, whereas the three incompletes are negative plays, getting progressively worse as the downs continue, and would likely more than offset the other two gains.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:10pm

Question for Dall fans - whenever I watch them I come away thinking they are a better defensive team than offence. DVOA suggests I couldn't be more wrong.

They've played so many low scoring games

21-7 Car
10-17 Den
7-17 GB
7-6 Wash
17-20 SD

They only scored over 30 4 times, but they've held teams to 20 and under 9 times.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:52pm

Having the second-worst field goal kicking unit in the entire league doesn't help.

But it's really interesting, actually - it's like a clinic on "how to build a good offense/average defense team and hide it so no one can tell."

Their offense starts with the 6th worst starting field position on average. Their defense starts with the 2nd best starting field position on average. They force the 4th fewest turnovers per drive (New Orleans, the leader, forces over twice as many) on defense and committed the 7th fewest turnovers on offense - which leads to only 1 defensive touchdown scored, and only 1 opponent's defense touchdown scored.

There's pretty much a team like this every year. It's easy to see somewhat because Dallas is 7th in yards/drive - and if you give them the 2 yards/drive they lose due to starting field position compared to average, they jump to 4th. Dallas is 11th in yards/drive on defense, and if you give back the 2.5 yards/drive they gain in starting field position, they drop back to 25th on defense.

Which would put them right where their DVOA is.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:46pm

that's very interesting - kind of death by a thousand cuts.

Still very skeptical of the NFC east teams - particularly Dall and NYG.

by justme_cd :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:24pm

I've come to think of the Dallas defense as the opposite of Philly's percieved high DVOA. I think Pat was pretty accurate, but to oversimplify it, perhaps the bend but don't break cliche fits here.

by None (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:25pm

Isn't Cleveland 2-11, not 1-12?

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:13pm

I swear, the one thing in here that is an entirely manual change every week, and I screw it up like twice a month. I'm a dingus. Fixing Cleveland's record now.

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:29pm

You have a message from a Mr. Mangini: If you figure out how to fix Clevelands' record, give him a call.

by Bobman :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:16pm

Kevin, hereinafter you must address him as Dingus. He really prefers it that way. Right, Dingus?

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:14pm

You're referring to Mangini, right?

by Mike B. In Va :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:08pm


by Bruce G. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:57pm

Untouchable. Gold star for you.

by Bobman :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:04pm

No, Aaron, who called himself a dingus just above. The big dingus.

And hey, that Mangini joke below hits close to home--we share about 6/7 of a last name and was called Mandingo for many years. But only Mandingus once, by a college roomie when we were assigned to read Lysistrata (I'll assume that was the first-ever printed use of dingus).

by Jmagik (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:35pm

I think that this year, more than others, it's pretty clear who's going to get BADLY exposed come playoff-time. And again, the schedulemakers break my heart as a lifelong Cowboys fan... but admittedly, if we can't beat NO and PHI, there's no point to going to the playoffs anyway. Of course, the truth is I really just want to see a Romo-QB'd team to get a win so people will get off his back and realize that he's a solid player (and honestly, if not for a mistake that he made AS A HOLDER (not a QB), his resume would have that one playoff win that's required to get you off the hate list... of course, the teams that beat his Cowboys in playoffs were Seattle (won NFC), NYG (won SB), PHI (almost won NFC)). But still... god, what was that playcalling vs. SD? And I also want to go back in time and sign Wade as our DC and ... Garrett for HC, just so that he never would've gotten the chance to install his "system." I wish DVOA could better account for the insanely large ratio between the Cowboys' offensive productivity in terms of yards and in terms of points. 400 yards on the Raiders and 3 TDs? How long is the field again? (Yes, for us Cowboys fans looking at this slate, all we can do is ramble and flail for now.)

by Joe Skolnik (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:37pm

Eagles never been Dallas in playoffs

by rosmith51 :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:39am

"Eagles never been Dallas in playoffs"

I'm not sure what this means...

The Cowboys and Eagles have played three playoff games (2 in Dallas, 1 in Philadelphia)

So the Eagles have "been" to Dallas and the Eagles have "beaten" Dallas (1980 NFC Championship game) in the playoffs...

Is there some other interpretation I'm missing?

by The Guy You Don't Want to Hear (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:22am

You are missing the obvious. The Eagles have never in fact been the Cowboys in the playoffs.

The commenter is making an existentialist joke about the existence of identity in the faceless modern world. The NFL typifies this world with its uniform . . . uniforms.

(In case I need to say it, I'm sure a word or two was missing and this is not what the commenter meant. It is entirely a joke.)

by Spoilt Victoria... :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:20am

Oh boy, the playoffs! That's where we're the Vikings.

by Dan :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:55am

That's unpossible!

by Jmagik (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:23am

To clarify, when I said "playoff situations," I was referring to last year's "win and your in" season-ender, where we suffered a 44-6 ass-beating that I was too embarassed to finish watching.

by joe skolnik (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:35pm

Philadelphia has only been clearly outplayed by their opposition once this season, with our backup quarterback nonetheless. The losses to Dallas, San Diego, and Oakland were all very close, 2 were on the road, and I believe we played just as well as the other team.

The Eagles have multiple dominant performances (Giants round 1, Bucs, Panthers, Falcons, chiefs) albeit against some bad teams.

by maestro876 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:50pm

The loss to San Diego was not close. McNabb racked up a lot of garbage time yards, and the Chargers did basically whatever they wanted on offense, including a season-best performance from LT (who according to Schatz is "toast"), and a game-killing 7 minute drive at the end of the 4th quarter. The Eagles were never in that game.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:26pm

McNabb racked up a lot of garbage time yards

How can the Chargers have a game-killing 7 minute drive at the end of the 4th quarter? That's when McNabb would've been racking up those garbage time yards!

Bringing your team back to within one score with half a quarter to play is about as far from "garbage time" as I can imagine.

including a season-best performance from LT (who according to Schatz is "toast"),

When your season-best performance is 4 yards a carry, you are toast.

The Eagles were never in that game.

A team that's down 5 points with seven minutes left to go in the game is "in the game." The Eagles wouldn't've needed huge heroics to win that game. They just would've needed one stop, and one drive.

And I won't even mention that Philly settled for 3 field goals inside the San Diego 10. San Diego won that game because their defense stepped up at the goal line, not because of anything their offense did.

by LinksterAC (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:36am

The San Diego offense scored 30 points.

The game wasn't a blow out, but it was rarely in question. San Diego was clearly the better team, controlled play, and led throughout.

Very similar game to the Dallas game. Two good teams played each other, and played good games against each other. It's just that San Diego's good game was significantly better than Philadelphia's.

And please, don't get me started on the Eagles' red zone inefficiencies during that game. They traded TDs for field goals because San Diego's defense outplayed their offense in the red zone. There's nothing flukey about that.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:00am

I wagered on the Eagles for that game and yes, I never felt like I was going to win with the trading FG's for TD's and San Diego generally outplaying them. San Diego won that game fair and square.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:22pm

The San Diego offense scored 30 points.

So? Philly's offense had 4 trips inside San Diego's 10 yard line. They were literally a few yards from equalling and possibly exceeding San Diego's offense's output. The difference in that game was San Diego's defense outplaying Philly's offense in the red zone.

They traded TDs for field goals because San Diego's defense outplayed their offense in the red zone.

Isn't that what I just said?

It's just that San Diego's good game was significantly better than Philadelphia's.

I think we have different definitions of "significant." When a game's within 1 score with half a quarter to go, I don't believe the leading team is "significantly" outplaying the other. They're just 'outplaying' them.

There's nothing flukey about that.

It depends what you mean by 'fluke.' San Diego didn't win by luck - they played a good game versus Philly and won. Duh. And they didn't win due to factors outside of their control.

But suppose Philly goes for it on 4th and 1 from the 1, and converts. San Diego's defensive performance wouldn't look noticeably worse: they stopped Philly on 3 attempts from the 1, that's plenty positive - failing on 4th and 1 is a high leverage situation, but it's not more difficult than 1st/2nd/3rd and 1. But the game would be significantly closer.

Philly failed that game in high-leverage situations. That's how a team plays well and loses. Magnifying those high-leverage failures (most people call them "clutch") is a classic mistake sports fans make. Those failures on 1st/2nd/3rd and 1 are not significantly more predictive than the 6 previous plays where the Eagles marched 77 yards down the field, but they have a much bigger effect on the scoreboard.

The point here is that San Diego could've played only very, very marginally worse and they could've lost that game. That's pretty much the definition of a close game.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:20pm

It was a close game, although I agree the outcome was never seriously in doubt (maybe if there had been 15 more seconds on the clock for that final drive). But keep in mind, that game was the absolute low-point of the season for the Eagles defense in terms of injuries/suspensions - Chargers fans should acknowledge that they were lucky to have Gocong at MLB and the eagles suddenly missing their #3 and #4 CB's (they both were scratched mid-week). Yes, playing Gocong at MLB was a terrible mistake and the Chargers took full advantage - that's fair and square. Yes, the Chargers receivers down on the depth chart were the ones who had big days - they also took advantage of the lack of CB depth. That's good coaching, a smart game-plan, good execution... but it wasn't a blow-out by any stretch and the Chargers lucked out in facing a defense at its most depleted.

The Saints on the other hand, looked unstoppable versus the Eagles. They've proven they can play some mediocre football against bad teams, so they don't seem invulnerable, but the Saints are the one loss on the Eagles record where they were truly trounced (and I don't even think Kolb starting is such a huge mitigating factor). They got beat - and bad. The Chargers game? Ball inside the opponent's 40 with 10 seconds on the clock, down by one score... I wasn't impressed by the Chargers...

by Richard :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:10pm

Nobody gets to complain about injuries when they lose to the Chargers who have just absolutely atrocious injury luck.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:27pm

I guarantee the Eagles have more injuries they were #2 in AGL earlier in the year (behind only the Seahawks) and they've only sustained more injuries since then. The Eagles succeeding despite an incredible rash of injuries is the most under-reported aspect of their not-bad season.

by bubqr :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 6:30am

You're on lots of good points on several comments on this thread.
1 - McCoy beneficts from the halo effect coming from the "Philly young stars : Djackson, Maclin, Celek", but hasn't been really good this year, and shouldn't be put on the same group. His number of carries, the presence of Weaver on a lot of passing downs tell a lot about what the coaching staff thinks of him IMO. He hasn't been really good, and the way he carries the ball is frightening.
2 - This Eagles team is very young, has suffered a lot of injuries, but still looks in position to be the #3 or #4 seed in the playoffs, and that is truly amazing. They are missing 4 projected offensive starters (Curtis, Westbrook, Andrews brothers) and 1 defensive starter (Bradley), a lot of others have been banged up : Peters, Herremans, now Maclin and Celek on offense, none of their 5 CBs has been able to play every game entirely (Samuel and Brown are still playing hurt), they have gone through 6 players at MLB, 2 of them are on IR, and the starting LB lineup nearly hasn't been in the same twice.
All in all, even though I think the Eagles can make some noise in the playoffs this year, they already look like a contender next year

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:12pm

although I agree the outcome was never seriously in doubt

Seriously? The Chargers faced 2 significant 3rd down situations on their last drive, up only 5 points. You don't think at that point the outcome was in doubt? When the Eagles had shown every ability of marching down the field? It's not like the Eagles hadn't stopped the Chargers on 3rd down before in the game.

I dunno, maybe the disagreement is to what the term "in doubt" means. Do I think the Eagles were ever likely to win the game? Absolutely not. But on that last Chargers drive, did I think the Eagles could win the game without crazy wackiness? Sure.

For me, "in doubt" means that the team can win still playing normal football - no onside kicks, no relying on Hail Marys or Music City Miracle plays. It's the point at which I start assuming the game's a loss.

(and I don't even think Kolb starting is such a huge mitigating factor).

Kolb's performance in the second half was a strong reason they went from being "in the game" to being way, way behind.

They got beat - and bad.

I dunno. The second half was a pair of high-leverage plays - a special teams fumble and a pick deep in Philly's territory - turning a close game into a blowout, further aggravated by another high-leverage play (a pick-6) at the end. New Orleans won the first half 17-13 - the second half was 31-9, with three high-leverage plays providing probably around ~14 points to New Orleans.

"Beat bad" I would normally reserve for a game like NYG-NO, which despite being nominally closer than the Eagles game, was much more of a blowout in the first half, with only one high-leverage play. There's no real point in the NYG-NO game where you can point to and say "yeah, if this hadn't happened, maybe..."

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:06pm

Yeah, you're splitting hairs on in doubt - can we agree on "unlikely."

I disagree about Kolb - the fumble was the source of the collapse in that game. Kolb had too much pressure on him (down 24-13 against a high-power offense), got flustered, forced a few throws and the rest was history. They got beat decisively - they made mistakes and paid for them. Although I will agree they "beat bad" part came in the second half of the game. (Although, even taking out the ~14 high leverage point, the eagles still lost 17-9 in the second half and 34-18 overall, pretty decisive...) You just have to point to five or six plays where you say, yeah maybe if this hadn't happened, they would've been in it. I don't think most of those plays are on Kolb - only two tops...

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:30pm

Yeah, I still think a decisive victory is different than being "beat bad." I think the Eagles will need a bit of luck and solid play to beat the Saints - I think the Giants would need a lot of luck, even with solid play.

Kolb had too much pressure on him (down 24-13 against a high-power offense), got flustered, forced a few throws and the rest was history.

Kolb's pick was the first pass attempt he made after being down 24-13. I don't think the 'flustered' part came until after the pick, at which point they were down 31-13 (although he was pretty calm coming back from 34-13 to 34-20). He didn't look flustered - it was just a bad throw, and I don't think McNabb would've made that kind of a throw.

by randplaty (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 3:34pm

according to this win probability graph, the game was never really in doubt. SD controlled it from the first quarter on.


by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 12:52am

If the other team has a 25% chance of winning the game, that's "in doubt." If the other team ever jumps above a 50% chance of winning the game, that's not the same as "never in doubt." It means the other team came back. Look at the NO/PHI game that year for a good example of a game that's not "in doubt" by the fourth quarter.

All Philly needed was a stop and a drive - if you count both of those things as coin flips, that's the same thing as a 25% chance to win the game.

by Key19 :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:38pm

I'd love to believe that Dallas had the 4th best offense and were the 9th (or even 8th by Weighted!) best team in the league overall.

But that's just a fictional world that no one lives in.

by Temo :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:37pm

What a reversal! I thought they at least didn't play a sloppy game this week. I'm somewhat more upbeat than I was.

We'll trade off this week, you be the pessimist and I'll be the optimist.

by Key19 :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:44am

I think we beat the Saints. How about you? :)

Sorry, not doing that well at pessimist role anymore I guess. I got talked up into re-believing in this team today.

by LinksterAC (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:25am

As a Charger fan, I was impressed with Dallas. They played a good game, especially on defense. They just ran into a better team. I think they beat the Saints this weekend.

by Mr Shush :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 8:42pm

Here are the 20 worst teams of the DVOA era:

1. 2005 SF -56.4%
2. 2009 DET -52.0%
3. 2008 DET -48.4%
4. 2008 STL -47.5%
5. 2003 ARI -42.9%
6. 2004 SF -42.5%
7. 2002 HTX -41.6%
8. 2009 STL -40.7%
9. 1999 CLE -40.1%
10. 2000 CLE -39.1%
11. 1999 NO - 39.0%
12. 2009 OAK -36.9%
13. 2000 CIN -36.5%
14. 2002 DET -36.4%
15. 2002 ARI -35.8%
16. 1998 PHI -35.1%
17. 2007 STL -34.9%
18. 2007 SF -34.2%
19. 2009 TB -33.3%
20. 2009 KC -32.8%

Bold text indicates a team playing this year.
Italics indicate an expansion franchise.

Five of the twenty worst teams of the last sixteen years are playing this season. A sixth, Cleveland (-31.3%) is in 27th place. The Chiefs, the fifth worst team this season, would have been the worst in the league in six of those seasons (2006, 2001, 1994-1997). The Browns would have been the worst in three (2001, 1996, 1995). Four of the eight worst teams of the DVOA era are this year's and last year's Lions and Rams - truly biblical/apocalytic/silly-teen-vampire-movie badness. There may not be a lot of epic greatness to be seen around the NFL in 2009, but there's sure as hell some epic fail. Only 2002 comes close, with three teams on the list - and that was an expansion year.

Interestingly, those 20 teams are accounted for by only 12 franchises. Detroit, St. Louis and San Francisco appear three times each; Cleveland and Arizona twice. That's right, 8 of the 20 worst teams of the DVOA era played in the NFC West in the last decade. That includes a three year (active) streak by the Rams, as well as two year streaks by Detroit (active), Cleveland, San Francisco and Arizona. We wouldn't have to expand the list far to have extra years from the likes of Houston (21 in 2005), Cincinnati (23 in 1999) and Oakland (25 in 2004), not to mention this year's Browns at 27. Rebuilding terrible teams is not easy.

by John (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:13pm

Rebuilding terrible teams is not easy.

Sure it is. Draft a HOF WR, hire a HOF GM, draft a HOF quarterback, draft a HOF RB, all in the span of 3 years.

What could be easier? Colts did it, why can't everyone?

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:15pm

Actually, you can do those other things and you don't have to hire a HOF GM, as long as you hire a coach with at least one NCAA national championship and make sure you trade a veteran running back for like nine or ten draft picks.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:36pm

Thanks for the memories, you spoiled Patriot fan........

(sulking over glass of whisky)

by Kevin from Philly :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:37pm

Thanks, I didn't think I could feel worse after seeing the 98 Eagles on that list. You HAD to make me remember the worst fleecing in history.

by Parker (the first one) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:06am

Yeah, that was sort of not cool, Aaron.

by M :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:44am

As a Vikes fan, I kind of like to think that the Vikings deserve credit for at least 1 of those SB wins. It makes me feel better.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:18pm

I think Matt Millen got stuck on the first one.

"Draft a HOF WR"

by Myron (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:40am

The Steelers lost to 2 of the teams on that list, and also the 27th ranked Browns.

So where would that put them? The 2009 Steelers must = EPIC fail.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:46am

no way, I read every week Omar is the greatest up and coming coach in the history of the NFL. No way that such a great coach could put up a job like that while returning 20 starters from the SB champs....

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:50am

Last year, the Steelers were 6-2 in games decided by one or fewer scores. This suggests they might have had a run of good luck; however, when looking at their DVOA and estimated wins there is is not a great disparity, suggesting that luck was not a huge factor. This was a team that played opponents close and won.

This year, the Steelers are 2-7 in games decided by less than one score. Looking at their DVOA and estimated wins, it appears they've left 2 to 3 games on the table. This suggests bad luck may be a factor this year; however, FOT, you seem to think it is Tomlin. In your opinion, in what way is this Tomlin's fault, beyond the fact that if you have 20 returning starters from a championship team, then defending a championship is so simple anybody should be able to do it?

by andrew :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:45am

Was it luck on how many fumbles the steelers not only recovered but were able to return the length of the field?

Heck, they even had that this year vs. Minnesota, twice if count the deflected interception as luck. Without that they're probably 5-8.

by Mr Shush :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:27am

Can anybody who watched any of those Steelers losses against appalling teams tell me what the hell happened? From what I've seen of those teams this season, I find it hard to imagine how they beat anybody, much less the Steelers, who whenever I've seen them have looked pretty good (though obviously not the force they were a year ago). I believe I'm right in saying the games in question have been low scoring; is it Roethlisberger meltdowns? Total offensive line collapse? Freaky turnovers? Total offensive line collapse precipitating Roethlisberger meltdowns and hence freaky turnovers, exacerbated by truly special teams play?

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:20pm

The Steelers offense sucks right now. They don't have a respectable running game, and their passing game consists of an orgy of sacks.

by Jerry :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:44pm

In the Kansas City and Oakland games, they actually had leads late in the fourth quarter and let Cassel and Gradkowski march down the field. (This was also true in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Baltimore.) Against the Raiders, Pittsburgh gave up three fourth quarter TDs, coming back to score their own after the first two, and getting a Hail Mary into the end zone on their 8 second final drive.

There have been a couple of dropped interceptions that would have sealed victories, but the Steeler defense hasn't been able to get off the field on those game-winning drives. I'm sure having Polamalu would help, but everybody's contributing to the defeats.

by coboney :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:54am

Did you really just ask him to go over it again? Here I'll put it in short so maybe I won't have to read it... again. I don't necessarily agree with these and I don't follow the steelers enough.

Fire Omar Tomlin's Tomlin Fail List
-- Poor Clock Management
-- Keeping Bruce Arians
-- Keeping the Special Teams Coach
-- Predictable Play Calling

I think thats most of it.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:43pm

you forgot the

-- "Hey, we're the SB champs, we showed up to the field, now bow down and roll over to us and our lethargic effort because we're better than you" attitude.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:47pm

I don't have the time, or the motivation to solve this myself, what are the statistical odds a team with the Steelers' DVOA should lose to 3 "bottom 27" teams in a single season, ceteris paribus.

They this season have been a play up (or try to) / play down to (and succeed) the competition group more than anyone I have ever seen. While some failure is attributable to bad play calling, terrible kick coverage, etc... playing down to cellar-dwellars and looking like you could not care less about being on the field, that they owe you the win because of who you "are", is solely on the HC, IMHO.

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:01am

Honestly, did anybody feel like last year's Steelers were a particularly good team? Last year seems to me to be the exception of recent years where there really was no team that achieved even "very good" status, yet someone had to win the Super Bowl.

The Steelers were as good as any other team in the league last year. You could replace "Steelers" with about 8 other teams and the sentence would still be true.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:23pm

The Steelers last year were a good team, but as I watched them win games in the playoffs, I kept thinking "hmm, well they're advancing, so they deserve to win, but they are not all that impressive". I thought they would win the Super Bowl easily, but that was mostly due to my lingering impression of the ass-kicking the Pats had given the Cardinals last December. And then the Steelers barely won a Super Bowl due in no small part to a few flukish plays.

Certainly not up there with the 2000 Ravens, 2003-4 Pats or 2006 Colts.

by mrh :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:21pm

So Tomlin gets the blame because a Super Bowl team returning lots of players plays badly. OK, I understand that logic. But who coached that Super Bowl team? Doesn't that guy get some credit too? As I recall, the last Steeler coach to win the Super Bowl didn't do so well the following year either, but I'll bet a lot of franchises would hire Cowher over their current coach (ignoring financial considerations anyhow).

by FireOmarTomlin :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:36pm

Tomlin handed the game over to his relatively healthy, near-best-of-decade (DVOA wise anyways) defense last season and rode them to victory, in spite of his terrible clock management, refusal to fire Arians, etc. This season with D regression and a couple of injuries, we're seeing his arrogance, lack of motivation for players, etc translating to loss after loss.

Re Cowher: yes, the Steelers went 8-8 after the SB win, however their franchise QB faceplanted into a car windshield, had an appendectomy, etc ...and they started the season 2-6 IIRC. They finished out strong and with pride even though they had nothing to play for really. This team started out 6-2, had some injuries, lost a few games, and essentially said "ahh, f' it.".

Finally, we saw what happened to this teams' D a few years ago when Aaron Smith got hurt... And to this day they haven't significantly improved DL depth. Why they think they can rely on the D to hold leads in the 2nd half when he is out AND troy p is out is beyond me.... But build a lead, get conservative, run a highly predicatble 3 and out playset, then wonder why a significantly inferior D (personnel wise) that is on the field too long can't play like it did last year.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:02am

If it wasn't for a horrible holding call at the end of the Tampa Bay/Green Bay game I think the Bucs would be further down the list.

I actually think Tampa might be the worst team in the league ( worse than Oakland, Rams, and even Detroit).

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:56am

As someone who has suffered through nearly every minute of Tampa's games this year (at least as much as I could stand), I'd greatly disagree. The Bucs suck, but they're not the worst team in the league. Note they've played the hardest schedule in the league; they've faced NO, Dallas, Philly, the Giants, Miami, and Atlanta. They've come close to winning a number of those games and, frankly, if Byron Leftwich hadn't been taking a giant dump on the field for the first few weeks, I think they would have beaten both the Bills and the Redskins.

It's a wildly inconsistent team, but there's clearly talent on the offensive line, in WR/TE (Bryant and Winslow), and the half of the secondary that isn't absolutely and utterly awful (Tanard Jackson and Aqib Talib good, Sabby Piscatelli and Elbert Mack extremely not-good).

The Browns get to play against Detroit, KC, and Oakland. Detroit gets the Rams and the Browns. Part of Tampa's utter suckitude is the fact that their schedule has utterly sucked this year.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:41pm

Byron didn't start @ Washington against the Redskins. That would be Josh Johnson. Hey did you ever hear he threw 55 TDs and 1 interception in a season of intramural football?

I agree they have an offensive line and they have SOME talented players on defense ( but who doesn't?).

How is their quarterback situation? Terrible
How is the head coach? The worst in the league
How is their defense? Terrible D-Line constantly pushed around

I'm sure you watched the first Carolina game where the Panthers ran behind Jeff Otah every play for ~ 7 yards per carry over and over again... or how they started this past game off simialarly.

This team is 1 blow call away from being winless and possible on pace for an 0-16 season.

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:03pm

If Leftwich never started a game, then Josh Johnson would've had a little bit of pro experience before facing the Redskins. Instead, the Tampa was playing a decent defense while giving their quarterback his very first meaningful playing time. Then again, that may have been to Tampa's benefit, since it left the Redskins without much tape of him.

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:25pm

So which is it?

If Josh Johnson was the opening day starter, then they would have beat the Redskins because he would have improved after 3 or so starts, or did he have an advantage because he was inexperienced and they didn't know much about him?

Byron Leftwhich didn't PLAY in the Redskins game. Byron Leftwhich has about as much to do with that loss as Jeff Garcia does... Hey, if they would have kept him they probably could have won!

Does Tampa have the worst roster ever? Certainly not, but starting 3 guys ( two virtual rookies), having the worst head coach I've seen since Rod Marinelli, and having a defense that can't stop people isn't a good formula for wins.

Does it mean Josh Freeman ( and Tampa) has no future? No, but they are a terrible football team that has trouble winning games.

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:12pm

I don't know which it is -- I'm not in a good position to judge the strength of TB's roster, and I'm not arguing whether their start/sit decisions helped or hurt them against the Redskins. I'm just pointing out that, as Milkman suggested, the fact that Leftwich played all of the previous games probably did have an effect on the TB/WAS game, since it meant that Johnson hadn't yet accrued any significant playing time. As I noted, that effect may or may not have been beneficial ... but regardless, it did have consequences.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:14pm

Yes, yes, Josh Johnson started the Redskins game. Being that Leftwich and Luke McCown split the preseason reps, it meant Johnson started his first-ever professional football game with hardly any preparation. It all blurs together. And yes, Raheem Morris is an utterly abysmal coach. The interior defensive line is one of the worst I've ever seen, and I simply cannot understand why teams simply do not just run up the middle on every down. I'm not arguing the Bucs aren't terrible; I'm saying they're not the worst team in the league. 28th, 29th, sure. I think they'd beat the Lions, Browns, and Rams. Maybe the Chiefs. Part of Tampa's suckiness has been who they've played.

Doing an extremely rough "add together the DVOA position of all 13 teams they've faced and dividing by 13", it comes out to an average DVOA position of about 13.7 or so. They've played the 1st, 2nd, and 4th ranked teams, along with six other teams in the top 20.

I in no way am arguing Tampa is any good. They are awful. Calling Raheem Morris a joke as a coach is an insult to bad coaches everywhere (though I'd say Mangini gives him a run for the money). There are huge holes on the roster. Nobody is arguing that. I would simply say there are, sadly enough, worse teams out there. The Bucs are arguably superior to the current roster of, say, the Rams at every position except for RB and DL. Not that they're good, just "not worst".

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:28pm

That's why I bet on the Redskins that game, Josh Johnson had no preparation. But if you are going to Blame Byron, why not Blame Luke Mccown for taking preseason reps, and why not wish they still had or signed Jeff Garcia? Raheem went with JJ and it was a stupid call, but that's the call he made, I don't think you say that Byron is the reason why they lost. Look, I can't stand Byron as much as the next guy, but I'm not blaming the Redskin loss on him.

I bet on Carolina vs the Bucs because with that O-Line... Gross, Otah, Khalil it just seemed obvious to just freaking run the ball down their throats. No need to get cute, you have a perfect matchup.

I just assign more weighing to QB, head coach, and defense and the Bucs are horrible in all of those aspects. If they are involved in a close game and you are asking their rookie QB to drive down the field during a 2 min drill... or you are asking their defense to get a stop... or the head coach has some key decisions to make... I don't have confidence in any of the 3 important aspects.

I disagree with KC. I think giving Matt Cassell ( who has had some nfl success) time to throw would prove an edge.

The Gradkowski Raiders beat the Bucs...

The Lions are a weird match up because Tampa's O-line would beat the Lions D-Line, but the Lions linebackers are probably good enough to negate some of that. At this point Matt Stafford could throw more TD passes (especially with CJ), but he could also throw more interceptions ( especially since you have some coverage guys).

The Rams beat the Bucs IMO due to their D-Line ( & Spags) and having Jackson do something. If Bulger or Bollier play I'm even more confidence in the Rams.

I guess it just comes down to the Bucs being losers. I think if Morris is your HC, you have a raw rookie QB, and a terrible D-Line, that you will lose win-able games and close games... The Lions game would be the ultimate stink bowl and I could buy an argument that you are better than the Rams but no MAS.

by AnonymousToo (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:05pm

As someone who has watched all the Chargers' games, it's obvious why their DVOA isn't reflective of their record.

They get a lead and then sit on it. They go into a prevent offense focused on milking the clock and a prevent defense that makes the Browns look great.

It isn't indicative of their true ability, but it surely does drag down their stats.

by LinksterAC (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:44am

Yes. They had fourth quarter leads of 20-10 (@Dallas), 27-7 (@Cleveland), 28-9 (Philadelphia), before giving up garbage time points and scores that made the games look closer than they were, and betrayed the fact that their outcomes were rarely in question.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:06pm

The Colts do the exact same thing, as they always get leads and let teams back in. Against the Titans, they were up 27-10 and gave up a garbage time TD. Against Seattle, they were up 34-3 and gave up 2 fourth quarter garbage time TDs. Against Houston (second time), they were up 35-20 and gave up a garbage time TD.

The Colts are still second in DVOA, so either, using your logic, the Colts should be higher (which I would take, as a Colts fan), or giving up garbage time TDs does not hurt DVOA-wise.

by LinksterAC (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:36pm

The Colts are guilty of this, and I do think their DVOA suffers for it. In my opinion, they're clearly the better 13-0 squad (having watched both teams play a handful of games). DVOA obviously isn't perfect. It penalizes the Chargers and Colts for coasting after going up big, and hurts San Diego even more so because it's a big-play, vertical offense that often gets less first downs than the opposition it beats convincingly.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:10pm

Your big play theory (fewer firsts downs) is interesting. I definitely think that teams like the Colts, and when I look at it, the Chargers suffer from playing loose coverage late and just sitting on a lead. Conversely, teams like New England, who don't really take the foot off, get a DVOA boost.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:48pm

before giving up garbage time points and scores that made the games look closer than they were

Dallas-San Diego was tied going into the fourth quarter. Tied. How the hell could that possibly have an "outcome that's rarely in question"? The game was tied!

And I don't get the "look closer than they were" - yeah, the Dallas TD was due to a prevent defense, but it was essentially a one-score difference between the two - Kaeding making the field goal allows them to play prevent, sacrificing points for a better chance to win. If Kaeding had missed the field goal, and they had to stop Dallas, they probably would've - and the score would've been 17-10, still a one-score game.

by Formersd (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:03pm

Yeah, Norv goes conservative with lead really quickly. As a Chargers fan, I have a bad feeling this will cost them sometime during the playoffs when they are playing the elite teams in the AFC.

by D :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:08pm

For what it's worth there is now a 60.3% of either New Orleans or Indianapolis or both going 16-0*, an 82.8% chance that one or both reaches the Superbowl but only a 43.8% chance of one of them winning the Superbowl. Now obviously the combined odds of a Superbowl win is always going to be lower than 16-0 or a Conference Championship since they both can not do both do it, but I still find that interesting.

*Does not account for a possible "rest the starters" effect.

by mm (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:32am

For what it's worth there is now a 60.3% of either New Orleans or Indianapolis or both going 16-0*, an 82.8% chance that one or both reaches the Superbowl

No, you can't add those percentages. Here's the math: (bleah, I'm leaving myself open to be mocked if I make a mistake, but oh well)

Taking the playoff scenario 'odds' as essentially the true odds then we have:
Odds NO goes undefeated-31.9%
Odds IND goes undefeated-28.4%

Odds NO & IND both go undefeated: 31.9 *.284 = 9.0596%
Odds NO goes undefeated & IND doesn't: 31.9 * (1-.284) = 22.8404%
Odds IND goes undefeated & NO doesn't: 28.4 * (1-.319) = 19.3404%
Odds IND and/or NO goes undefeated: the sum of the 3 lines above this = 51.2404%

To get the Super Bowl odds lets do something similar, but use the simulation numbers directly:

Odds NO makes SB: 39.5%
Odds IND makes SB: 43.3%

Odds NO plays IND in SB ('Manning family heritage Bowl'):17.4%
Odds NO makes SB, IND doesn't= 39.5-17.4= 22.1%
Odds IND makes SB, NO doesn't= 43.3-17.4= 25.9%

Odds IND and/or NO makes SB (total of the 3 lines above)= 65.4%

ODDS of IND or NO wins SB (you were right to add these odds)=43.8%

by Bobman :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:07am

I mock you.

Not that there's anything egregious about your post, but well, you asked for it.

Also, confusing decimal use in lines 8-10 (you blend percentage type annotation like 31.9 and straight decimal type such as .284). Since I just proofed my 9 year-old's homework, this is the type of thing I point out to him--the math is good but if you rush, you could be setting yourself up for trouble.

But for you... I just mock.

Actually, the one that I see missing is both undefeated and both in the SB (the 18-0 bowl or perfect bowl). It that just the product of the two halves--.174 * .09059? Wow, that's a whopping (just eyeballing it) 1.5% chance. I wonder what the odds would have been at the beginning of the season....

EDIT: Now I have to mock us both! Looks like the numbers above are from last week. New data should be out by Wednesday and should reflect higher probabilities.

by The Powers That Be :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:00am

I mock you. Not that your math is wrong, just that it's the long way around. You calculated 3 of the 4 possibilities and added them, instead of just calculating the 4th one.

Odds that they both lose a game - (1 - .319) * (1 - .284) = .488
Odds that one goes undefeated - 100% - 48.8% = 51.2%

by D :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:31am

Damn it, this what I get for trying to think the day after finals end and my brain has already put itself in low energy mode. Of course the fact that I'm a senior year political science major who hasn't taken a stats class since junior year of high school doesn't help. (Though as Bobman notes all of this will change when the updated odds come out on Wednesday)

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:48pm

You just finished finals and you're sober enough to type? What's the matter with you kids these days?

by Bobman :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:07pm

If the choices are drink until you are limp or get laid now that the pressure's off....

Just saying.

by D :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 1:13am

I got hammered as soon as my finals ended on Monday (around 3:00 PM) woke up at 1:00 PM Tuesday and started drinking again around 9:00 PM. This posting came during that drinking break.

by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 3:18pm

Well, enjoy. But remember, Christmas break is NEVER long enough.

by Darrel Michaud :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:31pm

So the Saints had another bad passing defense game against the Falcons. At this point it looks like their lack of corners is really starting to hurt, especially when they're on the road. Even against Chris Redman.

Luckily their defense should be healthy for the playoffs. If it isn't, I'm not sure how they're going to win the SB.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:32pm

Word of advice from a Pats' fan. Don't worry about winning the SB. Worry about getting there first.

I'm sure Colts' and Eagles' fans would agree.

by Darrel Michaud :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:41pm

Um, OK. My post wasn't assuming that the Saints would make the SB. But thanks for the advice!

by jbrown (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 9:52pm

I don't know whether to be proud that Houston finally has a decent DVOA or disgusted that there is a > 2 difference between real and expected wins... Thanks for nothing Kris and Chris Brown

by andrew :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:02pm

Sponsorships - are there any discounts for really bad players?

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:23pm

FO will give you $1 if you sponsor JaMarcus Russell.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:51pm

I hearby sponsor Jamarcus Russell one million times.

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:52pm

I think it probably depends. If you're talking about relatively inconspicuous bad players -- say, Bobby Wade -- then I imagine they'll be pretty cheap. But I hope that they're smart enough to have somewhat high prices for epically (and thoroughly-discussed) bad players such as JaMarcus Russell.

by andrew :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:38pm

I think it would be cool if the loser league champion got a free sponsorship of the loser league MVP (or runner up if taken).

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:04pm

I think that's a fantastic idea.

by Sophandros :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 10:54pm

How about another "special" Super Bowl, the A.J. Smith Bowl for the Rivers vs. Brees decision?

Sports talk radio and sports message boards are the killing fields of intellectual discourse.

by Ven (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:14pm

Is there any way to get a historical DVOA from the seasons involving the other 12-0 and 13-0 teams?

The Saints have played 8 teams with a negative DVOA this year, but assuming the Titans go positive here at the end of the year, the Colts will have only played 2 teams with a negative DVOA. Perhaps that's why their margin of victory and stats don't look as good as compared to other 12-0 and 13-0 teams.

My guess is they all played a lot more inept teams than the Colts have this year.

by Ven (not verified) :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:22pm

The Eagles have also played 8 teams with negative DVOA this year.
Most of them -10% or -20% or worse.

They barely beat the Bears who are -23%.

The Colts have played only 1 opponent worse than -10%, the Rams, and beat them 42-6.

I think the strength of schedule consideration is not being taken into consideration enough.

by dbrude@gmail.com :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:27pm

Can anyone explain why the following are so different?

SD Pass Offense: 65.1%

What in the calculation accounts for the ~20% difference?

It's like this for many teams. I'm just using San Diego as an example.

by Still Alive (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:49am

Right off the top of my head I would guess Rivers's runs would have something to do with it.

by Alexander :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:03am

Prolly YACs too.

by Bobman :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:16am

In that case he should probably eat more starch and limit the fresh fruits and vegetables in his diet. I mean if it's affecting his game and all....

by Aaron Schatz :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:04pm

Quarterback DVOA only compares pass plays to other pass plays.

Team passing DVOA is a segment of team offense DVOA, which compares all team offensive plays to all other team offensive plays (passes, runs, as well as false starts and delays of game). It does not only compare passes to passes, because a team has a choice to either pass or run. However, when a quarterback calls a pass play, he's going to pass* and should only be compared to other passers.

Because all false starts and delays of game are negative, the combination of pass DVOA and run DVOA for teams will always be higher than 0%. In addition, since passing is more effective than running, pass DVOA for the league is higher than run DVOA for the league. Put that all together, and team passing DVOA will almost always be higher than the quarterback's personal passing DVOA.

PYD/YAC is not a factor in DVOA at this time, although one of my goals for the coming offseason is to create an updated version of receiving DVOA that accounts for the fact that players who run longer routes should not be penalized for lower catch rates.

(*Note: Yes, technically it would be better if I included scrambles with pass plays in quarterback DVOA; I don't do this because when DVOA started, scrambles were not separated from other runs in the play-by-play. There still are a lot of mistakes made by the official scorers when it comes to marking scrambles vs. not marking scrambles.)

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:41pm

I'm slowly getting convinced that Indianapolis plays rope-a-dope with their opponents. They have tried to limit possessions for years with the slow no huddle to hide their undersized defense, despite having the best offense in the game. It seems like a sub-optimal strategy. The best teams should try to have as many plays as possible.

The Saints on the other hand seem to be underrated by the formula. They have a knack for plays that DVOA considers non-predictive like defensive touchdowns. Their defense has been better mediocre.

I think the rash of postseason upsets is indicative that the quality at the top of the league is deeper than ever before, not that the strong teams are somehow flawed. I also think each instance has been less than shocking. Pittsburgh's only significant upset in 2005 was against the Colts, whose head coach was distracted at the time. In 2006, Indy won despite a historically bad run defense, but teh only good running team they faced in the playoffs had just ground their back into hamburger with a record # of carries. In 2007, the Pats were a very good, not extraordinary, team over their final eight games, and had already demonstrated that they didn't match up well with the Giants a month earlier. And if DVOA had existed as far back as 1987, I don't think the Cardinals' run would have looked quite so extraordinary.

by Bobman :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:30am

I think you are right about the depth of top-tier teams. But in 2005, Pittsburgh was left for dead on the roadside after about 10 games--I think they only made the playoffs in the last week with some luck. NOBODY expects them to beat anybody, really, even their div champ Bengals in game 1. Certainly not the top seed Colts in game 2, nor anybody else. The only reason they had credibility in later games was because they beat Indy. If Manning had broken his leg in practice and Pitt won that game easily, everyone would say it's because of Manning and nobody would think they were any good until they won it all.

And in 2006, the Colts faced Larry Johnson (#5 in individual RB DVOA), Jamal Lewis (#35 in individual RB DVOA! Yikes!), New England's #8 rushing DVOA squad, and Chicago's two-deaded Jones and Benson with a team rushing DVOA rank of 11.

So LJ was supposed to shred their D--go back and read the previews; it was supposed ot be ugly. His over/under was about 150 yards. I forgot how BAD Lewis was--damn, McNair really carrid that team. I was also surprised that NE's team DVOA was so high in rushing, and I thought CHI would have been a little higher.

Basically three of four teams they faced had top-11 individual runners OR RB squads--certainly not the type of games you'd think the Colts run D would survive at the time. Shit happens. I wonder what it'll be this year....

by Jerry :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:57am

In 2005, the Steelers were 7-5 after losing to Cincinnati. They then won their last 4 to reach the 6 seed. Of course, two of those losses featured Tommy Maddox at QB, so they were better with Roethlisberger than their overall numbers would undicate.

by RickD :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:35pm

The Colts' run defense in 2006 improved a lot when Bob Sanders returned.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/15/2009 - 11:47pm

It's startling that the two undefeated teams have played several games with guys off the street manning their secondaries, even against good teams, and yet no one has been able to exploit this

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:22am

I would suggest you take a look at what Jason Campbell and Chris Redman (and their supporting casts) have done the past two weeks, and compare it to what they've done the rest of the year. Either that, or perhaps reconsider your definition of "exploit."

by t.d. :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:27pm

Oh, I know they did fine. I'm really talking about an elite passing team (New England) failing to light the Saints up

by dmb :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:18pm

They did more than fine: Campbell led the league in DYAR in Week 13 by a wide margin, posting the third-highest DYAR total of any QB for the season; and Chris Redman was third in the league in DYAR this week. Considering how they'd looked before those games -- and considering how the Saints' passing defense performed before them -- that's pretty alarming.

I do agree that it's a bit surprising that Brady was only middle-of-the-pack against that secondary, but my guess is that the Patriots simply didn't have the film necessary to figure out how to best exploit the Saints' new personnel.

As for the Colts, Bobman would be better-suited to address this, but my first thought is that the strength of their pass defense is their rush. Freeney and Mathis were probably making the starters look better than they actually were, and now they're doing the same with the replacements. Of course, I haven't seen much of the Colts this year, so this is speculation...

by t.d. :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:33pm

The Pats won in 2003 with Troy Brown playing nickel back. A strong pass rush can do that for you.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:33pm

That was 2004, but yeah, pass rush is more important than secondary in pass defense. Witness: Super Bowl XLII

by Ven (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:41am

I think the reason why the Colts don't seem as dominant as the other undefeated teams of years gone by is a tougher schedule. Check this out...

You guys should really do the DVOA ratings for 1985 and 1972 if possible.

Look at what I found regarding the 1998 Denver Broncos, 2007 N.E. Patriots, 2009 N.O. Saints and 2009 Indianapolis Colts:

1998 Denver Broncos in going 13-0:
10 wins vs. teams with a negative DVOA
7 wins vs. teams with a -13% DVOA or worse

2007 N.E. Patriots in going 16-0:
7 wins vs. teams with a negative DVOA
4 wins vs. teams with a 17% DVOA or worse

2009 N.O. Saints in going 13-0:
8 wins vs. teams with a negative DVOA
4 wins vs. teams with a -13% DVOA or worse

2009 Indianapolis Colts in going 13-0 (if Tennessee finishes positive from since they are negative from their 0-6 start but are now 6-7):
2 wins vs. teams with a negative DVOA

by NY expat :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:47am

It's kinda hard because the data that hasn't been entered yet is not online, so it has to be manually transcribed. If you become a true believer, you might look for a call for volunteers to help with the process. I think it comes after the season ends. They seem to be able to do one season a year.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 7:13am

"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."

Does anybody know if there are any special adjustments to this calculation?,

Simply taking the DVOA of opponents for each team and averaging them, does not yield the numbers given. Summing the TOTAL DVOA column and the FUTURE SCHED should yield equal results (or at least pretty close, due to rounding effects), but it doesn't.

by andrew :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:02am

I think when DVOA evaluates a play, it takes the game situation into account, not just down & distance but also game situation (e.g., trailing, 4th quarter, etc). Certain situations clearly are used to adjust how a play factors into overall dvoa, such as a hail mary at the end of a half which is intercepted.

That all makes logical sense.

But every year we hear about how certain teams (Colts) DVOAs are dragged down at the end of the year because they rest starters after clinching all they can clinch.

So why can't their be a factor, say a multiplier based on season situation?

You could define situation as one of the following:

normal - normal situation, no modifier
eliminated - mathematically elmininated (lions, browns, etc)
longshot - mathematically alive eliminated with 1 more loss or win by team ahead) - (steelers, titans, texans, falcons, niners)
contention - probably treated same as normal (packers, eagles, cardinals, etc)
clinched - in playoffs but seeding not clinched (e.g., saints, vikings)
locked - in playoffs and seeding in playoffs cannot be improved or worsened. (e.g., colts)

by bubqr :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 9:42am

Because what is important is not the situation, but rather how the team/coaching staff will react towards this situation, and it's really hard to quantify IMO.

by TNT (not verified) :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 2:42am

Exactly, the philosophy difference between New England and Indy is the perfect example.

by Jerry :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 6:33pm

Aaron has looked at removing meaningless post-clinch games from DVOA in the past, and found that it didn't improve the results.

by Ravens (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:09am

One thing that Football Outsiders doesn’t consider in analyzing the recent history of playoff upsets is the major role that going to four divisions has played.

When there were only three divisions, the 5 and 6 seeds could often be some really weak teams, while the 4 seed was often a very good team that had caught fire at the end of the season but couldn't quite catch the division winner (like the 97 Broncos and the 00 Ravens).

Now, the fourth seed can be a fairly mediocre division champ, while the 5 (and even 6) be the red hot Wild Card team (like the 05 Steelers), that used to be the #4 seed before realignment. I think realignment has a lot to do with home teams’ playoff struggles during the Wild Card round in recent years.

by Andrew B :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:40am

Amen to that! I can't fathom why this is not brought up more. There have been three distinct playoff formats under the 16 game schedule:

1) 6 divisions, 10 teams (4 wild cards), 6 first round byes (3 seed gets a bye but no home game), teams in same division can't meet until championship - 1978 to 1989 - 11 seasons excluding 1982
2) 6 divisions, 12 teams (6 wild cards), 4 first round byes - 1990 to 2001 - 12 seasons
3) 8 divisions, 12 teams (4 wild cards), 4 first round byes - 2002 to 2008 - 7 seaons

Home team win-loss record was:

Wild Card
78-89) 13-9 (59%)
90-01) 35-13 (73%)
02-08) 16-12 (57%)

78-89) 30-14 (68%)
90-01) 39-9 (81%)
02-08) 17-11 (61%)

78-89) 16-6 (73%)
90-01) 14-10 (58%)
02-08) 9-5 (65%)

Clearly, the changes made in 1990 heavily favored the #1 and #2 seeds to advance to the Championship game and beat each other up. The realignment since 2002 has doubled the likelihood of a #1 or #2 seed being upset in the divisional round from 20% to 40%, increased by 2/3 the chance of a 5 or 6 seed upsetting the 3 or 4 seed in the wild card, and essentially restored the competitive situation with 12 playoff teams to be similar to that of the situation with 10 playoff teams before 1990.

This is reflected in the results. Just 2 of 24 #5 or 6 seeds advanced beyond the divisional round in 1990-2001. 5 of 14 have done so since 2002. Just 4 of 48 teams seeded #3 or lower went to the Super Bowl 1990 to 2001. 5 of 28 have already done so since 2002.

The Original Andrew

by Ravens (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:46pm

This is a great post and does a much better job of articulating what I was trying to say. The creation of 4 divisions has resulted in the #4 seed, the champion of a weak division, often being a much worse team than the #5 seed, usually the runner-up in a very tough division. Some years, you can even see a #3 seed end up as a much weaker team than the #6, as happened last year with Miami and Baltimore.

by Bobman :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:16pm

Bravo. nicely done.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:44pm

That's certainly a huge factor. There is a litany of things that this DVOA system does not consider. But Vegas and the offshore Books love these power rating systems and the people who believe in them...

by SoulardX (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:11am

Your 2009 mean win projection for the Rams--8 EIGHT!

Please explain this collosal miss.

by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 12:44pm

SoulardX, for people who don't have the book, could you post the projections for all 32 teams (quick abbreviated form so it's not a typing headache). That way we can see how much of an outlier Rams-8 is in the full scope of things? Thanks in advance if you can, or if somebody else has it handy...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:15pm
by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:49pm

Thanks Will...

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 1:02pm

Come on, you don't seriously think they can explain it ?
Rosenbloom and his sister would've loved to have heard that one...

by dryheat :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 2:54pm

Which is the greater miss -- the Rams 8.7 projection, or the Saints 7.6. Ouch.

by Rick A. (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:03pm

So, so much for the DVOA mythology when it comes to being able to evaluate player talent. And the answer to your question is, obviously, both are misses so huge as to be outright delusional. Although, if Drew Brees had been lost to injury it is my personal opinion they would have lost each of the games they had major trouble in--even to the pitiful Rams who nearly got em anyway...

by C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:32pm

How about picking Denver 2nd to last, and picking Chicago at #4?

by greybeard :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 5:07pm

K.C 7.6 wins, Detroit 6.6 wins. Arizona 29th, SF 30th, but Stl 12th.
I predict 2009 FO predictions will be the worst ever.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 4:37pm

DVOA is only a fraction of the pre-season predictions.

by Samson151 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 3:04pm

Looking at those two teams, Indy and NO, I wouldn't be all that surprised if neither one makes the Super Bowl. Two of the more flawed undefeated clubs in my memory. Both should have a loss and probably two by now.

It's been a crazy season.

by Q (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 7:04pm

"K.C 7.6 wins, Detroit 6.6 wins. Arizona 29th, SF 30th, but Stl 12th.
I predict 2009 FO predictions will be the worst ever."

In order for this to be true you would have to compare FO's predictions to those of its peers. For example many people loved Chicago when the season started and I do not recall many predicting NO to be doing what they are doing

by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:09pm

One "peer" assessment would be comparing the projections to market prices.

Went and grabbed Regular Season Win Props available in Vegas and offshore back in mid-August. Decent estimates to compare because they reflect openers plus the first moves from sharp bettors (only sharps bet these props that early), so you have a composite of the best guesses from oddsmakers and bettors who specialize in these.

One little headache is that some places will offer, say, 7 with the Over getting charged a vigorish, while others are offering 7.5 with the Under getting charged an extra vigorish. In notes below, I'll just call that 7/7.5. Some of the FO projections were right on one of those wings, so I excluded those from the list below.

I had them by division so I'm just going in that order. Any teams not listed were those where the FO projection was on the number, or a wing of the double. Also, I rounded the win projections from FO to the nearest half since win props are often expressed with half wins. The FO projection is in parenthesis, hope anyone interested double checks to see if I mis-typed something. And, if you have different numbers, please post those.

Miami (6.5) Under 7/7.5 (at 7 wins now)
NY Jets(6.5) Under 7/7.5 (at 7 wins now)
Buffalo (5.5) Under 7.5/8 (in good shape)

Indy (11) Over 10/10.5 (W)
Jax (10) Over 8/8.5 (will be close)
Houston (6.5) Under 8.5 (at 6 now)

(No qualifiers in North)

San Diego (11.5) Over 9.5 (W)
Kansas City (7.5) Over 6/6.5 (must win out for 6)
Oakland (6.5) Over 5.5/6 (4 wins now)
Denver (5) Under 6.5/7 (L)

Dallas (8) Under 9/9.5 (8 wins now)
Washington (7.5) Under 8/8.5 (W)

New Orleans (7.5) Under 8.5/9 (L)
Atlanta (6.5) Under 8.5 (6 wins now)

Chicago (10.5) Over 8.5 (L)
Green Bay (7) Under 8.5 (L)
Detroit (6.5) Over 4.5 (must win out)

Seattle (9.5) Over 7.5/8 (must win out for 8)
St. Louis (8.5) Over 5 (L)
Arizona (5.5) Under 8.5 (must lose out for 8)
San Francisco (5.5) Under 7/7.5 (at 6 now)

In those determined thus far, 3 wins-5 losses.

More in bad shape than good shape with the rest, but the last three weeks can get kind of crazy (as fans of this kind of prop will tell you). This will be a standardized way we can compare projections to other people's projections...along with the success rate of the game releases available to premium clients.

by greybeard :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 4:49am

Interesting. I think you are too gentle on FO predictions.
If you look at this I see there is a great chance that they will be much behind by the end of the season.
JAX already an L. Aren't KC, Det, Seattle, Arizona, already losses?
And the ones that are most likely to be losses for FO:
Miami, NYJ, KC, Det, Seattle, Arizona, SF, Oakland,

And most likely wins:

So that would put it at 14 losses 4 wins.

by Jeff Fogle :: Sat, 12/19/2009 - 1:08pm

Wasn't really characterizing them one way or the other just yet. Figure the eventual record would do that. Was planning on considering anything that hit either part of the 8/8.5 sequence or whatever a tie/push...figuring smart bettors would shop for the best line. Jax can still win out for 9-7, Detroit can still win out for 5-11, Arizona can still lose out for 8-8...so I don't think those have been determined yet. Objectively, you could call them "misreads" through the 13-game point...but there's still time for those plays to rally for ties/wins in terms of the betting prop. Wouldn't disagree at all that penciling in likely results is going to lead to a disappointing record.

Also noticed...

Market Projected Divisional Winners: New England, Indy, Pittsburgh, San Diego, NYG, New Orleans, Minnesota, Arizona.

FO Projected Divisional Winners: New England, Indy, Pittsburgh, San Diego, NYG, Carolina, Chicago, Seattle.

Market is on pace to get 6 of 8, FO looking at 3 of 8.

Just one way to look at things. As explained just below, I think it's the best way to look at things. This particular prop has a sharp market.

by greybeard :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 6:24am

"In order for this to be true you would have to compare FO's predictions to those of its peers. For example many people loved Chicago when the season started and I do not recall many predicting NO to be doing what they are doing"

I am not sure why I have to compare FO's predictions to something else. I am not a gambler so I don't care about projections for the sake of making money. The success of projections is a good measure of the quality of the tool. So how does it matter if other tools are not as good?

BTW, which other tools should I be comparing against? Vegas lines are for gambling, they are not projecting results, they are projecting what gamblers are projecting to be the results. Which is quite different. I don't know any other tool/projection system that claims to b predictive. So what peers are you talking about?

by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 12/17/2009 - 1:50pm

Sports bets are predictions...sports bets from professional wagerers/syndicates are informed predictions.

Wanted to clarify the difference between "gamblers" in general and professional gamblers/syndicates who make their livings by betting on sports. Regular Season Wins are an ideal "unpolluted" prop in terms of public influence, particularly at the point I logged them in the middle of August. What you're seeing are the estimates of oddsmakers whose job it is to try and win for their sportsbook employers, combined with professional wagerers/syndicates who make their living betting. This is the STANDARD for win estimates. The oddsmakers have their way of predicting the number of wins, the other side has some very complicated methodologies (this is popular with computer modelers, as I'm sure the authors here are aware). When the market settles into widely available numbers, that's the standard.

Stabilized lines after sharp betting reflect the best of the market. How could the summation of those subsets not be considered a "peer" of FO in terms of making predictions for how many wins a team is going to have against its upcoming schedule? The fact that money from professionals is involved sharpens the estimates. There's no better comparison in my view.

Now, people can go around grabbing up predictions from newspaper columnists, blog writers, TV personalities, whatever...and consider those FO peers. That's fine if the goal is to be better than Jay Mariotti. The market is the standard. And, the market didn't think Arizona was only going to win 5.5 games, trailing St. Louis at 8.5. Kudo's to FO for already winning Indy Over and SD Over...though they're now in the awkward position of trying to explain why SD isn't as great as their record now even though they had them #1 in the preseason.

Not saying this is the only way to evaluate the win estimates. Think it's the best...

by greybeard :: Fri, 12/18/2009 - 1:56pm

I think we will continue to disagree on what Vegas lines signify.
Anyway, it really does not matter to me if they are better than Vegas lines. The FO predictions for 2009 are just terrible.
My comments was not relative to Vegas lines, it was relative to the success of predictions of FO from previous years.

by Marver :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 8:34pm

Citing DVOA to predict future outcomes is pretty ridiculous, especially when you continually fail to produce its algorithm to the public to scrutinize.

Until you separate your predictive formula into a combination of independent variables with proven correlation to future production, you cannot say that DVOA means the "[Chargers are a] pretty good team in the year where there are lots of pretty good teams, about as good as Minnesota, Baltimore, or that Dallas team they just beat by a field goal." Offensive passing efficiency correlates higher to future success than any other statistic; the Chargers rank 2nd. Defensive passing efficiency correlates higher to future success than any other defensive statistic; the Chargers rank 10th. The combination places them higher than any team in the NFL. Furthermore, the Chargers put the football on the ground (via fumble, won or lost) less than anyone in the NFL and have a quarterback that has never thrown more than 2 picks in any game in his entire career. With or without a running game on offense, the Chargers are arguably the best team in the AFC at this point in time.

The fact you include the absolutely meaningless 0:02 Cowboys touchdown in an attempt to discredit another Chargers win -- sweeping the three good NFC East teams, who all somehow rate ahead of the Chargers -- proves the point; you aren't concerned with ensuring scientific accuracy with your formula or with this website.

I thought the continued citation of the 'Curse of 370' (when it's an obvious skew using multiple endpoints) was a slap in the face to the people here trying to actually analyze what happens in the NFL in order to predict what will happen. Now I realize that those people I thought you were slapping don't exist.

Per over/under: predicting 8-8 for every team in the NFL actually rates just as well as using FO preseason win totals. Nice system!

by Gregoryc (not verified) :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 10:04pm

Marver said

"Offensive passing efficiency correlates higher to future success than any other statistic; the Chargers rank 2nd"

Marver is onto something. The Differential stats this writer posted at the end of this article point to what Marver is saying.


by jmaron :: Wed, 12/16/2009 - 11:50pm

the first time I heard about the yds/pass play differential stat correlating to success was in 1987 in some article and it was Dick Vermeil referencing Bud Goode...he still has a site and he calls that stat the killer stat. On his site he also has a couple of other stats but in the end he claims that the most predictive stat is simply dividing pts scored/pts allowed.

That simple stat has a higher correlation to same year wins than does DVOA (FO FAQ). DVOA has a slightly higher DVOA year+1 correlation.

DVOA is best at helping people understand the relative strengths and weaknesses of various parts of a team (defence, offence, spec teams, individual units and players) - but if you want to predict who is going to win the Super Bowl - pt differential is just as good or better.