Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» 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.

16 Nov 2010

Week 10 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

The Philadelphia Eagles are once again number one in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings this week, and their dominant victory over Washington gives them a healthy cushion in our ratings. The Giants, last week's top team, fall back to sixth after the Dallas upset. Big Blue is still part of a five-team group that ranks behind Philadelphia but has a slight amount of separation from the rest of the league; the rest of that group includes Tennessee, Pittsburgh, New England, and Green Bay.

You may be surprised to learn, however, that Philly's dominant victory wasn't quite as dominant as you might think. With a single-game DVOA rating of 64.1%, it doesn't even score as the Eagles' best game of the year. (That would be their Week 3 win over Jacksonville, 28-3, with 67.0% DVOA.) Philadelphia's defense scores a 5.6% DVOA for the game -- in other words, below average, because they let the Redskins score four touchdowns when Vick wasn't tearing up the field. Vick's explosion was part of an absurd weekend of offensive power. You've probably seen statistics elsewhere about whatever records were set for points or 300-yard passing games. In DVOA terms, I can tell you that the best offensive DVOA rating for a single game this year belongs to Houston, 94.4% in the 35-31 Week 6 shootout with Kansas City. The next five best offensive games of the year were all this week: New England, Denver, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Tampa Bay, in that order.

To return to the subject of Michael Vick, I know there has been a bit of controversy around here, with some readers feeling that FO writers have been too negative about his spectacular comeback season. In reality, what we have is a number of FO writers with different perspectives. Bill Barnwell has been our leading skeptic, especially since Vick's early success came against poor pass defenses. Doug Farrar has jumped all in on the Vick excitement with both feet. My attitude has probably been somewhere in the middle, until last night. Last night was straight out ridiculous.

From a scouting perspective, there isn't much I can say about the change in Vick's play that wasn't said already by Ron Jaworski on last night's broadcast. Doug Farrar also discusses things in detail here. Vick is far more accurate than he has been in the past, and he's going through progressions and then only running when everyone is covered, rather than tucking-and-running at the first sign of pressure. The one thing I'll add is that Vick also has fixed his footwork. He no longer has the problem he had in Atlanta where he sometimes took a diagonal dropback, essentially creating more pressure for himself by not planting far enough behind the line when he went to find his receivers. And yes, he has better receivers now than he did in Atlanta, although you have to remember that Brian Finneran has always been underrated and Vick also had a young Roddy White to work with near the end.

(Note: Doug Farrar reminded me of this Cover-3 from a month ago, where he talks to Greg Cosell about Vick's improvements.)

FO Premium subscribers can check out the Michael Vick player page and look at just how bad his passing performance was during the Atlanta years; since some of you don't subscribe (and thus can only see back three years), I'll summarize it here. In six years in Atlanta, Vick only had one season with a positive DVOA: 2002, when he ranked 17th among quarterbacks with 7.2%. In four of the six seasons, Vick had a passing DVOA below replacement level. His highest completion rate was 56.4 percent.

Now fast forward to 2010. Vick is second in the league in DVOA at 39.2%, behind only Tom Brady. His completion rate is 63.2 percent. Just for kicks, he also has his best rushing DVOA since his rookie year, although it's not a huge difference. (Unlike Vince Young, Vick's scrambling skills have always led to great success according to our numbers.) But wait, there's more... Look at the quarterback stats page again. Look at Vick's non-adjusted VOA rating. That's right: Vick has a higher DVOA than VOA, which means that by our accounting, he is playing an above-average schedule of pass defenses. Green Bay, the first team he had success against, is the top-rated pass defense in the league by our numbers. Detroit has actually improved its pass defense significantly over last season and ranks 13th in DVOA. Indianapolis ranks fifth. Jacksonville, of course, still sucks.

The big media story of Vick's comeback, of course, is the two years he spent out of the league (and, part of the time, in jail). From a football perspective, though, this isn't a comeback because Vick has not "come back" to where he was before he left Atlanta. He's far, far surpassed that. I honestly can't think of a football equivalent of this kind of late-career renaissance. This goes way past what Jim Plunkett did with the Raiders. All I can think of are baseball equivalents, like Mike Scott after age 30, or Cecil Fielder and Colby Lewis returning from exile in Japan. Would this season have looked any more in line with the rest of his career if it had taken place in 2007 instead of coming after two blank years and last year's handful of fruitless "Wildcat" plays? Overall, this has to be an incredibly damning statement about the coaching staff of the 2004-2006 Atlanta Falcons, doesn't it? I mean, Dan Reeves got quality out of Vick in 2002, but for this guy with this talent to be that bad from 2004 through 2006, under Jim Mora and Greg Knapp, well, it boggles the mind.

Speaking of Vick's old team, readers may be surprised to see that two of the league's three 7-2 teams are not ranked among the league's best teams by the DVOA ratings. I figured I should take a look at why we rank these teams lower than conventional wisdom.

For the Jets, things are simple: This team has been absurdly lucky this season. On offense, the Jets have recovered 8 of 12 fumbles. On defense, the Jets have recovered 10 of 13 fumbles. The Jets went to overtime against the Lions because an injury to the kicker forced Ndamukong Suh to try an extra point. They beat the Broncos by four in a game where the Broncos blew two field goals. This week, Cleveland played the Jets to a stalemate for 74 minutes and 30 seconds, and no matter how awesome that last Sanchez-to-Holmes connection, that's a lot of average performance added into DVOA. In the Jets' defense, I should note that they also had a very close, tough loss, Week 1 against Baltimore, to go with all these close wins. They actually end up as the most consistent team of the year so far according to DVOA, with one outstanding game (beating the Patriots in Week 2) and a lot of games right around average. You can see that below, as we bring in our first DVOA week-to-week graphs of the season.

The Falcons are a bit of a different story, at least when it comes to luck. You might notice that their DVOA is higher than their VOA. They've played a slightly harder than usual schedule, and they've actually had terrible fumble luck, recovering three of eight fumbles on defense and zero of four fumbles on offense. The Falcons are mostly just stuck playing a lot of close games. Five of their seven wins came by a touchdown or less. The one place they've had luck is with opposing field-goal kickers. Opposing kickers have been worth an estimated -13.7 points compared to average. That's the biggest advantage in the league: a 50 percent rate, 8-of-16, including four misses on field goals of 40 yards or less. The resulting graph ends up looking a lot like the one for the Jets, only not quite as flat.

The flip side of the Falcons/Jets would be the Tennessee Titans, second in DVOA despite a 5-4 record. That one can be summarized succinctly: fourth-hardest schedule. Note that the Titans actually dropped in DVOA after losing to Miami, even though their ranking goes up one place.

One more team I want to get to this week is Kansas City. The Chiefs have completely divebombed since I wrote two weeks ago that we needed to start taking them seriously as Super Bowl contenders. Perhaps they didn't really want to be taken seriously as Super Bowl contenders. Well, your wish is now granted, guys. In two weeks, the Chiefs have dropped from first overall in DVOA to 15th. Their actual DVOA rating has dropped 23 percentage points. According to our playoff odds report, their chances of making the playoffs have dropped roughly in half, from 94.2 percent two weeks ago to 48.0 percent now. Their chances of winning the Super Bowl have plummeted from 13.1 percent to 1.0 percent.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Chiefs' freefall is what happened with opponent adjustments. When you look at the tables below, you will see that Kansas City's DVOA is lower than its VOA, which would seem to indicate that the Chiefs are dropping not only because they face-planted against the Broncos, but also because the opponent adjustments have now reached full strength. However, that's not really the case. Two weeks ago, when they were at number one, the Chiefs' DVOA was actually higher than their VOA. Then the Chiefs lost a close game to a mediocre team (Oakland) and were hammered by a terrible team (Denver). That leaves us where we are now. San Diego is now clearly the best team in the division according to DVOA, although the Chiefs are listed with a better chance to win the AFC West because they have a one-game lead and the tiebreaker over San Diego, plus a slightly easier upcoming schedule.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through ten weeks of 2010, 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 represents an attempt to figure out how a team is playing right now, as opposed to over the season as a whole, by making recent games more important than earlier games. 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 PHI 34.4% 2 35.7% 1 6-3 33.3% 2 -2.8% 8 -1.6% 25
2 TEN 26.6% 3 28.0% 2 5-4 7.1% 14 -14.8% 1 4.8% 4
3 PIT 24.8% 4 23.5% 4 6-3 10.1% 12 -13.1% 3 1.6% 12
4 NE 23.6% 8 23.6% 3 7-2 37.4% 1 16.5% 28 2.7% 10
5 GB 22.9% 6 21.1% 6 6-3 16.2% 7 -10.9% 5 -4.3% 30
6 NYG 21.4% 1 23.4% 5 6-3 13.9% 10 -13.7% 2 -6.2% 31
7 SD 17.2% 7 17.7% 8 4-5 21.4% 4 -11.3% 4 -15.5% 32
8 BAL 16.5% 11 18.4% 7 6-3 13.5% 11 -0.5% 13 2.4% 11
9 IND 16.0% 9 16.4% 9 6-3 18.2% 5 -1.9% 11 -4.0% 29
10 ATL 13.0% 10 11.1% 11 7-2 16.5% 6 3.4% 18 0.0% 18
11 MIA 12.7% 15 13.6% 10 5-4 14.2% 9 1.3% 15 -0.3% 20
12 NYJ 11.9% 12 9.6% 12 7-2 6.4% 16 -2.8% 9 2.8% 9
13 NO 7.8% 13 8.2% 14 6-3 4.0% 19 -4.9% 7 -1.0% 21
14 CLE 7.3% 14 8.9% 13 3-6 6.1% 17 3.2% 17 4.3% 5
15 KC 6.4% 5 4.5% 15 5-4 7.9% 13 0.0% 14 -1.5% 23
16 HOU -1.0% 16 -2.0% 17 4-5 30.0% 3 31.0% 32 0.0% 17
17 SF -1.5% 17 1.2% 16 3-6 -3.2% 23 -1.7% 12 0.1% 16
18 CIN -3.8% 18 -4.0% 19 2-7 0.4% 21 1.4% 16 -2.8% 27
19 OAK -6.1% 20 -2.7% 18 5-4 -8.7% 27 -2.4% 10 0.2% 14
20 TB -7.9% 23 -9.3% 22 6-3 4.8% 18 12.6% 26 -0.2% 19
21 DET -8.9% 19 -8.8% 20 2-7 -8.6% 26 3.8% 19 3.4% 7
22 JAC -9.3% 24 -9.0% 21 5-4 6.6% 15 21.4% 29 5.5% 3
23 DEN -11.8% 28 -11.3% 23 3-6 14.2% 8 22.3% 30 -3.8% 28
24 CHI -12.4% 26 -13.6% 25 6-3 -26.0% 30 -7.2% 6 6.4% 2
25 WAS -13.9% 22 -13.4% 24 4-5 -5.5% 24 9.6% 23 1.2% 13
26 MIN -14.6% 21 -14.0% 26 3-6 -8.1% 25 4.9% 21 -1.6% 24
27 DAL -17.2% 27 -18.2% 28 2-7 0.8% 20 16.3% 27 -1.7% 26
28 STL -18.5% 25 -17.3% 27 4-5 -13.0% 28 4.1% 20 -1.3% 22
29 SEA -22.1% 29 -25.1% 30 5-4 -17.3% 29 11.8% 25 7.0% 1
30 BUF -23.9% 30 -23.0% 29 1-8 -2.9% 22 23.8% 31 2.8% 8
31 ARI -38.9% 31 -38.0% 31 3-6 -32.5% 31 10.0% 24 3.6% 6
32 CAR -46.1% 32 -46.0% 32 1-8 -41.4% 32 5.0% 22 0.2% 15
  • NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA does not include the adjustments for opponent strength or the adjustments for weather and altitude in special teams, and only penalizes offenses for lost fumbles rather than all fumbles.
  • 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 PHI 34.4% 6-3 34.1% 7.4 1 3.4% 14 -2.8% 22 8.1% 7
2 TEN 26.6% 5-4 18.2% 6.2 4 7.3% 4 1.9% 16 10.7% 12
3 PIT 24.8% 6-3 19.8% 6.0 7 10.7% 1 -6.3% 26 8.3% 8
4 NE 23.6% 7-2 16.6% 6.3 3 5.4% 9 2.6% 14 14.8% 18
5 GB 22.9% 6-3 25.0% 6.2 5 -3.5% 22 2.9% 10 18.5% 21
6 NYG 21.4% 6-3 25.9% 6.4 2 -9.2% 27 5.7% 8 26.6% 27
7 SD 17.2% 4-5 15.8% 5.9 9 -4.4% 23 -1.8% 20 17.8% 20
8 BAL 16.5% 6-3 10.9% 6.0 6 6.0% 7 -2.7% 21 5.5% 2
9 IND 16.0% 6-3 16.3% 5.7 10 2.4% 17 8.8% 5 10.4% 11
10 ATL 13.0% 7-2 9.6% 5.7 11 4.3% 12 -15.7% 32 6.0% 4
11 MIA 12.7% 5-4 10.2% 5.9 8 9.3% 3 -1.2% 18 20.3% 23
12 NYJ 11.9% 7-2 19.9% 5.3 12 2.6% 16 2.9% 12 5.1% 1
13 NO 7.8% 6-3 13.9% 5.2 13 -12.2% 31 -5.7% 25 8.4% 9
14 CLE 7.3% 3-6 2.7% 5.0 14 10.3% 2 -4.2% 24 12.5% 16
15 KC 6.4% 5-4 10.0% 4.9 15 -1.5% 20 -7.7% 29 28.3% 28
16 HOU -1.0% 4-5 -3.5% 4.3 18 3.4% 15 13.6% 1 17.4% 19
17 SF -1.5% 3-6 -0.5% 4.6 16 -4.8% 24 -12.3% 30 30.0% 29
18 CIN -3.8% 2-7 -7.0% 3.8 21 6.6% 6 8.8% 4 5.9% 3
19 OAK -6.1% 5-4 4.3% 3.7 22 -4.8% 25 8.0% 6 36.1% 32
20 TB -7.9% 6-3 -0.9% 4.6 17 -11.2% 29 -1.3% 19 12.2% 15
21 DET -8.9% 2-7 -6.9% 3.8 20 0.8% 18 1.0% 17 8.0% 6
22 JAC -9.3% 5-4 -14.1% 3.9 19 5.2% 10 7.2% 7 20.5% 24
23 DEN -11.8% 3-6 -13.3% 3.5 24 4.3% 13 -3.4% 23 24.6% 26
24 CHI -12.4% 6-3 -2.9% 3.3 27 -11.4% 30 11.7% 2 23.6% 25
25 WAS -13.9% 4-5 -14.2% 3.3 26 5.5% 8 2.9% 11 11.7% 14
26 MIN -14.6% 3-6 -14.7% 3.6 23 0.2% 19 2.8% 13 9.5% 10
27 DAL -17.2% 2-7 -21.8% 3.2 29 4.6% 11 4.4% 9 33.7% 30
28 STL -18.5% 4-5 -6.7% 3.2 28 -14.3% 32 -6.7% 28 13.6% 17
29 SEA -22.1% 5-4 -14.9% 3.3 25 -9.9% 28 -6.7% 27 35.0% 31
30 BUF -23.9% 1-8 -23.7% 2.6 30 7.0% 5 8.9% 3 6.7% 5
31 ARI -38.9% 3-6 -32.2% 2.1 31 -5.9% 26 -12.9% 31 19.9% 22
32 CAR -46.1% 1-8 -44.6% 1.2 32 -1.7% 21 1.9% 15 11.1% 13

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 16 Nov 2010

191 comments, Last at 19 Nov 2010, 4:47pm by chemical burn


by bigsnack (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 4:51pm

Color me surprised that my steelers are #3 after getting there asses handed to them by the pats. I can't remember a whooping that bad since the ravens in 2006. That said I hope to G-D we meet the pats again in the playoffs. This sh-t has got to stop.

by amarquis :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 9:58am

I think that as far as DVOA is concerned, PIT had a great second half: converting for downs at will and turning red zone trips into touchdowns.

(Note: Memory may be colored by my being a NE fan, and my terror at even a small chance of throwing the game away in the second half)

by nat :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:05pm

It's more a great last three drives. At the end of three quarters, PIT had 3 points (6 if you credit them with the missed field goal) and 191 yards of offense, against a very low-rated defense. My guess is that the team offensive VOA was negative at that point, and that the DVOA was very negative.

Their first two fourth quarter drives were the bulk of a TD drive that started in the third quarter, and 12 yards followed by a pick-six. TDs are good, and DVOA ignores TD interception returns as non-predictive, so that's positive VOA, but may not be that good with the defensive adjustment added in. Up to that point of the game, it looks like a negative VOA and more negative DVOA for the PIT offense.

Their last three drives were a 53 yard TD drive, an 80 yard TD drive, and a 65 yard drive to the end of the game. VOA would love those drives.

So my guess is that for DVOA and DYAR purposes, PIT and Roethlisberger were bad until the last three drives, and excellent in the last three drives.

by Mac32 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 4:53pm

Vick and Orton seem to have been drinking from the same magical football ability well. Can differences this big be attributable to coaching? Hard to believe.

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 4:57pm

Orton's been steadily improving his whole career. He was awful his rookie year of 2005, running a don't-mess-it-up offense that didn't really give him any chances to succeed, only to not fail. In 2008, he looked like a darkhorse for the Pro Bowl until he hurt his ankle. Last year, he had a productive year. And this year, he's even better. The Broncos system definitely helps him be more productive than he would be elsewhere, but he's turned into a definite asset at QB.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 4:59pm

Why is that so hard to believe? The only Q.B. who hasn't played well for Reid is Mike McMahon. And can't we agree that Vick has much more natural ability than A.J. Feely, late-vintage Jeff Garcia, Kevin Kolb and probably even Donovan McNabb. Five different Q.B.'s having success doesn't seem like a huge coincidence...

by bag (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:46pm

Vick has also openly stated that he didn't review film in the past and has started taking it seriously. Is this an indictment of his coaching staff not getting him to take the game seriously? Or are we just seeing someone who had a life-changing event that has matured him greatly.

I'm guessing its a bit of both.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 5:34pm

But more of the latter, I'm guessing.

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 4:58pm

Such a shame the Bears' offense is dragging them down so much. The optimist in me wonders if having a franchise, if not elite, QB, means they can turn it around. The blocking has been better in recent weeks, so maybe that's a start, even if it doesn't show up in DVOA.

Maybe they can just keep getting lucky, and pull it all together come playoff time? That's what I have to hope for, isn't it?

by TomC :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:37pm

Yes, that's exactly what you and I and every other Bear fan has to hope for. And they do show you little glimpses of what could be at least an average offense. But I worry that we're getting fooled a little by having played three lousy defensive lines in a row (weird to say that about Minnesota, but I think it's true this year), and that there's another Giants game waiting to happen. Certainly DVOA thinks there's a major comeuppance on its way in the next 7 games (past schedule ranked #30; future schedule ranked #2 --- eek).

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:39pm

I think the Bears offense is a tad underrated by the the Giants and Todd Collins debacling them. We were really fortunate to run into the Panthers while Culter was out.

With 6 wins already in the bag, the playoffs should be in the cards. Looking through the schedule, the Dolphins sans the Chads, Lions, and Vikings should all be wins. So they have to upset one of the Eagles, Patriots, Jets, or Packers. That would be 10-6 and in the playoffs. The good news is that 3 of the 4 "hard" games are at home. They'll probably get dismantled by a real playoff team. However, you never know, the 07 Giants happened.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:58pm

I didn't realize the Bears schedule was so tough: I don't see a certain win in those 7 games and the only one I'd be even slightly comfortable putting money on in the Bears' favor is Minnesota. Dolphins have been winning in spite of Henne and did just fine against Tennessee (a genuinely good team) without either Chad. The Lion looks better than the Bears to my subjective eyes, have a better DVOA and get the Bears at home on the turf, where they are much better (and not outside in messy, cold Soldier Field, to boot.) The Vikings stink and are on the verge of giving up, but they're not so much agonizingly worse than the Bears, certainly not according to DVOA. With the other 4... good luck. I can easily see this Bears team losing out and going 6-10 for the year.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 8:05pm

I really doubt the Bears lose out, but certainly they could struggle the rest of the way.

As I said, the Bear's DVOA includes 5 quarters of Todd Collins and his -156.8%. They're offense is (marginally) better than the numbers above. Jay Cutler's DVOA is at -9%.

by akn (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:11pm

And yet Collins has muscled his way back to #2 on the roster.

I think Lovie did it to blackmail Martz into running the ball so he can avoid getting Cutler killed.

by Chip :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:17am

They won't lose out. They'll go 3-4 down the stretch (probably 2-2 on the road against MIA, DET, MIN & GB; 1-2 at home against PHI, NE, NYJ). They'll miss the playoffs by finishing second in the NFCN.

Lovie will keep his job. Angelo retires. Ruskell is the new GM.

It will be a gut wrenching and awful, with more twists and turns than you can stomach. Improbable heros and laughable goats.

But in the end, my friends, it will be the worst possible ending to the season.

by jmaron :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 10:24am

looking at that schedule - I would expect the Bears to win 2 or 3 at best of their remaining 7.

by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:20pm

The Bears are one of seven teams in the NFC with a record of 6-3 or better, and none of these teams are in the NFC West. At least two teams with such a record will fail to reach the playoffs, so it's a bit earlier to assume the playoffs are "in the cards" for any of them - honestly 10-6 might not even be a guarantee (although I suspect the number of divisional games remaining should prevent this - I haven't looked too closely at the future schedule).

The number of teams at the top of the NFC (sans NFC West) should be especially troubling for fans of the Bears, who have both the lowest DVOA and the hardest remaining schedule of the seven. I'd be surprised if they win all of the games you list as "should be wins," in which case they'd need at least two upsets to get in. Of course, stranger things have happened (as you point out).

by Grant (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 8:42am

Right now the Packers and Buccaneers are on the outside looking in.

by Big Frank :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 10:05am

The main thing the Bears have going for them is that they're 3-0 in the division and they've already beaten the Packers once. If they can maintain the tie-breaker, Green Bay will have to get one more win over the them to take the division and the Packers' schedule isn't exactly a cakewalk either.

by Dan :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:40am

The blocking hasn't improved that much. Cutler is still getting a lot of pressure, he's just been able to move around and make plays.

by andrew :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:02pm

The vikings had been #1 in variance earlier, indicating a consistent level of below-average play. They finally broke out of that (dropping to #10 variance) by sucking badly enough.

by JSA (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:09pm

You have the wrong teams listed in the Jets DVOA graph

by abernethyj :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:09pm

"[Vick is] going through progressions and then only running when everyone is open" - this made me laugh out loud.

Also, it appears the J-E-T-S MESS MESS MESS have incorrect opponents listed on their week-to-week DVOA graph.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:13pm

Although, it's weirdly close to correct, like they slopped two different teams' graphs on top of each other.

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:32pm

Ah, crud. I hate when I do stuff like this. One of those things is fixed, the other will be in a second.

by Boots Day (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:14pm

Nine teams are at 6-3. I bet that's never happened before.

by PackerRobb (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:14pm

Just looking at the Packers special Teams and how awful they are (being #30), but they are as close to the #1 special teams as they are to #32 San Diego. Sheesh

by Neoplatonist Bolthead (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 11:21pm

Yeah. If San Diego got their special teams under control, their DVOA would be a close #2.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:15pm

Overall, this has to be an incredibly damning statement about the coaching staff of the 2004-2006 Atlanta Falcons, doesn't it? I mean, Dan Reeves got quality out of Vick in 2002, but for this guy with this talent to be that bad from 2004 through 2006, under Jim Mora and Greg Knapp, well, it boggles the mind.

Vick himself deserves the lion's share of the blame, and he himself has admitted that. He was lazy in all aspects of mental preparation. And that's not even getting into his criminal activities that would have eventually de-railed his career regardless.

However, Mora is the one who not only let his quarterback slack off year after year, but would also never acknowledge, publicly or privately, that there was anything wrong with Vick. He steadfastly refused to hold Vick accountable for anything. Vick played a lot of bad games for Mora, but I don't think you could find find an interview or press conference where Mora said Vick was anything other than an ideal player.

And yes, Andy Reid is certainly a better strategist and QB teacher than Greg Knapp. Vick's mechanics are miles ahead of where they were in Atlanta, and I suspect that game charting will reveal that the Eagles are using more max protect than the Falcons ever did, rolling him out more often, and having him throw deep (actually using that ridiculous arm of his) more often too.

I watched the Monday night game and actually got a little angry. This is the football player we should have been enjoying for the last decade, but we didn't get to because every single person involved screwed up their job to an inconceivable degree.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:22pm

I'm not sure the Eagles roll Vick out all that much. Certainly, they don't roll him out more than they did with McNabb or Kolb. I've actually been surprised that one of the major ways they threaten run with him is not roll-outs, but snapping it to him into shotgun then having him tuck the ball and take a step towards the line, only to pull back and drop into the pocket.

I think in regards to Vick's improvement, that such an over-hyped arrogant dude was probably uncoachable - he definitely knew he had the team owner in his pocket so there was no risk of a coach cracking down on him or even demanding minor improvements. He also had a good amount of success with Pro Bowls and playoffs wins, so it's not like there was even any reason for Vick himself to think he wasn't doing everything right. Combine that with a dude who always relied on natural ability and never cultivated a work ethic and you end up with a Vick 1.0. Hard to blame the coaches too much, though, and honestly I didn't think there was any chance of Reid turning him into a real Q.B. in Philly - I thought he's a gadget guy and a good trading piece after the dust settles and his reputation is revived somewhat...

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:32pm

My suspicion is that the Eagles are forced to use max-protect more often because their o-line has been held together by spit and bailing wire for the entire season. This may be partially responsible for the near disappearance of Brent Celek from the Eagles' offense (notwithstanding what seem to be just plain bad hands this year).

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:44pm

They're definitely holding in blockers - in the Atlanta game, for example, they ended up with 7 or 8 on 4 and 6 on 3 a bunch of times. On Jackson's big 88 yarder last night, it was a play-action pass but they still ended up with 7 guys standing around blocking 4 rushers...

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:41pm

All good points, but I'll emphasize that sitting in prison for an extended period of time may have given Vick a seriousness about his day to day life that he never had previously. I wouldn't recommend it as a standard training procedure, but it may have worked this time.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:46pm

Of course. That's the whole crux of it. Also, it has been reported that only 3 or 4 teams had any interest in signing him when he returned to the league, so that probably was a wake-up call as well... I really, really, really hope that his ego is something that can be kept in check. I'd just hate for him to revert to his old ways if the sudden (bullshit-ish) MVP talk really starts heating up. I mean, the dude shouldn't be getting in pre-game skirmishes, even if Landry was sorely in need of being shut the hell up.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:53pm

Hey, just put it into his contract that he has to spend every June in Leavenworth! Maybe they should try it with JaMarcus! Call Ryan Leaf's agent! Wait...did Leaf already go to jail? Damn, there goes my NFL consulting business!!

by Bobman :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:13pm

I think Leaf is in your QB rehab program even as I write this. And Jamarcus will make it there soon. (I think the codeine case was dropped, but still....)

And Todd Marinovich, he's spent so much time behind bars that he and Rae Carruth must be tearing up the Federal Penal League--co-MVPs! Of course Art Schlichter is their coach.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:20pm

The smart money never counts out a Schlichter-led squad!

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 8:45pm

Srt Schlichter true bum.

by ChaosOnion :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:03pm

Much more damning was the Schaub trade. The ATL front office traded away the better (at the time) pure QB for the flash and sizzle that is/was Michael Vick. I am sure the jersey sales made everyone sleep well with that decision.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:10pm

I can't blame the team for being thrilled with how their investment in Vick paid off and wanting to keep him around - it's hard to remember now, but the Falcons were one of the shakiest franchises in the league for decades and Vick is the one that made them a national story, brought them playoffs wins and, yes, sold a lot of jerseys. 1998 team that lost the Superbowl was such an anomaly for the franchise that they actually threw a party in honor of the team after they lost. That was the state of the Falcons: just happy to have the opportunity to lose. They were the Lions before the Lions were the Lions.

by Semigruntled Eagles fan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:49pm

Even with Vick, they didn't manage consistent success - the first time the Falcons managed to compile a winning record in consecutive seasons was in the past two seasons under Matt Ryan. During the six seasons Vick played for the Falcons, they only had a winning record twice, in 2002 and in 2004 (of course, Vick missed most of 2003 with a broken leg, but that was certainly a known risk with his playing style).

The team went 8-8 and 7-9 in the two seasons before they traded Schaub, and followed the ineffective Mora Jr with one of the least valuable coaches in NFL history in Petrino. It's pretty surprising how quickly they've been able to recover from those seemingly huge mistakes; this is arguably the best era in Falcons history.

by Peregrine :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:29pm

The Falcons traded Schaub in late March 2007. YKW's cousin led the cops to the house with the dogs in the back just a few days before the draft in April 2007.

So, yeah, the timing was something less than convenient. But hey, I got to watch Joey Harrington and Byron Leftwich pretend they were starting QBs for a number of games, and it gave Chris Redman another chance and he's been a reasonably competent #2 QB the past three years.

by AlanSP :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:51pm

It's worth remembering that by the time he was traded, Schaub had done essentially nothing at the NFL level outside of one good start against the Pats. They definitely thought he was good, which is why they asked for 2 2nd round picks for him. Vick had his flaws--glaringly obvious ones--at QB, but he was at least a proven commodity with whom the team had had success, where Schaub would have been a gamble (trying to predict how well a player is going to play in the NFL is hard, no matter how good you think he looks in the preseason). Any NFL team in the same situation would have taken that offer for Schaub.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:19pm

Mean: 0.14%
SD: 19.5%


Mean: 3.62%
SD: 17.6%


Mean: 3.58%
SD: 11.6%


Mean: 0.60%
SD: 3.2%



by Bobman :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:19pm

I think you have to narrow the middle of your bell curve there; starting to look like Lake Woebegone, where every kid is above average. The "average" field is so broad as to be relatively meaningless, no? I mean you have (overall team) Indy and Atlanta lumped in with Det and StL.

Of course this could just be my problem--if the data do not fit my notion of what they should look like, I force them into a new pattern. Probably why I was a B+ stats student in college.... I paid attention just enough to be dangerous.

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:29pm

Ah, Bobman, I think the glut of average teams is illuminating. It's a quick-and-easy way to realize that, hey, this year, there are a lot of teams that are roughly equal. Sure, it's annoying for those of us who like to see nicely ranked teams and tiers, but it's probably more realistic.

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:37am

Point taken. I'm looking for the league to split into five nice tiers of roughly six teams each, when in reality, that may not be what the league is this year. If we force it into unrealistic tiers and then someone from tier 3 beats someone from tier 2, it's because they should have been in the same big fat tier in the first place.

Maybe I'm just grumpy because the Colts have three losses, they're treading water in the middle with most other teams, and I don't like it....

by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:27pm

Count your blessings - could be the Panthers....

by Jonadan :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:58pm

Just from this week's data, I certainly don't think your "every kid is above average" comment has the right of it - it's fairly even overall.

On each "side" of average:

Total: 6 +, 4 - (3/2, +2 - offset by 0 elite and 1 horrid)
Offense: 4 +, 4 - (1/1, 0 - two horrids, results mean the "average" offense is a little higher)
Defense: 4 +, 6 - (2/3, -2 - and again with the horrid, meaning the "average" defense isn't bad)
Special teams: 4 +, 3 - (4/3, +1 - again offset by the 0 elite, 1 horrid)

You are right that it might be interesting to split "average" down the middle, as it included twice as many % points (roughly speaking) as all the others (Total is about Elite 40+, Good 20-40, Average -20-20, Bad -20- -40, Horrid -40-).

So if I'm reading all this right, we can split them at the mean like so:





I have no idea what these splits mean, although they look about right (I can't say one way or the other on special teams). I report, you decide.

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:41am

I like those splits above--having everyone clumped together like a ball of multi-colored Play D'oh says to me that the data tells us nothing. (Which may be the case this year....)

And I didn't quite mean every team is "above average," just that every team seems to be falling into the same bucket. And for the record, yes, it bugs me when my kids mix their Play D'oh together.

by joon :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:17pm

i think bobman's onto something. if the methodology is what i think it is (dividing into 1SD ranges), why does AVERAGE include everything from 1SD below the mean to 1SD above? you could split that in half to give you four equal-width bins, plus one for everything above and one for everything below. right now AVERAGE is twice as wide a bin as GOOD or BAD. for naming purposes, you could use FAIR for (mean, mean+SD) and POOR for (mean-SD, mean).

edit: never mind, jonadan beat me to it.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 9:58am

First, thanks for looking at these numbers, responding to them, and considering them in a rational manner. Second, apologies for the length of this post. Third, apologies for the disjointed nature of the reply.

“ I think you have to narrow the middle of your bell curve there; starting to look like Lake Woebegone, where every kid is above average. The "average" field is so broad as to be relatively meaningless, no?”

Regrettably, this is the nature of statistics. Most data points in a sample and the population are going to be in the average range. Statistically speaking, I’m taking some liberties breaking out at the 1 SD mark, but over the past couple of weeks I’ve been happy to see that there usually is a >3% break at those points.

“I think the glut of average teams is illuminating. It's a quick-and-easy way to realize that, hey, this year, there are a lot of teams that are roughly equal”

Statistically speaking, I think it’s the norm. I haven’t broken out year by year, and don’t think I have the time to do so; however, some info for the years 1994-2008:

Mean: 0.50%
SD: 18.66%

2007 NE 53.10%
1995 SF 43.30%
1996 GB 41.30%
2004 PIT 38.10%

That’s right, only 4 ELITE teams.

80 Teams were GOOD.

306 Teams were AVG

65 Teams were BAD

10 Teams were Horrid:

2000 ARI -37.90%
1999 NO -39.00%
2000 CLE -39.10%
1999 CLE -40.10%
2002 HOU -41.60%
2004 SF -42.50%
2003 ARI -42.90%
2008 STL -47.50%
2008 DET -48.40%
2005 SF -56.40%

I like those splits above--having everyone clumped together like a ball of multi-colored Play D'oh says to me that the data tells us nothing. (Which may be the case this year....).

And maybe every year.

And for the record, yes, it bugs me when my kids mix their Play D'oh together.

Really, tell me more.

i think bobman's onto something. if the methodology is what i think it is (dividing into 1SD ranges), why does AVERAGE include everything from 1SD below the mean to 1SD above?

Conventionally, everything from -2SD to +2SD would be in the AVERAGE range, with everything greater or less than 1SD to the 2SD point being HIGH AVERAGE or LOW AVERAGE respectively. I’ve taken liberties with this.

“Could you go back through the years and generate tier lists for them?”

Maybe, not today though.

“The fact that no team is "elite" at anything makes me raise an eyebrow. Could just mean this year is an anomaly though.”

See above. Getting to over 2 SD above the mean is really hard.

Also, the Bear's weighted special team's DVOA would make them elite with 7.1%.

Sorry, looks like I missed that.

“I think it should give you an idea of how unusual this year has been.”

“At the end of Week 9, NYG had the league's highest DVOA at 30.9%. Going back to 2004 -- the first year week-by-week DVOA totals were posted -- this is easily the lowest league-leading DVOA through nine weeks. Moreover, in there have been 18 teams with higher through-week-9-DVOAs in that span. In other words: prior to this weekend's games, the league's best team would be about third-best in a typical year.”

Now this is telling.

“It's not just the lack of elite teams, but no team is elite at any phase of the game. There are no elite offenses anywhere, or elite defenses, the Bears and Seahawks come really close to elite special teams, but that's it.”

From the above data:
Mean: -1.32%
SD: 14.45%

2007 NE
2002 KC
2004 IND
2004 KC
2003 KC
1998 DEN
1995 DAL
2006 IND

Mean: -1.74%
SD: 10.96%

2002 TB
2004 BUF
2003 BAL
2000 TEN
2008 PIT
2000 BAL
1998 MIA
1999 BAL
1997 SF
1995 SF
1999 TB
2008 BAL
1996 GB

Mean: 0.08%
SD: 3.46%
2002 NO
2007 CHI
1994 CLE1
1996 CAR
1998 DAL
2000 MIA
2006 CHI
2004 BUF
2001 PHI
2000 SEA
2000 BAL
1997 DAL
2005 BUF

I recommend, that if this is a statistical based football website, we need to be thinking in these sort of terms.

I need to gather thoughts about what all of this means, how it relates to luck (randomness) and the small sample size that is the NFL season.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:59pm

Something rubs me the wrong way about this, but I don't know how to express it in statistical terms. I have to use an analogy.

Say you measure the weight of 32 people and come up with a similar table, where most of the people are in the AVERAGE bin. My interpretation of what you've been posting is that you would say that we can't say for sure that any of the people at the upper end of that bin are truly heavier than those at the lower end. But that's not right. The measurement error should be what we are using to determine if two people are different weights, not the standard deviation of weight within the population as a whole.

Now, say we weigh the people every week, and some of them fluctuate weekly (some of them will definitely gain some weight late next week). Then, we can use the standard deviation of an individual's weekly weight to determine whether he/she is truly heavier than some other person? If two people maintain very consistent weights, we can be sure which one is heavier. On the other hand, if we have a couple yo-yo dieters, which one is heavier in any given week doesn't tell us much.

Now, doesn't the weekly weight from above equate to game-by-game DVOA? And the average weekly weight would be season-to-date DVOA. And the weekly weight fluctuation corresponds to Variance in the DVOA tables (though I believe that is actually Variance, not Standard Deviation). So, to say that Team A is better than Team B, we would basically need to do a t-test, using their DVOA as the sample mean, and the square root of Variance as the sample standard deviation. For some teams that is more than your listed SD, for some teams less.

Now, I may have totally missed your point with these tables. And I am sure that I'm oversimplifying the statistics in the last part. But I'm curious to hear from others where I went awry.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:11pm

I think what you're suggesting is correct and has some merit. My point is that just by looking at the guy named SD this week and comparing him to the guy named STL, we may not be able to tell the difference in the two...probably due to their baggy sweatshirts.

In essence though I think if I were going to be providing better descriptors, I'd be categorizing teams using my 1994 to 2008 means and SD as these are close to population means. Using the current mean and SD is comparing within the current season, so the GOOD teams this year are GOOD relative to this year's crop of teams. Next week I may use the population means/SD.

What I appreciate is that we're now thinking in terms of what the stats and numbers are telling us.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 5:31pm

I know that this is some bias speaking, but if you're defining "ELITE" in a way that omits the 2003-2004 Patriots, who had the longest winning streak in the NFL, you might want to reconsider.

I would make sure they were included, as well as the 2006 Colts and I expect at least one Rams team would come along for the ride.

As for "small sample size", I would disagree with that. It depends on what you think the units of time are. Given that DVOA considers games on a play-by-play basis, I would consider the play to be the basic unit of time, not the game. You get a hundred or so of those per game, so I don't think the problem should be sample size.

A bigger problem is if you view team quality as something fixed in time, which is certainly something that is not true.

by Jerry :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 6:46pm

"ELITE" is just a name for the bucket at +2 SD. I don't think it's meant to suggest that any team not in there can't be regarded as great.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:36pm

Yes, ELITE refers to > 2SD from the mean.

by Jetspete :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 12:29pm

the only "elite" Patriot team would be 2007, and we saw how that ended up. It is also unfair to group the 03 pats with the 04 Pats. Despite having similar rosters, the 2003 patriots rarely put anyone away and most of their wins came by one score. the 2004 patriots did indeed win many games by significant margins

by Eddo :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:54pm

Do you mean the 2005 Colts?

It's really tough to argue the 2006 Colts were elite, unless you define "elite" as "won the Super Bowl". That was an extremely flawed team, that, like the Giants the following year, got hot at the right time.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:37pm

Just curious - what overall DVOA % level would a team need to reach to qualify for "Elite" status? I ain't so good with the numberin'...

by Eddo :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:50pm

Mean + two standard deviations, so... 39.14%.

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:53pm

Well, Carolina gets to have its own tier at the bottom because it exceeded -40%. No team has over +40% DVOA, so my guess would be that to get two positive standard deviations would require something over +40%.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:31pm

Could you go back through the years and generate tier lists for them?

The fact that no team is "elite" at anything makes me raise an eyebrow. Could just mean this year is an anomaly though.

Also, the Bear's weighted special team's DVOA would make them elite with 7.1%.

by dmb :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:34am

I posted a lengthy comment in the Audibles thread about how this year is unusually devoid of extremely strong teams by DVOA standards. I wasn't doing z-scores for each year, but I think it should give you an idea of how unusual this year has been. (Note: this was posted in reply to a comment that seemed a bit ... incredulous that somebody had suggested that the Jets, and possibly the Patriots, aren't a "dominant" team. This is also looking after Week 9, not Week 10.)


By FO standards, the Patriots' DVOA would have to jump pretty significantly for them to get anywhere near "dominant." A recurring theme of this season has been that there hasn't been a dominant team. A team has kept the top spot of DVOA rankings for consecutive weeks only twice this season, and no team has been #1 more than twice.

At the end of Week 9, NYG had the league's highest DVOA at 30.9%. Going back to 2004 -- the first year week-by-week DVOA totals were posted -- this is easily the lowest league-leading DVOA through nine weeks. Moreover, in there have been 18 teams with higher through-week-9-DVOAs in that span. In other words: prior to this weekend's games, the league's best team would be about third-best in a typical year.

2004: 38.0% (PHI), 36.7% (NE), 31.7% (PIT)
2005: 36.3% (IND), 33.9% (CIN), 33.8% (NYG), 32.2% (SD), 31.9% (JAC)
2006: 47.4% (CHI), 36.3% (PHI), 36.1% (NYG), 34.1% (SD)
2007: 70.9% (NE), 53.9% (IND), 44.0% (DAL), 36.1% (PIT)
2008: 42.7% (NYG), 36.6% (PHI)
2009: 41.0% (NE), 35.5% (PHI), 35.2% (NO), 32.1% (IND)

By these measures, NE's DVOA would need to double from last week to now in order to get into the range of a regular "top" team; the Jets' would need to (more than) triple.

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:41am

It's not just the lack of elite teams, but no team is elite at any phase of the game. There are no elite offenses anywhere, or elite defenses, the Bears and Seahawks come really close to elite special teams, but that's it.

by Jetspete :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:21pm

To be fair, the suh extra point wouldve put the jets into a 21-10 hole, not won the game 21-20. the jets still wouldve had the knowlege of having to go for 2 after the sanchez td in that game.

I have no beef with you calling the Jets "lucky." Last year the Jets lost 5 games via strange circumstances (both miami, buffalo, jax and the missed fg barrage vs atlanta). The Jets have won those weird games this year. So while its entirely possible they were the second or third best in the AFC last year (with their record saying other wise), it is entirely possible theyre the 8th best team in the afc this year. But i'd much rather be the jets (who seem like a playoff lock) than tennesee who would need to pull multiple upsets just to get a spot.

by Treima6 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:08pm


The Titans have a slate of very winnable games. The only one that I think might be out of their reach is playing Indy at the Oil Can.

by jfsh :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:12pm

I'll take the wins too.

The weird story of the Jets this year is: what happened to their pass defense? They went from -34.2% last year (1st) to 10.6% this year (16th). That's a huge swing! It's approximately the difference between the Green Bay and Oakland passing offenses so far this year. I can't really figure it out. The pass rush is the same (ASR 6.8% last year, 6.7% last year), the defensive line is #1 in the league against the run, and Revis is back and playing at a pretty high level (although maybe not quite as good as last year). The coach and most of the players haven't changed. But it seems like they're getting carved up by mediocre QBs, and last year they were just eating those guys alive.

Here's a couple of options:
1) Scheme changes - maybe Ryan is focusing more on the run than on the pass, or other tinkering behind the scenes
2) Personnel changes - Is Cromartie much worse than Lito Sheppard?
3) Offensive gameplanning - Peyton Manning was the only one who had success against the Jets' zone blitzes last year; maybe he provided a blueprint. On a different note, QBs are not throwing to Revis as often?
4) Luck - a fingertip makes a difference

Anyone have any thoughts?

by Led :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:28pm

I'd say a combination of 3 and 4.

by Sander :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:34pm

Revis being out/limited for an extended amount of time combined with Cromartie being very up-and-down probably have a lot to do with this.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:34pm

Defensive performance in general is very variable from year-to-year. Very few teams perform at an elite level on defense 2 seasons in a row, that's just the way it is with DVOA. You have to go to the really great defenses of the decade like Pittsburgh, Ravens, early-decade TB and mid-decade Bears to find teams that put up those kind of defensive numbers with any sort of consistency. And while the Jets defense talked like they were as good as any of those teams, in reality performing at that level is something almost nobody does. Still, I think as Revis gets healthier and healthier, they're going to look better and better...

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:55pm

-Opponent scheme change. Peyton showed last year that Jets secondary talent sucks behind Revis. Less suicidal forced throws to #1's = many more completions in front of Drew Coleman & Co.

-Revis' hamstring

-(probable) Concerted efforts by officials to call penalties on NYJ secondary. A lot of them are legit which could be a coaching problem. A lot of them are phantom calls.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:00pm

Also: the strategy of "Find #33, throw the ball at whomever he is covering" has worked really damn well for opposing Q.B.'s.

by Led :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:25pm

It's also pretty clear to me that the Jets have had bad luck in getting interceptions. They've held opponents to the lowest completion percentage in the league (and even lower than last year), have had an above average number of passes defensed and yet have had only 5 interceptions. The only teams with a lower interception rate are Buffalo and Houston, whose pass defenses are execrable. That's not sustainable. This type of bad luck may not be as easily modeled as fumble recovery luck so I wouldn't expect DVOA to take it into account, but I think it's reasonable to make a subjective adjustment for it. To a certain extent, it offsets the good fumble recovery luck.

by jmaron :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:42pm

Vikings - 26th overall, 25th off, 21 defence, 24th special teams

They suck equally across the board.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:07pm

Unless something dramatic happens when Rice gets back on the field, this Vkings team may be the worst performing bunch since Denny Green's last season, when they had a -100 point differential. The only reason I think this team might have a chance to stay in Minnesota is because it may be tough for them to get 750 billion in stadium subsidies anywhere else, given the economic climate.

by FalconsHmmmm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:44pm

There must be a better explanation for the Falcons' record. Of the 8 missed field goals by opposing kickers, 5 came in the Falcons two losses. Only 3 field goal misses have come in the Falcons 7 wins. What else is going on here that makes DVOA hate the Falcons?

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:55pm

I think they've also beaten a few teams that are generally seen as really tough opponents that DVOA isn't so blown away by, like Baltimore. DVOA is similarly unimpressed by close wins over New Orleans, Cincinnati and TB - they fall in the same general "t.v. talking heads are impressed, but DVOA isn't" category. Getting pounded by Philly in a game that wasn't even as close as the final score surely doesn't help them, but the close loss to Pittsburgh can't be hurting them so much, can it? Or maybe the missed field goals in those games disguise just how badly they got man-handled?

I've only seen their games versus Philly, Pittsburgh and Baltimore, so I was definitely dubious of all the "best team in the NFC... and maybe NFL!" talk. What makes their position even muddier is that Green Bay is the only real test left on their schedule. I think they could easily go 13-3 and end up with #1 seed without having beaten anyone of note (assuming New Orleans hovers around 7% DVOA for the rest of the year...)

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:02pm

(Not that #1DVOA Philly has beaten a bunch of contenders that DVOA loves...)

by Marko :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:47pm

From what I have seen, the Falcons have had a lot of luck very late in the game, when the Falcons' opponent blew an almost certain victory by choking (Saints kicker Garrett Hartley missed chip shot field goal at end of game; Falcons win in OT) or making a bonehead play (49ers CB Nate Clements fumbles after long interception return that should have wrapped up game; Falcons recover and drive down field for game-winning FG).

The Falcons also were lucky against the Ravens. Besides the potential OPI on Roddy White on the game-winning TD that wasn't called, they benefited from a dubious facemask penalty on Terrell Suggs earlier in the game (it should have been offsetting facemask penalties, as a Falcon was pulling on Suggs' facemask at the time). In addition, a play that hasn't gotten much media attention was the 3rd and 10 "catch" for a first down at the beginning of the game-winning drive. I can't remember who the receiver was, but I thought that the play should have been ruled incomplete, as the receiver seemed to be juggling the ball as he went out of bounds. If that play is incomplete, the Falcons' would have faced 4th and 10 deep in their own territory. We'll never know what would have happened then.

Of course, most teams with good records have had a bit of luck in close games. As detailed above, the Jets have had their fair share, especially in their games against the Broncos, Lions and Browns. The Saints were lucky against the 49ers when a muffed punt stayed in bounds, the Bears were lucky that Calvin Johnson didn't know the rule now referred to as the "Calvin Johnson rule" and that Packers WR James Jones' fumble late in the game stayed in bounds (resulting in a recovery by the Bears leading to a game-winning FG), etc.

by K (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:47pm

Rich Gannon is the example that came immediately to my mind of a QB experiencing a major late-career makeover, starting at age 35. He had never had a completion percentage as high as 61% before hitting 65.8 and 67.6 in 2001 and 2002 while throwing for 8500 yards and winning an MVP.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 5:59pm

Also, with Vick, it's probably important to keep in mind that he's only played 4 complete games - this is not a huge sample we're talking about yet. Sure, the sample we have is nothing but promising, but still - let him make it through a couple more full games before we anoint him the second coming of... Rich Gannon? I'll take it.

by jfsh :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:30pm

Late 30's Rich Gannon is also probably the closest comp to Vick in terms of skill set and physical abilities.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 12:06am

Yup, I immediately thought of Gannon too. In fact, Gannon's "late-career renaissance" is even more surprising considering that a) Gannon was older than Vick is now, and b) Vick actually had at least one decent year already (2002), while Gannon really didn't have any (although he wasn't awful in 1991, and he was kind of OK in 1998 aka the year before the renaissance). Let's also remember that Gannon was drafted in the 4th round with the intent of converting him to safety, while Vick was a #1 overall pick. So Vick's improvement not only has precedent, the precedent is actually even more astonishing and unforeseen.

by Jeff Fogle :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:13pm

Wanted to pop in with an update of the preseason gradings against market expectations. Still in position for a stellar performance.

Baltimore Over 10 (6-3 so far, must finish 5-2 or better)
Pittsburgh Over 8.5 (6-3 so far, must finish 3-4 or better)
Cincinnati Under 8.5 (2-7 so far, only 7-0 beats it)
Cleveland Under 5.5 (3-6 so far, iffy)
Houston Under 8.5 (4-5 so far, trending well)
Kansas City Over 6.5 (5-4 so far, just 2-5 or better to win)
San Diego Under 10.5 (4-5 so far, only 7-0 beats it)
Denver Over 7 (3-6 so far, needs 5-2 finish or better)
Oakland Under 6.5 (5-4 so far, in a bit of trouble)
Washington Over 7.5 (4-5 so far, trending badly)
Dallas Under 10.5 (winner!)
Chicago Over 7.5 (6-3 so far, only needs 2-5 finish or better)
Detroit Under 5.5 (2-7 so far, in good shape)
Atlanta Over 9.5 (7-2 so far, only needs 3-4 or better)
New Orleans Under 10.5 (6-3 so far, 5-2 beats it)
San Francisco Under 9 (3-6 so far, only 7-0 beats it)
St. Louis Over 4.5 (4-5 so far, only needs 1-6 finish or better)

Hope you'll eventually acknowledge that ranking KC's offense in the top six a couple of weeks ago was way off base because it was overly influenced by two great games vs. horrible defenses...and that helped skew overall DVOA, playoff potential, and created the false notion that Kansas City had the second best chance of anyone to win the Super Bowl. Additional games helped bring KC down in DVOA to where other metrics (and common sense) already had them. I think it's clear now that there shouldn't have been any metric at the 7-game mark that suggested KC was an elite team, or had the second best chance of anyone to win the Super Bowl. More comforting to see them at 15th overall and 13th on offense this week...

by Scott de B (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:11pm

When you make projections based on small data sets, you're going to get those kind of anomalies. It's a flaw with any metric.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 6:28pm

The Packers defensive performance is rather astounding given that the linebacking corps has been overhauled due to injury. Tramon Williams is playing at a Pro Bowl level. Way better than Woodson. And Charlie Peprah has been a revelation. I thought that guy would be a total millstone back there.

BJ Raj is another guy who has taken a huge step forward. Mathews gets all the hype but Raj is just destroying the interior. And for a few games he played every snap. Just a Herculean effort by the kid.

Ted Thompson has the personality of a lemon but he does a lot more good work than bad in the draft.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:02pm

That's funny, because I was just about to say the exact same thing. The performance of the secondary led them to release Al Harris, because there wasn't anybody else they wanted to cut. Not only has Williams been rock solid, shrugging off last year's 4 PI performance against Baltimore on MNF, but un-drafted rookie Sam Shields has been a big improvement over Jarrett Bush at nickel. Green Bay has a fairly brutal schedule left, including the Giants, Atlanta, New England, and a rematch with Minny, but you have to impressed with the way McCarthy has righted the ship after some tough losses and six opening game starters being placed on IR.

by K (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:13pm

The Minnesota game was a lot more problematic-looking 3 weeks ago. I quite expect a the Viking will be in full-blown "quit on the coach" mode from here out.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:24pm

Just one thing I think needs to be corrected is that while Woodson started the season off pretty horrendously, he's actually been quite solid over the past 3-4 games.

I think the Packers staff must have decided they aren't going to get the calls (or non-calls) they wanted or hoped for with Woodson's traditional style of play and are having him play less press coverage and blitz more. It's seemed to work, as Woodson has not had a penalty or even a controversial non-call I can think of in about a month, while the defense as a whole has been very good.

Totally agree about Tramon, Raji (who's had to play a ridiculous number of snaps for a big man with the D-line injuries GB's had), and Peprah.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:22pm

In my previous post, I neglected to mention Dom Capers, who also deserves a great deal of credit for the performance of the Packer D, despite all the shuffling of personnel.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:35pm

I remain adamant that the Bears are the worst team for a fan to watch because you know in your football heart of hearts that what you are seeing is unsustainable. Maybe they pull it off for a season to only get exposed in the postseason. It's all a bunch of hocus-pocus.

They win, they tease you into believing and then BAM! It all unravels and you curse yourself for getting duped.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:46pm

That's really giving too much credit to what we use to gauge if something is "sustainable" or not.

Advanced football stats are still very primitive. What is and is not predictive remains quite fuzzy, cf. jokes like the Lewin index still being taken seriously.

Plus, in a sport with 16-game seasons and high injury rate, a team's "true talent level" is hard to measure and probably changes quite a bit.

by TomC :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:46pm

In my football heart of hearts, I think I mostly agree with you, but remember that in 2006 the BAM! didn't come until the second half of the Super Bowl, or about 98% of the way through the season. One of these years they're liable to stumble all the way to the Lombardi Trophy, at which point who cares if it's real or a sham?

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:49pm

You didn't think the 2006 Bears were sustainable?

If Tommie Harris and Mike Brown don't get hurt, they're probably an even match for the Colts. As it was they were only down 5 points entering the 4th quarter. If Grossman could have lead just one decent drive at the start of the quarter... nevermind better to let the past be.

by bigtencrazy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 7:52pm


I give Lovie worlds of credit for taking a nonconventional approach to winning as it reduces the Bears competition for certain resources that other teams would not value as highly. And it creates preparation problems for the opposition. But I suspect, though have not validated lately, that the Bears can exploit the bad/mediocre teams but their record against good teams is below the average because a good team will be able to handle Chicago's unique elements.

I also get the sense that injury also hampers the Bears more than other teams because their key players are SO critical to their success.

Again, very different approach. But man, it's all so delicate.

by Richie :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 8:02pm

How does Randall Cunningham compare to Vick for late-career resurrection?

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 8:46pm

Raiders shoudl nto be 19. more than 9 an dn moving on up from there.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 5:57pm

To a deluxe apartment in the sky?

by milo :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 9:05pm

TEN Defense:
Scoring: 24
Rushing: 11
Passing: 25
Total yards: 20
3rd Down %: 22
Penalty Yards: 31
One of these things is not like the others.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 9:09pm

Is it the only stat that accounts for field position, down and distance, and opponent strength?

by milo :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:14pm

Looks like Enron style accounting to me.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:44pm

Interceptions: tied for second.
Sacks: tied for third.
Forced fumbles: tied for third.
Stuff rate: sixth.

They do give up yards. But few defenses, if any, make as many big plays.

by Bobman :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:47am


Is that sustainable over the course of a season (or longer)? I know Cincy had a ton of takeaways last year and (surprise!) won their tough division as a result. This year, not so much. Basically, do "big plays" by a D even out over time like fumble luck? (The exception being when they have a freakishly talented player or two--I'm talking multi-all-pro quality. I imagine that guy can generate a few extra big plays all by himself.)

by milo :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:51pm

Well, two of their three best defensive DVOA's came in losses. They get credit for being good there, but they didn't make the big plays in those games.

I'm not saying it's not a good defense. I am aware that the top five DVOA defenses are not that far apart. I can also see that DVOA thinks that defense sucks this year league wide.

But the #1 defense is 5-4 in the most important statistic. And that's with good special teams and an offense that's not atrocious. It's not a great passing offense in a passing league. But it's also not a great passing defense in a passing league. But I guess that turnovers are the most important statistic of all. I just thought that winning was an important statistic, too, and that passing well and defending the pass were indicators of quality play.

Consider a team that starts on their 20 and gets 6 12yard plays in a row. First and ten on the eight and throws a pick six. The pick six counts merely as an interception, because DVOA says interception returns are random. The drive itself gets big DVOA because it's composed of six successful plays in a row. The result is 0-7 on the scoreboard. DVOA thinks the team that drove is doing the winning thing. I think they may have been taking a lot of risks and got burned in the end. DVOA doesn't see this, even though the scoreboard does.

And that's fine. That's what DVOA is trying to measure. But since I've never seen an actual breakdown of how DVOA scores each play, I'm as clueless as every other reader of this site. But it's claimed that VOA does take into account game situations -- I just have trouble discerning it in the numbers presented.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:31pm

The drive itself gets big DVOA because it's composed of six successful plays in a row.

No it doesn't. As you pointed out: "I guess that turnovers are the most important statistic of all." I don't know what the success point values are, but my guess is that this drive ends as slightly positive at best. Actually, when you take into account that red zone possessions are weighted slightly heavier, I would hope this ends as a slight negative.

Also, I'm confused about what your argument is. In one paragraph you lament the fact that the TEN defense is getting too much credit for turnovers. Then in the next paragraph you set up a situation that lets you argue that not enough weight is given to turnovers.

by milo :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 2:20pm

No it doesn't
Please show me the evidence of this, that's what I'm looking for.

I don't think that was my argument. I don't know what the value of an interception is, either baseline, or situation adjusted. I have had it pointed out to me that pick sixes are random events that do not contribute to VOA.

I'm trying to find out how extreme DVOAs are generated. Because, as an example, the beginning of this article shows, the NYJ have only two games that show DVOA with a strong pulse, yet are 7-2.

Is VOA too focused on plays and not focused enough on drives? Is VOA too focused on plays an not focused enough on points? On wins? Who knows? Is it the opposite? Coaches script drives at the beginning of the game. Coaches call formations and plays and defenses early to set up confusion later. The combinations would seem to matter. Does this show up in VOA? Where?

Jeff Fisher and Andy Reid appear to be very good coaches. FO seems to think so. Winning a SB is very hard, and luck is involved, but how many teams have one it that weren't very good? Between the two of them, you get two losing appearances in 29 years of head coaching. That's not very good or lucky at all. Shouldn't DVOA help us understand why? The longer I read this site, the more questions appear.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 3:02pm

Ah OK. I missed that the uncertainty was part of your point. Yep, I agree. We don't really know what makes DVOA tick. Though I'm pretty sure the answer to this question is no:

"Coaches script drives at the beginning of the game. Coaches call formations and plays and defenses early to set up confusion later. The combinations would seem to matter. Does this show up in VOA?

Though to play Devil's advocate, I would like to throw out the idea that maybe it's not DVOA that is too focused on plays, but humans that are too focused on drives or wins.

by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 8:21pm

Well, two of their three best defensive DVOA's came in losses. They get credit for being good there, but they didn't make the big plays in those games.

Their best defensive DVOA this year was -52.4% in a 19-11 loss to Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh's points that day came on a kickoff return touchdown and four field goals. Pittsburgh had nine completions that day for 43 yards and zero first downs. They had only seven first downs all day. Meanwhile, the Tennessee offense turned the ball over seven times. That was a tremendous defensive performance, and the fact that they lost at the end doesn't change that. (Pittsburgh did have Batch/Dixon at quarterback that day, which DVOA doesn't know -- it adjusts the TEN defense based on the PIT offense).

Their third-best DVOA this year was -29.9% in a 26-20 loss to the Broncos. They forced only one turnover, but they did get six sacks. They held the Broncos to 1.0 yards per rush. They did give up 308 passing yards, but 92 of those yards came on three plays. Otherwise, they averaged just 4.1 yards per passing play. Broncos went 3-for-15 on third downs and were 2-for-7 in the red zone. Keep in mind that Denver is currently ranked second in passing offense. The Titans held Kyle Orton to 5.5 yards per pass play. The only defense to do better against Orton this year has been Oakland. That was a good defensive performance, and the fact that they lost at the end doesn't change that.

(By the way, over the course of the season TEN has the best red zone defense in the league, allowing a touchdown on 32.5 percent of opponents' red zone drives.)

The specific machinations of DVOA are, frankly, over my mathematical level. But I can tell you it does not look at wins or losses, and it does not look at drives. It looks at each play, one at a time.

by milo :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 12:55pm

Gotcha. Maynard Ferguson was a better trumpet player and band leader than Louis Armstrong.

by AudacityOfHoops :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 6:45pm

Who are the offense and special teams in this analogy?

Maybe better would be:

Just because the Gennett label (which Louis Armstrong recorded on) went out of business, while Columbia Records (which Ferguson played for) is still going strong, does not mean that Ferguson was a better trumpet player and band leader than Armstrong.

by billsfan :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 1:19pm

So where does Freddie Hubbard fit into all of this?

(I also like the Eagles)

by Arkaein :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 10:21am

The passing, rushing, and conventional yards may only mean they get a lot of plays run against them. I don't know how they compare to other teams in that department, but the good rushing yards would indicate that teams prefer to pass against them.

Bad scoring defenses often are put in bad positions by bad offense and/or special teams. Comparing point differential for offense and defense is a pretty great way to gauge complete team quality, but can be biased for evaluating a single unit.

I'd agree that the numbers look a little suspect, but I'd rather see per play rushing and passing yardage and see how they rank than give any credence to the official NFL ranks based on total yardage.

by AlanSP :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 9:15pm

I honestly can't think of a football equivalent of this kind of late-career renaissance. This goes way past what Jim Plunkett did with the Raiders

I guess it depends a little on how you want to define renaissance. Great late career after not doing much early? Someone mentioned Rich Gannon, who's a good example, as are Steve Young and Trent Green. Former star who plays really well after a few years of not doing much? How about Randall Cunningham with Minnesota or Kurt Warner with Arizona?

Keep in mind that Vick's been doing this for roughly 5 games total. You can find plenty examples of QBs who suddenly had a big year in their 30's: guys like Erik Kramer, Chris Chandler, Vinny Testaverde, Jim Harbaugh, Steve DeBerg etc. Vick has way more talent than those guys and a better chance to sustain that success, but he needs to do it for longer before we start comparing him to guys like Young and Gannon.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:26pm

Testaverde doesn't really belong in that class. First, the Parcells Jets was the first team he was on that the rest of the team had enough talent to give him a chance. Second, he actually sustained a period of success over some years in his late prime. Keep in mind he had a year wiped out due to injury on a team that went to the AFCCG. Deberg, et al. were backup quality guys who had fluky years.

For parallels to Vick, how about Flutie? A guy coming back from the cooler and used his unique skillset to some success.

by TomC :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:46pm

I initially read that as: "A guy coming back from the cooler and used his unique skillet to some success", and I was trying to figure out why the chef metaphor was appropriate here. Now I'm trying to figure out if you're saying the CFL is like prison.

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:50pm

America's cooler, where we keep our Labatts.


by AlanSP :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:44pm

It's seems like kind of a stretch to say that Testaverde had sustained success. He was good in his last year with Cleveland, had a very good year with lousy Baltimore team and then an excellent year with the Jets after a subpar season in 1997. I guess you could call playing well in 3 out of 4 years for 3 different teams sustained success, but that's not what I'd normally think of.

Anyway, the point wasn't to point out all the schlubs with fluky years. Chris Chandler had a handful of good years as well. The point is that we don't have enough to go on yet. What distinguishes the Youngs and Gannons from the Kramers and DeBergs is that they sustained their success (well, also the fact that they were better players, but we know that only because of the whole sustained success thing).

I actually did think of Flutie, but he was out of the NFL for a full 8 seasons, so it seems like a stretch to compare him to Vick (or to anybody else for that matter).

by Jerry :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 3:05am

For Vinny, it was more like 2 teams in 5 years. He was good in 1994 but then split time with Eric Zeier in '95. For our purposes, he was on the same team in Baltimore in '96, and went to the Jets in '98.

by Matt B (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:31pm

I'm new to the page, analysis, and terminology. I'm sure somebody has asked this but I could use some clarification about the 'Estimated Wins' column....is this the number of wins the team is estimated to accomplish THROUGH THE CURRENT WEEK OF FOOTBALL?
Thanks in advance.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:42pm

Essentially. It deals with bye weeks in kind of an odd way, but once everyone has their bye week it's not a problem. Here's the description:

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

You can find it here, http://footballoutsiders.com/stats/teameff, after the first table.

by Blind (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 10:02am

Geez I have not been paying attention. I looked at estimated wins and assumed that it was the estimated wins the team would have if you went back and simulated the team's schedule a bunch of times with their current DVOA stats. The Forest Index thing sounds less cool because it doesn't look at the team's schedule! I can no longer use that stat to look at my niners and say "they should be 5-4 by now!!!" I actually have to think back and relive all of the close games we've lost...

Two more things:

1. Can we please get rid of the NSFW ads on this site?
2. Can we make it so the default name you get when posting anonymously is NOT taken by a registered user???

by dmb :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 11:36am

1 -- Unlike many, I'm not a fan of the aforementioned ad, but it is pretty small. When you're reading an article or scrolling through the comments, odds are that it's not on your screen, or that you can position it so that it's not as .... conspicuous.

2 -- Whoever did that is one of my favorite people at this site, because it forced people to come up with some pretty great unregistered names. (Among the favorites are "I am the World's Greatest Lover (not verified)," and "the cat in the box is dead (not verified).") Perhaps more importantly, I wouldn't be surprised if it cuts down on the number of trolls.

by Eddo :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:40pm

One thing I've submitted as a suggestion (in the year-end survey, I think) is to only allow comments from registered users.

Though you would lose the cleverness of the "(not verified)" nicknames.

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 5:37pm

Couldn't you register a name with "(not verified)" in it?

by Eddo :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:58pm

Of course. I wouldn't find it as clever, though. The cleverness comes from using an existing framework and generating humor, in my eyes.

by billsfan :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:40pm

1) You can always take a screenshot of the offending ad and e-mail it to Barnwell. I'm with OP on this--if I want to see boobs on the internet, I know where to go.

2) The guy who registered Anonymous is awesome. It's hard to follow a conversation with multiple people posting as "anonymous." This isn't 4chan.

(I also like the Eagles)

by Just Another Falcons Fan (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:37pm

I'm not sure how Baltimore gained more from losing to Atlanta than Atlanta gained by beating Baltimore.

by Basilicus :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 10:48pm

Something everyone's forgetting is that Philadelphia has the best set of pass-catchers remaining healthy on any team. It's not a mistake that McNabb had 8.0 ypa for 22 TDs against 10 ints last year and has 7.4 ypa with 9 TDs against 11 ints this year. If he was with the team this year, I'd bet McNabb would be putting up gonzo numbers. Or maybe injured.

Desean Jackson is just ridiculous and people tend to forget that Jeremy Maclin is looking like the best receiver drafted in 2009. McCoy is one of the best checkdown options in the league and Celek's a great TE, even if he's not being used as often as he was last year.

I'm not saying Vick isn't good; he obviously is and he's a fit for such an awful O-line. But put any number of QBs with this team and they'll look better than with their current stable of receivers.

by AlanSP :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 4:13am

Well yeah. I was actually thinking that their offensive weapons remind me a bit of the early 2000's Rams with Holt, Bruce, Faulk and company. Same deal there where you could have Warner, Trent Green, or Marc Bulger and any of them would look fantastic. Great receiving corps do that (see Cassel, Matt). It's a shame that the best group of receivers the Eagles have had coincided with the end of the McNabb era in Philly.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 11:42am

I would buy this comment if McNabb had been able to put up more than 7 points in 2 games with this same receiving corps (and Celek performning at a much, much higher level) last year at the end of the season. I have always been a steadfast McNabb supporter, but everybody gets old and in those two losses to the Cowboys, McNabb was throwing balls a yards behind or at the feet of wide-open Maclin and Jackson. McNabb was the problem in Philly last year - and, let me be clear, I think that 2009 was exactly the first year where that was the case.

Also, enough with the Eagles o-line bashing. They've come together well at this point and I'm not really sure what more you could ask of a group that is missing 2 of its 5 projected starters and its best lineman. Sure, they've needed some help from TE's and McCoy, but they've left behind any claims to "awful" or worst in the league...

by AlanSP :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:37pm

That's an awfully small sample you're looking at. He certainly didn't play well in those games, but it's something of a leap to say that he was the problem in Philly. The fact that those two games were important games at the end of the season doesn't change the fact that they were still just two games. Every QB has games where he looks horrible. This was the same logic with the McNabb benching back in '08, precipitated by two poor games in what had otherwise been a strong year. It was clearly not the case back then that he was done, so I don't see how the same argument holds any more water a year and a half later.

I'd also point out that Maclin this year is significantly better than he was last year, as you expect most WRs to be in their second season. McCoy has also progressed a great deal, so even though the key players are the same, it's really not accurate to say that McNabb had the same caliber of weapons last season.

As for the o-line, next week should be a good test of how well they've actually come together. They've done a good job the past few weeks, but I'm worried about how they'll hold up against Tuck, Umenyiora and co.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:59pm

McNabb's DVOA was 20th in the league. Their passing offense DVOA was the worst of of of their 4 main units (and weaker than their ST DVOA.) Maclin, Avant and Jackson all ranked in the top 32 for DVOA last year. Celek's DVOA was about 40% higher last year. There's no way to look at McNabb's stats as anything other than the weak link. I wish him well and loved him as a payer, but last year was his second worst year (beating out only his rookie year) and he was looked really pitiful at times versus Dallas. He had time in the pocket and open receivers and just couldn't get the ball where it needed to go.

I will give you that McCoy is hugely improved. But everyone except for Celek looks better this year. (the general improvement is yet another example of how McNabb was the weak link last year.)

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 6:12pm

Bottom line, McNabb wasn't good enough last year and there was no indication he was going to get better. With Kolb due for his shot, it was the right tme to trade Donnie Mac.

by AlanSP :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 11:10pm

You can't conclude that the improvement in the Eagles' young players is an indictment of McNabb. The simpler explanation is that they improved because that's what good young players generally do.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 11:50am

My whole point is the opposite of what you seem to think I'm saying: there's not improvement from the young players across the board this year. Jackson and Avant are actually playing slightly worse by both traditional stats and DVOA this year and Celek is playing faaaaaaar worse. Only Maclin and McCoy improved significantly. And, yes, there are the youngest, but McCoy's success can hardly be attributed to the Q.B. situation. His numbers in the passing game are slightly better, I suppose. Last year, however, McNabb was clearly playing the worst of the all the skill position players and in all the losses, he looked really, really bad. What happened this year almost doesn't matter - although that the offense improved even under Kolb certainly can't be said to be in McNabb's favor.

I love McNabb. He never got enough credit in Philadelphia and it is outrageous that he is not universally beloved by the fans. Last year, he was the biggest problem with the team. Their rushing offense, passing defense, rushing defense and special teams were across the board top notch. Their passing offense was not brilliant, McNabb's DVOA was mediocre, there was no way they could have won either of 2 biggest games of the season based on how he played, the pieces around him all performed at a high level. It sucks, but McNabb was the problem last year in Philly...

by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 11:59am

Let me put it this way: after the 2009 season, if you were guaranteed that every player would come out and perform at the exact same level for another season, but you could only replace one player, who would you have replaced? This is a thought experiment, so completely forget about the future: which player would you have replaced if everything else would be the same all things considered? I think safety, outside linebackers, running back and Q.B. are the only serious choices. Considering how well the defense performed according to DVOA, I would have said Q.B. and running back are the absolute top priorities. And a better Q.B. is more important than a better running back (plus keep in mind that in this experiment Leonard Weaver is also still playing and kicking ass.) McNabb not have been the weakest link, but he was the most crucial weak link.

Now go back to reality and consider that he was going to be 34 years old and was clearly on the decline (and that McCoy was young so he could have reasonably been expected to not completely suck again): McNabb was the most important change that needed to be made.

by AlanSP :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:52pm

One other thing: I'd dispute the notion that Vick is a good fit for a bad o-line. What you want with a bad o-line is a QB who gets rid of the ball quickly, and Vick, for all the strengths he's shown, does not do that. That's a big part of why he's historically taken a lot of sacks. His career sack % is 9.6%, worse than any active player other than David Carr, and not like it's appreciably better this year (8.9%). That is decidedly not a good fit for a shaky o-line. Fortunately, the Eagles' o-line has looked much better in the past few games, so it might not be that huge of an issue.

by Nevic (not verified) :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:49pm

Wait, the lions are the second-best team in the NFC North (according to DVOA, although my eyes agree). Did hell freeze over and I missed it? Too bad they can't close out games or they might not be in last place for once...

by Kal :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:42am

Something that I've found more and more is that when DVOA differs, it's an interesting indictment of the team.

When the team seems to be doing better than what DVOA would predict (Bears, NFC West) that's because they've had an easy schedule or they've simply gotten a lot of non-predictive actions to go their way.

When the team seems to be doing worse than what DVOA predicts, they'll also have luck go against them - but often you'll see really bad coaching as part of it. We saw this with Green Bay, which seemed to have everything that DVOA liked but just couldn't pull it together.

by theshadowj :: Tue, 11/16/2010 - 11:58pm

Why is there no discussion of the Texan's defense? Maybe I'm wrong, but aren't they in contention for worst total defense and pass defense of the DVOA era?

by AlanSP :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 5:12am

Yes, if those DVOA numbers held up for the rest of the season, they'd break the record for worst total defense of the DVOA era (currently the '08 Lions at 29.2%) and shatter the record for worst pass defense (last year's Lions at 40.1%).

It's worth noting that the bottom 5 in pass defense DVOA this year would all rank among the worst of the DVOA era. It seems more likely that this is indicative of passing offenses being more effective in general across the league than that there are just coincidentally 5 epically bad pass D's. Even considering that, that 54.3% mark is astoundingly bad. Guess they miss Dunta Robinson more than they thought they would.

by jbrown (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 9:57pm

And would they be the most polarized team in recent history? Top 3 offense + 32nd defense seems pretty tough to pull off

by CuseFanInSoCal :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:13am

I'm beginning to think the Chargers are conducting a multi-year experiment to see just how deep of a hole they can dig themselves into and still win the division. They don't seem to have found the limit yet.

by Dennis :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:56am

"They beat the Broncos by four in a game where the Broncos blew two field goals. This week, Cleveland played the Jets to a stalemate for 74 minutes and 30 seconds"

This is the type of dumb comment I expect from Peter King. If the Jets were lucky to beat the Broncos because of two blown field goals, then why don't their three missed field goals against the Browns make them unlucky? They outplayed the Browns and if Folk would've made the 24 yarder, the Jets would've won in regulation. (I know, the rest of the game would've played out differently, but you can say the same thing if the Broncos would've made their FGs.)

by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:05am

It's not dumb. FO's cheapshots on the Jets have been entirely intentional.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 2:31am

If the Jets were lucky to beat the Broncos because of two blown field goals, then why don't their three missed field goals against the Browns make them unlucky?

Well, if you think that kickers are supposed to make the FGs that they try, then your team is lucky when the other team's kicker fails to do so (unless you think that the defense deserves credit for that). OTOH, it's definitely your own kicker's fault if he misses three kicks in one game.

So, no, it's not a mirror opposite.

It's entirely reasonable to say that the Jets were lucky when the other team's kicker missed easy FG attempts. And it's also entirely reasonable to say that the Jets were not unlucky when their own kicker shanked 3 FG attempts. They were performing badly.

by Dennis :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:52pm

I disagree because the original comment says "Cleveland played the Jets to a stalemate for 74 minutes and 30 seconds". So again, if the Jets were lucky against Denver because of the Broncos' missed field goals, then it follows that the Browns were lucky to go to OT because of the Jets' missed field goals.

I agree the Jets have not been playing all that well - anybody who has watched any of those games can see that. But using Aaron's logic that the Jets were lucky against the Broncos, the Browns were lucky against the Jets. Either teams are lucky because of opponent's missed FGs or they aren't.

by dmb :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:04pm

One team getting "lucky" doesn't mean that their opponent is "unlucky." Consider another example: a dropped sure-fire TD pass. Was the defensive team lucky? Absolutely. Was the offensive team unlucky? No; one of their players made a mistake.

If we're talking about whether or not the Jets were lucky, missing their own field goals doesn't play into it, just as dropping their own passes, missing their own assignments, or fumbling their own snaps wouldn't.

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 9:14am

I like how the Patriots defense got worse after holding Pittsburgh to 18 yards after 45 minutes. That was one hell of a 4th quarter.

by Paddypat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 10:58am

I wonder if part of the reason for that is the increase in opponent adjustments. I'm a long-time pats fan, and this is the first year that I can recall really having a sense that DVOA did not properly reflect what I was seeing on the field. The Patriots defense has been undeniably improving week after week. The pass defense is generally competitive now; they clearly were not in week 2. For stretches they even play downright well. The run defense is clearly not as dominant as it has been in years past, but it's reasonable. The team doesn't usually get gashed on the ground; it's certainly not terrible. Seeing the pats D ranked among the likes of Jacksonville is ridiculous. I watched Jax-TN on Monday night, and the Jacksonville secondary is just atrocious. The pats have definitely struggled in garbage time, but Belichick often goes soft in garbage time on defense, especially when the team isn't truly dominant (think 2002). I have the sense that DVOA will continue to suggest a terrible defense for the pats and then along will come a stretch of shutdown games and everyone on this site will be surprised. I suppose stats just can't account for anything--there's a big difference between a series of plays that were near-miss tackles where the defender was in position and a series like the redskins-eagles game where there wasn't a defender anywhere near the play play after play, but that doesn't get reflected in the numbers...

by DeltaWhiskey :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:04pm

It would be nice to be able to see graphs for each team like the ones above each week.

by panthersnbraves :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:54pm

As a Panthers fan, can that start NEXT year? jk - I like it as well.

by Nathan :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:04pm

It's totally the Cover-3 BB switches to in the 4th quarter.

by nat :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:10pm

In nine games, the Patriots defense has played eight quarters of football up by a "comfortable" amount: three scores in the 3rd Q or 2 scores in the 4th Q. They've allowed a horrendous 10 TDs and a FG, and yet won all of those games. The Chargers came the closest to beating them, needing a FG to send the game to overtime, but missing.

That's a scoring pace equivalent to more than 35 points per game.

In the other 28 non-OT quarters, the Pats' defense has given up 13 TDs and 13 FGs, a rate equivalent to less than 19 points per game.

So, yes, the Patriots are painful to watch in their prevent-the-quick-score defense. But it's doing its job (enough), and DVOA and other stats that don't/can't consider the importance of the game clock probably make the Pats defense look worse than they really are.

by Nathan :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:18pm

Nice post. It's always nice when stats confirm what you observe. The corners stop pressing, drop deep, they give up underneath routes over and over. Tight ends kill them up the seams (hello Dustin Keller). But the D generally doesn't break. It's maddening to watch but I get it, it's working more often than not. A bunch of people I watch games with think the Pats just "choke" in the but the D completely changes, it's pretty apparent to the naked eye.

The D is a lot better than DVOA thinks, and is a lot better with Chung in the lineup.

by Eddo :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:26pm

Their defense is *probably* better than DVOA indicates, but I'm not sure you can honestly say that their "prevent-the-quick-score defense" is "doing its job"; giving up 35 points per game, while your offense is bleeding the clock, sure seems like it's allowing quick scores.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:30pm

Yeah, I also think if the Ravens and Chargers (or even Buffalo) games had gone the other way (which they EASILY could have) then the whole conversation would be "This defense is killing the Pats - what the hell are they going to do about it?!"

by nat :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 2:51pm

Its job is to prevent quick scores and preserve the win. It's ugly, they're not very good at it, but 6 wins in 6 tries is "enough". You can't actually win more often than that.

Of the eleven scoring drives they allowed, nine took more than three minutes. The two fast scores (1:48 and 1:24 by Pittsburgh) were too late and still too slow to put the game in any doubt. The average time for all these scoring drives was 3:54, the median was 3:44. So, yes, they were doing their job. Just not the job DVOA implies they should be doing - allowing some quick scores in exchange for a better average result.

by nat :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 9:58am

Here's a useful followup: If you only look at the truly desperate situations (3 score difference, fourth quarter), the Pats defense gave up four TDs in seven drives over a period of approximately two quarters. That's a 56 points per game rate! Yet in none of those games was the result ever in realistic doubt. In none of those games did the win depend on an offensive score to bail them out.

That leaves the Pats giving up six TDs and a FG over approximately six quarters playing up by three scores in the third or two scores in the fourth. That's a rate of a little more than 28 points a game. Not as good as their usual rate (19 point per game), but sufficient to buy enough time to preserve the win.

It's as if Bill Belichick knows more about what's important in football than is modelled by DVOA's success point formula. Could that really per possible?

More relavant to FO and DVOA: Could DVOA be wrong to judge late game plays using the same success point formula that it uses in the first half? Could it be improved by factoring time remaining and score differential into the fourth quarter success point formula?

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 10:45am

Your sample size is n=1. It is very possible that BB is some sort of outlier who is infinitely wiser than than DVOA, but we all no the real problem with DVOA is how it overvalues the Eagles every year.

Seriously though, I read the description of what you're seeing in NE's DEF and wonder if it is sustainable. The real test of BB's genius will come in a situation where the Offense can't get up on an opponent.

by Arkaein :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:20pm

Aaron has stated before that he's tried devaluing late blowout plays, but that they made DVOA less predictive, not more. Maybe the problem is that for most coaches late blowout plays are good predictors of future performance, but for BB they are not because BB does a better than average job executing late game prevent strategies.

This would explain why DVOA as a whole needs to consider these plays, but for certain coaches it distorts the big picture. BB's defenses would be undervalued. Maybe this is also why Andy Reid's teams are traditionally overvalued, because Reid is sort of the anti-BB in terms of situational game management, and hence the Eagles plays might be overvalued by DVOA in certain game situations.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 1:34pm

One way of thinking about DVOA is that overall, it provides a "good" measure of all teams, but for each team, there is going to be a confidence interval for the measurement. For some teams, say PHI, that may be +/- 5%, while for others, it may be less.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:09pm

Just for once, could somebody provide some evidence of how DVOA "over-values" the Eagles? Because the only argument against their rankings seem to be "gosh, they don't seem that good" and "they don't have as many wins as other highly ranked teams." (Or worse, "they's nevah won a superbowl") The first complaint is exactly WHY DVOA exists - to pop those preconceptions. The second one has been pretty well deflated over and over: they have only missed the playoffs twice under Reid's tenure (the same amount of times Belichek's teams have missed the playoffs) and they have had playoff success under Reid rivaled only by 2 or 3 other teams in the league. All this and they have played a in demonstrably more competitive division than perennial contenders like the Colts. One of DVOA's strengths seems to be that it has constantly gotten the Eagles right where everyone else has gotten them wrong.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:24pm

So you're argument is PHI has been good? I think your points are well taken. What I've said over the years is, regardless of whether or not DVOA is accurate/not accurate for PHI, one team being out of wonk is not reason to overhaul the system if it works for the other 31.

My point is/was that DVOA is an estimate of how good a team is and there is a margin of error for the measure, that may very well be different for each team. I cite PHI, b/c conventional wisdom (around here) is that DVOA has never been accurate for PHI and what may help people resolve this conflict for themselves is to consider margin of error.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:15pm

Of course, I agree that even if it is "out of wonk" for one team, that's no reason to overhaul it. But there needs to be a better example of "out of wonk" than the conventional wisdom of Philadelphia. It's frustrating because Philly should be the standard example of WHAT DVOA GETS RIGHT: a team that does not look good according to some normal measures that nevertheless continuously performs at a high level.

I think the 2007 Giants or the 2008 Cardinals are probably better choices for examples of DVOA "out of wonkiness", if only because these were teams that DVOA said were not very good and then turned around and performed very well for extended stretches against quality competition. Philly has been the opposite: a team that DVOA says is good that performs well. The problem is though that there really does need to be a good example of "out of wonk" if we even want to address these issues.

And I'm not sure the 2010 Pats defense is really a good example. Especially not in a season where DVOA has flung KC so wildly around in the rankings...

by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:19pm

"Just for once, could somebody provide some evidence of how DVOA "over-values" the Eagles?"

That's kind of like asking for evidence that the sun rises in the East, or that an apple will fall to the ground out of your hand if you let go...at least in terms of recent seasons.

This has been done before, particularly as Philly compares to Dallas. But...if you haven't looked at Estimated Wins vs. Actual wins lately:

2010: 7.4 so far (6-3 actual record, on this very page)
2009: 10.9 (11-5 actual record, very close)
2008: 11.7 (9-6-1 actual record)
2007: 10.2 (8-8 actual record)
2006: 11.9 (10-6 actual record)
2005: 7.7 (6-10 actual record)

That's 59.8 projected wins from the FO methodology, but only 50 actual wins over a 5.5 year span (could call it 50.5 if you want to split the tie).

Some people think it's not so much the wins...but where the Eagles stand in the league. Last year, when estimated wins were actually very close, DVOA still had Philly (4) ranked ahead of Dallas (5), New Orleans (6), and Minnesota (7), when the playoff ladder saw:

Philly lose to Dallas 34-14
Dallas lose to Minnesota 34-3
Minnesota lose to New Orleans 31-28

DVOA had Philly better than Dalas, Minnesota, and NO heading into the playoffs, yet they performed at a level well below the others in January.

Counter-examples would be gradings back in 2003 and 2004 where estimated wins undershot them rather than overshot them. And, FO seemed to take it as vindication when an odd #1 overall ranking in the 9-6-1 year eventually saw the Eagles reach the NFC championship game (wins over Tavaris Jackson/Minnesota and the NYG before a loss to Arizona).

Somebody finding out about FO say in 2005 or 2006, and sticking around ever since, would have experienced a general theme of DVOA overshooting on-field performance. That's why it's been called "The Philadelphia problem" a few times that I've seen. It wouldn't get that name unless there was at least some respected evidence that DVOA "overvalues" the Eagles.

Now...the team we saw Monday Night...with a healthy Vick (who could still run himself into another injury with little notice)...certainly looked terrific. Can't imagine there being much debate about that...

by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 4:57pm

But a win discrepancy is exactly what you should be happy DVOA shows you: In 2009, they made the playoffs and were one loss away from a first round bye - that's a good, successful team! If they beat Dallas last year and lost to Minnesota, would that mean their ranking was correct? What if they got a first-round bye and lost to Dallas then in the playoffs? Still over-rating them?

In 2008, despite only 9 wins, they get a wildcard berth and beat the highly ranked Giants (easily beat, I might add), Vikings and lose a close game to the low ranked Cardinals. That's great success!

In 2007, they miss the playoffs at 8-8 AND HAVE THE WORST RECORD IN THEIR DIVISION. I'll accept that DVOA might be off here... but keep in mind, they went up against tough competition all year including playing the 18-1 Patriots and the eventual Superbowl winner: they had a hard schedule and DVOA said they were only the 10th best team in the league. 10th. Not top 5. Not "one of the best." This hardly seems like a major failing of the system. Again, the "out of wonk" team this year is NYG, not the Eagles.

In 2006, DVOA ranks them 3rd, they go 10-6, win their division and win a playoff game. This is an example of DVOA failing? That's a good team by any account! And keep in mind what DVOA warned would happen in their playoff game versus New Orleans: a good running game (at home) going up against a terrible rushing defense. If this is an example of DVOA failing, I'm not sure what would constitute a success.

In 2005, the Eagles get out to a 4-2 start (including a blowout win) and collapse after their Q.B. gets injured for the season? DVOA says they probably should have gone 8-8 instead of 6-10? Man, the system is wildly over-rating these guys! It's broken!

Last year, one loss to Dallas for an 11-5 team that made the playoffs is proof that they aren't good and DVOA is getting them wrong? DVOA wasn't even saying the were decisively better than Dallas, only slightly. And you can't say "performed well below them" in the playoffs: you can say they played much worse than Dallas in one game. But DVOA says all 4 of those teams were of similar ability - one loss doesn't really tell us too much, even if it was a convincing loss - just as I don't think DVOA was "wrong" about Dallas last year despite getting annihilated by Minnesota. After all, Dallas beat a good team in taking down Philly. Or is DVOA wrong about Dallas being any good at all last year?

Look, Philly has had success very much in line with what DVOA said they should have. The 9-6-1 year (generally cited as the biggest DVOA botch) is fortunately the won where they most lived up to their DVOA rank in the playoffs! Find me a year where Philly goes 6-10 and DVOA says they should be amongst the 10-6 teams. Find me a year where Philly makes the playoffs only to get blown out by a team ranked far below them (not one friggin' DVOA slot.) Find me a year where DVOA over-values them. You can't because it hasn't.

"Respected evidence?" Nope. Just more of the stupid conventional wisdom pollution I come here to avoid.

by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:14pm

Don't know where to begin. It's probably best just to let those posts sit for awhile. Readers can draw their own conclusions.

by chemical burn :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:31pm

How about this (and I'm serious) you describe the parameters for "over-valuing" independent of any team in question. You give everyone a list of what constitutes success or failure for a team aside of simple win total - after all, we don't need DVOA to repeat a win/loss record, that would actually constitute a failure for the system (or at least mean it was pointless.)

If getting blown out by the Cowboys twice last year despite being ranked slightly ahead of them in DVOA is the most "wrong" DVOA has been, then it over-valued Dallas even more erroneously than it did Philly because Dallas lost by a larger margin to Minnesota and was ranked above the Vikes by a significantly larger margin. I personally don't think it got any of the teams "wrong."

And here's the thing, whatever your definition, I will be able to find several teams that meet your definition of "over-valuing" far better than the Eagles do. (and, yeah of course, I already have a bunch of examples stored up that DVOA has gotten more "wrong" than the Eagles by just about any standard.)

But let's start with a definition and description of "over-valuing" that isn't based purely on win/loss totals.

by Jeff Fogle :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 6:06pm

"But let's start with a definition and description of "over-valuing" that isn't based purely on win/loss totals."

Could you give an example?

The point of playing the game is to determine who wins...and seasons are made up of wins and losses...so it might be tough to not include that in the mix. And, in fact, it might be NONSENSICAL to leave it out since CHAMPIONSHIPS are determined by winning games...and you earn a spot in the PLAYOFFS that determine champions by winning games.

Plus, given the discussion...that seems to be what people are talking about. They're saying DVOA is rating the Eagles too highly in terms of league ranking and correlated estimated wins over an extended period of time dating back several years.

What scale of team quality do you want to use that doesn't involve wins and losses...in a sport where you have to keep winning games to win a championship?

I'll need an example to get a better sense of what you mean...

by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 1:15am

No reply in several hours to my request for clarification, so I'll sum up this way for now.

Nobody's suggesting Philadelphia hasn't been good as far as I can tell...or that DVOA is missing them by something extreme like four games a year. The debate seems to be about whether the Eagles are as good as DVOA says they are over the past several seasons. If you want to use a threshold like "DVOA has them better than .500, and they've been better than .500...that's good enough for me," then your standards are different than the people in the debate.

To make the math easy to write up, I'll use the years 2005-2009:

*Philadelphia basically had the record of a 9-7 team pro-rated over those years (44-35-1).

*Philadelphia had an average DVOA league ranking of 7th in the league over those years, and a median ranking of 4th in the league. This is inconsistent with what 9-7 typically means.

*Philadelphia had an average Drive Stat ranking of about 11.5 in Jim Armstrong's DSR net over those same seasons, with a median ranking of 10th...to give an example with a different metric that I think readers would consider objective and correlated with quality.

People watching the games on TV...studying their own stats...using a variety of indicator stats that they have faith in...believe that DVOA is overstating the quality of Philadelphia by giving them an average of 7 and a median of 4 over those five seasons when the success on the field was just a 9-7 record on average. They would probably find something like 10th to 11th more palatable for the team they've been watching and studying.

The debate isn't in the form of the extremes you were using in your examples. And, nobody was saying there aren't other teams who are also worth debating. It's great that you have other teams you think have been misranked. Don't save them for discussions about Philadelphia...present them so readers can have deeper context about DVOA.

It's basically trying to pin down the difference between "pretty good" and "very good" within a context where nobody's debating about whether or not there's been success. It's been a lingering gripe because it's been a lingering issue. And, many believe that the preponderance of evidence suggests DVOA has been consistently overstating the quality of the Eagles for awhile.

by ammek :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 11:41am

I take issue with "consistently". To me, the mysteries are 2006 and, to a lesser extent, 2009. The other three years you cite have perfectly reasonable explanations.

In 2005 and 2007, schedule adjustments account for quite a bit: the Eagles played the #5 schedule each year. On both occasions, the rest of the NFC East finished in the top half of the ratings.

For 2005 and 2009, the Eagles' record isn't particularly shocking vis-à-vis DVOA. In 2005, Philly is #18 in DVOA and has the joint-20th best W-L record. In 2009, none of the three teams with better DVOA than the Eagles finished with a better W-L record. I don't see "consistent overstatement" here.

In the years 2007 and 2008, the Eagles' points differential suggested a much better record than the team achieved. Using basic pythagorian calculation, Philadelphia ranked #11 in 2007 (vs #10 in DVOA). In 2008, it had 11.3 pythagorian wins, vs 9.5 actual wins. DVOA wasn't alone in seeing that incongruity.

The question of whether these factors are inherent to the Eagles — or to a particular kind of strategy — is impossible to answer. Personally, I'm inclined to believe that it's coincidence: after all, over the same period DVOA has over-rated Washington by a total of 7.3 wins and Baltimore by a cumulative 6.2 wins: it happens.

by Jeff Fogle :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 1:46pm

Appreciate your comments Ammek. I'd respond this way:

The earlier chart showed:
2010: 7.4 so far (6-3 actual record)
2009: 10.9 (11-5 actual record, very close)
2008: 11.7 (9-6-1 actual record)
2007: 10.2 (8-8 actual record)
2006: 11.9 (10-6 actual record)
2005: 7.7 (6-10 actual record)

That's a differential of:
2010: 1.4 wins so far
2009: 0.1 wins under...very close
2008: 2.7 wins (can call it 2.2 if you want to split the tie)
2007: 2.2 wins
2006: 1.9 wins
2005: 1.7 wins

To me, that's consistency, with a one year outlier where estimated wins were on the money with actual wins. You have a range of 1.7 to 2.2 with the tie-split in the years 2005-2008, and 1.4 so far in 2010. There aren't any underachieving years to that magnitude. There's nothing even showing -0.5 or so in the other direction...but currently five misses of 1.4 or greater. This is at least in line with the perceptions of people saying that what they're seeing with their own eyes, and what they're seeing in the standings, isn't in line with what DVOA is suggesting.

Now, "estimated wins" does re-adjust a team's DVOA to a league average schedule...and some of the issue may involve the way strength of opponent is used within the DVOA/Forest Index sequence. Maybe Aaron or one of the guys could explain whether or not this is an influence. It's not crystal clear to me from re-reading their explanation of terms. It certainly seems logical that part of why Philly's discrepancy is showing up could relate to their actual won-lost records coming from much tougher than normal schedules...while the estimated wins have been "normalized" to a league average schedule. If that's the case, FO should have been jumping in to say this every time the issue came up...and should have done that again in the article above with Philly floating to #1 on the totem pole. That wouldn't dissuade people who think the totem pole rankings have been too high...but it would put the comparisons between estimated wins and actual wins in better context. (And, it might encourage a separate heading somewhere for "estimated wins against the schedule that they played" that could be used to evaluate franchises/coaches over a period of years)

Regarding the Pythagorean issue...there's a line of thought that says BOTH Pythagorean and DVOA can be "misled" by teams who run up the score in blowouts. If a large set of teams grind out wins vs. lesser foes in 24-13 type fashion...eating clock late in games...but others keep blowing and going to 42-13 type finishes...then Pythagorean and DVOA will overrate the bullies...and the bullies won't seem like anything special come playoff time because they're not facing any lesser teams any more. Don't want to re-open the guts and stomps stuff...because people seem locked into their positions already. Just wanted to point out that it is at least theoretically possible (and many think it's actually happening) for a team like the Eagles to trick both metrics with an approach that keeps piling up points when things are going well...and Andy Reid is kind of known for that, as we saw again Monday Night.

So, in sum...the differences between estimated wins and actual wins strikes me as consistent (arguably VERY consistent)...but it could be that a more clear delineation of how strength of schedule influences those numbers could make things more choppy and less consistent.

And, I guess I should add I don't think it's "impossible" to answer if there's something inherent about the Eagles. In fact, it's not hard to find people who think the "McNabb era" was about a team that could impress vs. lesser competition but didn't have what it takes to win big games vs. top competition to the degree they were expected to. If McNabb overachieves with big plays vs. lesser teams...but then can't make those plays or drive the field for points when it matters most...you're going to get what we've seen here. And, that's similar to the Baltimore question from last year...where Flacco lit up the scoreboard vs. bad teams...consistently failed to execute late in close games vs. good teams (and couldn't score a TD in two games vs. Indy)...yet the Ravens still ranked #1 in DVOA even though it seems IMPOSSIBLE for somebody to be the best team in the league when their QB can't execute late in close games, or under playoff pressure. Part of what you need MOST to be the best team is an ability to produce when wins are most precious.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 3:33pm

I'd say this passes the eyeball test, but w/o knowing how the other 32 teams performed it's hard to say.

by chemical burn :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 4:47pm

Maybe I'm phrasing my objection wrong: wins/losses do matter, but saying they don't have enough wins is a useless measure: you want DVOA to tell which teams are good despite their win total. The whole point is that DVOA should be telling us some teams are better or worse than their simple win/loss record.

Let's focus on 2009, since that's one of the disputed years (according to ammenk.)

The Eagles went 11-5. They were 4th in the league in DVOA. No team ranked above them in DVOA had a higher win total. They were 1 win away from a first round bye and a home playoff game. They lost their playoff game to a team ranked within 3% DVOA of them.

There were 5 teams ranked within 5% DVOA (which is such a small margin that these teams are ranked more or less the same.) Only one team (New Orleans - ranked below them) had more wins (13-3.) Two teams ranked above them had fewer wins: New England (10-6) and Baltimore (9-7.) GB and Dallas had the same win total at 11-5. According to pure wins, the two teams with strange values are NO and BAL. FO has admitted that it doesn't deal so well with the resting of starters, so NO's ranking is completely explicable. BAL, ranked at #1, is the real anomaly for the year in DVOA ranking. They have 2 wins less than Philly.

Look: Philly has the most common win total for their DVOA rank grouping, 3 teams out of six (that DVOA says are comparable to Philly) rank at 11-5. Now, either GB and Dallas are also over-valued by wins or Philly is not. And NE and Baltimore are still more over-valued than any of those three. But that very easily ends up with a situation where you are arguing 5 of the 6 teams are over-valued.

The next component of the argument is: strength of schedule. What about GB and Dallas (the teams most similar to Philly in wins and DVOA.) According to FO, GB played a much easier schedule than Philly and Dallas played a slightly easier one. Again, Philly is not the over-valued team here, unless you want to argue that FO's SOS rankings are wonky, which I am fine with you doing. But there is probably not any contortion that can get GB's schedule ranked equal to Philly and Dallas.

All Top 6 teams made the playoffs, so there's no issue there. NE, GB and Philly are the teams that did not win a playoff game. Once again, combined with the other measures (DVOA ranks them slightly higher, they have weaker SOS, they have equal or fewer regular season wins) GB and NE are teams being over-valued. That Philly lost to Dallas, a team ranked by DVOA as more or less equal, actually works to their favor over GB, who lost to a team DVOA sees as significantly worse (Arizona.) NE lost to the top ranked Baltimore, but that doesn't really tell us anything about Philly's value, right?

None of this reads as DVOA over-valuing Philly - or rather, nothing sticks out about the Eagles being over-valued. And this is for one of the most "out of wonk" years.

Now, show me a standard beyond "they didn't win enough" (according to a dubious theoretical like estimated wins that doesn't deal with opponent adjustments well) demonstrates DVOA over-valuing them.

Ok - how about 2008, you're going to say. None of the analysis I just did will apply because there were only 2 teams within 5% DVOA and they had notably higher win totals in the regular season: PIT (12-4), BAL (11-5.) What proof could I offer that DVOA got the Eagles right this year? Is it enough to say, gosh, Baltimore having a mere 2 more wins (and only one less loss) is not really a huge difference? If the Eagles win in OT, they finish 10-6, basically the same record as Baltimore? Or is this like 2009 and actually just another instance of Baltimore being over-valued? Maybe DVOA has a Baltimore problem?

The argument in Philly's favor that DVOA got them right in 2009 has to rely on the playoffs, right? They beat a team that DVOA ranked highly (NYG #4 at 25.6%), a team that DVOA didn't think highly of (MIN, #18 at 4.9%) Both of the teams they beat had higher regular season win totals off of harder schedules. They won more games against better opponents than the Eagles. But the Eagles managed to beat them both fairly handily. That seems like DVOA demonstrating its value, not a flaw.

The Eagles lost to a team that DVOA really hated, the #21 ranked Arizona Cardinals (-3.2%.) But so did the #16 ranked Falcons and the #6 ranked Panthers (19.0%.) The Eagles were leading in the 4th quarter and the only team to beat the Cardinals in the playoffs was the #2 ranked Steelers. The story of this season isn't Philly being over-valued but Arizona being over-valued. And FO has talked about how they suddenly started playing well even according to DVOA once they reached the playoffs.

So, give me some parameters here because several teams in any given year meet your criteria for over-valuing better than the Eagles.(in 2008 the 8-8 Charger had 10.6 estimated wins and the 5-11 Jaguars had 8.9 estimated wins, even the 2-14 Chief had 4.5) But I'm not even sure why estimated wins matters: the question is DVOA and what it is trying to tell us. And by any standard, it is not telling us anything incorrect about the Eagles.

There's just too much unsubstantiated subjectivity in your write-up (really? the Eagles were running up the score on Monday? that's, um... we'll stick with unsubstantiated, instead of "a fantasy.") for me to respond too much. You even go on to cite Q.B. clutchness as a factor in them being over-rated? And then cite their 2007 year as the biggest statistical offender? I don't want to say it's a joke... but your subjective analysis are so weak, that it's hard to take your overall points seriously... (also love how you break down the discrepancies according to a decimal place and then hesitate to give any .5 credit for the tie.)

by nat :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:04pm

Aaron has tried devaluing these plays, but he has not really tried to adjust the parts of the success point formula, as far as I know. The exception is that on last play Hail Mary passes, he adjusts the value of an interception to be equal to an incomplete pass. I suspect he does this because it's easy: just edit the play-by-play table to say "incomplete" and rerun your Excel macro.

My point is that the success point formula assumes a relative value of first downs, yardage, and turnovers that just doesn't accurately model what coaches should and do try to accomplish in these desperate situations. And the formula assigns a weight of zero to clock management issues, when in reality they can be very important.

It may be hopeless. It might take a huge rewrite of the DVOA code to even test the idea that adjusting the success formula would be an improvement. And, if playing prevent is a separate kind of defensive skill, or if it's not about maximizing your average value but about avoiding worst cases, it may not even help. After all, a DVOA that includes a better evaluation of 2 quarters of blowout football may end up being a worse predictor of future performance in non-blowouts.

The best we can hope for might be an acknowledgment that DVOA does NOT attempt to account for the best strategy with multiple score differentials in the second half. That the DVOA of teams on either end of a high number of such plays should be treated as less reliable. That single game DYARs for players getting blown out should come with an asterisk.

by DeltaWhiskey :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 3:29pm

Initially, I was going to disagree with your point, but after re-reading, it just brings me to the old frustration I have with DVOA (that I mostly try to ignore and not bring up). I don't know how the measure is calculated, what target (dependent variable) it is correlated with to assess improvements in calculation, or the change (delta R-square?) associated with improvements. Therefore, rather than debating/discussing this with you, I encourage you to just push the "I believe" button.

by nat :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 5:38pm

I don't seem to have an "I believe" button.

In most cases, I trust DVOA to be what it claims to be - a per play metric of how well teams do what they ought to be trying to do on each play: get first downs, gain field position, keep the ball. DVOA doesn't have to be perfect to be really good. I've heard enough about the success point formula to trust it as pretty good for predicting the ability to maximize the expected value of the next score. That's a great strategy for the first half, and most of the second half for most games.

I have come to distrust DVOA when it measures a team or a player during desperation time. I've spent too much time chuckling to myself as Carson Palmer orchestrates a high-DVOA seven minute drive when down by 4 TDs in the second half - and countless other boneheaded stats-padding "strategies".

by DeltaWhiskey :: Fri, 11/19/2010 - 9:52am

"I have come to distrust DVOA when it measures a team or a player during desperation time. I've spent too much time chuckling to myself as Carson Palmer orchestrates a high-DVOA seven minute drive when down by 4 TDs in the second half - and countless other boneheaded stats-padding "strategies".

In these situations the "DVOA" is an accurate refelection of what Carson Palmer is doing; however, the utility of this data is limited.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:25pm

"the redskins-eagles game where there wasn't a defender anywhere near the play play after play, but that doesn't get reflected in the numbers..."

What are you talking about? Jerome Harrison broke at least 4 tackles on his long T.D. and at least 3 on his other long run. Sure, there were no defenders near Jackson... but there are never defenders anywhere near Jackson when he makes a catch deep. I'd love to see anything resembling objective numbers on this assertion - and that's before we even address the dubious idea that missed tackles are somehow a better indicator of defensive quality than simply not being able to keep up with fast receivers.

Let them go a couple weeks without getting blown up by a middling offense like Cleveland's before you start getting indignant about the Pats defense being under-rated...

by Paddypat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 12:31pm

Hey, sorry to offend. I'll admit, I was only commenting on a cursory highlight reel viewing of the skins game. I suppose I take it for granted that a team that's not in position to make defensive plays is doing worse than a team that seems to be getting penetration and bottling players up only to let them go... I could be wrong. And I'm not indignant, just a little confused. I have the distinct sense that the Patriots' defensive team is getting steadily better while their numbers have actually been slipping. It's just strange is all. The better comparison would be the Jacksonville-Titans game, as Jacksonville has been steadily ranked near NE in defense. Jax just gave up pass play after pass play all through the competitive phase of the game. NE does give up some drives like that, but usually only after leading by 2+ scores. One has the sense of NE as a defense that gels for periods and then has slippage, whereas Jax looked to me like a team that just couldn't stop anyone.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 1:22pm

Ah, sorry if I come off sounding offended - I think that happens more here than I intend. I know what you mean about gelling and then slipping - the Eagles suffer from the exact same problem where they look great for 3 or so quarters of any given game and then inexplicably terrible. Even against Washington, they looked amazing for 2 quarters and kinda terrible for another 2. But the whole game was essentially "garbage time" so I'm not sure how it should be accounted for. In their Washington loss earlier in the season, they only played bad for 2 drives (and they were AWFUL) but it was more than enough to cause them to lose the game. Truthfully, I really don't know what it means - and it seems like the same can be said for the Pats D. They can clearly play well at time... but also can looked like a sieve. You're right and I agree that a good/terrible dichotomy is probably preferable (and certainly a better reason to hope for future improvement/dominance) than a consistently "not very good" defense like Jacksonville...

by Paddypat (not verified) :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 5:05pm

I wonder if the scheme of some teams simply conspires to make their DVOA look better or worse overall. We all know that Philly has tended to appear overranked, and GB and some other teams that play West Coast offense have also appeared to profit statistically from their scheme. Belichick's approach with his young defense has been a consistent effort to make them "competitive". He talks about it in every press conference this year. What that means, it seems to me, is an effort to contain the run without selling out too hard, recognizing that he doesn't have the personnel up front to really dominate the line of scrimmage, and then force third downs. The team gives up a lot of the third down conversions, but if you play it tight to the vest like that, sooner or later the law of averages will help you, and you will have consistently prevented big plays.

Here's another perspective on it:

The Pats consistently come out well-prepped and ready to play competitively in the beginning of games. The first quarter defense has been pretty good. They give up an average of slightly less than 3 points a game in the first quarter, with the worst game being the one against Cleveland where they gave up 10. The defense weakens in the second quarter as the opposing team picks up steam and adjusts, and it stays a bit weaker in the 3rd quarter where the team gives up 6 points on average. The Patriots defense has only been really bad on a scoring level in the 4th quarter where they give up an average of 9.5 points a game. Some of this garbage scoring more or less, think of the Steelers game, the Vikings game, the Bengals game, but some of it has simply been bad clutch defense, like the game against the Bills and the one against San Diego. I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, but I rather imagine that it's this effect more than anything else that gives me the feeling that Pats are playing much better than DVOA would lead one to believe. The Redskins got toasted in the 1st quarter on Monday, and that's the kind of thing the Pats just don't allow, not even in a bad game like the one against the Browns. They come out tight and kind of collapse in the endgame, and so much of what they give up seems to come in the 4th quarter... I almost wonder of FootballOutsiders ought to look into it. Is that a sign of a bad defense, or a young defense? Is it something that trends in defenses that are in a state of flux? It's a small sample size, but it doesn't appear to be a statistical anomaly. In any case, interesting.

by ammek :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 5:23pm

The Packers run a west coast offense in the same way that Pittsburgh runs a Bud Carson Cover-2: occasionally but, mostly, historically.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 5:32pm

"We all know that Philly has tended to appear overranked" This has been beaten to death, but Philly was "under-ranked" for the first several years of Reid's tenure and they have frequently made the playoffs/beat divisional rivals in the playoffs/made to championship games to a level that seems to support the idea that DVOA is getting their true ability right and their win/loss record is deceiving. So, no we don't "all know" that.

by FireOmarTomlin :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 10:27am

Can we get an updated Steelers DVOA for S/T now that they dumped Reed for Suisham? LMAO. Scapegoat the guy when the Offense has nothing after 3 against a pathetic D and the D is getting smoked off the field playing soft coverage against a no-deep threat O. As inconsistent as he was this year, nobody else is going to kick better in Heinz field this year-- just look at the average kicker stats there for visitors. Then factor in the "new visitor" is ... Suisham. Nevermind that we have a DB that can't even cover TEs... and the coach is in love with him.


Men are more ready to repay an injury than a benefit because gratitude is a burden and revenge a pleasure.

by Karma Coma :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 10:39am

this face

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 6:16pm

Kinda looks like my boss during my yearly review.

by Zack :: Wed, 11/17/2010 - 2:48pm

The drastic difference in the numbers is surprising, but even at the time, everyone knew Greg Knapp was the worst possible offensive coordinator for Michael Vick. I would actually venture to say that he's the worst possible offensive coordinator regardless of the QB.

by Sancho gaucho (not verified) :: Thu, 11/18/2010 - 6:20pm

Doug Farrar's Yahoo! link has a problem. The correct one is: