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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.

07 Dec 2010

Week 13 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

So, other than that, how did you enjoy the play, Mr. Ryan?

I'm sure nobody will be surprised that the New England Patriots move to the top of the DVOA ratings after their 45-3 domination of the New York Jets. Last week, I went in depth on how the Patriots have bounced back from their surprising upset loss to Cleveland in Week 9. This week was more of the same. One of the popular beliefs on Boston talk radio is that the Patriots' young defense is improving with experience. They are, but not by a substantial amount. In Weeks 1-9, the Patriots were 27th in the NFL with 16.2% defensive DVOA. In Weeks 10-13, they are 16th in the NFL with 11.0% defensive DVOA. We've had four very offense-filled weeks of football, so the Patriots' rank in the league is much better over the past month, but the defense itself is only slightly improved.

The offense, on the other hand is blowing the doors off. In that same four-week period, the Patriots' offensive DVOA is 79.1%, more than double the next-best team (the defending champion Saints, at 36.2%). The Patriots were so good last night that they are now close to surpassing their 2007 selves for the title of "greatest offense in DVOA history." Through 13 weeks, the 2007 Patriots were at 48.9%. The 2010 Patriots are now at 48.2%. No other offense since 1993 was above 42% through 13 weeks, and only two others were above 37.5% (table). Tom Brady now leads the NFL with 1,696 DYAR, which is more than 400 DYAR ahead of any other quarterback. The difference between Brady and second-place Aaron Rodgers is larger than the difference between Rodgers and ninth-place Joe Flacco. Unless Brady completely crashes in the next four weeks, he will lead the league in DYAR for the third time in fourth seasons. It's the third straight year if we skip seasons where he played for less than 30 minutes.

As for the Jets, last night may not be as bad as it looked. It certainly identified a number of issues that they can now work on for the next month, and their place in the postseason was basically guaranteed when San Diego and Indianapolis lost the day before. Check out the FO playoff odds report and you'll see that the Jets' odds of making the playoffs actually increased this week by 0.1 percent.

In other playoff odds news, this week's combination of St. Louis and Seattle wins makes it much less likely that we'll have a 7-9 NFC West champion. In this week's simulations, the NFC West champion was more likely to be 9-7 or 10-6 (29.4 percent) than it was to be 7-9 (16.0 percent). By the way, the simulations never project ties, so we don't end up with a projected chance of a 7-8-1 champion or anything like that.

Week 13 is when some distinct differences will start to show up between overall DVOA and weighted DVOA, because this is the first week where there's a game with a strength below 50 percent. This mostly results in a lower weighted DVOA for Seattle and Tennessee, lower-rated teams with big Week 1 wins, along with a higher weighted DVOA for the teams they beat, San Francisco and Oakland.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 13 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 NE 35.9% 2 36.9% 1 10-2 48.2% 1 14.4% 26 2.1% 10
2 PIT 32.5% 1 33.1% 2 9-3 11.8% 13 -17.3% 1 3.4% 6
3 PHI 26.4% 3 27.7% 3 8-4 27.3% 3 1.1% 13 0.1% 18
4 GB 24.5% 4 23.6% 5 8-4 18.3% 5 -9.8% 3 -3.6% 28
5 NYG 22.2% 5 22.4% 6 8-4 12.5% 11 -13.7% 2 -4.0% 30
6 BAL 21.1% 7 23.8% 4 8-4 12.2% 12 -5.7% 7 3.3% 8
7 ATL 18.0% 9 17.0% 8 10-2 16.1% 6 2.1% 16 4.1% 5
8 SD 16.4% 6 19.3% 7 6-6 19.7% 4 -8.7% 4 -11.9% 32
9 NO 11.7% 11 12.6% 9 9-3 14.6% 7 0.6% 11 -2.3% 26
10 NYJ 11.1% 8 6.8% 13 9-3 3.1% 18 -3.8% 8 4.2% 4
11 MIA 9.3% 12 11.7% 10 6-6 10.5% 14 1.1% 12 -0.1% 19
12 CLE 8.4% 15 11.4% 11 5-7 3.5% 17 -2.4% 9 2.5% 9
13 KC 8.1% 13 3.1% 16 8-4 13.9% 8 3.6% 19 -2.1% 25
14 TEN 7.9% 10 3.1% 15 5-7 -4.7% 23 -6.4% 6 6.1% 2
15 IND 6.9% 14 7.9% 12 6-6 13.8% 9 2.4% 17 -4.5% 31
16 HOU 3.6% 16 4.7% 14 5-7 29.6% 2 25.3% 32 -0.7% 22
17 TB 0.0% 17 0.4% 18 7-5 7.5% 16 5.9% 20 -1.6% 24
18 CHI -0.2% 18 1.9% 17 9-3 -13.8% 30 -7.9% 5 5.7% 3
19 JAC -7.1% 21 -8.2% 21 7-5 9.5% 15 19.9% 30 3.3% 7
20 SF -8.1% 19 -1.2% 19 4-8 -6.7% 25 1.2% 14 -0.2% 20
21 MIN -9.7% 23 -9.2% 23 5-7 -8.7% 26 -0.1% 10 -1.1% 23
22 CIN -10.7% 20 -12.9% 25 2-10 -0.2% 19 6.9% 21 -3.6% 29
23 OAK -11.4% 27 -4.0% 20 6-6 -9.7% 27 2.1% 15 0.4% 16
24 DEN -11.5% 22 -8.8% 22 3-9 13.0% 10 21.9% 31 -2.6% 27
25 DET -13.1% 24 -15.2% 26 2-10 -3.8% 22 11.1% 23 1.9% 12
26 DAL -15.9% 28 -18.7% 28 4-8 -0.3% 20 16.6% 28 1.0% 14
27 STL -17.2% 29 -12.2% 24 6-6 -10.5% 28 7.2% 22 0.4% 15
28 BUF -17.9% 25 -16.5% 27 2-10 -3.6% 21 15.3% 27 1.1% 13
29 WAS -18.0% 26 -19.4% 29 5-7 -5.2% 24 12.1% 25 -0.7% 21
30 SEA -23.9% 30 -30.7% 30 6-6 -11.6% 29 19.0% 29 6.6% 1
31 CAR -38.3% 31 -38.4% 31 1-11 -35.8% 32 2.6% 18 0.2% 17
32 ARI -40.6% 32 -42.4% 32 3-9 -30.8% 31 11.8% 24 2.0% 11
  • 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 NE 35.9% 10-2 29.7% 9.6 1 5.5% 8 3.9% 14 17.3% 20
2 PIT 32.5% 9-3 29.2% 8.8 3 7.8% 3 -7.4% 27 13.5% 17
3 PHI 26.4% 8-4 29.0% 8.8 4 1.6% 17 -4.8% 25 11.4% 11
4 GB 24.5% 8-4 27.0% 8.4 6 -2.3% 22 11.2% 4 13.5% 16
5 NYG 22.2% 8-4 26.8% 8.8 2 -7.3% 28 5.8% 11 26.3% 28
6 BAL 21.1% 8-4 12.7% 8.5 5 5.8% 7 3.2% 15 4.9% 1
7 ATL 18.0% 10-2 15.2% 8.1 7 4.0% 14 -22.2% 32 6.0% 3
8 SD 16.4% 6-6 19.8% 7.5 9 -5.1% 26 -5.6% 26 18.9% 21
9 NO 11.7% 9-3 16.6% 7.2 10 -10.6% 31 5.5% 12 7.8% 4
10 NYJ 11.1% 9-3 13.3% 7.0 11 6.3% 6 5.9% 10 16.0% 18
11 MIA 9.3% 6-6 9.2% 7.6 8 7.6% 5 4.0% 13 12.4% 13
12 CLE 8.4% 5-7 6.1% 6.8 13 7.6% 4 6.3% 8 12.8% 14
13 KC 8.1% 8-4 17.4% 6.8 12 -8.1% 29 -1.1% 20 21.0% 23
14 TEN 7.9% 5-7 4.0% 6.6 15 3.3% 16 6.4% 7 27.9% 31
15 IND 6.9% 6-6 5.7% 6.8 14 4.4% 12 -0.7% 18 9.4% 7
16 HOU 3.6% 5-7 1.0% 6.0 17 4.5% 11 2.6% 16 22.1% 25
17 TB 0.0% 7-5 3.1% 6.4 16 -3.6% 23 -10.8% 29 13.3% 15
18 CHI -0.2% 9-3 3.1% 5.8 18 -5.6% 27 15.5% 3 24.0% 27
19 JAC -7.1% 7-5 -11.0% 5.4 20 5.2% 9 -4.7% 24 21.6% 24
20 SF -8.1% 4-8 -7.1% 5.6 19 -4.5% 24 -16.3% 30 26.5% 29
21 MIN -9.7% 5-7 -9.9% 5.3 21 0.9% 20 8.8% 5 9.3% 6
22 CIN -10.7% 2-10 -16.1% 4.4 28 8.2% 2 19.6% 1 10.3% 10
23 OAK -11.4% 6-6 -5.8% 4.5 27 -0.6% 21 -0.9% 19 43.5% 32
24 DEN -11.5% 3-9 -11.9% 5.0 22 1.0% 19 -8.0% 28 20.1% 22
25 DET -13.1% 2-10 -11.8% 4.5 25 3.4% 15 6.0% 9 5.8% 2
26 DAL -15.9% 4-8 -17.2% 4.6 24 4.3% 13 -1.5% 21 23.2% 26
27 STL -17.2% 6-6 -6.1% 4.6 23 -14.3% 32 -3.1% 23 12.2% 12
28 BUF -17.9% 2-10 -21.5% 4.3 30 8.5% 1 16.2% 2 8.8% 5
29 WAS -18.0% 5-7 -19.7% 4.4 29 5.2% 10 -0.2% 17 10.3% 9
30 SEA -23.9% 6-6 -19.5% 4.5 26 -9.1% 30 -1.8% 22 26.9% 30
31 CAR -38.3% 1-11 -38.3% 2.6 32 1.2% 18 7.0% 6 10.1% 8
32 ARI -40.6% 3-9 -35.0% 2.8 31 -4.8% 25 -18.5% 31 17.0% 19

Best and Worst DVOA Ever Watch

2007 NE 48.9% x 1997 NO -47.6% x 2008 DET 28.1% x 2010 SD -11.9%
2010 NE 48.2% x 2005 SF -45.9% x 2008 STL 26.1% x 1995 PHI -10.1%
2002 KC 41.9% x 2002 HOU -40.4% x 2004 STL 25.7% x 1996 NYJ -9.8%
2004 IND 41.7% x 2010 CAR -35.8% x 2010 HOU 25.3% x 1997 STL -9.8%
1995 DAL 37.5% x 2007 SF -35.6% x 2004 NO 24.8% x 2008 MIN -9.4%
1998 DEN 36.0% x 2004 CHI -35.0% x 2005 HOU 23.3% x 2000 BUF -9.3%
1993 SF 35.0% x 2006 OAK -34.1% x 2009 CLE 22.6% x 2009 GB -8.8%
2004 KC 33.2% x 2004 MIA -34.1% x 2002 ARI 22.0% x 1998 OAK -8.7%
2004 PHI 32.1% x 1998 PHI -32.9% x 2010 DEN 21.9% x 2007 CAR -8.4%
2009 NO 31.9% x 1996 STL -32.7% x 2004 MIN 21.5% x 1997 PHI -8.0%

Schedule Strength Revisited

One of the common complaints about our weekly DVOA ratings and commentary is the way that we figure schedule strength. Since I started doing this in 2003, I've always listed schedule strength on our tables with a very simple figure: the average DVOA rating of all opponents. Obviously, this has some weaknesses. Let's say we're talking about remaining schedule, which right now consists of four games. The table above lists Tennessee with the seventh-hardest remaining schedule, while Cleveland has the eighth-hardest remaining schedule. However, the Browns have to play two of the top teams in the league, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, plus two awful teams, Cincinnati and Buffalo. The Titans, on the other hand, play four games against teams that are slightly above-average: Kansas City, Houston, and Indianapolis twice. A good team is going to have an easier time with the Tennessee schedule, but a bad team is going to have an easier time getting at least one win with Cleveland's schedule.

In addition, the current method for figuring schedule doesn't include any adjustments for how many home and road games have been played. That's not an issue at the end of the year, but it is when we're looking at midseason and some teams have played five home games while others have played three.

So let's look at some alternatives. Note that the numbers used in this section are slightly different from those above, because I did these calculations early Monday evening before the Patriots-Jets game. Obviously, the Jets were a harder opponent at 7pm than they were by midnight.

The first alternative might be to look not at the average DVOA of opponents but rather at the median DVOA of opponents. This prevents a couple of outlier teams from massively influencing the entire schedule strength rating, but at the same time it can be really inaccurate since in reality it is only measuring the eighth- and ninth-best opponents for each team. The rankings for schedule strength based on median actually come out very similar to the rankings based on average, with a couple of big exceptions. Detroit, for example, ranks eighth based on average strength of opponents but only 20th based on median. They have five difficult 2010 opponents: Philadelphia, New England, the Jets, and Green Bay twice. There's a drop-off after that, which means that despite those five games against tough teams, Detroit's schedule strength median is based on their eighth (Tampa Bay 0.0%) and ninth (Chicago -0.2%) opponents. The average opponent has a 4.8% DVOA. The median opponent is at -0.1% DVOA.

Jacksonville, on the other hand, has a harder schedule based on median, because the three other AFC South teams are all currently grouped in the "slightly above average" area. By average opponent, the Jaguars are ninth (2.7%). By median, the Jaguars are 16th (5.9%).

Another way to do schedule strength would be to estimate the likely record of an average team. I used results from the last few seasons to come up with a very simple quadratic equation that gave the odds of winning a game based on the simple difference between the home team's DVOA and the road team's DVOA. (This used DVOA ratings for the full season, not DVOA ratings based on what they were the week before each game.) Then I figured out the results for each team's schedule, substituting a team with a 0% DVOA for the team in question. The results go from Cincinnati at .396 to St. Louis at .601. This method has the advantage of being pretty easy to understand. It's easy to say "an average team would win 60 percent of its games against the Rams' schedule." On the other hand, the results for this method were virtually identical to the "average DVOA of opponent" method that people often complain about. Twenty-four of the 32 teams have the same rank using this version of schedule strength as they do using the current style of schedule strength.

Finally, I tried to do schedule strength using the same method that Brian Fremeau uses for Fremeau Efficiency Ratings: What is the likelihood of an elite team going undefeated against this schedule? This method uses the same equation as the "average team winning percentage" method, but instead of substituting in a team with 0% DVOA, I substituted in a team with 40% DVOA. (Only three teams -- the 2007 Patriots, 1996 Packers, and 1995 49ers -- have ever put up over 40% overall DVOA for a full season.) This version of schedule strength ended up with some very different results than the other three. But how accurate is it for comparing NFL teams? As noted above, a good team will generally win more games against a slate of average opponents than against a schedule that mixes great and terrible opponents. But a bad team is likely to win more games against the latter schedule, because they'll be favored to lose all those games against average opponents. This is a useful tool for college football ratings because in college football, we are generally talking about schedule strength in the context of comparing the best 25 teams out of 120. The difference between the top ten teams and the bottom ten teams is massive, which makes it particularly important to figure out which of the top teams have actually played well against other top teams instead of beating merely average and good teams. In the NFL, we generally are talking about schedule strength for every team, and the teams are closer together. New England would probably beat Arizona, but they wouldn't win by 70 points, not even if Bill Belichick absolutely, positively refused to let Brian Hoyer play in the fourth quarter. So is it right to compare NFL schedules based on what an elite team would do against them?

I'm not sure what the best method is, to be honest, although right now the FO staff seems to favor switching from method one to method three because it seems a little more intuitive. I'm willing to take other suggestions, and I'm sure there will be plenty of discussion down in the comments below. To help spur that discussion, here's a look at two tables featuring all four methods. The first table gives schedule strength for the entire 2010 season. The second table gives schedule strength only for the 12 games that have been played so far.

Four Types of Schedule Strength, Full 2010 Schedule
Team Average
Rk Median
Rk Average Record of
Average Team
Rk Chances of Elite Team
Going Undefeated
CIN 11.0% 1 13.7% 1 0.396 1 0.6% 1
BUF 10.7% 2 9.5% 3 0.399 2 0.9% 2
CLE 7.4% 3 10.6% 2 0.428 3 1.2% 3
MIA 7.0% 4 8.1% 7 0.436 4 1.3% 4
NE 6.1% 5 9.0% 4 0.443 5 1.7% 8
NYJ 5.5% 6 4.1% 16 0.450 6 1.7% 7
BAL 5.3% 7 8.5% 5 0.452 7 1.4% 5
DET 4.5% 8 0.4% 20 0.457 9 2.1% 11
HOU 4.5% 9 6.8% 8 0.458 10 2.7% 17
PIT 4.1% 10 8.5% 6 0.457 8 2.2% 12
TEN 4.1% 11 5.0% 10 0.461 11 2.4% 13
WAS 4.1% 12 2.4% 18 0.462 12 2.6% 14
MIN 3.2% 13 4.8% 14 0.468 13 1.5% 6
DAL 2.9% 14 5.0% 11 0.473 15 2.1% 10
IND 2.9% 15 4.1% 17 0.474 17 2.9% 19
JAC 2.7% 16 5.9% 9 0.474 16 3.2% 20
Team Average
Rk Median
Rk Average Record of
Average Team
Rk Chances of Elite Team
Going Undefeated
CAR 2.7% 17 4.6% 15 0.473 14 2.1% 9
GB 1.3% 18 -3.9% 22 0.490 18 2.7% 16
PHI 0.1% 19 -3.3% 21 0.499 19 4.7% 25
CHI 0.0% 20 -9.4% 26 0.500 20 2.8% 18
OAK -0.7% 21 5.0% 12 0.507 22 3.7% 21
DEN -0.8% 22 5.0% 13 0.506 21 4.1% 22
ATL -2.4% 23 0.8% 19 0.518 23 2.6% 15
NYG -3.8% 24 -8.0% 24 0.536 24 4.6% 24
TB -5.5% 25 -9.4% 27 0.548 25 4.4% 23
SD -5.5% 26 -9.4% 28 0.550 26 8.0% 30
KC -6.3% 27 -9.5% 29 0.558 27 7.9% 29
NO -6.5% 28 -8.7% 25 0.558 28 5.3% 27
SEA -7.3% 29 -8.0% 23 0.561 29 6.7 28
SF -7.4% 30 -11.2% 31 0.566 30 4.7% 26
ARI -8.1% 31 -10.2% 30 0.577 31 8.8% 31
STL -11.5% 32 -11.2% 32 0.601 32 10.4% 32


Four Types of Schedule Strength, Past Schedule (Wk 1-13)
Team Average
Rk Median
Rk Average Record of
Average Team
Rk Chances of Elite Team
Going Undefeated
BUF 8.7% 1 8.9% 6 0.419 2 3.3% 4
CIN 8.3% 2 10.6% 2 0.421 3 3.1% 1
MIA 7.8% 3 8.1% 7 0.427 5 4.5% 8
CLE 7.8% 4 10.6% 1 0.422 4 3.2% 3
PIT 7.2% 5 9.0% 5 0.416 1 4.3% 7
NE 6.7% 6 9.0% 4 0.438 6 4.0% 5
BAL 5.9% 7 9.0% 3 0.447 7 3.1% 2
NYJ 5.4% 8 4.1% 17 0.450 8 5.3% 11
WAS 5.3% 9 5.0% 13 0.451 10 5.2% 10
JAC 5.2% 10 7.7% 8 0.450 9 6.2% 16
HOU 5.1% 11 6.8% 10 0.452 11 6.1% 15
DAL 4.4% 12 5.0% 12 0.460 13 6.2% 17
ATL 4.1% 13 4.6% 15 0.458 12 4.0% 6
IND 4.1% 14 4.1% 16 0.464 14 5.8% 13
DET 3.8% 15 0.1% 21 0.465 15 5.5% 12
TEN 3.4% 16 -1.3% 22 0.468 16 5.9% 14
Team Average
Rk Median
Rk Average Record of
Average Team
Rk Chances of Elite Team
Going Undefeated
DEN 1.6% 17 6.8% 9 0.483 17 7.4% 19
PHI 1.6% 18 2.1% 18 0.484 18 10.0% 24
CAR 1.4% 19 0.8% 19 0.487 20 8.6% 21
MIN 1.3% 20 4.8% 14 0.485 19 4.6% 9
OAK -0.7% 21 5.9% 11 0.506 21 7.4% 18
GB -1.5% 22 -8.7% 25 0.517 22 8.6% 22
TB -3.8% 23 0.2% 20 0.530 23 7.8% 20
SF -4.4% 24 -5.2% 23 0.541 24 8.8% 23
ARI -4.7% 25 -8.7% 24 0.545 25 12.7% 26
CHI -5.4% 26 -13.1% 32 0.551 27 11.1% 25
SD -5.6% 27 -8.9% 26 0.549 26 13.4% 27
NYG -7.1% 28 -9.9% 29 0.580 30 15.2% 29
KC -8.1% 29 -9.5% 28 0.573 28 16.7% 31
SEA -9.1% 30 -9.5% 27 0.577 29 14.5% 28
NO -10.5% 31 -10.1% 30 0.594 31 15.8% 30
STL -14.3% 32 -12.2% 31 0.625 32 20.7% 32

Finally, here is an example of how methods three and four work. Our work here suggests that Minnesota's schedule would be fairly average for an average team, but one of the hardest for an elite team. Here's a look at the Minnesota schedule with DVOA rating for each opponent along with our simple equation's odds for a 0% DVOA team winning each game and a 40% DVOA team winning each game.

Week 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
DVOA 11.7% 9.3% -13.1% 11.1% -15.9% 24.5% 35.9% -40.6% -0.2% 24.5% -18.0% -17.9% 22.2% -0.2% 26.4% -13.1%
Odds for
Team Win
30% 49% 71% 23% 73% 18% 15% 92% 41% 34% 59% 75% 37% 59% 17% 54%
Odds for
40% DVOA
Team Win
69% 85% 96% 62% 96% 56% 52% 96% 78% 73% 89% 96% 75% 91% 55% 87%

(Late add: There is one other possibility that combines methods three and four and minimizes the weaknesses of each one. That would be to figure out the odds that an average team would go undefeated against a certain schedule, rather than figuring out the average number of wins we could expect. But this has its own problem, which is that the numbers are miniscule and would end up meaning nothing to most NFL fans. The Rams would end up with the easiest schedule, but the odds of an average team going undefeated against that schedule are 0.014 percent. Twenty of the 32 teams would be listed with schedule strength below 0.001 percent. So that wouldn't really work.)

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 07 Dec 2010

168 comments, Last at 13 Dec 2010, 12:00pm by Felkar


by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:27pm

HA! HA! Brady's going bald in that picture!

Hey, where are my straws?

by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:55pm

He'll have to go a bit balder to beat Peyton's forehead record.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:18pm

After Peyton's performance from Sunday, I don't need to latch on to something to knock him down a peg.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:30pm

26. Raiders

Chargers can have dvoa. Raiders will tajke sweep and 2nd olace for now.

Watch out Chiegs, Raiders coming for you next.

by P (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:34pm

The odds of a 0% DVOA team beating Arizona in Week 9 (in the Minnesota chart) are 92%, but the odds of a 40% DVOA beating them is only 89%? What gives?

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:37pm

Whoops. That's me forgetting to stick in a thing that limited the difference between DVOA of two teams to 60%. I'll fix it now.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:39pm

Thank you for addressing this Aaron - glad to hear see listen to reasonable complaints and come up with a bevy of good solutions. seriously, this is why this is my favorite football site...

by milo :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:19pm

Did you mean to use weighted DVOA for week 1 in this same chart?

by ammek :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:42pm

Too slow with comment.

Does DVOA double-count teams' games against their opponents? For example, would it be more accurate if Cincinnati's 'opponent schedule' excluded all opponents' games against Cincinnati?

by Lyford (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:41pm

One of the popular beliefs on Boston talk radio is that the Patriots' young defense is improving with experience. They are, but not by a substantial amount. In Weeks 1-9, the Patriots were 27th in the NFL with 16.2% defensive DVOA. In Weeks 10-13, they are 16th in the NFL with 11.0% defensive DVOA.

I guess I don't understand what a "substantial" improvement would look like. 27th is one of the worst defenses in the league, 16th would be essentially median, wouldn't it? Isn't that a "substantial" improvement? I mean, nobody's saying that they're good yet, just that they're playing better than they were. Is that not true?

by turbohappy (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:20pm

Forget the ranks and look at the DVOA number. Definitely better, but only by about 5%. There are just a lot of teams in that area that are pretty close to each other so the rank moves a lot.

by nat :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:57pm

Or think about the distribution of defensive DVOAs. 5% is about a half a standard deviation. Or about one quarter the distance from average to best or worst in the league. It's a moderately large change - if it's for real - given how little the personnel has changed.

From my perspective, I think it's real. I see fewer blown coverages, better tackling, and all around smarter play. Who knows? Maybe by next year they'll be an average defense.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:42pm

Ordinal values don't matter to DVOA. If you are the tallest person on the bus, and the bus picks up a basketball team, you didn't get shorter.

by Karma Coma :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:02pm

However, if you are a woman and average at basketball and the bus picks up a WNBA team, you do become more attractive by comparison.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:17pm

Some of them are good lookign such as Swin Cash and soem others

by dbt :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:11am

This kind of misogynist crap has no business here or anywhere else. Get a life.

by Karma Coma :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:47am

The only way to interpret that as misogyny is if you assume a woman's only value comes from her appearance. That's pretty misogynist, and it has no place here or elsewhere.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 5:02am

Hey, if someone is in the national spotlight, they can be critiqued for their looks. Is this thread any different than the early comments about Manning's large forehead? And... sweet Jesus, he DOES have a huge freakin' dome!

by Spielman :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 8:24am

Well, that's the assumption things like you generally seem to make.

by The Ninjalectual :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 9:02pm

I thought it was hilarious.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:33pm

I was on a flight once with the University of Anchorage basketball team and I thought I was going to faint. So tall! So good-looking! I could hardly see straight.

by Colbey (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:43pm

Why would average-Minnesota have a better chance of beating the Cardinals in week 9 than elite-Minnesota would? Was that supposed to be 98% rather than 89%?

by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:44pm

" Weeks 1-9, the Patriots were 27th in the NFL with 16.2% defensive DVOA. In Weeks 10-13, they are 16th in the NFL with 11.0% defensive DVOA"

What were they in weeks 1-4 vs 5-9? I'm starting to think we're seeing a pretty good trend line here.

They're still giving up a lot of yards, but they're starting to force a lot of turnovers. (3 picks on Sanchez, 2 on Hill, 3 on Manning, 1 on Roethlisburger). They've had half their season's worth of Ints in the last 4 weeks. That can't be anything but a good sign.

by B :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:01pm

What I want to know is is sustainable. They are getting more interceptions, but opponent completion percentage doesn't seem to be changing that much. I've always thought the two are related, so seeing one change without the other would be rather unexpected. Peyton Manning seems to be proving me wrong, though.

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:49pm

OK, everyone, the problem where I forgot the "limit" for the "40% Team Goes Undefeated" equation is now fixed on all three tables above. Sorry about the mistake.

by Jovins :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 6:56pm

Why is everyone so obsessed with relative rankings rather then absolute rankings?

If the Patriots played the exact same defense while the rest of the league collapsed, they'd have the number 1 defense in the NFL. They'd also have made zero improvement.

The Patriots have been playing a little better over recent weeks. And I'm willing to bet yesterday's game played a huge part in that.

by Jerry P. :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:41pm

Why is everyone so obsessed with relative rankings rather then absolute rankings?

Because they desperately want DVOA to be a power ranking system they can use to win at gambling.

by drobviousso :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:43pm

I don't think it is necessarily gambling related. That's just how sports are traditionally measured.

by jebmak :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:27am

That doesn't make any sense. DVOA percentages are far more useful than a power ranking in picking games.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 5:05am

I wouldn't say that - have you seen the record of the Premium Picks?

by jebmak :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:22am

It may be because I am in pain from surgery and hopped up on pain killers, but I don't understand what you are saying. Green is .667, yellow, .531, red .563.

by Alex51 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:35am

Wait, straight up, or against the spread? Because straight up that's nothing special, but ATS, that's really good.

by jebmak :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:55am

ATS, only picked 9 games in green though.

But yes, it is good this year. Last year was bad.

by sidereal (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:59pm

Because it's a competitive league. Your team can play defense like a high school team and still win if everyone else is playing defense like kindergartners.

by CaffeineMan :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:52pm


I'm trying to figure out if the Pats defense has improved relative to other teams in the league this year. They don't need a great defense to make a deep playoff run, they just need an OK one. I'm still trying to decide what I think "OK" is.

by DeepThreat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:23pm

Because the teams play each other.

by dbt :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:02pm

Here's something I'd love to be able to do. Is it available in Premium? I'd like to be able to break down the playoff odds simulations by certain events.

For example, The week 17 Bears-Packers tilt seems likely to decide the division, no matter what. If the Bears win, they hold the tiebreaker (head to head), if the Packers win they hold the tiebreaker (conference record, common opponents), so unless the Bears manage to get an extra game lead over the next 3 (or somehow catastrophically lose 3 in a row while the packers win all 3 and take their own 2 game lead), that game is pretty much it.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:10pm

There are still a lot of common opponent games to be played. The Packers play Detroit, NE, and NYG, while the Bears play NE, Minnesota, and the Jets.

If GB loses one of their next three (likely) and Chicago wins all of their next three (unlikely), then Chicago has the division wrapped up.

If GB loses to Detroit and Chicago beats Minnesota then GB loses the division record tiebreaker (which comes before conference record or common opponents in determining the division winner) since both teams would end 4-2, and it could cost them the common opponents and conference record tiebreakers, though I'm not going to figure all of this out now.

In any case, the Playoff Odds report has both teams at nearly 50% to win the division, and since DVOA will favor GB at home pretty heavily that means there significant scenarios where Chicago can win the tiebreaker even if they lose the season finale.

by luvrhino :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:31pm

Right, you should be able to calculate the odds that the Packers would beat the Bears in Week 17. Then, ignoring the Chicago complete implosion case, calculate the odds that the Bears clinch the division before Week 17.

Of course, depending on how the seeding works out, it may be the case that the Bears would prefer to get the #5 seed (at STL or SEA) rather than the #3 seed (home vs. GB or NO). Sure, their fans might miss their home game, but it'd improve their playoff chances.

by Marko :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 2:36am

"If GB loses to Detroit and Chicago beats Minnesota then GB loses the division record tiebreaker (which comes before conference record or common opponents in determining the division winner) since both teams would end 4-2, and it could cost them the common opponents and conference record tiebreakers, though I'm not going to figure all of this out now."

If GB loses to Detroit and Chicago beats Minnesota, then if the Packers and Bears are tied (and GB beat Chicago in the last game), the Bears would win the division because their division record would be 5-1, not 4-2 (which would be the Packers' division record).

The Bears can't beat Green Bay in a tiebreaker based on common opponents or conference record. If they end up tied, then they will have the same record against common opponents, as other than head-to-head games, they both have one loss against non-common opponents (Chi loss to Seattle, GB loss to Atlanta) and don't play any more games against non-common opponents. So their record against common opponents would be the same.

As for conference record, the only way the Bears could have a better conference record would be if they had a worse non-conference record. The Bears' non-conference record is 2-0, while the Packers' is 2-1. So the Bears would have to have a 2-2 conference record (meaning that they would have lost to NE and NYJ), while the Packers would have to beat NE to end up 3-1 against the AFC. That would leave the Bears with only one more game (against Minnesota), which they would have to win to be 10-6. GB, with 8 wins already plus wins against NE and the Bears would have 10 wins, meaning that they would have to lose to Detroit and NYG to be tied with the Bears. But in that scenario, the Bears would have won the division already based on division record (5-1 vs. 4-2 for GB).

If the Bears split with NE and NYJ, beat Minnesota and lose to GB, they could still be tied with GB thru the conference record tiebreaker if GB loses to NYG and wins their other 3 games. Then both teams would be 11-5, 1-1 head-to-head, 5-1 in the division, 9-3 against common opponents and 8-4 in the conference. In that case, it would come down to strength of victory, which the Packers would almost certainly win. Most of their wins would have come against the same teams (DET and MIN twice each, DAL, PHI, BUF, and either NE or NYJ, depending on which team the Bears beat). They each would also have a win against the other, which would be a wash since they would have the same record. So the difference would come down to their non-common wins. The Bears' non-common wins would be against CAR and MIA, while the Packers' non-common wins would be against SF and either NE or NYJ. Unless Carolina and Miami win all of their remaining games and SF and either the Jets or Patriots (whichever team beats the Bears) loses all of their other games, the Packers would win on strength of victory.

I note that even if both teams have a tie game or one team has two ties, there is no way that it could come down to conference record with the Bears winning the tiebreaker on that basis. Either the tie would have been broken before getting to conference record, or the Bears would be no better than still tied with GB through conference record.

by tuluse :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 5:11am

If both teams lose the next 3 games followed by the Packers beating the Bears, then I think common opponents would be the tie-breaker which the Bears would win thanks to beating the Lions twice. They would have the same in division record of 4-2, with the Bears losses against the Vikings and Packers, and the Packers loses against the Lions and Bears. Although this clearly isn't very likely.

Absent that happening, and assuming the Packers beat the Bears to give them the same record, I think you're right, it comes down to strength of victory.

by Marko :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 6:20am

No, the Bears wouldn't win based on common opponents if they both lose the next three games, followed by the Packers beating the Bears. They both would be 7-5 against common opponents.

The Bears' losses against common opponents would be to NYG, WAS, NE, NYJ and MIN, while the Packers' losses against common opponents would be to NYG, WAS, NE, MIA and DET. The Bears' other losses would be to GB and SEA, while the Packers' other losses would be to CHI and ATL.

In that scenario, they would still be tied through conference record as well, with both teams having 7-5 conference records.

by Matty D (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:30am

What's interesting to me about all this is how important this week's game against Detroit is for the Packers. They really cannot afford to drop a division game and fall behind the Bears in the second tiebreaker (division record). Whereas they can afford to lose one of the NYG or NE games, since ANY loss by the Bears in the next three weeks will keep them even.

My favorite scenario in all this is one where the Packers go 2-1 with their loss to the Giants, and the Bears go 2-1 (doesn't much matter against who), the Eagles win the Division at 11-5, the Giants also finish 11-5, and NO & Atlanta both finish 12-4 or better. In this scenario, the winner of the Bears-Packers game wins the division and gets a first round bye, and the loser is left out of the playoffs entirely. :-)

by Ezra Johnson :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:47pm

Man, that loss at WAS is looming large for GB. And while their remaining schedule is tough, the Bears are more legit than some think, having moved up from 26 to 18 since week 9. These aren't the 2001 Bears.

by Fool Rider (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:36pm

It is horrible that in the NFC we have two less than average teams, Chicago and Seattle. leading their divisions with very legitimate shots to win them.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:24pm

I'd be hesitant to label the Bears less than average at this point, regardless of numbers. They have playmakers on defense who can really physically dominate. They have a playmaker in the return game who can change any game. I'd call them a two dimensional team which is a threat to anyone on a day when their offense, especially their very atheletic qb, doesn't screw things up. At home especially, they are, in my view, a lot better than below average.

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:49am

Nice summary, Will. The Bears have a very good defense, great special teams, and in inconsistent (hopefully improving) offense.

by KyleW :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:58pm

Don't look now but St Louis are actually leading the NFC West

by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 7:55pm

If you don't mind expanding your table, I'd like 3 columns for SOS:

1) average wins of a poor team versus schedule
2) average wins of an average team versus schedule
3) average wins of an elite team versus schedule

Whether 'poor' and 'elite' should be 40% and -40% DVOA, or some other value, I'm not sure.

by Joseph :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:44pm

Aaron--instead of "elite"=40% DVOA, which only 3 teams have reached in 15+ years, why don't you use 20%--isn't that appoximately a good team that almost always will make the playoffs?
Or: instead of a team going undefeated against the schedule, how about a team going 10-6 or 11-5 against the schedule? [In other words, how likely is it that a team would MAKE THE PLAYOFFS against schedule X?]

by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:58pm

That might be the best single number: the chance an average team has of getting 10 wins versus the schedule.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:16pm

I like the "average record of average team" method, even if the results end up opposite what we're accustomed to seeing (lower number = harder schedule rather than easier schedule). It's easier to use in other contexts because it represents something we already understand (winning percentage).

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:34pm

The answer to the "strength of schedule" question is not going to be multiple measurements. At a certain point, we have to do write articles for people who are not hardcore readers, and we need one strength of schedule measurement to refer to.

by Q (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:45pm

NE is going to absolutely hammer Chi.

Chicago's Defensive Philosophy is perfectly designed to defeat Philly since the blueprint to beating them is to eliminate the big play and to keep everything in front of you.

However, consistently hitting the short and medium passes that the Bears allow is what NE's offense does best. I think NE's Offense is going to shred Chicago which means it will be up to Cutler to consistently score and not throw INTS...

I do not follow NE but think GB in Foxboro is a much tougher matchup for them than the Bears in Chicago.

I predict NE to roll through the AFC playoffs but could be seriously challenged in the SB by GB, Philly, NO, or NYG (listed in terms of difficulty for NE). If ATL made it I think NE would shred their Pass D.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 8:56pm

The only problem with your theory is that it was Chicago's offense, not its defense that was the reason they beat Philly. Philly still put up 26 and with a little more luck in the red zone could have easily had 33 (or more.) That's not exactly shutting down a team - their offensive explosion is what assured their win, not allowing the Eagles to drive up and down the field...

by chisox24 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 9:22pm

Chicago did hold Philadelphia to 13 points in the first 3 quarters. While some people do not seem to agree that teams let up when they have a big lead, it appeared clear to me that the Bears defense did let up. Obviously, you can't just ignore those fourth quarter numbers, but I think you have to take them with a grain of salt. And luck is a two way street, Michael Vick fumbled 4 times in that game and lost none of them. The score could just have easily been 45-23 or 45-13.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:13pm

Chicago's ratings are completely different over the last four games from their first eight. The difference in offensive production is huge (from minus loads to plus quite a bit) but the defence improves too. This may just be a sample size issue, it may be that the offensive line finally stabilised and the receivers learned the new system, I guess we have four games to find out.

For my mind the game will probably be decided by how well the Bears tackle on defense and block on offense (which is probably true of most football games played over the last 100 years though). Brady is going to hit the short routes all day, what will matter is how quickly the Bears are able to force the throw, enabling the denfese to rally quickly to the ball. The idea behind the Tampa2 isn't to 'allow' seven or eight yard completions but rather to limit them to three or four yards with good tackling and eleven man pursuit (hence the importance placed on team speed). Combined with penetration from the defensive line to try to hold running plays to no gain or tackles for loss the defence can force third and five or so and get the offence off the field. It isn't as simple as 'Let them pass the ball short', at least not in theory.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:18pm

It's also get pressure with 4/drop 7, which the Bears have been doing to great effect recently. The Bears are also great when they stop the run. That's a big key as well. Should be a fun game, especially since teh Bears biggest offensive weakness (pass pro) isn't exactly a strength for New England (pass rush).

by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 2:47am

And with NE having one less day to prepare I think this game is very, very close. SHould be a good one.

The Bears definitely have a good shot at wiining at home, putting GB in the position of really having to win in Foxborough... with the Pats coming off a loss...

- Alvaro

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:00am

That Packers/Bears game has to be the early leader for the "game to be flexed into SNF in Week 17". Can't even think of an alternative. Outside chance that Oakland@KC is for the division, I guess.

What's harder is coming up with a game to replace CHargers @ Bengals in Week 16 on SNF. My guess is either Jets @ Bears or Giants @ Packers.

by Marko :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 4:16am

I read weeks ago that none of the Bears' remaining home games would be flexed into SNF. So the Jets-Bears game will not be flexed.

by MCS :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 9:53am

I have an idea. Let's play a night game at Lambeau on January Second. Should be balmy.

As an out of state ticket holder for that game who has to be to work on the 3rd, I do not want that game flexed.

by Matty D (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:40am

Are FOX and CBS still given the opportunity to protect some games from flexing?

by jebmak :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:49am

Don't Fox and CBS get to block a game from being flexed each week?

by MCS :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:39pm

I thought it was three total games on the season per network can be protected. No week 17 game can be protected.

This is the scuttlebutt around the tubes anyway. I cannot find any official source explaining the flex protection rules and would appreciate a link if someone has one.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:49pm

Can't block Week 17 games, and even then, FOX and CBS send out their list of protected games before the season starts.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 5:51pm

To answer some questions that this post spawned.

The Packers/Giants game is already protected. ( http://packersnews.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20101104/PKR01/10110... )

Week 17 can't be protected and NBC doesn't have to announce who they are taking until 6 days before.

And this link has several of the other protected games listed as well ( http://bleacherreport.com/articles/521647-sunday-night-football-flex-sch... )

So moving forward we have (S- is the tentatively scheduled game that can change).

Week 14: S-Philly @ Dallas. Protected: Patriots-Bears (CBS)
Week 15: S-GB @ NE. Protected: Jets-Pitt (CBS), Eagles-Giants (Fox)
Week 16: S-SD @ Cincy. Protected: Jets-Bears (CBS), Giants-Packers (Fox)

The Packers - Vikings (week 11) and the Cowboys - Colts (week 13) were both Fox protected games. I don't know what the other one for Fox and the other 2 for CBS were and don't feel like using any more google-fu on it. :)

I guess the Philly @ Dallas game is staying as well since the rules look like for weeks 11-16 you have to give 12 days notice, it's only week 17 that is the 6 days.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 8:48pm

I'm pretty sure NBC will want to Flex SD @ Cincy out.

Here are their list of options to choose from:


You are allowed to play 6 primetime games a year max, so MIN @ PHI is available, and might be the best option.

Depending on their records, Indy @ Oakland might be a good option as well (especially if the Chiefs lose a game in the next two weeks and Oakland wins both games in the next two weeks).

Can't believe the vast amount of dud games in Week 16. Far cry from 2008 when the AFC and NFC top seeds were decided on the same day with the #1 playing the #2.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:07pm

Yeah, week 16 only has a few good games (namely NO @ ATL, NYG @ GB, and NYJ @ CHI) I don't see any real premier AFC vs AFC match-ups as you say IND @ OAK is likely the most relevant) though SF @ STL could have relevance, but it's NFC West teams. MIN @ PHI as you say could have meaning for Philly, MIN is out of it though.

So perhaps 3 good games and 2 potentially relevant games isn't quite as bad a week as I thought.

I thought week 17 could have a lot of big match-ups and yes some things could change between now and then but the slate is (and yep I'm going out on a limb to predict what may happen between now and then).

CAR @ ATL - I suppose it could have impact on the #1 seed and who gets the #1 draft pick, but I think it won't matter since Atlanta will already have the #1 seed wrapped up going into the game at 13-2 and Carolina will be 1-14 and that ATL will win even resting their starters. Yep just predicted a 14-2 ATL.

PIT @ CLE - Baring a Pitt collapse and a Cleveland turn around it will only matter to Pitt who might still be relevant for a #1 seed, but that would take 2 NE losses which I don't see happening.

MIN @ DET - Both teams are out of it, but Detroit gets the W and Favre-less Vikings finish their 4 game skid to end the season (as much as I want to seem the beat Chicago, NYG, CHI, and PHI are all going to be MIN).

CHI @ GB - Could determine a team that gets a first round bye and a team that doesn't make the playoffs but I think GB will be 10-5 going in and Chicago will be 11-4 and with GB winning (hence winning the division) so Chi will get the wild card since I think they would have the tie breaker over an 11-5 TB or NO but I have to double check (as I think NYG will finish 10-6 and Philly is going to finish 11-5 as I think they are going to lose at Dallas this week then win their last 3).

TEN @ IND - I think Tennessee is dead even at 5-7 and I think Indy will either be in it or out of it by then, I'm saying out of it. Though this division could end up with a 9-7 champion. Would not have said that at the start of the season.

OAK @ KC - It's possible this could decide the division. Denver is the only completely dead team, but I think KC is good enough that this game won't matter (I'm actually going to say KC finishes 11-5 with their only loss coming at St. Louis).

MIA @ NE - Miami is already done, and while there is a chance NE could be playing for #1, I don't think that is the case as I think NE is as good as DVOA says on offense and they are better on D and it will show as they finish 14-2.

TB @ NO - Tampa has 3 very winnable games before this one, and NO has 2 losable games (@BLT and @ATL) so this could be another the winner goes in and loser goes home game since they could both be 10-5. NO wins to go 11-5 and Tampa at 10-6 is looking at tie breakers vs the 10-6 Giants.

BUF @ NYJ - Buffalo is dead and while the Jets have issues, I think the Ravens and Jets are going to be the wild cards. The only drama left in the AFC is the South and West champions and I think the West is less of a competition than it should and will be decided before this game is played.

DAL @ PHI - Dallas is done even if I do have them finishing at 7-9. Philly could be playing for the division but I don't think they will be as they should be 10-5 going in and NYG will be 9-5 with 2 losses to the Eagles, outside chance they could be playing for a bye week but since I think they and GB will both finish at 11-5 and GB has the head to head that it won't matter.

NYG @ WAS - See DAL @ PHI with NYG = PHI and WAS = DAL.

CIN @ BAL - Bal will be locked as a WC and win this to finish 12-4, Cincy is done and their 2-14 record won't get them the first pick over the 1-15 Panthers.

JAX @ HOU - It's the AFC South, it could matter, but like TEN @ IND I think we'll know by then

ARZ @ SF - While yes it is the NFC West I think both teams are dead but SF wins to get to 6-10 and Arizona finishes 5-11 (yes I'm giving them 2 more wins).

STL @ SEA - I think STL is going to be 8-7 going in and that SEA will be 7-8 and that this game will determine the NFC West Champ who gets to lose at home in the first round, I think it will be a 9-7 STL not an 8-8 SF though.

SD @ DEN - Since I think KC is going to shock folks and beat SD this week, that will make this game not matter but the Denver disaster should finish 3-13, the coaching change is not going to help them. :)

So I guess 3 games where it matters for both teams and 3 games where it matters for one of the teams. Which I suppose is better than most week 17 games. :)

But yeah I think CHI @ GB will be the big one.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:01am

That Packers/Bears game has to be the early leader for the "game to be flexed into SNF in Week 17". Can't even think of an alternative. Outside chance that Oakland@KC is for the division, I guess.

What's harder is coming up with a game to replace CHargers @ Bengals in Week 16 on SNF. My guess is either Jets @ Bears or Giants @ Packers.

by Spielman :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:18am

Rams-Seahawks is very likely to be for the division. Yeah, yeah, I know, NFC West. But at least it wouldn't be a matchup between teams with nothing to play for.

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:13pm

I agree with you, Jimmy. Remember, the Bears beat the Packers in a similar way; Rodgers picked them apart underneath, but the Packers only scored 17 points. Obviously, the Patriots' offense is better (especially in the red zone), but I imagine the Bears *could* beat them in a similar way, by shortening the game and scoring touchdowns instead of field goals on offense.

by Jetspete :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:17am

Watching NE the last few weeks, and especially Monday night, i think the only team that can beat New England in a play-off setting is one that can do two things effectively: Rush the passer with four down lineman and no blitz (so they have a chance to cover the fast receivers) and run the ball to run the clock and limit possessions. The only team that can do those two things: the Giants.

The only other way to beat them is play for a shootout and hope for breaks (see the indy game a few weeks ago or the GB/ARI playoff game last year). Match them score for score, which with their defense is possible depending again on the number of possessions.

That ties into the next two weeks, i havent seen a lot of chicago, only enough to know their defense rushes the passer well and they seem to be able to run the ball. Unfortunately their pass protection is atrocious, and i cannot imagine any circumstance that has lovie smith beating BB.

by TomC :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:07pm

i cannot imagine any circumstance that has lovie smith beating BB.

Yeah, me neither. I like Lovie in general, but I have a hard time imagining a scenario in which the Bears don't get badly outcoached.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 4:49pm

Yeah, because BB has never lost to inferior coaches before.

Of course, before the Pats went on that 21 game winning streak in 2003-2004, the last coach who beat him was Steve Spurrier.

It's one game. Anything can happen.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 2:39pm

This is precisely why I thought the Colts would get killed in their game a few weeks ago, and why it baffled me that they suddenly had two bad drives late when they had failed plays on first and second downs that bailed out the Colt D. Not that running isn't a good strategy against the Colts, but they ran right into a D loading up for the run, and that was basically the only time that D stopped them at all. I was shocked every time the Pats failed to convert a third down.

The Bears defense is quite a bit better than Indianapolis's though. But the opposite is true of their offense...

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:08pm

I think that a very good comparison for the NE-CHI game is the NE-CAR Superbowl. The Pats couldn't block the Panthers defensive line but Brady got rid of the ball fast enough to make the pass rush irrelevant. What the Bears have in their favour is much better linebackers than the Panthers had and I get the feeling that Idonje and Peppers migh just bat a few of those short passes, they're an absurdly tall pair of ends.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:12pm

Damn the Vikings playoff odds fell back to 0.00 from 0.01. There goes my glimmer of hope.

Or - FO could run the simulation a million times instead of 10,000 and then maybe the odds would be something like 0.00001

by MJK :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:16pm

Here's a thought on strength of schedule...

Take a team's current DVOA. Calculate their expected number of wins versus a schedule of entirely 0% DVOA teams on a neutral field.

Then calculate the expected number of wins in their actual schedule.

The difference is their strength of schedule metric.

If you consider two schedules: A which is all versus average or slightly above average teams (Tennessee's schedule in Aaron's example), and B which is half wonderful teams and half horrid teams (Cleveland in Aaron's example). Say these schedules have the same average DVOA.

Then consider two teams--a good one and a bad one.

The good one will have a SOS rating of slightly above zero in both cases. So will the bad one. The goodness or badness of a team is selected out.

EDIT: To clarify, when I say "calculate the expected wins", I mean run Monte Carlo simulations of the team playing out its remaining schedule, using the playoff odds methodology, and look at the average number of wins over the samples.

by matt w (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:30pm

I like this idea. You don't even have to do a Monte Carlo simulation, do you? If you're talking about the average number of wins, and you treat each game as independent once you've set up the odds, then you can just add up the odds for each individual game. That might make it more appealing as a metric, since it'll be less computation-intensive.

I'd also wonder whether you want to neutralize home-away splits for the average case; the current SoS metric doesn't try to correct for whether the games have been home or away, does it?

by 'nonymous (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:20pm

Interesting-- by the playoff odds, PIT is more likely to appear in the conference championship than NE. They are both in line for the first round bye, but NE is in a slightly better position, with slightly higher DVOA. It seems PIT benefits in the simulations from getting the #2 seed, because if one wild card wins and one loses, PIT would face the easier opponent (JAC or KC) and NE would face the tougher opponent (BAL or NYJ).

by matt w (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:34pm

Actually PIT has about 4% greater chance at a bye according to the simulations, even though it's much more likely to get the #2 seed than the #1. That's probably most of it. (I'm guessing that because PIT's remaining schedule is relatively easy, DVOA gives the Jets a slightly higher chance of catching the Patriots.)

by mm (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:20pm

A few idle observations on the current playoff odds:

-The NFC West champion is the 4 seed in all but 0.5% of simulations
-Aided by games against the NFC West and Carolina, the NFC South has the #1 seed in 89.8% of simulations and the #5 seed in 75.3% of simulations. With a game against Seattle and 2(!) games left against Carolina, Atlanta has a huge advantage over New Orleans in getting that 1 seed.
-The AFC East doesn't have as great a lead, but it's still pretty good. They have an 80.9 % chance of getting the #1 seed and a 78.0% chance of getting the #5 seed.

by tunesmith :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:32pm

This is kind of a dumb question, but I don't see a lot of Brady - what makes him so good? It doesn't seem like he has an amazing ability to extend plays or "make something out of nothing" with the busted plays or anything like that. What are his particular elite skills that would put him far ahead of any other quarterback replacing him on the team?

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:37pm

Great accuracy. Great ability to read defenses pre and post snap. Great o-line play (this is not a knock on him, but he has some of the cleanest pockets I've seen). Great studying of opposing teams.

by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:10pm

I'm going to disagree with the clean pockets.

Brady does a really good job avoiding rushers. He makes that line look a lot better than it is.

I've never seen anyone as good as Brady at going through his progressions. He's looking at his 4th option before most guys look at their 2nd.

by BSR :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 8:50am

This was clearly evident against the Jets in the first half of the game. They had plenty of pressure on him up the middle and he was able to avoid the initial rush several times, taking a step here or there and buy himself an extra second. As Jaws always says, he is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league because of this. He also has an incredibly quick release.

by Treima6 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 6:10am

Elite accuracy, especially in the intermediate passing game, though there's seldom a throw he can't make inside of 50 yards. Virtually indefatigable. Workhorse in the weight room and the film room according to teammates present and past. Perfect mechanics. Brilliant at avoiding all but the best pass rushers even though he frequently snaps the ball with less than one second on the play clock.

And that's without bringing in the intangibles like leadership, competitiveness, intelligence etc. And it's those things that really set him apart from Brian Hoyer or any of the other quarterbacks on the Pats' roster.

by Anonymous454545 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:31am

I've watched 99% of Pats' games since 2001. I'll try to be objective on Brady:

Physically, he has the prototypical size, and throws over the middle with few tipped balls. Equally able to zing them in under the safeties, or drop over trailing LB.

Above average in everything but bombs (needs a long time to get his feet set on those, and then is inaccurate to everyone but a trying Moss). Not the greatest play-faker, out-thrower, etc., but above average in all.

As noted, his pre-read, decision making, and ability to move in the pocket before throwing are all in top 3 for any year. Unlike most righties, he's very good shuffling (the best verb to describe his "running" style)left, especially near the goal line. Both the long play to Branch vs. det and the questionable TD to tate on MNF came after he "escaped" to his left. Seems like he gets 6-8 TD's per year on a play similar to the Tate play.

Excellent game and clock management.

Always less affected by the weather than the opposing QB. Has had some poor bad weather games, but not usually worse than the other guy. And there have been far more games in which he didn't seem affected at all while the other QB looked like a Popsicle. Patriots play at least 3-6 bad weather games per year and almost always have an advantage.

As for the intangibles. He is clearly a perfectionist, who either because of his success or other attributes doesn't alienate his teammates. Last year, Welker apparently ran the wrong route in the Red Zone. Brady yelled at him in the huddle, yelled at him at the line, threw a TD to Welker, and continued to yell at him on the way to the sideline. After a decade of Brady's intensity, I find McNabb's "Aw Shucks" attitude on bounced balls, INT's, pick-sixes, poor clock management, etc. disgusting. (insert Dry heave joke)

Which brings up the final attribute: his consistency. When the Pats offense struggles a couple times a year (historiclaly, one game against Miami, one game against NYJ, and Denver (if scheduled), it is stark. All the usual above average things are missing and it's very disconcerting. Similar to the media's reaction to Manning right now. Of courser, with the Pats' injuries shenanigans, it's assumed that at times he might actually be injured for some of those lousy games.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 2:59pm

Brady does extend plays, he just doesn't do it with elite athletiscism, he uses intelligence and frankly some of the best footwork I've ever seen. He routinely steps up to avoid the rush and is superb at preventing negative plays. There was an amazing play a few weeks ago where he escaped a collapsing pocket to his left and the turned and ran back toward his osn goalline with his back to the defense in order to buy enough time to turn, set his feet and make a superb touch throw over the defensive back to Tate. It was one of the best plays I've ever seen. Great footwork and technique isn't glamourous but it will beat speed or strength more often than not.

by andy (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:07pm

Willing to take the hit rather than scramble badly or force a bad pass. Too many guys toss the ball away in a tight situation and end up with a pick.

by TomC :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:09pm

He ain't got no distractions; can't hear no buzzers and bells.

by Better Things To Do (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:42pm

Football, a skill-alertness-strength and stamina game, is governed by coaching-training-rules and sometimes arbitrary officiating. Add in the elements of weather, field conditions, crowd involvement, injuries, and freak opportunities which occur ever often, then bad teams can look good or good teams look bad. The stats mean nothing. Don't waste your time on the number crunching. It's an intellectual smoke screen. What really matters is the teams grit and spirit. Though everyone is entitled to opinion, emphasize that it is just that. Numerical models are often proven a pile of compost come end of season.

by DGL :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:40pm

And swagger. Don't forget swagger.

by Alex51 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:44pm

Pluck and moxie, too. I think those too often get overlooked in the quest for swagger.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:49pm

I've got the grittiest bunch of jockeys you ever saw just waitin' for some NFL team to hold a Vince Papale-style open tryout. They'll trade their whips for helmets, and then it's Super Bowl, baby!

by Rico (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:51pm

Raheem Morris, is that you?

by Alternator :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:41pm

I like the name on this semi-troll.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:01am


And it's either the same troll that's over on pfr saying that he doesn't look at things like wins, yards, TDs, completion % or any of those scary numbers, since the only way to meassure a player's value is determination, heart, grit, courage, desire to win, etc. (I'm not making ANY of that up. Except for the "scary" part, but that's pretty much implied, isn't it?), or a very close facsimili.

- Alvaro

by Big Frank :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:38am

Thanks for chiming in.

by Theo :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:49am

I think the ability to play smashmouth football is also pretty important.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:44pm

And stupidity. Stupidity just wins.

by drobviousso :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:53pm

You forgot commitment to the run, the ability to stop the run, and that offense sells tickets but defense wins rings.

God, I hate the Steelers some days.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 2:53pm

While I do think that your argument is overly reductive, you do have a couple of valid points. Firstly, FO don't make any claim to perfection and accept that there is a degree of error in their statistics. Secondly, you seems to be referring to what Carl von Clausewitz defined as 'friction', the role of factors that are unpredictable and cannot be controlled such as weather, injury, the bounce of a ball and plain good or bad luck.

It's pretty obvious that the 'best' team will not always win the Superbowl for ay number of reasons, that doesn't mean that it isn't interesting to attempt to filter through the various factors that are in play in an NFL season.

by JonFrum (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:48pm

I'm seeing a lot of "Is this the best Brady has ever played" in the media. Just by eyeball, he seems to be back to himself - at peak - rather than particularly better.

Again, by Patriot's-fan eyeball, the defense seems about the same, putting aside turnovers. That's a big aside, but the pass defense has been gashed all year, and I see no turnover-excepted trend there. The interceptions last night weren't NFL-quality throws - hard to figure such bad QB play form a 9-2 team.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 9:52pm

By eyeball, I don't think he's as good under pressure as he was earlier pre-ACL injury (2004-2007). The problem is that he is rarely pressured these days, and when people bring blitzes, he's great at identifying them and hitting hot reads.

by RichC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:19pm

" The interceptions last night weren't NFL-quality throws - hard to figure such bad QB play form a 9-2 team."

They looked awfully similar to the throws Manning, Roethlisburger, etc have thrown the last couple of weeks.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:29pm

Exactly. And are we crediting the Cowboys defenses for capitalizing on boneheaded throws by Peyton?

by Alternator :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:43pm

Correlation does not mean causation, but at some point it's hard to ignore the suggestive faces and gestures toward a private room.

by BrianLAC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:08pm

Hey folks. I'm pretty new to this website, and I'm trying to figure out the basics. If anyone has a moment, I'd really appreciate being pointed to an FO article that demonstrates DVOA's predictive superiority over other objective or subjective measures. I feel like I understand the goal of developing DVOA - to come up with an objective measurement of which NFL team is best - but I guess I'm still yet to be convinced that it actually has greater applicability to the real world than any of a wide variety of other ranking methods.


by nat :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:13pm

There's a link called "First Time Here" which is a good place to start. It is a FAQ page with links to FO Basics, and a schedule of weekly articles, and a bunch of explanations of how DVOA an DYAR work. You can also just post a question: other frequent visitors will be happy to answer questions, guide you through the learning process - and to learn from your ideas, too. Just don't be surprised if some of the answers point you to "First Time Here" first.

by drobviousso :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:02pm

Also, a series of posts starting here give a good summary of everything up to the start of this season.

by Spielman :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 10:44pm

Not that I expect history to actually repeat itself, but I'm wondering if any Jets fans are having flashbacks to 1986.

The Jets were 10-1 after 11 games and lost their last five regular season games, the first coming on a 45-3 divisional stomping by the Dolphins.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:23pm

I remember that. I remember Paul Maguire (he was in-studio then as opposed to being a game commentator) saying on the NFL'86 pre-game show before week 12 that the Jets would not win another game. Costas and the other co-hosts laughed at him. Then the weeks went by, one by one, and Maguire got the last laugh.

by BigCheese :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:10am

I certainly hope it does repeat itself, since I made a prediction on this site in the preseason that the Jets weren't going to even make the play-offs, let alone sniff the SB.

And unlike the non-verified trolls who come here regularly to throw out wild and insulting statements, I'm more than prepared to eat crow, since I don't see the Jets going winless...

- Alvaro

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:15pm

Jockeys cnat play in NFL. Too small. Wouldd get pounded into gorund rela bad. No NFL etam with jockeys going to win Super Bowl so have to disagree with you there

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:19pm

What if they could use their horses, Raiderjoe?

Why is the spambot copying my posts?

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:27pm

They are not allowed to.

It si against NFL rules to use horses and otrher animals. Woudl be considered extraoridnalry unfair act. Rule 17, section 2

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:34pm

Damnit! Imagine an outside linebacker in a 3-4 who was an orangutang!

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:45pm

Firts, it is cool to imagine it.
Second, orangutan onyl have one G in word. Orangutan= ape. Orangutang= oramnge flaovred Tang.
Third, orangutan might be too slow for football. A bear would be betetr just for toughness. Woludl be solid defensive tackle. Probably not a 3 techniwue though. Would be great at the nose.

by Alex51 :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:24am

Wow. Raiderjoe corrected someone's spelling. And was dead on about the spelling of the word. The irony may have just melted my brain.

Also, I agree that a bear would make a great nose tackle. And at RB, I'd have an eagle. Think about it, the eagle starts the play on the far right, comes in motion towards the QB, swoops down after the snap to take the handoff, then flies back up and goes for the end zone. It'd be six points every time!

by Pass to Set Up ... :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:41am

What animal would best play the zebras?

by JIPanick :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:03am


by Big Frank :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:42am


by Not Jimmy (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:06pm

I think we have a winner...

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 9:02am

It's painfully obvious that zebra's know nothing about football.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:17pm

Zebras are tougher than you might think. They aren't just stripey ponies, they are vicious, bad tempered creatures. They regularly cause more casualties in american zoos than Lions, Tigers and Leapoards put together (apparently one of the main reasons is that when they bite they don't let go). The zebras would look after themselves.

by Anonymous454545 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 10:46am

The nastiness of Zebras is covered in the Diamond book "Germs, guns, and Steel." After a few thousand years, nobody has domesticated a Zebra and Sub Saharan Africa never had a reliable beast of burden. I like his book "Collapse" better, but "GG&S" is pretty good if repetitive.

by Marko :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:01am

Unless a falcon, seahawk or raven flew up to stop the eagle. Or a patriot shot it. Or it got sucked up by a jet's engine.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:01pm

If you're going to start playing mascot ball then my money is on the Titans.

by DGL :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:27pm

Release the kraken!

by JIPanick :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 5:14pm

Mine says Jets.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 5:55pm

You're going to pick a plane over parents of gods that are big enough to hold up the the earth itself like Atlas. Your plane isn't even as big as an eyelash on my fellas.

by Theo :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 11:31am

Think the Titans would beat the Giants in an overtime draw. After a heavy Giants earial assault.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:48am

Getting your spelling corrected by Raiderjoe is alomost like winning the Nobel Prize for literature. Truly, I am humbled and honored.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:46pm

Firts, it is cool to imagine it.
Second, orangutan onyl have one G in word. Orangutan= ape. Orangutang= oramnge flaovred Tang.
Third, orangutan might be too slow for football. A bear would be betetr just for toughness. Woludl be solid defensive tackle. Probably not a 3 techniwue though. Would be great at the nose.

by JoeD (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:31am

I love Tang. And God bless raiderjoe...

by jebmak :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:39am

There's nothing in the rulebook that says a giraffe can't play football.

by Retire Fire Omar Tomlin (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 12:58am

I remember in my younger days there was a film about a mule who kicked field goals. I believe it was called Gus.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 7:44am

Never saw movie but hahd book about it. Porbably availabvle at amazon.com or ebay if interested reaiding about dinkeys playing football.

by Raiderjoe :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 7:41am

Tehcnically not in there but woudl definitely be cosnidered unfair act. NFL does not wannt or need to waste more paper. Endless lisyt woudl be. What if tema uses alien? What if team covers field in syrup night beforoe game? What if team replaces oppeonetns Gatroade with grain alochol?

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 9:09am

I don't know about the NFL, but those last two are great ideas for the Lingerie Bowl!

by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:55am

If the team that covered the field in syrup was playing the Jets, the Jets front office would just need to roll out an eighteen-wheeler filled with Bisquick and buttermilk, about two hours before the game, and their coach would handle the rest.

by jebmak :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 11:43am

I was quoting from Abe's student film in Clone High actually.

by Roy Felipe (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 4:26pm

As to animals playing in the NFL, I seem to remember a pigeon at a 49s game standing with the kick-off team and then flying down the field in coverage, staying in his lane and then landing and staying put as the runner was tackled so he could not get outside of contain. They actually replayed it. So my vote is for pigeons, although they probably tackle like Deon Sanders and would have trouble with fumbling when hit.

by Marko :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 4:37pm

That was a Raiders game, appropriately enough against the Eagles. Here is a link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yztN2X6jUOM

by Roy Felipe (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 4:50pm

Thanks, too lazy to look something up and guessed wrong.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 1:11pm

That is awesome. It keeps contain, Charles Tillman needs to see that pidgeon's technique to avoid getting sucked in to the pile like last week against Javid Best.

by Dan S (not verified) :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:29pm

Ideally, you would measure how good their schedule is for each particular team, rather than how good it would be for an average team or an elite team. Here is my rough sketch of how to do that:

Given a particular team's DVOA, compare how well they would be expected to do against their own schedule compared to playing a schedule of typically distributed competition. Presumably you would construct the comparison schedule by determining the distribution of opponent strength that is most likely to occur. Then, you rank the teams by the percentage difference in wins expected against the actual schedule compared to the standard.

Normally strength of schedule changes as other teams get better or worse. In my system, it also changes as you get better or worse. This may seem unintuitive, but it actually is necessary to satisfy the goal I mentioned in the beginning.

by Raiderjoe :: Tue, 12/07/2010 - 11:36pm

Real best heavy hitter battle of wekekend is Raiders at Jaguars. Both tough teams, but Raiders goignt o come out on top. Jaguars 19th in DVOA, -7.1%. Oooohhh, scary.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 7:06am

I'm curious what will happen when the most inconsistent team in the NFL plays the 24th most consistent team in the NFL. The Raiders' variance is just miles ahead of everyone else. The difference between them and #31 is bigger than the gap between #31 and #12. From the highs of this week, 59-14 and the Seahawks thrashing to the lows of the Steelers beatdown, the Titans whooping and the hideousness against the Cardinals. A week by week graph of the Raiders might be interesting. Is this the most inconsistent team of all time?

by Alternator :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:21pm

It makes the Raiders into by far the most interesting possible sixth seed, so I'd love to see it.

by BJR :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 8:09am

It's far from a technical explanation, but they are 4-0 in the division including a sweep of the Chargers. Perhaps they are accused of leaving some in the tank when they aren't playing their divisional rivals.

by Sancho (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 7:42am


Reading your comments about the problems faced, it seems that "strength of schedule" is something that depends on the team considered. That's why a schedule that is good for team "A" is hard to team "B".

Since you know that, and you want a way to rank the teams schedule, I believe the best way to do that is through somelthing like "victories expected"; i.e., according to DVOA (or any other tool for that matter), how many wins THIS team is expected to have against ITS OWN schedule.

More wins, easier the schedule.

Oh, well, just a suggestion. Perhaps, it would work better with a "success rate" instead of "expected wins", counting every play as a game in itself; but my lack of mathematical knowledge doesn't allow me to go any further.


by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 8:34am

I think I agree with you, but I don't think that's a strength of schedule measure. I think the strength of schedule measure should be for how an average team would do against that schedule. But then I think there should be an expected wins measure that is how THAT team would be expected to do against its own schedule based on its own DVOA, because to me it seems that they are two different measures. One is measuring just the quality of the opposition, which is strength of schedule. One is measuring the quality of the opposition compared to this team, which isn't just strength of schedule, its based on the composition of two teams.

Just curious, would a teams expected wins be wildly different if instead of being 0% on offense, D and special teams they were +20% on offense and -20% on defense (or vice versa) based on the teams they play? I suspect it would.

by Anonymus (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:41am

Just to point that #34 and #65 have said almost the same thing...

by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 8:18am

Is there a way you can come up with an average schedule that covers all teams for all years? I mean for example by looking at past schedules you can work out that the average schedule is say:

4 games v teams between 0.01 and 5% DVOA.
3 games v team between 0 and -5% DVOA
2 games v teams between -5% and -10%
1 game v teams between -10% and -20%
1 game v teams below -20%
2 games v teams above 20%
3 games v teams between 5 and 20% DVOA

Or you could say that on average on any given schedule the weakest team will be -25% DVOA, the strongest team will be 30% DVOA, th 7th hardest team will be 1.8% DVOA, the 13th hardest team will be -14.7% DVOA etc.

You could then do some sort of comparison between this average schedule (which is the same for all teams) and the teams actual schedule, and then give some sort of indication of how a team should be expected to do against the actual schedule. I like the idea of using a 0% DVOA team, because I think that's a good indication of how strong a schedule is.

Sort of related, I think (I have no idea, I'm not a maths person) that you could also use a teams actual schedule and DVOA to work out what their record should be expected to be given how well they and opponents play on average, to give another indication of which teams might be over or underperforming.

Also, just a thought, might it be more beneficial to have the schedule strengths expressed as wins to losses rather than as percentages. I think it would be more useful and be able to say "Oh, the Rams schedule, you'd expect an average team to get 10.4 wins against that schedule, whereas the Bengals you'd expect them to get 6.8." I guess that might cause confusion with estimated wins, but I think as you don't hear people go "After the win against the Jets the Patriots are at .833, while the Jets drop to .750".

It could also make a bit more of an expression of the difference between scheduled played and schedule left. After 8 games a team could have played a schedule of 3.2 expected wins, but have a schedule of 6.4 expected wins left. Or something. That just seems more demonstrative than saying their schedule played is 6% DVOA and remaining is -4% DVOA.

As I said, I'm not a maths guys whatsoever, so can every please tell me just how wrong all this is?

by Myran (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 9:18am

I don't think there's a problem with the current method. The objective of the exercise to to determine strength of schedule and NOT to try to extrapolate expected wins. It shouldn't matter whether the team is good or bad, as that has NO bearing on how good or bad the teams they have played are.

One gotcha that I can think of is WHEN they played the teams. For instance, Indianapolis and Tennessee were much stronger before those teams hit the skids badly with injuries and/or other factors. Also, New England actually got MUCH tougher after the departure of Moss.

Does the current "Strength of Schedule" take the "When" at all?

by PantsB (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 9:50am

Does anyone know the biggest difference between expected wins and actual wins? The Bears expected wins is just under 6 and they've got a tough schedule. Projected wins have them winning "1.7" of their remaining schedule. It seems entirely possible they could have an expected record of 8-8, 7-9 or even 6-10 with that schedule and an actual record of 12-4 or even 13-3.

by Arkaein :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 8:07pm

The Bears schedule in the first 9 weeks of the season was actually the weakest in the NFL, at least by opponent win pct up to that point. The schedule got much tougher in the second half, and is basically brutal over the remaining 4 games.

If they keep winning more games than DVOA expects, then the Bears would probably end up with the largest disparity as you suggest. However I think their chances of a 13-3 final record are practically zero, and 12-4 still quite low.

by nat :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 10:43am

Regarding Strength of Schedule vs. specific matchups:

This may all be a tempest in a teapot. I looked at the playoff odds page's expected wins, which take into account the weighted DVOAs and each team's specific opponents. I looked at the future schedule strength from the DVOA page. I calculated each team's DVOA advantage (Weighted DVOA - future sched). I graphed DVOA advantage against the mean expected remaining wins, and fit a line. (I tried higher ordered curves, but a line worked well enough.)

Almost all teams' mean win totals agreed with what would be expected for their DVOA advantage to within 0.15 wins. The outliers were the Panthers, the Giants, and the Broncos. The worst fit was the Broncos, whose simulation predicts 0.27 fewer wins than their strength of schedule alone would suggest. Considering that mean wins is reported to the tenths place, I think this is a pretty good indication that a schedule's "fit" doesn't tell us much more than the future schedule strength listed on the DVOA page.

For me, I'm not going to waste effort worrying about specific matchups when I consider strength of schedule. The DVOA "future sched" is quite good enough even with just four games left, and allows me to compare many schedules at a glance.

by Matty D (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 1:57pm

I just noticed something. The crappiness of the NFC West extends beyond just sending an inferior team to the playoffs. If things go on as expected, this could be the third year in a row in which the NFC division which was paired with the NFC West sends two teams to the playoffs, with the division winner getting a first round bye.

In 2008-2009, you had the NFC East with the Giants getting the #1 seed and Eagles as a WC. (They were a combined 8-0 against the NFC West)

In 2009-2010, you had the NFC North with the Vikings getting the #2 seed and Packers as a WC. (Combined 7-1 against the NFC West) Also, AFC BONUS! The Colts got the #1 seed with 4 stat-padding wins over the NFC West.

In 2010-2011, things are shaping up for the Falcons to nab the #1 spot and the Saints to go as a WC. (5-1 combined so far)

by LnGrrrR (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 5:11pm

Good catch!

by Crymeariver (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 3:48pm

The best thing that ever happened to Tom Brady was being drafted exactly where he was drafted. It lit an eternal flame under his butt and gave him plenty of time to learn how to do all the things he now does so well.

by Douglas J. Dahlin (not verified) :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 4:57pm

I think I understand now. The Raiders sweep the Chargers and completely dominate but it doesn't mean anything. The Chiefs were ranked real high but then lost a couple and dropped hard. Now the Chiefs win 3 in a row and take a 2 game lead but that doesn't mean anything. The Patriots have the number 13 offense and the 31st ranked defense but that doesn't mean anything. Chicago is number 17.......

by Jeff Fogle :: Wed, 12/08/2010 - 6:34pm

"One of the comment complaints about our weekly DVOA ratings and commentary is the way that we figure schedule strength." Aaron Schatz

(Is that supposed to be "common" complaints, or "comment" complaints?)

"An average of a team's opponent ratings is a lousy way to describe the difficulty of its schedule." Brian Fremau, in the comments section of a college article the other day.

So, Brian forgot for a moment that when he thought he was slamming Sagarin he was also slamming Aaron?

By the looks of it...these methods, and others like Sagarin's, all:

*Come pretty close to saying the same things, sometimes almost in lockstep.

*Have enough margin for error that no totem pole is foolproof.

*Don't allow anyone to move much beyond "tough, reasonably tough, about average, reasonably easy, and easy" when labelling a schedule. They're just numerical versions of those words...and those numerical versions have a margin for error that keeps anyone from standing on soapbox. (So, if you're writing articles for ANY audience, you can just use those words to make your point anyway and say it's based on the way you figure schedule strength).

We're basically being asked here to pick among methods that have a margin of error that can't be ignored...but generally give you good ballpark assessments. Picking one and throwing out the others probably won't amount to a hill of beans over the next five years. (Though, it was disappointing that none of the alternatives dealt with in-season home/road splits...after Aaron made a point of mentioning that issue in the preamble)

How about everyone here putting their heads together for something more dynamic that would matter more? I was thinking about this when writing up something for the Tampa Bay/Washington game this week. In terms of "strength of schedule," a game vs. Washington isn't particularly brutal. But, for Tampa Bay, this is coming on the heels of a big divisional showdown with Atlanta, AND is the third road game in four weeks, AND is part of a travelling sequence that featured a trip all the way across the country (at SF), AND comes in the latter stages of the season when fatigue and attrition can have bigger influences.

In terms of "difficulty" of schedule, it's an extremely challenging moment in the sequence. "At Washington" doesn't capture "third road game in four weeks with a lot of travel right after a huge divisional game late in the season." Compare "at Washington after a bye week" to what TB's going through, and it would be very difficult to suggest they're equal challenges. Yet, virtually any SOS attempt would treat them equally.

If everyone's REALLY trying to capture the challenges of a schedule, we could come up with a new dynamic here. A good faith effort to measure "difficulty" of schedule. So,

Strength of Schedule=ballpark reaction to who you played
Difficulty of Schedule=the additional nuances that make things harder or easier.

Then we can start to pursue:

*Home/Road splits in season
*Who the QB was for the opposing team (because a defense seeing Tyler Thigpen in a short preparation week isn't as challenged as those facing Chad Henne in a normal preparation week for example)
*Travel sequences, so the second straight road game is tougher than a first road game, and a third road game in three weeks is even tougher
*Cumulative air miles
*Prioritization switches from divisional games to non-divisional games (a team is more likely to play flat off two divisional games than they are two non-divisional games)
*Overall injury status of opposing teams.

I'm not saying it will be easy, or that there wouldn't be debates. But, right now...strength of schedule only goes so far...and leaves out so much that deserves to be in the conversation. Many posters who have "yeah, but" disgreements with SOS typically have valid points. And, "it's a monster migraine to try and account for everything" is a legitimate response. But, ultimately, the stathead/analytical universe could move understanding forward by trying to put numeric weights on these things and add context to each team's challenges throughout a season.

Seems like something the FO process would be equipped to tackle, particularly with input from the readership...

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Thu, 12/09/2010 - 5:50pm

So on the playoff odds page, I think you should list odds for what most would have thought absurd at the start of the year. The I-70 Bowl. St. Louis vs Kansas City! I know it's not a huge chance, but it's a sad possibility this year. :)

by Felkar (not verified) :: Mon, 12/13/2010 - 12:00pm

As far as ordinal rankings go, I think it is a bit deceptive to give different ordinals to teams that are less than the value of the uncertainty in the measure apart. It might be better to define a null hypothesis test probability, say P=0.90 or whatever you happen to like between the two teams adjacent to each other in the table, and assign a ordinal ranking based on whether or not the null hypothesis is true or not.

This should make the ordinals more representative of what the actual measure is.