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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.

29 Nov 2011

Week 12 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

The top teams remain the same in this week's Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, with Houston still leading the way despite their rash of quarterback injuries, followed by Green Bay and New England. Below that there were some larger moves, particularly because of two games. Baltimore and New Orleans move up, while San Francisco and the New York Giants move down.

Once again this week, we've done two versions of our playoff odds report. The second version attempts to estimate the drop in weighted DVOA we would expect when a team has to use a backup quarterback -- or now in Houston's case, a third-string quarterback. Despite these adjustments, you might think the odds we have listed for Green Bay to go undefeated are a bit low. Right now, we have this at just 11.9 percent on the "injury-adjusted" version of the playoff odds report. There are two issues here. One, of course, is that we have Green Bay listed as just another very good team, not the kind of dominant team we would usually be expecting to challenge for an undefeated season. Second, the formula we use to figure out games in our playoff odds report is based on the last few years of results, and the fact is that upsets are a lot more likely than many fans realize. Good teams beat very good teams all the time, and even average teams beat very good teams.

Here are the chances the formula gives to Green Bay in each game when figuring out whether to assign the Packers a win or loss in each simulation:

  • Week 13 at NYG: 51%
  • Week 14 vs. OAK: 73%
  • Week 15 at KC: 69%
  • Week 16 vs. CHI: 67%
  • Week 17 vs. DET: 68%

So the Packers are technically favored in every game, yet their chances of winning all five are very low. Even if you were to increase the odds of winning each game by ten percentage points, the probability of winning all five would still be only 24.0 percent. So even in the home stretch, going 16-0 looks very difficult.

Here are the same chances given for Indianapolis to win in each of its five remaining games:

  • Week 13 at NE: 5%
  • Week 14 at BAL: 5%
  • Week 15 vs. TEN: 46%
  • Week 16 vs. HOU: 38%
  • Week 17 at JAC: 18%

* * * * *

So, why have the Denver Broncos suddenly gone 5-1 over their last six games after beginning the season 1-4? Is it Tim Tebow, improvement in the running game, or improved defense? That last element is getting a lot of credit from smarter fans. What if I told you it wasn't quite true?

If we look at the Denver Broncos defensive numbers before and after Tim Tebow took over in Week 7, we see almost no difference:

DEN defense Total Rk Pass Rk Run Rk
Weeks 1-6 7.7% 19 19.1% 21 -5.0% 16
Weeks 7-12 4.6% 19 13.6% 22 -6.5% 12

Now, part of the reason why there's no difference is that the Broncos got clobbered by Detroit 45-10 back in Week 8. So what if we set the line after that game instead of after six weeks? Well, now we see a little bit of improvement, but still nowhere near as much as you might expect.

DEN defense Total Rk Pass Rk Run Rk
Weeks 1-8 8.3% 21 19.5% 25 -4.4% 14
Weeks 9-12 2.1% 15 10.4% 20 -8.1% 14

Now let's look at the offense. Look at the running game before and after Tebow took over as quarterback, and you'll see where the real improvement in Denver has been:

DEN offense Total Rk Pass Rk Run Rk
Weeks 1-6 -8.1% 27 -4.8% 28 -8.9% 26
Weeks 7-12 1.0% 18 -8.1% 23 11.6% 7

First of all, in case you are wondering, Denver's pass offense DVOA has gone down overall but up in ranking because the overall leaguewide passing DVOA has gone down since those first few ridiculous weeks that started the season. Still, the real change here is in the running game. We've written about this a couple times, including a few years ago in one of the first pieces we ever did for ESPN, but the threat of a running quarterback really does open things up for the rest of the running game. Clearly, that's what has happened in Denver. Some of the improvement is Tebow's own rushing ability, but a lot of it is an improvement from Willis McGahee because opponents have to constantly watch out for Tebow carrying the ball himself. When some commentators have said the option looks seem to be working in Denver, this is what they mean. Denver's offense has improved more than Denver's defense, and the biggest reason for the improvement really is Tim Tebow.

Of course, the other element in Denver's 5-1 record is pure, old-fashioned luck. Five of Denver's six wins this year have come by seven points or less, including two in overtime. If Nick Novak hits a 53-yard field goal -- or if Norv Turner doesn't go all conservative on that drive before the field-goal try -- this conversation seems a bit different.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 12 weeks of 2011, 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 HOU 35.1% 1 36.7% 1 8-3 23.8% 4 -8.9% 7 2.4% 9
2 GB 27.1% 2 25.8% 2 11-0 37.6% 1 12.3% 26 1.9% 10
3 NE 25.2% 3 25.2% 3 8-3 33.5% 2 10.9% 23 2.6% 8
4 NYJ 22.6% 5 22.6% 5 6-5 4.4% 18 -13.6% 3 4.6% 3
5 BAL 21.3% 9 21.1% 7 8-3 6.3% 15 -19.4% 1 -4.3% 29
6 PIT 20.7% 7 23.6% 4 8-3 17.4% 5 -2.0% 9 1.3% 13
7 NO 19.6% 11 18.5% 10 8-3 31.2% 3 11.2% 25 -0.4% 21
8 SF 19.4% 4 19.6% 8 9-2 1.2% 20 -9.7% 6 8.6% 2
9 CHI 19.3% 6 21.9% 6 7-4 -2.6% 22 -10.8% 5 11.1% 1
10 ATL 17.3% 10 18.6% 9 7-4 10.3% 10 -6.9% 8 0.0% 16
11 DET 9.6% 13 9.3% 11 7-4 5.1% 17 -10.8% 4 -6.4% 31
12 TEN 8.9% 15 6.2% 16 6-5 7.4% 13 2.7% 12 4.2% 4
13 DAL 8.4% 12 8.8% 12 7-4 10.6% 9 0.6% 11 -1.6% 25
14 NYG 7.1% 8 6.3% 15 6-5 13.3% 7 6.2% 18 0.0% 18
15 CIN 6.8% 16 7.1% 13 7-4 7.6% 12 3.6% 15 2.8% 7
16 PHI 5.3% 14 6.8% 14 4-7 11.0% 8 7.0% 19 1.3% 12
17 OAK 1.8% 18 0.7% 17 7-4 7.1% 14 5.3% 16 0.0% 17
18 MIA -2.7% 17 -1.1% 18 3-8 0.5% 21 2.8% 14 -0.4% 20
19 BUF -4.0% 20 -9.4% 22 5-6 10.0% 11 12.9% 28 -1.0% 22
20 DEN -5.6% 19 -3.8% 19 6-5 -2.8% 24 6.1% 17 3.2% 6
21 TB -6.7% 21 -9.3% 21 4-7 3.1% 19 11.0% 24 1.2% 14
22 SD -11.3% 23 -12.0% 24 4-7 6.1% 16 14.3% 30 -3.1% 27
23 JAC -11.7% 26 -9.1% 20 3-8 -22.2% 31 -14.1% 2 -3.5% 28
24 CAR -12.0% 28 -12.0% 23 3-8 15.4% 6 21.7% 32 -5.8% 30
25 WAS -14.0% 22 -16.1% 27 4-7 -12.2% 27 0.3% 10 -1.5% 23
26 CLE -14.1% 25 -13.4% 26 4-7 -7.0% 25 7.1% 20 0.0% 19
27 SEA -14.4% 24 -13.0% 25 4-7 -11.9% 26 2.7% 13 0.2% 15
28 MIN -16.7% 27 -18.5% 28 2-9 -2.7% 23 12.5% 27 -1.6% 24
29 KC -25.5% 30 -23.7% 29 4-7 -18.1% 30 8.8% 21 1.4% 11
30 ARI -26.4% 29 -27.1% 30 4-7 -16.9% 29 13.1% 29 3.6% 5
31 STL -36.1% 31 -34.7% 31 2-9 -25.4% 32 9.0% 22 -1.6% 26
32 IND -42.5% 32 -44.6% 32 0-11 -16.1% 28 19.5% 31 -7.0% 32
  • 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 HOU 35.1% 8-3 40.8% 8.2 2 -2.4% 27 -4.3% 25 16.8% 24
2 GB 27.1% 11-0 29.3% 9.1 1 -2.1% 26 2.4% 15 3.0% 3
3 NE 25.2% 8-3 21.9% 8.1 3 2.0% 12 -13.8% 30 10.6% 15
4 NYJ 22.6% 6-5 18.5% 6.6 11 3.9% 7 -6.0% 26 14.8% 23
5 BAL 21.3% 8-3 18.9% 7.8 4 6.6% 3 -15.0% 31 24.2% 30
6 PIT 20.7% 8-3 21.4% 7.5 6 -1.0% 22 -7.6% 29 14.6% 22
7 NO 19.6% 8-3 19.3% 7.5 5 -2.5% 29 1.4% 16 13.5% 19
8 SF 19.4% 9-2 21.9% 7.2 8 -0.3% 21 -18.4% 32 5.3% 6
9 CHI 19.3% 7-4 16.0% 7.1 9 4.0% 6 -7.0% 28 9.1% 13
10 ATL 17.3% 7-4 14.0% 7.2 7 -0.2% 20 4.9% 10 2.6% 2
11 DET 9.6% 7-4 11.1% 6.5 12 2.4% 9 4.1% 11 7.7% 8
12 TEN 8.9% 6-5 12.9% 6.2 14 0.2% 19 -0.7% 21 17.9% 25
13 DAL 8.4% 7-4 11.0% 6.3 13 -1.1% 23 -2.7% 23 18.0% 26
14 NYG 7.1% 6-5 7.8% 6.2 15 -1.8% 24 10.5% 5 19.4% 27
15 CIN 6.8% 7-4 14.6% 6.6 10 0.6% 17 2.9% 13 1.0% 1
16 PHI 5.3% 4-7 4.2% 5.7 17 1.4% 15 0.0% 18 12.9% 17
17 OAK 1.8% 7-4 6.6% 5.9 16 2.8% 8 -0.6% 20 25.7% 31
18 MIA -2.7% 3-8 -3.0% 5.6 18 2.2% 11 10.2% 7 12.9% 16
19 BUF -4.0% 5-6 -4.3% 5.3 20 4.6% 4 2.9% 14 30.2% 32
20 DEN -5.6% 6-5 -3.7% 5.5 19 2.4% 10 -0.4% 19 7.5% 7
21 TB -6.7% 4-7 -15.4% 5.0 21 14.5% 1 -2.0% 22 20.7% 28
22 SD -11.3% 4-7 -6.3% 4.3 27 1.1% 16 3.4% 12 4.0% 4
23 JAC -11.7% 3-8 -14.9% 4.4 25 9.2% 2 -6.9% 27 8.6% 11
24 CAR -12.0% 3-8 -9.8% 4.5 24 -2.5% 28 11.7% 3 14.4% 21
25 WAS -14.0% 4-7 -14.4% 4.4 26 -6.0% 32 8.7% 8 13.8% 20
26 CLE -14.1% 4-7 -6.3% 4.5 23 -4.4% 30 11.5% 4 5.2% 5
27 SEA -14.4% 4-7 -11.1% 4.6 22 0.3% 18 -3.7% 24 9.6% 14
28 MIN -16.7% 2-9 -15.1% 4.1 28 4.2% 5 5.7% 9 13.5% 18
29 KC -25.5% 4-7 -23.2% 3.3 30 -1.8% 25 13.0% 2 22.5% 29
30 ARI -26.4% 4-7 -18.0% 3.4 29 -5.0% 31 1.2% 17 7.9% 9
31 STL -36.1% 2-9 -36.9% 2.5 31 1.8% 13 10.4% 6 8.1% 10
32 IND -42.5% 0-11 -46.5% 1.7 32 1.7% 14 15.8% 1 9.0% 12

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 29 Nov 2011

347 comments, Last at 04 Dec 2011, 10:18am by Scizzy


by milo :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:16pm

New Orleans is 8-3, not 7-4.

by Aaron Schatz :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:55pm

Fixing this now.

by Led :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:21pm

How does special teams DVOA factor in fumbles on returns? The Jets have, I think, 5 fumbles on kick returns, losing a fair number of them. They've been devastating. And yet the Jets are still 3rd in ST. It's true that aside from the fumbles the ST have been excellent, but the fumbles are a pretty big deal.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:28pm

There is a bigger difference between the Bears (1st) and Jets (3rd) in special teams DVOA than the Jets and the Rams (26th).

And this is during a year when Gould has missed more kicks than any other year in his career. Which I think you can give Maynard some credit for that. He was an outstanding holder.

by Marko :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:25pm

Huh? Gould has only missed two kicks this year. He is 23 for 25, which is 92%. That is the highest percentage of his career. Every other year he has missed between 3 and 6 FGs, and 89.7% was his previous season high. He also is 5-5 on 50+ yard FGs this year. Those 5 50+ yard FGs match the number he had made in his career before this season.

I would say Gould is having his best season. And that doesn't even take into account his outstanding results this year on kickoffs.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:27pm

That's what I get for just glancing at stats without thinking. I got the order of the years reversed.

by Marko :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:33pm

Yeah, I figured that's what happened because his worst year was his first year.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:23pm

I thought he was having a particularly good year. He's always been super-accurate on short-to-medium kicks but anything over 50 has been iffy. His accuracy on those long kicks this year has been very impressive. That last field goal on Sunday - I think it was a 53-yarder? - was almost dead center between the uprights and would have been good from 10 yards further.

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:23pm

How did you calculate probability of winning? Is this just a simple equation using DVOA?

by Craig in NS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:45pm

Given that GB over Oakland has a higher percentage than GB over KC, I'd say no....

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:39pm

Oakland is a home game for GB, while the KC game is @KC, which I'm guessing accounts for the difference.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:40pm

Aaron has said in the past that homefield is worth 17-18% DVOA.

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:53pm

Right. The only way I was able to duplicate Aaron's results in the right order was by using unweighted DVOA which ignores the QB situations. The playoff odds supply DVOA which does not ignore these situations, and results in a slightly different order.

by blackcoat (not verified) :: Fri, 12/02/2011 - 9:49pm

Brings up an interesting question: which teams have the biggest DVOA advantage at home?? That would make a great article for next week.

Completely unrelated question: how do unrecovered forced fumbles affect defensive DVOA? I recall seeing a stat on MNF that New Orleans has forced something like 18 fumbles but only recovered 4!?!?

by paddypat (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:25pm

What is the statistical likelihood of NE's weighted DVOA being exactly the same as its unweighted?

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:28pm

The more statistically honest question is "What is the statistical likelihood that at least one NFL team's weighted DVOA would be exactly the same as its unweighted DVOA through week 12?"

by AHBM :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:29pm

The even more statistically honest question is "What is the [trend in the] statistical likelihood that at least one NFL team's weighted DVOA would be exactly the same as its unweighted DVOA at any time in the season after weighted DVOA starts being calculated?"

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:47pm

No real idea, but perhaps not too unlikely since NYJ and CAR managed the same feat this week?

by JonFrum :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:11pm

What is the likelihood that (fill in the blank) winner of the lottery would win the lottery?

by Thok :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:29pm

Is it possible to add something to the playoff odds about the distribution of wins needed to get various seeds? For example, if the 6 seed in the NFC would have a record of 9-7 40% of the time, 10-6 50% of the time, 11-5 2% of the time and 8-8 3% of the time? (Numbers are hypothetical, of course, but that would give a feel of how good teams would need to be to get into the playoffs.)

by jebmak :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:10pm

Ooooo, I like this!

by speedegg :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:29pm

I know the NY Jets were covered in a previous article, but it still shocks me to see them so high. Maybe they'll get lucky and Mark Grossman will get them to the Superbowl, like the 2006 Chicago Bears.

by Mr. Show (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:29pm

New Orleans should be 8-3.

It still amazes me that one of Green Bay, New England and New Orleans is the 3rd best offense in the league, and that one of Rodgers, Brady and Brees is having the 3rd best season by a QB this year. Brady is on pace for 5275 yards with 40 TDs and might not get a single MVP vote.

by Jimmy :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:13pm

It still amazes me that people don't seem to have noticed the explosion in passing game numbers since both the 'Polian rule' and the 'holding on offense clarification' and seem to think that impressive statistical performance under these rules relates to players being the best ever. Most of the top DVOA QB seasons are now held by post Polian players but their performances are routinely credited to passing game 'improvements' rather than 'easier rules for QBs'.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:25pm

I agree that rule changes matter. But some of it is that the truly all-time-great QBs aren't evenly distributed - they "clump" randomly.

1983-1985 brought us some truly amazing QBs. 1998-2001 brought us some more. But who was drafted in that 13-year gap between Randall Cunningham and Peyton Manning?

Well, Brett Favre. OK. That's one. Who are the second and third best QBs drafted in that time period? Go on, name them! Troy Aikman and Mark Brunell? Steve McNair and Drew Bledsoe?

Are these guys really supposed to be the successors to Dan Marino and Steve Young? Are they really supposed to be the predecessors to Tom Brady and Peyton Manning?

Some eras have better QBs than others. We are in an era of great QBs right now. Just sit back and enjoy it.

by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:01am

It still amazes me that people don't seem to have noticed the explosion in passing game numbers since both the 'Polian rule' and the 'holding on offense clarification' and seem to think that impressive statistical performance under these rules relates to players being the best ever.

The old-time greats are both systematically denigrated (by highly biased official stats like passer rating) and culturally denigrated, as a whole lot of football fans seem to think no player could ever have been a great if not seen on an ESPN highlight show.

No old-time great is more denigrated, for some strange reason, than Namath -- who's numbers hold up damn well against anybody's, playing today or any other time -- but the rest are as well, Unitas too, all of them. The difference in appreciating the players of the past seen between baseball fans and football fans is really striking.

The rule changes that *really* opened the passing game were in 1978. The rest since then have only incrementally increased passing. But the 1978 changes not only made it much easier to pass, they changed what won games, the type of passing that won, shifting it to short, safe (boring) passes, from the dramatic long balls of yore, and substituting safe, short passing for former rushing, padding the numbers of all later-era QBs, no matter how mediocre.

Since then the great passers of before then have been exterminated on the "all time great lists" and pretty much in the minds of fans who think the only good kind of passing is today's, and that today's stats somehow properly measure the quality of passing back then.

The NFL Hall of Fame actually published an All Time Top Passers ranking list that had all the top 17 QBs (and 29 of the top 30!) as playing after 1978, with Mark Bulger #5 all time. Can you imagine if the Baseball Hall of Fame ever published a ranking list like that? Baseball fans would burn the place down. Football fans go, well, the QBs of today of course are all the best ever, right?

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:15am

Actually, I think football fans gave a collective bemused shrug if they even knew such a list existed.

by Jerry :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:18am

And I doubt anybody, even including people named Bulger, thinks that Mark is the 5th best QB ever.

BTW, Jim, that was nice work. I suspect that much of the negativity about Namath was and is a reaction to the hype at the time. If he'd played in, say, Houston instead of New York, he'd probably be viewed more accurately.

by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:35pm

BTW, Jim, that was nice work.


I suspect that much of the negativity about Namath was and is a reaction to the hype at the time. If he'd played in, say, Houston instead of New York, he'd probably be viewed more accurately.

Yes, I think there's something to that. One gets a huge amount of hype, glory and fame, later comes the reaction and blowback. Too far each way.

But I don't think Joe can complain overall. "Houston Joe" or "Minnesota Joe" just wouldn't have been the same.

by Jerry :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:43pm

I'm pretty sure Joe is content with his football career. I suspect that "Beaver Falls Joe" would have been happy enough anywhere he'd played.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 10:40am

Namath also threw a lot of interceptions and his last good year was probably '71 or '72 (that's based strictly on memory, but I think it's probably a pretty accurate guess). Obviously, his bad knees were a significant factor in his early decline.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:00am

I fully agree that there were bigger changes in 1978 than anything else. I am suggesting that the last five or six years or so seem to have an inordinate amount of elite numbers for QBs and this needs to be born in mind alongside how the old guys get stiffed in general.

by Abe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:39am

A big thing that gets missed in the evolution of QB's is the evolution of QB development at a very young age. In the last 10 years there has been an explosion of year round specialty among young quarterbacks with individual coaching and elite passing camps. Beyond that there is a plethora of pro-style and spread passing offenses not only all the way down to the high school level, but even the junior high level.

it's easy to point to the evolution of the rules as the reason QB's dominate today's game. It's obviously a component of it but you also have to look at the sheer amount of time that young players at the QB position put in at a very young age with elite coaching.

It all goes back to the Malcolm Gladwell idea of thousands of hours or practice. Elite young QB's of today, like Matt Barkley and Andrew Luck, literally have put in more time at the position with a higher level of specialized coaching than their predecessors of 30 years ago.

30 years ago a young QB was playing multiple sports. Matt Barkley, a potential elite QB, has seen specialized 1 on 1 coaching since he was 8 years old.

by panthersnbraves :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:20pm

Jimmy Clausen is a perfect example of how concentrated work can take a QB and turn him into an NFL elite ... ok, I just can't finish that with a straight face.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:41pm

Did you even begin with a straight face?

by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:08pm

and don't forget video games. Any under 30 QB has been playing Madden, or a lot of other Playstation XBox Wii products ever since they were a little kid-- these games basically took off in the mid 1990s. It can't help but aid their hand-eye coordination and reaction time that is duplicate to some extent on the field.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:42am

I will take this opportunity to once again argue that Tarkenton is reasonably seen as the best ever at the position. Played his career under the old rules. Played the first 2/3 of his career, and spent his physical prime, with markedly inferior teammates, yet still put up numbers that hold up extremely well today. I love me some Unitas, some Montana, some Otto Graham, some etc., etc.,. Now imagine how those guys would be viewed today if they hadn't benefitted from competent teammates until they were well into their 30s.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:17pm

You link to a study that compares Namath's five best years to the five best years of a number of other QBs.

So great, we can throw away Namath's worst eight seasons and..ta da, Namath was excellent! The problem is that you don't have to cherry pick seasons for the other QBs on that list. If we want a good measure of how good a QB was over the entirety of his career, we really cannot simply cherry pick which seasons to look at.

That study is also flawed because it engages in the practice of "converting numbers from one era to another" or "adjusting for era". I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. Is it supposed to mean that a QB who was at the 98th percentile in 1973 would have been at the 98th percentile in 2003? I know it's hard to compare performances across eras, but the solution isn't just to do a linear transformation of stats. Everybody in the NFL is far more athletic today than they were in Namath's day. Linemen are bigger, defenders are faster, defenses are more complex...it's just not meaningful to do this kind of transformation.

Yes, Namath threw for a lot of yards. He also threw with poor accuracy compared to the leading QBs of his day. He threw a lot of picks. He had a 13-year career and threw more picks than TDs in 11 of those 13 seasons.

by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:24pm

You link to a study that compares Namath's five best years to the five best years of a number of other QBs.

So great, we can throw away Namath's worst eight seasons and..ta da, Namath was excellent! The problem is that you don't have to cherry pick seasons for the other QBs on that list

Dude, you've got it backwards. Namath only played seven healthy seasons. The "cherry picking" favored Brady, Elway, Montana and the rest who got to pick their best 5 of up to *13* full healthy seasons. That's a big advantage for *them*.

Best seasons to best seasons, Namath was fully their match. That's by yards, by yards/attempt, by AYA including the cost of picks. Deal with it.

(Hey, nobody pretends that Namath had more than about six good years because of all the injuries he had. But if you want to argue "Namath crippled and playing 4-game seasons wasn't as good as other top QBs healthy, so he sucked!", go for it! Be proud.)

He also threw with poor accuracy compared to the leading QBs of his day...

Guy, you read but refuse to comprehend. Unitas was MVP two times with both personal and league *low* accuracy numbers, completion percentages, because what won games back then was *yards per completion*, and he had huge Y/C those years. Throwing deep as he did during those great seasons reduces "accuracy". Do you think the MVP voters were wrong because his completion percentages were poor compared to his peers, and to his own other seasons, those years? :-)

Namath's yards/completion in 1972 was *four standard deviations* better than average -- and that is what *won games* in those days. Yards/completion contributed *twice as much* to winning compared to "accuracy" then. What wins games has changed since then, look and see and try to comprehend.

You are the perfect example of what I was talking about, fans who don't comprehend how the game has changed and think the old-time greats sucked because they didn't pile up the numbers that matter to you -- while you have no idea of what the numbers were that mattered *to them.*

Yards-per-completion had double the importance to winning of accuracy, but you ignore huge, dominating yards-per-completion and talk accuracy.

He threw a lot of picks.

Did you see the AYA number in the table were he ranks ahead of, Montana, Elway, etc? That includes the cost of picks at -45 yards each.

When Namath played the TD-Pick ratio was 1 to 1.4, today it is 1 to 0.7. To say "he threw a lot of picks" compared to the QBs you know, without realizing only half as many picks are thrown today by everybody because the passing rules are so much easier, is dim. You have to adjust for changing norms like that, which is what that table does.

And if you bothered to read to the end of the story you know that the regressions that determine how the components of the QB stat line correlate to winning, in each QB's own time, say Namath's stat line in 1972 was at a .767 winning level, while the highest number in 2010 was .714 by Brady.

And yeah, that .767 was with his "low" accuracy and all those picks.

by bouch (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:43pm

While I agree that the "old timers" aren't as valued, they really aren't in any sport other than baseball. (bad example - Lebron James not wearing #23 any more because it was Jordan's number, but he takes #6, worn by Bill Russell AND Julius Erving. wow)

But using Namath is a poor example. 50% passing completion for his career is OK, and most years of his career he threw more INTs than TD. (over the career, almost than 50 more ints) Namath never led the league in passing percentage, and only once in passing touchdowns, yet 4 times in interceptions.

Johnny Unitas had a slightly higher percentage (54%), and threw about 40 more TDs than INTs. Thats a huge difference.

Namath also had a career post season record of 2-1. Granted, one of those wins sealed his legacy. I know not as many teams made the playoffs back then, a QB as dominant as you seem to want to think Namath was should have made the playoffs more than twice. Unitas - 5 playoff appearances.

Finally, lets look at career record. Namath actually had a losing record for his career.

Namath was a very good quarterback, no question, I'm not arguing that. But he's a bad example of a player who's unfairly denigrated. Think about it this way - if he was so great, why did it take him 3 years to get into the Hall of Fame? Unitas - first ballot.

BTW - Namaths most famous pass attempt, directed at Suzy Kolber, also fell incomplete.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:34pm

Note: This is a reply to the discussion as a whole, not specifically to the unverified bouch.

It isn't just the Polian rule that has been helping quarterback performance. As pointed out above, one major factor is the rule change in the late 70s that made it easier for receivers to run free into the secondary. There have been two other changes that have boosted the productivity of the passing game; it has been made easier for quarterbacks to throw the ball away, preventing both the loss of yardage taken on a sack and the risk of injury to the passer. Additionally there have been changes to protect both quarterbacks, via the 'Brady rule', and the new rules to protect receivers. If you put the 2011 Packers/Saints/Pats offense against the 85 Bears under 85 rules then I'd expect those teams to dramatically change their offenses because their qb would probably not finish the game if they stuck with their 4 and 5 receiver sets. Conversely, if the 85 Bears played today without changing their style I'd expect a personal foul every drive, which would limit the efficiency of their defense. That the game is safer for offensive skill players means that they will be more productive.

Another important factor is the evolution of coaching and schemes. Sid Gillman and Don Coyrell created some of the first modern passing systems and some teams run these to this day and are still effective. Then Bill Walsh installed another evolutionary element as the 49ers stretched the field horizontally while June Jones and Mouse Davis thrilled with the run and shoot. Today many of the better offenses incorporate many of these elements into their schemes, standing on the shoulders of the giants that preceded them while adding in the increased use of shotgun snaps and the no huddle perfected by Tom Moore. All of these factors will serve to make offenses more effective.

The addition of the helmet radios will also have helped the offense over the defense. As well as getting the play to the quarterback the best organised teams will be able to throw in a few coaching points and while the defense has the same opportunity it is more influential to get these notes to the qb, who is responsible for at least half of the passing game than to one middle linebacker or safety. The ability to get clear signals in quickly will also help offensive performance.

One question I have concerns the helmet radios. I'm pretty sure that the rule is supposed to be that the coach can only speak to the qb if the offense huddles but I've seen many occasions this year where the offense doesn't huddle, the defense is unable to substitute and the qb is stood holding his hands over the earholes on his helmet, clearly trying to listen to his coach (I noticed this with the Tyler Palko against the Steelers as they ran their no huddle last week). I like the no huddle but only if it's run on a fair basis. If you don't huddle then you shouldn't be able to use the radio.

All in all I think it's easier for quarterbacks to achieve high levels of production now than it was in the past and direct statistical comparison of quarterbacks from today and as recent as the 1980s is not quite fair on the earlier players.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:32pm

The 70s rules changes which outlawed the head slap, and gave offensive linemen more latitude with regard to the use of their hands, and the extension of their arms, were just as important, in my opinion, as the restriction on when receivers can be hit. Give Reggie White and Bruce Smith the head slap, and they might have each ended up with 300 sacks.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:47pm

The Brady rule really isn't a new rule so much as a rewriting or clarification of an existing rule.

When Brady was hit low by Bernard Pollard, hitting the QB low was already a foul. That Pollard wasn't flagged for it is still something that baffles me.

Before it was the Brady rule, it was the Carson Palmer rule. But apparently not all the refs got the message.

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:53pm

No, it was changed. The Carson Palmer rule was that you can't intentionally go low on a QB, but once you've been blocked to the ground you were allowed to hit a QB low. The Brady rule got rid of that exception.

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:37pm

The LB who calls the defensive signals also has a radio in his helmet.
Why should huddling or not huddling make a difference?

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 8:23pm

Well I always equated the use of no huddle with the advantage of preventing the defense from substituting, with the downside being that your qb has to call his own plays.

by tunesmith :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:30pm

Speaking purely as a Broncos fan, it's been gratifying to see some sane commentary here and other threads regarding Tebow and the Broncos this last week or so. Six weeks ago I felt like I was taking crazy pills.

by sundown (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:21pm

The funniest part has been that the crazy talk has been coming from both sides. The Tebow fanatics are over-the-top but some of his detractors are just as bad the other way.

But so far my favorite moment has been on a radio show where the host--a rabid Tebow supporter--suggested that Fox should be fired for being too conservative and running Tebow too much. Meanwhile, I think he deserves huge credit for catering the offense so much to what Tebow does well.

by Scizzy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:32pm

Wait, your formula thinks Green Bay only has a 51% chance of beating New York this week? Considering that Vegas has them as -350 favorites, I'm going to assume these calculations are pretty valueless.

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:39pm

Vegas lines simply reflect the amount of money being bet on each team by the populace. If you dropped $1 billion on the Giants (barring the red tape involved), they would suddenly become the overwhelming favorite.

by BJR :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:05pm

I'm getting fed up of seeing this argument written. The Vegas lines represent what odds compilers believe the correct probabilities are. Lines are not created or moved according to where muggish, populace money is bet.

A good bookmaker looks at 'who' is betting, not how much is being bet. If you think that shrewd, professional punters are betting on your line, you would want to move it. But these people do not represent the populace.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:12pm

Odds makers usually set the line so that an equal amount of money is bet on both sides to guarantee that they make money.

by BJR :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:32pm

No. Oddsmakers put out the price they think represents the correct probability on each team winning. If that results in an equal amount of money being bet on each team then great. If not, then they run a liability. But so what? As long as it is just regular, mug punters who they are better informed than, they will always win money in the long run. However, if they recognise punters betting that are shrewd and sharp, and will win money in the long run, then they would move a price.

It's all about the 'who', not the volume.

by leviramsey (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:40pm

This is true of some bookmakers, but others aim to reduce variance, and most current Vegas bookmakers lean towards the latter position. They generally do not want to tell the casino's CFO (who, remember is likely to be used to table games and slots where the sheer number of trials means that daily/weekly variance is basically nil) that the wrong sides won and the loss wiped out blackjack's profit for the week.

Dedicated bookmakers (e.g. offshore) are much more likely to lean to the former position, though even there, it's difficult to say. Pinnacle, for instance, has such a history of opacity that it's difficult to tell whether their odds are based on their opinion or on balancing action: talk to 50 people who've played there or watches their moves and you're likely to get 50 different answers. My best guess is that, judging by how Pinnacle reputedly recruits (mostly financial (especiallly option) traders) and how they're reputedly structured (the trader on a given game is risking his own capital alongside Pinnacle's) is that it varies from market to market and trader to trader.

The who is important, though: any bookmaker worth his salt profiles his clientele and might, for instance, consider a $1000 bet from a sharp to be the same as $15k in aggregate square money when it comes to deciding to move the line.

As a philosophical point, though, it's not necessarily a great thing for a bookmaker who handicaps better than other bookmakers to noticeably shade the line even most of the time: sharp bettors pick up on this and simply bet the bookmaker's lean elsewhere at better prices. End result is that the bookmaker doesn't get as much action as he could by sticking closer to the herd and even given a dramatically higher proportion of square action, is likely to end up with less overall profit.

by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:35am

"Odds makers usually set the line so that an equal amount of money is bet on both sides to guarantee that they make money."

No. Oddsmakers put out the price they think represents the correct probability on each team winning. If that results in an equal amount of money being bet on each team then great. If not, then they run a liability. But so what? ...

Because they are in business to make money, not run liabilities needlessly = incur losses without reason.

But, Dudes, it doesn't matter. Because 99.9% of the time it is the same thing -- either way, the Vegas line is the best advance estimate of winning and by how much.

If they weren't the same thing, then either way it would be easy for wagerers who aren't dufuses to beat the Vegas line -- and it ain't.

This has been documented a thousand times over, supercomputers have a difficult time staying even with they Vegas line, and *nobody* beats it systematically, it is the best estimate there is. (Any method of beating it systematically would immediately be adopted by those who set it -- end of that success right there.)

In reality the book usually sets a line estimated to draw balanced action, then moves it as wagers come in to keep the balance. That's why spreads move during the week. Because they make money from from the vig -- balance attracts more wagers coming in, thus more vig for them, and leaves them with no *risk of loss* because they don't have either side of the bet.

Who the heck isn't happy with income coming in with no risk of loss? It's as good as running a casino. Often, it *is* running a casino. Why would they take a side on the bet for no reason and risk a big loss?? They aren't setting spreads to show how well they can predict football games, they are doing it to make money.

But sometimes they *do* have a reason to take a side, and do so. Often on "special event" action, much less so for routine games. Then the wagering is unbalanced and they take a risk. But for a business reason. Vegas is reputed to have lost money on the wagering on the last few Super Bowls -- but you can bet, so to speak, that it made it back in other ways.

So you are both right.

But either way, the Vegas line is the best estimate of future results, period. Either way. Whatever is setting it at the moment. That's all anyone needs to know.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 12:33pm

That's an excellent summation. To reinforce just how hard it is to beat the house, an astonishing number of bettor advisory services have winning percentages in the 20-30% range (which doesn't stop them from charging a thousand bucks for a year''s subscription). Also, I think that's another thing that flies in the face of the notion that the Packers aren't really good enough to be 11-0. Vegas, unlike FO, liked Green Bay a lot from the beginning of the season. Plus, the Packers are one of very few teams (and maybe the only one this year) popular enough to force bookmakers to inflate the line routinely, yet I believe they're 8-2-1 vs. the spread.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:56am

I'm a little dubious on your arguement. It's not as if the casino writes down your name when you make a bet - how do they know if you're a "sharp" or a knucklehead like me?

by Eddo :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:19am

I would think that Vegas books know who the "sharps" are. They're the ones betting large sums. Bookies would have to be stupid (and judging by the money they take in, they're not) to fail to note that information.

EDIT: In a sense, sharps are identified by the amount they're betting, not by their name and address. If all the large bets a book takes are on one side of the line, they'll adjust the line so that side is less favorable, the "public" bettors be damned. Remember, the goal of casinos is to get the same amount of money bet on each side of the line, not the same number of bets.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:49am

Maybe the casinoes would notice large bets, but if I'm betting REAL big, wouldn't I be more likely to bet with one of my Itallian friends, who I don't have to pay up front?

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:06pm

And against whom you have no recourse if they don't pay you.

by Kevin from Philly :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:53pm

Well, you take the same risks with offshore web sites run by "legitimate" corporations too, no? Besides, if I'm that sharp, the casino would eventually bar me, which is the equivalent of not getting paid on future bets.

Unfortunately, I don't suppose I'll ever be considered a threat to any sports books' finances, but it's fun to think about.

by jebmak :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:21pm

I would argue that sharps are identified by the timing of their bets. Whether they are getting the best number possible during the week.

Or so I have heard/read regarding the people who have been banned from certain online books.

by JonFrum :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:25pm

If the 'sharps' were sharp, they wouldn't be betting against a spread that is designed to split the betting pool evenly. When the spread is successful, a chimp could do as well as a 'sharp.' And the spread IS successful.

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:33pm

Why would they put all the resources, time, and effort into the possibility of making more money (while risking a big loss, i.e., gambling) when they can simply run software to make sure the money bet on each side is equal to therefore guarantee a huge profit on every single game, every single week?

by Turnip (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:33pm

I will rephrase your question: "Why would they want to make even more money than their competition?"

by BroncosGuyAgain :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:12pm

Your comment implies Vegas does not set a line until significant money is bet on the game. This is, of course, utterly untrue. The Vegas odds makers have a very sophisticated box of statistical tools at their disposal that predict both the game outcome and betting action. The opening line is set thusly.

Changes in the line reflect betting action. Bookmakers care not a whit about outcomes, only about the division of betting.

That Vegas and FO differ on a single game means next to nothing. The sample size is the smallest possible value. FO does not anticipate betting action. DVOA is a very flawed predictor of wins and losses. That does not make it worthless.

by Scott P. (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:35pm

This assumes that Vegas tries to set the line at the 'correct' spot. Not true. Vegas doesn't care if the odds reflect an even chance for each team to cover.

If Vegas feels that a particular team will be more popular among bettors (higher national profile, etc.) they will often set a line to entice betting on the other team. Vegas is only interested in the line that will bring in the most money on both sides.

by Arkaein :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:05pm

That still requires knowledge of what the actual win probability is. But it also requires knowledge about betting trends for less predictive factors such as the teams playing and win loss records.

Even if the goal of Vegas is simply to split the money bet down the middle for both teams it still requires the initial line to be set based on some fairly solid win probabilities, because actual bettors, at least in the aggregate, have a pretty decent idea of who will win each game.

by leviramsey (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:12pm

Most odds services with which I'm familiar with send out two lines to their clients: an expected result line and a line based on expected betting patterns.

Originating books then take those into account and open at generally low limits, reflecting their lack of confidence in the lines. Because generally people betting openers are more sharp than square (e.g. they understand that the lines are necessarily more opinionated at this time), this betting action is watched especially closely and moves are frequent (of course, a lot of this action is merely trying to set up scalp and middle opportunities for later in the week, so it's not based on an opinion of true probabilities but on a prediction of where the line will go... the analogies with value investment and technical trading are apt).

Another factor is possibly future exposure, which can affect the odds in individual games. Apocryphally, (this comes from Manteris's book) in order to get a convention group from Minneapolis to stay in the hotel (I think it was the Hilton) in the spring of 1987, the execs decided to give everybody a free $100 bet at the sportsbook. A large number of these were placed on the Twins to win the World Series and the result was a lot of exposure that could not otherwise be reduced on the Twins winning the Series. As the Twins (who were not considered a particularly strong team heading in and so had fairly long odds offered) got into the AL West race and then made the playoffs, the name of the game for Manteris became attracting as much action against the Twins on a game-by-game basis to hedge the futures risk. Even though the Twins won the World Series (and the net loss on the futures was quite large), they soaked up enough Cardinals action on the games that the Twins won to break even overall. I can see that possibly being a factor here: the Packers are a public team there may well be decent net exposure on Packers to win the Super Bowl and/or NFC. Since a loss to the Giants, ceteris paribus, should reduce the chances of paying out on those futures (e.g. one way the Giants can win is by knocking Rodgers out...), taking a loss from offering +EV Giants ML bets might be offset by the decline in mark-to-market future exposure to the Packers.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:22pm

Truth is, I think everyone's missing the boat on the GB-NYG game. The current line, i believe is 7-- and I think that is LOW. 8.5 or 9 is probably a truer reflection of the two teams' ability now, even granting the Giants a home field edge. 8.5 or 9 is so far froma 51-49 probability as to be a joke.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 11:40pm

I'm not going to join the argument about how bookmakers set the line, but I DO think it would be very interesting to see FO's estimated chances of each team winning, every week.

by jebmak :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:24pm

That is part of the premium service.

by The Powers That Be :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 4:39pm

No it's not (unless it's somewhere I haven't found). They give their picks vs. the spread and straight up, and they rank them according to confidence, but they don't give the actual percentages.

But they do give results on their picks vs. the spread since 2008, and they've been over .500 every year. And their higher-confidence picks this year are far over .500 vs. the spread (data isn't broken out for prior years). How realistic their listed spreads are (whether you could actually bet those lines), I don't know.

by LionInAZ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:42pm

If the line were set on realistic win probabilities, then why would the line shift depending on the wagers? We all know that the initial line set by Vegas is not the line that will show up on game day!

by Arkaein :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 12:20pm

Presumably for the reasons others have stated: to keep the money on both sides even.

As long as the betting public has a bias, the money bet will be lopsided across the betting line.

Vegas has to set a reasonable line to start with, otherwise smart bettors will take advantage of this line to make easy money. However, if Vegas wants to hedge its bets by balancing both sides, then it will have to adapt to the betting public. Although I'm not well versed in the specifics, the actual strategy seems to find a place in the middle, to keep the line relatively balanced while not allowing too much edge to smart bettors.

Also consider that conditions change after the initial line is set. A player getting hurt in practice mid week will change both the actual and publicly perceived win probabilities.

by Mr. Show (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:41pm

Seems odd for the Colts percentages too. I realize that home field is a definite factor but the Colts have a 38% chance of beating 1st ranked Houston with only an 18% chance of beating 23rd ranked Jacksonville?

by RickD :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:47pm

The Colts play the Texans at home while they play the Jaguars in Jacksonville.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:54pm

Plus the Colts are playing with the same second string QB they've had all year while the Texans are now have either a fifth round rookie, the recently signed Kellen Clemens, or (hide your children) Jake Delhomme!

by RickD :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:52pm

It's a home game for the Giants. And really, the Giants are not a bad team. And their strength (passing game) matches up well to GB's weakness (pass defense).

I'm sure GB would be favored more often on a neutral field.

I don't think you appreciate the difference between how Vegas sets lines and what's going on at this site.

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:59pm

GB is a terrible matchup for NYG. The Giants secondary regularly gets torched (heck even Charlie Whitehurst has torched them) and have a QB that historically is Turnover Prone vs a GB Defense that is Great at Intercepting Passes. Not surprisingly, these factors played out exactly as one would suspect during Week 16 Last Year.

NYG is slow in the secondary and has no playmakers outside of their Front 4 on Defense. Good luck trying to matchup against GB's Receivers with their 3 Safety Defense

by RickD :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:16pm

The Giants beat the Pats and the Pats are constructed in a similar manner to the Packers - explosive offense and weak defense.

I think people are suffering from Most Recent Game bias.

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:28pm

NYG was getting torched by Good Offenses long before The Saints game. Heck even terrible Charlie WhiteHurst/Tarvaris Jackson killed them. NYG can't cover anyone and QBs that can get rid of the ball have a field day.

This game will be a less extreme version of the Week 16 Game Last Year. I see a 38-27 type win for GB

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:24pm

The Pats have the #2 offense in the NFL and yet the Giants were able to hold them in check. That was my point.

The game against the Seahawks was an anomaly. You cannot judge the Giants by that game alone. If they played that poorly every week Tom Coughlin would have died of a stroke already.

by Mavajo (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:43pm

This is a misconception. It's true that the Packers and Patriots share the common attributes of an elite offense and suspect defense, but they are not "constructed in a similar manner" at all.

The Patriots rely on mismatches at Tight End with the crafty Welker mixing it up with the short game. There's not a diversity of ways they can beat you offensively. The Packers, on the other hand, are quite possibly the most diverse offense in the NFL. They have a wealth of guys that can move the ball on you. The Packers offense is deeper than the Patriots.

Also, while they both bleed yards, the Packers D has more teeth. They've got a number of playmakers on that side of the ball.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:27am

While the Patriots employ the two TE set more frequently and the Packers don't, I don't think that really means they are that different. Both teams use the pass to set up the run and both teams try to exploit mismatches. The Patriots work the inside of the field more and the Packers work the outside more. That doesn't mean they are dramatically different. Does that difference somehow negate the strength of the NYG D, its pass rush? I don't think so but who knows.

As for the Packers having more "playmakers" on D, apparently not. The reality is that everyone has been gashing them this year for whatever reason and Eli is a pretty good QB. Giants have a decent shot at the upset, although not likely

by Abe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:44am

Yeah, they've been gashed so much that they are #3 in the NFC in points given up. The most overrated defensive stat is yardage given up. The Lions had a bunch of yards last Thursday in the first half but didn't get inside the red zone. And yes, the Packers do have more "playmakers" on D. They perennial lead the league or are at the top of the league in interceptions-- they have playmakers on D where the Patriots don't. No one can argue that. Eli has a tendency to throw interceptions. It's not a good match up as last years 45-17 score can attest.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:22pm

...and the Pats have given up even fewer points than the Packers have (223 to 227).

So both defenses tend to give up lots of yardage without giving up many points.

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:30pm

Yeah, they've been gashed so much that they are #3 in the NFC in points given up.

According to whom? NFL.com has them joint 4th in the NFC, tied with Atlanta and behind Dallas, Washington, and San Francisco.

I also note that you specify NFC, which conveniently omits the fact the AFC has 8 of the top 10 (and 9 of the top 11) defenses by points allowed. Green Bay is joint 13th. (As for the entire Patriots/Packers aspect, the Patriots and their supposedly awful "no playmaker" defense have allowed fewer points than the Packers. Both give up a lot of yards, but are middle of the pack in points allowed.)

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:22am

The problem is that I think the Packers more resemble the Saints than the Patriots.

by Scizzy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:02pm

Trust me, if Vegas was routinely this far off on a game (literally 75% vs. 51%!) there would be no such thing as Vegas because every sportsbook would be broke a million times over. Trust me, the way Vegas sets lines, which are very difficult to beat on games which have immense amount of actions, is far more rigorous then whatever spit out this result. Honestly, if you think the Packers are really going to lose this game half the time, you should rush to your local bookie because you'll make a fortune.

by BJR :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:06pm


by Tom W (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 12:47pm

Allow me to third that.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:17pm

If you think the Packers are really going to lose this game half the time, you should rush to your local bookie because you'll make a fortune.

Why? How many times are they going to play this Packers-Giants game?

by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:27pm

If the playoff odds simulator is actually correct in the odds listed here, then there's a strong pattern of Vegas underestimating the chances of underdogs winning straight-up. So you'd actually have many, many chances to make a fortune.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:26pm

That's a better point than the original point.

by markus (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:34pm

It's the same point. You just didn't get what the first guy was saying.

by Scizzy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:28pm

Oh, the rest of those percentages are similarly terrible. Though you're right about the sample size, of course.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:26pm

Quite seriously, what you're doing is making an argument to authority. It's not like the method that Vegas has is more rigorous than that FO is doing. Vegas is simply trying to maximize profits, which is a far different goal than maximizing the probability of being correct.

It's quite possible that a poor estimate of the win probability will bring a higher expected return for a given casino than the most accurate estimate would be. Vegas wants to have as much action as possible while minimizing risk. These are two different goals, and neither of them equals "finding the optimal estimator for win probability."

I wouldn't be surprised either way at what the outcome in NJ is next week. Would I put the Packers' probability of winning at 51%? Probably not. Accuscore has it at 70%, which seems more reasonable. But I wouldn't argue against FO simply by an argument to authority.

by Scizzy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:35pm

I guess you could say I'm making an argument to authority, but it's an authority that has proven its legitimacy over literally millions of trials. If those percentages are right that would imply that people could beat Vegas for huge returns on their investment in ways that would be observable to onlookers. Since nobody is that good at making money betting on sports, I think it's safe to say that FO's numbers, which are literally untested and originate in a black box, are wrong on this one.

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:47pm

It's not untested. Every year there are sites that compare how various advanced stats do versus Vegas. Here's one right here:


by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:24pm

Interesting, but in terms of the argument at hand (whether Vegas or FO has a superior formula) we would need to see initial (rather than final) Vegas lines. I'm assuming these are final lines which were skewed by betting patterns.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:37pm

It's not an argument from authority - it's the efficient market hypothesis. Vegas oddsmakers are actually staking their own money on their odds being unbeatable (or mostly unbeatable.) Since Vegas doesn't go bankrupt, either their odds are unbeatable, or nobody has noticed any areas of obvious, glaring bias.

by beargoggles :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:20pm

I wouldn't say "nobody". Some people may make money on betting at football. A more appropriate statement, would be "not enough" people know how to game the system to make a dent in the vast masses that lose money.

by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:54am

Note as well that any *systematic* method of beating the Vegas line will of course immediately be adopted by Vegas in setting the line -- end of that story right there.

That puts the kibbosh on Football Outsiders or ANY publicly known method of computing wagers and setting odds beating the Vegas line right there. Ain't happening, ain't gonna happen (for longer than it takes a gnat to blink).*

So if you figure out a way to do it, keep it secret to yourself and be careful not to win enough to draw attention to yourself.

* Of course, the same logic debunks all those who claim they can tell you a way to "beat the stock market", or any other public market that professionals trade in, for real estate, commodities, forex, whatever. If they can beat the market, why the hell aren't they making a fortune beating the market instead of wasting their time talking to you about it? (And if they are offering to *sell to you* their secret of beating the market, then it is pretty obvious they think they can make more money from their "secret" via sales-to-rubes than from market-beating.)

by markus (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:42pm

100% correct. Whenever anyone comes seeking you out bragging about how they can beat Vegas or the stock market, you should run because they're either a thief or a moron. No doubt there have been people who have done both, at least for periods of time, but they were smart enough not to publicly announce their discovery and thus instantly doom it.

If FO had any confidence in their system, they wouldn't even be admitting that it existed. And if the thing had proven to work, this site would be long gone because they'd be gambling full-time and rolling around in their winnings.

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:55pm

Unless, maybe just maybe, their system isn't intended to "beat Vegas". Perhaps they're just genuinely interested in why teams win football games, and in detailed analysis of what makes football teams tick. Perhaps, horror of horrors, they actually enjoy the sport of football WITHOUT needing to gamble on it.

Crazy talk, I know.

by Verifiable (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:58pm

Or perhaps the amount of capital they would need in order to survive the variance of the results is in excess of what they currently have or can raise.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:37pm

The efficient markets hypothesis is like the theory of evolution: it only says that the fittest have survived, it doesn't make any predictions about the future, except to say that in the future, the fittest will survive.

As fallacies go, the argument from authority isn't terrible, especially when relating to the field of expertise of the authority, but it's still an argument that has its weaknesses. Basically it stays true for a long time until it's not true any more.

by Parmenides :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 2:17am

Except the efficient markets hypothesis is wrong on the basis of the investor hypothesis, the markets can stay irrational longer than you can stay solvent.

by Skins fan # 721 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:40pm

I, for one, will be surprised if the Giants do not at least cover.

by alaano (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 4:15pm

I guess you skipped the above discussion. Vegas makes money as long as they equalize the bets on each side, regardless of how their lines differ from actual likelihood of outcome.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:42pm

This has been a very interesting DVOA season, seemingly with more "doesn't jibe with my eyes" ratings and weekly reaction to games.

Take this week, for instance. NE takes a team that had a respectible 10% DVOA on the season behind the woodshed and their rating improves marginally. The Jets struggle against a Buffalo team in freefall (both on the field and in DVOA) yet their total DVOA remains largely unchanged despite being in the same general vicinity as NE's to start the week.

In fairness, I don't believe the Young-led Eagles were any great shakes, but DVOA thought they were good and still didn't react to a total trouncing. Hell, Houston couldn't pull away from a Jax team that DVOA thinks is terrible and their total DVOA rose by 0.1% more than NE's did!

Another comparable is the NO/NYG game. Sure NY was rated a little higher (roughly 8% than Philly) and perhaps the performance was a little better, but NO leaped up by 5% after Mondays' game, compared to 1.1% for NE. Yes NE allowed a lot of yardage, but NO allowed only a single yard less than and NY also scored 4 more points than the Eagles.

Just a head scratching season from me.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:45pm

A head scratching season FOR me. I had nothing to do with it's creating, either on the field or in the DVOA spreadsheets.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:50pm

DVOA has no idea that Vick and Schaub are injured.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:25pm

I know, but that has very minor relevence to the discussion at hand. If anything, that should actually *help* NE's rating, since NE's defense would have allowed that much yardage to a better quarterback. Contrastingly, it should *hurt* the Texans' due to the inferior QB play.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:34pm

Beyond a certain point, you have to shrug and say "DVOA likes the Jets."

We know DVOA doesn't like long drives against a defense, even if they result in zero points. The Eagles had a 78-yard drive against the Pats that resulted in zero points.

DVOA isn't the only measure that dislikes the Pats' defense. Their yardage/game is still horrible. But they are excellent w.r.t. points allowed. Well, "excellent" is probably an overstatement, but they are in the top 10. I think this is fluky statistically.

What concerns me more is that the Jets seem to bump past a lot of teams (including the Ravens, who pasted them) based on the strength of their special teams. Are special teams really that important? It's true that the Jets have a good return game, and you could argue "yardage is yardage," but return yardage necessarily comes before an offensive drive that itself needs to score points (unless you have Hester or Peterson scoring TDs).

The sad part of this is how it's all going to resolve itself. The Jets will get the #6 seed, go to Houston, and then beat the Texans with Sage Rosenfels or Vinny Testaverde or Dan Pastorini at QB. And this fluke result will validate what otherwise smells like an overrating of the Jets.

by Led :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:14pm

I like the sound of that Jets scenario! However, given the tie breakers, they're only going to make the playoffs if they win at least 4 of the last 5 games (and they probably need all 5). They would have to play pretty well to pull that off, which would largely validate their current DVOA. They could also play poorly and lose to the Giants, Iggles and Dolphins, causing their DVOA to plummet and solving the problem a different way.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:52am

I understand the Jet issues, which is why I brought up Houston and NO as well. The lack of consistency between their respective responses to this past week is staggering.

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:47pm

"I think this is fluky statistically."

The Patriots have been ranked better in Points Allowed than Yards allowed almost every year that Bellichick has been there. It may not totally be the defense, but its certainly not a fluke.

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:58pm

But they are excellent w.r.t. points allowed. Well, "excellent" is probably an overstatement, but they are in the top 10.

They're 11th.

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:09pm

And 16th in points per drive, which is a much better measure.

by milo :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:08am

Perhaps you weren't paying much attention to the game. The Saints rushing attack was stellar. And they did score two more touchdowns. And they didn't go down 10 points at the beginning of the game.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:55am

Yes, as I said before, they played a little better. But DVOA really doesn't care about falling behind or whether the success was due to running or passing.

by milo :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:10pm

DVOA cares a great deal about success in the running game. NO had a better running DVOA in this game than CAR(#1) or PHI(#2) have put up in any single game this year.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:45pm

You aren't getting my point. A success is a success is a success, it doesn't matter whether it is running or passing.

It has been well documented that DVOA prefers an 80 yard drive of ten 8 yard plays over two 40 yarders. I don't see anything indicating that a DVOA is more impressed by ten 8 yard runs than they are by 10 8 yard passes. It isn't like they grade out running and passing equally regardless of how many attempts were made by each.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 4:27pm

It has been well documented that DVOA prefers an 80 yard drive of ten 8 yard plays over two 40 yarders.

No, it hasn't, because it's not true, or true only to a very slight extent.

What DVOA does prefer is an 80 yard drive of ten 8 yard plays over two 40 yard plays and eight 0 yard plays.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:14pm

Pedantic. And still not relevent to the primary reason for my original post.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 8:30pm

Well, as long as your original post doesn't rely on "well documented" fictions, then I have no trouble with it.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 8:36pm

Yes, I misstated that (though the intended comment was clearly as day to everyone but you, and below you'll also see my error was unintendedly correct as well). I hope you get exquisite joy out of pointing out trivial flaws while offering nothing of substance.

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:14pm

I'm with bravehoptoad on this one. It's not a trivial flaw. It's one of the most commonly repeated misconceptions across all the comment threads on this site, and is so commonly misstated that it's become erroneously accepted by many as fact. Given how frequently misunderstood and misstated it is, it's well worth correcting at every opportunity.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 2:07pm

But it is trivial when it has no bearing on the conversation at hand. Both NO and NE had their share of big plays and both had their share of long, sustained drives. It isn't like the one team had 7 three and outs and 5 80 yard TDs or anything. So, yes, in this instance they were trivial.

Beyond that, BHT's later comments were snarky and unnecessary. Had he simply said, "I feel I should point out that this statement is actually incorrect..." with a less arrogant delivery, the conversation would have gone in a different direction.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 4:18pm

I didn't think it was either trivial or pedantic. In any case, there's a far, far more intelligent conversation taking place on this very topic just a few posts down.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:55pm

DVOA DOES fundamentally prefer an ten different 8 yard gains over 2 40 yard plays. Not only does 8 successful plays to more to offset negative plays later in the game (for example look at the Jets high DVOA vs NE thanks to super long drives) but also the long drives accumulate the Red ZOne Bonuses that 2 different 40 yard plays would not gain.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 8:35pm

Not only does 8 successful plays to more to offset negative plays later in the game....

That's exactly what I'm disputing. There's no evidence for it. DVOA likes big gains. DVOA likes small gains, as long as they're successful. DVOA likes big gains more than it likes small gains. What DVOA doesn't like is unsuccessful plays.

Not even DVOA's creator knows why the Jets had such a high DVOA for the Jets-Patriots game. You don't know why, either.

...but also the long drives accumulate the Red ZOne Bonuses that 2 different 40 yard plays would not gain.

True. It's just not going to be that important.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:06pm

The creator does pretty much why the Jets had such a high rating. Their Offense had basically as many if not more Successful plays than Usuccessful since their few long drives offset all the negative plays from the 3 and Outs.

It also has been stated many times that 8 10 yard gains is worth more than 1 80 yard gain since DVOA sees the 8 10 yard games as more predictive/repeatable

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:35pm

It also has been stated many times that 8 10 yard gains is worth more than 1 80 yard gain since DVOA sees the 8 10 yard games as more predictive/repeatable

This is wrong. The 80 yard play will have higher DVOA than any 10 yard play.

However, if the 80 yard gain team has 7 0 yard gains then it will look bad.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 12:20am


DVOA considers *1* 80 yard play worth more than *1* 10 yard play (any other result would be madness)

But it does not consider *1* 80 yard play equivalent to *8* 10 yard plays.

Basically meaning the NYJ could finish with a higher DVOA from a series of grinding 8 play drives, and finish with a higher DVOA than the Packers, who converted a Hail Mary on every play, despite half the points, half the total yards, and 1/8th the yards per play -- all at the same success rate. This is not only non-intuitive, it's damned near non-defensible.

by Jerry :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 1:01am

If the Packers converted a Hail Mary on every play, they'd have a much higher VOA than a Jets team that was taking eight plays per drive. (Opponent adjustments don't matter here.) If the Packers tried Hail Marys on every play and converted 1/8 of them, that would probably result in a worse VOA than the Jets' successful 8-play drives. This makes sense, or at least much sense as this extreme example can, since that 1/8 successful Hail Mary strategy will produce TDs on 41.4% of 4-down series, while the grinding strategy is producing TDs on 100% of series.

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 1:09am

Nevermind, Jerry's explanation was better.

by Dan :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 2:17am

I used to agree with you on this, tuluse - I thought the only reason a boom-or-bust team would do worse than a team that steadily marched down the field was because of those busts. But based on what I saw about how DVOA is calculated in the Jets thread I think there might be more to this criticism of DVOA than I thought. 8 10-yard plays might actually help a team's DVOA more than 1 80-yard play.

Let's say that Team A and Team B play identical games, except for one 80-yard scoring drive. Team A has eight plays for 10 yards each and a touchdown on that drive, and Team B has just one play for an 80 yard touchdown. Other than that one drive their games are play-for-play identical. Which team has a higher DVOA for the game?

I think the answer is Team A. These numbers aren't exactly right, but based on the data in the Jets thread and on the methods page, on 1st and 10 it looks like that the baseline is about 0.8 success points, a 10-yard gain is worth about 2 success points, and an 80-yard touchdown is worth about 6 success points (I'm least sure of this last number). For that drive, Team A had a total of 16 success points and a total baseline of 6.4, and Team B had a total of 6 success points with a total baseline of 0.8. DVOA is points over baseline divided by baseline, so, just looking at that one drive, Team B obviously has a higher DVOA - 650% (5.2/.8) vs. 150% (9.6/6.4) for Team A.

But let's look at the whole game. Say that they both played average the rest of the game, 40 success points with a baseline of 40. Then for the full game Team A had 56 success points out of a baseline of 46.4, for a DVOA of 20.7%. Team B had 46 success points of a a baseline of 40.8, for a DVOA of 12.7%. So the 8-play drive does do more to help the team's offensive DVOA than the 80-yard touchdown, even without having any extra 0-yard plays. (The 80-yard touchdown would have to be worth over 9 success points for the two teams' DVOAs to be equal.)

This is just a rough calculation and I left out a couple things, but I think a more thorough calculation would tilt things even more in favor of Team A. I didn't give them a red zone bonus (which would increase the value over baseline of 2 of their plays by 25%, without changing the baseline), and I didn't count their touchdown play as being worth more than any other 10-yard gain (it looks like a 10-yard touchdown is worth over 4 success points, with a baseline still near .8, based on the numbers for the Jets' 9-yard touchdown). Once you take those into account, Team A's DVOA for the game would be more like 30% rather than 20%.

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 3:11am

That's interesting. It looks like there is some opportunity cost DVOA-wise for a team that scores really quickly.

However, I think there is basically no way a team which has an 80 yard scoring play doesn't end up running more plays in some other drive, which should eliminate that problem.

Actually, how did you estimate success points for an 80 yard TD play? In the Jets game, they got 5.3 success points for a 21 yard TD. That would mean teams only get .7 points for the other 60 yards. The Jets had 3 other plays from 19-22 yard gains which yielded 2.9-3.75 success points. So if those 60 yards were discounted by 1/3, that should yield about 8.3 success points for an 80 yard TD. Which would give a DVOA of 18.4% in your example. If you look at yards past the first ten, a 20 yard gain gives 1 point for the extra 10 yards. If that continued, an 80 yard TD would yield 11.3 success points. That would give a DVOA of 25.7%. The true answer is probably somewhere in the middle of those two.

Here's the other thing though, the team with 8 yard gains, has 8 players of above average play, the team with the one 80 yard TD has 1. Again it is the *other* plays from the game bringing their average down. By your own calculations an 80 yard TD is worth at least 650% DVOA. The problem is that the team wasn't not above average on any other play.

by Dan :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 4:29am

The methods page says:

We then expand upon that basic idea with a more complicated system of "success points." A successful play is worth one point, an unsuccessful play zero points. Extra points are awarded for big plays, gradually increasing to three points for 10 yards, four points for 20 yards, and five points for 40 yards or more.

So the success points don't keep increasing linearly - they level off after 40 yards. The passage makes it sound like a 99-yard play is only worth 1 success point more than a 20-yard play, so since the 21-yard Jets TD was worth 5.3 that suggests an 80-yard TD should be worth about 6.3 success points. The passage goes on to say that there is a bonus for a touchdown play, and looking at the Jets' touchdown plays, it looks like that bonus is around 2 success points, so another estimate is that an 80-yard TD is worth about 7 points (five points for gaining 40+ yards plus two points for the TD). My guess is that the number is somewhere between 6 and 7 success points, which makes only a small difference in my calculations (7 pts. would give Team B a 15.2% DVOA in the example in my previous comment rather than 12.7%).

The key thing in my example is that we're holding constant what the team does on the rest of its offensive plays - we're just replacing an 8-play 80-yard TD drive with a single 80-yard TD pass - and their offensive DVOA is going down. Even if they were above average the rest of the time, this would still happen. Let's say that the team had a 25% offensive DVOA the rest of the game (which would be good for 4th in the NFL this year) instead of a league-average 0% DVOA. They still had a baseline of 40 points for the rest of the game, but they gained 50 success points. Then Team A would have a DVOA of 42.2% for the full game (66 success points, baseline = 46.4) and Team B would have a 37.3-39.7% DVOA (56-57 success points, baseline=40.8). They're closer together, but Team A still does better in DVOA.

And I haven't been giving Team A credit for its touchdown or its red zone bonus in these numbers. I've looked at the numbers some more since my last post, and I think I'm understating Team A's performance by 3.2 success points and about 6% DVOA. It should be about 48.8% in this example, and 27.3% in my original example.

The conclusion of this line of argument is that DVOA is underrating teams that are good at getting big gains, and overrating teams that are bad at getting big gains. The Jets' longest play in their game against the Patriots went for 22 yards and they are last in the league this season in number of 40+ yard plays (they have 1), which I think is a big part of why DVOA likes them more than conventional stats do. Although maybe this is a feature of DVOA that makes it more predictive (even though it has a worse fit to past results), since big plays could be fairly random. I wonder if Aaron has tried varying the success point values to see what makes them most predictive of teams' performance. The numbers that he gives on the methods page are suspiciously round, which makes me think that he just came up with success point values that seemed plausible to him rather than basing them systematically on the data (although there might have been some kind of testing at some point).

by DGL :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 10:14am

I tend to agree; I particularly tend to agree with your statement that DVOA's tendency to "underrate" teams that get a lot of big gains and "overrate" teams that don't is more of a feature than a bug. It seems reasonable that the ability to consistently string together a long series of successful plays is more predictive of future success than the ability to hit a single long play, if only from the "sample size" point of view. Even a blind Blaine Gabbert finds the occasional Mike Thomas.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 4:24pm

And also in this case, "big gains" is 40+ yards, right? That wouldn't be the usual lower limit when people think of big gains, I don't think.

by Jerry :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 3:13am

Nice work. To take it a step further, let's say that each team has an identical season except for team A scoring one touchdown on an 8-play drive every game while B scores on one play. (We'll assume that this has no effect on the defensive numbers.) We don't expect DVOA to recognize that this is a context where A's 128 plays are actually equivalent to B's 16; it's just going to see that team A has 112 more successful plays in their season than team B, even if B has those 16 huge plays. The exception would be the unlikely case where both offenses are good enough that the 10-yard plays are worse than normal, in which case those drives would bring the DVOA down.

The larger point may be that DVOA works better as the sample gets larger. (Shocking, isn't it?) Single plays, drives, or even games may have results that seem wrong, but as they're accumulated over the course of a season, they become more believable.

ETA: tuluse and I continue to agree.

by Eddo :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 3:01pm

I don't want to get too involved, but the ten-80-yard-play TD drive is more valuable than the one-80-yard-play TD drive. You're allowing your defense to rest, and taking up more of the game clock, so your opponent has less time to counter your TD(*).

(*) While in some cases, the latter might not be ideal (if you're down by multiple scores), it is on the whole a slightly-preferred scenario, I would say.

by QQ (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 7:39pm

This is debatable. Fundamentally, the Better the team, the more important it is to maximize the number of possessions, therefore the 80 yard TDs are better since they lead to more total possessions in the game.

For the weaker team that wants to minimize possessions, the 10 play drive is better, but the better team should prefer the 80 yard strike

by milo :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:19pm

DVOA: 45.5%|67.7%
ODVOA: 65.1%|78.8%
OPDVOA: 136.7%|100.6%
ORDVOA: 0%|78.2%
DDVOA: 24.7%|13.2%
DPDVOA: 42.2%|33.2%
DRDVOA: -15.9%|-23.0%
STDVOA: 5.0%|2.2%

Are one of these ratios not like the other? Which one? The D in DVOA for both opponents is close, so presumably the VOA's in this game compare in similar ratios. I don't know the value of any play (but I can read what is considered successful or not) in terms of VOA or DVOA, but I think I can see that the most significant difference in DVOA performance between NE and NO this past week is Offensive Rushing DVOA. DVOA thinks this was NO's best performance of the season. DVOA thinks this was NE's fourth best performance.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:32pm

Thank you for posting this. I had little doubt that NO's rushing would be superior, and the magnitude is only marginally surprising.

That said, NE didn't really run that much, so the weight of that 0% shouldn't be too heavy on the overall performance (and the 22% gap seems reasonable, considering DVOA thinks NO's defensive performance was a little better).

That said, I'm still left wondering why NO improved on their entire season DVOA by 4% more than NE on the merits of that single game. 22% better in 1/11 of the season seems like 2% would seem more reasonable (not that it is ever safe to average averages). I also scanned through NO's schedule and it isn't as if any of their prior opponents did great this week making an earlier game appear more impressive in retrospect. Nor do I see the opposite happening with NE.

Whatever, none of this really matters. I guess I'm going to have to accept the divergence between my eyes and the numbers.

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:45pm

I think the odds of an upset are being overrated. Very, very few people would give KC a better than 3 out of 10 chance of beating GB.

by RickD :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:43pm

It's a home game for the Chiefs.

The generic upset probability in the NFL is higher than most people imagine it to be. It really is over 30%. But that number is, of course, averaged over all games between all pairs of teams, and the Packers are far better than the typical favorite while the Chiefs are worse than the typical underdog.

Like I said regarding earlier comments: there's a big advantage to the home team in this model.

Let's keep in mind that the model hasn't seen Tyler Palko throw a pass into quintuple coverage. This is a limitation to the model: it is looking at average Chief team performance, not at the best estimator which includes factoring injuries into account. Presumably, if it could account for Palko at QB, the win percentage for the Chiefs would drop to .0001%. Or lower.

by DEW (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:17pm

Mind you, that's probably going to be Kyle Orton throwing the ball by then, and if getting the Spectre of Tebow off from over his shoulder (y'know, playing with a home crowd that actually wants to see him succeed instead of praying that he fails so Their Hero can take the field) brings back the 2009-10 version, the upset percentage might look a little more normal than if the game was played Thursday.

Or not. KC's still pretty awful.

by tunesmith :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:40am

And, Kyle Orton still doesn't have Josh McDaniels.

by Jonadan :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 7:58pm

Mathematically the odds of GB finishing 16-0 don't seem that low. As a generic gauge, the odds of a team sitting at 50% in all its games winning 5 in a row is just over 3%. Green Bay has that figure almost quadrupled, not surprising since they're heavily favored in all but the NYG game (though my "common sense" says Oakland, Detroit, and maybe even Chicago have better odds than New York but maybe that's because I watched last night's game).

"When you absolutely don't know what to do any more, then it's time to panic." - Johann van der Wiel

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:05pm

I wonder what the odds are of GB having won 17 in a Row, at least 10 of which were against Playoff Teams with many being on the road

by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:31pm

That's the easiest question I've seen all day: 100%.

If you already know the results, odds are pretty easy to calculate.

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:54pm

I'll assume then that you are a millionaire since you would have made tons of money betting on them to win all 4 Playoff Games with 100% Win Probability for GB in your mind

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:03pm

If he could place bets in the past, then yes.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:40pm

Biff Tannen made a fortune doing that.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:58pm

According to him he knew they were 100% at the time. For example, if you flipped a coin and it landed on Heads, if someone walked past and said "I wonder what the odds were of it landing on heads" the answer would be 50%. If you said 100% then that means at the time you had 100% certainty in the future result.

The poster stated he had 100% certainty that last year GB would win the Super Bowl, so logic suggests that he must have made a fortune betting on them

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:01pm

That's not what he said.

That's also not what you asked.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:52pm

You say:

"According to him he knew they were 100% at the time."

He said:

"If you already know the results, odds are pretty easy to calculate."

Nobody else seems to be confused.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:32pm

"You say:

"According to him he knew they were 100% at the time."

He said:

"If you already know the results, odds are pretty easy to calculate."

Nobody else seems to be confused."

He seems confused as well as you. The original post was wondering about the Odds of GB winning those 17 Games in a row. He said that the Odds were 100%. The only way that is true is if the Odds of winning each game was 100% which is impossible.

The answer that he says is also wrong. Even if we knew the results (imagine a coin is flipped and it lands on heads) just because it ended up on heads does not mean the odds of that happening was 100%.

by The Powers That Be :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:02pm

Okay, this conversation is silly, but...

Here's the original comment:

"I wonder what the odds are [present tense] of GB having won 17 in a Row [in other words: of something having happened in the past], at least 10 of which were against Playoff Teams with many being on the road".

The odds of "GB having won 17 in a row" are 100%, since GB did win 17 in a row. The second poster's statement was perfectly correct, based on the original wording.

And yes, the odds today of something having happened in the past that we have perfect knowledge about are either 0% or 100%. Now that we've completely finished explaining the joke and thereby killing all of its amusement value, perhaps everyone can move on.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 2:22am

M-m-m-m-m-m-meta comment.

by bravehoptoad :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 11:40am

It was a pretty damned snarky joke. I apologize, QQ.

by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:24am

Mathematically the odds of GB finishing 16-0 don't seem that low.

By Pythagorean the best five teams of the last ten years averaged 84% winning strength. With that chance of winning each of the next five games on average, the Pack have a 41% chance of winning out. Consider that an upper bound.

Rembering the lesson of the 2007 Pats, they'd have a 25% chance of winning eight straight through the big game -- but that's wildly optimistic, because against playoff-level opposition they'd have a lot less than 84% chance of winning.

Even if they are clearly the best team in the league, the odds are strongly against them running the table. (If they aren't going to run the table, best to have the perfect season ruined during the regular season.)

Personally I estimate GB as having an 82% winning percentage against average opposition, and that they are facing only average 48% level opposition over the last five games, giving them -- of all things -- an 84% chance of winning each game on average.

I don't have any secret magic formula, but I think these estimates are perfectly plausible and in the ball park of reality.

by Yaguar :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:09pm

I have been tempted to ask this many, many times about the playoff odds simulator. Now that you've actually posted some game odds, I feel comfortable saying this:

I am almost certain that your playoff odds simulator has a conservative bias. Its predictions are constantly timid. The Packers are more than a pick'em on the road against the Giants. Vegas has them as a one-touchdown favorite right now. You could argue that Vegas is overrating them because of the undefeated season - and they might be - but I believe that DVOA also should have the Packers as more than a 51% chance to win.

The Packers' 20% advantage in weighted DVOA should be enough to make a team a road favorite. A 20% advantage in weighted DVOA has historically been more than enough to win on the road.

Here is how the teams between 17.5% and 22% DVOA have done on the road in the last few years:
2010 Eagles: 6-2
2010 Jets: 5-3
2009 Vikings: 4-4
2009 Colts: 7-1
2008 Chargers: 3-5
2008 Panthers: 4-4
2007 Packers: 6-2
2007 Chargers: 4-4
2007 Steelers: 3-5
2005 Bengals: 6-2
2005 Panthers: 6-2

In the aggregate, these teams had about a 20% DVOA advantage against their road opponents, and they went 56-32 (63.64%). I realize that this is very back-of-the-envelope and makes some bad statistical assumptions, but the main point I'm trying to make is still pretty valid.

How about this one? 69% chance vs the Chiefs? They're the 29th-ranked team! Usually the 29th-ranked team by DVOA goes about 5-11 (31%) total. Do we really expect them to win 31% of the time against the 2nd-best team in the league?

Your model is not aggressive enough in predicting games. It consistently errs towards calling games a tossup when they are not.

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:29pm

Home field advantage has been stated several times in the past as being worth 17.0% in DVOA, so you're in the right ballpark. 20% - 17% = 3%, or a slight favorite.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:45pm

as to Vegas "overvaluing" the Packers this year because of bettor bias, well gee, GB is 8-2-1 vs. the spread. So scratch that theory.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:17am

Excellent point.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:59am

And I think they covered in all 6 of their victories ending the 2011 season-- so that would be 14-2-1 against the spread in this 17 game winning streak

by Abe (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:12pm

Over at Grantland Bill Barnwell has the Packers odds of going undefeated at 34.7%, much higher than the 11% here.


by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:48pm

He also points out that KC and Chicago are missing their starting qbs, which DVOA is again unaware of. I guess that DVOA's odds are going to look a little odd following a rash of broken quarterbacks.

by Jim Glass (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 4:03am

By Pythagorean and Log5 the Pack have a 24% to 29% chance of winning out to 16-0, depending on what flavor of the Pythag formula one uses.

If "perfect season" means 19-0 it's much lower, well less than 10%, probably 5% to 8%. Ask the Pats.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:18pm

Here are some realistic odds for the remaining five games on the Packers' schedule-- DVOA has simply missed on them all year long-- it's bit of a 100 yr flood phenomenon a la the baseball playoff odds this year, where two teams made essentially 1 in a 1,000 comebacks the same year. obviously there were factors a foot that made the true odds a lot less than 1 in 1,000, just as there are factors concerning the Packers that make their true odds much better than DVOA is factoring.

but here goes:

Giants: 80% The Packers have won their last 9 road games. The opponents were the Eagles (better team than 2011 Giants); Falcons (ditto and #1 seed in the NFC), Bears (ditto again and an 11 win team), Panthers (a weak team), Bears (better than Giants), Falcons again (better than Giants), Chargers (a little worse), Lions (a little bit better than Giants) and Vikings (worse). 7 teams either playoff caliber, actual playoff teams and all better than the Giants.

Raiders: Home, Carson Palmer 85%

Chiefs: Road, whats his name at QB 90%

Bears: Home, probably Hanie 75%

Lions: Home, who knows what the Lions will be playing for 75% with a big question mark

run the math and you get just about 35%-- which I think is clearly a better projection than DVOA. As I said last week, DVOA is simply wrong about the Packers-- there isn't much point in trying to argue otherwise-- Aaron's odds for these games are borderline ridiculous. The better project from this site is to accept the fact that this team is within range of the greatest winning streak in the history of the sport, and start to figure out why DVOA is missing that so much. And clearly the defensive caliber of the team is being grossly undervalued. garbage time yards and scores, yards traded for turnovers, and historically great (compared to every other big streak team, that is) ability to stop offenses in the 4th Quarter with game on line. (As Cold Hard Facts has shown, packer defense has allowed 0 pts in these situations since the streak began-- every other big streak team has given up points, some several TDS) And of course the fact that they have never trailed in the 4th Quarter in any of the 17 wins-- also a feat never before duplicated.

Love the site-- but also love the Packers showing its frailties.

by John (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:28pm

Speaking as a Colts fan for the past decade or so, the Colts achieved any number of record-breaking feats in years past with very good teams and out of this world quarterbacking, but that didn't mean squat when it came to the next game. You can't say "Gee, they've won 10 in a row, they must be invincible" in the NFL.

"Any Given Sunday" is a cliché for a reason.

by panthersnbraves :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 4:27pm

Heck, I watched the PANTHERS have a great start against them. Yes, the Panthers self-destructed (2011 - wash, rinse, repeat), but for a while, they had the Packers on the ropes.

by Abe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:38pm

Hard to say they had them on the ropes. The Panthers scored the first 13 points, the Packers then outscored them 30-3 to go head by 14 with a minute left. Newton then threw a last minute TD for the back door cover. The Panthers never had the ball in position to tie the game in the 4th quarter.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:02pm

Carolina actually did have a chance to tie in the 4th. GB stopped Newton on 4th Down inside the 10 yard line and then 2 plays later Rodgers hit Nelson for an 84 yard TD to go up by 14

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:46pm

Are you muddling causation and correlation? Just because Green Bay have been on a 1 in a 1000 run doean't mean that they are a 1 in a 1000 team, they could have been lucky. For example, if Cutler doesn't get hurt in the championship game last year (and count me among those who think he got hurt quite early on that hit from Pickett) then the Bears could easily have beaten them and we're not looking at the same 1 in 1000 style run.

Green Bay aren't close to the largest points differential after 11 games, they're 17th by that score.

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:00pm

A strong argument could be made that GB was actually Unlucky that Cutler got Hurt and that they had to play Hanie. In a Total of 10 Quarters vs GB last year, Cutler and the Bears Offense scored 1 Total TD.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:35pm

No, that isn't a very strong argument.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:42pm

No, that is a very silly argument that completely ignores context.

Fixed that for ya.

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:56pm

Feel free to explain the missing Context. What from Cutler's 10 Quarters of Play against GB that year make you think Chicago would have done better than Hanie did?

by Jimmy :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:03am

The context can be acquired by watching the game tape. Firstly Cutler got injured on the first play of the second quarter, at that point he was something like 2-4 for 25 yards. One of the incompletions was the throw to Hester where Devin ran the wrong route (5 instead of 7 like Karl Cuba says), if Hester had run the 7 the Bears would have scored. I beleive the other incompletion was the jump pass Cutler got injured on trying to hit Forte. Cutler then missed Forte and Knox on drag routes that are money for a top NFL QB both of which would have lead to long gains due to there not being any defenders anywhere near them had they caught the ball and kept running. He missed Hester on a mirror of the route that Hester had run wrong earlier down the left side, this time down the right side when he overthrew him. Lastly if you go back and look at Shields' pick, Sammy boy got very lucky indeed. Knox had scorched him and had outside position with 8-10 yards of sideline for Cutler to put the ball into. At the end of last year Cutler was hitting all the throws I am describing like clockwork (go watch the Jets game where the Bears score four TDs on four straight possessions against one of the best defenses in football). The Bears WRs were too good for the Packers' CBs that day and got bailed out by an injury to the QB.

The tape shows a very athletic player struggling to step up in the pocket or into his throws. As he threw the drag to Forte which went incomplete he had to hop on his left leg to try to turn (it was his right leg not his left that got injured) and on several occasions his leg seems to be buckling under him as he tries to step up and throw down field.

On the other hand maybe you are right and the no name from Colarado State who had never started a game in the NFL is much the better QB.

by Abe (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:57am

At the end of last year Cutler was hitting all the throws I am describing like clockwork (go watch the Jets game where the Bears score four TDs on four straight possessions against one of the best defenses in football). The Bears WRs were too good for the Packers' CBs that day and got bailed out by an injury to the QB.


Like Clockwork. Like the last game of the year versus Green Bay when Cutler had no TD's, 2 INT's and a 43.5 Passer Rating? Pretty sure the last game of the season was during the "end of last year". Cutler has always stunk it up against the Pack, especially last year. You're delusional if you think he would have rallied them to victory.

by Jimmy :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:56pm

You mean the game that meant nothing to the Bears because they had already wrapped up the number one seed but was a must win game for the Pack. The Bears offense that day was as vanilla as Mad Mike is ever going to get. Yes the Bears players played hard but the coaches deliberately mailed it in (I would guess the idea was to keep powder dry for the playoffs, and yes it seriously backfired).

Seriously do you disagree with any of the descriptions of the plays I am talking about? It is only 15 minutes of football (the second quarter that is) if you can, go watch it and then call me delusional (or more likely apologise for being rude). The greatly heralded Packers CBs were all at sea that day - you think Shields is supposed to play a fade by allowing the WR to get on his upfield shoulder with eight yards of space towards the sideline for the QB to throw into and then just get lucky with the throw? You think Tramon Williams is meant to let Hester leave him for dust as he runs towards the end zone? Do you disagree with my interpretation of when Cutler got hurt?

And no I don't think he would have rallied the Bears to victory. If Cutler hadn't got hurt I think the Bears would have taken a lead into the half. Not that it counts for anything, the Pack won the Superbowl and will have done forever. The implication you are making seems to be that Hanie is better than Cutler, dude that is delusional.

by Steve in WI :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:41pm

Until my dying day I will be bitter about that game against the Packers last year. No disrespect to the Packers, who were clearly the better team in the NFC championship game and deserved their Super Bowl win, but I think the Bears' coaching staff made a huge tactical error by deciding that they'd be content to lose to the Packers and let them into the playoffs. There's no way of knowing if the Bears would have won that game had they approached it as a must-win, but clearly their chances would have been better had they played more of a standard offense. (And while no one could have known that the Packers were near the start of an epic winning streak at that point, I think there were plenty of signs that they were peaking at the right time and that they would be possibly the most dangerous team to meet in the playoffs later on.)

by Jimmy :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:45pm

Entirely agreed. It all falls into the woulda shoulda coulda that you always get when your team is close to a championship. My two personal bugbears are letting Tony Parrish go (because Mike Brown might not have gotten as banged up if he had remained at FS and Parrish was awesome in SF) and thinking Grossman was the QB of the future when Brees was available in free agency.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:51pm

But remember the team that got screwed by that was NYG, who damn near knocked Cutler's head off in the first game. Chicago had had decent success against GB, and none at all against NYG. I can see throwing the game to keep NYG out.

by Steve in WI :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 12:12pm

Good point, but even at the time I was less concerned about possibly having to play the Giants than having to play the Packers. The Giants game came at the point when the Bears offensive line was just about as bad as it ever was in the season, and by the end of the season they were looking at lot better, plus Cutler was playing better and making better decisions. Not to mention that the Bears got a lot of help from GB in the first game they played when the Packers had something like 18 penalties.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:11pm

"The context can be acquired by watching the game tape. Firstly Cutler got injured on the first play of the second quarter, at that point he was something like 2-4 for 25 yards. One of the incompletions was the throw to Hester where Devin ran the wrong route (5 instead of 7 like Karl Cuba says), if Hester had run the 7 the Bears would have scored. I beleive the other incompletion was the jump pass Cutler got injured on trying to hit Forte. Cutler then missed Forte and Knox on drag routes that are money for a top NFL QB both of which would have lead to long gains due to there not being any defenders anywhere near them had they caught the ball and kept running. At the end of last year Cutler was hitting all the throws I am describing like clockwork (go watch the Jets game where the Bears score four TDs on four straight possessions against one of the best defenses in football). The Bears WRs were too good for the Packers' CBs that day and got bailed out by an injury to the QB."

This post is pretty amusing. So your context is that Cutler was completing 50% of his passes for 25 yards before the play that you THINK he got hurt on. Pretty interesting too that all the throws that he "hits like clockwork" he never hit in 3 different games against GB that year. In all 3 games Cutler and the Offense got completely dominated by GB's Defense and DBs. Thinking that GB's DB's got dominated is pretty hilarious considering it was more the other way around.

I see there is also a myth going around that Chicago was not trying to win. Usually when I see teams not trying to win at the end of the year, it involves teams resting their star QB, RB, etc instead of letting him get brutalized and sacked 6+ times by nonstop blitzes from Woodson (although maybe there was another injury in that game that you saw that we all missed)

by Jimmy :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 10:19am

I am glad I amuse you. Have you actually gone and watched the film or do you consider investigating facts to be irrelevant to discussion?

Why do I think he got hurt on the first play of the second quarter - to suffer an MCL injury you would typically need to be hit on the outside of the knee with force being applied transversely towards the midline of the body with the foot planted, trapping the leg. Cutler only suffered one hit like that and it was when Picket hit him in his own endzone as he tried to pass to Forte on the first play of the second quarter. His right knee doesn't get hit again so yeah I THINK (see I can try and shout over the internet too) that is when he got hurt. If you don't believe me go watch the tape, the hit Pickett delivers to Cutler's knee is a textbook example of how you get a torn MCL (although I suspect you don't beleive he got injured because you get your sports news from TMZ).

In all 3 games Cutler and the Offense got completely dominated by GB's Defense and DBs.

In the two regular season games the Bears passing DVOA against the Packers defense were 40.1 in week 3 and -40.2 in week 17. A wash, not exactly the kind of domination you are claiming. Yeah the Pack dominated Cutler by fighting him to a draw, nice logic.

So following that do I need to bother with this

Thinking that GB's DB's got dominated is pretty hilarious considering it was more the other way around.

You get back to me.

by MCS :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 11:16am

Let’s look at conventional statistics.

I'm not saying that Hanie is the better QB. It is not about who is better, it's about who is effective on a given day. I am saying that Cutler was largely ineffective against Green Bay for the entire 2010 season. His 2011 season is much more effective

Cutler in 2+ games in 2010 43/80 469 yards 1TD 4int. Rating 54.64

Hanie in <1 game in 2010 13/20 153 yards 1TD 2int. Rating 65.21

Furthermore, Cutler in 2011 against Green Bay: 21/37 302 yards 2TD 2int Rating 78.89

If you factor in Todd Collins, Green Bay's "scorched" pass defense held the Chicago passers to 77/141 924 yards 4TD 8int Rating 60.71 for the four games over the 2010-2011 seasons to date.

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 11:25am

"I'm not saying that Hanie is the better QB. It is not about who is better, it's about who is effective on a given day."

If you say so. Personally, I think that is reducing sample sizes so awfully small that they are near useless.

Cutler is better than Hanie, if he was healthy he would have given the Bears a better chance to win in my mind. Unless you have some compelling reason why Hanie is better suited to play against the Packers you aren't going to convince me otherwise.

by MCS :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 11:45am

I think Cutler is clearly the better quarterback. I also belive that he was laregely ineffective against the Packers in 2010. 2TDs and 6 interceptions are not exactly Hall of Fame numbers. (yes, small sample size.)

Side note: I largely disreagard sample size when discussing the NFL because it would make all discussions moot. Where's the fun in that?

Back on topic. I also think that Green Bay scouted and prepared for Cutler. They may have been surprised by Hanie's skillset. Is he more mobile in the pocket? I have no idea. However, scouting and defensive preparation are factors that are not considered in this discussion.

Perhaps we need to dig deeper and look into the playcalling with the two QBs. That may play into the fact that Chicago appeared to play better with Hanie. Even though we can agree that Cutler is the better quarterback.

Maybe the Bears just developed more grit as they rallied around the young guy. :-)

by Eddo :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 3:02pm

I'm a Bears fan, and I actually agree with you that Cutler was less effective than Hanie that day. However, I think that's because Cutler was hurt earlier than initially thought - likely on that end zone play early in the second quarter, that Jimmy has been citing.

Playing on a torn MCL would certainly cause a QB's effectiveness to drop. Once Cutler got hurt, there was no way the Bears would win the game.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 3:47pm

Well it is certainly the case that once Cutler got hurt the Bears would have been better off with Hanie as Cutler didn't play well on one knee. The Bears might have had a chance if they had gone to Hanie on the second play of the second quarter but they didn't (although my money would still have been on the Pack). Cutler tried to gut it out but couldn't produce and we were then all subjected to the crime against quarterbacking that was Todd Collins last year.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 4:07pm

My main point is that in the championship game Knox and Hester both got side open deep quickly enough for Cutler to get them the ball for (what would have been) three TDs (if Cutler had been able to throw properly). Of course we all watched the game and we all know what the results were. For example Shields didn't defend Knox's route very well when he got his pick but did make a great play on the ball when it was thrown short and too far inside. A better throw and he is beaten for a TD. If you were scouting either team you wouldn't just look at the play by play but instead watch the film to try to understand what happened. Did the Bears WRs get open deep? Yes. Was Cutler able to get them the ball? No. Is there a good chance that Cutler was affected by a torn MCL? A good chance, yes but only Jay Cutler really knows how much and he doesn't appear to be telling. Could all this have affected the result? Maybe and that is as far as we can go but it doesn't mean we can't ask the question.

by Steve in WI :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 12:21pm

I see there is also a myth going around that Chicago was not trying to win. Usually when I see teams not trying to win at the end of the year, it involves teams resting their star QB, RB, etc instead of letting him get brutalized and sacked 6+ times by nonstop blitzes from Woodson

Actually...that's what I was the most angry at the Bears' coaching staff about after that game. Either go all-out to win or just raise the white flag. What the Bears did that game - keep all of the starters in and supposedly try to win, but run a plain-vanilla offense to try not to expose themselves for the playoffs - was the stupidest decision possible, IMHO.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:04pm

well whatver he is at present, last January Caleb Hanie was the one chance the Bears had in that game. Cutler was clearly out of his element, Collins even worse, only the infusion on Hanie into the game gave the Bears much of a chance. I don't think that game was ever seriously in doubt-- Philly was with Vick with ball at end, and so was Super Bowl-- but not Atlants, of course, or Chicago.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:41pm

"I don't think that game was ever seriously in doubt" - I think that is a bizzarely strong statement for a game where the winning score was an interception return by a nose tackle.

The reason that I said that I think Cutler was hurt early is that he could barely stand on his left leg. There were plays where he was half hopping, half shuffling with all his weight on his right foot and whenever he put weight on his left leg it shook uncontrollably, due to a torn MCL. Before that he missed one throw to Hester where Devin clearly ran a 5 route when he should have run a seven.

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:00pm

There is an Irony that many Chicago fans think that having their Less Effective QB get hurt so a more Effective QB could play actually hurt their chances

by Tom W (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:36am

What?!?! Where the hell did you get that stat? Through eleven games, the Packers have outscored their opponents by 155 points. That is easily the biggest point differential in the league. Unless you have some other definition of point differential.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:40am

I was responding to post #60 by Karl Cuba re the Packers' point differential. I don't why it ended up where it did.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:53am

In fact, in a previous post, I said the Packers were outscoring their opponent by 11 points/game. That was inaccurate. They're actually outscoring their opponents by about 14 points/game. I'd be obliged if Karl could point out the 16 teams in the league that have a point differential of more than two touchdowns/game.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:50am

I think he meant all time, they have the 17th best point differential after 11 games, which is actually really great, but definitely not best ever. Recent 11-0 teams have had higher point differentials as well, such as the 2007 Pats, 2009 Saints and 2005 Colts.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:55am

OK, sorry. That wasn't clear to me.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:28pm

I could have been clearer.

by Yaguar :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:04am

He obviously meant all-time, not this season. The Packers are 17th since the merger:


by RickD :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:48pm

I would say beating
Giants 70%
Raiders 80%
Chiefs 99+%
Bears 50%
Lions 60%

The odds for the last two weeks in particular are very difficult to forecast because there's a reasonably high likelihood that the Packers will have nothing to play for while the Bears and Lions will be playing for the last playoff spot.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:55pm

As Belichick and Brady have already shown all of us, "nothing to play for" will hardly be the Packers' situation if they are 14-0 going into a Christmas game vs. the Bears. They probably won't have home field advantage to play for, but history-- well, let's just say I think it is a lot more than home field advantage to play for. And unlike other teams in this situation-- who faced the play them or not quandary-- they've already won the Super Bowl last year and the streak will be at 20 games with a chance to get to all-time territory. Plus it is two divison rivals and possible playoff opponents that I don't think they want to show any weakness to. You are simply misgauging the motivation of this team.

My 1 in a 1,000 point is more basic. Hundred year floods happen all the time these days-- obviously the models are flawed. The model would say that GB could not possibly have won these 17 games, with 10 on the road or neutral fields, against this quality of opposition once in probably a 1,000 times. But they have. I conclude the model is flawed, either concerning the difficulty of the task, or the Packers' true ability, or both.

As to the Colts, I wasn't there. They were a very good team for a decade, just like the Atlanta Braves were for 15 years-- and both teams won just one championship. The Packers will, IMHO, do better than that and reach dynasty level shown by NE, Dallas, SF, Pittsburgh, and GB once upon a time. I could be wrong. I'm going to enjoy finding out, though.

by tuluse :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:38pm

The model would say that GB could not possibly have won these 17 games, with 10 on the road or neutral fields

Since when is >0% chance equivalent to "no chance." Right now the model thinks Green Bay has a 10% of going 16-0. Which is only slightly worse than getting heads 3 times in a row flipping a quarter.

by Sinar (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:36am

The occurrence of a single low probability event does not in any way invalidate a model, unless your model spat out a null event probability with a null error margin, in which case, yeah it's not valid. You have to look at long run performance to determine how well a model works. Take your example of a model that predicted a 1/1000 chance for GB to win their last 17 games. It may well be that if those 17 games were repeated 1000 times, GB wins them all only once (or just a handful of times), in which case the model looks pretty good to me. Even if GB wins all 17 games 50/1000 times, that might fall within the expected margin of error for the model in question and therefore would not invalidate it - and you would have come out well betting with the model against GB 95% of the time. Of course, we can't test FO models that way, but over enough games they can be evaluated against actual results and hopefully improved, though given the context and nature of the prediction problem, I doubt that highly accurate predictive models will ever be developed. That's fine by me anyway because football would be a lot less interesting if the models were good enough to be right about outcomes most of the time.

by jebmak :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:38pm

I would take your 100:1 bet for any NFL team against any NFL team anytime.

by AB in DC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 11:24pm

Bottom line, DVOA doesn't seem to think that the Packers are a particularly good time in the first place. Weighted DVOA for the Packer (25.8%) isn't significantly better than the Patriots (25.2%), Pittsburgh (23.6%), the Jets (22.6%), or Chicago (21.9%).

If this is true, then a 52% chance of victory at the Giants seems reasonable.

More likely is that DVOA is severely underrating the Packers for some reason. My guess is that the Packers perform very poorly in situations that do not have much impact on winning, (e.g. up by 15+ points in the 4th quarter). And if the Packers have participated in a disproportionate number of plays in this situation (e.g. opponents playing a hurry-up offense), that will drag down their per-play statistics.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:33am

Thank You. Thursday was yet another example.

I would wager that through 3 Quarters the Packers are head and shoulders above the rest of the league and in the "great" neighborhood compared to past champions. They are, after all, the only team in NFL history to never trail in the 4th quarter-- at any point of the 4th Quarter. As I argue below (and above) the DEFENSIVE piece of the 4th Quarter is flummoxing DVOA-- Packers give up a lot of garbage yards and scores, but when pressed the defense has come through better than any of the other dozen or so "streak" teams in the pas 40 years-- allowing ZERO pts with the opponent having the ball with a chance to lead or tie late in the game. And the OFFENSIVE piece is simply McCarthy letting the air out of the balloon-- obviously there is some interrelation here though I personally would rather see some Patriotesque passing and stomping (not the Suh variety) in the 4th Quarter-- unless and until Mccarthy sees his team cough up a league, he's going to keep playing it conservative late.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:35am

cough up a "lead", not "league". Did Donald Trump do the latter??

by Anonymous Jones :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:20pm

I don't think the analysis about the Denver defense is compelling. The defensive unit may not have significantly improved its DVOA, but the fact that it faced poor offenses would still correlate to more victories.

Yes, the running game has improved on a DVOA basis. Yes, this is probably attributable fairly to Tebow.

All that aside, the Broncos still would have probably been shellacked 45-13 in SD if they had faced last year's SD offense and if the Denver pass rush were not performing so much better in this recent stretch. All the running in the world wouldn't have helped.

Real world wins are not defense-adjusted. Facing poor offenses may be more important to victories than improving one's running game on a defense-adjusted basis.

The point of what has improved on a defense-adjusted basis is sound. It just may not be the most important factor in the whole Tebow debate.

by Joshua Northey (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:55pm

I feel like DVOA is not watching the same DEN defense I have been watching. The past three games they have given up 36 pts in over 13 quarters. Obviously points are not the end all be all, but I have a hard time believing they are slightly below average.

by tunesmith :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:32pm

I think Denver's defensive third-down percentage has been better than their defensive ranking in these last few weeks, right? Maybe disruptive defenses like this get undervalued by DVOA compared to all-around defenses.

The other thing is that Denver's offensive field position isn't really great... but Denver's defensive field position looks pretty good. I guess what that means is that both offense and defense tend to get (or give up) yards before punting (or forcing a punt).

by ConfusedAboutInjuryAdjustments (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:23pm

I don't understand how HOU only loses .3 games in predicted wins (over 5 game stretch) moving from Schaub-Leinart-Yates. What I saw of Yates if far less than impressive. Their passing game seems like it should be treated as league average or below from here on out until proven otherwise. That would move their net OFF DVOA to around ~0%, not ~20%.

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:30pm

To be fair, they did not gameplan for Yates. Give it at least 1 more game from a scout's perspective -- obviously even longer from a statistical perspective.

by Ricola (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 8:39pm

Out of curiosity, is it possible to calculate DVOA for the first three quarters only? I ask because the Packer defense has a habit of giving up (sometimes meaningless) yards and points in the fourth quarter while sitting back in a two- or three-deep shell that concedes yards in return for a running clock. I wonder what their rank would look like if some of the garbage yards are factored out, ala the 1998 Denver Broncos. Thanks.

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:21pm

I think DVOA accounts for situations like this and weights them accordingly. In a tight game, the 4th quarter would remain weighted the same (if not higher) but in a blowout, 4th quarter action will be weighted lower.

by Whatev :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:37am

You can argue that the weightings are not correct; for example, there's a 25% weight increase, as I recall, for plays in the red zone, but it's a binary switch over the 20 yard line. I don't think you can argue there's a huge difference between running a play on 1st and 10 from the 21 yard line and running the same play on 1st and 10 from the 20.

by nibiyabi :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:42am

If that's true, then I agree with you. I would assume that each yard line has a different weight.

by Anonymouslyly (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:36pm

DVOA has a blindspot for the Packers. The probability to beat them isn't some special sauce combination of O, D and ST DVOA, it's their probability of stopping Aaron Rodgers. It is that simple.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:03pm

Well thank god it's that simple! I'd hate to be the team that had to stop the other 10 guys on offense, too.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:45pm

The Raiders are so very mediocre. 17th overall. 14th in offense. 16th in defense, 18th in special teams. That probably bodes well when the only real competition is from a team that has a tough schedule coming up, and is a game behind.

It is likely that there will be three (and possibly four) teams in the playoffs this year that haven't been there since 2002 with the Raiders, 49ers and Texans leading their division. The Lions have a good shot too. It will be odd to see playoff games in Houston, San Francisco (well, odd if you are under 20 years old) and Oakland.

by Richard G (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:04pm

Part of the reason why the Raiders have a good record (including beating multiple good teams) but a mediocre DVOA is that the damage 4 quarters of Boller and 2 quarters of Carson Palmer fresh off the street was bad enough to murder their offensive DVOA. I don't have premium, but I'm expecting those 6 quarters were near a -100% DVOA -- which is fine, but it doesn't paint an overall accurate picture of their offense; particularly with Campbell almost ready to come back and be the 2nd string. Ignore those 6 quarters and their "mediocre" offense is suddenly a quality offense (a picture that is far more useful for future prediction).

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:26pm

I totally agree. I think thy are a better team than their DVOA. They were 9th after beating Cleveland (the game Campbell got hurt in) to go to 4-2. They fell to 18th after the Chiefs loss, and then to 21st after the loss to the Broncos. I would've guessed they would rise higher in their three game winning streak, but their overall DVOA has jumped about 10% in three weeks.

I like them going forward, and if they get the #3 seed (which is a possibility since I don't think TJ Yates is really going to have a good record for Houston, no matter what their schedule entails, and the Raiders have the h2h tiebreak), they can bypass the Steelers. I like their chances against the Bengals (or Jets), and even think they can give the Pats or Ravens (or Steelers) a good run.

by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 9:46pm

So my predictions about Green Bay in the Week 12 open discussion thread (post 66) were right and wrong.

I thought they would get a small boost in their passing offense. They fell from 75.2% to 73.3%. So I was clearly wrong. I thought the 2nd half performance would make up for the first half performance which I can understand (0-5 on 3rd down passes I believe) wouldn't be good and Detroit had a decent pass defense of -17.6 going into the game. I guess I'm not as clear about DVOA as I thought since Dets pass defense did decline to -14.8. I'm not sure how the GB pass offense gets worse and the Det pass defense gets worse after they play each other. The change in the Det def is about what I was expecting for the GB offense.

I was correct in that I expected the GB pass D to get better and their run D to get worse. Well the pass D went from 19.1% to 15.8% (and the Det passing O dropped from 15.7 to 11.6 so I'm even more curious why the GB pass O got worse). Their run defense went from 2.0% to 6.5%, again what I was expecting.

I made not predictions about what DVOA would say about the Packers run offense but it bumped up slightly from 9.8 to 10.1.

My overall prediction about them going up a small bit in DVOA was wrong as they actually declined by a bit. Some of that was special teams dropping a bit.

As for the defense against receiver types.

Before 4.0% vs #1 WR, 7.8% vs #2 WR, -44.3% vs other WR, 38.6% vs TE, 27.0% vs RB.
After 1.0% vs #1 WR, 9.3% vs #2 WR, -40.8% vs other WR, 10.0% vs TE, 30.9% vs RB

Not really what I thought. I expected the performance vs Megatron would help the rating vs #1 and it did, but I also thought holding Burleson to 5 catches for 39 yards on 7 targets would help vs #2 as well and I didn't think other WR's got a catch in the game for Det so I didn't think that would change. Perhaps were seeing the effects of past opponent adjustments here. The defense vs TE getting better surprised me but it shouldn't because I thought Scheffler and Pettigrew were making 3rd down catches for firsts all game but they weren't. I expected the D vs running backs to look much worse as well only going to 30.9% was less of a jump than I thought.

So I guess I don't correlate what I to DVOA as well as I thought. I still don't think DVOA is all that off. Like I've said before. Stellar passing game, decent run game, OK special teams, a declining (though perhaps spiraling) run defense, and below average, though not terrible, pass defense. That is exactly were DVOA puts them.

But think the key is that they all year they have been at worst average against wide receivers. The numbers have shifted around but I've seen negative values in all the WR categories at times this year and right now that 9.8% vs #2s might be the worst they have been at any point vs a wide receiver. I bet the scoring potential per pass outside the redzone is much higher on plays to WR than it is to TE and RB. So being tied for 13th in scoring defense starts to make sense. If DVOA is valuing them wrong or not matching up to what people think this could be some of it.

They seem to take away the bigger weapons for most teams (the WR) and you have to beat them with the RB and TE, which generally means shorter gains and more time off the clock. With an offense that expects to hold the lead this makes sense. It's not the same thing as a Tampa-2 keep it all in front of you, they'll make a mistake eventually. But it's not a bad way to go if you have a weakness. I'd have to think about it more.

So really my only real question is, how did the Det pass defense and the GB pass offense both get worse? What am I not seeing here that I should?

by Arkaein :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:08pm

One guess about the declines in GB Pass O and Dets Pass D, would be that opponent adjustments for previous opponents went down based on the results of other games.

Another possibility is that DVOA is including some things that are predictive for one side but not the other, at least in the DVOA model. For example, in special teams missed FGs count against the kicking unit but not the blocking unit. What these specific non-zero-sum factors might be for the passing game, I'm not sure.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:46pm

Well, i predicted they would decline in DVOA because DVOA really doesn't know what to do with a team that is leading 24-0 after 3 Quarters on the road in what was widely viewed as their toughest test all season. And don't think I didn't enjoy typing that sentence-- not a whole lot really needs to be added, does it??

As to the specifics of what the Packers did, as opposed to what a formula thought they did, watch the film and read the accounts coming from the winners locker room since. Tramon Williams was basically assigned Megatron-- and essentially shut him down, with some help over the top from Burnett. Capers said that Williams 1-on-1 coverage of Johnson was the key to the rest of the defense-- presumably they knew how to bottle up Stafford, cause him to go to checkdowns, and of course ultimately use their opportunistic nature to produce three interceptions. That strategy yielded no points in 45 mins, 3 huge turnovers, and one missed FG attempt (after an end zone attempt to 6ft 6 Johnson that Williams broke up)

The first Lion TD was semi-garbage time-- nobody in their right mind would assume that Rodgers and Co. would blow a 3 score lead in the last 13 mins of the 4th quarter but you can't aboslutely rule it out. The final TD was total garbage time-- a meaningless score in the last minute of a 19 pt game. 130 mostly meaningless yards, but not to DVOA.

The other consideration Aaron and Co. (schatz, that is, not Rodgers) should be spending some time on is McCarthy's 4th Quarter playcalling. Bayless has already been trumpeting in his warped, publicity-sick mind that "Tebow is a better 4th Quarter QB than Rodgers". Well, clearly the Packers turn off the gas in the 4th Quarter-- sometimes it doesn't matter, but sometimes it means the other team still gets the ball with a chance to win-- McCarthy keeps trading minutes for yards with a very conservative approach. It has worked the last roughly ten times they have done it-- but it sure does bring down their offensive stats. I personally think they are too conservative and one day this strategy will bite them, but it hasn't yet. I suspect that the Packers are a "great" team through 3 Quarters-- by even the Schatz standards-- and that a combination of garbage time and McCarthy's philosophy make them a little less so by game's end, according to DVOA, that is.

by QQ (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 11:07pm

Very good post. Both Last Year and this year, McCarthy has been pretty Notorious about the taking the foot off the gas in the 4th Quarter and makes their games far closer than they need to be. 2 obvious examples off the top of my head are the Wildcard Game against Philly and Week 1 vs NO.

If I recall last year, their 4th Quarter Offense was pretty bad as well. GB is like the Anti Patriots. Instead of trying to run up the score they shut down the Offense and try to hold on.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:23am

This topic is getting old. I completely agree with that first sentence. Yeah, the Packers gave up some yards again. However, the defense forced four turnovers and prevented a team that was averaging 30 points/game from scoring until the outcome was decided. There is absolutely no way to make a rational argument that the Packers' defense played a bad game last week, unless you're going to try to make the case that winning the game isn't the primary objective. As I pointed out last week, the Packers have had a double digit lead in the second half of EVERY GAME this year, and have trailed after the first quarter in only two games. They're outscoring their opponents by more than 11 points/game. They haven't played a brutal schedule, but they have beaten Atlanta, Chicago, and Detroit on the road by double digits. The fact that DVOA doesn't recognize Green Bay as a "dominant" team is DVOA's problem, not the Packers'.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:35am

In terms of quality wins, I also forgot to mention New Orleans.

by Tom W (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:46am

But, at least the Packers didn't fall behind the mighty Jets again.

by Julio (not verified) :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:11pm

You create your own luck by
putting pressure on the other team.

And who has Houston beaten to make them
#1? Pittsburgh is the only decent team
they have beaten.

by nibiyabi :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:42pm

Close wins against good teams, while dramatic, are not the most powerful measure of a team's greatness. A bad call or unlucky bounce can decide such games. More indicative of a team's ability is crushing weak teams. Houston crushed the Colts at home, and the Titans and Bucs on the road (who are actually decent teams) by a combined score of 112-23. Those three games probably account for a lot of value in terms of DVOA, and their 17-10 victory over the Steelers, while positive, is probably contributing less to their rating. They lost on the road to the Saints by 7 and to the Raiders (when they were playing well) by 5. Their biggest loss was on the road in Baltimore where they still managed to stay within 2 scores (15 points). Even taking out their 3 hugely lopsided victories, their points scored vs. points against is 181 & 156, a respectable score. So they would be a solidly above-average team even without those blowouts, but the blowouts did happen, 2 of them happened against decent teams, and all of their losses have been close contests, tough matchups, and on the road.

by Julio (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:44am

Are you serious? Blowout wins against weak
opposition mean something? The best teams
get up for the best opposition, then tend
to slack off against weak competition. In
the case of a team like Houston, which has
routinely failed in the big games it has
needed to win for years, you need to subtract
10 points automatically until they prove
that they can win a big one.

You know what happens to your rating in
chess if you beat a player well below you
in rating? Nothing. That's right, nothing,
because you are *supposed* to beat the bad
players. You only go up if the player is
close to you in rating or better.

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:53am

The best teams get up for the best opposition, then tend to slack off against weak competition.

So what you're saying is the best team in the NFL is really Baltimore?

by BSR :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:59am

A good chess player should crush a player ranked well below him just like a good football team should crush a bad team. Great teams don't play down to the level of their competition. Meanwhile, winning a close game against another good team is good in the sense that you won, but doesn't automatically mean that you would beat that team again in a rematch. That is why many feel the blow out wins are more meaningful and more indicative of great teams.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:13am

I used to play chess competitively. This is a terrible analogy. USCF ratings do not take into consideration anything other than you won, lost, or drew your opponent and your respective ratings. It does not care if you checkmated someone with an overwhelming positional advantage, you trapped your opponent into a mistake, or you eked out a win. Ratings are adjusted after every game, but ratings do not adjust your score dependent on whether each move was positive or negative.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:29am

He wasn't saying that the "quality" of the chess win mattered in the ranks. He said that great chess players will handily defeat poor chess players.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:18am

This. I don't really care how Chess matches are ranked.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:03pm

And that's wrong. Better chess players will consistently beat poorer players. Chess ratings will not take into account how handily the poorer players were beaten. Just that they were beaten. The only time you know how handily is in championship matches where two players play several games against each other. Even then, the higher ranked player may win the match yet lose points, like Bobby Fischer did against Boris Spassky.

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:06pm

You're arguing against something that isn't being said.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:13pm

How so? I'm arguing the chess analogy is bad because ratings, like scores, are solely based on wins, loses, and draws. DVOA is a different type of metric where blowouts matter.

by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:25pm

Your main point is well summarized in this quote:

Chess ratings will not take into account how handily the poorer players were beaten. Just that they were beaten.

Nobody, anywhere in this thread, has said that chess ratings take into account how handily the poorer players were beaten. It has been stated that good chess players will beat bad ones handily, as good NFL teams will beat bad ones handily, but nobody claims that has any impact on the rating system.

The Elo rating system (and its derivatives) is not being compared to DVOA. You are arguing against something that is not being said.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:28pm

Because I never made an analogy between Chess rankings and good football teams crushing bad competition.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:54pm

You didn't make an analogy; you flat out said it in post 139.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:14pm

I think justanothersteve, Big-Hairy Andy, and BSR are all making the same point :

Chess is a bad analogy to DVOA or other football rnakings, because the chess rankings don't take "margin of victory" into account.

It was Julio that made the original analogy.

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:32pm

The official football rankings don't take margin of victory into account either.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:22pm

Yes you did. Your quote in comment #139: A good chess player should crush a player ranked well below him just like a good football team should crush a bad team. Not just win. Crush.

Edit: Oops. Hadn't realized it had already been pointed out. Been in-and-out of meetings all day.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:05pm

I think you need to reread from Julio's post in #136. He was the one that made the analogy. I was arguing against it. Just because you see the word "ranked" in my post does not mean I was saying football rankings=chess rankings. To make my point clearer, imagine that I wrote "Despite it's lack of effect on their chess rankings,...".

by Julio (not verified) :: Fri, 12/02/2011 - 9:17am

I've played chess competitively too, and chess
is an excellent analogy. The point I was making
was that the chess rating system is better: it
only takes into account the result. The reason
is is that good chess players win in a variety
of ways, all of them distinguished by the fact
that they take care of the details, so they can
take advantage of any type of mistake by the
opponent. Some of their games end with a blazing
king side checkmate and some with an 80 move
rook and pawn endgame, but the reason they win
is the same: they have mastered all facets of
the game. The fact that a weaker player sometimes
wins with a fantastic combination has no bearing
on his overall rating. The fact that he can't beat
the better players on a regular basis is the most
important thing. Why this has to be pointed out
is a mystery to me.

by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 1:01pm


The original guts vs. stomps article that articulates the postion that blowout wins against bad teams are more predictive than close wins against good teams.

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:08am

Crushing weak teams is more important than beating all the good teams. I can't figure out if this post is serious or sarcasm. For the most part, it's been an unlucky bounce or bad call that made some of the Packers close wins close. That DVOA can't figure out how to deal with the Packers end-of-game defense is something Aaron S and company have to decide is worth adjusting the formula for.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:29am

Are you trying to say that the Packers have more unlucky bounces and bad calls against them then any other team?

by justanothersteve :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:08pm

No. Just that in some games that have been close, it has been that way. In other games, the Packers have had lucky bounces or calls that turned close games into blowouts. Thanksgiving is a good example of that. The Packers were winning, but Detroit was being competitive until Suh got his personal foul. After that, the Packers went on a roll and essentially blew out the Lions. Only some garbage time points made the score look less bad.

by BSR :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:32pm

If that was the case then why would there be a need for an adjustment for the Packers? I guess I am just not following the logic of why you think DVOA is not properly reflecting GB's performance.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:24pm

Here is the flaw in DVOA's rating of GB:

Imagine 2 teams of Identical Strength

Team A always Leads by 20 after 3 Quarters and continues to try to blow out its opponents throughout the 4th Quarter

Team B always Leads by 20 after 3 Quarters and generally stops trying to score and just focuses on running out the clock

Team A will be rated as the far stronger team even though they are identical when in reality it is just that their Philosophies Differ.

DVOA assumes that GB is still trying to play the same game when they are up by double digits than they really are. It can be argued that GB is not pursuing the correct strategy is such situations but it does not make a team less good simply because they basically stop trying to do what they did through 3 Quarters

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:32pm

You are aware that the Packers have the #2 rating in DVOA right? The system thinks they are a very good team.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:34pm

Their numerical ranking though is irrelevant to whether or not DVOA is properly evaluating them

by tuluse :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:56pm

Ok, they have the 3rd highest offensive DVOA in the past 5 years, feel better?

by QQ (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 7:29pm

You still miss the point. Numerical Rankings has nothing to do with how accurately something is being judged

by BSR :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:36pm

What makes you think that GB's strategy is so different that it would cause such a statistical anomoly? Afterall, the example you give is fairly rare. How many times has GB been up by three scores after 3 quarters? How much more does GB run then any other team in that position? I don't see enough GB to know. I know most other teams run plenty in those situations, even the Pats.

by QQ (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 7:27pm

GB shuts down their Offense when up by a lot fewer than 3 Scores. Heck just watch the 4th Quarter of the Saints Game in week 1 to see the Conservative Offense or the entire 2nd Half vs the Rams

by QQ (not verified) :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 7:28pm

GB shuts down their Offense when up by a lot fewer than 3 Scores or before the 4th Quarter. Heck just watch the 4th Quarter of the Saints Game in week 1 to see the Conservative Offense or the entire 2nd Half vs the Rams

by The Powers That Be :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 8:09pm

First of all, they were up by three touchdowns for the entire second half vs. the Rams. Even so, they started the second half in the no-huddle and were throwing on early downs and throwing down the field until there were 7 minutes left in the game (and Rodgers threw an INT after that). They didn't go very conservative in that game before the 4th quarter.

Against the Saints, they had two 4th-quarter drives after their last TD drive (which spanned quarters). They got two first downs running on the first one before punting, so I doubt that hurt their DVOA much. Then they had one 3-and-out. At most, we're talking about 6 plays where they were playing conservative and were ineffective, out of 63 total offensive plays in the game.

Oh, and DVOA has those games as two of their best three offensive performances of the season.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:52pm

There is some predictive value to blowout wins.

Aaron Schatz wrote about this in the before time of long-long-ago


Basically, while beating good teams is hard, stomping any NFL team is also hard, so the measure of stomps is a valid one for determining the quality of a team.

by RichC (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:33pm

There's pretty much no statistical validity to that article, which is pointed out time and time again in the comments below it.

They don't control at all for opportunity.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 7:15pm

Without commenting about the statistical validity of the article, I will say that you are badly misrepresenting the comment section.

I did a global search for the word "opportunity" and didn't find it mentioned once. I see a lot of comments including words like "excellent" and phrases like "great article" but I don't see a single person challenge the statistical validity of the article. Was this a repost of an article that had such challenges?

I do not see why, off the top of my head, one should need to "control for opportunity." After all, the NFL is hardly structured to be a fair competition. If the question is: which team has more STOMPS, Team X and Team Y, and Team X has an easier schedule, then certainly it's possible that the teams are inherently equal, but that Team X will have a higher expected number of STOMPS.

But - so what? Perhaps having an easier schedule is part of the formula for finding a Super Bowl winner. If that's the case, then "controlling for opportunity" seems like a silly thing to do. It would be like filtering out red light in your search for red light sources.

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:28pm

The 2011 Packers aren't the first team that have had this problem. In 2009, both the Colts and Chargers gave up a lot of garbage-time points and yards, and their DVOA's suffered as well.

by panthersnbraves :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 4:55pm

Happens to me in Madden all the freakin time, playing against the computer. I would get ahead by a bunch, and they would get pass-happy. I wound have huge wins, but 32nd in passing defense.

(I started kicking off at the beginning of the game, to keep it closer for longer.)

by Richard G (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:07pm

Raiders have played well all season except for 6 horrible quarters and then 4 mediocre quarters following the injury. The Raiders beat the Texans on the road; not so sure why they are written off for dead vs the Packers; particularly when they look BETTER with Palmer than they did with Campbell (and Campbell 6th in the league in DVOA--Palmer is up there too following his 6 quarter pre-season)

by dmstorm22 :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:29pm

It is in GB. If it was in Oakland, I think the Raiders would have a much better chance (close to 60-40), but being in GB really hurts. The Raiders can run the ball, and they can also hit big plays on offense. I just don't know if they can slow down Rodgers. They can rush the passer really well, and usually without blitzing, so they have that going for them (3rd in adjusted sack rate on defense).

by Thok :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:35pm

The Denver Broncos of the last few weeks remind me of the start of 2009 Broncos. Similar storylines (seemingly improved defense, better than expected QB play after a controversial change in starters, and some amount of flukiness in their wins.)

Given the 2009 Broncos proceeded to fall flat on their faces after starting 6-0 and continued being bad in 2010, I'm not expecting much from Denver in the near future.

by zlionsfan :: Tue, 11/29/2011 - 10:36pm

I can't say for sure about the other teams, but it looks like some of the changes in the Playoff Odds report are calculated based on last week's injury-adjusted report, whether or not the report itself is adjusted for injury.

Example: Detroit's chances as listed as 52.4%, down 17.4%, but that would mean they were 69.8% (or thereabouts, due to rounding) as of last week. That was their injury-adjusted percentage; the normal one was 67.0%.

by akn :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:55am

How big a bump did Oakland's ST get by largely shutting down Chicago's ST and putting together 6/6 field goals and an 80 yard punt? I'm assuming DVOA for ST makes opponent adjustments as well (hence the "D").

by Paul M (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:14am

One more pile-on. Go to the Playoff Odds Report-- compare the current records with the projected mean wins for each team at the end of the year-- Packers are 14.2, meaning DVOA projects that they will win 3.2 games of the remaining 5. There are, i believe, 6 teams with better records projectedfor those 5 games : SF, Chicago, Houston, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New England. Of course there is no way for DVOA to account for the QB issues in Chicago or Houston, but really?? I'd love to get some action on the Packers having the 7th best record in the league for these 5 remaining games.

by PatsFan :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:03am

FOMBC, baby!

by SFC B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:26am

I'd bet you a few bucks that the Packers win 3 or fewer games over the rest of the season.

by Danish Denver-Fan :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:54am

I really enjoyed the opening blurb this week. Good stuff.

by Sophandros :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 9:42am

So basically what's happening in Denver today is what happened in Atlanta in 2006, which wasn't sustainable in the long run then...

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

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:42am

Considering the shelf-life of the average NFL player, I'm not sure how important the "long run" is.

The 2007 NYG couldn't have continued to beat the Patriots in the long-run. I'm sure they'll keep their SB trophy anyway.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:42am

Speaking as a long suffering Houston football fan now stationed in Wisconsin I'm greatly amused by the Packer fans losing their freaking minds because some football statistic metrics think it's probable that the Packers will only go 14-2 and are the favorites to win the Super Bowl when everyone KNOWS that the Packers will go 19-0.

Seriously, some of you Packer fans should look through this thread, find your comments, and replace "Packers" with "Patriots". Hopefully you'll realize that you sound exactly like Tawmy from Quinzee but with an upper mid-west accent.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 10:43am

And a friendlier sort of casual racism.

by RickD :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 12:57pm

Bad form.

Sorry, the "Boston is racist" shtick got old for me over five years ago.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:11pm

Lived in the Boston area for 6 years after spending most of my life in the Texas. Without question I had the misfortune of running into more racist people in Boston than I ever did in decades in Texas. And not just the sort of casual "Well, I prefer the company of white people" racist, I mean they were blatant, almost proud of their opinion of the inferiority of minorities. It would not shock me in the least if the next lynching that happens in this country happens in Southie after some black kid is caught sleeping with some Irish guy's daughter.

That a large swathe of Boston's population are close-minded, racist morons isn't a "schtick" it is a truth that gets whitewashed.

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 3:24pm

Huh...I grew up in the Boston suburbs, and worked for five years in Texas in my late 20s, and my reality is 100% the opposite of yours...not that there aren't racists everywhere -- Boston included, but I found the blantant prejudice against blacks and Mexicans in Texas shocking, and nothing remotely close to anything I experienced growing up.

by SFC B (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 5:18pm

Maybe this is saying more about where you and I chose to go within the areas than it does about the people in those areas.

The only occasions I've heard someone actually use the N-bomb in casual conversation were in Boston, and don't even get me started about the opinions they had about the busing issue.

I hated my time in New England so that is probably coloring my memory as well.

by dryheat :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 11:19am

Exactly what I was thinking. Although the Falcons fans that came on here an inspired the FOMBC was my first thought. Then the Patriots fans. Although it seems the Patriots fans just overwhelm with volume-measure of quantity whereas the Packers/Falcons overwhelm with volume-measure of loudness.

by ammek :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 2:56pm

Success just seems to bring out the braggers.

When the Packers were average, the fans on here were no more obnoxious than any other team's. When the team returns to being average, I'm sure the louder ones will move on.

Personally I don't think it's likely that Green Bay goes 16-0, and I would be genuinely amazed if it wins all 19. It has too many flaws. I'm a bit surprised the odds are 'only' 30% to finish 15-1, although I agree there's only one gimme in the final five games of the season (vs Chiefs).

The stuff about the Packers having 'playmakers' on defense is crap too. The secondary has dropped fewer interceptions this year than in years past (perhaps because Nick Collins, the dropper in chief, is hurt) but in the past two weeks there have been a couple. The defense has been poor at forcing fumbles, and the sack rate and run-stuffing % are well below average.

I've not seen a 14-win season in my 30 years following the Pack, so I'm not going to complain however they finish (barring total collapse). Also, this is the most enjoyable team I've ever watched: Rodgers and the receivers are spectacular, and the once-numerous OL penalties have been reduced. Even the special teams are fun. By and large, I'm avoiding internet comments as I don't want this enjoyment spoiled by breast-beating imbeciles.

by QQ (not verified) :: Wed, 11/30/2011 - 6:35pm

"The stuff about the Packers having 'playmakers' on defense is crap too. "

Let's examine their Defense:

-Clay Matthews finished 2nd in DPOY last year and is having a very good this season as well (at least according to Cold Hard Football Facts)

-Charles Woodson won the DPOY in 2009 and currently leads the NFL in INTs

-Tramon Williams is a Borderline Pro Bowl Player who was GB's Best Defensive Player in the Playoffs last year and has been turning it on as his injury this year has recovered

I think the VAST majority would all Consider Matthews, Woodson, and Williams to be PlayMakers. (An argument could be made for Raji considering that he is 1 of the Best DTs in the League but I left him out due to fewer Splash plays this year.)

by dryheat :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 8:46am

-Charles Woodson ... currently leads the NFL in INTs

No he doesn't.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 12/01/2011 - 4:09pm

He's second to Kyle Arrington or Ed Reed depending on whether you mean this season or career.