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30 Dec 2013

Final 2013 DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz

The Seattle Seahawks finished up the regular season with one more strong win over division rival St. Louis, cementing their spot on top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. You may remember that the Seahawks, despite failing to win their division, ended up 2012 as the No. 1 team in DVOA as well. That makes Seattle the first team since the 1996-1997 Green Bay Packers to finish first in DVOA two years in a row. Even more remarkably, Seattle and Denver finished 1-2 in DVOA for the second straight season. This is the first time since 1999 (St. Louis and Jacksonville) that the top two teams in DVOA are also the No. 1 seeds in each conference, and it is the first time in the history of DVOA (going back to 1989) that the same two teams have finished the season 1-2 in two straight years.

Continuing the theme of year-to-year consistency, last year's teams that finished third and fourth, New England and San Francisco, ended 2013 finishing fifth and sixth. In between them were the climbing teams of the NFC South, Carolina and New Orleans, who benefit in the DVOA ratings from tough schedules. The four NFC South teams end the year ranked first, second, fourth, and sixth in schedule strength.

The team nobody wants to play in the postseason is probably Philadelphia, which ranks eighth in total DVOA but ends the year third in weighted DVOA trailing only the Seahawks and Broncos. The Colts, on the other hand, end up 13th in total DVOA but 21st in weighted DVOA.

This week's win over St. Louis put the Seahawks back over the 40% mark, making them only the sixth team to finish the season with total DVOA over 40%. (Let's assume for the moment that retroactive stat corrections won't drop Seattle below that mark.) The Seahawks also go into the playoffs with 43.7% weighted DVOA, the fourth highest figure since 1989. The 2010 Patriots and 1991 Redskins are the only teams to ever enter the postseason with a weighted DVOA over 50%. The third team that entered the playoffs with a higher weighted DVOA than this year's Seahawks was... last year's Seahawks, at 47.1%. So such a high weighted DVOA is certainly not a guarantee that the Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl, especially given the way that lower-rated teams have gotten hot and gone on surprising Super Bowl runs in recent years.

(Of course, it could be that there is nothing special about this recent history, just a case of being fooled by randomness; I wrote about this last year after Baltimore won the Super Bowl.)

Seattle is the first team since 2000 to lead the league in defensive DVOA and win a No. 1 playoff seed. (Thanks for reader Kenneth Arthur for pointing this out on Twitter.) The other teams that did so: 1994 Pittsburgh, 1996 Green Bay, 1997 San Francisco, and 2000 Tennessee. On Twitter, I also listed the 2002 Buccanneers, but that team actually lost the tiebreaker to Philadelphia and was a No. 2 seed. It is much more common for the team that leads the league in offensive DVOA to win a No. 1 playoff seed. Teams that have done this in just the last few years include the 2011 Packers, the 2010 Patriots, the 2007 Patriots, and the 2005 Seahawks.

The Seahawks defense surged a bit in the final three games of the season, and the Broncos offense did the same in its final two games, so both units end up among the DVOA all-time top ten.

Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA x Year Team DVOA
1991 WAS 56.9% x 2007 NE 43.5% x 1991 PHI -42.4%
2007 NE 52.9% x 2010 NE 42.2% x 2002 TB -31.8%
2010 NE 44.6% x 2002 KC 35.4% x 2008 PIT -29.0%
1996 GB 42.0% x 1998 DEN 34.5% x 2004 BUF -28.5%
2013 SEA 40.1% x 2011 GB 33.8% x 2008 BAL -27.8%
1995 SF 40.0% x 2013 DEN 33.7% x 2012 CHI -26.7%
2012 SEA 38.7% x 2003 KC 33.4% x 2013 SEA -25.8%
2004 PIT 37.6% x 1992 SF 33.1% x 2009 NYJ -25.5%
2012 DEN 36.5% x 2011 NO 33.0% x 2000 TEN -25.0%
1989 SF 36.0% x 2011 NE 31.9% x 2003 BAL -25.0%
2010 PIT 35.4% x 2004 IND 31.8% x 1991 NO -24.5%
1992 DAL 35.1% x 2004 KC 31.6% x 2000 BAL -23.8%

Most top offenses and defenses are based on passing and stopping the pass, so Denver and Seattle's rankings among the all-time best pass offenses and pass defenses, respectively, are about the same as their rankings in best total offense and total defense.

One last remarkable Seattle fact: The Seahawks are the first team since the 2004-2005 Pittsburgh Steelers to rank in the top ten for all three units in consecutive seasons. Only two other teams have accomplished this feat: the 1990-1991 Kansas City Chiefs and the 1996-1997 Green Bay Packers.

Now let's turn things around and look at the worst DVOA ratings ever. As I've noted in recent weeks, Jacksonville's late-season improvement kept the Jaguars from ranking among the all-time worst teams by total DVOA or offensive DVOA. San Diego, this year's worst defense, doesn't end up in the all-time worst ten either, although there's a little bit of an asterisk because the DVOA opponent adjustments don't know the Chargers were playing the Kansas City backups yesterday.

As for the Washington special teams, they ended the season with a couple of mediocre special teams games, and thus ended up nowhere close to breaking the 2000 Buffalo Bills' record for the worst special teams DVOA ever. Given the gap between the Bills and every other special teams since 1989, their record seems nigh-insurmountable. Still, Washington did end up as the second worst special teams unit we've ever tracked. This is going to be a really easy way for the new head coach, whoever it is, to quickly improve Washington's overall performance next season.

Year Team DVOA
2000 BUF -15.4%
2013 WAS -12.0%
1997 SEA -11.1%
2010 SD -10.2%
2002 CIN -9.4%
1998 OAK -9.3%
1997 CHI -9.2%
1992 TB -9.2%
2004 STL -9.0%
1993 MIN -8.4%
1989 CIN -7.9%
1995 PHI -7.9%

The other place where we saw historic impotence in 2013 was in the ground game. Although they can't quite reach the depths of the 1991 Indianapolis Colts, the Jaguars and Ravens both rank among the five worst running games since 1989 according to DVOA. The Ravens gained just 3.1 yards per carry, while the Jaguars matched the 1991 Colts at 3.3 yards per carry, but the Jaguars and Ravens come out a little bit higher because they were better situationally and played slightly harder schedules. By the way, the Jaguars and Ravens are really, really tied here, separated in run offense by 0.065% DVOA.

Year Team DVOA
1991 IND -30.2%
2005 ARI -29.1%
2002 HOU -27.4%
2013 JAC -27.2%
2013 BAL -27.2%
1995 ARI -25.1%
1991 PHI -23.0%
1998 NO -22.9%
2006 DET -22.9%
2000 ATL -22.8%
2000 SD -22.5%
2000 CAR -22.2%

The Ravens also finish with 3.01 Adjusted Line Yards per carry, the second-lowest figure since our line stats begin in 1995. Only the 2012 Cardinals were lower (2.93 ALY). The Jaguars, at 3.13 ALY, are fourth worst all-time.

There's one team that's suspiciously missing from an accounting of the worst DVOA ratings in history, and that's the Chicago Bears. The Bears allowed 5.35 yards per carry this season, the worst figure since the AFL-NFL merger. In reality, things were actually worse; if you take out kneeldowns and aborted snaps, the Bears allowed 5.51 yards per carry. So assuredly they must be one of the worst run defenses in history according to DVOA, right? Actually, the Bears are nowhere close. Although Chicago scores as the worst run defense of 2013, they wouldn't even rank in the bottom 40 of all-time in run defense DVOA. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Long Runs: Although the Chicago defensive line was a problem against the run, the linebackers and secondary were an even bigger problem. Chicago finished dead last in both Second-Level Yards allowed per carry and Open-Field Yards allowed per carry, but ranked a reasonable 14th when it came to stuffing opposing running backs at the line for a loss or no gain.
  • Goal Line: Chicago improved to 17th in run defense DVOA within five yards of the end zone.
  • Fumbles: Chicago forced ten fumbles on running plays. Only Philadelphia (11) forced more.
  • Context: The league averaged 4.16 yards per carry in 2013. Although that's down from the past five seasons, it's still higher than most of NFL history, when the leaguewide rushing average generally hovered around 4.00 yards per carry.
  • Schedule: The Bears played an average schedule of opposing runners, not a hard one, but many of the teams with the worst run offense DVOA ratings in history played easy schedules and have strong opponent adjustments.

* * * * *

The Football Outsiders playoff odds report is updated with Super Bowl odds for all 12 playoff teams. Two notes about the odds for the 2013 postseason:

  • When we ran the simulation, we accounted for the return of Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay's DVOA rating. Instead of using weighted offensive DVOA, we used offensive DVOA only for the games where Aaron Rodgers played the majority of snaps. (We're not sure if it fully accounts for the aftereffects of Rodgers' injury, but that includes Week 17, when the Packers only had -6.6% offensive DVOA.) Adding 24.2% offensive DVOA to Green Bay's weighted defense and special teams moves the overall rating we used in the simulation from -13.6% to 10.0%. Rodgers is really important, although that still makes Green Bay the lowest-rated team of the six NFC contenders. The odds don't account for other injuries, such as Von Miller or Rob Gronkowski; quarterback is the easiest position to quantify, and Rodgers is clearly one of the two or three most valuable players in the game.
  • Up until last week, the playoff odds gave home teams an additional 15 percent chance of winning in the Divisional Round because of the historical importance of the bye week. As you may know, home teams have not been as successful since we first created the equations for the playoff odds simulation. For now, we've lowered this "bye week bonus" to 10 percent, and in the offseason we'll research whether it should be lower or perhaps disappear entirely.

I'll save the discussion of which players had the best and worst seasons -- including where Peyton Manning's record-setting season sits among all quarterback seasons in both DVOA and DYAR -- for Vince Verhei in tomorrow's Quick Reads Year in Review.

* * * * *

During the 2013 season, we'll be partnering with EA Sports to bring special Football Outsiders-branded items to Madden 25 Ultimate Team. Each week, we'll be picking out a handful of players who starred in that week's games. Some of them will be well-known players who stood out in standard stats. Others will be under-the-radar players who only stood out with advanced stats, including DYAR, Defeats, and our game charting coverage stats for cornerbacks. We'll announce the players each Tuesday in the DVOA commentary article, and the players will be available in Madden Ultimate Team packs the following weekend, beginning Friday night.

The Football Outsiders stars for Week 17 are:

  • Sheldon Richardson, FB, NYJ (Limited Edition): That's right, a special fullback edition of Sheldon Richardson! He's the new Fridge!
  • Montee Ball, RB, DEN: Third among Week 17 RB with 47 DYAR (10 carries, 72 yards; three receptions, 22 receiving yards)
  • Adrian Clayborn, DE, TB: Sack, QB hit, and 4 run TFL
  • Jerrel Jernigan, WR, NYG: Top Week 17 WR with 82 DYAR (6-of-7 receptions, 90 yards and a touchdown; two carries for 57 yards and a touchdown)
  • Sealver Siliga, DT, NE: 9 tackles or assists, all Stops

* * * * *

All 2013 individual and team stat pages are now updated or will be updated in the next few minutes, including the FO Premium database. The exception are drive stats and snap counts, which should be updated by tomorrow.

* * * * *

These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through the entire 2013 regular season, 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. LAST WEEK represents rank after Week 16, while LAST YEAR represents rank in 2012.

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 SEA 40.1% 1 1 13-3 43.7% 1 9.4% 7 -25.8% 1 4.8% 5
2 DEN 32.8% 2 2 13-3 27.3% 2 33.7% 1 -0.2% 15 -1.1% 21
3 CAR 24.9% 3 13 12-4 24.9% 4 8.1% 10 -15.7% 3 1.0% 13
4 NO 19.3% 7 19 11-5 19.8% 7 15.9% 5 -5.9% 10 -2.5% 24
5 NE 19.0% 4 3 12-4 24.6% 5 16.4% 4 4.1% 21 6.7% 2
6 SF 17.4% 5 4 12-4 21.4% 6 9.1% 8 -4.6% 13 3.7% 7
7 KC 17.4% 6 32 11-5 17.4% 9 2.8% 15 -6.7% 9 7.8% 1
8 PHI 15.1% 8 28 10-6 25.5% 3 22.9% 2 5.0% 23 -2.8% 25
9 CIN 14.5% 9 12 11-5 18.0% 8 0.5% 17 -12.7% 5 1.3% 12
10 ARI 9.8% 10 26 10-6 14.7% 11 -2.6% 20 -16.4% 2 -4.0% 27
11 CHI 7.2% 12 6 8-8 0.5% 14 13.8% 6 8.6% 25 2.1% 11
12 SD 5.8% 13 22 9-7 13.8% 12 22.5% 3 17.5% 32 0.8% 15
13 IND 3.4% 11 25 11-5 -6.0% 21 4.2% 13 0.8% 16 -0.1% 17
14 STL 1.9% 14 15 7-9 14.8% 10 -9.6% 22 -5.2% 12 6.3% 4
15 PIT 0.9% 15 18 8-8 6.7% 13 4.4% 12 4.0% 20 0.6% 16
16 DET -1.8% 16 16 7-9 -2.0% 15 -1.9% 19 -0.5% 14 -0.5% 20
17 DAL -2.8% 18 17 8-8 -12.4% 25 7.5% 11 13.8% 30 3.5% 8
18 BUF -3.2% 20 23 6-10 -4.2% 17 -11.4% 25 -13.9% 4 -5.6% 30
19 TB -4.9% 17 20 4-12 -5.7% 20 -10.5% 24 -7.0% 8 -1.5% 22
20 TEN -5.9% 22 30 7-9 -3.8% 16 1.3% 16 4.0% 19 -3.2% 26
21 GB -6.2% 21 5 8-7-1 -13.6% 26 8.6% 9 14.4% 31 -0.4% 19
22 BAL -6.3% 23 8 8-8 -4.2% 18 -21.3% 30 -8.7% 7 6.4% 3
23 MIA -6.4% 19 21 8-8 -4.7% 19 -1.8% 18 2.3% 17 -2.3% 23
24 NYJ -7.4% 24 27 8-8 -8.8% 23 -15.2% 27 -5.7% 11 2.1% 10
25 ATL -10.4% 25 10 4-12 -15.1% 27 3.2% 14 13.5% 29 -0.1% 18
26 MIN -11.2% 26 14 5-10-1 -9.5% 24 -4.7% 21 10.4% 27 3.9% 6
27 NYG -15.8% 27 7 7-9 -7.4% 22 -22.2% 31 -11.5% 6 -5.0% 28
28 CLE -21.6% 28 24 4-12 -25.1% 29 -14.4% 26 8.2% 24 1.0% 14
29 WAS -26.3% 29 9 3-13 -26.3% 30 -10.0% 23 4.3% 22 -12.0% 32
30 HOU -26.9% 30 11 2-14 -32.2% 31 -18.9% 29 2.9% 18 -5.1% 29
31 OAK -34.2% 31 29 4-12 -36.9% 32 -16.8% 28 10.3% 26 -7.1% 31
32 JAC -38.2% 32 31 4-12 -22.5% 28 -29.8% 32 11.0% 28 2.6% 9
  • 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.
  • 2013 SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative).
  • PYTHAGOREAN WINS represent a projection of the team's expected wins based solely on points scored and allowed.
  • 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).
RANK 2013
1 SEA 40.1% 13-3 40.3% 13.0 2 -0.5% 17 12.8 1 12.4% 19
2 DEN 32.8% 13-3 41.1% 14.1 1 -6.7% 31 11.7 2 7.3% 8
3 CAR 24.9% 12-4 21.8% 11.0 4 3.3% 6 11.7 3 9.4% 11
4 NO 19.3% 11-5 16.0% 10.0 9 5.9% 4 10.8 7 14.7% 25
5 NE 19.0% 12-4 18.0% 11.0 3 -0.7% 18 10.5 8 4.6% 1
6 SF 17.4% 12-4 13.0% 10.6 5 2.0% 9 11.5 4 11.5% 18
7 KC 17.4% 11-5 21.3% 10.0 10 -7.1% 32 11.1 6 14.1% 23
8 PHI 15.1% 10-6 16.3% 10.2 8 -4.7% 29 9.4 11 30.1% 32
9 CIN 14.5% 11-5 20.8% 10.2 7 -3.4% 25 11.1 5 13.4% 21
10 ARI 9.8% 10-6 4.3% 10.3 6 5.8% 5 9.5 9 6.6% 5
11 CHI 7.2% 8-8 6.3% 9.3 12 -3.7% 28 7.3 20 16.5% 27
12 SD 5.8% 9-7 5.4% 8.7 13 -3.6% 26 9.2 12 6.8% 7
13 IND 3.4% 11-5 7.6% 9.5 11 -2.7% 23 9.4 10 19.0% 29
14 STL 1.9% 7-9 -1.3% 7.7 16 6.3% 3 7.6 17 23.5% 31
15 PIT 0.9% 8-8 4.3% 8.3 14 -4.8% 30 8.2 14 6.6% 6
16 DET -1.8% 7-9 2.0% 7.7 17 -3.6% 27 8.5 13 10.9% 16
RANK 2013
17 DAL -2.8% 8-8 -0.9% 8.2 15 -1.4% 21 8.2 15 10.5% 15
18 BUF -3.2% 6-10 -0.5% 7.1 20 0.4% 15 6.7 22 14.6% 24
19 TB -4.9% 4-12 -13.9% 6.3 26 9.5% 1 5.3 28 9.4% 12
20 TEN -5.9% 7-9 -2.8% 6.6 23 -2.4% 22 7.5 18 6.1% 4
21 GB -6.2% 8-7-1 -0.7% 7.3 19 -2.9% 24 7.8 16 18.8% 28
22 BAL -6.3% 8-8 -6.6% 6.9 21 -1.0% 20 7.1 21 5.9% 2
23 MIA -6.4% 8-8 -6.4% 6.9 22 2.7% 8 7.5 19 11.4% 17
24 NYJ -7.4% 8-8 -8.0% 7.5 18 -0.3% 16 5.4 27 21.2% 30
25 ATL -10.4% 4-12 -15.5% 6.5 25 7.3% 2 5.9 24 6.1% 3
26 MIN -11.2% 5-10-1 -11.2% 6.5 24 1.3% 11 6.1 23 9.7% 13
27 NYG -15.8% 7-9 -20.5% 5.5 27 2.9% 7 5.6 25 13.9% 22
28 CLE -21.6% 4-12 -17.4% 4.4 28 -0.8% 19 5.5 26 9.9% 14
29 WAS -26.3% 3-13 -29.6% 4.2 29 0.6% 12 4.8 30 9.2% 10
30 HOU -26.9% 2-14 -26.7% 3.8 30 1.4% 10 4.2 31 15.2% 26
31 OAK -34.2% 4-12 -35.9% 2.1 32 0.5% 13 4.9 29 8.3% 9
32 JAC -38.2% 4-12 -37.5% 3.2 31 0.5% 14 3.1 32 13.3% 20

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 30 Dec 2013

227 comments, Last at 17 Jan 2014, 12:21pm by benbu75


by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:26pm

"Rodgers is clearly one of the two or three most valuable players in the game."

Hyperbolic badly-grounded praise of whoever you are talking about at the moment is something I come here to avoid; it's an incredibly annoying habit that is a stable of network commentary guys.

Please don't do it.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:39pm

Is it hyperbolic? I think most people would say most valuable position is easily qb and rodgers is more or less thought of as either the outright best or fighting with one or two others.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:46pm

"Clearly" implies that there are no more than two other players who can even reasonably be argued to be better than Rodgers.

In a league with Manning, Brady, Brees, and Rivers (at absolute minimum) in it, that's nonsense.

If he'd said "possibly" or even "probably" I wouldn't really care.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:53pm

Hyperbole can admittedly be annoying, but so can pedantry.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:01pm

Precision in communication is important. If you don't mean what you are saying, why say it?

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:20pm

1) I really think he means it. It is clear to him that Rodgers is one of the two or three most valuable players.

2) No matter how hard you try, communication is always given to imperfection. It's up to the listener to back off a bit when the result of that imprecision is of such incredibly low stakes or we'll always be arguing about everything.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:52pm

I'd also have had no problem with it if he'd said "in my opinion, Rodgers is clearly a top two or three quarterback".

However, he stated it as a fact, not an opinion.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:04pm

A top 3 quarterback is a top 3 most valuable player in the NFL.

by CM (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 12:11am

Writing "in my opinion" is frowned upon by English teachers and critics in every context. It's a redundancy: a declarative statement of that nature is obviously the opinion of the writer. That said, I do generally agree with your initial statement.

by benbu75 :: Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:21pm

I think you have to assume a modicum of subjectivity in any analysis, so anything not solely based on math (and perhaps even some of that) could - and should - be considered opinion.

by rfh1001 :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:53am

'It's up to the listener to back off a bit when the result of that imprecision is of such incredibly low stakes or we'll always be arguing about everything.'

I came for the analysis; I stayed because you guys say things like this. Literally nice, sensible people, on the internet. It's like a magic trick.

by Anonymous Jones :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:26pm

If you're so interested in precision, how in the world did you include Rivers in your "absolute minimum" list. He's certainly not on most "absolute minimum" lists, and I'm a Charger fan.

I happen to think Rodgers is the best QB I've ever seen, though Brees is my personal favorite and we don't need to go through the whole Irrational Brady-Manning Thread to know how effective those other two have been.

In the end, I have no problem using "clearly" in that context with Rodgers. None at all.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:51pm

Let me get this straight. Rodgers is "clearly" better than Rodgers, even though Rivers:
- Finished 10% higher in DVOA.
- Played for a team with a worse run game (by team DVOA).
- Threw to a weaker* receiving corps.
- Played behind a weaker line (by PFF).

*Allen/Royal/Gates/Woodhead/Brown vs Nelson/Jones/Cobb/Boykin/Quarless; I think the Green Bay lineup is stronger but use your own judgement.

I'm not saying that Rivers is better than Rodgers. What I am saying is that as a very reasonable case can be made for the reverse, Rodgers is not "clearly" better than Rivers.

by JMcNally (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:45pm

"Let me get this straight. Rodgers is "clearly" better than Rodgers"

Well, there goes your 'precision in communication' argument.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:53pm

And 2011 - 2012, when people were starting to write obituaries for Rivers, means nothing in this discussion?

I've got no idea why you're picking a fight about this. If someone said "Kevin Durant is clearly one of the two or three most valuable players in basketball", I and everybody else wouldn't bat an eyelid because, duh.

There's been a clear QB pecking order for about 4 years now. Rodgers, Peyton, Brees and Brady in no particular order. However, people are obsessed with the idea of "Top 5!!!!111!" so you always end up with someone else (Romo! Rivers! Eli! Flacco! Ryan! Stafford!) being shoehorned in there to varying degrees of absurdity (Rivers for instance did belong in this group in 2007-10) and that's when people become annoyed and start rolling their eyes.

But yeah, as Will Allen pointed out, if any GM had to start a team from scratch tomorrow, Rodgers would likely be the first choice and would definitely be one of the top 3.

by Burbman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:03pm

Pretty sure Rodgers is equal to Rodgers. Not greater than or less than.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:11pm

Rodgers is clearly less than Rodgers. Except on a good day, when he is clearly greater than Rodgers.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:20pm

It takes a greater me than me to accept that statement that a lesser me wouldn't deign to consider.

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:07pm

I'm confused - did you mean staple?

by Touche (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:17pm

I couldn't agree more - so what does "...habit that is a stable of network commentary guys" mean exactly? Stables are for keeping livestock, usually horses.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:32pm

On the other hand, the first adverb in their bombastic complaint form letter (boldfaced above) is "clearly"; that should be a clue about the tone a reader might infer from such a word. For an "intelligent analysis" site that spends a lot of time quantifying things including uncertainty, it might be best to stay away from words/phrases like "clearly", "obviously", "without a doubt", etc.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:46am

Sure, but one can also just lighten up. There's the manipulative use of "clearly," as in "Clearly, the second amendment means..." and then there's a much more colloquial, lower stakes version that Aaron employed. The site is stats based; its central arguments are stats based; that doesn't mean every individual sentence a writer tosses off has to be rigorously supported. It's not an academic journal. I can see coming down here to dispute that Rodgers is in the top two or three, but there's no need to get on a high-horse about an adverb.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 8:22am

Looks like we see this differently; what one may call "colloquial" another may call "sloppy". Clearly we should agree to disagree.

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:26pm

Brady and Manning, yes. Brees, it's arguable. Rivers, no. In a couple years, you may be able to add Wilson, RGIII, Luck, etc. But not yet.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:55pm

I wonder how much of this brouhaha comes from the initial wording. A few lines above the "most valuable" comment is one that I think is more accurate and I bet we can all agree on: "Rodgers is really important." If Aaron had repeated the word "important" rather than substituting "valuable" in the "easily among the most..." line would we all be in accord?

I think that is supportable and would expand it to include probably every team's best player (usually QB but not always). By that I mean (and what I inferred from the article is) if that guy goes down, a 10-13 win team suddenly becomes a 4-7 win team or worse, and correspondingly a team that limped into the playoffs without that guy is suddenly a big threat to everybody when he returns (not just a much better team, but a team that could reasonably beat anybody else). If you add or subtract that one guy to the playoffs (assuming his faltering team makes it as the last team in) he significantly changes the complexion of the post-season, not just for his team, but for the whole conference.

By conference, I'll start with my QB and say Luck? His team yes, the conference no. If Indy wins it all it will be because of a huge team effort, not just #12 killing the opposition. Rivers... yes to both--SD is dangerous and a threat to beat anyone only because of him. Manning... Brady... Yes. Dalton and Smith, not the whole conference. In the NFC, I'd say that the guys returning last minute from a 4-week injury who would shake the whole conference playoff situation include Brees, Rodgers, and Foles. Guys who might not have as large an impact on the big picture (because of their monstrous defenses and I think a good backup could come in and manage the games okay) include Wilson, Kaepernick, and Newton.

Just my opinion, but by that metric, the most significant guys in the whole NFL postseason are likely to be Rivers, Manning, Brady, Foles, Rodgers, and Brees. Without them, their teams are toast. With them, they are a threat to anybody. Does that make them the six most valuable? Maybe. Six most important? Could be. And if I had to reduce it to three rather than six, Rodgers is as deserving as anybody to keep on the list.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:12pm

I agree that brady is valuable and equal to the other elites, but this years team is not a passing dependent football team of years past. This years team, in fact, has basically been winning close games with good red zone defense. What we really need to ask is, which team if you replaced the qb with alex smith, would be toast?

I'd say, saints, packers, broncos, chargers would all qualify. Maybe the eagles too. The rest I think would take a step back(or forward), but still be ok.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:54pm

I think the Cowboys should qualify also.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:58pm

I was talking strictly playoff teams. But yes, they and the bears would both qualify.

by Crunch (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:15pm

The Cowboys are toast anyway.

by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 1:29am

Precision in communication? Valuable, not better. I don't think you can reasonably argue that Manning/Brady are more valuable than Rodgers. Manning has somewhere between 1-3 years left. Brady's about the same. Rodgers just turned 30. He has about 5-6 years on Brady.

by dryheat :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 11:12am

That's assuming they cost the same. You can easily make the argument for Brady, if you consider cap number and actual dollars to be part of the value matrix, which you should.

by Jerry F. (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:43pm

Or, Rodgers is great and has earned that high praise. Yes, fawning praise is a staple of network commentators, but it's not annoying when they do it about Rodgers but about any other random non-superstar on camera at the moment.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:56pm

Eli Manning is Eco-Drive Unstoppable!

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:57pm

double post....

by rageon :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:53pm


It's not really "hyperbolic badly-grounded praise" when it's actually true, is it? When I hear the Sunday announcers claim that Flacco and Eli (or similar) are elite, top-5 guys, that's hyperbole. Saying that about Rodgers, who by virtually any measurement has been a top-3 QB for a few years now is simply stating the obvious. There has been a very clear "top tier of QBs" for years -- Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Manning. Period.

Would calling Calvin Johnson the best WR in the world be hyperbole? How about saying LeBron James is one of the most valuable players in basketball?

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:57pm

I'd say your LeBron comment is anti-hyperbole. One of the most valuable players in basketball?

But yeah, overall, you're right. I don't get the initial complaint at all.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:15pm

Spot on.

LeBron is one of the top one players in the NBA. A few years ago there was an argument that Kobe should be included in the top tier, but these days it's clear that LeBron is at his peak while Kobe is fading.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:30pm

And even that was an absurd argument. LeBron's been the best player in basketball every year since about 2007. Kobe's never been the best player in basketball.

LeBron is one of three players in my life who have just been head and shoulders above everybody for a multi-year period. The other two are MJ and peak Shaq.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:02pm

You, sir, are one of the most valuable posters on this site.

Either that, or I just agree with you.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:37am

By "virtually any measurement?"

I went back 4 years, and the only year Aaron Rodgers has been in the top 3 was 2011. Not 2013, 2012, 2010.

I'd argue over the last 3 years, Manning and Brady have clearly been better, and Brees, Rivers, Ryan and even Romo have all put up similar numbers.

So, no, he hasn't "clearly" been one of the top 3. There's a good argument that he has, but its by no means clear.

Which is exactly the OP's point. This is the exact sort of hyperbolic language that FO should be better than.

by joebarnin :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:52pm

> There has been a very clear "top tier of QBs" for years -- Rodgers, Brady, Brees and Manning. Period.

Agreed. That's four quarterbacks. Which one is Rodgers 'clearly' better than?

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:53pm

Brees generally, and Brady this year.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:31pm

I'll venture that if the 32 GMs were told that the league's players were going to redrafted for one year, and any GM whose team didn't win 10 games was going to waterboarded for the following 365 days straight, Rodgers would be drafted no later than 3rd.

What hyperbole?

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:40am

And I'd disagree.

There's a significant chance he gets drafted 3rd. There's also a significant chance that any of Rivers or Ryan, or Wilson, or Brees, or Brady, or Manning-1 or a couple of others go before him. He's got as good a chance as any of them, and probably better than most, but its not a lock by any means.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:24am

I didn't say it was a lock.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:46am

" any GM whose team didn't win 10 games was going to waterboarded for the following 365 days straight, Rodgers would be drafted no later than 3rd."

That's a pretty damn authorative statement Will.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:52pm

What does "I'll venture..." mean to you? Taking part of a sentence away from the rest of it is a good way to eliminate context.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:00pm

Sometimes I really wish you could rec/like comments on FO. This whole discussion has "clearly" been ridiculous.

There have been some crazy statements like "Rodgers better than Rodgers" for the "perfection in communication" guy, but this isolation of a statement that begins with "I'll venture..." takes the cake.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:58pm

I don't get the (entirely too frequently exhibited) desire to pick an argument with stuff that wasn't written, as opposed to simply taking what a post is saying at face value.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:08am

Poor, poor Rex Ryan after gets the first overall pick and goes with someone like Earl Thomas.

Note: I love Earl Thomas. I can just imagine Rex using his first 7 picks on defense and ending up with Geno Smith at quarterback.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:13pm

What separate Rodgers from the other three uninimous elites (Manning, Brady, Brees) is that that Rodgers just turned 30 and is in the "prime of his prime", while the other guys are in their mid to late 30s...

If GMs could draft any player to start a team Rodgers would easily be pick #1. Luck would be probably be picked ahead of some of the other guys based upon his age, talent and upside.

by Kal :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:27pm

Shocked that Blount didn't get a Madden nom. Most rushing yards for a Pat in, like, ever and he returned kicks?

by Shattenjager :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:39pm

Just because I wondered and so looked it up, it was the most rushing yards for a Patriots player since 1998, when Robert Edwards had 196 yards against St. Louis: http://pfref.com/tiny/fH3Sq

by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:39pm

I think Blount had a Madden "Team of the Week" card recently. EA didn't want to repeat him.

by Nick Bradley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:29pm

It's laughable to think that Seattle is one of the greatest teams of all time.

also, how's pro bowl quarterback russell wilson looking? QBR of 26.4 this week. lookin' sharp!

by Kal :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:34pm

They've played three difficult defenses (SF, Arizona, Stl) in the last 4 weeks. Their defense has not allowed more than 17 points in any of those games and recorded a shutout on the road - something that almost never happens in the NFL. I do think that their offense is suspect and a weak link, especially with Rice out, but their defense is as good as they get.

The rams had -2 yards rushing in the first half.

by Nick Bradley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:15am

defensive adjustments to VOA don't seem to change things very much, especially for quarterbacks.

by JIPanick :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:38pm

To be fair, he's only saying Seattle is one of the greatest *regular season* teams of *the last 25 years*. That's hardly unreasonable at all.

If the Seahawks were to win the Super Bowl following blowouts over SF, CAR, and DEN, combined with this regular season, which teams of the last 25 years would you consider better?

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:42pm

I think to me, the best teams are less in extremes and more in balance. I thought last year's hawks team was actually overall better than this one. The o line was healthier, the run game was better, etc.

Recent teams that were balanced that also won the superbowl that come to mind are 2010 packers, 04 Patriots, 2005 Steelers, even maybe the 2005 Seahawks.

by RoninX (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:05pm

The DVOA numbers (as mentioned in the article) back up that last years Seahawks were playing better at the end of the regular season than this edition. I'm not sure what is 'laughable' about DVOA saying that these Seahawks are one of the best recent regular season teams.

To be fair this year Seahawks team *looks* imblanaced because the defense is so good. But the offense hasn't been bad at all over the course of the season (though it has had some bad performances).

As another poster mentioned the long term narrative of the season will be (for better or worse, though almost certainly the latter) written in the playoffs rather than by final DVOA standings.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:02pm

There's nothing laughable about the seahawks being great. They are. I guess I have to trust DVOA saying their offense is very good. I admit, I've seen 5 seahawks games this year and in all 5, the offense struggled. Admittedly, all 5 were against reasonably good defenses, but I'm just not that big on Russell Wilson. But again, they are a great team, no doubt.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:28pm

Wilson went up against 12 top-16 pass defenses, which I believe is the most in the league. He has his weaknesses that he needs to improve on, but the schedule didn't do him any favors.

by steveNC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:25pm

I'm pretty sure the Steelers and the Seahawks never won the Super Bowl in the same year, although maybe you are factoring in alternate realities with different officiating.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:02pm

Indeed I am!

by BaronFoobarstein :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:12pm

In their times the Steelers have been multiple birds, but a hawk ain't one.

Also they never even made the playoffs on their bird years.

by Nick Bradley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:42am

If they did that, I'd Change my tune.

But they had a regular season DVOA like this last year, then looked poor against the Redskins while RGIII was healthy, then lost to Atlanta.

Personally, I think you can scheme to stop Seattle, and teams that do it are successful. Its counteriktuitive, because you want to keep RW in the pocket. He doesnt complete passes over the middle.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:31pm

A large whack of their regular season DVOA last year was from their blistering offense by the end of the season. When Griffin was healthy, Seattle only had offensive one drive, a three-and-out, so that's hardly enough of a sample size. I believe Clemons got hurt early in the game, so their defense wasn't as good as it was in the regular season either; the same happened to San Francisco, so 49er fans should be able to relate to that.

"Personally, I think you can scheme to stop Seattle, and teams that do it are successful."

An amazing revelation.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:39pm

"Personally, I think you can scheme to stop Seattle, and teams that do it are successful."

An amazing revelation.

I agree. With analysis that brilliant, he can take Dierdorf's place as a color commentator.

by Glen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:41pm

FO is not the place to troll.

by intel_chris (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:48pm

Apparently it is this week...

by G (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:51pm

With an average offense and historic defense I think it's a fair argument.
With 2 straight seasons without having a loss by more than one possession seems pretty unique to me. A claim that Denver, SF, Baltimore or New England can not make.

What sort of value does the football community place on consistency and the ability to be in every game?

On another note...

Offense seems to be what most folks tie to dominance or elite play.

"who can stop suchandsuch" is the common pundit phrasing when lauding a team.
You don't often hear... "who will be able to score on suchandsuch"...

by justanothersteve :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:22pm

Clearly not as good as #1 QBR Josh McCown who was easily the best QB in the NFL this year.

by Nick Bradley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:21am

Sarcastic is no way to go through life.

Then adjust QBR for usage; tell me what you see.

Mccown is 13th in that regard, just behind Wilson. That's excellent for only playing 40% of a season.

by justanothersteve :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:06pm

Trolls should be fed a steady diet of sarcasm. If you don't like it, don't troll.

QBR is, like any other derived stat including stats here, flawed. You still have to watch the game. It's too early to tell, but Wilson may be the best of the young QBs (less than 4 years in the league). He doesn't really have a contemporary comparison in playing style. The best I've seen is Tarkenton who was amazing back in the day. (I'm old enough to remember most of his career and just how much of a nightmare he was even for Lombardi's Packers to defend.) I could go into more detail, but why should I waste my time with this sort of answer for an internet troll who should go back to ESPN, SI, CBS Sports, or wherever you came from.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:08pm

A few weeks ago, Wilson definitely looked to be the best of the young QBs and was being talked about for 2nd in the MVP race. The offense has struggled a bit the last couple of weeks, and here come the Wilson haters again. QBR is definitely flawed in that it's way too reliant on "clutch".

Go have a look at Wilson's ANY/A numbers and tell me what you think of him.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:20pm

"Sarcastic is no way to go through life."

"also, how's pro bowl quarterback russell wilson looking? QBR of 26.4 this week. lookin' sharp!"

by RolandDeschain :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:35pm

What's laughable is you using QBR to back a point of any kind, Nick Bradley. *snicker*

by Nick Bradley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:10am

What's wrong with QBR?

Even if you're making a gripe about usage Total clutch adjusted EPA does that. And that still puts Wilson at 12th or 13. And Kap at 7th.

Sweet garbage TD while up 20-3 on Sunday by Wilson, by the way

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:10pm

Clutch stats are garbage. QBR is incredibly clutch-weighted.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:08pm

QBR in 2013 is not incredibly clutch-weighted. From an ESPN description of changes for 2013 :

"The biggest change is how clutch weighting is done. Based on our experience in the NFL and our recent work on QBR for college football, we have found that emphasizing performance in clutch situations serves relatively little benefit compared to de-emphasizing performance when a game is out of reach. Good or bad performance when a game is out of reach isn't as relevant because the game isn't played the same way as when it's close or early.

Plays are "bigger" in tight games because they do change the chance of winning a lot more, but the impact of rewarding that is to de-emphasize what a quarterback did before they got to the clutch situations, even though those situations were still competitive. As a result, clutch weighting now primarily serves to de-emphasize performance when a game is less competitive; that weight is, as it was before, related to potential changes in win probability."

According to that, they really are only factoring anti-clutch situations in - not allowing "garbage time" to greatly affect things. This IS somewhat counter to DVOA/DYAR, which I believe FO has said still includes garbage time, though is balanced out in that it's based on comparing against others playing in the same situation.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:07pm

Other than you being a 49ers fan troll, what's so laughable about it? Dominant defense, average - above average offense, strong special teams, yeah they suck.

I just had a quick look at Football Reference's SRS rankings as a quick and dirty check and the only teams I can see above them post 1988 are 1991 Redskins, 96 Packers, 98 Vikings and 01 Rams (both of whom DVOA is relatively down on for some reason) and the 2007 and 2010 Patriots.

It does seem a bit like 90's teams are a bit underrated in general and that it's far easier to be "great" today than it was then. There seem to be a lot of teams that I (and no one else either) thinks of as all time greats that rank higher than the mid 90's Cowboys and 49ers teams, who most people would call all-time greats.

The standard deviation looks way higher today, than it did in the parity driven 90's. I wouldn't mind FO doing a column where they rank the top teams by standard deviations above average. I think that would bring some modern teams back to the pack and give some 90's teams a fairer shake.

But the 2013 Seahawks aren't the team to make an example of. They're great by any standards except arbitrary ones imposed by 49ers fans.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:18pm

It gets into a semantic battle, but in my opinion, you aren't a historically great team unless you go out and crush three straight playoff opponents, rendering all three contest non-competitive by halftime. It's boring, to be sure (if you aren't a fan of that team), but it is quite an accomplishment.

Will the Seahawks do that? It isn't impossible, especially in the two games that will have to be played In Seattle, if they aren't upset in round one, but I wouldn't bet on it, in the manner I counted on some of the great teams from the '80s, or the '91 'Skins. If they pull it off, they'll deserve every accolade.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:21pm

WHat was the last team to actually accomplish such a feat? I guess I could go scour prf's page for historical scores, but honestly, I bet the last one will have occurred sometime in the pre-cap era. These days, the talent across good teams seems pretty even. I doubt, for instance, that the seahawks would blowout the 49ers or the saints this time around.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:39pm

The team after the '91 'Skins that best fits the bill is the '96 Packers, and even that team had more competition in the Super Bowl than some of the previous 800 pound gorillas.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:02pm

The Packers - Patriots superbowl ended up a 2 touchdown game and was a 1 score game late in the third. Not exactly dominant by the traditional sense.

I agree that it's just way too hard to do that these days. The 89 49ers and 91 Redskins are the only teams I can remember where there was never a doubt that they were going to lose in the postseason.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:24pm

..and the Patriots weren't even the class of the AFC that season.

But then again, I don't require blowouts to assign the label "greatness". I think back-to-back titles are harder to achieve than a single Super Bowl run, no matter how dominant it looks.

The '96 Packers had some historically great players (two leap to mind) but their failure to repeat and their failure to really dominate the Pats (as the '85 Bears had done) are things I hold against them. OTOH, I think the Broncos of the following two seasons would qualify as a truly dominant team. Certainly the Cowboys of a few years earlier were.

Are the Seahawks a truly "great" team? I'll reserve judgment for the playoffs. I've seen too many highly-rated teams face-plant in the playoffs. I feel that the Seahawks are the best all-around team, but I also think they are beatable. They don't feel quite like they're at the level of the 97-98 Broncos, for example.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:32pm

I just don't consider a team from one year to be the same squad the next year. Also, if you had a close playoff game, random chance played a role in the victory. To me, the greatest performances are those where randomness is removed from the equation. The '85 Bears had some fumble recovery randomness go against them against the Patriots, early on. It was irrelevant.

by Lyford :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:51pm

"..and the Patriots weren't even the class of the AFC that season.

Are we talking about 1996 here? They finished with the 2nd best record in the AFC, and hosted the AFC Championship game when Denver was beaten by Jacksonville. Denver clearly had the best regular season record (13-3) and point differential (116) in the AFC, but the Patriots were second in both. (And led the AFC in points scored.) The point differential gap between third best Pittsburgh and 2nd best NE (105 vs 87) is bigger than the gap between Denver and NE.

If you're saying that only one team is the "class" of the conference, then yeah, Denver was a better team in the regular season. But it wasn't a huge gap between the Broncos and Patriots, and the '96 Patriots certainly weren't a "sneak in at the head of a bad division or as a wild card and surprise everyone on the way to the Super Bowl" team.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:03am

I actually read that "class" in context as referring to whoever was the best team in the AFC. "Class" in this usage can be either plural or singular. It would be fine to say that "the class of the AFC consisted of New England and Denver, and maybe Pittsburgh". It would also be OK to say "Denver was the class of the AFC". Or, in this case, that the Patriots weren't.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:26pm

'85 Bears and '84 Niners never had competitive playoff games. The Bears game against the Giants had a sheen of a contest from the first half boxscore, mostly due to the hideous wind and cold, but if you saw the game, you knew the Giants were just getting their a**es whipped. '86 Giants were pretty crazy good as well, despite actually trailing at half time in the last game.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:29pm

The 2002 Buccaneers are the last SB winner to have a relatively stress-free postseason. What you're asking for (playoff domination) is practically impossible in today's game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:37pm

Yeah, that Tampa team gets overlooked, I think mostly due to having Brad Johnson as their qb. They were up 7 at the half in the conference championship, but I think they were actually dominating more than the score showed.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:50pm

What about the '93 Cowboys?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:52pm

The Cowboys actually were behind at the half in the Super Bowl, although they thumped the Bills good in the 2nd half. In their playoff game against the Packers, Green Bay drove two times into the red zone in the 4th quarter, with a chance to make it a 7 point game, with enough time to make it meaningful, but they turned it over. That was a great team, but they didn't quite crush all playoff opponents in the manner of some other teams.

by eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:56am

Did anyone really think the Bills would beat the Cowboys though? I mean, lots of us hoped they would, but we never really believed it.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 9:43am

Now you get into a debate as to whether some wins by more than two tds are more impressive than other wins by more than two tds. I'd say yes, which is why I'm not quite willing to put the '86 Giants in the same category as the '85 Bears, as good as the '86 Giants were.

by Lance :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:11pm

The year before (the 1992 Cowboys), they crushed Philadelphia, but then really didn't pull away from the 49ers until the 4th quarter. However, those 49ers were also very highly regarded. I'd have to do some searching, but my recollection is that their FO stats (DVOA, etc.) are quite good-- thus, beating the snot out of them wasn't going to be likely. And then in the SB, Dallas clobbered the Bills. I'm not sure if it measures up with the '85 Bears (I was like 12 at that point and don't recall much), but those Cowboy and 49er teams of that stretch of 3 years were quite good.

by Nick Bradley (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:26am

Who said they suck? Don't put words in my mouth.

They're still probably the best team this season, but I think they're way too far out in front of everyone else.

After-the-whistle intimidation does not bring championships.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:13pm

Um, that was the Rams yesterday. You're getting your NFC West teams mixed up.

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:41pm

There's a template for this kind of thing.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:15am

I kind of agree. I think their defense is one of the five or so best units of my lifetime(and likely improving), and they're nearly unbeatable at home, but they look like merely a good team on the road, and their offense is extremely inconsistent -- some of that no doubt due to OL injuries.

Their defense at home is scary, especially when the visitors have a near-impossible time hearing the QB. The only playoff team I can see going in there and winning is the Panthers -- another excellent defense combined with an X-factor at QB that is good at improvising and won't be intimidated.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:27am

They are a terrific team, but unlike some of the great defenses of the past, you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them, especially when the home crowd isn't making the offense very predictable. It is interesting to think about which AFC team might provide the best test of that theory in the Meadowlands, assuming the Seahawks don't suffer a massive upset on their home field. I kind of lean towards the Patriots.

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:33am

I tend to agree. The one reason I think the Patriots have a chance this year is because they are built to perform in the Northeast's winter months. But God help them if they have to go to Denver on an unseasonably warm and calm day. I'm rooting for a blizzard.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:56am

I love watching Peyton Manning. I don't love the manner in which the Broncos roster is built, but I suppose it is to some degree an artifact of a salary cap and having Peyton Manning on the roster. I really would have liked to see this Broncos team with Clady healthy, and more importantly, Vonn Miller and Elvis Dumerville playing all season.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:34pm

"They are a terrific team, but unlike some of the great defenses of the past, you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them"

I'm not sure how you know this; how many teams have actually done this this year? Or are you talking about their relatively weak run defense? If you are, that's not comparable to run defenses from, say, the 1985 Bears, because the NFL is far more passing oriented nowadays.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:15pm

The '00 Ravens and '02 Bucs were much more stout against the run as well. Yes, run defense is less important than it once was. Less important is not synonymous with irrelevant, however, and on the road, or on a neutral field, against a good offensive line, the relative vulnerability against the run would have a very good chance of being telling, even in the current rules environment, especially since the Seahawks are not explosive on offense themselves.

Now, if I can only get a modified DeLorean bus, so as too bring in the '91 'Skins or '93 Cowboys to provide a demonstration......

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:26pm

I guess I'll agree with Perfundle, I think this defense is pretty amazing, especially in this era. Now the 02 bucs was probably the best I've ever seen, but I wouldn't have any problem calling this one of the 5 best of the last 10 years. Personally, the only one in recent memory that rivals this one is the 08 steelers.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:32pm

"One of the Best 5 of the past 10 years" is not exactly a gigantic endorsement, and for what it is worth, I wouldn't bother to dispute it.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:43pm

I think you might, but this thread hasn't been your friend :P. I think I would just say, do you give brownie points for being a good defense in this era?

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:54pm

No, really, they are a terrific defense. I mean it. I don't know why fans demand that you rank them among the all time best, before the playoffs have even started, or they perceive some some sort of denigration being attempted.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:46pm

If you think the Seahawks' run defense is mediocre, go back and watch yesterday's game against the Rams.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:57pm

Saying a defense is relatively less stout against the run, compared to the historically great defenses, when playing away from home, against a good offensive line, is not synonymous with saying a run defense is mediocre.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:10pm

Your original comment was "They are a terrific team, but unlike some of the great defenses of the past, you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them," especially when they aren't at home.

To me, that describes a mediocre run defense. Over the past several games, the run defense has been quite stout. Unfortunately, it seems many are hanging on to the struggles from midseason as if they are still happening now. Zac Stacy was 15th in DVOA coming into yesterday's game. He gained 15 yards on 15 carries.

If you want to say the Seahawks are "relatively less stout against the run, compared to the historically great defenses", I would probably concede that point. I think that's a very different statement from "you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them".

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:34pm

To me, a mediocre run defense is one that is susceptible to getting whipped anywhere, even by offensive lines which are less than good. That's what makes them mediocre. A bad run defense is one that regularly gets whipped.

When a direct comparison is being made to historically great defenses, I think it's reasonable to conclude that the person making the comparison is judging by a very high standard, not by what one would expect against a bad Rams rushing attack.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:20pm

Well, mediocre is average. I think that'd be a below average defense that is susceptible to getting whipped anywhere.

I have no problem with the suggestion that the Seahawks aren't one of the all-time great defenses. I don't agree, but I think it's a valid position to hold.

If they have a weakness, it's probably an inconsistent run defense. I think they are an all-time great because of their tremendous pass defense. It is tough to compare them to other defenses of years past because, by necessity, they do it differently. With the proliferation of the pass offense, it has become much more important (and much more difficult) to be able to shut down the opposing passing attack. Personally, I don't feel that you need a ridiculously dominant rush defense like we may have expected 20 or 30 years ago.

Edit: posted as two posts because I'm having trouble with the spam filter. See post 189 for the rest of this response.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 2:39am

Average teams get whipped anywhere. Getting whipped sometimes is the epitome of average.

by EricL :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 1:55pm

That "inconsistent" run defense had two, consecutive, very bad games in the middle of the season. The game against Tampa seemed to have marked a turning point in defensive approach (something that's been confirmed in an interview with Pete Carroll).

Since then, over the last seven games, the run defense has a DVOA of -31.2, and the overall defense has a DVOA of -40.6%.

Before those two very bad games, the run defense had a DVOA of -20.9%, and the defense had an overall DVOA of -25.8%.

It seems whatever they did wrong in weeks 8 and 9 got corrected. I don't think I'd call their run defense "inconsistent" as much as they probably got sloppy for those two weeks. The problem seems to have been fixed.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:18pm

It's likely that (at least a little unfairly) the judgment of the Seahawks' defense will come down to winning a Super Bowl. Personally, I don't think 3 games should make or erase a season's worth of accomplishments. The 2007 Pats were pretty awesome.

Again, my real problem with your comments was your statement that on the road, "you can just line up, with a good offensive line, and whip them". I don't believe there is any evidence to support that. They had two very poor games: at St. Louis and home to Tampa Bay. Bobby Wagner had just come back (and was likely not 100%), and there was poor tackling and bad angles throughout those two games. Outside of that they've been solid, but not spectacular.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 2:36am

There have been historically great defenses which did not have two very poor games. That was my point.

by Perfundle :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 4:18am

Let me see if I've got this straight. What you are saying, then, is that in an era when passing is the key to success, Seattle has failed your increasingly stringent and arbitrary criteria for rushing defense, deciding instead to concentrate on stopping the pass, whereas historically great defenses were all about stopping the run because that was enough to win in those times if coupled with a decent pass defense? We've seen what happens when you have that kind of team in this era, because that describes the 2010 Steelers. They're capable of dominating the lesser teams, but when going up against a great passing team like the Patriots, Saints or Packers, they get torched through the air. I would guess that no future historically great defense is going to be built around impenetrable run defense without the pass defense also being the best (e.g. Chicago last year), barring major rule changes.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 4:46am

No, you don't have it straight.

by Debauched Andriod (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:20pm

True, the Seahawks did not have the both top ranked rush and pass defense in the league. They also had the best defense in the league, because stopping the pass is more important than stopping the run. Also, they only have up 4 rushing TDs this season. It is important to note that SEA defense is about preventing points, not yards, so if a team gets a lot of rushing yards but few rushing TDs, it would be considered a successful day for run defense.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:40pm

"[S]o if a team gets a lot of rushing yards but few rushing TDs, it would be considered a successful day for run defense."

That's not how it really works. If a team gets a lot of rushing yards and reaches the red-zone, it would not be considered a success for the run defense even if the team gets a short passing TD. It would be more accurate to say that if a team gets a lot of rushing yards but few rushing first downs, it would be considered a successful day for the run defense, and Seattle is 8th in first downs allowed per rush.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:49pm

They had the best defense in the league because they are terrific, and they have the best home field advantage for defense. The notion that it is better to yield yards than points is of course true, but if a day comes where the Seahawks offense performs poorly away from home, perhaps giving a short field a couple of times to the opponent, then there will be an education given as to the value of not yielding yards, as well as not yielding points.

Look, it isn't a slam on a team to state that they have yet to establish that their defense is as good as the '85 Bears' or '00 Ravens'. Who knows? They may prove that it is the case before the season ends. If they do, I certainly will afford them all due praise.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 6:34pm

"They have the best home field advantage for defense."

I don't think Seattle's home field helps their defense that much this year. They're allowing 15.1 points on the road and 13.8 points at home, which isn't that big of a difference. It seems to affect their offense much more, since they scored 29.1 points at home and 23 points on the road.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 6:47pm

Points per game is a terrible measure. If the defense is playing better it would be shorter fields for the offense, picks and fumbles returns for TDs. There could be special teams plays involved, etc.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:42pm

Seattle only gave up two non-offensive scores this season; one was at home and one was on the road, so they cancel out.

I don't know what DVOA says about Seattle's home-road split, but in watching all of their games I think the defense has been very consistent wherever they play.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:54pm

Seattle Offense
Home DVOA: 15.5% (7th)
Road DVOA: 3.4% (10th)

Seattle Defense
Home DVOA: -32.9% (1st; 2nd-place CIN is at -26.4%)
Road DVOA: -19.5% (1st; 2nd-place KC is at -15.9%)

So it looks like a boost of 12% or 13% on both sides of the ball.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 8:31pm

That's a bigger difference on the road than I expected for their defense. Still, the fact that their road DVOA by itself would be good for the best defense in the league suggests that the defense isn't where the problems lie; it's the drop-off from a Saints-level offense to a Falcons-level offense when they go on the road. Of course, a decline on offense can be said for most teams (except possibly Kansas City and San Francisco), but we are looking for Seattle's biggest weakness after all.

Oh, and penalties. Seattle had the most penalties for the most penalty yards. Penalties are bad.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 9:21pm

It's a fairly large drop by percentage, but is only slightly worse than the league-average drop as they only go from 7th to 10th.

I imagine we should expect some substantial drop across the board to account for the 17% homefield advantage.

Penalties aren't good, but they really aren't as bad as we think they are. Last year's playoff teams were slightly below league average (lower is worse) in penalties.

As an aside, I can't imagine the Seahawks playing a game where the first (and only?) penalty is a delay of game due to a mistake by the clock operator. For all of the deserved Cowboy bashing, they were pretty disciplined Sunday night. I'll never be a Cowboys' fan, but I'm starting to feel bad for their fans. Then again, there's always the Browns.

by tuluse :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 12:53pm

Thanks for the numbers Vince.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 8:17pm

My take from this is that the SEA defense is outstanding at home and on the road -- if you want to beat them better to attack their offense weaknesses, if you can.

by Will Allen :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 9:01pm

What (he lazily asks) is the average starting field position for the Seahawks offense, road vs. home?

by EricL :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 10:56pm

This might be off a very small amount, but my transcriptions of the data on Pro Football Reference match the overall averages, so they're probably accurate. All data from PFR.

Average drive starting positions:

Sea Off, Road: 28.8 (this would be tied for 10th in the league)
Sea Off, Home: 33.3 (this would be 2nd in the league)

Sea Def, Road: 25.2 (this would be tied for 4th in the league)
Sea Def, Home: 26.3 (this would be 7th in the league)

Overall, Sea Off: 31.0 (3rd in the league behind SF at 31.9 and KC at 33.9)
Overall, Sea Def: 25.8 (6th in the league. #1 was KC at 23.2)

So, the Seahawks starting positions from both sides of the ball are top-ten, but their home starting field position on offense is nearly the best in the league. And no, I don't have the home/road breakdowns for everyone to know if this kind of split is normal.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:19pm

The '02 Bucs were not much more stout against the run. In particular, they were dead last at stopping the opponent in short yardage situations (not just in 2002, but in Football Outsiders Defensive Lines history), allowing an absurd 90% conversion rate. They were 8th in defensive rushing DVOA, just like Seattle is now.

As as aside, Seattle is amazingly dead last in converting these short yardage situations this year, given their reputation as a strong run team. Seattle's rushing offense is a bigger problem area than their rushing defense, especially considering how much Seattle relies on it.

by JasonG (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:33pm

2013 Bears D vs 2012 Bears D. ~35-40% drop off, right? Worst in DVOA-era history?

by JasonG (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:34pm

35.3% drop if the numbers above are final.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:20pm

Put another way: from 6th best in the last 25 years (see above Table 1, right panel) to 8th worst in the league. You can argue how much was injuries, how much was age, and how much was Mel Tucker, but you can't fire injuries or age, so I wouldn't be signing any long-term leases if I were Mel.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:24pm

And how much was Lovie Smith?

Then again, the 2010 packers went through a similar swansong dive. Its interesting, in both cases, there were a few major injuries and massive ripple effects tearing across every unit, often with notable players a year ago playing very poorly the next.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:37pm

It's particularly amazing that the Ravens rushing attack was so bad considering that they only had one injury on the o-line the entire year (K. Osemele).

And the common thread between the Ravens and Jaguars pitiful running games: Eugene Monroe! Sadly he was probably the Ravens best o-lineman.

by pm :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 5:40pm

Aaron, will FO run an update on your playoffs secret sauce article? The first one only looked at 1997-2005 playoffs. Now you can go from 9 playoff seasons of data to 24 seasons of data (89-12).


by Aaron Schatz :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:34pm

An article like that isn't planned for this postseason. Perhaps in the offseason. I have a feeling the answer is "there is no secret sauce," or at least, no "secret sauce" we could measure consistently over a 24-year period.

by Ginastera :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:01pm

Is the NFC West an historically tough division? An average weighted DVOA of 23.7% seems pretty high.

by RoninX (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:07pm

Last time they looked at this (2-3 weeks ago I think) the NFC west was the second toughest division of the DVOA era, but that is always subject to revision as DVOA gets pushed back.

by mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:41pm

Considering that one of the prevalent memes is that the Pats have been fortunate to play in the AFC Least, I'm hoping the 2004 AFC East keeps its crown.

by Jeff88 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:49pm

Same can be said for the AFC South when Manning was with the Colts.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 9:12pm

The afc south wasn't always laughable. There was a year in fact where none of the 4 teams finished with a losing record and sent three to the playoffs - 2007. There were also other years when the division sent other teams besides the colts to the playoffs, years alternating with the titans and jaguars.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:53pm

The AFC SOuth being bad is not true at all for the majority of its existence in the Manning era.

There was never a season in Peyton's career in Indy apart from 2010 where all the other three AFC South teams were 8-8 or worse. The AFC South had, from 2002-2010, three different teams go 12-4 and get just wild cards (TEN in 03, JAX in 05, IND in 08), while the rest of the NFL combined had just one (BAL in 2010).

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:03pm

You would be right. Since 2002, when the NFL switched to 8 divisions, 23.7% is the highest average weighted DVOA. In addition, Arizona's 14.7% wDVOA is the highest lowest DVOA for any division, by far. As in, the next highest was 4.3%. Coincidentally, Arizona also holds the record for lowest highest DVOA for any division, at -11.5% in 2008. Of course, they backed up their horrific end-of-regular-season play by making it to the Super Bowl.

by Hurt Bones :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:13pm

With regard to the worst rushing offenses is it possible to see the worst RB only rushing DVOA. Flacco and Taylor certainly helped the Ravens running. Jeff George and Mark Hermann were statues for the 91 Colts. David Carr did quite a bit of running for those 2002 Texans (mostly for his life). Henne and Gabbert are somewhere in the midde. Josh McCown's running numbers for the 2005 Cardinals are similar to Flacco's though Warner and Tyrod Taylor's are certainly not. Just curious.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:36pm

I wonder about the Colts being "actually" ranked 21 by DVOA. Yes, two of their last three wins were convincing wins over WDVOA teams #30 and 32 (with Luck pulled for the final quarter Sunday, not that it would have made much DVOA difference) and as the Audibles indicate, Pep Hamilton has some congenital allergic reaction to being up by two scores that causes him to call Trent Richardson up-the-gut runs relentlessly in those situations. But the meat in that sandwich of disarray was the #9 WDVOA team, trounced pretty soundly on the road.

My guess is that the DVOA is more accurate in this instance because of the Reggie Wayne injury. WDVOA counts, basically, the last half of the season (10 games, right?), but for the first four of those games they were figuring out what the hell to do without #87 on the field (and stumbling). I suspect that the last 4-5-6 games are a much more accurate representation of the team as it stands today--smaller sample size, but I bet it captures an important trend better. Including the Bengal (#8 WDVOA) and Cardinal (#11 WDVOA) games to avoid just cherry-picking wins at the end.

A little like emphasizing Rodgers's return to GB rather than putting much weight on the games without him. It's a different team, really. About 5 weeks ago the Colts shelved DHB and TRich put Whalen and Rogers on the active list and, voila! things looks quite a bit better.

by Purds :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:48pm

I took too long to type.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:57pm

Either that or I am shirking my job responsibilities more than you are. Luckily I am on commission, so I am not really "stealing" from my employer by spending work time on FO. (Just my kids, sigh)

by Purds :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 6:47pm

I agree that the Colts have not been great, but ranking them #21 in weighted DVOA is almost an inevitability given their end of the year schedule: Houston (-27%), KC (17%), Jax (-39%). They won all three handily, but with opponent adjustments, you'd need to score 50+ a game to not look below average! I would guess. I'm not saying the Colts are going anywhere in the post season, but I'd love a more nuanced set of observations from FO than just the quick numbers, as they don't seem to teach too much given that schedule.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:01pm

I think you'll get your wish when the game by game previews come out later this week. I love the weekly DVOA charts and I suspect they will show an up-trend for Indy the past month and a down-trend for KC. Will those continue? Who knows?

And beyond next week's game (should the Colts advance), I fall back on my 1995 postseason fandom view and say "we have a chance. It'll take a miracle, but we have a chance...." Frankly, I was none too optimistic heading into the 2006 postseason, either! Neither was DVOA/WDVOA.

by turbohappy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:03am

You always have a chance if you're in it. I have no idea what to expect. Their variance is really high and if you look at a "who beat who" chart for them it just makes no sense.

By year-end DVOA:
Beat 1/2/6/7 (and 7 low-ranked opponents)
Lost 9/10/12/14/23

They've gotten back to letting TY Hilton do TY things (instead of asking him to do Reggie Wayne things) and put DHB on special teams only (where he unfortunately belongs) and their offense looks way better even though they have unknown players running the "#1" routes.

I have no idea what to expect. They could totally flop next week against Kansas City or they could go all the way to the Super Bowl, neither would totally shock me!

by Jake (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:01pm

I understand these metrics are objective, but can someone explain how the Seahawks weighted DVOA is higher than their season DVOA despite losing 2 of their last 4. They lost to two top teams, but isn't beating those kind of teams what the #1 team in football should do? I understand they've beaten great teams, but I'm talking about as of late, which is the point of weighted DVOA, no?

Also, as someone who's watched every 49ers game, I find it baffling that their offense is ranked ahead of their defense, and I think anyone else who's watched the majority of their games would agree with me.

Would appreciate it if someone could explain these things to me.

by td (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:29pm

They lost 'coin flip' games to San Francisco on the road and Arizona. I'd have been surprised if they had been dinged for that. It's probably true that public perception of the team has shifted from 'clearly the best, most well roundeded team' to 'their defense is great, but their offense is a question mark', but they're still the favorite in the NFC (with Carolina and the 9ers on the next tier, and Philly and Green Bay as wild cards) Recent history is enough to suggest that just being the best team ensures nothing (note pfr's research indicating that the best team wins the Super Bowl about 1/4 of the time)

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:57pm

The niners defense seems to take a couple of drives off each week, they struggle with no huddle attacks and the pass rush also goes AWOL quite inexplicably.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:34pm

I understand these metrics are objective, but can someone explain how the Seahawks weighted DVOA is higher than their season DVOA despite losing 2 of their last 4. They lost to two top teams, but isn't beating those kind of teams what the #1 team in football should do? I understand they've beaten great teams, but I'm talking about as of late, which is the point of weighted DVOA, no?

In their past seven games, the Seahawks have two losses. Their DVOAs for those two losses were 28.9% (against SF) and 12.6% (against ARI). In their five wins in that timeframe, their DVOA has ranged from a low of 59.7% to a high of 78.7%.

Denver is a distant second in weighted DVOA. In that same timespan, they have only one game over 35%, and that game was only 58.3%. Seattle has topped that number five times. Meanwhile, Denver also as a 1.9% against New England and a -1.3% in the loss to San Dieo.

by The Hypno-Toad :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 8:15pm

I find it surprising that the Broncos performance against the chargers was only good for -1.3%. It sure felt and looked a lot further below average, even leaving aside that the chargers had the worst defense in the league by dvoa at the time, if memory serves me.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:46am

There's an easy explanation to this.

The 49ers are a good team. The Seahawks lost to the 49ers, but played significantly better against them than an average team would.

I don't understand why some people can't get that a team can play well and still lose.

by td (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 7:47pm

My take on what's different about the postseason the last half decade is that none of the outcomes look nearly as surprising without the single season limits (you could argue against the Giants, but even they have a case to have been the best team when healthy in 2008) It isn't surprising that the latter-year Ray Lewis Ravens won a title, because they'd been contenders for years, it wasn't a surprise that the Packers won sometime in 2010-11, or that the Manning Colts won a title. The surprising part was when they won, which easily could be a function of health and luck between closely matched teams

by Red :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:23pm

Totally agree. The Ravens made the playoffs every year from 2008-2012. The Packers have been consistently good during the McCarthy/Rodgers era. The Steelers have been good almost every year for over a decade. The Manning Colts won 12 games almost every year for a decade. The Saints have been a threat since Brees/Payton arrived. Even the Bucs were a playoff team every year from 1999-2002. And of course the Patriots have been the best team in football during the Brady/Belichick era.

Who sticks out like a sore thumb? The Giants. Personally, I find it very aggravating that the Giants somehow won two Super Bowls, when they've only put together one great season (2008) during that stretch. 2008 excepted, the G-Men have been mediocre to slightly above average throughout the Eli/Coughlin era, before falling off a cliff in 2013. Their two lucky SB runs have grossly inflated the legacy of Eli Manning, who has been basically an average QB over the course of his career (with extreme highs and lows, of course). That Eli will probably make the HoF, while a guy like Ken Anderson is still on the outside, makes me sick.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:29pm

The Giants only won one Super Bowl!

(runs to his room, slams the door)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:44pm

I'll say it again; if, in 2020, with more than 25 consecutive years of having a HOF-worthy qb starting for them, in an era where the rules place so much emphasis on qb play, the Packers have only won two championships, their management in that time period will have underperformed.

by dank067 :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:17am

Ron Wolf certainly agrees with you about his tenure. "Just a fart in the wind."

Of course, Wolf not only had to re-build the roster but really the entire organization from the ground up (and Holmgren and Bob Harlan, the CEO, get their fair share of credit as well). He also retired a few years before the really pronounced offensive shift began, so he didn't stand to benefit as much from having Favre as much as Thompson has from having Favre and Rodgers. If the Packers can't get it done again in the next few years I think there's going to be quite a bit of blowback against Thompson, if it hasn't already begun.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:30am

Easy flippant comment to make... If any of Kaepernick/Luck/Wilson/Newton/RGIII/Teddy Bridgewater haven't won one SB by 2020, what do we conclude about their team's management? Truth is since Favre became the Packer starter in 1992, here are the SB victory totals:

New England: 3 (HOF QB)
Dallas: 3 (HOF QB)

Patriots haven't won one in 9 years-- is their managementnow failing? Cowboys haven't won one in 18 years and have been a .500 team in that stretch, so their management is clearly failing.

Green Bay: 2 (HOF QB/Probably Another)
Baltimore: 2
New York Giants: 2
Denver: 2 (HOF QB/And now Another)
Pittsburgh: 2
San Francisco: 1
St. Louis: 1
Tampa Bay: 1
New Orleans: 1 (HOF QB)
Indianapolis: 1 (HOF QB/Possibly Another)

New England has the best claim to management performance in this time period-- winning 3 SBs and losing 3 others-- and either they or GB have the best regular season record from 1992-2013. And GB and Pittsburgh have been the other consistent winners, with the Steelers pipping the Packers with 4 SB appearances to GB's 3. I'm hard pressed to make a speculative claim of underperformance at thus juncture... If they were to have one of the 3-4 best collective records from 2014-20-- Rodgers' career 2nd half-- and, say, went to one more SB and lost, is that truly an underperformance??

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:13am

Er, the Patriots have not had a HOF caliber qb prior to 2000, and they are very unlikely to have one from 2016-2020. The Cowboys were bad at qb for several years after Aikman left. If Cowboys management isn't a failure, then the term is meaningless.

The point was that it is a stunning bit of luck (along with some skill, to be sure) to have a HOF caliber qb starting for your team for 25-plus straight years, as the Packers are likely to have. Nobody else has had that good fortune; hell, the Montana/ Young Niners didn't get to 20. If you get two championships in 25 straight years of terrific quarterbacking, it's not unreasonable to say that the management of the rest of the roster was not terrific.

Obviously, if the Packers win another one before Rodgers becomes less than terrific, or if his decline begins unexpectedly soon, the point is moot.

by Sifter :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 6:49am

Well lets address this with some data shall we? What we need is to establish a baseline performance for teams with HOF QBs. I went to PFR and saw there are 26 QBs in the HOF. For the sake of ease, familiarity and relevance I've only looked at the 13 who played from 1960 onwards. Note this isn't perfect. Playoffs rules were different throughout history, and in some of these seasons the QB is injured, or not starting...the criteria was simply that a HOF QB was on the roster (so Young and Montana both get credit for late 80s SB wins for example):
Fran Tarkenton - 18 seasons, 3 SB loss, 1 championship loss, 2 division loss, 12 missed playoffs
Joe Namath - 13 seasons, 1 SB win, 2 div loss, 10 missed playoffs
Bob Griese - 14 seasons, 2 SB win, 1 SB loss, 3 div loss, 1 WC loss, 7 missed playoffs
Roger Staubach - 11 seasons, 2 SB win, 3 SB loss, 2 champ loss, 3 div loss, 1 missed playoffs
Terry Bradshaw - 14 seasons, 4 SB win, 2 champ loss, 3 div loss, 1 WC loss, 4 missed playoffs
Dan Fouts - 15 seasons, 2 champ loss, 2 div loss, 11 missed playoffs
Joe Montana - 15 seasons, 4 SB win, 4 champ loss, 2 div loss, 2 WC loss, 3 missed playoffs
John Elway - 16 seasons, 2 SB win, 3 SB loss, 1 champ loss, 2 div loss, 2 WC loss, 6 missed playoffs
Dan Marino - 17 seasons, 1 SB loss, 2 champ loss, 5 div loss, 2 WC loss, 7 missed playoffs
Warren Moon - 17 seasons, 4 div loss, 5 WC loss, 8 missed playoffs
Steve Young - 15 seasons, 3 SB wins, 4 champ loss, 4 div loss, 4 missed playoffs
Jim Kelly - 11 seasons, 4 SB loss, 1 champ loss, 2 div loss, 1 WC loss, 3 missed playoffs
Troy Aikman - 12 seasons, 3 SB win, 1 champ loss, 2 div loss, 2 WC loss, 4 missed playoffs

Total - 188 seasons, 21 SB win, 15 SB loss, 20 championship loss, 36 division loss, 16 wildcard loss, 80 missed playoffs

Applying these figures to Green Bay...In the 21 completed seasons starting from 1992, GB have: 2 SB wins, 1 SB loss, 2 championship loss, 6 division loss, 4 wildcard loss, 6 missed playoffs
Going by the numbers above they should have expected: 2.35 SB wins, 1.68 SB losses, 2.23 championship losses, 4.02 division losses, 1.79 wildcard losses, and 8.94 seasons where they miss the playoffs.

Not a massive difference between expectations and results. They've bombed out in divisional and wildcard rounds more often than a typcial HOFers team would, but they've qualified for the playoffs a bit more often.

I think most people inflate the value of HOF QBs and assume they can put their foot on the cash register and just inhale championships. It's not quite that easy...they are still VERY valuable players of course, just not THAT valuable.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 9:37am

The value of a HOF qb is substantially higher today than it has been for most of the period you put forth. QBs have always been important, but there is no comparison between the value of a great qb in 2013 and in 1973, when Bob Griese could win a championship while throwing 17 times a game. 2nd, a guy like Steve Young didn't become a high caliber performer until he had been in the league about 6 or 7 years, and a guy like Namath was no longer high caliber after about 7 or 8. In contrast, Favre was great by 1994, and was still great by the time he left the Packers after 2007.

I didn't say a great qb meant you could inhale championships. I said if a team had a great qb for 25-plus straight years, in the modern passing era, especially if 15 years plus occurred in the very modern passing era, it is reasonable to think that the management of that team should be able to manage the rest of the roster well enough to produce more than two championships.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:18am

Isn't this just the Billy Beane "My sh_t doesn't work in the playoffs" with a slightly different context? A's since Beane became GM in 1998 have something like 3rd best regular season record in that sport, despite having a payroll in the bottom 5. Easily the best management performance in MLB, and worthy of the Moneyball hype. And of course they have failed miserably in the postseason.

Packers were, as of the instant Rodgers went down vs. Bears, possessors of best regular season record for any NFL franchise from 1992-on-- since Favre became the starter-- and now, I think, they may trail only New England-- and their playoff record, while not as deficient as Oakland's, is OK, but not at the same level. Do we judge by the 16 games each season-- or the 1 to 4 in the postseason?? Thompson is now getting a much bigger target (and McCarthy too for keeping Capers) on his back for the continued failure of a defense he has spent multiple recent drafts trying to fix. The inconvenient truth for his philosophy is both the GB SB winners in this era were products-- in part-- of massive free agent signings on defense (White and Woodson the most prominent). His legacy could be at risk-- but it's still pretty damn strong.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:49am

As you note, Billy Beane has accomplished what he has while spending hundreds of millions of dollars less on personnel. If Green Bay management had done that, I would not have written what I did. I also probably would not have written it if the Packers had a couple more Super Bowl defeats on the record since 1994.

(edit) Let me be more clear. Mike Sherman was clearly a disaster, squandering what Wolf left for him. The hire of Ray Rhodes was also a very poor one, so while Wolf did tremendous work in the first 7-8 years of his tenure, he did have some whiffs while going out the door. Nobody's perfect. The evaluation of Thompson will have to wait another 6 or 7 years, assuming Rodgers remains Rodgers.

by jebmak :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:19am

Well played, Sifter.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:40pm

Thanks for doing the work, Sifter.

by Anonthulu (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:47am

San Francisco should get a HOF QB next to its name as well.

by Paul M (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:07am

Sorry, another slight for Steve Young. My bad-- I lived in the Bay Area during that 1994 season...

by Jimmy Cephalopathy (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 4:24am

I disagree with this on many levels and in many respects, namely:

1. The overwhelming majority of teams in this or any other era that win championships do so without HOF QBs. In spite of how "the rules" have inflated the value of QB play, it remains a team game of speed, strength, blocking, and tackling.

2. Prolonged success actually handicaps a team's ability to build on that success, in that it's hard to stay on top while consistently picking at the bottom of the draft. The Packers have even less margin for error in the draft because Green Bay is not an attractive destination for free agents. Even excellent drafting teams like the Patriots and Ravens supplement with judicious free agent signings.

3. Brett Favre's a Hall of Famer, all right, but he wet the bed in more big games than any player in history. Let's be fair and admit that the Packers were not good enough to win most, if any, of those games - but it wasn't Mike Sherman or Ted Thompson who threw all those interceptions.

4. If it's true that having a HOF QB puts a special onus on a franchise to deliver championships, then what's the corollary? How many years of futility and stockpiling high draft picks did it take for teams like the 49ers and Chiefs to finally put together contending teams? Would it not be just as fair to say that after ten-plus years of picking near the top of the draft, anything less than multiple championships will be a failure?

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 11:28am

Well, let's start with the Super Bowl era. There have been 47 champs. Here are the HOF qbs, or near certain eventual HOF qbs...

Starr (2), Namath, Dawson, Unitas, Griese (2), Bradshaw (4), Staubach (2), Montana (4), Aikman (2), Young, Favre, Elway (2), Brady (3), P. Manning, Brees

That's 28 of 47.

Here's some guys who are going to get substantial support for the HOF, and, for some, depending on how their careers finish up, could end up being pretty certain....

Warner, Roethlisberger (2), E. Manning (2), Rodgers

Which would bring it to 34 of 47. I don't know how your 1st statement squares with the record.

Now, let us look at all 94 Super Bowl participants. In addition to the 28 certain or near certain HOFers, and the additional 6 who've got a reasonable chance, we have, on the losing teams....

Dawson, Tarkenton (3), Griese, Staubach (2), Marino, Elway (3), Kelly (4), Favre, Brady (2), P. Manning

.....which brings us to 47 of 94 among qbs in Super Bowls, or if we count Roethlisberger and Warner, 50 of 94. I didn't bother to go back and check to see if Sonny Jurgensen took most of the snaps in '72. Again, your first assertion just doesn't add up.

Now, if just look at the past 8 years, where the rules against contact with receivers and the qb has been strictly enforced, we necessarily have to do more speculation as to how many guys eventually get into the HOF. I think P. Manning and Brees are a certainties, Rodgers a near certainty, and Roethlisberger and E. Manning still have a good chance, with a few more really good seasons. That's 3 of 8 certainties or near certainties, and if one of the two with a good chance make it, it is 5 of 8. If we look at the 16 participants, it comes to, with Brady and P. Manning, 6 of 16 certainties or near certainties, and with Warner and Roethlisberger in the mix, maybe 8 of 16.

More important than the draft, in making it harder to stay on top, I think, is the salary cap. We may find out, paradoxically, that while having a HOF qb is a great aid, it also hurts the chase to have so much cap space tied up in a qb. We'll see. As to Green Bay and free agents, they did pretty well with Reggie White and Charles Woodson, and the Steelers have done very well while not availing themselves of free agents very much.

If you don't think that Favre's coaching played a significant role in Favre's performance, and that management was responsible for either having Favre coached by a Holmgren or a McCarthy, as opposed to a Rhodes or a Sherman, we will have to differ.

I would agree that a team's management sucks if the team loses year after year. This is especially true now, when the cost of a bad top of the 1st round draft pick isn't nearly as harmful to the salary cap, as it once was.

by BaronFoobarstein :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 1:17pm

I'll stipulate up front, you have the facts on your side.

Now there's a bit of a chicken and the egg problem. The Hall of Fame isn't about being the best. Being the best or near the best matters, but just as important as talent is accomplishment. And winning or playing in the Super Bowl is just about the biggest accomplishment you can put on your resume. So are these QBs winning the Super Bowl because they are great (HOF-calibur), or are they voted into the HOF because they won Super Bowls?

It's really hard to separate these things. But as a Steeler fan I'll just say that all the talk about Bradshaw (I'm too young to have seen him at the time) is that he was very good, but not among the very best. And Roethlisberger, who is pretty much a lock, has been great for a long time, but never really overwhelmingly so. Without those Super Bowls he might get a mention in the conversation, but he'd be a really long shot candidate.

by Will Allen :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 2:16pm

A reverse way of looking at it is to ask how frequently a team has either won or lost a Super Bowl without a qb playing extremely well in the regular season, and/or the playoffs. Off the top of my head, I'd say Eli Manning was just so-so in both the regular season and playoffs in '07. Brad Johnson was average in '02. Delhomme in '04. Dilfer in '00. Chris Chandler in '98. O'Donnell in '95. Humphries in '94. Eason in '85. David Woodley in '82. Vince Ferragamo in '80. Craig Morton in '77. Most of those guys lost, of course.

I'd say trying to win a championship with mediocre qb play is a pretty tall order.

by Bowl Game Anomaly :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:48pm

The lesson: If you want to win a Super Bowl, be a good team for several years in a row rather than going for broke one year.

by Anonymoushgfjjgfc (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 10:59pm

Why do people rarely bring up Brees' stark home/road splits when being so quick to put him up there with Rodgers, Brady, and Manning. I think those three are in a tier above Rivers and Brees. In fact, Rivers and Brees have nearly identical AYPA and EPA/P numbers despite Brees having the better supporting cast including o-line, done advantage, and offensive scheme continuity. Furthermore, I'd argue Brees is pretty limited as a short passer - just look at his career deep pass% - and Rivers has proven himself to be more versatile, throwing deep as well as short, quick throws.

by Anonymoushgfjjgfc (not verified) :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:02pm

That is meant to say identical career AYPA and EPA/P numbers despite those advantages over their careers. Rivers is actually better this year.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/30/2013 - 11:06pm

Honestly, there are two things that really hurt rivers. First, he hasn't had any postseason success to speak of. Not my criteria at all, but its one major reason he hasn't cracked the top 4. Second, his last two years were really strange, especially since they occurred in the prime of his career seemingly out of nowhere without any injury as the cause.

Overall though, Brees is still the superior player to me. I just fear his offenses much more than the Charger offenses. Of course that's probably a big function of talent around each, but just subjectively, brees feels better.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:49am

You're ignoring quantity. Brees has averaged about 100 more pass attempts per year than Rivers. The fact that he has the same efficiency at a higher use rate is impressive.

by Anonymousdeqdfew (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:31pm

This can be attributed to their usage. Brees throws shorter passes throughout his career, on average, so it would stand to reason he throws more of them. The fact that his passes don't go as far neutralizes that he throws more of them. I'm ignoring the quantity of passes just as much as the majority of people ignore his home/away splits. He's been much worse outside of the dome. People conveniently ignore/forget that. It's not a small detail.

by AB in DC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:14am

Denver and Seattle repeated their #1 and #2 DVOA ranking this year. Guess who else repeated their DVOA rankings? Dallas, at #16, and Detroit, at #17. The two most average teams in the league for two years in a row.

Not sure if that means anything -- there's probably a Jerry Jones joke in there somewhere -- but I thought it was interesting.

by Last Far Striter (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:22am

Just saying Jerry Jones is often the only punch line you need. As a Cowboys fan, I can say that with complete confidence. Seems to me that the first person that sits down and gets JJ to understand that his "actions" as General Manager are lowering the long-term overall value of his total franchise will be the Most Valuable Employee in the organization.

by eggwasp (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 8:00am

never worked in Oakland...

by dryheat :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:30am

Can't blame him. I always wanted to take the Star Wars figure out of the package and play with it rather than stare at it with wide eyes knowing that I could re-sell it for a profit some day.

It's not going to make the fans feel any better though. My advice, and it's the same advice I give to R-words fans, is find another, preferably AFC or expansion team that you have no real animosity towards, to support during this ownership. I think the Panthers or Texans would be good alternatives.

Hell, at least Al Davis at one point of his life was chock-full of football knowledge and roster-building strategy.

by Paul R :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:20am

DVOA data from last ten seasons reveals that, in week 17, the eventual Super Bowl winner will have an average ranking of 7.2 among the 32 teams.
The eventual Super Bowl loser will have an average rank of 6.8.

Rounding off to the nearest whole number, we can predict that this year's Super Bowl will be won and lost by the Kansas City Chiefs.

by jebmak :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:19am

I like it.

by ammek :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:51am

Some other oddities from the 2013 season:

— Seven teams finished with four or fewer wins. I think that's a record in a 16-game season. Yet DVOA doesn't seem to think this was an exceptional year for futility. I get the impression that close games have tended, in recent years, to be won more often than usual by the better team and lost by the desperate team. It would be interesting in the offseason for Scott Kacsmar to take another look at historical trends in close game outcomes to explain what is happening here.

— Perhaps as a result of close-game trends, season-to-season fluctuation continues to be historically large. Three teams had 10+ wins last year but four or fewer in 2013. Meanwhile, the Chiefs, Eagles and Cardinals all had four or fewer wins in 2012, but 10+ wins this year. That rarely used to happen at all prior to about 1999. Now it happens multiple times a year.

— AFC stability/predictability reached new heights: all four of the division winners were in the playoffs last year, and Baltimore nearly joined them. Over the past five years (2009-2013), fully six AFC teams have not made the postseason even once (Bills, Browns, Dolphins, Jaguars, Raiders, Titans). I don't think that has happened since the league went to a 12-team postseason in 1990. Meanwhile, all 10 of the other AFC teams have made the playoffs more than once during that five-season stretch (Patriots 5 times, Colts and Ravens 4, Bengals, Broncos and Steelers 3, Chargers, Chiefs, Jets and Texans 2 each).

— Look at those teams with between 10.0 and 11.0 estimated wins! All eight of them! I hope we get the Seahawks-Broncos Superbowl we deserve.

by Joe M (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:36am

I did some of my own "statistical analysis" and came up with this seemingly IMPORTANT stat.

Of all the teams in the playoffs vs. all other playoff teams there is ONE team that is undefeated at 4-0 and that is the Cincinnati Bengals.

01) Cincinnati 4-0 W(NE, GB, Ind, @SD) L()
02) San Diego 5-2 W(@Phi, Ind, KC, @KC, @Den) L(Den, Cin)
03) Indianapolis 4-2 W(@SF, Sea, Den @KC) L(@SD, @Cin)
04) Seattle 3-2 W(@Car, SF, NO) L(@Ind, @SF)
Carolina 3-2 W(@SF, NE, NO) L(Sea, @NO)
06) Denver 4-3 W(Phi, @SD, KC, @KC) L(@Ind, SD, @NE)
07) New England 2-2 W(NO, Den) L(@Cin, @Car)
08) New Orleans 2-3 W(SF, Car) L(@NE, @Sea, @Car)
09) San Francisco 2-4 W(GB, Sea) L(@Sea, Ind, Car, @NO)
10) Philadelphia 1-3 W(@GB) L(KC, SD, Den)
11) Kansas City 1-5 W(@Phi) L(Ind, SD, @SD, Den, @Den)
12) Green Bay 0-3 W() L(Phi, @SF, @Cin)

According to this then we should have 3)Cin @ 2)NE and 4)Ind @ 1)Den
and 5)SF @ 2)Car and 6)NO @ 1)Sea

Then quite possibly AFC 4)Ind @ 3)Cin and NFC 2)Car @ 1)Sea

Then SB48 might be Cin and Sea with the winner being Cin

Interesting possibility based on in season record vs. playoff teams for 2013.

I believe the two best defenses in the playoffs are the Bengals and Seahawks.
Seattle has been up there all year, but the Bengals RAISED their defense ranking to where it is from a lot lower early in the season. The Bengals path to the SB would be a rematch of games they already won also EXCEPT for having to win at NE or if Denver wins then also at Denver.

A nice snowstorm for SB48 has to favor the Bengals over the Seahawks also...

by NYMike :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 9:44am

I did this calculation after the 2011 regular season as a Green Bay Packer fan. You really don't want to rely on it, trust me.

by RickD :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:33am

I'm pretty sure the '07 Pats were also undefeated against playoff teams.

by Joe M (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 10:40pm

Believe me... as a Bengals fan... I know better than to rely on it.

It just struck me as I thought back on the season that we beat all the really great teams and then lost to playoff outsiders: @Cle, @Mia, @Chi, @Bal and @Pit.
Although FOUR of those 5 teams were in the Wild Card hunt until the last day.
And we beat Cle, Bal, and Pit at home of course...

It is just that I see that the Bengals supposedly have a 4.7% chance to win the SB and Seattle has a 24.9% chance, when in fact everyone has a 1 in 12 chance statistically speaking... which is a 100 / 12 = 8.3% chance.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:32pm

"It is just that I see that the Bengals supposedly have a 4.7% chance to win the SB and Seattle has a 24.9% chance, when in fact everyone has a 1 in 12 chance statistically speaking... which is a 100 / 12 = 8.3% chance."

That kind of analysis doesn't really add any value. Cincinnati has such a low probability because they weren't a top-2 seed, and therefore have to play four games, with most likely two of them on the road.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 2:47pm

Exactly, even if you assume all the games are 50/50, which they're not, Cin has to win 4 games:

.5*.5*.5*.5= 6.25% chance.

The teams with a bye have a 12.5% chance if all the games are 50/50.

CIN being 4.7% instead of 6.25% means that they're probably a major underdog in one of the games.

by jebmak :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:37pm

That isn't quite the case. Even if you completely discounted any team being better than another and home field advantage, and give each team a 50% chance to win any game, the eight teams playing this week have a 1/16 chance and the four with the bye have a 1/8 chance.

That said, I'm pulling for Cincy in the AFC.

by RickD :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:36am

Curiously, of the four teams fighting for the final AFC playoff spot, the only one that the Bengals didn't lose to was the Chargers.

by Joe M (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:21pm

Actually, the Bengals split Home/Away with division rivals Baltimore and Pittsburgh... lost to Miami on the Road after a very short week... and beat San Diego on the road. And BOTH the Baltimore and Miami ROAD losses went to OT... where they would have received credit if they were an NHL team (lol).

The Bengals were 8-0 at home in 2013 with an average score of 34 - 17 over those 8 games. They are not so great on the road, but can they beat NE on the road in the playoffs? Yes, probably as good a chance as anyone else in the AFC.

Also, if it is true that defense wins championships, then the final DVOA clearly shows the two SB48 teams should be Cincinnati and Seattle.

It is not a question of whether Dalton wins the SB for the Bengals as much as whether or not he can simply stop throwing INTs. Flacco "won" SB47 for Baltimore the exact same way. He threw 11 TDs (or more?) and had ZERO INTs in 3 playoff games.

by Purds :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 11:59am

The other interesting thing from that list is the NE and New Orleans always win at home and lose on the road against playoff teams, or so it suggests.

by Joe M (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 2:03pm

And one more to add to that list is Philadelphia

Win on the Road and LOSE at home against the good teams.

by Not_Wayne_Rooney (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 1:53pm

Bengals are a good team on paper, but I don't trust Dalton to win a Super Bowl. He's not proven to be clutch in the playoffs. We'll see if he can turn it around this year.

by PhilM (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 12:03pm

I was surprised to not see Navarro Bowman on the Football Outsiders stars this week, after having an interception, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Maybe he's made it in the past that I missed? Accounting for two turnovers of different types as a defensive player is pretty impressive, and then he piled on 9 tackles as well according to Pro Football Reference.

by Fade the Rally (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 3:55pm

"It is much more common for the team that leads the league in offensive DVOA to win a No. 1 playoff seed."

Interesting. Is this a function of the particular way defensive DVOA is calculated?

If offensive DVOA is more strongly correlated with winning games, then one would have to assume it is a larger component of overall team strength. If this is the case, a weighted overall DVOA which underweights defensive DVOA would be more predictive and reflect the true strength of each team.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:24pm

i would argue that teams that are #1 in defensive DVOA generally got that ranking because their offense is underperforming. If the offense is great, defenses slack off a bit in the second half of blowouts. Elite offenses are more willing to pile it on in blowouts because there are records to be broken, whereas there are almost none for defenses given all the rules favoring offense nowadays.

by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 2:19pm

Defenses with good offenses play with different goals than defenses attached to bad offenses.

For instance, towards the end of the game, with a lead, a 15 yard gain on first down where the receiver is tackled in the middle of the field is probably a better result (for the defense) than a 6 yard gain where the receiver gets out of bounds.

DVOA doesn't handle this sort of thing well.

by FadetheRally :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 1:54pm

I thought that is precisely the sort thing DVOA was designed to handle, i.e. game-specific situations that aren’t properly accounted for in traditional stats. If a play that optimizes the probability of winning isn’t more favorable in DVOA terms, that’s an obvious deficiency in how defensive DVOA is calculated and a clear argument why it should be underweighted in overall DVOA (which apparently it is unbeknownst to me).

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 6:04pm

Couldn't it also be that it's much easier to build a historically great offense in the post dead ball era?(all you need is a great QB and few other good or better players) than a great defense? (you need several great players, and then remainder of the starting 11 have to be at least above-average, and they all have to stay healthy).

by FadetheRally :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 1:59pm

If it is easier then more teams would have great offenses, the averages would go up, and DVOA would get rebaselined to take that into account.

Even if it is true that it is easier to build a great offense, it still doesn’t quite explain why a great offense would be more correlated with winning than an equivalently great defense in DVOA terms.

by td (not verified) :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 1:02am

offensive dvoas tend to be more extreme, which is to say spread out, whereas typically defenses are bunched together. dvoa already weighs 4 parts offense to 3 parts defense to 1 part special teams

by FadetheRally :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 1:47pm

I didn’t realize that – I thought offense and defense were evenly weighted. It sounds plausible that skewing the weightings even further towards offense could be even more predictive / indicative of true team strength.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:37pm

Of the Top 12 Best DVOAs Ever, only four teams won the Super Bowl. (91 Wash, 96 GB, 89 SF, 92 DAL), and three others made it (10 Pit, 07 NE, 10 NE).
Of the Top 12 Best Offenses Ever, only one team won the Super Bowl. (98 DEN).
Of the Top 12 Best Defenses Ever, only one team won the SuperBowl. (02 TB).

DVOA is a great evaluation tool, but it is much more about explaining past results than predicting the future. Just over half of the top 12 teams (7) ever even made the Super Bowl. In 2012 two of the top 12 DVOA teams ever didn't even make it to the conference finals, much less the SuperBowl. Enjoy the playoffs and don't be surprised to see the unexpected.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:47pm

I can't wait to see DVOA extended back to '78, to see if it might have been more predictive when passing was not nearly as reliably more effective than running, in terms of winning enough games to get into the playoffs. I think it is pretty clear that the salary cap made dominant teams less so.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:03pm

Most of the higher DVOAs are from the past 15 years. I wonder there is an effect where the best teams are more dominant compared to average, but less dominant compared to other good teams.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 5:47pm

Yeah, that's better way to state it, which I keep forgetting.

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 4:59pm

DVOA tells us that the chances that one of the best teams (by DVOA) of the last 25 years will win the Super Bowl is only about 25%. That's due to the fact that the disparity in teams isn't as great as some other sports and in any one game, just about anything can happen.

It's due to the nature of the NFL that the best teams don't always win. As NFL stats go, DVOA does a good job of showing us who the best team is. The best teams have the best chance to win the Super Bowl, so DVOA is about as predictive as any stat can be.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 7:46pm

DVOA numerical advantages appear much bigger than they actually are because the numbers are bigger than point differential.

I read somewhere that every 5% difference between teams in DVOA correlates to approximately 1 point towards the point-spread if the game was at a neutral field. Applying this to Seattle against the #2 team, Denver yields a neutral spread that would be about 2, which is close to where I would guess a Den-Sea SB line would fall (probably 3). Looking at Seattle vs the #32 team, JAX, the line around 15 which seems about right.

These are approximations, and for certain there are outliers, but it's an interesting theory. Has anyone studied how DVOA differential correlates with the point spread?

by Cuenca Guy :: Tue, 12/31/2013 - 8:06pm

5% DVOA is theoretically equivalent to about 1 point. The stated home field advantage is 17% which is generally considered to be about 3 points. I don't know of anything more precise than the 17% spread though.

by tuluse :: Wed, 01/01/2014 - 12:54pm

It's also not clear that there is a linear relationship between the two, which could make things tricky.

by mitch (not verified) :: Thu, 01/02/2014 - 5:52pm

I've compared DVOA differences between teams to the opening Vegas Line and after throwing out the outlier games and averaging the middle games comes out to 4%.

In other words, to find a spread, divide the difference by 4 and add points for the home team.

Remember, the outlier games are ones where DVOA may be more accurate then the line.

I tracked this a good part of the season, If I can find the results I'll post them.

by Rick & Roll (not verified) :: Fri, 01/03/2014 - 3:06pm

I'd love to see the results....

I applied each 4% of DVOA percentage as one pointspread point, and home field as a 12 point DVOA advantage.

When comparing the point spread with DVOA to calculate point spread value it looks as if there is value on KC, which according to DVOA should be a pickem, but is KC +2.5.

There is slight value with SD, who should only be +5.5 instead of +6.5.

The NFC lines look to correlate closely with the DVOA calculations so no 'point-spread value' on either game.

by mitch (not verified) :: Mon, 01/06/2014 - 12:18pm

Last weeks lines, dividing by 4 and add 3 pts to home team.

Eagles -1.95
49ers -2.9
Chiefs - .5
Bengals -5.18

One had some value on Chiefs early in the week with +2.5
And Bengals with +7

This week

Seahawks -8.2
Broncos -9.75
Patroits -6.9
Panthers -4.88

Seems DVOA likes Panthers quite a bit , with them being a dog, the lines is rising and if the line reaches +3 that'd seem like a very strong play

I'll try and get back with the results with a 5 point difference or better in the regular season.

by 49erFaithful1976 :: Thu, 01/09/2014 - 8:16pm

Alexander The Curious

i want to simply know if there is a page here dedicated to DVOA run defense?