Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Jan 2009

Any Given Sunday: Cardinals over Falcons

by Ned Macey

The linked article talks about how match-ups allowed the Cardinals to advance. Just for fun, I've decided to include my mini-research project into below average playoff teams. The Cardinals had the lowest DVOA of any team to make this year's playoffs, but I was curious as to how often a "below-average" team won a playoff game. Going back to the first year we have DVOA, 1995, Arizona is now the 12th team with a negative DVOA to win a playoff game.

Year Team DVOA Rank Next Week
1995 PHI -5.8% 17 Lost 19
1995 IND -10.9% 24 Won 3
1995 BUF -1.8% 15 Lost 19
1996 JAC -0.9% 16 Won 3
1997 MIN -2.1% 16 Lost 16
1998 ARI -18.7% 27 Lost 20
2000 MIN -2.5% 21 Lost 41*
2004 STL -22.9% 30 Lost 30
2004 MIN -0.4% 15 Lost 13
2004 ATL -2.8% 17 Lost 17*
2006 SEA -13.1% 25 Lost 3
2008 ARI -0.5% 20 TBD

*Team somehow received first round bye despite below average play.

This list is not really fair to Arizona, since they are just barely negative in DVOA. Last year's Super Bowl champions just missed this list by finishing exactly league average. Still, the futility of this group in the next round bears mentioning. The group went 2-9 with eight double digit losses and a net -172 point differential.

Atlanta, by the way, becomes the fourth best team to lose to a below average playoff team. The three better teams were Dallas twice (to Arizona in 1998 and Seattle in 2006) and those lovable losers the Detroit Lions who with a 15.7% DVOA somehow got blown out by the 1995 Eagles and their -5.8% DVOA.

I think this list is complete, but let me know in the comments if I've missed someone.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 05 Jan 2009

8 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2009, 12:59pm by JSL


by Birdman (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 5:33pm

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by deep64blue :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 6:56pm

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by Love is like a bottle of gin (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 9:21pm

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by Pat (filler) (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 5:37pm

The 2004 group (3 teams), of course, is in a bit of a special situation there: 3 below-average teams had to make the playoffs that year because the NFC only had 3 above-average teams - and one of those above-average teams didn't even make the playoffs. Which meant that at least two below-average teams were going to win that year no matter what.

The 2004 Rams are certainly one of the worst teams to ever win a playoff game. -73 point differential, worst turnover differential in the league, and second-worst DVOA in the league. Only real reason they won a game is because they were the #5 seed by tiebreakers with the Vikings, and so they drew the Seahawks (who they had already beaten twice) rather than the Packers.

Fairly different than the Cardinals this year, who are only slightly below average in a field of very good playoff teams. I don't think it's too likely that 2008 picks up another below-average playoff winner.

by ineedawittyname (not verified) :: Mon, 01/05/2009 - 8:24pm

i have been thinking about something since I saw the Cardinals play Saturday, and I was wondering if anyone agrees with me:

Anyone else see the Cardinals having similarities to the 2006 Colts? the Colts didn't seem to get much of a shot because of their major weakness (run stopping) but it got better in the playoffs and wound up being a nice compliment to the rest of their team. The Cardinals might be the same way with their rushing?
I'm not making any predictions yet or anything, just making an observation.

by Sergio :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 1:04am

Well, if the Cardinals could somehow get average (let alone above average) performance out of their running game, they'd be the best offense in the league.

Coupled with an average defense, they would certainly be Superbowl contenders. Now, can they get it?

-- Go Phins!

by Key19 :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 12:30am

Thoughts on calling this edition "Any Given Saturday?"

by JSL (not verified) :: Tue, 01/06/2009 - 12:59pm

How many below average teams have made the playoffs during this time? That looks like a lot of wins over only 14 years. On average do more than 2 two below average teams make the playoffs each year or is their winning percentage close to .500?