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Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz (DVOA Ratings) and Vincent Verhei (Quick Reads)

As usual after the conference championship games, we're not going to bother with the full 32-team table of weighted DVOA ratings, since there are only two teams left and most teams haven't played for three weeks. We'll just take a quick look at both teams followed by Quick Reads.

The early line has New England as a small favorite in Super Bowl LIII. DVOA disagrees, but how much DVOA disagrees depends on whether you want to use weighted DVOA, which only includes the last 14 weeks and gives more strength to recent games, or total DVOA, which measures every game equally going all the way back to Week 1.

In weighted DVOA, the Patriots are now at 24.0% and the Rams are now at 23.8%. That's virtually a tie. The playoff odds simulation gives the Patriots the Super Bowl 50.1 percent of the time, which is about as close as you can get. This replaces Super Bowl XLIX as the closest Super Bowl we've ever projected. In that one, we gave New England a 50.5 percent chance of winning.

(By the way, the Patriots and Rams are not No. 1 and No. 2 in weighted DVOA. They are No. 3 and No. 4. Despite each losing their final game of the season, Kansas City and Indianapolis are tied for the top spot in weighted DVOA at 26.9%.)

If we use total DVOA, which includes the entire season, the Rams are clearly the better team going into Super Bowl LIII. Total DVOA has the Rams No. 2 at 25.7%, behind Kansas City. It has New England sixth at 17.7%, even after adding in both postseason games.

But as we know, the Patriots seem to start slow most years and then put things into gear after September and especially after midseason. The Patriots had a bye in Week 11 and the Rams in Week 12, so their seasons broke at about the same time. Take a look at how the numbers change for each team, including the playoffs as part of the second half of the season. Note that the Rams defense improved in the last couple months, even though their offense slowed down significantly.

  OFF Rk DEF Rk ST Rk TOT
Rams, Weeks 1-11 32.0% 2 3.0% 20 -1.5% 18 27.5%
Rams, Weeks 12-20 11.6% 5 -8.4% 8 3.9% 9 23.9%
Patriots, Weeks 1-11 11.5% 9 0.9% 18 -1.0% 17 9.6%
Patriots, Weeks 12-20 20.9% 3 -3.6% 14 3.4% 13 28.0%

And here's what the offensive/defensive/special teams splits look like for both weighted and total DVOA, through the playoffs:

  OFF Rk DEF Rk ST Rk TOT
Rams, Weighted DVOA 17.8% 3 -3.6% 10 2.4% 14 23.8%
Patriots, Weighted DVOA 17.7% 4 -2.5% 12 3.9% 9 24.0%
Rams, Total DVOA 23.7% 2 -1.4% 13 0.6% 15 25.7%
Patriots, Total DVOA 15.9% 4 -0.9% 14 1.0% 11 17.7%

Finally, here are the one-game ratings for the conference championships:


DVOA (with opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
LAR 37% -4% -33% 7%
NO 8% -19% -21% 6%
NE 28% 6% -10% 12%
KC 25% 24% -2% -1%
VOA (no opponent adjustments)
TEAM TOT OFF DEF ST
LAR 7% -14 -13% 7%
NO -11% -19% -3% 6%
NE 10% 17% 18% 12%
KC 19% 27% 8% -1%

As I noted in Audibles, the Chiefs had more yards per play than the Patriots and a plus-2 turnover margin, so it makes sense that they were slightly higher in VOA before opponent adjustments.

Roster data should be updated for the conference championships later tonight. Playoff Challenge teams will also be updated later tonight. Also, voting for the 16th annual Football Outsiders reader awards should start tomorrow or Wednesday, so look for that banner on our front page and make sure to get in your votes!

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Sacks
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Opp
1.
Drew Brees NO
26/40
249
2
1
2
81
81
0
LAR
Brees was nearly perfect in short yardage. With 4 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 6-of-7 for 63 yards, with six first downs. With 5 yards or more to go, he went 20-of-33 for 186 yards, with a 14-yard DPI, one interception, two sacks, and seven first downs.
2.
Tom Brady NE
30/46
348
1
2
0
75
75
0
KC
Third-down passing: 9-of-11 for 119 yards with nine conversions and one interception. There were only nine games in the regular season in which one player threw for nine or more third-down conversions; the most was 11, by Nick Foles in Week 16 and Dak Prescott in Week 17.
3.
Patrick Mahomes KC
16/31
295
3
0
4
70
65
6
NE
Stats by quarter:

  • Q1: 0-for-2 with one sack, -31 DYAR
  • Q2: 4-for-6, 65 yards, two first downs, two sacks, one fumble, -34 DYAR
  • Q3: 7-for-11, 120 yards, four first downs, one sack, 49 DYAR
  • Q4: 5-of-12, 110 yards, two DPIs for 36 more yards, seven total first downs, 80 DYAR
4.
Jared Goff LAR
25/40
297
1
1
1
16
28
-12
NO
At one point late in the second quarter, Goff had gone 9-of-15 for only 48 yards and one first down. From that point forward, he went 16-of-25 for 249 yards with 12 first downs and one sack. Like his rival in this game, Drew Brees, Goff was phenomenal in short yardage. With 3 yards or less to go for a first down, he went 6-of-6 for 98 yards and six first downs; with 4 yards or more to go, he went 19-of-34 for 199 yards with seven first downs, one interception, and one sack.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Damien Williams KC
10
30
1
5/8
66
2
34
-5
40
NE
Williams' longest run gained only 10 yards, and he had as many first downs (two) as stuffs. But three of his five receptions went for first downs, including touchdowns of 1 and 23 yards, plus a 33-yard gain.
2.
Alvin Kamara NO
8
15
0
11/13
96
0
24
-27
51
LAR
Kamara's longest run gained only 6 yards, and he had as many first downs (two) as stuffs. But five of his 11 catches produced first downs, including three third-down conversions.
3.
C.J. Anderson LAR
16
44
0
1/1
5
0
18
18
-1
NO
Anderson's longest run gained only 8 yards, and he had fewer first downs (two) than stuffs (three). He gains 25 DYAR for playing the Saints.
4.
James White NE
6
23
0
4/6
49
0
9
-5
15
KC
White loses 22 DYAR for playing the Chiefs. Three of his runs resulted in third-down conversions, and he also had a 9-yard gain on first-and-10. He had three more first downs as a receiver, with two more third-down conversions plus a 30-yard gain on first-and-10.
5.
Rex Burkhead NE
12
41
2
4/4
23
0
-3
-8
5
KC
Burkhead loses 31 DYAR for playing the Chiefs. He had five first downs on the ground, the longest a gain of 14, while getting stuffed three times. He did not gain any first downs as a receiver, but each of his four catches gained either 5 or 6 yards and counted as a successful play.


Five Best Running Backs by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
C.J. Anderson LAR
16
44
0
1/1
5
0
18
18
-1
NO
2.
Todd Gurley LAR
4
10
1
1/3
3
0
-12
8
-19
NO
Gurley's four carries: 4-yard loss on second-and-3; 2-yard gain on second-and-10; 6-yard touchdown; 6-yard gain on first-and-10. His two incompletions were both third-down drops (one resulting in an interception), while his one catch was a 3-yard gain on first-and-10.
3.
James White NE
6
23
0
4/6
49
0
9
-5
15
KC
4.
Damien Williams KC
10
30
1
5/8
66
2
34
-5
40
NE
5.
Rex Burkhead NE
12
41
2
4/4
23
0
-3
-8
5
KC


Worst Running Back by DYAR (Total)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Sony Michel NE
29
113
2
0/0
0
0
-26
-26
0
KC
Michel loses 49 DYAR for playing the Chiefs. Without opponent adjustments, he was the most valuable rusher of the week. He had seven first downs rushing against Kansas City, with four runs of 10 or more yards and only three stuffs. He only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Thirteen of the 17 prior players who had at least 10 carries in a game against Kansas City this season averaged more yards than that.


Worst Running Back by DYAR (Rushing)
Rk
Player
Team
Runs
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
Opp
1.
Alvin Kamara NO
8
15
0
11/13
96
0
24
-27
51
LAR


Five Best Wide Receivers and Tight Ends by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Sammy Watkins KC
4
8
114
28.5
0
42
NE
All four of Watkins' catches gained at least 10 yards and a first down; he also drew a 23-yard DPI.
2.
Brandin Cooks LAR
7
8
107
15.3
0
34
NO
Five of Cooks' seven catches produced first downs, including two third-down conversions, with a long gain of 36.
3.
Julian Edelman NE
7
10
96
13.7
0
31
KC
Six of Edelman's seven catches produced first downs, including four third-down conversions in four targets, with a long gain of 20.
4.
Josh Reynolds LAR
4
7
74
18.5
0
24
NO
Reynolds' totals include 9 DYAR receiving, 15 DYAR rushing for his one carry for 16 yards. Three of his catches produced first downs, the longest a 33-yard gain.
5.
Tyler Higbee LAR
4
4
25
6.2
1
16
NO
Higbee had a 1-yard touchdown on third-and-goal and a 12-yard gain on first-and-10.


Worst Wide Receiver or Tight End by DYAR
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
Opp
1.
Robert Woods LAR
6
10
33
5.5
0
-46
NO
Woods' totals include -34 DYAR receiving, -12 DYAR rushing for his two carries for -3 yards. Only one of his catches (a 16-yard gain on third-and-3) resulted in a first down.

Comments

36 comments, Last at 24 Jan 2019, 12:35pm

1 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Will Allen // Jan 21, 2019 - 5:01pm

I can't help but feel that Chiefs defensive VOA just isn't fully capturing what it means to allow your opponent to run 94 plays.

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2 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz // Jan 21, 2019 - 5:35pm

I know. It's a problem that has appeared a couple of times in recent postseasons, and I'm not quite sure how to fix the issue because DVOA is a "per-play" measurement.

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4 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Will Allen // Jan 21, 2019 - 5:41pm

You write as if measuring performance in football is hard.

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5 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Will Allen // Jan 21, 2019 - 5:56pm

More seriously, have you played around with weighting plays within drives, so getting (for example) 5 yards on 2nd and 8 on the eighth play of a drive is more valuable than on the second play of a drive?

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6 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by nat // Jan 21, 2019 - 6:07pm

It's not an issue. It just needs context.

The Patriots dominated in yards/drive and DSR (per set of downs "drive" success rate). The Chiefs won the turnover battle, and yards/play.

At the end of regulation, they were tied in points/drive.

No one should expect a per play rate stat to capture per drive success of this type. But you could investigate if DSR-VOA discrepancies are predictive. That would point to a repeatable strategic skill.

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7 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by sbond101 // Jan 21, 2019 - 6:55pm

well - what Aaron wants is for DVOA to be predictive of wins. If he wants that then finding a way to address the issue of a per-play stat in a game/gameplan situation where the number of plays run by each team is radically different in a predictable way. This problem promises to get worse as the league plays copy-cat with the high-variance style that the chiefs have adopted.

This issue was discussed ad-nausium after the Pats-Falcons superbowl (another egregious example, akin to what the first half was on schedule to be) and is a technical hard-problem because the clear solution (per-drive measures rather than per-play measures) really damages the sample size. I'm not sure whether a Aaron will be able to arrive at a heuristic compromise, if/untill then contextualization is really the best that can be done.

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8 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Aaron Schatz // Jan 21, 2019 - 7:23pm

At some point the solution might be to try a new rating that combines drive ratings with play-by-play ratings to see what's the most predictive combination of the two.

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9 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by pats-fan-in-nyc // Jan 21, 2019 - 8:08pm

Isn't that basically what F/+ is? My understanding is that FEI is drive-based, and S&P+ is (mostly) play based.

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11 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by sbond101 // Jan 21, 2019 - 10:07pm

I still think continuing on the per-play path is a stronger approach - I just think more consideration needs to be made for both real time and clock time consumed by a play. All of us who have watched the league a long time know that big plays have a dark side beyond the tendency toward turnovers and that it's related to both "complimentary football" (associated with real time passed) and clock control as the game goes on (related to game-clock time consumed). Precise and predictive measurement of these two items is a big challenge both because I don't think real time between plays is even kept anywhere I know of, and the NFL is constantly injecting convoluting factors like booth reviews to pollute any analysis. Just my two cents - but then no one pays for my analysis of football stats which I suppose says something.

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14 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Tom Tulpa // Jan 22, 2019 - 12:05pm

Rational beings having substantive discussion on the internet. Now I've seen everything. Thanks FO.

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3 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by MJK // Jan 21, 2019 - 5:37pm

And I can't help but feel that the Chiefs run defense opponent adjustment is perhaps overcapturing the accomplishment of the Patriots running backs...

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10 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Todd S. // Jan 21, 2019 - 9:42pm

Raise your hand if you predicted Brees would have the most DYAR from Sunday.

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12 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by big10freak // Jan 22, 2019 - 8:52am

This is one of the few times where the measurement is almost completely opposite to how a player actually performed. Brees was pretty bad this weekend and that playing indoors and getting good protection. He regularly missed guys (either missing with the pass to the open guy or missing who was open) and that deep pass at the end was a horrible rainbow that should have been incomplete or intercepted.

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13 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by dank067 // Jan 22, 2019 - 11:34am

I felt the same way about Brees. There were a lot of productive throws to Kamara that he executed fine on, so he deserves credit for those, but targeting all other receivers he was just 15/27 for 153 yards, 43 of which were to Ginn on what was really a horrendous throw. While the Rams were a little bit fortunate to get the INT in OT (and fortunate to even be in that poisition, obviously...) with the defender falling down right where the ball was coming down, I definitely thought the longer the game went on that Brees was going to get picked off. Overall wasn't surprised the Rams ended up finishing slightly higher in VOA for the game - the Saints jumped out to the big lead, but even apart from some iffy decisions and playcalling by Payton, I didn't think they were actually moving the ball especially well.

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23 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 22, 2019 - 6:16pm

I agree. For what it's worth, the desperate heave to Ginn was worth 30 DYAR. If it had been incomplete, he would have dropped to third. If it had been intercepted, he would have been last.

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15 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Will Allen // Jan 22, 2019 - 12:51pm

Goff remains an enigma to me. Sometimes he makes some really impressive throws and rhe Rams have an impressive drive as a result. Other times he looks like an easily confused sprayer of the ball. I fear Belichik will turn him inside out, and we'll a boring game

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16 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by dank067 // Jan 22, 2019 - 1:09pm

I have hope that McVay will at least be able to craft a game plan that can keep the Rams in it. Not because of any type of boy genius magic aura (was not impressed by his decision-making on Sunday), but because his outside zone scheme-based offense is kind of a modern evolution of Mike Shanahan's offense in Denver, and Shanahan's Broncos had a decent amount of success against Belichick and his better Pats defenses in the mid-2000s, especially relative to some of the other AFC contenders of the day like Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

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18 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Will Allen // Jan 22, 2019 - 2:06pm

Yeah, if they are able to execute McVay's running scheme with some efficiency, Goff will have a much better chance.Much will depend on whether rhe Pats offense repeats its 1st quarter success, like they had against the Chargers and Chiefs. Donald will be Donald, and thus Belichick will devote a lot of resources to slow him up. How well Suh rises to the challenge may be the game. Wade will not sit back in zone and allow Brady to drive down the field with 2 second dropbacks.

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19 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by BJR // Jan 22, 2019 - 2:20pm

I'm sure Belichick will be able to scheme up some success in confusing Goff just as he did to Mahomes last weekend. But, as occurred in the Chiefs game, I don't believe the Patriots defense isn't talented enough to limit a prolific offense for 60 minutes. The defenses that have enjoyed the most success against the Rams this season, notably the Bears and Eagles, were able to dominate the line of scrimmage, and the Patriots do not have anywhere like those teams' talent levels on the defensive line.

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20 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Will Allen // Jan 22, 2019 - 2:51pm

I tend to agree, which means McVay's first instinct will be run efficiently, thus giving Goff a more comfortable environment. Belichik, I think, will anticipate this, seek to prevent such efficiency, until it gets to more obvious passing downs. Goff may need to win this game by going downfield on 1st down.

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24 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by BJR // Jan 22, 2019 - 6:17pm

For sure. A healthy Todd Gurley would be a big help also. The Patriots have not been good at covering passes to opposing RBs, it is well known they lack speed at LB. Even if they do sell out to stop the run, Gurley can provide a threat as a receiver that CJ Anderson probably cannot.

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30 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by RickD // Jan 23, 2019 - 4:43pm

Be careful of double negatives.

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17 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by E // Jan 22, 2019 - 1:35pm

I continue to feel that opponent adjustments for DYAR are too strong. Michel has 113 yards and 2 TDs, 29 total carries with only three stuffs, and his rushing DYAR is not only negative but is the worst for any player on Sunday? Moreover, "Without opponent adjustments, he was the most valuable rusher of the week." I refuse to believe that the difference between the KC run defense and an average run D turns the the most valuable rusher of the week to the least. As bad as they are, NFL defenses simply aren't that far apart from one another talent-wise. Years of watching football have taught me that any RB having 113 yards and 2 TDs, 29 carries, and only three stuffs (and no fumbles) is not a terrible day, no matter who the defense is. I'm not saying it's elite - just that it isn't awful as the DYAR would suggest. Put another way ... what would Michel have had to have done to have been no worse than a replacement back? 175 yards and 4 TDs? That can't be the "right" baseline even against this defense.

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21 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Andrew Potter // Jan 22, 2019 - 2:58pm

Even just using conventional stats, an average back against the Chiefs this season could expect 145 yards, ten first downs, and two touchdowns from 29 carries. So even without adjusting for success/failure on an individual play basis, he's already 32 yards and three first downs short of the Chiefs' per-play average allowed.

The Chiefs run defense wasn't bad this season. It was terrible. The difference in DVOA between Kansas City and 31st-place Tampa Bay, who would themselves have tied for the worst run defense in the league last year, was greater than the difference between Tampa Bay and no. 22 Oakland. We haven't seen a run defense within three points of being this bad since the Marc Trestman Bears.

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22 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 22, 2019 - 6:14pm

Yes. What Andrew said. It has been five years -- an entire NFL generation -- since a defense had a worse DVOA against the run than Kansas City this year.

Michel had a success rate of 52% against Kansas City in the divisional round. The average running back's success rate against Kansas City was 60 percent.

Michel's longest run against Kansas City on Sunday gained only 11 yards. The Chiefs gave up 35 runs longer than that to running backs alone this year. Matthew Breida had four of them in one game. If you're not ripping off 15-yard runs against Kansas City with some regularity, you're having a bad day.

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25 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Scott P. // Jan 23, 2019 - 9:10am

Perhaps, but my feeling is that a) Kansas City's defense improved towards the end of the season quite a bit and b) it's the AFC Championship, they aren't going to be putting in the same sort of effort they do against the Raiders in the middle of the season.

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26 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by E // Jan 23, 2019 - 10:58am

I agree with this, especially (b). You can see this also by how the Chiefs similarly held down Mack the week before - it's likely that they were doing something different in the post-season (effort, focus on the run, game plan) to put forth a better run D. Also, the comments by Andrew and Vince indicate that Michel was slightly below average (vs the regular season defensive effort of the Chiefs). But -26 DYAR isn't slightly below average - it's significantly below replacement.

I understand that the Chiefs run D was terrible in 2018. I'm not sure it was historically terrible but it was one of the worst in recent memory. And yet I'm not convinced (and I don't think most people would be) that if you grabbed a RB off the street before the AFC Championship game, that RB would have had a significantly better game than Michel's 113-yard 2-TD no fumble 3-stuff effort. Which is what -26 DYAR is telling us. (It's helpful that we have the numbers for 2 other Pats RBs on Sunday - White and Burkhead - and here are their rushing stats:

Burkhead: 12 carries, 41 yards, 2 TDs, no fumbles, minus 8 DYAR.
White: 6 carries, 23 yards, 0 TDs, no fumbles, minus 5 DYAR.

For comparison's sake:

Gurley: 4 carries, 10 yards, 1 TDs, no fumbles, 8 DYAR.
CJ Anderson: 16 carries, 44 yards, 0 TDs, no fumbles, 18 DYAR.

Both Rams went for positive DYAR, both under 3 yards per carry. Opponent adjustments are too strong.

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27 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by BigRichie // Jan 23, 2019 - 1:24pm

Sony actually physically faced a different run defense than what the Chiefs played during the regular season. Sony's 1st quarter success - perhaps along with the early lead the Pats built - obliged Sutton to put more beef into the lineup than what the Chiefs normally played and would prefer to have played. And then left them more open to the pass.

Opponent adjustments are probably fine, but something as (visually!) obvious as a team changing its base defense ought to be noted in Quick Reads. As in, "this is how our numbers came out, and golly, such-and-such defensive adjustment sure could be the reason why".

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28 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by BigRichie // Jan 23, 2019 - 1:28pm

I'd think you could actually research this supposed effect fairly easily. Hypothesis: After 'X' weeks of horrible run-or-pass defense, defenses will scheme differently such that said bad portion gets significantly better and the relatively-gooder portion significantly worse. Does the data give evidence of such an effect?

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29 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by BigRichie // Jan 23, 2019 - 2:01pm

Another historical example, now that I think of it. Peyton's Colts Super Bowl, they were laughably bad against the run in the regular season. Dungy just refused to tinker with his beloved Cover-2 scheme, and they got gouged and gouged and gouged. Then they got safety Bob Sanders back for the playoffs, whom Dungy was comfortable bringing up towards the line of scrimmage, and they were massively improved. Mainly because of the scheme adjustment.

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31 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 23, 2019 - 6:06pm

The Saints were third in run defense. The Chiefs were way way way last. It's very easy to run against the Chiefs. It's very hard to run against the Saints.

Yes, sometimes schemes and personnel change from game to game, and there can be fluctuation in a team's performance or quality that can be difficult to quantify. But the fact is that play-for-play, most running backs were more productive against the Chiefs this year than the Patriots were on Sunday, while the Rams' running backs had fairly typical results compared to what other runners did against the Saints this year.

Some quick notes on the runners you mentioned:

* Burkhead only had two runs longer than 4 yards. Half his carries gained 2 yards or less.

* White loses 6 DYAR for a failure to convert on third-and-2. Take that away and his replacement level; if he converts there he's positive.

* Gurley had 16 DYAR on his touchdown, -8 on his other three runs.

* Anderson just had a mundane day. All of his carries were between -6 and 6 DYAR.

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32 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 23, 2019 - 6:11pm

And yet I'm not convinced (and I don't think most people would be) that if you grabbed a RB off the street before the AFC Championship game, that RB would have had a significantly better game than Michel's 113-yard 2-TD no fumble 3-stuff effort.

C.J. Anderson was signed off the street in December and ran for 167, 132, and 123 yards against the Cardinals, 49ers, and Cowboys. The Cardinals were horrendous this year, but the 49ers were 11th in run defense, and the Cowboys were fifth.

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33 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Vincent Verhei // Jan 23, 2019 - 6:26pm

Michel had 18 carries against Kansas City on Sunday that counted as failed plays. Nobody else had that many failed runs against Kansas City this year. Doug Martin had 17, total, in 39 carries across two games. Chris Carson had the single-game high with 16.

When you have more bad runs against the league's worst run defense than anyone else did all year, you're going to get negative DYAR.

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34 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by sbond101 // Jan 23, 2019 - 8:42pm

This is the most compelling point - when I read about how effective the NE running game was I wondered if the media had watched the same game I had. Michel had a large number of failed runs, particularly concentrated in the third quarter (for reference, Michel runs in the 2nd half: 4 yds on 2nd & 10, 2 yds on 1st & 10, 1yd on 1st & 10, 1yd on 1st & 10, 10 yds on 2nd & 9, 3yds on 1st & 10, 3yds on 1st & 10, 2yds on 1st & 10, 10 yds TD; that's 2 successes and 7 failures in the second half). The reality is that the Pats had a lot of success running in the first half; after the chiefs changed their approach to personal in the second half the running offense struggled. That's a pretty average game with a much larger than average number of attempts.

The good counter-argument is that the Chief's run defense likely wasn't close to as bad as the opponent adjustment thinks, and the reason for this is obvious. The Chiefs played a lot of games in which giving up a 4-8 yard run was a win for the defense for a substantial portion of the game (i.e. when leading by quite a bit, like the 180 yards they gave up in what looked like a blowout @Denver). This is a really tough thing for DVOA/DYAR to handle and I know Aaron has looked at it a bit - I think the best thing to do is to use DYAR alongside the eye test to understand the game as best you can.

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35 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by Lost Ti-Cats Fan // Jan 23, 2019 - 11:07pm

I was surprised by how often the Pats ran into the heavy set KC line in the third quarter. It was a bad match up, and normally Brady will audible away from those (or McDaniels wouldn't even call them, since the opposition personnel on the field were known). I presume it was "shorten the game" mentality where they were willing to exchange a low percentage play on first down to keep the clock moving.

I presume there's just not enough data points to differentiate between a "bad" run defence when you have the lead and are happy to have the opposition run the ball as that leads to long drives and chews up time, versus a bad run defence that can't stop the run when they're trying to get the ball back and they know the run is coming.

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36 Re: Conference Championships Quick Reads/DVOA Ratings

by E // Jan 24, 2019 - 12:35pm

This (and the previous comment) are the best explanation to me - something like "not all KC defenses this season are created equal." Giving up rushing yards to Doug Martin when the KC offense is scoring at will just seems qualitatively different than giving up rushing yards to a Pats offense that has a lead and is trying to shorten the game. And the Chiefs themselves seemed to recognize this by stacking the line in the third quarter. KC schemed differently in the playoffs and it resulted in Mack and (to a lesser degree) Michel having sub-par games, relatively speaking. The same could be said about the Rams and how they held down Zeke and Kamara in the running game after getting gouged all season - it's as if they simply decided that the running game was not going to beat them and schemed accordingly. I'm not sure that there's a way to "fix" this, or whether a fix is really necessary, but I think it's ignoring the facts to simply say that Michel was way way worse than replacement level, CJ Anderson (and Damien Williams) notwithstanding. Personally, I would minimize the magnitude of the adjustment from YAR to DYAR but if FO is convinced that it's right the way it is ... well then they're probably right.

PS I hope this is taken the way it is meant - as an observation that could lead to improvement to an already incredible site, not as a criticism. I appreciate you (Vince) engaging in the conversation and all the hard work that goes into FO!

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