September 19, 2021

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Week 1 DVOA Ratings | Football Outsiders

6 min read

by Aaron Schatz

You love them when your team is high! You hate them when your team is low! Once again, the famous Football Outsiders DVOA and DAVE ratings return for 2019.

Football Outsiders readers are familiar with DVOA, which we use all year round. By now, most Football Outsiders readers are also familiar with DAVE, which we only use for teams during the first two months of the season. DAVE is our rating that combines the preseason projection with the results of early games to give us a better prediction of how each team will rank at the end of the year. For those who don’t know the story, this metric is called DAVE as a reaction to criticism that our stats are too much alphabet soup. I mean, who can argue with a guy named Dave? (Technically, it stands for “DVOA Adjusted for Variation Early.”) In this week’s DAVE ratings, the preseason projection counts for 90 percent, and the current DVOA counts for 10 percent. The value of the preseason projection changes each week until we are only using current-year data after Week 9.

Of course, though I’m calling our main metric DVOA here, it is actually VOA because there are no opponent adjustments right now. We do not apply opponent adjustments until after Week 4, so in Weeks 1-3 DVOA and VOA are the same thing. Please don’t get all nitpicky about it. Most readers know what’s up, and if you don’t, I just told you!

It will surprise nobody that the Baltimore Ravens are on top of our ratings after just one week. They wrecked the Dolphins so bad it made Aquaman cry. Baltimore is in the top three for offense, defense, and special teams after one week, and they end up with highest Week 1 VOA rating in 20 years.

Best Week 1 VOA Ratings, 1986-2019
Year Team VOA Opponent Score
1999 PIT 177.6% CLE 43-0
1989 CLE1 154.7% PIT 51-0
1991 WAS 148.7% DET 45-0
1990 CHI 123.9% SEA 17-0
2019 BAL 119.3% MIA 59-10
1998 SEA 114.8% PHI 38-0
2005 PIT 106.8% TEN 34-7
1999 JAX 106.6% SF 41-3
1996 GB 106.4% TB 34-3
1997 DAL 104.9% PIT 37-7

That 17-0 game stands out among these top Week 1 games with a surprisingly high VOA rating. It’s mostly defense, as the Bears held Seattle to 3.0 yards per play with three turnovers.

What’s interesting is that the Miami Dolphins did not end up on a similar list of the worst Week 1 games in DVOA history. (VOA for one team is not just the opposite of the rating for their opponent, because certain adjustments are slightly different for offense and defense while plays like false starts and aborted snaps only count on one side of the ball.) You may remember that we ran that list last year, because two Week 1 performances in 2018 rated as worse than Miami’s terrible Week 1 this year. Miami’s VOA of -94.7% doesn’t end up anywhere near as bad as last year’s Buffalo Bills (-130.6% for a 47-3 loss to Baltimore) or Detroit Lions (-123.4% for a 48-17 loss to the Jets).

I haven’t heard anyone even mention how badly the Ravens beat up on Buffalo in Week 1 last year. That’s two straight seasons they’ve done this!

Miami may not come out as bad as last year’s Bills did, but they had a preseason projection worse than last year’s Bills so their DAVE rating is even worse. Last year, Buffalo had a DAVE of -34.0% after one week and came out 0-16 in 1.3% of our playoff odds simulations. This year, Miami has a DAVE of -37.0% after one week and comes out 0-16 in 1.7% of our playoff odds simulations. The difference between Miami and the No. 31 team, the New York Giants, is larger than the difference between the Giants and the No. 14 team, the Minnesota Vikings.

New England is No. 2 in VOA after Week 1, making them easily No. 1 in DAVE. However, the Patriots are not as strong as the Dolphins are weak. They go 16-0 in only 0.6% of our simulations. The team they beat, the Steelers, finish 31st in VOA but they’re still 12th in DAVE because of their strong preseason projection.

Tennessee finishes No. 3 in VOA, and that plus losses by the rest of their division is enough to make the Titans new favorites in the AFC South. The Titans’ VOA is much more positive than Cleveland’s VOA was negative for the same game. Dallas and — surprise! — Oakland finish out the top five.

Only one game in Week 1 came out with the loser scoring a higher VOA rating than the winner: Washington (eighth) against Philadelphia (15th). This is an interesting one because the Eagles had the much higher success rate (50 percent to 40 percent) but Washington had more average yardage (6.98 compared to 6.24 for the Eagles). Some of the difference comes because the Eagles averaged just 8.2 yards to go on their plays while the Redskins averaged 10.3 yards to go. And part of the issue there was penalties, where Washington had 12 and Philadelphia only six. Washington had a lot of holding calls: five, including one on a punt. That’s something that needs to go into the DVOA system next time I get to do a big overhaul on it.

New Orleans and Houston come out just 17th and 18th after that amazing Monday night game, but those ratings will almost assuredly improve once we start putting in opponent adjustments.

Despite choking a win away and settling for a tie, Detroit ends up with a higher rating than Arizona for their Week 1 contest. Detroit had an average gain of 6.0 yards compared to just 4.7 yards on average for the Cardinals. Turnovers were also an issue here: Arizona had an interception but no fumbles, while Detroit had no interceptions but fumbled three times and lost two of them. With the Lions putting up a slightly above-average VOA rating in Week 1 to go with their slightly above-average preseason projection, we still have the NFC North as a very tight playoff race. But the Packers and Vikings moved ahead of the Lions as division favorites thanks to winning their games and having higher Week 1 ratings than Detroit.

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Football Outsiders playoff odds are updated through Week 1. The annual stats pages are now updated with 2019 data, although some of that data can be kind of sketchy after just one week (in particular the offensive line and defensive line pages). We’re finishing up the update on the snap counts database and the premium DVOA database right now and that should be up by the end of this evening.

The new 2019 season also means a lot of new content on Football Outsiders, especially fantasy football content with our new senior analyst Scott Spratt. You’ll want to check out the brand new FO Fantasy Podcast twice each week (click here for Tuesday’s edition) and look for it now on the iTunes podcast app. There are also new articles on Tuesday (Win the Wire, about waiver pickups) and Thursday (Start and Sit).

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through one week of 2019, 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. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

Please note that there are no opponent adjustments in DVOA until after Week 4. (It’s still listed as DVOA instead of VOA because I don’t feel like going through and changing all the tables manually.) In addition, our second weekly table which includes schedule strength, variation, and Estimated Wins will appear beginning after Week 4.

DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason projection with current DVOA to get a more accurate forecast of how a team will play the rest of the season. Right now, the preseason projection makes up 90 percent of DAVE. The DAVE rating for Jacksonville incorporates a lower projection to account for backup Gardner Minshew playing for at least the next two months.

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>

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