Another week, another flip on top of the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. New England and San Francisco have been No. 1 and 2 in our DVOA ratings since after Week 4, but this is the fourth time they’ve switched places. This week, the Patriots are back on top as San Francisco’s rating takes a hit from last night’s close loss to Seattle.
It’s a game that DVOA does not think was as close as it looked. Seattle ended the game with 46.8% DVOA compared to -3.1% DVOA for San Francisco. The problem wasn’t defense; in fact, San Francisco’s defensive DVOA for the season is better after last night’s game than it was beforehand. No, the problem was San Francisco’s worst offensive performance of the season by far. The 49ers averaged just 3.9 yards per play for the game (compared to 4.6 for the Seahawks). Very poor play on first and second down (-58.6% DVOA) was saved by reasonable play on third down (28.4% DVOA).
But, like I said, their defense improved last night, going from -31.4% last week to -32.2% this week. So San Francisco, like New England, is still on the list of the best defenses ever tracked by DVOA through this point in the season. Now that both teams have had their bye weeks, we only need one of these tables:
|BEST DEFENSIVE DVOA
THROUGH 9 GAMES, 1985-2019
Of course, there’s a lot of discussion of the Patriots and their super easy schedule in 2019, and whether they belong on this list given that they had their first below-average defensive game of the year when they played the first tough offense on their schedule. Our adjustments suggest that the Patriots still qualify as one of the best defenses ever because while they’ve beat up on bad offenses, they’ve beat up on them a lot worse than the rest of the league has. This is the week that our opponent adjustments reach full strength in the DVOA system, and you’ll notice the Patriots still are on this list.
As good as the Patriots defense looks after opponent adjustments, it looks a lot better before opponent adjustments. The Patriots’ VOA without opponent adjustments (and without making all fumbles equal) is currently -45.9%, which means their adjustment is over 12 percentage points! That -45.9% rating would easily be the best defense ever tracked if we compared it to all other unadjusted defenses. The only other defense to ever clear the -40% even without opponent adjustments was the 1991 Eagles, the best defense in DVOA history. The DVOA-VOA gap for the Patriots defense is almost three times as big as the DVOA-VOA gap for the 49ers defense.
Week 10 is a good point to review schedule strength numbers and the effect that adjustments are having on DVOA. For example, other advanced stats around the Web have the Baltimore Ravens now challenging the Patriots and 49ers at the top of the league after this week’s huge dominant blowout of Cincinnati. DVOA does not, because the Baltimore Ravens also have a huge adjustment for opponent strength. The Ravens move up two spots to No. 5 this week but they remain below Kansas City at No. 3 and Dallas at No. 4. Kansas City stands out in particular because the Chiefs are the only team currently in the DVOA top five that doesn’t also have one of the five easiest schedules in the league. Instead, Kansas City has had the fourth-hardest schedule so far based on average DVOA of opponent. Without adjustments, the Chiefs would be a distant fifth, trailing Dallas and Baltimore by over 10 percentage points and only slightly ahead of No. 6 Minnesota and No. 7 New Orleans.
Let’s take a look here at the teams with the biggest difference between DVOA and VOA. Again, the VOA I’m using here not only removes opponent adjustment but also the adjustment that makes all fumbles equal and the weather/altitude adjustments for special teams.
Top 5 Teams Adjusted Downward
1) New England, from 52.6% (1) to 37.3% (1). Easiest schedule of the year so far.
2) Buffalo, from 3.9% (13) to -11.1% (24). No. 31 ranked schedule so far. The Bills actually move up one spot in DVOA this week, passing Cleveland, because DVOA believes they were the better team in their close loss to the Browns.
3) Tennessee, from 3.7% (14) to -7.1% (23). No. 23 ranked schedule so far, and second-best rate of fumble recovery (71%) behind only New Orleans (82%). Tennessee has 14 fumbles on offense and has recovered 11 of them.
If I may digress, this is also a good time to point out how well Ryan Tannehill is playing as Tennessee’s starting quarterback. In Weeks 1-6, with Marcus Mariota behind center, the Titans ranked 29th in offensive DVOA at -18.2%. In Weeks 7-10, with Tannehill, the Titans have improved to seventh in offensive DVOA at 16.6%. Based on Tannehill’s past performance, it’s unlikely they’ll stay quite this good for the rest of the year, but they’re definitely better than they were with Mariota and that makes a playoff run more likely. This week, I made an adjustment to Tennessee’s weighted DVOA in the playoff odds simulation to reflect a projection that only considers a preseason projection with Tannehill and the offensive DVOA since Week 7.
Back to the countdown…
4) Dallas, from 36.8% (2) to 26.7% (4). No. 30 ranked schedule so far, and third-best rate of fumble recovery (69%). Dallas has 10 fumbles against its defense and has recovered eight of them.
5) Baltimore, from 34.3% (4) to 24.7% (5). No. 28 ranked schedule so far. Their schedule against bad run defenses has been particularly easy, and of course Baltimore runs a lot so those plays are getting adjusted more.
Top 5 Teams Adjusted Upward
You’ll notice these adjustments are smaller than the top downward adjustments.
1) Cincinnati, from -49.0% (31) to -42.1% (31). Hardest schedule of the year so far.
2) Green Bay, from 9.2% (10) to 15.9% (8). No. 2 ranked schedule so far.
3) Oakland, from -1.1% (18) to 5.4% (12). No. 3 ranked schedule so far.
4) Kansas City, from 22.3% (5) to 28.4% (3). No. 4 ranked schedule so far.
5) New York Giants, from -29.7% (28) to -24.4% (28). Only the No. 13 ranked schedule so far, but Giants have recovered only 36% of fumbles including just 6 of their mind-boggling total of 20 fumbles on offense. The worst fumble recovery rate, not including muffed kicks, belongs to the Atlanta Falcons at 29%. Atlanta has had nine fumbles on defense and all nine were recovered by the opponent.
A discussion of Cincinnati and the Giants brings us to a discussion of this year’s worst teams, and that brings us to those tables I’ve been running every week of the worst DVOA through X games. Except we don’t need as many of those tables this week. The New York Jets offense was good enough against the Giants that the Jets climbed off the list of the worst offenses in DVOA history. And the Miami defense was so good against Indianapolis that the Dolphins not only aren’t the worst defense in DVOA history anymore but aren’t even on the list of the worst defenses. They aren’t even the worst defense of 2019 anymore; Cincinnati now is.
Since they rank 31st on both offense and defense with below-average special teams, Miami is still on the list of the worst teams in DVOA history. However, if the trend of the last few weeks holds then this is probably the last week they’ll appear on this list.
|WORST TOTAL DVOA
THROUGH 9 GAMES, 1985-2019
The Dolphins’ trend since their Week 5 bye is a steady move upwards, even though they have yet to have a single game with a positive overall DVOA. Every week is better than the week before it. To show you the trend, let’s break out the first DVOA week-to-week graph of the 2019 season. This one is a little different, because I’ve graphed both Miami’s DVOA and their VOA rating for each week so you can see the effect of opponent adjustments for playing teams ranging from New England on one hand to Washngton and the Jets on the other hand.
If you like this DVOA vs. VOA chart, let me know in the comments and I’ll run a couple more of them in future weeks for teams such as the Patriots and 49ers.
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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 10 weeks 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.
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.
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>
- NON-ADJUSTED TOTAL DVOA does not include the adjustments for opponent strength or the adjustments for weather and altitude in special teams, and only penalizes offenses for lost fumbles rather than all fumbles.
- ESTIMATED WINS uses a statistic known as “Forest Index” that emphasizes consistency as well as DVOA in the most important specific situations: red zone defense, first quarter offense, and performance in the second half when the score is close. It then projects a number of wins adjusted to a league-average schedule and a league-average rate of recovering fumbles. Teams that have had their bye week are projected as if they had played one game per week.
- PAST SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents played this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
- FUTURE SCHEDULE lists average DVOA of opponents still left to play this season, ranked from hardest schedule (#1, most positive) to easiest schedule (#32, most negative). It is not adjusted for which games are home or road.
- VARIANCE measures the statistical variance of the team’s weekly DVOA performance. Teams are ranked from most consistent (#1, lowest variance) to least consistent (#32, highest variance).