June 24, 2021

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Week 12 DVOA Ratings | Football Outsiders

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Week 12 DVOA Ratings | Football Outsiders

Week 12 was a week of big wins and big losses and therefore had a big impact on the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings. However, the team with the biggest win of all moves up in the ratings but not in the rankings … depending on which rankings you are looking at.

Last week in this column, I ran a list of the best and worst games of the year so far by DVOA. I may have run that list a week too early. Five teams had a single-game DVOA below -80% in Week 12, led by the Oakland Raiders having the worst game of the year at -123.9% (covered here in Any Given Sunday). No other week this year had more than three such teams. And four teams had a single-game DVOA above 80% in Week 12, led by the Baltimore Ravens having the best game of the year at 122.5% and the San Francisco 49ers having the second-best game of the year at 111.6%. No other week this year had more than two such teams.

I’m sure many readers are wondering where the Baltimore game falls among the top single-game DVOA ratings of all-time, and the answer is that it doesn’t. It doesn’t make the list of the all-time 30 best games by DVOA, which is led by Washington’s 45-0 blowout of Detroit in Week 1 of 1991 (149.6% DVOA). But the Ravens’ 45-6 win over the Rams is easily the best game of this year and continues a phenomenal run by Baltimore since Week 7. In their last five games, the Ravens have an average DVOA of 75.4%. Here’s how good that is: only seven other teams this season have had a single game as good as what Baltimore has done over a five-game span. Baltimore moves past Dallas into the top spot in offensive DVOA this week, and the Ravens also move up from tenth to fourth in defensive DVOA. Combine that with their rank in special teams (second) and the Ravens are now in the top four in all three phases of the game. New Orleans is the only other team in the top ten for all three phases.

Baltimore’s dominating performance is enough to raise them from second in the overall DVOA ratings all the way to second in the overall DVOA ratings. That’s because the New England Patriots also saw their DVOA go up this week. They had a 35.3% DVOA for the close win over Dallas, but also get bumped up because of opponent adjustments changing, with huge Week 12 games for past New England opponents including the Jets, the Bills, and ironically the Ravens themselves. As noted above, San Francisco had the second-best game of the year in their 37-8 dismantling of the Green Bay Packers, so their DVOA shoots way up as well and they move back up from fifth to third in DVOA. All three of our top teams moved up substantially this week.

  • No. 1 New England went from 38.4% to 42.5%.
  • No. 2 Baltimore went from 33.7% to 41.3%.
  • No. 3 San Francisco went from 25.9% to 34.3%.

There is a place where the Ravens are ahead of the Patriots, and that’s in weighted DVOA, which lowers the strength of early-season games. Right now, that mostly means lowering the strength of Weeks 1-4, which happens to include three of New England’s best games of the year as well as Baltimore’s two losses. So the Ravens are now No. 1 in weighted DVOA at 44.0%, and the Patriots are second at 41.4%.

I’ll admit that I’m surprised that the Ravens haven’t passed the Patriots overall in DVOA, given how good they’ve been over the last five games. I know some other advanced metrics on the Web, from PFR’s Simple Rating System to EPA-based metrics such as ESPN’s FPI, have the Ravens ahead of the Patriots. To figure out what quirks of our system keep the Patriots ahead, I would need do a lot of play-by-play breakdown of DVOA compared to Expected Points Added. I’m not too worried about our numbers being off since we have the two teams very close together. Our playoff odds simulation also still has the Patriots slightly ahead of the Ravens as Super Bowl favorites, where other systems are now favoring the Ravens slightly. The main reason for that is New England’s one-game lead for home-field advantage. Our simulations have both teams likely to finish 4-1, which would leave Baltimore still one game behind the Patriots for the No. 1 seed. Because Baltimore is now ahead of New England in weighted DVOA, however, our simulation would have the Ravens as the favorite on a neutral field. Either the Patriots or the Ravens now win the Super Bowl in over 50% of our simulations. Add in Kansas City and a couple of other minor contenders, and the AFC champion takes home the Lombardi Trophy in roughly 59% of our simulations.

New England’s rise in overall DVOA moves the Patriots back onto our list of the best teams in DVOA history, but you’ll now find the Ravens on that list too. 2019 is the only year with two teams among the top dozen teams ever tracked through 11 games. Fans of the 1985 Bears will also enjoy this first hint of where that legendary team might finish overall in terms of all-time greatness.

THROUGH 11 GAMES, 1985-2019
Year Team W-L DVOA
2007 NE 11-0 71.9%
1991 WAS 11-0 59.7%
1985 CHI 11-0 58.1%
1998 DEN 11-0 48.6%
2004 PIT 10-1 43.4%
1987* SF 9-2 43.3%
2019 NE 10-1 42.5%
2018 KC 9-2 42.4%
2003 KC 10-1 42.1%
2002 TB 9-2 42.0%
2004 NE 10-1 41.7%
2019 BAL 9-2 41.3%
*Does not include strike games

We’ve also been tracking where the Patriots and the 49ers rank among the best defenses in DVOA history. As I’ve noted in the past, there are no specific adjustments for driving rainstorms and blizzards, so the Patriots do get a little natural help this week in moving up to No. 3 on a list of the best defenses ever tracked through 11 games. Of course, the 49ers got some of that help too, in their Week 7 9-0 shutout of Washington. I’m sure a couple of these other great defenses also had a game or two with weather that bad; feel free to share your memories in the comments.

THROUGH 11 GAMES, 1985-2019
Year Team W-L DVOA
2002 TB 9-2 -42.8%
1991 PHI 6-5 -35.5%
2019 NE 10-1 -35.4%
1991 NO 9-2 -35.3%
1985 CHI 11-0 -34.0%
2012 CHI 8-3 -33.8%
1986 CHI 9-2 -29.7%
2008 BAL 7-4 -28.9%
2019 SF 10-1 -28.8%
1997 SF 10-1 -28.8%
2004 BAL 7-4 -28.4%
2005 CHI 8-3 -27.0%

Baltimore and San Francisco weren’t the only teams to see their DVOA ratings change significantly after Week 12. Lower down in the rankings, where teams are grouped closer together, there are some pretty significant rises and falls after the big wins and losses of Week 12.

The big jumps are right outside the top ten. For a long time this year, the NFC has dominated the AFC in our ratings except for the exceptions of New England, Kansas City, and recently Baltimore. But some of the AFC wild-card contenders look a lot better after their big Week 12 victories. We still have seven NFC teams in our top ten, but the next four teams after that are AFC teams, and three of those teams went way up this week.

Cleveland moved from No. 20 to No. 11. What’s interesting here is that Cleveland’s overall DVOA promises a team that is more than the sum of its parts: Cleveland’s overall ranking is higher than its ranking on offense (18), defense (13), or special teams (15). Cleveland ranks higher in DVOA than you might expect because the Browns have played the third-hardest schedule in the league so far, trailing just Cincinnati and Green Bay. The Browns have the No. 26 remaining schedule, although three of the five games are on the road. Still, that easier schedule has the Browns right in the thick of the race for the second AFC wild card despite being a game behind all the 6-5 teams.

Tennessee moved from No. 23 to No. 12, and now stands at 0.0% DVOA. OK, that’s zero after rounding; the Titans are actually at -0.049% DVOA. Since they are 12th right now, this means that only 11 teams in the league have a positive DVOA rating! New England, Baltimore, and San Francisco certainly make the 2019 season top-heavy. Tennessee has improved dramatically since benching Marcus Mariota after Week 6. In the first six games of the season, Tennessee had -17.8% offensive DVOA, ranked 29th in the league. Since Week 7, Tennessee has 28.3% offensive DVOA, second in the league behind Baltimore. In fact, believe it or not, it was Tennessee (78.5%) and not Baltimore (61.3%) that had the highest offensive single-game DVOA in Week 12! Unlike Baltimore’s stellar play on both sides of the ball, the Titans defense has gotten slightly worse over the last five games, going from -2.2% through Week 6 to 4.0% since Week 7.

Buffalo moved from No. 25 to No. 14. Really, the Bills are essentially tied with the Indianapolis Colts at Week 13, as both teams’ ratings round to -0.9%. Buffalo, of course, has played the easiest schedule in the NFL so far this season, and the Bills are ninth in the unadjusted rating that doesn’t account for schedule or making all fumbles equal. Still, Buffalo played its best single game of the year in a 20-3 win over Denver this week. The Bills are very one-sided on both sides of the ball: their run offense is ranked much higher than their pass offense, but their pass defense is much better than their run defense. Buffalo’s two-game lead in the wild-card race gives them over an 80% chance of making the playoffs right now even though they play the hardest schedule by average DVOA of opponent over the final five games. They get to play both Baltimore and New England.

If teams are moving way up, the teams they beat must be moving way down, and a couple of teams really see their DVOA ratings plummet this week. That starts with another team involved in that tight AFC wild-card race, the Oakland Raiders. As noted above, the Raiders had the worst single game of the year, and they drop from 11th to 24th in overall DVOA, declining by about six percentage points on both offense and defense. Other big fallers this week include Chicago (from 15th to 20th), Jacksonville (from 16th to 23rd), and Denver (from 18th to 25th). Green Bay also plummets from 15.1% DVOA to 5.4%, although that only means a drop of one spot in the rankings from ninth to 10th.

One other team that had a very bad game this week was Miami, although the Dolphins can’t drop down the rankings when they were already in last place. This week’s Dolphins performance (-83.6%) was the worst since Josh Rosen was starting back in the early part of the season. With that in mind, let’s update Miami’s place on our list of the worst teams in DVOA history through 11 games:

THROUGH 11 GAMES, 1985-2019
Year Team W-L DVOA
2008 STL 2-9 -59.2%
2005 SF 2-9 -57.6%
2009 DET 2-9 -52.2%
2013 JAX 2-9 -51.4%
2008 DET 0-11 -49.7%
2019 MIA 2-9 -47.9%
1999 CLE 2-9 -45.4%
2004 SF 1-10 -44.4%
2011 IND 0-11 -44.2%
2000 CIN 2-9 -44.1%
1987* ATL 2-9 -42.9%
2007 STL 2-9 -42.7%
*Does not include strike games

Miami’s poor performance against Cleveland also moved them up on the list of the worst defenses we’ve ever measured. Horrible defenses aren’t quite as memorable as horrible total teams, so you may not remember these teams or that they were this bad at preventing opposing offense. If Miami ends up near the top of this list, maybe we’ll do an article reviewing some interesting numbers from the worst defenses ever.

THROUGH 11 GAMES, 1985-2019
Year Team W-L DVOA
2004 STL 5-6 27.5%
2015 NO 4-7 26.3%
2005 HOU 1-10 26.3%
2019 MIA 2-9 25.2%
2013 SD 5-6 25.1%
2000 SF 3-8 24.9%
1992 ATL 4-7 24.8%
1999 CLE 2-9 23.4%
2001 ARI 5-6 23.2%
2008 DET 0-11 23.2%
1987* MIA 7-4 23.0%
2002 KC 5-6 22.8%
*Does not include strike games

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Stats pages should now be updated through Week 12, including playoff odds, the FO Premium DVOA database and snap counts.

Since it’s the last Tuesday of the month, this is usually when we would be announcing the Football Outsiders stars for Madden NFL 20, but that’s getting postponed a week until next Tuesday. Those players will then be available in the game starting on Sunday, December 8.

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through 12 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).


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