September 26, 2021

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Week 5 DVOA Ratings | Football Outsiders

8 min read
Week 5 DVOA Ratings | Football Outsiders

by Aaron Schatz

We have a new No. 1 team in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings this week. The San Francisco 49ers had the best single-game performance of the season so far against Cleveland on Monday night (100.9% DVOA), and that catapults them into the top spot past the New England Patriots even though both the 49ers and Patriots see their actual ratings move up from a week ago.

Last week, I was writing about the Patriots and where their first four games stood among the hottest starts of the DVOA era, since 1986. Now we have to talk about the 49ers and where their first four games stand among the hottest starts of the DVOA era. The answer is: even higher.

Yes, the 2019 49ers now have the sixth-highest DVOA ever measured through four games. The Patriots now rank 13th… but they rank fifth all-time in best total DVOA ever measured through five games. And that list is even more impressive than the list of the best DVOA through four games, with pretty much every team on the list at least making it to the conference championship game. Whether or not the 49ers can make it onto the second list depends on how they play against the Rams this week. Most of the teams that were great through four games dropped a bit after their fifth game.

Usually I do these lists with 12 teams but I’ll do these with 13 teams so that you can see where the 2019 Patriots were a week ago.

THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2018
THROUGH 5 GAMES, 1986-2018
Year Team DVOA   Year Team DVOA
2007 NE 73.4% x 1991 WAS 71.5%
1991 WAS 71.8% x 2007 NE 68.1%
2013 DEN 62.2% x 2006 CHI 56.3%
1999 STL 62.1% x 1999 STL 55.4%
1996 GB 60.8% x 2019 NE 55.1%
2019 SF 58.1% x 1996 GB 53.5%
2009 PHI 57.1% x 2015 ARI 51.5%
2015 NE 55.9% x 2013 DEN 51.3%
1989 CLE1 54.8% x 1986 CHI 50.9%
1998 DEN 54.3% x 2009 NO 49.1%
1992 PHI 54.2% x 1998 DEN 48.0%
2009 NO 53.6% x 2001 PHI 47.8%
2019 NE 52.8%   1994 DAL 47.6%

Both the 49ers and the Patriots are being driven by their defenses. The Patriots are still the best defense in DVOA history, with a slightly bigger lead on the rest of history than they had a week ago. The Patriots’ defensive rating got a little worse this week as opponent adjustments got stronger, but the ratings for the other great defenses in dropped even more. Meanwhile, the 49ers rank fourth among defenses through four games.

THROUGH 4 GAMES, 1986-2018
THROUGH 5 GAMES, 1986-2018
Year Team DVOA   Year Team DVOA
2019 NE -48.1% x 2019 NE -46.2%
1997 SF -47.5% x 1991 PHI -41.2%
2008 BAL -46.3% x 1986 CHI -38.6%
2019 SF -45.3% x 2002 TB -38.5%
1991 PHI -42.7% x 1997 SF -37.2%
1996 GB -40.0% x 1991 NO -36.5%
1989 CLE1 -36.8% x 1996 GB -34.6%
2006 BAL -35.6% x 2011 BAL -34.5%
2000 MIA -34.7% x 2008 BAL -34.0%
2011 BAL -34.4% x 1991 WAS -33.2%
2002 TB -34.2% x 2012 CHI -32.4%
1988 MIN -34.1% x 2015 DEN -31.9%


Obviously, strength of schedule is still an issue here. Right now, opponent adjustments are only at 50% strength. So I ran a version of DVOA with opponent adjustments at 100% instead, and the Patriots ended up with a defensive DVOA of -43.0%, which still would be the best ever measured through five games.

It’s certainly reasonable to believe that this year’s Patriots schedule is so extreme that there’s no way we can measure it correctly, even if we apply our usual opponent adjustments. Part of the problem is just how bad Miami is. Overall, the Patriots have played the offenses ranked 26, 28, 30, 31, and 32. I’m pretty sure there’s never been anything like that when it comes to easy schedules. However, when it comes to overall schedule strength, the Patriots aren’t that much different from the 1999 Rams, who currently have the easiest season-long schedule strength in the DVOA database. The difference is just how bad Miami is at No. 32. When the 1999 Rams were 5-0, their five opponents ranked 15, 25, 29, 29 (Atlanta twice), and 30. The Patriots’ five opponents rank 19, 20, 29, 30, and 32. That’s really not much different, except that team No. 32 this year has been the worst team in DVOA history.

Meanwhile, San Francisco’s schedule has been easy but more run-of-the-mill easy. Their four opponents rank 16, 20, 26, and 31 overall. On offense, their four opponents rank 18, 25, 28, and 29.

Below our top two, almost all the teams in last week’s top ten dropped this week. Kansas City moved up a spot to No. 3 but its DVOA dropped from 27.3% to 22.1%. Dallas and Baltimore both dropped. Tampa Bay and Chicago dropped out of the top ten entirely. Moving up are Philadelphia (from 6 to 4) and especially Minnesota (from 15 to 7) and Houston (from 17 to 10).

Philadelphia had negative total DVOA in each of its first three games, but have single-game DVOA over 60% for both Week 4 and Week 5. Their Week 4 win, 34-27 over Green Bay, was a huge offensive performance, and then in their Week 5 win, 31-6 over the Jets, the offense was average but the defense was fantastic (even after adjusting for how bad the Jets offense has been this year). The Vikings at No. 7 is probably a bit of a surprise, especially since we’re only a week separated from all the articles and discussion of how they were struggling with turmoil in the locker room. Their season has been very up and down. More specifically, the offense has been very up and down. The defense, which ranks fourth in DVOA, has been pretty consistent. The offense has been good in the wins and bad in the losses. It will be fun to watch these two teams face each other in Week 6.

The whole rest of the top ten is all packed together, far below the 49ers and the Patriots. We’ve never seen anything like the gap that currently exists between the top two teams and the rest of the league. The Patriots at 55.1% have the highest DVOA to ever rank No. 2 after five weeks. The Chiefs at 22.1% have the lowest DVOA to ever rank No. 3 after five weeks.

(In case you are curious, the previous record-holder for best No. 2 team after five weeks was the 2009 New Orleans Saints. The previous recordholder for worst No. 3 team after five weeks was the 1987 Cleveland Browns.)

One other team I want to address is the Buffalo Bills. The Bills have been very good on defense this year, currently ranking third behind the Patriots and 49ers. They’ve also been an incredibly one-sided team this season. The Bills are down at 27th on offense and 31st on special teams. It all combines to make the Bills 19th in DVOA. They’re 22nd in DAVE, which takes into account our preseason projections.

And yet Buffalo right now ranks fifth in playoff odds, making it to the postseason in 70% of our simulations. Other simulations available on other sites (for example, FiveThirtyEight) have similar results. It’s really nice to bank some close early wins when your conference is in a down year. Right now, only seven teams in the AFC have winning records. The Bills already have a one-game lead on any other competitors for the wild card, and only Pittsburgh has an easier remaining schedule by average DVOA of opponent. I don’t think we can pencil in the Jets as an automatic win now that Sam Darnold is back, but we can pencil in Miami and Washington as pretty sure wins. The Bills still get to play Miami twice, so those three wins put them at 7-1. All they have to do is go .500 in their remaining games to finish 11-5. And two of the most likely losses are to NFC teams (Philadelphia and Dallas) that won’t matter in a tiebreaker.

Right now, the Bills make the playoffs in 99.9% of simulations where they finish 11-5. They make the playoffs in 96.3% of simulations where they finish 10-6. And they make the playoffs in 62.1% of simulations where they finish 9-7. Heck, they even make the playoffs in 10.3% of simulations where they finish 8-8.

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Stats pages should now be updated through Week 5, including playoff odds, the FO Premium DVOA database and snap counts.

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These are the Football Outsiders team efficiency ratings through five weeks of 2018, 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.

Because it is early in the season, opponent adjustments are only at 50 percent strength; they will increase 10 percent every week through Week 10. As always, positive numbers represent more points so DEFENSE is better when it is NEGATIVE.

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 45 percent of DAVE for most teams (55 percent for teams with just four games played).

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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