Cowboys, 49ers Climb in DVOA with Big Wins
NFL Week 11 – Some big games lead to some big moves up the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings table this week. But some of those big wins weren’t quite so big on the scoreboard. Three games this week had a single-game DVOA over 60%, but one of them will not be obvious.
Let’s start with the obvious big wins. San Francisco gets 81.9% DVOA for its 38-10 Monday night dismantling of the Arizona Cardinals. That moves the 49ers up five spots from 11th to sixth this week. San Francisco is currently 11th on offense and seventh on defense. The 49ers offense looks better if you take out the Week 1 game played in a monsoon against the Bears with Trey Lance at quarterback instead of Jimmy Garoppolo. Without that game, the 49ers have 13.6% offensive DVOA which would rank seventh in the league. (Take out their defense from that game, and the 49ers drop slightly from seventh to eighth.) San Francisco’s two best offensive performances of the year have come in the last three games.
Another big winner for Week 11 was the Dallas Cowboys, with 73.5% DVOA for a 40-3 stomping of the Minnesota Vikings. That moves the Cowboys up from fourth to second in DVOA. In fact, the Cowboys are now No. 1 in weighted DVOA, which lowers the importance of early-season games. That’s because their offense was so bad in Week 1. They can’t blame that on Cooper Rush; that was Dak Prescott starting in that game. Without Week 1, the Dallas offense would move from 14th to seventh in DVOA.
The Cowboys are now ahead of the Eagles for the NFC East lead in DVOA although the Eagles are still two games ahead where it really matters, the win column. The Eagles drop to fourth after a close escape against the Colts. It’s also interesting to note that the Eagles no longer have the easiest schedule in the division; the Cowboys’ remaining schedule is easier than Philadelphia’s by average DVOA of opponent. The Christmas Eve matchup between these teams takes place in Dallas, so the NFC East race isn’t over yet. (Nevertheless, the playoff odds report still gives Philadelphia a 75% chance to win.)
The third huge winner of the week? That would be the New England Patriots, even though they needed a last-second punt return touchdown to avoid going to overtime with the New York Jets. The Patriots outgained the Jets on average 5.0 yards per play to 2.1 yards per play. They also ran more plays, 59 to 49, meaning that in total they outgained the Jets by nearly 200 yards. The Patriots had 60.1% DVOA for this game. A Jets win would have been a massive reversal according to Post-Game Win Expectancy. The Patriots ended up with a PGWE of 99.9%, and even if you remove the punt return touchdown they still have PGWE of 98%. The Patriots moved up to first in defense and overall improved by nearly five percentage points of DVOA, although that only means one place in the rankings from 12th to 11th.
One other victory that might be a bit larger than expected belongs to the Las Vegas Raiders, who beat Denver 22-16 in overtime. The Raiders had 44.0% DVOA for the win, and the Broncos had -58.5% DVOA for the loss. The Raiders outgained the Broncos 6.6 yards per play to 5.2 and the Broncos fumbled twice but recovered both. The Raiders move up one spot to 26th but the Broncos drop three spots from 22nd to 25th.
In fact, the losers of these games may have moved down even more than the winners moved up. The Minnesota Vikings drop seven spots in DVOA, from 17th to 24th. Yes, if you’re asking, they are the worst 8-2 team ever by DVOA. The Jets drop from ninth to 13th. The Cardinals drop from 29th to 31st.
Let’s Look at Remaining Schedules
Our total DVOA stats page lists each team’s remaining schedule based on average DVOA of opponent. The Cincinnati Bengals have by far the hardest remaining schedule, followed by the Bears and Jaguars. The Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City Chiefs have the easiest remaining schedules.
However, it’s also possible to split up remaining schedules by offense and defense or pass and run to see which teams and units might look better or worse over the rest of the season thanks to who’s on the other side of the field. So let’s do that and take a look.
For our look at remaining defensive schedules, I took out Week 18 because I know that a lot of readers will be curious about the fantasy football implications here. When we look at remaining offensive schedules, I’m going to include Week 18.
Before breaking down each of these categories, we’ve got to talk about the Los Angeles Chargers. Comparing their schedule so far to their remaining schedule is absolutely wild.
The Chargers have played the easiest schedule of pass defenses so far, averaging 11.1% DVOA. Yet their schedule of pass defenses gets even easier the rest of the way — if we don’t include their Week 18 game with Denver. For Weeks 12-17, the average pass defense faced by the Chargers allows 14.3% DVOA.
The Chargers have also played the easiest schedule of run defenses so far. However, this schedule gets much, much harder the rest of the way. If we leave out the Broncos in Week 18, the Chargers have the hardest remaining schedule of opposing run defenses. The Chargers’ schedule is filled with teams that are better against the run than the pass, including the Raiders (32/22), the Titans (13/1), the Dolphins (29/9), the Colts (14/6), and the Rams (26/5). The one team they play which is significantly better against the pass is Denver in Week 18 (4/18), which won’t matter if you have Justin Herbert or Austin Ekeler in the fantasy playoffs.
The Chargers’ schedule is even more fun when you look at the offenses they face. So far, only the Pittsburgh Steelers have faced a harder schedule of opposing offenses. For the rest of the season, the Chargers face the easiest remaining schedule of opposing offenses! Sure, the Dolphins have a great offense, but four of Los Angeles’ seven remaining opponents are in the bottom eight for offensive DVOA.
So the Chargers go from playing a schedule that’s been very easy for their offense and hard for their defense to a schedule that will be very easy for their passing game and defense but hard for their running game.
Here’s a look at some other teams on the extremes or about to have a real change in the quality of their opponents on one side of the ball or the other:
Pass Defense (no Week 18)
The New York Jets have faced the hardest schedule of opposing pass defenses so far this year. Their remaining opponents rank 30th in pass defense. This is not a suggestion to pick up Zach Wilson in fantasy football, but you will notice he’s got a huge gap between his passing DYAR and YAR on our passing stats page.
Pittsburgh and Green Bay have played the second- and third-ranked schedules of opposing pass defenses so far. Those schedules rank 23rd and 24th in Weeks 12-17. An Aaron Rodgers fantasy football comeback, perhaps?
Baltimore (6 so far, 25 to go) and Washington (9 so far, 31 to go) also face much easier schedules of opposing pass defenses the rest of the way.
On the other hand, the Arizona Cardinals have had it easy so far with the No. 28 schedule of opposing pass defenses. From Week 12 to 17, they face the hardest schedule of opposing pass defenses. Other teams where it gets harder include the New York Giants (23 so far, 4 to go), the Tennessee Titans (21 so far, 6 to go), and the Cincinnati Bengals (18 so far, 5 to go).
Run Defense (no Week 18)
We went over the Chargers already but a number of other teams see their schedule of opposing run defenses get much harder from here on out. The five teams with the easiest run defense schedules so far all have top-10 run defense schedules from now through Week 17. That includes the Seahawks (31 so far, 5 to go), the 49ers (30 so far, 7 to go), the Jaguars (29 so far, 9 to go), and the Falcons (28 so far, 6 to go). The schedule also gets harder for the Giants (26 so far, 2 to go) and the Raiders (23 so far, 3 to go).
The hardest schedule of run defenses so far belongs to the Packers, who have an average schedule the rest of the way. But other teams do see their schedule of run defenses get much easier. That starts with the Chiefs (2 so far, 23 to go) but also the Rams (6 so far, 32 to go), the Cardinals (9 so far, 29 to go), and the Saints (10 so far, 28 to go).
Offense (includes Week 18)
Except for the Chargers, who we already covered above, the changes aren’t as large when it comes to the quality of offenses faced.
The top three schedules of offenses faced so far belong to the Steelers, Chargers and Bills. Pittsburgh and Buffalo face average schedules of offenses the rest of the way.
The five teams that have faced the easiest schedules of offenses so far (Eagles, Raiders, Jaguars, 49ers, Titans) have schedules the rest of the way that rank somewhere between 10th and 18th.
The biggest change other than the Chargers belongs to the Houston Texans. So far, the Texans’ schedule of opposing offenses has ranked 26th. The rest of the way, it ranks second. Only the Cincinnati Bengals (12th so far) have a harder schedule of opposing offenses for the rest of the season.
Another big change belongs to the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings have played the No. 5 schedule of opposing offenses so far. They play the No. 28 schedule the rest of the way, much easier. Other teams with easy schedules for their defenses the rest of the way include the Chiefs, Colts, Cowboys, and, as noted above, Chargers. Alliteration!
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This is the Football Outsiders Top 16 through 11 weeks of 2022, 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). Click here for the full table.
OFFENSE and DEFENSE DVOA are adjusted for opponent and performance indoors and consider all fumbles, kept or lost, as equal value. Opponent adjustments are now at full strength. 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.
DAVE is a formula which combines our preseason forecast with weighted DVOA to get a more accurate projection of how a team will play the rest of the season. DAVE is currently 16% preseason forecast and 84% actual performance for teams with 11 games, and 24% preseason forecast and 76% actual performance for teams with 10 games.
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