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When DVOA turned against us: A Seahawks story

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The “DVOA Title” is something that honestly has not been relevant to probably any other fanbase except for the Seattle Seahawks and the 12th Man. No offense to Aaron Schatz and FootballOutsiders, but in order for something like that to be relevant, it would have to be:

A) Recent. I don’t think advanced football stats penetrated the collective landscape (and still really haven’t) until very recently.

B) Something you’ve won. The Seahawks have won every DVOA title since 2012. Not many other fans have experienced that joy in the moment, the most recent non-Seattle team finishing first in DVOA being the Green Bay Packers in 2011 when they went 15-1.

That Packers team had a DVOA of 27%.

The 2012 Seahawks were at 38.7%.

The 2013 Seahawks were at 40%.

The 2014 Seahawks were at 31.9%.

The 2015 Seahawks were at 38.1%.

And now there’s this season. We already know that this season has fallen below expectations, even though many of us still need a reminder that just because you ain’t first, it doesn’t mean you’re last. “You could be second. You could be third, fourth. Hell, you could even be fifth!” Seattle is currently 9-4-1, they’ve won the NFC West, and they’re two wins away from getting a first round bye. Don’t give me a despair speech about the 2016 Seahawks.

That being said, they aren’t first in DVOA. Or second, third, fourth, and hell, they aren’t fifth.

Despite the fact that Seattle had a really close grip on first place in DVOA only a couple weeks ago, their blowout loss to Green Bay (something that hadn’t happened since 2011, the last time they weren’t first in DVOA by season’s end) knocked them almost completely out of the race for a DVOA title. After 14 games, the Seahawks are ninth in DVOA at just 10%.

The fact that their last two games are against the Arizona Cardinals (25th) and San Francisco 49ers (28th) means that to get a DVOA title, they’ll need to blow those teams out and hope some of the teams ahead of them falter.

The current standings in order are: Cowboys, Patriots, Steelers, Falcons, Eagles, Packers, Raiders, and Chiefs.

But just because DVOA doesn’t love Seattle this year, it doesn’t mean I’m going to turn my back on it. Last year when I said that the 15-1 Carolina Panthers were overrated, that they’d lose the Super Bowl, and fall back to earth in a major way in 2016, I cited DVOA. Even to this day, Panthers fans LAUGH at me when I cite DVOA. Maybe not all of them, but pretty much anyone of them who has interacted with me on Twitter or Cat Scratch Reader. And part of that has to do with the fact that like I said before, only the Seahawks have won a DVOA title since 2012.

If Carolina was first in DVOA last year instead of fourth (Oh my God, what a travesty!), then I’m sure more fans would’ve been open to hearing about it or understanding what it is. Many don’t like advanced stats because they prefer the traditional stats that existed when they were born, but if they looked into it, they’d know that those same traditional stats are what’s used to calculate advanced stats. They aren’t reinventing the yard, they’re simply taking it a step further to include down, distance, situation, and opponent.

Isn’t that better? Isn’t it better to gain a yard on 4th-and-goal from the one when you’re down five in the final minute than it is to gain a yard on 1st-and-10 when you’re down 15 points in the second quarter? It seems so simple, but because we didn’t grow up with it, or because it didn’t like us as much as we thought it should like us, DVOA is seen as “made up” (like Passer Rating isn’t?) or trash statistics, instead of just being something that tells a more complete story.

Now does that mean that I think the 5-9 Eagles are better than Seattle? Hell no. Not even close. But should it tell you a more complete picture of what kind of 5-9 team Philadelphia is, including that their stock is raised by the number one ranked special teams unit—the unit everyone forgets about? Absolutely. Use that to your advantage when talking about, writing about, or talking shit about the Eagles.

Just like it will be interesting to note that the Giants are actually 11th in DVOA, and maybe not as fearsome of a playoff foe as we may think. (It’s right where New York wants to be for a Super Bowl run, of course. They loathe being favored.) Or that the Seahawks and Giants have an advantage in the NFC that no other playoff team will: Seattle is fourth on defense, New York is third. The other NFC playoff teams are in the bottom half of defense. The Detroit Lions are 26th (!) in total DVOA and 31st on defense. (Go Lions, win the NFC North!)

So the Seahawks run of DVOA dominance may be coming to an end, but it doesn’t mean my usage or admiration of it will. Don’t be that petty. Also, it doesn’t mean their hopes of a Super Bowl this season are over either. The 2015 Broncos were eighth in DVOA. The 2014 Patriots were fourth. The 2012 Ravens were eighth. The 2011 Giants were 12th. The 2010 Packers were sixth.

It’s also not super predictive of Super Bowl winners, obviously, because the playoffs are insane, but it’s still relevant and helpful to understanding the game better. Don’t be afraid of understanding something better. Don’t turn your back on it when it doesn’t love you like it used to.