Merry Christmas! Are you ready for the DVOA Bowl?

The San Francisco 49ers continued to stomp all over the NFL with a 45-29 victory that was not as close as it looked. The 49ers had 79.6% DVOA for the game even after opponent adjustments for playing the Cardinals. They are listed with 7.5 yards per play but when you take out spikes and kneels it's really 8.0 yards per play with no turnovers. Meanwhile, the Cardinals had 6.1 yards per play with two interceptions and five fumbles (but recovered all five of them).

The 49ers now have three straight games with DVOA over 70%. That has only been done two other times since 1981: by the 1989 49ers and the 1996 Packers. Both teams, of course, won the Super Bowl. The 49ers have six straight games with DVOA over 50%. No other team has that many such games for the entire season.

San Francisco this week passes the 1998 Broncos and the 1985 Bears on our list of the best DVOA ever through 14 games. They now rank third all-time in DVOA behind only the 2007 New England Patriots and the 1991 Washington Redskins.

Best DVOA Thru 14 Games, 1981-2023
YearTeamW-LDVOAOffRkDefRkSTRk
2007NE14-054.4%37.9%1-12.6%33.9%7
1991WAS13-149.3%21.8%2-19.4%38.1%1
2023SF11-346.7%36.9%1-11.4%4-1.6%24
1985CHI13-145.0%14.5%4-27.0%13.5%7
1987SF*10-241.5%19.6%3-20.6%11.3%9
2010NE12-240.9%39.7%11.2%182.3%9
2012NE10-440.5%31.6%1-3.5%105.3%5
1995SF10-439.9%14.6%4-28.6%1-3.3%27
1999STL12-239.3%19.4%3-16.8%13.1%8
1995DAL10-439.2%30.7%1-4.6%114.0%3
1998DEN13-139.0%33.5%1-2.9%152.7%7
2023BAL11-338.7%17.4%4-18.7%22.7%8
2005IND13-138.1%24.5%4-16.8%2-3.2%27
*includes only 12 non-strikebreaker games

Because they've played so well over the last few weeks, the 49ers are now up to 52.0% in weighted DVOA, which drops the strength of early-season games to get a better idea of how well teams should play in the future. They have the highest weighted DVOA ever measured through 14 games, higher than even the 2007 Patriots who by this point in the season were escaping with some close victories instead of just dominating everyone. What's remarkable about our list of the top teams by weighted DVOA is that most of them did not win the Super Bowl. This is not a knock on DVOA. There's just going to be a lot of randomness in a single-elimination playoff tournament and we need to accept that. (Also, some of these teams didn't get home-field advantage in the playoffs because of early and/or close losses, and that matters too.)

Best Weighted DVOA Thru 14 Games, 1981-2023
YearTeamW-LWEI DVOAResult
2023SF11-352.0%--
2007NE14-048.5%Lost SB
2010NE12-245.2%Lost DIV
1985CHI13-144.9%Won SB
1991WAS13-144.6%Won SB
2012NE10-444.6%Lost CCG
2019BAL12-243.7%Lost DIV
2005IND13-141.8%Lost DIV
2017LAR10-441.0%Lost WC
1995SF10-440.3%Lost DIV
1983WAS12-239.8%Lost SB
2004PHI13-139.6%Lost SB
2012SEA9-539.6%Lost DIV
2013SEA12-239.5%Won SB
2015SEA9-539.4%Lost DIV
2023BAL11-339.3%--

Still, hanging out right behind the 49ers are the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens have dropped a little bit in DVOA over the last couple weeks but they're still on a string of four games over 25% DVOA, including this week's 23-7 win over Jacksonville. The Ravens, like the 49ers, are on our list of the best DVOA ever through 14 games. I extended the list of weighted DVOA teams to show the Ravens are pretty high there too.

That sets us up for the DVOA Bowl: a matchup of the top two teams in DVOA. I was asked on Twitter/X whether this is the strongest regular-season game ever by DVOA, and I don't think it is. You have to balance out the combined DVOA of the teams with how late in the season it is, since the range of the ratings is wider earlier in the season with a smaller sample size. But I think the strongest regular-season game would be the Week 9 2007 contest between the undefeated Patriots and the undefeated Colts. This is probably the second-strongest regular-season game.

Here's a list of DVOA Bowl games since 1981. I've only included games played Week 7 or later, since you end up with a few early contests between teams that just happened to be hot early in the season. Note that with the new version of DVOA introduced this year, some games that were on this list in the past won't be here any longer.

DVOA Bowl (Regular-Season) Week 7 or Later, 1981-2023
YearWeekNo. 1W-LDVOANo. 2W-LDVOAHomeScore
198515CHI13-145.0%NYJ10-423.1%NYJCHI, 19-6
199615GB10-332.9%DEN12-132.6%GBGB, 41-6
199816DEN13-139.0%MIA9-528.9%MIAMIA, 31-21
20079NE8-071.9%IND7-048.3%INDNE, 24-20
200810NYG7-135.7%PHI5-331.4%PHINYG, 36-31
200814NYG11-135.7%PHI6-5-126.6%NYGPHI, 20-14
201517ARI13-236.9%SEA9-629.5%ARISEA, 36-6
201711LAR7-232.1%MIN7-231.8%MINMIN, 24-7
201714PHI10-231.5%LAR9-331.5%LARPHI, 43-35
201811KC9-147.3%LAR9-129.6%LARLAR, 54-51
202015KC12-127.9%NO10-327.3%NOKC, 32-29
202316SF11-346.7%BAL11-338.8%----

So yeah, Christmas night is a huge, huge game. It's very possibly a Super Bowl preview. But of course, there's a rest of the league to talk about too. Like I noted above, there's a lot of randomness in a single-elimination playoff tournament, and there are plenty of other teams that have a shot at winning the Super Bowl this season.

That starts with the "team nobody wants to play" -- if they make it to the playoffs. The Buffalo Bills move up to third in total season DVOA with their huge 31-10 win over the Cowboys. What's interesting is the way the Bills defense has rebounded in recent weeks.

  • Weeks 1-5: -11.5% (6th)
  • Weeks 6-10: +16.7% (32nd)
  • Weeks 11-15: -17.7% (5th)

Our playoff odds simulation now has the Bills making it to the postseason in 54% of sims. Obviously, there's a small chance of the Bills losing to either the Easton Stick Chargers or the Bailey Zappe Patriots in the next two weeks. More importantly, they really still need to win the Week 18 game against the Dolphins, which will be played in Miami. The Dolphins are No. 4 in DVOA and they are a little ahead of the Bills in weighted DVOA so it's a pretty even matchup and Miami will have the home-field advantage. The Bills also need to root for the Dolphins to lose to either the Cowboys or the Ravens in the next couple weeks, and the most likely scenario would be for the Dolphins to go 1-1 in those games.

Right now, the Bills make the playoffs in only 47% of simulations if they beat the Chargers and Patriots but lose to the Dolphins. Even a sweep of the last three games doesn't guarantee the Bills a playoff spot, although we have them making the playoffs in 99.9% of simulations if they win out. (In 78% of these simulations they win the division, and in 22% they are a wild card.)

Kansas City drops a couple of spots to No. 5 despite a win over the Patriots. They were passed by other teams more than they dropped. The Dallas Cowboys are down to sixth after the big loss to Buffalo, but the Philadelphia Eagles are down to 10th after a loss to Seattle on Monday night. Right now we have the division going to the Eagles in two-thirds of simulations and the Cowboys in one-third of simulations, because the remaining Cowboys schedule (Dolphins, Lions, Commanders) is so much harder than the remaining Eagles schedule (Giants, Cardinals, Giants).

One other interesting team is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Right now, only 13 teams are positive in weighted DVOA, and the Buccaneers are the 13th! They rank only 18th in total DVOA but move up to 13th in weighted DVOA and win the NFC South in 69% of our simulations. Nice! The Buccaneers just look like a very average team right now. They rank 18th on offense and 18th on defense, plus 15th on special teams. Is that good enough to win the NFC South? It probably is!

* * * * *

These are the FTN DVOA ratings through 15 weeks of 2023. Our Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) system 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 for performance indoors and 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 gives more weight to recent games and less weight to early-season games to get a better idea of how teams are playing now.

RKTEAMTOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEI.
DVOA
RKW-LOFF.
DVOA
OFF.
RK
DEF.
DVOA
DEF.
RK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RK
1SF46.7%152.0%111-336.9%1-11.4%4-1.6%24
2BAL38.8%239.3%211-317.4%4-18.8%22.7%8
3BUF24.7%623.9%48-622.8%2-2.3%10-0.5%18
4MIA24.4%527.2%310-422.6%3-2.0%13-0.2%17
5KC23.8%321.7%59-516.1%5-4.9%82.7%6
6DAL18.9%420.1%610-49.4%9-6.8%62.7%7
7DET14.2%710.1%710-413.3%6-1.8%15-0.8%20
8CLE9.4%97.0%99-5-14.8%29-22.2%12.0%9
9JAX8.9%106.4%118-62.2%14-5.2%71.6%12
10PHI8.9%86.6%1010-49.9%85.1%234.1%1
11CIN4.2%127.3%88-68.2%107.0%263.0%5
12HOU2.7%141.9%128-62.5%130.8%191.1%13
13SEA0.8%16-0.6%177-74.3%125.4%241.9%10
14PIT0.7%11-0.2%147-7-2.6%19-4.3%9-1.0%21
15NO-0.1%21-0.6%187-7-2.6%20-2.1%120.4%16
16MIN-0.2%15-0.5%157-7-4.7%21-8.0%5-3.6%29
RKTEAMTOTAL
DVOA
LAST
WEEK
WEI.
DVOA
RKW-LOFF.
DVOA
OFF.
RK
DEF.
DVOA
DEF.
RK
S.T.
DVOA
S.T.
RK
17IND-0.9%20-1.0%198-61.6%15-1.1%16-3.6%30
18TB-1.1%220.6%137-7-0.9%180.6%180.4%15
19LAR-1.8%17-2.0%207-710.1%73.7%21-8.2%32
20LAC-5.2%13-9.2%245-91.0%179.9%283.7%2
21GB-5.6%19-4.7%236-87.0%1110.3%29-2.3%27
22DEN-7.0%18-0.5%167-71.2%1611.4%303.2%3
23CHI-10.2%23-2.9%215-9-9.0%24-0.2%17-1.3%23
24LV-11.4%28-4.6%226-8-14.5%28-2.1%110.9%14
25TEN-13.2%24-14.3%265-9-8.8%232.3%20-2.1%26
26NYJ-15.5%25-18.7%275-9-33.7%32-15.0%33.2%4
27NE-15.8%26-19.2%283-11-13.2%27-1.9%14-4.5%31
28ATL-16.3%27-13.8%256-8-9.2%254.7%22-2.3%28
29WAS-24.0%29-27.0%294-10-8.2%2214.8%31-1.0%22
30ARI-25.5%30-27.1%303-11-11.3%2615.9%321.7%11
31CAR-35.2%32-35.4%322-12-27.1%307.4%27-0.6%19
32NYG-36.0%31-32.8%315-9-28.0%316.2%25-1.8%25