Welcome back to our second installment of the Premium Splits DVOA deep dive! If you missed our first part, we covered the hyper-situational world of per-play splits. Passing into specific field zones and running through individual holes are about as niche as one can get. We then opened it up to single-game performances to widen the scope just a bit. 

This time around, we will cover more game-specific splits. There’s nothing better than breaking an already-small 15-week sample size into even more hyper-specific scenarios. Home/road splits are pretty commonplace at this point, but what about field zone splits? How do teams handle heading into the half opposed to starting games? Can teams manage being up multiple scores the same as being down multiple scores? The only way to find out is by diving into the wonderfully weird world of DVOA splits!

Remember that all of these splits are available for download each week to FTN Fantasy+ and Stats+ subscribers. Just look for “Download 2023 DVOA Splits” in the Almanac/DVOA dropdown menu above. 

Home/Road Splits

Our own Scott Spratt wrote extensively about Dallas’ anomalous home/road splits this week, so I will save the Cowboys talk for him. There isn’t really a good example of a reverse-Dallas offensively–a team that plays better on the road than they do at home. Of all teams, Jacksonville probably comes closest. Despite the alluring call of “DUUUUVAL,” they rank seventh in offensive DVOA on the road and 22nd at home. Part of that comes down to strength of opponent – Jacksonville played Kansas City, Houston, and San Francisco all at home. Plus, one of those “home” games was at Wembley Stadium. 

Defensively, there are a shocking number of hometown heroes. Three different teams – the Giants, Titans, and Chiefs – all rank top-10 in defensive DVOA at home and bottom-10 in defensive DVOA on the road. Of the three, New York sees the biggest dropoff, from 10th at home to 31st on the road. This is even more shocking when you remember the 40-0 throttling by Dallas to kick off the season was at home. Indianapolis is the lone road warrior. The Colts are the sixth-best defense on the road, taking care of business against Baltimore, Jacksonville, and New England (during the Germany game). At home, though, they rank 22nd in DVOA. 

Down & Distance

Down-and-distance splits are probably the least indicative of future success, but they might be the most fun to actually look at. The Raiders offense stinks on first downs through 15 weeks: their -20.0% DVOA is 28th in the league. That stays consistent if they end up in second-and-long (-12.5%, 25th) or even second-and-medium (-28.5%, 28th). If they manage to get it to second-and-short, all of a sudden the Raiders have the ninth-best offensive DVOA. Tennessee’s offense can’t seem to hold it together for three straight plays. They rank ninth on first downs, 27th on all second downs, and 31st on all third downs. Dallas practically does the opposite. The Cowboys rank 20th on first, eighth on second, and fifth on third. 

Philadelphia’s defense really loves second down specifically. They aren’t a very good first-down defense (22nd) and they are abysmal on third down (32nd), but the Eagles get up for second down. They rank 13th on second-and-short, sixth on second-and-medium, and third on second-and-long, good for the second-best second down defensive DVOA in the league. Buffalo suffers a similar collapse from second to third down. They fall from a league-leading -23.7% DVOA on second downs to a pedestrian, 17th-ranked 0.8% DVOA on third downs. 

By Quarter

Once again this year, the Chiefs seem to take their foot off the gas in the fourth quarter. But this year, they aren't ahead by enough points to be able to afford to do that. Through the first three quarters, they are stellar: 23.7% in the first quarter (fourth), 32.0% in the second (third), and 14.5% in the third (seventh). They collapse in the fourth quarter, though, falling down to a 20th-ranked -12.1% offensive DVOA. 

The Cowboys offense is a top-10 offense, but take away their second quarter and the Cowboys can barely function. The Dallas offense has a league-leading 37.8% second quarter DVOA. Numbers get a lot more pedestrian in remaining quarters, though: 16th in the first, 20th in the third, and 21st in the fourth. 

The New Orleans Saints defense may as well be two completely different teams around halftime. Their 26th-ranked second-quarter DVOA is by far their worst in any individual quarter. However, the Saints get a good halftime game plan and a pep talk in them and roar out to the second-best third-quarter defensive DVOA in the league. (These numbers do not include last night's game with the Rams, where the Saints defense was once again better after halftime.)

Speaking of halftime, no team closes halves like the Indianapolis Colts defense. They don’t start out hot, finishing 26th in defensive DVOA in the first quarter and 24th in the third quarter. When time is ticking, though, they completely flip the script to a ninth-best second quarter DVOA and a seventh-best fourth quarter DVOA. 

Field Zones

If we really want to talk extremes, goal-to-go is the place to look. On the defensive side of the ball, the bookends are almost completely flipped around. The league-best Cleveland Browns defense is one of the worst in the league in the red zone and their 37.8% DVOA on goal-to-go is second worst in the league. The Browns allow nearly half of their touchdowns as a defense (16 of 33) in goal-to-go situations. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the league-worst Washington Commanders defense. They actually exclusively excel in short-yardage goal-to-go situations. Their -32.5% goal-to-go defense is second-best behind Tennessee. This is the only two areas where Washington performs even remotely well defensively. How many bonus points do the Commanders get for being the only team to stop the tush push? 

Field zone splits are especially funny for non-red zone cases. Field position obviously matters, but isolating performance to a single 20-yard zone will always produce some funky results. Take the Chargers offense. You get them from their own 20 to their own 40? Sixth-best offense in the league. The opponent’s 40 to just outside the red zone? Second-best offense! Anywhere else – midfield, inside their own 20, and the red zone – they shrivel up and fall below league-average.

By Score Gap

When you think of pedal-to-metal, foot-on-throat, no-mercy offense, who’s the first team that pops into your head? I can guarantee you were wrong, because the Pittsburgh Steelers lead the league with a 105.7% offensive DVOA when winning by nine or more points! They dominate this category, more than tripling second-place Arizona’s 32.2% DVOA. Pittsburgh has 12 such plays that qualify for this category. It must be comforting to know that once the Steelers can pad onto a lead, it’s smooth sailing, because when they first get that lead, they’re toast. Pittsburgh also ranks 30th in offensive DVOA (-23.3%) when winning by one to eight points.

There are some elite offenses who play great from behind. San Francisco, Kansas City, Buffalo, and Philadelphia all rank in the top ten when down nine-plus and when tied/down one-to-eight. The lone outlier up here: Minnesota. The Vikings can storm a comeback, with the second-highest offensive DVOA (72.9%) in situations down nine-plus. Once they get within one score, they fall all the way down to 26th (-11.3%). 

Defensively, the funniest team here might be Carolina. The Panthers defense cannot handle being within close proximity to a win. They rank 25th in one-score leads, 32nd with a multi-score lead, and 32nd when it’s late and close. In a tie or one-score deficit, they improve modestly to 18th. The second it’s a blowout, this defense starts cooking. Carolina jumps all the way up to a -21.0% defensive DVOA, fourth-best in the league.

The Kansas City Chiefs defense has an interesting effect on the other end of the spectrum. They are an elite defense when operating with a lead, ranking eighth in one-score situations and fourth in multi-score leads. They can’t be stopped when down multiple scores, leading the league with a -86.1% defense when down nine or more. Even when it’s late and close, the Chiefs scrape together a modest, 13th-ranked -0.3%. When tied or down one score, they fall apart to a 27th-ranked 19.5%.