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2023 DVOA Projections

NFL DVOA
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Here are my DVOA projections for 2023, updated from the season forecasts in FTN Football Almanac 2023.

For those new to my work since it began appearing on FTN Network, you can find an explanation of DVOA here. Note that there’s a big difference between DVOA and projected DVOA. The DVOA ratings that appear on the websi/info/methodste during the season are based on the actual play-by-play that happens during the season, with no future projection whatsoever. The numbers here are a forecast, with offense, defense, and special teams DVOA all projected separately using a system based on looking at trends for teams going back to 2009. My system starts by considering the team’s DVOA over the past three seasons and, on offense, a separate projection for the starting quarterback. Then I look at a number of other variables which suggest when a team will be better or worse than would otherwise be expected due to standard regression towards the mean. Factors include major offseason personnel changes, coaching experience, recent draft history, age and combined tenure on the offensive line, and certain players returning from injury (or, in the case of these updates, certain players getting injured in the preseason).

The numbers I present here are exactly what the projection system spit out. As I say every year: “A few of them will look strange to you. A few of them look strange to me.” As always, the offensive projections come out in a wider range than defensive projections because offense performance tends to be easier to predict (and more consistent from year to year) than defensive performance.

I’ve also done a new full playoff odds report simulation based on these updated DVOA projections, and I’ve added the playoff odds and Super Bowl championship odds to the table below. At the start of a new season, our simulation is very conservative about the average number of wins and losses expected for each team. I’ve made a change this year to get a spread of win totals that is much closer to what you’ll see in the betting markets. We also use a “dynamic” playoff odds simulation. Each time it plays through the season, it adds 1.5% to the DVOA of every winner and subtracts 1.5% from the DVOA of every loser before moving on to the next week’s games. This reflects the fact that DVOA projections are just estimates, and actual performance during the season gives us better knowledge of how good or bad teams really are. (The page with the full playoff odds updated weekly should be up on FTN in the next couple of days.)

Dallas, which had the highest mean win projection in the FTN Football Almanac, has also now passed Buffalo to have the highest DVOA projection for the regular season. (If you’re worried about what the Cowboys have done in the playoffs the last two years, remember, these projections are for the regular season only.) However, there’s a very clear gap between the two conferences. You’ll notice on the table below that 8 of the top 11 teams in projected DVOA come from the AFC. There are going to be some very good AFC teams missing the playoffs this year, with inferior NFC teams making it to the postseason instead.

Down at the bottom of the league, you’ll notice that there are only three AFC teams in the bottom 10, and they are all from the AFC South.

One note about this simulation: Kansas City and San Francisco are both lower than they were in the book because I’ve included a variable penalizing them for the holdouts of Chris Jones and Nick Bosa, respectively. In 20% of simulations, these players return for Week 1. Then I have a 20% chance of them coming back every two weeks (40% Week 3, 60% Week 5, 80% Week 7) until they are back in all simulations beginning in Week 9. I rarely make changes in our playoff odds simulation based on individual defensive players, but Jones and Bosa are two of the most valuable defensive players in the NFL.

The odds of getting the No. 1 pick listed below do not incorporate traded picks. Projected division champions are colored in dark blue and projected wild-card teams are colored in red.

TEAM TOTAL DVOA RK MEAN WINS OFF DVOA RK DEF DVOA RK ST DVOA RK SCHED RK PLAY OFF ODDS SB WIN ODDS No. 1 PICK ODDS
DAL 16.3% 1 11.2 9.3% 3 -6.8% 3 0.2% 12 1.1% 12 85.8% 15.2% 0.0%
BUF 15.7% 2 10.6 2.7% 15 -12.2% 1 0.8% 3 4.5% 3 67.9% 9.7% 0.1%
KC 13.6% 3 10.7 17.0% 1 4.1% 29 0.8% 5 2.8% 7 69.2% 10.0% 0.1%
NYJ 12.5% 4 10.1 4.9% 10 -7.1% 2 0.4% 7 4.3% 4 60.4% 6.4% 0.1%
SF 11.5% 5 10.9 6.3% 6 -5.2% 5 0.0% 15 -2.0% 23 83.9% 11.5% 0.1%
PHI 10.8% 6 10.1 8.3% 4 -3.1% 9 -0.6% 24 1.4% 11 72.6% 7.1% 0.2%
CLE 9.0% 7 10.5 5.9% 7 -3.2% 8 -0.1% 17 -1.6% 22 64.3% 5.0% 0.1%
BAL 8.0% 8 10.0 4.5% 11 0.8% 19 4.3% 1 -0.1% 17 57.0% 3.8% 0.2%
CIN 7.9% 9 10.0 11.3% 2 3.4% 25 0.0% 14 0.0% 16 55.3% 3.7% 0.2%
LAC 7.7% 10 9.4 7.0% 5 -0.9% 15 -0.2% 20 3.2% 6 49.2% 3.2% 0.3%
PIT 5.9% 11 9.9 4.3% 12 -2.0% 11 -0.5% 23 -0.7% 19 54.5% 2.9% 0.2%
DET 5.8% 12 9.8 3.8% 13 -1.3% 14 0.7% 6 -1.6% 21 70.6% 4.4% 0.3%
MIA 4.4% 13 8.4 3.7% 14 -1.6% 13 -0.9% 28 4.9% 2 32.4% 1.3% 0.5%
ATL 2.4% 14 10.3 -0.4% 18 -2.7% 10 0.1% 13 -6.9% 31 72.8% 3.4% 0.3%
JAX 2.3% 15 9.5 5.6% 8 3.7% 26 0.4% 8 -2.3% 24 65.8% 2.6% 0.3%
NO 1.3% 16 10.1 -2.2% 23 -4.0% 6 -0.4% 21 -7.1% 32 69.8% 2.9% 0.4%
TEAM TOTAL DVOA RK MEAN WINS OFF DVOA RK DEF DVOA RK ST DVOA RK SCHED RK PLAY OFF ODDS SB WIN ODDS No. 1 PICK ODDS
LV 1.2% 17 8.4 5.0% 9 3.0% 23 -0.8% 25 2.1% 10 32.0% 0.9% 1.0%
NE 1.1% 18 7.7 -1.5% 20 -1.9% 12 0.8% 4 5.6% 1 23.5% 0.6% 1.3%
GB 1.0% 19 9.2 0.4% 17 -0.7% 16 -0.1% 16 -3.0% 29 59.0% 2.1% 0.7%
SEA -0.7% 20 8.3 -5.4% 25 -3.3% 7 1.4% 2 -0.5% 18 45.0% 1.2% 1.2%
WAS -1.1% 21 7.7 -7.0% 26 -5.5% 4 0.3% 10 2.2% 9 33.6% 0.7% 1.7%
DEN -2.6% 22 7.6 -1.6% 21 -0.3% 17 -1.3% 32 2.8% 8 21.2% 0.4% 1.9%
NYG -6.4% 23 6.5 -1.5% 19 3.9% 27 -1.1% 31 4.0% 5 18.3% 0.2% 4.4%
TEN -9.4% 24 7.3 -5.4% 24 2.9% 22 -1.1% 30 -2.6% 26 26.1% 0.2% 3.4%
TB -9.9% 25 7.1 -7.2% 28 1.7% 20 -1.0% 29 -2.6% 25 23.8% 0.2% 3.7%
MIN -10.0% 26 6.4 1.1% 16 10.6% 32 -0.5% 22 0.7% 15 18.4% 0.1% 5.1%
LAR -10.1% 27 6.4 -2.0% 22 7.9% 30 -0.2% 19 0.8% 14 18.0% 0.1% 5.3%
CAR -13.8% 28 6.3 -13.4% 30 0.3% 18 -0.1% 18 -3.2% 30 15.0% 0.1% 7.4%
IND -16.0% 29 6.1 -12.3% 29 2.8% 21 -0.9% 26 -3.0% 28 13.3% 0.0% 8.6%
CHI -16.3% 30 5.6 -7.1% 27 9.5% 31 0.3% 9 -1.2% 20 10.3% 0.0% 11.4%
HOU -19.7% 31 5.5 -16.6% 31 3.4% 24 0.3% 11 -2.8% 27 8.1% 0.0% 13.5%
ARI -22.5% 32 4.3 -17.6% 32 4.0% 28 -0.9% 27 1.1% 13 3.1% 0.0% 26.1%

In general, our forecast each year will “project” the playoffs to look very similar to the playoffs from the year before. (Obviously, we’re projecting probabilities here rather than a clear dichotomy where certain teams are playoff teams and other teams are not.) This year, we are projecting more new playoff teams than usual, in part because of the teams which made the playoffs last year despite poor DVOA ratings. In the AFC, we have the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns replacing the Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers, although there are so many good teams in the AFC that it could easily end up the other way around. In the NFC, we have the Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, and Green Bay Packers all making the playoffs after not making the postseason in 2022.

Remember that some of the teams at the bottom of our projections are going to surprise and make the playoffs. Last year, the New York Giants had the worst projected DVOA in the league and they made the playoffs anyway. (There’s a reason Brian Daboll won Coach of the Year!) The Jacksonville Jaguars also had a very low projection last year, although some of that was because our system couldn’t understand the colossal improvement from getting rid of Urban Meyer.

In the past these annual preseason projection updates have included a list of teams that had a big move in projected DVOA between the book and the end of the preseason. There aren’t many of those teams this year. There’s one huge change, and that’s the Arizona Cardinals. My projection system includes a variable that attempts to project the quarterback alone without any other team variables. That variable was surprisingly copacetic about Colt McCoy. It has a much lower opinion of Josh Dobbs and/or Clayton Tune. So the Arizona projection has dropped substantially to the point where it is now much closer to the market. Most books have the Cardinals with an over-under of 4.5 and we’re now below that. However, you have to assume that Arizona’s offense will improve when (if?) Kyler Murray comes back. Most reports say that the Cardinals are planning on bringing him back this year, but we have no idea when. I did not add a “Kyler Murray returns” variable into the system that raised the Cardinals DVOA as of a certain week.

We now have the Cardinals with a nearly 40% chance of earning the No. 1 overall pick between their own pick and the pick they own from the Houston Texans.

The other changes in our projections are primarily due to small changes in projected starting lineups. The two biggest positive moves belong to the Rams and Steelers, each move being related to signing a veteran defensive back (John Johnson for the Rams and Desmond King for the Steelers). The Jets also moved up a bit, primarily due to offensive line changes (putting Duane Brown back in as the starting left tackle). The two biggest negative moves belong to the Patriots and the Buccaneers but those teams only dropped by -2.0% DVOA each. Last year, five different teams declined by more than that between the book and the preseason update.

A quick note for subscribers to Stats+: the DAVE stats currently posted represent weighted DVOA at the end of last season. You’ll notice they still say “2022” in the table. We will start updating 2023 DAVE (which combines preseason projections with in-season data) after Week 1 games, beginning Monday morning.

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