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The unavoidable truth - A look at DVOA numbers for Weeks 1-3

I've gotten tired of looking at the 0-3 record.  I'm sick of hearing that we had less than 100 yards of offense in the last game.  I'm bored with reading how this may be the worst Bucs team ever.  It's mainly due to the truth each of those facts hold.  But I need to see more.

Rather than just regurgitate what we all already know in the same fashion, I want to take a trip back to the land of advanced statistics.  Football Outsiders (FootballOutsiders, FootballOutsiders, FootballOutsiders, there, did I mention it enough?) has some great numbers that have been compiled through three weeks of play in the 2009 season.  These numbers seem more representative of who we are based on the accounting of the opponent played. 

There are dozens of pieces/players we could look at, but I want to focus on four areas; the offense (to see how we've performed against the respective defenses), the defense (for the same reasons as the offense), the offensive/defensive line (to quantify as best we can how they have done this year) and the playoff odds for the Bucs (I know this won't be pretty, but being informed is never a bad thing).

After the jump we'll dive into these numbers.  I encourage you to read through this, if for nothing else than to expand your knowledge base.  The numbers may not be pretty, but having an understanding of these numbers will give you a better grip on how the 2009 Buccaneers are playing.

The Offense

Let me get these arguments out of the way.  Byron Leftwichsucks.  He can't run.  He throws the ball high.  Our players don't fight for first downs.  We are on the field too long.  We give up on the run too early.  Ou rline can't block. There, feel better?  Now that we've got that out of the way, let's look at the DVOA numbers  and some pass/run rankings through 3 weeks of NFL action.  Remember DVOA is adjusted for defense played and shows the value over (or under) average.  Positive is good for offense, negative, no so much.

Rank Team DVOA Pass Rank Rush Rank
19 TB -0.70% 5.10% 24 9.30% 12

A big difference from week 1, where the Bucs had a positive DVOA and were a top 10 offense.  Since then we've see the introduction of turnovers, dropped passes, and the ever popular 3 yard loss on first down.  The Bucs are hovering right around the middle of the league in offense.  Their Passing DVOA has slid dramatically, putting them in the bottom third of the league.  There still is slight adjustment over average after being adjusted for defense, but not much. 

The running game, despite seeing fewer and fewer carries, is in the top half of the league and represents almost a 10% edge over the average run game when adjusted for opponent.  I'd like to see this number climb.  The running game, if it's solid, will only help take some pressure of our young QB.  When we look at the offensive line numbers below, the relative success of the running game becomes even more amazing.

The Defense (where positive numbers are bad)

Let's just admit it, we expect to see the Bucs ranked last here.  I don't imagine a scenario where they could be any higher than that.  They've been unable to stop the run, the pass, the starters, the backups, anyone.  Really, it's been that bad.  I've pulled the numbers, but haven't looked at ranks.  Until now.

Rank Team DVOA Pass RANK Rush RANK
32 TB 39.60% 72.10% 32 15.80% 27

I believe the words you are looking for are "holy" and "crap."  The Bucs are indeed, dead last in defensive DVOA.  This is mainly due to their whopping 72.10% DVOA against the pass.  In comparison, the team with the best pass DVOA (Giants, partially due to them playing us) is -42.3%.  This means the Bucs do approximately 72.10% WORSE than the average pass defense in a given situation.  Now this could be broken down to look at how they Bucs do on 2nd and short or 3rd and long, but let's just take this for what it is; a huge confirmation that our pass defense is downright awful right now.

The run defense?  Not much better.  Sure the number isn't as high, but look at the rank.  It's just more confirmation that our defense is mired in failure through the first three games.  It's been said many times this year, the defense has to focus on something and take it away. Run or pass, I don't care, but stop something, please.

The Lines

We'll take a look at both lines now.  I'll post the offensive line's numbers, and then the defensive line's numbers.  The offensive line remains an enigma.   I wrote an article about them and their mediocre play but high praise from fans and media alike in 2008.  Has that changed? (If you need assistance in the definition for these stats, refer to the article I linked above, all the definitions are there)


Rank Team Adj Line Yards RB Yds Power Rank
17 TB 3.87 4.44 60% 13
Avg NFL x 4.24 62% x

Apparently it has changed, for the worse.  The Bucs OL falls below average (again) in ALY (adjusted line yards).  4.08 is the presumed league average and the Bucs are a full .2 yards below that (and down from 4.04 in all of 2008).  So the line isn't doing their job in opening the holes.  But the running backs (RB Yds) are pulling their weight.  They are taking more than a half yard extra than what the line gives them and up from 4.09 from 2008.  This is testament to our running backs and their ability to make something out of nothing.

The power rank is below league average and below their 2008 performance.  Some of this is to be expected in my opinion. The zone blocking system is still relatively new, but all ranks thus far have fallen.  The running backs appear to be doing their part, but get no help from the offensive line.

Here are a few other OL measures.

Team 10+ Yds Rank Stuffed Rank
TB 22% 10 21% 19
NFL 20% x 21% x

Above league average in 10+ yards, which is mainly a running back rating.  This reflects the percentage of rush yards that occur more than 10 yards downfield (as a percentage of total rush yards).  The Bucs have improved from 18% and are over league average.  This surprised me because I don't recall a lot of long run success early in the season. 

But the bad news continues.  The Bucs running backs are "stuffed" or hit behind the line of scrimmage 21% of the time, up from 2008's number of 18%.  That's just not good.  Our backs are having to fight for every yard. 

I think from this brief analysis it's pretty clear the line still isn't trending the right way.  No Jeff Faine can affect this, but there are four other guys outside the center that still are involved in every play.

Now, onto the defensive line.  We will look at some of the same metrics and have they have done through Week 3.


Rank Team Adj Line Yds RB Yds Power Rank
27 TB 4.65 5.16 71% 20
x NFL x 4.24 62% x

Hope you enjoy more pitiful numbers.  The line (defensive) is giving up well over league average in ALY.  This isn't surprising.  We are also blown away on RB Yds, where we our line averages almost a full yard more given up to running backs than league average.  The power runs (short yardage situations) are also killer.  We hold a team to a goal to go situation or 3rd and 2 or less and we give up the first down 71% of the time.  Killer. Keeps our defense on the field.  Surprisingly, it's only "good" for 20th in the league.

Team 10+ Yds Rank Stuffed Rank
TB 22% 23 15% 26
NFL 20% x 21% x

Without boring you with more details, just notice that we are worse than league average and ranked in the mid 20's in seemingly every category.  This is a fail across the board.  I'm pointing out the defensive line more to give you some numbers to hold on to.  We don't hit anyone (well 15%) in the backfield and no only do we give up a ton of yards within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, we're giving away a fair amount downfield too.

And now, to one of the more discouraging facts.  The pass rush/sack numbers.  Enjoy.

Team Rank Sacks Sack Rate
TB 28 3 3.40%

28th in sack adjusted ranking.  The NFL average is an adjusted sack rate of 5.4% and is defined as such.

gives sacks (plus intentional grounding penalties) per pass attempt adjusted for down, distance, and opponent

We're at 3.40% with the leaders at just under 10%.  No pressure, more problems.  We all know it, here's some of the numbers to back it up.

At this point, I'm done with the lines.  I have nothing else to say.  The offensive line is over rated at this point and the defensive line is just plain bad.  Let's go on to some more depressing numbers that we all already know.

Playoff Odds

Rather than me try to explain it, let's rely on Football Outsiders to explain it to us.

The playoff odds report plays out the season 10,000 times. A random draw assigns each team a win or loss for each game. The probability that a team will be given a win is based on an equation which considers the current DAVE ratings of the two teams as well as home-field advantage. (DVOA ratings and DAVE ratings are explained here.) Mean Wins is the average number of wins for this team over the 10,000 simulations. Odds are given for winning each playoff seed, as well as for winning the division (DIV), earning a bye week (BYE), or winning a wild card (WC). TOT represents odds of making the playoffs in any fashion.

10,000 simulations based on their ratings and projections.  We get mean number of wins, and playoff odds.  For funsies, I'll post our entire division.

Mean Wins #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6
NO 12.1 40.50% 26.50% 22.30% 4.30% 1.70% 1.40%
ATL 7.9 0.70% 1.40% 2.70% 1.40% 5.30% 7.80%
CAR 4.5 0.00% 0.00% 0.10% 0.00% 0.00% 0.10%
TB 4.3 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.10% 0.00% 0.10%

So we have a next to zero chance of doing anything in January and beyond.  Curiously enough, even though the first three games have been abysmal, they still have a mean win value of 4.3 wins this year.  There is hope, right?    If you call 4 wins reason for hope, please seek immediate help.  Here's the last few pieces of the puzzle which looks at likelihood of winning the division, getting a bye week etc.

NO 93.60% 67.00% 3.10% 96.70% 5.90%
ATL 6.30% 2.20% 13.10% 19.30% -3.60%
CAR 0.10% 0.00% 0.10% 0.20% -2.00%
TB 0.10% 0.00% 0.10% 0.20% -1.40%

Yea, not good.   But 0-3 and coming off of a home shutout, this isn't surprising.

Almost every single number points towards poor performance.  This is another instance where what the eyes see and what the mouth says is backed up by the numbers.  We aren't able to block anyone, we aren't able to throw for much success, and our defense couldn't stop most JV teams at this point.  

We'll continue to monitor the DVOA numbers, as well as the traditional stats, but thus far, they all point towards a long year.