DVOA ratings point to Chiefs' Super Bowl odds as strong value

Aaron Schatz
ESPN PLUS ($ Material)

Those of us in the business of advanced NFL statistics have worked long and hard on our respective metrics that rate how good teams are and tell us which teams are most likely to win the Super Bowl. Nonetheless, there's another set of numbers out there that will come close to the best advanced NFL power rating metrics.

It turns out that the Vegas odds are one of the best, most accurate ways of measuring team quality and probabilities going forward.

Nonetheless, Football Outsiders has some disagreements with the current Vegas odds. We've looked through our DVOA ratings through Week 5, and four teams stand out as offering value where Football Outsiders odds are better than the odds being given in Vegas.

(DVOA is Football Outsiders' proprietary Defense-adjusted Value Over Average metric which looks at a team's performance on every play and adjusts based on situation and opponent, explained further here.)

Las Vegas lines are courtesy of the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook.

Kansas City Chiefs: 6-1 to win the Super Bowl

Vegas odds: 14.3 percent
DVOA simulation odds: 17.2 percent

Kansas City currently ranks third in the Football Outsiders DVOA ratings, with a rating twice as high as that of any other team in the AFC. Even more impressive, the Chiefs have been winning games against tough competition. The Chargers, Jaguars and Steelers all rank in the DVOA top 10 right now. As the last undefeated team in the AFC, the Chiefs get the No. 1 seed in 53 percent of our simulations, which is often a prerequisite for making it to the Super Bowl.

Sunday night's visit to Foxborough has a "prove they're for real" feel about it, but the Chiefs don't have to win that game to have a strong chance to make it through the AFC playoffs. Even if the Chiefs lose to the Patriots, they'll have the best record in the AFC or, at worst, they will be tied with Cincinnati. They will also have six of their final 10 games at home. In simulations in which they lose to the Patriots, Kansas City still gets the No. 1 seed 40 percent of the time, wins the conference 30 percent of the time and wins the Super Bowl 15.4 percent of the time.

Chicago Bears: 12-1 to win the NFC championship

Vegas odds: 7.7 percent
DVOA simulation odds: 13.8 percent

Chicago's recipe for success starts with the league's best defense by more than 10 percentage points of DVOA and combines that with top-10 special teams. The question here is how good is the offense the Bears are adding to those two units?

For the first three weeks of the season, it certainly looked like the answer to that question was "terrible." Then the Bears demolished the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, with Mitchell Trubisky throwing six touchdowns. Right now, Chicago ranks 17th in offensive DVOA. But take out the game against Tampa Bay, and the Bears drop all the way to 27th. Nonetheless, even if we rated Chicago's offense as if the Tampa game never happened, the Bears' odds of winning the NFC come out at 8.8 percent, which is higher than the current listed odds in Vegas.

It certainly helps the Bears to have a one-game lead on both the Packers and Vikings, who are both 2-2-1. Based on average DVOA of opponent, Chicago has the second-easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, behind only that of the New York Giants.

Baltimore Ravens: 30-1 to win the Super Bowl

Vegas odds: 3.2 percent
DVOA simulation odds: 4.3 percent

It's surprising that our ratings differ with Vegas' on Baltimore's odds because this feels like the same, old Baltimore team we've seen every other year. For the most part, the Ravens are being carried by their defense, which is currently No. 4 in DVOA and leads the league with just 4.6 yards allowed per play. The offense has been better than expected, but after Sunday's poor performance against Cleveland, it's back down close to league average. Given what we knew before the start of the season, the Ravens can probably expect their offense to decline a bit more as we move forward.

On the other hand, they can expect their special teams to improve. One of the few consistent special-teams units in the league, Baltimore has ranked in the top four in special teams for six straight years. This year, they're 16th so far, and Justin Tucker's placekicking is the only element of special teams in which the Ravens have been above average. That probably turns around and gives the Ravens a little more of that field position advantage they're so used to.

Miami Dolphins: 35-1 to win the AFC championship

Vegas odds: 2.8 percent
DVOA simulation odds: 9.4 percent

The most surprising team in the DVOA ratings this year is the Miami Dolphins, who lost to Cincinnati on Sunday but didn't have their rating drop at all. Miami's rating seems to go against everything that our advanced stats stand for. The Dolphins have been outscored and outgained by opponents, yet Miami has a positive rating in four of its five games this year -- powered by different units each time. The defense powered wins against the Titans and Jets in Week 1 and Week 2, the offense was superb against the Raiders in Week 3, and then special teams kept things close against Cincinnati in Week 5.

The Dolphins have lived off big plays on offense and special teams, but they've been hurt by them on defense. The defense has allowed 5.7 yards per play, 20th in the NFL, but it has allowed only a 40.8 percent success rate by offenses, which is sixth. Success rate is more consistent than preventing big plays, suggesting that the Dolphins' defense is likely to play better in the future.

The Dolphins also get a boost from their 3-2 record and their remaining schedule, which ranks 28th in difficulty with a majority of their games at home. So how much are their odds based on those facts, and how much are they based on a questionably high DVOA rating? I ran another playoff simulation that based the ratings for the Patriots and Dolphins solely on preseason projections. The Patriots were now neck-and-neck with Kansas City, while the Dolphins became one of the worst teams in the league.

In this simulation, Miami's odds of winning the AFC came out at 2.8 percent, matching Vegas' 35/1 odds. You might not believe that Miami is one of the top 10 teams in the league right now, with the way the DVOA ratings have them. But as long as you believe that the Dolphins are even slightly better than preseason expectations -- and they clearly are, at least on defense -- a bet on Miami would be expected to pay off at a higher rate than the Vegas odds.

About these odds: Football Outsiders playoff odds come from a weekly simulation that plays out the rest of the season 30,000 times. Based on our ratings and home-field advantage, a random draw assigns each team a win or loss for each game. Right now, these probabilities are based on a combination of Football Outsiders' preseason projections (40 percent) and DVOA from Weeks 1-5 (60 percent). You can find the full playoff odds report, including the odds of each team winning each of the six seeds and the Super Bowl, on FootballOutsiders.com