Tennessee Titans fans should ignore DVOA and other analytics

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean) /

After beating the hottest team in the NFL by more than 30 points, the Tennessee Titans have won the AFC South and they are one win away from locking up the 1-seed in the AFC.

These are things that you wouldn’t know if you were looking at DVOA, PFF, or several other “advanced” analytics sites.

See, all year long the Tennessee Titans have stacked wins despite the analytics community screaming that they were going to be in for a regression. The fact is, the only time a “regression” ever came for the Tennessee Titans is when nearly everyone on the roster was injured and they couldn’t stop turning the ball over.

In most cases, Titans fans can chalk up negative analysis by national media pundits as laziness or ignorance. This time is different though because numbers should be empirical and shouldn’t have any bias, right?

Well, not quite because the secret about most of the number crunchers out there is that they are beholden to their system and it is the gospel truth to them even when there is a clear flaw.

Do PFF grades predict injuries? Did DVOA give you a heads up that Antonio Brown was going to take his pads off in the middle of a game and leave the stadium?

As sad as it is for people in the analytics community to understand or accept, there is no number or formula to predict who the best team is going to be on a weekly basis. Sure, there are some stats or tendencies that give teams advantages or disadvantages, but if football was predictable it wouldn’t be fun.

A common thread going right now is the Titans potentially being the worst 1-seed in NFL history (or something similar). The fact is, if you take out the made-up numbers by people trying to predict the game behind a spreadsheet, it is really simple.

The Titans win games, and they do it against good teams.

Maybe the best way to summarize this point is this tweet from Emily Proud:

Tennessee Titans 101: Intro for beginners

For all of their formulas and numbers, all these people need to do is watch the games to figure out what this team is.

On offense, the Titans are at their best when they are running the ball and passing it to A.J. Brown. When teams overcorrect to stop those things, Ryan Tannehill either makes plays with his legs or someone else is asked to win their matchup.

Defensively, the Titans use an attacking four-man front that features some of the most talented defenders in the NFL. Jeffery Simmons, Denico Autry, Bud Dupree, and Harold Landry all compliment each other very well, but most importantly they know their jobs and execute.

Behind them, the defense features a collection of underrated veterans like Jackrabbit Jenkins, Zach Cunningham, and Kevin Byard, while adding in athletic young players like Kristian Fulton, Elijah Molden, David Long, and Amani Hooker.

These seven players understand where they fit in this defense and they don’t panic when they give up some yards. However, in crunch time and in crucial situations, they take turns stepping up and making plays.

On special teams, Randy Bullock has been the first consistent kicker that the Titans have had in years and the coverage and return teams are playing well enough to create hidden yards for Tennessee while preventing them from the opposing teams.

Every now and then the other wildcard is Mike Vrabel understanding situational football at a high level and realizing how to manipulate the rule book to his advantage. If he sees a team doing something illegal he will point it out to an official, and they rarely get away with it twice.

Sorry, there is no secret formula of box score numbers that can make it any clearer than I just did.

For Titans fans, don’t let anyone tell you to “ignore the haters” or anything like that. Instead, treat this like airport security, “if you see something, say something.” Don’t let people get by with throwing shade at your favorite team just because they want to feel good about their broken system.

Analytics people, understand that no one hates analytics. They hate your analytics in this specific case because they aren’t working. There is a big difference.

No one is saying that there is no place for you in the world, they are saying that you have to accept that your system isn’t perfect or at least that there are allowed to be outliers even if you can’t explain their success.