Aaron Schatz debates NFL awards, MVP, Coach of the Year, Super Bowl Contenders
A data scientist and self-proclaimed NFL nerd, Aaron Schatz is the founder of DVOA and one of 50 voters for the NFL awards.
With Week 15 already started, he took some time with the New York Post this week to discuss the mad rush to the NFL playoffs, including his Super Bowl contenders and, of course, NFL Awards candidates.
“When you’re guessing betting who is going to win the award, you’re guessing what all of the voters are going to say,” Schatz told The Post about the very tricky life of an awards bettor.
Notably, we debated MVP, Coach of the Year and who he sees making that elusive Super Bowl run in 2024.
Perhaps his most notable feat was when his DVOA statistic correctly predicted the Super Bowl winner in 10 of 14 seasons starting in 1989.
All of his work can now be found on FTNFantasy, where he is the Chief Analytics Officer.
MVP: Dak Prescott vs. Brock Purdy
Oddsmakers have this award as a two-way toss-up as the season dwindles into Week 15 of the NFL season. At the time of writing, Schatz believes there is reason to lean toward Dak Prescott to take home the MVP Award.
But Purdy is far from out of it, and there’s a long way to go until we can crown a winner.
“It’s a tough one this year; right now, it looks like Purdy vs. Dak, but it feels like there’s someone new in the MVP race every week,” Schatz told The Post.
“Here’s my problem: Purdy is having a historically good season. In my DVOA stats for passing, there are only three quarterbacks who have had 50 percent in a season: Tom Brady, Dan Marino, and Peyton Manning, twice. Purdy is close to doing it, but who do we think was the No. 1 quarterback in my efficiency stats last year?
“With a minimum of 200 passes, which Purdy didn’t reach, Jimmy Garoppolo was the No. 1 quarterback last year. While Purdy is definitely better than Garoppolo, he can sling it deep, which Garoppolo really wasn’t good at it; I can’t get over the fact that this team had the No. 1 quarterback last year already. That is a demonstration of how much the scheme and teammates help Purdy because look at how much they’ve helped Garoppolo.
“I’m leaning towards Prescott, but there’s a lot that can happen to change that.”
Getty Images## NFL Coach of the Year debate
It’s no secret that I’ve been targeting Sean Payton on sports betting apps to win NFL Coach of the Year. Schatz, who is a voter, is in agreement that this could be the time to bet Payton, it isn’t exactly fair to give him credit for starting 1-5.
“To me, you shouldn’t get a bonus for starting 1-5. Coach of the Year should not be Coach of the last 10 weeks,” Schatz said. “If you are such a good coach, you should’ve been that good from Week 1.”
I argued what Payton said preseason: ex-coach Nathanial Hackett did such a bad job last season that it took Payton six weeks to overcome it.
In the first five weeks, the Broncos had one of the worst defenses in yards per play allowed, ceding 10.59 yards per target, second worst in the NFL at that point.
Since then, they are among the best, averaging 7.42 yards per target. Their improvement is also noteworthy, considering they have allowed just seven passing touchdowns since Week 6, after giving up a league-worst 14 from Weeks 1-5.
He has some competition coming for Detroit, though.
“Dan Campbell combines two really important things, what you can measure and what you can’t measure,” Schatz said. “Campbell is, if not the most correctly aggressive coach in the league on fourth downs, he’s second behind Nick Sirianni. He also is the knock-their-kneecaps player motivation guy which you can’t measure. He’s a great player motivation guy and a great tactics guy.”
He does note that the Detroit-Denver game on Saturday is massive for Coach of the Year.
“I think that they Detroit needs to beat Denver. Right? Otherwise, If it comes down to Campbell and Payton at the end, maybe Detroit is a game or two better than Denver but Denver’s expectations are lower, maybe Payton does win it.”
We’ll score this one as a win; all eyes are on Ford Field on Saturday with the winner the clear favorite to win NFL Coach of the Year.
Oh and by the way: Sean Payton is still 12:1 to win Coach of the Year if you like them +4 in Detroit this weekend.
Josh Allen and the Bills are sneaky Super Bowl contenders. Getty Images## Super Bowl contenders?
“Being a statistical guy, I see things as probabilities much more than binary’s,” Schatz told The Post when asked for his contenders to hoist the Lombardy Trophy this season.
This is basically to say that he believes anyone can win the Super Bowl, you see teams like the early 2000s Giants teams, 2009 Saints, and 2012 Ravens winning it all — teams which nearly no one predicted going into the playoffs.
“Teams that are not in that top tier do sometimes go on to win the Super Bowl, it hasn’t happened recently but it does happen” Schatz said. “My top tier is two teams: it’s San Francisco and Baltimore.”
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DVOA numbers at FTNFantasy.com love the Ravens, Schatz said. They thrashed the Lions 38-6.
For Schatz, he sees the next tier laid out as Dallas, Kansas City, Miami and Philadelphia, in that order.
From there, it depends on who sneaks into the playoffs, with the Bills as sleeping giants.
“Every advanced metric thinks Buffalo is much better than their record. Their defense, which collapsed early on due to injuries, has bounced back a little bit… If they get in, they are super dangerous.”
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