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The DVOA tells the story

The Saints have completely turned their play around over the past four weeks, there's no question about that. And, as it should, their DVOA numbers reflect this. To wit (numbers from the Football Outsiders Premium Database):

  • The Saints team DVOA has essentially risen over the past five weeks. During Week 3, against Tennessee, it was - 24.7%; Week 5 saw it rise to - 11.2%; in Week 6 it was 18.3%; in Week 7, against the Falcons, it dipped to 15.2%; finally, last week it leaped to 41.9%. For comparison, the Saints' best offensive DVOA output from 2006 was 69.4%, against Dallas. Their second-highest of 2006 was 34.3%, against Atlanta, meaning that Sunday's effort was their second-highest offensive output of the past two seasons (measured in DVOA).
  • Defensively, the Saints were at a 10.5% DVOA, their second-lowest total (in defensive DVOA, lower numbers are better) of the season. According to the Football Outsiders, the Saints' best defensive effort was the Atlanta game.
  • However, the Saints' team DVOA of 34.2% was easily their best effort of the season, though they beat that score 6 times in 2006 (Weeks 3, 9, 12, 13, 14 and 16). This wasn't a total-team victory, on par with last season, but it was quite a game.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves -- the Niners and Falcons are both mediocre teams, teams that the Saints should ; the Seahawks are a decent team, but they weren't firing on all cylinders that week.

The Jaguars, on the other hand, pack a formidable punch. The Saints have had three weeks to re-build their confidence after their disastrous start. They have lost five consecutive games to AFC opponents and are 3-7 against AFC opponents since 2005. This game could give an accurate indicator of whether the Saints have recovered enough to challenge for the NFC.