Every cloud has a silver lining, and every NFL team does something well. Even the worst team has certain plays and tendencies in which the players are productive.
Today, we've gone through Football Outsiders' extensive stat databases to point out one specific strength of each defense in 2015. (We examined each team's offense on Monday.) Some of these splits are significant for illuminating the strengths and weaknesses of each team's personnel. Other splits tend to oscillate wildly from year to year, and a great performance in 2015 may not indicate that a team will be equally strong in the same ways in 2016. Either way, the numbers provide an interesting window into what each team's defense did right last season.
Football Outsiders' advanced metrics are explained here. The most important is DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average), which measures success on each play compared to the league average adjusted for situation and opponent. Because it is measured on a per-play basis, it can easily be separated to measure specific splits; you'll see a lot of those ratings below.
Charting stats such as frequency of blitzes, pass pressure and play-action come from research by ESPN Stats & Information. Other charting metrics, including cornerback coverage stats and broken tackles, come from Sports Information Solutions. You'll be able to find many more of these stats in our book "Football Outsiders Almanac 2016," which will be released online on Aug. 1.
AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West
NFC East | NFC North | NFC South | NFC West
Although the Bills' defense struggled overall (24th in DVOA), they improved to sixth in the league in the fourth quarter or overtime. This wasn't just a case of opponents running out the clock in wins: The Bills had a better-than-average defense in the fourth quarter whether they were winning or losing the game.
You may remember from Monday's article on under-the-radar offensive strengths that Miami's offense was much better on second down than on first or third. Oddly, this also was true for the Miami defense, which ranked seventh in DVOA on second down, including fifth against the run. That's much better than the Dolphins' overall ranking of 25th in defensive DVOA and 20th in DVOA against the run.