As always, this is just my opinion.
Well, we've had 5 weeks now to simply enjoy the feeling of winning! It tastes so sweet, I simply love watching the Broncos win. And so far, it feels like our defense has simply been phenomenal over the course of a game and the best ever in the history of the NFL during the second half/4th quarter. Conversely, it seems that our offense has shown weekly improvement and most especially this past week, with the removal of "The Glove", the sky seems to be the limit for what we can do.
D--n it feels good to be a Bronco fan!
But, I like to stay grounded. Like a person who has had bad experiences dating/in marriage, I'm a little gun-shy. I always wait for the other shoe to drop, and like to hedge my bets so I don't get let down too hard. Besides, the memory of Kansas City Week 4 last year is still awfully raw. But over and above all this, I simply don't trust my eyes. I know some here do, and view statistics as being able to magically "prove anything". This statement is blatant hyperbole, but it is unclear exactly what it means. Personally, I know that with my affinity for Fantasy Football and my bias toward the Broncos (to say nothing of my emotional involvement with the offseason storylines) makes me a wickedly unreliable arbiter of fact and truth.
So, I look to others. And the best I have found so far has been the guys at Football Outsiders. They compile an ungodly amount of stats from every season, break down EVERY SINGLE PLAY from EVERY SINGLE TEAM, and then create a statistical web that uses proprietary formulae in order to better account for the complexities of the NFL game. The depth of their research truly is astounding, but it can be overwhelming for those who are not of a statistical bent.
For a brief rundown, check out their "Pregame Show", which is basically a type of 95 Theses that distills years of research into a few easily digestible patterns. It will also be useful to check out their explanation of their major formulae, including their flagship: Defense-adjusted Value Over Average, or DVOA. One final note: it's vital to remember that these statistics are not "pure" -- i.e., they are not raw data like yards or number of plays. They are "tweaked" -- allowances have been made for the quality of the opponents, league average in a given situation, increased importance to red zone or third down, etc. This carries with it some disadvantages, the most pressing being suspicion of manipulation. Yet, given a neutral party that objection comes up pretty hollow. I find that their way of looking at 3rd down efficiency is far superior than the rest of the MSM (i.e., conversion percentage).
So, I've pimped them long enough. What do they have to say about the Broncos' strengths and weaknesses?
Areas of strength: (defined as a top-10 finish, ranked from highest to lowest)
Defending #2 WRs (1st)
Defending #2 WRs (1st)Pressuring the quarterback (2nd)
Run defense (3rd)
Offensive line -- Running up the gut (3rd) Offensive line -- Running right end (4th) Pass defense (4th)
Offensive line -- Running up the gut (3rd)
Offensive line -- Running right end (4th)
Pass defense (4th)
Overall defense (4th)
Defensive line -- stopping runs of 10+ yards (5th)
Defensive line -- stopping runs to the outside, left (5th)
Overall run blocking (5th)
Defending #3 WRs (6th)
Overall team efficiency (7th)
Pass offense (7th)
Defensive line -- stopping runs up the gut (8th)
Defensive line -- stopping runs up the gut (8th)
Overall pass blocking (10th)
Defending TEs (10th)
Defending TEs (10th)
Areas for improvement: (defined as between top-10 and bottom-10, ranked least to most need)
Overall offense (11th) Defensive line -- Overall rush yards allowed (11th) Offensive line -- Runs to left end (11th) Offensive line -- Runs to right end (11th)
Overall offense (11th)
Defensive line -- Overall rush yards allowed (11th)
Offensive line -- Runs to left end (11th)
Offensive line -- Runs to right end (11th)
Rushing offense (12th)
Offensive line -- Running plays of 10+ yards (16th)
Defensive line -- Stopping runs to the left end (18th)
RBs catching passes (19th)
Areas of Weakness: (defined as bottom-10, ranked from least to most profound)
Defensive line -- Stopping runs to the outside, right (24th)
Defensive line -- Run stuffing for loss or no gain (24th)
Defensive line -- Short-yardage and goal-line situations (25th) Offensive line -- Short-yardage and goal-line situations (25th)
Defensive line -- Short-yardage and goal-line situations (25th)
Offensive line -- Short-yardage and goal-line situations (25th)
Defending #1 WRs (27th)
Offensive line -- Run stuffs for loss or no gain allowed (29th)
Special Teams (29th)
Defensive line -- Stopping runs to the right end (31st)
Offensive line -- Runs to left tackle (31st)
Alright! Everyone's eyes glazed over? In that case, I'll just offer some (semi-)quick thoughts:
- It is incredibly heartening to see how many are listed in the Strengths column, and by comparison how few are areas of deficiency.
- That being said, our special teams (returning) truly is atrocious. Thank goodness for Prater's leg and his 9 touchbacks (tied for 2nd in the league)
- No surprises here: we struggle in short-yardage situations on both sides of the ball.
- It appears that the right side of our D-line (left side of the offense) is particularly vulnerable to running plays. Let's see: that would be primarily Doom/Ayers/Moss, plus also Peterson/Holliday, with a little dash of Williams/Woodyard. It will be neat to see Ayers' development as a linebacker on that side, since we need to shore up our running defense there.
- No surprise again on needing to stop RBs out of the backfield. I watched Sammy Morris last week and was fervently praying "Not this guy! Not again!" We've got to get that fixed before we meet a guy like Westbrook.
- Our rushing offense is a grind-it-out, between the tackles style. Not sure that I particularly prefer a guy like Chris Johnson who is always a home-run threat, but who gets shut down vs. superior defenses. Give me Kno-Mo any day.
There are some on this site who attribute the success of the Broncos entirely (or nearly so) to the defense. Here's a sampling of quotes:
The offense is not the reason for this team’s success – in fact, I give it very, very little credit
This success is a product of the defense alone
This offense is no better at scoring (from anywhere on the field) than last season’s version
Some of the defenses in the top 10 are heavy to the pass side and middling on the run side (I'm looking at you, NO and NYG). We have a stellar all-around defense.
What's up with not being able to take on #1 WRs? Football Outsiders gives a disclaimer there that defining WR roles is subjective, but still: Ochocinco had modest yardage, Braylon was shut down, who the heck knows who's a #1 in Oakland, Roy Williams was middling, and Moss only had one catch. Eh. I give up.
I thought that TEs were supposed to be the weak point of a 5-2 hybrid? Apparently not for us...
The Chargers are currently sitting at #23 (overall team efficiency), playing 13.1% below the league average. By all rights, this is a game we should win. Our offensive ranking is respectable and we are facing a defense with and atrocious ranking, our densive ranking is spectacular and is facing an offense with a very pedestrian ranking, and both of us have been ranked in the top 10 in consistency so far. This should be a win. Anyone want to go to Vegas?
Note from the site, not shown above: our schedule ranking so far has been... well, less than we would hope. We are currently sitting at 27th. Remember, this ranking is not based on prejudiced opinions of a biased media, or last year's record, or anything else equally suspect. This is certainly cause for mitigated joy in Broncoland. To compound the difficulty, our upcoming schedule does indeed look tough -- "brutal" might be a slight overstatement -- our schedule is ranked 9th in the NFL in this category.
More from the site: Check out the QB rankings. Orton is sitting comfortably at #7, above Phyllis, Romo, Favre, Warner, and Schaub. Where's HWMNBN? #25.
Go Broncos! Beat the BlueBelles!
But that's just my opinion...