A Grand Experiment (The First Glow Of The Fire)

DENVER - SEPTEMBER 26: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts gets rid of a pass as he is hit by defensive lineman Kevin Vickerson #99 and linebacker Robert Ayers #56 of the Denver Broncos at INVESCO Field at Mile High on September 26 2010 in Denver Colorado. The Colts defeated the Broncos 27-13. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

After a very disappointing loss, Tim Lynch offered me these words of comfort:

RE: A Grand Experiment: This weeks analysis is going to be a tough pill to swallow.

Thanks, Tim.

     On the one hand, it IS a tough pill to swallow. The Broncos did try to do what I believed they should do: out-Manning Manning by using the short and intermediate passing game to beat the Colts. Unfortunately, Denver couldn't quite pull it off. Two turnovers, a couple of untimely penalties, four runs from the one and no points, and a poor 3rd down/Red Zone showing from Kyle Orton all conspired to spoil what would have been an incredible offensive display. On the other side of the ball, the Broncos totally shut down the Colts' running game (40 yards on 22 rushes), but that same defense gave up 325 yards and three touchdown passes to Manning and his receivers.

     Of course, the Broncos - Colts game gave us a very dramatic example of why yards alone are not a good measure of an offense and/or a defense. Denver had 519 net yards in the game but mustered only 13 points. This means the Broncos had to travel 39.9 yards for each point they put on the board. This is not a good thing. The defense, by comparison, only surrendered 365 net yards, but also gave up 27 points. This means the Colts only had to travel 13.5 yards for each point they put on the board. This is also not good.

After the jump, we'll take a look at the league after three weeks.

Let's start by looking at our three undefeated teams.
Team
W/L
OYPP
DYPP
Pittsburgh
3-0
12.1
25.3
Kansas City
3-0
14.2
24.7
Chicago
3-0
15.9
18.8

     These three teams' OYPP range from 12.1 to 15.9. Their DYPP range from 25.3 to 18.8. All three of these teams have OYPPs that are lower than their DYPP. Some things leap out at me about these numbers.

     First, Pittsburgh not only has the third best OYPP (behind Tennessee at 10.9 and Seattle at 11.8) but they also have the best DYPP in the league. This suggests that the Steelers are playing solid on both sides of the ball. The difference between their OYPP and DYPP are currently the largest in the league. They are +6 in Give Away/Take Aways. They are averaging 3.6 penalties per game. This is all to say that Pittsburgh is not making many mistakes.

     Next, Kansas City is a close second to the Steelers. While the Chief OYPP lags behind some of the 2-1 teams, their DYPP is second only to Pittsburgh's. Their positive OYPP to DYPP difference is third best in the league thus far. Like the Steelers, they have not committed many penalties (roughly 4.6 per game), and are +1 in turnovers.

     Finally, the Bears are the surprise of the undefeated teams. Their 15.9 OYPP is 13th in the league, and their 18.8 DYPP is 10th. What has helped them is a +3 turnover ratio and have been penalized half as many times as their opponents. They are dancing along the edge. It has been argued in various places that they are two touchdown calls away from being 1-2, but all teams benefit from calls from time to time.

Let's look next at the fifteen teams that have posted 2-1 records in the first three games.

Team
W/L
OYPP
DYPP
Tennessee
2-1
10.9
21.0
Seattle
2-1
11.8
20.2
New England
2-1
12.4
13.9
Green Bay
2-1
13.1
16.6
Philadelphia
2-1
13.3
15.0
New York Jets
2-1
13.4
21.5
Indianapolis
2-1
13.9
18.5
Atlanta
2-1
15.0
22.0
New Orleans
2-1
15.8
18.7
Houston
2-1
15.9
16.2
Cincinnati
2-1
16.7
16.4
Tampa Bay
2-1
17.3
17.0
Arizona
2-1
18.2
14.7
Miami
2-1
18.4
18.3
Baltimore
2-1
20.6
17.9

     These fifteen teams' OYPP range from 11.8 to 20.6. Their DYPP range from 22.0 to 13.9. Ten of the fifteen teams have OYPPs that are lower than their DYPP. Those ten teams appear to be playing solid on both sides of the ball, but not doing as well as the teams in OYPP and DYPP as the three teams with winning records. Of the five teams whose OYPP is higher than their DYPP, three have a difference of 3/10 of a yard or less. This would suggest that these teams are reasonably balanced and most likely will win more than they lose. The other two teams have differences of 3-4 yards between their scores which suggests that currently the defense is most likely carrying the offense. This could be a situation which would see those two teams slide down the ladder in terms of wins and losses.

Our third category is the 1-2 teams. This category, unfortunately includes our Broncos.

Team
W/L
OYPP
DYPP
St. Louis
1-2
15.8
23.1
Washington
1-2
18.2
19.0
San Diego
1-2
19.2
13.4
New York Giants
1-2
20.1
10.8
Oakland
1-2
20.3
10.3
Denver
1-2
20.5
15.4
Jacksonville
1-2
20.8
14.6
Dallas
1-2
21.8
16.9
Minnesota
1-2
22.9
21.8

     These nine teams' OYPP range from 15.8 to 22.9. Their DYPP range from 23.1 to 10.3. Seven of the nine teams have OYPPs that are higher than their DYPP. The two teams with the lower OYPP -- Washington and St. Louis -- have a 0.8 and 7.3 yard per point difference respectively. These are two teams that could easily move up into the .500 range in their records. The other teams have an uphill struggle with their differences ranging roughly from a 1 to 10 yards per point advantage in favor of their opponents. These teams could still move up, they could just as easily drop like rocks.

Our final group is the five teams with 0-3 records.

Team
W/L
OYPP
DYPP
Buffalo
0-3
15.4
12.5
Detroit
0-3
16.2
15.9
Cleveland
0-3
21.0
16.9
Carolina
0-3
24.4
13.4
San Francisco
0-3
24.5
11.3

     These five teams' OYPP range from 15.4 to 24.5. Their DYPP range from 16.9 to 11.3. All of these teams have to record more yards for each point than their opponents. In some cases, the difference is minimal -- as in Detroit's 0.3 yards per point difference. In other cases, it is significant -- as in San Francisco having to travel over twice as far for each point as their opponents. These are teams that will need to see some dramatic changes if they hope to rise out of the cellar.

     Through the first three weeks and across the board, we can see a steady increase in teams' OYPP as their records worsen, and a parallel decrease in their DYPP. This would seem to be an obvious statement: that teams who force their opponents to travel further for each point than they have to travel for each of their own points are more likely to win. The OYPP/DYPP statistics are also leaning in the direction of being more of a measure of complementary football, as opposed to a measure of simply an offense or defense. Which raises, once again the question:

Can an offense or a defense be validly measured/evaluated in isolation from the contributions of the team's other units?



What Does This Mean For The Broncos?

     The Broncos are not going to keep teams from scoring points. Through three games, Denver's defense is giving up an average of 22 points, while the offense is averaging 20 points. The offense is looking unstoppable between the 20s, but is stalling out in the Red Zone. The defense needs to keep on doing what it's shown it can do: make the opposing team fight for yards and points. If the defense eliminates the mental errors that cause penalties, and can become more opportunistic in the take away department, it should be able to continue to hold opponents to an average of three touchdowns. The offense, put simply needs to finish off drives. No-one wants to see a repeat of 2008 where the offense marches up and down the field but fails to put points on the board.

     The two losses have shown us the potential of the offense, but with a dose of reality that demonstrates what will happen when its execution wavers. The win showed us what can happen when the offense is clicking on all cylinders. Here's to hoping that we see more games like Seattle, and fewer like Jacksonville/Indianapolis.

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