Broncos stat canvass and Packers preview: yuck

Gloiven, my calculator says that game really, really, really sucked. Anyway, the computers dropped the Broncos from 20th to the range of 25 or so. The offense was again the culprit, and appears to be in free-fall, though the Titans have had an excellent defense this year. The defense did improve by almost all metrics, and now even rates above average by some. Follow me below the fold.

Today I'm incorporating a new computer power ranking, which is the Simple Rating System (SRS). SRS just takes your raw point differentials and adjusts for the point differentials of the teams you played. It doesn't care about wins or losses, but point differential is a better predictor than win/loss record. So the benefits are that it is an extremely simple system, and it can be used to set a quick and dirty point spread.


Overall the news is fairly ugly. The Broncos dropped from 23rd to 25th in VOA (19% below average). However, when the opponent adjustments kick in, I'd anticipate significant improvement. VOA really likes the Broncos' opponents so far. The Titans rate 2nd, the Raiders 10th and the Bengals 11th (yes, seriously). By SRS the broncos are a -1.1, which is marginally better than the Chargers and good for 19th in the NFL.


This is the really bad news. The Broncos offense so far stinks. Their 4.7 yards per play overall is 26th in the NFL, and I won't even bother you with the list of anemic nonsense below them. Both the rushing and passing attack are suffering equally. The 2.8 yards per rush is 29th, ahead of the Lions, 9ers and Titans. Problem is, the Lions and Titans can actually throw. The Broncos are 25th in net yards per pass. The offensive SRS is -4.1.

By both Football Outsider's VOA metric and Brian Burke's WPA/EPA model the passing game has been below average, while the run game has been atrocious. FO rates the passing attack 25th (.8% below average--note there has been a league-wide passing explosion this fall) while the running game is 27th but a whopping 28% below average. Note that it's been a rough year for name running backs: FO has McGahee as the 4th worst with more than 23 carries. The other guys in the bottom 5: Mendenhall, Johnson, Bush and Gore.

 By WPA/EPA, the passing game is doing OK, rating 20th with 6.3 EPA. It's the running game that's wiping out all this and more, with a 26th rated -11.6 EPA. Both have negative numbers in WPA (though the running game's is a lot more negative). I think this is something of a double-edged sword, however. Losing a couple of close games can give you really bad WPA numbers that might not indicate anything. Win a back and forth thriller at any point in the next few weeks and the offense could be back in the WPA black while still not being particularly good.

All in all, the offense is a fair bit worse than last year. Last year it rated between 8 and 15 in basically every system. That said, the systems are also very high on both the Titans and Bengals defenses, so hopefully we will see some turnaround in the next couple of weeks.


Well, the defensive picture is much better than the offensive one. Despite a ton of key injuries, the defense has bounced up toward above average. SRS has the defense at +3.0, and it is allowing a respectable 5.4 yards/play (13th in the NFL). Interestingly, both the rush and pass offenses are slightly above average, despite the pass defense ranking 20th in the NFL (several teams like the Patriots are allowing a lot of yards through the air).

The picture of a stout rushing defense is born out by other metrics. It ranks 9th by Football Outsiders (19.9% above average) while the pass defense leaves some to be desired (29th, 32.7% below average). Of course the Broncos are not the only team to be victimized by Hasselbeck's surprising resurgence. Andy Dalton, on the other hand... yeesh. A look at the receiver breakdowns indicates massive, massive problems with #2 pass catchers. The 38% below average number is just screaming for Champ to get back so they stop picking on Cassius Vaughn. The numbers are not nearly as bad for TEs and #3 WRs, which was somewhat surprising to me.

The WPA/EPA numbers show the defense is "making plays" at good times. The .7 EPA is just below average, but the -.12 WPA is 10th in the NFL! Good job defense! The defensive numbers are a bit all over the map, but indicate that they are doing a fairly good job at the moment. The FO numbers should get even better once the opponent adjustments are factored in, since both the Titans and Raiders are top 10 offenses at this point.

Finally hat tip to the special teams, which rates 8th by FO's rankings. Go Colquitt, Prater and Cosby!

The Green Bay Packers

Possibly the best bit of surprising news is that the Packers appear to be a bit overrated, if the computers know anything. Yes, their offense is basically unstoppable, so I won't go into that. But looking at their defensive numbers paints an interesting picture. Green Bay sports a -2.8 defensive SRS. They rate 17th in defense by Football Outsiders, and a pedestrian 22nd vs. the pass (24% below average). Because of this defensive weakness, they rank 8th in FO's overall efficiency and 7th in SRS. Their wins against an average Chicago team and a bad Carolina team were not particularly impressive, but I think they are getting a fair bump from being the Super Bowl champs and starting 3-0. That's why they are 13 point favorites vs. the Broncos (this is pretty far off the line that SRS would set, which is more like -11).

But looking at the numbers, even though the Broncos are deserved 'dogs, I think this game will be on the fringes of being competitive. I see the passing game getting on track here, but the Broncos losing 34-24.

This is a Fan-Created Comment on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff of MHR

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