FanPost

Stacking up the midterm playoff teams: reasons for optimism

This post is an attempt to examine where the Broncos stack up in key areas against the other 11 midseason playoff teams. Some of these teams possibly won't make the playoffs, but the majority of the best teams are likely included in this dozen:

AFC: NE, Bal, Pit, Hou, Ind, Den

NFC: SF, NYG, Chi, Atl, GB, Sea

We're going to be looking at 3 measures to evaluate these teams. Yards per play, Turnovers, and points. I am not a big fan of total yards as a means of evaluating teams. The best passing offense in the league isn't necessarily the one with the most passing yards. I think a better measure is yards per attempt since it answers the question "When I want to pass, am I productive?" So I'm looking at yards per play/attempt.

I'm also comparing each team according to their level of competition. To do so, I average out each teams opponents' stats in each category to get an "expected" number. I then subtract the teams actual production, and the difference is what I'm paying attention to. For example,

Denver's 8 opponents' offenses averaged 6.7 yards per pass attempt this season, so Denver's defense would be expected to give up 6.7 yds per pass attempt if they were average. Our actual number is 5.5 which means we exceeded our expected number by 1.2 yards. Our passing defense therefore is likely better than most of the other defenses our opponents faced.

First we'll look at passing offense.

PASSING OFFENSE

Rank

Expected (yds per att)

Actual Difference

Denver

1

6.6

(7.7) +1.1

New York Giants

2

6.4

(7.2) +0.8

Houston

3

6.4

(7.1) +.7

New England

3

6.2

(6.9) +.7

San Francisco

5

6.1

(6.6) +.5

Atlanta

6

6.6

(7.0) +.4

Green Bay

7

6

(6.3) +.3

Indianapolis

8

6.2

(6.4) +.2

Seattle

8

6

(6.2) +.2

Pittsburgh

10

6.6

(6.6) +.0

Baltimore

11

6.6

(6.4) -.2

Chicago

12

6.5

(5.8) -.7

Denver gains over a yard per pass play more than our opponents' defenses give up on average, best among this group of teams. The teams with the lowest "expected" number logically played the best passing defenses, so Seattle and GB had the hardest schedule in terms of opponents' passing defense. Passing offense is an apparent weakness in Chicago.

Rushing Offense:

RUSHING OFFENSE

Rank

Expected (yds per rush)

Actual Difference

San Francisco

1

4.5

(5.6) +1.1

Baltimore

2

4.2

(4.5) +.3

Seattle

2

4

(4.3) +.3

NY Giants

4

4

(4.2) +.2

Chicago

5

4.3

(4.3) +0

New England

6

4.4

(4.3) -.1

Indianapolis

7

4.1

(3.9) -.2

Denver

8

4.2

(3.9) -.3

Atlanta

8

4.2

(3.9) -.3

Houston

10

4.3

(3.9) -.4

Pittsburgh

11

4.3

(3.9) -.4

Green Bay

12

4.3

(3.8) -.5



Denver is in the bottom half here, under performing what one would expect. SF is significantly better in this area than the rest of the playoff teams. Overall, these 12 teams are better passing teams than running teams which makes sense when you look at the modern NFL. SF though is the class of the group running the ball, and look like a favorite if you believe that to win the SB you need a good defense and a good running game.

The next chart shows the 3 areas that I'm using to determine relative Offense ability. The first column is total yards per play (a combination of both charts above into one category). The number there is the difference between "expected production" and "actual production". The next column is Turnovers, again the difference between expected and actual turnovers. The third column is total points scored per game above or below what you'd expect with that schedule.

TOT OFF

Yards per play

TURNOVERS

TO Differential

PTS FOR

Pts/game

1. SF

0.7

1. GB

6

1. NE

8.6

2. NYG

0.6

2. PIT

6

2. DEN

6.6

3. DEN

0.5

3. HOU

5

3. GB

6.1

4. NE

0.4

4. NE

5

4. NYG

5.8

5. ATL

0.2

5. BAL

5

5. CHI

4.6

5. IND

0.2

6. SF

4

6. HOU

3.9

7. BAL

0.1

7. ATL

4

7. ATL

3

8. HOU

0

8. NYG

1

8. BAL

1.4

9. GB

0

9. SEA

0

8. SF

1.4

10. SEA

0

10. IND

0

10. SEA

-2

11. PIT

-0.2

11. DEN

-2

11. PIT

-2.1

12. CHI

-0.5

12. CHI

-2

12. IND

-3.5

Denver has one achilles heal on offense and that has been turnovers. It's likely the main reason Atlanta is still undefeated. However, I think this is something that will improve as the season progresses. We haven't had trouble moving the ball and have scored about a touchdown more than our opponents normally allow which will win us a lot of games down the stretch.

A couple other observations. GB has had trouble moving the ball but they don't turn the ball over much, which has helped them keep their scoring up. PIT is in the same boat, but they haven't been able to keep their scoring up, for whatever reason. Chicago "pts for" category should have an asterisk next to it because they score on defense so much.

So if we weight the three above areas equally, and we add each teams place in each category together, we get the following offense ranking: (NOTE: lower number is better!) (ALSO NOTE: ranking in this way rewards consistency. It may not be correct that these three areas should be weighted equally.)

1

New England

9

2

Green Bay

13

3

New York Giants

14

4

Denver

16

5

San Francisco

16

6

Houston

17

7

Atlanta

19

8

Baltimore

20

9

Pittsburgh

24

10

Indy

28

11

Chicago

29

12

Seattle

29

If we can hold on to the football better, our offense can be the best in the league. Running the ball better would help too. I'm less confident that will improve unfortunately.

DEFENSE

First we'll look at our rushing defense and passing defense:

Rushing DEF

Expected yd/att

Actual Diff.

Passing DEF

Expected yd/att

Actual Diff.

1. NE

4.3

(3.5) +.8

1. PIT

6.5

(5.3) +1.2

2. SF

4.3

(3.6) +.7

1. DEN

6.7

(5.5) +1.2

3. PIT

4.3

(4.0) +.3

3. SEA

6.3

(5.3) +1.0

4. DEN

3.9

(3.7) +.2

4. SF

6.1

(5.2) +0.9

4. HOU

4.2

(4.0) +.2

4. CHI

6.3

(5.4) +0.9

6. BAL

4.1

(4.0) +.1

6. HOU

6.1

(5.3) +0.8

6. GB

4.1

(4.0) +.1

7. GB

6.1

(5.8) +0.3

8. SEA

4.3

(4.4) -.1

8. ATL

6.6

(6.5) +0.1

9. CHI

4.1

(4.3) -.2

9. BAL

6.3

(6.5) -0.2

9. NYG

4.4

(4.6) -.2

10. NYG

6.7

(7.1) -0.4

11. IND

4.2

(4.8) -.6

11. IND

5.7

(6.6) -0.9

12. ATL

4.1

(4.9) -.8

12. NE

6.1

(7.3) -1.2

Defensively if we have a limitation it's against the run, although we're not bad, holding our opponent slightly below their average. Our passing defense is elite, as we proved against Brees a couple weeks ago. As you can see we had the most difficult schedule in terms of opponents' passing attack of all the playoff teams so we are battle tested. This will pay off down the stretch.

TOT DEF

Yards per play

TURNOVERS

TO Differential

PTS AGAINST

Pts/game

1. PIT

0.8

1. CHI

15

1. SF

9.6

1. DEN

0.8

2. NYG

11

2. HOU

5.6

3. SF

0.7

3. NE

7

3. CHI

5.1

4. HOU

0.5

4. DEN

2

3. SEA

5.1

4. SEA

0.5

5. HOU

1

5. DEN

4.3

6. CHI

0.4

6. ATL

0

6. ATL

3.8

7. GB

0.2

7. GB

-0.2

7. PIT

2.8

8. BAL

0.1

8. BAL

-0.3

8. NYG

1.1

9. ATL

-0.3

8. SEA

-0.3

9. GB

0.9

10. NYG

-0.4

10. SF

-0.4

10. NE

0

11. NE

-0.5

11. PIT

-6

10. BAL

0

12. IND

-0.7

12. IND

-9

12. IND

-2

Teams have a hard time moving the ball against us, as is shown in the first column. We aren't a big takeaway machine like Chicago, but we've played a bunch of teams that don't normally turn the ball over, so we rate ok in that area. We're holding our opponent to 4 less pts per game than they score normally, which is very respectable.

San Fran struggles forcing turnovers, otherwise they have an awesome defense, especially in terms of keeping teams out of the endzone. It's pretty questionable whether Indy has the defense to make the playoffs. Miami might be a better bet. Indy had the easiest schedule of these 12 teams in terms of opponents offense.

1

Chicago

10

1

Denver

10

3

Houston

11

4

San Francisco

14

5

Seattle

15

6

Pittsburgh

19

7

New York Giants

20

8

Atlanta

21

9

Green Bay

23

10

New England

24

11

Baltimore

26

12

Indianapolis

36

I think one could argue that the top 5 teams here are all pretty even. I'm sure some of you will be surprised to see us up with SF and Chicago. Chicago is looking great because of all the takeaways. The question is whether they can keep that up. Takeaways influence pts against, so I think Chicago looks better here than they might be. Denver looks better than I expected they would, but remember that I'm trying to correct for schedule ease/difficulty in this post, and we played a dang tough schedule and really performed well if you stop and look at it.

Our record should be better, and would be better if we'd have taken better care of the ball on offense. Our defense can't be asked to do much better. I really see us as in the top few teams in the league--IF we control our turnover issue. In summary, we are very balanced, probably one of the most balanced teams if you look across all 10 areas I charted here. Our weaknesses on offense are our turnover issues and to a lesser extent our running game. On defense we're pretty darn solid all the way along. It'd be nice to get more takeaways but we keep an opponent pretty clamped down in terms of moving the ball.

TAKE HOME POINT: To win in the modern NFL, you need to be a good passing team. A corollary then, would seem to be that you also need to be able to stop the pass as well. Our front office has positioned us to be the best (or nearly so) in both of these areas this year. This is reason for optimism!

I'll leave you with one last chart. This is adding up the (PTS FOR differential) and (PTS AGAINST differential), to get an overall point differential. If you have any questions please comment. Thanks!

PTS FOR + PTS AGAINST (bigger the better)

1. San Francisco

11.03

2. Denver

10.9

3.Chicago

9.73

4. Houston

9.5

5. New England

8.63

6. Green Bay

7.01

7. New York Giants

6.9

8. Atlanta

6.75

9. Seattle

3.1

10. Baltimore

1.4

11. Pittsburgh

0.65

12. Indianapolis

-5.5

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

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