FanPost

Playing The Percentages

I’ve read a lot of comments around the web averring that the Broncos are not as good as their record, paper tiger, etc., because of the how soft the schedule was. You’ve read them, too, I imagine. I also have seen quite a few regarding “garbage points.” To one way of thinking, one might say that one man’s “garbage points” are another man’s “valiant comeback.” I wanted to see if I could look at each of the Broncos’ opponents and determine, simply, regardless of outcome, whether the team played well or poorly. An example question this analysis attempts to answer is “Did the Broncos beat the Ravens or did the Broncos beat up the Ravens?” In other words, conceding that a win is a win, I am attempting to see whether the win was “ugly” or “beautiful.” Thirdly, I wanted to see if the “team is gelling,” or “if we play the (fill in the blank) now, we’d cream ‘em,” could be demonstrated with numbers.

Caveat: I am not a stat guy (God bless those of you are, my hat’s off to you), I don’t play one on TV, nor do I wish to be a stat guy when I grow up, although I have been accused of being OCD, but that can’t be true because the letters are all in the wrong order. Understandably, then, I chose to look at percentages largely because they are the easiest to do (Excel will do them for you handily) but also, in a big picture sense, they are a reasonable tool for understanding and, to a degree, prediction. They can be very deceptive, too. To which I say, any deception is not intended. They are simple, I use them because I am simple, at least that’s what everyone says when they think I am out of earshot, but that’s an entirely different post on an entirely different message board.

My Methodology: I looked at the Points For and the Points Against for the Broncos and each of their opponents during the season. I averaged those two ways, first, Going Into the Game, meaning the average points scored/allowed of only the preceding games; and, second, Average for 14 games. I reasoned that the average leading up to the game was indicative of whether a team was hot or cold going in. For example, the Charger team in Week 6 was an entirely different crew, production-wise, than the Charger team in Week 10. The 14 game averages lend the credibility of a greater number of events, but doesn’t take into account the evolving nature of any given team over the course of the season (key injuries, “gelling,” etc.). I then accepted that the average PA and PF was a reasonable expectation for the team’s performance. For example, going into Week 4 (a note: I work off a 16 week schedule, ignoring byes) the Raiders averaged 20.3 PPG scoring, thus it was reasonable to expect them to score about 20 points on the Broncos. The fact that the Raiders scored 6 is therefore a reflection on the Broncos’ defense vis a vis the defenses which the Raiders faced up to that game.

Further, I make no distinction between points scored by the offense, defense, or special teams. By the same token, an opponent’s inability to score because the offense goes on a nine-minute drive is a credit to the defense. Opponents’ pick-sixes are debited to the defense as though the D “allowed” those points although they were innocent. I think they shouldn’t have trusted the offense with the ball at that time, so maybe they are guilty. So there is (at least) one fundamental flaw in this analysis: the O gets all the credit and the D gets all the blame. I’m just too lazy (I prefer the term “busy”) to sift through all of that, so there it is. Also, a lot of data manipulation along the lines of eliminating outliers based on one or two standard deviations, regression analyses, and other actual work was not done nor contemplated for inclusion into the scope of work for longer than the time required to write this sentence.

The Data

This table lists the Opponents in order, the score, the opponent’s average PA/PF going into the game and that of the Broncos.

Game Score

Opp Avg PA/PF

Broncos

Opponent

Broncos

Opp

OPA

OPF

Avg

PF

Avg PA

Steelers

31

19

31

19

Falcons

21

27

24

40

31

19

Texans

25

31

8.5

28.5

26.0

23.0

Raiders

37

6

29.3

20.3

25.7

25.7

Patriots

21

31

23.0

33.5

28.5

20.75

Chargers

35

24

20.4

24.8

27.0

22.8

Saints

34

14

29.3

30.3

28.3

23.0

Bengals

31

23

26.7

23.7

29.1

21.7

Panthers

36

14

22.5

18.6

29.4

21.9

Chargers

30

23

23.2

21.2

30.1

21.0

Chiefs

17

9

28.4

15.2

30.1

21.2

Buccaneers

31

23

25.6

25.6

28.9

20.1

Raiders

26

13

31.3

21.4

29.1

20.3

Ravens

34

17

21.0

25.5

28.8

19.8

This table lists the 14 Game Averages, courtesy of NFL.com. The Broncos are PF 29.2 ppg and PA 19.6 ppg.

14 Game Avg

Opponent

PF

PA

Steelers

21.6

20.8

Falcons

26.5

18.5

Texans

28.1

20

Raiders

18.8

28.7

Patriots

36.1

22.5

Chargers

21.4

22.3

Saints

27.8

27.1

Bengals

25.4

20.9

Panthers

21.1

22.8

Chargers

21.4

22.5

Chiefs

13.9

26.2

Buccaneers

25.3

24.9

Raiders

18.8

28.7

Ravens

24.9

21.9

Now the math begins:

Game Score as %

Game Score as %

of Broncos Avg PF/PA

of Opponent Avg PF/PA

Opponent

Broncos Off

Bronco Def

Opp Off

Opp Def

Steelers

Falcons

68%

142%

68%

88%

Texans

96%

135%

109%

294%

Raiders

144%

23%

30%

126%

Patriots

74%

149%

93%

91%

Chargers

130%

105%

97%

172%

Saints

120%

61%

46%

116%

Bengals

106%

106%

97%

116%

Panthers

123%

64%

75%

160%

Chargers

100%

110%

108%

129%

Chiefs

56%

42%

59%

60%

Buccaneers

107%

114%

90%

121%

Raiders

89%

64%

61%

83%

Ravens

118%

86%

67%

162%

The percentages shown are the game score divided by the average going into the game. For example, against the Panthers, the Broncos scored 123% more points than they had been averaging up to that point and the defense allowed 64% of the points it “normally” allows. The Panthers scored only 75% of the points they averaged to that point and allowed 160% of their average. The Panthers were a weak opponent, part of the Broncos’ “soft schedule.” The Broncos were favored to win, and they did win. What this shows, however, is how serious a thumping the Broncos delivered relative to even the piss-poor performance of the Panthers up to that point. This demonstrates that the Broncos defeated the Panthers more soundly than the Panthers were accustomed to being defeated, and by significant margins.

Note that the relative performance of the Bronco Offense and Defense isn’t steadily improving with time, at least not numerically. For example, the Avg PF has actually dropped over the past four weeks and the relative performance is dropping as well. One could argue that the Bronco Offense peaked going into the Chiefs game and has been sliding since. This might be countered with the argument that in those games, “enough” points were scored, thus allowing a more conservative play-calling and reduced scoring, and the defense to allow “garbage” points. The numbers tell me the former, but my eye tells me the latter.

Game Score as %

Game Score as %

Opp Avg PA/PF

Broncos

of Broncos Avg PF/PA

of Opponent Avg PF/PA

OPA

OPF

Avg PF

Avg PA

Broncos Off

Bronco Def

Opp Off

Opp Def

Losses

22.3

29.7

18.5

34.0

79%

142%

90%

158%

Wins

31.1

16.8

26.3

22.3

99%

71%

66%

113%

Division

29

15

26.5

20.6

104%

69%

71%

114%

Home

31.3

19.3

24.5

24.2

95%

74%

64%

131%

Away

27.6

19.8

24.7

25.3

95%

95%

77%

116%

By grouping and further averaging, some patterns emerge, particularly when the Texan game is considered an outlier. That is to say, the mechanics of the arithmetic make that loss seem far more catastrophic than the game actually was. Going into the game, the Denver D had done a pretty good job of holding down the score, but the Texans got past. That being said, the losses show a drop in the offensive scoring and increase in allowed points as one would expect. However, considering the effect of the Texas game on the averages here, one can see where our losses were not the drubbings that the Broncos have inflicted on others. In fact, although victorious, those opponents performed under expectation on both sides of the ball.

Intra-divisional games have been good performances, raising the results for all wins. The Chiefs game remains the Bronco offense’s worst performance, and, the first Charger game their best. Home and Away games have a difference in relative performance on both sides of the ball as one would expect.

To add the advantage of a larger statistical base, here are the numbers based on 14 games, which allows the inclusion of the Steeler game into the mix, which has turned out to be just an average thrashing of the opponent.

Score as % of Bronco

Score as % of Opp

14 gm Avg PF/PA

Opp 14 game Averages

14 gm Avg PF/PA

Opponent

PF

PA

Avg PF

Avg PA

PF

PA

Steelers

106%

88%

21.6

20.8

88%

149%

Falcons

72%

102%

26.5

18.5

102%

114%

Texans

86%

110%

28.1

20

110%

125%

Raiders

127%

32%

18.8

28.7

32%

129%

Patriots

72%

86%

36.1

22.5

86%

93%

Chargers

120%

112%

21.4

22.3

112%

157%

Saints

116%

50%

27.8

27.1

50%

125%

Bengals

106%

91%

25.4

20.9

91%

148%

Panthers

123%

66%

21.1

22.8

66%

158%

Chargers

103%

107%

21.4

22.5

107%

133%

Chiefs

58%

65%

13.9

26.2

65%

65%

Buccaneers

106%

91%

25.3

24.9

91%

124%

Raiders

89%

69%

18.8

28.7

69%

91%

Ravens

116%

68%

24.9

21.9

68%

155%

By eye, the introduction of the 14 game Average PF/PA does little to change the relationships of the Broncos’ performances in each game.

Assuming the Broncos hang on to the #2 Seed (or better) in the playoffs and looking forward (past the Chiefs and Browns) to the Patriots and Texans, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I thought about looking at the other seeds as well, but inertia got the better of me.

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Game Score

Conditions Used

Den

Opp

Patriots

21

31

Same relative performance to their stats

28

29

Current performance to their stats

26

28

Away performance to their stats

29

23

Home performance to their stats

Texans

23

29

Same relative performance to their stats

23

22

Current performance to their stats

22

20

Away performance to their stats

29

17

Home performance to their stats

One can see the importance of the #2 Seed and hosting the Pats.

Some other observations: Only twice has the defense allowed an opponent to score more than their Average PPG, in those the Broncos are 1-1; in four games the Offense scored fewer points than the opponent typically allowed, in those the Broncos are 2-2, and two were intra-divisional games, lending credence to the “trap game” concern; a four-week trailing average shows the defense getting stingier, but the offense getting softer, a good news/bad news deal; and finally, I cannot for the life of me understand why the NFL ranks offenses by Yards per Game. This may be an indicator, but points are points. Just saying.

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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