## 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.

<!--[if !supportMisalignedColumns]--> <!--[endif]-->
 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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