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What it takes to be a top 10 NFL Offense/Defense: Broncos prognostications and projections for the 2012 season

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Hey Broncos fans, how you doin? Training Camp is almost upon us and I have a bold predection for next season that I want to share with everyone. Our Broncos WILL be both a top 10 Offense and top 10 defense next year. Why do I make such proclomations you ask? Because that is what it will take to be a serious contender in 2012. SIKE! Look at the rankings from last years' playoff teams, not one of them had both a top 10 Offense and Defense:

Team Result Off/YPG Off/PPG Off/PYG Off/RYG Def/YPG Def/PPG Def/PYG Def/RYG
NYG SB, W 8TH 9TH 5TH 32ND 27TH 25TH 29TH 19TH
NE SB, L 2ND 3RD 2ND 20TH 31ST 15TH 31ST 17TH
BAL AFC, L 15TH 12TH 19TH 10TH 3RD 3RD 4TH 2ND
SF NFC, L 26TH 11TH 29TH 8TH 4TH 2ND 16TH 1ST
DEN DIV, L 23RD 25TH 31ST 1ST 20TH 24TH 18TH 22ND
HOU DIV, L 13TH 10TH 18TH 2ND 2ND 4TH 3RD 4TH
GB DIV, L 3RD 1ST 3RD 27TH 32ND 19TH 32ND 14TH
NO DIV, L 1ST 2ND 1ST 6TH 24TH 13TH 30TH 12TH
PIT WC, L 12TH 22ND 10TH 14TH 1ST 1ST 1ST 8TH
CIN WC, L 20TH 18TH 20TH 19TH 7TH 9TH 9TH 10TH
ATL WC, L 10TH 7TH 8TH 17TH 12TH 18TH 20TH 6TH
DET WC, L 5TH 4TH 4TH 29TH 23RD 23TH 22ND 23RD

So why do I say that's what it will take? Honestly, I want our team to make the playoffs with as few glaring weaknesses as possible. For the most part, playoff teams last year and historically have been really good on one side of the ball. So what happens if you're a top offense like NE, NO, GB but leak like sieve on the defensive side of the ball and vice versa? All it takes is meeting one team that can limit your strength and exploit your weakness to win the game. Also, seeing how the Broncos jettisoned Tebow for Manning tells me they want to be vastly more explosive offensively, and Jack Del Rio has already stated the goal is to have a top 10 defense. These should be the goals, we should have a tough team on both sides of the ball. Will it happen? Maybe, maybe not, who knows. But I'm going to educate you on what it takes to reach those heights offensively and defensively, and I'm going to analyze what sort of improvement it will take to get there. Let's Start with Offensive and Defensive Rankings over the last 5 years. Gonna hit you with a lot of info so hang on!

For each of these tables, I included all top 10 teams from the last 3 years, and the 1st and 10th team from 2007-2008 to give us a general range. Should be easy to read, left to right the NFL's Top 10 defenses in Points, Yards, Passing Yards, and Rushing Yards respectively:

Team PTS A/G Team YDS A/G Team P YDS A/G Team YDS AVG/G
PIT/08 223 13.9 PIT/08 3795 237.2 NYJ/09 2459 153.7 PIT/10 1004 62.8
PIT/11 227 14.2 NYJ/09 4037 252.3 PIT/08 2511 156.9 MIN/07 1185 74.1
SF/11 229 14.3 PIT/07 4262 266.4 TB/07 2728 170.5 MIN/08 1230 76.9
PIT/10 232 14.5 SD/10 4345 271.6 PIT/11 2751 171.9 SF/11 1236 77.3
NYJ/09 236 14.8 PIT/11 4348 271.8 SD/10 2845 177.8 GB/09 1333 83.3
GB/10 240 15.0 PIT/10 4429 276.8 BUF/09 2949 184.3 MIN/09 1394 87.1
DAL/09 250 15.6 GB/09 4551 284.4 CLE/11 2959 184.9 PIT/09 1438 89.9
BAL/09 261 16.3 HOU/11 4571 285.7 DEN/09 2981 186.3 CHI/10 1441 90.1
IND/07 262 16.3 BAL/11 4622 288.9 OAK/10 3027 189.2 DAL/09 1448 90.5
BAL/11 266 16.6 NYJ/10 4664 291.5 HOU/11 3035 189.7 NYJ/10 1454 90.9
BAL/10 270 16.9 BAL/09 4808 300.5 CAR/09 3056 191.0 BAL/11 1482 96.2
HOU/11 278 17.4 CIN/09 4822 301.4 BUF/10 3072 192.0 BAL/09 1492 93.3
SF/09 281 17.6 PIT/09 4885 305.5 NO/10 3103 193.9 SD/10 1500 93.8
NE/09 285 17.8 MIN/09 4888 305.6 GB/10 3107 194.2 BAL/10 1503 93.9
CHI/10 286 17.9 NO/10 4900 306.3 BAL/11 3140 196.3 MIA/11 1530 95.6
ATL/10 288 18.0 SF/11 4931 308.2 TEN/07 3187 199.2 HOU/11 1536 96.0
CIN/09 291 18.2 NE/08 4944 309.0 NYJ/10 3210 200.6 CHI/11 1542 96.4
GB/10 297 18.6 GB/10 4945 309.1 NYJ/11 3216 201.0 SF/10 1547 96.7
IND/11 298 18.6 MIA/10 4949 309.1 TB/10 3216 201.0 ATL/11 1552 97.0
NYJ/10 304 19.0 NYG/10 4972 310.8 GB/09 3218 201.1 SF/09 1552 97.0
JAX/07 304 19.0 PHI/07 4982 311.4 KC/11 3221 201.3 NE/07 1572 98.3
CHI/11 307 19.2 NYJ/11 4993 312.1 OAK/08 3220 201.3 CIN/09 1573 98.3
NO/10 307 19.2 MIN/10 5002 312.6 CIN/09 3249 203.1 NYJ/09 1578 98.6
IND/09 307 19.2 JAX/11 5008 313.0 STL/11 3301 206.3 DAL/11 1585 99.1
CAR/09 308 19.3 CHI/10 5029 314.3 OAK/09 3303 206.4 PIT/11 1597 99.8
NE/09 309 19.3 DEN/09 5040 315.0 WAS/09 3316 207.3 MIA/10 1601 100.1
MIN/09 312 19.5 CAR/09 5053 315.8 BAL/09 3316 207.3 NYG/10 1620 101.3
MIA/11 313 19.6 DAL/09 5054 315.9 TB/09 3318 207.4 MIA/08 1620 101.3
NE/10 313 19.6 CIN/11 5060 316.3 JAX/11 3341 208.8 MIN/10 1635 102.2
TEN/11 317 19.8 BAL/10 5102 318.9 MIA/10 3348 209.3 JAX/11 1667 104.2
SD/10 322 20.1 WAS/09 5115 319.7 NYG/10 3352 209.5 CIN/11 1675 104.7
CIN/11 323 20.2 PHI/11 5198 324.9 MIN/10 3367 210.4 PHI/09 1675 104.7
TB/08 323 20.2 SEA/11 5315 332.2 CIN/11 3385 211.6 ATL/10 1694 105.9
PHI/11 328 20.5 CLE/11 5318 332.4 PHI/11 3397 212.3 ATL/09 1709 106.8

Now, all the information is there and it is cool to have for future reference, but don't get caught up on a big table full of numbers and data, here's what it boils down to:

- Being a Top 10 Defense in points means giving up 14-20 PPG.

- Being a Top 10 Defense in overall yardage means allowing 237-332 YPG.

- Being a Top 10 Passing Defense means allowing 154-212 YPG.

- Being a Top 10 Rushing Defense means allowing 63-107 YPG.

Now let's move on to the Offensive side of the ball, same type of chart here:

Team PTS A/G TEAM YDS A/G TEAM P YDS A/G TEAM R YDS A/G
NE/07 589 36.8 NO/11 7474 467.1 NO/11 5347 334.2 NYJ/09 2756 172.3
GB/11 560 35.0 NE/11 6848 428.0 NE/11 5048 317.8 MIN/07 2634 164.6
NO/11 547 34.2 NE/07 6580 411.3 NO/08 4977 311.1 DEN/11 2632 164.5
NE/11 523 32.7 NO/08 6571 311.1 GB/11 4924 307.8 KC/10 2627 164.2
NE/10 518 32.4 GB/11 6482 405.1 DET/11 4814 300.9 TEN/09 2592 162.0
NO/09 510 31.9 NO/09 6461 403.8 NYG/11 4734 295.9 NYG/08 2518 157.4
DET/11 474 29.6 DAL/09 6390 399.4 NE/07 4731 295.7 CAR/09 2498 156.1
MIN/09 470 29.4 PHI/11 6386 399.1 HOU/09 4654 290.9 OAK/10 2494 155.9
NO/08 463 28.9 NE/09 6357 397.3 IND/10 4609 288.1 HOU/11 2448 153.0
GB/09 461 28.8 DET/11 6337 396.1 SD/10 4519 282.4 CAR/11 2408 150.5
SD/09 454 28.4 SD/10 6329 395.6 IND/09 4515 282.2 JAX/10 2395 149.7
SD/10 441 27.6 SD/11 6290 276.6 NO/10 4441 277.6 NYJ/10 2374 148.4
PHI/10 439 27.5 CAR/11 6237 389.8 NE/09 4436 277.3 PHI/10 2324 145.3
IND/10 435 27.2 PHI/10 6230 389.4 SD/11 4426 276.6 MIN/11 2318 144.9
PHI/09 429 26.8 HOU/10 6186 386.6 NO/09 4355 272.2 PHI/11 2276 142.3
NE/09 427 26.7 NYG/11 6161 385.1 SD/09 4338 271.1 MIA/09 2231 139.4
IND/09 416 26.0 HOU/09 6129 383.1 DAL/09 4287 267.9 NYG/10 2200 137.5
ATL/10 414 25.9 IND/10 6092 380.8 DAL/11 4201 262.6 BAL/09 2200 137.5
OAK/10 410 25.6 NYG/10 6085 380.3 ATL/11 4192 262.0 NO/11 2127 132.9
SD/11 406 25.4 MIN/09 6074 379.6 GB/09 4180 261.3 OAK/11 2110 131.9
CAR/11 406 25.4 OAK/11 6072 379.5 MIN/09 3156 259.8 NO/09 2106 131.6
ATL/11 402 25.1 GB/09 6065 379.1 PIT/09 4148 259.3 DAL/09 2103 131.4
NYG/09 402 25.1 ATL/11 6026 376.6 HOU/10 4144 259.0 CLE/09 2087 130.4
PHI/11 396 24.8 NO/10 5960 372.5 GB/10 4124 257.8 CIN/09 2056 128.5
NYG/11 394 24.6 PIT/09 5941 371.3 PHI/11 4110 256.9 SF/11 2044 127.8
DAL/10 394 24.6 NYG/09 5856 366.0 PHI/09 4089 255.6 HOU/10 2042 127.6
NYG/10 394 24.6 DAL/10 5828 364.3 PIT/11 4054 253.4 JAX/09 2029 126.8
SEA/07 393 24.6 NE/10 5820 363.8 DAL/10 4042 252.6 CHI/11 2015 125.9
BAL/09 391 24.4 IND/09 5809 363.1 DEN/10 4038 252.4 TB/10 2001 125.1
ATL/08 391 24.4 SD/09 5761 360.1 WAS/10 3913 244.6 BAL/11 1996 124.8
HOU/10 390 24.4 GB/10 5730 358.1 PHI/10 3906 244.1 OAK/08 1987 124.2
GB/10 388 24.3 OAK/10 5674 354.6 NYG/10 3885 242.8 NE/10 1973 123.3
HOU/09 388 24.3 CAR/08 5595 349.7 PHI/07 3755 234.7 MIN/10 1942 121.4
HOU/11 381 23.8 CIN/07 5568 348.0 MIA/08 3632 227.0 CLE/07 1895 118.4

- Being a Top 10 Offense in Points means scoring 24-37 PPG.

- Being a Top 10 Offense in Yards means gaining 348-467 YPG.

- Being a Top 10 Passing Offense means gaining 227-334 YPG.

- Being a Top 10 Rushing Offense means gaining 118-172 YPG.

So how have our Broncos fared the past 5 years in all the categories, offensively and defensively? Reading top to bottom Points, Total Yards, Passing Yards, Rushing Yards

Broncos Defense 2007-2011

Broncos PTS AVG/G Rank Top 10 AVG/G DIFF/G
‘07 409 25.6 28th 19.0-16.3 -6.6
‘08 448 28.0 30th 20.2-13.9 -7.8
‘09 324 20.3 12th 19.5-14.8 -0.8
‘10 471 29.4 32nd 20.1-14.5 -9.3
‘11 390 24.3 24th 20.5-14.2 -3.8
Broncos YDS AVG/G RANK Top 10 AVG/G DIFF/G
07’ 5376 336.0 19th 311.4-266.4 -24.6
08’ 5993 374.6 29th 309.4-237.2 -65.2
09’ 5040 315.0 7th 319.7-252.3 +4.7
10’ 6253 390.8 32nd 318.9-271.6 -71.9
11’ 5725 357.8 20th 332.4-271.8 -25.4
Broncos YDS AVG/G RANK Top 10 AVG/G DIFF/G
07’ 3094 193.4 7th 199.2-170.5 +5.8
08’ 3656 228.5 26th 201.3-156.9 -27.2
09’ 2981 186.3 3rd 207.4-153.7 +21.1
10’ 3780 236.3 25th 210.4-177.8 -25.9
11’ 3704 235.1 18th 212.3-171.9 -22.8
Broncos YDS AVG/G Rank Top 10 AVG/G DIFF
‘07 2282 142.6 30th 98.3-74.1 -44.3
‘08 2337 146.1 27th 101.3-76.9 -44.8
‘09 2059 128.7 26th 106.8-83.3 -21.9
‘10 2473 154.6 31st 105.8-62.8 -49.8
‘11 2021 126.3 22nd 104.7-77.3 -21.6

The Broncos have struggled often in all categories defensively the last 5 years. Their highest ranking in points was 12th, yards was 7th, passing yards 7th and 3rd, and rushing defense 22nd. 2010 really sucked....thank you very much McDaniels/Wink. How have our offensive numbers fared during that same time?

Broncos Offense 2007-2011

Broncos PTS AVG/G RANK Top 10 AVG/G DIFF
07’ 320 20.0 21st 24.6-36.8 -4.6
08’ 370 23.1 16th 24.4-28.9 -1.3
09’ 326 20.4 20th 24.3-31.9 -3.9
10’ 344 21.5 19th 24.3-32.4 -2.8
11’ 309 19.3 25th 23.8-35.0 -4.5
Broncos YDS AVG/G RANK Top 10 AVG/G DIFF
07’ 5541 364.3 11th 348.0-411.3 -23.7
08’ 6333 395.8 2nd 349.7-410.7 +46.1
09’ 5463 341.4 15th 363.1-403.8 -21.7
10’ 5582 348.9 13th 354.6-395.6 -5.7
11’ 5066 316.6 23rd 376.6-476.1 -60.0
Broncos YDS AVG/G RANK Top10 AVG/G DIFF
07’ 3584 224.0 13th 234.7-295.7 -10.7
08’ 4471 279.4 3rd 227.0-311.1 +52.4
09’ 3627 226.7 13th 255.6-290.8 -28.9
10’ 4038 252.4 7th 242.8-288.1 +9.6
11’ 2434 152.1 31st 253.4-334.2 -101.3
Broncos YDS AVG/G RANK Top10 AVG/G DIFF
07’ 1957 122.3 9th 118.4-164.6 +3.9
08’ 1862 116.4 12th 124.2-157.4 -7.8
09’ 1836 114.8 18th 126.8-172.3 -12.0
10’ 1544 96.5 26th 121.4-164.2 -24.9
11’ 2632 164.5 1st 124.8-164.5 +39.7

Our offense has never ranked higher than 20th in points with last year being the worst out of the 5 years. We've fared better yardage wise over the same time with '08 being the highest ranking at 2nd. We were pretty good through the air in '08 and 10' and last year was atrocious as we all know. The running game up until last year really sputtered along decreasing bit by bit from 2007-2010. Before I get into specific projections for our Broncos, I wanted to examine how many teams made it in each category, offense and defense by year. This should give us some more framework to go off of. Again the four main categories used are points, yards, passing yards, and rushing yards.

NFL Defensive Averages, 2007-2011

Year Top 10 1/4 Top 10 4/4 Top 10 3/4 Top 10 Y/PTS
2007 21, 65.6% 3, 9.3% 6, 18.8% 6, 18.8%
2008 17, 53.1% 6, 18.8% 7, 21.2% 8, 25%
2009 18, 56.3% 3, 9.3% 6, 18.8% 7, 54%
2010 18, 65.6% 2, 6.2% 11, 34.3% 7, 21.2%
2011 17, 53.1% 4, 12.5% 8, 25% 8, 25%
Averages 56.8% 11.2% 23.8% 22.5%

It isn't difficult to make it into the top 10 in at least one of the four defensive categories as more than half the teams (56.8%) have managed to do so. The most exclusive club is top 10 in all 4 categories at 11.2%. Being top 10 in 3/4 categories OR top 10 IN BOTH yardage and points are about equal with nearly a quarter of the teams (say 7-8) meeting those requirements each year. For Offense the numbers are similar:

NFL Offensive Averages, 2007-2011

Year Top 10 1/4 Top 10 4/4 Top 10 3/4 Top 10 Y/PTS
2007 20, 62.5 0, 0.0% 6, 18.7 6, 18.7%
2008 21, 65.6 0, 0.0% 7, 21.8% 7, 21.8%
2009 19, 59.3% 1, 3.1% 7, 21.8% 8, 25.0%
2010 17, 53.1% 3, 9.3% 9, 28.1% 5, 15.6%
2011 18, 56.2% 2, 6.2% 8, 25% 9, 28.1%
Averages 59.3% 3.7% 23.1% 21.8%

60% of NFL Offenses made the top 10 in at least one category. Notice that very few teams have been able to rank top 10 in all four categories. This is indicative of how pass happy the NFL has become. Again, almost a quarter of the teams (7-8) have been able to make it top 10 in 3/4 catories or in points and yards.

Projections for our Broncos Defense

Coming from last year we ranked:

24th in overall points--this was an improvement from 32nd in 2010.

20th in overall yards---this was an improvement from 32nd in 2010.

18th in passing defense---this was an improvement from 25th in 2010.

22nd in rushing defense---this was an improvement from 31st in 2010.

Let's have our benchmark be that the Broncos defense will be a top 10 team in points and yards and go from there. That would mean giving up between 14-20 ppg and 240 and 330 yards per game. Since most of our defensive upgrades have come in the secondary and pass rushing areas, here is what next season WILL look like in order to be successful:

Points: 305 overall, 19.1 PPG, ranked 8th in the league

Yards: 5250 overall, 328.1 YPG, ranked 9th in the league

Passing: 3400 overall, 212.5 YPG, ranked 10th in the league

Rushing: 1850 overall, 115.6 YPG, ranked 17th in the league

Basically the most daunting task means shaving off close to 85 points allowed, from there they would have to shave close to 30 YPG overall, and 20 YPG in the air, and 10 ypg on the ground. I'm definitely glad to have someone like Del Rio paired with Fox because we are going to need some serious strategy and coaching from the both of them.

Projections for our Broncos Offense

Coming from last year we ranked:

25th in overall points---this was a regression from 19th in 2010.

23rd in overall yards---this was a regression from 13th in 2010.

31st in passing offense---this was a regression from 7th in 2010.

1st in rushing offense---this was an improvement from 26th in 2010.

We have to account for a few things before making offensive projections. With Tebow gone and Manning here, our offense will have more emphasis on the passing game and less on the running game. We will most likely not be a top 10 team rushing the ball---I still think it is possible to remain in the top 15 though.

Our Benchmarks offensively will be to have a top 10 offense in yards and points. This would mean scoring between 24-35 ppg, gaining 350-410 ypg, and passing for 230-320 ypg, and rushing for about 110 ypg. This is what that would look like:

Points: 390 overall, 24.3 PPG, ranked 10th in the league

Yards: 5825 overall, 364.0 per game, ranked 10th in the league

Passing offense: 3900 overall, 244 per game, ranked 14th in the league

Rushing offense: 1925 overall, 120 per game, ranked 14th in the league

Why not go for top 10 passing offense with PFM? Honestly, I don't think all the pressure needs to be on him and it might take our offense a bit to work up to full speed. This way, even though the rushing offense drops off, it still remains effective and takes some of the load off of the passing game. Ultimately, both should work together. It also means that our RB's don't have such a huge hole to fill with Tebow gone. If McGahee can give us 1100-1200 yards and our backups can combine for 8-900 yards, there it is. Last year our rushing breakdown was as follows:

McGahee: 1199

Tebow: 660

Ball: 402

Moreno/Johnson: 256

Gaining 1900 yards on the ground will be imperative for the success of our offense and I hope we see the running game remain a big part of the gameplan even with Peyton.

To sum up my research and thoughts, it is best to shoot for being a top 10 offense and defense in both overall yardage and points. Going forward, I think our Broncos can accomplish this goal. Keep a look out for a post similar to this where I evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of our 2012 opponents. There's a lot of data here and that's part of the point of me including it---we can all see it. So let's debate MHR, what are the areas you think our Broncos can attain a top 10 ranking?

Big props to ESPN GO for the stats, click on the categories and it re-ranks the teams---very helpful and easy to gather info.

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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