Houston @ Denver Statistical Preview

Each week, I preview the Game of the Week (GOTW) with 7 of the most important statistics in football that do a great job describing why teams win or lose. Here is a list of these 7 stats:

  1. QB Rating (QBR): Simply put, teams that have more efficient and effective QBs win over 80 percent of the time. This measures QB fumbles, rushing yards and touchdowns and the impact of QB turnovers.
  2. Yards Per Touchdown (Y/TD): Teams score more frequently when they great field position and don't have to travel as far. This also measures those offenses that gain a lot of yards but kick field goals instead of scoring TDs.
  3. Plays Per Touchdown (P/TD): Like Y/TD, this stat measures offensive efficiency over volume numbers, with one benefit. Atlanta only needed to gain 1 yard to score a TD against Denver on their first drive, but it took them 3 plays to gain that yard. Teams that gain yards at a more explosive rate rank higher in this stat.
  4. Yards Per Attempt (YPA): This stat measures the total yards / total QB plays, including rush totals and yards lost to sacks. This helps study QBs like Newton, RG3 and even Rodgers who run often and have great rushing totals.
  5. Negative Plays (NP): Simply put, turnovers and sacks are not the only important plays on defense. While sacks are included here, Tackles For Loss (TFL) and QB hits are as well. This is a great way to measure the front-seven and offensive line for each team.
  6. 3rd/4th Down Conversions (3DC): Denver fans know all too well how important it is to get off on 3rd down after great performances on 1st and 2nd down. These downs sometimes make all the difference between winning and losing in a close game.
  7. Scoring (PPG): This measures only the points scored by the offense or allowed by the defense. I do not include the secondary points (defensive and special teams scoring) because these are usually random, like turnovers.

While one or two of these stats may not tell the whole picture by themselves, they are great when used together to see that bigger picture. You can view these and other stats on my website at

I wanted to give a brief summary of what these stats are before I break down the game. Onto the charts after the jump.

Houston's Offense vs. Denver's Defense

Stat Houston's Off NFL Rk Denver's Def NFL Rk Adv.
QB Rating 74.0 16th 70.9 15th Denver
Yards Per Touchdown 91.9 7th 85.1 31st Houston
Plays Per Touchdown 18.5 11th 20.7 18th Houston
Yards Per Attempt 6.16 26th 4.89 5th Denver
Negative Plays 23.7 29th 23.2 4th Denver
3rd/4th Downs 45.7 9th 50.0 28th Houston
Scoring 28.5 6th 23.0 18th(t) Houston

Houston's Defense vs. Denver's Offense

Stat Houston's Def NFL Rk Denver's Off NFL Rk Adv.
QB Rating 3.9 1st 72.5 17th Houston
Yards Per Touchdown 274.4 1st 104.2 13th Houston
Plays Per Touchdown 67.2 1st 19.0 14th Houston
Yards Per Attempt 3.76 1st 6.79 15th Houston
Negative Plays 15.4 17th 14.5 13th Denver
3rd/4th Downs 9.1 1st 45.5 10th Houston
Scoring 5.0 1st 22.5 15th(t) Houston


Before I begin, I want to make three points that are very important when using stats:

  1. These stats are very descriptive, but it still takes about 4 games (16 quarters) for them to settle into totals that will be similar to the season totals, meaning their predictive ability is not great at the moment.
  2. These stats are of two games only, so the opponents are much more important now than they are in week 7 or 8 and beyond.
  3. Finally, despite the fact that stats might be overblown because of the level of competition (good or bad) they are still measuring what has occurred and shouldn't be ignored.

This game features Houston, a statistical juggernaut, against Denver, who has played two playoff teams and will be at home.

It is important to note that Denver is 1 of only 7 teams to face Quality Opponents (QO) in each of their first 2 games. 5 of them are 1-1, while San Francisco is the only 2-0 team and Tennessee is the only 0-2 team. Houston is 1 of 9 teams that have not faced a QO yet.

When Houston is on offense, they have 2 significant advantages. The first is their ability to convert 3rd downs while Denver's defense struggles on 3rd down. The second is offensive efficiency. Even if Houston doesn't have a great offense as far as yards are concerned, they have been very good at scoring when they have a short field.

Denver holds the 2 most important advantages, defending the pass and negative plays. Despite some mental lapses in the first two games, Denver has held two very good QBs to a mediocre QBR and a very low YPA average. Part of this is a result of Denver's better-than-expected run defense. Denver is allowing 71.0 YPG (7th) at 2.6 Y/C (2nd-t). Denver also has recorded 11 TFL (6th-t). While this is against two mediocre running teams, this is a huge improvement over last season.

They key to this game is the same as the last game - Negative Plays. Denver dominated in week one against Pittsburgh's offensive line, but struggled some against Atlanta. This is where Dumervil, Miller, Wolfe and the rest of the defense will make or break this game. If Houston avoids the negative runs, getting pressure on the quarterback will be much more difficult.

When Denver is on offense, the numbers say they are going to be overwhelmed by the best defense in the NFL through two weeks. The NP stat will be crucial here as well, which is Denver's only advantage statistically. The offensive line has performed well through 2 games and they will need to do the same here at home against a very active front-seven.

What is interesting about Denver on offense is statistically speaking they are good-to-average in all 7 categories. Their highest ranking is 10th and their lowest is 17th. With a tough first quarter against Atlanta, it took some time to get everything going without the mental mistakes. Unfortunately, Denver also started slowly in game one as well. The key for Denver in this game might be their 1st quarter, which could set the tone for the entire game.

This is a tough game where Denver appears to be playing against a superior team. They are at home so that negates some of the statistical domination by Houston. Houston also hasn't faced a QO yet this season, compared to Denver's 2 QOs. I actually feel better about this game against a better opponent than last week, considering Atlanta always plays well at home (27-4 I believe) compared to a pedestrian .500 record on road since Matt Ryan was drafted.

Denver will have a tough time, but if they can avoid the unforced errors in the first half, they should be able to pull this one out and surprise a few people. Likely scores are 24-21, 24-20, 23-17 and others near them.

I picked Atlanta last week and was correct, unfortunately. Hopefully this is a much better game by the Denver offense, especially in the first quarter.

Since there is no poll, feel free to critique or add to my analysis. I will be busy working and will be on the road for almost the entire game. Hope all of you enjoy the game.

As always, Go Broncos!

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

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