Heading into Week 5 at Dallas, Denver has put up historic numbers through four games on the offensive side of the ball. Unfortunately, the defense has been deemed "mediocre" by some and "poor" by others. We don't know the exact impact Von Miller and Champ Bailey will make on the defense once they return, but I imagine it will help a lot. How much, though? We will have to wait and see.
I usually wait until after Week 4 to make any claims about how good or bad a unit is for any team because this is when I have enough information. In statistics, in general, 15 data points of a sample are required to get a general idea one way or another. In this case, we have 16 quarters of football, which is good enough.
Sure, Arizona went 4-0 last season only to go 1-11 the rest of the way, but their defense was very good the whole year. They simply won games they would not have after the offense completely fell off the map. The offense was still pretty pedestrian in games 1-4, they simply didn't make enough mistakes to lose games. That changed week 5.
I will give a quick summary of some of the most important stats and how Denver has fared in comparison to the rest of the NFL. You can check out my website at www.queuestats.com to view all of the tables so far.
This should come as no surprise - Manning has a QBR of 160.2, according to the rating I created, which is good enough for 1st place. Currently, Matt Cassel is ranked 2nd in the NFL with a QBR of 147.2, but he has only played one game so far. The next QB who has played each game this season is Philip Rivers (yes, its true) who has a QBR of 131.4.
These two have separated themselves from the rest of the NFL, but Manning is playing at a ridiculous rate right now. There are 8 QBs in the NFL with a rating of at least 100, including our next opponent, Tony Romo for Dallas. After a full season, only 2 QBs from 2012 had a rating over 100, so expect these numbers to drop for everyone as the season progresses.
Defensive QBR and Net QBR
Anyone who says Denver's defense is not very good should look at their defensive QBR, which is 69.1, good enough for 14th in the NFL. It may not be as dynamic as it was last year, where the defense had a QBR of 48.0 (low numbers are good for the defense). Still, a sub-70 QBR is pretty good considering Von, Champ and Doom haven't played a down all season for Denver.
As a result, Denver is first in Net QBR with a +91.1 rating. To put that in perspective, Denver's QB and defense are getting a higher QB differential than 21 teams' QBR for the offense all by itself. The rest of the top 5 in Net QBR excluding Minnesota, in order, are: New Orleans (2nd, 4-0), Indianapolis (4th, 3-1), Seattle (5th, 4-0) and Kansas City (6th, 4-0).
Note: I use Cassel's QBR for Minnesota because there is no point in using Ponder's QBR in the rating if he isn't playing.
Points Per Possession
This is a simple formula that functions just like the stat for the NBA that takes into account pace. Some teams have more possessions, meaning they can score more points and allow more points. This takes the points scored for the offense and allowed by the defense and divides it by the total number of possessions that qualify as a possession. Kneeling before halftime on your own 20 yard line with 25 seconds remaining doesn't count as a possession.
No surprise, Denver's offense is scoring at a tremendous rate. At 3.36 pts/poss, Denver has a huge lead over the 2nd ranked offense (IND - 2.58). The rest of the top 5 are CAR (3rd, 2.34), NO (4th, 2.30) and GB (5th, 2.28).
Defensively, Denver comes in 21st, with a score of 1.86 pts/poss. This is a huge drop from their 2nd-placed ranking last year, with a score of 1.22 pts/poss. Still, we all can wait and see how the defense performs once Miller returns. There is no guarantee, though, that he will be ready to play the same level in Week 7 as he has for the previous two years. The good news is the defense has played well when it has needed to.
Denver ranks 2nd in the NFL in Net Pts/Poss with a differential of +1.50. Only IND has a greater differential with a score of +1.53. The rest of the top 5 are SEA (3rd, +1.30), NO (4th, +1.18) and KC (5th, +1.16).
I had to redo the numbers because ESPN's stat sheet uses numbers to measure the same play. For instance, a sack is usually marked down as a hit as well, even though it is just one play. Some sacks are measured as tackles for loss (TFLs), while others are not. Therefore, this stat is an approximation. I can't guarantee its accuracy 100% because of how QB hits are recorded. Sacks and TFLs are accurate. However, it still comes very close.
The 3 plays measured are sacks, TFLs and QB hits, with hits counting as 0.75 of a point while sacks and TFLs measure as a full point. These scores are a percentage of the total number of plays by an offense or defense.
Denver ranks 2nd in the NFL on offense with a score of 6.52. Only San Diego has a better score with a rating of 5.26. The rest of the top 5 are: DAL (3rd, 8.06), KC (4th, 8.33), and CAR (5th, 8.63).
Here's the great news! Denver's defense ranks 2nd as well in negative plays with a score of 14.91. Only the Jets have a higher percentage, with a score of 16.63. The rest of the top 5 are: CAR (3rd, 14.72), BAL (4th, 14.64) and ARI (5th, 14.62).
As a result, Denver is 1st in the NFL in Net Negative Plays with a differential of +8.39. The rest of the top 5 are: CAR (2nd, +6.09), KC (3rd, +5.35), CIN (4th, +3.78), and ARI (5th, +2.93).
Net Third and Fourth Down Conversions
Like Negative Plays, Denver is by far the best team in the NFL, so far. Denver ranks 1st in converting 3rd/4th downs with a percentage of 55.32. The rest of the top 5 are: SD (2nd, 50.98), CAR (3rd, 48.84), IND (4th-t, 46.15) and MIA (4th-t, 46.15).
On defense, Denver fell a little after allowing PHI to convert half of its third downs. Still, Denver ranks 11th on defense with a percentage of 34.38. As a result, Denver is first in Net 3rd/4th down conversions by a lot with a differential of +20.94. The rest of the top 5 are: KC (2nd, +14.51), CAR (3rd, +11.34), MIA (4th, +9.94), and NO (5th, +9.60).
Adjusted Net Plays Per Touchdown
This is an incredible stat, but there was one flaw when measuring the "net" part of it. It does a perfect job when measuring one offense to another offense or one defense to another defense. Unfortunately, scores increase at a much fast rate for a good defense than they lower for a good offense. This means teams with great defenses with average offenses will always have a much higher Net Score (which is better) than teams with equally good offenses and an average defense.
To solve this, I used the raw score from my formula and "placed" it in a scale that measures what an average offensive or defensive output should be and what the distance is from that output for a specific offense or defense. This is different from Football Outsiders DVOA stats which are relative to that season. This "average" score stays the same, regardless of how good or bad the offenses might be for a particular year, since things go up and down all the time.
Note: The average offense in the NFL today runs about 65 plays per game and scores about 21 pts/gm. The average score in the rating is about 20.
Denver remains in the top spot with a score of 37.23, easily the best score by an offense so far. The rest of the top 5 are: GB (2nd, 26.43), SEA (3rd, 26.23), MIN (4th, 24.95) and MIA (5th, 24.78). Again, think of it as a distance from the average score (which is 20). This means Denver beat the average score by about 17 points while the 2nd ranked offense beat the average score by about 6.5 points.
Denver's defense ranks a little below average after all of the big plays allowed to Oakland and Philadelphia. Still, a score of 21.55 is not bad and is just below average. As a result of this change, Denver goes from 8th in Net Plays Per TD to 2nd in Adjusted Net Plays Per TD, with a differential of +15.68. Only Seattle (+16.52) has a better score. The rest of the top 5 are: KC (3rd, +13.32), IND (4th, +12.45) and NO (5th, +10.64). As you can see, this rating has a high correlation to winning football games. The top 5 teams are a combined 19-1 so far in 2013. The bottom 5 teams in this stat are a combined 2-18.
Adjusted Net Yards Per Touchdown
I had to do the same thing with my net yards per touchdown stat to get an even scale for the offense and defense, with a few minor tweaks added to make it work.
Denver ranks first in adjusted offensive yards per touchdown with a score of 40.90. The rest of the top 5 are: GB (2nd, 27.06), SEA (3rd, 24.85), NO (4th, 24.08) and SD (5th, 23.73). Again, 20 is about average.
Denver's defense ranks 25th with a score of 23.33, which is an area of concern. Despite this, Denver ranks 1st in the NFL in Net Yards Per TD, with a differential of +17.57. The rest of the top 5 are: SEA (2nd, 15.33), KC (3rd, 14.28), NO (4th, 12.25) and IND (5th, 12.18). Again, this rating has the same 5 teams, although a different order. They have a combined record of 19-1 through Week 4. The bottom 5 teams in this stat have a combined record of 1-19.
QBR Team Efficiency
I used the same concept for measuring a QB to measure the entire team. Denver's offense is again far ahead of everyone else with a score of 129.88. The rest of the top 5 are: IND (2nd, 89.72), SD (3rd, 89.44), NO (4th, 82.38) and TEN (5th, 82.15).
Denver's defense ranks 19th in the NFL in QBR TE with a score of 63.28. Based on almost all of the efficiency numbers, Denver has done a good job limiting the points scored in the second half until the game is out of reach. It will be interesting to see how the defense performs in a close game. Hopefully there aren't too many on the horizon.
Denver ranks 2nd in Net QBR TE, with a score of +66.60. Only KC has a higher differential with a score of +69.34. The rest of the top 5 are: SEA (3rd, +55.55), NO (4th, +51.34) and IND (5th, +50.73).
The purpose of showing all of these stats is to indicate one thing - they are saying pretty much the same thing. Denver, Seattle, Kansas City, New Orleans and Indianapolis are the playing like the top 5 teams in the NFL, so far. I stay away from using the term "best" because it is subjective. Right now, these 5 teams have been the most efficient teams in the NFL.
All of these stats indicate that Denver's offense is playing at an extremely high level that quite possible has never been done before. The Broncos' offense is light years ahead of every other offense in the NFL at this point in the season. While Seattle and Kansas City have played good defense, they have not played as well on defense as Denver has on offense at this point.
I imagine things will change a little after the next 4 games when I do another quarterly review.
Until then, go Broncos! Crush the Cowboys!