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Elevated Stats: Broncos enter 'best team in DVOA history' territory

The Denver Broncos not only maintained their top spot in Football Outsiders' DVOA for the third straight week, they widened the gap between them and the rest of the NFL. Meanwhile, a new threat in the AFC has emerged.

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A few weeks ago, Football Outsiders talked about how the 2014 season was featuring an NFL "without superlatives." That's no longer the case.

Your 2014 superlatives are your 2014 Denver Broncos.

This week's news, for those of you who did not have your televisions on Sunday night: Denver is very, very, very, very good. The Broncos are No. 1 in DVOA for the third straight week, but now they are a No. 1 with a big fat bullet. Denver's DVOA rating went up ten percentage points between Week 6 and Week 7. Obviously, the Broncos had a huge win over San Francisco, with a single-game rating of 82.7%. They also got a boost in opponent adjustments thanks to a huge win by Indianapolis and a surprisingly close loss for the New York Jets.

As a result, the Broncos are now living in "best team in DVOA history" territory. The Broncos are now the sixth-best team in DVOA ever measured through Week 7, and the second-best team this century, trailing only the 2007 Patriots.

Denver has now surpassed its 2013 counterparts when comparing DVOA efficiency week-to-week; that's right, these Broncos are now better than those Broncos.

The Broncos also maintained their top ranking offensively and their second-best ranking defensively in terms of DVOA for the third straight week, the first team ever to rank in the Top 2 in both categories three weeks in a row, according to FO. Take a bow, Broncos. You're a team so balanced and dominant you're in historic territory.

Of course, DVOA only paints one part of the picture - my intent with Elevated Stats, as always, is to highlight different aspects of the Broncos, the AFC West, and the NFL using advanced analytics. Thus, I want to call out a new, apparently real threat in the AFC - the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are dominantly ahead of everyone else in terms of PFF Cumulative Grade - 2nd in offense, 1st in defense, and 5th in special teams. The Broncos are 7th, 4th, and 15th respectively in those categories. Baltimore is also 2nd in DVOA in the NFL at 28.5%.

Now, the Ravens have beaten up on the NFC South to get these rankings, as FO notes, but it's worth recognizing that, right now, Denver's greatest threat to the AFC crown statistically is a team not on their schedule - the Super Bowl XLVII champions who knocked them out of the playoffs two years ago. This is something on which we'll keep our analytical eye.

On to this week's Elevated Stats!

Record. Wins and losses. There isn't a more important "statistic" in football.

SOS: Strength of Schedule. The collective winning percentage of a team's opponents so far. Gathered from ESPN.

DVOA: Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average. Football Outsiders' prized statistic, DVOA, measures a team's efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent. It's a beast; the Seahawks and Broncos were #1 and #2 in DVOA last year. DVOA explained fully here.

PRD: Passer Rating Differential. This is simply the difference between a team's Offensive Passer Rating and its Defensive Passer Rating (the collective passer rating of QBs in games played against the team). While it seems overly simple, in this quarterback-driven league, Passer Rating Differential actually has an incredibly high Correlation to Victory and is considered the "Mother of all Stats" at Cold Hard Football Facts.

PFF: ProFootballFocus Cumulative Grades. ProFootballFocus assigns a grade to every player on every play, and then accumulates those grades into a team total. I added them up, with a .022 weight for special teams (the ratio of those plays compared to offensive/defensive plays across the league), to get these scores. Check out PFF here.

TO: Turnover Ratio. Finally, another common, simple, but all-important measurement: turnover ratio. Gathered from ESPN.

AFC West
Denver Broncos 5-1 .640 48.7% 37.04 55.58 +2
San Diego Chargers 5-2 .424 13.2% 22.51 -26.85 +6
Kansas City Chiefs 3-3 .576 9.9% -1.65 -16.86 -2
Oakland Raiders 0-6 .444 -22.3% -28.13 -57.51 -3

The Denver Broncos have the better winning percentage, so move up to the top of these rankings. Really, they're pretty far ahead of the rest of the AFC West in just about every area except turnovers, where San Diego still dominates. Turnovers are the great equalizer in the NFL; the Broncos need to take care of the football Thursday to ensure victory against an opportunistic Chargers team.

Another interesting item this week: every team in the AFC West improved in Week 7 in terms of DVOA. That wasn't the case with PFF; the winner (KC and DEN) each improved while the losers (SD and OAK) each fell more than 10 points.

Broncos Week 8
Denver Broncos 5-1 .640 48.7% 37.04 55.58 +2
San Diego Chargers 5-2 .424 13.2% 22.51 -26.85 +6

The Chargers have had a soft schedule so far, but that's about to change, FO notes - they've had the 24th easiest road in terms of DVOA, but through the rest of the season, their slate is the 2nd toughest.

As always, thoughts on this series are welcome, as well as sharing more Elevated Stats in the comments!