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Elevated Stats: Broncos still on top, and around the AFC

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The Denver Broncos maintain their near-record DVOA pace, but other teams impress in other areas as we expand our Elevated Stats in Week 9.

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Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

This week we expand our Elevated Stats, not in breadth of analytics but in depth of teams covered.

The Broncos now have a commanding lead on the AFC West. They're 6-1; the Chargers are 5-3, the Chiefs are 4-3, and the Raiders are hopeless. The Broncos own head-to-head and divisional tiebreakers against both San Diego and Kansas City. So our Elevated Stats need to expand. We don't want to lose focus on the division, but we don't want to be limited to a narrow landscape, either.

Enter the American Football Conference.

Starting this week, we'll still look at the state of the AFC West (the Broncos do have four divisional games remaining, after all, three of which are on the road), but we'll add a look at the other division leaders in the AFC, as well as Wild Card teams and those closely in the hunt.

The Broncos maintained their stranglehold on the top spot in Football Outsiders' DVOA rankings in Week 8, and they are still on pace to threaten best-of-all-time DVOA records.  Denver is separating itself from the rest of the league, with a 30.3% chance of winning the Super Bowl, according to FO, while no other team in the NFL has even 10%. The Broncos also claimed the top spot in Cold Hard Football Facts' Passer Rating Differential for the first time in Week 8 as Peyton Manning continued what would be a record touchdown pace in 2014, had he not broken all the records already in 2013.

Still, other teams - like the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens - have claimed the top spots in other elevated stats, a fact we'll explore for the first time this week.

As always, here is your guide to our Elevated Stats - a Mile High look at the NFL and the Denver Broncos using a spectrum of advanced analytics around the web.

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, respectively. 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 consideredthe "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.

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AFC West
Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
Denver Broncos 6-1 .545 47.6% 36.26 82.14 +4
San Diego Chargers 5-3 .404 8.8% 15.05 -57.05 +4
Kansas City Chiefs 4-3 .600 15.1% 2.42 -3.77 -2
Oakland Raiders 0-7 .565 -19.4% -29.40 -61.86 -6

The story of the AFC West right now is the quiet ascent of the Chiefs. Kansas City's DVOA improves to 15.1%, good for 4th best in the NFL behind only Denver, Baltimore, and Seattle. They also took over the top Strength of Schedule ranking in the division from the Broncos. Denver's hold on that ranking was bound not to last - other AFC West teams are beginning to enter tough parts of their schedules; plus, the Broncos haven't had to face the 6-1 Broncos.

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AFC Playoff Picture
Seed Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
1 Denver Broncos 6-1 .545 47.6% 36.26 82.14 +4
2 New England Patriots 6-2 .413 7.0% 19.36 -33.90 +11
3 Cincinnati Bengals 4-2-1 .490 6.7% 18.87 -63.39 +5
4 Indianapolis Colts 5-3 .519 11.0% 6.51 10.17 +1
5 San Diego Chargers 5-3 .404 8.8% 15.05 -57.05 +4
6 Buffalo Bills 5-3 .564 3.2% 12.81 -49.25 +7
- Baltimore Ravens 5-3 .472 26.0% 3.60 113.39 +3
- Pittsburgh Steelers 5-3 .425 10.0% 15.67 24.21 +1

A handful of thoughts and observations:

  • The Broncos are #1 in the NFL in DVOA, while the Ravens are #2. Similarly, the Ravens are #1 in cumulative PFF grade while the Broncos are #2.
  • Is it any coincidence that every team in the AFC playoff picture has a positive turnover ratio? And my goodness, New England.
  • PRD switcharoo: The Colts dropped from 21.02 (4th) to 6.51 (13th) in PRD in one week thanks to Ben Roethlisberger's monster game in Week 8. Meanwhile, the Steelers jumped seven spots in PRD to 5th in the NFL.

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Broncos Week 9
Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
Denver Broncos 6-1 .545 47.6% 36.26 82.14 +4
New England Patriots 6-2 .413 7.0% 19.36 -33.90 +11

The Broncos have the edge in most Elevated Stats in Week 9 against the Patriots, but they're on the road, and the Pats have a huge advantage in turnover ratio. Since that's the great equalizer in this league, the Broncos need to take utmost care of the football in Foxboro - something they failed to do last year.

Have something to add to our Elevated Stats? Hit us up in the comments!