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Elevated Stats: A Mile High look at Peyton Manning in 2014

In this week's look at NFL metrics from 5,280 feet, we examine Peyton Manning, who is having a rare season in 2014.

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Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Peyton Manning is on a near-record pace in 2014.

Let's be clear - this isn't 2013 all over again. Manning isn't breaking all the records. But while Manning isn't on pace to shatter more records' faces, he would be if it weren't for just last year.

Currently, the reigning NFL MVP is on a tick for 5,176 yards, 51 touchdowns, and a 112.0 passer rating. Excluding 2013, those numbers would mostly mark career highs, and they'd also break the NFL single-season touchdown record. Manning is one of the best ever having one of his best seasons ever.

But those are the base stats; how do advanced analytics sites like Pro Football Focus and Football Outsiders grade Manning's 2014 season? That's our focus in this week's Elevated Stats.

How good is Peyton Manning?

Note: I'll do my best to briefly explain each metric, but I'm not the originator of these stats, and all of my descriptions should be considered second-hand. I link to the source for further clarification on what the stat means.

Football Outsiders grades quarterbacks on efficiency - getting first downs and scoring points - in a couple of different ways, all explained here. First, there's DYAR, or Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, which asks: how much better is Manning than an average quarterback? Manning is the #1 quarterback in DYAR by a good margin (1,037 to Andrew Luck's 923).

He's also the #1 quarterback in DVOA, which tries to answer how much more efficient Manning is than an average quarterback per play. Manning is 33.1%, first place to Aaron Rodgers' 32.7%.

Finally, FO teamed with ESPN to create the QBR statistic, which is a lot like DYAR but accounts for teammates' drops, yards after the catch, quarterback scrambles, and is normalized to be on a 1-100 scale. Manning is #2 in QBR in 2014 behind Rodgers (84.7 to 85.5), but that 84.7 would be his career-high since ESPN started tracking the metric half a decade ago. In other words, Rodgers is having an amazing year too. A lot of quarterbacks are.

Pro Football Focus has a few metrics, and we'll start with their PFF QB Rating. Similar to QBR, this takes into account dropped passes, throw aways, spikes, and yards in the air. Manning has a PFF QB Rating of 96.75, 3rd in the NFL behind Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger (103.09 and 98.04 respectively).

No matter how you slice it, Manning is either the best QB in the NFL in 2014 or one of the best.

Another metric PFF tracks is Time to Throw. Manning is tops in the league here, taking only an average of 2.31 seconds to get rid of the football. followed closely by Andy Dalton (2.35 seconds) and Tom Brady (2.37).

Finally, of course, there's the metric PFF is most known for, and the metric we use in our weekly Elevated Stats series: the PFF grade. PFF grades each player on each play with a numeric value, then adds up all of these increments into a total grade. Quarterback has always been a difficult position for me to interpret via PFF grade; I recall last year, Manning faced Alex Smith at home. He threw one touchdown and no interceptions and had a higher QB rating than Smith. Meanwhile, Smith had a very low completion percentage on 45 attempts, only threw for 230 yards, but did have two touchdowns. His grade was +2.0 to Manning's -1.0.

In other words, when it comes to quarterbacks, I take PFF grade with a grain of salt. That being said, Manning is 7th in 2014 in PFF QB grade at +11.4, behind Rodgers, Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Brady, Matt Ryan, and Philip Rivers. Rodgers has a +23.1 grade, which is nearly on pace for Manning's 2013 season's 47.0 grade.

Manning may not be his 2013 record-breaking self, but a lot of that is simply regression toward the mean, not a seeming decline of a great QB. No matter how you slice it, Manning is either the best QB in the NFL in 2014 or one of the best.

On to this week's team-based elevated stats!

Elevated Stats, Week 11

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 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 7-2 .549 37.3% 27.02 84.82 +4
Kansas City Chiefs 6-3 .500 10.4% 3.24 -31.66 -1
San Diego Chargers 5-4 .482 -2.7% 4.40 -86.70 0
Oakland Raiders 0-9 .614 -22.0% -26.38 -132.43 -11

The Denver Broncos remain comfortably atop the AFC West, but one slip would put the Chiefs right back in the AFC West race. That's one of the reasons Denver's Week 13 game in KC is probably the most important remaining gameon its schedule.

AFC Playoff Picture
Seed Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
1 New England Patriots 7-2 .458 13.0% 19.07 -30.25 +12
2 Denver Broncos 7-2 .549 37.3% 27.02 84.82 +4
3 Indianapolis Colts 6-3 .494 13.0% 8.46 14.80 0
4 Cleveland Browns 6-3 .371 -0.2% 18.04 49.60 +9
5 Kansas City Chiefs 6-3 .500 10.4% 3.24 -31.66 -1
6 Cincinnati Bengals 5-3-1 .476 -4.1% 3.00 -84.03 0
7 Miami Dolphins* 6-4 .482 15.5% 10.35 50.04 +3
8 Pittsburgh Steelers 6-4 .437 8.6% 15.76 16.87 -2

*Seed, Record, SOS, and TO ratio include Week 11.

A handful of thoughts and observations:

  • The Dolphins kind of look for real across all metrics. They're on a 4-1 streak. More next week.
  • Turnovers continue to be the great equalizer in the NFL. The only other team with a +12 turnover ratio that would match the Patriots' is the NFL-leading 8-1 Arizona Cardinals.
  • Go Colts!
Broncos Week 11
Denver Broncos 7-2 .549 37.3% 27.02 84.82 +4
St. Louis Rams 3-6 .598 -19.8% -18.54 -75.64 -8

I'm having a hard time getting excited for this game. There isn't a division-rival angle to it, and the Broncos should win handily. The only edge the Rams have is in Strength of Schedule, and while they've played some good teams close, I see a handy Broncos win this week.

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