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Elevated Stats: The Broncos fall back down to earth

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After being a Mile High for several weeks, the Broncos fall back down to earth in Week 12, becoming the lowest top-ranked team in DVOA history.

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No sooner do we sing the praises of Peyton Manning in 2014 than he goes and lays a colossal egg of epic NFL proportions.

...Okay, his Week 11 performance wasn't that bad. But it wasn't that good either, and for what we've come to expect of Manning, that feels like an epic struggle. All of that talk about Manning having an "almost as good a year as 2013" was probably premature, as he's thrown six interceptions over the last three weeks for his worst sequence of games in his Broncos tenure.

Still, the Broncos' issues run much deeper than Manning, starting with the offensive line, which graded a piss-poor -6.2 against the St. Louis Rams according to ProFootballFocus.com. That was the starting OL's lowest collective grade since Week 6, when they totaled a horrid -12.6. That was the performance that set a number of offensive line changes in motion: Paul Cornick started at right tackle the next week.

These struggles on offense, and their general crapitude on special teams, have led to a huge field position advantage for Denver opponents. The Broncos' defense has done all it  can do to keep them in games - see five field goals from St. Louis in Week 11 - but there's only so much a team that off-balanced can do.

Somehow, despite these struggles, the Broncos remain the most efficient team in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders, which takes a long view of things and ranks them well for their early season success. However, that ranking tastes a lot like kissing your sister: they're the worst #1 DVOA team in FO's history.

Pucker up, Broncos fans. After a few weeks of entering historic territory, the Broncos have fallen back to earth.

Elevated Stats, Week 12

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
Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
Denver Broncos 7-3 .556 31.5% 22.03 85.42 +2
Kansas City Chiefs 7-3 .511 17.1% 2.18 -18.86 -3
San Diego Chargers 6-4 .478 -3.1% 6.64 -89.5 +1
Oakland Raiders 0-10 .611 -23.5% -26.23 -138.41 -12

We wrote over a week ago that Week 13 against Kansas City was probably the most important remaining game on the Broncos' schedule. That remains as true as ever, with the Chiefs jumping nearly 7 percentage points in DVOA and nearly 14 points in PFF grade since Week 11. The Chiefs are red, red, red hot.

AFC Playoff Picture
Seed Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
1 New England Patriots 8-2 .461 19.6% 17.03 8.2 +11
2 Denver Broncos 7-3 .556 31.5% 22.03 85.42 +2
3 Cincinnati Bengals 6-3-1 .467 0.3% 5.09 -67.27 +1
4 Indianapolis Colts 6-4 .489 5.1% 8.01 -15.81 +1
5 Kansas City Chiefs 7-3 .511 17.1% 2.18 -18.86 -3
6 Pittsburgh Steelers 7-4 .431 6.9% 12.49 33.31 -2
- Miami Dolphins 6-4 .500 20.0% 13.76 54.03 +3
- San Diego Chargers 6-4 .478 -3.1% 6.64 -89.5 +1

The DVOA gap has officially been closed. The Broncos are #1 at 31.5%, but one bad loss plus one good win frthe likes of Green Bay (23.9%), Baltimore (22.0%), or yes, Miami (20.0%) could see the Broncos fall out of the top spot. Five of the top six teams in terms of DVOA reside in the AFC.

Broncos Week 12
Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
Denver Broncos 7-3 .556 31.5% 22.03 85.42 +2
Miami Dolphins 6-4 .500 20.0% 13.76 54.03 +3

In terms of DVOA, the Dolphins are the closest-ranked opponent since Denver played the Seattle Seahawks in Week 3 (based on rankings at the time of the game, and at that early point in the season, DVOA, or VOA, was almost meaningless).  Offensively, the Broncos are ranked 1st with 18.5% DVOA, while the Dolphins are ranked 10th with 8.1%. Defensively, the Broncos rank 2nd with -17.2%, and the Dolphins are nipping at their heels with -16.0%.

The Dolphins have perhaps the NFL's toughest defense; Manning and that Broncos offensive line better be ready.

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