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Elevated Stats: Patriots close gap with Broncos

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The Denver Broncos are still #1 in Football Outsiders' DVOA, but the New England Patriots have closed the gap.

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

After an unintentional hiatus of a few weeks due to my holiday and work schedule, Elevated Stats is back for Week 16, just in time to break down the AFC race and a big match against the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football.

The Broncos are still No. 1 in DVOA, according to Football Outsiders, but during the months of November and December they've lost some of their other statistical swagger. They've fallen to No. 2 in FO's Weighted DVOA, which values recent games higher (the New England Patriots are 1st), and as of last week they had fallen to third in FiveThirtyEight.com's Elo ratings (which also weighs recent games higher).

The conclusion is simple: the Broncos were hotter to start the year than they have been lately, especially over the most recent five weeks. And the Patriots have been the inverse: since the first four weeks of the season, they've been on a tear. Two months ago, the Broncos enjoyed a 40.6% DVOA difference between them and the Patriots. Now, the Broncos are ahead by only six DVOA-percentage-points.

So it's a good thing Terrance Knighton is vocally/mentally prepared for a showdown in Foxboro. The Patriots will be a tough out at home.

Elevated Stats, Week 16

As always, here are your explanations for the statistics used in Elevated Stats, our Mile High look at analytics from around the web. In the future, I may refer to this post instead of posting this glossary each time.

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 Playoff Picture
Seed Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
1 New England Patriots 11-3 .533 27.2% 17.65 59.2 +11
2 Denver Broncos 11-3 .546 33.2% 21.89 137.7 +6
3 Indianapolis Colts 10-4 .477 9.0% 11.69 1.1 -4
4 Cincinnati Bengals 9-4-1 .467 3.7% 7.31 -57.3 -2
5 Pittsburgh Steelers 9-5 .429 9.0% 3.73 40.6 -1
6 Baltimore Ravens 9-5 .467 25.1% -0.25 175.8 +2
- Kansas City Chiefs 8-6 .505 13.2% 7.89 -27.0 -6
- San Diego Chargers 8-6 .515 3.9% 4.41 -121.3 -2
- Buffalo Bills 8-6 .526 11.5% 11.07 -48.3 +10

A handful of observations:

  • The Patriots didn't just close the DVOA gap with the Broncos - they closed virtually all the gaps, Two months ago, the Patriots had a .413 strength of schedule and a -33.90 PFF grade. Their turnaround in the second half of the season is truly remarkable.
  • The Baltimore Ravens remain one of the more interesting and dangerous-looking Wild Card contenders in either conference. They're 4th in DVOA and 1st in PFF cumulative grade in the NFL.

  • AFC West: A lot can happen to launch either the Chiefs or the Chargers (or both) into the playoffs down the stretch. Just ask the 2013 Chargers.
  • Broncos vs. Bengals: By many metrics, the Bengals are an average team, includinig DVOA. They're 15th offensively, 15th defensively, and 15th overall.  The Broncos are 2nd offensively, 3rd defensively, and 1st overall. But there's a more important statistic in football: record. At 9-4-1, the Bengals will have the second best winning percentage of any foe the Broncos have faced on the road this year.
  • Broncos vs. Bengals: Cincinnati holds a clear edge in special teams effectiveness, ranking 6th in DVOA to Denver's 26th and grading nearly 40 points better in PFF special teams grade.
  • Broncos vs. Bengals: On defense, Cincy specializes in shutting down opposing passing games and appear weak vs. the run. Their 30th against the run by DVOA and 24th simply in yardage allowed. While many are hoping to see the return of Peyton Manning's vaunted passing attack, strategically, it makes more sense to attack the Bengals on the ground.
  • Have something to add to our Elevated Stats? Let us know in the comments!