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Elevated Stats: Broncos' Wade Phillips must solve his Aaron Rodgers problem

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Wade Phillips was fired as Cowboys coach directly following an Aaron Rodgers game. He's never had real success against the Packers QB.

Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Week 8's historic matchup between the Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers is being obviously dubbed. "Aaron Rodgers vs. Peyton Manning." But it's more accurate to headline this bout, "Aaron Rodgers vs. Wade Phillips." Both the player and the coach are having NFL-award-type seasons, and it'll be Rodgers and Phillips' men on the same field, in opposition, at the same time.

To that end, it's worth exploring how Phillips teams have performed against Rodgers in the past. The answer, in short, is not encouraging for Broncos fans

Let's take a closer look at this, including how well Wade Phillips' teams were doing that year defensively compared to the rest of the NFL in terms of points allowed. (Thanks to MHR's local stats-men Topher Doll and Joseph Mahoney for help preparing this table).

Aaron Rodgers vs. Wade Phillips
Year DEF Att Cmp Cmp% Yards TD INT Rating Result
2007 13 26 18 69.23% 201 1 0 104.8 GB 27, DAL 37
2008 20 39 22 56.41% 290 0 0 80.1 DAL 27, GB 16
2009 2 36 25 69.44% 189 1 0 91.1 DAL 7, GB 17
2010 31 34 27 79.41% 289 3 0 131.5 DAL 7, GB 45
2012 10 37 24 64.86% 338 6 0 133.8 GB 42, HOU 24
Total 15.2 172 116 67.44% 1307 11 0 111.3 3-2

Some notes and observations:

  • In their first matchup, Brett Favre actually started. Aaron Rodgers came in but played most of the game.
  • The 45-7 whooping Rodgers put on Wade's Cowboys in 2010 was Phillips' last game as Cowboys head coach. He was fired midseason.
  • Rodgers cumulative stats vs. Phillips are clearly buoyed thanks to their most recent matchup.
  • Rodgers has only faced one other Phillips-led team whose defense was in the NFL's Top 10 in points allowed. He was stymied to a "low" (relatively) passer rating of 91.1 with only one touchdown.

As far as their 2015 match goes, the Broncos have the talent to test the Packers offense. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. make up one of the NFL's best secondaries, and the Broncos should have a healthy pass rush in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware to force Rodgers into challenging Denver's talented cornerbacks.

One other interesting stat: the outcome of the first quarter battle may set the stage for the rest of the game.

Elevated Stats, Week 8

While stats don't tell the whole story, our Elevated Stats from 5,280 feet aim to give you a Mile-High perspective on the Denver Broncos and the NFL by covering all the bases. As always, here are your explanations for the analytics used in Elevated Stats. In the future, we 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.

PFF Grade. The Elevated Stat here simply represents a sum of each team's cumulative grades: offense + defense + special teams. PFF grades each player on each play, then sums them up. The higher the number, the better.

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.

SRS: Simple Rating System. Pro-Football-Reference.com's go-to statistic takes a team's points and compares them to their opponents' points. It takes no other metrics into account. An average SRS is zero. There are strengths and weaknesses to this approach (such as a 44-20 win being considered "better" than a 20-0 win, which it isn't), which are covered nicely in PFR's guide on SRS hereSRS derived from this table each week.

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

All Elevated Stats reflect figures heading into Week 8 (Thursday night's Patriots win isn't included).

Elevated Stats: AFC Week 8
Team Record SOS DVOA PFF PRD SRS TO
New England Patriots 6-0 .450 39.7% 48.3 23.97 14.7 +5
Cincinnati Bengals 6-0 .341 34.1% 52.4 23.98 9.4 +3
Denver Broncos 6-0 .325 6.2% 62.0 2.88 3.6 +6
New York Jets 4-2 .500 28.2% -2.4 17.58 9.4 +4
Pittsburgh Steelers 4-3 .447 12.2% 35.5 0.38 6.0 +3
Indianapolis Colts 3-4 .457 -10.2% -44.8 -10.32 -4.2 -8
Oakland Raiders 3-3 .487 4.6% 22.3 10.43 -2.3 +2
San Diego Chargers 2-5 .578 -16.6% -105.6 -1.8 -3.8 -6
Kansas City Chiefs 2-5 .682 2.0% 12.1 -2.83 -1.6 +1

AFC observations

  • The New England Patriots have (nearly) fully separated themselves from the rest of the AFC, and perhaps the NFL. They're back atop DVOA and are at or near the top in every metric.
  • This isn't even including Thursday's 29-point drubbing of the Dolphins, which will probably stretch their lead more.
  • And if you consider NFL team defenses outside of garbage time, the Patriots may have the NFL's best.
  • The only team in the AFC that, statistically, looks comparable is the Bengals. The Broncos play the Patriots in Week 12 and the Bengals in Week 16.
  • The Broncos still have the weakest strength of schedule in teams we're comparing to date, while the Chiefs have the toughest. Part of that, of course, is related to the fact that the Chiefs played a 6-0 Broncos team and Denver played a 2-5 Kansas City squad.
  • Denver's defense leads the league in takeaways, but the offense's mistakes prevent them from dominating turnover ratio (see below).
Elevated Stats: Head-to-head Week 8
Team Record SOS DVOA PFF PRD SRS TO
Denver Broncos 6-0 .325 6.2% 62.0 2.88 3.6 +6
Green Bay Packers 6-0 .350 39.0% 34.3 42.49 7.6 +6

Head-to-head observations

  • These two teams are similar from a Mile High perspective, but dig any deeper and the the differences are pronounced, particularly at quarterback and DVOA, where the Packers are 3rd and the Broncos are 11th.
  • The Packers lead the NFL in PRD, something the Broncos did for most of 2013 and 2014. The Broncos are way deep in the low-middle pack.
  • Neither team's SOS looks very formidable so far, and the SRS is comporable as well, so this is a "litmus test" for both teams.

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