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Elevated Stats: Broncos defense 'has playmakers at every level'

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The Denver Broncos, led by a historically-great defense, just posted the best performance any team has had since 2013, against a previously-undefeated team.

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Oh, Denver Broncos, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

1. Your defense is historically good

Comparisons to the 1985 Bears and the 2000 Ravens have been pouring in, and the remarks are spot-on. Even Denver's opponent this week made the comparison to Ray Lewis' gang.

PFF joined the praise party, saying Denver has exceeded expectations, even when expectations were a Mile High.

This defense has playmakers at every level. There are pass-rushers and run defenders all over the front, and the secondary can lock down an entire receiving corps rather than one or two players. Top that off with players like linebackers Brandon Marshall and Danny Trevathan in between those two buttresses and this is a unit that has no weakness. The Denver defense is better than you think it is, even if you think it’s freaking awesome.

The Broncos defense even made its way onto ESPN's Fantasy Football Undroppable list, a set of players that never includes a D/ST.

They are on pace for an unfathomable 267 fantasy points. To put that into perspective, only 13 defenses have managed as many as 200 fantasy points in a season this century, with the 2006 Baltimore Ravens' 242 the top total.

But there's just no ignoring the scoring potential of this defense, a unit that is better than every offense in the NFL.

Sunday's performance pushed the Broncos' defense further towards a pace among the best of any defense in the past 25 years. Denver currently has the No. 4 defense ever measured by DVOA through Week 8. The Broncos' pass defense is even more extreme, with a defensive DVOA of -50.3%. Only the 2002 Buccaneers (-51.9%) have ever put up a better pass defense DVOA over an entire season.

2. You just played the best game any team has played since 2013

Recall that the Broncos were underdogs against the Packers, and the performance is all the more impressive. Via Football Outsiders, Denver outperformed any team in 2014 or 2015.

The Packers entered Sunday's game as three-point favorites, but our rankings had the two teams separated by a bigger gap. A series of narrow escapes left the Broncos ranked just 11th in DVOA (6.2%) coming in, while the Packers ranked third (39.0%), less than a point behind the Patriots and Bengals.

In their upset, the Broncos posted the highest single-game DVOA of the season. Their performance didn't quite crack the all-time top 20, but it was the best single-game performance in about a year and a half going back to an Eagles romp in Week 16 of 2013.

The Broncos' dominated in DVOA by even more than on the scoreboard because they could easily have won by more. In addition to not recovering any of the three fumbles, the Packers' only touchdown came from a drive extended by a roughing the passer penalty.

3. You're the only undefeated team with a decent schedule

That jump in strength of schedule is based on a handful of things: the Raiders and Vikings are each undefeated since losing to you in Weeks 4-5. Two other previous opponents won in Week 8 as well (Chiefs, Ravens). And you played the 6-1 Packers, a buoy to their slate so far.

In fact, you're the only team with a winning record against teams with winning records.

But, despite all this, other teams have been more consistent than the Broncos as a whole, so Denver isn't yet dominating our array of analytics. On to Elevated Stats!

Elevated Stats, Week 9

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.

Elevated Stats: AFC Week 9
Team Record SOS DVOA PFF PRD SRS TO
Denver Broncos 7-0 .434 21.0% (6th) 85.5 5.53 7.7 +5
New England Patriots 7-0 .412 40.5% (1st) 76.8 30.57 15.4 +7
Cincinnati Bengals 7-0 .407 30.4% (3rd) 54.0 21.16 11.4 +4
New York Jets 4-3 .490 22.8% (5th) -34.2 10.12 6.1 +3
Pittsburgh Steelers 4-4 .541 13.9% (10th) 36.3 -2.99 6.6 +2
Indianapolis Colts 3-5 .534 -10.9% (21st) -44.2 -12.91 -3.9 -9
Oakland Raiders 4-3 .500 14.9% (8th) 52.3 14.65 2.1 +3
Kansas City Chiefs 3-5 .593 13.0% (11th) 20.8 2.70 2.4 +3
San Diego Chargers 2-6 .517 -13.3% (23rd) -114.4 0.68 -3.1 -6

AFC observations

  • The Patriots are consistent, steady, and the most efficient team in the NFL.
  • The Broncos jumped from 11th in DVOA to 6th thanks to their big performance vs. the Pack.
  • Denver lost the lead in Turnover Ratio for the first time in 2015. They now rank 3rd in the NFL.
  • Denver's SOS isn't just the best among undefeated teams based on opponents played thus far: calculating the current SOS for all remaining opponents, the Broncos still have the toughest SOS.
  • The 4-3 Jets outrank Denver in a handful of categories, suggesting they're not a team to dismiss.
  • The Chiefs are actually better than the surging Raiders in SRS - maybe the AFC West has some life in it after all.
Elevated Stats: Head-to-head Week 9
Team Record SOS DVOA PFF PRD SRS TO
Denver Broncos 7-0 .434 21.0% (6th) 85.5 5.53 7.7 +5
Indianapolis Colts 3-5 .534 -10.9% (21st) -44.2 -12.91 -3.9 -9

Head-to-head observations

  • The only area in which the Colts outrank the Broncos is strength of schedule. And SOS is a byproduct of your own record (losing five times means your SOS looks better, while going undefeated naturally inhibits SOS).
  • Denver's defense will be looking to take advantage of Indy's offensive struggles, particularly in the turnover department
  • The Colts have the lowest SRS across the AFC teams we compare, meaning their point-spread would theoretically start at the bottom against anybody

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