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Elevated Stats: What's wrong with the San Diego Chargers?

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The Denver Broncos play the San Diego Chargers in Week 13, who look like shadows of their usual selves. Let's dig in and see what's up with Philip Rivers and company.

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Despite their 3-8 record, there's no doubt in my mind that the San Diego Chargers will play the Denver Broncos tough. Philip Rivers is still having a decent year, statistically, and there's enough of a rivalry here to make Mike McCoy's men man-up for Manning et al (I went with Manning strictly for alliteration; Mosweiler doesn't quite work).

But the fact remains that the Chargers, statistically, are very bad in 2015. Their 3-8 record speaks for itself, highlighted by the following league ranks:

  • The Chargers are dead-last in the NFL in PFF's cumulative grade.
  • They're 27th in Football Outsiders' DVOA, including a 30th rank in both defense and special teams.
  • The Achilles heel really seems to be the defense: San Diego's D is 30th in points allowed, 22nd in passing yards allowed, 26th in rushing yards allowed, and 24th in overall yards allowed.
Pretty much everything aside from Philip Rivers

Taking a deeper look, San Diego's rush defense looks particularly rife for the taking. Their rush defense has a DVOA of 4.3%, making it the least efficient unit in the league. Remove opponent adjustments and San Diego is still 32nd in rush defense VOA. If you're a fantasy player, you may want to start Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson this week.

Part of San Diego's issues is with injuries: five defensive players are currently on Injured Reserve (compared to the Broncos' one). Six more offensive players are done for the year due to injury.

It's clear that the issue isn't Philip Rivers. On offense, their pass protection is abysmal and their running game is nonexistent, but Rivers has still managed to carry the offense.

But the rest is a bit of a mystery.

What's wrong with the Chargers? Pretty much everything aside from Philip Rivers. Hopefully Gary Kubiak has identified that and is ready to exploit San Diego's varied weaknesses.

Elevated Stats, Week 13

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. PFF grades each player on each play, then sums them up. The higher the number, the better. Recently PFF introduced a new Overall team grade that we're using here instead of the cumulative sum of offense + defense + special teams we've used in the past.

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 13
Team Record SOS DVOA PFF PRD SRS TO
New England Patriots 10-1 .479 30.6% 217.2 23.83 11.4 +6
Cincinnati Bengals 9-2 .463 32.8% 124.6 23.33 10.8 +6
Denver Broncos 9-2 .520 15.7% 135.4 -4.72 6.8 0
Indianapolis Colts 6-5 .562 -7.0% -47.1 -3.64 -1.3 -5
Kansas City Chiefs 6-5 .585 27.6% 95.9 13.39 9.4 +12
Houston Texans 6-5 .521 15.2% 77.8 1.26 -1.1 0
New York Jets 6-5 .455 10.3% -27.9 4.04 1.6 +4
Pittsburgh Steelers 6-5 .504 13.9% 12.7 -9.78 5.3 +1
Oakland Raiders 5-6 .475 4.5% 87.4 12.62 -0.7 -1
San Diego Chargers 3-8 .496 -15.3% -144.9 0.31 -4.3 -6

AFC observations

  • The Chiefs lead the AFC in strength of schedule and turnover ratio.
  • The Chiefs are also now ahead of the Broncos in DVOA, PRD and SRS.
  • The Chiefs lead the entire NFL in Weighted DVOA, which puts a lower value on early-season games. Behind their five-game winning streak, they're playing the best football in the league right now.
  • The Patriots fell down to Earth following their Week 12 loss to the Broncos, and the Elevated Stats reflect that. The Bengals overtaking New England in DVOA is surprising and significant. They're creeping up on the Pats in just about every category.
  • There are five 6-5 teams in the AFC, which means we added more teams to our table. (If you couldn't tell, we track every team "of relevance" in the AFC as well as the entire AFC West. This week that's everyone except the Dolphins, Jaguars, Ravens, Browns, Bills, and Titans).
  • While technically no team in the NFL has been eliminated from the playoffs yet, effectively, those five teams (plus the 5-6 Raiders) are vying for a small handful of playoff spots.
  • The Broncos need Brock Osweiler to keep playing turnover-free football to improve in Passer Rating Differential and Turnover Ratio, where they are middle-of-the-pack or even below average.

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

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