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Elevated Stats: Broncos are offensive and defensive Jekyll and Hyde

The Denver Broncos are on pace to be a record-setting defense, but it's probably not sustainable.

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The Denver Broncos' statistical position entering Week 3 is both sobering and intoxicating.

When looking at the offense, one is quickly jolted like a football during a Brandon Marshall tackle in the 4th quarter. The Broncos are 31st in offensive DVOA through two weeks - only the Tampa Bay Yucks rank worse - and the Broncos boast a remarkably bad feat of winning two games despite failing to rush for 70 yards in either game. They're only the second team in NFL history to do this, and the other team - the 1992 Denver Broncos - went 8-8 after that 2-0 start. See? Sobering.

Denver's defense has been 48 percent better than average. No defense has ever put up a defensive DVOA that strong for a whole year

Don't worry, though, friends; we can get drunk on the Broncos defense.

Denver's D is the top-rated defense according to DVOA, and it's not really close. In fact, Denver's defense is on a record-setting pace as far as Football Outsiders is concerned (via ESPN Insiders).

So far, the Denver defense has been 48 percent better than average. No defense has ever put up a defensive DVOA that strong for a whole year, and Denver won't either. But given how good they were a year ago, it's certainly easy to imagine the Broncos as the best defense in the league over the entire season. If that's the case, Denver is a top-five Super Bowl contender even if Kubiak and Manning fix their problems only enough to boost the offense back up to league average.

Meanwhile, Denver's Week 3 opponent, the Detroit Lions, have stumbled out of the gate with an 0-2 record. Let's break it down.

Elevated Stats, Week 3

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 statistics used in Elevated Stats, our Mile High look at analytics from around the web. 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. Note: technically this metric is just "VOA" for now, as Football Outsiders' does not incorporate defensive adjustments until after Week 3.

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.

Writer's note #1: There seem to be some technical issues with Cold Hard Football Facts this year, so we calculated PRD ourselves using data from ESPN. We hope it's as accurate.

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 up the offensive, defensive, and special teams grades to get these scores. Check out PFF here.

Writer's note #2: PFF Grades are going away in lieu of "PFF Ratings", which claim to be consistent with the grading scale used by 19 NFL teams. This will be the last week we use PFF Grades in Elevated Stats, and we anticipate we'll replace them with PFF Ratings once those become available.

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

Elevated Stats: AFC Week 3
Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
Denver Broncos 2-0 .250 26.3% 29.1 7.7 +5
New England Patriots 2-0 .500 35.6% 26.3 -6.8 +2
New York Jets 2-0 .250 43.3% 30.6 3.8 +8
Cincinnati Bengals 2-0 .500 39.9% 23.9 31.7 +3
Kansas City Chiefs 1-1 .500 6.3% 5.7 14.8 -2
San Diego Chargers 1-1 .500 -4.7% 3.5 -32.0 -2
Oakland Raiders 1-1 .500 -21.2% -14.7 -26.8 -1
Indianapolis Colts 0-2 0.750 -35.2% -45.3 -33.0 -7

AFC observations

  • The Broncos are not only No. 1 in Defense in DVOA; they're No. 4 in special teams, according to FO.
  • The only team in this table to grade positively in all three phases (offense, defense and special teams) is the Cincinnati Bengals, according to PFF. Their +18.2 offensive grade is the highest of any team covered here.
  • The Jets are killing it in turnover ratio through two weeks, but just like the Broncos' +5 , it may not be sustainable.
  • Man, the Colts are really blowing it.
Elevated Stats: Head-to-head Week 3
Team Record SOS DVOA PRD PFF TO
Denver Broncos 2-0 .250 26.3% 29.1 7.7 +5
Detroit Lions 0-2 .500 -13.3% -27.1 -27.1 -1

Head-to-head observations

  • That's not a typo; the Lions have the same -27.1 score in both PRD and PFF grade, which is either some apocalyptic omen or totally meaningless.
  • This is the Lions' home opener after two road games, so anything's possible when you're opening up your season at home on primetime.
  • The Broncos have a -32.6 offensive PFF grade, but somehow, the Lions' is lower at -34. That doesn't translate to DVOA, where the Broncos rank 31st (-32.2%) and the Lions rank 16th (-4.1%), which is why we aim to give you a Mile High breadth of information in this column.

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