Football Outsiders continued their greatest of the last 30 years according to DVOA lists, putting forth the best DVOA teams of this era. The Denver Broncos made the list twice and one of them surprised me.
I expected to see the 2013 Broncos on this list somewhere, but it just didn’t happen. That was the year the defense suffered a catastrophic loss of Von Miller, so the DVOA numbers just didn’t quite stack up to this all-time list. They ended up with a weighted DVOA ranking of 27.3% - still good, but not top 30 all-time.
However, the 2012 Broncos slid into the 18th spot. That year is the lost year for the Broncos franchise. The Baltimore Ravens stole the show not just from that Broncos squad, but from the New England Patriots squad who ranked 19th on this list right behind Denver.
19. 2012 New England Patriots and 18. 2012 Denver Broncos
+34.8 and +34.9 percent
It's not like the Baltimore Ravens had a bad team in 2012 -- they ranked eighth overall in DVOA -- but going on the road to beat Denver and New England was a phenomenal pair of back-to-back upsets. The Patriots combined the No. 12 offense in DVOA history with top-five special teams and an average defense in 2012. The Broncos combined the second-best offense of 2012 with a top-five defense and average special teams.
As I quickly scrolled through, I began searching for the greatest team in Broncos history - those 1998 Broncos. A solid Top 10 team of the last 30 years feels respectable, but if the 1996 Green Bay Packers are in the Top 5... the Broncos beat that same squad a year later and only got better from there.
8. 1998 Denver Broncos
The 1998 Broncos were very similar to the 2010 Patriots: No. 1 on offense, No. 20 on defense and No. 9 on special teams. The difference is that the Broncos played a lot better in the postseason. It started with a 38-3 pummeling of the No. 4 team, Miami, which led the league in defensive DVOA that year. Then the Broncos easily took out the No. 2 Jets 23-10. (Yes, there really was a season in which the Jets were the second-best team in the NFL. That is not a misprint.) Finally, the Broncos beat No. 7 Atlanta 34-19 in the Super Bowl for their second straight title. In case you are wondering, the 1997 Broncos are No. 39 on this list.
4. 1996 Green Bay Packers
A fantastic all-around team. Even though Brett Favre won MVP, the offense is the only unit that didn't make our top-30 lists. It ranked third in 1996 behind that of Baltimore and Washington and ranks 100th out of 917 offenses since 1987. However, the defense ranked 21st and the special teams finished 27th. Green Bay won nine games by at least three touchdowns, including a 35-14 divisional-round win over the second-best team by DVOA that season, the San Francisco 49ers.
In any case, having two Broncos teams reach the Top 30 teams of all-time is impressive. DVOA is likely the best statistical metric out there to find the strongest overall units in a predictive way.
It does have its faults and false assumptions, such as this years projected DVOA rankings. Since the Broncos defense was so good two years in a row, they assume they must regress and have pegged the Broncos as one of the worst teams in the NFL heading into 2017.
Looking back after a season is over, however, is when DVOA becomes one of the best at showing how good or how bad a team or unit was.