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Up in statosphere: Denver Broncos’ stat talk for games 15 and 16

Stat musing on the Denver Broncos loss to the New England Patriots and the win over the Los Angeles Chargers

New England Patriots v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Happy New Year Bronco Country! I hope that you have not let the loss to the New England Patriots ruin your holiday. I know that I didn’t let it ruin mine.

So the Denver Broncos will miss the playoffs for the eighth straight season, but the team could still finish with a winning record for the first time since the 2016 season when the Broncos finished the season 9-7.

If the Broncos win the final game of the season next week against the Raiders in Loss Vegas, the team will have had a +4 change in wins year over year. That’s pretty good, but nothing to write home about. Plenty of teams have done that. Even in the 14 game regular season era, going from 1-13 to 5-9 was a step in the right direction but no one generally made note of it — unless that team proceeded to have a winning record in the next season. Going from 1-13 to 5-9 then to 8-6, that would be a big year over year over year change.

The Broncos finished 5-12 in 2022 and COULD finish 9-8 in 2023. Let’s focus on that possibility. Having a winning season for the first time since 2016 would be a huge accomplishment given the lack of talent on the roster. Years of poor drafting have left the Broncos relying on free agents and day three or undrafted players at a host of critical positions despite being much much healthier this season than the last. I plan to do a whole study on that very point after the season is over, but this will not be it.

There are a number of teams in 2023 who could finish +4 or better in wins relative to 2022. The Ravens; Browns, Rams and Bears (already at +4); Colts (+5); Texans (+6).

So the Broncos finishing plus four is nothing special, but if you place it in the context of starting 1-5, it makes it look much better. If they finished 9-8 that would mean that the team went 8-3 in the final 11 games. Plus five for an entire season would be 11-6 and that is going to always get a team in the playoffs given the expanded wildcard. Every team with 10 or more wins this season has already secured a playoff spot.

The Broncos this season have won many more of the close games that they have been in than they have lost. Last season the Broncos went 4-9 in one score games. This season the team is 5-4 games decided by eight or fewer points (yes, that’s grammatically correct). Given the way that the team has been playing, I would expect a fairly close game in the final game as well.

Outside of their 63-21 blowout of the Chargers, the Faiders have struggled to score this season, only topping 29 points one other time (in their 30-6 win over the Giants). They are currently 25th in scoring, but if you remove that 63 point game, they drop from 19.1 ppg down to 16.1 ppg which would be 29th currently. Their defense is currently ranked 8th in ppg allowed at 19.8 ppg which is not far from what the Broncos have been scoring (21.4 ppg).

The 2022 Broncos only scored 16.9 ppg so that is a 4.5 ppg improvement year over year. Even if the Jarett Stidham-led Broncos get shut out in the final game (which is doubtful - knock on wood), the team would still finish the season at 20.2 ppg which would be a 20% improvement in scoring relative to last season. That’s significant, but it’s still a long way from the current highest scoring team in the league (the Dolphins at 30.1 ppg).

I would not be surprised to see the Broncos show another 20% improvement in scoring year over year in 2024. That would mean that the Broncos would finish with something like 24 ppg in ‘24 (nifty). That would easily put them in the top 10 in scoring next season which is a very real possibility once Sean Payton finds a QB who can run his offense. Russell Wilson was obviously not that guy.

With Payton as HC, the Saints finished outside of the top ten in scoring only three times (12th in 2007, 11th in 2010 and 19th in 2021). So a top ten finish is fairly NORMAL for Payton’s offenses. So is a top 5 finish in scoring, which his teams accomplished nine teams in New Orleans. Without a huge scoring outburst in the final game, the Broncos (who currently rank 17th) will not finish in the top 10 in scoring.

The Broncos would need to hang roughly fifty points on the Raiders in the final game to finish in the top ten in scoring. The Colts are currently tenth in scoring with 377 points and the Broncos have currently scored 343 points. The most that that the Raider defense has allowed this season is 38 to the Bills in mid-September.

On to a very different topic.

The Broncos joined the majority of the teams in the league by starting another guy at QB than the guy who started game one. In 2022 there were only eight teams that had there QB start all 17 games. Which was the fewest ever in history of the 32-team NFL. Those eight teams last season were:

  1. Chiefs
  2. Chargers
  3. Buccaneers
  4. Vikings
  5. Lions
  6. Seahawks
  7. Jaguars
  8. Packers

So far this season twelve teams have had one QB start every game:

  1. Chiefs
  2. Commanders
  3. Lions
  4. Cowboys
  5. Packers (with Love not hate Rodgers)
  6. Bills
  7. Buccaneers (with Mayfield not Brady)
  8. Dolphins
  9. Eagles
  10. Saints
  11. Ravens
  12. 49ers

It should not surprise you that almost all of those team are going to the playoffs. Only the Commanders are not. The Saints at 8-8 (like the Broncos) could still make the playoffs with a win next week against the Falcons.

The 17 game schedule has made it a little more difficult for teams to have one QB start all regular season games. Below is a table of the number of QBs be season who have started X number of games. Below that is the graph if that is more of your preference for data visualization.

QB Starts 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
17 ? 8 11
16 12 3 5 13 13 16 12 14 17 16
15 4 5 3 7 6 1 8 7 2 3
14 2 2 5 1 1 2 3 4 2 1
13 1 2 1 1 3 4 3 1 1 3
12 5 5 2 3 3 1 1 1 1 3
11 2 2 3 0 1 4 0 2 2 1
10 1 2 1 1 1 1 1 0 1 0
9 2 3 1 3 0 2 1 1 2 0
8 1 1 0 3 4 1 0 1 5 5
7 2 1 1 2 1 2 3 1 2 1
6 6 2 2 3 2 0 2 1 2 2
5 2 4 2 3 3 4 3 4 1 4
4 4 4 3 3 2 2 3 1 3 2
3 2 5 5 1 4 6 4 2 3 3
2 9 12 4 2 5 4 4 6 7 5
1 7 9 13 12 8 5 8 8 2 5

I did this chart as percentage because the league moved to a 17 games regular season schedule in 2021. The last season in which one Bronco QB started every game was 2018 when Case Keenum led the team to a 6-10 record despite starting off the season 2-0.

The Broncos in 2023 have done the opposite of the recent Bronco teams who have started the season hot and then faded terribly. The 2023 team started the season terribly and then finished relatively hot. If the Broncos win on Sunday to finish 9-8 that would be an 8-3 finish as I mentioned earlier. With the exception of the 2019 season, the team has not been good in the latter two thirds of the season.

Season Start Finish
2023* 1-5 8-3
2022* 2-1 3-11
2021* 3-0 4-10
2020 2-3 3-8
2019 0-4 7-5
2018 2-0 4-10
2017 3-1 2-10
2016 4-0 5-7
2015 7-0 5-4
2014 6-1 6-3