NFL Halftime Report: The Numbers Game
The unluckiest team in the league is one you’ll see come up once or twice in this column as a team of extremes. The Broncos saw their luck seemingly bounce back in the second half of their game versus the Chargers, but they still rate out as the most fumble-unlucky team in the league, having recovered just five of the 22 pigskins up for grabs in their games (22.7 percent).
Another team with a notable strength-of-schedule split are those pesky Broncos, who had the league’s toughest projected schedule heading into the season. After going up against the league’s seventh-most-difficult schedule through this past week, no team in the league has an easier slate over the final nine weeks than Peyton Manning’s boys.
Barnwell says Denver is among the league's most fortunate in terms of defensive scores for and against, but have had bad luck relative to their opponents making field goals. Of course, Denver's altitude must factor into that.
For several weeks, the advanced metrics were telling a Broncos story that was not reflected on the scoreboard. That tale was of a team among the league's most efficient across the board.
Among Broncos fans, the half-full crowd saw promise in the data, while the Debbie Downers mumbled, "Stats are for losers."
Denver had lost three of four before escaping San Diego with a Week 6 win despite having spotted the Chargers a 24-point halftime lead.
The conventional wisdom said the Broncos and Saints would have an epic shootout on SNF, with Peyton Manning and Drew Brees orchestrating a classic QB duel.
Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! We've just overcome some technical difficulties brought on by our friend Sandy; apologies for the late Lard.
The latest Broncos accolade belongs to Peyton Manning, who was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October. This is Peyton's fifth time winning the award, and the first such honor for a Bronco since Jay Cutler won in September 2008.
As for the state of his right thumb, Peyton says it's fine, and "more of an irritant than anything."
More great news comes in the form of Tracy Porter's return to practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis. It remains unclear whether Porter will be available for Sunday, but appears certain he won't start.
After attempting to utilize a conventional approach during the first few games of the season, the Broncos have exclusively featured the no-huddle offense in recent weeks…I believe the switch was intended to make Manning more comfortable as the leader of the offense. By operating at a quicker pace, the Broncos are able to limit defensive substitutions, resulting in fewer exotic schemes and pass-rush packages…
The move to the no-huddle offense also discourages defensive coordinators from blitzing; they’re reluctant to call pressures against hurry-up teams for fear of a cornerback or safety failing to hear the play call and blowing their assignment. This allows Manning to attack a static defense without the threat of a heavy rush. For a pinpoint passer with extraordinary anticipation and awareness, the game transforms into a 7-on-7 contest, with all of the odds tipping in the offense’s favor.
Finally, the Broncos’ utilization of the no-huddle allows Manning to take control of the game at the line of scrimmage. The veteran will step to the line, read the alignment of the defensive front and the coverage and get the Broncos into the proper call to exploit the look. Given Manning’s experience and exceptional football IQ, the Broncos are rarely in a bad play, which leads to fewer negative plays for the offense.
Not to go overboard on tonight's we told you so theme, but for weeks, we'd been calling for John Fox and Mike McCoy to unleash Peyton's no-huddle attack earlier within games, and were thrilled to see them do just that against New Orleans. And, like we'd also stressed, doing so did not swing the pass/run balance in favor of the air attack; as Brooks notes in his excellent piece, Manning is not all about passing - he's about getting his team into the right play call at the LOS.
Is 2012 Peyton Manning's Best Season Since 2004?
Despite one clunker—the Week 2 loss to Atlanta featuring three early interceptions—Manning has been near or above his pre-2012 career averages all year long. He has been excellent with both efficiency and volume, with at least four above average games in all six statistics shown in the above visualization.
At this point, Manning is on pace for 3.29 WPA, 176.3 EPA, 4,848 passing yards, 39 touchdowns and nine intreceptions. The stellar play of Denver’s defense will keep Manning’s WPA below what it was in Indianapolis, when Manning’s play was required to win the inevitable shootouts created by a defense often resembling cheeses from central Europe. But his projected EPA would rank only behind his 2004, 2006 (Super Bowl championship season) and 2009 seasons; his AYPA only behind 2004.
None of us could have expected Peyton to perform at the level he's already reached so far in Denver. As for the reasoning (better talent than he had in Indy), well, we've been telling you about that since before the team even signed Manning.
With that in mind, now would be as good a time as any to revisit Ted's excellent series on the Manning offense. Now that we've all been intently watching Peyton do his thing play after play, week after week, everything Ted discussed there will make even more sense.
Some things came up during my time watching game film that made resting up this week less boring, so I thought I’d share them:
1. During the opening possession Sunday, Saints wideout Marques Colston ran a crossing route on 3rd and 3, and nickel linebacker Danny Trevathan dove to knock away the pass from Drew Brees, setting up the first punt of the game. Trevathan had three solo tackles plus that pass defensed in limited reps; it’s good to see him get onto the field. I think he has a bright future with Denver, and his excellent defense of a pass while in zone coverage - a weakness of his in college - suggests that he should.
I’m hoping that the team’s experience with Wesley Woodyard - seeing how that kind of drive, focus, and effort translates into production over time - should help shorten the duration before Danny sees more regular playing time. He also had one assisted tackle on special teams against NO; his reps with the nickel package were at MLB (according to PFF), so he’s been learning a new position. More power to him. He was on the field for nearly half the defensive snaps. John Fox’s comment on him was succinct: “I've been impressed with his development." Me, too.
Wesley Woodyard has been named the AFC Defensive POW for Week 8 after filling the stat sheet against New Orleans.
Woodyard piled up 13 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, an interception, and two passes defensed in Denver's 34-14 victory. He joins Tracy Porter (Week 1), Matt Prater (Week 4), and Peyton Manning (Week 6) as Broncos to have won weekly awards this season.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! No new word yet on the health of Denver cornerback Tracy Porter.
But if/when Porter is cleared to play, Mike Klis expects he'll spend a week working behind youngsters Chris Harris and Tony Carter, who have proven themselves more than capable in his absence.
As for the sophomore improvement exhibited by Rahim Moore, Klis says the 22-year old has matured quite a bit, perhaps thanks to the humbling experience of a difficult rookie season. Moore apparently worked extremely hard over the offseason and has earned newfound respect from both teammates and coaches.
Filling Ihenacho's spot on the taxi unit will be former Cowboys CB Mario Butler, who has been active for one game since signing with Dallas as an undrafted rookie last year.
Elsewhere in the AFCW, QB Brady Quinn has been ruled out for Thursday night's Chiefs/Chargers game after suffering a concussion against Oakland.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Thankfully, Peyton Manning says his right thumb is okay after it hit the helmet of Saints DE Martez Wilson on Sunday night.
However, the team is upset about the hit applied by Wilson on the play, and will likely ask the league to examine it and consider disciplinary action against the second-year player.
Turns out that only Peyton's thumbnail was damaged; maybe he (and all QBs?) should be wearing a nail polish to protect his nails, in the way knuckleball pitchers do.
The NFL trade deadline was supposed to come this afternoon, but due to Hurricane Sandy, the league offices have been closed, and the deadline has been pushed back to Thursday at 4pm ET. Among the players rumored to be potentially involved in deals are several high-profile running backs, Chiefs WR Dwayne Bowe, and the punt protector who can't protect the punter; Titans TE Jared Cook has reportedly asked to be traded.