The Broncos may have struggled to beat the Chiefs last week, but the victory still extended Denver's winning streak to six games - the NFL's longest current one.
Another win tomorrow, over the visiting Bucs, would make for only the fourth win streak of seven or more games in Broncos history. It would also make Denver AFCW champs in consecutive seasons for just the third time ever.
With the Broncos' rivals embroiled in streaks of the losing variety - KC's dropped eight, Oakland four, and San Diego three - the division title is a foregone conclusion. And once that formality is wrapped up with the next Denver win or San Diego loss, the team will be assured to open the playoffs at home.
It's only been eight months and eight days, but Peyton Manning has already impacted the Broncos franchise more than any quarterback in their history not named John Elway.
The team has quickly moved from lacking a viable NFL quarterback, in the second season of what Elway himself had called a three-year rebuilding process, to being a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
Not that long ago, the Broncos roster was seen as having countless holes, requiring another offseason to shore up its offensive line and defense, and with unknown quantities at the offensive skill positions.
For the sixth week in a row, and riding a streak of five games during which they've scored at least 30 points and won by at least a touchdown in each, the Broncos reside at the crest of Brian Burke's efficiency rankings.
But the Denver offense has scuffled a bit in recent weeks, and this is reflected in their fall to third (from first) in offensive efficiency. However, they remain first in passing efficiency and tied for sixth while running the ball. Of course, the injury to Willis McGahee may strain that latter figure.
Their continued dominance on the defensive side of the game has the Broncos still second in efficiency (fourth versus the pass, eighth (tied) against the run), behind the opportunistic Bears.
Unsurprisingly, the decision caught the critical attention of Advanced NFL Stats writer Keith Goldner:
On another note, I cannot express enough disdain for John Fox’s decision to kick a field goal on 4th-and-Goal from the 1 in a 7-7 game, early in the second quarter. The numbers say to go for it unless you can’t convert at least 32% of the time. Peyton Manning can convert that well over 32%. The CBS commentator, though, went on a long rant about him making the correct decision to “take the points, because points usually win football games.” When is Chip Kelly coming to the NFL?
Well over? How about double? This season, on third or fourth down with one or two yards to gain, Peyton is 13/17 for 119 yards, three touchdowns, and a 134.6 rating. The Broncos have converted on 24 of 37 attempts - whether running or passing - from those same downs and distances, or 64.9%.
Another week, another Broncos win. And of course, the advanced metrics still count Denver among the league's elite teams.
You didn't expect anything else, did you?
Denver remains atop Brian Burke's efficiency rankings for the fifth straight week, and are even creating some distance between themselves and the other top teams. Burke's figures again have the Broncos ranked first in offensive efficiency (first in passing, sixth in rushing) and second on defense (fifth against the pass, 11th versus the run).
Jim Trotter posted a thought-provoking column today on kickoff deferrals:
Since the start of the 2010 season, flip-winning clubs that have opted to receive first are 185-209 (.470), versus 140-115 (.549) for those deferring."Six and a half-dozen," said Broncos coach John Fox. "You don't know how it's going to go."..."There are two principals that apply to coaching," Fox says. "One is, If it ain't broke don't fix it. Two is, Don't get caught up in the same old stuff."
Because the Broncos have scored touchdowns three of the last four games after receiving the second-half kickoff, look for Fox to stay with the same old stuff and not fix what ain't broke.
We've been heartened by John Fox's recent choices to defer possession until the second half kickoff in recent weeks, but it's just as disappointing to learn he's been doing so thanks to some sort of gut feeling.
No matter their focus, whether on sports, politics, or anything else, statistical models have always been targets of intense criticism.
The number crunchers can test their methods all they want, and even show their work as they did for their high-school geometry midterms, yet ultimately, the old-schoolers will say there's no match for experience and intuition.
But by now, even those data-allergic folks have to admit the 2012 Broncos are pretty good, right?
With the squad sitting at 1-2 after three weeks, Brian Burke's data said the Broncos were the third-most efficient team in the league. Three games later, following the historic comeback in San Diego that evened Denver's record at 3-3, they had reached the top of Burke's rankings.
Updated 5:33pm ET
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.
What's that old saying? A week off makes the metrics grow fond? Something like that...
Following Denver's Week 7 bye, they remain atop Brian Burke's efficiency rankings, and are now ranked number one in offensive efficiency (up from fourth). Their defensive efficiency ranking has slipped from third to fifth.
Broken down by unit, the Broncos rank fourth in passing, are tied for seventh in rushing success, and are eighth in pass defense, and tied for seventh in run defense.
In Peter King's weekly shameless SNF promotion, he notes that Denver has 26 pass plays of 20+ yards so far this season, second only to their upcoming opponents, the Saints.
We have the word stat in quote marks because really, this amounts to trivia (why 20-yard plays, and not 19-yard plays?). 20 yards is a totally arbitrary threshold for a play to become labeled as explosive, and it's not the sort of figure you can correlate to winning or losing. More appropriate would be to just measure yards per attempt, and then figure in the effect of touchdowns, interceptions, and sacks - as we did last week.