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.
Peyton Manning has been named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his Week 6 performance against the Chargers.
It's the 22nd time Manning has won the award, and the first time a Bronco has been chosen for it since Brandon Marshall in Week 13 of the 2009 season. Peyton completed 24 of 30 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns, but threw one interception that came back for a score.
As could be expected, all of the talk today is about how remarkable the Broncos' comeback was. But, how good are the Broncos overall?
How does tops in the league sound?
Yeah, that seems like a bit much to us, but the two teams that had been ahead of Denver in Brian Burke's efficiency rankings (San Francisco and Houston) both got waxed at home in Week 6, by a combined score of 68-27.
Whatever anyone wants to say about Norv Turner and Philip Rivers, and historically rare circumstances aside, the Broncos still went on the road and beat their primary division threat by eleven points.
Welcome to the Week 6 edition of the Stats That Don't Lie. So far, we've been tracking the Broncos' ranking via the metrics of Brian Burke's efficiency ratings and PFR's Simple Rating System (SRS).
Starting today, we'll add in PFF's grading system, so that we're accounting for what the tape says as well.
As we expected, Sunday's loss at New England did little to harm Denver's standing relative to the ANS and PFR metrics.
Jason Whitlock raised eyebrows two weeks ago when he wrote the following about Peyton Manning:
Manning can't throw the ball accurately or with zip more than 20 yards. Manning is toast.
It was a lethargic takeaway from Peyton's three-interception debacle against the Falcons, and while Ted thinks the picks were a matter of poor decision-making rather than an issue of arm strength, Whitlock was certainly entitled to his opinion there.
Granted, the numbers through four weeks (small sample alert) don't exactly back up Whitlock's assertion that Peyton is inaccurate beyond 20 yards. According to PFF, Denver's QB ranks twelfth in the league in terms of accuracy on throws beyond twenty yards. At 46.7 percent, he's just a tick behind Tom Brady in that category, while placing slightly ahead of his brother (44.4%), Jay Cutler (43.5%), Philip Rivers, and Ben Roethlisberger (42.9% each), and far better than the strong-armed Joe Flacco (39.4%) and Matthew Stafford (38.5%).
A week ago, we found the advanced metrics to say the 2012 Broncos were a far better team than their 1-2 record might have indicated.
After a brutal start to the schedule which featured the Steelers, Falcons, and Texans (the latter two remain undefeated), having the rebuilding Raiders into SAF@MH for a visit portended two things:
First, it was something of a breather, traditional rivalry notwithstanding. If everything were to play to form, the Broncos were due to finally whip their AFCW brethren at home.
Second, the strength of schedule figures were sure to take a hit this week. Indeed, they have.
Now that we're three weeks into the season, stats and metrics can begin to have at least some meaning.
But as noted in the title, it's still rather early - so take these rankings with a grain of salt.
Brian Burke's efficiency rankings - which consider passing, running, turnovers, penalties, and strength of schedule - have Denver as the third-most efficient team in the league (sixth in offense, third in defense), behind the Texans and Eagles.
From Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus earlier today:
In 2011 Elvis Dumervil went eight straight games with a sack late in the season. While he doesn’t have a sack yet this year, he has 13 overall pressures which ties him for the most among defensive linemen.
Pressures, schmessures. What every fan wants to see is sacks. There’s something exciting about seeing an edge rusher taking on a player who might outweigh him by 50 lb. and still flash by him, to, and through the quarterback. They’re the Holy Grail for the weekend watchers, a stat you can reel off and feel like you’re talking sense. And, no one can argue that sacks aren’t a great way to create negative yardage for the offense.
The sack is big news.
Elvis Dumervil doesn’t have one this year, and fans are getting antsy. Talk is increasing about how Doom isn’t having the same impact this season; how he’s been soundly beaten by offensive left tackles Sam Baker and Max Starks. With Jason Hunter out for the year and the DL having to try different options to get the pressure that the John Fox/Jack Del Rio scheme calls for, is Doom unfit for his role with the team?