A Second Helping of…Strength of schedule

Note: Each Monday we take a look at a player the Broncos used in a new, creative, or interesting way in the previous day’s game.  This week we’re getting a second plate of not a player, but the Broncos’ Strength of Schedule.

Hope is not enough.

This time, though, it might be, Broncos fans—especially after the Broncos just finished the most carnal part of their schedule.

Allow me to explain myself—without writing the word “carnal” again.

Everything is going to rest on the two games the Broncos play against the Kansas City Chiefs.

While you might have already guessed this by looking at the AFC West standings,  I wanted to confirm your suspicions through more than just the prism of a 2-game deficit.

Thus, while most Broncos fans are focused on looking back at what the definition of pass interference is, I’ll help you glance forward.  Let’s examine the Broncos’ strength of schedule.

As we’ll soon find out, real men never wear red and they never play for the Chiefs.

Before I begin, let me say that projecting through strength of schedule after 6 weeks is fraught with problems.  For one, teams gain and lose momentum throughout the year.  Second, injuries can affect a team in one part of the year and have little affect later on.  Lastly, the sample size is small enough to swing the projections widely.

It’s also smart to remember something Brian Billick wrote in his excellent book, It’s More Than a Game:

The Giants in 2007 and the Cardinals in 2008 underscored the razor-thin edge between the very best teams in football and the merely good, as well as the hyperintense level of competition throughout the league of competition throughout the league.  Fifty years after he’d first spoken the works, pro football was still living up to the proclamation of storied commissioner Bert Bell, who said, “On any given Sunday, any of our teams can beat any of our other teams.”

But, for the sake of hope (and helping sullen Broncos fans), I’m willing to risk a strength of schedule analysis on this given Monday.

When the 2010 schedule was released, it was assumed that the Raiders, who finished 3rd in the division, actually had drawn the toughest opponents:

AFC WEST TEAMOpponent’s 2009 RecordPercentage

Raiders 128-128 50.00%
Chiefs 125-131 48.80%
Broncos 124-132 48.40%
Chargers 116-140 45.30%

Now that we’ve reached the six-week mark, we can re-apply these strength-of-schedule numbers using current wins and losses from 2010.  Things look much different today:

AFC WEST TEAM Opponent’s Current 2010 Record Percentage
Broncos 47-43 52.22%
Raiders 45-43 51.14%
Chargers 44-44 50.00%
Chiefs 37-54 40.66%

Using current records, the Broncos now top the list.  In other words, through six weeks, applying current records through the entire 16-game season, the Broncos are playing the toughest schedule. When we break this down by looking at who they have already played, the brutality of what the Broncos have faced becomes even more apparent:

AFC WEST TEAM Opponent’s Current 2010 Record (First 6 Weeks) Percentage
Broncos 22-11 66.66%
Chargers 17-15 53.13%
Raiders 16-18 47.06%
Chiefs 12-15 40.00%

We can see from this chart that the opponents the Broncos have played thus far have won 67% of their games.  The Chargers and Raiders haven’t faced nearly the challenge that the Broncos have, yet their records are exactly the same.  While we might expect this from the worst team of the last decade, the Chargers have no such excuse—well they do if they want to blame A.J. Smith, which they should. The Chiefs have thus far had the easiest schedule—their opponents have a winning percentage of only 40%.  Is it little wonder, then, that they are leading the division?  Surprise team of the league?  Perhaps the team with the most luck.  But that’s another debate. Now, the question any smart Broncos fan is asking right now is, “What about the rest of the schedule?”  Let’s take a look:

AFC WEST TEAM Opponent’s Current 2010 Record (Remaining Schedule) Percentage
Raiders 29-25 53.70%
Chargers 27-29 48.21%
Broncos 25-32 43.86%
Chiefs 25-36 40.10%

Now this is a table I can really get behind.  The Broncos have gone from playing the toughest schedule through the first six games, to the second-easiest for the remainder of the season.  This means that both the Chargers and Raiders play harder schedules than the Broncos.  Thus, unless they are training with Brian Cushing for the remainder of the season, they are not likely to end up with a better record than the Broncos.  The problem is the Chiefs.  How convenient for them to play such a cream puff of a schedule,  not only through the first 5 games, but for the remainder of the seasons as well. Since they are already up two games in the loss column, shall we just go ahead and crown them then? Of course not.  The Broncos have two games against them and they can directly influence these numbers. So relax, Broncos fans.  At least until we play the Chiefs. (Note: As the season goes on, I’ll be keeping track of these numbers each week, not just for the Chiefs, but for the entire league.)

If you like to see The Dude slack off 24/7, you can always find him on Facebook and Twitter. Or you can always email him at: tjthedudejohnson@gmail.com

I’m glad we had this talk.  Now, vaya con Dios, Brah.

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Second Helpings