STDL: Denver still rising

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.

But the advanced metrics painted a different picture, in the form of a wide rankings spread between the Broncos and Saints according to ANS, PFR, and PFF, and Brian Burke's 87% probability of a Denver victory. Those figures said Denver was due for an easy win.

Hard as that was to believe, that's exactly what happened at SAF@MH on Sunday night.

As one would expect, whipping the Saints only helped the Broncos' rankings in the metrics.

Advanced NFL Stats

The team remains #1 in Burke's efficiency rankings - still tops on offense, and now second on defense, up from fifth.

Broken out by unit, Denver's #1 in passing efficiency, fourth in run success rate, fifth in not throwing picks, but still second-to-last in fumbling.

On defense, they're fifth against the pass, 10th versus the run, and 11th in interception rate.

Among future opponents, Carolina is ranked sixth in efficiency, while the rest are all 18th or worse.

Pro Football Reference

The Broncos have moved into a fourth-place tie with the defending champion Giants in PFR's Simple Rating System at +9.7 (from +6.8 a week before).

PFR says the Broncos have played the sixth-hardest schedule to date, and are fourth in offensive SRS, seventh according to defensive SRS.

SRS ranks the Bucs 10th and Ravens 14th, with the other teams on Denver's schedule all 19th or worse.

Pro Football Focus

PFF uses grades, not metrics, but their figures also say the Broncos are among the league's best - third overall, behind only the Niners and Patriots.

On offense, Denver is behind those same two teams, while they're fourth defensively.

They're sixth in special teams, and 23rd in penalties.

Tampa Bay, Cincy, and Baltimore are 12th, 14th, and 16th, respectively, while the rest are ranked 21st or lower.

Conclusion

Five of the Broncos' next seven games are on the road, including four early kickoffs, at least for the moment (the Week 15 game at Baltimore is eligible to be flexed to SNF).

First up is a trip to Cincinnati to face a Bengals team that surprisingly made the playoffs in 2011 but has struggled mightily against decent competition so far this season. Cincy's three wins came consecutively against Cleveland, Washington, and Jacksonville, and they dropped their last three games prior to their Week 8 bye.

Currently, the Broncos are currently a 3.5-point road favorite, but Burke's probabilities again suggest Denver should be favored more heavily. At 73%, only the Texans (who host Buffalo) have a better likelihood of winning this week.

SRS (25th) agrees, while PFF (14th) would suggest a tighter matchup than the former two measures.

Either way, as has become habit, the Broncos' upcoming game appears a far less daunting task than it might have seemed prior to the season (to non-IAOFM readers, of course).

Best-case scenario? Denver has a two-game lead in the AFCW come Sunday night.

Now, wouldn't that be a rosy picture?

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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