STDL: Week 5 - Broncos vs Chargers

Welcome to Week 5's Stats That Don't Lie, already featuring changes from last week's edition. As I explained on Sunday, I'm actually not that wild about using penalty yardage to assess teams, so in the spirit of wanting STDL to be a simple and svelte tool to help visualize the Broncos' chances each week, I've decided to axe that category. I've also changed the rushing metric from CHFF's rusher rating to PFR's Adjusted Rushing Yards per Attempt (ARY/A), also expressed as a differential between offense and defense.

As always, an explanation of the figures:

  1. ANY/A Differential: This is a marriage of PFR's ANY/A (Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt) and CHFF's Passer Rating Differential. As we all know, passing the football is the most reliable way to win games in the NFL. That's not to say running the ball doesn't work, or that it's impossible to win by setting out to run the ball and stop the run. It's just that ANY/A has the highest correlation to winning of any stat out there. ANY/A Differential is merely one team's ANY/A minus the ANY/A they've allowed on defense. In other words, how well Denver passes the ball minus how well they defense the pass.
  2. ARY/A Differential: The younger sibling of ANY/A Differential (by a week), this is a team's efficiency rushing the football minus the efficiency of their defense in stopping the run.
  3. TO Differential: Takeaways minus giveaways. If you need help with this one, you must be a Raiders fan.
  4. Net Field Position: This is a team's average starting field position in terms of yards, minus the average starting field position they allow their opponents.
  5. Strength of Schedule: This is each team's strength of schedule as viewed through the prism of PFR's SRS (Simple Rating System).

No surprise here, but the Broncos would appear to have a much better chance against San Diego than they did at Green Bay. And despite the fact that Aaron Rodgers tore them a new one on Sunday, the Broncos weren't looking too hot in terms of ANY/A Diff prior to the game either. So, these numbers aren't just a reflection of last Sunday. The flip side is that San Diego is nowhere near what Green Bay was in ANY/A Diff.

Similarly, the Chargers are not nearly as efficient running the ball as are the Packers, and they're almost as bad as the Broncos in terms of TO Differential. Special teams, which went a long way to undoing San Diego's 2010 campaign, is improved but still not that great. Denver has fared slightly better in terms of Net Field Position.

The final comparison also paints a positive picture: the Broncos have faced much stiffer opponents than have the Chargers. In fact, according to PFR's SRS (Simple Rating System), the Broncos have had the most difficult schedule of any team in the league thus far, as all four of their opponents have a positive SRS figure. In contrast, the Chargers have played the second-softest schedule in the league this season, with the Pats, Chiefs and Dolphins barely registering in positive territory.

Put simply, it appears the Broncos are again facing a superior opponent, but the margin is nowhere near as great as it was last week. As usual, it's all about executing the passing game and defending against it. Where have we heard that before?

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

Stats That Don't Lie