Prime Cuts

Slices of great NFL content from around the web

Well, here we are again

Divisional Round Probabilities: Statistics Are Important, but So Is Luck
www.nytimes.com

0.28 San Diego at Denver 0.72

Yes, Brian Burke's data again says the Broncos are the heaviest favorite for the divisional round, just like it did last year. No, they didn't win last year's game. No, that doesn't mean Burke's data was wrong, as the anti-math/thinking crowd would prefer to suggest.

Whatever your thoughts on the matter, we strongly suggest re-reading TJ's stellar (and prescient, sadly) piece from 365 days ago. All of it still applies.

ANS: Broncos leapfrog Saints into #2 spot

Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 16
www.advancednflstats.com

However, it’s the team after San Diego that would probably provide the stiffest competition if given the chance.  The Pittsburgh Steelers looked toast roughly 147 different times this season—after their 0-4 start, after sitting 2-6 halfway through the season, and after their devastating Thanksgiving night loss to Baltimore.

After several weeks at #3, the Broncos are back to the #2 spot in overall efficiency, but fell back to #23 in penalty avoidance with Sunday's first half slopfest.

Denver is back to #1 in overall offensive efficiency, with San Diego having fallen back behind them at #2: they're #1 in passing, #5 (tie) at running, #1 at interception avoidance, and #27 in fumble avoidance.

On defense, they're up to #14 overall: #18 against the pass, #6 (tie) against the run, and #10 (tie) at picking off passes.

ANS: Chargers overtake Broncos

Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 15
www.advancednflstats.com

The Dallas Cowboys defense must be relieved they have Tony Romo as a scapegoat for the media.  Look back up at the graph at the start—the Cowboys have had the NFL’s worst defense in the second half, and it’s not even close.  This isn’t a new problem; Dallas has traditionally been a good-offense-bad-defense team in the Romo era.

Denver remains #3 in overall efficiency, and are up to #20 (tie) in penalty avoidance.

On offense, they dropped behind San Diego; they're still #1 in passing, are #2 (tie) at avoiding picks, #4 running the ball, and are up to #27 at avoiding fumbles, after their third straight week (!) without one.

Defensively, they've climbed to #16 overall: #18 versus the pass, #12 (tie) at intercepting passes, and #3 (tie) at stopping the run.

ANS: Bengals might match up well with Broncos

Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 14
www.advancednflstats.com

The offensive fluctuations are a bit opponent-dependent, as the Bengals have had just two positive EPA performances against defenses in the top-half of efficiency.  Of course, the Broncos themselves are only the 19th-ranked defense, and one with somewhat tenuous depth.  Cincinnati would stand little chance in even a three-game series, but they might be the team most likely to catch fire and pull off a stunning upset, a la the 2012 Ravens.

Denver remains #3 in overall efficiency, and is #22 (tie) in avoiding penalties. On offense, they remain #1 overall and in passing, are #4 (tie) at interception avoidance, #3 (tie) running the ball, and (all the way) up to #28 (tie) in fumble avoidance, after two straight weeks of fumble-free football.

On defense, they're #19 overall: #20 against the pass, #3 (tie) versus the run, and #10 (tie) at intercepting passes.

ANS: Ravens have (slim) chance to reprise 2012

Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 13
www.advancednflstats.com

The New England Patriots are increasingly resembling the good-offense-bad-defense teams of recent seasons…At this point, they may just be a poor man’s Denver, which is a problem considering they’ll likely have to face the real Denver.

Denver remains at #3 in overall efficiency; another flag-filled game (10 for 75 yards and four first downs vs. KC) has them at #23 (tie) in penalty avoidance.

On offense, they're again #1 overall: #1 in passing, #7 (tie) at avoiding picks, #5 (tie) running, and dead last in fumbling, even with Sunday's clean performance.

Defensively, they're down to #19 (allowing KC 452 yards didn't help): #20 against the pass, #13 (tie) at intercepting the ball, and #3 (tie) versus the run.

Burke: Broncos among biggest Week 13 favorites

Week 13 N.F.L. Game Probabilities: The Value of Aaron Rodgers
www.nytimes.com

0.71 Denver at Kansas City 0.29

This should figure, given that Burke's efficiency figures have Denver at #3 overall (#3 offense, #17 defense) and Kansas City all the way down at #21 (31, 7).

FWIW, I don't think Burke's model treats whatever perceived home-field advantage there is at Arrowhead for the Chiefs any differently than another team's HFA.

ANS: Von’s return bolsters defense, but flags and fumbles hold Broncos back

Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 12
www.advancednflstats.com

Denver’s ceiling may be a slightly above average pass defense, and they’re a couple injuries away from being a disaster.  But average is good enough when paired with that offense.

Denver is #3 in both overall and offensive efficiency: passing the ball, their once enormous lead is now just a slim edge over the Chargers. They're #2 (tie) in interception avoidance, #6 (tie) in rushing success rate, and remain the most fumble-prone team.

On defense, they're #17 in overall efficiency: #19 against the pass, #12 (tie) at intercepting the ball, and #3 (tie) against the run. Another flag-filled game (nine penalties for 85 yards and three first downs) has them at #23 (tie) in penalty avoidance.

ANS: Denver defense continues rapid ascent

Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 11
www.advancednflstats.com

The Chargers are the worst run defense and third-worst pass defense, which is unsurprising when you look at their non-Eric Weddle defensive personnel.  Five of San Diego’s last six games are against the Chiefs, Broncos, Bengals and resurgent (!) Giants, so the 4-6 Chargers can probably kiss those wild-card ambitions goodbye.

Denver remains #3 overall, with New Orleans and Seattle having flipped the top two spots. On offense, the Broncos are still #1 overall (obviously): #1 in passing, #10 (tie) running, #2 in interceptions, and dead last in fumbles.

The defense has risen from #26 to #21 to #17 during the Broncos' three-game winning streak; they're now #19 (tie) versus the pass, #3 against the run, and #9 (tie) at intercepting passes. The flag-filled KC game dropped Denver from #15 to #20 in penalty avoidance.

Burke: Chiefs’ luck is likely to run out on Sunday

N.F.L. Week 11 Game Probabilities: Can Chiefs Finish Undefeated?
www.nytimes.com

Unfortunately for Chiefs fans, they’re far from a 96-percent kind of team. They’re much closer to a 50-percent kind of team that has been lucky so far.

The Chiefs’ formula for success includes solid defense and a low-risk offense, but the biggest factor in their success might be scheduling luck. Their opponents have been even weaker than traditional measures such as aggregate opponent records or stats would indicate, because they have had the good fortune of facing five straight backup quarterbacks.

Burke's data says the Broncos are a 78% favorite against the team most of the punditry has atop their power rankings. Of course, the only people who think the Chiefs are the best team in the league are the ones who won't look deeper than W-L record. (BTW, Burke's probabilities have been borne out in all of Denver's games, as they were underdogs only once - against Indy.)

ANS: Broncos defense climbing

Team Efficiency Rankings: Week 10
www.advancednflstats.com

This late into the season, there aren’t really any more flukes. Injuries are really the one major variable that can still change a team’s fortunes, but it’s impossible to know when landscape-changing losses like Aaron Rodgers will happen.

Denver remains #1 in overall offense and passing efficiency, is #2 (tie) in interception avoidance, ranks #6 in rushing success rate, but is the most fumble prone.

The defense is #23 (tie) against the pass, #3 (tie) versus the run, #5 (tie) at intercepting passes, and all the way up to #21 in overall efficiency; we'll call it the Highly Predictable Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard Effect. We'll be surprised if the Broncos are very far outside the top 10 by season's end, if at all.

Since Kevin Vickerson took a week off from drawing personal fouls, Denver is now #15 (tie) in penalty avoidance.