Denver Broncos: The Most Underrated Team in the NFL

The Denver Broncos have been a very quiet team this season, as division rivals in the Chiefs and Chargers have garnered loads of media attention. At 6-6, the Broncos are currently the first team out of the AFC Wild Card race, behind the Chargers and Ravens. Sitting on a 3 game win streak against the likes of the Chargers and Steelers, however, the Broncos have shown that they are much deserving of a spot among the league’s best teams. When looking at the team’s advanced stats so far this season, it is clear to see that the young team can make considerable noise should they make the playoffs, and are perhaps the league’s most overlooked team.

 

Offense

The Denver offense has come alive in recent weeks, as enigmatic rookie RB Phillip Lindsay has burst onto the scene and provided the team with a huge spark. Lindsay and fellow rookie Royce Freeman have led the Broncos to the 5th best rushing attack by yards, and the 2nd best by yard per carry. The Broncos passing offense hasn’t been nearly as successful, as Case Keenum has the Broncos sitting at the 23rd rated pass offense. As a whole, the Broncos are 17th in points and 14th in total yards. Here are Denver’s offensive advanced stats through 12 games:

Passing DVOA

Rushing DVOA Total Weighted DVOA Variance

Strength of Schedule

Stat

8.1% 14.7% 10.3% 2.8% 0.7%
NFL Rank 20th 2nd 9th 2nd

19th

These DVOA numbers show that the Broncos’ offense is a lot better than the raw numbers show. They have the 9th best weighted offensive DVOA, which weighs recent games more highly than games that were early in the season. Young players such as Cortland Sutton and Phillip Lindsay have become much more comfortable in the offense as of late, which is a big reason for the team’s recent great performance. The Broncos are also 2nd in the league in DVOA variance, making them one of the most consistent offenses in the NFL. This perhaps explains why the Denver offense is rarely talked about, as they rarely have a terrible week and also don’t have many breakout performances to speak of.

 

Defense

The Broncos have prided themselves on their defense much of this decade, posting top 5 performances in 5 of the past 6 seasons. Led by franchise cornerstone Von Miller, the Broncos defense has been one of the most consistent units in the NFL in recent memory. This season however, the Broncos rank just 25th in total defense by yards (23rd passing, 23rd rushing). While these ranks are all well below average, other numbers show that the Broncos’ defense is more than meets the eye. Despite terrible yardage ranks, the Denver defense is 11th in scoring and 7th in turnovers. This year, the Broncos have been a bend-but-don’t-break turnover focused unit. Here are their advanced defensive stats:

Passing DVOA

Rushing DVOA Total Weighted DVOA Variance

Strength of Schedule

Stat

-15.5% -11.2% -20.8% 5.7% 7.2%
NFL Rank 2nd 11th 3rd 19th

2nd

Clearly, the Broncos’ defense is remarkably better than their yardage stats show. They have the second best weighted DVOA in the league, and have done so playing some of the most prolific offenses in the league in the Rams, Chiefs, Chargers, and Steelers. With veterans like Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. alongside up and coming talent like Bradley Chubb, The Broncos’ defense is poised to perform well against any offense they play.

 

Bottom Line

When evaluating the Broncos using advanced statistics, it becomes clear that they are an extremely well balanced team and can fight with any team they play. The team has the highest strength of schedule in the league, and have either beaten or been in tight games against a who’s who of the NFL. Here’s a summary of the playoff caliber teams they have played:

vs Seahawks:           W 27-24
@ Ravens:                 L 27-14
vs Chiefs:                   L 27-23
vs Rams:                    L 23-20
@ Chiefs:                   L 27-23
vs Texans:                 L 19-17
@ Chargers:             W 23-22
vs Steelers:               W 24-17

In every single game but one (@ Ravens) against playoff caliber teams, the Broncos have either won or lost by less than 5 points. This team can clearly hang with the best of the league, and are a few close calls away from one of the best records. This team is dangerous and should not be overlooked. If the Broncos can make the playoffs, they deserve respect and are a serious contender in the AFC.

Sources:
https://www.pro-football-reference.com/teams/den/2018.htm
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/teameff

 

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