The NFL season can be a lot like losing your V-Card. You wait so long for it to happen, but once you finally get going it seems to end before you can say Denarius Moore. Having said that, we have reached the halfway point of the NFL season, and it seems like just yesterday analysts hypothesized that the Cowboys had declared they are “a team to be reckoned with” on opening night by beating the Giants. A lot has changed in the NFL after eight games, and that is no different for the Broncos. Halfway through the year we have learned:
- Peyton Manning proved that any questions regarding his return to elite status had all the validity of Donald Trump’s election night twitter feed
- Demaryius Thomas looks like the next coming of Terrell Owens (minus the attitude). That means explosive plays and physical dominance to go with asinine drops, boneheaded mistakes, and a general lack of trust
- Von “the Don” Miller continues giving any offensive lineman offers they cannot refuse, generally terrorizing anyone who is unfortunate enough to get in his way
- The Broncos Offensive line is a very good unit that has become elite with the help of Mannings quick release and general saavy
That takes us to one big question we do not know: Are the Broncos a Super Bowl Contender? They have a 5-3 record, tied for eighth best in the league, with the 5 wins coming against teams a combined 18-22. They certainly are a favorite to make the playoffs, but making the playoffs and being a Super Bowl contender have about as much in common as Mitt Romney and Ghostface Killah.
So if the Broncos win-loss record cannot tell us if they are a true contender, what can? Midway through the season, the Broncos have established themselves as a very balanced team, ranking in the top six in DVOA in both offense and defense, ranking third in offense and sixth in defense (all stats per Football Outsiders. For explanation of DVOA, read here). Is having a highly rated offense and defense a predictor of postseason success?
I decided to look at all teams who finished in the top ten in DVOA for both offense and defense and see how they did in the postseason since 2003. There turned out to be 25 such teams, but since we are looking for playoff success all teams that did not make the playoffs were eliminated, bringing the total to 20 teams in 9 years.
Top Ten DVOA Offense and Defense and Playoff Results
|Team||Conference Finals||Super Bowl||Super Bowl Winner||2003 Packers||No||No||No||2004 Steelers||Yes||No||No||2004 Patriots||Yes||Yes||Yes||2004 Broncos||No||No||No||2005 Colts||No||No||No||2005 Broncos||Yes||No||No||2005 Steelers||Yes||Yes||Yes||2005 Redskins||No||No||No||2006 Patriots||Yes||No||No||2006 Eagles||No||No||No||2007 Colts||No||No||No||2007 Cowboys||No||No||No||2007 Steelers||No||No||No||2008 Giants||No||No||No||2009 Ravens||No||No||No||2009 Packers||No||No||No||2010 Steelers||Yes||Yes||No||2010 Packers||Yes||Yes||Yes||2011 Steelers||No||No||No||2011 Texans||No||No||No|
Out of those 20 teams, 35% made it to the Conference Finals, 20% made the Super Bowl and 15% (3) won the Super Bowl. If you want to go one step further and limit it to only teams in the top eight in both offense and defense, those percentages improve to 50% making it to the Conference Finals, 33% playing in the Super Bowl and 25% winning the Super Bowl (12 teams total). So although the Broncos win-loss record would not suggest a Super Bowl team, their top ten rank in DVOA in both offense and defense suggest they are.
(Note: The other teams with duel top ten ratings this year are: San Francisco, Green Bay, Houston and the New York Giants. Or, in other terms, the legitimate contenders)
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Written by Brandon Keller