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Are the Broncos a Super Bowl Contender?

Posted By Brandon Keller On Nov 9 2012 @ 12:43 pm In Denver Broncos,NFL | 1 Comment

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 [1]
  • 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 [2]. For explanation of DVOA, read here [3]). 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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URLs in this post:

[1] Donald Trump’s election night twitter feed: http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/national_world&id=8878229

[2] Football Outsiders: http://footballoutsiders.com/

[3] here: http://footballoutsiders.com/info/methods#dvoa

[4] Subscribe to author's RSS feed: http://www.prosportsblogging.com/author/bkeller/feed/

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