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Over at Five Thirty Eight, I look at whether the Broncos pass offense, or the Seahawks pass defense, is more immune from regression to the mean.

 As a general rule, elite offenses are further from league average than great defenses, so offensive regression isn’t as likely as defensive regression. It helps, too, that research has shown offenses to be more consistent from year to year than defenses. All else being equal, we would expect the Broncos to be the more likely team to repeat last year’s brilliant performance.But all else isn’t equal. Denver produced 2013’s record-breaking numbers while playing defenses from the AFC South and the NFC East; those will be replaced this year by the AFC East and the NFC West, divisions that present much more formidable challenges. That’s a significant change.

According to Football Outsiders, Denver played the third-easiest slate of opposing defenses in 2013. Based purely on adjusted net yards per attempt, the average defense Manning faced last year was 0.44 ANY/A below average, and that’s after adjusting those defenses’ ratings for the fact that they played Manning. Only Alex Smith and Robert Griffin III faced more cupcakes. Last year, Manning didn’t Omaha against a single defense that ranked in the top eight in strength-of-schedule ANY/A; this year, he’s set to face six opponents that ranked in the top eight in that metric in 2013.

You can read the full article here.

  • Richie

    Now you’re writing for 538 as well? Sheesh. I don’t believe you that you actually have a day job.

    • Chase Stuart

      Cmon, Richie. I’m not writing for 538 as well: I took today off from Football Perspective!

      • Richie

        Is “e-mail notification of replies” one of the plug-in features you disabled?

        • Chase Stuart

          I believe so.

      • I find it quite funny that you took a rare “day off” from your blog on the same day that I wrote three posts for mine. (Well, posted three. I wrote one of them a couple of days ago.)

        btw, you attracted an unusually casual group of commenters at 538–it looked like an ESPN comment section, which is not normal for 538 (at least from what I’ve seen).

        • Chase Stuart

          From what I heard, ESPN promoted the article which would explain that.

          • Ah, it would definitely explain that. I had also completely forgotten that ESPN owns 538, which still seems weird to me for some reason.

  • Nick Bradley

    good stuff Chase, but Seattle faces an additional hurdle in that officiating will change drastically.

    Seattle pushed the legal boundaries of illegal contact and pass interference (to a much lesser extent) and that resulted in an ANY/A way below what it should have been. After a dozen or so coaches complained to the league, the league is now ensuring that they don’t have every NFL team challenging officials to throw a flag on every pass play.

    Pete Carroll knew refs wouldn’t throw a flag on every play, so he pushed the line a bit. He won.

    I’m not saying Seattle didn’t have an excellent defense (they did!), but it became a historically-elite defense because of a gap in NFL rules officiating…a gap that has now been filled.

    • Chase Stuart

      To the extent that officiating will change significantly, that will raise the league average ANY/A. Obviously Seattle is very unlikely to be at 3.19 ANY/A allowed again this year, but I’m not sure that the Seahawks will be hurt disproportionately to the rest of the league. The Seahawks ranked 1st in pass pressure last year, IIRC, which obviously helps. And if covering receivers gets more difficult, that might make the defensive backs who are best at covering receivers look even better relative to league average. It’s all speculation, of course.

      • Nick Bradley

        I don’t think its all speculation. We have lots and lots of audio of Richard Sherman telling teammates to hold and commit pass interference and because the refs aren’t going to call it on every play. He was literally challenging the officials to flag him at times — they did not.

        I don’t know of anyone else who tried this type of hyper-aggressive rule-challenging. As a result, they will get hurt more.

        If the refs actually act on the threats they’re making this preaseason, I expect this to be known as the “Richard Sherman Rule”.

        • Chase Stuart
          • Nick Bradley

            That’s basically the only article that contradicts the hypothesis that the Seahawks dared the refs to throw flags all year long.

            every other piece of analysis contradicts it.

            I’m amazed how often I see this story from The Big Lead.

            • Ian

              Here’s another one then.


              “Sherman pulls receivers, but not significantly more than any other player playing physical coverage in today’s NFL.

              The whole idea is overblown.”

              Besides, as a Niners fan it’s not like you’re going to be exposed to many articles that paint the Seahawks in a positive light, and certainly aren’t actively searching for them.

            • Just wanted to add two points on previous rule changes on DPI. After 2003, the league said it would crack down more on holding and downfield contact. The perhaps most notable culprits, the Pats, went from 2nd to 7th in defensive DVOA. So a fall, but maybe just regression and age (they were 27th in 2005). Also, the big changes after 1977 didn’t hurt the Steelers’ defense. They went from 7th in DSRS in ’77 to 2nd in ’78. Just two data points, but they do perhaps point towards the Seahawks not being impacted much more than other teams.

          • Nick Bradley

            The NFCCG was also one of their cleaner games, to be honest.

        • Ty

          The Seahawks did exploit a market inefficiency, but they are still extremely talented and one of the best (if not, the best) secondaries in the league. This rule will probably hurt the teams with poor secondaries the most, as they won’t have much to lean on if they get beat (which will be often).

          The Seahawks defense probably won’t be as good as last year (which was a GOAT level defense), but it will still be among the best (and arguably THE best).

          • Nick Bradley

            yeah, they’re still going to have a top 5 or top 3 defense.

        • Ian

          Well, we’re two games into the new penalty-filled preseason and Seattle has been called for 2 defensive holding, illegal contact and defensive pass interference penalties per game. The average team has been called for 2.92. Doesn’t look like they’re getting hurt more so far.

          • Nick Bradley

            Preseason doesn’t mean anything.

  • Nick M.

    Just wondering what y’all think about all this now that the new season is about a third done. Clearly Seattle’s D has regressed but is still elite. The legion of boom seems pretty human. My opinion is this: Seattle’s secondary (as amazing as it was) was overrated last year. The key to their D was their D line, specifically in terms of pass rush. The secondary’s job is SOOO much easier when they only have to cover a guy for a couple seconds before the QB starts running for his life (or just falls to the ground, in the case of Manning). I don’t remember a D getting as much consistent pressure on QBs with a 4 man rush as Seattle’s did last year, with the super bowl being the prime example. I felt like their D line sort of slipped under the radar because of the hype (and loud mouths, combined with obvious talent) of their secondary. In other words, what’s regressed for Seattle is their pass rush, and if i remember correctly, declination of pass rush quality is pretty typical. I know they’ve had injuries and will almost certainly find a way into the playoffs, but the simple fact that they’re not getting consistent QB pressure with 4 guys makes their D (and their whole team) beatable in a way that didn’t seem possible last year.

    On a different note, Seattle HAS had trouble with penalties this year. but the problem seems to be an incredibly sloppy OL, which is a bit surprising to me. Not so much a problem with D holding and interference.