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The 2012-2015 Broncos: What Can We Learn?

Here was something I tweeted a few days before Super Bowl 50:

The 2012 Broncos were awesome. Peyton Manning, while not having the scorched-earth campaign he would enjoy a year later, still led the NFL in ANY/A and Total QBR, and received 19.5 of 50 votes for Most Valuable Player (Adrian Peterson picked up the other 30.5). The Broncos finished 2nd in points and 4th in yards, while on defense, the team ranked 4th in points and 2nd in yards. Perhaps more impressively, the Broncos defense ranked 1st in Net Yards per Attempt, and in the top three in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, and yards per carry.

The Broncos did have an easy schedule, but they were one of four teams that stood head and shoulders above the rest of the NFL, along with the Patriots, Seahawks, and 49ers. Of course, a Joe Flacco pass to Jacoby Jones, combined with a Rahim Moore blunder, wound up ruining the dream season.

The 2013 Broncos became the first and only team in NFL history to score 600 points in a season. The Denver defense was much worse, though, as Elvis Dumervil was now a Raven, while Von Miller and Champ Bailey combined to start just 12 games due to injury. The Broncos ranked 22nd in points allowed, 19th in yards allowed, and 17th in net yards per attempt. This one a one-sided team, and probably a worse one than the 2012 version. Of course, this Denver team made it to the Super Bowl.

In 2014, Manning declined significantly, but his season-long numbers were still pretty darn good: in fact, he ranked 3rd in passing value over average. C.J. Anderson proved to be Denver’s best running back of the Manning era: in the final 8 games of the regular season, he rushed 162 times for 767 yards (4.73) and 8 touchdowns, while also gaining 290 receiving yards and catching two more scores. The defense, with a healthy Miller, DeMarcus Ware to replace Dumervil, was much better, too, and received Pro Bowl seasons in the secondary out of Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, and T.J. Ward. While Denver did rank 16th in points allowed, much of that was due to the fast pace and high-scoring offense (the Broncos also faced the most passing attempts in the NFL, with 641): Denver ranked 1st in net yards per attempt allowed and 4th in yards per carry allowed. But the pass rush disappeared in the playoff loss to the Colts, while a clearly injured Manning was a disaster.

Then, this year, the Broncos were about as one-sided as the 2013 edition, albeit in a different direction. And, of course, Denver won the Super Bowl, as perhaps an even more extreme version of the 2000 Ravens. Based on DVOA, Denver ranked in the top 5 in both offense and defense in 2012 and 2014, while ranking 15th in defensive DVOA in 2013 and 25th in offensive DVOA th  syear.

So what does it all mean? One takeaway, of course, could be that balance be damned: having one dominant unit is the best way to make it to the Super Bowl. That would be an understandable conclusion from analyzing four team seasons of football, but would not hold up under any significant sample. In general, being really good on offense and defense is a much better formula than being excellent on offense or defense, and mediocre on the other side.

Another conclusion? The playoffs are a random mess, and the best way to win a Super Bowl is to have as many lottery tickets as possible. In 2004, the Steelers went 15-1, but they did not win the Super Bowl until a year later. In 2005, the Colts started 13-0, but Indianapolis didn’t win the Super Bowl until a year later, either. In 2011, the Packers went 15-1, but Green Bay won the Super Bowl the prior year; in ’11, the Packers lost to the Giants in the team’s first playoff game. The Patriots had a number of great teams from 2005 to 2013, but none of them won it all; the 2014 version was not the best team New England had during that stretch (and maybe not even the 2nd or 3rd best), but that was the one that won the title.

No team exemplifies this more than Baltimore. The Flacco Ravens made the playoffs year after year — in ’08, ’09, ’10, ’11, ’12, and ’14 — giving the Ravens a bunch of lottery tickets.  The one team that pulled through in 2012 didn’t stand out — during the regular season — as much different than any of the other Baltimore teams.

So perhaps the real lesson from the 2015 Broncos about how to win the Super Bowl isn’t about how to go from very good to great, but rather to be very good for a long enough stretch to finally take home the trophy.

  • Here were the odds from Bovada on Denver to reach/win the Super Bowl at the start of the playoffs each year:

    2012: 5/4 to win the AFC, 3/1 to win the Super Bowl
    2013: 5/7 to win the AFC, 11/4 (just a hair better than 3/1) to win the Super Bowl
    2014: 11/4 to win the AFC, 6/1 to win the Super Bowl
    2015: 2/1 to win the AFC, 6/1 to win the Super Bowl

    The 2014 team’s odds were a bit worse because of the Manning injury and how badly that team looked down the stretch. But otherwise, the 2015 team would look to be the worst. And those odds would have been notably worse had New England beaten Miami in week 17, dropping Denver to the 2 seed.

    • Daniel Menezes

      That 2012 team was scary. I don’t think I had ever been more overconfident in an eventual loss than before the Ravens game in the divisional round. They didn’t rest Manning like the Colts did, they had an 11-game win streak and were just great on both sides. Still think that was the best Broncos team with Manning.

      It is weird that in his career with both the Colts and Broncos, it was maybe his 8th or 9th best total teams that actually won the Super Bowls.

      There are anologues in other sports, too. In hockey, the ’08 Red Wings were not the best version of that team from 2005-06 through 2009-10, and in baseball, the Cardinals made the playoffs a bunch, but their two worst teams in 2006 and 2011 won it all.

      It really is about getting as many at bats as possible.

      • Four Touchdowns

        I think the ultimate 2012-2015 Broncos team would have 2013 Manning, the 2012 offensive line, 2013 receiving corps, 2014 CJ Anderson, the 2015 defense, Adam Gase at OC, Wade Philips at DC… and I guess Kubiak over Fox, since his in-game decision seem slightly better than Fox (but both are generally too conservative for my tastes).

      • John

        Also, the Chargers made the SB in 1994, not 1979, 80, or 06 when they were way better. Heck, the 2013 Chargers were better than the 94 ones. If Manning didn’t hit that key 3rd and 17 to Thomas late in that divisional round game against SD, and the Chargers came back and won, that team would have had a good chance to make the SB (I think they could have beat an overachieving Gronk and Wilfork-less NE team in Foxborough).

  • PTP

    Brilliant piece. I think Barnwell speaks quite a bit about the randomness of a Super Bowl win. He used that crazy Giants win over the Pats that year to illustrate. The stars needed to align for them to even get to the big game, let alone win it.

    One player who loved the randomness had to be Joe Flacco. He signed a monster deal after that run and they were one non-bonehead play from going home in the first round. This year’s Broncos win could’ve been Peyton’s third, not second, who knows.

    It’s why the superbowlringz talk is a conversation I bolt out of as quickly as possible.

  • Adam

    Randomness rules the playoffs. ‘Nuff said.

  • sacramento gold miners

    We can learn that a great defense, playing with the physicality and frenzy on the big stage, can still neutralize a potent attack. We saw Seattle do this a couple years ago, and the Giants shut down what we thought was an unstoppable Patriots offense. We’re learning John Elway is a tremendous evaluator of talent, and may have been underestimated. If Brock Osweiler continues to develop on the promise he showed this season, Denver will be in great shape at the position for years, while other AFC contenders have over 30 QBs.

    And while it’s good to have as many opportunities as possible, the level of difficulty in winning these Super Bowls remains extremely high. The big reason Baltimore won it all for the 2012 season was the fact Joe Flacco elevated his game, so the Ravens proved they were the best. If championships were all about randomness, the Atlanta Braves would have more than one baseball world title. They had 14 straight playoff appearances, with one of the best pitching staffs ever. No, something else is in play, and can’t always be quantified.

    • “If championships were all about randomness, the Atlanta Braves would have more than one baseball world title.”

      Not true at all. They could have just been or the wrong end of random variance. Run a random experiment enough times and you will always be able to cherry pick anomalies. For example, if you flip a coin over and over, you will eventually find a string in which it comes up heads or tails many times in a row.

      Also, if the Braves had won more championships, there would have been a different “unlucky” team to point to.

      There might be something else is in play, but it sure seems as if in recent years the NFL (and MLB, for that matter) playoffs have become, if not a total crap shoot, enough of one that trying to get to the postseason over and over really is the best strategy to “building a championship team.”

      • Four Touchdowns

        And while I’m not a baseball fan, the sport is much different than football in that teams play a series of games against each other, helping to eliminate random variables such as fumbles, unusual special teams plays, lucky catches, etc. We’re talking 16 games of football against 162 games of baseball in a single season. There’s a greater chance the cream will rise to the top when lucky and improbable wins have significantly less weight to them.

        If the 2012 Ravens had to play the 2012 Broncos, Patriots and 49ers in 3 separate best-of-5 or 7 game series, there’s a good chance they wouldn’t have won a championship that year.

        • Tricericon

          Actually, baseball playoffs are much more random than even football playoffs. Even with a 7-game series, the underlying sport is more random, different starting pitchers mean high variance in team quality, and the series itself even has an effect by diluting home-field advantage. Basketball is the sport you want to contrast with football in terms of long series vs. one-offs.

          • sacramento gold miners

            We just can’t have a series in football, the players couldn’t take the punishment. Each team has so many opportunities during a given game, if they can’t make the plays, those are just the breaks.

            • Four Touchdowns

              No one’s suggesting a series, we’re just using baseball as an example of a game that could potentially have less variance than football in determining a season’s champion.

          • Four Touchdowns

            But do you really feel it’s more random than football? Even with the variables you mention, I’d have to think a series of games would allow the better overall team to win more often than a single game would.

            I think you can get lucky and win one game against a better team — I think it’s harder to be lucky enough to win three or four games against a better team.

      • Richie

        “There might be something else is in play, but it sure seems as if in
        recent years the NFL (and MLB, for that matter) playoffs have become, if
        not a total crap shoot, enough of one that trying to get to the
        postseason over and over really is the best strategy to “building a
        championship team.””

        Wait. Both conference championship games featured #1 seed vs #2 seed. The Super Bowl featured both #1 seeds.

        In fact, 2015 was the third straight year that the Super Bowl was a matchup of #1 seeds.

        The last time it happened in 3 straight seasons was 1976-1978.

        Here’s a chart showing how many playoff games the #1 seed in each conference won.

        • Richie

          chart

        • Richie

          Chart

        • True, but if you go back the three years before that only a single #1 seed from either conference made the Super Bowl — so are either of these stats meaningful? (And by recent years I meant something more like this century, as opposed to the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, when it seems, with crunching the numbers, that the “best” team in the league won the Super Bowl more frequently.)

          Also clearly it’s better to be one of the top two seeds in your conference, because you get a bye, which is an enormous advantage (and home field advantage which is lesser advantage, but still and advantage). My main point in making the statement you quoted (which I’m basically just reiterating from the article) is that the “secret sauce” to winning a championship is probably just to get to these high seeds as frequently as possible, even if it’s with teams that aren’t the best in the league.

          Another way to say this is that the marginal difference between a great team and a very good team is probably not as valuable as getting another chance in the postseason, when it comes to winning Super Bowls.

          • Four Touchdowns

            I don’t even know that homefield is the lesser advantage — I think a good team is really hard to beat in their home stadium. Opposing offenses can have a lot of difficulty with crowd noise.

            I haven’t looked it up, but I bet Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady’s losses come more often when they’re playing outside of their home stadiums.

            Or to put it another way — Tom Brady has an 11/6 record against Peyton Manning. By sheer coincidence, the home team has an 11/6 record in that series.

      • sacramento gold miners

        But the Braves had a very heavy coin, with a better group of starters than virtually every club in the modern era. Add to that a HOF third baseman, and a near HOF centerfielder, and they had enough talent to win much more than a single WS. If randomness was a big deal, they should have broken through more than once. The Braves just couldn’t do it, and we may never know the real reason why. They are proof it takes more than just reaching the postseason to achieve the desired goal. Getting back to football, I just can’t come up with a single NFL champ who wasn’t worthy of the honor.

        • eag97a

          My take is all the SB champions are worthy by beating their opponent during the big game regardless if they crushed it (e.g. 85 Bears, 89 49ers) or they lucked their way into it (e.g. 07 Giants, 01 Pats). With that said if pressed I say the 70 Colts by almost all measures were the weakest champions and despite their pristine record I’m not very impressed with the 72 Dolphins. No disrespect to Giants, Colts and Dolphins fans.

  • Tom

    Chase – this is a great post, I had forgotten how good the Broncos were in 2012! And I like the premise – although getting in and winning the Super Bowl depends on a lot of random stuff going your way, being consistently good increases your chances that one those years, that stuff does indeed go in your favor.

    Was working on a post about OSRS, DSRS and the SB, might as well just put some of that info here since this it’s somewhat related to this post (all numbers are post-merger):

    – The team with the higher overall SRS has won the game 28 times (out of 46 games), 61%. In the last 10 years however, the SRS leader has gone 2-8 (20%).

    – Half of the SB games since 1970 have seen one team have both a higher OSRS and DSRS. That team won the game 17 times, or 74%. Certainly helps to be good at both.

    – What about the other 23 games where one team has a higher DSRS and a lower OSRS than the opponent? The team with the higher DSRS has won the game 14 times (61%).

    – And finally, there have been 13 games where a team had a higher DSRS but a lower total SRS than its opponent. That team has won the SB 8 times (62%), the Broncos were one of those teams.

    What does all this mean? It’s probably best to be better at both offense and defense, but if you’re better at defense you have a very, very slight edge (yes, this sample size is tiny).

  • Mike

    Using DVOA, the 2015 Broncos was Peyton Manning’s 9th best team of his career. His 2006 SB winning Colts were the 11th best team of his career. The 2009 Colts who made the SB was his 10th best team. His teams with the best shot to win it all were his 9th, 10th, and 11th best teams of his career. Insane. Tells you all you need to know about luck.

    • Four Touchdowns

      If there was ever proof that Super Bowls aren’t a QB stat, Manning’s last two are clear cut evidence. In 2013, he was the best QB in football by a considerable margin and got destroyed in the championship game. In 2015, he was the worst QB in football by a considerable margin and won a Super Bowl by 14 points. Every QB that Manning beat in the playoffs was better than him this year — Big Ben, Brady, Cam — but he’s the one with the SB 50 ring.

      This also works with Tom Brady’s career as well. You just ask someone — was Tom Brady a better QB in 2001 or 2007? Because the one in 2001 won the SB and the one who set all the records in 2007 was the one who lost. Was Brady better in 2001-2005 or 2006-present? Because the first one is 3-0 in Super Bowls while the second one is 1-2 in Super Bowls.

      They call it “the ultimate team sport” for a reason.

      • sacramento gold miners

        Going to have to disagree with that assessment, the QB will always play a big role in SB success. While Denver’s defense was the number one factor, Manning did just enough to play a significant role in the victory. Preventing Carolina from jumping out early was important, and Manning put enough points on the board, although it wasn’t pretty at times. Unlike the Seattle disaster, Manning didn’t get as flustered later in the game when the offense struggled. And also unlike the Seahawks game, Manning’s stat line wasn’t inflated with meaningless completions and yardage after the game had long since been decided. Although Manning is clearly a QB in decline, as we saw in the regular season, he was still good enough to deliver three winning performances, making some plays he wasn’t doing in the past.

        The issue isn’t all or nothing, but the QB does have to accept some responsibility as the most important position on the field. Generally speaking, yes, Tom Brady was a better QB later in his career. So the 1-2 record isn’t ideal, but Brady was outstanding in the most recent SB win, and nearly beat Denver in these playoffs. Losing the biggest game of his career in the 2008 SB is a negative, but even Montana had a few bad playoff games. We should consider the entire postseason record.

        • “He was still good enough to deliver three winning performances, making some plays he wasn’t doing in the past.”

          Where to begin with this excerpt. His Super Bowl performance was bad, not “winning”–the Denver offense scored all of 6 points on its own, with Manning costing two more field goal attempts at least. And as acceptably average as he was vs. Pittsburgh and New England, he was obviously much better in the 2013 postseason vs. San Diego and new England leading up to the Super Bowl. They are not equal performances just because all 4 were wins.

          Quit starting with the team result and analyzing backwards from there.

          • Tom

            Yep. It’s actually possible for a QB to play really well in a game and the team still loses the game. And if we can handle it, maybe we can not blame him for the loss.

        • Tom

          Just can’t go with you on this one…if Manning played EXACTLY the same way, the same exact plays, the same exact results, same exact Win Probability Added (which in my mind is what we’re talking about here), and the Panthers won the game at the end by some fluky kick/punt return TD’s, etc., you’d be saying that Manning DIDN’T do enough, and that he had a “significant role” in the defeat. If the Pats lost last year, you’d be saying that Brady didn’t do enough, he has a huge role in the defeat, etc., etc., when really the game was completely out of his control on that last Seahawks drive…Brady is champion or a loser based on that Butler interception. It’s absurd…Brady played great in that game regardless of the outcome, period (and I can’t stand the Pats). Manning played average in this past game, whether they won or lost (and I’m a Manning fan by the way). It’s a team game, and random as all hell to boot.

          Some other comments on what you wrote:

          Although the Broncos first drive was important, it was not nearly the only factor in “preventing Carolina from jumping out early”, and maybe wasn’t the most important either. The Denver defense, the guys who were actually “preventing” the opposing offense from moving the ball, were doing the heavy lifting there.

          “Manning didn’t get flustered later in the game when the offense struggled” Gee, I wonder why? How about because his defense was playing freaking lights out and they were ahead by 6 and 14 points? For Christ’s sake man, he was handing the ball off on 3rd-and-17!

          The QB is important, but in some games, he’s just not as important as other events and players and coaches decisions and all the other wacky stuff that can go on in a game.

          • sacramento gold miners

            Yes, wacky stuff happens, but the QB is always involved, even when other factors are involved. Had Carolina pulled out the win, we could have pointed to a failure of Denver to capitalize on enough trips to the red zone. We also would have put blame on Denver’s defense which couldn’t finish, and crediting the Carolina offense for waking up late. We also would have credited Carolina’s defense for bending, but not breaking.

            • Tom

              Well, yes, but I guess my issue is that it seems that you judge QB performance by the end result of who won the game, and it just doesn’t wash with me. I keep bringing up the Brady SB 49 example because it’s so perfect for this – the game was decided on a single play at the end. If the Beast runs the ball in, then you’d probably point to Brady’s two picks and say “Well, he just doesn’t have that magic that all the QB winners have…he’s lost 3 Super Bowls”. To me, that makes no sense.

              Brady’s WPA for SB 49: 0.60 (approx)
              Brady’s WPA for SB 49 if Seattle won the game on the last play: 0.60

              Brady played a significant role in that game whether they won or lost…

              If I’m wrong about what your point is, my apologies, but I get the sense that you want to somehow attach the win to the QB, which in some cases makes sense, but in a lot of cases it doesn’t. In Manning’s case, I just don’t think we can give him that much credit for this win…and I’m not even saying he played poorly.

          • snoth cambin

            If the Pats lost last year i dont think anyone would say Brady didnt do enough to win that game as for Peyton no ones saying Peyton contributed to the win if they had lost people would be saying the exact same thing they’re saying now just with an L and not a W.

            • Tom

              Snoth – just to be clear, sacramento IS saying that Peyton contributed to the win, that’s the discussion we’re having.

            • Four Touchdowns

              Tom Brady has two interceptions that led to a 10-14 point swing in that Seahawks game (they were in field goal range with the first one and the second one led to a Seahawks TD). People could certainly have pointed to that, as it let the Seahawks back into the game.

              Most people write the narrative based on the outcome. No one remembers that John Elway had a 51 passer rating in his first Super Bowl win or that Big Ben threw 2 INTs, no TDs, and under 200 yards in his first Super Bowl win — people just remember that they’re “winners”.

              • snoth cambin

                Those people would only be right if he didnt lead a 14 point comeback. If they game ends there they have a point. Also the 1st interception was in the 1st quarter and the second was in the third thats a LOT of time to comeback down by 4.

                “Most people write the narrative based on the outcome. No one remembers that John Elway had a 51 passer rating in his first Super Bowl win or that Big Ben threw 2 INTs, no TDs, and under 200 yards in his first Super Bowl win — people just remember that they’re “winners”.” Everyone remembers John Elway doing nothing in that game except for that last pass to griffith to put them in FG range. The same goes for Ben people remember his second ring more than his first they dont praise Ben for the first one its widely known that his performance was one of the worst in SB history.

                • Four Touchdowns

                  I never hear it. Every time anyone talks about them in the media, all they ever seem to say is they won two Super Bowls.

                  • snoth cambin

                    Well they did win 2 SBs but they praise him for his 08 performance. The Holmes pass was one of the best ever.

          • Four Touchdowns

            “Although the Broncos first drive was important, it was not nearly the only factor in “preventing Carolina from jumping out early”, and maybe wasn’t the most important either. The Denver defense, the guys who were actually “preventing” the opposing offense from moving the ball, were doing the heavy lifting there.”

            Not only that, but the second score of the game came from the defense. If the field goal was shanked and everything else played out the same, the Broncos still would have the lead early with the Malik Jackson TD.

        • Four Touchdowns

          I’m not saying that a QB plays no role in wins — clearly, there’s a correlation between quality QB play and winning football games. However, I think most people blow that correlation way out of proportion.

          If Adam Vinetieri misses two field goals and Malcolm Butler gives up a TD, Tom Brady could have had three additional Super Bowl losses in his career through no fault of his own — same great player, same incredible talent — but he would have been let down by the people around him. (BTW, this isn’t to take anything away from Brady, who has earned all four rings, it’s just an example of how important team mates are to a QB’s success.)

          Manning’s most recent Super Bowl win depended mostly on two Von Miller strip sacks and the longest punt return in Super Bowl history — that’s 16 points right there (we’ll give Manning credit for the two-point conversion) and the QB had nothing to do with those 3 plays.

          Football is won in the trenches and it starts with the offensive line — if every QB had all day to throw and his first read got open every single time, everyone would have stats better than Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, whoever. However, a QB’s time to throw is affected by protection, his receivers ability to run correct routes, beat coverage and catch the ball, all ball carriers ability to not fumble, and his defense’s ability to limit the opposing offense’s points scored.

          Let’s take Joe Montana’s West Coast offense — it required receivers to make the same reads as Montana and decide which route to run based on coverage. If Montana sees outside technique from a CB, he knows his receiver should run an inside route (like a slant or crosser), and will throw with anticipation that his receiver sees the exact same thing — if his receiver doesn’t read that coverage, Montana could very well be throwing an INT through no fault of his own. However, we always blame QBs for all INTs, even advanced metrics analysts.

          The QB is the most important player, absolutely — it’s why he makes the big bucks and is the star athlete on the field — but he doesn’t play in a vacuum and his success depends heavily on his teammates ability to perform well. The great QBs are great because they can overcome their teammates shortcomings, but even Tom Brady and Joe Montana have their limits.

          (And let’s not forget coaches — Brady gets to go to Super Bowls with Bill Belichick in his corner. Manning went to Super Bowls with Jim Caldwell and John Fox in his — not quite the same thing.)

      • humper-dinkle dinkle-humper

        Exactly.

      • snoth cambin

        I think all this shows is how regular season offenses dont normally keep it up in the playoffs. The 01 Patriots werent supposed to win the SB they’re the ultimate anomaly. The offense was good but not great the defenses was stingy but inconsistent then they get in the playoffs and were the exact same team. The 07 Patriots were a totally different team in the playoffs they stopped being dominant and came back to the pack.

        SB wins are random but a few anomalies dont change a narrative. Peyton in 2006 was bad but he came back from 14-6 deficit and the defense stuck allowing them to just win without the offense doing much i can make a much better case for Peyton winning THAT game then this past won. But usually when a team with a bad QB wins almost always is it because of an all time defense.

        Brady wasnt a better QB in 01 than he was 07 no one would say that but were they put in the same position? Did 07 Brady have to win 2 games late while time expired? No, was 07 Brady the same QB in the playoffs? No, was 01 Brady the same QB in the playoffs? Yup. Brady was much better in the playoffs from 2001-2006 than he was from 2007-2013.

        • Four Touchdowns

          “Peyton in 2006 was bad but he came back from 14-6 deficit and the defense stuck allowing them to just win without the offense doing much i can make a much better case for Peyton winning THAT game then this past won.”

          The thing to remember about Manning in 2006 was that he played the #1, 2, and 3 defenses all in a row in the playoffs, so that will skew how poorly he actually played if you don’t adjust for defense. I think I’ve read he actually performed better than average against those defenses (not that he was great, mind you).

          But either way, he didn’t win either game on his own, nor has any QB. An offensive line must still block, WRs must still get open — this isn’t boxing or MMA where you’re all on your own, the QB is dependent upon other players to play well or he can’t play well.

          “But usually when a team with a bad QB wins almost always is it because of an all time defense.”

          Neither the 2007 Giants nor the 2011 Giants are considered an all-time defenses, as they were ranked #13 and #19 in DVOA, respectively. Not sure how he played in 2011, but we recently saw an advanced analytics article from FiveThirtyEight asking if Peyton Manning was the worst QB ever to go to a Super Bowl. If you look at the chart below, his brother Eli was only a little better in 2007 than Peyton was in 2015.

          http://i.imgur.com/KCoYcIT.png

          http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/peyton-manning-had-the-worst-season-of-any-super-bowl-quarterback-ever/

          I’m not following the train of thought on your last point.

          • snoth cambin

            “The thing to remember about Manning in 2006 was that he played the #1, 2, and 3 defenses all in a row in the playoffs, so that will skew how poorly he actually played if you don’t adjust for defense. I think I’ve read he actually performed better than average against those defenses (not that he was great, mind you).” Against the Ravens he didnt do anything particularly special, his completion percentage was about the same as every other QB that defense faced that year, he had 170 yards which wasnt the best against that defense or even top 5, His AY/A wasnt the best against that defense Brees and Delhomme had better games. Against the Patriots he did have the most passing yards against them but his Passer Rating and AY/A wasnt anything special and the same goes for Chicago.

            “But either way, he didn’t win either game on his own, nor has any QB. An offensive line must still block, WRs must still get open — this isn’t boxing or MMA where you’re all on your own, the QB is dependent upon other players to play well or he can’t play well.” If you meant literally than of course the QB cant win on his own but having a great QB increases your chances winning a SB or even getting to one ten fold.

            “Neither the 2007 Giants nor the 2011 Giants are considered an all-time defenses, as they were ranked #13 and #19 in DVOA, respectively. Not sure how he played in 2011, but we recently saw an advanced analytics article from FiveThirtyEight asking if Peyton Manning was the worst QB ever to go to a Super Bowl. If you look at the chart below, his brother Eli was only a little better in 2007 than Peyton was in 2015.” The 2007 Giants adjusted sack rate was 8.8% to put that into comparison the 2015 Broncos were 8.1% they did two things great on that defense it was stopping the run and getting at the QB. The 2011 Giants SB was more about Eli than anything he had 9 TDs 1 INT his passer rating was 107 and it gets brought down because of the 49ers game he was great in that run and was really good the entire season(he was the 8th best QB in DYAR,9th in DVOA, with the 7th best offense in DVOA while leading the 4th best Passing offense in DVOA).

            “I’m not following the train of thought on your last point.”

            “This also works with Tom Brady’s career as well. You just ask someone — was Tom Brady a better QB in 2001 or 2007? Because the one in 2001 won the SB and the one who set all the records in 2007 was the one who lost. Was Brady better in 2001-2005 or 2006-present? Because the first one is 3-0 in Super Bowls while the second one is 1-2 in Super Bowls.” I was replying to this part of your comment.

        • Richie

          “I think all this shows is how regular season offenses dont normally keep it up in the playoffs.”

          Interesting thought. I would like to see an analysis of some of the best offenses in NFL history, and how those teams performed in the playoffs.

          Likewise, an analysis of the offenses that had the best performances in the post-season and how good they were in the regular season.

          And I’m not talking about W-L, but maybe things like points per drive, or yards per play.

          For instance, the 99 Rams were a great offense and won the Super Bowl, but they only scored 11 points in the NFC Champ game, and 23 points in the Super Bowl.

          • Four Touchdowns

            Typically, you can count on high scoring offenses to play a slate of easier defenses throughout their season. It’s not coincidence that both the 2015 Panthers and the 2013 Broncos both played the NFC East and AFC South and ended up scoring a lot of points.

            We should also remember that the final points don’t always reflect how well an offense did — the 2013 Broncos scored less points than their average in the playoffs, but when you looked at the points on a per drive basis, their scoring proficiency ended up being nearly the same, they just had fewer drives (they got up early in both games and milked the clock the rest of the way).

            (I’m not counting the Super Bowl, of course, just their AFC match ups.)

          • snoth cambin

            The 2007 Patriots averaged 37 in the regular season and averaged 22 in the playoffs while their PPD drops from 5.5 in the regular season to 3 in the postseason.
            The 2013 Broncos actually stayed on pace with their regular season efficiency they just scored less touchdowns.
            The 2009 Saints were another team that i remember being better offensively in the playoffs than they were in the RS.

  • That’s all you want–keep punching tickets and eventually it can work out.

    Though I still think hiring Gary Kubiak as head coach significantly lowers the value of all such tickets.

    • Richie

      However, keeping Wade Phillips on staff may cancel that out.

      • I cannot remember where, but I remember Aaron Schatz commenting once (and I’m hearing it in his voice, so I think it was on a podcast or radio show) that he had tried to look for a “Wade Phillips effect” and found nothing different from usual regression toward the mean, which also meant that his defenses that improved on his arrival tended to drop back off the next year. So, while he’s always seemed to me to be a really good defensive coordinator, it’s possible that keeping him around isn’t as helpful as it appears. Admittedly, I am relying on a fairly flimsy memory, but I remember Schatz’s explanation being convincing.

  • Adam

    Number of games needed for luck and skill to balance out:

    NFL – 12
    NBA – 14
    NHL – 36
    MLB – 70

    Really, all playoffs except the NBA’s are an exercise in randomness.

    • If the NFL really wanted its postseason to be as significant as how people treat it, there’d be something like a 6-game regular season with best-of-3 series to follow. And make Game 3 of the Super Series 6 quarters. You could start at 3 Eastern and have two “halftime” shows.

      • Tom

        Hilarious…yeah, the Super Bowl would be this gargantuan 3-week party…people would take their vacations at this time, etc.

  • humper-dinkle dinkle-humper

    Denver should have won the title in 2012 … that lose was the most egregious of the Fox/Del Rio/Gase regime. Manning found his stride quicker than expected, the defense was still strong from the previous year, and the rest of the field wasn’t terribly strong. And then Joe Flacco happened …

    • Tom

      Yep, Joe “I’m just going to launch this sucker and see what happens” Flacco…

  • sunrise089

    That 2012 Broncos team sure was good. Chase, I remember in the good old days when you did weekly predicted rankings you listed the Broncos in…week 5 I think…and said something like “this team has both a loosing record and probably won’t lose again this year.” Good call.