Is There Something Wrong With the Denver Broncos?
Anybody that has won a Super Bowl will probably tell you the same thing: repeating as champions is really hard.
Of the 50 Super Bowls that have been played, a team has gone back-to-back just eight teams, leading to a 16% success rate.
The Denver Broncos reached the pinnacle of the sport just last year, only to miss the playoffs completely following the 2016 regular season. While future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning wasn't leading the charge under center this year, he was only a shell of his usual self during that title run.
Outside of the quarterback change from Manning to Trevor Siemian, not much changed for the Broncos. With so little change, missing the playoffs seems rather surprising, and it's right to be curious as to what caused this.
Super Bowl Hangover?
Using both traditional statistics and Net Expected Points (NEP), we can dig in and see if there was a Super Bowl hangover from last year. First, we can see how the Broncos faired on both sides of the ball from year-to-year using traditional statistic rankings.
|Year||Offensive Scoring Rank||Offensive Yards Rank||Passing Yards Rank||Rushing Yards Rank|
Offensively, they regressed in every offensive statistical category possible compared to the rest of the league. One reason for some of the drop is they ran approximately 40 less offensive plays in 2016 than they did in 2015.
Before digging further into the offense with regard to NEP, let's see if the defense suffered a similar drop to that of the offense.
|Year||Defensive Scoring Rank||Defensive Yards Rank||Passing Defense Yards Rank||Rushing Defense Yards Rank|
Not quite -- the defense remained strong and steady for the most part.
The run defense, however, suffered greatly -- falling from 3rd to 28th, which caused the overall yardage ranking to slip from 1st to 4th.
Looking at just traditional statistics, it appears that only the Broncos offense suffered after winning the Super Bowl. Does NEP tell us the same story?
|Year||Adj NEP||Adj Pass NEP||Adj Rush NEP||Adj NEP Rank||Adj Pass NEP Rank||Adj Rush NEP Rank|
By all accounts, the offense looks better in 2016 than 2015. However, the differences are not enough to make a strong statement. While traditional statistics show a decline in offense, NEP shows this is not fully true of the Broncos offense. Their offensive statistics fell, but the offense added more value in 2016 than in 2015.
Let's shift the focus back to the defense to see if this trend holds.
|Denver||Adj D NEP||Adj D Pass NEP||Adj D Rush NEP||Adj D NEP Rank||Adj D Pass NEP Rank||Adj D Rush NEP Rank|
NEP shows just like the traditional statistics -- the Broncos' pass defense showed even better in 2016 than in their Super Bowl run; however, the run defense fell off with our advanced analytics just like with traditional statistics.
Looking solely at the Broncos, very little changed from year-to-year with personnel, and how they played. If they did not cause themselves to miss the playoffs, then it is necessary to look elsewhere in finding out why they did.
Staying close to the Broncos' home, we can look at their division to see if their rivals were the cause of them not being able to defend their title. Here's a side-by-side look at the progression both the Chiefs and Oakland made on offense to see if it uncovers Denver's potential downfall.
|Year||Team||Offensive Scoring Rank||Offensive Yards Rank||Passing Yards Rank||Rushing Yards Rank||Adj NEP Rank||Adj Pass NEP Rank||Adj Rush NEP Rank|
Based on both traditional statistics and advanced analytics, the Broncos offense is the worst in both years between them, Kansas City and Oakland. The Raiders even improved enough to make them a true threat, which could be part of the reason why the Super Bowl 50 champs went from first to third in their own division.
Defensively, each squad looks similar from year-to-year, for the most part. Oakland's offensive improvement is the biggest statistical change we see in the AFC West from 2015 to 2016.
|Year||Team||Defensive Scoring Rank||Defensive Yards Rank||Passing Defense Yards Rank||Rushing Defense Yards Rank||Adj D NEP Rank||Adj D Pass NEP Rank||Adj D Rush NEP Rank|
While the Chiefs are in the middle on both sides of the ball, the Raiders and Broncos are complete opposites of one another.
There is nothing actually wrong with the Broncos when comparing their performance from last year to this year -- it's what has happened in the AFC West that really prevented them from returning to the playoffs. The Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders are three good teams that must beat up on each other while attempting to qualify for the postseason.
The division looks to be strong moving forward and will make for some interesting races down the stretch in the future.