Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

23 Oct 2012

ESPN: Why .500 Broncos Are AFC's Best

Why are the 3-3 Denver Broncos higher in DVOA than even the 6-1 Houston Texans? They have a balanced and improved defense, a terrible record of fumble recovery luck, and some dude named Peyton Manning.

Posted by: Vince Verhei on 23 Oct 2012

55 comments, Last at 25 Oct 2012, 3:03pm by Kevin from Philly

Comments

1
by Anonymiss (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 2:17pm

More like "Football Insiders"

2
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 2:25pm

That joke was already stale when TMQ made it four years ago.

6
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:04pm

I disagree... this will never get stale. FO and ESPN should be reminded of this forever.
If you need to charge your readers a fee, you should fire the department responsible for obtaining advertising on your website.
I refuse to pay these fees and, as a result, I'm seeking alternate reading material. I kissed ESPN goodbye a long time ago. FO and CHFF will be off my list soon. Both FO and CHFF have great info but they are silly to think that somebody else won't be able to provide great info for free.

7
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:24pm

I was a little annoyed when they began putting content that used to be free on ESPN insider, partly because (as a hockey fan) I despise ESPN, and partly because it was content that used to be free. Still, FO produces a quality product--I have no problem logging into my account once a year to buy the book, and browsing here without AdBlock. I'd probably even pony up for Premium if I could convince myself I'd use it enough to justify the cost.

I don't see why the Outsiders shouldn't be able to make a living off their work. Do you work for free?

10
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:37pm

I don't think "do you work for free" is a relevant argument.
If I pay FO or CHFF or ESPN to read their work, are there still advertisements all over the web page?
The money is typically collected in one of two ways:
1. Advertisers pay the site to display their ads.
2. Readers pay for the content.
I assume there will still be ads visible if I pay the fees. That means they are collecting from both #1 and #2. If they need to collect from #1 and #2 to survive, then maybe their work isn't good enough to attract enough readers (which would also explain why they linked up with the pathetic ESPN).
Or, it could also be that they are arrogant and greedy.
I love the free stuff that is available, but I will never pay FO or CHFF to read their work.
I may be in the minority though.

15
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:55pm

It's absolutely a relevant argument. You seem to be under the impression that since they run a website that produces free content, they should be prohibited from producing content for any other media outlet, while I'm under the impression that anything that allows them to devote their full effort to producing interesting analysis about football instead of having a day job will improve the quality of the free content, just like doing my job right now instead of arguing on the internet would probably make me more productive.

Finally, it's slightly off-topic, buy I wouldn't read CHFF (even as satire) if they paid me to.

16
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 4:00pm

Are the ads still there if you go premium?
CHFF is decent. They have some good info if you can get through the dribble.
Anything else good out there (although you're starting to sound like an FO homer so I don't expect much of an answer)?

19
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 4:25pm

And another question:
If I go premium will I be able to read this article or will I also have to become an ESPN insider?

17
by Independent George :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 4:07pm

Wow. That's quite the entitled attitude you have there.

A publication such as FO has to balance revenues, readership, and marketing. Giving all content away for free leads to high readership, but reduced revenues (obviously). Fees for content increases revenues, but content is very price elastic, and readership drops significantly for each additional price increase. It also makes it impossible for other publications to link to your content. In the real world, web publications seldom earn enough from advertising to be viable on its own.

So what's the solution? Keep some content behind a low-cost firewall, subsidizing the cost with your advertising revenues. To most people, this is win-win: most content is free, but a small amount costs a nominal fee.

But, since this doesn't match your platonic ideal of a business model, it is clearly unacceptable.

18
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 4:22pm

I don't understand this comment "Giving all content away for free leads to high readership, but reduced revenues."
More readers = more advertisement income. Just like Super Bowl advertisement fees. If the viewers are there, the price to advertise goes up.
I can understand charging fees for use of the data base. I can't understand charging fees to read an article. Usually a media outlet collects from advertising. I can't see paying to read an article while there are advertisements all over the page.
It isn't about whether it is acceptable to everybody or not. It isn't acceptabe to me so I share this info with FO. I don't really care if others have a different opinion. I am simply sharing my opinion with FO and ESPN. ESPN has been charging "insider" fees for several years now so it must be working for them.
I imagine FO will go in the direction that the results show (if there are 5 whiners like me and plenty of payers, then the fees will stand, if there are many whiners then maybe the fees will go away).

34
by LionInAZ :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:42pm

Do us all a favor and count the number of advertisements on this site, then compare it to the amount of advertising you get on your other favorite sites. FO is pretty clean compared to the vast majority of them, and I very much doubt the advertising here covers the costs of maintaining the site.

Feel free to complain all you want about ESPN, but to lump FO together with them is just ridiculous.

And yes, you do project an air of entitlement. Doesn't help that you can't be bothered to register your username, which doesn't cost anything.

35
by LionInAZ :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:49pm

Do us all a favor and count the number of advertisements on this site, then compare it to the amount of advertising you get on your other favorite sites. FO is pretty clean compared to the vast majority of them, and I very much doubt the advertising here covers the costs of maintaining the site.

Feel free to complain all you want about ESPN, but to lump FO together with them is just ridiculous.

Anyway, it's ESPN that's charging for the article, not FO, which is only supplying the content (and probably getting paid for it, which helps support this site). So complain to ESPN, not FO. Unless you're saying that FO has no right to sell content to others as they see fit.

20
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 4:30pm

And why is it an "entitled attitude?"
I don't want to pay to read the article so I shared that info with FO. It is only relevant to FO.
It isn't any different than sharing the "why" when I stopped buying a beer at lunch at my favorite lunch place. They raised the price from $6 to $8. Next time I went in I said I didn't want a beer because they raised the price.
Should I have just told them that I didn't want a beer and not shared the reason?

11
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:45pm

And I certainly don't have anything against FO charging fees for access to their data bases. No problem there. You can't get their data anywhere else.
But pay to read an article? Please......

28
by DisplacedPackerFan :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:22pm

So under the old, pre-internet model, paying for a newspaper, and that newspaper having adds, sheesh! Or paying for a magazine and there are ads in the magazine! Yes, libraries do pay for the papers and magazines they carry, and they used to have to pay to be able to create the microfilm/fische copies. You pay for that through taxes or membership fees, but you still pay. People may have thought the purchasing price was simply for the medium and the ads paid for the content. Well internet medium isn't free either, server space costs, etc. Internet advertising is also not as lucrative as many think, since a lot of companies have realized it it doesn't work as well as they would like.

If you want to go to a medium paying for cable TV channels that never had over the air broadcasts and there are adds on those channels, please.

It's a very very very common model to use ads to supplement content. Articles are intellectual property, they have value. Written words are sold all the time. If you don't value the author or the potential insight, don't pay. I've only got ESPN insider because for the last couple of years I've been able to find a deal to get an ESPN the mag sub for $5 a year, which includes Insider. That's about where I value it. When I can't get those deals I don't pay and don't care much, but there is some good info behind the paywall.

I don't think your opinion is out of left field or anything, I know my opening paragraphs, which were mimicking your own style, my look that way, I just found it odd that you didn't recognize the business model from other industries. It certainly may not be the most efficient, but it has proven to work for many businesses. Everyone has the right to try and maximize their profit, even if they don't need to in order to break even/be successful. It can be frustrating and feel exclusionary, but it's capitalism.

43
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 6:12am

Many excellent points. And I do have an account but I'd have to look it up (signed up 4 or 5 years ago).
I guess my main beef is that I used to get it for free. First ESPN pissed me off (but I learned that I don't miss them anyway) and then FO started joining up with ESPN insiders. I suppose it is good for ESPN that they actually have an "insider" worth reading now.
Still, nobody answered my questions. If I go premium, do I still have to pay ESPN to view a FO post on ESPN? Perhaps I should be having this discussion with somebody within FO and not their defenders.
Sorry for "clogging up the board," what ever that means.

44
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 6:14am

sorry, somebody answered below already. Us "entitle" types don't like to search either.

24
by RickD :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:02pm

Thanks to all of you for clogging the top of the comments section with this discussion.

52
by commissionerleaf :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 1:31pm

/signed.

Can we get these nonfootball posts culled?

55
by Kevin from Philly :: Thu, 10/25/2012 - 3:03pm

Couldn't disagree more. Sometimes they get tedious, but the non-football related comment threads are often more interesting.

3
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 2:35pm

If they are what I (and DVOA) thinks they are, this is the NFL sleeping giant right now.

They can go 10-0 to close out the season. They probably won't, but 9-1 or 8-2 is a more than likely result.

I'm not sure about this, but it seems to me the Broncos defense has been really good on 1st and 2nd down and bad on 3rd down. Wondering what the DVOA split is. I know FO has said that that is a good predictor of future defensive success in a following season, but maybe too in season.

4
by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 2:47pm

Get premium and you could see that Denver's D by down is:

1st: 8th
2nd: 13th
3rd: 8th

The 3rd down run defense is in the bottom third of the league though, it might be that you picked up on that.

Edit: Looks like they might be updating the numbers, the rankings are probably a bit out but the gist holds up.

5
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 2:59pm

Thanks.

I guess it is better than I thought. I remember the Steelers converting a ton of 3rd downs, same with New England.

13
by Bobman :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:51pm

Yeah, that Steelers game was unreal with Roethlisberger converting like 11 of 13 third downs. at least that's how I remember it. Manning even mentioned it in his post-game interview.

25
by RickD :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:03pm

The Steelers lead the NFL in converting 3rd downs.
At least, that's what we were told Sunday night at the start of their game @ CIN.

8
by Stats are for losers (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:25pm

Apologies if this has been mentioned before (I think there was an article about it last season, at least), but what does Denver's defense look like by half (or quarter) so far? It seems that going back to last season (during the whole Tebow fiasco), their defense had a tendency to come up with improbable and game-changing plays in the second half/fourth quarter on a regular basis.

30
by JIPanick :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:23pm

If going from 1-4 to a playoff win is a fiasco, throw me in that briar patch every year.

A fiasco is something like the Longhorn Network; the 2011 Broncos don't qualify.

9
by DevilFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:34pm

Texans pretty easily beat the Broncos on the field in Denver. I will never count out Peyton Manning but Texans appear to be a much more well-rounded team than the Denver Mannings. Texans run offense and defense are better than Denver's. In a shootout with all other factors equal, Denver would probably be favored because I trust Peyton more than Schaub in that kind of high scoring game. Texans aren't in too many shootouts with their ability to slow down the game with the run and shut down the opposing offense. This is a question that will more than likely be answered on the field in January.

12
by Brent :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:49pm

Not so easily, actually. The Broncos got the ball late in the game down by only one score. They had just driven for a score on the previous possession. They had very little time, but would they have won if they had 30 more seconds at that point? Very possible, I think.

Now, I admit that "ifs" are not very useful, but holding off a late charge and winning by 6 points isn't an "easy" win.

14
by peterplaysbass :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 3:54pm

If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts the Vikings would've won a few Super Bowls by now.

21
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 4:32pm

I thought the Vikings missed out because they had too much candy and butts on the pleasure boat.

22
by DevilFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 4:35pm

Texans were up by ~20 points for much of the second half and never trailed. Pretty easily won.

23
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 4:55pm

They were up 20 for about 6 minutes. The largest lead they had at any other point was 16 (when it was 21-5), and even that lasted three minutes.

It was a comfortable win, but far from easy. The Texans had to complete a late 3rd and 5 to ice the game, as had they not, Manning has around 2 minutes down just 6 after leading TDs on two of three drives.

That said, the argument for Houston > Denver is not just that they beat them head-to-head. No team since 1972 has gone undefeated, so there's always that argument for any team.

There are more logical arguments for picking Houston. Their point differential is way better. They've scored more points per game while allowing less. They've blown out four teams in their wins.

That said, DVOA likes Denver better. Considering who Denver has lost to and by how many (a TD in the 1st quarter is the same as the 4th), it isn't that outrageous.

27
by RickD :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:13pm

Yes, DVOA likes Denver's strength of loss.

But that's a bit silly. SOS shouldn't matter all that much when talking about opponents lost to.

31
by JIPanick :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:25pm

To me it seems intuitive that in evaluating the quality of a team, SOS of opponents beaten should matter just as much SOS of opponents beaten. Why am I wrong?

32
by DevilFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:32pm

We are arguing semantics in terms of comfortable vs easy. As a Texans fan I am undeniably biased. After ten years of watching Peyton destroy the Texans twice a year, any game in which the Texans are up nearly three scores on a Peyton Manning team seems like an easy win to me.

26
by RickD :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:10pm

Wow, that one loss to GB really hammered the Texans, eh?

This is what I'm talking about when I say DVOA over-states the importance of one big blowout.
Denver is 3-3 with a +32 point differential. Houston is 6-1 with a +88 point differential. Not only have the scored more than 30 points per game (a higher avg. than Denver), they've given up fewer points in spite of playing one more game.

Oh, and they beat the Broncos head-to-head.

The Broncos have lost the three games they've played against division leaders outside of their division (ATL, NE, and HOU). But they've beaten PIT (at home), SD (on the road), and kicked the crap out of the Raiders.

So, what's going on here? DVOA over-loves the butt-kicking of the Raiders and over-hates Houston's loss to GB. There's no other rational way to look at the records of these two teams and think Denver is the better of the two.

29
by DevilFan (not verified) :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:23pm

Houston's special teams is also terrible. I believe ST is 1/7th of DVOA. Don't know offhand how good the Broncos ST are but I imagine this really drags down Houston's DVOA relative to better teams.

36
by tuluse :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 6:03pm

STDVOA is 1/7, but Aaron pre-divides it by 3 to account for that.

33
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 5:40pm

Some of it may be that two of Houston's wins are against two of the worst teams in the NFL (Jacksonville and Tennessee), and two others came against decidedly average teams (Miami, New York).

When you look further, there are reasons to like Denver in that they have been unlucky. Schedule is just one reason. Fumble (un)luck is another.

I agree with you that Houston being behind Denver in DVOA is surprising, but seeing what the DVOA results have been like mid-season the past few years, not that shocking.

37
by Vince Verhei :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 6:20pm

I’m just going to address a couple of factual issues/questions here.

I was a little annoyed when they began putting content that used to be free on ESPN insider,

Almost entirely untrue. Any Given Sunday started on FO, ran on ESPN for a few years, and now is back on FO. An abbreviated version of Quick Reads runs on ESPN a day before the full version appears here. Every other FO item that has ever run on ESPN is extra material, something that would not have existed on FO or any other site if had ESPN paid us to do it. Except for AGS, everything that was ever free on FO, has always been and is still free on FO.

If I go premium will I be able to read this article or will I also have to become an ESPN insider?

No. Those are separate products offered by separate companies. ESPN Insider gives you access to tons and tons of articles in a wide variety of sports, a very small percentage of which are produced by FO writers. FO premium gives you access to our DVOA database, splits by down/field position/score/etc, through history back to 1991. FO premium also offers extra fantasy and gambling advice (for our Las Vegas readers, of course).

Apologies if this has been mentioned before (I think there was an article about it last season, at least), but what does Denver's defense look like by half (or quarter) so far?

1st: -0.1% (23rd)
2nd: 11.3% (24th)
3rd: 1.3% (20th)
4th/OT: -68.8% (1st)

This is exactly the kind of info you get in FO premium (which, for the record, has no ads).

But that's a bit silly. SOS shouldn't matter all that much when talking about opponents lost to.

Really? You don’t see any difference between a loss to Houston and a loss to, say, Cleveland?

38
by RickD :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 9:30pm

"But that's a bit silly. SOS shouldn't matter all that much when talking about opponents lost to.
Really? You don’t see any difference between a loss to Houston and a loss to, say, Cleveland?"

I don't think losing to Houston should help a team, no. Not relative to a team that didn't lose to Cleveland.

The general point, which I didn't want to get into detail, but it seems that I must, is this: losing to a good team doesn't prove anything. Losing to a bad team does prove something. I'm sorry I didn't formulate it that way, but that's the basic point. It's why it's silly to argue that Denver at 3-3 is the best team in the AFC. This is an embarrassing marriage to a statistical system.

What you guys should be doing here is looking at why Houston is listed lower than Denver, rather than arguing that the system must be correct. And the answer is? Houston is massively penalized for having bad special teams. Are the relative weightings of special teams vs. offense and defense reasonable? We really have no reason to think that they are, especially since the generation methods are considered propietary (i.e., non-public).

From what I see, FO has three different DVOA systems, each of which is interesting by itself. But whether they are correctly considered when added? It's beyond me why that should be considered the case. It's far from obvious why separately generated statistics should be added together (especially in the case of special teams, which interact on the field with neither the offense nor the defense).

Given the wide variability of how many plays the special teams play in a given game, it's very hard for me to imagine how they should be treated as a summand next to offense and defense.

39
by theslothook :: Tue, 10/23/2012 - 11:28pm

I agree with your larger point that one game shouldn't be weighed so heavily(if that is the explanation for houston's position), though this will no doubt dissipate as the season goes along. Dvoa, like any statistic, is a victim of sample size.

To your other point, I don't get why, in theory, you can take nothing from losing to a good team but make sweeping statements about losing to bad teams. Truth be told, most teams, even the good ones, do not play the same every week and everyone is prone to a poor performance. After all, you could argue the packers this year are the victims and beneficiaries of both circumstances. Does that alter our general view of them?

40
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 1:26am

Winning or losing can often mean nothing at all, which is why DVOA doesn't consider it with regards to it's formula. Teams get no "help" for losing to anyone (or winning).

41
by theslothook :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 2:30am

I guess I need to be more specific. Dvoa performance is highly volatile. naturally, if you lose to a bad team, you're probably going to put up a poor commensurate performance dvoa wise and vice versa for a good team. Sigh tuluse, for forcing me to be more thorough than I needed to be. For that, I shall put the tebow curse on the bears going forward!

42
by Vince Verhei :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 3:24am

losing to a good team doesn't prove anything.

I would say that playing well against a good team proves something, even in a loss.

Anyway, as to the question of why HOU is ranked below DEN, the answer is simple: The GB loss kills them. Their DVOA for that game is -53.4%. In every other game, it has been 16.5% or higher.

DEN has no games with negative DVOA. They were at 1.9% against ATL, 2.3% against NE, and at least 37.0% in every other game.

The argument about whether one game should be weighed so heavily is fair, especially so early in the year, but that's how DVOA works. All plays count the same.

54
by denteigeler (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 2:43pm

Anyway, as to the question of why HOU is ranked below DEN, the answer is simple: The GB loss kills them. Their DVOA for that game is -53.4%. In every other game, it has been 16.5% or higher.

Which is why I think there should be an adjustment for anomalies. Texans loss to Green Bay is an anomaly. Every team has a game or two that just don't make sense in the grand scheme of things.

I don't know how you would incorporate an anomaly. Perhaps make it less weight than the other games? And also, how do you determine an anomaly? Was the Giants defeat of the 49ers an anomaly?

45
by Anonmouse (not verified) :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 6:22am

Thanks for the info.
I can certainly understand FO readers getting irritated with how this panned out regardless if it was "new" material or not. People pay for FO's content, then FO provides content to another site, then the readers that already paid to view FO's content now have to pay to view FO content on another site? Oh, we only paid for some of FO's content? Geesh.
And before more of FO's defenders jump in, I'm done. I'm moving on. Ranting time is over. I have DVOA stats to analyze:)

46
by Vince Verhei :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 6:54am

People pay for FO's content, then FO provides content to another site, then the readers that already paid to view FO's content now have to pay to view FO content on another site? Oh, we only paid for some of FO's content? Geesh.

Do you feel this way about all businesses? If you go to a restaurant and buy a hamburger, and then the restaurant starts making pizza, do you think you should get the pizza for free? After all, you already paid for the hamburger.

When ESPN came to us and offered to pay us money to produce content, should we have said no? What would you have done?

47
by In_Belichick_We... :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 8:19am

Not quite the same comparison. When I buy a pizza, I'm paying for the one pizza, period. If I pay to view FO content, the pizza example is only relevant if I have to pay for each article posted.
A pizza example should look more like this:
I joined a membership to the pizza place that provided me access to all of their pizza as a member, but then the pizza place started making their pizza available at another location and I couldn't have that pizza without paying extra. Even though the pizza is made by the pizza place I have a membership with.
It appears to me that I would pay for FO content but not be able to read an article that is on this site via a link (this article).
I will say that I enjoy FO material very much and I will probably break down some day and pay for it. I still will always think it is a bit shady to post a link to FO content on the FO web site that FO members can't access.
Regarding the ESPN comment: I don't think I'm in any position to fairly answer. In your shoes, trying to make a living, and having the opportunity to reach new viewers, I'd probably do it too. But I have hated ESPN for a long time. They don't teach me anything about sports. They just show the highlights and spew lame comments. As a common consumer, I will continue to hate ESPN and hope they lose market share. The only one I can even stand is Jaws. At least he tried to provide useful info.

For the above repliers: I finally looked up my username. I also learned that I haven't used it in 2.5 years. The last time I used it I was complaining about FO content / ESPN insider content so I have adjusted my signature accordingly.

Entitled freeloader

48
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 11:50am

Watching WGN doesn't entitle me to a free subscription to the Chicago Tribune because their TV station is free.

Buying an author's book (paying for content) does not entitle me to every book he's ever written.

I don't see any moral issues with FO providing content behind multiple pay walls.

Now personally, I won't give the Disney cooperation any money, so I miss out on the insider articles myself. However, I do think it's a bit ridiculous to demand FO sells their content in only ways you find acceptable.

49
by In_Belichick_We... :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 1:09pm

I wouldn't say I am demanding anything.
I simply choose not to pay. Since I also enjoy their work very much, I also decided to provide feedback as to why I chose not to pay.
I would think any business would like to know why a potential customer snubs them.
Don't you think Disney would like to know why you won't give them any of your money? I don't think you are obligated to tell them, that is your choice, but I'm sure they would like to know.

Entitled freeloader

51
by tuluse :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 1:25pm

No, I don't think Disney cares they lost out of the < $100 per year they lose from me.

They also couldn't get it from me without becoming a wholly different organization, so I'm doubly sure they don't care.

50
by In_Belichick_We... :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 1:10pm

double post

53
by jds :: Wed, 10/24/2012 - 1:59pm

I don't understand post 45.