Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

26 Oct 2007

ESPN: Denver Living Charmed Life

All three of Denver's wins this year have come via field goal, either at the end of the fourth quarter or in overtime. This week's MNF-related ESPN.com article looks at other teams that racked up a lot of close wins early. Longtime FO readers know that this isn't particularly good news for the Broncos -- although it isn't as negative an indicator compared to what I expected when I started the research.

I put this together as a "commentary-style" XP so that I could show everyone the table that isn't in the article. Here are the 24 teams since 1970 that won at least three of their first six games by 1-3 points.

Year Team After 6
Games
Final
W-L
Postseason
1983 DAL 6-0 12-4 Lost Wild Card round
1976 OAK 5-1 13-1 Super Bowl Champion
1988 BUF 5-1 12-4 Lost AFC Championship
1999 TEN 5-1 13-3 AFC Champion
1999 MIA 5-1 9-7 No
2003 CAR 5-1 11-5 NFC Champion
2004 ATL 5-1 11-5 Lost NFC Championship
1970 GB 4-2 6-8 No
1972 GB 4-2 10-4 Lost Divisional Round
1979 CLE 4-2 9-7 No
1981 MIN 4-2 7-9 No
1986 CLE 4-2 12-4 Lost AFC Championship
1988 TEN 4-2 10-6 Lost Divisional Round
1990 TB 4-2 6-10 No
1995 IND 4-2 9-7 Lost AFC Championship
1996 BUF 4-2 10-6 Lost Wild Card round
1998 OAK 4-2 8-8 No
1999 NE 4-2 8-8 No
2000 WAS 4-2 8-8 No
2004 JAC 4-2 9-7 No
2005 WAS 4-2 10-6 Lost Divisional Round
2006 CAR 4-2 8-8 No
1978 HOU 3-3 10-6 Lost AFC Championship
2003 WAS 3-3 5-11 No
2007 DEN 3-3 ??? ???

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 26 Oct 2007

14 comments, Last at 31 Oct 2007, 10:22am by dolphinsjoe

Comments

1
by david (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 6:50pm

Hmm, not nearly as bleak as I would have expected. But... I'm guessing that if you were to add the qualifier of winning by 1-3 points and having a rush defense this bad, there wouldn't be any teams on that list that made the playoffs. Either way, I wouldn't have expected to see that half the teams on that list made the playoffs.

2
by Brian (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 8:16pm

No one is claiming they're a "championship team," but I'm optimistic about Denver.

First, their internal efficiency stats are promising. Their passing efficiency (including sack yds) is solidly above average at 6th in the league. Their yds per rush is also 6th in the league.

The Broncos defense so far has been fairly below average, however. Their running defense in particular has been poor. But run D is severely overrated, especially if you can build a lead through the air--just ask the '06 Colts and Saints.

Also keep in mind they've had one of the toughest schedules so far this year, including games against IND, SD, JAX, and PIT.

Their future schedule is relatively soft--It's probably the softest of any team not in the NFC West. Given their efficient offense and soft schedule, they'll probably end up with 9 or 10 wins and a good shot at a playoff spot.

3
by DolFan 316 (not verified) :: Fri, 10/26/2007 - 10:39pm

Wow...Bashing the Fins is so in vogue now that even past playoff appearances are being wiped away by revisionist historians.

They *did* make the playoffs in '99 and even won a game believe it or not. In fact I'm amazed you didn't take the opportunity to remind the world yet again of the circumstances of their playoff loss that season.

4
by Jason (not verified) :: Sat, 10/27/2007 - 12:42am

"Their future schedule is relatively soft–It’s probably the softest of any team not in the NFC West. Given their efficient offense and soft schedule, they’ll probably end up with 9 or 10 wins and a good shot at a playoff spot."

It is worth noting that after Monday's game, Denver will have played 5 Home Games and only 2 Away Games. If they lose to GB Denver will have a losing record despite playing the Vast majority of their games so far at home. I'd say Den is more likely to finish around 6-7 wins range

5
by Jim G (not verified) :: Sat, 10/27/2007 - 12:43pm

"this isn’t particularly good news for the Broncos — although it isn’t as negative an indicator compared to what I expected when I started the research."

"24 teams that started the year with three close wins averaged 9.4 victories for the season."

That's darn near exactly what's to be expected.

Start as a given that a team won three games. Add that it did so by hair-thin margins -- it did so by luck, there's no evidence there that it's other than a .500 team. During the other 13 games on average such a .500 team will go 6.5-6.5, for a total of 9.5 wins. Pretty darn close to 9.4!

Add the fact that "since 1970" includes a bunch of 14-game seasons ... Viola! 9.4!

6
by Tom (not verified) :: Sat, 10/27/2007 - 3:24pm

Re 5:

You're forgetting that Denver is .500 with 3 close wins. There is evidence that they are worse than .500 unless the losses were by hair-thin margins.

7
by Dennis (not verified) :: Sat, 10/27/2007 - 3:59pm

Just comparing them to other teams that had 3 close wins ignores the fact that they've been beaten soundly in their other 3 games. So the teams that started 6-0 or 5-1 are totally irrelevant comparisons, and I'm not sure how relevant the 4-2 teams are either.

8
by Bobman (not verified) :: Sun, 10/28/2007 - 4:24am

DolFan316, After the 99 season the Fins got walloped by the Jags--did they win a play-in game the week before? Or are you referring to the next year when they beat Indy in OT (thank you, Lamar "200 Yards" Smith and Mike "Shank" Vanderjagt).

9
by mmm... sacrilicious (not verified) :: Sun, 10/28/2007 - 11:58pm

#3: You mean the one they lost 62-7? I can see Fred Taylor sprinting away now... :)

I think #4 nailed it. When thinking about the odds of such a team making the playoffs, remember that you're spotting them three wins.

10
by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 4:22pm

Yep, that was the 62-7 game.

Miami is 0-8, they have a first-year head coach whose only prior HC experience was a disappointing stint with a second-tier BCS team, their starting QB is out for the season, their starting RB is out for the season, and their best WR was traded to San Diego.

With all that in mind, I suppose you could talk about the Dolphins without "bashing" them, but I doubt you'd be able to say much.

11
by Todd S. (not verified) :: Mon, 10/29/2007 - 5:57pm

#10 I really consider IU a third-tier BCS team. Wait, how many BCS tiers are there? Whatever the max is, that's IU. And maybe Minnesota post-Mason as well.

12
by kibbles (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 10:43am

Re #10: Miami is 0-8, they have a first-year head coach whose only prior HC experience was a disappointing stint with a second-tier BCS team, their starting QB is out for the season, their starting RB is out for the season, and their best WR was traded to San Diego.

I thought Wes Welker was sent to the Pats? Or did you mean Booker? If so, I'm pretty sure he's still with the team.

13
by TED F!@#ING GINN!? (not verified) :: Tue, 10/30/2007 - 11:41am

Re 10:

Vernon Carey has been better than expected at Left Tackle.

That is 10 words. I think that's about it.

14
by dolphinsjoe (not verified) :: Wed, 10/31/2007 - 10:22am

Didn't Miami beat Seattle in the WC 99 (on the road) before the shellacking in Jax?