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BSN Breakdown: 3 Denver Broncos' stats that could use upgrades in the season's final quarter

Ken Pomponio Avatar
December 10, 2015


Believe it or not, we’ve arrived at the three-quarter pole of the 2015 NFL regular season. For the non-math majors out there, that means only four games remain before the real season begins.

And so with your 10-2 Denver Broncos on the verge of putting the wraps on their fifth straight playoff berth, there is some tidying up to be done before the postseason arrives.

More specifically, following are three under-the-radar stats the Orange & Blue need to improve to have a better shot come tourney time. And, not surprisingly, the three which jumped out all fall on the offensive side.

  • Big-play percentage – It’s nice to play keep-away, churn out first downs and methodically march down the field, but body blows are most often not enough in the NFL. The haymakers – explosive plays – are typically what produces points, send opponents reeling and decides games. Big plays here are defined as rushes of 10 yards or more and passes of 25 yards or more, and the Broncos haven’t exactly produced an over-abundance of either. Their 33 ground big plays are tied for 20th in the league and their 19 big-play passes are tied for 26th. They’re also tied for 26th with 52 big plays overall and their 6.67 percentage ranks 24th. Denver is truly an outlier here as every other team ranked in the league’s bottom half by big-play percentage has a record of .500 or worse. To put that in perspective another way, the Broncos’ defense has surrendered the NFL’s sixth-fewest big plays with 51 – only one fewer than the offensive has gained.
  • Red-zone efficiency – Getting into the red zone is one thing; capitalizing is another. And by capitalizing, we’re of course talking touchdowns. The Broncos have penetrated the opponents’ red zone on 33 drives but fewer than half (16) have resulted in TDs for a 48.8 percentage, ranking 25th in the league. Denver has ranked no lower than sixth in red-zone TD percentage in each of the last three seasons with a rate of at least 60.87 percent, including a league-best mark of 72.73 percent in 2013. All but seven other teams this season have a TD rate of at least 50 percent and the Broncos could certainly use a bump going forward as the stakes get higher. Sixes, after all, tend to count more than threes.
  • Third-down conversion rate – The NFL game certainly has changed over the decades, but third downs remain the money downs, keeping drives alive and upping the chances for points. Third-down conversions, though, have been nothing short of a struggle for the Orange & Blue this season as the Broncos rank 29th in the league with a 34.1 percent success rate, converting only 57-of-167 chances. Only the 4-8 49ers (32.7 percent), 5-7 Dolphins (28.0) and 4-8 Rams (24.4) have fared worse. The Broncos’ poor third-down rate has effectively negated the third-down success of their defense which ranks fourth in holding foes to a 33.3-percent conversion rate. Not good.

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