Posted Thu Oct 1st by Monty
For those who want a more in-depth look at the numbers that drive the NFL, we strongly recommend Football Outsiders. As part of our weekly scouting reports, we’ll be taking a look at DVOA rankings to gain some perspective on the Broncos‘ upcoming opponent.
Passing Offense: 34.7% (11th)
Rushing Offense: 61.3% (1st)
Overall: 41.6% (2nd)
What it means: Only the New Orleans Saints can boast a more dynamic offense than the Cowboys’, and no one is running as effectively as Dallas. For some perspective, consider that the Broncos are ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing (traditional yard-based rankings here). That’s pretty good, but the Cowboys rank first, and they got there with 21 less rush attempts. That pretty much says it all.
It’s fair to say the revamped Mike Nolan defense has yet to face a challenge like this. Dallas’ offensive line, running backs (even without Felix Jones), and quarterback are all significantly better than anything they’ve faced to date. They’ve found success in the ground game running both inside and outside and haven’t slowed down despite injuries. Stopping the run will be the first priority; so far, no one in the NFL has quite figured out how to do it.
Passing Defense: 30.4% (24th)
Rushing Defense: -0.7% (20th)
Overall: 17.5% (23rd)
What it means: Recall that in defensive DVOA ratings, negative numbers are better (the numbers represent the success of the opposing offenses). Heading into their Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers, the Cowboys had yet to tally a sack or takeaway, and their subpar defensive rankings reflect this. Teams have been able to throw comfortably against the ‘boys, while they’ve been very average against the run.
Enter Kyle Orton. This is the Broncos’ QB’s first best chance to lead the team, win the game and step out of the role of Game Manager. The Broncos won’t be able to rely on their defense alone to win this game; the defense has allowed an average of 5.3 points per game, but there’s just no way they’ll hold Dallas to under six points. I’d be surprised if they held them under 16 (the season total thus far).
Luckily, scoring points shouldn’t be too hard, and if Orton continues to play smart football, he won’t have to step too far out of that Game Manager role. Combined with the strong running game of Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, the Broncos shouldn’t have any trouble putting points on the board.
Special Teams: 1.9% (10th)
Compared to the Broncos’ 29th rank, this certainly indicates that the Cowboys have an advantage in the special teams department. Frankly, Denver’s special teams have been fantastic in coverage while anemic in the return game. The S/T DVOA doesn’t quite reflect this. Don’t expect the Broncos to bust a long return anytime soon, but don’t expect them to surrender one, either.
Team Overall: 25.9% (11th)
The Broncos are 3rd overall with a 47.6% DVOA thanks mostly to their top-rated defense. As FO mentions (several times), these numbers are not Defense-Adjusted yet, so technically just “VOA.” As a result, FO concludes that Denver probably doesn’t have that large of an advantage, and I agree. The Cowboys will present quite a challenge, but unlike the impression I get from FO, I don’t believe all of these rankings are smoke and mirrors. Denver is a quality ball club, and they’ll put up a fight.