The Denver Broncos entered the season with a clear goal in mind; playoffs or bust. Now that we’re 10 weeks into the season, things certainly feel like they’re trending towards bust, yet the Broncos are only a game out of the playoff picture.
Although the eye test is understandably casting doubt, what do advanced analytics say about the Denver Broncos’ playoff hopes?
ESPN Football Power Index
ESPN’s assortment of ‘power indexes’ are some of the most popular analytical predictors out there, and they are not high at all on the Broncos.
In a recent article for ESPN, analytics expert Kevin Seifert used FPI to determine who had the greatest chance of making the playoffs and, thanks to their 28.1% chance of seeing the postseason, placed Denver in the second-lowest tier, labeled “Not looking good,” along with the Washington Football Team, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins, among others.
“The Broncos’ decision to trade outside linebacker Von Miller earlier this month suggested that they harbored the same mixed feelings we all do about their playoff chances,” Seifert wrote of Denver’s playoff chances. “They’ve since stomped the Cowboys in Dallas and lost at home to the Eagles. They’re one of 12 AFC teams with at least five wins, but at the moment, they trail in all tiebreakers thanks in large part to a 2-4 conference record. FPI hasn’t completely ruled them out, but there are a lot of teams to leapfrog over the next two months.”
FiveThirtyEight’s ELO rating
FiveThirtyEight is a tremendously popular analytics and projection site that is most well known for their political forecasts and projections, but they’ve also concocted a series of metrics and analytics to help them project the outcomes of just about every sport.
Their ELO ratings allow them to project a single game or the entire season.
With a 21 percent chance of making the playoffs, the Broncos rank 22nd in terms of the likelihood they see the postseason among all NFL teams and 12th among AFC teams. In the AFC, only the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Dolphins and Jets have a worse playoff outlook according to ELO.
However, this could all change quickly with a win over the Los Angeles Chargers next week. Winning that game would boost the Broncos’ playoff odds to 35 percent, ranking 20th overall, and they would pass the Raiders in their own division. On the other hand, a loss would make the playoffs seem impossible, cratering Denver’s odds to eight percent.
Football Outsiders’ DVOA
By the estimations of many credited NFL analysts, DVOA is about as good as it gets when it comes to analytics, and it does as good a job as anyone when it comes to projecting the playoffs.
Unsurprisingly they aren’t the biggest believers in the Denver Broncos either.
Football Outsiders gives the Broncos a 23.9% chance of making the playoffs and a 9.8% chance of winning the AFC West. Their overall playoff odds rank 21st overall and 12th among AFC teams, but they surprisingly are given a better chance to win the division than the Las Vegas Raiders. This is likely as a result of how many divisional games the Broncos have remaining.
Football Outsiders also projects the Broncos to finish with 8.4 wins, which would have them picking 14th in the NFL draft.
While it’s unlikely the Broncos turn things around and reach the playoffs, Football Outsiders thinks it’s even more unlikely that they fall apart and secure a premium pick, as their odds of receiving a top-five pick sit at just 1.8%.