I am, and always will be a Kansas City Chiefs fan. I like seeing the Bears win because I live in Chicago and it’s a much more pleasant place when the local team is winning and the majority of my social circle consists of Bears fans. However, it’s the Chiefs that keep me interested all year around and it’s the Broncos who are my least favorite team in the league. Sure, we have the Raider Haters all over Chiefs Nation, but the Broncos are the team that seems to beat us when we are at our best and ruin our better seasons. Let’s face it, the Raiders have been a complete joke for over a decade.
One would think that I would be completely beside myself with the Broncos signing of Peyton Manning, but that’s not the case. Here’s why: everyone thinks he’s the Peyton of 2004, not 2010. That’s simply not the case.
Consider the following QB seasons:
— GP CMP ATT CMP% YDS AVG TD LNG INT FUM RAT
Season A – 15 343 502 68.3 4,643 9.25 45 93 6 4 122.5
Season B – 16 450 679 66.3 4,700 6.92 33 73 7 2 91.9
Season C – 15 262 450 58.2 3,116 6.92 27 75 7 2 93.0
The first thing that should jump out is that the Season A QB accomplished almost the same number of yards and significantly more TDs as the Season B QB with 177 fewer attempts. Who is behind season A? Aaron Rodgers in 2011.
What do you notice about Seasons B and C? To me, it looks like the exact same player, only one of them threw a lot more passes and disproportionately more interceptions. In other words, if you extrapolate Season C to 679 passes, the numbers are better for C. Furthermore, studies (that are admittedly less than perfect) suggest that, by far, the most important number to evaluate QBs is Yards per Attempt. B and C are exactly the same in this category.
Season B was Manning in 2010, Season C was Cassel in 2010. The last year that both of them were healthy. I think B is the ceiling for Manning (given his age and the Broncos lack of skill position talent), whereas C would be average to below average for Cassel. Not to mention that Manning is a far bigger injury risk than Cassel. Cassel is going to have more weapons to work with and a better line than he did in 2010, whereas Manning will have fewer weapons and a line that is going to have learn a completely new blocking scheme that they may not be suited for.
One can make the argument that keeping a particular performance level in the passing game gets more difficult with each pass as the attempts add up over time, which hurts this analysis a bit. Also, Cassel had a really good running game to rely on in 2010, which made his job a little bit easier. These are fair criticisms and things to keep in mind for sure. However, I think these numbers make the point very clearly: Manning is a lot closer to Matt Cassel than he is to Aaron Rodgers (and this analysis doesn’t even include running statistics). Aaron Rodgers is a truly elite QB at this stage, Manning has the big name, but is really just above average.
Also, one has to realize that the Broncos have a flat to downward trending defense that is aging in the secondary that struggled any time they did not dominate time of possession last year. The Chiefs, on the other hand, allowed fewer than 17 points per game during the second half of the season (without Eric Berry in the lineup) and that was against some really high-powered offenses including the Patriots and Packers. The vast majority of Chiefs players are also really young or at the beginning of their primes.
Last year, the Broncos had the point differential of a 6 win team, but they got kind of lucky and won 8 games. If things go just right for them this year, they will likely win 9 games, but it will tough since they are playing a very difficult first-place schedule. The Chiefs, on the other hand, went 7-9 without, arguably, 4 of their 5 best players and get an easy 4th-place schedule. 10 wins seems pretty likely. Because the Raiders are shedding contracts to try to get under the salary cap and San Diego is going in the wrong direction, the smart money is on the Chiefs winning the division next year.