Titans and Broncos: A Study of Contrasting Seasons

Donna CavanaghCorrespondent INovember 25, 2009

HOUSTON - NOVEMBER 23:  Quarterback Vince Young #10 of the Tennessee Titans scrambles for a first down in the fourth quarter against the Houston Texans at Reliant Stadium on November 23, 2009 in Houston, Texas. Tennessee won 20-17 on a Rob Bironas 53 yard field goal.
Bob Levey/Getty Images

When the NFL schedule came out last spring, a quick glance at the bye weeks showed that two of the teams off in Week Seven were the Titans and Broncos.

If we told you in the summer that one of these two teams would be 6-0 and the other would be 0-6, and then asked you to tell us who would have the winning record, we are confident that you and any other football fan would have replied, “That’s easy—the Titans will be 6-0 and the Broncos will be 0-6.”

We are sure you all know now that it was the Broncos who were 6-0 at Week Seven and the Titans who languished at 0-6.

Teams often use their bye weeks to try to make big changes, get healthy, and right a ship going in the wrong direction. Teams never want their bye to “break their momentum” when things are going right, but sometimes the bye week turns out to be a curse instead of a welcome respite.

When Week Seven arrived, it is as if someone stole all of the Broncos’ momentum and transferred it to Tennessee as a cruel joke.

So, we decided to take a look at the two teams’ seasons to date to see what the PossessionPoints stat could tell us about it. For those of you not familiar with the stat, we will give you a very brief rundown. The stat is based on, among other things, “time of possession” and points scored on a scoring drive.

We have determined significant values where we turn our indicators Green, Red, and Yellow. In a game, a team with a “Green” offense wins better than 75 percent of the time and a team with a “Green” defense wins over 80 percent of the time. We find these color indicators very useful in evaluating team defense and offense.

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If you look at the Broncos’ and Titans’ charts below, you can see that they reveal some interesting things. The first six games the Broncos were pretty balanced, mostly led by their defense with four green performances, but their offense did have three green performances.

The Titans had no green performances. In fact, they had three red offensive and three red defensive performances.


Since the bye, the Broncos have been almost completely red, and their best performance was a yellow performance against the Steelers. However, the Titans seem to have found their offense with Vince Young. Their defense had its lone green performance of the year right after the bye, but it is the offense that proved to be the main factor in their recent success.

It is hard to ever say one player is responsible for winning or losing, but the Titans made a switch at QB in the bye week, and it is hard to argue with results.

We’ve been doing a lot of schedule analysis this season, and we have found that frequently in the NFL teams beat the teams they should, and their losses come at the hands of better teams. When teams go on winning or losing streaks, a look at their schedule often provides the answer as to why they are on a winning or losing run.

However, this schedule is not the case with either the Broncos or Titans.

One of the ways we have been looking at this is by looking at “Quality Wins” and “Bad Losses.” By our definition a Quality Win is a win against a team with a .500 or better record, while a Bad Loss is a loss to a team with a sub-.500 record.

When we look at the Broncos and Titans, we see that four of the Broncos' six wins were Quality Wins and two of the Titans' four wins were Quality Wins. In games where both the Titans and Broncos lost, both teams had a Bad Loss.

So we don’t think we can blame or credit the schedule maker with the success and failure of these two teams this season. You just have to blame it on some good old-fashioned fundamental football for the Broncos’ downturn and the Titans’ ascent.

With the Titans, you can certainly make the case like we did earlier that the QB switch changed their fortunes. For the Broncos, we don’t have as pat an answer. Were the Broncos just playing over their heads early in the season and now their weaknesses have caught up to them, or are they not playing to their potential now?

What would a study of these two teams be without at least a glimpse into the future? Here again there are some similarities. Both teams have to face some tough competition. The Broncos have to face the Colts, Eagles, and Giants. The Titans have to face three division leaders in the Cardinals, Colts, and Chargers (we know Broncos fans will be rooting for the Titans in this one).

The Titans' only slim hope for the playoffs is to grab a wild card, and to do this they may have to run the table. Just last year the Titans started the season 10-0; could they finish the remainder of this campaign 10-0? Nothing in the NFL is impossible, but that is a very tall order.

For the Broncos to get to that same 10-win mark, they would need to win four of their remaining six games. To PossessionPoints.com that means that the Broncos must win the three games against the Chiefs (two) and Raiders. They then must find a way to come up with one more Quality Win against the Colts, Giants, or Eagles.

There are a lot of “ifs” out there for these two teams. Both have the opportunity to make a run for the playoffs, but the Titans have a long road up and the Broncos seem to be falling downhill fast.


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