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Old 01-13-2013, 09:30 AM   #12
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Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Mid-Atlantic
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...Before the season, when I suggested that the Broncos would fail to live up to expectations this season, the deciding factor between the numbers (which predicted regression) and the impact of Peyton Manning (which suggested number-defying improvement) was the schedule the Broncos were likely to face. Denver's out-of-division schedule included the Patriots and Texans, as well as the AFC North and the NFC South, which looked to be two of the best divisions in football. More disconcertingly, the bulk of those tough matchups was focused during the first half of the season.

As it turned out, Denver's schedule wasn't very difficult at all.1 It's true that the truly difficult matchups for the Broncos took place during the first half, with Denver starting 2-3 via losses against teams that each won 12 or more games, including losses to both the Patriots and Texans. The AFC North and the NFC South? They didn't turn out to be so tough. Pittsburgh, Carolina, and New Orleans ended up serving as three of the league's most disappointing teams, Cleveland was about as bad as expected, and Baltimore and Tampa Bay were little match for the Denver onslaught. The AFC West was also worse than most people's wildest expectations.

The result was a schedule that was actually well below average. Projected to have the league's most difficult schedule before the season by Football Outsiders, the Broncos instead had the NFL's second-easiest schedule in 2012. And as you might expect, with those 12-win teams out of the way after the first few weeks, the schedule really got easy in the second half.

How easy? Well, consider this: The eight matchups Denver played in the second half were against teams who went a combined 44-84 this year. That's like the Broncos getting to play a bunch of 5-11 and 6-10 teams for an entire half-season. Since 1990, that's tied with another team for the easiest second-half slate enjoyed by a playoff participant across the entire era. Even if we adjust for the Broncos going 8-0 and take those losses off of those teams' records, Denver's strength of schedule in the second half was tied for the second-lowest in 23 years.

^An article I posted a few days ago, which most probably didn't read...
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