If you were looking to put a rosy sheen on the NFL Network's Thursday night broadcast, you could do it this way: if these were two 6-7 teams from the NFC, it would have profound playoff implications. Simply note Sunday's Arizona-New Orleans showdown.
Instead, these two teams are in the AFC. And for all the talk this year (including here) that the NFC is finally catching up with the AFC, the senior circuit remains much less competitive at the top end of the conference. So 6-7 teams in the AFC, such as the Broncos and Texans, have little shot of reaching the playoffs.
When we size up these teams through the prism of our Quality Stats, we find sets of numbers highly consistent with each team's 6-7 records. Houston can pass the ball fairly well (6.82 Passing Yards Per Attempt). Denver can also pass the ball well (7.00 Passing Yards Per Attempt), and boast some of the best Offensive Hogs in football
, a group that has led the second-best ground attack (4.59 YPA) in the NFL this year.
Other than that, we see teams mediocre to poor in each of our other Quality Stats. Denver, in particular, is plagued by inefficiency on both sides of the ball, as evidenced by a No. 21 ranking in our Scoreability Index and a No. 30 ranking in our Bendability Index. Basically, the Denver offense cranks out a lot of yards but very few points. The Broncos are also stout in total defense, but not very good when it comes to keeping opponents out of the end. We don't know how you feel, but that spells trouble to us.
The Broncos, however, have fared better against tougher competition, as evidenced by their 3-4 record vs. Quality Teams. The Texans, for their part, have built their 6-7 record by cranking out 5 wins in 6 games against sub-par talent.
The biggest mismatch in this contest also goes Denver's way. It's No. 3-ranked offensive hogs up against Houston's No. 30-ranked Defensive Hogs. The Broncos will be able to crank out long drives against a team that has trouble stopping the run. If they're able to finally convert all those yards into points, they could win easily on the road. But don't count on it.