Super Bowl Statistical Preview - Part 2: Season Review

In Part 1 of our Super Bowl Statistical Preview, we looked at the Common Opponents between the Colts and Saints, and how each offense and defense fared against their six common opponents.  In part 2, let's look at each team's Winning Stats for the entire season, complete with NFL Ranks, to see how they match-up with each other.

Here are the Raw Numbers, not adjusted for Opponents.  Click on a stat to get the breakdown (or explanation) for that specific stat:

Statistic Colts Saints
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 78.7% 1 70.5% 20 76.9% 2 69.1% 15
ANPY/A 7.486 5 4.835 10 7.970 2 4.760 8
Turnovers 1.25 5 1.63 18 1.75 16 2.44 2
Yds/Drive 37.88 1 30.69 21 36.71 3 30.45 20
ToP/Drive 2:49.0 14 2:57.0 30 2:52.0 8 2:29.0 5
Yds/Play 6.118 3 4.916 4 6.261 2 5.483 21
First Downs/Drive 2.21 1 1.84 28 1.98 5 1.65 17
3rd/4th Down 52.1% 1 44.4% 30 44.3% 8 38.8% 15
Avg Start Pos 27.7 30 28.2 8 31.4 6 28.7 12
3 and Outs 2.50 2 3.19 31 3.38 10 3.81 14
RZ Eff 75.7% 2 62.0% 12 69.2% 7 54.6% 1
Plays/Drive 6.192 2 6.242 32 5.864 8 5.553 18
Penalty Yds / Play 0.568 2 0.845 9 0.763 16 0.687 27
RB Success 48.4% 8 49.0% 25 52.4% 3 50.4% 29
Yds/Carry 3.60 30 4.11 13 4.50 7 4.49 26
Net Punts Yds/Game 39.73 14 42.03 30 37.41 28 40.90 23
Overall 1 19 4 10

Now, these numbers are a good measurement for each of the two teams, but there's a small problem:  The Colts and Saints played completely different schedules.  Well, not completely different, but they are different, and one team played a tougher schedule than the other.  Want to know who?

Team Offense Defense Total
Colts 6 24 16
Saints 18 22 21

Despite facing the 6th toughest Offensive schedule, the Colts were still the #1 ranked Offense in the league.  The Saints defense faced a slightly tougher Defensive schedule, but they both weren't anything to write home about.  Overall, the Colts played a slight tougher schedule, according to the Winning Stats.  Just to show these numbers are fairly accurate, here's what Football Outsiders said:  Colts #17, Saints #22.

So how do we fix the problem of different schedule strengths?  Adjust for Opponent of course.  Want to see how I did it?  Read about it here.  This way, we are comparing how each team would do against an average team, making it easy to compare them.  How do these, easily comparable, numbers shake out?  Have a look:

Statistic Colts Saints
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 79.7% 1 69.4% 19 76.9% 3 69.0% 16
ANPY/A 7.740 3 5.228 12 8.360 1 4.772 7
Turnovers 1.22 3 1.70 18 1.60 10 2.56 1
Yds/Drive 37.25 1 31.43 26 36.00 2 30.93 25
ToP/Drive 2:52.0 11 3:01.0 30 2:55.0 8 2:30.0 6
Yds/Play 6.085 3 5.062 12 6.146 2 5.503 25
First Downs/Drive 2.24 1 1.84 27 1.98 5 1.69 21
3rd/4th Down 50.4% 1 42.6% 28 44.9% 6 38.9% 14
Avg Start Pos 28.7 29 29.1 10 32.0 6 28.8 9
3 and Outs 2.55 2 3.30 29 3.65 12 3.93 13
RZ Eff 81.0% 1 63.3% 13 73.1% 6 54.0% 3
Plays/Drive 6.264 2 6.273 32 5.866 8 5.525 18
Penalty Yds / Play 0.550 1 0.864 10 0.812 17 0.713 27
RB Success 48.1% 9 46.0% 17 53.7% 1 49.5% 28
Yds/Carry 3.45 30 3.95 9 4.35 10 4.55 28
Net Punts Yds/Game 39.35 10 41.20 30 36.99 27 39.37 22
Overall 1 24 4 11

Keys to the game, based on these numbers:

  • I'm going to start at the top with Drive Success Rate, where both offenses are excellent, and the defenses are middle of the road.  The ability to keep drives going will tell us a great story as to who will win the game.  Remember, a team who is above average on both offense and defense in DSR wins games 90% of the time.  With how these teams rank, it will especially be true on Sunday.
  • Next up is Adjusted Net Passing Yds / Att, where again both offenses rank in the Top 3, but the defenses are a little farther apart.  Even though the Saints defense ranks 7th, this will actually be the worst defense, in terms of ANPY/A, they have faced this postseason (Ravens 4th, Jets 2nd).  This will be a big jump up for the Colts defense, but the Saints were slowed in the NFC Championship by the Vikings, who ranked 24th this season.  If the Colts defense can do the same thing the Vikings did, it should signal good things for the Colts.
  • Much has been made of the Saints defense's ability to create Turnovers this season, and it is a valid concern for the Colts offense, as they rank 1st in the NFL.  The Colts have turned it over once in each game, although the INT thrown in the Ravens game didn't really seem like a turnover, thanks to Pierre Garçon.  Might I suggest the bigger matchup will come on the other side of the ball: The Saints are ranked 10th in Turnovers, and a couple turnovers by them could play a big role in this game.  A turnover-free day for the Saints could mean a bad day for the Colts.
  • The Colts, much like in year's past, are ranked #1 in 3rd/4th Down Conversion Pct, and Peyton Manning always seems to get 7 yards when he needs 6.  This will be key to keep drives going (going back to key #1).  We've all suffered time and again over the years when the defense gives up 3rd down after 3rd down.  So far in the playoffs, the Colts defense has held opposing offenses to 11/27.  Sunday will be a significant upgrade to the opposing offense, so keeping the conversions to a minimum will be key.
  • Scoring Touchdowns inside the Red Zone will be important, much like every other Colts game this season.  The Colts offense, the best in the league, and the Saints defense, 3rd best in the league, could sway the game one way or another based on forcing FGs, rather than TDs.  The same can be said for the other side of the ball.  Neither team can afford to leave points on the field.
  • The Colts Running game, on both sides of the ball, is better than they are ever given credit for.  However, I don't think it will play a significant factor in the game, unless the Colts are running out the clock at the end.  On the flip side the Saints were #1 in RB Success Rate, which is a little concerning, more so Pierre Thomas than Reggie Bush, who is an over-hyped, less-productive version of Chris Johnson, who the Colts did just fine against this year, unlike 13 other teams Johnson tore up this season.

There are a lot more factors in this game than in most of the other this year, as the two teams are pretty evenly matched.  Ultimately, it will come down to execution, and who can play up to their season averages.  Who do I feel will do that, and why?  Find out in part 3 of the Statistical Preview, where we look at game-by-game ranks, consistency, trends through the season that might show up on Sunday, and my prediction for the game.

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