After two weeks on the road, and a game they'd like to put in their rear-view mirror as quickly as possible, the Colts return to Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon to take on the 4-6 Buffalo Bills, a team poised to take aim at the Playoff spot the Colts now occupy. In order to win, the Bills will have to do something only one other team has done this season, and that's beat the Colts at home, where they've played their best football of the season.
Last week the Bills held off the Dolphins 19-14 on Thursday night, with their only touchdown coming on a Leodis McKelvin punt return for a TD (oh goodie), and the Defense not giving up a TD until the final minutes of the game (they gave up a Kickoff return of their own). They've been quite Jekyll and Hyde this year, especially on Defense: In their wins, they've given up an average of 15 points per game (max 17), but in their losses they've given up an average of 40 points per game, with their lowest given up at 21. Want a simple way to pick Sunday's game? If the Colts can get to 21, they'll win. If they can't, the Bills will. Easy enough, right?
These two teams last played in 2009, in a snow storm, and the Colts starters only played one series to get several personal stats that got them some cash from their contract. The Colts led 7-0 before the Curtis Painter show made appearance #2, which meant it ended 30-7 Bills. If you want to look at games where the Colts tried to beat the Bills, they've beaten them six straight times going back to the 2000 season. Overall the Colts hold a 30-35-1 record against the Bills, as they really struggled in the decade of the 90's beating those high-flying Bills teams, led by QB Bills.
Can the Colts get to the magic number of 21 points? Let's dive into the stats and find out:
Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Bills (Adjusted):
|Orange Zone Eff||44.6%||28||64.4%||31||60.2%||6||61.3%||29|
|Avg Start Pos||27.2||32||28.3||7||30.0||18||31.1||24|
|3 and Outs||2.67||3||2.84||31||3.60||14||3.02||28|
|Penalty Yds / Play||0.715||6||1.305||1||0.905||23||0.721||24|
Keys to the Game:
- Let's start with the Colts Offense, who looks like a completely different unit at home than they do on the road, especially when it comes to Turnovers. The Bills Defense is middle-of-the-pack when it comes to forcing turnovers, so like every other week, taking care of the football should be job one for the Colts.
- We should see the Colts be able to move the ball down the field fairly regularly, as we've seen them do it all year pretty consistently, and the Bills really struggle with the drive stats, especially Drive Success Rate. We also can expect about 33.5 Yards per Play, as both teams' averages are almost exactly that. Good news for the Colts.
- The Colts have a huge advantage on Third/Fourth down, as the Bills are worst in the league. Logic tells us if the Colts can convert seemingly everything against one of the best teams in the league (Dolphins), they surely can do it against the Bills. If they can't, it'll probably be a long day Sunday.
- We've talked about the Orange/Red Zone problems for the Colts, and the Bills might be the best cure for an ailing unit, as they haven't been very good this season either. These stats will more than likely decide the game.
- The Colts should be able to run the ball, which will help take some of the pressure of Andrew Luck. Hopefully the Colts will stick to it this week, but I think we all know that isn't likely to happen.
- The Bills Offense is slightly above average, so while it shouldn't be as bad as it was last week against the Patriots, I expect the Bills to be able to move the ball with ease against this Defense. The Bills look to be right at league average in most of the Drive Stats.
- I do see a strange anomaly with the Bills Offense: They score a higher percentage of points in the Orange Zone than they do in the Red Zone. With the two stats being semi-linked, it only means they score a lot of 20-35 yard touchdowns. Look for them to take multiple shots to the end zone when they get in that range, as the closer they get, the worse they are at scoring TDs. Seems strange to think about, but watch for it.
- The Bills are the best rushing team in the NFL, and they get Fred Jackson back after missing a couple weeks to go with the dynamic C.J. Spiller. You'll probably end up holding your breath each time they touch the ball, as if they get in the open field, it's going to be a touchdown.
- A turnover or two would be nice, but shouldn't be expected. We know the Colts struggles in this area, and even though the Bills have turned it over a fair amount, it hasn't helped the Colts Defense in the past.
With the Winning Stats we can look at how the teams play at Home and Away, and the disparity between how the Colts play depending on location is staggering. On the road, they're ranked 16th on Offense, last on Defense (by a ton), and the worst Road team overall in the NFL. When they get back to Indianapolis, they're 4th Offensively, 25th Defensively, and 8th overall, the biggest difference by far in the NFL. Having watched a fair amount of the NFL this season, it makes perfect sense that would be the case.
How does that affect Sunday? As long as the Colts are at home, I can't pick them to lose, especially against a team that has struggled on the road this season (30th overall on the road). I think we'll see the Colts cash in with touchdowns after long drives, but it'll be close through to the end, as the Bills RBs will keep them in the game. Like most of the other home games, it'll come down to the wire, and the Colts find a way to win.
Colts 31, Bills 27