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Super Bowl Statistical Preview - Part 1: Common Opponents

Super Bowl Week begins with the first of my 3 Part Preview, where I'll be looking at the Common Opponents between the Colts and Saints, and how they fared against them. 

As the week goes along, I'm guessing you'll see a lot of "experts" talk like the only common opponent between the two teams were the Patriots.  While they were the best team (unless you count the Jets) that both of them played, there were actually 6 common opponents between the two teams.  Take a look:

Colts Saints
Team Week Score Team Week Score
@ Dolphins 2 27-23 @ Bills 3 27-7
@ Cardinals 3 31-10 Jets 4 24-10
@ Rams 7 42-6 @ Dolphins 7 46-34
Patriots 10 35-34 @ Rams 10 28-23
Jets 16 15-10 Patriots 12 38-17
@ Bills 17 7-7 Cardinals 19 45-14
Jets 20 30-17
Average 31-18 Average 35-18

Before we get to the stats, a few other things that should be considered about these games:

  • Both teams have played one common opponent in the Playoffs, so that doesn't skew the numbers any.
  • Because of the Colts' Week 16 and 17 "rest", I've combined the Jets and Bills game into 1 full game, as the starters played for ~3 Quarters against the Jets, and ~1 Quarter against the Bills.  Doing this makes the number of games played against each identical.  Also by doing this, it's kind of like the final 3 quarters for the Bills is being replaced by the Jets in Week 16.  While my analysis will not take this into count, keep it in the back of your mind as a "tie-breaker" so to speak.
  • When the Colts played the Dolphins in Week 2, Chad Pennington was the starter.  When the Saints played them, Chad Henne was the QB, making his 3rd career start.  It's fair to say that Pennington is/was a better player at this point in their careers.

Ok, let's see how the two teams matched up against these 6 common opponents...

Here are the stats.  There was no need to adjust for opponent, since they are all the same.  Also, the leading team is in red:

Statistic Colts Saints
Offense Defense Offense Defense
DSR 78.4% 68.3% 76.4% 64.8%
ANPY/A 9.228 5.299 7.661 3.758
Turnovers 0.83 1.50 1.67 2.50
Yds/Drive 38.66 30.49 37.17 25.71
ToP/Drive 2:35.0 2:51.0 2:53.0 2:12.0
Yds/Play 7.008 5.209 6.541 5.197
First Downs/Drive 2.11 1.69 1.89 1.36
3rd/4th Down 43.3% 45.4% 39.8% 31.5%
Avg Start Pos 24.4 27.5 30.3 27.9
3 and Outs 2.50 3.50 3.17 5.67
RZ Eff 76.9% 57.1% 70.2% 59.5%
Plays/Drive 5.516 5.853 5.682 4.948
Penalty Yds / Play 0.510 0.749 0.832 0.614
RB Success 47.8% 44.9% 53.8% 51.7%
Yds/Carry 4.43 4.11 5.38 4.81
Net Punts Yds/Game 39.59 43.17 38.13 38.59

A few quick links for those of you that might not have seen the Winning Stats before:

  • Click on the link for each stat to see a detailed breakdown of 2001-08 to find what the Winning Percentage was for each stat, based on whether a team was Above or Below Average.  They are in the order of importance, in terms of winning games.
  • Here's how the playoff numbers shake out for the same time frame ('01-'08).  Very similar, but a little movement.

Some thoughts:

  • If I had to generalize in one sentence, the Colts offense was better than the Saints offense, and the Saints defense was better than the Colts defense.  Judging by the entire year, this seems to be very similar (coming later this week).
  • The most important category won on both sides of the ball is Time of Possession / Drive, where the Saints lead the Colts in both.  I can't say I'm surprised, seeing as though the Miami game for the Colts was in there, which gets brought up all the time for the Time of Possession, and how it really didn't matter.
  • The Colts offense turned the ball over half as often as the Saints did.  Defensively, the Saints were right on average for the rest of the season.
  • Another stat that jumps out at me is the Saints' ability to force 3 and Outs against these teams, forcing over 5.5 / gameThat's higher than the #1 team in the league (49ers), who forced 5.1 / Game.  Thankfully for us Colts fans, the Colts are 2nd in the league offensively, at 2.5 / Game.
  • Red Zone Efficiency favored the Colts on both sides of the ball, but not by much.  This has been a key in many Colt games this season, and I see it no different here.
  • The Running game stats (YPC and RB Success Rate) are flipped from most of the others:  The Saints offense led, and the Colts defense led.  While it isn't as important, it is still worth noting.  Based on these numbers, I think both teams will be able to run the ball successfully on Sunday.

So what should you take out of this?  First off, comparing the two teams against only the Patriots game is a little disingenuous, and is not a fair comparison, based on two things:  One, you see the numbers above.  The Saints played one of their best games against them offensively, yet when you compare the two over the 6 games, the Colts offense fared better.  Second, the Colts and Patriots have played 11 times since 2002.  The Saints have played them only twice.  It's always tougher to beat divisional opponents (like Tampa Bay), and the Patriots are as close to a divisional opponent as you get for the Colts without being in the AFC South.

In the important categories, the key matchup will be the Colts offense vs. the Saints defense (who knew?).  Whichever team can force the other to their normal value will have a great chance of winning.  And who do I trust to do that? You can't tell that from just these numbers; you need more information, which is coming the rest of the week

In Part 2, I'll look at the entire season's worth of Winning Stats.