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2010 NFL Playoffs: Were The Colts The Best Offense Against The Jets?

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We've now had a few weeks to digest the Colts' playoff loss to the Jets, and we've had two more data points to measure just how well (or how bad) the Offense played against the best Defense in the league.  We went from whispers about "Quarterback Wins" being meaningless when the Colts lost, to shouting it when the Patriots lost, to everyone forgetting the previous two weeks and back to trumpeting it after last week.

We all know around here that "QB Wins" are meaningless, and we have loads and loads of data to support it.  We can see, with our own eyes, that the defense not playing well led to the Colts and Patriots losing, and the running game / defense sent the Steelers to the Super Bowl.  But do the numbers bear that out?  We're going to find out, and we're going to see which team played the best against the Jets defense this postseason.  I'll certainly give you my opinion (based on the stats) of which QB played the best, but because they have their hand in so many different things, it's hard to give a definitive answer on a single player.

Here's how I'm going to lay it out.  After the jump, you'll see the Winning Stats table with all 16 actual stats (no need to adjust, as they were against the same team), but with adjusted stat rankings of the last 10 years worth of playoff games (218 games).  It also has an overall ranking, so we'll know which team played the best.  Let's get to it...

Statistic Colts Patriots Steelers
Offense Rank Offense Rank Offense Rank
DSR 68.0% 86 73.7% 37 80.6% 14
ANPY/A 8.852 31 5.080 123 1.476 200
Turnovers 0.00 17 1.00 60 2.00 125
Yds/Drive 34.67 27 31.00 56 35.88 21
ToP/Drive 2:59.2 40 2:54.7 50 4:20.1 3
Yds/Play 5.778 37 4.769 105 4.484 134
First Downs/Drive 1.78 63 2.17 29 2.88 6
3rd/4th Down 46.2% 69 31.3% 153 50.0% 41
Avg Start Pos 20.1 201 27.5 125 28.0 118
3 and Outs 4.00 66 3.00 28 1.00 3
RZ Eff 42.9% 183 71.4% 99 81.0% 62
Plays/Drive 6.000 42 6.500 22 8.000 3
Penalty Yds / Play 0.185 33 0.564 108 0.391 75
RB Success 48.1% 68 44.4% 90 44.4% 90
Yds/Carry 3.44 113 4.04 68 3.86 82
Net Punts Yds/Game 34.50 157 46.00 16 38.00 105
Ranking - 218 Games 35 53 44

Here's what we see here:

  • If you want to take a tally of category bests, you have the Steelers with 9, the Colts with 5, and the Patriots with 2 (the least important 2).  That doesn't matter that much, because each stat has its own weight based on importance.
  • The Steelers have some single digit numbers on there, and they were all drive-related stats.  Some of them are mind-boggling: 8 Plays / Drive and over Four Minutes and 20 seconds per Drive.  The Jets just couldn't get them off the field.
  • Let's look at the stats the Colts did the best in: ANPY/A (more on this later), Turnovers, as they were the only one of the three teams without one, Yards per Play, Penalty Yards / Play, and RB Success Rate.  Yes, you read that right.  The other two teams weren't bad, and were right behind the Colts, but the Colts had the best number.
  • The one stat that was the most lopsided (besides Net Punting Average) among the three teams was Adjusted Net Passing Yards / Attempt, where the Colts were far and away the best team, getting almost 9 Yards / Attempt. Peyton Manning was throwing the ball all over the Jets defense, who averaged giving up just 5.5 Yards / Attempt throughout the season.  It was the second best game this season against the Jets (45-3 loss to the Patriots was 12.0 Y/A).
  • ANPY/A also gives us the one stat that we can compare the QBs with.  We already know Manning was awesome throwing the ball, which makes blaming him for the loss to the Jets asinine. Tom Brady was pretty average, or slightly below average, in comparison to other playoff games over the past 10 years.  Ben Roethlisberger was not good at all, finishing in the bottom 10% of all playoff games since 2001.  Pretty obvious hierarchy, huh?
  • As far as the total offense, all three teams finished in the top 25% of playoff games since 2001, which surprised me a little.  It certainly didn't seem that way on the field, but we see from the numbers that they all did play well. We do see, though, that the Colts had the best game offensively of the three against the Jets.  Even with all the injuries to the skill position players, the Colts can still get it done on offense against the best in the league.

Ultimately, this doesn't change the fact that the Colts have been out of the playoffs for three weeks now, and the Steelers will be in Super Bowl XLV.  What it does show is that football should always be referred to as a team game, while limiting comparisons of players to specific statistics should be the norm.  It also shows us that if the Colts could play that well with all the injuries, just think how good they could have been without them.