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2011 NFL Week Seven Preview: Indianapolis Colts At New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints...the New Orleans Saints...where do I remember them from? The last time the Colts ventured into the Superdome (now sponsored by Mercedes Benz), Peyton Manning had six touchdown passes, three of which to Marvin Harrison, in a 55-21 rout of the Saints. When the Colts and Saints opened the season on a Thursday night, Manning picked on former Colt Jason David over and over, leading to a 41-10 blowout of the Saints, as the Colts scored 31 unanswered points in the second half after it was tied at halftime.

While I remember those whippings the Colts put on the Saints during the regular season, I have this funny feeling I'm missing something...

Oh right, this. That's enough talk about that game.

The other unique aspect of the Colts and Saints game Sunday night is that both quarterbacks went to the same school, so all you Boilermaker fans can be thrilled that one of your own, either Curtis Painter or Drew Brees, will get a win. The last time two QBs from the same school met was in 2008 when Brees and the Saints played Kyle Orton and the Bears.

The Saints are 4-2 on the season, but are coming off a 26-20 loss to division rival Tampa Bay. Turnovers killed them, as Brees threw 3 interceptions and Pierre Thomas lost a fumble. The final Brees interception inside the 5  yard line late in the fourth quarter sealed the Buccaneers win. The Saints had won four in a row after losing on opening night to the Packers back in early September.

How can the 0-6 Colts possibly put up a fight against the Saints? Let's jump into the numbers and find out...

Adjusted Statistical Comparison for the Colts and Saints:

Statistic Colts Saints
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 63.9% 27 75.1% 32 76.7% 2 72.4% 25
ANPY/A 5.047 19 7.407 29 6.096 11 6.245 25
Turnovers 1.90 17 1.46 23 2.03 22 0.95 28
Yds/Drive 23.94 26 33.76 29 37.28 2 31.06 20
ToP/Drive 2:08.0 31 3:11.0 32 2:57.0 5 2:28.0 9
Yds/Play 4.869 21 5.517 24 5.582 10 5.425 21
First Downs/Drive 1.32 27 1.99 30 2.18 3 1.77 21
3rd/4th Down 34.7% 20 51.4% 32 60.2% 1 39.3% 16
Avg Start Pos 27.2 31 34.1 30 29.8 21 31.0 19
3 and Outs 4.49 24 3.30 22 2.63 5 3.94 13
RZ Eff 54.2% 28 72.5% 24 67.9% 14 95.0% 32
Plays/Drive 4.962 29 6.087 30 6.559 2 5.655 17
Penalty Yds / Play 0.687 10 0.937 11 0.592 6 0.798 16
RB Success 49.9% 8 44.2% 13 51.0% 6 49.9% 28
Yds/Carry 4.09 18 3.79 12 3.80 22 5.30 31
Net Punts Yds/Game 37.84 19 39.45 23 47.02 1 38.29 14
Overall 29 32 3 24

Keys to the game:

  • Let's start with the Colts on Offense. The best thing the Colts have done so far this season is run the ball, and they should be able to have a good bit of success doing that Sunday night against a Saints defense who isn't very good at either rushing stat. I don't think Joseph Addai will be ready to go quite yet, so Donald Brown and Delone Carter need to step up and grind the ball.
  • Looking at Time of Possession per Drive, the Saints actually don't give up long drives. This doesn't necessarily mean they get teams off the field quickly by their own doing, as I suspect, without seeing them play much this season, they've been torched by big plays, thus causing low time of possession numbers. Their secondary takes risks, which is why in years past they've gotten a lot of interceptions, but when the turnovers don't come (like this year), big plays occur. Colts will need a couple of those to have a chance.
  • If the Colts can find their way into the red zone, they have a really good chance of scoring touchdowns, as the Saints haven't stopped anyone from scoring seven this season. Man that is a big number. If we see Adam Vinatieri even once for a field goal, it's bad news for the Colts.
  • On the other side, the Saints offense is very, very good. Their drive-related stats are phenomenal, meaning that the Colts defense, the worst in the NFL in a handful of these stats, will have to find some way to get them off the field. Just by looking at the averages, the Saints will convert another first down 75% of the time (DSR). Bad news for the Colts.
  • The 3rd/4th Down Efficiency also is the biggest mismatch possible, as the Saints have been best in the league this season at converting those crucial downs. Don't get frustrated when the Saints keep converting these, but do be ecstatic if the Colts actually stop them, as it isn't going to happen often.
  • The only chance the Colts defense has of keeping them in the game is by forcing turnovers, something they did well early this season, but not as much lately. The Saints have been turnover-prone this season, committing over two per game. The Colts will probably need twice that many to have a chance, and it's possible after seeing the Saints turn it over that many times a week ago.

I've laid out three or four things that Colts absolutely must do to win, and it'll probably take a bounce or two more to win. Maybe it'll take trying to get an extra possession on a kickoff, something we've seen before between these two teams. At 0-6, the Colts have no reason to hold anything back. Everyone expects them to get blown out, so if a risk or two backfires, who cares. The "status quo" will assuredly push the Colts to 0-7, so I really, really hope we see a few chances being taken.

Do I expect them to happen? Not in the least.

Saints 34, Colts 17