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2011 NFL Week Nine Preview: Indianapolis Colts Vs. Atlanta Falcons

The Colts return to the friendly surroundings of Lucas Oil Stadium Sunday afternoon, where they'll play host to the Atlanta Falcons, who had all of last week to rest up and prepare for the second half of the season. The Falcons come into Sunday with a 4-3 record on the season, tied for second place in the NFC South with the Buccaneers. In their last game, they won in Detroit 24-17, in a game I frustratingly lost money on.

The last time these two teams met was back on Thanksgiving, 2007, a 31-13 Colts win. I remember Bob Sanders being mic'ed up for the game, and laying wood more than once that evening. I didn't remember the Colts being down 10-0 that night before going nuts in the 2nd quarter, but they were. The last visit to Indianapolis by the Falcons saw Michael Vick have a terrible game, and the Colts rolled 38-7 in 2003. The all-time series is completely one-sided, with the Colts holding a 13-1 record against Atlanta, with the one loss coming in Peyton Manning's rookie season. I get the feeling that may change very soon, however.

How do these two playoff teams from 2010 match-up? (I know I'm grasping at straws now) Let's take a look...

Adjusted Statistical Comparison for the Colts and Falcons:

Statistic Colts Falcons
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 61.8% 29 74.6% 32 74.1% 7 69.3% 16
ANPY/A 4.632 22 7.590 32 4.599 23 5.375 16
Turnovers 2.06 23 1.03 30 1.44 9 2.29 9
Yds/Drive 23.51 26 33.97 28 27.80 17 30.41 23
ToP/Drive 2:08.0 31 3:08.0 32 2:58.0 7 2:46.0 23
Yds/Play 4.933 18 5.573 27 4.448 29 5.334 21
First Downs/Drive 1.22 29 2.01 29 1.98 8 1.71 21
3rd/4th Down 34.4% 20 47.6% 32 48.7% 4 46.3% 30
Avg Start Pos 26.3 32 33.7 30 31.8 11 31.2 18
3 and Outs 4.84 24 3.12 26 2.96 7 3.46 19
RZ Eff 55.5% 27 76.8% 27 84.6% 1 52.9% 6
Plays/Drive 4.855 31 5.988 28 6.120 7 5.750 19
Penalty Yds / Play 0.721 11 0.765 20 0.820 20 0.791 16
RB Success 47.9% 9 49.1% 26 39.0% 26 46.4% 20
Yds/Carry 4.49 9 4.25 22 4.01 18 3.74 9
Net Punts Yds/Game 37.54 19 38.54 16 33.28 30 38.15 14
Overall 29 32 11 17

Keys to the game:

  • Looking at the Falcons Offense, they like to dink and dunk down the field, converting first down after first down, then punching it in the end zone once they get there. I tell this from the Drive Success Rate, Time of Possession per Drive, a low Yards per Play and ANPY/A (without a lot of Turnovers), and being very good on Third Down make it easy to figure out. Expect them to chew up minutes of clock each time they have the ball. A slow, painful death.
  • The Colts defense will have to get them off the field before the 20 yard line, or else it's almost an automatic TD. Between Michael Turner, Roddy White, Julio Jones (who should be back this week), and Tony Gonzalez the Falcons have multiple ways of getting into the end zone, and the stats show it. It's better than the 2010 Colts, although they only played 7 games. Still really, really good.
  • They aren't good at punting. Maybe newly-signed Prince Miller will play a role. Doubt it makes a difference, but it's there in case it happens.
  • As far as the Colts offense goes, There isn't anything that the Falcons do really well, but do cause turnovers well, so the Colts will have to take care of the ball. The two interceptions last week were the result of tipped passes, but those have to stop if they expect to win games.
  • If the Colts are to score TDs, it might have to be on big plays, as the Falcons defense has been pretty good in the Red Zone this season. The Colts certainly weren't good last week once they got inside the 20, so I doubt it gets much better this week.

The return home should give the Colts a little extra boost of energy, but that'll only go so far. Nothing I've seen this year tells me the Colts will get their first win this week, as the Colts offense just can't do anything, and won't be able to score enough points, even if the defense plays well. I just hope it keeps my attention until the end, which hasn't been the case for a couple weeks now.

Falcons 35, Colts 17