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2014 NFL Week Thirteen Preview: Indianapolis Colts vs. Washington Redskins

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The epic battle between #1 pick Andrew Luck and #2 pick Robert Griffin ended before it started, as Colt McCoy will start for the Redskins Sunday in Indianapolis. Who will come out on top? Find out as we preview Colts and Redskins.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Back in April of 2012, many people had their eye towards the 2014 season, when the first two QBs taken in the NFL Draft, the Colts Andrew Luck and the Redskins Robert Griffin, would first play each other head-to-head. These two got loads of media hype, some of which we hadn't seen since the Peyton Manning / Ryan Leaf days. They'd each be in their third seasons, humming along, preparing their teams for the Playoffs, as they were both once-in-a-generation talents. The weekend is finally here, as the Colts host the Redskins on Sunday afternoon, but Wednesday the grand plan set in motion back two and a half years ago was completely derailed.

Griffin has been benched by Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden in favor of Colt McCoy. Imagine how many bets you would have won during that draft if you said that.

I am by no means a Robert Griffin expert, as the only time I see the Redskins is when they're on national TV (not much lately), and they've been mostly terrible (or he's been injured) when I've watched, so I can't tell you exactly how bad Griffin has been. I do trust NFL Films guru Greg Cosell, and he didn't mince words when talking about Griffin recently. Add in all the public back and forth between Gruden and Griffin, and it's no surprise a move was made. Now, the fact that it is Colt McCoy replacing him has a lot of people scratching their heads, but Gruden is paid a lot of money to make those decisions, even as silly as it seems on the surface.

The Redskins, as a team, are just 3-8 this year, with two of the wins coming over Jacksonville and Tennessee (the other was in Dallas, and I'm still amazed that happened). They've had the injury bug hit them pretty hard, as they've lost four starters on Defense to Injured Reserve, and possible a fifth this week with Tracy Porter (I'm ok he's not playing). We do get to see the return of Pierre Garcon to Indianapolis, and I'm sure he's going to be anxious to put on a nice show for some of his former (and maybe still) fans. He had some big games in that building; let's hope he doesn't add to that list Sunday.

The Colts and Redskins last played in 2010, a 27-24 Colts win in Washington on a Sunday night. I only remember this game because I was watching it in the Aria sportsbook in Vegas, and at one point Garcon dropped a simple pass that he clearly should have caught. The guy next to me asked how he gets so many balls thrown his way when he can't make those catches, and I responded with "he makes the difficult catches look easy, and the easy catches look difficult." He then makes this ridiculous catch (around the 1:20 mark), ironically enough in front of LaRon Landry. He turns to me and says "You really know your shit, huh?" It's a shame I didn't just start selling picks to that guy on the spot, but the Predictor was in its infancy. The Colts have won three of the last four in the series, but are just 4-5 overall since moving to Indianapolis against the Redskins.

What's in store for Sunday afternoon? Let's take a look at some numbers and find out.

Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Redskins (Adjusted):

Statistic Colts Redskins
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 74.4% 5 67.2% 8 67.6% 22 69.2% 16
ANPY/A 6.858 5 5.465 15 5.455 19 7.289 32
Turnovers 2.02 26 1.77 15 2.09 27 1.16 31
Yds/Drive 34.10 7 29.24 14 29.95 14 29.50 15
ToP/Drive 2:50.0 11 2:22.0 1 2:38.0 21 2:43.0 17
Yds/Play 5.784 6 5.365 22 5.663 7 5.354 21
Orange Zone Eff 54.7% 14 59.0% 22 50.9% 21 59.2% 25
First Downs/Drive 1.94 8 1.64 14 1.60 21 1.58 7
3rd/4th Down 42.6% 9 31.7% 2 29.9% 30 40.4% 18
Avg Start Pos 31.4 10 25.5 1 25.1 32 33.3 31
3 and Outs 3.49 12 4.71 3 4.18 23 3.17 26
RZ Eff 62.7% 19 72.1% 26 63.0% 18 65.1% 17
Plays/Drive 5.902 7 5.296 8 5.323 26 5.429 10
Penalty Yds / Play 0.711 10 0.802 18 1.015 28 1.184 1
RB Success 43.6% 14 46.6% 25 48.2% 6 41.5% 10
Yds/Carry 4.01 19 4.77 31 4.27 10 3.73 6
Overall 7 10 21 24

Keys to the Game:

  • The Redskins are the second worst team at forcing Turnovers in the NFL, which is a welcome sign for the Colts, who couldn't have been more cordial to their guests from Jacksonville last week, putting the ball on the ground six times, losing three of them. If the Colts can't play turnover-free against the Redskins, there's very little hope this major problem gets fixed this season.
  • If you play in those weekly Fantasy Football leagues, this would be the week to load up on the Colts passing game, as the Redskins rank dead last in Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt. Add to it the loss of Porter, and there shouldn't be much reason to "waste" downs by running the ball. The Redskins should make it very easy for the Colts to throw it around the yard all day.
  • The drive stats for the Redskins Defense aren't terrible, including a 7th in First Downs per Drive. Could be a couple reasons for this: 1) Awful field position, so shorter drives because opponent has less field to go. OR 2) They give up a lot of big plays in the passing game (rank -> 32) so teams don't get as many first downs. Stats can definitely be deceiving without some context, and this one doesn't pass the smell test at first glance.
  • I mentioned the Field Position, and they rank worst on Offense and second worst on Defense, while the Colts have been excelling at both this season, including a #1 ranking on Defense. McCoy is going to have some long fields to drive his team on. The more times you have an opportunity for a mistake the more that will be made.
  • The Redskins can stop the run fairly well, and it's probably because teams just don't have to run it all that much. They look like they're right smack dab in the middle of the league in attempts against, so it probably plays a small part. Either way, with what we know of the Colts running game, best to just leave it in Luck's hands.
  • The Colts will have a huge advantage on 3rd/4th downs when on Defense, as they rank 2nd in the NFL while the Redskins are a dismal 30th. If we start seeing 3rd down conversions from the Redskins, I might start pulling out my hair. Granted, a lot of that may have to do with the other two QBs that have been under center, but I can't imagine there will be a huge difference.
  • The Redskins rank 7th in Yards per Play, so I'd normally expect a big play, but McCoy's arm is not quite the same as either Griffin or Kirk Cousins, so they may try some down-the-field stuff to Garcon or DeSean Jackson, but they won't have quite the same "zip" as they did coming from the other guys.
  • I expect to see a heavy dose of Alfred Morris and Roy Helu, which means the Colts need to build a lead (and fast) to mitigate the effectiveness of their running game (and the lack of effectiveness of the Colts stopping it). Load up the box, make McCoy beat you.
  • The Redskins get the most penalty yards by their opponents of anyone in the NFL, which is very interesting. I don't think the Colts will fall into any traps, but just an interesting factoid.

This game looks like a complete mismatch on paper, and while I know there's a reason they don't play games on paper, I don't see much that will trip up the Colts from the Redskins. Their one major weakness offensively is also a huge weakness of the Washington Defense. The Colts have been a very good home team this year, and by-and-large have taken care of all the teams they should beat (Jaguars x2, Titans, Giants), and this week is no exception. I think we'll see eight million close-ups of Robert Griffin on the sideline with his hands under his collar, and the Colts will cruise to a win.

Colts 30, Redskins 21

Thanksgiving Games: Lions 22, Bears 20; Cowboys 27, Eagles 25; Seahawks 21, 49ers 20