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2015 NFL Week 7 Preview: Indianapolis Colts vs. New Orleans Saints

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The Colts, coming off a tough loss to their nemesis, now get to play a team that the actual players don't have that much animosity towards, but the fans shudder at the prospect of, the Saints.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to Colts opponents, the Patriots are in another stratosphere from everyone else. The Colts play them every year, almost always lose, and the Colts can never seem to get a leg up on them, no matter the circumstances. Usually division rivals you grow to hate, just because of the familiarity of the teams, but when your favorite team has won the division in 10 of the 13 years it existed, you don't get that natural instinct to dislike a team.

For me though, personally, there's one other team that is a step above any other one that brings out the ire in me, and that's the New Orleans Saints, the Colts opponent Sunday afternoon. Super Bowl XLIV still replays through my head more than I want, getting a cold shiver whenever I hear the name Hank Baskett or Tracy Porter. What drives me crazy still to this day is (rightly or wrongly), Peyton Manning is judged in that Super Bowl for one play, rather than the great day he had otherwise. The Colts moved the ball at will, even though they started, on average, at their own 17 yard line (some things never change, eh?), and Porter made a hell of a play to win the game. It makes me (irrationally, I know) want the Saints to lose every game, so when the Colts get a chance to do it, even better.

Now that I've got your blood boiling and looking for blood, let's look at this year's Saints, who are 2-4 coming off of an impressive Thursday night win against the previously unbeaten Falcons. We'll get into the statistical details in a bit, but this Saints team, like most of the other Saints teams of the recent past, has a very good Offense led by Drew Brees and a sieve of a Defense that can't seem to get out of its own way at times. Their Defense takes lots of chances, so at times they look great creating Turnovers and getting sacks, but more often then not the over-aggressiveness bites them in the ass and they give up big plays. In a sense, their built a lot like the Colts are.

On the injury front the Saints have a couple key players that are questionable for Sunday: WR Marques Colston, who missed last week, and OT Andrus Peat, who was injured in the game against the Falcons. The Saints seemed to do ok after losing Peat last week so they could probably give it a go without him, but missing Colston would be a nice break for the Colts, as they've struggled all year covering underneath receivers, which is basically where Colston lives and thrives. Those catches could be taken up by TE Benjamin Watson, who had a career day against the Falcons, but the odds of him having a second consecutive game like that are pretty slim. The biggest injury concerns for the Colts are LB Jerrell Freeman and S Mike Adams, both key contributors to the Defense and would be big blows if they can't go.

Super Bowl XLIV isn't the last time these two teams met. No, back in 2011, the Colts traveled to New Orleans for what NBC had thought would be a rematch from a pretty good Super Bowl from two years previous, but instead they got the game where the Colts, without Manning, hit rock bottom so-to-speak, losing 62-7. If you can't remember the sad state the Colts were in midway through 2011, click that link and take a look. Yeesh. The Colts and Saints have played nine times since moving to Indianapolis, and they've only won twice, both in blowout fashion.

How do these teams compare to each other in 2015? Let's dive in and take a look.

Statistical Comparison between the Colts and Saints (Adjusted):

Statistic Colts Saints
Offense Rank Defense Rank Offense Rank Defense Rank
DSR 72.4% 9 70.7% 19 73.4% 7 73.6% 29
ANPY/A 5.372 20 6.890 25 6.488 8 8.261 32
Turnovers 2.21 28 1.00 28 1.53 16 1.29 24
Yds/Drive 31.43 9 34.40 28 35.75 1 35.10 30
ToP/Drive 2:39.0 18 2:56.0 27 3:01.0 3 2:35.0 11
Yds/Play 5.403 11 5.751 27 5.624 7 6.079 32
Orange Zone Eff 57.8% 10 50.5% 10 53.6% 18 55.3% 16
First Downs/Drive 1.89 8 1.77 22 2.05 2 2.04 31
3rd/4th Down 43.9% 7 39.7% 20 51.4% 1 40.9% 23
Avg Start Pos 26.4 28 30.6 23 29.1 17 30.3 21
3 and Outs 3.31 11 2.80 30 2.17 1 3.24 24
RZ Eff 71.0% 10 67.5% 21 64.3% 17 67.7% 22
Plays/Drive 5.957 6 5.947 24 6.337 1 5.710 19
Penalty Yds / Play 0.786 12 1.249 2 0.831 18 0.671 25
RB Success 43.1% 19 46.4% 21 43.1% 20 43.4% 17
Yds/Carry 4.35 10 4.07 20 3.87 27 4.85 30
Overall 10 27 4 31

Keys to the game:

  • You can tell pretty quick why the Over/Under is set at 52 for this game (and I think it's going higher than that), as both teams have good to very good Offenses and terrible Defenses. If you like points, this'll be the game for you.
  • The Saints Offense leads the league in Yards per Drive, 3rd/4th Down, Three and Outs, and Plays per Drive, so they obviously have very little problem moving the ball up and down the field, converting on 3rd/4th down, and keeping drives alive. It's the death-by-papercuts Offense, so prepared to be frustrated.
  • So why are the Saints 2-4 then if they can move the ball so well? They're middle-of-the-pack in Turnovers, as well as in the Orange and Red Zone, so they've struggled at times to finish drives, which is where the Colts need to take advantage. They've shown some competency in keeping points to a minimum once their opponent gets into scoring range (10th in Orange Zone Efficiency), and they'll have to do that Sunday if they expect to win.
  • The Saints struggle to get a running game going most weeks, ranking just 27th in Yards per Carry. No big plays in the running game, as that's the clear weakness of the Saints Offense.
  • If Andrew Luck and the Colts can't throw the ball against the 32nd ranked pass Defense (based on Adjusted Net Passing Yards per Attempt), then there's not much hope for the better Defenses they still have to play coming up in the near future. It should be a great day throwing the ball, and those of you with Luck in fantasy this week should be grinning quite widely.
  • The Saints also give up the most Yards per Play in the NFL, which means the Colts should take several (see 10 - 15) shots down the field against this Defense. This coincides with their Time of Possession per Drive actually looking pretty good. When you get torched for a big play you aren't on the field very long.
  • The Colts went away from the running game too early last week, and I think that ultimately cost them the game. They panicked when they didn't need to, and they just started chucking it all over, even though the balance is what brought them success in the first half. I don't expect the same mistake twice, so expect a healthy dose of Frank Gore and Ahmad Bradshaw into the second half, even if they're trailing.

Both the Colts and Saints played their best game of the season last week, so it's hard to distinguish if anyone has any "momentum", but I'd lean towards the Saints since they did win, and I think the Colts may have a bit of a hangover effect after all they put into last week. The Patriots game clearly meant a lot to everyone, and to come up short yet again won't be easy to just put aside. Accurate passers have been the downfall of the Greg Manusky Defense for years now, and there aren't much better than Brees in that department.

Until we see the Colts show any ability to stop a competent passer, I can't get behind the Colts winning, especially after seeing the Offense revert back to "bad Luck" once they got down late. I think the Colts lose late in a shootout after making a comeback in the second half. The Colts really need to win this game with their upcoming schedule, I just can't bring myself to picking them.

Saints 31, Colts 28

Thursday night pick: Seahawks 27, 49ers 21