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2016 NFL Week 1: Inside the Colts Numbers - Regression To The Mean

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The Colts played a game we've seen many times since Chuck Pagano took over, and the 39-35 loss to the Lions Sunday can be attributed to the Colts coming back to earth in one score games, as everything always does.

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Editor's note: This is a day late due to my travel schedule. In coming weeks this will be ready for Tuesday morning, but I was on an airplane all day yesterday.

It looked like the Colts were going to pull a Houdini act once again, following a script we've seen time after time since the beginning of the 2012 season: Extremely slow start, fall behind an amount of points that gives you a win percentage in the 5% range, come roaring back in the second half to make it a game. The Colts, for the most part, have been very fortunate in recent history that they've won the lions-share of these games, but Sunday was a step back towards the rest of the league, a 39-35 loss to the Lions, in which you can try to place blame on one area, but really there are multiple places it rests.

How often have the Colts fallen behind like they did Sunday? It's tied for the most in the league with three other teams, none of which are even close to matching the Colts winning percentage in those games:

What this should tell you is that over time, these things always start to match-up with each other, and there's going to be more losses like Sunday's on the horizon. It's impossible to keep up the ridiculous string of good fortune when falling behind early, as you can see by the other four teams in that chart. This chart here is one of the reasons looking at wins/losses in a vacuum isn't the greatest of ideas. Nobody can sustain the amount of success the Colts have had in games they fail to start playing until there are five minutes left in the first half.

I was talking to a co-worker last week about the new touchback rule, and why I thought it would actually lead to more kickoff returns than less (the intended reason for moving to the 25), and Sunday presented the perfect scenario where the Colts could have pinned the Lions deep in their own territory, possibly even with a fair catch, after the Lions leaping penalty. The Colts kicked off at the 50, and they should have soared a kickoff inside the 5 yard line, leaving them no choice but to return the kick. This accomplishes both making them start inside the 25 yard line, and taking a few of the 41 seconds off the clock that remained. He instead sailed it through the end zone, something Pat McAfee can do in his sleep from they 35, and the penalty was meaningless. Poor preparation in a very key moment.

How did the numbers look Sunday? It's good to have Andrew Luck back.

Non-Adjusted Stats for Week 1:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 82.9% 3 86.8% 31 N N 4-0
ANPY/A 9.143 4 9.800 31 N N 5-0
Turnovers 0 1 0 21 N N 3-3
Yds/Drive 45.00 3 44.80 29 N N 4-0
ToP/Drive 2:56.4 17 3:03.6 19 N Y 4-4
Yds/Play 6.618 6 7.000 30 N N 3-0
Orange Zone Eff 81.0% 5 90.5% 30 N N 3-3
First Downs/Drive 2.50 4 2.80 32 N N 4-1
3rd/4th Down 56.3% 7 55.6% 25 N N 4-1
Avg Start Pos 20.7 31 23.3 6 N N 3-8
3 and Outs 3 14 4 8 Y N 5-3
RZ Eff 100.0% 1 100.0% 25 N N 6-4
Plays/Drive 6.800 5 6.400 20 N N 5-2
Penalty Yds / Play 0.662 12 1.094 9 Y N 6-4
RB Success 70.6% 2 56.5% 25 N N 1-6
Yds/Carry 4.32 13 4.83 24 N N 2-3
Ranking - Week (32) 2 32 17
Ranking - Season (32) 2 32 20

Adjusted Stats for Week 1:

Statistic Offense Rank Defense Rank Off/Def Above Off/Def Below Record
DSR 80.3% 8 82.0% 30 N N 4-0
ANPY/A 8.843 4 9.409 31 N N 5-0
Turnovers 0.1 6 0.1 31 N N 3-3
Yds/Drive 43.63 3 43.44 29 N N 4-0
ToP/Drive 2:55.0 16 3:00.3 19 N Y 4-4
Yds/Play 6.471 6 6.793 29 N N 3-0
Orange Zone Eff 77.0% 6 83.6% 30 N N 3-3
First Downs/Drive 2.42 5 2.67 32 N N 4-1
3rd/4th Down 53.3% 9 50.8% 22 N N 4-1
Avg Start Pos 21.4 31 23.7 6 N N 3-8
3 and Outs 3.0 17 3.9 9 Y N 5-3
RZ Eff 95.4% 7 93.6% 27 N N 6-4
Plays/Drive 6.701 6 6.327 20 N N 5-2
Penalty Yds / Play 0.670 11 1.035 10 Y N 6-4
RB Success 66.5% 5 52.2% 22 N N 1-6
Yds/Carry 4.25 13 4.70 25 N N 2-3
Ranking - Week (32) 3 30 18
Ranking - Season (32) 3 31 20

Some thoughts:

  • First, a bit of a clarification. You'll see some of the overall rankings slightly different between the weekly and the season stats. The reason is I wait the weekly stats off of 2016 only data, while the season rankings use data going back to 2001, so the weighting will be different from one week to many, many weeks. This is the only week where it really makes a difference.
  • The Colts were at the top end Offensively Sunday, even with the slow start. My hope is they aren't complete dopes on the coaching staff and see that they need to set fire to the gameplan they continue to use the first quarter and a half, and just let them do what they do when the gameplan gets thrown out the window.
  • The best stat for me Sunday? No turnovers by Andrew Luck. That was a huge problem the last two seasons, and Sunday was a good first step in correcting the problem. There's a lot of time to fall back into old habits, but I was thrilled to see a 0 in the turnover category.
  • I mentioned last Friday in my preview article that I expect lots of touchdown scoring in the Orange/Red Zone, as the Lions were both the best and the worst on the respective sides of the ball. And what do you know, I see 100% in both sides of the Red Zone, and over 80% for both teams in the Orange Zone (inside the 35).
  • Tracking starting field position will be interesting this year, due to touchbacks coming out to the 25, so I'd expect those numbers to be higher than the historic average. The problems will arise when they aren't, like with what the Colts had to deal with Sunday.
  • The Colts were very successful running the football Sunday as well, ranking 5th overall when you adjust for the opponent. We didn't see that all that often last year, but as you can see with the win/loss column, being above average running the ball / stopping the run had dire consequences.
  • The Defense was bad, especially the linebackers, who looked like they had no idea what was coming and couldn't keep up with the speedsters from the Lions backfield. Thankfully those will be the best pass-catching running backs they'll see all season, so we'll try to be optimistic they just got flattened by the best in the NFL.
  • The Defense did force 4 Three and Outs, which was pretty good and assuredly all came in the second half when they make their frantic comebacks. In a vacuum it's a good stat, but context always helps.