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The Colts Aren’t As Bad As You Think

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Buffalo Bills v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Bill Parcells famously said, “You are what your record says you are.” After week 7, the Colts 2-5 record should actually be 2-4-1 is tied for 27th place in the league. So, are the Colts really one of the worst teams in the league?

Because record isn’t the full story, the media churns out weekly power rankings which supposedly ranks teams by how good they are irrespective of record. Chris Blystone’s recent power rankings article shows that most pundits placed Indy right around 27th.

So, either they all agree with Parcells or they are too lazy to actually analyze team play and just basically go by record. I’ll let you guess which is true. Personally, I feel the Colts are playing much better than their record and I have the data to back up that claim.


ODDS

As of this writing, Sportsline.com has the Colts odds of winning the Superbowl at 100 to 1 . . . so, you’re saying there’s a chance.

While I have no opinion on the predictive capability of Vegas odds, I can say for certain that there are only 19 teams with better odds listed. So, according to the cumulative knowledge of the betting community, the Colts are tied as the 20th best team.

Hey, it’s better than 27th.


POINT DIFFERENTIALS

Wins are obviously highly correlated to point differentials. For example, the team currently with the highest season long point differential is the Rams and surprise, they also have the best record.

Normally, teams that have less than a 0.500 record, have negative point differentials, but that isn’t true with the Colts. Through 7 weeks, Reich and company have scored 189 points, while giving up 185, which results in a +4 point differential. This suggests that the Colts record is artificially low.

How low? Well, rank teams by point differential and the Colts come in at 18th.


PYTHAGOREAN WINS

Football Outsiders performs a much math-ier transform of point differentials by calculating a Pythagorean Win Expectation, which estimates the number of wins a team “should have” given their cumulative points for and against.

Statistically, the calculation does a pretty good job of estimating actual wins.

According to their formula, the Colts are playing like a team with 3.6 wins and are on pace to garner 8.2 for the season. They also apply an adjustment to account for “garbage time” impacts and after including that, Adjusted Pythagorean Expectation has the Colts ranked 17th in expected wins.

That was a lot of math just to improve point differentials by one spot. But I’ll take it.


BLOWOUTS

While I’m on the subject of point differentials, did you hear that the Colts went +32 over the Bills last week? Since the league went to a 16 game season in 1978, there have been 45 games decided by exactly 32 points. The winning teams from those games ended the season with an average of 9.9 wins.

Of course, there is variance around that number but only 18% of those teams ended up with less than 8 wins. The point is that if you beat someone by 32, then you probably aren’t one of the worst teams in the league.


DRIVE SUCCESS RATE

For the 1 of you who read my articles, you know I am a big fan of Drive Success Rate. The Colts have a season long offensive DSR of 71.1% while the defense has given up a rate of 70.6%. The DSR differential is a relative measure of how well the the team has played overall and the Colts +0.5% ranks 17th in the league.


DVOA

So far, none of these measures have adjusted for opponent. Football Outsiders is famous for ranking teams by their DVOA metric, which includes an opponent adjustment. After Indy’s week 7 “running of the Bills”, the Colts improved their team DVOA and currently sit as the 14th best team in the league.


CONCLUSIONS

There is no such thing as a “true” ranking method but by just about any method you pick, the Colts are much better than bottom dwellers.

Add to that, the fact that the team is getting healthier and that there are a lot of winnable games coming up and I believe we will see a huge turn-around in record.

Will it be enough to make the playoffs? I think it will be close. Close enough that half a game matters.