Each week during the season, I will be walking through the data from the previous Colts game analyzing the numbers to form a sort of “what happened” narrative as well as comparing the Colts against all other teams in the league. For a glossary of the stats listed, reference Season Stats. Thanks to Pro Football Reference, NFL.com, Football Outsiders and the nflFastR project for being awesome sources of weekly data.
Good offenses should impose their will on bad defenses. Well, the Jacksonville Jaguars are a bad defense and on the first 3 drives the Colts offense leaned hard on them, converting every series save one that stalled at the 4-yard line. They were basically moving the ball at will.
Then the Colts offense got comfy, laid down, set the alarm for 5 minutes before the end of the game, and took a 3 quarter nap. You know, what you can’t do often in the NFL and win? Have 8 consecutive drives where you score only 3 points. That’s just a bad plan.
23 first downs is usually pretty good, but when it is stretched across 32 series on 12 drives for a 71.9% Drive Success Rate, that becomes pretty not-so-good.
Average points against one of the worst defenses in the league is very uninspiring. The 18th ranked PPD is bracketed by a 20th DSR and 15th EPA/play. They all scream “participation trophy.”
The next graph shows the trailing 6 weeks numbers. Over that time period, the Colts have averaged 29 points a game, so there is a good offense in there somewhere. 7th best PPD, 7th best EPA/play and 10th best DSR are all very promising measures. Can the team get back to that level of play without a 100% healthy O-line?
22nd in EPA efficiency and 19th in yardage efficiency pretty much captures how that game felt: not terrible but definitely below average. Short passes (28th YBC) with a below-expected completion rate (29th cpoe) is a bad mix.
When looking at the last 6 weeks, the Colts cling to a top 10 passing spot.
I’m sure I’m going to get some heat for the run game being only ranked 10th and I understand why. 273 yards, 7.4 ypc, over half of the first downs, and a 50-yard game-sealing touchdown make the run game the only reason the Colts offense did anything. Jonathon Taylor clearly was the best running back performance of the week because I don’t know who Derrick Henry is.
However, this table is sorted by adj RSR which doesn’t care about monster yards. A 50 yard run for a TD gets no more weight than a 1-yard punch-in. It intentionally ignores explosive plays that are unrepeatable as they skew short term results relative to predicted wins. So this isn’t so much saying that the rush effort this week was 10th best as it is saying the repeatable parts of this week's run game were better than the repeatable parts that 22 other teams put up.
If it makes you feel better, over the last 6 weeks, I have the Colts run game ranked 2nd, driven by the 2nd highest conversion rate of any team.
CONCLUSION AND LOOK AHEAD
Problematic. Moving on.
The Bills defense is good but not great. For the season, they rank 15th in points per drive given up. That matches their DSR against ranking and is a little lower than their 12th ranked EPA against. Football Outsiders places them 12th best and that feels right to me. However, they have been surging the last 6 weeks, giving up the 4th fewest PPD and EPA/play. Of course, their opponent offenses have been LAC, SF, PIT, DEN, NE & MIA who haven’t exactly been on fire in that time frame.
Through the air, they are 10th in EPA efficiency against and 9th in yardage efficiency against, but again over the last 6 weeks, those numbers have bettered to 5th and 6th respectively. By DVOA their passing game is 12th.
On the ground, DVOA has them 17th. I have them actually much worse than that (28th) giving up the highest rushing first down conversion rates of any team along with the 9th most EPA/c and 8th most ypc.
I think a repeat of Sunday’s rushing game is in order . . . just not the passing game.