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Week 17: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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Jacksonville Jaguars v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

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,, Football Outsiders and the nflFastR project for being awesome sources of weekly data.

Let’s be clear. Anything less than a great defensive effort against the Jaguars would have been a letdown and as it turns out, it probably would have led to a loss as well. Fortunately, the defense was fantastic.

Only 2 drives slipped past the Colts D for 14 points, but 8 other drives were stopped in Jacksonville territory and the sole remaining drive died just over midfield.

18 first downs on 28 series is a 64.3% Drive Success Rate, which is the lowest of any opponent since Chicago in week 4.


Mouseover for definitions: Adj PPD, PPG, Yds, P/R%, DSR, xOPPD, Strt Fld, EPA/ply, adj TSR, 1st/ply, Pen 1st/ Yds, 3DC, 3rd ytg, Expl Plys, TO, TOP%

6th in PPD against, 6th in DSR against. 5th in EPA/play against. That all lines up well and makes for a boring analysis. I’ll take it.

Since week 12, the defense has been about league average, so this was a nice get-well game.


Mouseover definitions: EPA/db, PSR, Cmp, Att, Yds, TD, Int, Sk, Sk Y, 1st/db, NY/A, Cmp %, aDOT, cpoe, YBC, YAC, 20+ #/Yd

The Jags were held in check through the air with the 5th lowest EPA efficiency (EPA/db) and the 6th lowest yardage efficiency (NY/db). By success rate and first down conversions they were slightly better but still bad (PSR, 1st/db 9th lowest).

Since week 12, opponents have had about average passing EPA efficiency against the Colts. They have fared better in NY/db (11th highest), but that is countered by the 11th most interceptions (thus the better defensive EPA numbers).


Mouseover definitions: adj RSR, Yds, Car, TD, Fum Lost, RSR, 1st/c, YPC, 10+ #/Yd, 3rd, 3DC

#1 run defense works. The game script kept the Jaguars from even trying to run much, but when they did, they captured the 7th lowest ypc, 5th lowest EPA/c, and 7th lowest conversion rate.

Just like the pass defense, the run defense has been mostly average in the past 6 weeks.


Even against a weak opponent, it was good to see the defense dominate again.

And now comes the part I have been dreading: describing the Buffalo offense. Ranked 5th in DVOA, the Bills Offense averages over 3 points a drive, the 2nd most of any team. That equates to 29.6 net offensive points a game (31.3 team points). They aren’t unstoppable though. They were held to under 20 points by the Titans, Chiefs, and Jets (!?)

Their strength is the arm of Josh Allen. Rightfully discussed as an MVP candidate, he has been torching defenses all year. He has the 3rd highest EPA efficiency and the highest passing success rate of any QB. DVOA ranks them 3rd in passing and I completely agree.

On the ground, they are much worse. DVOA has them at 22nd and I have them at 14th in adjusted RSR. Let’s split the difference and call them average.

Clearly, the key is to stop Allen. He throws the 8th longest completions of any QB, so look for the defense to try and contain that. He is 8th in cpoe accuracy so clearly, pressure will be key. He holds the ball the 2nd longest of any QB, but he takes few sacks and can scramble. The defense can’t afford any mistakes.