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Week 9: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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NFL: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

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.

For 40 minutes, the Indianapolis Colts defense held the New York Jets to 10 points on 6 drives, yielding a measly 62.5% drive success rate. If the game has stopped there, that defensive effort would have ranked in the 90th percentile of all NFL games this year.

However, there was still 20 minutes left and in that time the Jets took a big chunk out of a 32 point deficit. In their final 4 drives, the Jets offense amassed 21 points off of 304 total yards and a near perfect 30 for 31 series conversion rate (95.2% DSR).

I’m not going to argue if that was a defense intentionally giving up garbage points or a defense that simply fell apart. I’m just going to say that it wasn’t fun to watch.


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

At the end of the day, the defense gave up 30 points at a rate of 3 points per drive. That 22nd ranking is in line with the 25th ranked DSR against and the 24th ranked epa per play against. 6.5 yards per play is the 5th most surrendered by a defense and the 37.8% conversion rate is the 3rd highest by any offense in week 9.

If I assume garbage time and only look at the first 40 minutes, then all of these numbers flip and it’s one of the better defenses on the week. So, you be the judge.

Last week, Football Outsiders called the Colts defense the 5th best in the league by DVOA. I didn’t agree then and even though the Colts fell to 11th this week, I still don’t agree. On the year, this defense ranks between 16th and 17th in the stats I care about most (ppd, expected ppd, DSR, epa per play). There is just too much evidence to think this is anything better than an average defense and considering a 24th ranked strength of schedule, they may be even worse than that.


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

On his last 4 drives, 3rd-stringer Josh Johnson passed the ball 32 times for 3 TDs, leading the Jets to the 7th best epa per drop-back of any team that week. The Jets also managed the 6th best passing success rate, the 2nd highest passing conversion rate and the 8th highest net yards per drop-back.

Maybe it was garbage time or maybe it is the 26th ranked passing defense (DVOA) being themselves. On the year, the Colts defense ranks 27th in epa per drop-back, dead last in passing success rate, 31st in passing conversion rate and 27th in net yards per drop-back. The only thing sustaining this defense is turnovers and that is a precarious perch to rest upon.


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

On the bright side, the run defense continues to excel. Game script prevented the Jets from running much, but when they did, the Colts limited them to 3.8 ypc and the 3rd lowest conversion rate. Throw in a fumble and you get the 9th lowest adjusted rush success rate of the week.

This season, the Colts D ranks 3rd in aRSR against, which lines up well with their 2nd ranked DVOA.


I don’t know. Giving up 30 points to a team relying on the arm of their back-up’s back-up just doesn’t sit well with me.

Next up is the 24th ranked (DVOA) Jacksonville Jaguars offense. They rank 31st in points per drive and 28th in Drive Success Rate. They average the 6th most turnovers per game, so that bodes well.

Trevor Lawrence had a low ankle sprain last week but he returned to the game and is full go for week 10. That might be good news for the Colts as his epa per drop-back ranks 30th of all QBs. He also has the 30th ranked accuracy (cpoe) and 4th highest turnover rate. He holds the ball a long time (9th ttt) but has managed to avoid sacks (26th sck%).

The Jets are significantly better on the ground (6th DVOA, 14th aRSR) and they prefer to run on early downs, but that is going against the Colts strength.

Colts are 10.5 point favorites.