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.
Three sacks, a game-sealing turnover, and 7 three-and-outs is a pretty good day for a defense. The Colts held the Jaguars to only 15 first downs on 26 series, which is a DSR of about 58% (94th defensive percentile).
The numbers can be a bit confusing this week. The Colts defense gave up the 11th smallest points per drive this week, but EPA and yardage efficiency weren’t quite as good (14th epa/ply, 18th yds/ply). This implies the defensive effort was rather mid-range. However, those rankings are driven in part by the Jaguars' 78 yard TD run, which skews the underlying mean-based measures artificially high and thus the defensive rankings artificially low.
When looking at the more median-based measures a more accurate story emerges. On the day, the defense held the Jaguars to the 3rd smallest DSR, the 3rd smallest 1st down conversion rate (1st/ply), and the 5th smallest play success rate (adj TSR). That sounds about right.
Through week 10, DVOA ranks this defense 10th best in the league and that just seems way high to me. On the season, the Colts defense ranks:
- 17th in ppd
- 14th in expected ppd (xOPPD)
- 12th DSR
- 24th yds/ply
- 16th epa/ply
- 17th success rate (adj TSR)
- 18th 1st down conversion rate
There’s some variance in there, but those numbers show this is an average defense at best and when considering that they have faced the 26th hardest offenses, that makes a top 10 ranking seem absurd. I like DVOA, but I think Football Outsiders is just dead wrong here. This is not a good defense.
Trevor Lawrence did not do well. The Colts held him to the 9th lowest epa efficiency in a week where it seems most QBs were fighting to be the worst. His passing success rate ranking was even lower (6th worst). He had the 6th lowest yardage efficiency and the 2nd worst conversion rate.
This was a dominant defense against the pass, which is contrary to their season totals. On the year, they rank 24th in epa/d against which is backed up by a 23rd rank DVOA. See, Football Outsiders usually gets it right.
They rank 27th in opponent pass conversion rate and 24th in yardage efficiency against. The only real bright spot is the 5th highest passing turnover rate. Pray that continues.
Even though they gave up a 66-yard rushing TD, the run defense was overall pretty good on the day. Again, because of that huge run, the mean-based numbers look bad: 28th ypc, 28th epa/c. However, the median-based adjusted rush success rate looks much better (8th).
On the year, they are 3rd in aRSR and 2nd in DVOA.
CONCLUSION & LOOK AHEAD
This was a timely effort by the defense. They clearly were leaned on by the struggling Colts offense and they came through big time.
I don’t analyze special teams, but I want to give them kudos as well. The blocked punt score was crucial and the Money Badger has earned his moniker since taking over kicking duties.
Next week, the team will face the Bills offense, who average over 30 points a game. They are #1 in ppd, #5 in DSR and #6 in EPA. They are clearly good, so why are they ranked 14th in DVOA? It’s because they have faced the easiest defenses of any team this year. 4 of their opponents had a bottom 5 defense.
Josh Allen is the current MVP favorite putting up the 3rd best epa efficiency with the 6th highest passing conversion rate, he doesn’t turn the ball over (26th to%) and rarely gets sacked (28th sck%). They are the most pass-heavy team in the league and that does not bode well for a defense that is in the bottom 10 against passing.
Their run game is efficient, capturing the 7th highest aRSR and 12th highest conversion rate. Of course that all came against poor rushing defenses, which the Colts most definitely is not. By DVOA, they rank 18th.
This will be another pass-heavy game for the Bills. If Football Outsiders is right and all of those crazy good Buffalo numbers can basically be adjusted down to mediocrity, then this defense has a chance. Otherwise, yikes.