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Week 8: Colts Defense by the Numbers

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NFL: Tennessee Titans 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.

34 points is a lot, except when it isn’t.

The Titans' final field goal was logged in overtime on a drive that started in field goal position after a Wentz interception. Another 7 points were scored while the defense was sitting on the bench. That leaves 24 points in regulation, which is about 4 points less than the Titans season average coming into the game.

5 three-and-outs and two turnovers helped keep the Titans to just a 69% series conversion rate (DSR). That puts the Tennessee effort at about the 29th percentile of offensive performances this year.


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%

The 19th ranked PPD underestimates the defensive effort as Tennessee had the 10th best starting field position, making it that much harder for the Colts to keep them out of scoring range.

Based on DSR, the Colts D ranked 7th and by expected ppd it was 10th. They gave up the 13th fewest yards per play and 13th least epa per play. Tennessee also had the 9th lowest conversion rate. Those are all signals of a defense playing pretty well.

However, the defense also gave up 3 free first downs on penalties and 7 points on a 57-yard TD, which dilutes the impact of all the previous numbers.

On the year, the defense ranks 15th in ppd against and 14th in expected ppd against and that seems about right. Football Outsiders calls the Colts the #5 defense in the league and that is . . . generous. Here’s what FO has to say about that:

Overall, the Colts are probably not as good as DVOA thinks they are on defense — they would drop to 13th in the league if we looked at defense without turnovers included — but DVOA is probably recognizing something in their situational play that makes them better than their raw yardage allowed.

— Aaron Schatz


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

3 sacks and 2 picks were not enough to stop Ryan Tannehill from having a good day. The Colts let him have the 8th most epa per dropback and 10th most avg net yards. The 57 yarder helped those numbers, but primarily he was just completing lots of short passes with good situational value. He ended with the 5th highest success rate in week 8.

On the year, the pass defense has given up the 23rd most epa per drop-back to opposing QBs. That is in line with the 20th ranked DVOA, so there is a lot of room for improvement.


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

On the other hand, the run defense was very good . . . again.

They kept Derrick Henry to only 68 yards on 28 carries, but maybe him having a broken foot had something to do with that. The Titans’ overall yards per carry ranked 5th worst but they did accumulate 6 first downs, so that “improves” to a 9th worst rushing success rate.

The Indy rushing defense has been spectacular the last 5 weeks and is partially why Football Outsiders ranks them #1 in DVOA. Evidently, I’m a harder grader as I have them #3 (adj RSR).


For this game, the defense gave up too many points, but I’m not sure that tells us anything going forward. Against a good offense, that was given advantageous field position, the defense played at a level that would normally yield 19.7 points. I think that bodes well for future games.

Next up is the J-E-T-S Jets, Jets, Jets. DVOA ranks their offense 28th. I have them 30th by ppd and 31st by expected ppd, so no real argument from me. They love to turn the ball over (2.1 per game, 2nd highest) and our defense loves to get turnovers so that’s a good match-up. I think there’s a joke in there somewhere . . . something with dating sites and Fumblr (?) . . . oh, well.

Mike White will be playing his 3rd game under center for the Jets. With just 2 games to judge him by, there are a lot of unknowns. He played pretty well last week and pretty bad the week before. He has not been a threat past 10 yards, but the same is true of Tannehill and that didn’t stop him from getting points. White will probably be bad, but I can’t justify that take with just numbers.

I can, however, justify my take that the New York run game is not good. DVOA has them ranked 19th (17th unadjusted) and I call shenanigans as they are 28th by my count. Either way, the Colts run defense is one of the best in the league, so this is a favorable matchup.

Colts favored by 10.5 at the time of this writing.