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Week 6 Defensive Rankings and Analysis: You won’t agree with me

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NFL: OCT 15 Colts at Jaguars Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Each week during the season, I will be walking through the data from the previous Colts game and 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.

Scoreboard = 37, so defense = bad. That will be the end of the argument for a lot of people, but I am here to provide a more nuanced view.

Due to Minshew’s turnovers, failed 4th down tries and poor special teams play, the Jaguars offense was gifted 4 drives that started in field goal position. On 3 of those drives the Colts’ defense gave up 0 first downs and a net total of 1 yard. So, the 9 points that the Jaguars earned on those drives was actually the result of the Colts defense playing well.

On the other short-field drive, the Colts gave up 7 points, but the Jaguars were all but guaranteed 3 anyway. I have a hard time blaming the defense for the points off of any of those drives.

Altogether, the Colts defense forced three-and-outs on over half of the Jacksonville drives. They held Jacksonville to 233 yards of total offense and gave up only 17 first downs for a 68.0% Drive Success Rate against. On any other day, that is actually a defense that wins you the game.

Of course, they also gave up 3 long touchdown drives that included 3 first downs on penalties, so I’m not going to sit here and say they played well.


(Use the right-left arrows to toggle between stats for the week and the season).

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%

By Points per Drive the Colts defense ranks 29th out of 30 teams and that lowers the season ranking 6 spots to 22nd. However, as I mentioned earlier, the actual points is a bit biased for this game as the Jaguars had the 2nd best starting field position for the week.

By defensive DSR, the Colts came in 18th. They were also 19th in yards per play given up and EPA per play against. Those numbers are more indicative of their real performance and a better indicator of their future play. It’s still not good, but it’s certainly not the 2nd worst effort of the week. What can I say, sometimes the scoreboard lies.


(Use the right-left arrows to toggle between stats for the week and the season).

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

Against the pass, the Colts held Trevor Lawrence to the 17th lowest EPA per dropback and the 14th lowest passing Success rate. They also kept him in check with the 4th worst passing conversion rate and the 9th lowest yardage efficiency (ny/d). They picked Larwrence once, sacked him 3 times and held him to under 181 passing yards.

That’s not a bad day, but it’s also not good enough. On the season, the Colts rank 24th against the pass.


(Use the right-left arrows to toggle between stats for the week and the season).

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

The run game was a different story. Jacksonville had only 2.4 YPC, which ranked 6th lowest for the week. Unfortunately, yards don’t mean as much in the run game as play value does and the Jaguars earned a lot of value on those runs. 2 TDs, 7 first downs and 2 explosive carries for 41 yards was good enough to earn the 6th best adj. Rushing Success Rate.

On the season, the Colts defense falls from 14th to 20th against the run.


On the whole, this was far from a good game from the Colts defense, but it was also far from what giving up 37 points sounds like.

In 3 days, the defense will face a Browns’ offense that ranks 29th in Points per Drive and 29th in Drive Success Rate. The Browns have the most turnovers and the 4th worst conversion rate in the league.

Under center they have former Colt P.J. Walker filling in for injured Deshaun Watson, who may or may not be available Sunday. Combined, the Browns QBs have the worst passing EPA efficiency and 3rd to lowest passing success rate of any team. They can’t gain yards (3rd lowest ny/d) and they can’t get first downs (3rd lowest 1st%). They take a lot of sacks (5th) and they throw a lot of picks (2nd).

On the ground, they are far better with a 13th ranked adj Rush Success Rate. They also average the 3rd highest rushing yards per game (132.8) and the 12th highest conversion rate.

It will most likely be up to the defense to win this game, but the Colts are 2.5 point underdogs.