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Week 7 Defensive Rankings and Analysis: New week, same story

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NFL: Cleveland Browns at Indianapolis Colts Bob Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

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.

In week 7, the Cleveland Browns had the 2nd-best average starting field position of any team. One reason for that was the Colts’ turnovers, which directly gifted the Browns 7 points and gave them an opportunity for 14 more on 2 drives that started in field goal range. The Colts defense stopped one of those drives, forcing a field goal, but you can’t keep giving your opponents short fields and expect your defense to make it all better.

On the day, the Colts defense gave up 18 first downs on 30 series for a 60% Drive Success Rate. They forced 5 three-and-outs, collected 2 takeaways, and gave up the 4th-fewest yards per play of any team that week. Normally, that describes a defense winning the game.


(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%

2.13 points per drive ranks 16th on the week and drops the season ranking 1 spot to 23rd. However, in terms of defensive Drive Success Rate, the Colts ranked 3rd on the week and 10th overall on the season.

So, they are good at stopping drives, but bad at preventing points? One driver of the disconnect there is that our opponents are getting a lot of short fields off poor play and miscues from the offense and those short fields end up as points even if the defense does well. The Colts’ opponents have the 6th best starting field position so far this year.

On the year, the Colts defense has yielded the 11th-fewest yards per play, the 9th-lowest conversion rate, the 12th-lowest success rate, the 8th-lowest 3rd down conversion rate and ranks 13th in takeaways. I’m not going to call that a bad defense, regardless of the scoreboard.


(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, Sck, Sck Yd, Sck Fum, Scrm, Scrm Yds, Scrm TD, Scrm Fum, 1st/db, ny/d, cmp%, aDOT, cpoe, YBC, YAC, 20+ #/Yd

Against the pass, the Colts defense excelled against the Browns, nabbing 2 picks, 2 sacks, and forcing a net 170 yards on dropbacks that culminated in the 5th-lowest opponent EPA efficiency. That effort increased the Colts season ranking 8 spots to the 13th-best pass defense.

The defense also ranks 13th in sack volume and 9th in sack yards per game.


(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,

Against the run, the defense was a bit more pedestrian, giving up 3 rushing TDs and the 6th-highest Yards per Carry that led to the 14th-ranked defensive adj Rush Success Rate. That leaves their season ranking against the run unchanged at 20th.


The Colts defense is not nearly as bad as the scoreboard makes it seem. Assuming the offense stops setting up the defense to fail, then you can expect opponent scores to drop in the future.

Next up is the New Orleans Saints offense, who rank 23rd in points per drive and 25th in Drive Success Rate. They average the 5th lowest yards per play but are decent at protecting the ball ranking 19th in turnover volume.

They run 60% of their offense through the air but rank only 22nd in EPA efficiency. Their passing conversion rate ranks 28th in the league and they average the 8th lowest net yards per dropback. The passing match-up favors the Colts defense.

On the ground, The Saints rank 19th in adjusted Rush Success Rate. They average less than 100 rushing yards a game and if the Colts can get them in a hole, look for that to continue.

The Colts are 1-point favorites.