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Week 1: Defensive Rankings and Analysis

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NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-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.

Giving up 31 points usually means a porous defense, but against the Jaguars, the Colts' defense was not as bad as the scoreboard might suggest. They gave up 20 first downs on 30 series, holding the Jags to a 66.7% Drive success rate, which is below last year’s NFL average. They also forced 2 turnovers, 1 of them being a heads-up strip returned for a TD by DeForest Buckner.

For 3-1/2 quarters the Colts were playing pretty stout defense, but then 2 short Jacksonville fields later and they had given it all back.


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%

With my Points per Drive calculation, the defensive TD offsets 7 Jaguar points and so the defense ends up at the 20th spot in PPD against. If I were to add back the 7 points, then they would drop 5 spots.

Defensive DSR comes in at 18th (tied), which is commensurate with the overall first down conversion rate (20th 1st/ply against). Interestingly though, the Jaguars had the shortest average 3rd down yards to gain of any team this week, but only converted 25% of them giving the Colts the 7th best 3rd down conversion prevention rate.


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

The defensive return TD tanked the Jags passing EPA and so they finished 3rd worst. However that is a bit of a mirage as Lawrence had a lot of success with the 4th best Passing Success Rate of the week. Basically, the turnovers, while high-value defensive plays, are not indicative of the rest of the game.

Trevor Lawrence’s high success rate was driven by a good 31.4% conversion rate and a very good 7.1 Net Yards per dropback, which translates to the Colt defense ranking 20th and 27th in those stats. That’s not too good.


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

The Colts had trouble stopping the Jaguar runners, finishing 23rd in defensive Adj. Rush Success Rate. Their 13th-ranked defensive Yards per Carry may seem good on the surface, but when you convert those yards to EPA, it drops to the 22nd-ranked EPA per Carry against. The driver of that was giving up high-value plays on the ground like 2 TDs and 9 first downs (23th ranked 1st/c against).


It wasn’t a great start for the defense, but it could have been a lot worse.

Next up is the Texan’s offense, who had a rough week 1. The Texans finished 29th in Points per Drive and a 25th-ranked Drive Success Rate.

C.J. Stroud did not impress, landing 26th in EPA per Dropback and 27th in Passing Success rate. He endured the 3rd highest pressure rate even though he had the 9th quickest Time to Throw. That’s not a good look for the Houston O-Line.

On the ground, the Texans were even worse than the Colts with the 29th-ranked Adj. Rush Success Rate and a pathetic 1.9 Yards per Carry. That also isn’t a good look for the Texans lineman.

This is shaping up to be a good opportunity for the Colts defense. Indy is favored by 1 point.