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Week 2: Defensive Rankings and Analysis

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Jenna Watson-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.

The Colts defense started the game strong, with 2 sacks, a turnover and 2 punts on the first 4 drives, but after that, the Houston offense started to move the ball and scored on 3 of the next 4 drives. On the day, the Texans earned 24 first downs on 31 series for a 77.4% Drive Success Rate. Last year, that would have been in the 77th percentile of all games, which is a 23rd percentile effort from the defense.

For the next sections of rankings, I have added a “Gallery” functionality so that you can see both the current week and year-to-date rankings. Use the left/right arrow to switch views.


(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%

The final numbers are all over the place. Point-wise, it was the 10th best Week 2 defensive effort, limiting the Points per Drive to 2.0. However, the defensive Drive Success Rate behind that ranked 22nd.

I call that “under-scoring” the DSR. Basically, Houston left an estimated 3.8 points on the field which results in a Colts defense that ranked 16th in Expected Points per Drive. XPPD is more predictive of future results than actual PPD and is more in line with the Colts’ 14th ranked PPD on the season. So sure, 10th by what actually happened, but about average in the way they did it.

Overall, this was just a middling effort.


(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

The Colts gave up the 11th highest EPA efficiency to C.J. Stroud (22nd EPA/d against). However, they also forced the 10th lowest Passsing Success Rate. This means that Stroud thrived on high value plays and this is backed up by the 177 explosive play yards given up by the Colts D (4th most).

Giving up explosive pass plays is what is going to kill this defense in 2023, unless they can counter with lots of turnovers.


(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 good news is that Colts run defense looks to be for real. They bottled up the Texans run game, holding them to the 3rd worst adj Rush Success Rate of the week. On the season, the Colts defense tanks 9th best in this measure.

Houston had a measly 1.9 Yards per Carry (2nd worst) that led to 3rd lowest conversion rate and the 7th lowest EPA efficiency.


The story was great rush defense combined with a poor pass defense for a “meh” overall effort. On the season, the defense is doing better than average but look at this chart again after the Ravens game and you’ll likely see a different (truer) story.

The Baltimore offense has the 9th highest Points per Drive, backed up by the 6th highest Drive Sucess Rate. They move the chains and don’t turn the ball over.

Lamar Jackson has the 5th highest Passing Success rate in the league, but his overall EPA efficiency is only 15th. That means he doesn’t live by the big play, rather he just manages to move the ball consistently down the field. He has the 7th highest first down conversion rate and a lot of that comes from his legs where he has the 4th highest yards per abandoned play. However, with the Colts defense amenable to giving up the big play, look for Jackson to throw long in week 3.

On their designed runs, they have the 8th best adj Rush Success Rate, converting 60% of their rushing 3rd downs (9th best). This will be a strength on strength match-up on the ground.

The Colts’ defense will definitely have to find another gear if they are to stop the Ravens. Baltimore is favored by 8.