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» Clutch Encounters: Week 2

The Eagles horse-collar the Colts in Monday night stunner. Also: Chicago's rope-a-dope, the end of Seattle's streaks, and a comeback 22 years in the making in Green Bay.

27 Nov 2012

Week 12 Quick Reads

by Vince Verhei

Football coaches will tell you that there's no such thing as an easy game in the NFL, that style points don't matter, and that a win is a win no matter the opponent or margin of victory. And to a degree, they're right. When the league determines who makes the playoffs, they simply check each team's "W" column, and higher is always better. However, if we want to determine which teams can succeed in the playoffs, we need to look a little deeper. The Indianapolis Colts, for instance, have seven wins and an inside track at an AFC wild card berth. This team, however, is nowhere near as good as its record, and seems destined for an early playoff exit.

The Colts have already won five more games this season than they did in 2011. At first glance it's easy to credit that improvement to their new quarterback, but that progress has as much to do with dumb luck as it does with Andrew Luck. Though three of Indianapolis' losses have come by 20 points or more, each of their seven wins has come by 7 points or less. And these aren't powerhouses they're beating, either. Those seven opponents have a combined record of 31-46, and only one (Green Bay) would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. The Colts have spent most of their season playing just a little bit better than some of the worst teams in football.

Does that matter, though, so long as the wins keep piling up? Actually, yes. Over the last ten full seasons, 49 different teams had at least five close wins in a season against teams that missed the playoffs. (The Colts have six such wins right now, though that could change if a team like Minnesota or Miami makes a push into the postseason.) Of those 49 teams, 31 percent missed the playoffs entirely, another 37 percent lost their first playoff game, and only 21 percent even made it to the divisional round. On the other hand, 89 teams in the same decade had at least five wins by nine or more points against non-playoff teams. Only 17 percent of those teams missed the playoffs, and though 36 percent were one-and-done in the postseason, and a whopping 61 percent made it to the divisional round. In a nutshell, teams that beat up cupcakes in the regular season usually do much better in the playoffs than those who narrowly escape defeat week after week. So while style points don't count in the standings, they do tell us who's more likely to win in January.

(While we're on the subject, this should also be a warning to the Atlanta Falcons, who currently have six close wins over non-playoff teams.)

What's the hidden weakness that will likely cost Indianapolis a playoff win? It's not the offense, where Andrew Luck has been all the Colts could have hoped for. No, it's the defense, which is the worst in the NFL according to Football Outsiders' numbers. (That table won't be updated through Week 12 until Tuesday afternoon, but when that update comes, Indianapolis will still be at the bottom.) That's quite a plummet from where they rank in conventional metrics. The Colts are currently somewhere between 19th and 22nd in total yards, passing yards, rushing yards, and points allowed per game. Two key factors explain this discrepancy, the first of which is turnovers. The Colts are last in the league in fumbles forced, and tied for last in interceptions. Between recovered fumbles and interceptions, they've only forced seven turnovers all season. The Cleveland defense forced eight turnovers in one game this weekend, and nobody's comparing the Browns to the 1985 Bears.

The other reason the Indianapolis defense is so overrated by mainstream statistics is quality of competition. As already mentioned, the Colts have beaten a bunch of lousy teams this year, and that includes a weak list of quarterbacks, like Mark Sanchez, Matt Hasselbeck, Ryan Tannehill, and Brandon Weeden, plus two games against Blaine Gabbert. And by and large, those passers looked much better against Indianapolis than they have against anyone else. The following table shows a sample of what some quarterbacks were able to do against the Colts, compared to how they've fared against the rest of the league:

Assorted QBs vs. Indianapolis defense
QB
Team
vs. Indianapolis
vs. Everyone else
Yds/Play*
TD-INT
Yds/Play*
TD-INT
Tom Brady
NE
9.46
3-0
7.14
21-3
Jay Cutler
CHI
8.49
2-1
5.33
11-10
Blaine Gabbert
JAC
5.29
1-1
4.94
8-5
Matt Hasselbeck
TEN
7.32
1-0
5.08
6-5
Christian Ponder
MIN
5.95
2-0
5.23
11-9
Ryan Tannehill
MIA
7.03
1-0
6.16
6-12
Brandon Weeden
CLE
6.44
2-0
5.49
10-13
* Net yards per play, including pass attempts and sacks.

That table doesn't tell the whole story -- the Indianapolis defense played much better against Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Buffalo's Ryan Fitzpatrick, for example -- but it does show the Colts' tendency to appear on opposing quarterbacks' highlight reels.

Can we expect similar results in the future? Well, Indianapolis still plays Tennessee and Kansas City, which probably means games against Jake Locker and Brady Quinn. This weekend, however, they must face Matthew Stafford and the Lions, and they have two games in December against Matt Schaub and the Texans. And then, if they survive that, come the playoffs themselves. The Colts will probably get nine wins, and that'll probably earn a Wild Card berth in the 2012. There's no way they're overtaking Houston for the division lead, though, and it's hard to see how they'll beat Schaub, Brady, Peyton Manning, or Joe Flacco in the postseason.

Quarterbacks
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
1.
Matt Stafford DET
31/61
447
2
0
202
204
-2
Stafford gets 74 extra DYAR for playing the Texans. He's also this high just because he had 64 total plays, tied with Tony Romo for the most this week. By DVOA, he would have ranked fifth. In the first half, he went 14-of-26 for 246 yards with 12 first downs (including two touchdowns) and a sack. In the second half and overtime, he went 17-of-35 for 201 yards with nine first downs and two sacks.
2.
Tom Brady NE
19/28
323
3
0
180
171
9
At the end of the first quarter, Brady was 4-of-9 for 44 yards with one first down and one intentional grounding penalty. Then his first four throws of the second quarter went like this: 3-yard touchdown, 83-yard touchdown, 12-yard gain on first down, 56-yard touchdown. And that was pretty much that. His first third-down pass was incomplete, his next two third-down passes were touchdowns, and for the rest of the day he converted each of his four third-down throws, gaining 43 yards in the process.
3.
Cam Newton CAR
18/28
306
2
0
153
120
33
You think Juan Castillo ever leaves Andy Reid voicemails consisting of nothing but hearty belly laughs?
4.
Eli Manning NYG
16/30
249
3
0
129
122
7
Third and fourth downs: 7-of-9 for 99 yards with three red-zone touchdowns and three other first downs.
5.
Russell Wilson SEA
21/27
224
2
0
123
114
9
Guess who leads all rookies in touchdown passes this season? No, not Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin. It's Wilson, the third-rounder out of Wisconsin who was taken by Seattle in April's draft, five picks after the Jaguars drafted a punter. Wilson had two more touchdowns against Miami, his fourth straight game with at least two scores, and now has 17 in 11 games on the season. He's on pace for 24 touchdowns. Peyton Manning holds the rookie record with 26, and no other first-year player had more than 22. At one point against Miami, Wilson completed 16 passes in a row, and these weren't just checkdowns or dumpoffs either. They totaled 191 yards, with two touchdowns and nine other first downs.
6.
Ryan Tannehill MIA
18/25
253
1
1
118
111
7
Three first-quarter drives: 4-of-8 for 19 yards, one first down, one sack, one interception, two punts. Three fourth-quarter drives: 7-of-8 for 156 yards, six first downs (including one touchdown pass), plus one Daniel Thomas touchdown run, and one field goal.
7.
Robert Griffin WAS
21/28
311
4
1
110
100
10
Griffin had touchdowns of 68 and 59 yards, but he delivered in scoring range too. Inside the Cowboys' 40, he went 4-of-5 for 65 yards, with every completion a first down or touchdown, and also drew a 5-yard DPI. He did give up a sack in that part of the field, but it was a zero-yard play, and he picked up the first down on the next snap.
8.
Josh Freeman TB
19/30
256
0
0
87
87
0
Inside the Atlanta 40, in a game that was always within one score, Freeman went 3-of-11 for 40 yards and only two first downs.
9.
Matt Ryan ATL
26/32
353
1
1
72
64
8
Ryan has thrown 69 deep passes this season, which is about average for starting quarterbacks, but he only threw two against Tampa Bay. Of course, one of them was complete for an 80-yard touchdown to Julio Jones, so that counts for a lot.
10.
Peyton Manning DEN
22/37
285
2
1
68
72
-4
In the first quarter, Manning went 4-of-7 for 38 yards with one first down and a sack. Then in the fourth quarter, as the Broncos were protecting a one-score lead, he threw seven incompletions in a row. His last two throws were critical third-down conversions as Denver was killing clock and adding a crucial security field goal, but it's largely Manning's fault that the league's worst team had a chance to win this game until literally the final gun.
11.
Colin Kaepernick SF
16/25
231
1
1
55
48
7
Kaepernick had 96 YAR, but he gets dinged big-time for playing the crappy Saints defense. He's supposed to bring the home-run ball back to San Francisco, but he only threw five passes more than 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, completing two of them for 70 yards, with one interception. On short passes within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage, though, he went 11-of-16 for 122 yards with five first downs, including a touchdown.
12.
Tony Romo DAL
37/61
441
3
2
54
52
2
It would not be fair to pin this loss on Romo -- he's not the one who allowed RG3 to throw four touchdown passes -- but the Cowboys might have had a better shot at the end if Romo had played better inside the 20. The Cowboys scored touchdowns on two of four red-zone drives, and Romo went 6-of-13 for 32 yards inside the Washington 20. He did throw the two red-zone touchdowns, but he had no other first downs in scoring range.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
13.
Jay Cutler CHI
23/31
188
1
1
45
43
2
Cutler completed each of his first nine passes on third down for 69 yards and seven first downs (although one of those completions was a 7-yard loss on third-and-14). He threw incompletions on each of his last three third-down tries, but by then the Bears were up by 15 or more points in the second half.
14.
Mark Sanchez NYJ
26/35
306
1
1
40
67
-27
The butt-fumble was worth -19 DYAR. On third and fourth downs, he went 3-of-6 for 15 yards with two first downs and a sack. Through 11 games this season, his statline is 194-350-2,339-12-10, with 26 sacks. In 15 games in his rookie year, he went 196-364-2444-12-20, with 26 sacks. He's throwing way more passes per game now, and he's cut his interceptions roughly in half, but otherwise he's the same guy, and it's silly to think he'll ever be anything else.
15.
Sam Bradford STL
8/17
205
2
1
32
36
-4
Bradford was next to last in yards per completion as a rookie, and 28th in 2011. He was 23rd through the first 11 weeks of 2012. And then came Sunday. Bradford averaged a whopping 25.6 yards per completion, the most by any quarterback this year with at least five completions in a game. By the way, the last time Bradford played Arizona, in Week 5? 20.1 yards per completion, his second-best game in that category.
16.
Joe Flacco BAL
30/51
355
1
0
25
30
-6
Flacco hit a bunch of big plays on third downs, going 11-of-16 for 194 yards and 10 first downs, including one sack-fumble. And that's not even including the fourth-and-29 conversion to Ray Rice.
17.
Brady Quinn KC
13/25
126
0
1
23
23
0
The only reason Quinn ranks this high is because he threw no interceptions. (Well, technically he threw one on the final play of the game, but we count Hail Mary interceptions as incompletions.) The Chiefs were only down by one point at halftime, and Quinn's first pass of the second half was a 10-yard gain on first-and-10. He completed each of his next three passes for 28 yards, but no first downs, and then each of his final 10 passes (including the Hail Mary play) was incomplete.
18.
Nick Foles PHI
16/21
119
0
0
15
15
0
Twenty-two dropbacks. Four first downs.
19.
Andy Dalton CIN
16/30
210
3
0
9
6
3
Cincinnati's half of the field: 7-of-15 for 136 yards, but only three first downs (92 of those yards came on two plays) and two sacks. Oakland's half of the field: 9-of-15 for 74 yards, with three red-zone touchdowns and two other first downs.
20.
Christian Ponder MIN
22/43
159
1
1
7
19
-12
Without opponent adjustments, Ponder had -112 YAR. Yes. The Chicago Bears pass defense is way way way way way way way WAY better than anyone else this year. And trying to surprise them apparently doesn't work. On first downs, Ponder went 5-of-15 for 23 yards with one sack and one first down, although that first down was a 2-yard touchdown.
21.
Jake Locker TEN
23/40
267
1
2
-1
1
-2
Inside the Jacksonville 40, Locker went 3-of-12 for 21 yards and two first downs, although one of those was a touchdown.
22.
Philip Rivers SD
23/36
228
1
0
-22
-22
0
Third downs: 6-of-10 for 53 yards with two first downs and three sacks.
Rk
Player
Team
CP/AT
Yds
TD
INT
Total
DYAR
Pass
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
23.
Matt Schaub HOU
29/48
315
1
1
-34
-34
0
Schaub started the second half 4-of-12 for 26 yards with no first downs and a sack. From that point on he went 12-of-19 for 146 yards and an interception, with nine first downs.
24.
Drew Brees NO
27/41
267
3
2
-38
-38
0
Brees ended the first half with a pick-six, then opened the second half with a sack and another pick-six. Late in the third quarter, he threw a 2-yard touchdown to Jed Collins to pull the Saints within 7 points. From that point forward, he went 9-of-16 for 101 yards, with four first downs and four sacks. One of those first downs and 35 of those yards came on the last play of the game (not counting a kneeldown) when the Saints were down by ten.
25.
Andrew Luck IND
20/36
240
1
1
-38
-40
3
Luck tormented the Bills with mid-range passes (6 to 15 yards past the line of scrimmage), going 8-of-13 for 112 yards, with one touchdown and six other first downs, plus an 8-yard DPI.
26.
Brandon Weeden CLE
17/26
158
1
1
-42
-36
-6
Dramatic directional splits for Weeden. Up the middle: 2-of-3 for 26 yards and a pick-six. To the right: 7-of-12 for 61 yards and only three first downs (including a touchdown). To the left: 8-of-11 for 71 yards and five first downs.
27.
Aaron Rodgers GB
14/25
219
1
1
-44
-51
7
Rodgers led the league in touchdowns per pass attempt in 2011 and he's first again this year, so it's strange to see what he did inside the Giants' 40: 5-of-8 for 36 yards with two first downs and one sack.
28.
Chad Henne JAC
17/26
261
2
1
-50
-52
1
Feast or famine on third and fourth downs. He averaged 35.0 yards per play on his three conversions, but his seven failures consisted of a 2-yard gain on third-and-21, two incompletions, and four sacks.
29.
Charlie Batch PIT
20/34
201
0
3
-82
-82
0
Batch threw three interceptions, and his receivers caught the ball and then fumbled three other times. Also, he has no arm left. On deep passes (more than 15 yards past the line of scrimmage), he went 1-of-8 for 27 yards, plus a 25-yard DPI. League-average completion rate on deep passes is about 40 percent.
30.
Carson Palmer OAK
19/34
146
1
1
-114
-114
0
Third and fourth downs: 5-of-12 for 30 yards with one sack and only three first downs. He didn't convert a third-down play until the middle of the second quarter, and by then Oakland was behind 21-0.
31.
Ryan Lindley ARI
31/52
312
0
4
-121
-123
2
Four interceptions tells you all you need to know, but Lindley also was horrible on third and fourth downs: 8-of-13 for 59 yards and only three first downs with an interception.
32.
Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
17/33
180
1
1
-123
-116
-8
Through three quarters, Fitzpatrick was 8-of-22 for 129 yards with two sacks and only four first downs. And 63 of those yards came on one play. Against the Colts. Go re-read the table in the main essay and realize how putrid that is. He then completed his first seven passes of the fourth quarter for 59 yards and five first downs, including a touchdown, but his last four plays went completion for 4-yard loss, interception, completion for 4-yard loss, incomplete.


Five most valuable running backs
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Daniel Thomas MIA
60
1
18
0
53
40
13
Thomas gained 60 yards rushing on Sunday, the most he's had in a game since he struggled for 69 yards against the Jets in Week 3. And though it took him 19 carries to reach that modest total against New York, he hit the mark in just nine carries against the normally stout Seattle defense on Sunday. Each of those carries gained at least 2 yards, four of them gained first downs or touchdowns (including a 20-yarder), and four others gained 6 yards or more. He also caught the only pass thrown his way for an 18-yard gain on third-and-7.
2.
Shane Vereen NE
42
0
91
1
49
4
45
Only one of Vereen's ten carries was stuffed for no gain or a loss, and four of them gained 5 yards or more. And then there were his two receptions in two targets, an 83-yard touchdown, and an 8-yard gain on third-and-7.
3.
Arian Foster HOU
102
2
15
0
47
44
3
Four of Foster's 20 carries failed to gain positive yardage, but seven of them (!) gained ten yards or more. Only three other running backs have seven 10-plus-yard runs in a game this season: New England's Brandon Bolden against Buffalo in Week 4, Tampa Bay's Doug Martin against Oakland in Week 8, and the Giants' Ahmad Bradshaw, who had eight big runs against Cleveland in Week 5. Foster caught each of the five passes Houston threw in his direction on Thanksgiving Day, but for a total of only 15 yards, including a 2-yard loss on second-and-10 and a 5-yard gain on third-and-12.
4.
Ahmad Bradshaw NYG
58
1
61
0
41
26
15
Only one of Bradshaw's 10 carries failed to gain positive yardage, and six of them gained 5 yards or more. He also caught two of the three passes thrown his way, including a 59-yard play.
5.
Ray Rice BAL
97
0
67
0
40
24
17
Fourth-and-29 was worth 14 DYAR. He finished with eight receptions in nine targets. Only four of his 22 carries failed to gain positive yardage, and he had eight runs for 5 yards or more, including three for more than 10 yards.


Least valuable running back
Rk
Player
Team
Rush
Yds
Rush
TD
Rec
Yds
Rec
TD
Total
DYAR
Rush
DYAR
Rec
DYAR
1.
Marshawn Lynch SEA
46
0
1
0
-28
-14
-14
Lynch's first carry of the fourth quarter gained 16 yards on first-and-10. The rest of the day, he had 18 carries for 30 yards and only one first down. He had six carries for no gain or a loss. The Seahawks threw him three passes, resulting in a 7-yard gain on third-and-1; an incomplete pass; and a 6-yard loss on second-and-11 when Seattle was on the verge of field-goal range.
OTHER BACKS OF LITTLE VALUE: DeAngelo Williams, CAR (11 carries for 21 yards); Jonathan Dwyer, PIT (nine carries for 19 yards with one fumble; two catches for 9 yards in two targets); Chris Rainey, PIT (five carries for 17 yards; four catches for 15 yards in four targets, with two fumbles). Actually, Pittsburgh's team totals warrant special mention here. As a team, the Steelers had 20 carries for 49 yards. They had more fumbled carries (four) than successful runs (three: a 1-yard touchdown run, and 6- and 7-yard gains on first-and-10). And counting Rainey's butterfingered receptions, the Steelers' running backs had six total fumbles on the day.


Five most valuable wide receivers and tight ends
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Chris Givens STL
5
6
115
23.0
1
64
A foot injury limited Danny Amendola against the Cardinals, opening the door for the teams' other wideouts to make an impact, and Givens made the most of it. A fourth-round draft pick out of Wake Forest, Givens had the first 100-yard day of his career against Arizona. Each catch gained at least 13 yards and a first down. Three went over 20 yards, including a 37-yard touchdown, and he had a pair of third-down conversions. Givens now leads the league with 21.2 yards per catch. He is still fourth on the team in receptions behind Amendola, Brandon Gibson, and tight end Lance Kendricks, so his opportunities will probably be limited in the future. When he does get the ball, though, he's going to make some highlight reels.
2.
Andre Johnson HOU
9
15
188
20.9
0
58
Johnson was targeted six times on third and fourth downs, and he responded with five receptions for five first downs and 91 yards. He had nine total first downs on the day, with four catches for 20 or more yards, including 37- and 43-yard gains.
3.
Davone Bess MIA
7
9
129
18.4
0
51
The first pass thrown to Bess was incomplete, and the next was intercepted. (DVOA and DYAR puts the blame for interceptions on quarterbacks, not receivers; for Bess, that play is treated as any other incomplete pass.) He caught each of the next two passes thrown his way, but both were third-down plays that came up short of the sticks. And then Bess caught fire. His final five targets resulted in five catches for five first downs and 115 yards.
4.
Julio Jones ATL
6
9
147
24.5
1
43
Five of Jones' receptions gained a first down or touchdown. The other was a 9-yard gain on first-and-10. He had a 13-yard gain on third-and-4, a 15-yard gain on third-and-11, and an 80-yard touchdown. This after the Falcons said Jones might not play much due to an ankle injury.
5.
Vincent Jackson TB
5
7
96
19.2
0
40
Each of Jackson's receptions gained at least 10 yards, and four of them picked up first downs, including gains of 28 and 31 yards, the latter of which converted a third-and-10.


Least valuable wide receiver or tight end
Rk
Player
Team
Rec
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Total
DYAR
1.
Donnie Avery IND
3
8
31
10.3
0
-48
Avery wasn't totally useless. His three receptions gained 4 yards on second-and-7, 17 yards on first-and-10, and 10 yards on third-and-6. Unfortunately, on that last one, he fumbled the ball away. That happened in the third quarter, and though the Colts threw eight more passes after that point, none were thrown to Avery.
OTHER RECEIVERS OF LITTLE VALUE: Brandon Pettigrew, DET (eight receptions for 77 yards in 15 targets, one fumble); Mike Wallace, PIT (one reception for 9 yards in seven targets); Larry Fitzgerald, ARI (three receptions for 31 yards in 12 targets).

Posted by: Vincent Verhei on 27 Nov 2012

121 comments, Last at 13 Dec 2012, 2:47pm by wowthatsprofound

Comments

1
by Nick Hoffman (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:09am

I'm not sure who assigned this article, if it was the editors or if the writer wanted to do this piece, but nobody is expecting the colts to win a playoff game. The point of writing articles is to come with a different angle. Nobody is expecting the colts to do anything in the playoffs. Also, big surprise the colts defense is the Achilles heel, it's been that for almost two decades.

The writing is good but why write something that nobody is going to argue with? Colts fans are smart enough to realize they are way ahead of schedule and realize they aren't on the levels of the AFC elite teams.

7
by Paul R :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:52am

Speak for yourself, buddy! Some of us have team spirit! I've already bought my conference championship tickets from some guy on eBay. (Good seats too!) I got a Collie dog named Lucky, got my Super Bowl XLVII tattoo, I got my kids' names changed, (my daughter, Angerer, isn't too happy about it, but she'll come around...) This is our year! Go Blue!

20
by ndr99 (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:48am

I probably would have gone with "Austin Collie". Then I'd play frisbee with him and complain about his lack of separation against Connor Barkwin every time I threw it into a tree branch.

50
by Thunderbolt of ... :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:30pm

Be careful. The poor dog would probably run headfirst into the first hard object he saw and be unable to play catch for the next month or two.

71
by Bobman :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:42pm

Ouch. Will the collie named Austin collide with another named Anthony Gonzalez who had two great seasons at the big dog shows before just fading away? And then there's Roy Hall, a very large dog and littermate of Gonzo's with promise who, nevertheless, had to be put down after three years of repeated injuries....

101
by Paul R :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 3:54am

Then there's the other two dogs, Greg and Phil. They sit together on the back deck while the other dogs are out on the grass. Greg watches the other dogs play Frisbee and Phil just barks constantly at the barbecue grill. Nobody knows why.

14
by Spoon :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:28am

I don't think fans in Indianapolis are expecting to see a second playoff game. But that's because the city will asplode if the Colts plays Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the first round, as seems inevitable at this point.

19
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:47am

It is far less inevitable as you think. I really hope it doesn't happen, personally, but I still think the Broncos get that #2 seed by running the table, while New England drops a game to either Houston or San Francisco. All the Broncos have to do then is beat Baltimore (which if they run the table they will do), and have that tiebreaker.

27
by RickD :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:22pm

Yes, and if Baltimore runs the table, they'll get at least the #2 seed. But if the Broncos beat the Ravens, and the Patriots run the table, then the Patriots get at least the #2 seed.

So really, all of these teams "control their own destiny".
#sportsmetaphysics

(sigh) if only the Chargers knew how to tackle...

31
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:33pm

Well, the only one that really does is the Ravens. If they win out, it doesn't matter what New England does, they'll be at least the #2 seed.

The Broncos and Patriots need just one thing to happen apart from them running the table to get the #2 seed (The Broncos need the Pats to lose a game, the Pats need the Ravens to the Broncos).

51
by merlinofchaos :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:37pm

No, the Ravens control their destiny. If they run the table, they get the #2 seed and it doesn't matter what the others do. That, to me, is the definition of being in control.

However, that race is neck and neck, and whichever team stumbles down the stretch is probably going to be the #4 seed. They can't all 3 run the table, since Ravens + Broncos play each other, but it actually is conceivable that in the 15 remaining games, they collectively go 14-1. What's interesting is that there is a high probability that whoever loses of Ravens vs Broncos is probably the #4 seed unless somehow the Patriots lose 2 games of 5 and that doesn't seem all that likely to me right now. It's toughest for the Broncos, really, because they need both Ravens and Patriots to stumble (and without stumbling themselves) to get the #2 seed, and the way the Chiefs ran against them on Sunday should be some cause for concern.

52
by PatsFan :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:46pm

Really? I could easily see NE losing to both HOU and SF.

Also, Brady is yet to have is quasi-annual 4-INT meltdown game yet.

And 2007 was the only time in NE history that they swept the AFCE, IIRC.

And no Gronk.

And Chandler Jones is hurt.

And have just lost one of their somewhat successful pass rushers to a PED suspension.

Putting that all together, I would be disappointed but not super surprised if NE lost two more games.

55
by merlinofchaos :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:58pm

Hmm. I just don't see Tannehill being able to keep up with Brady, so I admit I'm just giving the Patriots the 2 games there the same way I'm giving the Broncos the upcoming Raiders & Chiefs games.

Of Houston and Niners, I'd be very surprised if NE loses both of them, but I agree it would be very surprising if they also win both. Between the two, I think Houston has the better chance (with that defense, Schaub CAN keep up with Brady. Kaepernick/Smith? I'd be less confident, but the Niners defense could keep Brady down). So personally, I would predict 4-1 for the Patriots down the stretch. Unless I'm totally overrating their offense, which is possible.

92
by Malene, copenhagen (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 6:06pm

You mean you might be overrating the offense on pace to become the highest scoring of all time (just a hair ahead of the 2007 team)?

Then you must rate them REALLY highly.

84
by RickD :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:24pm

My point was that nobody "controls their own destiny." Yes, if the Ravens win out, they get the #2 seed, but whether they win out isn't under their control.

To make this simpler, let's stipulate that the 49ers beat the Pats. And let's say both the Broncos and Ravens win all of their games other than their head-to-head matchup. And let's say the Texans win enough games to get the #1 seed. Then, the winner of the Ravens-Broncos game gets the #2 seed.

So, who "controls" their destiny here? The Ravens or the Broncos? According to sportslogic, each of the teams does. But only one of those two teams gets to win. That kind of throws a monkey wrench into the "destiny control" mantra, unless you think a team "controls its destiny" and then uses that control to lose intentionally.

88
by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:46pm

Typically when people say that team controls their destiny they mean "win the games in front of you and you're in". A team "controls" it in such a manor. Obviously they don't have complete control of what happens, but they have input on all the factors that matter. While another team needs a team they don't play to lose, they have no way of effecting their season's outcome.

100
by c0rrections (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:12pm

Pretending you don't understand the functioning of the English language to be annoyingly pedantic is a really lousy trait.

114
by BigCheese :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 4:02pm

Thank you for saying what I was thinking in a far less lewd way...

- Alvaro

Phil Simms is to analysts what Ryan Leaf is to NFL QBs

35
by Paul R :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:52pm

What if Indy plays Denver and Freeney sacks Manning, giving him a career-ending neck injury?

72
by Bobman :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:45pm

That would really irk a lot of Colt and Bronco fans, but probably make a lot of other NFL teams suddenly more optimistic about things.

115
by zdneal (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 4:47pm

I don't think Dwight is that fragile.

21
by BlueStarDude :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:49am

I'm pretty sure I saw Dungy and Harrison pumping up the Colts D on NBC's Sunday Night show. Also, the discrepancy between the normal metrics (which have them just below the middle of the pack) and DVOA (dead last? I wouldn't have guessed) is interesting. Vince's introductions to Quick Reads are really good IMO.

39
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:04pm

Why be such a homer about it? Why not think of it as an investigation into a wider truth?

43
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:31pm

I think that was the point -- what wider truth is being investigated? Everyone (or at least anyone who would read this site) knows that the Colts aren't as good as their record. It's using numbers (somewhat selectively IMO) to argue a point we all already agree with.

44
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:34pm

This article is run first on ESPN on Monday's (with less detailed DYAR charts), and it is definitely arguable whether people who read that site mostly know the Colts aren't as good as their record.

62
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:25pm

Point taken, I didn't know this ran on ESPN. I should still think that the average football fan knows that the Colts aren't as good as their record, even if it's only through the subjective lens of "they haven't beat anybody good". But it is no longer such a certainty as it would be for an FO-only article.

96
by merlinofchaos :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 7:38pm

Maybe the average Colts fan knows this, but for example the ESPN power rankings place the Colts at #10. Sadly that ranking is more or less a ranking by record, but it's also the consensus of several 'experts' (which probably eliminates any real insight by averaging out any true expertise). But still, the MSM power rankings generally put the Colts pretty high, so I think Vince Verhei is right to lead the article the way he does.

48
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:05pm

Try paragraphs 3 and 4 of the above article.

61
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:20pm

Try to do what with them? They're part of the "using numbers to argue a point we all already agree with."

78
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:01pm

Ah! You mean it's common sense -- everyone knows to the point that it's a truism -- that teams with close wins over non-playoff teams don't do well in the playoffs. Is that it? It wasn't anything he had to prove?

87
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:43pm

No, the point that everyone agrees with, the general point of the article, is that the Colts aren't as good as their record. Although it is also generally accepted as true that teams that consistently beat bad teams by 4 are probably not as good as teams that consistently beat bad teams by 24.

The other point you're mentioning -- that teams with close wins over non-playoff teams don't do well in the playoffs -- hasn't been established by this article at all. From what I can gather, if you're in the playoffs, a team is no more or less likely to win its first game based on the number of close wins it had against bad teams (36% vs 37%). The real difference appears to be the frequency of getting a 1st round bye, which goes back to the previous point -- that teams that beat up bad teams are probably better in general -- which is already established.

90
by bravehoptoad :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:53pm

Arguing that there is no wider truth being investigated at all (as you do in 43) is a lot different than arguing that the generalities explored in this article are obvious. In any case, Vince is clearly trying to get to a larger truth. You can critique that if you like, but to say he isn't trying to do that is just wrong.

Also, the point isn't just that the Colts aren't as good as their record, it's that they're much, much worse than their record. That's another non-obvious point -- witness all the power-rankings that have the Colts around #10.

105
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 10:08am

I still don't know what wider truth is being investigated. If it's that the Colts are MUCH worse than their record, as opposed to merely worse than their record, OK. Estimated Wins says the Colts should probably be about 4-7, so I guess it depends on how you define "worse" vs "much worse". In any case, I'm not sure that qualifies as a "wider truth", but whatever, agree to disagree.

I did have a another thought about this article though. The article uses W-L records and playoff/non-playoff as a proxy for opponent quality (these aren't powerhouses... seven opponents have a combined record of 31-46, and only one would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today). But the entire point of this article is that the Colts' W-L record (and the fact that they are in line to make the playoffs) is not an accurate indicator of how good they are. This doesn't feel logically consistent to me. This line of reasoning assumes that the Colts are unique in having a W-L record out-of-line with performance. Estimated Wins says that the Browns, Bills, Dolphins and Packers are all better than their records, Minnesota and Jacksonville are just about right, and only Tennessee is worse.

111
by bravehoptoad :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 3:04pm

I still don't know what wider truth is being investigated.

I don't understand why you don't. It's pretty explicit in paragraphs 3 & 4. In fact, you spend most of your post critiquing his "wider truth."

His colloquial conclusion:

So while style points don't count in the standings, they do tell us who's more likely to win in January.

113
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 3:50pm

Ahh, OK. So what's going on is that we disagree on what constitutes a "wider truth".

When I hear wider truth, I'm expecting some sort of epiphany. "Style points don't count in the standings, but they do tell us who's more likely to win in January" has been accepted wisdom in these parts for quite a while. Guts and Stomps was rolled out in 2005. The Colts have a lot of Skates, which does not bode well for postseason success. That's all well and good, but it's not what I would call a wider truth.

116
by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 5:21pm

When I hear wider truth, I'm expecting some sort of epiphany. "Style points don't count in the standings, but they do tell us who's more likely to win in January" has been accepted wisdom in these parts for quite a while. Guts and Stomps was rolled out in 2005. The Colts have a lot of Skates, which does not bode well for postseason success. That's all well and good, but it's not what I would call a wider truth.

Hate to break it to you, but this article was not written specifically for Revenge of the NURBS (not verified). It wasn't even written for die-hard Football Outsiders readers. It was written first for ESPN.com, but even beyond that, we are (hopefully!) gaining new readers here at FO every week, and for some of them, this may be a new material.

46
by bodio :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:56pm

Did you miss the part where he compared their bottom-10 defensive rankings due to standard stats vs DEAD LAST based on advanced stats?

2
by Danish Denver-Fan :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:19am

Russel Wilson is shaping up to become a sneaky trivia question in 10 years.

3
by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:24am

What was the Steelers RBs' collective DYAR? And would that be an all-time record for worst DYAR, if they were a single player?

I didn't realise they were so bad even when they weren't fumbling.

47
by DMC :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:59pm

Someone asked for this on another thread yesterday. The combine DYAR has to be some sort of record. Please calculate it for us.

53
by TomC :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:47pm

Yes, that was my request, and I repeat it here. Thanks, Vince.

4
by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:39am

Just a note on Givens - he played more snaps than any other Rams WR. Judging of that it seems likely he's gonna get more opportunities in future, rather than fewer.

5
by are-tee :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:45am

"the Colts have beaten a bunch of lousy teams this year, and that includes a weak list of quarterbacks, like Mark Sanchez..."

Actually, the Colts lost to the Jets by 26 points.

74
by Bobman :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:48pm

Yeah, I was gonna point that out, but, well, um, just couldn;t bring myself to actually type it. Like maybe if I don't, it didn't really happen.... Then again, Chad Pennington once Beat Peyton Manning 41-0 in the playoffs.... kind of, sort of.

6
by Kulko :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 10:49am

Isn't this classic sample selection bias?

Teams that win big, are 1 and 2 seeds and always reach the divisional round.

8
by RickD :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:01am

But teams with many wins occasionally have done so by many close wins. For example, this year's Falcons. The point here is that average scoring margin is a better predictor than W-L.

17
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:46am

It doesn't seem to be that at all. It seems that both sets of teams win in the first round of the playoffs exactly the same. Everything past that is a product of the selection bias.

121
by wowthatsprofound (not verified) :: Thu, 12/13/2012 - 2:47pm

Actually you're right. The past 9 Super Bowl winners finished in the Top 10 Average Scoring Margin over the last 3 games. This is *fact*. Look on Teamrankings to see the evidence.

9
by Ender (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:01am

Lets be honest here, the NFL is a league that is about depth and health. The Colts don't have a lot of team depth but if they go into the playoffs healthy they can sneak by a wounded team who limps into the playoffs. As an example if this week were the playoffs I would take every NFC playoff team over the Packers who are playing with 40% of their starters injured atm. I'd take every team over the Steelers if they were in the playoffs just because of injuries.

Getting to the playoffs healthy is going to let any team have a chance, even a pretty mediocre team like the Colts or say last years Giants team.

10
by nat :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:10am

I laughed at the butt fumble, too. But that's unduly harsh on Sanchez. His passing DYAR was just short of P. Manning's - tenth best of the day, on two fewer attempts. If all his days passing were this good, we wouldn't be writing him off as a QB.

On the other hand, he really isn't very good, is he?

26
by RC (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:03pm

This is where I think DVOA has a problem (in how to judge what exactly a blowout is).

This is what Sanchez did in the first half:

1st Quarter:
Sacked on 1st and 10 for -6 yards
Incomplete on 3rd and 5
7 yard completion on 2nd and 5
Interception on 2nd and 6

2nd Quarter
14 yards on 2nd and 6
5 yards on 2nd and 7

11 yards on 1st and 10
Fumbles

7 yards on 2nd and 6
-1 yard on 2nd and 5
sacked on 3rd and 6

At this point, it was 35-0. He was actually decent in the last drive of the first half to make it 35-3, but while the game was in question, he was this:

6/8 for 43 yards, with an INT, a fumble, and 2 sacks.

Now, crappy starts happen, and the Patriots certainly took advantage, and Sanchez probably wasn't the biggest problem the Jets had, but he definitely wasn't above average, and definitely was part of the problem.

34
by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:51pm

I think the real problem here is that he only had 10 attempts while the game was in doubt (11 if you want to count the handoff to nowhere followed by the butt fumble).

36
by someguy (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:54pm

Advanced NFL Stats has Sanchez ranked as 23 out of 32 qbs for the week. Even that rank seems kind of high. How many times has he turned the ball over and it is returned for a touchdown? Going back a few years, he must lead the league in that stat.

69
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:33pm

I guess the problem here is that DVOA/DYAR try to walk a line between predictive and descriptive.

I understand that the fact that Sanchez played better in garbage time likely means he'll play a bit better (than the first half) going forward.

But in a descriptive sense, saying he was the 14th best QB this week is absurd.

11
by nuk :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:10am

The Colts did beat one team by more than 7. They beat Jacksonville 27-10. They're a powerhouse.

12
by Dales :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:19am

Ah, a little bit of guts v stomps at play here.

Which brings me to my homer team- The Giants. How many teams are in the sample set of teams with multiple stomps over top 10 (or top 15) DVOA teams? How many of those teams have multiple losses to teams in the bottom half in DVOA? And how have those teams performed in the playoffs?

13
by Podge (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:22am

At a wild guess, I'm saying the only two teams that have been that wildly inconsistent have been the 2007 Giants and the 2011 Giants. So you've basically won the Super Bowl already.

18
by Dales :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:47am

:-) It also means that NE is a shoo-in to make the Super Bowl, through some undiscovered means of causality.

22
by nottom :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:51am

The 2008 Cardinals were wildly inconsistant as well but of course they also made the Super Bowl, so I like your chances this year.

23
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:54am

If I remember right, all the teams that blew them out were actually pretty good, like the '08 Eagles (#1 DVOA), Patriots (who came on late in the year), Vikings (who made the playoffs) and Jets (who started out 8-3).

15
by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:34am

" it's largely Manning's fault that the league's worst team had a chance to win this game until literally the final gun. "

While he didn't play great, I think it was also partly Mr. Matt Prater's fault, for missing two makeable field goals. If either goes, assuming the rest stays the same, it is a 20-9 game. Then there is no last-second drama, and I also get a Broncos cover...

28
by Briguy :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:24pm

Wasn't one of the misses from 33 yards? Yeah, can't really pin that one on the QB. That should have gone down as a scoring drive.

37
by JIPanick :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:00pm

There were also multiple drops during that seven-straight-incompletions stretch.

16
by Boots Day :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:35am

It's bizarre that Matthew Stafford's 64 plays help propel him to the top of the QB list, while Daniel Thomas makes the top of the running back list with just ten touches. That's after Willis McGahee led that same list last week with eight touches.

Actually, at this point, I've pretty much given up on the idea that the "five most valuable running backs" is telling me anything useful at all.

102
by Podge (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 6:25am

I think the least valuable running backs section is generally more interesting, as there's often guys in there who seem like they had decent enough days, but were actually not that useful.

117
by LionInAZ :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 5:24pm

I tend to agree, but that leads to a lot of "there's something wrong with DVOA" comments, from the folks who don't understand that 1 80- yd run is not equivalent to 8 10-yd runs.

24
by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:55am

Of those 49 teams, 31 percent missed the playoffs entirely, another 37 percent lost their first playoff game, and only 21 percent even made it to the divisional round. On the other hand, 89 teams in the same decade had at least five wins by nine or more points against non-playoff teams. Only 17 percent of those teams missed the playoffs, and though 36 percent were one-and-done in the postseason, and a whopping 61 percent made it to the divisional round.

These percentages seem very wonky to me. Group A (close wins) only has 89% accounted for, and Group B (big wins) has 114%.
Maybe I'm just misreading what the percentages are trying to tell me. But for total populations of such manageable size (49 and 89) the actual numbers would probably be just as illuminating as the percentages.
Someone else pointed out that there's likely some noise built into this because of first round byes. It would be interesting to see how many of each group had a first round bye and what they did with it.

25
by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 11:57am

Maybe part of the issue with group b is that some of them are being double counted as one and done and making the divisional round precisely because of first round byes?

65
by RobertB (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:07pm

Yes, according to the numbers given, there were 12 teams in group B that got a first round bye but lost in the divisional round. The real problem is the 6 teams in group A that won their first playoff game, but didn't make it to the divisional round?

66
by RobertB (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:17pm

Also, the numbers (as stated, which may be incorrect) contradict the whole point of the article. Of the group A teams that made the playoffs, 47% of them won their first playoff game. Out of 34 games, that doesn't seem to be significantly different than 50%. Even if the 47% is accurate, would that be such a huge upset if the Colts won a playoff game?

30
by BJR :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:32pm

Subjectively it seemed to me that Cutler played better than that. He was constantly throwing under pressure (as per usual), and with the Bears so threadbare at receiver he was constantly forced to make lazer-like throws into very tight windows to Brandon Marshall, mostly for short gains, which he did very well. There were also the obligatory couple of drops by Kellen Davis.

32
by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:41pm

You don't get helped much by throwing against the Vikings' subaverage pass defense. They are better than they were last year, which isn't saying anything, but they are still weak at corner, especially with Cook injured.

33
by Slaymont Harris (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:51pm

Cutler was excellent most of the game, but he did overthrow Brandon twice, one of which was picked off, and there were the drops (including the bomb to Marshall).

38
by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:02pm

Sometimes it's hard to judge Cutler because the Bears defense makes the other QB look so inept Cutler looks like Roger Staubach by comparison.

If Cutler produces like the the 13th best QB in the NFL every week, it's hard to imagine the Bears losing a game.

Edit: The 3 games they lost Cutler was ranked 32nd, Cutler and Campbell combined for 28th, and Campbell was ranked 28th.

49
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:22pm

Yeah, I'm not too surprised to see Cutler ranked 13th. Frankly, it's just nice to see him in the top half.

I went back and looked through the previous Quick Reads, and he's only been ranked higher than 13th 3 times: #11 in Week 1 (Colts), #6 in Week 4 (Cowboys), and #7 in Week 5 (Jaguars). He had significantly greater DYAR in weeks 1 and 4 than he did this past week.

It's too bad DYAR can't adjust for how woefully bad the Bears offensive line is, and account for the fact that Cutler often looks amazing when you watch him escape pressure, but merely adequate statistically. I don't think Peter King is far off the mark when he says that Cutler may be the MVP in the sense of being most valuable to his team.

54
by TomC :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 2:52pm

The FO staff try to emphasize that all of these "individual" metrics are in fact very team-dependent (i.e., it's not Cutler's DYAR, it's Cutler's DYAR behind the Bears' OL, with the Bears' receiving corps and running game, etc.). Aaron Rodgers' ranking this week is a great example of that.

60
by Steve in WI :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:19pm

Good point. To clarify, I didn't really mean that as a criticism of DYAR as a stat or anything, and I certainly didn't mean to imply that DYAR is presented inaccurately. I was just musing that Cutler (and other QBs behind bad O-lines) often look much better on film than in the stats.

57
by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:12pm

One more thing to note, Romo had almost twice as many attempts as Cutler to produce ~20% more DYAR. Culter's DVOA is probably much higher and thus he would have looked better. This would only move him up one spot, but it is something to keep in mind.

29
by ChaosOnion :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 12:30pm

19 rushes for 178 yards, 2 receptions for 11 yards, 2TDs, 2F

What cost him more DYAR, the lost fumbles, playing the CAR defense or the down and distance at the time of his runs?

40
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:12pm

Random quibbles, just because I'm in a quibbling mood --

1) As mentioned, the Colts beat the Jags by 17. Not a reason to get fitted for Super Bowl rings just yet, but let's give credit where it's due.

2) I'm not sure why Blaine Gabbert is listed in that table. He performed more-or-less the same against the Colts as he did against everyone else. If Rodgers and Fitzpatrick were relegated to footnote status because they didn't fit the narrative of the table, Gabbert probably should have been too.

3) Donnie Avery didn't "fumble the ball away"; he merely fumbled the ball. His fumble was recovered by the Colts, and it didn't even lose any yards. I understand that FO treats the fumble itself as the major event rather than the recovery, but in this case it did not harm the team in any way. Point being, if Donnie Avery was the worst WR this week, then it was a great week for WRs. I watched that whole game and never once thought "man, Donnie Avery is really sucking today".

4) As a Colts fan, it's amusing that saying the Colts are "destined for an early playoff exit" carries a negative connotation. That we're even talking about the Colts in the playoffs is such a massive overacheivement for this team that no one will care if they lose in the first round.

5) The intro blurb says "there's little reason to think this team could win a playoff game." Really, a game? Little reason to think they could win the Super Bowl, sure, but a game? This very site has a feature called Any Given Sunday.

45
by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:51pm

3 catches on 8 attempts is pretty bad.

63
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:30pm

It ain't good, but I wouldn't think it would be the worst of the week.

79
by Bobman :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:02pm

I think Nate Dunlevy at Bleacher Report pointed to Avery as the #1 goat of the game. He hasn't liked Avery all season (one or two games aside) but more than one person out there thought Avery was a knife in the team's back.

77
by JohnD (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:00pm

Re #5, in a year where the Jaguars can take the Texans to the wire, yes, the Colts can definitely win a playoff game.

I really, really hope they lose to Peyton this year (on the assumption that they're not going to the SB). That would be the best possible exit.

41
by OmicronPersei8 :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:19pm

Lead in article seems better suited for the DVOA ratings, but no big deal.

Intetesting that the Colts are likely to finish 9-7 with one of the league's worst DVOA. The last team to accomplish such a feat was...the Colts.

42
by CoachDave :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 1:27pm

I think anyone who has seen the Colts play last year and this year has two takeaways that this article helps detail.

1. At this point in the season they have over-achieved by a large margin beyond what anyone reasonably thought they would do. As a Colts fan, I would have taken 7 wins for the season gladly.

2. Their defense is God awful and is worse this year vs. last year (and they were pretty bad last year as well).

I personnally think #2 is because they are slowly but surely changing out players and talent from the Dungy-2 scheme to the Ravens-hybrid scheme and are right now stuck with one foot in Tampa-2 and one foot in Ravens-hybrid which is a bad place to be.

Their LBs cannot cover ANYONE and even if they get quick pressure on the QB (old Dungy mandate) the multiple dump offs teams have against them counteract almost anything that Freeney/Mathis can create. Which is futher compounded by the fact that the Safetys have to consistently play deep to make up for Corners that are horribly overwhelmed.

Until they can climb out from the monster Freeney and Mathis contracts/cap hits and slowly but surely build through the draft, it's going to take some time...but this year has been a nice surprise in my mind.

56
by TomC :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:00pm

More random (but of course Bears-related) quibbles:

1) Cutler completed each of his first nine passes on third down for 69 yards and seven first downs (although one of those completions was a 7-yard loss on third-and-14). That pass was actually completed for what would have been a ~10-yard gain, but then Marshall channeled his inner Devin Hester and exploded for -20 yards after the catch. In Marshall's defense, he was trying to pick up the 1st down, but he damn near ran them out of field goal range.

2) The Chicago Bears pass defense is way way way way way way way WAY better than anyone else this year. And trying to surprise them apparently doesn't work. Totally agree on the first point. But Minnesota actually successfully surprised them with the same damn play (play action to Peterson leaving Rudolph wide open in the flat) three different times.

59
by Duke :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:18pm

Very true. I was flabbergasted that the Rudolph play worked so many times.

64
by jimm (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:57pm

it wasn't just that it worked, it was weird that in all three attempts not a single Bear player was within 10 yards of him

it was kind of cool play...Rudolph lines up second from the end of the line..another TE blocks down on the guy in front on Rudolph and Rudolph spins out the other direction

95
by Marko :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 6:26pm

Regarding your first paragraph, that's why I always take the numbers with not just a grain of salt, but with an entire box. You certainly can't blame Cutler for what Marshall did on that third down play. (Or course, you definitely could and should blame Cutler for the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of his first down scramble on that series, which led to that play being on third and 14.) Similarly, I find it hard to "credit" Joe Flacco for the 4th and 29 conversion. That was a combination of Ray Rice and an unbelievable failure by the Chargers' defense (and arguably a mistake by the officials in spotting the ball and possibly a block in the back by Anquan Boldin). The effort and execution on that play by the defense was pathetic. I would never want my QB to take the checkdown to the running back in that situation. I would much rather have him chuck the ball far downfield and hope for something good like a David Tyree-like circus catch, a tipped ball ending up in a receiver's hands (like that Broncos play against the Bengals a few years ago) or a pass interference penalty.

That's why you have to watch the games, too, and not just look at the numbers.

58
by Duke :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 3:16pm

Seems like the comment for the Bears opponents QB every week is of the form "QB X had Y YAR before opponent adjustments. The Bears D is really good."

67
by theslothook :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:26pm

As a colts fan, sure, we freely admit our record is massively inflated. The real question is, what to expect next year?? I mean, normally, like say the broncos of last year, they would be instantly be marked for massive regression. Buuut, Luck will be in his second year and (hopefully) a much better player. The defense has to PROGress some right? Its really a hard question to answer.

73
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:48pm

I would expect the defense to be better next year. The system, as someone mentioned above, is in something of a no-man's land between the Tampa-2 and the Raven's scheme right now. A lot of the current roster was acquired with the purpose of running the Tampa-2. By next year, more of those players will have been replaced, and the current players who remain will be more familiar with the new scheme. The team will also have a ton of cap room come available this offseason, which should help facilitate that process.

FWIW, I would also expect the offense to be better too. So many rookies and young players this year, it would be surprising if they didn't get better.

The question is whether all that will show up in the W/L record, or if the (probably) harder schedule will lead to an apparent regression. Only time will tell.

76
by theslothook :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:51pm

A couple things that scare me however. Schedule will definitely be tougher, but also-the offense is so absurdly reliant on reggie wayne that any regression on him could be catastrophic. I like Luck, but i'm one of those colts fans who really doesn't think the other receivers are any good. TY hilton, to me, is a tory smith- a fast deep threat but nothing more beyond. Lavon Brazil? not seen enough. And Avery is meh. Even fleener hasn't shown me much this year. That scares me.

81
by CoachDave :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:12pm

Don't disagree.

Here's what doesn't scare me...Colts have $43MM in available cap money next year...best in the league.

86
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:29pm

No doubt that they need to find a #1 WR for the future. And I suspect you're right that that person is not currently on the roster. That's part of what gives me optimism though. Wayne and Luck (who is a rookie) are the only "big name" players on the whole offense, and yet the Colts' offense is decent. A year or two more of building, and they could be very good again.

Fleener, since you mentioned him, does worry me though. It's early in their careers, but even before Fleener got hurt, it did seem that Allen was the better player. You'd hope that a #34 overall pick could bring more to the table.

80
by Bobman :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:12pm

I think one of the FO bedrock principles is that 3rd down conversion percentage is a very good indicator of how a team will fare next year (or something similar) and that's been quite good for the 2012 Colts. NOT because we have two good plays leaving us with 3rd and 1... oh no, but because Luck is hitting a lot of 3rd and 8+ plays. Which might be contrary to the data that generated the 3rd down conversion indicator in the first place. But it gives me a lot of hope.

Keep in mind the $40+M in cap space and a 2012 draft that was almost entirely focused on O. If they shore up the OL and D in the off-season, and the O progresses along a typical curve, no reason they would not field another playoff team in 2013. One with a greater chance of advancing.

98
by Duke :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 8:45pm

I think you have that wrong. The principle, as I recall, is that 3rd down performance tends to match up with 1st and 2nd down performance. Meaning that doing much better (or worse) in 3rd down than on the other downs is not sustainable, and should be looked at as a point of regression to the mean.

Which means bad things for your Colts, I guess? Who knows. Way too early to think about next year anyway.

68
by theslothook :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:28pm

Anyone who saw the bears game- did the o line play much better with the shuffles or this one of those "its just one game" type of deals?

70
by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:41pm

Tice put together a scheme which was not as reliant on 5 linemen handling 4 rushers, and because the Vikings back 7 can't cover anything like the Niners back 7, and the Bears offense got a couple very short fields, and because Cutler is a lot better than his back-up, the Bears offense looked a lot better. Jared Allen ended the season of the Bears best o-lineman, however, so trouble in January likely awaits, especially absent the home field.

75
by theslothook :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 4:49pm

you know will, im curious to hear about why this is: Last year, the vikes were the #1 adjusted sacking team in the nfl by a decent margin and their pass defense was the worst in football. This year, their adjusted sack rate is 16th, but their pass defense is 22nd. How the heck does that happen? Something in the coverage has to have gotten better.

83
by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:18pm

Winfield is on the field, they got some production from Cook before he got hurt, and the safeties are better. That said, the coverage still isn't good. Last year, they really had the most pathetic production from d-backs I'd ever seen, to the point that they made Tim Effin' Tebow look like Fran Tarkenton. I'd also be hesitant to use adjusted sack rate as a really good proxy for pass rushing performance.

85
by theslothook :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:26pm

True, but i think we can speak generally and say that if Min was the best pass sacking team, they were probably one of the best overall pressure teams in the league- if not saying they were the best. People tend to marginalize safety play, but I think the harrison smith addition over what they had before was a huge difference. Or at least felt that way anyways.

89
by Will Allen :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:48pm

Oh, absolutely. Words really can't describe how bad their safety play was last year.

82
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 5:13pm

Vince's introductions to Quick Reads are really good IMO.

Thanks dude!

What was the Steelers RBs' collective DYAR? And would that be an all-time record for worst DYAR, if they were a single player?

Combined -112 rushing and receiving DYAR. Worst game for any single running back this year was BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ -67 for Cincinnati in Week 4 against Jacksonville, when he averaged 3.2 yards per carry with three first downs, seven stuffs, and two fumbles in 26 carries.

Actually, the Colts lost to the Jets by 26 points.

Whoops. Good point.

Teams that win big, are 1 and 2 seeds and always reach the divisional round.

No. Teams that win a lot of games, period, are 1 and 2 seeds. Once the playoffs start, teams that won by blowouts tend to beat teams that won a bunch of close games. See this article for more detail. I didn’t have time to recreate this study for QR -- it had to be up on ESPN by Monday morning.

These percentages seem very wonky to me. Group A (close wins) only has 89% accounted for, and Group B (big wins) has 114%.

Don’t forget that due to first-round byes, it’s possible to reach the divisional round without winning a playoff game.

What cost him more DYAR, the lost fumbles, playing the CAR defense or the down and distance at the time of his runs?

I assume you’re talking about Brice Brown? I don’t get the Monday night play-by-play breakdowns, there’s just not enough time after the games, but the answer to this question is almost always “the fumbles.”

3) Donnie Avery didn't "fumble the ball away"; he merely fumbled the ball. His fumble was recovered by the Colts, and it didn't even lose any yards. I understand that FO treats the fumble itself as the major event rather than the recovery, but in this case it did not harm the team in any way. Point being, if Donnie Avery was the worst WR this week, then it was a great week for WRs. I watched that whole game and never once thought "man, Donnie Avery is really sucking today".

He had one positive play, a 17-yard gain on first-and-10. Otherwise, he had a 4-yard gain on second-and-7 (that goes down as a negative play), five incompletions, and a fumble. Short of a bunch of failures on third downs (Avery only had one), there’s not much else a receiver can do wrong in DYAR’s eyes.

Seems like the comment for the Bears opponents QB every week is of the form "QB X had Y YAR before opponent adjustments. The Bears D is really good."

Yes it is. Because the Bears’ opponent QB, every week, ranks way higher than you’d expect based on his raw numbers.

91
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 6:04pm

"He had one positive play, a 17-yard gain on first-and-10. Otherwise, he had a 4-yard gain on second-and-7 (that goes down as a negative play), five incompletions, and a fumble. Short of a bunch of failures on third downs (Avery only had one), there’s not much else a receiver can do wrong in DYAR’s eyes."

I'm not saying that Avery was awesome, or even good, this week. Just that it seems very strange to me that he had the worst game of any WR this week.

How much of his -48 is coming from the fumble? This is most likely a case of DYAR seeing a major sin in an event that actually had no impact on the game. Not saying it's a bad thing, but DYAR's evaluation of the play is undoubtedly much different than the real-world outcome.

93
by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 6:16pm

The fumble was -15 DYAR. The incompletions were all in the -6 to -8 range.

Out of curiosity, what do you expect the statline of the worst receiver in a given week to look like?

103
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 8:56am

I don't know exactly, but just from looking at the other bad receivers listed, I see a 1-of-7 for 9 yards, and a 3-of-12 for 31 yards (the same number of yards as Avery, with three more incompletes). Those both seem worse to me at a glance, outside of the fumble. That's why I asked how much of a negative the fumble was, because it appears that's a major factor. Looking for an explanation of why my own lying eyes disagreed with the numbers.

None of this is to say that I think DYAR is necessarily "wrong" here, or that it's even possible to be right or wrong about such a thing. This is simply a case where DYAR and actual results disagree. To DYAR, that fumble accounts for a significant chunk of his rating for the game. In reality, it was a blip on the radar because it was recovered by the offense.

118
by Vincent Verhei :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 5:26pm

Remember that two of Avery's receptions were failed plays. So don't think of him as going 3-of-8, think of him as going 1-of-9.

As it turns out, Avery wasn't just the least valuable receiver this week, he had one of the bottom five games of the year so far. Least valuable game goes to DeSean Jackson last week against Washington. (Two catches for 5 yards in nine targets, one of those catches a 3-yard loss on second-and-5.)

106
by Will Allen :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 11:11am

The statline of the worst receiver is a guy who was on the field for a large number of plays, and was never targeted, because he can't get open, and the guy behind him on the depth chart never shows anything in practice to get on the field, either. Like any number of Vikings receivers since 2004, in other words.

94
by tuluse :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 6:19pm

I'm not sure what your point is. Fumbles are bad. Recovering the fumble was lucky.

104
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 9:15am

My point was that my personal observation of the game was that Avery was not all that effective, but that it never would have occurred to me that no WR in the entire NFL played worse than him this week. I was mostly just curious as to why, and zeroed in on the fumble as being the likely cause. DYAR sees that fumble as a huge negative. I, watching the game, didn't give the fumble a second thought because it had no impact on the game. If anything, that play amounted to a 13 yard gain on 3rd and 6 -- a good outcome from a bad play. Simply a difference between DYAR and real-world outcomes. No one's claiming that fumbles aren't bad.

In a way, it kind of ties back to the whole theme of this article -- that real-world outcomes are not necessarily indicative of performance. One might even call that play a microcosm of the Colts whole season.

108
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 12:15pm

I didn't see the game, but the vast majority of fumbles (something like 80%) that happen downfield are recovered by the defense.

Basically, Avery did something really bad on that play, and got lucky that they got the ball back.

Using your argument, we could go as far as to say the Interception that Tom Brady threw at Quentin Jammer (maybe?) in a playoff game a couple years ago that was later stripped by Troy Brown and was a first down because of the multiple changes of possession on the play was a good play for Tom Brady.

It wasn't. It was really bad, and the Patriots got lucky. And Ladanian cried.

110
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 1:02pm

"Using your argument ... the play was a good play for Tom Brady."

I don't see how. I believe I described Avery's play as a good outcome from a bad play. Fumbling the ball was a bad play; no one is saying otherwise. The OUTCOME of the play was good for the Colts. Same thing with Brady's pick against the Chargers, although anything that makes LaDainian cry is a good play in my book.

112
by Andrew Potter :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 3:48pm

Quentin Jammer (maybe?)

It was Marlon McCree.

109
by tuluse :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 12:38pm

Well the good news is that DYAR doesn't tell you that he played worse than any other receiver. It just tells you that he produced less value for his team than any other receiver.

This is a subtle but important distinction. Avery played well enough to be targeted 8 times, but didn't do much with those targets.

97
by Duke :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 8:42pm

Lol, I was just kidding you. I do like the QR commentary, and I always like hearing good things about the Bears in the QB section.

(I'll let someone else give the punch line.)

99
by The Hypno-Toad :: Tue, 11/27/2012 - 9:02pm

Don’t forget that due to first-round byes, it’s possible to reach the divisional round without winning a playoff game.

That occurred to me right after I posted originally. That explains the more than 100%-ness of group B (big wins). But what about the numbers from group A (close wins):

Of those 49 teams, 31 percent missed the playoffs entirely, another 37 percent lost their first playoff game, and only 21 percent even made it to the divisional round.

If 31% missed the playoffs, it seems like the minimum combined percentage for one-and-done and reaching the divisional round should be 69%, and probably it would be higher, because of first round byes losing in their first game in this group. Once again, it's entirely possible that I'm just missing what these percentages are trying to tell me and I'm trying to force them into some sort of symmetry that isn't there.

107
by Anonymousse (not verified) :: Wed, 11/28/2012 - 12:10pm

It would be awesome if you guys would stop pointing to the Stomps-Vs-Guts article as fact, when its debunked by several different posters in the comments below it.

Its a nice attempt, but its got way too many holes to be taken seriously.

119
by simon que (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:20am

I just read you on espn and you listed tressel as a candatite to take the S Florida job.. please tell me that he can't or at least that he is a just cause guy.. please?

120
by simon que (not verified) :: Mon, 12/03/2012 - 4:21am

I just read you on espn and you listed tressel as a candatite to take the S Florida job.. please tell me that he can't or at least that he is a just cause guy.. please?