Numbers Game: Why Colts-Patriots Will Be Closer Than You Think

William QualkinbushSenior Analyst INovember 1, 2007

IconCAUTION: If you hate stats and would rather just talk smack while ignoring the facts, you should probably stop reading now. 

If you listen to the majority of football fans, it's already over.

The outcome of the biggest regular season professional football game EVER is a foregone conclusion.

The Colts are no match for the high-powered Patriots, the conventional wisdom goes. Tom Brady has more offensive weapons than Hillary Clinton has accents.

The Pats, they say, will run up the score—AGAIN—on the hapless Colts and their undermanned, overmatched defense.

While this opinion is popular—and, in some respects, completely plausible—it's unlikely to bear out.

If you look closely at these two teams, you find there isn't really much of a difference.

The media's fawning over the New England Patriots is well-deserved. They're on pace to break all kinds of offensive records, many of which had been set by the Colts.

But the stats seem to say that the Colts—who are winning games with methodical dominance—have been just as good.

For two weeks, I've compiled statistics from various sources to compare the two teams, and the results are astonishing.

Before I go any further, I'd like to make it very clear that I am a lifelong Colts fan. As such, there will obviously be a little bias in my arguments.

But all my assertions are backed up by the facts.

And so... 

First, I took the two teams' statistical rankings in basic offensive and defensive categories through Week Eight, and compared them in these charts:  







1st (41.4)

3rd (32.0)

Passing Yards/Game

1st (303.8)

6th (258.7)

Rushing Yards/Game

8th (135.8)

5th (140.3)

Total Yards/Game

1st (439.5)

3rd (399)





Points Allowed/Game5th (15.9)2nd (14.6)
Passing Yards Allowed/Game5th (181.5)1st (165.4)
Rushing Yards Allowed/Game5th (87.0)13th (107.4)
Total Yards Allowed/Game3rd (268.5)4th (272.9)

On the offensive side of the ball, New England clearly has the edge in every category except rushing. Like I said earlier, the Pats' offense is on pace to be one of the best ever.

Defensively, Indy looks to have the better unit, although the Colts don't seem to be great at stopping the run.

That said, it's important to note that the Colts face about six more rushing attempts per game than the Patriots. The yards allowed per rush for both teams is about even.

Of course, much has been made about the quality of opponents the two teams have faced. After some more research, I made another pair of charts comparing the statistical rankings of the Pats' and Colts' opponents, as well as the won-loss records of each team:


New England Opponents


RecordTotal OffScoring OffTotal DefScoring Def
Totals/Averages24-34 (.414)17th14th23rd23rd


Indianapolis Opponents



RecordTotal OffScoring OffTotal DefScoring Def
Totals/Averages27-24 (.529)16th19th16th16th


The obvious fact is that the Patriots have played a far easier schedule than the Colts so far. This isn't a slam on New England—it's simply a word of caution that the "All-Powerful Pats" may be excelling in part because of the inferior quality of their opposition.

In theory, the Colts could be putting up gaudy offensive numbers if they had the Pats' schedule. The statistics, then, seem to argue for a pretty level playing this weekend.

Yes, I'm well aware that playing New England will bring down a team's defensive ranking. But have you seen Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Miami, and the Jets play this year?

They're clearly awful on defense—no matter who they play.

Some critics may lash out at me for being "biased." My rebuttal is the charts, the numbers, the facts.

They can speak for themselves.

It will truly be a clash of titans when these two teams meet on Sunday. I for one can't wait.


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