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

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

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:  

 

Offense
 

 

NEW ENGLAND

INDIANAPOLIS

Points/Game

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)

  

 

Defense
 

 

NEW ENGLAND INDIANAPOLIS
Points Allowed/Game 5th (15.9) 2nd (14.6)
Passing Yards Allowed/Game 5th (181.5) 1st (165.4)
Rushing Yards Allowed/Game 5th (87.0) 13th (107.4)
Total Yards Allowed/Game 3rd (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
 

Team

Record Total Off Scoring Off Total Def Scoring Def
NYJ 1-7 30th 26th 29th 26th
SD 4-3 19th 8th 18th 12th
BUF 3-4 31st 29th 30th 13th
CIN 2-5 5th 6th 31st 31st
CLE 4-3 6th 4th 32nd 30th
DAL 6-1 2nd 2nd 6th 21st
MIA 0-8 18th 13th 24th 32nd
WAS 4-3 28th 22nd 12th 16th
Totals/Averages 24-34 (.414) 17th 14th 23rd 23rd

 


Indianapolis Opponents

 

Team

Record Total Off Scoring Off Total Def Scoring Def
NO 3-4 12th 18th 19th 23rd
TEN 5-2 22nd 14th 5th 7th
HOU 3-5 10th 10th 17th 27th
DEN 3-4 7th 27th 25th 28th
TB 4-3 17th 23rd 8th 9th
JAC 5-3 20th 19th 15th 4th
CAR 4-3 21st 21st 21st 17th
Totals/Averages 27-24 (.529) 16th 19th 16th 16th

 

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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