The Indianapolis Colts host Washington on Sunday. The Colts are in firm control of the AFC South at 7-4 while Washington sits at the bottom of the NFC East with a 3-8 record.
It was a matchup that was supposed to feature the top two quarterbacks in 2012 NFL Draft. Since then, Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck have trended in opposite directions.
Luck has moved his way into the elite of the NFL QBs, while RGIII has suffered through injury and regressed to point of being benched for Colt McCoy. Griffin has struggled with the basics in recent weeks and it looks like Washington might be ready to move past the high profile player.
Its not surprising that two of Washington’s wins came against the dregs of the AFC South. They managed to thump the Jaguars, squeak out a win over the Titans, and pulled of a close upset win in overtime against the Cowboys. At the same time, Washington has also lost to teams like the Buccaneers and Giants.
Editor’s note: DVOA and DYAR stats provided by Football Outsiders. DYAR is a player with more total value while DVOA is value per play. Plus/minus grades via Pro Football Focus.
Washington on Offense
While standard statistics has Washington with the 10th most passing yards per game 16th in rushing, advanced stats paint a different picture. DVOA has it with the 21st rated offense overall, 24th through the air and 14th on the ground. The big problem for the team from DC is finding the endzone as they average just 19.7 points per game.
They have just five players with positive grades on PFF, and three of them are offensive linemen. The fourth is a fullback and the final one is McCoy who has played just a game and a half. Against Dallas, McCoy was extremely efficient, completing 25-of-30 passes for nearly 300 yards.
They have two big deep threats in DeSean Jackson and former Colts Pierre Garcon. Both players have a flat 0.0 grade from PFF. Garcon is 49th in DVOA and 50th in DYAR while Jackson is ninth and 12th in both categories respectively.
Alfred Morris has gotten the bulk of the carries for Washington, and ranks in the top 10 of running backs according to Football Outsiders. PFF has him with a -3.6, which is 38th in the NFL.
What This Means for the Colts on Defense
The Colts likely won’t change their philosophy on defense, but will need great games from their corners to hold Washington back. It was disconcerting to find Vontae Davis and Greg Toler both showing up on the injury report this week (not to mention Darius Butler).
The Colts should still be able to dictate terms on defense as Washington has been incredibly inconsistent all season. They also have so much internal strife that it will be surprising if the team has been able to focus this week.
Washington on Defense
This is where the team is more of a mess. Not the side of the ball with the primadona quarterback, but the group no one talks about. Washington gives up the eighth fewest passing yards and ninth fewest rushing yards, but those numbers are deceiving.
Washington gives up nearly 25 points per game and has only generated 12 takeaways all season. Football Outsiders has them at 23rd overall and are an abysmal versus the pass at 31st in the NFL. They are seventh against the run, but give up lots of big plays.
Washington rates 27th against primary receivers, 30th and number twos, and 23rd against slot receivers. Basically, they can’t stop anyone through the air. Injuries have also taken their toll on defense and will limit how Washington attacks its opponents.
What This Means for the Colts on Offense
Its going to be a big day for Luck and his receivers. Everyone is going to feast. Expect Reggie Wayne, who has been dogged for his play lately, to have a big bounce back game. Hilton will torch the secondary of Washington as Luck gets more time than in the pocket than he did against the Jaguars.
The Colts will likely start Dan Herron again, but they might abandon the run game since it will be far more effective to pass.