Colts vs Saints: Breaking Down the Numbers
The Indianapolis Colts (3-3) host the New Orleans Saints (2-4) on Sunday afternoon. The Colts are looking to rebound from a close loss at the hands of their mortal enemy while the Saints have had a mini-bye week after beating the Falcons.
The bad news for the Colts is that they are once again facing a competent quarterback in Drew Brees who, despite a shoulder injury, is still playing well. The good news is that the Saints haven’t won away from the Superdome and they have the worst defense in the NFL.
The Saints have gotten lucky in their two wins this season. They caught the Cowboys without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant (needing overtime to secure the victory). Against the Falcons they forced three fumbles, blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown.
The Colts, on the other hand, have yet to defeat an opponent outside of the AFC South. While this isn’t exactly a “must win” game, the following three games are going to be extremely difficult and the team needs a win after losing to the Patriots.
These two teams haven’t met in the regular season since 2011 (the gas leak year) where the Saints embarrassed the Colts 62-7.
Here’s what the stats say about this week’s opponent:
Yardage: 387 ypg, 7th (rushing: 84.7 31st; passing 302, 3rd)
Points per Game: 22.3, 17th
Efficiency: 8th (rush 15th, pass 9th)
Third down: 48.3 percent conversion rate, 2nd
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This is not the same Saints offense that used to run all over its opponents and dominated the NFC. Brees is starting to slow down and ranks just outside the top 10 in efficiency numbers (DYAR and DVOA). That said, he will still pick apart opposing defenses that can’t rush the passer or cover across the middle.
The Saints have struggled to put up points this season but are still very efficient. Per PFF, none of the weapons on the Saints offense have performed at an above average level and the team has only scored above their average twice this season.
Simply put, the Saints have struggled to put up points, especially on the road where they are averaging just 19 per game. Although two of those opponents featured great defenses (Panthers and Cardinals).
What This Means for the Colts on Defense
The Colts have struggled over the past few years against any talented pocket quarterback. Without a pass rush, Brees will be able to pick them apart, much like Tom Brady did this past week. The good news is that is sounds like Robert Mathis will be getting more snaps this week. More good news is that the Saints offensive line is below average and ranks 19th in protection.
The Colts also have some issues in the secondary, with starting safety Mike Adams dealing with a hamstring and every corner not named Vontae Davis playing terribly.
The Colts can basically ignore the run which would be great, if the team wasn’t built to stop an opponent’s ground game.
Yardage: 409.7 ypg, 32nd (rush: 138.2, 30th; pass: 271.5, 24th)
Points Allowed: 27.3, 28th
Efficiency: 32nd (rush: 23rd, pass 32nd)
Third Down: 35.7 percent, 8th
Can you say shootout? If the Colts struggle, at all, to move the ball against the Saints horrid defense then there is real trouble on this team. There isn’t anything that the Saints do well on the defensive side of the ball. The third down stats are a bit misleading as the Saints have allowed the most first downs in the NFL so far this season (meaning most teams gain a first down before they even get to third).
In their three road losses, the Saints gave up 27 or more points in each game. The Saints are forced to start a number of rookies on defense, and the results have been massive inconsistencies, especially in pass coverage.
What This Means for the Colts on Offense
It should mean lots of points. This is the worst defense the Colts will probably face all season. The problem is that we don’t know what to expect from Andrew Luck this week. This is a game where the Colts can basically pick their area of focus and it will probably work.
Expect the Colts to go heavy with the ground attack to start the afternoon off and use it to set up the play action for big plays.
This will likely turn into a shootout, but the Colts have a marginally better defense that will give them the edge on Sunday.