The 2022 Colts offense is bad, but just how bad is it historically?

Dec 4, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) reacts after a turnover during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 4, 2022; Arlington, Texas, USA; Indianapolis Colts quarterback Matt Ryan (2) reacts after a turnover during the second half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports /

The offense for the Indianapolis Colts has been really bad this season but how does it compare to historically bad offenses?

The 2022 Indianapolis Colts have certainly left a lot to be desired this season. Once preseason favorites to win the AFC South, the Colts, through 16 Weeks of play, now seem poised to land a top-five pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. So how does a roster that retained all of its (league-most) Pro Bowl selections (7) end up as a current-day bottom dweller? The answer is simple; with an underachieving offense that ranks among the worst in all offensive categories league-wide. Not just that, this Colts offense is special. When it comes to certain advanced metrics such as Team DVOA, this offense also ranks among the worst offenses in NFL history.

How Colts compare to the rest of the NFL this season

*All stats from Pro Football Reference*

Scoring Offense

  • Tied for third-least amount of pass touchdowns with 14
  • Tied for second-least amount of rush touchdowns with 7
  • Least amount of total offensive touchdowns scored with 21
  • Fifth-least amount of total offensive yards with 4,648 (3,106 Pass, 1,542 Rush)
  • Second-worst scoring offense (16.5 PPG)


  • Tied for most in NFL with 17 interceptions
  • Most fumbles in the league with 33 (13 lost)
  • Most giveaways in the league (by six) with 30
  • Worst offensive TO% with 17.1%
  • Second-most sacks in the league (56)
  • Worst turnover differential in the NFL (-13), the Saints post a slightly better margin (-12) and the next worst is (-5)

Conversions/Drive Averages

  • Third Down% (fourth worst at 33.5%)
  • Fourth Down% (tied for fourth worst at 38.1%)
  • Red Zone% (second worst at 43.9%)
  • Third-worst yards/drive average (26.4)
  • Third-worst percentage of drives ending in an offensive score (29.1%)

Advanced Metrics

What exactly is Team DVOA? Per the creators of said analytical metric, Team DVOA goes as follows: “DVOA measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent.” I ought to be transparent, as this description of theirs is one of a threefold explanation offering. This one, in particular, is what’s known as their ultra-short version, with the short and fully explained versions which can be found here.

  • Pro Football Reference: Worst expected points contributed by the offense (-108.31)

Amidst the thousands upon thousands of data logs that are offered from PFR, one of its more analytically-inclined statistics in Expected Points Contributed is essentially their version of DVOA. With less of an explanation than that of Football Outsiders, this metric remains prevalent when it comes to offering a more inquisitive diagnosis of a team as both sides of the ball are provided.

It’s clear the Colts have had a really bad offense relative to this season. How do these numbers compare to some of the offenses with the most struggles in history?

Where does Colts’ Offense rank amongst the worst in NFL history?

PPG Average(s)

NFL teams, in general, have collectively scored more points as the years go on. With new schemes and strategies being birthed by the day, coupled with era-inducing rule changes that inevitably favor the offensive side of the ball, it theoretically makes sense that more points will be scored. That’s not even acknowledging the elephant in the room that more points equal better ratings.

Why do I bring this up? When doing a deep-dive to compare the Colts’ abysmal points per game average of 16.5 points (when the league average is 22), you find yourself stuck in the midst of 3-4 decades worth of seasons where the league average in points was in the teens. However, in the Super Bowl Era (1970-) there have only been 10 instances where the league average in points scored was below 20. Since 1994, the league average has yet to drop under 20 and additionally, has seen an average of 21 PPG or more since the 2007 season.

For those reasons, we will compare the Colts’ scoring offense PPG average of 16.5 via Super Bowl Era mini-checkpoints. (per StatMuse)

  1. Worst PPG since 2007: 31st worst
  2. Worst PPG since 1994: 37th worst
  3. Worst PPG in Super Bowl Era (since 1970): 65th worst

The Team DVOA statistic that I share next will certainly paint the Colts’ offense in a much darker light, but where the Colts’ Offense ranks among the worst in Super Bowl Era history as far as putting up points goes, this offense can hang.

Colts Team DVOA Offense amongst history

I couldn’t go as far back in the Football Outsiders archives for this one, as they only have data for Team DVOA since 1981, but as highly regarded as this analytical metric is, I felt it was as important as any to investigate. The numbers are staggering.

According to Team DVOA Offense, since 1981, there have only been 11 “worse” NFL offenses than the 2022 Indianapolis Colts. Some of the more recent, memorable offenses made this list. The sack-happy, David Carr-led Texans of 2002 (which broke and still hold the record for most times sacked in a season with 76) is the headliner.

Presented by Football Outsiders’ Team DVOA Offense metric, here are the 12 worst offenses in NFL History (or at least since 1981):

  1. 2002 Texans: -43.3%
  2. 2018 Cardinals: -41.8%
  3. 1992 Seahawks: -41.6%
  4. 2005 49ers: -41.2%
  5. 2016 Rams: -38.1%
  6. 2006 Raiders: -37.2%
  7. 2004 Bears: -36.7%
  8. 2010 Panthers: -36.2%
  9. 1997 Saints: -36.2%
  10. 1991 Colts: -33.6%
  11. 2007 49ers: -32.8%
  12. 2022 Colts: -32.1%

So do the 2022 Colts have the worst offense in NFL history? Not quite. But, Indianapolis does have a historically bad offense with numbers that compare to some of the worst in league history. Indianapolis does have two more games this season to improve on its metrics, but based on what we’ve seen for 15 games, how confident are we that the last two games will be productive outings for this dreadful offense?