Thursday, November 01, 2007

Patriots-Colts Preview

It's the first meeting ever between two NFL teams at 7-0 or better. It's a meeting between two teams that have won four of the last six Super Bowls, and three of the last four. They are lead by certain Hall of Fame coaches and certain Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

And they are running roughshod over the rest of the NFL.

"They" are, of course, the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts, and they're meeting this week in Indianapolis for what everyone assumes is a preview of the AFC Championship Game. And there's absolutely no reason not to so assume.

  • The Colts, after several years of falling to New England, have won the last three meetings between the two teams. The last of these was the last loss for the Patriots, last year's AFC Championship game, when the Colts came back from a 21-3 deficit to win 38-34. The Colts appear to have improved. The Patriots appear to have improved more. On the field for New England will be the following players who were not active for that game: Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker, Rodney Harrison and Adalius Thomas.

  • The Colts are allowing 14.6 points per game, while the Patriots are allowing 15.9. Advantage Colts? Nope. The Colts have played a far weaker offensive schedule. Removing the points allowed by the Colts and Patriots, the teams on Indy's schedule are averaging only 20 points per game, while the Patriots opposition is averaging 23.7. The Patriots have played 4 teams (Cowboys, Browns, Bengals, Chargers) who score more than than the highest-powered offense the Colts have played (Texans). The Colts have held opponents to ~73% of their average point production. The Patriots have held opponents to ~67% of their average point production. Advantage Patriots.

  • The Colts are averaging 32 points per game against teams that allow 18.6. The Patriots are averaging 41.4 against teams that allow 21.7. The Colts are scoring 70% more against their opposition than they normally allow. The Patriots are scoring 90% more against their opposition than they normally allow. Advantage Patriots.

  • If the Patriots weren't weakened by the flu, I believe that they'd have won their fourth Super Bowl last year. But they were and they didn't. And the Colts put on a tremendous performance, and deserved to win.

  • But they won't win this week. They'll score some points, but they will not be able to stop the Patriot offense. The Patriots have always been able to put up points against the Colts, and this is far and away the best offense that New England (or, possibly, anyone else) has ever put on the field. This one won't be a blow-out, there are unlikely to be cries about running up the score, but I'm not at all certain that the Patriots streak of 17+ point wins ends.

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