I really wish the Colts had some cool back up pass rusher encased in glass. They could break him out for those rare occasions when Dwight Freeney couldn't go. Everyone who reads 18to88 knows that we consider Freeney the second most important Colt. He's the Manning of the defense. He's a gifted athlete who alters the way the opposing offense attacks the Colts, and has penchant for big, game changing plays. With the news that he may or may not be seriously injured, let's take a look at how the Colts have fared in games where Freeney didn't play, but Robert Mathis did. I'm sure Freeney will step on the field Sunday, but there's no telling how effective he'll be.
|Points||Mathis Sacks||Mathis FF||T-sacks||T-turnovers||W/L|
So the good news is that the Colts have gone 6-1 without Freeney, but with Mathis. Mathis has still posted three sacks and three forced fumbles in those seven games (one of which was his rookie year, and in the other he got hurt in the first quarter and barely played against Baltimore). The lone loss came against the Chargers, when Mathis and Brock played injured. Both rushers were in the game, but both were limited.
The bad news is that almost all of those wins came against non-playoff teams. The Chargers and Texans are the only teams on the list that had truly formidable offenses, and the 2007 Jags did go to the playoffs and beat the Steelers. Against real playoff caliber offenses, the Colts gave up at least 25 points every time, despite fine play from Mathis.
Without a healthy Freeney, I do not expect the Colts defense to hold the Saints under 25 points. Honestly, I'll be surprised to see them hold them under 30. Again, I expect Freeney to play. You'd have to saw his leg off to keep him out of the game. The question is if he can be effective.
If Dwight Freeney is not healthy enough to have an impact on the game (defined as demanding double teams), the Colts will have to score a minimum of 30 points to win. The Saints have been held under 30 points just five times in 15 meaningful games. Even worse, they have surrendered 30 points just twice this season.
To be perfectly honest, if I was assured Freeney wasn't playing, or wasn't going to be effective, I would pick the Saints to win. I think Freeney is that important. I'm not saying the Colts can't win without him. I'm just saying I don't condsider it likely.