Obviously, because of the way injuries clustered this season, there's no way to isolate the effect the loss of Joe Addai has had on the Indy offense. Losing Collie and Clark at the same time made for quite the divot in the Colts offense.
However, one thing Indy has replaced is Addai's production out of the backfield catching passes. Addai was fourth on the team with 51 catches in 2009, and he was on pace for 48 more this year. Obviously, losing 30 catches in half a season is a lot for an offense.
Fortunately, Don Brown has been around to do the heavy lifting.
Through six games, Indy RBs caught 21 passes (18 Addai, 2 Brown, 1 Hart) for a total of 149 yards and no scores. That's about 3.5 catches a game for 25 yards.
Over the last 8 games, Indy RBs have caught 33 passes (18 Brown, 9 James, 3 Hart, 1 Rhodes) for 266 yards and still no scores. That's 4.1 a game and 33.3 yards a game. Indy is averaging a yard per catch more over the last 8 games.
Most of that increase in yardage has come from Don "Everyone Hates Me Unless I Do Something Good" Brown. Brown has been dynamic out of the backfield this year, averaging 10.3 yards a catch. That's the highest YPC for a Colts back with at least 15 catches since Marshall Faulk in 1998.
Don Brown may have had a disappointing start to the year, but he has been amazing as a pass catcher. For those who like advanced metrics, the Outsiders have him at a 33.1% DVOA (8th in the league) as a receiver. In comparison, Joe was at -0.4% (basically league average).
Last week, I linked up an article about Tom Brady and stat padding. Tim Graham of the ESPN AFC East blog linked the article up on his site. Whenever I write anything about the Pats, or in this case just mention something someone else writes, I get the crazies coming out of the woodwork.
One Pats fan, calling himself The Voice of Reason, commented:
Does anyone have Manning's numbers against the best defenses of the last decade? You know, NE, Pitt, Bal etc? That's a big difference. Manning does not seem to play nearly as well as Brady against top defenses.
This was a new one on me. I've found that in the irrational Brady/Manning debate fans typically have giant blind-spots toward the other player. Pats fans honestly believe Peyton Manning has horrible playoff numbers. They don't realize that Manning's are actually better than Brady's. Colts fans don't realize that while the Pats won Super Bowls with amazing defenses, one of the three came with virtually no run game at all. This particular meme was new to me, however.
I figured that since Manning's evisceration of the #1 defense of the Jets in the AFC Championship game was still fresh on everyone's mind, that there couldn't be any question about it. I was wrong. I was also annoyed, because I hate having to do research to disprove crackpot theories. However, because I have a personality defect and can't let idiots be idiots, I took the time to run the numbers.
First, I decided to use the top five teams in DVOA each season as the standard. Honestly, I picked DVOA over yards and points for two reasons: 1. it's comprehensive and 2. it was easy to generate the list. The problem with using scoring D is that you have to control for returns for scores and using yards is just flat dumb. After picking out the top five defensive teams by DVOA in each season, I ran Manning's and Brady's numbers against the best defenses in the league. I included playoff games.
The results should surprise no one.
For his career, Peyton Manning has posted a rating of 85.5 against top five defenses. The Colts have gone 29-15 in those games. However, since 2002 when Tony Dungy took over the Colts, Manning's rating jumps to 89.8 and the Colts have gone an insane 22-5 against top five DVOA defenses. Manning has 50 TDs and 29 picks in those games.
Twenty-two and five. That can hardly be defined as "struggling". In fact, like most of Manning's rate stats, if you take out his rookie year, his numbers skyrocket. In 1998, Indy went 2-4 against top five defenses and Manning posted a passer rating of 60.6. Then in 1999-2000 Indy went 5-3 while Manning threw 14 TDs to just 6 picks. In 2001, Indy went 0-3. Since then, the Colts have rarely lost to a top defense, and Manning has played only shade below his career average against the best defenses in the league.
Tom Brady's career tells a similar story. A freakishly similar story.
For his career, Brady's Patriots have gone 20-9 against top defenses, and Brady has a passer rating 85.7. Obviously, that's remarkably similar to Manning's 85.5. Since 2002, the Pats are 19-7 against elite defenses. Brady posted a rating of 86.8 in that span with 41 touchdowns to 21 picks.
The lesson here is that Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are insanely good against top defenses, and this particular meme couldn't be more insane or more false. If anything, Manning has been a little bit better than Brady since 2002.
Voice of Reason had another point he wished to make.
In objecting to the numbers that say Brady throws a lot of garbage time touchdowns, he made this point:
Don't most rational people consider garbage time to also include when a team is way behind and the other team is playing prevent? These big numbers posted in losses are worthless and Manning has undoubtedly had many more opportunities in these types of situations.
This struck me as an interesting study, so I quickly ran down boxscores of all Colts and Pats losses by 10 points or more in the careers of Brady and Manning to see which one threw more 'losing garbage time touchdowns'.
It didn't take long.
You see, the Pats and Colts almost never lose by 10 points or more.
I controlled for touchdowns that cut a lead to one score, only to have the other team score again. For example, if the Pats were down 13 and Brady threw a touchdown with five minutes left, only to have the Jets score again, the final margin of victory would be 13 points, but obviously no one would call Brady's pass 'garbage'. However, if the Colts were losing by 20 and Manning threw a touchdown in the fourth quarter, and the score wound up at 13 points, that would count.
For his career, Manning had 9 'garbage' touchdowns in 7 games. He has 7139 career attempts and 394 total touchdowns. 9 of those are 'garbage scores'. In 2002, he threw 3 garbage scores against the Giants in a 44-27 loss.
For his career, Brady had 7 'garbage' touchdowns in 7 games. He has 4667 attempts and 256 total touchdowns.
In other words, neither guy is padding his stats in losses.
The Brady/Manning debate won't be settled any time soon. Fans should try to shed their misconceptions of both players. More importantly, the next time someone gets it in their head to say crazy things about Peyton Manning, I wish they'd do me the favor of doing their own research first.
With just days left until Christmas, if you are still looking for great gifts for Colts fans, 18to88 is your stop.
First, you've got to get the Colts' fan in your family a copy of Blue Blood. Blue Blood is the perfect gift for old and new Colts fans alike. You can pick one up at any Indy area bookstore (assuming there are still some in stock). We still have autographed copies at the family store at 7055 Coffman Road (Metro Arborist Supplies). The store will be open through Thursday, so drop by and grab a copy. Also, it is available in digital form for Nook or Kindle, and Amazon Prime customers can still get it in time for Christmas.
Of course the best gift of all for a Colts fan is tickets to the final game of the year against the Titans. No matter what happens this week, the game Sunday will be critical for the Colts. The best way to score the best deals on Colts/Titans tickets is to use TiqIQ.
If you want to surprise your kids with seats to the game, but don't want to spend too much, TiqIQ will help you find the best prices among the most popular ticket vendors. For special auction deals, check out our Facebook page. Many tickets come with instant e-delivery, so as late as Friday night you can purchase and print the tickets from home allowing for a great last minute gift.
This year, Santa wears blue!
No matter what else happens over the final two weeks of the season, the 2010 Colts didn't let the Jacksonville Jaguars end their season in Indianapolis.
That alone is a great comfort to Colts lovers and Jags haters everywhere.
The Colts dominated the Jaguars on Sunday. It all started up front for the defense which dominated the line of scrimmage and held Maurice Jones Drew to just 46 yards rushing on 15 carries, and just as importantly, held Garrard to 8 yards on four carries. Last week, I openly questioned Larry Coyer's ability to get this defense ready for the Jaguars. And while I do wonder how much MJD's knee and Garrard's hamstrings limited them, I also have to admit that Indy defenders looked well prepped. They had Garrard's number on every bootleg and roll out. Coyer did a nice job developing blitzes to get pressure on Garrard who often threw off his back foot.
On a day when the Colts birthright as AFC South Champions was being threatened, the Colts' cornerstone players on defense all made the biggest plays. Gary Brackett forced a four point swing, with a huge tackle for a loss on the goal line. Robert Mathis went airborne to take Garrard down early in the game. Freeney forced several penalties and was a dominant rushing force all day, and when the Colts desperately needed a stop, it was Betha who provided a huge interception.
46 yards rushing for the Jags compared with 155 for the Colts. That tells the story of the game. Indy did the two things they haven't been able to do all year: they ran and they stopped the run. Don Brown had a breakout game, showing that if he gets a hole, he absolutely has the big play ability to punish the defense. Perhaps we just need to see a return to the stretch play when Don's in the game. Or maybe it just helps to play on the NFL's worst defenses. Either way, it was a timely performance. As Darren McFadden is showing in Oakland, two years isn't enough time to judge a running back, especially one playing behind a suspect line.
When Tyjuan Hagler sprinted through the Jags into the endzone it capped a memorable day. With the Luke begging for a Christmas miracle, the Colts offered up a holiday beatdown.
Unfortunately, the mood in the Circle City isn't one of unbridled joy today.
As important as the win was, the Colts' hopes this season took a major blow as well. While Hagler's return won't soon be forgotten, neither will the scene of Austin Collie lying motionless on the turf. How incredible was Collie yesterday? Sure he had 87 yards and two scores in the first half, but more than that, his affect on the game was undeniable. With Collie, Manning was 20-27 for 166 and two scores. Without Collie he was 9 of 12 for just 63 yards. Collie was the dominant figure in the game, and while everyone's first and second thoughts were for the young man and his family, the third thought that came to mind after the horror wore off was, "Oh no. We are screwed."
The Colts are a weapon short right now. They are actually three weapons short, but you get the feeling that any one of them would change this offense. Austin Collie helped stretch the field running great routes up the seam. Blair White is a nice story, but he's not in Collie's league (as evidenced by a big third down miscommunication with Manning in the third quarter). I'm no doctor, but I don't want to see Collie on the field again this season. This young man's life and future are in serious jeopardy, and even if it meant giving up a Super Bowl, I wouldn't want to see him play. God willing, he's got 60 years ahead of him. Going back out on the field now will almost certainly shorten those years.
It was a great win. The loss of Collie was just as big.
This isn't going to be comprehensive, but I want to cover the major scenarios for the Colts. Let's leave ties out of it for now, ok?
Indy's only shot at the playoffs is to win the AFC South.
They win the South with two wins.
If they lose to Oakland and beat Tennessee, they win the South with a loss by the Jags to either Washington or Houston.
If they beat Oakland and lose to Tennessee, they win the South only if Jacksonville loses to Houston
If they lose twice AND Jacksonville loses twice AND Tennessee loses to Kansas City next week, they win the South.
Now, let's talk seeding:
- (note: this may be impossible) To get the 2 seed, the Colts need:
To win out
The Chiefs to lose 1 or more of their remaining games (TEN, OAK), the Chargers lost at least 1 of their last two (@CIN, @DEN), the Ravens to lose both of their remaining games (@CLE, CIN), the Steelers to lose out (CAR, @CLE) and for TEN, HOU, JAX, NYG, DEN, WAS and KC to win 6 or more games combined than ATL, TB, CLE, MIA, CIN, BUF and BAL over the remainder of the season (in order to beat the Steelers in the strength of victory tiebreaker).
I don't even know that this is mathematically possible, but I think it still is. At any rate, it's highly unlikely, so don't waste time on it.
- To get the 3 seed, the Colts need:
To win out
The Chiefs and Chargers each to lose at least one game.
- Any other scenario that puts the Colts in the playoffs would result in the four seed.
My ideal scenario would be:
1. NE (I'm just ceding this) 2. Baltimore (Ravens win out, Pitt drops 1 game) 3. Indy (see above) 4. KC (1 loss and 1 Chargers loss) 5. Pittsburgh (1 loss, 1 Jets loss) 6. NYJ (1 or 2 losses)
This would send the Jets to Indy and force the Steelers/KC winner to play the Pats. Indy would get Baltimore in the second round.
IF the Colts get the four seed, we should hope for:
1. NE 2. Baltimore 3. KC 4. Indy 5. NYJ (1 or 2 wins) 6. Pitt (1 loss)
This would send Pitt to KC. IF they win, they would go to NE. Indy would again get the Jets and with a Pittsburgh win go to Baltimore.
Colts 34 Jaguars 24no comments
A game punctuated by several bizarre, game-changing ST plays was sealed, appropriately enough, by Tyjuan Hagler returning the Jags on-side kick for a touchdown. Peyton Manning was sharp going 29 for 39 for 229 yards and 2 TDs and Donald Brown put up what is likely the best performance of his career to date with 129 yards on 14 carries with 2 40+ yard runs and a TD in addition to some good blitz pick-up. Austin Collie's return started strong with 8 receptions for 87 yards and 2 TDs, but sadly was short lived as another concussion ended his day, likely his season and could mean the end of his career.
Defensively the Jags were held to 67 yards on 22 carries, but had some success passing. 24 for 38, 294 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT for Garrard. STs were a major problem for the Colts for most of the game. The Jags returned a punt for a TD after returner Mike Thomas made a signal resembling a fair catch, then shot up the sideline against a confused Colts D. The Jags regularly got good field position off kickoffs and punts and Hagler's return was the only productive one for the Colts.
The win gives the Colts control of the AFC South. They are tied with the Jags in overall, head to head and divisional record with the edge in common games. Wins at Oakland and back at home against the Titans week 17 would guarantee the Colts the division.
As always, we'll be tweeting during the game. For those of you who don't use Twitter, you are missing out on lots of bonus 18to88 stuff. I routinely tweet stats, facts, and observations that don't show up on the site. You don't have to have a twitter address or tweet to read me, though. Just go here. You should also follow Luke and Shake.
On game days, I've put together a great follow list with some of the best local and national voices on the Colts.
If you will be tweeting from the game today, please let me know and I'll add you to the follow list so everyone can share your observations.
Of course, if you want to read all of this as part of our moderated chat, use the application below. Remember that I can't see what you write in the chat, so if you want to respond, use Twitter, and tag your comments @18to88. The chat will go live around 12:45 pm.
Let's begin with the end in mind, shall we?
The playoffs in the AFC will likely shake out like this:
NE, Pitt, SD/KC, Ind/Jax, Bal, NYJ
The likely scenario we should root for is: NE, Balt, Ind, KC, Pitt, NYJ. This would send the Jets to Indy, then Indy to Baltimore and the winner of KC/Pittsburgh to New England. That's what we are hoping for.
How do we get there? Because of the complicated permutations for the playoffs, there are no more easy calls. It's all confusing, and it all changes depending on what happens if the Colts win or lose today. Things will get clearer after today. We'll do a complete playoff positioning piece tonight if the Colts win today.
Kansas City at Saint Louis
We need the Chiefs to lose a game in order to leap frog them, but we ALSO need San Diego to lose. For now, the safest bet is to keep pulling for the Chiefs to keep San Diego on the outside looking in.
Buffalo at Miami
The Colts slim wildcard hopes require a Miami loss. So let's hope it comes today.
Houston at Titans
There still a crazy chance for a 3 way tie for the division at 8-8. I'm not sure it matters which of these teams wins this game, but let's pull for the team we still play.
Saints at Ravens
The Colts' slim wildcard hopes require the Ravens to lose out. IF the Colts win today, you can flip this and start rooting for the Ravens. We would LOVE to see the Ravens jump up and claim the two spot. However, a Colts' loss means the Ravens MUST lose this game or Indy is eliminated.
Jets at Steelers
There's still a longshot chance of the Colts grabbing the two seed (see the link to Shake's article above). More importantly, if Pittsburgh drops below Baltimore and becomes a wildcard, it could work out beautifully (as long as we don't get them in the first round). For now, pull for the Jets.
Denver at Oakland
Oakland doesn't affect us directly until next week, but each game Oakland wins hurts the Patriots.
Green Bay at New England
Rodgers isn't playing, so the Pats will win by 60. There's no point in watching this game.