Colts or Saints? Who is the Best of the Undefeateds?

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Peyton Manning (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

drew brees

Drew Brees (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Both ESPN.com and NFL.com have their power rankings as to where teams rank in NFL after the first 8 weeks of the regular season. Everyone that I have seen ranks the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints as the top two teams in the league, but there is some disagreement as to which should be ranked number 1. Both teams have become known for explosive passing games behind future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, who may be making his case for the Hall as well. But as I mentioned in an earlier post on the Saints, New Orleans now also has a serious rushing attack. Let’s see if the Colts have also found that kind of balance. We’ll also compare each team’s opposing offensive and defensive ranks to see what level of competition that they have faced this year.

As I have in the past, I have pulled the average per game numbers for both the Saints and the Colts so that I can compare them side by side. In addition to raw numbers, I’ll show where each team ranks offensively and defensively. Then, I will review the average rankings of their opponents’ offenses and defenses, which will allow me to know what their level of competition has been to this point in the season.

So, let’s get into it. First, I have the team side by side comparison:

Colts versus Saints Comparison
  Saints Colts Saints-Colts
Offense      
Pts/G 39 28.1 10.9
Yards/G 428.71 403.57 25.14
Yards/Play 6.3 6.5 -0.2
Pass Yards/G 275.43 316.29 -40.86
Pass Att/G 32.86 37.71 -4.86
Pass Yds/Att 8.7 8.5 0.2
Pass INT/G 0.86 0.57 0.29
Sacks/G 1.57 0.71 0.86
Rush Yards/G 153.29 87.29 66
Rush Att/G 33.71 23.57 10.14
Rush Yds/Att 4.5 3.7 0.8
TD/G 5.14 3.43 1.71
Defense      
Pts/G 22 13 9
Yards/G 326 292.14 33.86
Yards/Play 5.1 4.6 0.5
Pass Yards/G 223.86 180.14 43.71
Pass Att/G 38.14 36.14 2
Pass Yds/Att 6.2 5.5 0.7
Pass INT/G 2.29 1 1.29
Sacks/G 2.43 2.86 -0.43
Rush Yards/G 102.14 112 -9.86
Rush Att/G 23.29 25 -1.71
Rush Yds/Att 4.4 4.5 -0.1
TD/G 2.43 1.14 1.29

And, then the rankings of each teams’ offensive and defensive units:

Saints’ and Colts’ Rankings
  Saints Colts
Off Pts 1 6
Off Yds 1 4
Off Pass Yds 6 1
Off Rush Yds 4 30
Def Pts 20 1
Def Yds 15 9
Def Pass Yds 17 7
Def Rush Yds 11 17

As the Saints post that I mentioned above showed, New Orleans still has better balance offensively than the Colts. They are ranked in the top 6 in both passing and rushing, and, consequently, are ranked number 1 in both total yards gained and points scored. On the other hand, Indy is better defensively. It seems that the Saints’ defense has slipped somewhat since I last checked on them. The Colts rank ahead of New Orleans in every defensive category except rushing yards allowed. Somewhat surprisingly, Indy is ranked number 1 in the league in points allowed.

Looking back at the raw the numbers, the biggest difference between the two teams is in rushing yards gained. The Saints are averaging 66 more yards on the ground than the Colts. However the second biggest difference is in offensive and defensive pass yards per game. Indy is gaining over 40 more yards and allowing nearly 44 fewer yards through the air than New Orleans. I suppose it shouldn’t be a great surprise that two undefeated teams appear to be pretty evenly matched. The advantage of one seems to be offset by and advantage for another. Let’s take a look at the level of competition for each team to see if one or the other has faced stiffer foes.

Average Opponents’ Rankings
  Saints Colts
Off Pts 15 18.06
Off Yds 18.57 16.31
Off Pass Yds 20.43 17.44
Off Rush Yds 11.57 14.31
Def Pts 17.71 17.06
Def Yds 15.57 17.81
Def Pass Yds 15.29 18.88
Def Rush Yds 18.14 15.5

Not a huge difference there. The Saints seem to have a slight edge in opponents faced. Their opponents average a higher ranking in 4 of the 8 categories, while one is a virtual tie (defensive points allowed). The Colts’ opponents have the higher average ranking in the other 3 categories.

If I had to pick one team over the other (which I should since that’s the whole idea of the post), I’d have to lean toward the Saints right now. They have the more balanced team offensively. If Brees struggles somewhat, they can win running the ball, which Indy can’t say right now. And, although their defense is giving up more yards and points, they are also taking the ball away more than the Colts, with over twice the number of interceptions as the Colts. With all that said, I’ll walk the fence a little and say that you Manning has shown that he can carry his team. Against the Dolphins, he came from behind to win the game with only 14 or so minutes in time of possession for the game.

Finally, before wrapping up, let’s take a quick look at each team’s remaining opponents.

Average Remaining Opponents’ Ranks

Saints Colts
Off Pts 20.89 15.89
Off Yds 18.89 12.78
Off Pass Yds 18.11 14.89
Off Rush Yds 14.89 13.33
Def Pts 18.89 13.44
Def Yds 17.67 14.89
Def Pass Yds 12.89 14.78
Def Rush Yds 23.22 16.78

Based on this, it looks like the Colts can expect the tougher road from here on out. It will be interesting to see how each team finishes the season. I don’t expect either to go 16-0, but I do think they are both well on their way to clinching the top spot in their respective playoff seedings.

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5 Responses to “Colts or Saints? Who is the Best of the Undefeateds?”

  1. Shake Says:

    One important area that wasn’t covered (and gives the Colts the edge over the Saints in Advanced NFL Stats.com’s ratings) is penalty rate, where the Colts are one of the leagues least penalized teams with the Saints trailing far behind.

    Some hidden yardage there.

    • wolfpacksteelersfan Says:

      Good point. The hidden yardage can definitely make a difference in a tight game, which I suspect a matchup between these two would be.

  2. Faysal Says:

    We are extremely wound up about the big game. It’s a great shootout. I’ll pick them Indianapolis Colts in a shoot out.

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