Can the Colts Win 12 Games This Year?

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

The Indianapolis Colts have won 12 games for each of the last 6 years, which is an NFL record. According to wikipedia, that is two more than the next closest team (scroll to the bottom), which is the Dallas Cowboys (1992-1995). Last year, with Peyton Manning missing all of the preseason, they got off to slow start, but finished strong to preserve the streak of 12 win seasons. Will they continue that streak this year, or will the loss of Tony Dungy prove too much for them?

Comparing their 2008 schedule with 2009, it appears that they are facing a slightly tougher schedule than they did last year. In 2009, the Colts’ Strength of Schedule is ranked 13th, with a 0.512 winning percentage based on 2008 records. That is only slightly higher than the 0.496 winning percentage of their 2008 opponents. Of course, we won’t know the final SOS for this schedule until the end of the season, but at this point, it appears that the Colts will face a similar schedule to last years, overall.

In this post, I wanted to break down the Colts’ 2008 and 2009 schedules a little further to get a better understanding of what they are up against this season (much the same way I had in previous posts on the Falcons, Cowboys, and Patriots). Taking my raw data from Pro-Football-Reference.com, I have compiled the Offensive and Defensive rankings of the Colts’ opponents from 2008 and 2009, broken out in the following 4 categories:

  • Pts Rk – Total Points Rank
  • Yds Rk – Total Yards Rank
  • Pass Rk – Passing Yards Rank
  • Rush Rk – Rushing Yards Rank

The rankings for both seasons are based on how the teams finished the 2008 season, since, of course, the 2009 final rankings are yet to be determined.

Before we get into opponents’ rankings, let’s review the Colts’ rankings from last season.


Pts Rk Yds Rk Pass Rk Rush Rk
Colts’ 2008 Off Rks 13 15 5 31
Colts’ 2008 Def Rks 7 11 6 24

Somewhat surprisingly, the Colts finished with higher rankings in defense than in offense. For most of this decade, they have been viewed as an explosive offensive team with decent to good, but not great, defense. Last year, they were a top 10 defense in points allowed and nearly a top 10 defense in yards allowed, although their rush defense left something to be desired. As usual, Manning had them in the top 5 in passing offense, but Joseph Addai struggled to replicate the success of his rookie year. The return of Dominic Rhodes did not help much either, as the Colts were 2nd to last in rush offense.

With these numbers in mind, let’s take a look at the Colts’ opponents for last year and this year. In the tables below, we see the Colts’ opponents’ offensive and defensive ranks for 2008 and 2009. First, the offensive ranks for 2008:


Opponents’ Offensive Ranks
Colts’ 2008 Schedule Pts Rk Yds Rk Pass Rk Rush Rk
Chicago Bears 15 26 21 24
Minnesota Vikings 12 17 25 5
Jacksonville Jaguars 24 20 15 18
Houston Texans 17 3 4 13
Baltimore Ravens 11 18 28 4
Green Bay Packers 5 8 8 17
Tennessee Titans 14 21 27 7
New England Patriots 8 5 12 6
Pittsburgh Steelers 20 22 17 23
Houston Texans 17 3 4 13
San Diego Chargers 2 11 7 20
Cleveland Browns 31 31 31 26
Cincinnati Bengals 32 32 30 29
Detroit Lions 27 30 24 30
Jacksonville Jaguars 24 20 15 18
Tennessee Titans 14 21 27 7
Average Ranks 17.06 18 18.44 16.25

And 2009:


Opponents’ Offensive Ranks
Colts’ 2009 Schedule Pts Rk Yds Rk Pass Rk Rush Rk
Jacksonville Jaguars 24 20 15 18
Miami Dolphins 21 12 10 11
Arizona Cardinals 4 4 2 32
Seattle Seahawks 25 28 29 19
Tennessee Titans 14 21 27 7
St. Louis Rams 30 27 26 25
San Francisco 49ers 22 23 13 27
Houston Texans 17 3 4 13
New England Patriots 8 5 12 6
Baltimore Ravens 11 18 28 4
Houston Texans 17 3 4 13
Tennessee Titans 14 21 27 7
Denver Broncos 16 2 3 12
Jacksonville Jaguars 24 20 15 18
New York Jets 9 16 16 9
Buffalo Bills 23 25 22 14
Average Ranks 17.44 15.5 15.81 14.69

Next, we have the opponents’ defensive ranks for 2008:


Opponents’ Defensive Ranks
Colts’ 2008 Schedule Pts Rk Yds Rk Pass Rk Rush Rk
Chicago Bears 16 21 30 5
Minnesota Vikings 13 6 18 1
Jacksonville Jaguars 21 17 24 14
Houston Texans 27 22 17 23
Baltimore Ravens 3 2 2 3
Green Bay Packers 22 20 12 26
Tennessee Titans 2 7 9 6
New England Patriots 8 10 11 15
Pittsburgh Steelers 1 1 1 2
Houston Texans 27 22 17 23
San Diego Chargers 15 25 31 11
Cleveland Browns 17 26 14 28
Cincinnati Bengals 19 12 15 21
Detroit Lions 32 32 27 32
Jacksonville Jaguars 21 17 24 14
Tennessee Titans 2 7 9 6
Average Ranks 15.38 15.44 16.31 14.38

And 2009:


Opponents’ Defensive Ranks
Colts’ 2009 Schedule Pts Rk Yds Rk Pass Rk Rush Rk
Jacksonville Jaguars 21 17 24 14
Miami Dolphins 9 15 25 10
Arizona Cardinals 28 19 22 16
Seattle Seahawks 25 30 32 18
Tennessee Titans 2 7 9 6
St. Louis Rams 31 28 19 29
San Francisco 49ers 23 13 20 13
Houston Texans 27 22 17 23
New England Patriots 8 10 11 15
Baltimore Ravens 3 2 2 3
Houston Texans 27 22 17 23
Tennessee Titans 2 7 9 6
Denver Broncos 30 29 26 27
Jacksonville Jaguars 21 17 24 14
New York Jets 18 16 29 7
Buffalo Bills 14 14 13 22
Average Ranks 18.06 16.75 18.69 15.38

Just a glance at these tables shows that there is not a ton of change in the level of opponents’ defensive or offensive rankings. The level of opponents’ offenses increases while the level of opponents’ defenses decreases, but only slightly for both. This seems like good news for the Colts, because most of their early struggles seemed to stem from Manning’s missing the pre-season. With the addition of first round pick Donald Brown, the offense should return to the overall top 5 form that they have enjoyed throughout most of Manning’s tenure with Indy. They also added DT Fili Moala in the second round of the draft, with the hope that he will help shore up the rushing defense.

Digging a little deeper into the numbers, here are a few items of the note from this data.

  • The opponents’ average offensive rank decreases 2% in points scored from 2008 to 2009.
  • The opponents’ average offensive rank increases 14% in yards gained from 2008 to 2009 (14% in pass yards, 10% in rush yards).
  • The opponents’ average defensive rank decreases 17% in points allowed from 2008 to 2009.
  • The opponents’ average defensive rank decreases 9% in yards allowed from 2008 to 2009 (15% in pass yards, 7% in rush yards).
  • In 2008, the Colts faced the following number of top 10 offenses: 3 in points, 4 in yards, 4 passing, and 5 rushing.
  • In 2009, the Colts will face the following number of top 10 offenses: 3 in points, 5 in yards, 5 passing, and 5 rushing.
  • In 2008, the Colts faced the following number of top 10 defenses: 5 in points, 6 in yards, 4 passing, and 6 rushing.
  • In 2009, the Colts will face the following number of top 10 defenses: 5 in points, 4 in yards, 3 passing, and 5 rushing.

When looking at all of the numbers, I come away with a couple of things. First, as usual, the Colts should be able to put up tons of yards and points this year. Based on these numbers, they will face a very similar defensive schedule as last year. As I said above, the main cause of their struggles last year appeared be Manning having missed the preseason. That caused him to be a little rusty early in the season, but by about week 5, he was as good as ever. I remember thinking at the end of the season how it was a down year for him, yet he still had over 4000 yards passing and nearly 30 TDs. So, with him being completely healthy and some additional help from Donald Brown, expect the Colts offense to be humming as usual.

Second, the Colts’ defense will face a slightly tougher offensive schedule than last year. While their overall defensive numbers were pretty respectable, their rush defense definitely needed some help. Since the opposing pass offensive rankings increases more than the opposing rush offensive rankings, this may play to their advantage somewhat. But, they really need for Moala or someone to step up in the middle and help shut down opposing RBs.

Overall, based on this data, one would expect the Colts to have a similar year to last year, possibly being more productive offensively due to Manning being completely healthy. However, this analysis didn’t get into individual opponents and what changes each opponent went through in the offseason. For example, the Seahawks have moved on from the Mike Holmgren era, and it appears that Matt Hasselbeck is back healthy. They also added TJ Houshmenzadeh, who should be a good target for Hasselbeck. For them, was Holmgren’s farewell tour a distraction, or did he wring every bit he could out of them considering their injuries? Will Hasselbeck stay healthy? We don’t know these answers.  But, as I said with the previous analyses, I think that this does give a good big picture view of the Colts’ upcoming schedule.

Colt fans, let me know your thoughts on this discussion.

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8 Responses to “Can the Colts Win 12 Games This Year?”

  1. coltsfanawalt Says:

    Thanks for the research and topic. I truly don’t know. I am waiting to see. There are positives (bigger DTs) and negatives (Ugoh’s fall from grace), then there are unknowns (Dungy was a great in game coach and adjuster. How about Caldwell?)

    I am anxious to find out!

    • wolfpacksteelersfan Says:

      Yeah, there are always unknowns in the NFL each year. That’s one of the reasons that it’s so popular, I believe.

  2. Andrew Says:

    I don’t understand the fear. This year’s schedule is just plain easier than last year’s. Much easier. I don’t even see how you can debate it. Instead of the NFC North we have the NFC West. Instead of the Steelers and Chargers (and Browns and Bengals) we have the Dolphins (and Broncos and Jets and Bills). Not to mention the Jags and Titans look to be worse than last year; only the Texans, Pats, and possibly Ravens look to have improved.

    I only see 7 opponents worthy of the Colts: Titans (x2), Texans (x2), Pats, Ravens, and Seahawks. I don’t think 16-0 is out of the question. One player like Ed Johnson can make a HUGE difference in a league with so much parity.

  3. Kreskin Says:

    I feel like they have a real shot at 12 wins. And I certainly don’t see a way they win fewer than 11.

    • wolfpacksteelersfan Says:

      Yeah, if I had written this today, rather than 2-3 months ago, I would have titled it differently. 😉

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