Colts-Cardinals Week 3 Preview

Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning

Larry Fitzgerald

Larry Fitzgerald

The most exciting game of the coming NFL weekend may be the  Sunday Night Football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Arizona Cardinals. Both teams’ offenses have been high scoring and explosive in recent years, particularly in the passing game. Of course, Larry Fitzgerald’s  historic playoff run last season is fresh on our minds. And, what can you say about Peyton Manning; he has only thrown for over 4000 yards in 9 of the past 10 seasons. It’s not a stretch to expect plenty of offensive fireworks in this game. But, when it’s all over, who can we expect to have the advantage?

I hope that by reviewing some of the statistics for each team (from Pro-Football-Reference.com) thus far in the season, I will get a better idea of who we can expect to win this game. Last week, I previewed the Giants-Cowboys game, and from what I saw statistically, I sort of favored the Giants’ defense and thought they would pull it out by running the ball well and shutting down the Cowboys’ running game. As it turns out, it was Dallas that rushed ball well, but Romo’s 3 INTs did them in. So, we’ll see if I can do any better with this one.

In the last post, I pulled the per game data for the Giants and Cowboys and compared them to each other. Then I compared their per game data to their respective Week 1 opponents’ averages per game from 2008. Having reviewed that approach, I decided that it really won’t work long term. I would have to begin averaging data from multiple opponents, with the number of opponents for each team increasing each week. By the end of the season, I would have to average the data for 16 different opponents. So, I decided that I would just compare the Colts’ and Cardinals’ per game statistics so far this season and then compare the average offensive and defensive ranks of their opponents so far this season. Although it’s very early in the season, this should still give some indication of the teams’ strengths relative to each other. For future games, it should become more accurate.

First, we will compare the respective per game numbers for Indianapolis and Arizona. 

  Indianapolis Colts Arizona Cardinals Ind – Ari
Offense      
Points 20.5 23.5 -3
Yards 360.5 341 19.5
Passing Yds 294.5 262 32.5
Passing TD 1.5 1.5 0
INTs 0.5 1 -0.5
Rushing Yds 66 79 -13
Rushing TD 1 0.5 0.5
Rush Y/A 3.1 3.5 -0.4
Fmb Lost 0.5 1 -0.5
Turnovers 1 2 -1
Defense      
Points 17.5 18.5 -1
Yards 315.5 287.5 28
Passing Yds 139 231 -92
Passing TD 0 1.5 -1.5
INTs 0.5 0.5 0
Rushing Yds 176.5 56.5 120
Rushing TD 1.5 0.5 1
Rush Y/A 4.7 2.5 2.2
Fmb Rec 0 1.5 -1.5
Turnovers 0.5 2 -1.5

In this table, I have the offensive and defensive averages for both teams from their first two games of the season. Then, in the third column, I have the difference between them, by subtracting the Cardinals’ number from the Colts’ number. We see that so far, the main difference in offensive numbers is in passing yards, with the Colts averaging 32.5 more passing yards/game than the Cardinals. At the same time, the Cards are rushing the ball better than the Colts so far this year. On the defensive side, the Cardinals are doing a much better job stopping the run than the Colts, giving up 120 fewer yards per game than the Colts. However, they are also average allowing 92 more passing yards/game than the Colts. So, in terms of total statistics, the Colts average gaining more yards and allowing more yards than the Cards, but not by a ton.

Let’s look at their team rankings in terms of offense and defense for both points and yards.

  Indianapolis Colts Arizona Cardinals
Offense Pts Rk 13 10
Offense Yds Rk 12 15
Defense Pts RK 10 14
Defense Yds Rk 13 6

So far this year, the main difference between the two is that the Cardinals defense is ranked sixth in yards allowed. All other rankings are between 10 and 15. These rankings just tell us that these teams are above average teams, which we kind of expected coming into the season, I think. But, on the whole, the two teams are not drastically different.

Finally, let’s look at their opponents’ average rankings to this point in the season.

2009 Opponents’ 2008 Average Ranks
  Indianapolis Colts Arizona Cardinals
Offense Pts 27.5 20
Offense Yds 20.5 25
Defense Pts 18 10.5
Defense Yds 19 15.5

Based on these numbers, the Cardinals have played a slightly stronger schedule than the Colts. The opposing offenses were ranked in the 20’s for both teams, but the Cardinals’ opposing defenses were ranked higher in both points and yards, averaging 10.5 in points allowed. So far, based on this data, the Colts and Cardinals appear to be pretty evenly matched, with perhaps the slight edge going to Arizona, whose defensive opponents’ are ranked higher.

In this case, we can also take a look at a common opponent, since both have played the Jacksonville Jaguars already this season.

Statistics versus Jacksonville
  Indianapolis Colts Arizona Cardinals
Off Pass Yds 294 265
Off Rush Yds 71 118
Off Tot Yds 365 383
Def Pass Yds 114 280
Def Rush Yds 114 92
Def Tot Yds 228 372

Based on these numbers, the Colts did a better job against the Jaguars. The Cardinals did win the turnover margin by +1, while Indy was -2.

Well, considering all of this data, I think would give the Colts the slight edge. Arizona is at home, which will give them an advantage, but the Colts were able to overcome their common opponent even though they lost the turnover battle. The Cardinals also gave up a lot more passing yardage to the Jags. Arizona may be able to run on the Colts, though, based on these numbers. That may aid them in giving Manning fewer chances with the ball. But, as he showed against Miami, Peyton can make the most of his chances. One way or another, this should be an outstanding game, with two quarterbacks at the top of their game.

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