The Train is Leaving the Station

The Peyton Manning for MVP Express is just getting revved up. Today we had the first serious mention of Manning as an MVP candidate. I realize that it was just Peter King and not a serious journalist, but still. We’ll take what we can get.

For those who missed my comment yesterday, Manning’s slate of pass defenses is about to get incredibly attractive. He has a very real shot at 30-35 TD passes the rest of the year. Should the Colts go 6-1 and get to 11 wins, Manning will have to be seen as a front runner for the MVP award. To get to 30, he’ll have to throw just over 2 a game.

This may seem a little far fetched given the offensive struggles this year, but now that the toughest games on the Colts schedule are behind them, the odds of Manning throwing together a very credible statistical season seem strong. The media is funny about these things. They’ll start talking about rhythm and timing and healing, and some of those will be factors. The main reason the Colts offense will ‘get better’ will be that they aren’t playing as good of defenses. Manning may not actually play any better from here on out, but it’ll look like he is. Ultimately, if the Colts make the playoffs with 11 wins (or more?), it will be hard for voters to look off a QB who lead some daunting comebacks and has a Hall of Fame pedigree.

Don’t misunderstand me, I think the Colts are improving on offense. But I think the results will appear out of line with the actual improvement. Indy will probably have several 30+ games the rest of the year, making it appear as if they’ve hit some new plane of being. In reality, the improvement will be slight but magnified by a string of really weak teams.

The key to true elevation of the offense isn’t the run game. I think that will happen naturally as Addai gets healthy and the line continues to gel (which it has shown signs of doing). The real key will be Harrison. He will have to either start making plays or be deemphasized in the offense. Demond and I have been debating Marvin for two days. Here’s how his FO stats look compared to the other Colts WRs (through 8 weeks):
DYAR Rank YAR Rank DVOA Rank
87-R.Wayne
IND 163 8 139 12 15.90% 21
11-A.Gonzalez IND 147 11 140 11 28.00% 7
88-M.Harrison
IND -42 69 -42 70 -22.00% 69
VOA Passes Yards Eyds TDs Catch Rate
11.70% 71 569 705 5 61%
26.00% 47 412 512 3 72%
-21.90% 57 320 303 4 47%

This chart shows a couple of things. First, all the Colts have seen slight drops in production over previous years. It also shows that Harrison has been horrible. He’s gotten 10 more passes than AG, but Gonzalez has more catches and yards. I know that it has appeared like Peyton has missed Harrison on some deep balls, but his number are so much worse than the other two WRs that it is impossible to place all the blame on Manning. Harrison may be getting open deep, but he’s not getting open short. Marvin has been the weak link. If he indeed is just ‘out of sync’ with Manning, fine. That had better show up fast. He’s drawing a lot of passes from Peyton and simply not catching them. His catch rate is 14% worse than Wayne’s, and an amazing 24% worse than Anthony Gonzalez’s. This is astounding because AG has dropped at least 5 significant passes this year. AG gets open. Marvin doesn’t. He’s always had catch rates in the middle to high 60s or better. This was even during seasons when his #2 was Jerome Pathon, and he was double and triple teamed on every play. I hate to say it…but he’s seriously not ok. It can’t be all Manning’s fault. It can’t be MOSTLY Manning’s fault. The other guys are posting solid numbers. Marvin isn’t. Same QB. Same line. Different results.

In other news, Jack Del Rio is hilarious. He acts the fool right before his team plays one of the worst clubs in history, and then uses the win to justify himself. Classic.
Links:
FO looks at the divisions by DVOA


Demond Sanders: I disagree with your take. I think Joseph Addai’s play is a bigger problem right through 9 games than Marvin. Harrison has struggled, but he is one of four playmakers through the air (Wayne, Harrison, Clark, Gonzalez). The Colts aren’t struggling on offense because of him, and I think he has already been deemphasized to a degree. I think Addai’s lack of production has had a much greater impact. He’s already missed nearly three full games with an injury. In the games he has played he has looked less capable than his older, less talented backup, Dom Rhodes.

I think both Marvin and Joe will improve as the season goes on. There is no way 18 and 88 will continue to miss on deep balls. I promise you that. But the offense will improve even if that classic connection does not. The run game is the bigger problem, and as you say it will get better as the line gels. This will also help Marvin because DBs will have to be more aware of what is going on in the backfield. At Addai’s current production (3.1 yards per rush) safeties and corners don’t have to give a second thought to helping out against the run.

Besides if you are blaming Addai’s play on injury and the line, can’t the same be said for Marvin? He’s coming back from a major injury and Peyton’s timing on deep routes is clearly being effected by the O-line. It is getting better and I expect a breakout game from those two on Sunday.
DZ Responds:
Marvin has played under all the same conditions as Wayne and Gonzo. He has played dramatically worse. Addai and Rhodes have NOT played under all the same conditions (the line was much, much worse earlier in the year). Even still, their performance has been nearly identical. The Colts lost two games that Addai didn’t even play, so it’s hard to argue that Dom provided some kind of boost to the offense. Marvin was the intended target of 57 passes. He caught less than half of them. That’s about thirty times he produced no gain on a play. Add in the back breaking fumble week one, and it’s really not even an argument as to who has played worse.
Addai has been essentally at replacement level this year. So has Dom. Marvin has been WAY below it. He is hurting the team right now. He has to get better.
LINK: FO says DZ is right.

The linked to article on the game is great too
The Colts are leaping up in DVOA. Even the D is above average for the year. They’ve played the 2nd hardest schedule, but have the 3rd easiest the rest of the way.
Demond Sanders: You have quoted FO non-stop to support your argument, but there’s always more to it than stats can tell us. Here is FO’s conclusion, “Until Harrison can start making more big plays, the Colts will not recapture their traditional dominant form. Given his age, we might safely say that the Colts offense will not recapture its dominant form this season.” Well, the Colts rarely blow out good defensive teams and that’s mostly who they’ve been playing. They make their hay against the Houstons and Detroits (see 2004). I think the Colts are about to go on the offensive and Marvin will be a big part of it. My wife can’t believe we spent several hours debating this, but it happened. We’ll have to agree to disagree. Here is a transcript of our final jabs:

Deshawn Zombie (6:59:44 PM): why are Marvin’s numbers so much worse than the other WRs?
Demond Sanders (7:00:22 PM): he’s 36 and coming off an injury and playing against great Ds
Deshawn Zombie (7:00:35 PM): so he sucks
Demond Sanders (7:00:44 PM): is that what i wrote?
Deshawn Zombie (7:01:31 PM): I’m saying he’s not playing well because he was hurt and old. You are saying he’s not playing well because he’s hurt and old
Deshawn Zombie(7:01:34 PM): what’s the difference
Demond Sanders (7:01:43 PM): you think he is done
Demond Sanders(7:01:44 PM): i don’t
Demond Sanders (7:01:49 PM): i guess that would be it
Deshawn Zombie (7:02:05 PM): I think the evidence shows he’s done, and he’s going to have to play a ton better to convince me otherwise
Deshawn Zombie (7:02:57 PM): I’m saying I have no reason to believe he can be a good #2 in the league
Deshawn Zombie(7:03:03 PM): nothing he’s done indicates that
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