The Enemy of My Enemy

It’s hard to compare teams from different conferences, but this season the Colts and Saints both crossed with the AFC East, meaning we have a few data points on which we can compare the two teams.  Of course, the Colts tanked two of those AFC East games, so tighten things up slightly.  Let’s look at how both teams fared against common opponents and see what we can learn.  For this exercise, I’m going to disregard the first Jets game and the Bills game for obvious reasons.  That means that both teams played the Jets, Dolphins, Patriots, Rams, and Cardinals.  Both teams won all five games.  Today we’ll compare how the Saints and Colts offenses performed against common opponents, tomorrow we’ll look at the defenses.

Colts and Saints Offenses

Jets (both at home):

Points TD Turnovers Pass Yards Run Yards Passer Rating
Colts 30 4 1 360 101 123.6
Saints 10 1 1 190 153 78.9

Dolphins (both on road):

Points TD Turnovers Pass Yards Run Yards Passer Rating
Colts 27 3 0 295 61 133.9
Saints 32 4 4 276 138 58.9

Patriots (both at home):

Points TD Turnovers Pass Yards Run Yards Passer Rating
Colts 35 5 2 316 91 97.4
Saints 38 5 1 367 122 158.3

Cardinals (Colts on road, Saints at home):

Points TD Turnovers Pass Yards Run Yards Passer Rating
Colts 31 4 1 379 126 130.5
Saints 38 5 0 247 171 125.4

Rams (both on road):

Points TD Turnovers Pass Yards Run Yards Passer Rating
Colts 35 5 0 235 156 116.7
Saints 21 3 3 217 203 89.1

Observations:

  • This is a good sampling of games.  Four of the five teams were at least .500 on the season.  Each team faced one of these teams as a playoff game, and four of the five games were played with identical home/road splits.  This is as meaningful a comparison set as we could hope for from an interconference matchup.
  • Indy scored 30 in 4 of 5 games.  They only didn’t score 30 against the Dolphins, but that might have been the best offensive game of the year by any team.  The Saints hit 38 points twice, but had very poor games against the Jets and Rams.
  • Manning out played Brees against four of the five opponents, but the Colts outscored the Saints in just two of the five matchups. Defensive and Special Teams touchdowns have been deducted.
  • The Saints run offense is tremendous, out gaining the Colts in all five games by a minimum of 31 yards, usually out rushing the Colts by nearly 50 yards a game.
  • I was surprised by Brees’s relative lack of production and discovered that he had 15 of his league high 34 TD passes in just three games (6 against Det, 5 against NE, 4 against NYG).  In his other 13 games, he threw 19 TDs.

Conclusion:

The Saints and Colts both feature excellent offenses.  Manning had an edge on Brees more often than not, but the Saints more than made up for it with a potent run game. The X factor is clearly turnovers.  The Saints turned it over 9 times in these five games, and the Colts just 4.  Frankly, I find these numbers encouraging.  It’s easy to think of the Saints as an unstoppable offense, but they have been stopped.  The Colts are less flashy, and perhaps less complete, but at least against these opponents, they were just as effective.

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