Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Which NFL Team is the Best?

At this point in the NFL season, when teams have played five or six games, we get a sense of how the season is shaping up.

There are numerous rankings of the best NFL teams. ESPN, for example has its Power Rankings which place the Colts at the top of the league. I don’t think too many people would argue that the Colts are the class of the league right now, but there are fans of the Broncos, Bengals, Bucs, and even the Steelers who could probably make an argument without sounding loony.

So, how do the Redskins stack up against the Colts?

Colts Offense:
The powerhouse Colts are 10th in the NFL in offense based on the standard used by the NFL—yards per game. They gain 339.8 yards per game.

The Commander of their offense is Peyton Manning, whom many consider the best quarterback in the league. Manning’s QB rating is 96.1. He has 118 completions in177 attempts with 1314 yards, 9 TDs and 4 INTs.

Manning’s main target is Marvin Harrison who has caught 30 passes for 333 yards (10.9 avg) and 4 TDs.

The Colts running back is Edgerrin James, who leads the AFC in rushing with 662 yards in 142 attempts with a 4.7 average and 5 TDs.

Redskins Offense:
The Redskins are 6th in the NFL at 373.2 yards per game. That is not a typo. The Redskins gain 33.4 more yards per game than the Colts.

Mark Brunell’s rating is 91.5. He is 103 for 178 with 1240 yards, 9 TDs and 2 INTs. That is correct; Brunell has as many TDs as Manning with half the picks.

Brunell’s main target is Santana Moss who has caught 33 passes for 631 yards (19.1 avg) and 4 TDs. So, Moss is having far and away a better year at wide receiver than Harrison; he almost laps Harrison in yards per catch.

The Redskins hand the ball off to Clinton Portis who has 443 yards on 104 carries and a 4.3 average with no TDs. Edge goes to James, but overall the Redskins use more running backs and gain 127 yards per game on the ground; the colts only gain 123.2 rushing yards per game.

The Colts are 11th in the league and give up 300.5 yards per game.

The Redskins are 5th in the league and give up 280.4.

So, overall the difference between the Colts and the Redskins is not that great. In fact, one might wonder whether the Colts are better than the Redskins given that the Redskins stats are mostly better than the Colts. So what is the difference?

For starters, the Colts score 25.2 points per game and the Redskins only score 16.6. The Colts defense gives up 9.5 points per game and the Redskins give up 17.2. Basically, the Colts travel 13.6 yards for every point they score, but the Redskins have to travel 21.7 yards per point. That difference might not sound like much, but it is. The Redskins have to work 60% harder than the Colts for every point they score.

The reason for the extra work is the Redskins’ defense's inability to get turnovers and shorten the field for the offense. The Colts have 14 takeaways in 6 games for a 2.33 per game average; the Redskins only have 2 takeaways for a 0.4 average.

The Colts defense makes their opponents travel 31.6 yards per point. The Redskins defense makes their opponent travel 16.3 yards per point, so it’s twice as hard to score on the Colts. Takeaways make most of the difference here too because the opponent’s yards are wasted when they turn over the ball.

The Redskins are -8 in turnovers and the colts are +8. The Redskins could be better than the Colts if they could find a way to get the ball.


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