by Kent Sterling
The first seven or eight times, I found the statistical evaluations of the 2012 Colts season to be interesting and entertaining. As a team with a -30 point differential, it seems a mathematical anomaly to win 11 games in a 16 game season as the Colts did in 2012. True enough.
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The Colts ranked near the bottom of the NFL in the most important statistic in football – turnover ratio.
And they won nine of ten games decided by seven of less points.
You would think the Colts solved the riddle of the Sphinx in earning a berth in the playoffs after reading the slide rule set’s evaluations.
The statisticians are saying what statisticians always say – that eventually performance and results will reflect one another, and that the Colts will revert to the norm (which would have been a 7.2-8.8 record.
That would be true if the Colts were a coin, and we were flipping it over and over again, but that’s not the way football works. Grown men hit each other, execute a plan, and try to move the ball up and down the field, while preventing their opponents from doing the same. That’s football.
Statistics do not transfer from one season the next any more than they do from one team to the next. By the time the Colts take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium against the Oakland Raiders, they will likely have 20 players who were not on the roster last year, plus the non-rookie version of Andrew Luck, who appears to be the kind of once per generation talent he was projected to be as the top overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft.
And what about Luck’s stats – he led the NFL in being hit an astonishing 122 times, according to Bill Barnwell at grantland.com. Aaron Rodgers was second with only 93. That is an enormous chasm. That kind of battering can’t be allowed to continue, but with Luck a season smarter, an offensive line reinforced through the acquisition of right tackle Gosder Cherilous, and a quicker tempo passing game designed by new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, Luck should be able to stay clean more often.
The signing of running back Ahmad Bradshaw should make the rushing offense more productive, if he’s healthy for long stretches, which will also help Luck in every area he was lacking last year.
Not only did Luck throw 18 picks last year, he led the NFL in dropped interceptions with 14, according to another cool piece by footballoutsiders.com that examines adjusted interceptions (accounting for drops, hail mary picks, etc…). Next on the list was Brandon Weeden with 10.
My projection for the Colts is more along the lines of looking at the 11-5 with such a bunch of garbage stats. With a reversal in every area prompted by the rookie to second year improvement of Luck and the addition of upgrades among free agents and draftees, the Colts can expect to show significantly better in the standings.
There were some forces at work in 2012 that led the Colts to a nine-game improvement over 2011, but the most important was the ability in late game situations for Luck to find a way to put points on the board. The seven fourth quarter comebacks weren’t magic – they were the result of a kid with extraordinary talent, intellect, leadership, and will to overcome adversity by calming his mind while others lost theirs.
That is a skill that defies Venn Diagrams, Pythagorean Theory, and logic. Luck has it in spades, and he will show the actuaries poking holes in both Luck and the Colts that statistics make for fun blogs, but have nothing to do with predictive results of a team led by Andrew Luck.
Barnwell picks the Colts to finish the 2013 campaign 8-8. That’s a solid logical number, but barring an injury to Luck (which would be catastrophic despite adding Matt Hasselbeck as Luck’s backup), the Colts will win 10 at worst, and as many as 13.