So, apparently it has been requested that John and I opine on Pats-Colts, we appreciate Byron's curiousity and respect for our thoughts, though we have our doubts to his actual motives (ie, to throw it in our face how WRONG we were after the game). To opine, John and I will attempt a dueling post/thread, with me initiating the conversation (as such), to which John will respond in kind.
Ryan: I'll start off pretty generic here, the Pats are GOOD. Like, really good. There has not been an 8 run game like the one they've been on ever seen in the NFL, pre or post Free Agency. The Patriots closest game was a 34-17 walk over the Browns, and as FO says, championship teams can best be judged not by their play against equal competition, but by how handily they defeat weaker opponents. Using this idea, the Patriots are good. Indy has "had trouble" (won by less that 7 pts) twice, 22-20 over the Titans and 30-24 over the Texans. Along with that, for the first half of last week's game against the middling (sigh) Panthers, the Colts looked very beatable. John, does Indy have a prayer?
John: Of course Indianapolis has a chance; you can't say that a team that's 7-0 and has the second-highest DVOA this season in the NFL (and pretty high up there all-time, although FO decided to pull that from their efficiency ratings, for some reason) doesn't have a chance. The difference in DVOAs this season between New England and Indianapolis is about 13%. That's roughly the same as, say, Seattle and Cleveland, or Cleveland and Detroit. Couldn't you see either of those games going the other way? Certainly. Keep in mind, this is with the Patriots running up the score on certain Sundays, so had they not been doing so (or had the Colts been doing that to their opponents), the DVOAs would be closer. Ryan, how much advantage does being in the dome give Indianapolis this Sunday?
Edit: Lets not forget the law of averages John. There are a lot of teams hovering around the middle of the pack like the Browns and Seahawks, who just get pulled up and down by playing teams of equal strength each week. Its much harder (disproportionately so) to dominate the league and be 15% higher in DVOA over the next competitor, who themselves are 20% ahead of the next guy, playing all those average teams weighs you down.
Vegas: [to be read in a computer voice] The Colts get a 3 or 3.5 point advantage from playing at home.
Ryan: Hey! How'd he get in here? The Colts, uh, get about 3 points... Well, special teams wise, the Patriots have got to like that Gostkowski gets to kick inside instead of at a potentially wet and 45 degree Gilette. I feel like that bonus helps him more (since he needs more help to begin with) than it does Vinatieri. Offensively the turf doesn't help the Colts that much. The Patriots now have an equally high powered offense and fast recievers, and the Colts offense has recently become equal parts power and speed (Since '04 the Colts OL has gone from 5th to 15th on outside runs and 6th to 3rd on runs between the tackles). Defensively the Colts do rely on speed, so it should help them to play at home. In the end its about an average boost, its nice to play for the home fans, and sleep in your own bed, but this Colts team doesn't rely on the turf to make its offense go like it once did. That said, it will be fascinating to see who will win the matchup of Colts balanced offensive attack and Patriots defensive scheming. Who's got the edge there John?
John: Well, the Colts offense has DVOA ratings of 54.9 (Passing, 2nd in NFL) and 31.0 (Rushing, 1st in NFL) this season. Conversely, the Patriots have defensive DVOAs of -22.5 (Passing, 2nd in NFL) and -8.2 (Rushing, 9th in NFL) this season. Given these numbers, I think the Colts will go to Addai early and often, while Peyton is certainly good enough to move the chains when Dungy needs him to and to keep the Patriots honest. Addai has been the best running back in the NFL this season, and he should continue to show this dominance against the Patriots' front line. And to give credit where credit is due, the Indianapolis offensive line has been the best in the NFL this season both in run blocking and pass protection, to debunk any naysayers who think the stats might be unfairly inflated. The Patriots' defensive line is only ranked 18th against the run, so check out those stats if you want to see exactly what the Patriots have done against the run (when they've had to face the run, that is). Ryan, the flip side of this is obviously: How will the Patriots fare when they have the ball?
Naysayer: Nay, Nay, Nay.
Ryan: How do all these people keep getting in? Byron, did you leave the door unlocked again? Um, John just lobbed me a soft one, nice high arch. The Patriots will score points. Last week the Patriots played FO's #1 ranked defense (per DVOA), and they put up 52 points, now the Redskins are the 5th ranked defense. The Patriots will score lots of points. Last year, the Patriots put up 34 on Indy in the playoffs, with Gaffney, Caldwell, and Brown playing WR. They're much much better this year. The Colts really don't have the corners to cover all three of the Patriots recievers simultaneously. And despite what Tony Kornheiser says, Bob Sanders is not Chuck Norris. As long as the Patriots have watched their game film, and know that the best way to run on the Colts speed defense is up the middle, and don't forget to throw plenty of jump balls to Randy Moss, they'll be ok. The true question here is not if the Pats will score, but if the Colts will be able to keep up. So, John, can we have a prediction (score included)?
John: I'll take the Patriots, 35-21.
Ryan: Sounds feasible, though I think it will be a little more high scoring than that. I'll go with Patriots 41, Colts 28.