Browns-Colts: Number Crunch

Want something different from the usual Cleveland Browns game preview? We'll crunch some heavy-duty numbers for ya. Doug Farrar of FootballOutsiders brings some intense stats to bear on the upcoming game...

Welcome to the first installment of DVOA Matchup for the Orange and Brown Report. A guy I remember as "Art Bietz", although he calls himself something different now, asked that I bring some Football Outsiders stats to the OBR, and as a longtime reader, I'm happy to do so. Before we get started with this week's Cleveland Browns numbers, let me explain the FO stats we'll be using.

Our two primary measurements of team efficiency are DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average and DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement). You can find the full explanations for both stats on FootballOutsiders.com, but here's a thumbnail version: DVOA is a per-play metric, taken from a player's value over or under a league average based on every play of a season. DYAR calculates a player's overall value over a hypothetical replacement player (yes, it's the football version of VORP) and translates that into yardage. DVOA is per-play; DVOA is cumulative. We'll be using other FO stats as time goes along, and I'll explain them at that time.

For now, let's get to the Sunday's Browns/Colts matchup, and see what the numbers tell us.

TEAM

TOTAL
DVOA

RANK

LAST
WEEK

OFFENSE
DVOA

OFF.
RANK

DEFENSE
DVOA

DEF.
RANK

S.T.
DVOA

S.T.
RANK

CLE

-12.8%

25

23

-7.3%

25

11.2%

20

5.7%

3

IND

10.8%

12

10

18.0%

7

6.7%

17

-0.5%

21


Of course, the last that many Browns fans heard of the Colts, Tony Dungy's team was resting its starters in the 2007 regular season finale, losing to the Titans and blocking Cleveland from the postseason. Since then, both teams have found success to be a difficult taskmaster. The Colts have struggled with several injuries and seem to be able to win only through miracle comebacks or nail-biters. They have won four straight games by a total of 16 points. Indy's 7-4 record is a testament to Peyton Manning, though the Colts' leader will find it tough going without center Jeff Saturday, who's expected to miss at least three weeks with a strained calf.

Cleveland defense vs. Indianapolis offense

TEAM

OFFENSE
DVOA

RANK

LAST WEEK

PASS
OFFENSE

PASS
RANK

RUSH
OFFENSE

RUSH
RANK

IND

18.0%

7

4

31.1%

5

-1.9%

20

TEAM

DEFENSE
DVOA

RANK

LAST

WEEK

PASS
DEFENSE

PASS
RANK

RUSH
DEFENSE

RUSH
RANK

CLE

11.2%

20

24

20.5%

23

3.3%

19

Rookie Jamey Richard took Saturday's place early on against the Chargers last Sunday, and defensive tackle Jamal Williams just manhandled him. Williams is a great player, but he's not been in Shaun Rogers' league this year (perhaps only Kris Jenkins and Albert Haynesworth have been), so that's a matchup to watch. Manning and safety Bob Sanders (who might also miss the game) are the Colts'most valuable players, but Saturday isn't close behind. Rogers can disrupt without help, which is good, since he certainly doesn't get much rom this fellow defenders. When the Browns show a four-man front, opposing offensive lines seem to find it easier to wall Rogers off to one side with a double-team and run or pass the other way. When he's the nose in a 3-4, he's nearly impossible to stop, and that's probably the best way for him to face Richard, who had to deal with Williams in a 3-4.

Indy's running game and Cleveland's run defense basically rub each other out,and the real question is how much Manning will be allowed to carve up the Cleveland secondary. The first thing to note, and you won't find It hard to spotif you've seen the Colts this year, is that Marvin Harrison simply isn't what he used to be. Manning's main targets are receivers Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, as well as "tight end" Dallas Clark, who's basically a slot receiver with a fullback's jersey number. The Colts will want to try and get the Browns in nickel sets and force extra defensive backs on the field; everyone knows that the further back you go with the Cleveland defense, the worse it gets.

NAME

DVOA

RANK

DYAR

RANK

Reggie Wayne

19.1%

14

246

6

Anthony Gonzalez

28.1%

3

206

9

Dallas Clark

6.4%

29

109

30

Marvin Harrison

-15.0%

66

-19

66


Cleveland defensive DVOA vs. receivers

TEAM

vs. #1 WR (Rank)

vs. #2 WR (Rank)

vs. Other WR (Rank)

vs. TE

(Rank)

vs. RB (Rank)

CLE

10.4%

23

40.9%

28

-23.0%

9

2.5%

16

-22.1%

3

Cleveland offense vs. Indianapolis defense

TEAM

OFFENSE
DVOA

RANK

LAST

WEEK

PASS
OFFENSE

PASS
RANK

RUSH
OFFENSE

RUSH
RANK

CLE

-7.3%

25

22

-13.3%

26

-0.6%

18

 

TEAM

DEFENSE
DVOA

RANK

LAST

WEEK

PASS
DEFENSE

PASS
RANK

RUSH
DEFENSE

RUSH
RANK

 

IND

6.7%

17

17

8.9%

15

4.7%

21

 

 

It was interesting this week to hear Romeo Crennel say that Brady Quinn will be the starter in 2009. Of course, if the rumors are true and the Browns don't finish with a flourish, RAC will have about as much input in the Browns' future quarterback situation as Slash had in the making of Chinese Democracy.What we saw against the Texans last week were the two primary quarterbacks,Quinn and Derek Anderson, scuttled by their own inefficiency, not to mention a truly horrible performance by Braylon Edwards.

As I detailed here at the OBR earlier this week, Edwards' five catches against Houston were completely eclipsed by the 11 balls that were thrown in his direction that wound up incomplete or intercepted. Edwards is one of nine receivers in the NFL who have had more than 100 passes thrown their way through the end of Week 12, and his 40% Catch Rate is by far the worst among them. That's one reason his DYAR of -71 is 74th in the NFL, right down there with world-beaters like Marty Booker and Ashley Lelie.

Indianapolis defensive DVOA vs. receivers

TEAM

vs. #1 WR (Rank)

vs. #2 WR (Rank)

vs. Other WR (Rank)

vs. TE

(Rank)

vs. RB (Rank)

IND

13.4%

10

-2.3%

13

4.3%

18

-12.9%

9

8.6%

18

Where the Browns have an advantage is against the Colts' run defense, especially if Sanders can't go. Dungy told the Indianapolis Star on Friday that he doesn't believe his strong safety will be able to play, which would be very good news for Jamal Lewis and Jerome Harrison. Harrison especially seems worthy of more carries – we tend to use DVOA more with players who have had fewer opportunities since it reflects per-play. Among running backs with less than 75 carriers this season, only Felix Jones of the Cowboys has a higher DVOA than Harrison's 70.5%. A little thunder and lightning would do the Browns good,considering the aerial issues the team is currently undergoing.

How will the game go?

Three things can secure a win for the Browns: a dominant performance from Shaun Rogers, an effective and versatile running game, and something we haven't talked about yet – special teams. Super-stud Josh Cribbs may be the best thing about the Browns that isn't named Shaun Rogers or Joe Thomas, and the Colts rank 21st in Special Teams DVOA. According to the FO Drive Stats, the Colts rank first in starting defensive field position, but 29th on yards allowed per drive. If Cribbs can split the difference with his returns and keep the Colts honest with a few of those "Flash" packages under center, there's a chance.

The primary problem the Browns face is holding Manning and his weapons back without an NFL-caliber secondary. That's where Rogers comes in (by creating havoc up the middle), and where the running game could make a huge difference. The best defense for the Browns is to keep it out of their defense's hands, and the Lewis/Harrison combo can do that if the play-callers get them the ball.


Doug Farrar is a Staff Writer for Football Outsiders, a Panelist for the Washington Post, and a contributor to the Seattle Times and Scout.com. Feel free to e-mail him here.


The OBR Top Stories