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Week 5 Patriots vs Colts advanced stats: New England faces a successful red zone team tonight

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A look at the stats before tonight’s meeting between the Patriots and Colts.

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The New England Patriots will host the Indianapolis Colts later today in a much anticipated primetime matchup. The rivalry between the two clubs – at least according to Colts general manager Chris Ballard – is back on after all, which makes for plenty of intrigue leading up to the game. Whether or not the actual product on the field will be more competitive than it has been ever since Andrew Luck became Indianapolis’ quarterback remains to be seen, though.

But before going too deep into the projection business, let’s take a look at some of the advanced stats heading into the game (courtesy of SB Nation’s Bill Connelly; for his methodology please click here).

Patriots offense vs Colts defense

Normal down and distance in the open field

The Patriots offense has been inconsistent between its own 10 and the opponent’s 30-yard line so far this season, but has typically been able to put itself into favorable third down situations when compared to the rest of the league. Indianapolis’ defense, on the other hand, has been pretty mediocre in almost all open field statistics. Standard down success rate – teams need to gain 50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, or 100 percent on third or fourth down for a play to count as successful – is the outlier, as the Colts have struggled to keep opponents from gaining significant yardage compared to down and distance.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

While inconsistent in the open field, the Patriots offense actually has been one of the most successful units in the NFL when it comes to getting drives started while being backed up inside its 10-yard line. An interception in week one hurts the turnover rate but in general New England usually has been effective playing deep in its own territory. Indianapolis’ defense, on the other hand, has again been mediocre even when finding itself in good field position.

Red Zone

Even though New England’s offense scored on all 12 of its red zone trips so far this season – eight touchdowns and four field goals –, the unit has had some issues in terms of efficiency. As a result, seven of the Patriots’ red zone scores came in either third or fourth down situations. Interestingly enough, the Colts defense has been solid in this area: especially between the 11 and 20 and near the goal line Indianapolis has been able to limit the offensive impact.

Third Downs

The Patriots’ offensive success on third down tells an interesting story. While the team is among the NFL’s best in converting third-and-longs with more than seven yards needed to gain, it has struggled in medium and short-range situations. Indianapolis’ defense, meanwhile, has been below average on third down with the only noticeable outlier coming on third-and-medium (between two and six yards out).

Blitz Situations

When finding itself in blitz situations – obvious passing downs specified as first-and-18 or more, second-and-14 or more, and third-and-3 or more –, the Patriots offense has been pretty successful. However, the same goes for the Colts defense: Indianapolis’ sack rate and big-play percentage are among the best in the NFL. While teams have been able to move the football on long-distance passing downs, the team has limited its impact in part due to a productive pass rush.

Patriots defense vs Colts offense

Normal down and distance in the open field

Even though New England usually employs a bend-but-don’t-break approach when it comes to playing defense, the unit has been quite effective between the opponent’s 10 and its own 30 through the first quarter of the season. Only the standard down success rate and third down success rate have been below average. And while the former should not pose a problem against the Colts offense – especially without T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron –, the latter very well could: Indianapolis has converted half of its open field third downs.

Backed Up Situations Near the Goal Line

The battle between the Patriots defense and Colts offense projects to be an interesting one when Indianapolis’ unit is backed up: while New England has been successful in such situations, head coach Frank Reich’s team has not. This is something that the Patriots could try to take advantage of today by playing aggressive when in favorable defensive field position. It would not be a surprise to see the team use blitz packages against an up-and-down offensive line when it finds itself inside its own 10-yard line.

Red Zone

New England faces a rather successful red area team tonight. The Colts offense has been above average in all categories except goal line success and did not once turn the football over inside an opponent’s 30-yard line. The Patriots defense, meanwhile, has had its ups and downs in such situations.

Third Downs

While New England’s defense has been able to create favorable third downs through the first quarter of the season, it oftentimes failed to take advantage: the team ranks below the average in all three efficiency categories. Meanwhile, the Colts offense has been the class of the NFL when it comes to converting third downs. Overall, the team gained a new set of downs on 32 of its 62 attempts this season – 51.6% and best in the league. This certainly is an area in which the Patriots need to show improvement tonight to limit Andrew Luck’s chances and simultaneously giving Tom Brady additional time on the field.

Blitz Situations

Even though Andrew Luck missed all of 2017 due to a shoulder injury, he has been a pretty good quarterback so far this year. The Colts’ success in obvious passing situations reflects this. The question entering tonight’s game, however, is how much it could suffer due to the aforementioned absences of T.Y. Hilton and Eric Ebron, two of Indianapolis’ core offensive skill position players. With the duo unavailable, the Patriots could be in a position to improve their rather mediocre statistics when it comes to defending clear pass plays.


As can be seen above, the Patriots and the Colts have their areas of strength – and they primarily lie on offense. Consequently, it could very well be defense that decides tonight’s game one way or another. And considering that Indianapolis’ will be short-handed due to to the injuries to two of its most prolific players, New England appears might have an advantage heading into the contest.