Discussion

Don't bet on a Colts decline

The math says Indy's in trouble, but maybe this is a different case

Originally Published: June 13, 2013
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider

Ask people who have coached Andrew Luck about his rookie season, and the responses are curiously lacking anything that resembles, "See, I told you he was good."

Maybe it's hard to gloat when they promised he'd be great, but they tend to ignore little things like setting the NFL rookie record for passing yards, 300-yard games, wins by a No. 1 pick, game-winning drives and fourth-quarter comebacks. Instead they focus on how Luck might just be about to really figure this whole NFL thing out. As one current Stanford coach told me this week, "It sounds weird, but I don't think it's a case where you say, 'He's going to get better.' He can do it all. It's really that he's actually going to get comfortable."

But if this makes Indy fans comfortable, they should be warned: the 2013 Colts might as well be wearing name tags labeled, "Just watch us regress!" The NFL is a small sample size construct, built for weird things to happen, but plenty of math is working against these Colts.

Start with history. Since the AFL-NFL merger, just 12 teams in 43 years have had a win spike of eight or more games from one year to the next; Indy jumped by nine wins from 2011 to 2012. I'll spare you the big chart and sum it up:

Average number of wins by teams that improved by 8-plus wins: 11.6
Average number of wins by those teams in the following season: 8.6

Teams that had a spike like the Colts win, on average, three fewer games the following season, a cool 19 percent dip. Just two of 12 maintained a win total or improved. It's no promise of ineptitude, it's just that huge win spikes often come with curious numbers. For instance, the 2012 Colts were outscored by 30 points while going 11-5, so their Pythagorean record is more like 7-9. And based on weighted DVOA, they were 25th, or more like a 6-10 team. The defense was awful, and so was the blocking. So it was no surprise to see the first 2013 NFL win totals peg Indy at 8.

Add it up, and the 2013 Colts aren't a team you'd typically peg for a repeat performance. But there are other reasons these Colts might be capable of bucking the trend.

Call it a combination of luck ... and Luck.

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