Friday Beer Run: San Diego at Indianapolis

Cold, Hard Football Facts for Jan 10, 2008



We break down each divisional match-up with the vigor of a world-class keg-stand champion, using our Quality Stats to determine who really has those little advantages that help win football games in January and February.
 
We went 3-1 straight up and vs. the spread in the wild-card round.
 
Also see:
 
 
 
 
SUNDAY, 1 p.m. EST
SAN DIEGO at INDIANAPOLIS
Teams
12-5
Overall Record (incl. playoffs)
13-3
3-3
4-3
-2.7 PPG
Quality Point Differential (incl. playoffs)
+4.9 PPG
+8.6 (4)
+13.1 (2)
18.04 YPPA (1)
17.08 YPPA (5)
12.24 YPPS (2)
12.75 YPPS (3)
12.33 (10t)
9.33 (5)
10.67 (5t)
16.33 (16t)
6.07 (16)
7.03 (4)
70.0 (1)
73.3 (3)
+29 (1)
+8 (9)
7.8 (2)
23.4 (31)
+8.5
Line
-8.5
45.5
Over/Under
45.5
* Indexes reflect regular-season finishes only. 
 
Vs. Quality Opponents
The Chargers are the only AFC playoff team witha negative scoring differential vs. Quality Teams (-2.7 PPG), and are 3-3 vs. Quality Opponents on the year (including last week's win over the Titans). The Colts are 4-3 (4-2 if you don't count their give-up home loss to Tennessee), with a +4.9 PPG edge on Quality Opponents.
 
Advantage: Edge to Indianapolis
 
Relativity
This stat measures how well each team plays relative to the average performance of their opponents. Indianapolis was the only team besides New England in double digits, clocking in at +13.3 PPG better than average. But San Diego was slouch, clocking in at No. 4 (+8.6 PPG).
 
Advantage: Edge to Indianapolis
 
Indy's offense vs. San Diego's defense
Indy's offense is a perennial powerhouse, and 2007 was no different. The Colts rank No. 5 in Offensive Hogs, No. 4 in Passing Yards Per Attempt and No. 3 in Scoreability. However, the Indy offense is equaled by the surprisingly strong performance of the San Diego defense, which stands No.1 in Defensive Passer Rating, No. 1 Bendability and No. 5 on the Defensive Hog Index.
 
Advantage: Even
 
San Diego's offense vs. Indy's defense: 
The Charger offense took a step back from 2006, but is still solid: No. 2 in Scoreability, No. 10 in the Offensive Hogs and No. 16 in Passing Yards Per Attempt. On the other side of the ball, the Colts counter with a team that ranked No. 5 in Bendability, No. 16 in the Defensive Hogs and No. 3 in Defensive Passer Rating. The sole mismatch there goes in favor of Indy's pass defense.
 
Advantage: Slight edge to Indianapolis
 
Special teams
This is a big mismatch, one that was illustrated vividly in the teams' regular-season meeting, a 23-21 San Diego victory: Indy's Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal while San Diegos' Darren Sproles returned two kicks for scores. Indianapolis finished tied for last on our Special Teams Index, and the Colts are pretty much bad across the board. The Chargers were second overall, great across the board, and  exceptional in field-goal kicking, the punting game and the return game. Of course, San Diego kicker Nick Kaeding has shown a penchant for whiffing on big postseason kicks. Indy's kicker is the best ever when it matters most.
 
Advantage: Big edge to San Diego (tempered by the intangibles of clutchness)
 
Big Plays
With the exception of the Charger game, where Indy allowed eight Big Plays, the Colts were one of the stingiest teams against Big Plays this year (34 allowed, tied for third). But the Colts didn't make many Big Plays of their own, either (42, lowest of any remaining playoff team). San Diego allowed their share (40), but made a league-best 69 Big Plays (eight more than No. 2 Minnesota) and finished +29 on the Big Play Index (tops in the NFL) to Indy's +8 (ninth).
 
Advantage: Big edge to San Diego
 
Significant injuries
San Diego suffered a huge loss with the toe injury to TE Antonio Gates that is likely to keep him out of this game. Even though Indy's Cover 2 has been death to tight ends this year, his presence still requires extra attention that can now be dispersed elsewhere. Gates led the Chargers in catches, receiving yards and TDs and replacing his production will require some creative coaching. The leg injury to K Nate Kaeding is also a concern, as he missed a 45-yard field goal last week and relinquished kickoff duties to backup Dave Rayner. FB Lorenzo Neal could return after a month-plus absence with injury.
 
Indianapolis persevered despite injury in the regular season, and according to their official injury report are all healthy for this week's game. WR Marvin Harrison is expected to play for the first time since Week 7.
 
Advantage: Big edge to Indianapolis
 
Weather
According to the Weather Channel, the game will be in a dome and should be quite nice unless the home team decides to jack up the heat and the crowd noise.
 
What does a monkey think? 
Our beloved Bonzo the Idiot Monkey was a prognosticating genius this regular season, using his patented coin-flip method to beat the experts from CBS Sports.com and finish at 146-109 overall. He went just 1-3 last week in the wild-card round, but remains confident, in an inscrutable simian kind of way.
Bonzo's coin likes ... Indianapolis (-8.5)
 
Summary
The line of 8.5 points seems excessive, based on Indy's lack of explosion, San Diego's second-half surge and the fact that the Colts won only two of their seven Quality games by more than a touchdown. Indy's defense has an obvious edge on the Chargers offense, but San Diego's special teams advantage and unmatched Big Play ability more than make up for that. Were it not for the loss of Gates, the numbers were pointing to San Diego as a marginal upset selection. But without Gates, and on the road, the Chargers just aren't quite there.  
 
The final score: Indianapolis 20, San Diego 17

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