Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Train is Leaving the Station

The Peyton Manning for MVP Express is just getting revved up. Today we had the first serious mention of Manning as an MVP candidate. I realize that it was just Peter King and not a serious journalist, but still. We'll take what we can get.

For those who missed my comment yesterday, Manning's slate of pass defenses is about to get incredibly attractive. He has a very real shot at 30-35 TD passes the rest of the year. Should the Colts go 6-1 and get to 11 wins, Manning will have to be seen as a front runner for the MVP award. To get to 30, he'll have to throw just over 2 a game.

This may seem a little far fetched given the offensive struggles this year, but now that the toughest games on the Colts schedule are behind them, the odds of Manning throwing together a very credible statistical season seem strong. The media is funny about these things. They'll start talking about rhythm and timing and healing, and some of those will be factors. The main reason the Colts offense will 'get better' will be that they aren't playing as good of defenses. Manning may not actually play any better from here on out, but it'll look like he is. Ultimately, if the Colts make the playoffs with 11 wins (or more?), it will be hard for voters to look off a QB who lead some daunting comebacks and has a Hall of Fame pedigree.

Don't misunderstand me, I think the Colts are improving on offense. But I think the results will appear out of line with the actual improvement. Indy will probably have several 30+ games the rest of the year, making it appear as if they've hit some new plane of being. In reality, the improvement will be slight but magnified by a string of really weak teams.

The key to true elevation of the offense isn't the run game. I think that will happen naturally as Addai gets healthy and the line continues to gel (which it has shown signs of doing). The real key will be Harrison. He will have to either start making plays or be deemphasized in the offense. Demond and I have been debating Marvin for two days. Here's how his FO stats look compared to the other Colts WRs (through 8 weeks):





VOAPassesYardsEydsTDsCatch Rate

This chart shows a couple of things. First, all the Colts have seen slight drops in production over previous years. It also shows that Harrison has been horrible. He's gotten 10 more passes than AG, but Gonzalez has more catches and yards. I know that it has appeared like Peyton has missed Harrison on some deep balls, but his number are so much worse than the other two WRs that it is impossible to place all the blame on Manning. Harrison may be getting open deep, but he's not getting open short. Marvin has been the weak link. If he indeed is just 'out of sync' with Manning, fine. That had better show up fast. He's drawing a lot of passes from Peyton and simply not catching them. His catch rate is 14% worse than Wayne's, and an amazing 24% worse than Anthony Gonzalez's. This is astounding because AG has dropped at least 5 significant passes this year. AG gets open. Marvin doesn't. He's always had catch rates in the middle to high 60s or better. This was even during seasons when his #2 was Jerome Pathon, and he was double and triple teamed on every play. I hate to say it...but he's seriously not ok. It can't be all Manning's fault. It can't be MOSTLY Manning's fault. The other guys are posting solid numbers. Marvin isn't. Same QB. Same line. Different results.

In other news, Jack Del Rio is hilarious. He acts the fool right before his team plays one of the worst clubs in history, and then uses the win to justify himself. Classic.

FO looks at the divisions by DVOA

Demond Sanders: I disagree with your take. I think Joseph Addai's play is a bigger problem right through 9 games than Marvin. Harrison has struggled, but he is one of four playmakers through the air (Wayne, Harrison, Clark, Gonzalez). The Colts aren't struggling on offense because of him, and I think he has already been deemphasized to a degree. I think Addai's lack of production has had a much greater impact. He's already missed nearly three full games with an injury. In the games he has played he has looked less capable than his older, less talented backup, Dom Rhodes.

I think both Marvin and Joe will improve as the season goes on. There is no way 18 and 88 will continue to miss on deep balls. I promise you that. But the offense will improve even if that classic connection does not. The run game is the bigger problem, and as you say it will get better as the line gels. This will also help Marvin because DBs will have to be more aware of what is going on in the backfield. At Addai's current production (3.1 yards per rush) safeties and corners don't have to give a second thought to helping out against the run.

Besides if you are blaming Addai's play on injury and the line, can't the same be said for Marvin? He's coming back from a major injury and Peyton's timing on deep routes is clearly being effected by the O-line. It is getting better and I expect a breakout game from those two on Sunday.

DZ Responds:
Marvin has played under all the same conditions as Wayne and Gonzo. He has played dramatically worse. Addai and Rhodes have NOT played under all the same conditions (the line was much, much worse earlier in the year). Even still, their performance has been nearly identical. The Colts lost two games that Addai didn't even play, so it's hard to argue that Dom provided some kind of boost to the offense. Marvin was the intended target of 57 passes. He caught less than half of them. That's about thirty times he produced no gain on a play. Add in the back breaking fumble week one, and it's really not even an argument as to who has played worse.

Addai has been essentally at replacement level this year. So has Dom. Marvin has been WAY below it. He is hurting the team right now. He has to get better.

LINK: FO says DZ is right.
The linked to article on the game is great too
The Colts are leaping up in DVOA. Even the D is above average for the year. They've played the 2nd hardest schedule, but have the 3rd easiest the rest of the way.

Demond Sanders: You have quoted FO non-stop to support your argument, but there's always more to it than stats can tell us. Here is FO's conclusion, "Until Harrison can start making more big plays, the Colts will not recapture their traditional dominant form. Given his age, we might safely say that the Colts offense will not recapture its dominant form this season." Well, the Colts rarely blow out good defensive teams and that's mostly who they've been playing. They make their hay against the Houstons and Detroits (see 2004). I think the Colts are about to go on the offensive and Marvin will be a big part of it. My wife can't believe we spent several hours debating this, but it happened. We'll have to agree to disagree. Here is a transcript of our final jabs:

Deshawn Zombie (6:59:44 PM): why are Marvin's numbers so much worse than the other WRs?
Demond Sanders (7:00:22 PM): he's 36 and coming off an injury and playing against great Ds
Deshawn Zombie (7:00:35 PM): so he sucks
Demond Sanders (7:00:44 PM): is that what i wrote?
Deshawn Zombie (7:01:31 PM): I'm saying he's not playing well because he was hurt and old. You are saying he's not playing well because he's hurt and old
Deshawn Zombie(7:01:34 PM): what's the difference
Demond Sanders (7:01:43 PM): you think he is done
Demond Sanders(7:01:44 PM): i don't
Demond Sanders (7:01:49 PM): i guess that would be it
Deshawn Zombie (7:02:05 PM): I think the evidence shows he's done, and he's going to have to play a ton better to convince me otherwise
Deshawn Zombie (7:02:57 PM): I'm saying I have no reason to believe he can be a good #2 in the league
Deshawn Zombie(7:03:03 PM): nothing he's done indicates that


Shake'n'bake said...

The Colts offense has faced all 4 of the top defenses (PIT, BAL, TEN, MIN),

4 of the top 5 pass Ds (GB, TEN, PIT, MIN)

and the top 3 run Ds (BAL, PIT, CHI)


Josh K said...

Really enjoyed reading that back and forth. I'm still in a wait-and-see mode as far as 88 is concerned, although I admit to the possibility that my stance is as much emotional as intellectual.

I will say, however, that it might not actually matter if the problem is Harrision's physical ability or if it's his connection with Manning. On the one had, if it's physical it's not likely to get better in the second half of the season; but if it's a connection thing, and it hasn't improved after 10 weeks of practice and 9 games, why would it start improving now?

If we don't see a spike for Harrison's stats against weak opponents, that's a problem. But if we see an average spike -- or, to put it another way, the same level of spike that Wayne gets -- what does that tell us? Probably it's the opponent getting worse, not Harrison or Manning getting better.

The one question I have that I haven't seen anyone address aside from anecdotally is the coverage issue: is Marvin still getting double coverage? We used to see Wayne getting lots of balls because he was getting single coverage while Marvin had the double, right? Is that still the case? Or is Wayne being doubled more now?

Shake'n'bake said...

Up until the Pittsburgh game Marvin was getting matched up against teams #1 corners pretty often. The PIT game and one drive against the Jags was the only times I've noticed where teams have made an effort to move their better corner(s) off Marv. In the Jags game it was on the final Colts drive and Marv burned the nickelback for ~25 yards on 4th and 1. In the Steelers game he got open, but couldn't catch the ball.

Shake'n'bake said...

Wayne's numbers are down from the last few years. Two ways to look at that in relation to Marvin.

1. The whole Colts passing game has been off.

2. Reggie is getting more attention from defenses because Marvin has declined some.

I think both a at least a bit true, but I'm still a Marvin apologist at this point.

coltsfanawalt said...

So, when are you changing the website name to 18 to 11.com?

Adam said...

I was wondering that myself. Is the website going to go to 18to87 or 18to11and87?

Demond Sanders said...

Marvin is a HOFer. Reggie is a potential HOFer. AG not so much.

We'll keep it 18 to 88, thank you.

Anonymous said...

I want to point out something about the tipped pass for TD. Anyone else think that 87 should have gone up to fight for the ball? He had superior position. If he plants and goes up for the ball, he may get interfered with and certainly has the better chance at the ball.

I know that 87 and 88 simply do not do this. They are not going to go fight for it the way Jennings did on the INT.

I guess I'm just getting tired of them simply watching the DB go make a play on the ball and just hoping that the ball bounces their way.

I think the biggest thing with 88 is how often he can't seem to shake off tight man coverage. He's getting shut down way too often (except for Balt game).


Deshawn Zombie said...

Actually, I disagree about the pass to Wayne. At first glance I thought it was underthrown. On replay, it was a perfect pass that would have hit Wayne in stride in the hands. It wasn't short at all. Taylor made an incredible play to just get a piece of it, but he couldn't get enough to stop the ball's momentum and Wayne had excellent concentration to bring it down anyway. The fact that it was tipped at all was a credit to the defender. The fact that it was still complete is a credit to how perfect a pass it was. I don't think Wayne could believe it was tipped; it was not a stop and wait and fight for it type of situation (ie the flea flicker pass to Ward later in the game)

Anonymous said...

BTW, FO defensive DVOA on next 6 opponents:
Hou 30th, SD 29th, Cle 25th, Cinn 23d, Det 32nd, Jax 24th.

Hmmmmmm. Make that mmmmmmmm.

Anonymous said...

I remember Marvin "being back" after catching two TDs against Baltimore. And now he's done after dropping a few passes against the Steelers.

Nice to see the Zombie boys keeping up their fine tradition of more flip flops than South Beach.

Deshawn Zombie said...

Actually it was Demond who wrote that Marvin was fine after the Baltimore game.

This is what I wrote after the Tennessee game:

"I take it back about Marvin. If he was truly ok, he wouldn't be blanketed by likes of Nick Harper. I never thought I'd see the day. He and Reggie Wayne have become completely invisible. Marvin is still drawing coverage, but he's also still drawing throws...which aren't being completed. I'm sick over it."

Demond has been on Marvin's side all season. I thought he was fine after the Bears game, but have been gradually persuaded otherwise. Only an idiot refuses to change his mind when the facts are against him. An idiot or my brother. Whatever.

Demond Sanders said...

Lots of games left to play.

Shake'n'bake said...

Dungy said before practice today that Lilja was going to practice. I haven't got any confirmation that he did, but their wasn't any coach-speak in the statement it was, "Ryan is going to practice, and do some things and we'll see how he gets through it."