NFL parity. Back in say, 2007, whooda ever thunk?

The TV schedule for Dec. 4th has been revised. Instead of the Patriots/Colts game being broadcast in prime time, it has been switched to the Lions/Saints.

In 2007 the Pats and Colts was the premier game of the regular season. Getting bumped for the Lions? My, how times have changed.

The 49ers, would you believe, have played their way out of being flexed in to a Sunday Night game. The compelling games left are already in prime-time.

Has any team cratered as hard and as fast as the Colts have? I doubt a healthy Manning would have stemmed the bleeding much if at all.

You think they’d still be one of the worst teams in the league if they had Manning under center instead of Kerry Collins and Curtis Painter?

They’d be in the running for a wild card. Someone looked up the stats and demonstrated that Manning was good for over a touchdown more per game compared to his replacements.

They’d be .500 at worst and with Schaub going down they’d be the odds on favorite for the division.

The '86 Giants went from 14-2 and a Super Bowl to 6-9, though that included 0-3 by the scabs.

Well, the Colts have been within seven points of their opponents only three times this year, so either Manning would need to be a lot more effective to be in the running for a wild card, or the Colts were already on the decline.

Football Outsiders predicted before the season that the Colts would be runners-up in the AFC South.

Whatever simulation software they’ve cooked up, over the course of several thousand runs of their model, they had the Texans winning an average of just over 9 games, the Colts at around 8, with the Titans and Jags with 6 or fewer wins. This means they were projecting the Colts actually missing the playoffs this year.

And their 2010 predictions actually came in pretty close to the mark.

That was WITH Manning at QB.

Obviously, the season has taken some unexpected turns (Texans defense and Titans QB performing better than expected, poor Colts line play, injuries, etc), but there was at least one group that thought the Colts were going to have a disappointing season. That said, I don’t think they were expecting the team to be atrocious without Manning.

It’s fairly routine for the Super Bowl loser to tank the following season. The 2002/2003 Raiders had it bad (from 11-5 to 4-12, starting 7 years of double-digit loss seasons).

Thanks Duke. One HoF QB by himself isn’t enough to get an otherwise hopeless team back into contention. Their defense has given up 7.6 yards per pass (and has only 5 INTs); Manning has averaged 7.6 for his career, and was at 6.8 last year. They’re giving up 30 points a game (480 pace), something that the Manning-led Colts have beaten exactly once (yeah, with a better offense the D wouldn’t have given up quite that many, but it was 388 last year). At best, given all possible breaks, they might have clawed their way to .500. You guys really need to go examine their stats to see just how bad they’ve been.

Ok, let’s be conservative and say that the Colts were going to go 8-8 this year if Manning was healthy.

As it is, they’re not unlikely to go 0-16 with only a handful of those games being competitive.

Even if that’s all the difference there is… that’s a huge statement on the value of Peyton Manning. I don’t know how people can keep underplaying the value of Manning in this situation, even if the Colts would’ve been decent this year. One player making a team go from worst in the league almost historically bad to decent deserves to win him 22 retroactive MVPs.

I think people are just uncomfortable with the idea of having one player mean so much to a team, so they try to rationalize it. We like the idea that football is such a team sport, so the idea that one guy can make such a huge difference is offputting.

I am skeptical that one player can make such a difference, not uncomfortable, and I need some actual evidence that this can be the case, not handwaving. I am saying that that is a lot of horrible play by bad players to overcome, and to say that one guy can just waltz into the QB slot for such a team and turn them into instant contenders is by definition a extraordinary claim. You’ve been here long enough SB to know what the standard of evidence is in such a discussion.

I have to go out and run some errands, but one starting point would be to see how many poor teams with good QBs we can find in the statistical record. That has several quality leakage issues of course (QBs with good passer ratings might tend to have good teammates around them, which is why they have high passer ratings, but it’s a start).

Huh, found another candidate for biggest year-to-year crater job: The 1993 Houston Oilers went 12-4 (but lost in the first round of the playoffs); during the off-season, Warren Moon went to Minnesota (I forget if he signed as a free agent, was released, was traded, or how exactly that happened); the following year the team went 2-14.

Which does lend some anecdata to the idea that losing a quarterback can make a big difference.

I can’t find the source right now, but there’s a guy who had some pretty good numbers that correlated win-loss records with total points allowed versus points scored over a season. (*Ed: Actually, here it is).

There were definitely exceptions, but most teams fit the formula pretty well over the long term. Even with occasional outlier years, usually teams regressed to the expected value based on the formula.

The Colts over the last decade were the only exception. Somehow, they managed to get more wins per season by the same metric. And the only real constant through the last decade has been Manning.

At the very least, he’s worth a few wins a season, and that’s remarkable for a single player.

I just did a fairly-in depth study of the top 61-149th best passer seasons in NFL history by adjusted net yards per pass (which factors in interceptions, TD passes, and sacks), a range of 7.4 to 6.7. I found that these teams had on average a 10.7-5.3 record (.671 winning percentage), which would suggest (tho not prove) that a QB of Peyton Manning’s current performance would move an average team about 3 wins above what they would do with an average QB at the helm.

Checking defenses of the teams of these QBs, I found only 2 which were within a yard of Indy’s 2011 pass defense (using same metric as above), which currently allows a whopping 8.8 yards per pass. They went 6-10 and 7-9. This might suggest that the above teams in the larger sample were already a bit above average before you factor in the QB, indicating that the net gain you get from such a QB is probably less than +2.7 wins. In any event I doubt even vintage Manning could move this team and their horrid secondary +8/9 wins above their current (winless) pace.

I have the more detailed writeup, if anyone wants to PM me.

The detail you miss is that there is a finite amount of time in a football game, and the other team doesn’t score nearly as many points when their offense is not on the field.

In another thread earlier this year we had this very conversation, and the reality of it is that Peyton Manning is both their best offensive player in that he leads the offense to put points on the board and their best defensive player in that he chews up so much clock that the defense never gets exposed. The defense was set up to play to one strength: the pass. Get sacks and interceptions, don’t give up the big play, the run will take care of itself. That’s great when you’re playing with a lead because the other team has to pass more to catch up, but not so good when you can’t put points on the board yourself.

So what do we have? An offense that can’t score and a totally exposed defense. What’s the difference from last year to this one? Peyton Manning. Unless, of course, you’d like to claim that oft-injured Bob Sanders is the difference, or the amalgamation of easily replaced no-name bit players were the difference. No, it’s all Peyton. He quite simply has the ability to make everybody on the team better, either in fact or through perception.

That’s a good point - their defense is built entirely on the assumption that they’ll be out to an early lead. Their primary run defense is the situation - other teams won’t run on them when they’re down 14-0 in the first quarter. Change that, and the defense becomes less effective.

I did address that first point in my writeup, but it makes less difference than you seem to think. The 22 worst teams in my study (average record: 8.2-7.8) gave up an average of 375 points (while scoring 394), but on average their defenses were quite a bit better than this year’s Indy D, esp. when defending against the pass, in which case they most certainly are not capable of playing to that one strength, as you said. 8.1 yards per pass play (2010 by comparison was 6.1) is a tough thing for any offense to overcome, and I don’t think time of possession (which in the case of the Colts decreased by 5 minutes from '10 to '11) or anything even vintage Manning (remember, last year was in many ways his worst) could do is going to affect those numbers too much. And if the games were more competitive, that would mean that teams would be making even more hay (yards and points) out of Indy’s porous secondary, even if Manning is on the field for his extra 5 minutes. It also works both ways too (i.e. crap defenses are on the field longer), so I doubt that entire 5 minutes can be laid entirely at his feet.

If you can find any playoff teams which have allowed even 7+ yards per pass (net), knock yourself out; here’s 2011’s main team stats page-you want “ANY/A” in the passing defense table.

[The 8.8 figure in my other post was AY/A, not ANY/A: only difference is that the latter factors in sacks.]

The hell with it: since I am bored, here are the worst pass defenses to make the playoffs since the 1978 rules changes:

2004 Packers 10-6, 424/384 points, 7.0 ANY/A on offense, 7.1 defense.

Started 1-4, won 9 of their last 12.

2008 Cards, 9-7, 427/426 points, 7.0/6.7 ANY/A.

A lucky team in a weak division.

2005 Pats, 10-6, 379-338, 6.8/6.7 ANY/A.

A weak team compared to the '04 and '06 squads.

1997 Vikes, 9-7, 354/359, 5.4/6.4 ANY/A.

Another lucky team, this time a wild card.

1986 Jets, 10-6, 364/386, 5.6/6.6 ANY/A.

The Immortal Ken O’Brien at the helm.

Okay-so yeah, if you have a HoF-quality QB at the helm (Favre, Warner and Brady in the above seasons), he might be able to overcome a crappy pass defense. [Note that the times such teams failed to make the playoffs at all had to greatly outnumber the 3 instances above.] Or get lucky in a weak division and/or league with no good wild card teams. But note that the Colts aren’t just bad, like the '97 Pack was, but historically awful, the worst that I was able to find, and probably the worst in the entire history of the NFL (I doubt any team before 1978 was allowing 8.1 yards an attempt). That’s a lot to overcome for even a HoF-caliber QB at the top of his game, much less one on the decline.