Before the announcement that Freeney may not play, the Colts were favored by 5 points. If we throw out the last 2 regular season games for the Colts and Saints (because they did not give a full effort), we find thet a least squares fit to the game scores tells us that the Colt offesne was 6.2 points better than average and the Colts defense was 4.4 points better than average. The Saints offense was 13.5 points better than average and the Saints defense was .1 points worse than average. The average NFL team scored 21.6 points per game so this analysis would predict
Saints score 21.6 + 13.5 - 4.4 = 30.7 points
Colts score 21.6+ 6.2 + .1 = 27.9 points.
So we start with a base prediction of 31-28 Saints based on overall team abilities. How do other factors influence our view about whether the teams will play better or worse than their “full season estimates?” Here is my gut feel.
- Freeney’s injury will really hurt. I know of no mathematical way to quantify the effect of his injury, but my gut says this injury makes the Saints offense 3 points better.
- The Saints feast on turnovers. A turnover costs a team arounf 4 points. Counting the playoffs, the Saints have around a 1 turnover edge per game. I believe (and I guess the betting public does also) that Mannings great ability will neutralize the Siants usual turnover edge. Maybe this costs the Saints 4 points. (say 2 on offense and defense).
With these adjustments I predict Saints 32 Colts 30.