I love numbers.
I like how they always add up to absolute right and wrong. No debate, no nuance, no plausible alternative.
When something seems to be supported by numbers, and yet doesn’t come true in actuality, I’m intrigued. What was in play that allowed something so clear by pure numbers to play out on the opposite side?
There are a number of factors involved in a football game, week and season. Yet, by the end of an NFL campaign, almost all results can logically be attributed to pure numbers, unique situations and motivational factors. We can be assured that nearly without exception, the dozen teams that advance to the playoffs to conclude a National Football League season are in fact the best dozen teams in the league.
This rule applies from opening day to the conclusion of the season. For example, when the Los Angeles Rams downed the Dallas Cowboys on opening day, we could have concluded that the Rams were really good this year, while in reality, the truth may be found that the Cowboys are not nearly as good as most thought.
But, there was another opening day result, that with four weeks of completed action remains a head scratcher. The Indianapolis Colts lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars on the opening Sunday of the season. How did that happen?
Nothing that has happened since justifies that result.
The Colts have arguably the best defense in the league, based on allowing the fewest points in the NFL even though two teams, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans, have played one less game. Through four weeks the Colts have surrendered 56 points, but nearly half that total was scored by their opponent on opening day when the Jaguars beat them, 27-20.
So if the Jaguars beat the Colts on opening day, and the Colts are one of the best teams in the league, then this must be a much better than expected team in Jacksonville. That assumption will drain you bankroll faster than removing the plug will empty your bathtub. Since that opening win, scored at home over the Colts, the Jaguars have lost to the Tennessee Titans, Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals.
The Dolphins and Bengals each have one win though four weeks, those victories were registered against a team that downed the otherwise undefeated Colts. Indianapolis bounced off their opening day loss to Jacksonville with wins over the Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets and Chicago Bears.
What we can deduce from these results is that numbers can be absolute in one plus one equals two, but not always conclusively predict the outcome when so many other factors are involved in the result. What we now know is that the Colts went into Jacksonville with one of the best runners in the game teaming with newly acquired franchise quarterback Philip Rivers.
They came out of Florida with more questions than answers and without their starting runningback, Marlon Mack was injured in the opening road loss and is out for the season.
Without Mack, and with a new attention to detail, the Colts quickly turned their season from their opening day setback to where we anticipated them to be before the loss to Jacksonville.
A quality team with legitimate Super Bowl aspirations.
This week, the Colts take their three game winning streak on the road to do battle against the Cleveland Browns. Cleveland is coming off an effort for the ages. Last Sunday, Cleveland ran over the Dallas Cowboys defense as if Mike McCarthy’s squad was trying to stop wind with a tennis racket. The Browns 307 rushing yards was the most a Dallas team ever allowed.
So, don’t the numbers say this is where the Colts three game winning streak ends and the Browns extend their winning record to four straight victories?
Here is the rub. On the same day the Colts lost to Indianapolis, the Browns were hammered by the Baltimore Ravens, 38-6. That one-sided defeat served to inspire the Browns to their three straight wins, just like the Colts upset loss in Jacksonville sparked their winning run.
So, in Cleveland this week, who wins?
Here is a number worth noting. While the Browns have won three straight games they haven’t limited any of their 2020 opponents to less than thirty points. In other words, what we have in action on Sunday is the best defense in the league against the highly charged Browns offense.
Here is a number that still works, when push comes to shove, defense is the key to winning.
Qoxhi Picks: Indianapolis Colts (-1½) over Cleveland Browns