What Andrew Luck's Injury Means for the Indianapolis Colts' Playoff Chances
Andrew Luck's 2015 season isn't going as planned.
Luck had started it slowly in terms of statistics, and a shoulder injury kept him out of the team's Week 4 and Week 5 contests, two games that the team won with Matt Hasselbeck under center.
Through Week 9, the team sits at just 4-5 and could have been in a bleak situation this deep into the season if their division was better.
Not that 4-5 oozes confidence, but despite being projected to finish 8-8 or 7-9 (most correctly 7.5-8.5), they have a better-than-60-percent chance to win the division.
Yeah, could be worse.
Like if Andrew Luck sustained a lacerated kidney that will keep him out for two to six weeks. Yeah, that's probably worse.
Before we act as though an elite team is losing an elite player -- sorry, we're just looking at 2015 here -- we should establish some things.
According to our nERD metric, the Colts are the 17th-best team in the NFL. Their nERD score (-1.77) indicates that -- based on their efficiency -- they'd lose to an average opponent on a neutral field by nearly two points.
And according to our Net Expected Points (NEP) metric, which compares a player's performance to expectation-level, Luck hasn't been too great this year.
His Passing NEP score (24.50) ranks 21st among 33 passers with at least 100 drop backs this year. That's marginally worse than Joe Flacco (29.19), Cam Newton (27.18), Alex Smith (27.12), and Josh McCown (27.00). Sure, Luck missed time, and Passing NEP is a cumulative stat, but his per-play numbers aren't much better.
In fact, his Passing NEP per drop back (0.08) also ranks 21st among those 33 quarterbacks.
Troublingly, Luck's Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs that actually result in positive expected points gains -- of 44.48 percent ranks 28th in that group, suggesting that he's relying on big plays to boost his NEP (which isn't even that impressive to begin with).
So what does losing such a passer mean for the Colts' playoff numbers?
If Luck is out until Week 12, the Colts would have a 66.18 percent chance to reach the playoffs and a 65.66 percent chance to clinch the division. The early return would give them a 0.28 percent chance to win the Super Bowl.
What if he's out for closer to the six weeks of his initial timetable? Without Luck until Week 16, the Colts' playoff odds drop about 4 percentage points (to 62.62 percent), and their division odds drop to a near identical 62.26 percent. Basically, if Luck is out for six weeks or so, they'll need to win the division to make the playoffs, per our projections. Their Super Bowl odds remain nearly unchanged: 0.26 percent. If they make the postseason and Luck returns, little changes.
Without Luck for the entire season from this point onward, though, the team still would own a 61.86 percent chance to clinch the division and a 62.28 percent chance to win a postseason spot, but their Super Bowl odds plummet from an already low mark to just 0.10 percent.
Had the Colts been in a better spot in the standings, the injury would have meant more to their odds.
But unless something drastic happens, this is still a squad that likely needs to win the division to see the playoffs. And winning the Super Bowl -- even before the injury -- was wishful thinking.