We said last week that Week 1 was a war of attrition in the NFL, but we underestimated Week 2’s ability to turn this league on its head. Ten road teams won their games outright, with two others outperforming expectations despite having rookie starting quarterbacks. Speaking of quarterbacks, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Sam Darnold all went down and will miss significant time, changing the complexion of the league moving forward.
And it’s with a quarterback change that we highlight our biggest mover of the week, the New Orleans Saints. Going into the season the Saints were slated to win 10.3 games, make the playoffs 77% of the time, win the NFC South 61% of the time and win the Super Bowl 13% of the time. After a Week 1 in which every team in the division but the Saints lost, their numbers were 10.7, 82%, 73% and 14%, respectively.
Now, with former Vikings franchise quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the helm for at least the next six weeks, the Saints are still the favorite to win the NFC South (43%) and are even money to make the playoffs, but they are no longer in the upper echelon of teams predicted to win the Lombardi Trophy, doing so in only 3.02% of our simulations.
A big reason for this is the drop off from Brees to Bridgewater, who, through the season's first two weeks, is the only quarterback in the NFL with more than 30 dropbacks and a positively graded throw rate of less than 10%. The Saints earned just -0.08 expected points added per dropback on his 30 dropbacks last week, due in large part to an average depth of target of only 6.6 yards. While it’s likely an offensive mastermind like Sean Payton will be able to prepare Bridgewater to play more like he did in Minnesota in 2014-15, the Saints don’t exactly have the easiest schedule in front of them, facing the undefeated Seahawks and Cowboys the next two weeks, and good defenses in the Bears and Jaguars thereafter.
If they do make it out of the NFC South and into the playoffs, they will likely have Drew Brees by then, so why are they so low in terms of Super Bowl probability? The lack of a first-round bye. Going into Week 2, the Saints received a first-round bye in over 45% of our simulations, which was the highest in the NFC. After Week 3? Just under 13%. The last team to make the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye was the 2012 Baltimore Ravens, demonstrating just how difficult it is to win multiple games in a row against teams with great coaches, great quarterbacks and/or great defenses, even if you possess some or all of these yourself.
Wins: 10.67 -> 8.86
Playoff Berth: 82.4% -> 50.2%
Division Title: 72.6% -> 42.5%
Super Bowl: 13.6% -> 3.0%