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Predicting the Rest of the Saints 2014 Season

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At 2-3 and hanging out in the lower tier of the NFC, the New Orleans Saints might have to win eight of their eleven remaining games to have a chance to make the postseason this year. The question is: can they do it?

Saints will try to right their wobbly ship on Sunday in Detroit.
Saints will try to right their wobbly ship on Sunday in Detroit.
Chris Graythen

At 2-3 after enjoying their bye week, the 2014 National Football League season for the New Orleans Saints is now an 11-game campaign. A team that had Super Bowl aspirations prior to the beginning of the season, the Saints now merely hope to find their way into the playoffs.

Through six weeks in the regular season, here are the standings in the NFC. As you can see, if the playoffs started next weekend, the New Orleans Saints would not even qualify for a Wild Card berth. Incredibly, neither would the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, so this is clearly not the time to freak out just yet if you're a Saints fan.

National Football Conference - 2014 Regular Season

NFC East Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Net Pts

TD

Home

Road

Div

Pct

Conf

Pct

Non-Conf

Streak

Last 5

Philadelphia Eagles

5

1

0

.833

183

132

51

21

4-0

1-1

2-0

1.000

3-1

.750

2-0

2W

4-1

Dallas Cowboys

5

1

0

.833

165

126

39

18

2-1

3-0

0-0

.000

3-1

.750

2-0

5W

5-0

New York Giants

3

3

0

.500

133

138

-5

16

2-1

1-2

1-1

.500

2-3

.400

1-0

1L

3-2

Washington Redskins

1

5

0

.167

132

166

-34

16

1-2

0-3

0-2

.000

0-4

.000

1-1

4L

1-4

NFC North Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Net Pts

TD

Home

Road

Div

Pct

Conf

Pct

Non-Conf

Streak

Last 5

Detroit Lions

4

2

0

.667

116

82

34

14

2-1

2-1

2-0

1.000

3-1

.750

1-1

1W

3-2

Green Bay Packers

4

2

0

.667

161

130

31

20

2-0

2-2

2-1

.667

2-2

.500

2-0

3W

4-1

Chicago Bears

3

3

0

.500

143

144

-1

17

0-2

3-1

0-1

.000

2-2

.500

1-1

1W

3-2

Minnesota Vikings

2

4

0

.333

104

143

-39

10

1-2

1-2

0-2

.000

2-3

.400

0-1

2L

1-4

NFC South Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Net Pts

TD

Home

Road

Div

Pct

Conf

Pct

Non-Conf

Streak

Last 5

Carolina Panthers

3

2

1

.583

141

157

-16

15

2-1

1-1-1

1-0

1.000

3-0

1.000

0-2-1

1T

2-2-1

New Orleans Saints

2

3

0

.400

132

141

-9

16

2-0

0-3

1-1

.500

2-2

.500

0-1

1W

2-3

Atlanta Falcons

2

4

0

.333

164

170

-6

20

2-1

0-3

2-0

1.000

2-3

.400

0-1

3L

1-4

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

1

5

0

.167

120

204

-84

15

0-3

1-2

0-3

.000

0-4

.000

1-1

2L

1-4

NFC West Team

W

L

T

Pct

PF

PA

Net Pts

TD

Home

Road

Div

Pct

Conf

Pct

Non-Conf

Streak

Last 5

Arizona Cardinals

4

1

0

.800

116

106

10

11

3-0

1-1

1-0

1.000

3-0

1.000

1-1

1W

4-1

San Francisco 49ers

4

2

0

.667

141

123

18

15

2-1

2-1

1-1

.500

3-2

.600

1-0

3W

3-2

Seattle Seahawks

3

2

0

.600

133

113

20

15

2-1

1-1

0-0

.000

2-1

.667

1-1

1L

3-2

St. Louis Rams

1

4

0

.200

101

150

-49

11

0-3

1-1

0-1

.000

1-4

.200

0-0

3L

1-4

***

As was the case in 2013, the NFC looks to be extremely competitive this year and the surest way for New Orleans to make it to the postseason is obviously by winning its division. The way things stand right now, I believe it'll take winning at least 10 games to accomplish that feat, which brings up the question:  can the Saints win eight out of 11 games the rest of the year and finish 10-6? If they want to play in January, they might have to.

Predicting wins and losses ahead of time is no exact science, but it's a fun exercise that can be somewhat accurate based on odds and trends. Let's take a look at the Saints remaining opponents and try to forecast New Orleans' record in the last 11 games of the 2014 season. Here's a little interesting nugget: to make these predictions, I have channeled the three types of Saints fans I see around the interwebs: the "total homer", the "educated guesser" who is a somewhat unbiased fan and the "sky is falling" fan who feels like the Saints are 0-5 right now.

***

@ Detroit (4-2) - Sunday October 19, Ford Field.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 20th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 1st

Football Outsiders has the Lions ranked number one in total defense in the NFL, 2nd against the pass and 2nd against the run. Basically, a group that features the likes of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley is likely to neutralize New Orleans' most efficient unit: its seventh-ranked offense. The Saints saving grace could have been the fact the Lions are surprisingly mediocre on offense (16th passing, 25th rushing), however New Orleans is abysmal on defense (32nd against the pass, 20th against the run). The game is on the road, where the Saints are 0-2 so far this year, while Detroit is 2-1 at home.

Totally Homer Pick: Saints are 5-0 coming off a bye since 2009. They win by 3.

Educated Guess: Saints struggle on the road, their offense won't do much, they lose by 7.

Sky is Falling Pick: Saints get blown out, lose by 17.

***

Green Bay (4-2) - Sunday October 26, Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 5th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 12th

The Green Bay Packers started the season 1-2, but they have since won three in a row. They struggled on the road against the Dolphins on Sunday, yet quarterback Aaron Rodgers (the best in the business in my opinion) worked his magic to lead his team to a 27-24 win against Miami. The Packers aren't very good against the run (23rd) which incredibly is New Orleans' strength on offense (2nd in rushing).

Totally Homer Pick: Saints NEVER lose in the dome on primetime. They win by 14.

Educated Guess: New Orleans is a different team at home. They win a shootout by 3.

Sky is Falling Pick: Saints can't stop the Packers offense, lose by 7.

***

@ Carolina (3-2-1) - Thursday October 30, Bank of America Stadium.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 17th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 27th

Coming off a tough Sunday night game against the Packers, the Saints will have the shortest of weeks, having to go to Carolina on Thursday to face a Panthers team that has had its ups and downs in 2014. It's quite amazing to see Carolina's high-flying defense from 2013 be ranked 27th overall (23rd against the pass, 27th against the run). However, New Orleans on the road and on a short week seems to face a near unsurmountable mountain to climb.

Totally Homer Pick: Saints will probably lose this one by 3, despite putting up a fight.

Educated Guess: On a short week, on the road, Saints lose this one by 7 or more.

Sky is Falling Pick: Saints will not score more than 10 points in that game, lose by 14.

***

San Francisco (4-2) - Sunday November 09, Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 18th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 6th

The 49ers are a team that has played the Saints tough since Jim Harbaugh took over in San Francisco in 2011. Harbaugh holds a 2-1 head-to-head edge over Sean Payton and it could have been 3-0 after New Orleans eked out a narrow 23-20 home-win against San Francisco last year. Despite a slew of defensive injuries, the Niners are, as usual, highly-ranked on defense. Offensively, nothing to write home about, but their defense always seems to find ways to chip in with some scoring of its own.

Totally Homer Pick: With ten days to rest and the Niners traveling across the country after a tough divisional battle against the Rams, Saints win this one by a touchdown.

Educated Guess: Saints will likely have tight end Jimmy Graham back. Brees locks up on him and throws some picks. Saints lose a tough battle by 3.

Sky is Falling Pick: Niners run all over Saints and Brees throws two pick sixes. Saints lose by 4.

***

Cincinnati (3-1-1) - Sunday November 16, Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 6th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 9th

Like the Dallas Cowboys, the Cincinnati Bengals will be one of the most complete teams the Saints will face this season. Cincinnati boasts both a top 10 offense and a top 10 defense. Coming off a physical matchup against San Francisco, the Saints are going to have a tough task dealing with Cincinnati's top-ranked pass defense and their ferocious pass rush.

Totally Homer Pick: Andy Dalton can be a liability on the road. He likely throws a pick or two. Saints win by 3.

Educated Guess: After playing the Niners, a bruised Saints team loses its second home-game in a row.

Sky is Falling Pick: Remember when the Bengals used to suck? Now they don't. Saints lose again.

***

Baltimore (4-2) - Monday November 24, Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 10th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 5th

The Ravens come into the Superdome carrying a rather lethal weapon when it comes to slaying the Saints, in the person of wide receiver Steve Smith. While with the Panthers, Smith regularly and effortlessly torched New Orleans' defenses. So far with Baltimore, he is fifth in the NFL with 573 receiving yards and four touchdowns and shows little signs of slowing down. Interestingly, on that Monday night, Brees will be facing the only NFL team he has yet to defeat.

Totally Homer Pick: There is nothing elite about Joe Flacco. Saints win by 7.

Educated Guess: Under Sean Payton, the Saints are deadly on Monday night, even more so at home. New Orleans takes a tight affair by 4 points.

Sky is Falling Pick: Everybody will be watching as Brees underthrows every deep ball and the Saints find a way to escape with an unconvincing win on national TV.

***

@ Pittsburgh (3-3) - Sunday November 30, Heinz Field.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 9th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 21st

The Steelers have been a mystery so far this year. They lost at home to the dreadful Tampa Bay Buccaneers, yet they went to Carolina and dismantled the Panthers 37-19. It is likely that Pittsburgh will be a desperate team when the Saints travel to Heinz Field in late November. Outdoors in the cold and on the road, these are conditions primed for New Orleans to quickly lay an egg in Pennsylvania and hurry back home.

Totally Homer Pick: The Steelers defense is decimated, but the Saints just don't win in Pittsburgh. Despite my homerism, I think New Orleans drops this one by 3.

Educated Guess: The Saints will have a hard time handling the elements and likely lose a close one.

Sky is Falling Pick: If Brees can't throw a deep ball in a dome; he certainly won't do it outside. Saints lose.

***

Carolina (3-2-1) - Sunday December 7, Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 17th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 27th

Coming into this game, the Carolina Panthers will be coming off a road game at the Minnesota Vikings. Despite Minnesota's struggles, going on the road for two consecutive games is never easy in the NFL. Divisional games on the road are even tougher and the Saints could be in desperate mode at this point. This game could also be one that decides who will get the upper hand in the mediocre NFC South.

Totally Homer Pick: Saints will be too happy to return indoors and win this one fairly handily.

Educated Guess: The Saints beat a much better Carolina team 31-13 in the Superdome last year. New Orleans splits their season series with the Panthers by winning this one.

Sky is Falling Pick: Kelvin Benjamin introduces himself to the Superdome crowd. Saints lose again.

***

@ Chicago (3-3) - Monday December 15, Soldier Field.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 16th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 14th

The Bears are the ultimate average team, both on the field and in numbers. Although the Saints have been outstanding on Monday Night Football under Sean Payton and found a way to win a cold playoffs game outdoors in Philadelphia last year, it'll be a tough task for New Orleans defense to deal with wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery as well as running back (and Tulane alum) Matt Forte.

Totally Homer Pick: "Bad Jay" Cutler is due for a 3 INTs game and the Saints defense could use someone giving them some freebies. Saints win by 3.

Educated Guess: Saints continue their winter road struggles at Soldier Field and New Orleans drops this one by 7.

Sky is Falling Pick: Why didn't we draft Matt Forte out of Tulane? Why did we draft a running back from Alabama? Why are we losing all the time unlike the 31 other NFL teams?

***

Atlanta (2-4) - Sunday December 21, Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 3rd / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 28th

The Falcons look somewhat like the Saints of 2012. They're outstanding on offense, and although their defense isn't "2012 Saints" bad, they are pretty lousy (26th against the pass, 29th against the run). This team however, found a way to defeat New Orleans in week one in the Georgia Dome. Needless to say that the Saints will come out fired up to even up the score in this one.

Totally Homer Pick: Saints will be out for revenge against the Dirty Birds, win this one going away.

Educated Guess: It's a given, New Orleans is a good home-team. Games against Atlanta are almost always close, but the Saints should take this one by 4.

Sky is Falling Pick: Somehow, Saints have a few lucky bounces and win. I'm still not happy about it.

***

@ Tampa Bay (1-5) - Sunday December 28, Raymond James Stadium.

Offensive ranking (DVOA): 30th / Defensive ranking (DVOA): 25th

By the time the Saints set foot on the grass of Raymond James Stadium for the regular season finale, the Buccaneers players will probably have their bags already packed for Hawaii and other vacation destinations. If New Orleans is still playing for a spot in the playoffs, this one could be decided early. However, we have also seen the Saints lay giant ostrich eggs in these types of settings, where everyone expects them to win.

Totally Homer Pick: Tampa Bay is a bad team, Saints should get out of Florida with a convincing win.

Educated Guess: If the Saints are still playing for something, they'll likely eke out a sloppy win.

Sky is Falling Pick: Ok, it's a win, but what does it matter? We're going home!

***

Summary

When we tally the results of this little prediction exercise, here's what we have:

- The "total homer" has the Saints finishing the season 11-5 and winning 9 out of their 11 remaining games.

- The "educated guesser" sees the Saints winning only five more games, finishing at 7-9. This is where I personally stand, in case you were wondering.

- The "sky is falling" fan has the Saints winning only two more games and ending up at 4-12. Let's just say he or she is already looking forward to the 2015 NFL draft.

***

There it is, Who Dat Nation. Where do you stand? How do you see the remainder of this season shake out for the Saints? Chime in.