“It ain’t no party if you ain’t got that Lombardi!”
Sometimes prosperity is our worst enemy. The New Orleans Saints came into the 2020 season with the fanfare of a team having gone 13-3 the past two years and primed for another run at the Super Bowl. Not so fast! Losers of two games in a row, the first such losing streak since 2017, the Saints are slipping in the standings, but also in the odds of making it to the Big Game. Just how big of a tumble did the Saints take?
Note: Odds do not simply look at the teams’ record. They factor in parameters such as schedule, places where the games are played, where a team’s bye week falls in the schedule. So, if sometimes these odds look odd, just know they are not plucked out of thin air and often will accurately predict the outcome of the season.
FIVE THIRTY EIGHT
After their week 2 loss to the Raiders, 538 had the Saints 6th in the entire NFL with 6% odds of winning the Super Bowl. Another loss later, this time a home defeat to NFC foes Green Bay Packers, the Saints are now 12th in the NFL in odds of making it to Tampa in February 2021. New Orleans’ odds were slashed to 3%.
Noteworthy is the number of NFC contenders that have now passed the Saints: At 3-0, the Packers top the NFC (10% odds) and are second overall in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks are third in the NFL and second in the NFC, with 9% odds. The 49ers (5th, 6%), Bears (8th, 4%), Rams (10th, 4%) and Buccaneers (11th, 4%) are all ahead of the Saints in an increasingly crowded NFC contending field.
For the first time this season, the Saints are not favored anymore to win the NFC South, as the 2-1 Buccaneers now have that temporary crown with 46% odds, vs. the Saints’ 40%. New Orleans still has a 57% chance of making the postseason.
Only three games have been played of course, and these odds will change as wins and losses occur. It is interesting however to note that the Saints now have real competition not only in the conference, but in a division that they have owned the past three seasons.
Football Outsiders have loved the Saints all season and that continues this week, as FO still has the Saints with 8.4% odds of winning the Super Bowl, which ranks 4th in the entire NFL behind the Chiefs (16.8%), Seahawks (8.5%) and Steelers (8.4%). The Saints are ahead of the Ravens (7.3%) which makes senses since the Baltimore Birds are in the same conference with the Chiefs, which they cannot seem to be able to beat.
Where it gets really interesting is in FO’s detailed playoffs odds. In the NFC South, the Saints have a 64.1% chance of making the playoffs, behind the Bucs (68.4%). As with Five Thirty Eight, New Orleans is now behind Tampa Bay in odds of winning the division (42.3% vs 45.9%). Despite that, New Orleans is ahead of Tampa Bay in odds of making the NFC Championship game (25.2% vs. 24.1%) and in odds of winning the conference (14.9% vs. 12.7%).
Despite their slow start, the odds are still largely in favor of the Saints to make something good out of this early season. Now, a loss in Detroit, with the team missing multiple starters, might have people in and outside the Saints’ organization ringing the alarm bell and panicking. But not just yet.