In order to play, just post a comment to this post.  Be sure to include your username if you want your friends on your bulletin board or social media network, such as twitter, to know who you are.  Answers must be posted on this board as a comment so they’re all kept in one place and archived.  You may, of course, post your answers on your favorite bulletin board, but only answers posted as comments here will be considered for the purposes of determining the winner.

I will also be playing.  See my comment as a sample for how to submit your answers.

Edit: 3/25/2017: In the event of a tie after tie-breaker, the winner will be determined by date of post (earliest post wins).


  1. Which player will be the first player selected?
  2. Which QB will be the first QB selected?
  3. How many QB’s will be selected in the first round?
  4. Which RB will be the first RB selected?
  5. Which LSU player will be the first LSU player selected?
  6. Which conference will have the most players selected in the first round?
  7. Which college will have the most players selected in the first round?
  8. Which non-power 5 conference (in other words, not the SEC, Big 10, Big 12, ACC, or Pac 12 conference) will have the most players selected in the first round?
  9. Which player will the Saints select with their first pick in the draft?
  10. Which WR will be the first WR selected?

Tie-breaker:  List 5 names you think will be selected in the first 5 picks.  You get 1 point for each name who becomes a top 5 pick.

Tell your friends

Share this with your friends.  The more the merrier.  I’ll be tallying the results by hand (unless there are so many entries I won’t be able to manage it).

Might not seem like it at first, but I’m gonna try to tie in the Cooks trade at the end of this.

Image, if you can, yourself in the following scenario: you have 2 vehicles, which we’ll call “car” and “van”.  You drive both vehicles the same number of miles per year.  The van gets 10 miles to the gallon and the car gets 30 miles to the gallon.  You use the van when you need to pack the whole family around, and you use the car for everything else.  The key thing to remember is you have to drive both the same amount of miles (15,000 miles each, for a total of 30,000 miles per year).  After reviewing your expenses for the year at tax time you realize you could save a lot of money by upgrading to more fuel efficient vehicles.

So, you do a little bit of shopping around and discover 2 options within your budget, but you can only do one, not both.  First option is to upgrade the car to a hybrid, which would take the car from 30 mpg to 50 mpg, a 20 mpg improvement.  The van is a different story.  The only upgrade you can find within the budget would only upgrade it from 10 mpg to a measly 12 mpg, only a 2 mpg improvement.  Which upgrade should you make?  the car or the van?  You talk it over with your wife and she gives you “the look”.  (You know the one.)  Clearly, she says, it’s a no-brainer, upgrading the car nets you an additional 20 mpg while upgrading the van would only be 2 mpg more.  Do you agree?

Let’s do the math.  First, the baseline as it stands right now, before any upgrade.  At 10 mpg the van requires 1,500 gallons of fuel to go the 15,000 miles annually.  At 30 mpg the car requires 500 gallons of fuel to go its 15,000 miles annually.  The total required fuel is 1,500 + 500 = 2,000.

Next, let’s consider upgrading the car to the hybrid.  This brings the car from 30 mpg to 50 mpg, meaning now we need only 300 gallons of fuel for it annually, a 500 – 300 = 200 gallon savings.  Not bad.

Now, let’s look at upgrading the van from 10 mpg to 12 mpg.  At 12 mpg the van now requires 1,250 gallons of fuel to go its 15,000 miles, a 1,500 – 1,250 = 250 gallon savings.  Are you surprised by this result?  Going from 10 mpg to 12 mpg saves *more* fuel per year than going from 30 mpg to 50 mpg.

I promised to try to tie this in to the Brandin Cooks trade, and I think some of the more observant readers are already way ahead of me.  Then again, maybe not because maybe I way off base here.  Anyways, the Saints have a (to continue the fuel analogy) high-octane offense and a sputtering defense, at least from a well-documented statistical point of view.  The Saints offense is the fuel-efficient car, while the defense is the gas-guzzling van.  Trading Cooks *will* cost the offense a little bit of their efficiency, but if the Saints can (even just marginally) improve the anemic defense by using that 1st round pick on a defensive player the results could be a significant net improvement for the team overall.

I’m presuming a couple things here.  1) The Saints will use that draft pick on a defensive player, either via trade or drafting one, 2) the player will improve the defense even if maybe he’s not as good a defensive player as Cooks is an offensive player, and 3) defense is just important to team success as offense, which said latter point I believe to be axiomatic.

Saints need to improve the defense, but they need not make a dramatic improvement to have a dramatic impact on overall team success.  Pair this offense with just an average defense, and you instantly have a playoff contender.

Here is a statistical review of how the Saints stacked up against the rest of the league in a few key stats.

Passing offense:
Passer Rating: 102.5 (4th)
Passing Yardage: 5,074 (1st)
Completion Percentage: 70.0% (2nd)
Passing TD’s: 38 (2nd)
*Adjusted Net Yards / Attempt: 7.4 (5th)
INT’s: 15 (18th fewest thrown)
EXP: 179.51 (3rd)

*Adjusted Net Yards/ Attempt takes into account TD’s and INT’s and awards (or takes away) yards for each.

Those are outstanding numbers, squarely in the top 5 across the board, with the only blemish being that 18th ranking in INT’s.  The only problem is the great numbers aren’t translating into wins on the field, and the Saints need to figure out why, and more importantly, how to fix it.

Rushing offense:
Rushing Yards: 1,742 (16th)
Rushing TD’s: 17 (6th)
Yards / Attempt: 4.3 (12th)
Fumbles: 17 (8th fewest)
Longest Run: 75 yards (2nd)
Rushing Attempts: 404 (19th)
EXP: 15.68 (4th)

The rushing offense was very solid for the Saints in 2016.  Despite a few costly fumbles, the overall numbers are actually top 10 in terms of fewest fumbles out of the running game, even though 17 sure seems like a lot to me.  The only area you can point to and say, well that’s below average, is the overall number of rushing attempts (19th).  Part of that is to be blamed on play calling, but you don’t get to a 7-9 record by playing with a lead in every game.  You get there by losing games, which means you get there by playing from behind, which means you sometimes have to give up on the running game and try to catch up by passing the ball.  When the Saints have been at their best in the Sean Payton / Drew Brees era they’ve been in the top 10 (6th in both 2009 and 2011) in rushing yardage, but that goes hand-in-hand with being ahead on the scoreboard, too.

Passing defense:

Passer Rating: 98.1 (29th)
Passing Yardage: 4,380 (32nd)
Completion Percentage: 64.9% (26th)
Passing TD’s: 27 (20th)
*Adjusted Net Yards / Attempt: 7.4 (31st)
INT’s: 9 (27th)
EXP: -176.45 (32nd)

Was the 2016 Saints passing defense the worst in the league?  There is a case to be made for that argument.  We could run through the litany of excuses (beginning with injuries), but the reality is the Saints are finding themselves at the bottom of the league in passing defense rankings year-after-year, defensive-coordinator-after-defensive-coordinator.  In my view, the injury excuse begins to rang hollow after the first year or five of bad defense.

Rushing defense:
Rushing Yards: 1,626 (14th)
Rushing TD’s: 19 (28th)
Yards / Attempt: 4.1 (15th)
Rushing Attempts:  396 (11th fewest)
EXP: 28.83 (11th)

Aside from giving up too many rushing TD’s (and you can probably chalk up a few of those to drives that came off blunders on offense (turnovers), special teams (turnovers), and passing defense breakdowns (giving up long plays in the passing game to setup goal-to-go opportunities, and pass interference penalties setting up opposing rushing offenses for getting those TD’s), so aside from the rushing TD’s allowed this was a good (not great, but good) rushing defense.  I think a couple players on that defensive line deserve some credit for the progress that has been made in rushing defense, to wit: Tyeler Davison and Cameron Jordan.  Craig Robertson has also been a pleasant surprise filling in at middle linebacker, but it’s a position the Saints would do well to address in the offseason, so they can move Robertson back to his natural position.  If Rueben Foster is there in the 1st and the top edge rushers are all gone, the Saints could do worse.  Might also want to consider Kendell Beckwith as a mid round selection, assuming the medical checks out on him.

That’s it for this blog entry.  I might do another in a few days looking at some per-drive stats.

SRS = Simple Ratings System, OSRS = Offensive SRS, DSRS = Defensive SRS, and SoS = Strength of Schedule.  Data for this table provided by PFREF.COM.

1 Dallas Cowboys 7.8 4.9 2.9 -1
2 New England Patriots 6.8 3.2 3.6 -2.5
3 Atlanta Falcons 6.5 10 -3.5 1.9
4 Denver Broncos 5.3 -0.4 5.8 0.6
5 Seattle Seahawks 4.9 -2.2 7.1 -1
6 Pittsburgh Steelers 4.7 1.8 3 0.2
7 Oakland Raiders 4.2 5.4 -1.2 0.4
8 Kansas City Chiefs 4 -0.4 4.4 0.7
9 Philadelphia Eagles 3.4 0.5 2.9 1.4
10 Minnesota Vikings 2.3 -3.1 5.4 0.3
11 San Diego Chargers 2.2 4.8 -2.6 1
12 Washington Redskins 2.2 4 -1.9 1.5
13 Buffalo Bills 2.1 3.3 -1.2 -0.5
14 Baltimore Ravens 2 -3 5 -2.1
15 New Orleans Saints 1.1 5.8 -4.8 0.1
16 Detroit Lions 0.9 -0 0.9 -1.1
17 New York Giants 0.5 -1.9 2.4 -0.1
18 Arizona Cardinals 0.4 -1.1 1.5 -1.7
19 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -0 0.1 -0.1 0.6
20 Green Bay Packers -0.1 1.9 -2 0.5
21 Cincinnati Bengals -0.2 -1.5 1.3 1
22 Indianapolis Colts -0.8 3.1 -3.8 -0.8
23 Tennessee Titans -0.9 1.5 -2.4 -1.9
24 Carolina Panthers -2.2 1 -3.2 1
25 Houston Texans -3.2 -5.2 1.9 0.9
26 Miami Dolphins -3.3 -1.9 -1.4 -1.3
27 Chicago Bears -6.1 -6.1 -0.1 -0.6
28 Jacksonville Jaguars -6.6 -3.8 -2.8 0.8
29 Los Angeles Rams -7 -8.2 1.2 -0.2
30 New York Jets -8.2 -4.5 -3.8 0.2
31 San Francisco 49ers -10.9 -2.7 -8.2 0.4
32 Cleveland Browns -11.5 -5 -6.5 1.4

In the following chart the dark blue line represents the SRS, the orange line represents the Offense SRS, and the yellow line is for the Defense SRS.  It’s not too hard to see Atlanta has the best offense while Seattle has the best defense.  Saints have a strong offense, but one of the weaker defenses.


Believe it or not, the Saints *are* still alive for a possible NFC SOUTH division title in 2016.  Rumors of the death of the season have been greatly exaggerated.  Okay, maybe not so greatly.  Saints hopes are clearly on life support right now.  It’s grim, but there *is* still hope.  I’ll try to outline what the Saints need to do in order to pull this off.

The Saints just need 2 things to happen: 1) win out and finish 9-7; and 2) hope somebody can knock off Atlanta in at least one of the next three games (LA, SF, or CAR).  If these 2 things happen, the Saints *will* win the NFC SOUTH.  This is not a prediction.  I’m not predicting the Saints will win 4 in a row to close out the season.  Let’s keep it real here.  The Saints have lost 3 of their last 4 games.  Just saying…

Here’s a look at the tie-breakers that would be in effect in the event the Saints were to end the season at 9-7 and tied with ATL and/or TB.  (CAR can no longer finish 9-7 since they already have 8 losses.)  Here is the list of tie-breakers in effect for 2 or more teams in the same division for the division standings:

  1. Head-to-head (best won-lost-tied percentage in games between the clubs).
  2. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the division.
  3. Best won-lost-tied percentage in common games.
  4. Best won-lost-tied percentage in games played within the conference.

The above is from the official page on tie-breaker procedures.

Let’s look at head-to-head first.  If it’s between NO and ATL, it’s a tie and we go step #2.  If it’s between NO and TB, the Saints win the tie-breaker at this step by virtue of having swept TB.  If it’s a 3-way tie between NO, ATL, and TB, the Saints would be 3-1 in the head-to-head-to-head matchups.  ATL would be 2-2, having split both series with the Saints and with the Bucs.  TB would be 1-3 having split with ATL, but having been swept by the Saints.  So, if the Saints win out the Bucs will be eliminated in tie breaker #1.  Now, once TB is removed, then it goes back to the top and restarts at #1 all over again.  Since NO and ATL split the series their head-to-head records would be 1-1, and we would then proceed to step #2.

Step #2 (division records).  If the Saints win out that would put them at 4-2 in the division.  ATL will be either 4-2 or 3-3, depending on whether they win or lose to CAR in week 16.  Remember, ATL must lose at least one of the games in the next 3 weeks to LA, SF, and CAR in order for them to finish 9-7.  If the loss comes to CAR, it’s game over for the Falcons, and the Saints take the division at step #2 in the tie-breaker.  But if the loss came to either SF or LA, then we go to step #3.

Step #3 (common games).  Saints would take this tie-breaker if both teams end up with identical 9-7 records.  ATL went 1-1 in their non-common games (beat GB, lost to PHI) while the Saints cleverly lost both of their non-common games (lost to NYG, lost to DET).  Common core logic tells us if both teams have the same overall record, but one team has a better non-common record, then the common record of that team must be worse than the common record of the other team.  Overall = common + non-common.  All games are either common or non-common.  We never get to step #4 (conference records) unless we bring CAR into the equation by having 8-8 be the top record in the division, assuming CAR wins out.  We’ll cover the 8-8 scenarios next week after the Saints lose to the Bucs.  (Yeah, I’m brimming over with confidence right about now.)

That wraps up this blog entry.  To summarize where we’re at so far: the Saints win the division by winning out *and* having some help from either LA, SF, and/or CAR in giving ATL at least one more loss.  If both of those things happen, your New Orleans Football Saints will be the NFC SOUTH division champs.

What chance ATL loses at least 1 of the next 3?  It’s a fair chance.  ATL has opened as a 4.5 point favorite at LA, but that line has already moved to 6.5 in at least one place.  This comes to a 61% to 66% chance of ATL winning that game.  Let’s call it 66%.  CAR is comparable to LA this year, so let’s call the week 17 game also 66% chance of a Falcons victory.  SF is the weakest of the 3 opponents, so let’s call that one 75% chance of a Falcons victory.  Now, in order to figure out the probability of the Falcons winning *all 3* games we just multiply those percentages by each other: .66 * .75 * .66 = 32.67%.  So, the odds of ATL winning *all 3* games is only about 33% or so.  Far less probable than that is the chance of the Saints winning all 4 of their last 4 games, which we’ll try to look at next.

Saints are currently a consensus 2.5 point underdog at TB in the next game.  That translates into about a 43.6% chance of winning the game.  When the Saints host TB at home a couple weeks later, the Saints will probably be the 2.5 point favorite, so we’ll call that one 54.6% chance of winning.  ARI is not as good as TB right now, so we’ll call that one a 50/50 game and give the Saints a 50% chance of winning (maybe I’m being generous, but you can substitute your own numbers if you disagree with mine).  If the week 17 matchup with ATL were this week, I would think ATL would be favored by 6.5, which translates to a 66% chance of winning.  So, we have .436 * .50 * .546 * .33 = .0393 = about 4%.  Saints chance of winning out is about 4% chance, so probably not happening, but it still *could* happen.  There are also scenarios where the Saints could possibly win the division at 8-8, but obviously they’ll need a lot more help from a lot more teams for that.  I might look at those chances next week, same bat time, same bat blog.


[Edit (12/4/2016) Correction to the following blog post.  After pondering this a bit more I’ve come to the conclusion that the Saints would win any tie-breaker against the Falcons where both teams end the season 10-6, no matter which teams the Falcons lose to in order to achieve a 10-6 record.  Reason for this is the Falcons already have 2 wins against the AFC and they have also already played the 2 non-common opponents (GB and PHI) and went 1-1 against them.  If the Saints win out (implying they beat Atlanta in the last game and further implying they also go 1-1 against their non-common opponents (NYG and DET) ) then the Saints would have the tie-breaker at either the division level (#2) in the event Atlanta loses to Carolina week 16 or at the conference record level (#4).  The tie-breaker will never get past #4 by virtue of Atlanta having the better record against the AFC and it will never get be anything other than a tie at the common opponents level (#3) by virtue of the tie at non-common opponents records (1-1 each).  To summarize, doesn’t matter if the Falcons lose to CAR, LA, SF, or KC in addition to losing to the Saints in week 17, as long as they lose to at least one of those 4 teams (along with the Saints winning out to finish 10-6), the Saints will hold all tie-breakers against them.  Note also, this is only about both teams finishing 10-6.  If they go 9-7, other tie-breakers might come into it, and other teams might come into it.]

[Original post follows]

The Vikings losing Thursday might potentially help the Saints to a wildcard berth, but I’m only going to focus here on how the Saints might win the division. I’ve worked out the scenarios and figured out the tie-breakers as follows below. (Remember, the following is only about winning the division. Even if that fails, the Saints could still get a wildcard spot.)

The following scenarios are predicated on the Saints winning out.  The Saints *could* still lose a game and finish 9-7 and still win the division, but I won’t be considering any of those scenarios here.  This is only for the case where the Saints win out and finish 10-6.

To set it up: ATL (7-4) plays KC, LA, SF, CAR, and NO (5-6) in its last 5 games. Saints need to both win out and hope ATL loses to either KC, CAR, LA, or SF in order to pick up the 2 games by which ATL leads them in the division. Got that? Good. Here’s what happens, depending on which of those games ATL loses (besides losing to the Saints in the finale, since that’s a given in this scenario with the Saints winning out).

First, let’s look at the tie-breaker priority for inside the division:
1) head-to-head
2) division record
3) common games record (basically all games EXCEPT those against the NFC NORTH and NFC EAST this year, INCLUDE games against the AFC WEST, NFC WEST, and NFC SOUTH)
4) conference record (at this point, the games against the NFC NORTH and NFC EAST count, but NOT those against the AFC WEST)
*5) strength of victory (I *believe* this is the combined records of the teams you defeated.)
*6) strength of schedule (I *believe* this is the combined records of all opponents, whether you beat them or lost to them is irrelevant.)

*I’m just going by memory from year’s past on #5 and #6, and could be wrong on those.

Let’s say ATL loses to KC:

1) head-to-head (tie 1-1 each, go to #2)
2) division record (tie 4-2 each, go to #3)
3) common games (I believe this would also be a tie because the Saints loss to NYG = the ATL loss to PHI and the ATL win over GB = NO win over DET. By commutative math and logical inference, if the record against non-common opponents is equal, and the overall record is equal, then the record against common opponents is also equal. Go to #4)
4) conference record (Saints win! Here’s why: the Saints are 1-3 against the AFC, which games don’t count for this tie-breaker, while the Falcons would be 2-2 against the AFC, and by applying the same logic as for #3, we get ATL having a better AFC record implying the Saints have the better NFC record since both teams have the same overall record. Falcons would be 8-4 versus the Saints 9-3 NFC records.)

If ATL loses to CAR (instead of losing to KC) the Saints win the tie-breaker at step #2 (better division record) instead of step #4 (better conference record). Either way, the Saints take the tie-breaker. (Note also, though probably not relevant, regardless of whether ATL beats KC or not, they already have 2 AFC wins against the Saints’ 1-3 AFC record, so the Saints will have the better conference record either way.

If ATL beats KC and CAR, but loses to either LA or SF, what then? I *believe* (and it’s kind of complicated, so I could be mistaken) it would then go to tie-breaker #5 (strength of victory). There’s no way to figure out who would win that tie-breaker because all of the games are not settled yet.

Head spinning? Keep in mind, I’m half asleep as I work on this, and I could have erred somewhere, and none of this is official, but I’ll summarize next.

Basically, no matter how it plays out, if the Saints win out *and* ATL loses to either KC or CAR, the Saints would take the division. If the Saints win out *and* ATL loses to either LA or SF, then it goes to a tie-breaker based on the records of the various opponents, which is yet to be determined.

Following table is based on data from PFREF.COM.  SRS = Simple Ratings System, based on strength of schedule and margins of victory.  Follow them on twitter @pfref.  You can follow me @mean__mark to get notified each time I update this blog.

1 Dallas Cowboys 7.6 5 2.5 -1.8
2 New England Patriots 7.5 3.5 3.9 -1.3
3 Atlanta Falcons 7.4 10.2 -2.8 2.3
4 Denver Broncos 5.4 -0 5.5 1.2
5 Philadelphia Eagles 4.5 0.6 3.9 0.8
6 Pittsburgh Steelers 4.4 1.8 2.6 0.4
7 Seattle Seahawks 4 -3.1 7.1 0.7
8 Oakland Raiders 3.6 4.7 -1.1 0.7
9 Kansas City Chiefs 3.6 -0.9 4.5 0.1
10 New Orleans Saints 3.5 7.8 -4.3 1
11 Buffalo Bills 3.3 3.7 -0.3 -0.8
12 San Diego Chargers 3.3 5.4 -2.1 1.3
13 Washington Redskins 2.2 3.7 -1.5 0.8
14 Minnesota Vikings 1.8 -3.1 4.9 -0.6
15 Arizona Cardinals 0.8 -1.3 2.1 -0.8
16 New York Giants 0.6 -1.9 2.5 -1
17 Carolina Panthers 0.6 1.8 -1.3 1
18 Baltimore Ravens -0.2 -4.5 4.3 -1.7
19 Miami Dolphins -0.6 -0.9 0.3 -1.4
20 Tampa Bay Buccaneers -0.7 -0.1 -0.6 0.7
21 Green Bay Packers -1 1.7 -2.7 0.4
22 Detroit Lions -1.4 -0.6 -0.8 -2.2
23 Cincinnati Bengals -1.5 -2.5 1 1.4
24 Tennessee Titans -1.7 0.9 -2.6 -2.7
25 Houston Texans -3.8 -5.2 1.4 0
26 Indianapolis Colts -3.8 1.3 -5.1 -1
27 New York Jets -5.8 -3.1 -2.7 0.6
28 Los Angeles Rams -6.2 -7.9 1.7 -0.2
29 Jacksonville Jaguars -7.5 -3.9 -3.6 -0.3
30 Chicago Bears -8.1 -6.7 -1.4 -0.3
31 San Francisco 49ers -8.9 -1.1 -7.8 1.6
32 Cleveland Browns -11.5 -5 -6.6 1.4

SRS can be thought of as a point spread, just add 2 points for home advantage.

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