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.