With Drew Brees back on the field, and a manageable schedule ahead, the New Orleans Saints are still the most likely NFC team to win the Super Bowl.
Here were the odds entering Week 10 from the respected Westgate in Las Vegas…
New England 5/2, New Orleans 9/2, Baltimore 6/1, San Francisco 7/1, Kansas City 8/1, Green Bay 14/1, Dallas 20/1, Minnesota-Dallas-Seattle-Houston all 25/1, the LA Rams 30/1.
To get a deeper sense of why the Saints have it relatively easy in the NFC half of the playoff picture, it’s helpful to peruse an update of VSiN’s estimated “market” Power Ratings. Jonathan Von Tobel (of “The Edge”) and I collaborate to deduce how “the market” sees the full league on a point value scale. These are based on late-week pointspreads (adjusting three points for home field advantage), and can be used to anticipate future point spreads and evaluate schedules.
First, the NFC…
▪ NFC: Saints 87, 49ers 85, Packers 84, Vikings 84, Rams 84, Cowboys 84, Seahawks 82, Eagles 82, Panthers 82, Lions 79, Buccaneers 78, Bears 78, Falcons 77, Cardinals 76, Giants 74, Redskins 72.
The Saints are 13-point favorites at home against Atlanta Sunday (FOX, noon). Take out three points for home field advantage, and New Orleans must go 10 points higher on our scale. Jonathan and I chose 87 and 77. Maybe 86 and 76 would be better. It’s possible 88 and 78 is right. Our good-faith guess is 87 and 77.
Amazing that there are NINE teams currently rated as “playoff caliber,” (80 or above), yet only six spots in the NFC brackets. That’s going to be one amazing game of musical chairs.
▪ AFC: Patriots 88, Chiefs 86, Ravens 83, Texans 83, Chargers 83, Jaguars 81, Colts 80, Raiders 79, Bills 79, Browns 79, Titans 77, Steelers 77, Broncos 73, Jets 72, Dolphins 72, Bengals 70.
We have the Patriots one point higher than the Saints in deference to futures boards. Not as much overall quality here.
Now, let’s look at remaining schedules for the current division leaders in the NFC…
▪ New Orleans (NFC South): vs. Atlanta (77), at Tampa Bay (78), at Carolina (82), at Atlanta (77), vs. San Francisco (85), vs. Indianapolis (80), at Tennessee (77), at Carolina (82). Average: 79.75.
▪ San Francisco (NFC West): vs. Seattle (82), vs. Arizona (76), vs. Green Bay (84), at Baltimore (83), at New Orleans (87), vs. Atlanta (77), vs. the LA Rams (84), at Seattle (82). Average: 81.88 (very difficult!).
▪ Green Bay (NFC North): vs. Carolina (82), at San Francisco (85), at NY Giants (74), vs. Washington (72), vs. Chicago (78), at Minnesota (84), at Detroit (79). Average 79.16.
▪ Dallas (NFC East): vs. Minnesota (84), vs. Detroit (79), at New England (88), vs. Buffalo (79), at Chicago (78), vs. the LA Rams (84), at Philadelphia (82), vs. Washington (72). Average 80.75.
The Saints still have to play the games. But, they will be favored every time they take the field through the regular season, and then through the NFC brackets if they can earn the top seed and home field advantage.
San Francisco is still undefeated of course, but has a brutal schedule ahead that currently features six games against opponents Power Rated at 82 or higher. Three of those are against opponents who currently lead their divisions (Green Bay, Baltimore, and New Orleans).
Green Bay’s bad loss last week against the Los Angeles Chargers dropped them one game behind the Saints in the loss column. They have a schedule that’s only slightly easier than the Saints.
Dallas already has three losses. What’s left will likely keep them from chasing down one of the top two seeds.
VSiN strongly encourages you to put together your own Power Ratings based on your assessment of teams. Not only do they allow you to look for potential bets on a weekly basis…but they let you map out possible futures bets by studying schedule strengths.
▪ The Carolina Panthers announced earlier this week that injured quarterback Cam Newton would miss the rest of the season. Betting markets have been impressed with his replacement Kyle Allen. That’s why the Panthers look like they’ll close at a competitive +5 or +5.5 Sunday on the road at potent Green Bay. And, that’s why Newton may have played his last game with the franchise. If Allen doesn’t cause a significant drop in overall team quality, he’s the much more affordable choice. Carolina is 5-1 both straight up and against the spread with Allen as a starter.
▪ Other big games this weekend in the NFC playoff chase…Dallas will likely close as a 3-point favorite Sunday night vs. Minnesota (NBC, 7:20 p.m.). San Francisco will likely close as a 6-point or 6.5-point favorite Monday night vs. Seattle (ESPN, 7:15 p.m.).