It took just one weekend of NFL action for the New Orleans Saints to go from slight underdogs to make the playoffs to slight favorites at some sportsbooks.
What Changed for Saints?
After being listed at as much of a long shot to make the playoffs as +120 in August, the Saints’ win over the Falcons quickly improved their playoff odds.
But it wasn’t just Sunday’s wild fourth quarter, when New Orleans erased a 26-10 deficit to win 27-26 thanks to Will Lutz’ game-winning 51-yard field goal with 19 seconds to play. Additionally, it was likely the Dallas Cowboys-Tampa Bay Buccaneers outcome that improved the Saints’ playoff chances.
Dallas not only lost 19-3, but also saw quarterback Dak Prescott suffer a broken right thumb that will sideline him for a minimum of four games.
How Dak Prescott’s injury impacts the Dallas Cowboys 2022 playoff futures odds
Now facing an uncertain situation at the quarterback position throughout the rest of September and most of October, Dallas has moved to +190 to make the playoffs and -250 to miss the postseason on DraftKings.
There appears to be a clear connection between the Cowboys’ now-longer odds and the Saints’ now-shorter odds.
Who are the NFC teams with the best playoff odds?
With seven playoff spots up for grabs, seven NFC teams have even or better playoff odds. According to DraftKings, those contenders, from the shortest odds to the longest, are:
- Tampa Bay -1000
- Eagles -360
- Green Bay -320
- Minnesota -225
- A. Rams -215
- San Francisco -165
- Saints +100
The NFC teams with the next-best playoff odds are Washington (+130), New York (+175) and Arizona (+175), followed by the Cowboys at +190.
The case for the Saints to make the playoffs
Optimists will point to Jameis Winston being the difference between this year’s team and last year’s, which went 9-8 and fell just short of a playoff. The Saints lost the tiebreaker with the 9-8 Eagles.
With Winston under center a year ago, the Saints went 5-2. Without him, New Orleans won just four of 10 games quarterbacked by the trio of Trevor Siemian, Taysom Hill and Ian Book.
The defense, which allowed 19.7 points per game (fourth-best in the NFL), should be strong again. The unit struggled in Week 1 against Atlanta, though, surrendering 26 first downs and 416 total yards as the Falcons possessed the ball for 33:44.
What New Orleans did well on Sunday was finish the game, as Atlanta scored just 10 points after halftime, as the Falcons were held scoreless after a field goal with 12:41 remaining.
The Alvin Kamara Conundrum: Saints running back odds presents questions
The case against the Saints to make the playoffs
Skeptics of New Orleans can start by pointing out the first 48 minutes of Saints-Falcons in Week 1. Atlanta (+1400 to make the playoffs) is one of the worst teams in the league on paper, so there was plenty not to like about the Saints needing a dramatic comeback.
The red flags included allowing the Falcons to pick up 13 first downs rushing. New Orleans will face the Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey and the Bucs’ Leonard Fournette twice apiece this season, so stopping the run will be one of the keys to their chances in the division.
The other concern was the offense’s play in the first half, when it scored just seven points. But the unit’s strong finish, especially from wide receiver Michael Thomas (two touchdown receptions), helped ease those concerns.
Are the Saints good value to make the playoffs at +100 or -114?
While the Buccaneers and Vikings enjoyed strong showings in Week 1, the Packers, Rams and 49ers all looked like anything but playoff locks.
With those contenders’ poor Week 1 performances in mind, the Saints as even money – or a slight favorite – to make the playoffs makes perfect sense. Their chances seem even better considering oddsmakers’ favorites among the playoff underdogs (Washington, New York and Arizona) all have plenty of questions to answer.