Can The Saints Win With Hill?
Last season, the Saints relied on their defense and coaching to go 5-0 with Teddy Bridgewater replacing Drew Brees. They’re 1-0 this season without Brees using the same formula, so will it continue to work?
Said defense is regressing positively in a hurry. Their pass rush continues to make its case for one of the best in the NFL, as the depth of their defensive line cannot go unnoticed. Interior defender David Onyemata, Trey Hendrickson, and Cameron Jordan each had multiple sacks in this game, while Marcus Davenport has been very productive this season.
That has allowed them to not have to sacrifice coverage players and blitz as much, which has certainly assisted them tremendously in their ability to defend the pass. Per Seth Galina of Pro Football Focus, the Saints held the Falcons to -0.49 expected points added (EPA) per play in the second half, which is when Atlanta was forced to pass at a high rate.
Remember, this isn’t a offense without talent; Ryan had rated as a top-five quarterback in EPA/play coming into the game, and New Orleans had to start cornerback Patrick Robinson in place of the injured Marshon Lattimore.
When the Saints defense was struggling, they had issues allowing third-down conversions, red-zone touchdowns, and with penalties. The good news was, however, those are all unstable metrics that regress to the mean over time.
Well, in this game, New Orleans held Atlanta to a 14.29% third-down conversion rate, forced them to settle for a field goal on their only red zone appearance, and only had 35 yards of penalties. That is positive regression at its finest.
It appears as though New Orleans has not only no longer been a liability defensively, but they may now be above-average in terms of point prevention. Meanwhile, Sean Payton is one of the top offensive masterminds in the sport, so they should continue to score points with so many talented players to work with.
With the Broncos and Falcons on the schedule, New Orleans will be favored to win both games remaining without Brees, while the team’s opponent in Week 14, the Eagles aren’t exactly lighting the world on fire.
I wouldn’t feel comfortable with the Saints facing an elite NFC contender right now, but against teams with inferior offenses, they are in a good position to remain difficult to built.