NFL Simulations: Saints Still in Playoff Mix Despite Brees Injury

Sep 17, 2019 08:30 PM EDT
Credit:

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers (7), left, and Drew Brees of the New Orleans Saints (9)

  • Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger suffered injuries in Week 2 that will sideline each quarterback.
  • We ran 10,000 simulations of the 2019 season to determine how these injuries are impacting the Saints and Steelers playoff odds.

Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger suffered major injuries in Week 2. Brees is expected to undergo thumb surgery, which could sideline him for up to six weeks. Roethlisberger will have surgery on his right elbow and will miss the remainder of the season.

The last time Brees missed a game was Week 3 against the Panthers in 2015, before that he hadn’t missed a start due to injury since high school. Roethlisberger has not missed a game due to injury since Week 7 of the 2016 season.

Two of the most durable quarterbacks in the league will miss significant time. Teddy Bridgewater, the NFL’s highest paid backup quarterback, will take over for the Saints and second-year passer Mason Rudolph will fill in for Roethlisberger.

Before the season began, the Saints and Steelers were two of the most likely playoff teams according to our NFL model. Here are our preseason projections based on 10,000 simulations of the 2019 NFL season:

Saints Preseason Projections

  • Average Wins: 9.9
  • Make Playoffs: 69.9%
  • Win Division: 52.9%
  • Win Super Bowl: 11.9%

Steelers Preseason Projections

  • Average Wins: 8.9
  • Make Playoffs: 54.3%
  • Win Division: 33.7%
  • Win Super Bowl: 3.5%

Without their star quarterbacks each team’s playoff probabilities have taken a nosedive. The Saints have gone from having a 69.9% chance (fourth best in NFL) of reaching the postseason to 50.6%.

The Steelers’ probability of being a playoff team has changed from 54.3% (fifth best in AFC) to 8.3%.

Saints Following Brees Injury

  • Average Wins: 8.8
  • Make Playoffs: 50.6%
  • Win Division: 45.3%
  • Win Super Bowl: 3.5%

Steelers Following Roethlisberger Injury

  • Average Wins: 6.0
  • Make Playoffs: 8.3%
  • Win Division: 2.8%
  • Win Super Bowl: 0.0%

In our simulations, we assume Brees returns after the Saints’ bye in Week 9. Assuming the 12-time Pro Bowler is healthy, New Orleans is still a playoff team. Its 50.6% chance of reaching the postseason is the sixth-best odds in the NFC.

Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, the Steelers are projected to go 6-10 without Roethlisberger. This would be the first time the franchise has had a losing record since 2003 — the year before it drafted Big Ben.

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