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Why Now Is the Time to Fade Drew Brees Off His Record-Breaking Performance

Why Now Is the Time to Fade Drew Brees Off His Record-Breaking Performance article feature image

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees

  • On Monday Night Football, Drew Brees passed Peyton Manning as the all-time leader in touchdown passes thrown.
  • But with Brees traveling outdoors in Week 16, Sunday's Saints vs. Titans matchup may be the perfect time to expect underperformance from the Saints offense.
  • We examine Brees' indoor vs. outdoor splits, including how bettors can find an edge.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees broke the all-time passing touchdown record on Monday Night Football, eclipsing Peyton Manning’s previous mark of 539.

There’s no denying Brees’ greatness and his status as one of the best to ever play the position.

However, just like Manning, there is an argument to be made that playing many of his games indoors has provided optimal conditions for explosive passing plays, specifically avoiding cold, wet and windy weather.

In fact, a tweet from Evan Silva of caught my attention, regarding the lack of outdoor games Brees has played this season.

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This got me thinking — just how significant have the favorable dome conditions been to Brees throughout his career and, more importantly, is there something we can glean from a betting perspective to find an edge on New Orleans over/unders?

This answer is a resounding yes.

To run the numbers, I turned to our Bet Labs software and created two systems comparing Saints over/under results with Brees under center in indoor vs. outdoor games.

Just as I suspected, there is a clear split between these two scenarios.

In regular-season and postseason games played indoors/with the roof closed, overs are 82-61-2 (57.3%) in Saints games with Brees at quarterback.

On the other hand, totals are basically split 42-41 (50.6%) when playing outdoors. While the overall record is close to 50/50, Saints outdoor games have fallen under the closing total more regularly as Brees has aged.

Here’s how the percentage of outdoor Saints games started by Brees that have gone under the total, per season, since he joined New Orleans in 2006:

Note: I included only full seasons, so this season’s 1-1 record was not included in the table below due to incomplete data. 

As you can see, outdoor unders weren’t very good bets early in Brees’ New Orleans career, but as he’s aged, the Saints’ offense has underperformed betting market expectations when playing in the elements.

In his first seven seasons with the Saints, outdoor unders went 17-27 (38.6%). However, in the past six seasons, unders have spiked to 24-13 (64.9%).

Traditional statistics confirm this split as well. According to Pro Football Reference, Brees’ career passer rating is 104.9 in indoor games. When playing outside, it’s 13.5 points lower. (Note: Pro Football Reference includes retractable roof games in its own category — Brees has an 89.9 rating in 11 career games.)

It’s reasonable to think that the Saints’ improved defense in recent years has also contributed, which it likely has, but the effect may be less than most people assume.

First, expected defensive performance is already reflected in closing totals. And second, New Orleans’ defense didn’t improve until the 2017, when it finished eight in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.

Here’s how the defense ranked in DVOA from 2014-2016, when the team’s unders were already spiking: 31st, 32nd and 31st.

And even last season, which was the best season for Saints outdoor unders, the defense ranked 11th in DVOA. While solid, that’s by no means a stifling, shut-down unit.

In fact, The Action Network’s NFL Week 16 power ratings, powered by Sean Koerner, project the Saints vs. Titans total to be 47.5, suggesting that the current over/under of 50 is, in fact, inflated.

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