COMMENTARY | If it weren't for Andy Reid's incredible record in such games, records after the bye week probably wouldn't be analyzed or cared about at all. But because Andy Reid has gone 13-1 in those games (the lone loss last year to a dominant Falcons team), people wonder if there's anything to be gained by a coach's preparation going into their off week. I decided to sit down and analyze the numbers of Sean Payton's record as head coach of the New Orleans Saints the week after a bye, excluding the game last year (a win) because Payton was at home chewing juicy fruit. I also took a look at how Brees has played in the week after much needed rest. The result may not be enough to predict whether the Saints will beat the Buffalo Bills next week, but after comparing the stats to what we've seen so far this year, we may be able to get an idea of what to expect.
In the six games after a bye week, Payton has gone 3-3. Not much we can analyze there, right? Well, it's interesting to note that he lost his first three games and won his last three. It's also interesting to note that five of the six games have been at home, where the Saints will play the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. They've gone 3-2 in those games, again winning their past three. These last three home games were part of what many call the Dome Sweet Dome era, where the word "Home Field Advantage" couldn't have more appropriate. The Saints were 19-5 at home over those three seasons, including 8-0 in 2011. In the previous three seasons, Payton and the Saints were 13-11, not nearly the dominating force they would become. The point differential in the three bye game wins was 61 in favor of the Saints, more than 20 points a game. Despite last year's aberration, it appears that this season's Saints enjoy the same home field advantage; three of their five wins have come at home, and they enjoyed comfortable wins in two of those games. The Saints are comfortable in the Dome, and that trend should continue through this week and beyond.
Drew Brees' performance in the week after a bye perhaps predictably mirrors his team's performance. In the first three losses, Brees threw five touchdown passes and eight interceptions while completing 55% of his passes. In the three victories, he threw twelve touchdowns and two interceptions, and he never dipped into the 50s for completion percentage in any game. These numbers pretty much tell us what we've known for years: that Drew Brees is a space alien who is saving the city of New Orleans from bad football. But factually, it shows that Brees plays well at home, and has been much better for the Saints since 2009 onward.
So what's the trend? Is it the three years before the Season That Must Not Be Named? Or is it the three years before that? Well, based on what we've seen so far this year, I'd be more inclined to believe the former. The Saints are 5-1, and Drew Brees is in the top 5 in most passing categories despite playing one game less than several leaders. The point differential so far this year reflects the years from 2009-2011 more than 2006-2008; the Saints' differential of 58 through 6 games puts them on pace for +154, which is incredibly more than 2006-2008 combined (152). Needless to say, these Saints look like the bye week winners of the past more than the bye week losers.
What did all of this analysis prove? Nothing, really. The Saints could lose to a Thad Lewis-led Bills team and lose more ground in an NFC South race that looks a lot tighter than it did two weeks ago. But there's enough evidence to make Saints fans comfortable enough that Sean Payton's bye week record streak will extend to four in a row. It might not be Andy Reid level, but he's got to start somewhere, right?
Nathan Raby is from New Orleans and is a lifelong supporter of the Saints and everything New Orleans. He is the co-founder and writer of thefootbawlblog.com.
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Sean Payton
- New Orleans Saints
- Drew Brees
- Buffalo Bills